The Question

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

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We did the Twitter questions thing again last night. Let’s go:

Q: How do the Braves end up as “your” team if you grew up in WV, TBS?

Yep. That and an electric attraction to Andres Thomas.

Q: Will Ryan Braun be elected to start the All-Star Game even with the PED cloud over his head?

He’s still fourth overall in the voting and is the second-leading vote-getter among National League outfielders. Milwaukee draws a lot of fans and thus votes. I think he makes it.

Q: OK… Do the Cubs have ANY chance of finishing above .500 this season?

As of this this morning they’d have to 62-44 to make it. I think the odds of that happening are somewhere close to the odds of me winning the Cy Young Award.

Q: Umpires. Are they getting worse every year or is technology advancing so much we’re noticing their gaffes more?

I don’t know that we have any real way of measuring if they’re better or worse. I’m skeptical that they’re considerably worse and suspect that a lot of it has to do with the fact that we can see every mistake in high-def and watch it replayed like crazy on the web the next day. But saying “it’s always been bad like this” doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t improve umpiring. Jay Jaffe had some suggestions on how to do that yesterday.  They’re pretty darn good.

Q:  Rockies cut Moyer, sign Francis. Upgrade?

In terms of pitching? Probably. But they have taken a serious downgrade in metrics dealing with sitting around, telling people about how meat was rationed during the war while offering the children gross hard candies.

Q: So we’re putting the giant Morrissey poster in the foyer, right?

This is what happens when your girlfriend and you talk about moving in together. In other news.

Q: Just finished season one of Battlestar Galactica. Why is Baltar tormented? Hallucinating about Number Six does not seem like too poor an existence.

Oh, just wait, his torment become nice and justified later. And now, even though I just finished watching all of BSG last fall, I want to watch them all again.

Q: When a player is fined, where does the money go? The league? The team or union? Or (hopefully) charity?

There’s a central fund shared by all the teams. In some instances they go to charities. Really, though, the fine money in baseball is chump change, so it’s not like the league is getting rich off this or that charities are getting shafted. It’s like Major League Baseball’s give-a-penny, take-a-penny dish.

Q: Do you believe it’s even possible for any baseball player to dominate every day the way Richard Dawson did in Super Match?

Richard Dawson on Match Game was like Babe Ruth in 1920 crossed with Sandy Koufax in 1966. But at the risk of being controversial, there may not have been a better game show performance than Markie Post on Pyramid. Stone cold assassin.

Q: How many Altuves is Andrelton’s andrelton?

Based on the photographic evidence, I’d say it’s around 0.13845 Altuves.

Q: How does @norunsupport feel about your fascination with Andrelton Simmons’ junk?

I don’t think it bothers her or worries her nearly as much as the fact that I have a Madonna playlist on my iPod and listen to it fairly often bothers her.

Q: When the post about Bill Maher buying a share of the Mets went up, a lot of people replied with “another reason to hate the Mets.” Why do you think people with no vested anti-Mets rooting interest hate the Mets so much? They just don’t seem with the effort to me.

I don’t think people hate the Mets nearly as much as they love hacky jokes. The Mets merely provide an efficient vehicle for hacky joke delivery.

Q: If the Mets go into a slump, everybody’s going to blame Tuesday night’s game, aren’t they?

No, they’re going to blame Bill Maher for poor leadership.

Q: Did you ever have a personal one shining moment in little league?

Not really. I played baseball from age 7 through age 15 or so, and I was always kind of crappy. I could catch a little and I wasn’t an automatic out, but I was slow and was never high up in the batting order. Offensively speaking, the only highlight that comes to mind is the time when I was playing Babe Ruth ball and we faced some stud pitcher who had an amazing curve ball for his age and everyone thought it was the best thing ever. I knew I couldn’t catch up to his fastball, so I just decided to hope he bothered to throw me “his wrinkle,” as my coach called it. He did on the second pitch and I hit a double. I don’t remember ever hitting any other doubles. I think I was stranded at second base. For the rest of the game I acted all wise in the dugout, explaining to the other kids how to recognize that curve. I was completely full of crap, of course.

Q: Would you be interested in this Batman/Aquaman slash fiction I’ve authored?

No! Never! In fact I’m so appalled by the idea that you should just throw it out! If you can’t find an appropriate place to toss it, send it to hardballtalk@gmail.com and, um, someone here will dispose of it for you.

Q: Will Karolyi put Maroney on the team even though she is really only useable for one event? Will Utley ever play this year?

I think it’s more likely that McKayla Maroney plays second base for the Phillies — or Chase Utley makes the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team — than it is for Utley to play second base for the Phillies this year.

Q: Is Angel Hernandez always this incompetent, or just tonight?

I don’t even know what he did or where he was umpiring last night, but the answer is: yes, he is always that incompetent.

Q: What’s the most crazy? Pitt in 2nd, Dodgers in first, or Boston/Philly in last?

If by “crazy” you mean “unsustainable” I’d go with the Pirates. Unless you think that A.J. Burnett is going to continue pitching like and ace and the Buccos are going to continue to win despite having only one legit offensive threat.

Q: Name some of your favorite lines/moments from “Ball Four.” Where does it rank in your pantheon of baseball books?

