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

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It was a long offseason, my friends. A light winter in these parts but a harsh one all the same. The usual offseason non-stories seemed even less-satisfying than normal. On a personal level, I spent many long, dark hours searching for meaning and happiness in a world that seemed uncompromising, unforgiving and indifferent to humanity.

So what better to fix all of that than to ask questions about Aquaman and stuff?  The Twitter questions are back.  And the world is somewhat warmer because of it:

Q: Why has it been so long since you answered any damn questions? Afraid?

Maybe. But remember: Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear. So I’m back, yo.

Q: What is your favorite show on NPR?

That one aimed at the white professional people who live in big cities and like to talk about the latest books they’ve read. I’m blanking on the name.

Q: Ryan Howard contract: lol, or LOL?

More of a ROTFLMAO

Q: Finish this sentence….”Bobby V’s time in Boston will be ____________________”

Brief.

Q: Would Aquaman be able to bat over the Mendoza line? Would his pitching line look worse than Bronson Arroyo’s?

I have to make a confession about Aquaman.  After years of bashing Aquaman mercilessly, The Common Man — writer of The Platoon Advantage, Baseball Prospectus contributor and frequent HBT commenter — mailed me the first four issues of the new series.  I read them. And I’ll admit it: it’s pretty good stuff.  Now, to be clear, the writer, Geoff Johns, had to spend a great deal of time in those first few issues making a very clear point about how Aquaman is no longer lame like everyone thinks he is. There’s even a blogger character that tries to interview him about that kind of thing.  If he wasn’t pretty clearly lame in past incarnations, Johns wouldn’t have had to do this.

But superheros are frequently reinvented. Batman had a lame period too. Maybe not as long as Aquaman’s, but it was pretty lame. And he got reinvented in an astoundingly successful manner, so there is hope for Aquaman.

Not that I’m not going to continue to bash him. It’s funny and I’m old and I just don’t care. So: Aquaman — the version of him I like to think of — would hit like Brandon Inge. Except he’d be less useful defensively at every position unless there was a lot of rain and the drainage system malfunctioned.  I’m guessing he could pick it at third better than anyone as long as there was a giant mud puddle just to the right of the bag.

Q: Is Son Of The Collector not the best band name ever?

It’s pretty good. Can’t be considered the best until we sort through all the Milwaukee bands named after Ryan Braun’s pee, however.

Q: How quick will the 10 team playoff end when the Yankees get knocked out every year ?

I’m guessing this helps the Yankees. I’m more interested in hearing what Blue Jays and Orioles fans complain about now that they have another chance to make the playoffs even if Boston and New York do too.

Q: Candidates for this year’s Vogelsong? Also Avengers or JLA?

I think Jamie Moyer coming in and getting people out at age 49 and a year off for Tommy John surgery — in Coors Field no less — would blow Vogelsong’s little Cinderella story out of the water. And, merits of the comics aside, I’ve always been a DC guy for some reason. Just like how I prefer the National Legaue even though I know that it’s not as good as the American League, objectively speaking.

Q: Why do we drive on a “Parkway” and park on a “Driveway”?

Because if we didn’t, bad comics like Gallagher wouldn’t have anything to talk about.

Q:  What on-the-cusp team wins the one-off and wreaks havoc on the playoffs with the expanded system? Jays? Nats? Other?

When Stephen Strasburg and the 85-win Nats win the one-game playoff against the defending World Series champ Cardinals, there will likely be a lot of people moaning.

Q: Rank the TOS Star Trek movies in order, with a letter grade if possible.

1. Wrath of Khan (A); 2. Undiscovered Country (A-); 3. Voyage Home (B+); 4. Search for Spock (B-); 5. The Motion Picture (C-); 6, The Final Frontier (D-).  That last one may deserve an F, but I reserve an F for something that I would just never, ever watch ever, and I can at least watch The Final Frontier for unintentional laughs and mockability, even if it is horrible.

Q: In the wake of the Mike/Giancarlo Stanton news, how Many MLB players do you think are secretly Italian?

I don’t know. And we won’t know until there’s a safe, reliable test for gesticulation and emoting in normal, day-to-day conversation. Until then, everyone is suspect, and that’s the real tragedy.

