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Twitter Mailbag: Dumb Answers to Your Good Questions

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It’s a slow news day so I asked Twitter for some questions. Since I only do this once every few months now, there must be pent-up demand, because I got a LOT of questions. Here they all are — and I mean all of them, except for a duplicate question asking me to pick my favorite among my two children. You guys are the worst.

Let’s do it:

Q: ( ‏@Design_On_Deck) Is the best possible remaining offseason story Jose Bautista signing with the Rangers? That’d be the best, right?

I would love this to happen. Love, love, love. Not just for the storyline of Bautista having to share a clubhouse with Rougned Odor, but to see how quickly Rangers fans switch from calling Bautista satan to embracing him and claiming that all of that controversy last year was simply misunderstood. Because they will do it, believe me. Fans are weather vanes and they’ll always make excuses for their team.

Q: (@CTowersCBS) Who is your favorite under-25 pitcher?

Can I still say Jose Fernandez? Man, I loved to watch him pitch. Beyond him I’d say Noah Syndergaard, even if I think “Thor” thing is overblown and even if I’m genetically predisposed to dislike Mets players. His stuff transcends that.

Q:  (@jonbecker_ ) Which MLB stadium you’ve attended has the best food?

I’m not genetically predisposed to hate Mets food, however. Citi Field’s was fantastic. It was the best I had ever had until last July when I was given a special tour of Petco Park food. Assuming the stuff I got during the All-Star Game is always available at Petco, and to regular Joes, not just people with press passes and connections with P.R. people, that wins hands down. Citi Field’s is great though.

Q: (@infjdesign) Four cities you most like for…wait for it (literally)…baseball expansion?

Off the top of my head I’d say the most viable and likely are Montreal, Charlotte, Portland and Austin/San Antonio. The most desirable, however, are all prohibited due to territorial restrictions. Big cities have grown into mega cities at a pace that far outstrips the growth of medium cities into bigger ones, and if you want to put teams where the most population/market growth has happened in the past 50 years you’d put another team in the New York area, another one in the Chicago burbs and another one in Southern California, maybe in the Inland Empire area. That will never happen, though.

Q: (@TheBigGaston) Thoughts on what the Pirates need to do/upgrade in remainder of offseason to contend (outside of switching divisions)?

They need starting pitching, so maybe they could get on the Tyson Ross train. If they don’t see that as helpful or viable and don’t want to take on salary (they don’t) they could still look into trading Andrew McCutchen, but I feel like that’s a bad idea that would kill fans’ spirits for five years. A big thing that would help: their existing players simply having better and/or healthier seasons. Lookin’ at you McCutchen, Gerrit Cole, Josh Harrison and Jung Ho Kang.

Q: (@SeanyMac23) What entertainment (movie, tv show, book, album, etc) are you most looking forward to this year?

Gonna be lame and say “Star Wars: Episode VIII.” If that’s too obvious, I’ll go with the new season of “Better Call Saul.” LOVE that show.

Q: (@ndbogacz) Rank the old ballparks that have been torn down. 

I haven’t been to many of the long gone parks, actually. Tiger Stadium was my boyhood park, though, so it’d lead the list regardless. I’ve heard surprisingly good things about Old Comiskey. Most of the ones that were torn down just before my prime baseball-going years were the bad 1960s-70s multipurpose stadiums and those all sucked. Before that, with the exception of a few, we are in the fog of The Golden Age and all of the misleading nostalgia that inspires. Ebbets Field may have actually sucked as a baseball-going experience. The only people who could dispute the legend it obtained after 1957 are either dead or were drowned out by the people who prefer their baseball in sepia tones.

Q: (@RickBulow1974) Your thoughts on the Cubs repeating this year?

I always pick “field” over a repeat and will do so again this year. But I think Chicago is better positioned for it than a lot of recent champions. Ultimately, though, a baseball team has too many moving parts and there is too much randomness involved, mostly with injuries, to make a safe bet on a repeat. So I’ll say, nah, they probably won’t. Even if I end up predicting that they will come March.

Q: (@Nebkreb) which of your kids do you love more? Please factor in frustrating text exchanges. 

Twitter sees me interact with my daughter more because she’s older and because she sends me silly texts which I share, but just because she is better represented publicly does not mean I love her more. My god, if any parent ever tells you that he or she loves one of their kids more than the other cut that person out your life. You don’t need sociopaths in it.

I do rank my cats, though. And pretty sharply. We’ll save that for next time, though.

Q: (‏@acupoftea) I’m trying to track down examples of the best non-bobblehead baseball promo giveaways if you want to help me out there. 

Please leave the best promotional items you’ve gotten at ballparks in the comments in order to help my friend here out. She’s an Ohioan, so she’s good people. I wrote up my personal favorite here a few years ago.

