This is the slowest hot stove season we’ve ever seen. Really, there are going to be a ton of good players still looking for work when pitchers and catchers report. I guess that’s their problem. For our purposes, we’re merely lacking anything good to write about you’re only lacking anything good to read about. Let’s fix that, shall we?
A couple of hours ago I put out a call for some mailbag questions on Twitter. Here are most of them. Since there’s nothing happening, I decided not to be too picky:
Q: I noticed a kid named ‘Calcaterra’ playing for Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl yesterday; any relation?
A: That’d be Grant Calcaterra, the Sooners’ receiver (Tight end? I dunno). We found each other on Twitter last fall — some people asked him if he was related to me too — and we determined that we are not related, at least closely or detectably. He’s one of triplets, by the way. His sister Claire is a soccer player at Kansas State. Their brother Andrew studies business at Ohio State, so even if he’s not related he’s in the same town as me now. Apologies, Andrew, that I took the “Calcaterra.1” Ohio State email back in 1993 or whatever. And no you can’t have it, even if I don’t use it anymore.
Q: Best Braves team of the 90s? I’m gonna go with 1998.
A: Me too. See my post the other day about a regular season team still being great even if they don’t win it all. I mean, yes, I realize the Braves weren’t even the best regular season team in 1998 — that was an all-time Yankees team — but from April through the end of September it was just astounding to watch ’em. It helped that that was the last summer that I didn’t have a grown up job in my life. All I had to do was study for the bar exam and watch those Braves kick butt all over the National League.
Q: Favorite candidate to be the Hosmer mystery team, if it exists?
A: Do the Royals count as a mystery team? Because at this point I feel like this will be a Tim Raines in the 80s situation with so many of these free agents struggling to find suitors. A bunch more of them will be at least talking to their old teams pretty seriously pretty soon here, I reckon.
Q: What do you think is behind the slow-moving free agent market this year?
A: Bill looked pretty deeply at that on Sunday night. Short version: teams are valuing players the same way these days, so there is no crazy high bidder for free agents to jump to; teams are locking up players young so the guys hitting free agency aren’t exactly in their prime; the luxury tax is serving as a defacto salary cap; a lot of teams are rebuilding and/or tanking; and, finally, some players probably just have an unrealistic view of their value.
Q: Best detective on Homicide Life on the Street?
A: It’s Frank Pembleton and it’s not particularly close, though no one should sleep on Meldrick Lewis, who was good murder police.
Q: Is this a “New Year, New You” year?
A: Nah. The usual stuff. Get back to the habits I had before Thanksgiving. Eat better, exercise more, but nothing radical. I sorted out my professional life in 2008-09, I sorted out my physical/health stuff in 2011-13 or so, I sorted out my personal life and mental health pretty well from 2013 until early 2016 or so and since then it’s been maintenance. I like my life pretty well. I’m not a resolutions guy.
Q: What have you found to be the most effective way to keep you organized? I feel like that’s my perpetual struggle.
A: Marry Allison Calcaterra. But since she’s taken: (a) plan meals several days in advance and keep running shopping lists with Apple Notes or something easy and electronic; (b) put everything on a calendar, no matter how small, because you will forget; and (c) Take five minutes over your coffee each morning, before you do a single other thing, and make a short little list of the 2-5 things you want or need to do that day, no matter how small or perfunctory.
Q: Super Bowl prediction?
A: Probably a movie. The theaters are pretty empty that day. In other news, the last Super Bowl I consciously set out to watch was, I think, the Giants-Ravens one, whenever that one was. The last one I caught a significant portion of, though it was not planned, was the Raiders-Bucs one, because it happened to be on the TV in the Vegas casino I was visiting. I was a big football fan for all of my childhood and until my mid-late 20s, but I just don’t give a rip about the NFL anymore.
Q: When will we get some news on the eradication of chief wahoo? is supposed to happen this off-season right?
A: Not necessarily. There was talk of it happening “within a couple of years” last year at this time, and in August the Indians owner said the schedule had “accelerated.” That could mean we get some sort of announcement soon, but as far as uniform changes and things, it may be too late in the year for such a thing to be unveiled. If I had to guess, we’ll get some sort of statement from the club and Major League Baseball in calendar year 2018 with new caps and Wahoo-free uniforms in the 2019 season. I would love to be pleasantly surprised, however.
Q: Best Version of the Four Horsemen? For my money, it’s Naitch, Arn, Tully, and Windham…but I could be persuaded otherwise.
A: Everyone forgets Ole Anderson. Which, sure, I get it, he was an older dude without the charisma of some of the other ones, but when he and Arn unveiled the new Minnesota Wrecking Crew — the precursor to the Horsemen — it was something else. It was not flashy, but that was a good thing as an antidote to the increasingly cartoonish WWF of the mid-80s. That said: Flair, Arn, Tully and Lex probably were the best, even though Lex did less with more than most wrestlers I could remember.
