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Thursday, February 09, 2006


Midgets, Disco Records, and Fan Relationships

I want my warm and fuzzy relationship! Now, if you've been trolling around the internets today, you've no doubt come across some debate about the financial commitment of the Cardinals' ownership and questions about their intentions to sell the team. Today's flurry of activity seems largely to stem from Will Leitch's contribution today at Baseball Prospectus, in which he muses over the business moves being made by the team and the corrosive effect on the relationship with the best fans in baseball. There's not much to add that hasn't already been said, and I said my piece over in the comments section over at VEB, which you have probably already read. I'll summarize my points quickly. Some of these moves, in terms of adding assets such as team-owned media outlets, are they way business is going to be done in the new baseball world (I have more issues as a member of an 'independent' media about the vertical consolidation). The KMOX thing hit Cards fans because it represented the end of tradition, and worst of all it was handled incredibly poorly from a PR perspective. Messing with tradition seems to smack baseball fans more than others. CardNilly echoes the idea of the PR mistakes made by the team this year. My second point, which I stated in the VEB comments section, is that reconnecting with the fan base is going to require a more sophisticated PR/marketing approach, and not complaining to the Post-Dispatch about being unfairly criticized. DeWitt, Jocketty, La Russa, and everybody should be out there working the press - from the big boys in St. Louis to hometown rags and local, small-market TV stations around the geographic base of fandom - explaining decisions, personnel moves and everything else ALL THE TIME. DeWitt should know something about this strategy since he's good buddies with the President, whose staff has successfully used this approach to sell the country a needless war and a whole mess of other stuff. Society has moved beyond baseball PR as charity golf tournaments, promotional days at the stadium, or disco record burnings for that matter. The Cards have simply not gotten themselves to the level of other teams in this regard. You can't approach the best fans in baseball with a "trust us" approach. I'm starting to rant, and that's not what I want to do. There's another really important point to be made here that should resonate with readers of sites like this and the others mentioned above. Baseball and the Cardinals specifically need to recognize the power of new media, such as the blog. (See Leitch's other article today at Baseball Analysts.) The "professionals" offer a very limited perspective, and for the team, a very limited means of reaching fandom. If the Cards want to connect with the diehards and get their messages heard out there, then it's time to recognize what impact bloggers have, at least as much as the paid beat writers - with all due respect to them. Go try to get press credentials through MLB Advance media - which is just going to get you email press releases anyway- you can't do it. If 10,000 people a day read your blog, you're still shit outta luck. To me, this seems incredibly short-sighted. The blogs reach as many or more people - with money to buy things like memorabilia and tickets, demographic research show - as lots of 'official' media outlets. Some teams have gone a lot further recognizing this, you've seen Billy Beane and Omar Minaya show up on fan blogs for their respective teams. Have you seen Jocketty or any other major officials from the Cards 'round the 'unofficial' quarters of the web? Go try to find one instance of Cardinals management give press time to a blogger. Has any other blogger received a polite form email declining or flat-out ignoring their requests for interviews? I bet I'm not alone. Anyway, it's just one small measure for getting the team's message out to fans, but it shouldn't be ignored anymore than stumping in Pottsville.
You make a good point. I can only think of one instance of someone in the Cardinals front office talking to a blogger: someone (maybe Jeff Luhnow?) talked to Brian Gunn of Redbird nation a couple of years ago. That's the only instance I can remember.
ryan, good stuff as always. by the way, "Redbird Ramblings", my blog has changed web addresses, now its www.redbirdramblings.blogspot.com . can you please make the change?thank you in advance.
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