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

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Q: What is the time limit for service of answer in New York if process is served by personal delivery?

Now would be a great time for me to wish everyone who is taking the bar exam next week good luck.  You’re all a bunch of suckers who will endure all manner of hell during those three days and then, for the next several decades, will marvel at just how silly it was to be stressed about the bar compared to all of the misery you’re currently enduring, but good luck anyway.

Q: Quickly find me new music to listen to. something I probably haven’t heard of. Get to work.

I can’t help you. I’m struggling myself.  Because I realized I was listening to the same old stuff all the time, I recently went and got a handful of songs that I have heard randomly and liked in the past year or two in order to inject myself with some sort of currency. I skew a bit mellow in my old age, so the songs do too.  Mumford and Sons. The National. Some selected My Morning Jacket. Decembrists. Fleet Foxes. That sort of thing. In most cases it was “that one song you heard” by that band.  Spare me your music critic stuff about needing to go deeper into the album cuts because I’m not attempting to become hip by any stretch of the imagination. And above all else, I subscribe to Neil Young’s famous words: “I’ve never seen anyone walking down the street humming an album.”

That said, you need new things from time to time. If you have any recommendations along that somewhat mellow line for specific songs I might like or that this questioner should check out, please, let us know in the comments. And remember: don’t mock me. I’m an old man.

Q: A pitcher’s Home Run Derby: can you make it happen? I know you want to see Yovani Gallardo vs. Carlos Zambrano.

I fear this question is baiting me into another DH argument. So fine: I would LOVE to see the pitcher’s Home Run Derby. Think how excited I’d be when one actually went over the fence! And the strategy!

Q: Better start to a series, Firefly or BSG?

I have to say, I was gripped by the Battlestar Galactica miniseries pretty damn hard. Firefly was great from the outset too, but that was a show that grew on me more than it actually smacked me over the head.  I could see myself getting worn out with BSG over time, though.  I’m only 7 episodes in. I can’t imagine staying in gloomyland like this for 70 more.

Q: Can the Nationals finish above .500?

Anyone can. At least until they lose their 81st game.  I wouldn’t bet on the Nationals doing it.

Q: Is wearing women’s underwear part of your turn-on?

If the woman is doing it, sure.

Q: Ever try to hunt a human?

You mean … the most dangerous game?

Q: Since the Twins/Braves rematch in the World Series is all but inevitable now, who wins with home field advantage flipped from 91?

Objection. Assumes facts about the Twins that are not in evidence (i.e. that they’re any good).  If they do make it, however, my answer hinges on whether they activate Kent Hrbek, the corpse of Kirby Puckett and the ump who called Ron Gant out at first base.

Q:  If Twitter, Facebook, and the Internet as we now know it were around for Ripken’s streak, would he have made it to 2,632?

I’d argue that it would be easier. Since most of the new outlets don’t have clubhouse access, and since there are fewer newspapers around, there are fewer reporters sticking their tape recorders in players’ faces after games.  The key would be for Cal himself to keep off the Internet. If he could: no problem. If he can’t: forget it. Because if he doesn’t start obsessing over all of us blogger boys saying stuff about him, he’ll just get caught in a Wikipedia hole or waste all of his time making Rage Comics or something like that.

Q: Coasters: must have right?

We’re not savages here, are we?  That Brazilian rosewood wasn’t cheap.

Q: Is Brian Wilson really Joaquin Phoenix?

Not unless he had a more talented pitching older brother die in front of the Viper Room 18 years ago. But seriously, yeah, I think there’s a decent amount of Wilson’s schtick that is a put-on. He’s more committed to it than Phoenix was and doesn’t seem to have some overt short term con that he’s pulling, but it takes serious work to be that “quirky” all the damn time, and I get the sense that Wilson works at it.

Q: With the NHL/NBA in lockout, will more fans come to the Best Winter Sport (also known as the NHL)?

Wait, what happened to all of those people who pretended to care about curling last year?  Was that just a goof?  Man, I hope not. Everyone seemed to care so much about that.

Q:  Does Dr James Andrews have to pay Tommy John royalties for every surgery?

No, but I wish that Tommy John would start giving cranky interviews agitating for such a thing. Probably doesn’t matter, though. It’s gonna be renamed Rich Harden or Ben Sheets surgery at some point I would assume.

Q: Who’s head would you be most likely to Photoshop onto a picture of a naked woman?

