The Question

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

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Another round of Twitter questions, some of which I held back for the next edition of HBT Extra. These, however, did not make the video cut. Which is cool, because as we all know, the non-video ones are usually more fun. Anyway:

Q: So…what would you say, ya do here?

Well look, I already told you! I deal with the goddamn customers so the engineers don’t have to! I have people skills!

Q: Who’s your favorite?

I assume this was a question about The Women of “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero,” so I’ll go with the Baroness because, wowza. I liked her way more than Scarlet or Lady Jaye. In other news, according to G.I. Joe canon, Lady Jaye is a Bryn Mawr graduate who did graduate work in Trinity College in Dublin, before going on to intelligence school. Yet she’s only a staff sergeant. Scarlett, meanwhile, graduated college summa cum laude and went to law school and she’s only a master sergeant. What’s up with that? Women can’t be officers in G.I. Joe? What a crock.

Q: Why is there no love for Batgirl? Who wouldn’t want a hot chick that could bar brawl with you?

Ask me after I answer this next question …

Q: Tigers and Braves in playoffs, not playing each other, but at the same time. Do you give up the good TV to me? Think about it.

That question came from my girlfriend, who is a Tigers blogger. When she finds out that I’d make her watch Detroit up in the back room on the old TV that’s hooked up to the kids’ Wii, I may very well find out what it’s like to have a hot chick bar brawling with me. Been nice knowin’ you guys.

Q: Commissioner of the day: you are allowed to pardon one for entry to HoF, Shoeless Joe Jackson or Pete Rose? And why.

Jackson. Because even if they dug up his dry, dead bones, propped them up on stage and had famous ventriloquist Jeff Dunham shove his hand up his backside and speak for him, his induction speech would be more dignified than Rose’s.

Q: When will the Chicago Cubs win the World Series?

2018. Prove me wrong.

Q: How do you really feel about football bloggers writing about baseball? It was tough to tell from your post today.

In case you missed it. But I found something even better than football writers taking on baseball. Football fans coming into baseball blog threads and accusing people who like baseball of being “butthurt,” which is a word that they apparently hand out like free candy at football fan school. What we’re supposed to be “butthurt” over I’m not sure, though based on context I assume it’s baseball’s relative unpopularity compared to football. Which is an interesting insight given that these comments always come in response to arguments that football’s greater popularity is actually a drawback rather than a benefit or is, at the very least, irrelevant. But maybe I’m wrong to think that’s interesting. Perhaps my butthurtedness is just blinding me.

Q: What question would you most like asked?

Something that would give me an excuse to troll Phillies fans, preferably about Ryan Howard.

Q: Ryan Howard hasn’t struck out once this season, or made a single error at 1B. Still think his $125M extension was a mistake?

Wow, someone did the trolling for me in the question! You guys are awesome!

Q: What troubled MLB franchise would Dennis Rodman save?

The New York Yankees. They’ve been around forever. They haven’t really changed. They have no excitement about them at all. This, I’m told by football partisans, is a horrible thing, so clearly they need Rodman to drag them into the late 20th century.

Q: Why do Baby Boomers hate me and my fellow millenials?

That’s totally unfair. We Gen-Xers hate you and your fellow millenials too. It’s a jealousy thing, though. You guys text way faster than we can.

Q: Do you like candy?

It’s dandy, but …

Q: Do you have to work at being a D-bag, or does it come natural?

Come now, if I was really a D-bag I’d note that your use of the word “natural” is improper and that you should have gone with an adverb there. But I won’t do that, because I’m not a D-bag.

Q: Why does Dusty Baker hate me? And Aroldis Chapman? And Devin Mesoraco? And Chris Heisey?

You know what you did.

Q: Should Dusty Baker Insert himself in the cleanup spot in the Reds batting order?

Only if he can’t find Kal Daniels’ number.

Q: Should Cadet Kirk really have been awarded a commendation for original thinking?

