It’s a slow news day so far, so let’s do our first Mailbag since the season began.
Q: Besides Shohei Ohtani which small sample size performance do you most hope holds up?
A: Bryce Harper‘s. He’s on pace for 75 homers and 150 RBI this year and I think it’d be pretty cool for him to hit free agency with those numbers because I like to write the phrase “half-billion dollar deal.” That said, even if he does hit 75 homers and drives in 150 runs, some jackwagon will wade into the comments and say “yeah, not paying nine figures for a .286 hitter. As if.”
Q: Are the Pirates “small sample size” or “actually on to something”
A: The Pirates are very lucky to have played seven of their first 12 games against the Tigers and Reds, that’s what the Pirates are.
Q: Is Giancarlo Stanton destined to become the new A-Rod, with the giant contract setting expectations of a home run every time up?
A: New York is one of the best baseball towns there can be in most respects, but New York baseball fans sure have this weird habit of knowing very little about players before they joined New York teams. Stanton is obviously a great player, but he’s got a history of slow starts, with March/April being his worst hitting month over the course of his career. The monster year he had last year started out with first month in which he hit .264 and hit seven homers. His second best season, 2014, began with him hitting .269 with eight homers in the season’s first month. At the moment he’s batting .241 with three homers. Ideal? No, but when the guy is on he’s hitting homers in bunches. There have always been droughts. He’ll be fine, even if New York fans expect him to hit two every game.
Q: How do you see the Mets addressing their catcher issue? Is J.T. Realmuto a real option?
A: They should consider Realmuto a real option. Because they’re the Mets, though, I suspect they’ll say “let’s see what Lobatan and Nido can do for two months” and, at most, sign some Bryan Pena-esque journeyman.
Q: Who has a higher attendance this season, White Sox or Marlins?
A: I’m gonna say the White Sox because the White Sox, while obviously still in bad shape, at least have a lot of players who are likely to be important on the next good White Sox team. Baseball fans love a winner, but if they can’t have a winner, they’ll root for hope. The Marlins are providing little of either at the moment.
Q: At what point does the trend towards strikeouts, walks, and home runs become bad for baseball?
A: Mid-2015. Too many relief pitchers, however, are worse for baseball in my view, though I’m not sure what to do about that.
Q: If Joey Votto walked up to Cotton-Eye Joe he would be a first ballot hall of famer, correct or super correct?
A: Cotton-Eye Joe is an abomination unto God. At leas that Rednex version is. Joey Votto mixes things up, but he should stick with his old standby, “Paint it Black,” because that’s a pretty badass way to walk up to the plate. That said, according to this Reddit post, in a series last August he walked up to “Ohio” by Crosby Stills, Nash and Young and in that series he hit .363/.461/.727 with a homer, so maybe he should work that in some more. Either that or one of the Kendrick Lamar songs he uses. Those seem to treat him well.
Q: If I’m a Reds fan (and I am), is it too early to think this rebuild will take another 2-3 years at least?
A: The Reds have always been rebuilding and always will be. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.
Q: What is wrong with Lucas Giolito? 55% strikes..that’s not even bullpen-able.
A: He’s told the press it’s mechanical — his front side is apparently flying open — but the cold probably hasn’t helped him either. He’s still getting swings and misses, so maybe it’ll straighten up soon. This is the last I choose to think of the White Sox for the day, by the way.
Q: Why did a 44 year old man go to an EDM concert? Were there any baseball players there?
A: This is in response to me mentioning in the comments this morning that I went to see an EDM (Electronic Dance Music for you fellow olds) show last night. The performer was 3LAU and the show was pretty good. At least as far as I could tell. I am not really an EDM fan and know very little about it, but my wife, who is not a 44-year-old man, is a pretty big fan and life is much better when you allow someone you trust to lead you out of your comfort zone and your worn-in habits and try new things. So, off to the 3LAU show I went. Last month I saw Nora En Pure. Again: fine. Not my thing really, but a good experience. Dancing is good.
