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.

Blame Baseball’s copycat behavior for its lack of diversity in the executive ranks

Rob Manfred
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Following on yesterday’s stuff about baseball’s marked lack of diversity in the executive ranks comes a Ken Rosenthal column which digs into it a bit.

I might observe that, while, Rosenthal is right on all of the facts, there is a whiff of pushback in the story. As if MLB folks were hearing the criticisms Murray Chass and others have leveled in recent days about the lack of women, minorities and other candidates who don’t fit the “30-something MBA from an Ivy League school” mold of so many of today’s top execs and wanted to get some points out there. The league’s search firm is examined and there is a bit of “well, here is an exception; and here are a few more . . .” to it. Which, hey, that’s fair. Like I said, Rosenthal has his facts right and treats the issue seriously.

I think Rosenthal’s best bit, however, is the point he hits on at the end, when he says “homogeneity is dangerous in any industry, particularly when bright people are excluded.” That’s probably the key word to think about when you think about baseball’s hiring practices. “Homegeneity.” Baseball has a distinct lack of women and minorities in key positions, but I don’t think it’s because baseball is maliciously racist or sexist. Rather, it’s because baseball is acutely prone to copycat behavior that breeds homogeneity.

Everything about baseball culture, from the first day of a player’s minor league career-on and from the first day an intern is hired to get coffee for an assistant general manager is about not being different. About not sticking out. About emulating successes. You may mess up or you may fail, but if you do it while going about your business the way other, successful people went about theirs, you’ll be way better off than if you did things differently or stuck out.

This is true of all industries to some degree, but it seems far more prevalent in baseball. It’s a smaller world with fewer opportunities than business at large. It’s a more conservative world in terms of temperament. It’s one where you’re far more likely to have a reporter ask you about why you did something than, say, the accounting industry. It makes people afraid to take chances and makes people far more likely to do what that last successful guy did than to go out on even the shortest of limbs.

Not that things don’t change. Indeed, today’s preference for 30-something MBAs is radically different than the old model of hiring some old “baseball man” to run baseball operations. But it only came to the fore after the sabermetric and analytical model forced its way into the conversation with success and/or efficiencies that were impossible for even the crustiest old baseball man to ignore. That said, it was a transformation that was so difficult and radical that it was literally turned into a book and a movie and led to a decade and a half of arguing. A philosophical change which may have been casually noted in another business and then quickly emulated played out like some sort of cultural civil war in baseball circles. Change came, yes, but it wasn’t easy.

But here we are again, with the old baseball men replaced by the “Moneyball” disciples, who have become the new normal. A normal which one deviates from at great risk in baseball’s conservative world. I don’t believe that baseball’s homogeneity in the executive ranks is a function of bad people who believe bad things making bad decisions. I think it’s about fear and conformity more than anything else. Now there is a fear that not hiring that Ivy League MBA is the radical and perilous move. And if that Ivy League MBA was one who worked under another Ivy League MBA with another, all the better. And the easier we can sell him to fans as “the next Theo Epstein,” well, the better. And it sure would be easier to do that if he looked like Theo Epstein! Comps are the lingua franca of old baseball scouts. They’re the lingua franca of baseball decision makers too.

Whatever the causes, the net effect of all of this is no different than if there were virulent racism and sexism in the hearts and minds of baseball’s decision makers. It’s the same rich white boys club that maliciousness and bigotry could’ve created, even if it was created via more benign means. If baseball’s leaders truly believe that diversity in their leadership ranks is important — and I believe them when they say they do — they need to attack the problem of its homogeneity in the same manner they would if there was something malicious afoot. They need to stop throwing up their hands and saying “well, that’s what clubs do” or “that’s what our search firm gave us” and make achieving diversity a goal with an action plan, not just a goal which is merely stated.

Chris Archer could lose his 20th game tonight

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10:  Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on from the mound after surrendering a home run in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 10, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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That’s a pretty negative way to put a headline, but the fact is, a starting pitcher losing 20 games is a rare and notable feat these days. But Tampa Bay Rays starter Chris Archer could pull it off against the White Sox this evening. He’s 8-19 with a 4.02 ERA in 194.2 innings across 32 starts in 2016.

That’s a big fall from 2015, when he was considered one of the rising aces in the game. Archer was an All-Star last year, and finished fifth in the Cy Young voting, finishing fifth in pitcher WAR, sixth in ERA, second in strikeouts, second in strikeouts per nine innings, fourth in fielding independent pitching and allowing the fourth lowest number of hits per nine innings pitched among AL starters.

To be fair, he still should be considered one of the best pitchers in the game. Yes, it has been a bad year for Archer, but he still strikes out a lot of guys. Overall, it takes a pretty good pitcher to lose 20 games in the big leagues. You don’t get the opportunities to do such a dubious thing unless you’re healthy and you have the confidence of your manager to take the ball every fifth day. And to be fair to Archer, he’s had bad defense and awful run support this year. Make no mistake, he has pitched worse than he did a year ago, but not so much worse that he deserves to reach a milestone no one has reached since 2003.

The guy who did that in 2003: Mike Maroth of a 119-loss Tigers team. Maroth won nine games that year and now gets referenced every time someone approaches 20 losses. If Archer avoids his 20th loss, he might match Maroth’s 2003 win total himself tonight. If not, well, everyone will cite Archer’s name, and not Maroth’s, whenever someone get to 19 losses in a season.