The Question

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

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Q: What would you do if you joined the BBWAA for 10 years?

Vote for Jay Bell and Bill Mueller for the Hall of Fame? Act petulantly and intellectually dishonest while appealing to authority if and when I was called out for my irrationality?  Anything I wanted to, really.

Q: Should sports reporters/analysts be able to vote on awards/honors that they also cover?

I know the New York Times and some other outlets forbid their writers from doing so on conflict of interest grounds. I don’t have that big of a problem with it, though, mostly because I’m not sure who else would do a better job of it.  If I were the BBWAA, though, I’d make it a requirement that the voters explain their reasoning in some form or another and make Hall of Fame ballots public.

Q: Are you going to try to push to get into the BBWAA next year? Clearly, need your vote to cancel out someone else’s.

Actually, yeah, I think we’re going to try to get badges this December. It wouldn’t be simply for awards voting, though. Aaron, D.J. and Drew all live in MLB cities and I think them being able to go to games with little hassle — which is the point of a BBWAA membership — would improve our product. I go to spring training now and try to catch as many games as I can from here in central Ohio, so I’d use it too. Awards and, eventually, Hall of Fame voting would be gravy. In any event, I’ll keep you posted on how that goes. If any BBWAA members are reading: hi!

Q: When did you stop taking steroids?

Right after I stopped beating my wife. Pedro Gomez knows all of this though. He can tell with his own two eyes.

Q: Who’s more useless to their team right now: Pujols or Aquaman?

Oof. Rough times for El Hombre right now.

Q: Dee Gordon vs. Starlin Castro…. who gets the better numbers?

Castro, and I don’t think it will be close. At least outside of the stolen base column. Whether Castro does it as a shortstop is another question altogether, though.

Q: Pineda is dead and Hughes sucks. Should Cashman start shopping for gorilla suits to sneak out of town?

That’s totally unfair. Because Freddy Garcia sucks too.

Q: Who is the best baseball player yet to be born?

I don’t know his name, but my gut tells me he’ll be born in a few months, in whatever city Bryce Harper spend his offseason.

Q: Who’s more disappointing to their fans: Royals, Red Sox, or Pujols?

Can’t be the Royals. I mean, yeah, there was some offseason hype, but after the past 20-some years of hell, I don’t think Royals fans are so gullible to have actually built up serious expectations. And not to be snarky here, but does Albert Pujols actually have fans?  Those in St. Louis have likely abandoned him, changing the fandom they had for him to some mix of admiration, nostalgia and longing. Angels fans, in contrast, have yet to see anything from Pujols that would actually have won them over.  So, by default, I’m going with Red Sox fans.

Q: Manny + Yoenois = ?

The most awkward dinner part ever? But Angel Prieto would be there to translate for Cespedes, and based on what I saw of him at spring training, he’s a nice, funny guy who would add a lot to a dinner party, so I figure it would be cool.

Q: Thoughts on the Yankees 94.5 O/U after the Pineda loss?

I don’t think you can pin any Yankees disappointment in the standings this year on the Pineda loss given that the guy never suited up. I’d be much more worried about Phil Hughes’ struggles. But whatever goes into it, I’m still taking the over.

Q: If you could be any animal, what would it be?

A cat, without question. Dogs have too much responsibility.

Q: What nickname would you give Jordany Valdespin? Could anything live up to just “Jordany Valdespin?”

That’s not a real person. Cut it out.

Q: Just how badly did the Twins have the Metrodome rigged to screw with the Braves in the ’91 World Series?

Oh, it was terrible. Phony crowd noise, manipulated air conditioning, all those steroids they pumped into Jack Morris, the replacement of their first baseman with a Teamster goon. The list goes on and on.

Q: I might have missed something but I know why Mookie is Mookie but don’t know Carlo’s story.

My daughter is nicknamed Mookie because it just occurred to me to call her that one day, she got annoyed by it, seeing her annoyed is one of the most hilarious things ever and so it stuck. Carlo is my son’s real name. I occasionally call him “Buddy,” but he’s pretty immune to nicknames. He’s the most Carlo person I know.

Q: I know you’re a huge Dylan fan – were you a fan of The Band? Did Levon Helm’s death hit you hard?

I like the Band, but I’m not some super fan. I own Big Pink and the self-titled album and like them. I think their contributions to “Before the Flood” and their backup to Dylan in other instances are fantastic, and I have always loved “The Last Waltz.”  But it has never gone beyond admiration and enjoyment. I feel like them the way I feel about a lot of good bands. I did learn a bit about Levon Helm in recent years and I think he sounded like a neat guy. But no, I can’t say his death hit me hard. I just don’t have those kinds of feelings or connections with celebrities, musicians, athletes, actors, etc. I can’t think of one such death, Dylan’s included, that I could honestly say would “hit me hard.” I’m just not wired that way.