Q: If the only way to see The Dark Knight Rises, ever, was to pay $100, would you? What would your limit be?

I’m not gonna lie — and I’m not proud of myself — but I probably would pay the $100 if there was no other chance to see it, including on DVD or whatever.  I’m so in the bag for Batman it’s not even funny, but you knew that already.

Q: A genie grants you three chances to get in the best shape of someone else’s life (with no work). Whom do you choose?

I would like to be in The Best Shape of George Clooney’s Life.  Not that he was ever so perfect physically — indeed, note that he doesn’t do a lot of shirt-off stuff in his movies — but because shape is not just about how a dude looks with his shirt off.  Who wouldn’t want one-tenth of his mojo?

Q: With all of your tv spots these days, how long is it until you’re on Celebrity Apprentice Dancing with the Stars or Maury?

True Fact: Both the studios for Maury and the studios for the NBC Sports Network are in Stamford, Connecticut.  Just sayin’.

Q: What do you think the Twins chances to contend are?

Somewhere south of “snowflake’s chance in Hell” and somewhere north of “New York Mets.”

Q: If you had to bet your life on one team finishing 3rd in its division in 2012, who would you pick?

Hmm. Good question. harder this year than in most years.  How about the Kansas City Royals?  I think the White Sox crater, the Twins still stink, and the Tigers still cruise. That leaves Cleveland and Kansas City to battle for second place. Gun to my head right now, I say Cleveland edges out the Royals. But note: I’m almost always wrong about this kind of crap.

Q: Which field has the most blades of grass?

Coors Field. This is just a simple fact. Prove me wrong.

Q: Cards fan, I don’t think they’ll fall off a cliff. Beltran is good. Berkman is good. Division is not ace. Am i nuts?

Nope. I think the Cards will be in it all year and I may even pick them to win the division.

Q: What would you have renamed the Houston franchise, if they had gone through with that process?

The Houston Humid Depressing Sprawling Hellscapes. Because I think a team should reflect the nature and character of the city in which it plays.

Q: Would you like to create a shot for shot remake of the “Sabotage” by Beastie Boys music video?

Hard to top the execution on that.  I’d rather remake Greg Khin’s “Jeopardy” video. Though I’m guessing that rising commodity prices have made the cost of tin foil prohibitively expensive.

Q: What did you think of the end of the new BSG?

Readers from last year will recall that I spent the last part of the summer/early fall watching “Battlestar Galactica” while on the treadmill.  I love, love, loved it. Frakking brilliant series.  The ending? I can’t say it was terribly disappointing. I have some nitpicks, of course, like what the hell was the deal with Starbuck and stuff.  But let’s not make perfect the enemy of the good here.  After seeing finales for so many good shows just utterly fail — can we all talk about how crappy “Lost” was near the end despite the feel-good final scene? — I think BSG did a pretty darn fine job of it.

Q: When taking a deuce, do you drop trousers to your knees or ankles? I’m a knees guy, but I feel I’m the minorty.

I’m a blogger. I don’t wear pants.

Q: Why wear pants, ever?

See what I mean?

Q: To be or not to be?

That is the question, ain’t it? In other news, Hamlet was so emo that I’m surprised he died of the poisoned blade before he died of mono or something.

Q: Isn’t it ironic, dontcha think?

Literally, it is.

Q: Say you’re a Nats fan – riding the wave of excitement for all it’s worth, or steeling yourself for disappointment? 

Ride the wave, man. They’re gonna be pretty good this year.  And starting in a couple of years, they’re gonna be in the playoffs a lot.

Q: What comes first – radical realignment or expansion?

I’d guess they happen at the same time, but not for a looong time.  And not until the territory system breaks down somehow, because if there is to be expansion — or even relocation — it’s going to have to happen in cities that already have teams. Because that’s where the population growth is.  Our nation’s growth is about big cities getting bigger, not old small cities suddenly getting big like it was post-WWII America or something.

Q: Why does some innocent urine collector in Milwaukee request future questions be forwarded to a NY lawyer? & who’s paying?