Q: MLB announces four expansion teams. What cities get them?
A: With the disclaimer that, no, it would never happen, I’d say Portland, Charlotte, Montreal and, say, Monterrey, Mexico. My guess, though, is that if we get expansion, it’ll be limited to two teams.
Q: Which unwritten rule should be written?
A: I don’t care for most unwritten rules so I’m generally for tossing them all. Is it an unwritten rule that a pitcher should not show visible displeasure with his fielders when they make a mistake? I hate it when they do that, and I’d be all for them writing in The John Lackey Rule to prevent that from happening. Any pitcher who bitches when his second baseman makes an error or whatever shall be flogged.
Q: Craig what’s your opinion about community-owned teams? Like how the Packers used to be or how FC Barcelona currently operates. You think it would solve a lot of modern baseballs business woes?
A: I think it’d solve a lot of problems we as fans have with teams — their threats to move and extort local governments for new stadiums and stuff — but those “business woes” you allude to are features, not bugs, of the modern sports industrial complex. Owners and leagues absolutely LOVE the stuff we hate and make money hand over fist doing such things. I think Major League Baseball and other leagues would move heaven and earth to prevent any other teams from becoming community owned or meaningfully publicly held entities. They want them to be closely-held businesses with the minimum in transparency possible.
Q: Do you think MLB would be in a better or worse position today if it had an MLS-type ownership structure?
A: I’m not super familiar with how MLS works, but I understand that they are constructed as a single entity thereby allowing them to do all kinds of messing around without the fear of being accused of being anticompetitive. Someone smarter than me might be able to address this in the comments, but given that MLB has an antitrust exemption — and given how, in the past 20 years anyway, the league and owners have managed to work in lockstep on almost everything — I don’t know that it’d make a functional difference for most purposes. Heck, they’ve even managed to impose a defacto salary cap as currently constructed, so they’re doing pretty well as-is.
Q: Did you really buy only one onion when you went to the store?
A: This refers to a tweet from this morning in which I lamented that I forgot to get onions when I went shopping the other day and that an onion was the only thing I was missing for the crock pot smoked sausage cassoulet I was making for dinner tonight (see the above note on planning). It’s freezing here and I really didn’t want to go out to the store, so I did something crazy and made the dang cassoulet with onion powder instead. I’ll know how bad a choice that was in about six hours. I feel like it was a bad choice.
Q: Do you think baseball starts to see a change in mentality where celebrations and emotions are not considered “disrespectful”, but instead encouraged? The flair in the NFL and NBA seems to engage the common audience in a way baseball doesn’t.
A: I do. The league, I think, is eager for this. One only need look at MLB’s social media outlets which celebrate and promote bat flips and celebrations and all of that stuff fairly often. They hunger for it, I suspect. The ones who don’t are the players. Primarily white American ones who have been around for a bit. No one gets older and stodgier at a younger age than a ballplayer. Over time I think this changes, though. Madison Bumgarner and Ian Kinsler and guys like that won’t live forever. And every generation there seems to be fewer of their like.
Q: Despite all the big moves, are the Angels legit contenders if they don’t add some pitching to the re-tooled offense/defense?
A: Anything can happen — and a Wild Card is possible for almost any team in the AL except for maybe Detroit — but they’re not catching the Astros without more pitching or unless Houston has a ton of health problems. The rotation has a lot of depth but their best pitchers — Ohtani and Richards — have some health concerns and the other guys are all back end starters. Depth and upside at the top is pretty nice, though, and a lot better than a lot of other teams have. If things break right, if Mike Scioscia is good at identifying the hot hands in the 6-7 starting pitching candidates he has and if everyone stays rested and relatively healthy, I can see the Angels improving several games on their 80-82 record and being in the playoff conversation all year.
Q: Best non-obvious parenting lesson you’ll pass on to your kids?
A: Always keep lots of gallon-sized Ziplock bags around. They are the single most useful item for parenting/housekeeping purposes you can imagine. I should devote a separate post to this.
Q: What’s your favorite family recipe?
A: We don’t have a ton. As you may know, my family history is . . . a bit different than many people’s. As a result of that and some other random weirdness, there was not a lot of the sort of intergenerational closeness that fosters the passing of beloved recipes from generation to generation. My parents eloped in 1967 and, unfortunately, developed their approach to meals and nutrition in the 1970s, when everything was processed and convenient and mostly terrible. They’re both OK cooks — my dad is particularly good with the grill and my mom was always able to churn out workmanlike meals — but there were not exactly a lot of super amazing highlights. Both of them consider a trip to Steak ‘n Shake to be a nice evening out. There are a couple of old soups that made it through the generations that are decent, but I’ve mostly taught myself to cook. Tonight’s onion powder notwithstanding.