Q: Would an exorcism free the Giancarlo demon from Mike Stanton’s body?

The Power of Ozzie Compels You!

Q: The Marlins home run sculpture has to be a last ditch attempt of Aquaman to become relevant? right?? He’s so desperate!

I know, right?  And really, what’s better?  This or this?  Case closed.

Q: Can Batman hit a curveball?

Normally I would say yes, but man, the guy stands in the batter’s box facing the catcher, so maybe baseball is not his thing.

Q: What has turned Jair Jurrjens from an All-Star last summer into a triple A pitcher this spring?

It’s like when the Coyote runs off the cliff and stands their suspended in mid air until he looks down and then — and only then — does he fall. Jurrjens has been suspended in mid-air for a while. You just can’t maintain the kind of success he had with the low strikeout rates he had forever. Throw in a couple of nagging injuries that have sapped him of a couple of ticks off his fastball, and he’s sorta doomed.

Q: Has the first few weeks of the season changed your opinion on any of your predicted division winners?

Nah. The Phillies’ — and the Nats’ — start has me pretty concerned, but I still have this feeling that they’ll turn it around. Otherwise I still feel pretty confident about my picks: Phillies, Cards, Dbacks, Yankees, Tigers, Rangers.

Q: Where’s my “can Jeter hit .400” post? Also, seeing Mets and Yanks in the same week. I think I prefer CitiField.

I joked about writing that post, mostly to preempt someone at NBC from actually asking me to do one. Thinking I could say “guys, really, I mocked that idea last week!”  Someone’s gonna do it, though. You know they are.  As for the fields: dirty secret: I have always enjoyed half-empty parks more than full house, much the same way I prefer half-empty airplanes. People suck, and fewer of them jostling against me is a good thing. So while I’ve never been to either of those parks, I have this feeling I’d enjoy myself at Citi better, even if it’s not as aesthetically as cool as Yankee Stadium.

Q: Legit Q: how long until Derek Lowe throws a shutout for Cleveland? Seems only a matter of time til karma shows her ugly head.

C’mon, Karma may be a bitch, but she’s a gorgeous one in her own way. And I will say, the worst part of Jair Jurrjens being demoted is that I missed the 2011-version of Lowe, and Jurrjens did a lot to remind me of him. Wait, that’s not true. I didn’t miss that at all.

As for Lowe’s shutouts: he faces Albert Pujols this weekend, so there’s at least one easy out. Amirite, guys?

Q: Why does it make sense to grade a trade by anything but the end result? Anything is else sounds like rationalization.

Madness? This is the Internet! If we can’t offer premature kneejerk judgment, what’s the point?

Q: As an outside observer, do you see anything but injuries stopping the Rangers this year?

Nope. I’d say the same thing as an insider observer. Except that observation would be accompanied by lots of flowery prose about how dreamy Michael Young is.

Q: If you were a hot dog, would you eat yourself?

Without question. And I’d wash myself down with a nice summer shandy.

Q: Also, Minor or Beachy for the next 5 years?

Gosh, hard to say. Maybe Beachy, but it’s for some random, not-very-objective reasons.

Q: True or False: Kevin Conroy is the best TV/Movie portrayal of Batman.

Absolutely true. He was great as the voice in the “Animated Series.” Plus, he totally called b.s. on Christian Bale’s bad, bad choice of making Batman sound like he gargled razor blades. I love Bale’s Bruce Wayne, and he certainly looks good kicking butt in the movies. But his Batman voice is rather annoying.

Q: More likely: Boston finishes third in East, or Pujols slugs under .500 for first time in career?

I think Boston finishing third. I am not punting on Pujols yet. I may mock a little, but I’m not punting.

Q: Would you put Rose in the Hall?

Yup. The Hall should be about baseball greatness and baseball greatness only, and Pete Rose was baseball great.  I’d keep his ass banned, though, and not let him anywhere near current baseball operations of any team.  He can be a fan ambassador or whatever if he wants. I’m sure the Reds would hire him in a millisecond for such a role.

Q: Craig, I’m relocating from the east coast to Ohio this summer. Any words of advice?

Bring your own pizza. Get used to leaving for someplace a few short minutes before you have to be there because we have no traffic. Learn to like bratwurst. Brush up on your college football knowledge because, boy howdy, does everyone frickin’ love to talk about it here and if you can’t you’ll be treated like an alien.

Q: What’s a bigger drawback in a co-host: lack of knowledge of BABIP or Batman?

I don’t know that Tiffany doesn’t know about BABIP. I’m pretty sure she has no Batman-fu, however, which is why I tend not to use those questions for the video portion of Twitter questions.

And speaking of which: if you didn’t see your question here, stay tuned, as sometime tomorrow morning the HBT Extra version of Twitter questions will be up.

