Quote of the Day: Some meta-bloggy things

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As always, give this one a pass if you don’t care about the navel-gazing stuff about blogging (and a bit of politics, but not directly), but I find it fascinating, so whatever. And yes, this rambles a bit, but I think I get to a point that is useful for our purposes.

This quote came from Andrew Sullivan today:

A blogger who is not prepared to make a total fool out of himself is not a real blogger.

It’s a satisfying quote in and of itself, but it’s made more fascinating in context and I want to unpack that a bit.

For those who don’t know him, Sullivan is a political blogger. One of the first political bloggers, actually, and one of the most widely read ones at that. And he’s terribly controversial too for any number of reasons. Some of the controversy is rooted in his personal life, career path and history. In more recent years it’s because he’s kind of an odd duck, politically speaking: he’s a long-time conservative who, since the middle of the past decade or so, has more or less gone to war with the conservative/Republican establishment (and they with him).

Part of this is philosophy and a big disagreement between he and his peers regarding what conservatism truly is. Part of it is Sullivan’s repudiation of the Iraq War, of which he was originally a staunch supporter. Part of it is that he is a huge fan of Obama and sharp critic of the current GOP. Part of it is that he’s just unique: you don’t find too many dudes who are Oxford-educated, devoutly Catholic, openly-gay (and HIV-positive), pro-gay marriage with a long string of conservative bona fides, jobs and positions who suddenly becomes a champion of a ton of lefty causes while still claiming to be a conservative.  We love labels in this country and Sullivan doesn’t wear many of them well.

The context of that quote:  Sullivan has taken some hits recently for claiming to be highly critical of Obama while really being a fanboy. I actually see both sides of this. He is critical of Obama on a lot of things. Torture, civil liberties, some cowardly foreign policy positions and some other things.  But it’s also the case that it seems like nothing short of Obama killing someone in cold blood with a Glock on national television will cause him to change his view of the man. Kind of a tough position to be in when you claim — as Sullivan’s personal motto does — that he’s “of no party or clique.” Fact is, he’s emotional. People try to slam him (with some homophobia implied, I believe) by calling  him “excitable”, but he’s basically an emotional writer.

Today Sullivan copped to a lot of that, but offered this defense (and here is where this starts to be relevant for us):

A blog updated every 20 minutes or so can only reveal a blogger’s human gyrations in the kind of granular detail a weekly columnist or less frenzied blogger can avoid. It is not always pretty; but I always try to keep it honest and open. Maybe I should be ashamed. I certainly feel exposed. And I wish I were omniscient and prescient and never had emotional responses to events … but that wouldn’t be much fun would it?

I agree with Sullivan on some things and disagree with him on others.  But it is an absolute fact that, as a blogger, I model myself after him. This was a conscious decision back when I started out in 2007. Originally in terms of blog frequency — I think Sullivan’s popularity has a lot to do with the fact that he posts A LOT — but eventually in terms of temperament too.

No, I’m not as emotional as he is, but I really do believe in the idea that a blog is an organic, reactive medium that should best be read as a whole over time. That the blogger, if he wants to create and speak to a community, has to be willing to react quickly and from the heart even if it means being wrong sometimes. To not try to be omniscient or pretend that he didn’t totally whiff on something once when writing about that topic again. To believe what you believe and to state it strongly, but to be prepared to change your position when the facts change on the ground and to not spend too much time trying to tortuously bend old positions into new ones as if they were always consistent. Human reasoning and learning doesn’t work that way.

I don’t always do that, of course. I have blind and stubborn spots. And of course this is a baseball blog not a political blog like Sullivan’s, so the stakes aren’t exactly as high, meaning that one need not look as fearless or foolish when those inevitable “human gyrations” occur.  But that is the goal and it is the thinking.

And it’s why I usually criticize writers who approach baseball from a position of authority, as if they know it all and you readers don’t. It’s why I laugh at people who slam me in the comments because I’m changing my position on something. What, we can’t learn too?  It’s just baseball.  Sure, I thought Bryce Harper was a punk when I first encountered him, but that was a kneejerk reaction. I feel differently now. So what? You never change your mind?

OK, enough of that navel gazing. I just like to throw this kind of stuff out there from time to time in order to make sure people know where I’m coming from.

Kevin Gausman to start Opening Day for the Orioles

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The Orioles have tabbed Kevin Gausman to start on Opening Day, April 3 against the Blue Jays at Camden Yards, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports. Chris Tillman started the previous three Opening Days for the O’s. This will be Gausman’s first Opening Day nod.