Q: (@TJ_Farrell) Who has the best batting stance/plate regimen of all time? I am a Phil Plantier man myself. Loved that big booty crouch.

My favorite stance was Julio Franco’s. All cocked-up power. Or maybe a cobra ready to strike. I’d never let my kid use it, but it was great to watch, especially as he got older and beefier.

Q: (@lukermartin) Best advice for raising kids?

Do not compare yourself with other parents, do not compare your kids with other kids and generally stay out of the whole local/neighborhood/peer group parental industrial complex clique as much as possible. I realize you have to interact with other parents and that you’ll do so naturally, but the sheer amount of mental effort wasted on wondering if Jimmy is doing as well at preschool soccer as fast as Johnny or worrying that Emily is doing better in toddler yoga than your little Sophia is exhausting and negative. Take advice when needed and give it when asked, but raise your own kid and be your own parent. In baseball terms, don’t press and make sure to always be playing your own game, not someone else’s.

Q: (@thejeqff) Does Dozier gets traded, or has that ship sailed? Also, which team has best chance to go from bottom to top in standings?

I feel like there has been a deal on the table between the Twins and Dodgers for some time, the Twins want more, the Dodgers are saying no, and now each is waiting for the other to blink. That’s why you hear these periodic “well, the Braves may be interested in Dozier” talks. Probably planted by Twins people, hoping to scare the Dodgers into upping their offer.

As for the second question, I don’t think we have any team with worst-to-first capabilities this year, but the Braves seem like the only last place team which has truly improved itself this offseason. They may surprise people.

Q: (@spudsfan) Does the Veterans Committee put Jack Morris in next year?

The Bud Selig election made me think the new Eras committees are rigged for an outcome preferred by the Hall of Fame and/or Major League baseball. If Morris is on the ballot and gets in next year while Mark McGwire got shut out this year, I’ll suspect the fix is in again. That said, I don’t think the Veterans Committees, whatever we call them, is all that invested in electing new players anymore. It’s all about executives and managers now, it seems.

Q: (@dragonilm) Who do you see as a dark horse pick to win the World Series this season?

My favorites would likely all come from obvious contenders — Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, Cleveland — but I suppose if forced to go out on a limb and pick a more marginal team I’d say Seattle. I feel like they’re going to be a trendy pick this year.

Q: (@Wh4l3y) What would happen, in your opinion, if Mike Trout were to utilize the loophole to become a free-agent this season?

The loophole in question is discussed here. What would happen if he tried? Litigation and a lot of thinkpieces about the relative freedom of athletes, followed by a settlement which results in a renegotiated contract between him and the Angels that would give him more money. Not that I think he’d ever do it.

Q: (@JakeBasner) Article today about Tigers signing Austin Jackson. Good move?

I haven’t seen anything about that that is close to concrete, but it would be a weird move for Detroit. Jackson was a well below average hitter last year and had even less defensive value than offensive value. With Justin Upton in left, Detroit is going to want a solid defensive center fielder. That ain’t Jackson and hasn’t been for years.

Q: (@whinson42) How much of the Bonds/Clemens HOF bump is just trying to make a smooth path for Big Papi in five years?

I don’t think it’s that calculated. I think there is a natural thing happening in which, over time, voters are starting to realize that being a PED user is not the most damnable offense. There are events which goose the realization process like Selig being elected and, perhaps, people thinking harder about what they’d do with David Ortiz one day, but mostly I think it’s just a natural progression away from hysteria. That’s how most history works, I think.

Q: (@MaxPowerNYC) How does Columbus break down between Reds fans & Indians fans?

Very fair-weathery. I’m told that in the 70s and 80s it was firmly Reds country. When I got here in the early 90s it leaned that way but began a sharp shift toward Cleveland in the mid-90s. In the past 10-15 years it has swayed, remarkably, with how each team is doing in every given year. Charitably, one can say that the city — 100 miles from Cincy, 130 from Cleveland — is evenly split and that people just wear their gear more when their team is winning. I prefer to think of Columbus, sports wise, however, as one of those Italian towns which kept both Axis and Allies flags around and would fly one or the other depending on how far each opposing army was from the village each day.

Q: (@tottsb_jmunoz) Will the Braves trade for Archer?

I heard that rumor today, but I tend to think it won’t happen. If the Braves surprise early in the season, though, and look like shocking contenders, I could see them going all-in for a big pitcher.

Q: (‏@eric666_) Who are some BSOHL candidates this ST?

Just look at every player who ended the season on the DL or had a crappy second half. Extra bonus points for guys entering their walk years. As we’ve said many times, BSOHL is not about shape per se. It’s about expectation management and the spin game, played mostly by agents and a gullible press corps looking for content in the slow months.

Q: (@JDaniel2033) Coolest event you’ve personally witnessed at MLB game?

