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How the Internet Has Changed the Game of Baseball

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How the Internet Has Changed the Game of Baseball
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Over the past two decades or so, the Internet has revolutionized the way people live their lives. People are able to reconnect with those old high school buddies from 30 years ago, while browsing their favorite stores all from the palm of their hand simultaneously.

More specifically, the Internet has changed the fan’s experience with the world of baseball.

In the past, fans had to rely on sporadic television and radio coverage in order to follow their favorite team. However, now due to services such as Twitter, fans are relayed this information almost immediately.

Gone are the days of waiting for the morning newspaper to arrive to check if your team traded for your favorite player. As a matter of fact, now, fans are able to get a feel for who is likely being dealt and who is staying put.

Surprisingly, there are some cases in which fans know the fate of certain players before the players, themselves do.

Still though, there are some deals that seem to catch everyone by surprise, including the Jake Peavy deal earlier this year.

The aspect of the game that has changed most is how baseball fans view prospects. In the past nobody really talked about prospects. Sure there were one or two "can’t miss" players, but the public’s attention was generally centered on the Major Leaguers. Nowadays, prospects play a huge role in a baseball fan’s life.

This is because baseball fans are able to not only track the minor league affiliates of their favorite baseball teams, but they can watch the games if they so desire.

In this season, alone, the spotlight has been on players like Matt Wieters and Tommy Hanson. As if it weren’t difficult enough to make the transition into the big leagues, Wieters and Hanson came up with the expectation that they would perform from day one.

These expectations stem from the constant buzz on the net. Whether it be fans having a casual discussion or sports analysts, the pressure is still there. Both have handled this burden quite well and are having particularly good rookie seasons.

In Wieters’s case, the Baltimore catcher started out slowly but has been red hot this past month or so. To the contrary, Hanson has been stellar all season and currently has double digits in the win column and a sub-three earned run average.

The Mets, themselves have a player that found himself in a similar predicament as Wieters and Hanson. That player is Fernando Martinez. Fernando’s name has been a mainstay in Mets forums ever since the team signed him as an international free agent back in 2005.

However, to say that the promising outfielder lived up to the Internet-induced hype this season would be inaccurate. Martinez hit a mere .176 with little power before injuring and later receiving season-ending surgery on his right knee.

Granted, Fernando still has a ton of potential and he should see more success in the majors as he matures. However, it must be discouraging for a player to know that they did not perform in the manner the fans expected him to after reading all the Internet propaganda. Is it possible that this could hinder a player’s development?

I don’t necessarily think so, but this added pressure most likely contributes to those blunders we tend to see from time to time out of the young guns in the game.

The players that I really pity are Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Neither player has appeared in either a major or minor league game, yet both still are considered the future of the MLB. Fans have good reason to be excited about these players as they certainly are special talents.

But are they jumping the gun a bit? It concerns me that the general consensus among many baseball fans is that Stephen Strasburg will miraculously turn the Washington Nationals into a winning ball club. This type of thinking is poked fun at by the Washington Post’s John Kelly.

My stance on Strasburg is to give the kid a chance. Don’t rush and hinder his development in an attempt to garner ticket sales. Let him pitch at the big-league level for a full season before making any determinations on whether or not he is the next Cy Young. Although unlikely, it may end up that those 23 strike-out performances in college don’t translate into big league success.

Even more ludicrous is the buildup that has been all over cyberspace surrounding 16-year-old Bryce Harper. Harper, who was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated earlier this year, can seemingly do it all on the baseball diamond. Many speculate that Harper will be the crown jewel of the 2010 draft if he chooses to enter it.

As NJ.com’s Michael Fensom reported back in June, Harper has obtained his G.E.D., which would seemingly indicate that he will pursue the majors next year. Was this the best move for Harper?

Personally, I don’t believe it was. Firstly, Harper is sacrificing his education in order to get a head start in the big leagues, which could prove to be a career blunder down the road.

Also, is a 16-year-old mature enough to handle the pressure that comes with being a professional athlete? I don’t believe he is. No teenager, in my opinion, has the mental toughness to deal with the spotlight being on them 24/7.

Unfortunately, with the Internet expanding these kinds of things won’t go away anytime soon.

In all fairness, the web has done plenty of good for baseball. Through its web site, Major League Baseball is able to stream every single one of its games every year for people all over the world. This has contributed to a very large and diverse fanbase.

Also, the worldwide web has created a much more educated baseball fan. Fans get a sense of how their players are doing off the field. It can make them go easy on a struggling player if they know he is injured.

It also makes you appreciate guys like Jeff Francoeur, who is playing out the remaining 11 insignificant games of the season with a broken thumb. Even more impressive is that he is hitting over .300 with the Mets while essentially swinging one-handed.

The web has certainly added a new level of depth to the game of baseball and it should be interesting to see how the game changes as technology continues to advance.

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