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

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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.

Unprecedented sanctions: MLB bans former Braves GM for life, makes 12 signees free agents

Associated Press
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Major League Baseball has slammed the hammer down on the Atlanta Braves as the result of their violations of rules on the international free agent market.

Former Braves General Manager John Coppolella has been placed on the permanently ineligible list — the same list Pete Rose is on — banning him from a job in baseball forever. His assistant, Gordon Blakeley, will be suspended for a period of one year. Each had already been dismissed by the Braves. Other Braves’ international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct could still be suspended as the league finishes its investigation.

As reported earlier, 12 of the clubs’ international signees are now free agents. The Braves will lose the following players, signed during the 2015-17 international free agent signing periods:

  • Juan Contreras;
  • Yefri del Rosario;
  • Abrahan Gutierrez;
  • Kevin Maitan;
  • Juan Carlos Negret;
  • Yenci Peña;
  • Yunior Severino;
  • Livan Soto;
  • Guillermo Zuniga;
  • Brandol Mezquita;
  • Angel Rojas; and
  • Antonio Sucre

As reported earlier, Maitan was the number one overall international prospect in 2016. The Braves have, for a few years now, had among the top international signee classes. Obviously that came by virtue of cheating the system, and obviously that will lead to a reevaluation of where the clubs’ minor league system stands, talent-wise.

The penalties are not limited to the loss of those players. Commissioner Manfred is imposing what amounts to punitive damages going forward. From Commissioner Manfred’s statement:

“While the remedies discussed above will deprive the Braves of the benefits of their circumvention, I believe that additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the Club for the violations committed by its employees. Accordingly, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period, which is the first signing period in which the Braves are not subject to any signing restrictions under our rules; and the Braves’ international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.”

There was also what appears to be an unrelated draft violation, imposing penalties along those lines as well:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves offered impermissible benefits, which were never provided, to a player they selected in the First-Year Player Draft in an attempt to convince him to sign for a lower bonus. As a penalty for the Club’s attempted circumvention involving a draft selection, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

The gist of the violations against the Braves involves the bundling of signing bonuses, in which the Braves got players — through their representatives in Latin America — to take lower than the amount typically allotted in one year in order to use the money to sign other, highly rated players in subsequent years, with money they wouldn’t have otherwise had. MLB’s statement describes the scheme thusly:

“The investigation established that the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017. During the 2015-16 international signing period, the Braves signed five players subject to the Club’s signing bonus pool to contracts containing signing bonuses lower than the bonuses the Club had agreed to provide the players. The Club provided the additional bonus money to those players by inflating the signing bonus to another player who was exempt from their signing pool because he qualified as a ‘foreign professional’ under MLB rules.

“Consistent with the rules, the Braves could have signed all of the 2015-16 players for the full, actual signing bonus amounts. Had the Club signed the five players to contracts containing their actual bonuses, however, the Braves would have exceeded their signing bonus pool by more than five percent and would have been, under MLB rules, restricted from signing any players during the next two signing periods for contracts with bonuses greater than $300,000.

“As a result of the 2015-16 circumvention, the Braves were able to sign nine high-value players during the 2016-17 signing period who would have been unavailable to them had the Club accurately accounted for its signings during the 2015-16 signing period.”

The scheme continued like this:

“The investigation also determined that the Braves: (i) agreed to sign six players to inflated signing bonuses pursuant to an agreement with prospect Robert Puason’s agent in exchange for a commitment that Puason would sign with the Club in the 2019-20 signing period; and (ii) offered prospect Ji-Hwan Bae extra-contractual compensation. In order to remedy these violations, I am prohibiting the Club from signing Robert Puason when he becomes eligible to sign, and disapproving the contract between Bae and the Braves, which has not yet become effective.”

This is, by far, the most serious set of scouting, drafting and signing penalties ever imposed by Major League Baseball. It speaks to the sheer audacity of the Braves’ scheme to circumvent signing rules. It also sends a loud and clear signal to other teams — many who have been rumored to have engaged in similar conduct on a smaller scale — that MLB will not tolerate it.

The Braves lower minor league system has been decimated. It stands, essentially, as the head on the pike outside of the castle.