The definition of “slow news day” is a lot different now than it used to be, but today is even slow by pandemic standards, so I threw it open to questions on Twitter. Let’s do this:
Q: If games were played in empty stadiums, would you prefer it to actually be empty, or would you prefer some sort of holographic fan presentation viewable to people watching at home?
A: Totally empty. Instead of trying to simulate a “real game” experience, they should think outside the box. Put cameramen on the field in various places and give us a totally different-looking kind of broadcast. This all sucks right now, but let’s do what people have always done in times of crisis and innovate and try new things. We’re not going to get this sort of opportunity, such as it is, for some time. There is literally nothing to lose.
Q: Could you see an amended season running in Florida/Arizona as late as November/December? Will MLB consider a completely different league format/playoff structure for 2020 (if they can play)?
A: Whatever does come of the 2020 season — assuming we even have one — I am pretty confident that it will last longer than October 29 or whatever the currently-scheduled last day of the World Series might be. Whether that’s in Arizona or Florida or in domed stadiums across Florida, Texas, Arizona, and outdoor stadiums in California, or anything else. All bets are off right now and everyone is going to try to get as much baseball in this year as they possibly can.
Q: If MLB moves forward with a season, what do they do with the minor leagues??
A: I think they’re simply scuttled. Rosters will be bigger and, to the extent teams have access to their spring training facilities, I suspect they’ll keep players fresh via simulated games and training in those facilities as opposed to games out in the world of the minors.
Q: Will we see Independent baseball start to thrive a bit post-Corona due to changing draft rules that might make that a more attractive option for prospects and minor league teams inevitably going out of business?
A: As we talked about yesterday, all minor league baseball, indy leagues included, are going to face big, big problems without crowds, and those problems will likely extend far beyond whenever things, nominally anyway, “get back to normal.” Great, your state has ended its shutdown. You going to a ballpark before there’s a vaccine, though? Many won’t, and since the minors depend on gate far more than the big leagues do thanks to big league TV contracts, I truly believe that a great many minor league teams, affiliated and independent, will simply fold. Eventually, yes, I think new ones will come forward and fill the void, but there may be a few years when there simply are fewer total professional baseball teams of all kinds than we’ve ever had.
So, as your question notes, baseball is cutting the draft way down. But there may not be as many places for those undrafted players to go. Which makes me think that more and more young athletes will choose to play basketball, football, soccer or other sports rather than try to make a go of it in baseball past high school. I truly think we’re going to see a long period of time in which the baseball talent pool shrinks because of the pandemic. And because of the choices Major League Baseball seems intent on making in light of all of this.
Q: With the likely consequences for MLB and MiLB from the pandemic, do you think it is possible that we start seeing orgs move toward farm system consolidation at local (or FL/AZ-based for colder cities) training sites?
A: This was the impulse behind the minor league contraction thing that we talked about a lot early in the year. If teams were starting the system from scratch they’d have team-owned, training facility-located minor league clubs and minor league baseball would have a much smaller footprint, both in terms of number of franchises and in geographical reach. The 40-team contraction thing was step one in that direction and, with all that is going on now, I suspect that’s a fait accompli. I think we’ll see even more of the dynamic you’re describing after all of this is said and done.
Q: Which of the 90’s Braves would win a bake-off?
A: Damon Berryhill or Paul Bako. The former sounds like an alt-judge on “The Great British Bake-Off” and the latter is as close to a “Baker” those teams ever had.
Q: Wanna start an over-40 amateur baseball league in Central Ohio once we can be in small groups again? (I can’t stand not having baseball!)
A: Sure. I still have my catcher’s mitt. I can’t hit or throw or run, but I’m down. I had to quit my bowling league in all of this. I need something to do.
Q: Wheres that picture Craig?
A: A thing going around Twitter and Facebook this week is for people to post photos of themselves when they were 20. I said I’d refuse to do it because, when I was 20, I had an awful, awful red beard. It was curly and unkempt and it looked truly terrible. Justin Turner would look at it and say, “damn, bro, you need to get rid of it.” My daughter actually found a photo of me when I was 20 recently and said “mom let you leave the house like that?!” It’s not seeing the light of day.
