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


I haven’t done one of these in forever. Mostly because they were getting a little tired. Batman. Aquaman. Bourbon. Sure, those are things I love, hate and love, respectively, but a sameness crept in.  Hopefully now that some time has passed, this exercise will seem fresh again.

Have at you!

Q: I’ve always wondered how you guys work the blog together. Are there beats? Do you take shifts? Take us behind the scenes.

There are shifts, sorta. And beats, sorta. Basically, I do the morning recap post and the first few things before 10AM. It started out that way back in the 2009 Circling the Bases days, before I was doing this full time. I’m just a morning person and it works that way. Gleeman comes on around 10AM or so (it’s 9AM for him in the Central time zone) and he and I steer the ship, usually trading posts until around 6PM eastern. Matthew comes on around then takes us through a couple of hours in the evening, at which point either Drew or D.J. — depending on the night — join him and the two take us through the night.  On weekends, some combination of D.J. Drew and Matthew are around.

As for beats: not really. I tend to take legal stuff, but not always. Each of us tend to cover the teams we root for the best, but that’s certainly not exclusive. Mostly it’s whoever calls what first. We talk via G-chat all day and say things like “I’ll get the Boston-L.A. trade” or “I’ll get the Ozzie Guillen Twitter meltdown.”  And, of course, we all are assigned 24/7 to the Bobby Valentine beat these days.  I’m not gonna lie, though: a great deal of Aaron and my G-chat conversations involve Cohen Brothers movies and snippy little complaints about people on Twitter that we’d never dare say to their faces.

Q: Better band: Nirvana or Foo Fighters?

I’m not one of those people who talk about bands and artists as if there is a right answer and a wrong answer. Yes, I will go to my grave thinking that Rush kinda sucks and the Pixies are amazing, but everyone has some fans and adherents out there and there’s always someone who hates what you hate. So when I say someone is better, I mean it only for me.  And as for me, it’s Nirvana, in large part because of the when and where of how I first heard and came to love them (I was 18 in 1991).  For me, Foo Fighters will always be a playlist of their best songs on my iPod. Nirvana will be a band where I keep four full-length albums in pretty frequent rotation and even still, occasionally, throw in “From the Muddy Banks of the Wishka” when I feel like listening to noisy dissonance.

Q: Do you ever stop to think how Batman is part of the bloodsucking 1%? Isn’t Spider-Man a better hero of the people?

I try to not let politics and Batman mix, though I realize that’s difficult. When I can’t ignore it, yes, I do acknowledge that in many ways Batman is a conservative fantasy: a rich man stepping in to save society when a feckless and corrupt government cannot. That said, he has had his “Occupy” moments, like when he crashed that fancy dinner party in “Year One.”

Q: Do you now take Twitter blocks as badge of honor? Try to provoke people into blocking you?

This was inspired by the fact that Curt Schilling blocked me on Twitter yesterday because I had the gall to suggest that he is not one to call Bobby Valentine or anyone else a disgrace given the past couple of years he’s had. But no, I don’t take it as a badge of honor and don’t try to provoke people. I really don’t care. The only two blocks I’m aware of are Schilling and Heyman. If anyone else has blocked me I haven’t noticed, which says way more about the quality and necessity of their Twitter content than anything else.

Q: Fill in the blank: Mila Kunis : Aaron Gleeman :: ___ : Craig Calcaterra.

This references Aaron’s just-this-side-of-creepy fixation on Kunis. For my part, I don’t have a single celebrity obsession like that. I’ve gone through a number of lower level obsessions, however. Carla Gugino and I go way, way back. I had a thing for mid-90s Gillian Anderson, as most geeks did. But I don’t go full-bore into celebrity crushes. Often it’s more characters and roles. Time and place. I’m more of a substantive relationship guy than anything else. My feelings about fleeting attraction to random women I do not know can pretty much be summed up by Bernstein’s speech about the woman on the Jersey ferry in “Citizen Kane.” Maybe that makes a creeper. I dunno.

Q: Has @AaronGleeman kissed a girl yet?

Does your mom count? Aaron may come off as inexperienced, but he’s a stone-cold lady killer. Don’t think for a minute he isn’t.

Q: Does Clint Dempsey start in Kingston?

What’s a Clint Dempsey?

Q: When is Alli going to make you cook a dessert?

That’s a friend of my girlfriend’s, noting my recent, tentative and still extremely modest foray into cooking which was inspired in no small part by Allison. No, I am not and never will be a foodie like Keith Law or someone. This is about subsistence and learning to be the best single dad I can be. As for dessert, I did make this a couple of weeks ago and they came out pretty damn good.