Referring to this, of course. And you’re right, maybe he should have been punished for cheating. But given that he slept his way through an entire female cadet class and was never disciplined for harassment or moral turpitude, we all know that they were never gonna do anything to him. If he had killed another cadet while trying to execute a Kolvoord Starburst like Wesley Crusher did, Kirk probably would have gotten a commendation too.

Q: Best pizza in Columbus?

Pizza in Columbus is pretty dire. There is a local type of pizza — not good enough to make it a neat regional thing, but prevalent enough to squeeze out actually good pizza — that I’ll call “Columbus Style Pizza” as a shorthand. Columbus Style Pizza is a thin crust thing, pushed mostly by local chain Donato’s. It’s always cut in little squares, not proper slices. It can be done well by some local places (think crispier crust) but it’s often found on soft stale cracker crust and doesn’t hold up to anything approaching a decent topping load.

Worst of all, it doesn’t scratch the itch for good, triangle-cut pie. I mean, I realize this is Columbus and we’re not going to get New York quality here, but it’s almost impossible to find decent, traditional pizza that doesn’t come from a chain. Even Sbarro’s is an improvement compared to what we normally get.

If I must get something besides my local Columbus Style (which at least my kids like), I’ll go to a place down on Ohio State’s campus called Flying Pizza, which is at least in the neighborhood of New York style pizza. Though I’m guessing New Yorkers wouldn’t have the highest opinion of it.

Q: How are you celebrating Chipper’s 40th birthday next Tuesday?

Not getting pizza, that’s for damn sure.

Q: Odds the Cardinals repeat?

Q: Why can’t baseball be more like the NFL?

I guess we’re just stuck in the past, man. We can’t get beyond our 126 square-inch prison!

Q: Tim & Eric: Great Job or Greatest Job?

Great job! (it’s an awesome show)

Q: Why was the DH created and why only AL?

Social experiment created by the auto industry to see if Americans would accept a big, bloated, slow-moving product with superficial performance advantages that, in reality, no one really needed in the first place. This led directly to the SUV explosion in the 1990s.  The NL was used as a control group.

Q: Why was Kris Medlen pitching 2 innings in a 8-2 game? Is Fredi saving Livan’s arm?

Fredi knows that none of us have a memory and that later in the season when Medlen is gassed he can say “hey, I had to use him in close games early” and no one will call him on it.

Q: What do you think is the difference between this year’s J-Hey compared to last year?

Injuries, really. I know that’s often used as an excuse, but he was hurt more than most people realized. Wrist troubles kill a guy who depends on whiplike bat speed like him.

Q: Ratio of serious questions to sarcastic?

Better this week than usual, but that’s not saying much.

Q: What would be your at bat music?

This little ditty.  I’d make Mike Hargrove look like a rank amateur.

Q: You have to demolish one of these stadiums -Fenway or Wrigley? And why?

Fenway. I like it when people say things like “that’s a wicked pissah!” They’re so cute.

Q: Henry Rollins Era, or First Four Years. Your answer to this is of the utmost importance.

I have this feeling based on the questioner and the way it was put that the correct answer should be First Four Years. But I ain’t gonna lie: I wasn’t that damn cool back in the day and I had never heard of Black Flag prior to Henry Rollins being in it. Likewise, I was never so into Black Flag that I felt it necessary to go back and find the older, pre-Hank stuff. I owned “Damaged” on cassette and loved it and I’m not gonna pretend I didn’t, even if Rollins became something of a clown later on.

Q: On a scale of 1-10 how worried are you about Tim Lincecum?

4:20.

Q: Favorite Muppet?

That mad bomber guy. Mostly out of pity. Thanks to a bunch of idiot terrorists he was marginalized for years. I was really happy to see that he made it back for that new Muppet movie.

Q: Would you rather have Liberty Media spring for outfield lighting banks at Turner or on fielders that can catch popups?

The lights. Because  given how much Dan Uggla cost them already, I can’t imagine the price for a second baseman who can actually field his position. It’s likely prohibitive. And since going over budget gives Liberty Media the vapors — and since there is no room in the budget for anti-vapors medication, at least not this quarter — we simply can’t have that.

