Twitter Mailbag

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I haven’t done one of these in while. So let’s do one of these.

Why haven’t you done this in a while?

I used to do it weekly back when I did those HBT Daily videos. On Wednesdays or Thursdays we’d do it as a mailbag video post with 4-5 baseball questions and I’d use all the leftovers here. We don’t do the videos anymore so, apart from a couple of one-offs in the past couple of years, I just stopped. I should do these more often. They’re fun.

Class and alignment?

When I last played D&D I was a lawful neutral ranger, though to be honest, in my relationship with my brother I am the Raistlin to his Caramon, so you be the judge. And yes, I suppressed all of this information when I met my wife, on up through getting married back in May. Not sure how she feels about it now, but it’d be kinda complicated to do much about it.

Which teams do you see as likely to replace their manager this offseason?

Tigers, Mets, Braves, possibly the Marlins, but that would just because Derek Jeter wants someone he hired. But boy, Jeter firing Mattingly would certainly rile up the New York press. There are some other possibilities, but none that seem super obvious.

How maddening is it that the Yankees may have hit big on all 3 of their top prospects?

Only three? I’d count Severino, Sanchez and Judge, with Bird and a couple of others still remaining possible hits. Beyond that, to me, it doesn’t bother me at all. I want all prospects from all teams to shine because it’s better for baseball that way. To fans of teams whose every prospect seems to fizzle, it has to suck at least a little. Where have you gone Brandon Wood, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Without the 2nd wildcard, the 2017 playoff teams would have been locked in with two weeks to go. Where is your “Thank You Bud Selig” column?

I’ll grant Selig that. Let’s also think of how it might’ve been before 1994, realignment and the first Wild Card. The Indians would have a big lead in the old AL East and would be looking to face some super bad AL West team in the LCS. Meanwhile, the Astros would be on the outside looking in the NL West and we’d be looking at an LCS between the Dodgers and Expos. It’d be 1981 all over again, baby!

What changed your mind about the DH?

This comes in response to my tweeting out the mailbag I did on this date six years ago, during which I professed my distaste for the designated hitter. I did a complete 180 on that a year or two later and now am strongly in favor of the DH and want the NL to adopt it. As I said this morning, there are a lot of things I believed in 2011 and before that I have changed my mind about. My life changed pretty radically that year, actually. As I wrote that mailbag my first marriage was in its death throes. In the year or so after that I sort of reassessed things. Not so much my specific values and attitudes en masse, but the manner in which I came to hold them and the way I approach any given problem. I thought I knew everything there was to know before 2011 and was quick to both judge and opine on any manner of things. Changing my mind was not a process I was really open to, even if I thought I was. I was deluding myself.

Obviously I’m still pretty opinionated now, but since then I’ve tried to revamp the whole process. I don’t assume I know everything and I try to be better aware of what I don’t know. When presented with something I try hard to start new without worrying about what I said or thought about it before. I was wrong about a lot of stuff once, I’ve learned, so my past views on something aren’t owed any special deference necessarily.

This has all played out far more significantly in what I think about my personal life and larger philosophical issues, but it works on the small stuff too. Like the DH. When stuff like that comes up — matters of rules and process and custom — I ask myself: “If I knew nothing about what came before, how would I do things now?” Given the facts as we know them — pitchers are specialists who are terrible hitters and time spent making them better could be far better used improving their pitching — I don’t think anyone would have pitchers bat. It’s all based on tradition and that’s not worth a hill of beans.

When you posted pic of your son the other day I thought “Man, he’s growing up.” Does that make me a creepy stalker?

Nah. I’ve been writing on this site since April 2009 and have been writing publicly about baseball since April 2007. My son wasn’t even two years old then. Throughout that time I’ve talked about my kids a lot, tweeted pics and crap like that. I like that a lot of people feel like they know me a bit better than they might know other baseball writers they read, and part of that is knowing my kids a little. If you roll up in a beat up van and offer him candy, though, I’ll go Liam Neesons on your butt.

