The Question

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

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Q: Craig, what’s your favorite baseball site to read?

Until Manny Ramirez launches his own blog, that would be HardballTalk. Non biased answer: Baseball-Reference.com, though that’s less “read” than used. But I get more enjoyment using it than I get out of reading almost anything else.

Q: Does anyone in the AL West have a legitimate shot at winning the division besides the Rangers?

No. But if you can persuade me otherwise my ears and mind are open.

Q: More awkward: Ortiz playing first base, Randy Johnson batting, or seeing Picard in his sequin pajamas?

Johnson batting, by a long shot. Ortiz has some vestigial first base skills. Picard looks good in anything.

Q: Bigger letdown: Fukudome in Chi, Dice-K in Bos, or Borg plans for world domination?

The Borg. They can annihilate all of Starfleet, but “putting them to sleep” defeats them? This is the biggest design flaw since those engineers put fighter ship-sized trenches leading to the main reactor on the Death Star.

Q: Cliff Lee is to baseball what Rick Flair is to professional wrestling. Discuss. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

This is so false I can’t even begin to explain it. So I’ll let this man do it:

Tell Cliff Lee to call us back when he has 600 suits, a Cadillac, a Rolls-Royce and the biggest house on the big side of town, Jack! Wooo!

Q: Where did all the cowboys go?

Right here, buckaroo.

Q: Have you ever tried to name months after players? I’ve been calling this month “Swisher Sweet Month of June.”

It all breaks down in Rocktober, doesn’t it?

Q: Heavier first baseman: Ortiz, Cecil Fielder, Prince Fielder, or Richie Sexson?

Boog Powell

Q: Best song about lawyers: Lawyers, Guns and Money or Lawyers in Love?

Warren Zevon > Jackson Browne, 100% of the time.

Q: Very curious…what are your top 3 (relatively serious) reasons baseball beats football?

Obviously most of this is just personal taste, but the basis for my tastes have more to do with tone and mood than anything else.  My current job notwithstanding, I consider sports to be a pastime and a leisure activity, not some Deadly Serious Pursuit. Football basically requires that people ramp-up from their normal routine. To get psyched. To place importance on this one game — because there are so few — and to cast it all in stark and desperate terms. Baseball is the opposite. No one game really matters. It’s a comedown thing at the end of the day as opposed to that ramp-up. You can have a casual conversation while watching the game, sip a beer and unwind. It’s all about temperament.

Q: Greater threat to sabermetrics: Grantland or our schools’ inability to teach math anymore?

Actually, the answer is Jose Reyes.

Q: Strangest movie: “Blue Velvet,” “Nashville,” “Fight Club” or “To Live and Die in LA”?

I’m sorry, the answer is “Freaks.”

Q: Do we belong to the light? The thunder? The sound of the words we’ve both fallen under? 

This is what happens when, while asking for Twitter questions, you say “hit me with your best shot.”  But I’ll admit it: if I ever hear the song “We Belong” on the radio, I listen to it until the end. I’m not made of stone, here.

Q: You have 99 problems, but a ________ aint one.

Morning commute.

Q: What happened when you fought the law?

I won.

Q:  If you could have dinner with four famous people, but then four of you would have to eat the fifth for dessert, who would you choose?

I’m going to assume we can go with people living or dead, so: Socrates, Kurt Vonnegut, Oscar Wilde and Dorothy Parker. We probably eat Socrates at the end. I get the sense he’d be fine with that.

Q: If you had a rap career, what would your rap name be? What if you were a country singer? A stripper?

2Bald, Buck Abilene and Chester Drawers.

Q: How could Captain Malcolm Reynolds perform as a baseball manager?

He’d be like Billy Martin. He’d get results, but he’d breed so much dissension in the meantime that he would always wear out his welcome quickly.

Q: If you could give some law students studying for the bar one bit of awesome, life-changing advice, what would it be?

Don’t be evil. Really. You think it will be easy to keep your moral gravity in place — and you’ll believe that by adhering to legal ethics and following the orders of clients and superiors that you’re doing so — but those are very different things. Do a self-assessment once a year to make sure that you haven’t become something you despise.

Q: Did you read all of the Harry Potter books? See all the movies? Dress up as Hermione when no one is around?

I have read none of the Harry Potter books and I have seen none of the movies. As for that last question, I don’t have to answer that and you can’t make me.

Q: Next time you do a Dodgers chapter 11 roundup, can you explain why it’s in Delaware rather than California?

I’ll do it here. The reason is that it’s in Delaware is because the Los Angeles Dodgers are registered as a corporation in the State of Delaware (all U.S. corporations register in a specific state).  The reason for Delaware: it’s a well-known corporate haven. Over 50% of U.S. publicly-traded corporations and 60% of the Fortune 500 companies are incorporated there. Why? Lots of reasons. Initially because they adopted a bunch of corporate-friendly laws in the late 19th century with the sole intent of drawing business away from places like New York and Philadelphia. Since then it’s been a matter of inertia: with so many corporations there, the corporate law has developed to a far more sophisticated degree in Delaware than anywhere else, with a separate court charged with handling corporate disputes and far more certainty with respect to outcomes for corporations than they would face in other states.

Q: Match the manager with a drink: Makers Mark, Macallan, Captain Morgan, Jack Daniels:  Jim Leyland, Art Howe, Ned Yost, Davey Johnson.

I got the impression that both Yost and Howe drank milk or — when they were feeling sinister — root beer.  I’d say that Leyland is Jack Daniels guy. Davey goes for the scotch.

Q: Is Morrisey better solo or with The Smiths? 

If you’re talking about musical quality: The Smiths. If you’re talking about as a persona who is absolutely ridiculous and therefore great fun to mock even if we still admire on some level, it’s solo Morrisey.

Q: General bat and ball question: Which is more impressive, Nolan Ryan’s 5714 Ks or Muralitharan’s 600 career test wickets?

I was gonna leave this one for the video, but I didn’t have the heart to make Tiffany try to pronounce “Muralitharan.”  I’m going to go with the test wickets record, however, because it’s much harder to do something impressive while playing a ridiculous sport like cricket than a thing of fundamental beauty and truth like baseball.

Q: What do you think of Grantland so far.

Hit and miss. For all of the hype — and Bill Simmons has a way of attracting hype, be it intentionally or through no fault of his own — it’s a magazine. And like every magazine, there are good articles and bad ones. There are good editorial decisions and bad ones.  And of course, like every magazine in the history of magazines, it will take time for it to hit its stride.  I find most of the early general criticism to be imbued with no small amount of Bill Simmons bashing. Which, while great fun and often warranted, says more about the critic than it does about Grantland as a product.

That’s all I got, kiddos. Watch for HBT Daily later, where I actually answer some baseball questions. And let’s do it again next week.

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

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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 excaption 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.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.