Q: With the Mets selling off talent for cash last season and reducing payroll for 2018 should more attention be focused on the Wilpons by media? Why would Alderson want to stay on as GM in this climate?
A: There should be, but I suspect that the various parts of the media have various reasons for not hammering them on this more than they do. Some may not care deeply, and consider themselves there just to report on the games and the transactions. Some may consider the Mets drama and turmoil to be great for selling papers and would be sorta sad if they were suddenly run like a team that knows what it’s doing in the largest city in the country. Others probably worry that, if they hit the Mets too hard, they’ll lose access to Alderson or Jeff Wilpon or various other sources. As for Alderson staying on: he makes good money and, at age 70, he’s not likely to get a job running a team again. This is not a knock on Alderson. He’s got a great track record over the decades, but given how teams are so hellbent on hiring young Ivy Leaguer types, his future is likely the “senior advisor” route. If he’s not interested in doing that and still wants to be the man in charge someplace for a while, why not stay on as long as they’ll have him?
Q: Do you think it’s better or worse for American democracy if Trump gets impeached? Are you rooting for a particular outcome on that front?
A: Probably worse. I mean, if it is eventually determined that he has clearly committed impeachable offenses — and it wouldn’t shock me if we reach that point, either due to Russia stuff, obstruction of justice or general corruption in the manner in which he has clearly not separated himself as president from his personal financial interests — you can’t forego the remedy if it’s viable, because it is part of the checks and balances we’ve built into the system. I do not think it’d be great for democracy, however. Mostly because many people in his party would, regardless of the facts on the ground, feel like it’s their mission to go after the next Democratic president in similar fashion and you simply cannot function as a government if you’re so damn focused on settling scores and all of that. And that’s before you take a partisan look at it and realize, if you hate Trump, that getting rid of him doesn’t change as much you might think. I mean, his style is horrible, but there aren’t a ton of things he’s done that a president Mike Pence wouldn’t have done too.
I wrote about this almost a year ago, but there is no magic bullet here. Electoral politics got us Donald Trump and electoral politics will have to be what rids us of him. There are no shortcuts for the people who oppose him. They must do the work and get better people elected who will advance the interests of Americans.
Q: The next generation of politicians have basically had their whole lives online. How will we judge a candidate for something awful they did when they were teens that was memorialized somewhere?
A: I mean, given that we elected Trump mere weeks after hearing the “grab them by the p___y” tape and during a campaign in which he insulted a former POW for being captured, insulted the parents of a fallen solider and cast disgusting aspersions on multiple nationalities, religions, races and ethnicities, I’m not sure what some drunk college kid’s Snapchat could be hiding that we’d consider disqualifying. It’s all about how you react when confronted. A lot of what Trump is doing can and will be undone, but a lasting legacy will be the understanding that if you either deny the thing you very clearly did or act as if it’s part of some conspiracy to get you and never acknowledge that you’ve done wrong, the American people and American media will let you skate.
Q: What’s the weirdest thing about being a dad today
A: Kids don’t watch TV. Like, at all. Some Netflix, but it’s mostly YouTube and other stuff online. As a result, I don’t have anywhere close to a fractional understanding of the entertainment they consume or their tastes in comedy, drama, you name it. I mean, my dad may not have have had more than the vaguest understanding of who “The Kids in the Hall” were, but he knew what sketch comedy was and could tell that I was into this weird sketch comedy show. For all I know, my kids are watching alien broadcasts and human vivisection up in their rooms, on their laptops, all of which is presented in some language the syntax of which I could never possibly understand. It’s like being the parents in “Rebel Without A Cause” times a million. Yes, it’s me, Jim Backus.
Still, today’s weird YouTube personality news gave me a chance to figure some of this out, and I at least got a moderately comforting answer when I texted my daughter about it:
Oh, I’ll add “texting with your kids even though they’re upstairs in their room” is a weird part of being a dad today, but I’m so used to it now that I don’t think about it all that much.
Q: Do you believe in life after love (after love… after love)
A: If that’s a straight question and not just someone pasting Cher lyrics, I’ll say yes. I got divorced a few years ago and I got remarried in 2017. Don’t let anyone tell you that there’s “The One” for you. There’s lots of ones. We’re not in some fairy tale. Life is a series of accidents and coincidences and things that happen to you while you’re making other plans. You’ll find a few Ones in life, probably.
Q: You absolutely have to live in a large American city (think top ten by population – San Diego is disqualified). Which one?
A: I’m classifying this as a metro area (MSA) question as opposed to a city population question because it’s a lifestyle question and the overall size of the area is what impacts your decision in such matters, not the technical size of the city at the core. Let’s run ’em down:
- New York: I like to visit, but I’m not a New York guy at heart. It’s not New York — the city is what it is — it’s me. Most people figure this out about themselves only after living in New York for a while. I’m saving us both the hassle.