I’ll have you know that a woman who I am pretty sure works in graphic design or computers or something like that asked me this question. Do with that what you will.

Q: What famous blogger/sports writer on the internet would you most like to join you on HBT?

Murray Chass. But he’d have to admit he was a blogger before I’d start cutting him checks. And yeah, we’d tape that part.

Q: The best part of being an O’s fan is beer, right?

No. It’s the exciting Jeremy Guthrie trade speculation, now going on its second glorious year.

Q: More pasty guys in cargo shorts as a percentage of overall population: SABR convention or Comic Con?

Probably SABR. Everyone there wears cargo shorts. At Comic Con you have a non-trivial number of people dressed up like Green Lantern and stuff.

Q: Have you ever told someone you were their turbo lover?

Not in so many words. But my fantasy team is called “Love machines in harmony.”

Q: You’re doing a great job Craig. I like beer. Again you’re doing a great job. Do you think you’re doing a great job Craig?

I gotta tell ya, that Justin Timberlake thing was easily my favorite part of the All-Star Game. And Mrs. Calcaterra liked it too. I told her that Timberlake and Tim Lincecum were in the same building and that I was getting paid to watch them. She had to go take a cold shower.

Q: Gun to your head: Orioles finish with 81 wins, or Pirates win playoff series?

Sorry. I can’t concentrate with this gun to my head.

Q: In 2021 they’ll make a movie re: Ted Williams being unfrozen & leading the Cubs to their 1st title since ’08.Who plays Ted?

Hmm. That’s ten years from now. Williams was 83 when he died, so assuming unfrozen Williams would still be an apparent age-83 then, we need an actor who is now in his early 70s, so in 2021 he’ll be the right age.  I have narrowed my choices down to Jon Voight, Christopher Lloyd, Elliott Gould and Tommy Chong.

Q:  If the US decided to close up shop, where would you move? 

Everyone says Canada because they fear change, but I’ll go with Italy. I have a sister-in-law there who could help me out with stuff. I hear there is decent food there too.

Q:  Imagine you are that Websters dude or something, and they asked you to invent a word for belly-button lint. What would it be?

Uggla.

Q: If you could have one superpower, what would it be? If you could give your spouse one, what would it be? What about your kids?

Me: mind-control. Wife: whatever it was Mrs. Incredible had. Kids: Something sort of like Daredevil, in which a handicap — in his case loss of sight — was overcompensated for by all manner of other super abilities.  I don’t know what abilities the kids should have, but whatever they are, they should be to compensate for their inability to speak.

Q: What’s your favorite all-time SNL sketch?

Maybe it’s sacrilege to go to this era, but I loved that old synchronized swimming sketch with Martin Short. “Hey, YOU! I know you! I know you!”

Q: Do you expect the Spanish Inquisition?

No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Q: Do you ‘get’ Springsteen?

This was inspired by some acrimonious Twitter exchanges among some people I know following Clarence Clemons’ death. Big outpouring of emotion by some countered by a few who, not disrespectfully in my view, just matter-of-factly, said that they didn’t “get” the whole Springsteen thing.  It was rather interesting to watch it all play out. Especially in my little Twitter circles, because there are a disproportionate number of Bruce Springsteen fans (and In-N-Out Burger fans) among baseball writers.

Anyway, my take: I enjoy almost all of Springsteen’s music and own multiple albums. But I don’t get the cult. And object to that term all you want, it is a cult in practice even if it’s a larger cult than the one that goes for “Rocky Horror Picture Show” or whatever. There is a ritual and an obsessiveness to it. Anything that inspires people to go to dozens, scores or even hundreds of the same shows and then argue that, no, there are little nuances to every one, is basically a cult.

What I don’t get: such a huge amount of Springsteen’s material is anguishing. Very difficult. About people with no hope and no escape. About life taking its toll on you no matter how far and how fast you run.  Yeah, there are moments of catharsis, but damn, The Boss makes you pay for those before you get them.

Which makes for wonderful art. And wonderful music. There’s a beauty to it all that is undeniable. But man, it’s difficult stuff, and I’m not sure how people can both take it all to heart and revel in it over and over again.

Or maybe married guys like me shouldn’t listen to “Tunnel of Love” all the time.

Let’s do it again next week.

