Q: World Series prediction?
A: I think it’ll be in October this year.
OK, fine. Yankees-Dodgers. I reserve the right to change that after I do previews in March, but right now it feels as good as any other prediction. It also has the benefit of being a good random pick, historically speaking. For about 30-40 years there you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a Yankees-Dodgers World Series.
Q: Do you think Jeter gave his famous gift baskets to all the former Marlins assistants he fired?
A: “As we have done since the day we took over in October, we will continue to do everything we can to build a foundation for sustained success and improve this organization — which has not made the postseason since 2003 and has gone eight seasons without a winning record,” Jeter said. “So no, we did no give out gift baskets. They’re too expensive. We are giving everyone one-year memberships to the Jelly of the Month Club. That’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year, Clark.”
Q: How concerned are you about the growing prominence of the “gig economy” and how more and more corporations are only looking to hire on a “permalance” basis in order to avoid paying benefits?
A: This is actually a really, really serious issue. Official unemployment numbers are highly misleading. Underemployment, contract employment and misclassification of workers in order to deprive them of benefits is a huge problem in today’s labor market. Retirement is out of reach for many and will be out of reach for more if things don’t change. America, to the extent it has achieved greatness, has done so in large part via the creation of a stable middle class. We are quickly destroying it and devolving into a state in which there is a wealthy businesses owner and investor class and a large, increasingly strapped and benefit-free workforce. That’s not good for the country. It’s not good for anyone. You can read a fantastic article about that here.
Q: Which Craig Calcaterra would be more likely to use the others life to pick up women? Assuming both single…
A: Background: As I noted on Twitter this morning, there is a bizarro Craig Calcaterra. Or, since he’s a year older than me, I suppose I may be the bizarro Craig Calcaterra. Either way, there’s a math professor at Metro State University in Minnesota named Craig Calcaterra. We’ve been aware of each other for a long, long time, having found each other on the 1990s Internet through self-Googling and whatnot. We’ve never met, but a few years back we friended each other on Facebook simply so that we could like and comment on each other’s posts in the name of chaos. That was fun. In 2014, when the All-Star Game was in Minnesota, I got a beer at a bar and paid with my credit card. The bartender said “my math professor was named Craig Calcaterra.” I said “I know.” I didn’t explain myself any further and left. Again, viva chaos.
Anyway, the other Craig Calcaterra (the one on the right here) has more hair than me. He also went to grad school in Hawaii, has spent sabbatical years in exotic locales, does not live in a cat-infested house and, as far as I know, does not have teenagers who disrespectfully own him online on a regular basis. Given that he’s a math professor, he’s also probably way smarter than me. While professors aren’t famous for dressing sharply, I’m literally writing this while wearing Captain American pajama pants a pair of ratty slippers. All of which is to say he could do a lot better on the open market than I could.
Q: Do you get the sense that MLB team owners are dominated in proceedings by one or two loud voices (like the NFL), or are they a disparate group of filthy rich people who may or may not have the same self-interest in mind?
A: Not sure I totally get the NFL owner dynamic, but yeah, the sense is that it’s Kraft and Jones and a couple of others and everyone else is sort of watching the drama. I don’t think baseball is like this as much as it used to be, when guys like Bud Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf and a couple of others basically committed a coup against Commissioner Fay Vincent, installed themselves in command and then imposed their own agenda which led to the 1994-95 strike over what I believe were some fairly strong objections from some of the other, larger market owners. These days there are factions — remember, Rob Manfred faced some opposition in becoming commissioner — but I suspect the factions shift a lot depending on the issue. None of them, at the moment anyway, threaten to take over the discourse of the day like, say, the current Jerry Jones-Roger Goodell stuff is.
Q: Man on third one out. Batter tries a squeeze bunt but pops it up foul and the catcher catches for the out. Runner tags and scores. Is it a Sacrifice Bunt, Sacrifice Fly, or what?
A: Not 100% sure on the scoring — gonna guess a sac fly, as it’s effectively no different than a long foul fly ball out on which a runner tags up — but it sure as hell means the pitcher is gonna get his rear end chewed out for not covering home.
Q: I think i love you, but what am i so afraid of?
A: You’re probably just afraid that you’re not sure of a love there is no cure for.
Q: What do you think of the Pirates’ “tanking but not really tanking” plan?