Joe Blanton signs with the Nationals

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07:  Joe Blanton #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on June 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals have signed Joe Blanton to a one-year contract.

Surprised it took this long given that Blanton was excellent out of the pen for the Dodgers last year, posting a 2.48 ERA and 80/26 K/BB ratio over 80 innings. But even if it’s a late signing, it’s not a terrible one: Blanton will receive a $4 million salary and will have the chance to make an additional $1 million in performance bonuses. UPDATE: The salary structure is kind of odd. Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports that Blanton will get only $1 million in 2017, plus some incentives, and will have $1 million deferred to 2018 and $2 million deferred to 2019.

And he got two weeks off work. Bonus!

Baseball doesn’t need gimmicks to draw in young fans. It just needs to be baseball.

MESA, AZ - MARCH 6: Chicago Cubs ball and bat bags are seen prior to the game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds on March 6, 2015 at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. The Reds defeated the Cubs 5-2. (Photo by Rich Pilling/Getty Images)
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MESA, AZ — I didn’t set out to ask Robin Mitchell about pace of play, rules changes, how to best execute an intentional walk or how to turn kids into baseball fans. I was interviewing her about other stuff. She brought those topics up on her own.

“I heard them saying that they were not going to throw four pitches for intentional walks anymore,” Mitchell said. “I’d prefer that they throw the pitches because anything can happen. There can be wild pitches. And that’s the exciting part of baseball. That you don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t think we need to speed the game along.”

For most baseball fans such sentiments are tied up with a devotion to baseball purism, tradition or their distaste for change. But such is not the case for Mitchell. While the lifelong Chicago resident went to Cubs games as a child, baseball has not been a lifelong obsession. Rather, it’s something she has become reacquainted with via her two baseball-obsessed boys, Jake, 11, and Bennett, 9.

Mitchell and her boys live on the north side of Chicago and, over the past two years, her sons have developed a huge affinity for the Cubs, almost by osmosis. It was certainly a good time for it, as the Cubs have become winners, and Mitchell allows that since Jake and Bennett didn’t “have to suffer through some of the more challenging times,” their attraction to the game became easier. It’s clear to her, however, that they are not going to be fair weather fans.

“They love baseball,” she said, implying that it’s not just homerism for the current World Series champions at work. They love the sport itself and began to play it too. It’s not easy for Mitchell to say whether their playing led to their fandom or vice-versa. It all sort of happened at once, with each reinforcing the other.

I asked her what about baseball, specifically, appeals to them. What, at a time when Rob Manfred and everyone connected to the game is worried about the sport’s seeming inability to attract and hold on to young fans, keeps Mitchell’s sons engaged.

For them, it seems to be all about accessibility and engagement. Being in Chicago and living close to a park is important, as is having all of the games available on TV. Also important to them: appealing young stars.

“It helps that the Cubs have some really nice players who seem like really nice guys,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes we see them in the neighborhood even. Ben Zobrist. Anthony Rizzo. David Ross. Whenever we’ve seen them out or at an event they’re always kind and polite and give the boys encouraging words.”

But isn’t baseball . . . boring? And slow? Don’t kids like video games and kinetic action? Doesn’t a 19th century pastime with a sometimes turgid pace turn off 21st century kids?

“No, are you kidding?!” Mitchell said. “We don’t leave the game before it’s over. That’s what we do. It doesn’t matter what the score is. We love the pace of baseball. In the world of electronics, with everything moving really fast and being gimmicky, there’s something I think that my boys and I find appealing about baseball. I can share it with them and we all just slow down.”

As we talked, Jake and Bennett ran around a field just outside the Cubs clubhouse, playing catch and practicing rundowns with a couple of other boys they just met. Mitchell and I spoke for nearly a half hour. They played the whole time and looked like they wouldn’t stop unless or until their mother dragged them away.

We have spent a lot of time lately talking about how to fix baseball. I don’t know that anyone has made a compelling case that, despite the challenges the game faces, it is actually broken. Robin Mitchell doesn’t think it is. Neither do Jake and Bennett. While Rob Manfred and Joe Torre propose increasingly unorthodox methods for speeding things up, some pretty basic and longstanding factors are continuing to attract young fans:

  • The availability of games almost every day;
  • An exciting and successful local team;
  • The charisma of baseball’s biggest stars;
  • The ability for kids to play the game themselves and to emulate those stars on a little league field; and
  • The chance for parents to share their love of baseball with their children.

These are the factors which have always made up baseball’s appeal. Perhaps Major League Baseball should concentrate on ensuring that those factors, which are proven to draw in fans, persist and flourish. Perhaps they should concentrate less on chasing hypothetical fans via gimmicks aimed at fixing problems which are far-from-established.