2019 Preview: National League West

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2019 Preview: National League West

The Padres won the offseason, signing infielder Manny Machado to a 10-year, $300 million contract. Despite the huge addition, they are still expected to be about a .500 team. The Dodgers are the prohibitive favorites in the NL West, followed by the Rockies and Diamondbacks with the Padres and Giants bringing up the rear.

Let’s talk about the teams.

Los Angeles Dodgers

For the first time since 2010, Clayton Kershaw will not be starting on Opening Day. Kershaw has an ailing left shoulder but is expected to return before the end of April. The Dodgers have not yet named their Opening Day starter. Walker Buehler could get the nod. That 2010 Opening Day starter, by the way? Vicente Padilla. It’s been a while.

The Dodgers added center fielder A.J. Pollock, inking the former D-Back to a four-year, $55 million contract in late January. They also signed reliever Joe Kelly to a three-year, $25 million contract. Other than that, they had a quiet offseason and will enter 2019 with largely the same roster they had at the start of last season, which isn’t a bad thing.

The Dodgers should have one of the better, more well-rounded offenses in the National League. Pollock and Cody Bellinger will steal the occasional base. Bellinger, Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, and Justin Turner will supply the power. Turner, Muncy, and Bellinger will get on base at decent clips. Shortstop Corey Seager returns after missing most of the 2018 season. If he can return to form, he can very easily contend for the NL MVP Award.

The starting rotation is a shaky foundation but with very high potential. Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, and Hyun-Jin Ryu are anything but reliable when it comes to staying healthy, but we have seen in the past what they are each capable of doing when they take the bump. Buehler may end up being the anchor of the rotation, as the 24-year-old posted an impressive 2.62 ERA in 23 starts and one relief appearance last season.

Kenley Jansen will hold the fort down in the bullpen. He’s been dealing with a heart issue, but he remains one of baseball’s most dominant closers. Last year’s 3.01 ERA was actually a career-high, but he still racked up 38 saves with 82 strikeouts in 71 2/3 innings. Kelly and Pedro Báez will bear much of the responsibility bridging the gap to Jansen in the later innings.

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies added only one free agent during the offseason: second baseman Daniel Murphy on a two-year, $24 million deal. Winners of 91 games last year, the Rockies elected to have very little roster turnover. The most notable thing the club did was sign third baseman Nolan Arenado to an eight-year, $260 million extension in late February.

Arenado is the heart and soul of the Rockies. A perennial MVP candidate, Arenado hit .297/.374/.561 with 38 home runs and 110 RBI across 156 games last year while playing his usual outstanding defense. He has won a Gold Glove in each of his six seasons in the majors. Arenado will be backed up by shortstop Trevor Story, who broke out with a .914 OPS, 37 homers, and 108 RBI last year. Murphy, David Dahl, and Charlie Blackmon turn an otherwise good offense into a great offense. The Rockies’ offense last year ranked second in the NL in runs scored and very easily could be No. 1 in that department this year.

The pitching staff leaves a bit to be desired, though it’s a tough ask pitching half their games in Coors Field. Kyle Freeland broke out last year, going 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA across 202 1/3 innings, but a repeat performance may be unrealistic. Freeland struck out only 173 against 70 walks, which isn’t predictive of a sub-3.00 ERA. German Márquez is a solid No. 2, registering a 3.77 ERA with 230 strikeouts and 57 walks in 196 innings last year. One could argue he has the higher upside between him and Freeland. The rotation will be rounded out by Tyler Anderson, Jon Gray, and Chad Bettis.

In the bullpen, Wade Davis will reprise his role as closer. He led the league with 43 saves, but also put up a disappointing 4.13 ERA. We have seen in the past what he is capable of doing, but the right-hander is 33 years old and has seen his average fastball decline every year since 2015. The arms behind Davis in the bullpen don’t pop out at you, but it’s quite a solid mix of arms, including Seung-Hwan Oh, Scott Oberg, and Jake McGee.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks bid adieu to some outstanding talent during the offseason, trading All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals in December while watching Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock leave for free agency. The club was also expected to pursue trading Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, among others, but they’re here for now.