In a fight which animal would win: Silverback or Grizzly?

Silverback gorillas are my favorite non-cat animal — I took several primatology classes in college and just got into ’em — but this is really no contest. Grizzlies outweigh gorillas by several hundred pounds and have at least three attacks — bite, hit and claw — vs. the gorillas bite and hit. I think the bear could withstand the first couple of gorilla hits with its thick skin and muscles and give back more than the gorilla can take pretty quickly. Now, if the gorillas worked together in their family unit they could ward off and probably kill a bear, and a gorilla is smart enough to avoid a fight with a grizzly, I suspect. But one on one it’s not much of a contest.

You’re a Braves fan . . . right?


How do you want them to approach this offseason and push this team to the next level of actual contention?

They can stay the course as far as developing the young players, but they have to get past the placeholder mode for positions for which they don’t have top prospects. No more Matt Kemp or Nick Markakis types, please. They should only be acquiring players who could conceivably be a part of the next contending Braves team, say in 2019 or 2020. And, of course, get all the pitching they can. Never enough pitching. And a new manager would be nice.

What’s the best pun you’ve seen since you’ve last done one of these?

About five years ago, when he was seven, my son told me a joke: “Did you hear about the fire at the circus? It was . . . intense.”

Give that one a minute. It still stands up.

What’s the average “stick to sports” per day?

I probably average one a day, but they tend to happen, like, once a week and I get like five or six of them at least. Not surprisingly, it’s when I offer a political opinion with which the person who wishes me to stick to sports disagrees. People never tell you stick to sports when your non-sports opinion aligns with their own.

How do employees take back their private lives/voice? Jemele Hill is one example, when is she allowed to protest/discuss as democracy allows its private citizens to do? (in her case there’s no ESPN reference on her account). In general, employers act like dictators over their employees. That is a problem for democracy. Employers are overstepping their authority. How do we as a society fix this?

I’m not sure there’s really a “fix” here, as I’m not 100% certain the problem is as stark as you claim. It’s actually kind of complicated. Let’s talk about it for a bit.

I’m nowhere near as well known as Jemele Hill is, but I am a front-facing public figure for a large media corporation. My Twitter account is owned by me and predates my employment with NBC. Still, even if I did not mention NBC on it (I do), I can’t pretend that I am not a representative of NBC when I say stuff. I am, practically speaking, a representative of NBC and I have to act accordingly.

Now, that said, NBC gives me a ton of freedom. Way more, I suspect, than some ESPN folks get. That’s their choice and that choice is informed by a lot of things. For example, ESPN has a lot more public-facing sports personalities than NBC does and  — this is no slight on ESPN — NBC has, at least in the online space, tended to hire people who are a bit more well-rounded and who have earned a longer leash (Florio and I, for example, are lawyers who can be trusted to know what defamation is). While ESPN could trust bright and well-rounded people like Jemele Hill to talk about non-sports stuff, it may not be able to do so for their fifth-string fantasy rugby guy or whoever. They have to make broad policies for a much larger universe of people with, frankly, bigger audiences.

All of that being said, when you’re a public person working for a big company, you are making a deal: they give you a platform and money and you give them content. Within that deal, generally, is an agreement not to cause the company headaches. And, no, “headaches” are not the same thing as “being wrong or being obnoxious.” One can be 100% correct in saying a thing yet it could still cause problems for the company. In ESPN’s case, they’ve made it a lot more complicated than it has to be based on a long history of inconsistent handling of such matters, but that was known at the time Hill called Trump a white supremacist, right? If you’re taking ESPN’s money, you’re sort of risking ESPN’s often schizophrenic response to controversial matters.

Now, I think there is something troubling about just how sensitive companies have become to what they consider “controversial,” and if I was in charge of such things I’d give people a lot of leeway to take stands. But I get why they don’t. And, at least for people like me, Jemele Hill and other media folks who make a good living doing this, we know what we’re up against beforehand. We know what our employers expect. Specifically, not to have to have meetings about you which (a) you are not present for; and (b) they did not plan in advance.