Unless I get even more bored than I already am. Then I just might share it. But I’m not that bored yet. I’ll share it when I am.
Q: What do you think happens if Biden wins the election, but Trump refuses to leave office? I fear that is the most likely outcome?
A: Stick to sports. Gosh.
Q: What is the best name in baseball history and why is it Rusty Kuntz?
A: I appreciate Kuntz, but that’s all recency bias. If my This Day in Baseball History posts do nothing else, I hope that they open your mind to just how long and rich baseball’s glorious legacy extends into the past. And how the passage of time has made us forget guys like Johnny Dickshot, Chicken Wolf, Shooty Babbit, and Ten Million. Seriously, think up any funny word you can, plug it into Baseball-Reference.com and lose your whole afternoon.
Q: What’s your best (worst) Zoom or other video conference moment so far?
A: Really, my life has probably changed less by virtue of all of this than most people’s. I’ve worked at home since late 2009. I interact with my coworkers almost exclusively via phone, chat, email, and stuff like that and always have. As such, I can’t really say that I’ve had some sort of video conference fail since we all got locked down.
My wife is now working from home, though. She is a receptionist and has the office’s phone system routed through her cell phone and some communications software, answering client calls in the living room about ten feet from me. Just before I sat down to answer these questions I was in the kitchen trying to fix the little automatic cat water bubbler thing and was having trouble. I yelled out a pretty impressive string of profanity. It was only when I put the final “k” on my rant that she yelled back “I WAS ON THE PHONE!!” So, well, oops.
Q: Top five Brewers mustaches of all time, go:
A: Gorman Thomas, Rollie Fingers, Pete Vuckovich, Larry Hisle, John Axford
Q: In a contest of most interesting facial hair in baseball, which decade would be favored?
A: It’d have to be the 70s. Not a ton of variety compared to now, but now it’s all self-conscious, with players trying to be “different” and “weird” and it’s just a case of trying too damn hard. Everyone was just being themselves in the 70s. Well, except for maybe Rollie Fingers. He was trying to be different I think.
Q: Would the All-Handsome team beat the All-Ugly team?
A: A lot of that depends on who is doing the judging. Was a young Babe Ruth handsome? Maybe! It’s definitely a subjective matter, that’s for sure. Either way, though, I’d put my money on the All-Handsome team losing. They don’t want it bad enough because everything came to them too easily. Like Leonard Cohen once sang, “we are ugly, but we have the music.”
Q: Would the creator of the Ohio 2-verse be amenable to other people writing stories in that timeline, or would they prefer to keep it proprietary for their own world-building purposes?
A: This refers to my daughter Anna, who many of you know created a map featuring Long Chile and Ohio 2 and which didn’t feature Wyoming that went viral about ten years ago. [Ed. — Craig, that was in February]. Oh my God, it was just February. This year has been the longest decade ever.
Anyway, build away. It’s not like Anna came up with the idea of weird maps anyway. A bunch of those were already floating around where the Gen-Z people hang out online. Absurdity is sort of their thing. Hers just got popular. If you want to create an RPG which takes place in a world whose map was created by some high school kid, go ahead. It’s your [totally girlfriend-free] funeral.
Q: Has Anna trademarked “OK Zoomer” yet?
A: That one, which she created while in the car with me last week, and which I wrote about in one of my daily Pandemic Diary entries I’m doing over at my personal blog each day, would definitely be more applicable to putting on T-shirts and things.
Q: If you could visit 49 states and never go to the 50th, which one would you skip?
A: This question is written by a college professor I know who asks all of his students this each semester and since he’s on lockdown he can’t do that so he’s asking me. Great.
OK: I have actually been to something like 46 of the 50 states I think. I’ve found something interesting about basically all of them and, unless I’m joking around, I don’t get into the state-shaming thing. There are a lot I’d prefer not to LIVE in, but travel is good and learning about new places is fun. I’d be sad if someone told me I couldn’t visit a state.