A: Not much. Fine, trade Andrew McCutchen, as he’s entering a walk year and probably isn’t coming back. I have no idea why they felt so rushed to trade Gerrit Cole, though. Even if you’re going to unload him, wait a bit and maybe try to do so when there aren’t, like, 20 starting pitchers available via free agency, thereby harming your leverage? I think the Pirates got a crappy return for Cole and could’ve and should’ve done better.
Beyond that: I have a couple of good friends from Pittsburgh. I was out with one last weekend. She’s not a big baseball fan, but follows the Steelers and Penguins faithfully. Her take: she and everyone else have gotten very used to football and hockey teams that contend year-in, year-out and seem laser-focused on winning, so why should she care about the Pirates when they don’t act the same way? Obviously there are differences between the economics and team-building approaches across sports, but that’s the view of the casual fan right now who could take or leave the Pirates. They’re leaving.
Q: What’s your favorite recent book you’ve read?
A: “What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia” by Elizabeth Catte. If you know much about me you know that, while not a native West Virginian, (a) I grew up in Appalachia; and (b) I hate, hate, hate J.D. Vance and “Hillbilly Elegy” with a passion. Catte, a historian who, unlike Vance, knows actual things, dismantles all of the b.s. stereotypes and talking points with respect to Appalachia that have sprung up since the 2016 election. It’s a great read, a brisk read and it takes everyone who gobbled up Vance’s misleading and agenda-driven pablum to the woodshed. To the extent most people care about Appalachia these days it’s done so condescendingly or performatively, in such a way as to make people feel better about not giving a crap. This book sets things straight.
Related . . .
Q: I’d love a book recommendation. One baseball, one non-fiction, one fiction. Thanks!
A: Baseball: This is not out yet — I got an advanced review copy — but you should definitely pre-order The Comic Book Story of Baseball. It’s a history of baseball in, duh, comic book form. I’ll write about it soon here. If you want something available now, seek out the very old but still very good We Could’ve Finished Last Without You, by Bob Hope (no, not THAT Bob Hope), the P.R. director of the Atlanta Braves from 1966-1979. Baseball is a big sophisticated business now, but you’d be amazed at how silly and small time and weird front offices were until not too terribly long ago.
Non-Fiction: Apart from the Appalachia book mentioned above, check out Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town by Brian Alexander. It’s a case study of how corporate and financial policy since the 1970s or so have totally destroyed the economy and the civc fabric of countless small-to-medium sized towns. I wrote a review of that one here.
Fiction: I read some heady non-fiction, but when it comes to fiction I tend to go with escapist stuff like crime and detective novels. Ross Macdonald is my favorite author. Start with either The Moving Target or The Drowning Pool for a taste of his more Raymond Chandler-esque stuff and then move forward and watch how his protagonist, Lew Archer, changes over the years. By his 1960s novels Archer was a very different take on the hard boiled private investigator than what you saw with Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. Archer has heart and a soul and cares about people in real, relatable ways. Which is not to say he’s some lefty softy — he still knows how to knock a guy out and can handle a gun — but he’s way more relatable and has way more depth than your typical private dick.
Q: You’re baseball commissioner. What rule changes do you enact?
A: I’d put the DH in the National League, I’d make umpires enforce the rules about staying in the batters box and the time in which pitchers should deliver a pitch — we don’t need a pitch clock, folks, there are already rules which deal with this — and I’d mandate that instant replay no longer be a challenge system but, rather, be run by a fifth ump, up in the booth, who can initiate reviews and overrule calls on his own.
Q: Who ends up pitching the 9th for the Cards most frequently this season? Also, when will the craft beer boom turn into a bust?
A: Probably Luke Gregerson, though I’m not yet convinced they won’t go sign a desperate Greg Holland. As for the beer: I dunno. People have been predicting a bust in the craft beer market for years and it’s yet to happen. I am by no stretch of the imagination a beer market expert, but I suspect there will less of a bust and more of a day when everyone looks up and realizes how thoroughly the big beer companies have co-opted craft brewers and that it may not make as much sense to so strictly label “craft beer” and non-craft beer as we always have done.
I do know a LOT about the bourbon market, though, which has experienced a boom of its own. If it busts it’ll be Trump’s fault. The distilleries are explicitly depending on continuing growth in Asia to support their post-boom ramp-up in production (bourbon is HUGE in Japan and, increasingly, in other Asian countries). Trump-imposed tariffs and saber rattling about trade wars has them worried because, since bourbon can ONLY be produced in the United States, it’s a very easy product for other countries to retaliate against without harming native industries. If things get dicey and we get into trade wars with Asia, those high-end bourbon shortages you read about are gonna be a thing of the past. And not in a good way for distillers.