All of that said: ESPN’s specific response to Hill’s specific comments was really dumb, as it was 100% motivated by pressure from cynical critics with an agenda like Clay Travis, and why you’d bow to pressure from a guy like that before backing your own person is beyond me. It was a completely self-inflicted wound, as have most of ESPN’s responses to the bogus “ESPN has a liberal agenda” campaign festering out there. That’s another topic, of course.

Regarding Grienke/Neshek, autograph hounds are horrible. Is it okay for grown people to get autos if they never sell them and not at a kid’s detriment?

If you’re unfamiliar with this, Zack Greinke and Pat Neshek had a beef this week over Greinke refusing to give Neshek an autograph for Neshek’s kids’ collection. It was one of the rare controversies in baseball that I didn’t bother to write about because I couldn’t be bothered to care. I dunno, just seemed kind of dumb. But that may be an extension of my feelings about autographs. I think it’s totally fine to ask for an autograph is you want to. I’m not gonna tell ya not to, but it’s just not something I’ve ever done as an adult nor would I. I’ve written about this a lot in the past. It’s one of my old opinions that I have revisited and NOT changed my mind about, though I have softened it some to where I don’t judge others for doing it. I just don’t get it. An autograph is a really just proof I was in the presence of someone famous. Like you wouldn’t believe me otherwise? If I told you I was standing next to George Clooney at a bar yesterday, would you think I was lying without the autograph? It just never made sense to me.

Would you rather live the rest of your life unable to make new memories, or have it take five minutes to remember anything?

Increasingly, as I get older, I’m living the latter. I’m fine with it, though. It annoys the hell out of people I’m trying to tell a story to, but I get there eventually. Besides, I saw “Memento.” I don’t wanna live that life. I’d look awful with tattoos.

CTE evidence in baseball?

Yes, there is. And I’m sure there are others besides poor Ryan Freel.

A group of people I know and like from work is getting together at a bar near my house tonight. I don’t really want to go. Why am I bad?

You’re not. You can like people you work with without feeling obligated to socialize outside of work. Especially if it’s employer-encouraged “bonding” because that’s just The Man trying to get you to help him out without paying you for your time. Live the social life you want to live, not the one you feel you should. And don’t sleep on getting home, putting on pajama pants and parking it front of Netflix with a pint of ice cream for dinner. Life is short, my friends. Live más.

I’m convinced “It” has done so well because of the success of Stranger Things. Kids wandering round, getting into trouble.

I agree that helps, but that’s a standard TV and movie thing. “The Goonies,” “Super 8,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and a million other productions are based on kids or teens doing stuff without parents around. There’s some primal right-of-passage stuff at work there. It can be super, super powerful if you’re a certain age. Or if you’re nostalgic for that certain age.

How could the Yankees not have announced they’d add more netting even before that game where kid was hit with foul was over? Why the delay?

They were hoping they didn’t have to, either because of the expense of the netting, the hassle or because they didn’t want to risk having season ticket holders who don’t like netting beefing at them. Having a toddler get injured by a foul ball sort of trumps that, though, so now the Yankees have little choice, thankfully. This is why Major League Baseball didn’t mandate it, by the way. Rob Manfred wasn’t unanimously selected to be commissioner. It took a couple of votes. He’s not going to start making clubs do anything they might not want to do lest he risk some of his support. Even if it’s the right thing to do.

Thoughts on Paul Finebaum putting Buckeyes in his CFB playoff? or just them making it in general?