Q: Once I am there for good, football is banned from our respective households, right?

That was actually asked by Allison. And the answer is yes, with a few occasional exceptions for random Ohio State football games. I’m honestly and truly trying to give up college football because it’s corrupt and horrible and I don’t want to be a part of it anymore, but in some ways it’s kind of like giving up smoking. There is a certain kind of addiction at work there, and being in Columbus, Ohio is sort of like being a non-smoker in a smokey bar, always, always tempted.  But yes: I will be 100% football free one day soon.

Q: If you were king of the world, how would you fix the Cleveland Indians?

I didn’t have a good answer for this, so I tried to Google “How to fix the Cleveland …”  First two suggestions in the autocomplete line: “How to fix the Cleveleand Browns” and “How to fix the Cleveland Cavaliers.”  Man, that city is a mess, sports-wise, no?

Q: Shouldn’t Bobby V have shown some professional courtesy by not dragging Joe Maddon into his on-air meltdown?

Good point. My taking issue with Joe Maddon on this yesterday failed to acknowledge that Valentine started it.  But really, Valentine is a thrashing, wounded animal at this point and you have to cut him a lot more slack for that kind of crap. Maddon still could have avoided that whole mess if he wanted to. He just wanted to be clever.

Q: If Bobby V and Aquaman had a baby, where would the baby bat in the Red Sox lineup and could it speak to fish?

I don’t know, but we’d blog the living crap out of that around here, I can tell you that. It’s gonna be really sad when Valentine gets fired. He’s about 75% of our content these days.

Q: Is there a potential baseball situation cooler than Joe Maddon talking to Brandon McCarthy on the mound?

I love Maddon and love McCarthy — both have been great to me personally and interesting to cover professionally — but being into them because they’re smart, sabermetric-friendly, Twitter-friendly and fan friendly creates a bit of a skewed universe. Thinking that they’re the coolest thing ever is easy when, like me, you find yourself consuming most of your baseball information via the Internet. It’s like the “Snakes on a Plane” phenomenon.  Or “Firefly.” Cool? Oh yeah. But also a niche interest one can easily fool themselves into thinking is massively popular and awesome.

Q: Should MLB do more to protect pitchers from comebackers? Helmets? Something else?

Speaking of McCarthy.  Honestly, what could they possibly do?  Helmets would change a pitcher’s mechanics and would be a disaster. If you don’t believe that, do something simple and physical like, say, run up stairs two at a time. Now do it with a helmet. It’s a totally different experience.  And you can’t put L-screens or something up there because they’d be in the middle of the damn field of play.  No, even I as a bleedin’ heart liberal who is predisposed to think that every problem has some official solution has to acknowledge that there is always going to be risks out there, and comebackers to the mound are risks of the enterprise.

Q: Can you get the football tweets to stop?

We’re trying. We honestly are.

Q: Who is the funniest person you follow on Twitter?

I’m ruling out the standup comedians and comedy writers because it’s their job to be funny on Twitter and that’s kind of not fair. As for the people I follow first for baseball things, I can think of a couple good ones. One candidate is Dave Brown from Big League Stew, who I absolutely love. But then again, I have a weakness for puns and 25 year-old pop culture references, so he may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Maybe the funniest guy both in terms of his tweets and his longer writing, is Jon Bois of SB Nation and Progressive Boink. At turns absurd and dry, but always smart. And he will judge what you ate for lunch, which is doing God’s work, really.

Q: With how much certainty do you think we can/should say that a given player is “injury-prone”?

It’s like porn. You know it when you see it. I mean, for years I wanted to say that guys like Nick Johnson just had freaky injuries. And they often do, with no injury those types suffer bearing a relation to the last one.  But we all see these dudes. There probably needs to be a Nick Johnson Index or a Jeffery Hammonds Quotient created to measure such things.


Q: Is Chris Perez trying to force his way out of Cleveland? Great closer but latest comments indicate he wants out.

Yeah, him ripping the Indians owners seems like a case of suicide-by-media. He knows he’s known for saying crazy stuff, and now it sounds like he’s trying to use it to get the hell out of Cleveland.