But I’ll play along: Indiana. I’ve been there many times. I have no strong negative feelings about it, but having lived in Ohio for as long as I have, it’s almost completely redundant for my purposes. I’ve never been to a city that reminds me more of Columbus than Indianapolis. Cincinnati has suburbs in Indiana. Cleveland isn’t Gary or anything, but lakefront rustbelt is covered in both places too. Not sure I have any real use for Indiana. Nothin’ personal.
Q: How old were you when you started going bald?
A: I first noticed a tiny bald spot on the top of my head — like the size of a quarter — when I was 21. My hair was thinning pretty noticeably by the time I was 24 or 25. People looking at me would probably say “that guy is bald” by the time I was 27, and I started totally shaving it over around that time. Totally genetic thing. My maternal grandfather and my maternal great-grandfather were both bald just like me by 30 as well. I am not sure about my maternal great-great grandfather as he had his face bashed in with an axe before he had a chance to go bald. I feel like, even if he lived, though, he wasn’t going to do any better avoiding baldness than he did avoiding that axe.
Q: Since you mentioned Joe Buck [I did on Twitter] . . . have you ever thought of getting addicted to hair plugs?
A: I have never taken Rogaine. I have never done a comb-over. I have never worn a wig and I have never considered hair plugs. I wear a lot of hats, but that’s more about sun and cold protection than it is vanity. I don’t begrudge guys who choose differently on that score, but I’m a “be what you are” kind of person. It’s just too exhausting to fight nature like that.
Q: Should Bonds be in the HOF? Will Rose ever be in the HOF?
A: Bonds: Yes. I’ve written about that at length, from a baseball, steroids, and ethics perspective. I’ve written just as much about Rose and the Hall of Fame, but your question is couched in “will he be” not “should he be.” I think, yes, he will one day be in the Hall of Fame. I think it’ll come after he dies and I think it’ll be via some sort of special election or declaration or something. Baseball probably doesn’t want to do him any favors after the number of chances it has given him that he has totally blown, but I bet they’ll do something with him, someday, even if it’s 20 years from now.
Q: Most underrated MLB uniforms?
A: Many, many years ago — like 2010 maybe — I ranked the best and worst uniforms for each franchise across their history. I think it’s been long enough since I did that that it’s fair game to do that again. Let’s do that next week, shall we? For now, though, I’m going to say that people greatly overrate certain 1970s styles out of misplaced appreciation of kitsch or nostalgia and, one of those designs is the Astros’ Tequila Sunrise design:
Know what? They’re not that great. They’re not even close to the Astros’ best look. The current look is way better, for example. But the Astros’ best look was their shooting star uniforms of the early 70s:
Just because something was weird or funky or retro does not make it great. Joe Morgan looks way better in what he’s wearing in that photo than Nolan Ryan looks in his. Fight me.
Q: Do you have a baseball blog nemesis?
A: Nah. There was a time back in the Golden Age of Blogging — which I peg to be from, oh, 2004-2012 or so — that I’d have feuds and things with people but that seems like a million years ago. The online writing landscape is so very different now than it used to be, primarily because of social media. It’s hard to have a nemesis when you can just chat with them all day and the little disagreements and misunderstandings that used to lead to those feuds get resolved quickly.
Q: Brad Ausmus has a career record of 386-422 as a manager. Is that all she wrote? Or is he just handsome enough to get another shot?
A: Casey Stengel wasn’t a handsome man and his winning percentage was way worse than Ausmus’ at the time the Yankees gave him their job in 1949. Not that that’s responsive. Really, I’m not sure Ausmus ever did anything in Detroit that made him appealing as a managerial candidate later. At the same time, I think he sort of got boned out of his Angels job simply because Joe Maddon became available. It ain’t based on merit, that’s for sure. Either way.
Q: In light of Coronavirus cancelling everything, where does “Firefly” rank on the all time list of unjust cancellations?