Gausman, 26, finished the 2016 season with a 3.61 ERA and a 174/47 K/BB ratio in 179 2/3 innings. The Orioles selected him in the first round (fourth overall) of the 2012 draft and moved him through their minor league system quickly. Gausman debuted in the majors in May 2013.

2017 Preview: Detroit Tigers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Detroit Tigers.

I feel like every year, for the past several years, our Tigers preview has been some variation of “do the Tigers still have a run left in them with the Cabrera-Verlander core?”

If you’re tired of reading that one I have some bad news for you: it’s the same dang story this year as it has been every year. A great pitcher and a great hitter, a very solid supporting cast, a handful of holes that could be critical weaknesses and enough to make them look strong enough to contend but not enough to contend strongly, if that makes any sense.

Let’s start with the pitching. Justin Verlander returned to Cy Young-caliber form in 2016, thanks mostly to health and a big, big leap in his strikeout rate, suggesting that it was health and not an overall decline which harmed him in 2014 and 2015. He’ll lead the way again, followed by Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer, who was a wonderful surprise last season. The back end of the rotation is problematic, however, with Jordan Zimmermann and Anibal Sanchez stinking up the joint for most of last year and young Daniel Norris suffering through injuries. For the Tigers to contend, they’ll need at least one of those veterans to return to their old form — or someone like Matt Boyd or Mike Pelfrey to, well, not be Matt Boyd and Mike Pelfrey– and for Norris to be healthy.

Fine, let’s say Verlander and Fulmer repeat their 2016 success and say that Norris is a strong, healthy and effective number three. Who then does Brad Ausmus turn the ball over to in the late innings? If you think the overall take on the Tigers is rehashed from year to year, well, the same goes for the pen. It, as always, is a liability in Detroit. And it’s not going to be terribly different than it was last year. Francisco Rodriguez will close. A couple of Wilsons in Alex and Justin. Shane Greene. Maybe one of the veteran starters who doesn’t make the rotation. The always interesting Bruce Rondon. It’s not terrible but it’s not the strongest bunch in the world and it’s being handled by a guy in Ausmus who has yet to show that he can get the most out of a less-than-steller relief corps. You can Google the phrase “Tigers bullpen woes” and find results from every season for most of the past decade. You’ll probably be able to do it again this year.

The offense, of course, is fantastic, at least at the top end. Miguel Cabrera is still an MVP-caliber player and even when his decline begins he’ll be better than almost any hitter in the game. Ian Kinsler is still low-key excellent. Nick Castellanos took a big leap forward last year. J.D. Martinez is going to miss the first month or so of the season with a sprained ligament in his foot, but he’s in his walk year and will likely be fine once he returns. Justin Upton has always been super uneven and has always failed to meet the insane expectations he set early in his career, but as he showed late last season, he’s capable of carrying a team for a stretch. I’ve been saying it for a pushing a decade, but one of these years he’s going to put it all together.

The big question is going to be the bottom third of the lineup where catcher James McCann, shortstop Jose Iglesias and center fielder Tyler Collins all look to be offensive liabilities at the moment. A bigger than usual year from any of them could help matters greatly.

Of course all of this — the strong lineup with critical holes, the rotation that starts well but has question marks and the spotty bullpen — has been the Tigers story for years. It’s a story that could end happily with 85-90 wins, a playoff spot and a bunch of seasoned veterans getting hot at the right time and riding it to glory. It could just as easily get sprinkled with a slow start or a few injuries and result in a 75-80 win season like they had back in 2015.

In the past, that would lead to yet another “wait until next year.” This year, however, you get the strong sense that there is no next year if this year is disappointing. There was talk that the Tigers could sell off veteran parts this past winter, but they didn’t. Then longtime owner Mike Ilitch, who was seen as a man who pushed to win now despite the costs, passed away in February. It’s not hard to imagine his son giving different instructions to GM Al Avila if the Tigers don’t get off to a fast start this year. It’s not hard to imagine the great unwinding of the core that has kept this Tigers team in contention for so long if 2017 is a disappointment.

I’m still optimistic, though. The Indians are the class of the division but the Royals are likely taking a step back and the Twins and White Sox are not yet a threat. I won’t predict October glory for them, but I think, barring major injuries to key players, the Tigers will be playing meaningful baseball in September.

Prediction: Second place, American League Central