I would read nothing into this at all. The lawyer was probably furnished by his employer or the league who, naturally, has connections and existing relationships with New York lawyers.  For as far out there in defending the arbitrator’s decision as I have been, even I am not willing to get into conspiracy theories about the collection process in the Braun case.

Q: After Jose Reyes, which NL East shortstop will have the best all-around season in 2012?

Jimmy Rollins. Because he’s probably still the best all-around shortstop in the NL East after Reyes.

Q: To what degree have you controlled the course your life has taken? That is all.

I was a victim of a series of accidents, as are we all.

Q: Biggest disappointment you’ve ever seen? Baseball related or not.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.  We all mock now and act like the prequels were doomed from the start, but if one thinks back to 1998-99 and just how highly anticipated the Star Wars prequels were — and thinks about how George Lucas could have done almost anything he wanted with the story — one can only weep.

Q: 5 people from history to eat dinner with, with caveat that you must consider how they would get along.

Jeffrey Dahmer, someone from the Donner Party and The Fat Boys.  Sorry … too soon?

Q: Who has the better year – Ellsbury or Granderson?

Umm … Granderson. I have no idea why. I just like him better.

Q: Most underrated player in baseball history?

There’s a whole lot of them.  Indeed, I will be part of a project writing a whole book about them soon. I’m going to be writing about Alan Trammell, but he certainly doesn’t qualify as the most underrated because a lot of people know he was awesome.  If I had to guess right now I’d say either Bobby Grich or Darrell Evans, but there are a ton of dudes like that.

Q: How much do you think your background as a lawyer has influenced your thoughts on the Braun scenario?

An outrageous amount.  It’s all about due process for me.  Practicing law for 11 years really brought home how vitally important procedures are to ensure the integrity of a system. You don’t always get the results you want, but if you follow the rules, you can be assured of the best possible outcomes in the aggregate.

Q: Who is Snooki’s baby-daddy?

Ryan Braun.  It’s all been a big cover up.

Q: Does an aversion to the Padres’ camouflage jerseys make Jim Caple a Taliban sympathizer? He says no.

Just what a terrorist would say to throw you off his trail!  Actually, though, it just means that he has good taste. Those things, however well-intentioned, are fugly.

Q: I was told to follow you for a spring training “I’m in the best shape of my life” quote count. Whatcha got?

Pursuant to our scientific system, we have found 40 players and one manager who have declared themselves to be in the best shape of their lives. A full roster!

Bryan LaHair – CHC
Mat Gamel – MIL
Joe Saunders – ARI
Danny Valencia – MIN
Chris Davis – BAL
Brandon McCarthy – OAK
Anthony Swarzak – MIN
Billy Butler – KC
Mike Moustakas – KC
Russell Martin – NYY
Jason Grilli – PIT
Jed Lowrie – HOU
Logan Schafer – MIL
Lance Lynn – STL
Phil Hughes – NYY
Bill Hall – NYY
Yadier Molina – STL
Evan Longoria – TB
Brett Cecil – TOR
Freddie Freeman – ATL
Brian Wilson – SFO
Jason Heyward – ATL
Casey McGehee – PIT
Chris Tillman – BAL
Franklin Gutierrez – SEA
Miguel Olivo – SEA
Miguel Cabrera – DET
Justin Smoak – SEA
Dexter Fowler – COL
Jaime Garcia – STL
Miguel Tejada – FA
Aubrey Huff – SFO
Vicente Padilla – BOS
Carlos Zambrano – MIA
Yonder Alonso – SD
Mark Teixeira – NYY
Dmitri Young – FA
Yoenis Cespedes – OAK
Matt Diaz – ATL
Shin-Soo Choo – CLE
Mike Scioscia – LAA

Not bad.

There were a bunch more questions, but this was all I had time for this morning.  Tune in next week for more of this silly kind of thing.

Whitewash: Rob Manfred says he doesn’t think sign stealing extends beyond the Astros

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Rob Manfred said today that he believes the sign-stealing scandal which has taken over the news in the past week does not extend beyond the Houston Astros. His exact words, via Jeff Passan of ESPN:

“Right now, we are focused on the information that we have with respect to the Astros. I’m not going to speculate on whether other people are going to be involved. We’ll deal with that if it happens, but I’m not going to speculate about that. I have no reason to believe it extends beyond the Astros at this point in time.”