Q: Why is Fredi still manager of the Braves? 

No room in the budget for cardboard boxes designated for desk-clearing purposes. And Staples is really wanting too much for the paper on which the pink slips are printed. If there’s a sale sometime this summer, however, Fredi had best watch out.

Q: Over/under 1.5 seasons for Bobby V as Sox manager.

Under. Just a feeling.

Q: Why eat pie when ice cream exists?

Because of à la mode? Because you can either subject yourself to false choices or you must die a fiery and awful death?

Q: If you had one recurring event in your life that would activate something like the Marlins HR feature, what would it be?

When I write a tweet that is exactly 140 characters the first time I write it, with no awkward abbreviations and whatnot. That’s a solid, solid feeling in need of overly-demonstrative celebration.

Q: My brother, @TimsNeighbor , was accepted to Emory Law School today. Bourbon of choice for celebration? Can’t say Makers.

Congrats, TimsNeighbor. Who was literally a tool once upon a time and now will be a lawyer. Oh well, we can’t all progress in life. Bourbon: treat yourself to some Ranger Creek. It’s not from Kentucky, but it’s good bourbon. And very different than Makers if that’s not your thing.

Q: Is Aaron Gleeman more Aquaman or more Robin? Or am I completely off the mark?

He’s Steve Arlo to my Daryl Zero. Except I don’t do as much meth and would never have been able to call that bluff about the Corrodium 3 deduction.

Q: Who would you choose to start a game 7 of the WS that was active anytime between 1976-1982 and why?

Hmm. Tough one. Gonna go with Phil Niekro. Not because he’s necessarily the most effective. Rather, because Game 7’s make me nervous, and at least with Niekro we’d know early if the knuckleball was working. If it wasn’t I could turn off the game early and save myself the heartache.

Q: Beatles or Stones?

See the above question about false choices.  When I feel like a badass I listen to Beggar’s Banquet-Exile Stones, and there may be nothing better in the world.  When I want beauty and wonderfulness in my life I listen to any number of Beatles records.  We can all get along, people. We can all get along.

Thanks, all.  More next week.

Did Tony Clark sacrifice the future in order to make a deal now?

Tony Clark
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We broke down what we know of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement yesterday. Today Yahoo’s Jeff Passan has a far more in depth look at the various provisions in the deal and provides a lot of behind the scenes stuff about how MLB and the union got from A to B.

There’s a lot to chew on there. A lot of minutiae and money talk that, truth be told, most fans don’t care too much about, even if it does have repercussions for how teams do business and, eventually, the product they put on the field. Passan deals with almost all aspects of that, concluding that, while this deal will ensure baseball for the next five years, it may very well lay the groundwork for future labor strife and a possible increase in differences between baseball’s haves and baseball’s have-nots going forward.

You should read it all if you care about this stuff, but there are two takeaways I have from all of it that, I think, suggest serious trouble ahead. Maybe not this year or next, but in future player-owner negotiations: (1) the union, for the first time ever, agreed to a hard cap on player compensation, in the form of a hard limit on international player bonuses; and (2) the union agreed to major provisions without securing player consensus. Both of these developments are described by Passan thusly:

The desire of a vocal segment of players to avoid an international draft at all costs was abundantly clear, and ultimately – over the objection of a number of top players and officials – the union took that position: No deal until there’s no draft. MLB saw an opportunity and instead got the cost containment it desired without having to spend a penny on the infrastructure a draft would necessitate. The league asked for a hard cap on money spent internationally and couldn’t believe its fortune: The union acceded, a stunning reversal from past negotiations when a hard cap of any kind, be it on team salaries, draft spending or international money, was rejected outright.

