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State of the Blog - Number Crunching

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As I prepare to go to my first game of the scouting season, I've really started estimating how much money it will take to really do justice to the scouting process. My wife and I have tried to segment our expenses this year into what we really need and what we want. We've been cutting out a lot of the want, but a condition we had was that if we could individually find the money to fund our own wants, we would gladly support each other in those hobbies.

Enter the 2010 MLB Draft Notebook. I first came up with the idea last year, but with all the extra expenses of getting the information to be able to really put it together in the form it will be this year, it was simply too much. We were paying for a wedding, and it was too pricey.

Once the ball got rolling on it, however, I knew that I would really have to delve deep into the issues, and I would have to be out there in the scouting and coaching community continuously. And to fund both that passion through the Notebook and my passion for baseball in general, I had to come up with the funding. Hence, the Draft Notebook isn't a free product. It's my expenses.

The expenses that I'm wanting to really see happen this year are higher than usual, mainly because I want to make initial investments into high-quality equipment that will last me for a number of years.

Up until now, I've always relied upon the radar guns of scouts next to me for readings. Since I've gotten more heavily into hands-on scouting, I've realized this is inadequate. There's a good chance that I'll be at a handful of games without a single scout in attendance, and I'd be stranded without any readings. It'd be pretty pointless. Therefore, my top purchase for the year is a radar gun. I'm looking to buy the exact version that scouts use, which is the Stalker Pro II Baseball Radar Gun. I'm going for the basic package, so notice the $1199 price tag. I've found it for as low as $1134.99 at another place, and I'm trying to work out getting a gun through other means, but I’ve had no luck, and that's by far my biggest expense.

Expense number two directly related to this site is an HD video camera. You guys have consistently given me this sort of direction, and I'm happy to oblige. I'd record every game I attend, and make clips that I'd post here as soon as I get back. That's becoming an invaluable part of coverage at this level, and it's something that Nick James at does better than anyone for his readers. I've been looking around, and I'm making an estimate of about $150 for one, which might seem trivial to a lot of you, but when you're working hard just to make sure that you can pay bills and eat, it's not.

The next expense that I've planned for, but is completely up readers, is a pair of scouting trips. One will be in just a few weeks if money allows, and it will probably be down to Florida. I would plan to see A.J. Cole, Yordy Cabrera, Chris Sale, LeVon Washington, and probably Karsten Whitson. I might mix a few other games in there depending on who is pitching on any given day. A second trip would be in May, and I'd probably try to get out to either Texas or California, the place to be determined. I'd choose to see Jameson Taillon, Rice, and the University of Texas or Dylan Covey, UCLA, and San Diego. Conservative budgeting for those two trips combined, including tickets, is $1,000. I don't know if you guys have realized, but flying/driving, hotel stays, eating on the road, tickets and such are very expensive these days. I think baseball fans are being ripped off.

Finally, the other miscellaneous baseball expenses for the year are the normal ones, such as online subscriptions and the phone bills from burning off the ears of scouts and coaches. Those come up to about $700, and those are the first I take care of, because they're the ones I automatically keep.

All told, if I can get the income for it, I'll be doling out about $3,000 in baseball expenses this year. Makes you appreciate the bigger enterprises like Baseball America, doesn't it? The amount of capital it takes to run a well-done enterprise like this is both large and small when you think about it. If I told you that you could get a quality draft blog off the ground for only $3,000, would you do it? Do you have $3,000? I know I don't have $3,000 in disposable income sitting around. I have to get every penny from sales of the Draft Notebook, the direct expenses of which I lump in with the $700 on miscellaneous items.

So, my overall point of this post is to point out just how much it takes to operate this blog in the way it should be done. I point you to the excerpts I’ve posted so far on Dixon Anderson, Tony Amezcua, and Jesse Biddle. If you live in SoCal, NorCal, or Philly, take those excerpts to a scout or a knowledgeable coach in the area, and ask them how correct it is. They will tell you it’s pretty much spot-on. That’s the type of info I can give you this year. That’s taken a lot of hard work, a lot of sweat, a lot of getting my butt chewed out for not being a true "baseball man" by a few coaches and scouts. Because I don’t come with the Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, or Perfect Game label, I’m not always trusted. But I’ve worked hard to get to the point that I feel I can give truly original content you can’t find anywhere else.