This is simply incredible. As in literally not credible.

It’s not credible because, just last week, in the original story in The Athletic, it was reported that the Astros system was set up by two players, one of whom was “a hitter who was struggling at the plate and had benefited from sign stealing with a previous team, according to club sources . . . they were said to strongly believe that some opposing teams were already up to no good. They wanted to devise their own system in Houston. And they did.”

The very next day Passan reported that Major League Baseball would not limit its focus to the Astros. Rather, the league’s probe was also include members of the 2019 Astros and would extend to other teams as well. Passan specifically mentioned the 2018 Red Sox which, of course, were managed by Alex Cora one year after he left Houston, where he was A.J. Hinch’s bench coach.

Add into this the Red Sox’ pre-Cora sign-stealing with Apple Watches and widespread, informed speculation on the part of players and people around the game that many teams do this sort of thing, and one can’t reasonably suggest that only the Houston Astros are doing this.

Which, as I noted at the time, made perfect sense. These schemes cannot, logically, operate in isolation because players and coaches change teams constantly. In light of this, players have to know that their sign-stealing would be found out by other teams eventually. They continue to do it, however, because they know other teams do it too. As is the case with pitchers using pine tar or what have you, they don’t rat out the other team so they, themselves, will not be ratted out. It’s a mutually-assured destruction that only exists and only works if, in fact, other teams are also stealing signs.

So why is Major League Baseball content to only hang the Astros here? I can think of two reasons.

One is practical. They had the Astros fall in their lap via former Astro Mike Fiers — obviously not himself concerned with his current team being busted for whatever reason — going on the record with his accusation. That’s not likely to repeat itself across baseball and thus it’d be quite difficult for Major League Baseball to easily conduct a wide investigation. Who is going to talk? How can baseball make them talk? It’d be a pretty big undertaking.

But there’s also the optics. Major League Baseball has had a week to think about the report of the Astros sign-stealing and, I suspect, they’ve realized, like everyone else has realized, that this is a major scandal in the making. Do they really want to spend the entire offseason — and longer, I suspect, if they want a thorough investigation — digging up unflattering news about cheating in the sport? Do they really want to be in the bad news creation business? I doubt they do, so they decided to fence off the Astros, hit them hard with penalties, declare victory and move on.

Which is to say, it’s a whitewash.

It’s something the league has tried to do before. They did it with steroids and it didn’t work particularly well.

In 1998 Mark McGwire, that game’s biggest star at the time, was found to have the PED androstenedione in his locker. It was a big freakin’ deal. Except . . . nothing happened. Major League Baseball planned to “study” the drug but most of the fallout was visited upon the reporter who made it public. It was accompanied by some shameful conduct by both Major League Baseball and the baseball press corps who eagerly went after the messenger rather than cover the story properly.

Four years later Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco went public with their PED use and said drug use was widespread. MLB’s response was slow and, again, sought to isolated the known offenders, singling out Caminiti as a troubled figure — which he was — and Canseco as a kook — which he kind of is — but doing them and the story a disservice all the same.

The league eventually created a rather toothless testing and penalty regime. Congress and outside investigative reporters filled the void created by the league’s inaction, calling hearings and publishing damning stories about how wide PED use was in the game. Eventually Bud Selig commissioned the Mitchell Report. Some ten years after the McGwire incident baseball had at least the beginnings of a sane approach to PEDs and a more effective testing plan, but it was pulled to it kicking and screaming, mostly because doing anything about it was too hard and not very appetizing from a business and P.R. perspective.

And so here we are again. Baseball has a major scandal on its hands. After some initially promising words about how serious it planned to take it, the league seems content to cordon off the known crime scene and refuses to canvass the neighborhood. Sure, if someone gratuitously hands them evidence they’ll look into it, but it sure sounds like Rob Manfred plans to react rather than act here.

That should work. At least until the next time evidence of cheating comes up and they have to start this all over again.