Baseball and the Internet

  • by October 11, 2001
What a season! The Mariners tie the 1906 Cubs for the most number of wins in a season. Bonds hits 73 home runs, breaks Babe Ruth's 81-year-old slugging percentage record of .847 with an unbelievable .863, as well as Mark McGwire's single-season walks record with 177. Rickey Henderson breaks Ty Cobb's all-time runs record with his 2,246th run and passes Babe Ruth's all-time walk record with number 2,063 (he since pushed that total to 2,141).

There are plenty more records I left out! These were just the ones I could remember off the top of my head.

Its seasons like these that make you dread the ones to follow. How can any season live up to this one? But how soon we forget that we were saying the same thing just a few seasons ago when Sosa hit 66 and McGwire hit 70, the Yankees won get the picture. More specifically, who ever thought Roger Maris' 61 homers would ever be broken? And then when Big Mac hit 70, I'll bet you thought the record was safe for another 37 years!



In the Internet space, we certainly have our own list of special records. Time taken to reach 50% penetration (7 years). Time taken to amass 50 million users (5 years). We also have records on the other end of the spectrum - from declining click-throughs to the number of companies closing their doors.

Either way, they're unprecedented. They're also unfounded as most of the time we're comparing against a sample of a few years or even less. We don't have the luxury of comparing same store turnover across multiple years like McDonalds for example. And even if we do, an Internet year is like a dog year. So much change in so little time.

Does this mean we shouldn't embrace the historical data we have on record? Certainly not, but a little perspective would be good. Resources like Media Metrix are like the universal dial tone. It's the same starting point for everyone. It's not proprietary. Your competitors and their agencies have the same access to the data you do. Add internal log files to the support and you're getting somewhere. But where you end up is going to be based on a combination of insight, intuition and intelligence.

We could take a leaf out of the books of sports stars. They play every point as if it was the only point. They take every game as it comes. Sure the sportscasters - and their opposition - have reams of data on them, but that doesn't stop them from taking a chance every now and then. What do you think Cal Ripkin Jr would have done after game 1 had he known that 2,130 games later he would still be ever-present? Most likely, he would have scratched himself from the lineup a lot sooner.

And for the rookies out historical track records, no data; just guts, drive and determination . And a little luck helps as well. By all standards, we're still in our own rookie season. Slowly, over time, our almanac will build and gain credibility. The data will carry more weight, as opposed to being simply illuminating or directional. And as it does, we should try to find that careful balance between the numbers and the noggin'.

In the interim, by all means celebrate the victories - from the double-digit click-throughs to all those spikes and lifts. We don't do that enough. Create the case-studies. Stick 'em front and center on your homepage. Alert your mailing lists. Most importantly, keep moving forward.

After Cal's last game, Commissioner of Baseball, Bud Selig, created a new award for those players who play every one of their designated games in the season. It won't be long until new records are associated with this award. The future hasn't been invented yet. It's up to us to be masters of our own fate. One way to do this is through a combination of breaking existing rules and records, and making new ones. If we keep up this momentum, it won't be long before we have our own list of All Stars, together with a Hall of Fame to boot.

(If you think I took the baseball analogy too far, perhaps I did. Go Yankees!)

- Joseph Jaffe is Director of Interactive Media at TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York, where he works with clients including Kmart, ABSOLUT Vodka, New York City Public Schools, Embassy Suites and Sci-Fi. His primary focus is to highlight interactive's value and benefit in meeting his clients' integrated business and branding objectives.

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