I and many others had opposed an international draft, but that its avoidance came at the cost of a hard cap was surprising. And, as I noted yesterday, that the cap is as low as it is — $5-6 million — was equally surprising. The owners got the cost containment that they wanted, did nothing to address the concerns they claimed they had about the exploitation of amateurs, and, for the first time in history, got a hard cap on spending. Even draft bonus slotting, which has been in place for a while, has some give and take to it that the new cap does not have.

But I’m more surprised to see that the union was not in solidarity when it came to all of this. Passan quotes one player, who he says speaks for many, who said the international draft negotiation was “hijacked” by a subset of players and that there is great disunity as to how it all turned out. This is new territory for the Players Union. While there has been some infighting among players in recent years with respect to drug testing, there has never been public disunity when it comes to pocketbook matters. The MLBPA’s power — the very reason it was able to beat the owners for over 30 years straight and become, arguably, the most successful union in all of organized labor — came by virtue of its solidarity. A solidarity that seems to be unprecedentedly absent this time around.

For now, this may not matter. A deal is done and there will be baseball for the next five seasons. But it’s easy to smooth over disagreements when everyone is rich. Right now baseball is flush with cash and revenues are increasing. What happens if that stops?

What happens if, as some have predicted, the cable money stops flowing into baseball’s coffers? ESPN has lost over a million subscribers in the past two months. People are cutting cords. I have a lot of faith in cable companies, large broadcast networks and sports leagues to find new ways to sell sports to people and do not predict a shocking doomsday, but the model that has driven baseball’s revenue for the past decade or two is not etched in stone. There will be flux and, if more pessimistic predictions come to pass, there could be a serious disruption in baseball’s revenue streams. An RSN could very well declare bankruptcy or decide that it would cost them less to simply breach a contract with a club or the league than to continue to pay them. Whatever happens, the only constant in media over the past 25 years has been change and there is no law saying networks have to pay baseball teams a billion dollars to show baseball games.

So, flash forward five years and presume, for the moment, that baseball’s revenues have been flat or falling. And say the owners decide that it’s time to revive their 1980s-90s strategy of capping salaries for major league players. Sure, the players will fight it, but they’ve lost the ability to say that hard caps are, by definition, unacceptable. They’ve caved on the topic for the first time, thus making any case they would make to the owners and to their own rank and file that much harder to articulate. Why, might a 2021 union member who was subject to a cap in 2017 think, is a cap that only really affects some veterans on his club such a bad thing? Maybe it’s OK? And why, might an owner’s representative at the bargaining table think, should we believe that Tony Clark won’t cave now? He came off of Marvin Miller and Don Fehr’s hard line in 2016. Maybe he will again. It’s worth a try!

All of which makes more work for Clark and the union to fight serious threats if they are presented to them, and the harder you have to work to shore up your own side in a negotiation, the less power you have to fight the other side. Clark will have to expend far more effort to argue harder and to rally his own troops now that he doesn’t have a baseline principle to which everyone is in agreement. And if that “hijacked” sentiment Passan noted above is any indication, Clark showed that he was either unable to generate solidarity on an important matter this year or, more worrisome, that he was uninterested in doing so. Is there any guarantee that he can do a better job later, when the threats are greater?

As I noted at the beginning, it’s good that we will have baseball, uninterrupted, for the next five seasons. It’s good that a deal was done. But the more we learn about the new CBA, the more it seems that reaching that deal cost the union quite a bit in terms of solidarity and principle. The players may not have to pay much if anything for that now, but bills always have a way of coming due.

Breaking Down Today’s Game Hall of Fame Ballot: Davey Johnson

1990:  Manager Davey Johnson of the New York Mets looks on the field before a game in the 1990 season. ( Photo by: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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On Monday, December 5, the Today’s Game committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame — the replacement for the Veterans Committee which covers the years 1988-2016 — will vote on candidates for the 2017 induction class. This week we are looking at the ten candidates, one-by-one, to assess their Hall worthiness. Next up: Davey Johnson

The case for his induction:

As we note each year when the Manager of the Year Awards are announced, it’s hard to properly assess managers. A team’s performance is so heavily dependent on talent and health that it’s often difficult to determine what role a manager truly plays in its success. Bruce Bochy won three World Series titles in five seasons but the Giants disappointed in the second half of 2016. Did he suddenly forget how to manage? Of course not. Stuff happens.