There were no baseball players there, but there were a lot of dudes in jerseys for reasons about which I am not quite clear. Those places get hot and steamy and baseball jerseys are often hot and scratchy. That said, I was up in the balcony and looking down below I saw Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Terry Francona, Shane Victorino and Didi Gregorius jerseys. The Gregorius one was dumb, in that it was Yankees pinstripes with HIS NAME ON IT, and that’s a jersey foul. Someone asked me if it was the real Grady Sizemore, but it couldn’t have been because the guy was walking on two functioning legs. It may have been the real Francona. I bet he’d have fun there. Anyway: basketball jerseys make more sense for such events, even if guys usually look horrible in them, and I did see a Russell Westbrook jersey and a sweet, sweet throwback Alex English number.
Q: What was the better World Series Game 7…1997 or 2001?
A: Objectively 1991 was better on the baseball merits, but it broke my heart so screw that noise. 2001 was still pretty great on the baseball merits and the Yankees lost, so subjectively speaking it was superior.
Q: Why do the MLB and NFL blackout rules suck so bad and will they ever get fixed?
A: I can’t speak for the NFL, but the baseball ones are obviously idiotic (a new article came out today about the idiocy of these rules for those unfamiliar with just how bad they are). And no, I don’t think they’ll change. They are driven, primarily, by the insistence of cable networks insisting on zero competition for local broadcast rights, and MLB is addicted to cable network cash, so they’ll never change it, even if (a) it makes no sense to black out games in areas where the RSNs don’t actually broadcast; and (b) even if it means an entire generation of fans is lost because they can’t watch local teams on the Internet. My kids and their friends never watch actual TV. It’s all online. How many of them might watch a ballgame featuring a local team for which they may develop loyalty if only they could do it from their laptop? MLB has made it certain that we will never know. It’s stupid, and MLB knows it’s stupid, but they are too beholden to that cable cash to even try to change.
Q: How do you think MLB can improve its appeal to younger fans? Cultivate more personalities like Puig and ditch the boring stoics?
A: You can only do so much with marketing. Ultimately the game sells itself. Almost any baseball fan you know because a fan because they watched games, not because someone told them that they should check out Ken Griffey Jr. or Reggie Jackson or whoever because they’re cool personalities (their marketing cachet followed their play, not the other way around). Make it easier for younger fans to see games. The Orioles are giving away free tickets to families this year. That’s cool. More teams should do that or, at the very least, provide cheaper tickets to kids and families than they do now. The price of a ticket is crazy. Even adjusting for inflation, it’s way more expensive to get into a ballgame these days. Big league teams should consider taking some losses on ticket sales in order to get fans in the door. Especially young fans. And, of course, more games on over-the-air TV or the Internet or anywhere where young people are most likely to catch them.
Q: Who is most responsible for creating today’s Braves fans living outside of Atlanta:
a. Chipper Jones
b. Dale Murphy
c. Greg Maddux
d. Skip Caray
e. Freddie Freeman
f. Biff Pocoroba
g. John Smoltz
h. Claudell Washington
A: None of the above. The answer is Ted Turner, who bought the team and put them on his cable network, WTBS. I am 100% serious. I’m a Braves fan because they were on TV where I lived. It was not because they were good — go check out the 1985-88 Braves teams for proof of that — and it was not because of Dale Murphy’s spicy-hot star power or Skip Caray’s warm, endearing charm. It was because they were on TV. They were available. It was baseball and baseball is good. That stuff I say above about letting kids see the games matters, folks.
Q: Which of Jose Bautista, Jayson Werth and the other unsigned players will once again become mlb players this season?
A: Werth actually signed a minor league deal with the Mariners, so we may see him if the injury bug hits the M’s outfield. How Adam Lind doesn’t have a job is beyond me given how well he did in a platoon role last year. Jose Bautista may well be done given the complete lack of interest he drew in the offseason. I suspect that if the guys who did not sign this past offseason are not at least on minor league deals by Memorial Day, their careers are over.