One of the questions I answered in that 2011 mailbag I linked above was about Ohio State football, and I mentioned I was a fan. Which I was. Big fan, ever since I enrolled at Ohio State back in 1991. One of the things I reassessed in recent years, however, was college football. I realized in 2012 or so that I just didn’t care anymore. That what a bunch of 18-22 year-olds do on a Saturday should not impact my mood and should not impact the mood of the entire city in which I live. I could do something about the former even if the latter is even worse than ever. And that’s before you get in to all of the ethical problems with football in general and college football in particular. I loved the game for most of my life and still find it aesthetically pleasing, but I just can’t do it any more. After sitting out the 2012 season I have not missed it.

Not that I don’t still know a few things that go on. I know Oklahoma beat Ohio State thanks in part to a kid named Calcaterra and that it pissed off a lot of my neighbors, so that’s probably a good thing. Really dudes, not being an Ohio State fan in Columbus, Ohio can be dreary. You take what enjoyment you can get.

What is Rob Reiner’s greatest film?

“This is Spinal Tap” and it’s not particularly close. “Princess Bride” is second, but it’s a distant second. After that comes “Stand By Me,” “The Sure Thing,” and “A Few Good Men.” I’m not a “When Harry Met Sally” fan. Everything else is blah.

How would you rate Buster Posey historically among catchers?

He’s probably top-10, right? Clearly better in both career and peak value are Bench, Berra, Piazza and Josh Gibson. On peak alone Roy Campanella. On overall career value, Fisk and Pudge are better, but with longevity Posey may get the edge. Throw Mickey Cochrane in there and maybe Gary Carter, but we can argue about where they land specifically. Beyond that you have arguments, but I think any good list has to have Posey in the top 10 someplace.

What bands that you started listening to within the last five years do you like the most?

I’ll expand that to six years because, as I said before, my life changed pretty radically in 2011. I also met Allison, my wife, in 2011 and she’s way younger and hipper than me and she introduced me to a lot of stuff. So, in no particular order: The National, Pulp, The Mountain Goats, War on Drugs, Jason Isbell. There are others but those are the ones off the top of my head.

What’s up with the too-many-homers crowd? I get that strikeouts are up, but who cares? A dinger is the best possible outcome of any plate appearance and some are crying about this?

People — baseball writers mostly — will cry about anything. The primary mode of consuming the game for a whole bunch of them is via complaint. If something is prevalent now, they’ll pine for something that isn’t and when the game changes they’ll pine for something else. That said, home runs do seem to bother a lot of baseball commentators. I think it’s weird projection on their part. A lot of baseball writers played as kids but soon learned they weren’t good enough to compete. So what happens is, they latch on really, really strongly to aspects of the game that they imagine they could still manage somehow. They LOVE players who speak well and give good interviews because that’s the writer’s world. They appreciate players they perceive to work hard or who are “gritty” because they believe they never lacked effort themselves, only talent, and thus think that that’s the kind of player they could’ve been if things broke just so. Home runs? That’s god stuff. Power and skill and dominance they could never muster so it must be suspect. Keep in mind, this all plays out subconsciously with most of them. They’ll deny it, but it’s an unmistakable pattern among people who watch and critique the game, be they writers or guys who manage from a barstool or La-Z-boy.

How has your blogging life affected your family/parenting life and vice versa (other than mining your kids for content)?

I’ve been doing this full time since November 2009, when my kids were five and four. They don’t remember when I used to put a suit on and go downtown to work and sometimes even I don’t. My wife only knows me as a stay-at-home dad/husband. As such, it has had little if any impact on my family as currently structured. I think there is an open question as how adjusting from working in an office building for 11 years and then suddenly doing this for a living impacted my first marriage between late 2009 and mid-2011 or so. It was not the reason for the divorce and didn’t even surface as an actual issue then, but when couples have been together for a long time — and at the time we had been together for 20 years, married for 16 — any change can have unforeseen impacts. While there was no first-order problem like money issues or territory or anything that arose out of my job shift to impact the marriage, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to at least speculate that something about the rhythm and chi of the relationship changed when I began working from home and that it, indirectly, led to problems later. But that’s not specifically a blogging thing, right? That’s a life thing. Everyone’s life changes at one time or another. It’s how one deals with that change that determines one’s path.

