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New Format Allows BA To Stay Focused On What We Do Best

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Minor league exploits from a player like Andruw Jones don't fly under the radar anymore. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

If you are a longtime Baseball America reader, you may remember a one-time unofficial motto of ours. If the New York Times was once “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” Baseball America used to operate under the idea that “All the News Will Fit if We Make the Type Small Enough.”

Look back at our 1999 College Preview issue and you will see some font sizes that require a magnifying glass to read. Sandwiched around a feature on freshman Georgia Tech third baseman Mark Teixeira were notes about how now-Oklahoma State head coach Josh Holliday was the best defensive catcher in the Big 12 Conference. But to get all of that content into the magazine, sometimes the type had to shrink smaller than was ideal.

Allan Simpson and his Baseball America staff gathered so much information that it would be a shame to leave much of it out. So in the days before BA had a Web site, the best answer was to squeeze the type a little—or a lot—to make sure that the as much information as possible fit into each issue.

Today we have BaseballAmerica.com, where we can publish far more information than we ever could fit into the pages of the magazine, so we’ve put a ban on any five-point type sneaking into the magazine.

But that same idea that fueled the BA staff to report voraciously in the 1980s and ’90s is just as present today, which is why readers will soon see the first issue of Baseball America in its new monthly format. We continue to gather more information and more insights from scouts and coaches than we can ever fit into an issue, but the new monthly format will allow us to provide more of our best content to our magazine readers.

It was time for the change. When Baseball America first shifted in the 1980s to the format of an issue every two weeks, it was at a time when BA was as much a newspaper as it was a magazine. For its first 20 years, BA operated in a world where information and statistics about what happened at a minor league or college game did not travel beyond the bounds of that local area until Baseball America printed them.

I recently found my 1995 scorebook, and it reminded me how a 17-year-old Andruw Jones had the best debut I’ve ever seen in person. For the newspaper I worked for at the time, I was assigned to cover the low Class A Macon Braves every night. In his first eight home games that season, Jones hit .500/.600/1.367 with seven home runs, four stolen bases and 15 runs scored in the South Atlantic League.

It was an otherworldly performance for Jones, with whom BA readers were already familiar based on his exploits in two Rookie-level leagues in 1994. He ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the Gulf Coast League and No. 2 in the Appalachian League.

With his hot start in the SAL, Jones was well on his way to winning BA Minor League Player of the Year awards in 1995 and ’96.

But when I look back at that 1995 season, I realize that Jones’ amazing start was knowledge known only to me, a few die-hard fans in the Macon, Ga., area and Braves front office officials, who were receiving nightly reports from the Macon coaching staff.

But outside of that limited audience, no one knew what Jones had done until the mid-May issue of Baseball America arrived, which included minor league statistics, including those gaudy numbers for Jones. There was no coverage of the minor leagues on the Internet, then in its infant stages, or on ESPN or ESPN2, the only national sports networks at the time.

Thanks to the Internet and a surging interest in the minor leagues, prospects no longer toil in anonymity.

If Rays shortstop Wander Franco begins the season the way Jones began in 1995, it will be national news, with videos of each and every home run widely available almost as soon as the ball lands beyond the outfield wall.

So what Baseball America does in 2019 is different from what it did 10 or 20 years ago. These days, focusing our energy on straightforward reporting of what happened simply isn’t enough. When Franco goes on a tear, we’re going to tell you about it, but it will be by providing analysis and talking to scouts about what this hot streak tells us about his future. By the time you get this magazine in your hands, a recitation of Franco’s stats from three weeks ago will be old news.

This realization led to our decision to make Baseball America a monthly magazine. We want to present loyal BA readers with a product that is twice as substantial, even if it is delivered half as frequently. In this age of power-centric baseball, we are emphasizing slugging percentage over batting average.

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By going monthly, we can provide you with more of our best content. For example, this year’s College Preview is nearly twice as robust in terms of content as last year’s. Similarly, next month’s Major League Preview and Top 100 Prospects issue will include more reporting, analysis and perspective than we could fit into the 2018 edition. The same will be true with our Draft Preview, our July 2 International Preview, our Midseason Prospect Update and all of the prospect analysis you count on Baseball America to deliver.

The new format will also allow us to go into greater depth with features and analysis. In this issue alone, we were able to examine the state of scouting and why many in the industry are worried for the future of the profession. We also go in depth with Florida State Mike Martin in his 40th and final season as head coach.

We’re still the same Baseball America. We promise to continue analyzing prospects at all levels of baseball so you can be first to learn about the game’s next stars. We believe this monthly format is the best way to deliver on that promise.

In time we believe you will agree.

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