Q: Do you think Joe Mauer is a HOFer if he retires today? What if he plays a few more years at a reasonable rate?
A: Mauer is off to a hot start and just picked up his 2,000th career hit last night, so here’s hoping he has many years left. If he were hit by a bus today I think his case would be stronger than a lot of people think — he really had elite offense for a guy who has still played far more games as a catcher than anyplace else. Offense that ranks quite nicely alongside that of some Hall of Fame catchers. That said, I don’t think he’d have a snowflake’s chance today, and I suspect he’ll have a very tough time even if he continues to play for several years. The longer he plays, the more he’s viewed as a first baseman/DH, the less he’s viewed as a catcher. And that’s before you get to the stuff about (a) his game being under-appreciated because so much of his value is tied up in getting on base; and (b) the almost pathological sort of crap he gets from local fans and the press in media. I’m not sure who goes to bat for Mauer in a Hall of Fame case, and I suspect that, barring an unexpected run of near-MVP-level performances between the ages of 35-40, he’ll fall pretty far short when he one day hits the ballot.
Q: What’s your take on modern stadiums? Do you like the faux-throwback style or the bigger footprint?
A: I talked about this a lot the other day when linking a great article about the ballpark the White Sox could have had but didn’t. I grew up going to two kinds of stadiums: (1) Tiger Stadium, which was old and intimate and filled with history; and (2) several of those 1960s-70s cookie-cutter multi-purpose places like Veterans and Riverfront. Tiger Stadium is my first love and always will be, but it’s gone and I have to let that stuff go. Those multi-purpose parks were horrible and I’m glad they’re almost all gone. The post-Camden Yards parks are major, major improvements. I’ve been to most of them and they’re all pleasant places to see games, even if there is some substantial variation across the sector. I’m generally pro-newer parks.
They’re not perfect, though. Yes, they got rid of the view-obstructing poles that places like Tiger Stadium had, but as a result, the upper decks are too far away from the action. I’m also not a fan of nostalgia as it is, but phony nostalgia and manufactured old-timey elements in these newer parks is far, far worse, as are the “quirky” dimensions and design flourishes which are supposed to invoke design elements of the actual old parks like Tiger Stadium. Those quirks were by necessity of geography, though, not because they wanted to be cutesy. Form should follow function, always. Take your retro-consciousness and throw it in the dustbin.
Q: Eugenio Suarez got injured. My fantasy team in a 10 person H2H league with OBP and needs a new 3B. Who do you get?
A: Is Chipper Jones available? Sorry, I haven’t played fantasy baseball in almost ten years and I’m super bad at it. Ask D.J. Short. He knows everything.
Q: What is the best REM album?
A: REM are two bands, right? The one which put out some albums between 1983-87 on smaller labels and then the Warner Brothers act from 1988-on? That first band’s best album was “Reckoning.” The second band’s best album was “Automatic for the People.” I like both of those bands. I heard they worked together sometimes too.
Q: Which American president do you think would have made the best relief pitcher and why?
A: FDR. Lefties can always find a job.
Q: Who wins AL East?
A: Based on the number of Yankees-Red Sox games we’re getting this year, ESPN and Fox
Q: Any recommendations for great obscure baseball books?
A: The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop., by Robert Coover. It’s especially good if you play fantasy baseball and/or if you sometimes wonder about whether or not your relationship with baseball is healthy or lacks perspective.
Q: With Chief Wahoo on the way out, thoughts on the Braves following suit?
