The Question

People asked me questions on Twitter. So I shall answer them.

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I sort of liked the reader questions on Twitter thing last week, so we did it again on HBT Daily a little while ago. And, like last week, we had way more questions than could fit on a three-minute video. Here are some of the many we left out:

Q: Are McLouths flowing locks of hair the key to the Braves season?

No. The key is the number of two-strike squeeze plays called by Fredi Gonzalez when the pitcher has already demonstrated that he can’t get a bunt down. I’ll let you decide if that has an inverse or direct relationship to Braves wins.

Q: Chuck Tanner? Thoughts?

I talked about Chuck Tanner when he died back in February. Short version: He was a nice decent man. He was also a great example that different kinds of teams call for different kinds of managers. An extreme “players’ manager,” he was awesome when he had a mature team with respected leadership like Willie Stargell and the “We are Family” Pirates. He was less awesome when he had a team that needed a firmer hand like the mid-to-late 80s Braves and the cocaine-addled post-Stargell Pirates.  All of that said, he got along with Dick Allen, and no one freaking got along with Dick Allen, so Tanner may have been some sort of saint or savant.

Q: If you could know for sure on one guy (re: steroid use), who would you pick?

I won’t name a specific name I’m curious about because that might suggest that I suspect him to begin with and that is a business I don’t feel comfortable getting into. Broadly speaking, though, I’d be really curious to know who used and who didn’t in the pre-Canseco era. Because Jose Canseco didn’t invent steroids and there is considerable evidence that they were being used in baseball at least in the 1970s and maybe earlier. I don’t approve of steroids, but I am not at all willing to say that baseball had “The Steroid Era,” that it neatly coincided with Jose Canseco’s emergence and the release of the Mitchell Report and pretend that there’s nothing else to know about it. Doing so is unfair to those who are being treated like monsters because of use in the 1990s-2000s and it lets earlier PED users off the hook when they shouldn’t be.

Q: Is Joe Maddon right or crazy for preferring Sam Fuld to Carl Crawford?

Did he said that? If so, I missed it. (UPDATE: he said it).  And if so, he’s neither right nor crazy. He’s just practical. Sam Fuld is in his clubhouse every day. Carl Crawford is not.  But yeah, liking Fuld as a player more than Crawford is pure bonkerousness.

Q: Do you see the inexplicable (and largely undefined) MLB TV blackout rules being revised any time soon? Affects Hawaii, too.

Not really, if for no other reason than MLB has not shown that it cares about this one iota. When baseball wakes up and realizes that it stands to make a bunch more money with MLB.tv and Extra Innings subscriptions than it does from cable customers who are theoretically but never actually able to watch, say, Twins games in Iowa because the team-affiliated networks don’t serve that area, they’ll change it.

Q:  Favorite Trek (TOS) movie? Any favorite lines?

KHAAAAAAAAAN!!!!

Q: What would you use first– Just for Men or Rogaine, and do the commercials play into that decision?

As a bald man this is a purely theoretical question. But let me just say that I think people who lose their hair or go gray naturally look and seem like happier and more content people than those who fight nature via chemicals, wigs and greasy kid stuff.

Q: Drinking age: 18 or 21?

I’m rather swayed by the idea that people old enough to be sent to fight a war or to be tried as an adult should be allowed to have a beer. At the same time, I will grant that our society is kind of messed up in that a lot more effort seems to be put into preparing a person to fight in a war and/or commit crimes than it does to teach them to handle alcohol and other adult matters responsibly, so who knows what would happen if we lowered the drinking age back down to 18 again.  As a 37 year-old man, I find that I care about this issue far less than I did, oh, 16-19 years ago.

Q: Under what circumstances would you send your 6’4″ Hawaiian first baseman up to home plate to bunt w/ one out?

I think the man that can answer that preceded the man who likes those two-strike squeeze plays as the Braves’ third base coach back in the day. Perhaps there is something in the water down in Atlanta that caused all of the Bobby Cox proteges to do silly things like this.

Q: Why did they stop making Jello Pudding Pops? Those things were delicious!

I think it was decided in the same meeting where it was decided to rename Ding Dongs as “King Dons.” Thankfully the good people at Hostess eventually came to their senses. Your move, Jell-O.

Q: How many FULL Marlins games do you watch in a given season, other than when they play the Braves?

This was probably prompted by my swipe at the Marlins’ broadcasting crew a couple of weeks ago. The answer: not many. I’d guess I watched five Marlins games other than Marlins-Braves last season (when I’m usually listening to Braves announcers anyway). So far this year I’ve seen the majority of two.  So yes, I’ll grant that my criticism of Hutton and Waltz isn’t based on a ton of data. That said, people who do watch tons of Marlins games have told me that it wasn’t off base, either.

Q: Top 3 bourbons?

Blanton’s, Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark.  I am limited, however, to the bigger brands that I can buy here in Columbus. I’m going to remedy this in June when the wife and I take a pilgrimage to Kentucky for a little weekend getaway/bourbon expedition.  I’m hoping to discover stuff I’ve never heard of and love like there’s no tomorrow.

Q: Is your wife a hottie? 

And that’s all the time we have for today. Let’s do this again next week, shall we?

The Marlins have made a “monster offer” for Kenley Jansen

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 18:  Kenley Jansen #74 of the Los Angeles Dodgers delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning of game three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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OXON HILL, MD — The morning after Aroldis Chapman signed for a record $86 million, the Miami Marlins are reported to have made similarly lucrative offer to the other top free agent closer, Kenley Jansen.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo says that the Marlins have made “a monster offer” of five years and more than $80 million to Jansen. This despite the fact that the club is coming off of a 79-win season and, tragically, lost their top pitcher Jose Fernandez in a fatal boating accident, which will substantially harm their competitive prospects. While it seems like a stretch to say that the Yankees will compete for a playoff spot, thereby making such an historically large investment in a closer a bit suspect, the Marlins doing so is even more questionable.

Meanwhile, the Nationals are said to be interested in Jansen as well, though Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post says the Nats are “uncomfortable” with the financial commitment signing him would require.

Jansen most recently pitched for the Dodgers and there have been no reports that they’re totally out on him, but there has been nothing to suggest that they are pushing hard for him either.

Jansen, 29, finished this past season with 47 saves, a 1.83 ERA, and a 104/11 K/BB ratio in 68.2 innings. That’s not quite Aroldis Chapman good, but he seems poised to collect something close to Aroldis Chapman money.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

chapman
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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.