Q: Does MLB do a comeback player of the year? Shouldn’t it be Ryan Braun? He deserves MVP, but they won’t let that happen…

It does, but I don’t see how the reigning MVP can be said to have had a “comeback” year.  His 2012 is actually better than his 2011, but the MVP is so totally out of the picture. For one thing, the Brewers aren’t good this year, and though that’s not a part of the formal criteria for voters, most care about that. For another, the second great season in a row is always given less heft than the first one in MVP balloting, because the storylines do matter to voters.  Finally, and most significantly, voters likely still want to punish Braun for the positive test fiasco last season, so even if he was single-handedly winning the division for Milwaukee, he’d get boned in the vote. Politics, man.

Q: Do any modern ballparks have urinal troughs, a la Tiger Stadium?

Sadly, no. At least none that I have seen. Wrigley may be the last one that does, actually. Maybe Fenway. Haven’t been to Fenway. Trough status, anyone?  In other news, seriously considering putting one in the house here for those times the boy and I both need to go.

Q: As a Braves fan do you see the attendance picking up at any time in the future? Nats seem to be in the same boat.

The Nats could turn DC into a baseball-crazy town if they sustain success, I think.  The Braves: nah. They’ll always have lukewarm support during the regular season. If they make a serious World Series run the place will, contrary to the popular narrative, be sold out, but it takes A LOT to get people in Atlanta excited about baseball.

Q: If the Justice League were a baseball team would Aquaman be the bat-boy?

No, I’d never trust Aquaman with something as important as that. I’d consider him for the job of clubhouse attendant. He’s be in charge of towels and jocks and stuff. He’s probably be very good at laundry.

Q: Have you tried Maker’s 46? It’s goooooood.

I have tried it and I like it a lot. Even had it at the Maker’s distillery last year. I like Maker’s, but I’m getting away from it a bit and into things with higher rye content and less wheat, which is what makes Maker’s sweeter and smoother.  I still totally recommend Maker’s to bourbon newbies, as it’s the most accessible of the higher end hooch.

Q: You seem well-reasoned in public. In what ways do you overcompensate for that in your personal life?

I’m not sure if that’s meant to be an insult or a compliment. But the answer is probably “bourbon.”

Q: Will the Boston media ever stop overreacting to every little thing?

We don’t ask the birds not to fly, do we? We don’t ask the fish not to swim.

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

Yes, but I’d make myself like this first.

Thanks for the questions, all.  More tomorrow on HBT Extra.

2018 Preview: Washington Nationals

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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 2018 season. Next up: The Washington Nationals.

The Nationals stood tall in the NL East last season, winning 97 games and taking the division crown by 20 games over the second-place Marlins. While the Marlins got markedly worse, the Braves, Mets, and Phillies – winners of 72, 70, and 66 games, respectively – made some improvements and should be more competitive. Still, this is a division the Nationals are heavy favorites to win despite a relatively quiet offseason.

Max Scherzer, winner of back-to-back NL Cy Young Awards, leads the rotation. The right-hander had the best year of his career, going 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA and a 268/55 K/BB ratio over 200 2/3 innings. Scherzer is now 33 years old but has yet to show signs of slowing down. In fact, he’s gotten better over the last three years, improving his already stellar strikeout rate from 30.7 percent to 34.4 percent.

Stephen Strasburg will follow Scherzer in the rotation. He made 28 starts instead of 33 due to an elbow impingement, but otherwise had a terrific season. He went 15-4 with a 2.52 ERA and a 204/47 K/BB ratio in 175 1/3 innings. He finished third in Cy Young balloting. Strasburg’s chances of winning a Cy Young Award are sadly slim since he not only plays in the same league as Scherzer, but shares a team with him. And, of course, there’s four-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw on the Dodgers. Strasburg will settle for being an elite No. 2 starter.

The rest of the rotation features Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, and A.J. Cole. Gonzalez was excellent last season, finishing with a 2.96 ERA and a 188/79 K/BB ratio in 201 innings. It wasn’t a flawless season as his walk rate at 9.6 percent rose to its highest point since 2011 and his fastball velocity dipped just below 90 MPH on average. And his strikeout rate, while solid, isn’t indicative of a sub-3.00 ERA. Gonzalez benefited from a .258 BABIP and a high strand rate at 81.6 percent, both factors that are likely to regress to the mean in 2018. Roark struggled to a 4.67 ERA based on a horrible strand rate at 66.3 percent, which is likely to regress in the other direction. Cole impressed across eight starts and three relief appearances, posting a 3.81 ERA in 52 innings. His control will be an issue – he walked 27 – but if he can master that, the Nationals will have a scary starting rotation.

