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About Comments And Performance Evaluations

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The Astros haven't done anything interesting in the past two days (despite signing Slammin' Sammy) and I was inundated with silly stuff yesterday. Thanks to clack, TCB was saved from the indignity of having a weekday go by without a story. So, in lieu of actual, interesting conversation about the team, I'm again turning the mirror around and talking to you about being a fan of this team.

Specifically, I'm going to talk about fan interaction on the internet and self-evaluation while still tying it back to baseball. It'll all make sense in about 500 words, I swear.

See, I've asked for feedback on the site before and we do get some great responses to that. We don't get a large number of responses, whether because my Google Form is clunky or you are just so content with the site, no response is needed. I like to periodically stop and reassess where my writing is at, but I can't really do that effectively by myself. I have to believe what I'm writing is true, or know that I'm writing a contrary opinion just to get it out there to really sell it. Otherwise, you don't get analysis here, you get bunk. If every article ended with, "But what do I know? The Astros will probably be fine," your readership of the site would last exactly 10 seconds.

That's where the comments section comes in. I know a lot of writers around the internet don't like the comments feature. Guys like Will Carroll vehemently attack comment sections and can't stand to write for a site that has commenting. I'm definitely in the other camp, because I don't know what I'd do without comments on this site. So many of you provide good insight or new points of view on a topic. By reading the comments on a story, I can often get a fresh perspective on the material, see what I've failed to adequately explain or that I was completely off-base (which happens more frequently than I'd like to admit). Comments are invaluable for this community of fans.

And yet, I can see the problems with comments on other sites. Have you ever trolled the comment sections around the Chronicle stories? Ugh. Because it's a public forum, they don't moderate comments for anything other than malicious or spammy content. That means all manner of silly opinions get thrown out there with more thoughtful responses. I know some newspaper guys who won't even read the comments on their stories, because most of the time, there isn't even real discussion of what they wrote. The story is just a jumping off point for another argument about the team.

What's different about this site? To be frank, it's probably the page traffic. We see fewer people than the Chronicle does every day and, hence, fewer comments. At the same time, I know other sites on the network have problems with posters doing the same things the people at the Chronicle can do. We're lucky not to have that here at TCB, and I think it's because we have a pretty quality community. Still, it is growing. Last winter, if we had an article get up to 40 or 50 comments, that was the best of the month for discussion. Now, we have a 40 comment article every week, it seems.That's a great sign and I hope it continues.

You should also feel free to call me out whenever I step out of line. I don't want to ever fall into a group-think, just because we all share similar saberist ideas. Like I said, I try to use your comments to help gauge an argument, so feel free to argue away. Stephen is really the only one banned, since he doesn't offer what I call "constructive criticism."

Now, watch as I turn it around for the big finish. The reason I thought about baseball with this post is simple. If a writer like me has a hard time evaluating myself on the fly, how should a baseball front office do any better? There is such a volume of information that comes at them and so few of those phone calls lead to actual deals, that it'd be hard to reasonably assess all of them thoroughly, much less second-guess every one of those decisions. Plus, things move so quickly, assessment must be hard during the season or in the middle of the winter meetings. I know teams spend a lot of time with organizational meetings leading up to the big events of the offseason and spring training, but how often can they step back and ask, "Is this thing working?" Big picture thinking and World Series thinking don't often go together.

I love playing at being a general manager and throwing out trade/signing possibilities. But, the reality is that job is very, very hard. The luxury to sit back and nitpick moves is left to us fans. I think that's how it should be, because it gives life to our comments section on here, and you heady readers of TCB have given me such a great way to talk about the Astros.

Oh, right, I usually ask a question at the end to get discussion rolling....how do I discuss a discussion about discussions? Well, how about this: would you like us to throw out debatable topics about the Astros every now and then so everyone can weigh in on it? Like, "Should the payroll be set so low?" or "Should the Astros affiliate with the Sugar Land Skeeters?"