A: I loved “Firefly” and I loved “Serenity” but even my love for that is tempered by the knowledge that we tend to glorify that which ends too early a bit more than we probably should. We project greatness on that which goes away and forget that almost all shows, bands, movie franchises, you name it., get bad eventually.
We do it with actors too. We assume that, for example, when James Dean or River Phoenix died, we lost the Next Great American Actor based on their excellent track record at the time they died. But do we KNOW James Dean would not have taken the role as the dad on “The Brady Bunch” after his career stalled in the mid-to-late 60s? Do we KNOW River Phoenix would not have taken a role in a terrible comedy franchise in the late 90s to pay off bad investments in a restaurant chain? By the same token, do we know that Joss Whedon wouldn’t have gotten distracted by his next project and let “Firefly” get dumb? I dunno, but we tend to assume things about that which is taken away from us prematurely that may not be reasonable to assume.
I mean, I wish “Firefly” had lasted longer, but let’s not pretend that part of what I and others like about it so much isn’t that it was gone before it started to suck. Entropy is a thing, man.
Q: Any more insight into the thing that we always did that suddenly seems unnecessary/not as necessary in the light of this pandemic? Or is it still too soon to tell?
A: Over at my Pandemic Diary I’ve been talking a lot about how we really have no idea yet how things are going to change as a result of all of this. To be sure, I am not making predictions. I have no idea. I just have a very strong sense that we’re not going to snap our fingers and get back to “normal” such as it was. There will be long-term cultural changes and we’re probably not at all prepared for them. At the very least we can’t really anticipate them.
For the moment the best I can say is that any of the little inconveniences and inefficiencies of life that — magically! — disappeared the moment we all went on lockdown probably revealed themselves to be unnecessary given how easily we let go of them. Data and bandwidth limits that were suddenly waived. The need for incarcerating petty and non-violent criminals pending trial. Or, in some cases, at all. Water shutoffs. There are probably many more, but once you get rid of things that are, for the most part, needless, rent-seeking, or punitive behaviors, it’s hard to reestablish them.
Q: What’s your favorite year for baseball cards? (Any answer that’s not 1978 Topps is wrong BTW)
A: For personal reasons having to do with my brother and I spending years putting the set together when we were young, the 1965 Topps set is my favorite. It’s not anyone who knows a ton about baseball cards’ top choice, but it’ll always hold a place in my heart. I have this card autographed:
Q: What is the most interesting (or most fun) baseball history hypothetical? I’m partial to thinking about what happens if the Dodgers get their stadium in Brooklyn (or agree to the Flushing Meadows site), and all the craziness that would ensue.
A: Eh, someone else would’ve moved to California along with the Giants if it wasn’t the Dodgers. The Mets wouldn’t exist, I suspect, but we’d have two teams in New York and some other team — maybe the Cubs, who were Chicago’s second class citizens in the late 50s, maybe the Phillies — would be out in Los Angeles.
More interesting to me: what if Marvin Miller takes a job with the Communications Workers union or something, passing on baseball? I’d guess it changes everything in baseball history for the past 50 years.
Q: Do you follow Bill James? He has thrown out some racist crap out there lately.
A: I don’t follow him on Twitter, though occasionally he’ll reply to something I say and we’ll have a friendly interaction. I’ve heard people tell me that he is the prime example of someone whose stature has diminished inversely with how his public profile has expanded, in part because of some questionable things he has said, many about race.
James has done some amazing work, and his “Historical Baseball Abstract” is probably the most important baseball book in my life as far as how it changed my thinking about baseball and its history. But just because someone is good at one thing doesn’t mean they’re good at everything. Based on what people tell me, I would not care to follow him for his takes on social issues, current events and news developments of the day. By the same token, no one should follow me for, say, personal finance advice or automotive mechanical insights. I don’t stick to sports, but we all have lanes into which we probably should not veer. From what people tell me James veers out of his lane a fair amount. That’s his right, but it also sounds like it hasn’t done his stature any favors.
That’s all I got right now. Have a good weekend folks. Or at least as good a weekend as you can have under the circumstances.