In the bullpen, Sean Doolittle will get the lion’s share of save opportunities. The lefty spent his 2017 with the Athletics and then the Nationals following a trade, enjoying great results with both teams. Combined, he accrued 24 saves with a 2.81 ERA and a 62/10 K/BB ratio in 51 1/3 innings. Doolittle has been slowed by injuries in recent years, so that remains a concern going forward for the Nationals, but when he’s on the field, he’s a dominant closer.

The gap to Doolittle will be bridged by veteran Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler. Madson, 37, continues to impress as he ages. Between the A’s and Nats last year, the right-hander posted a 1.83 ERA with a 67/9 K/BB ratio in 59 innings. Kintzler, between the Twins and Nats last season, finished with a 3.03 ERA and a 39/16 K/BB ratio in 71 1/3 innings. Kintzler hasn’t been missing many bats lately but has still been finding success inducing ground balls. Behind Madson and Kintzler, the Nationals will call on Koda Glover, Shawn Kelley, Enny Romero, and a rotating cast of characters including Matt Grace and Sammy Solis.

Offensively, it’s hard to start anywhere but with Bryce Harper in right field. The 2015 NL MVP was limited to 111 games last season due to a knee injury suffered when he slipped on a wet first base bag. He was on his way to, potentially, another MVP award, as he finished the year batting .319/.413/.595 with 28 home runs and 87 RBI in 492 PA. The 25-year-old is in his final year of club control and is expected to test free agency after the season. He’ll be hoping to lead the Nats to a World Series beforehand.

Michael Taylor will handle center field. The speedster swiped 17 bases while hitting .271/.320/.486 with 19 home runs and 53 RBI in 432 PA last season. Taylor is also outstanding defensively, giving the Nationals nothing to worry about at this position.

Adam Eaton will finally return and handle left field. The 29-year-old played only 23 games last year after suffering a torn ACL and meniscus. He has been eased back into action this spring but is expected to be fully ready by the start of the regular season. When healthy, he provides speed and defense while hitting for a high average. In 2016 with the White Sox, he stole 14 bases while hitting 29 doubles, nine triples, and 14 home runs in 706 plate appearances.

Moving to the infield, MVP candidate Anthony Rendon will handle third base. Rendon was one of the best players in baseball last season, accruing 6.0 Wins Above Replacement according to Baseball Reference. He batted .301/.403/.533 with 25 home runs and 100 RBI while playing terrific defense. It was certainly a career year for the 27-year-old, but it wouldn’t be unrealistic to expect similar production in 2018.

Trea Turner will stand to Rendon’s left at shortstop. He put up average offensive numbers but stole 46 bases in 54 opportunities. Turner can also play in the outfield or at second base in a pinch. He’s only 24 years old, so there’s plenty of room for growth. He has the skillset of someone who could develop into an MVP candidate.

Daniel Murphy was expected to reprise his role at second base for the Nationals, but he still hasn’t gotten back to 100 percent after undergoing a debridement and microfracture surgery on his right knee last November. He has been limited to batting practice and fielding grounders hit directly at him. The Nationals hope he’ll be ready at some point in April. For now, veteran Howie Kendrick will handle second base. Kendrick, 34, had an excellent 2017 campaign, batting .315/.368/.475 across 91 games with the Phillies and Nationals. The Nats are certainly glad they signed him to a two-year, $7 million contract in January.

First base belongs to 33-year-old Ryan Zimmerman. After a forgettable 2016 season, Zimmerman made some adjustments – and was healthier – to lead him to one hell of a bounce-back year. His OPS in 2016 was .642; in 2017, it was .930. He made a more concerted effort to put the ball in the air, resulting in 36 home runs and a .573 slugging percentage. It seems like a reasonable assumption that Zimmerman can repeat those results. Needless to say, the key to another big season for him is staying healthy.

Matt Wieters, coming off of a down year, will be the regular catcher once again. In 123 games last season, Wieters hit .225/.288/.344, easily the worst offensive performance of his career. He still played good defense and handled the pitching staff with aplomb, so it’s a position at which the Nationals can accept subpar offense. He’ll likely be backed up by Miguel Montero with Pedro Severino waiting in the wings.

FanGraphs (89) and PECOTA (88) are both projecting fewer than 90 wins for the Nationals. I’m usually one not to stray too much from the projections, but that feels light to me. The Nationals won 97 games last year and the club is arguably better, getting Eaton back. Murphy probably won’t be out for too long and a lot of the outstanding performers from 2017 should be expected to be excellent again in 2018. I’m straying from the projections here.

Prediction: 96-66, first place in NL East