A: The Braves have largely eliminated actual depictions of Native Americans, but to the extent they still show up on patches and stuff, those should go away and I’d like to see them drop the tomahawk iconography from their uniforms as well. The Tomahawk Chop is also horrible and the team should’ve gotten rid of it years ago. As for team names: I’d like to see both the Indians and Braves change names, but (a) I feel like the name is a step less offensive than the iconography and chops and all of that; and (b) I don’t feel there is any desire whatsoever on the part of the clubs or the league to do something about it, so it’s probably not a hill we should think about dying on yet.
Q: How much of a factor do you think having a manager with zero experience is in the Yankees really looking very bad so far this year?
A: Very little from what I’ve seen. Unless I’ve totally missed something, Aaron Boone hasn’t done much to cause the Yankees to lose. The bullpen has struggled, but sometimes bullpens struggle. Same with hitters. And of course the injuries haven’t helped. I think the Yankees will be fine, but even if they’re not, I think Boone’s management of them will not even be a top-five factor in their disappointing. He’ll take the blame, of course, but I don’t think he’ll be the difference maker one way or the other.
Q: Is a well done steak still a steak or has it become an abomination?
A: A well done steak should be a crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. At the same time, don’t start undercooking my steaks, folks. I’ve got my eye on you.
Q: How do you think baseball will/should recognize the 100th anniversary of Ray Chapman’s death?
A: On August 17, 2020, the 100th anniversary of the last on-field death of a major leaguer, I expect Major League Baseball will do . . . absolutely nothing. What’s more, if there happens to be a beanball war between the Yankees and Red Sox that day, I fully expect Major League Baseball, its partners and their marketing arms to get downright giddy about it, like they did this week:
Think about it: the Yankees and Red Sox finished very close last year and each made big splashes this offseason. That should’ve been enough for “the rivalry” to be back, at least if the rivalry is truly about baseball. But nah, it took dirty slides, intentionally hitting batters and a big fight — all in the course of some sloppy, non-competitive games — for MLB to get super hyped about it. If it bleeds it leads and if the media can buzz about it all the better. No one is going to hold a moment of silence for a guy who died because he was beaned. That’d harsh everyone’s buzz.
Q: If you were going to make a Hollywood baseball movie, what/who would it be about?
A: “Sugar,” which dealt with a young Dominican’s attempts to adjust to minor league baseball in America, was one of the best baseball movies I’ve ever seen. I’d like to see a movie about Latino players in the big leagues. One in which they are not punch lines or novelties like they were in “Major League” or whatever. Comedy, drama, I don’t care, but we’ve had plenty of baseball movies about baseball filled with apple pie/Americana noise. I’d like to see another part of the game in a good movie, be it realistic or a flight of fancy. Here’s an idea: MLB expands to Mexico and the script is flipped, with the suburban white American players experiencing adjustment problems, the local media mocking them for the way they carry themselves and fans stereotyping them and stuff.
Q: Best ballpark(s) to see a live music performance?
A: I’ve never seen a live music performance in a ballpark, unless you count Fall Out Boy or Pitbull at the All-Star Game or World Series, which I don’t. That question comes from my friend Scott, though, who wants to do an article about the best ballparks for concerts, so if you have any ideas, put them in the comments.
Q: How willing do you think teams will be to develop two-way players after Otani has shown it’s possible to do at the MLB level, at least in a small sample size?
A: Not very. Ohtani was like found money. The Nippon Ham Fighters took all of the risks and paid all of the opportunity costs in allowing him to develop into a two-way guy and the Angels are reaping the mostly-free rewards. There are a lot of guys who come out of high school here who could profile as either big league pitchers or big league hitters. Teams make a choice with them for a reason. I don’t think, if a big league club is investing millions in a signing bonus and years of minor league development, they’ll be willing to take a gamble on creating the next Ohtani.
Q: Which MLB team will have the most wins when the next US President is impeached?
A: The 2019 New York Yankees if there’s any justice in the world.
Ok, that’s it for this installment. Thanks for all of the questions. I had like 150 of them, so obviously I couldn’t get to them all. But I’ll make sure to do this again in a few weeks.