Q: Can Derek Jeter’s personality and charm be enough to keep Marlins fans interested in an otherwise bad team?
A: The next time someone buys a ticket to come see an owner will be the first time someone has bought a ticket to come see an owner. And that’s including Connie Mack, who used to own and manage at the same time.
Q: When was the last time you used a firearm?
A: The only time I have fired a weapon was at a range with some friends about ten years ago. It was about five weapons, actually, but that’s the alpha and omega of my experience with guns. It’s not a principle thing with me — I have no problem with hunters, sportsmen or people having hand guns for personal protection — guns are just not for me and I’ve never had a use for one.
I suspect this question contains an undercurrent of judgment, by the way, given that I have said some stuff about firearms regulation recently. If that’s the case, ask yourself if we limit discussion of baseball only to those who have played the game or limit discussion of, say, foreign policy or financial regulation or any other current event to those who have substantive, hands-on experience in those areas. Of course we don’t.
Q: What do you think the Parkland protests are going to be able to accomplish? Is this time really different.
A: Never underestimate the NRA, but I do feel like something has changed in the gun debates. Maybe we don’t get any major changes in the law soon — Republicans simply aren’t going to push gun legislation — but in the past what cowed even Democrats from passing it was the fear of the NRA. The corporate decisions to disassociate from the NRA are not big in a strict economic sense, but they are evidence that the NRA may not be able to strike fear into people’s hearts like it used to in the past. If it does not have the perception of lobbying invincibility, it’ll be just like any other lobbying group and lawmakers will, eventually, treat it in a way that makes sense given its actual size and constituency. So much of its power has been based on illusion and perception and reputation. If that goes, so goes its power.
Q: If (emphasis on the conditional “if”) the Second Amendment allows an unrestricted right to keep and bear arms, does the Second Amendment allow citizens to possess tactical nukes? If not, why not?
A: If we outlaw tactical nukes, only outlaws will have tactical nukes.
OK, seriously: current controlling Supreme Court authority on the Second Amendment says this:
Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
That was written by noted pinko liberal Justice Scalia. If people think that a willing legislature cannot ban whole classes of guns that are not made or intended primarily for hunting or home security or whatever, they’re in for a rude awakening if and when someone gets the guts to do it. Go after common hand guns (like the District of Columbia did in that case, banning them completely) or hunting rifles, yeah, you’re gonna have a problem under the 2nd Amendment, I suspect. Ban or highly regulate paramilitary weapons in civilian hands: seriously doubt you’d have a problem.
Q: By 2030 who will have a higher salary; minor league baseball players or WV teachers?
A: This is reference to the big teacher’s strike going on in my home state. Assuming West Virginia still exists in 2030 and isn’t privatized by energy companies and its citizens relocated, I suspect the teachers will because, unlike the minor leaguers, they have a union representing them. Unions matter, folks.
A: I think they will have jobs, even if they start late and have to spend a week or three in extended spring training. Pitchers get injured and some contender is gonna have a hole in their rotation before too long. I suspect, though, that their deals will be one-year, incentive-laden things that start at like $8 million.
Q: Will anyone sign Arrieta? Is Boras nuts to think he can get him a Darvish deal?
A: Someone will, but boy, I do not see how Arrieta gets the kind of deal Darvish got. He does not have the arm injury history Darvish does, but he doesn’t have Darvish’s stuff either. There is also the fact that his command suffered in 2017 and he’s been trending downward in a few key areas in recent years. Darvish may have woofed it in the postseason and he could break or bust, obviously, but there was at least a perception about him in the market that, if things break right, he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter and/or a Cy Young candidate or something while Arrieta’s best days are behind him. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s the perception, and I think it’ll mean Arrieta gets, like, a three-year deal.
Q: Aside from your mere presence, how have you gone about trying to raise woke kids?
