The baseball pennant race is heating up and one of the largest, best baseball blogs in our network is our Texas Rangers blog Lone Star Ball. It's run by a meticulous writer and researcher named Adam Morris who has developed a great community where many people wouldn't think there would be fertile ground for community building. Morris has built LSB into a juggernaut in terms of traffic, often having the blog rank at or near the top of all the communities in our network.
And this year his Texas Rangers are battling for a playoff spot for the first time in quite some time. So I figured with all the football lately, it would be good to take a step back and get to know one of the first baseball bloggers to join the network years ago. Ladies and gents, Adam Morris.
Blez: Tell me how you decided to join the blogging ranks.
Adam J Morris: I had been posting on Rangers message boards for a while, mainly the ESPN Rangers board and the Newberg Report message board, and it occurred to me it would be nice to have a permanent place to record some of my thoughts, opinions, etc. on the Rangers. This was late 2003, and blogs were just starting to become all the rage, so I decided to start up a blogspot blog to have my own forum to talk about the Rangers. It was easy, and I didn't have a big audience, so I could fool around with different things, not lose sleep if I went a day or two without posting, and generally figure out what was going to work best for me.
Blez: The Rangers are in the playoff race for the first time in a few years. Tell me about the energy around Lone Star Ball right now.
AJM: It is funny - for a while this season, the LSB tagline was "Angriest Fans of a First Place Team in MLB." I had to change it because we fell out of first, but there's been a little more tension than one would normally expect, I think in large part because it has been so long since the Rangers have been in the playoff mix, folks desperately want to get back there, and are terrified that a dumb move by the front office or, especially, manager Ron Washington, is going to blow it for us long-suffering fans. That's a feeling I sympathize with - I feel that way myself sometimes.
But all in all the mood is pretty good. I think most of my community gets that this is a team like the '91 Cowboys, a team with a ton of young talent in the pipeline that was seen to be on the upswing but which is exceeding expectations by getting into the playoff mix sooner than expected. I think we've got a very well-informed collection of folks who get that this is a team built for success over the long-term, and that has a strong group of players in their early- to mid-20s that should be able to be cornerstones for this team for a long time. And it makes it exciting, because we realize this could be the start of something really special.
Blez: How did you build such a large and vibrant community over at LSB?
AJM: I don't think I really built it - I think the community built itself. I've been doing this at LSB for a little over four years now, and the community has just developed over time. A few folks knew me from the ESPN message boards and migrated over, and there are other folks who are familiar with me from the Newberg Minor League Report and came over from there, but mostly, I think it has been simply organic growth among folks who have stumbled upon the site one way or the other and opted to stick around.
The main thing I try to do is to post frequently to keep the community engaged. If it is a busy news day during the season, we could have 10-12 posts up...and even if things are slow, I will put up trivia questions, or off-topic stories that catch my eye, or make a small post about a former player whose birthday is that day. Just different things so that folks know to keep coming back throughout the day to see what is new. And I've been fortunate enough to have commenters who are engaged and have good things to say, because that's what keeps people coming back and commenting.
Blez: Your analysis is very stats-oriented. Do you think that has helped you with growth? By that I mean, is there a natural hunger out there for it on the Internet?
AJM: I think that stats-oriented discussion is much more conducive to being on the Internet, where you can see the data and digest it more easily. Talk radio is great for the 30 second, "Michael Young should be MVP, he's great defensively and he comes through in the clutch, I mean, just where would this team be without him? He's the reason why we're winning."
And that's fine for what that is. But you can't break down UZR and +/- and EQA and VORP on the radio - most listeners (and most hosts) don't know, or care, what that is, and you can't sit and explain it every time you call.
But on the Internet, you can write as much or as little detail as you want, you can link back to definitions and explanations of what you are writing about, you can pick apart arguments in great detail that you think are faulty...and all that lends itself much more to a stats-driven approach than a b.s.-oriented, "I know because I'm a true fan who watches the games" approach. If someone on the Internet says, "Sammy Sosa was great in 2007 because of all his RBIs," you're going to have a barrage of people responding with posts about his terrible OBP, his fluky performance with RISP, the fact that his position in the lineup and the people ahead of him resulted in many more opportunities with RISP, and the various and sundry other substantive, quantitative arguments against that position.
