When MLB.com introduced a new GameDay view earlier this season, complete with stadium-specific perspectives, it was easy to overlook the row of buttons along the bottom that triggered fly-in menus. Box score, field view, play-by-play summary; pretty standard stuff. And they added a twitter feed box for easy-access tweeting.
And then they added a new function: MLB.com badges.
Now, let me digress here for a moment. I am a collector. Of everything. I've gone through baseball cards, and comic books, and bobbleheads, and video games, and Star Wars action figures, and probably other things I'm forgetting. It's ridiculous.
SoSG Orel and I have talked about this phenomenon for years; there's something about the male species that makes us desire completing a collection, as if an inner voice provokes us to chase hard-to-find items in order to finish the set. Orel is convinced that it's innate, stemming from caveman days when males had hunter/gatherer roles. All I know is, when I have an unfinished set, I will obsess about the holes in that set to no end, spending weeks scouring ebay in my quest.
And more is always better than less. The only constraint I ever run into is space in my house (or storage facility), but assuming there is no space limitation, collecting can continue unconstrained.
And that is the brilliance of MLB.com's badges, a meaningless currency that I've found ridiculously addicting to collect, and perfect in that it takes no physical space, inhabiting my virtual badge case instead.
Here's how it works. Before each game, both teams have three of their players selected (apparently somewhat randomly), with an event assigned to them. If that event happens in that game, their badge--which looks like a pog milkcap--is unlocked. For example, before a Dodger game, Matt Kemp might be selected as one of the three players, with his associated event being "homerun". If he hits a homerun in that game, the Kemp badge is unlocked.
Viewers who have signed in to MLB.com and are "watching" the game over GameDay can collect these unlocked badges in their virtual badge case. The only trick is that the window has to be open at the exact time that the badge is awarded; if you login late (for example, opening a window in the fifth inning, after the HR was hit in the first), then you don't get the badge. But one can have multiple windows open to collect badges across concurrent games.
In addition, one will collect badges for both teams playing, so long as that event happens and the badge unlocks. So if you're a Dodgers fan watching a Dodgers-Giants game over GameDay, there's a chance you're going to get a Miguel Tejada badge in your case, unfortunately (unlikely, in Tejada's case, but still possible).
As of this morning, I have 284 badges, which take up 18 screens of cases. I'm lucky to have a lot of Dodgers, twelve in fact: Jerry Sands, Matt Kemp, Marcus Thames, Clayton Kershaw, Juan Uribe (he takes up two slots in the case), Chad Billingsley, James Loney, Jamey Carroll, Ted Lilly, Andre Ethier, Hiroki Kuroda, and Javy Guerra.
12 out of 284 is a little above the straight-line MLB average, so that probably reflects my watching Dodgers games more than any other team; however, I'll confess that I usually have every game open so long as I have had the time to do so (which may explain why my Netflix streaming slows to a crawl sometimes).
Anyway, if you're a collecting-type like me, then MLB.com's badges are an interesting diversion. Mindless and meaningless? Sure. Addictive? Kind of. Just try it for yourself.
Next up: how to build your MLB.com badge collection as quickly as possible.