A: I tweet a lot about my kids and one of the recurring themes is how both of them are turning into little progressives, even if they’re slightly cynical and don’t necessarily appreciate the nuances of big issues. In some ways it’s just an image they’re trying on, like all kids try on political or social images as they grow up. Stuff like this, which actually happened in my house last night:
I don’t sit and try to indoctrinate my kids. We don’t talk about politics any more in my house than any other family does. We talk about laundry and after school schedules and whose turn it is to take out the trash more than we talk about social justice, democratic socialism or Rawls’ Original Position. I’m like any other parent, though. I try to set a good example for my kids within the context of my own value system, which I make efforts to check and challenge as much as possible. There’s this notion out there among conservatives that conservative values are family values while liberal values are somehow artificial or fake or something. They should come hang out with us sometime and learn that there are a lot of good, solid values in families who think about things way differently than they do.
Q: Do you read UniWatch? Another sports blogger who doesn’t stick to sports, has leftist political views, and is a cat person.
A: I used to read UniWatch way more than I do now, but I like him and his work. Given his beat I’d still like him even if he was a conservative because, last I checked, news about what uniforms a team will wear does not have an inherent political slant. People complain about writers who do not stick to sports, but it’s really super easy to separate those things if the underlying work is good. Also: cat people get a bonus in my book.
Q: Favorite sunflower seed brand / flavor?
A: I do not eat sunflower seeds. At all. When I played baseball as a kid they weren’t common in dugouts — coaches in West Virginia in the 1980s let kids dip snuff and didn’t say boo — and it just never became a thing for me. I’m never anyplace where I can just spit shells and husks and not have to vacuum them up right after.
Q: Aluminum bats in the majors?
A: Never. For one, the pitchers already are getting shelled. Second: metal bats don’t crack and if you don’t have the crack of a bat, it’s not baseball.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do when you visit San Diego? Do you have a favorite SD brewery/distillery?
A: I’ve tweeted about San Diego a bit recently. My brother has lived there for over 20 years and I visit once or twice a year. My favorite thing is to wake my brother up super early and make him get breakfast with me at Clayton’s Coffee Shop on Coronado, partially because they have great food, partially because it’s fun to see my brother have to wake up early. As far as beer goes, I’m not super adventurous. I’ve only been to Ballast Point, Stone and one other one I can’t remember. I usually go to a beer bar like Pizza Port in Ocean Beach and try lots of things.
Q: Would you rather have disco fever or cat scratch fever?
A: If you’re my age or older, you’ll remember when the consensus opinion among white folks who did not live in the cool neighborhoods of our largest cities was that disco sucked and rock and roll was awesome. I figured out a long time ago that this was not only a completely dumb opinion — it’s a false choice and it was a pretty dang racist and homophobic view as well — but that it was a self defeating opinion. I love traditional rock and roll. I love good dance music. I love a lot of stuff and appreciate a lot of stuff even if it’s not really for me. Also: loving any music that Ted Nugent likes is idiocy by association. Really, screw that guy.
Q: Explain, to a teen, why you think Radiohead is better than Rush.
A: First off, don’t try to make teens like the music you like, no matter what. Don’t be this guy either. If they ask, though, I’d say that Radiohead is better than Rush because, while each band contains utter genius virtuosos at various instruments, Radiohead did not spend most of a decade infusing its jams with half-baked sophomoric lyrics inspired by bad philosophers like Ayn Rand.
Q: Should Seinfeld and Friends team up for a comeback where they move to Boston and hang out at Cheers?
A: Do not make your kids like your favorite TV shows either. They’ll never appreciate them like you do. That said, Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine wouldn’t stay in Boston for ten minutes. They’d hate it. The Friends people would do OK because they were the least New York people who ever pretended to be New Yorkers in television history. Even Joey, who was supposed to be some stereotypical New Yorker, was nothing like any New Yorker I’ve ever met. They should’ve set that show in Los Angeles. Nothing would’ve had to change and it might’ve been more realistic.
Q: Best current MLBer most fans have never heard of? Best all-time MLBer most fans have never heard of?
A: I’m not sure a lot of casual fans outside of their home cities know that much about Tommy Pham, Anthony Rendon or even Joey Votto. I mean, they’ve heard of Votto, but I don’t know that they really appreciate how good he is. All-time: not sure if he’s the best of that description, but I bet if you lined up 100 baseball fans under the age of 50, the vast majority would not know thing-one about Bobby Grich.
Q: Cake or pie?
A: Sometimes I’m reminded that not all of my readers spent a lot of time in our comments section back in 2009 or 2010, when it was conclusively established that pie is better. This is why I keep doing what I’m doing. My work is never truly done.
That’s all for now. Let’s do this again next month, shall we?