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.

World Series Preview: Marquee starting pitching matchups lead the way

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The Astros were the best team in baseball in 2019, winning 107 games, so everyone expected them to be here. As you’ve heard a thousand times by now the Nationals started out poorly in 2019, standing at 19-31 in late May. After that, however, they went on a 74-38 tear in 112 games. A tear which, if extrapolated to 162 games is a . . . 107-win pace.

Which is to say that, despite whatever the oddsmakers are telling you, this is not quite the mismatch some may want to make it out to be. The Astros are a great team, no question, but the Nationals as they stand right now are a strong match for them. If you doubt it, go ask the Dodgers and Cardinals about whether Washington played like a 93-win Wild Card team when they met in the earlier rounds.

No matter how you think the teams matchup overall, however, you can’t help but love the matchups between the clubs’ starting pitchers.

The Astros feature the top two Cy Young candidates in the American league in Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander and feature a third starter, Zack Greinke, who would be most teams’ ace. The Nationals, meanwhile, counter with Max Scherzer, who won the Cy Young in 2016 and 2017, finished in second place last year and, before for an injury this season, was a strong contender to take home the hardware again. After him comes Stephen Strasburg, also a 2019 Cy Young candidate, and Patrick Corbin, who was last offseason’s big pickup and who won 14 games and posted an ERA+ of 141 this season. It may be the Era of Bullpenning and all of that, but this Fall Classic looks to be a throwback to a time when — gasp! — starting pitchers mattered.

Here’s how it all breaks down:

THE ROTATIONS

We just listed the big names. The exact order in which they appear is not yet officially known but you’ll color me shocked if Game 1 isn’t Max Scherzer vs. Gerrit Cole, Game 2 isn’t Stephen Strasburg vs. Justin Verlander, and Game 3 isn’t Zack Greinke vs. Patrick Corbin. In Game 4 the Nats will likely go with the hot Aníbal Sánchez who, if he stays on his game like he has been of late, gives them depth the Astros can’t quite match. Brad Peacock or “Bullpen” could get the ball for A.J. Hinch in Game 4, depending on the circumstances of the series at that point.

As for Game 1, Scherzer is coming off two strong postseason outings, allowing one run on five hits with 18 strikeouts in 14 innings in those starts. Cole was somewhat human in his last start, walking five guys. But, um, yeah, he still tossed seven shutout innings. It seems like all he has done since before Memorial day is toss seven or eight shutout innings or something close to it.

We simply couldn’t ask for a better head-to-head matchup to start this bad boy. There isn’t a hitter on either of these teams happy about who they’ll have to face in this series.

THE LINEUPS

Saturday night’s José Altuve walkoff blast notwithstanding, the Astros’ mighty offense has been somewhat less mighty over the past couple of weeks, averaging just 3.7 runs per game and posting a .645 team OPS. A lot of that was due to the scads of fresh and strong bullpen arms the Rays and Yankees trotted out, but it’s not like things will get easier, at least against Washington’s starting pitching. The Astros had timely hitting — and some big home runs — as they made their way to the World Series, but they’ll definitely need to rattle the ball off the walls and get on base at a higher clip like they did in the regular season if they want to win this thing. To do so, I don’t suspect A.J. Hinch will do much shuffling or fiddling with his lineup — his dudes are his dudes — he’ll just have to hope that they snap out of their relative funk and remind everyone that, when everyone is healthy on this club, there is no better offense in baseball.

Washington’s lineup was nowhere near as fearsome during the regular season but it was the second-best unit in the National League, so they’re no slouches. Like the Astros, they have not exactly set the world ablaze offensively in the playoffs, posting a team OPS about a hundred points lower than their regular season mark. Also, like the Astros, they’ve had some huge hits at great times, as do all teams that get this far. Luck and good timing matter a whole heck of a lot in October.

Editor’s note: Need World Series tickets? Click here to see the Nats try to stop the Astros

A bit of a wild card here: the de-juiced ball everyone is talking about. While the Nats, like everyone else, hit a lot more homers in 2019, they were somewhat less reliant on homers than a lot of other winning teams, finishing only sixth in that category in the NL. The Astros were third in the AL and might’ve come close to matching New York and Minnesota’s totals if they didn’t have so many injuries to key offensive performers in the first half. Which is to say that the dead ball’s taking away of a few feet of flight from equally-struck balls probably hurts the Astros a bit more than the Nats, even if the Astros hitters are better on average.

One can overstate all that, of course. At the end of the day both of these teams have MVP-candidates — Alex Bregman for Houston, Anthony Rendon for Washington — and a good supporting cast of thumpers like Juan Soto, José Altuve, Yordan Álvarez and hot-in-October Howie Kendrick, who will likely see DH action in the games in Houston. Ultimately it will come down, as always, to who is hotter over the next 4-7 games.

THE BULLPENS

The bullpen was the Nationals’ biggest weakness all season long. In the NLDS against the Dodgers Dave Martinez masked the problem by creatively deploying starting pitchers in relief, praying a bit, and watching it work. in the NLCS they so thoroughly steamrolled the Cardinals that it didn’t truly matter, though they did get some good innings from guys not named Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Meaning that, heck, you may even see Fernando Rodney and Tanner Rainey in games that aren’t blowouts. Either way, the week off the Nationals have been given by wrapping up the NLCS so quickly means that every arm is fresh, with extra rest even, so the team’s biggest weakness is about as contained at the outset as it can be. As suggested above, the deeper Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin and Sánchez can go, the better.

Houston’s bullpen has allowed 16 earned runs in 35.1 innings this postseason (4.08 ERA). This after having the third-best bullpen ERA in all of baseball during the regular season (3.75). Sample sizes are obviously an issue here. As is the class of competition. They were more than capable of getting the job done during the ALDS and their failures — like Roberto Osuna‘s blown save in Game 6 — were either contained by the work of others or led to less-than-fatal wounds. They simply have better arms that Washington does down there even if, as is the case with the Nats, they’ll hope to need them as little as possible.

THE MANAGERS

A.J. Hinch has hoisted a trophy before and rarely harms his team. Dave Martinez learned over the course of the season that the less he does the better. Without putting too fine a point on it, if it comes down to a chess match, it’s advantage: Astros. At this point Martinez simply needs to let his horses run and muster enough will to pull them out of the race if they’re tired. That’s easier said than done when it’s, say, Max Scherzer. His arm could be hanging by frayed tendons and he’d still probably glare at Martinez if he walked out to pull him.

THE HISTORY

There is virtually none. These teams share a spring training complex but they have not faced each other in interleague play since 2017. A host of players on each squad has never faced the pitchers on the other. In addition to starting pitchers being so critical here, add “NL vs. AL, in a matchup of unknowns” to the list of things that make this Fall Classic a throwback to olden days.

If we did the usual “Advantage: [TEAM]” for every one of those categories, I feel like we’d probably end up with the Astros coming out on top in each of them. The closest is probably the rotation, with the top-end talent of Cole, Verlander and Greinke outweighing the four-deep depth the Nats have at the moment. But as the earlier rounds showed, it’s not as much of an advantage as you might think and being able to run four starters out there whom you trust matters a lot.

Which is to say that, yeah, I think the Astros are the better team. They’re better in record, better on paper and should be favored. But I don’t think they’re overwhelming favorites. And I don’t think it could or should be considered a massive upset if this better-than-most-people think Nats team comes out on top. I feel like this will be a very, very even and competitive series, in fact.