Soon, I’m going to be stepping up to bigger and better things with my content. That will involve a new blogging platform, as yesterday’s WordPress outage proved that it’s needed, even though the decision had already been made. I have a few offers to bring my blog somewhere else, either as a continued solo project or to places that are more collaborative, where I’d be a single writer in a larger group, similar to the writers at Baseball America. The number of new readers I will get will exponentially expand either way.

Before that happens, I want your input. With the average amount of revenue I get for each Draft Notebook I sell, my projection is that it will take the sale of 320 Draft Notebooks to break even with the expenses I just outlined. A quick look at the math and you’ll see that I don’t get a full $9.99 from each Notebook I sell. PayPal takes their cut, and I get $9.40 for domestic sales and $9.30 for international sales. To date with pre-orders, I’ve received 27 orders, which have been good for $253.30 to me. I’m giving you the frank numbers so you can see how it’s going. I would be completely happy reaching the break-even point of the miscellaneous expenses section, which would mean about 80 sales would be needed, or just another 53. That would mean cutting the investments in the radar gun, HD video camera, and the scouting trips, but you’d still get the same level of product in the Draft Notebook itself. The thing that would suffer would be the blog. The radar gun, HD video camera, and the scouting trips would be the big things that would boost blog content to a level you can only see at places like Baseball America and PG Crosschecker. For those of you that just want the total amount needed for those three extra big things, it comes out to about $2,300. That’s what it will cost me to boost the blog itself to the next level.

So, I got an idea from former Washington Times Nationals beat writer Mark Zuckerman. The website ChipIn offers a great way for readers to cover the extraneous expenses I’ve mentioned above. Mark, and his original inspiration C. Trent Rosecrans, have used that site to get readers to support their trips to spring training, since both of their newspapers went another direction with their baseball coverage or shut down operations altogether.

Judging from the early pre-orders on the MLB Draft Notebook, I think the regular break-even expenses I mentioned in the miscellaneous category will be covered by those sales. I still don’t know what to expect in terms of sales of the Notebook, as it’s hard to judge those sorts of things months in advance when I don’t have a previous year’s worth of sales to go on. Therefore, I won’t include those expenses in any sort of fundraising effort.

What I will do, with your permission, is create a collection account for the three major expenses I will have if I get the funding. Those three expenses are the radar gun, HD video camera, and the scouting trips.

What I want to stress is that this is above-and-beyond anything I would ever expect from my readers. For those of you that read my work on a continual basis, that’s all I would ever want from you. Your readership, and your support, has been pivotal in getting to where I have positioned the blog now. The numbers of you that have linked me to various sites are responsible for getting this thing off the ground. I will never expect anything more, and if you choose to donate to these specific things, I could never be more grateful to you. There is no pressure here to donate, and I will never push anyone into giving anything toward these things.

This is a chance for you to get a virtually unrivaled draft blog experience. Buying a radar gun and HD video camera are one-time purchases that immediately upgrade this blog to the level of top-tier in terms of content. Find me another draft-only blog that could give you continuous in-person scouting reports, combined with the other content I already offer, and I will gladly step aside in deference. Draft-specific blogs are just hard to find. Your opportunity here is to make this blog the one-stop shop for your draft information, and the MLB Draft Notebook will be your one-stop shop on draft day itself for player information and scouting reports.

Once again, I just want to stress that there is no obligation to donate. I will keep this blog 100% free as long as I run it, and I will never take my content to a site that’s behind a pay wall. That’s just a fundamental belief that information should be free, with the MLB Draft Notebook being something I have to charge for simply for the expense involved with it. It’s much more expensive to make that product than to run this blog. However, with the investment of readers like you, this blog can be a top-notch source for in-person and in-depth information that you’ve come to expect, just on a wider scale.

As part of my personal side of the bargain with the donations, I will be posting an excerpt from the Draft Notebook every single day between now and the draft. That’s 108 free reports that you will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. That’s on top of the three excerpts I’ve already posted. All the reports will be updated and edited as time goes along, and each report will reflect the current moment it is posted. I hope you find this to be a fair exchange for any financial support that you may give or your friends might give.

Thanks for making this blog so much fun to run, and I look forward to any feedback, positive or negative, about this entry. If you like the idea so much that you have to donate or tell your friends, I appreciate your enthusiasm more than you know. It’s been a fun ride so far, and there are only more great things to come.