I’ve written about this many times, most thoroughly here. The bit about Maddux’s first game as a Dodger. It’s obviously subjective.

Q: (@FantasyBaldouin) Please speculate (wildly if you wish) on what Manfred and Trump are discussing.

Trump is taking advice about building something unnecessary and having someone else pay for it. That’s obviously baseball’s area of expertise.

Q: (@damonhart) Who’s your favorite position player that has pitched?

Ichiro, probably. He pitched an inning or two late in the 2015 season if I remember correctly. I pick him not because he was great at it or anything, but just because he’s easily the biggest star position player I’ve ever seen pitch. Usually managers have backup catchers or utility guys do that, not future Hall of Famers.

Q: (@thenextbarstool) If you were to make a baseball movie involving the Barves, what would it be titled and a basic plot premise please?

We’ve already had too many Braves-related baseball movies. “The Slugger’s Wife” was terrible, but it took place on the Braves. “Trouble With the Curve” involved a Braves scout. “Bull Durham” never mentioned the Braves by name, but at the time the Durham Bulls were a Braves affiliate and all of us teenaged Braves fans talked about how cool that was. Still, if I had to do another one, I’d do one focusing on a crazy owner, maybe a cross between Bill Veeck and Ted Turner. He sells his team off to a conglomerate, hates what they do to it and mounts a crazy, populist campaign to get the team back. I’ll admit, this is all just a movie version of the fantasies I’ve had ever since Liberty Media took over the Braves.

Q: (@ChrisDallasTX) Rank the top 5 MLB Craigs:

Craig Biggio, Allen Craig (mostly because my middle name is Allen and I like the reversal), Craig Paquette, Craig Goldstein from Baseball Prospectus and Craig Wilson. I don’t care which Craig Wilson. Pick one. They’re both great.

Q: (@lk_1933) If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be and why?

Bald cypress, obviously.

Q: (@JesusThinking) What’s your hottest baseball take?

The wave is not bad, doesn’t harm anyone and people should stop complaining about it. Let people have their fun.

Q: (@jeffgirgenti) Do you play fantasy football (because there is a non-football/ social aspect to it)?

Never. I haven’t played fantasy baseball for seven years either. It just doesn’t appeal to me.

Q: (@JosephStock) What’s more likely, the D-Backs win their court case or they move to Montreal?

Montreal is more likely than a win in litigation, I suspect, though I think the most likely thing is for them to simply settle something with Maricopa County and stay in the Phoenix area.

Q: (@JesusThinking) Are you going to spring training this year? Will we see stories with datelines?

Probably. “SCOTTSDALE — Dear lord, being in the desert in February is better than being in the Midwest. Here’s some baseball that doesn’t matter.”

Q: (@dnemetnejat) What part of baseball that’s out of fashion-suicide squeeze, hidden ball trick, bunting for hit, etc-do u want to come back?

The union taking an adversarial position vis-a-vis management and advancing substantive player interests. Call me old fashioned.

Q: (@JakeMHS) Clemson’s director of recruiting is named Thad Turnipseed. Where would that rank in the annals of baseball names?

Just above Bud Weiser and many, many steps below Dick Pole.

Q: (@flightjkt) Chances the A’s will sign a big name so my girlfriend will have a reason to hope for at least a .500 season?

What, your girlfriend doesn’t think Rajai Davis will get them to .500? You’d think she’d have crazy, irrational hope. I mean, she thinks there’s a future in being with you, right?

Q: (@29Collector) You for or against teams going back to blue road uniforms?

Teams have gone back to blue a little bit in recent years, but only at home. As your question makes clear, the blue uniforms were always a road uniform, replacing gray, not a home uniform. They’ve brought them back just to sell stuff. And they hardly ever wear the blue pants. If they’re not going to do it right, they should just stick with home whites and road grays and that’s that. And don’t get me started on solid jerseys with white/gray/pinstriped pants in an absolute sense. They’re terrible, always, and I remain convinced that wearing them every game played a hand in the Indians losing the World Series.

Q: (@42alj) Creamy or crunchy peanut butter?

Mr. Peanut Butter.

Thanks for the questions, everyone! Let’s do this again soon!

Ray Searage would advise his pitchers not to pitch in the World Baseball Classic

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 13:  Ray Searage #54 of the Pittsburgh Pirates looks on during the game against the Detroit Tigers at PNC Park on April 13, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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The World Baseball Classic is set to kick off in March. For the Pirates, none of their pitchers are participating, but catcher Francisco Cervelli (Italy) and outfielders Andrew McCutchen (USA), Starling Marte (Dominican Republic), and Gregory Polanco (Dominican Republic) are.

If any of the Pirates’ pitchers were participating, pitching coach Ray Searage would advise them against doing so, he said in an interview with MLB Network Radio.

