Within the last week Major League Baseball modified their web site to give it an updated look and feel. I have not been a big fan of their site for quite some time but it was a necessary evil considering that is where most of the official baseball news is reported you had to go there. I immediately liked the new layout as it seemed like things were more logically placed (at least they were more logical to me; your mileage may vary). I did question why they would allow you to select your favorite team under the Headlines section and display the first three stories from the team web site. This seems counterproductive to the idea of driving visitors to the team web sites. Considering that MLB now controls all of the web sites for the various teams this doesn’t make a lot of sense. Still, it looks more content driven and less advertising driven than the previous incarnation which is a very good thing. And since as I said MLB controls the team web sites I was anticipating that the Diamondbacks web site would soon follow suit with a new look and feel that would mimic that of MLB.com
It didn’t take Nostradamus to figure that out; within a few days azdiamondbacks.com looked like a Sedona Red version of mlb.com. Since I visit the Diamondbacks web site at a minimum of twice or three times per day I figured I would give the new site a spin then give you my review. Again let me reiterate that this is just the opinion of a guy from section 112 and does not come with the same amount of clout that a Siskel and Ebert review would have.
Overall I like the look. I was depressed to see that the Diamondbacks continue to utilize pop-up advertising on their site. I truly detest pop-up ads regardless of whether they are the sleezy type you get when surfing down the wrong Information Superhighway off-ramp or the legitimate vendors advertising through major league baseball. I am not interested in NetFlix and I barely have time to get to the ballgame without considering purchasing a Bow-Flex home gym. As long as we are on the subject of advertising; I still question utilizing one-third of the home page for ads. I’m a big fan of XM radio but to have an ad as large as the top stories for the team seems overkill. For a billion dollar industry I have to wonder why MLB and their franchises insist on making their web pages look like someone who is trying to eke out every last penny from on-line advertising. This of course brings me to my next observation. I was perfectly cool with the notion of the Diamondbacks employing photographers at $10 an hour to take pictures of the fans at the game. Although I have not personally bought any of the pictures I am sure there is a market of people who attended a game but forgot to bring a camera that would utilize this service. I do have to draw the line though at the next effort by Major League Baseball. They are now taking photos of the players using the team photographers and putting them up for sale on each team’s web site. There just seems to be something wrong with taking the photos and hocking them on the web for $9.99 for an 8X10. The price is very competitive; I just think it degrades the game a little. It’s not just current pictures either. You can get photos of Randy Johnson as the Opening Day starter in 2004 (a year I am sure he would prefer to forget). I feel like I am at a baseball garage sale. This does make me wonder about whether Major League Baseball may be considering a change in their photography policy. To date fans have been allowed to bring cameras to the stadium and take pictures of game action. Now that MLB is selling pictures of game action will they deny the fan the use of cameras to protect their product? I certainly hope not.
I was glad to see that the new Diamondbacks web site is making better usage of blogs. Before only Daron Sutton’s blog was recognized. Now they have augmented that with a blog by Director of Player Development A.J. Hinch which discusses the player development system. From what I have read so far I am definitely going to bookmark this blog. There could be some great information assuming that A.J. has the time to maintain the content. Since the blog began on March 18 he has posted 3 entries so that’s a very good sign out of the gate. Another blog featured prominently on the Diamondbacks home page is He Said, She Said which is a minor league report written by Jonathan Mayo and Lisa Winston. Their insight is very good and I do enjoy reading their entries. This blog is not Diamondbacks specific but rather covers all of the minor league system. For Diamondbacks fans you will have to hunt to find what you are looking for. It is a good source of information when rumors begin to fly about trades that include minor league prospects. The final blog mentioned is Downtown Reno Baseball which is a blog produced and maintained by the group who is moving the Tucson Sidewinders to Reno after the 2008 season. This blog is of interest only because the Diamondbacks have a signed agreement with Tucson/Reno to be their Triple-A affiliate through 2010. I’m just not sure how often this blog will be updated and maintained. I guess only time will tell. I had hoped there would be a front office blog perhaps by Derrick Hall that would take the place of the monthly chats or perhaps augment them but that doesn’t seem to be planned. An ownership blog could have been interesting to see what Jeff Moorad or Ken Kendrick has to say throughout the year. Maybe Mark Cuban and his blog have scared owners away from that kind of media attention. I’ve just started to dig deeper into the web site so I’ll continue to update as I find more. I do wish the team would be better at titling some of their articles. When Press Releases has several entries that just say “D-backs make roster moves” it is real hard to tell which ones you might have already read and which ones are new. I would have liked to seen a ticker with late breaking news such as roster moves, important information, or even in-game updates be featured on the home page. A web cam showing progress on the new JumboTron would have been awesome too and wouldn’t have taken much to make a reality. The web is obviously a new medium for Major League Baseball and it feels as though they just don’t quite know what to do with it yet. It is a step in the right direction. It makes me want to start evaluating a refresh for Now Hitting to give it an updated look with easier navigation. Not really a good thing to be thinking about with Opening Day only 5 days 23 hours and 24 minutes away. Not that anyone is counting.