- Los Angeles: If I didn’t have to commute to work, sure. I kind of like L.A. for all of its issues.
- Chicago: Never had a bad experience with Chicago and find it a more livable place than New York for a city of its type.
- Dallas-Ft. Worth: Eh. It’s fine to do business there Can’t think of a single thing that would ever make me move there.
- Houston: Same. My in-laws all live in San Antonio/Hill Country. I like that part of Texas and could see myself there possibly, but never Dallas or Houston.
- DC/VA/MD: I lived there for three years 20 years ago. It was not nearly as big and expensive then, but I visit a lot now and it’s still the same place. I liked it there. I could totally see myself moving back if my life demanded it.
- Philly: Haven’t been there since, like, 1989. It’s the only major city in this country that I have almost no clue about geographically, culturally, you name it. I think I know more about London than I do Philly. So no comment I guess, apart from being skeptical given that I’m not a huge fan of living in large cities on the east coast.
- Miami: I can’t imagine what it would require to get me to move to Florida. Any city in Florida. It’s just not for me. And not because of those “Florida Man” cliches. It’s about weather and general vibe mostly.
- Atlanta: Too hot. Too sprawling. Too much traffic. Mini-Los Angeles but without the ocean and with way worse weather. That said, if the Braves want to hire me, I’ll consider it.
- Boston: It’s fine, but I’d prefer not to live in a city where, if your family hasn’t been there for 10 generations or if you didn’t go to college there, you’re always considered an outsider. I’ve always lived in cities with lots of transplants. As a person without much of a cohesive personal or family past it just suits me better.
So: Probably L.A., but D.C. or Chicago if my relocation to Los Angeles required me to sit on the 405 for two hours each way each day. That said: I’d work REALLY hard to fix the numbers in order to make San Diego qualify somehow.
Q: With the scale of Fowley to Skinner, where does Krycek rank among minor X-Files characters? I feel like he’s underrated
A: Inspired, I assume, by my tweeting about the new “X-Files” season which debuts tomorrow. I was a total “X-Files” freak throughout the 1990s and have watched every moment of every show and movie they’ve put out, even though I realize intellectually that it stopped being good after the first movie back in 1996 or whenever it was. Really, it’s been pretty terrible for so long, mostly because Chris Carter had no idea what he was doing with the overall series mythology once he got to the movie and was just making it up as he went along after that.
As for Krycek: I always loved him. Even with his stupid-ass haircut *punch in the mouth*
Q: If the world were to go to a 4 day work week, what day would be the new day off?
A: Everyone would immediately say Friday, but I think if we reflect hard on the question for a while, we’ll realize Monday should be the day off. It could be branded that way too if we planned it right. Sunday is still your day of rest and football and whatever else you think of Sunday now, but it would no longer have that core of melancholy that goes with knowing we have to go back to work the next day. Monday, then can be “the day of self care” or “day of planning” or something. You do your household chores or your whatever organizing of life you need to do, so it feels like an ease-into-work day, with less of the hard jolt now occasioned by Mondays.
Q: Does Lou Whitaker belong in the Hall of Fame?
Q: When it comes out that ownership has colluded to not sign big free agents this winter, how much nothing will the MLBPA do about it?
A: I’ll still give this an “if” not a “when,” but I suppose anything is possible. That said, given that the current state of affairs is largely a function of the MLBPA allowing the owners to do the once unthinkable and sneak in a salary cap in the form of the luxury tax, I have no faith in them to raise the proper amount of hell if it is found that collusion took place. Under Tony Clark, the union has completely abdicated long term and strategic thinking about the structure of the labor environment and the membership’s overall well being in favor of small, quality of life matters that benefit players who are already pretty comfortable. The owners have been beating them in the labor game for a good 12 years now and I can’t see how the players ever get back what they’ve lost.
Q: Top 5 underrated day trip locations in the state of Ohio
A: Granville, Ohio (cute, charming town with some good places to eat and drink); Yellow Springs (same thing); Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield (the old prison where “Shawshank” was filmed; it’s an amazingly good tour. Alcatraz-level good). Columbus (great zoo, great conservatory, lots of excellent beer — don’t tell anyone, though); Hocking Hills State Park (great hiking and surprisingly scenic for a state that is supposed to be flat and featureless).
Q: When you read your phone on the toilet, do you hold your phone with your left hand, right hand, or are you some sort of freaky two handed holder?
A: Left hand or GTFO. I’m not sure there’s even a rational answer to this apart from that, but there are all kinds of weirdos out there so who knows?
OK, I’ve gone on way too long. Thanks for all of the questions and sorry I couldn’t get to so many.