I am not one of the guys that is in favor of the WBC and the reason being — I’ve seen it over the years before — guys cutting short their rest periods for the winter and their workout routines and speeding it up. Now, this doesn’t hold true for everybody. It’s just that, in my opinion, I just think that you’re speeding up the process and that you leave yourself open to an injury during the season because now, all of a sudden, instead of April where you’re firing off, now you’re firing off in March, which is a couple of weeks before you should be. And the body is, to me, looking at my pitchers and stuff, they’re routine orientated. And the way they go about their stuff, speeding up the process — it happened to two of our guys. That’s probably why I have a bad taste in my mouth, it happened to two of our guys the last time: Jason Grilli and Wandy Rodriguez. They played in the WBC and they ended up getting hurt during the season. I think it’s great for baseball, I really do, but it’s that catch-22 thing: you’re danged if you do and danged if you don’t. If any of my pitchers asked me, I’d say no.

Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #9: Bryce Harper tries to Make Baseball Fun Again

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals shares a laugh with fans before playing against the Atlanta Braves at Nationals Park on May 10, 2015 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

When Jose Bautista tossed his bat following his home run un Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS, several years worth of arguments about bat flips, fist pumps and other on-field celebrations came to a head. While everyone seems to agree that athletes doing great things is exciting and impressive, many in the game, in the media and in the fan base at large seem to believe that maintaining some standard of buttoned-down decorum is essential to baseball. It’s an odd conservatism that is far more pronounced in baseball than in any other sport.

As spring training got underway one of baseball’s brightest young stars weighed in on the matter. It was Bryce Harper, who gave an interview to ESPN in which he lamented the fact that, for some reason, the baseball establishment doesn’t seem to want players to enjoy themselves on the field:

“Baseball’s tired,” he says. “It’s a tired sport, because you can’t express yourself. You can’t do what people in other sports do. I’m not saying baseball is, you know, boring or anything like that, but it’s the excitement of the young guys who are coming into the game now who have flair. If that’s Matt Harvey or Jacob deGrom or Manny Machado or Joc Pederson or Andrew McCutchen or Yasiel Puig — there’s so many guys in the game now who are so much fun . . .

. . .  If a guy pumps his fist at me on the mound, I’m going to go, ‘Yeah, you got me. Good for you. Hopefully I get you next time.’ That’s what makes the game fun. You want kids to play the game, right? What are kids playing these days? Football, basketball. Look at those players — Steph Curry, LeBron James. It’s exciting to see those players in those sports. Cam Newton — I love the way Cam goes about it. He smiles, he laughs. It’s that flair. The dramatic.”

One read of that and it’s clear that Harper loves baseball, wants it to be exciting and was, in effect, merely adding his views to that long-standing debate about baseball decorum. His detractors, however, of which there were many, decided to focus on his use of the word “tired.”

Sergio Romo — himself a demonstrative on-field celebrator — told Harper to “shut up” or to find another job if he thinks baseball is “tired.”  Hall of Famer Goose Gossage claimed that Harper “doesn’t know squat about the game” saying that he should “look at the history” and “quit acting like a fool.” Even some random Rays minor leaguer felt it necessary to take the reigning NL MVP to task on Twitter for his alleged lack of fealty to the Baseball Gods.

A couple of weeks later Harper, as a joke, wore a “Make Baseball Fun Again” cap in the clubhouse, which set off another round of criticism, including some from outside the world of baseball. Talk radio hosts and fans in comment sections and on social media auto-piloted into their usual “Bryce Harper is a punk” schtick and talked about how There Are Proper Ways to Act on a baseball field. As if it was funeral. Or the site of a great battle.

As the season got underway the specific controversy died down, but battles over “playing the game the right way” or over young players speaking their minds, possibly out of turn, or over the cultural differences between American ballplayers and Latino ballplayers never seem to die. They pop up every week during the baseball season, manifested in glaring contests, fist pumps, home runs trots, purpose pitches and the particular cliches players use when talking to the press.

As I wrote in March, however, these battles aren’t going to last forever. In fact, you tend to see the arguing and controversy spike in any cultural clash closer to its resolution, when the losing side of that clash feels most threatened and under fire. The Goose Gossages, old baseball men and talk radio hosts of the world are raging against the dying of what they perceive to be the light. The Bryce Harpers of the world are merely giving voice to an emerging new normal. His detractors may have the loudest voices at times, but more people agree with him than disagree with him. More people think baseball is fun and should continue to be fun than believe that it’s an institution that depends on a certain set of rites and rituals.

Bryce Harper calling baseball “tired” in March was not the end of the world. But I do hope it represented the beginning of the end of baseball’s fixation on a certain sort of rules of decorum and deportment. Good riddance to it.