Greinke is in the fourth year of his six-year, $206.5 million deal, which hasn’t yielded dividends for the D-Backs. Over the last three years, Greinke has a solid but not great 3.53 ERA, but at least he has been mostly healthy, making 91 starts. Ray finished seventh in NL Cy Young Award balloting in 2017, but had a less successful 2018 campaign, making only 24 starts with a 3.93 ERA. If he returns to form and stays healthy, he and Grienke are a pretty good 1-2 punch. Behind those two are Zack Godley, Luke Weaver, and Merrill Kelly. Taijuan Walker could rejoin the team this summer as he continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

The offense will likely be the Diamondbacks’ biggest weakness. PECOTA, from Baseball Prospectus, projects Jake Lamb to be the only player crossing the 20-homer plateau. It also projects Lamb to lead the team with 71 RBI. There’s not much speed on the team, either, as Steven Souza, Jr. is projected to lead the team in steals with 11. And as far as on-base skills, Wilmer Flores is projected to be the best in that department among regulars at .332. Quite a motley crew.

Archie Bradley will handle closing duties for the first time. The 26-year-old right-hander was dominant in 2017, posting a 1.73 ERA. He followed it up with a solid 2018, finishing with a 3.64 ERA. Bradley has the potential to emerge as one of the league’s more dominant closers. Greg Holland and Yoshihisa Hirano will be tasked with handing Bradley the ball with a lead in the seventh and eighth innings.

San Diego Padres

The addition of Machado could help the Padres arrive sooner than expected. The organization is replete with tremendous upside. In MLB Pipeline’s top 100 prospect list, they have shortstop Fernando Tatis, Jr. at No. 2, pitcher Mackenzie Gore at No. 15, infielder Luis Urías at No. 23, catcher Francisco Mejia at No. 26, pitcher Chris Paddack at No. 34, pitchers Luis Patino and Adrian Morejon at Nos. 48 and 49, pitcher Michel Baez at No. 72, pitcher Logan Allen at No. 74, and pitcher Ryan Weathers at No. 92.

The current iteration of the 25-man roster isn’t quite there yet, which is why the Padres are still projected to hover around .500. Machado will do Machado things, which is to say he’ll hit like an All-Star and play Gold Glove-caliber defense. If Wil Myers can stay healthy, he should be good for 20 homers and 20 steals. Eric Hosmer will hopefully be able to pick up his production after inking an eight-year, $144 million deal in February 2018. Beyond those three, however, it’s hard to project greatness from the rest of the offense.

Joey Lucchesi will lead the rotation following a solid rookie campaign last year. He posted a 4.08 ERA with 145 punch-outs and 43 walks in 130 innings. It wouldn’t be surprise him to see him finish with an ERA closer to 3.50 this time around. Lucchesi will be followed on the rotation by Eric Lauer, Robbie Erlin, Matt Strahm, and Chris Paddack.

Kirby Yates will serve as the club’s full-time closer. He impressed last year with 12 saves, a 2.14 ERA, and a 90/17 K/BB ratio in 63 innings. He can certainly put up a repeat performance. Craig Stammen and Adam Warren will help bridge the gap to him in an otherwise modest group of relievers.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants were rumored to have been involved in the pursuit of mega free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and particularly Harper until the very end. Ultimately, the team didn’t do anything during the offseason. Because of that, they’re expected to be the worst team in the NL West.

Madison Bumgarner will lead the rotation, but he could be wearing another uniform by the end of July. Bumgarner can become a free agent after the season, so the Giants could choose to turn him into a couple of prospects. Though he has battled injuries in recent seasons, Bumgarner is still among the better starters in the league and absolutely a guy a contending team would want to start for them in the postseason. In 21 starts last year, Bumgarner managed a 3.26 ERA with 109 strikeouts and 43 walks in 129 2/3 innings.

Dereck Rodríguez deserves a mention as well. The lefty did not get any love in NL Rookie of the Year balloting last year despite posting a 2.81 ERA across 19 starts and two relief appearances. His 89 strikeouts and 36 walks don’t inspire confidence in a repeat performance, but he also pitches in the spacious confines of Oracle Park. The rotation will be rounded out by Jeff Samardzija, Derek Holland, and Andrew Suarez.

The offense will be a severe weakness. FanGraphs projects them to be the second-worst team in baseball at scoring runs, beating only the Marlins in that department. The bullpen isn’t terribly great either, featuring Will Smith, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon in the late innings.

The upshot: The NL West is the Dodgers’ division to lose once again. It is really difficult seeing any other team winning the title, but stranger things have happened. The Rockies can be a solid Wild Card team. The rest of the division is fairly weak, but as mentioned, the Padres could arrive a year earlier than expected, not unlike the Braves last year.