There are so many. The first one that comes to mind is “A young girl asked one of the guys in the bullpen if he was married.  ‘Yeah,’ he said, ‘but I’m not a fanatic about it.'”  The moments I like the most are the ones that tend to get overlooked when people talk about “Ball Four.”  Everyone mentions the stories about  Mickey Mantle and ballplayer carousing and stuff, but for me the best parts of the book are about Bouton himself, his desperation and just how aware he is that he’s close to losing his dream of being a ballplayer.  You can’t read the book without thinking of it as a man trying to come to terms with things. So much of the humor and so many of the observations can be read as Bouton in self-defense mode. It’s really affecting and the dynamic applies beyond baseball. In my case, I took a very similar stance with the law as I was leaving it, knowing I’d never be a partner in a law firm and trying my best to see it all with clear eyes.

Q: Aroldis Chapman on the mound, Batman at the plate. What’s the pitch-by-pitch breakdown?

[Pitch One]: Strike looking

[Pitch Two]: Strike looking

[Pitch Three]: Pitcher’s arm riddled with Batarangs, pelvis broke by kick to midsection, pitcher bound in rope, deposited on the steps of the Cincinnati Police Department with note pinned to him explaining how he orchestrated grand theft in Pittsburgh and facilitated a Cuban torture ring.

Q: What’s your favorite baseball memory?

Probably my first real one: watching Alan Trammell hit a home run against the California Angels in 1979. I was not yet six and it was the first game I remember attending. I thought it was the best thing that had ever happened. The Tigers (who were then my rooting interest) winning the World Series in 1984 and the Braves winning the World Series in 1995 didn’t even compare as far as what I felt and how I remember it. No lie.

Q: Old Shea or Hell?

Never went to Old Shea, so I guess I can’t say for sure. But I hear Hell is a dry heat so maybe it’s not that bad …

Q: The Twins drafted a ton of power pitchers, but their coaching staff is known for developing pitch to contact. Problem?

Nah. You can always teach a power pitcher to pitch to contact. The Twins play baseball the right way.

Q: If a tree falls in the woods, has @AaronGleeman kissed a girl?

Oh man, that’s cold.

Q: Give us a farfetched baseball prediction that could very well come true this year.

Cliff Lee goes all Private Pyle on the rest of the Phillies for not giving him any run support.

Q: Wilco, yeay or nay?

Yay, but I’m not a fanatic about it. I tend to like their older alt-countryish stuff more than the more recent things. “Being There” is my favorite. But honestly, I listen to Mermaid Avenue more than any proper Wilco stuff and “California Stars” may be my favorite song they’ve done ever.

Q: Should the Phillies be considering austerity at this point?

I think that’s out of the question. With all of the salary obligations they have right now they are To Big To Fail. I suggest a government bailout with the taxpayers picking up Ryan Howard’s deal. Oh, don’t complain Philly fans. You claim it’s not a bad deal, YOU pay it.

Q: Who would you rather have as a pinch hitter on the bench: Thor or the Hulk?

Thor. Hulk obviously has better power, but he strikes me as a three true outcomes guy. I’m guessing Thor has a way better on base percentage.

Q: Is the proposal for a more unbalanced schedule really a way for owners to cut overhead? Divisional foes are generally closer, right? Would those extra games represent sign. savings in travel expenses?

I don’t know that it’s travel expenses as much as it is TV revenue. When teams have to play more games on opposite coasts they have more games that start at funky hours for the home fans which likely leads to lower ratings.

Q: Any chance we can get a celebrity girls of baseball post? I like to stay informed, it’d be very boss of you.

Wait, are there any celebrity girls of baseball? And dude, if I wanted to whore for pageviews that badly I’d just do a 100-page slideshow of the worst Phillies contracts of all time. It would easily be more popular than a cheesecake thing.

Q: Who will be the better player five years from now: Trout or Harper?

Um, Harper the better hitter, Trout talked about as the more complete package and all-around player. But I think Harper will be enough of a better hitter to where this will be a Beatles-Beach Boys thing as opposed to a Beatles-Rolling Stones things.

Q: With Harper and Trout being the Batman and Superman of Rookies, does that make Matt Moore the Aquaman of the Rookies?

Look, I like the Beach Boys a lot, so that previous comp is not to take a thing away from Trout. But I wouldn’t lay Superman on him. Superman is great and all, but he’s so boring and that does not describe Trout at all.  And Moore is not Aquaman. Aquaman has repeated Double-A three years running and the club is considering converting him into a middle reliever or something.

That’s all for this week, folks. Now I’m off to watch more Markie Post videos.

Cubs, Jake Arrieta avoid arbitration at $10.7 million

Jake Arrieta
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.

Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.

Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.

Giants sign Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Conor Gillaspie is unable to hold on to the ball after catching a grounder hit by Kansas City Royals' Lorenzo Cain in the fourth inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
AP Photo/Colin E. Braley
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Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.

Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.

The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.

Joe Nathan plans to pitch in 2016

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan throws against the Chicago White Sox in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”

Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.

Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.

The Rays are considering reliever Tyler Clippard

New York Mets pitcher Tyler Clippard throws during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the National League baseball championship series against the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.

The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.