So I think if you have a community of folks who get stats, understand stats, but who also understand that there are certain limitations in what statistics can tell you and predict, it is going to draw like-minded, passionate fans. And I think that's what we've done at LSB.
Blez: How did you become a Rangers fan?
AJM: I was born in 1971, the year before the Rangers moved to Arlington, and I grew up in Fort Worth. Arlington Stadium was generally just a 20 minute drive from where we lived, so for as long as I can remember, I was going out to see the Rangers play. When I was a kid, I would go to sleep at night listening to the Rangers on the radio (for you young'uns out there, the radio is the way we would experience games before cable call along and every game was televised). Baseball was always my favorite sport, which meant the Rangers were the team I was the most passionate about. And even after I moved to Austin in 1990, and then Houston in 1999, I maintained my allegiance to the Rangers...rooting for a Houston team rather than the Rangers or Cowboys or Mavericks would be unthinkable for me.
Blez: Who is your all-time favorite Ranger?
AJM: Buddy Bell. When I was a kid, I played third base, and Buddy Bell was the player I wanted to grow up to be.
Blez: How about your all-time favorite Rangers moment?
AJM: That's hard to say. I don't remember any particularly special moment from the playoff teams. Really, right now, my favorite Ranger moment was probably watching Derek Holland's masterpiece on July 30 of this year. It was a guy who we have huge hopes for, who was supposedly the subject of trade talks with the Blue Jays involving Roy Halladay, and who had shown flashes of brilliance but had also struggled.
And I sat there and watched him, for 8 innings, blow away Mariner hitter after Mariner hitter...he retired 24 of the first 25 hitters he faced, 10 by strikeout, with a broken bat bouncer up the middle being the only hit in the first 8 innings. He got pulled with two outs in the 8th, after allowing a walk and a hit, but watching him when Ron Washington came to get him, smiling out there, the infielders coming in to congratulate him - and then seeing the AP photo afterwards of Washington embracing him in the dugout like a proud father - that was special. It made me feel like a Red Sox fan might have felt, watching Roger Clemens his rookie year. And I remember thinking, as Holland left the field to one of the biggest ovations I've ever heard from Rangers fans, if the Rangers trade him now, the fans are going to burn the stadium down.
Blez: What is your favorite aspect about blogging? And conversely something you might find challenging.
AJM: I think my favorite aspect of blogging is just having a forum out there to dump my thoughts. It is nice to have some things rattling around in my head about the Rangers, or baseball in general, and to know I have an outlet to share those things.
The thing that is most challenging is probably dealing with certain elements of the community. We probably have a 2000-3000 comments per day on LSB all told on days there is a game, and dealing with pissy comments directed at me by certain folks, or trying to decide how to deal with the 9000th re-hashing of the same argument by the same handful of folks, makes my head hurt.
Blez: Do you follow any other sports closely?
AJM: I follow the NFL and the NBA. I used to follow NHL and college football and basketball, but as work and family have eaten away at my free time, I have found myself focusing just on the big three. And in the NFL and NBA, I really follow the Cowboys and the Mavs, and not the rest of the league as much as I used to.
Blez: You have an interesting day job. Can you talk about it?
AJM: Sure. I'm a divorce lawyer in Houston, Texas...and one of the nice things about that is that saying you are a divorce lawyer is a great conversation starter. People - even other lawyers - seem to be fascinated that anyone would voluntarily subject themselves to dealing with divorces, day in and day out.
But it is an interesting line of work. You have to be half lawyer, half counselor, to build a good rapport, and you have to be able to be empathetic without letting your clients' problems overwhelm you. It is a fine line to walk, and a lot of folks who try to get into it find that it just is too emotionally draining. I think part of what helps me is being a Ranger fan - I'm so emotionally wrapped up in my team, it limits my ability to be emotionally drained by my cases, and thus I'm able to stay objective and pragmatic in advising my clients.
Blez: Tell me something about yourself that might surprise some of your readers.
AJM: Hmmm...that's a hard one. How about...I named my baby daughter "Rowan," after Rowan Mayfair, the main character in Anne Rice's "The Witching Hour"? And I'm not sure when and if I'm going to tell my daughter I named her after a witch.
Blez: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to Blog Huddle and SB Nation.
AJM: No problem. I'm always happy to talk about myself.