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.

The stats show the Pirates as an outlier in throwing “headhunter” pitches

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 5: Reliever Arquimedes Caminero #37 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh inning at Busch Stadium on September 5, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Last week at ESPN Sweetspot’s Inside the Zona, Ryan Morrison looked into the data and found that the Pirates stand out among the rest when it comes to throwing “headhunter” pitches. Those are defined as fastballs 3.2 feet or higher and 1.2 feet towards the batter from the center of the plate.

The research was prompted because Diamondbacks second baseman Jean Segura was hit in the helmet by Pirates reliever Arquimedes Caminero last Tuesday in the seventh inning. The next inning, Caminero hit shortstop Nick Ahmed in the jaw with a pitch and was instantly ejected.

Morrison illustrated the data in a nice chart, which you should check out. The Pirates have thrown 93 of those pitches, which is way more than any other team. The next closest team is the Reds at 68 pitches. The major league average is approximately 48 pitches.

The Pirates have had an organizational philosophy of pitching inside since at least 2013, as MLB.com’s Tom Singer quoted manager Clint Hurdle as saying, “We’re not trying to hurt people, just staying in with conviction.”

Morrison goes on to suggest that the Diamondbacks should have forfeited last Wednesday and Thursday’s games against the Pirates in protest, out of concern for their players’ safety. As it happened, the D-Backs lost both games anyway, suffering a series sweep. The two clubs don’t meet again this season.

D-Backs manager Chip Hale said after last Tuesday’s game that Caminero “shouldn’t be at this level”. Caminero responded to those comments today, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. “I’m actually glad you asked me about that,” Caminero said. “The only thing I’ve got to say about (Hale) is that he is a perfect manager. And he was a perfect player, too. That’s it. I know what I did wasn’t good, but it happens in baseball. I wasn’t trying to hit anyone.”

I realize I’m late on pointing out Morrison’s terrific article and the whole debacle between the two teams, but I felt it was worth highlighting.

Jose Bautista: “I’d be stupid to leave” Toronto

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 29: Jose Bautista #19 of the Toronto Blue Jayshits a two-run home run in the fifth inning during MLB game action against the Boston Red Sox on May 29, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Also included in a recent report on Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista by Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated — along with his belief that Rougned Odor was the only bad guy in the May 15 debacle — was the slugger’s desire to remain a Blue Jay. Per Verducci, Bautista said, “I love the city. I’d be stupid to leave” Toronto.

Bautista, 35, is in the final year of a five-year, $65 million extension signed in February 2011. Back in November, the Jays exercised their 2016 club option for $14 million. Bautista isn’t willing to discuss contract details during the season, so the two sides will have to wait until at least October to come to an agreement.

Entering Tuesday’s game against the Yankees, Bautista is hitting .237/.371/.489 with 11 home runs, 37 RBI, and 40 walks, the latter of which leads the American League.

Jose Reyes to begin a rehab assignment on Wednesday

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 18:  Jose Reyes #7 of the Colorado Rockies advances to second base on a wild throw from Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann of the Washington Nationals during the first inning at Coors Field on August 18, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Rockies shortstop will join Triple-A Albuquerque to begin a rehab assignment, manager Walt Weiss said on Tuesday, per MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. Reyes was suspended through May 31 for an offseason domestic violence incident, effectively a 51-game suspension.

During the offseason, Reyes allegedly grabbed his wife by the neck and shoved her into a sliding glass door in the midst of an argument. Reyes pled not gulity and the charges against him were eventually dropped because his wife was uncooperative with authorities. It is not uncommon for an abuser’s significant other to be uncooperative with authorities due to the fear of further retaliation if the abuser suffers any consequences, such as losing his job.

Reyes has spent the last two weeks getting into baseball shape at the Rockies’ spring training complex in Arizona and he’ll likely need another couple of weeks in the minors. Rookie shortstop Trevor Story has cooled off significantly since a blistering hot start to the season, but has still played well enough to warrant the Rockies not forcing him to concede his starting role to Reyes.

The Rockies acquired Reyes from the Blue Jays on July 28 last year along with Miguel Castro and two minor leaguers in exchange for Troy Tulowitzki and LaTroy Hawkins.

Padres catcher Christian Bethancourt just pitched, and he reached 96 MPH

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 26:  Catcher Christian Bethancourt #12 of the San Diego Padres poses for a portrait during spring training photo day at Peoria Sports Complex on February 26, 2016 in Peoria, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
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The Mariners’ offense ran roughshod over Padres starter James Shields on Tuesday afternoon, knocking him out after 2 2/3 innings. The right-hander surrendered 10 runs.

It didn’t get much better for the Padres from there. The Mariners would score twice more in the fourth and four times in the fifth to take a commanding 16-0 lead. The Padres clawed back for a trio of runs in the sixth and one more in the seventh, but the lead was essentially insurmountable.

Unsurprisingly, the Padres opted to use a position player to soak up at least one inning, so catcher Christian Bethancourt took the mound to begin the eighth. Bethancourt had trouble finding the strike zone, but he was consistently hitting the mid-90’s with his fastball, which was impressive. He sandwiched a pair of fly outs with a walk, but then he lost all semblance of control. He walked Norichika Aoki, then hit Seth Smith with a 59 MPH knuckleball. Yes, you read that right: a knuckleball.

Manager Andy Green relieved Bethancourt with infielder Alexi Amarista, and Bethancourt moved to second base. Amarista got Shawn O’Malley to ground out with the bases loaded to end the inning.

Though Bethancourt’s results weren’t the greatest, it was still fun to watch him pitch.