Over time, however, it’s a bit easier. No, you can’t simply go on the number of titles a guy won, but patterns certainly emerge and a manager’s influence begins to reveal itself over decades. And there is a definite pattern for Davey Johnson: he, quite simply, won everywhere he went. Teams which hired hims saw marked improvement soon after he came on board and, for some reason, declined right after he left. Funny that.

Johnson managed for 17 seasons and won 1,372 games, posting a .562 winning percentage. He was twice named Manager of the Year. He won the 1986 World Series with the Mets, led his clubs to first place finishes in his division six times and second place finishes eight times, making the playoffs in six seasons overall. He would’ve likely won another division title and made another playoff appearance but for the strike-shortened 1994 season.

Johnson was on the scene as the Mets ascended to greatness and they descended into trash not long after he left. He did his best under a combustible owner in Cincinnati, managed to maintain the success Lou Piniella had there and the team got worse after he left. The Orioles were a sub-.500 team before he arrived, he took them to the playoffs twice, he left and they spent more than a decade in the wilderness. The Nationals made the playoffs for the first time after he took over. Only the Dodgers did not see dramatic improvement under Johnson, but nor did they really decline.

Johnson was also an innovator when it came to analytics. He was a big proponent of lineup optimization, using computers and math to do so way before his peers did. When it comes to platooning and putting players in niche roles which allowed them to maximize their talents, Johnson had few if any peers among his contemporaries. It was him and La Russa, really, with everyone else far behind.

The case against his induction:

His aggregate win total is pretty low compared to modern managers who have been inducted by the Veterans Committee, primarily due to his not managing anywhere from 2001 through 2010. If he had padded that resume with even sub-.500 clubs he’d have win totals which exceeded Casey Stengel, Walter Alston and Leo Durocher. As it is, he’s 31st all-time in wins, just below the still-active Terry Francona and just above Chuck Tanner. Even if his winning percentage is higher than the majority of managers ahead of him, those totals have harmed his case and make him pale compared to contemporaries like La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre. That’s an unfair standard — those three are among the all-time greats — but that’s who voters will likely compare him to. If he had two or three World Series titles he may have been able to overcome the win totals, but he doesn’t.

A second factor that also has a lot to do with optics as opposed to merit is that Johnson was seen as having great timing, having been hired by the Mets just as Frank Cashen assembled a killer roster of young talent and later being hired by teams which were already poised to win. That should not be held against Johnson — he could only manage the teams he was given — but some people have knocked him in the past for swooping into good situations as opposed to being on the ground floor of winning organizations. It’s dumb, but it’s a thing I’ve heard people say.

One other factor that may or may not play into this: Johnson had a difficult time getting along with the front offices who employed him, leading to short tenures in Cincinnati, Baltimore and Los Angeles. Personally I think not getting along with Marge Schott and Peter Angelos is a sign of good character, but it’s hard to avoid the fact that Johnson was a prickly character himself. Should that affect his Hall of Fame case? No. Will it? Maybe. Depends who is on the committee voting for him.

Would I vote for him?

I would. The only other manager who had the immediate impact Johnson had everywhere he went was Billy Martin. The guy just won and won in many different places under a lot of different circumstances. I wish we could point to some metric that definitively told us who was a good manager and who wasn’t, but in the absence of that I can’t help but look at Davey Johnson and say “man, that guy was a good manager.” One of the best of his era and, I feel, worthy of induction.

Will the Committee vote for him?

I’m pessimistic. Johnson’s win totals, extended absence in the 2000s and subsequent lack of disciples and proteges in the world of baseball make him feel like more of an outsider than a lot of other retired managers. His greatest exploits seem like they happened a long, long time ago and I feel like he has become under-appreciated as a result. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if he gets in, but suspect he will not.