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A World to Win, an Empire to Build

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Welcome to Minorleagueball.com. I am John Sickels, your host. So, what is this blog/website all about, and why are we doing this?

First, I'm sure 95% of you know that I used to be the minor league analyst at ESPN.com. I wrote the Down on the Farm column for them from the spring of 1996 until February 1, 2005, when my column was discontinued. Basically, my column was discontinued because the suits wanted to "streamline" the ESPN website operation. In plain terms, I was downsized.

My main beef about this is that ESPN did not allow me to say goodbye properly. Here is the paragraph that they deleted from my last article.

"I began this column in the spring of 1996, so we've had a good long run. I've enjoyed it, and I hope that you, the ever-patient readers, have found it both entertaining and enlightening. Certainly, there is much more good material about the minor leagues available on the internet in 2005 than there was in 1996. I like to think that Down on the Farm has had something to do with that, helping to popularize prospect analysis and the minor leagues in general. The goal all along has been to bring prospect analysis to as wide an audience as possible, and I think we succeeded in doing that.

But few things in life are permanent. If change is inevitable, let's try to make it beneficial as well."

So, where do we stand now?

ESPN's decision left me in something of a quandary. On the one hand, I've been fortunate enough to build up a loyal audience over the years. It's my job, and I can't do prospect analysis correctly unless I do it full-time. Magazines like Baseball America have teams of writers on-staff. I'm just one guy in a home office, with a computer and a telephone.

On the other hand, I also have a wife, son, and two cats to feed and shelter.

So, how do we keep the dream going, remain as accessible as possible while still meeting my family obligations?

I've decided to adopt a three-tiered approach. First, as many of you know, I self-publish the Baseball Prospect Book. This can be ordered at my other website, Johnsickels.com. Second, I also do the John Sickels Baseball Newsletter, which is an email subscription service. That can also be ordered at Johnsickels.com, and the 2005 edition will begin on February 20. Much of what used to appear in Down on the Farm will migrate to the newsletter.

All that is fine and good, but like I said, I need to be as accessible as possible, and I understand that not everyone wants to order the newsletter. That is where this website/blog comes in.

Obviously it will act as a platform for me, but I also see this blog as a meeting ground for people interested in prospects and minor league ball in general. I will be posting here at least once a day. There will be open threads, but I will also post mailbags and prospect analysis that doesn't go into the newsletter. I will post trade analysis, trip reports, and pictures from my trips. The site will also serve as an information exchange. If you see an interesting prospect, post something about it in the diary section!

There will be an open thread each day, plus frequent other posts. The minimum will be nine posts a week once we get fully operational. I will also have special All Questions Answered Threads, which is exactly what it sounds like: you ask questions and I answer them.

In order to make this work, I need as much interest from you, the reader, as possible. Please visit often; register and post. Explore the links. . .I will be posting more soon. Please visit our advertisers and sponsors. . .there will be more soon. Make visiting MinorLeagueBall.com a regular part of your day. That's what I need from you.

"It is better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven" is bad theology, but in the baseball business I have found it to be true. When STATS dropped their publishing arm and the Minor League Scouting Notebook died, I was able to turn it around into the Baseball Prospect Book, which turned out to be a better deal. This is thanks to you, the readers, who put up with the initial blunders and mistakes on our end. Together, we can make MinorLeagueBall.com a success as well. We have a world to win, an Empire to build.