Man, sorry I’ve been getting deep on some of these. Just one of those days.

Have there ever been two more improbable seasons than Wilbur Wood in 1971 (11.7 WAR) and 1972 (10.7 WAR)? His WAR the previous year was 2.6.

The 1970s were a weird friggin’ time, man. Seriously, though: go look at Wilbur Wood’s stats from those years. It’s sort of insane, even for a knuckeballer.

Why do poor/non-college white working class people in Ohio vote against their self-interest?

I’ve never liked the “vote against their interest” construction. I know what you’re getting at, but the people who put things that way are, 100% of the time, talking about people whose experience they cannot possibly understand because they live dramatically different lives. This is not to absolve rural white working class voters for supporting awful candidates or bad policies. It’s just to say that, for a whole host of historical and personal reasons, people do not go into the voting booth thinking they are “voting against their interests” and do not necessarily weigh any one issue the way someone else not in their shoes might.

Rather than attack the matter this way, talking about the large construct of what is good or what is bad or what is rational for any one voter to do, candidates and people who wish to persuade voting blocks who do not traditionally agree with them should simply and plainly articulate what policies they support and explain, in clear terms, why they think that policy would be good for the voter. Seems simple, right? But it’s amazing at how little that is actually done. More often than not the folks who seek the vote of the poor/non-college white working class voter (or the vote of any other bloc that is not already in their pocket) either write them off completely, assume they’ll get their vote for non-policy reasons or condescend to them. Often times they advocate positions that would do just as much harm to that voter but try to dress it up as something better and nicer, even if it really isn’t. It’s dumb and people should cut it out. Listen to people. Figure out what they want and work with them to try to make their lives better. They’ll either listen to you or they won’t, but they’re far more likely to if you don’t patronize them.

What’s a dotard?

While I do not much care for nuclear brinksmanship between two clearly unwell people, Kim Jong Un calling Trump that yesterday was pretty spiffy in that it made me think how little that word is ever used. That, in turn, made me think of the greatest “Saturday Night Live” sketch that no one ever seems to remember.

Could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that He Himself could not eat it?

Omnipotence does not require that one have abilities that are logically impossible. Rather, it only requires that one be able to do anything that conforms to the laws of logic. In light of that, I do not think that there is anything so hot that Jesus Christ could not eat, so His theoretical lack of ability to microwave a burrito beyond that point does not sully His omnipotence.

If you had to be a cat, what breed would you be?

Just a boring old American Shorthair, probably a tabby/tiger thing. I have one of those right now and three calicos. The calicos are sisters. They are really, really beautiful but really, really dumb. The tabby/tiger is really smart. If you want to know about my cats, go here.

It’s 2022. Are we living in a single-payer socialist utopia, or a post-apocalyptic hellscape? Also, will David Wright be healthy by then?

I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring, let alone five years from now. That said, I think either of the first two options are more likely than the third.

Any former player you’d have a hard time interviewing because you thought they walked on water?

As a kid I met Al Kaline and was star struck, mostly because of how he was talked about where I lived. For years I wondered if he was as great as everyone said. In 2015 I got a chance to interview him at length. It wasn’t planned. I was walking around the Tigers clubhouse in Detroit and he just walked in and I bugged him. If anyone was every gonna be kind of annoyed it would be at a time like that. Kaline was wonderful. He answered my questions thoughtfully and didn’t rely on war stories or cliches. He had insight to the current Tigers team and reflections based on his 60+ years in and around the majors. He was so nice. As far as that sort of thing goes, I’m 1-for-1 and I’ve done my best to quit while on top. There are very few players that I ever thought walked on water, and none who are active now, because I know too much about human nature to think they do. But while those couple from my youth remain out there, I’m gonna steer clear of them. Never meet your heroes, friends.

And with that, I’ve gone on too long. Let’s do this again soon. It’s fun.