Byron Buxton

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Twitter Mailbag: Madison Bumgarner, ‘Love, Actually,’ and . . . Hawaiian Pizza

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There was nothing going on earlier so I had the choice of going outside for a walk on a glorious, sunny day featuring temperatures in the mid-70s or sitting glued to the Internet to talk about unimportant stuff. I’d like to say I took the former path but we are men of action and lies do not become us.

So, you asked me questions. And now I shall answer them.

Note: When I asked for questions on Twitter I said I was doing it because I couldn’t bring myself to care about Mike Clevinger being activated from the injured list. So, of course, the first question I got was . . .

Q: What do you think of Mike Clevinger returning from the IL?

A: He should be a top-tier fantasy starter the rest of the way. Sorry, I copied and pasted that from the Rotoworld blurb. Seriously, though, with Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco out it’s kind of a big deal. If he doesn’t pitch like himself — and if Trevor Bauer doesn’t pitch more games like he did last night — the Indians are never getting close to the Twins. Given that his two rehab starts were decidedly mixed, results wise, who knows what Cleveland is getting?

 

Q: What movie do you like more than you want people to know?

A: I’m not embarrassed of any movies I like. Or music. Or fashions. Or books. Or anything. I used to care about that sort of thing a lot. I used to go to great lengths to make sure that I only admitted to liking tasteful things and critically-accepted things and things that would make me look cool. I wrote about that once and noted that it’s an affliction a lot of people have, though I think it’s particularly acute among Gen-X men.

I broke myself of that. It was not easy and I occasionally backslide, but I learned to love things I love unapologetically. As I wrote last year, it, unfortunately, took a whole lot of personal strife and psychological stress and all of that to get me the right eyes to see things that way, but I’m a happier and healthier person now than I used to be. Not because of that, necessarily, but just doing what feels good and liking what one likes is certainly an important part of that. All of us would do better to spend more time being who we are and liking who we are than worrying about what people think of us. I wish I didn’t take so long to truly grok that.

That said: I am sometimes loathe to admit how much I like both “Love Actually” and “The Holiday.” Yes, I know everything that is wrong with them — and there is a lot wrong with them; they are not fine cinema — and I know why a lot of people don’t like them. I don’t care. I watch each of these two movies in December most years and I enjoy them, probably because of who showed them to me and when and what was going on in my life when she did. Good and bad associations have a powerful way of impacting what we think of anything, really. The opposite side of this coin: the movie “Singles” is an objectively good movie. I know this. Almost anyone I know and whose opinion I respect likes it. But I’ve just seen it once, I saw it under circumstances that make me never want to see it again and which still, 27 years later, makes me sort of unhappy whenever I think about it. So I won’t see it again, ever, if I can help it.

Brains are weird, eh?

 

Q: How many other players are out there like Domingo Germán selfishly, uhh, trying to play and uhhh preventing their GMs from making the team better?

A: This refers to this crazy bit of columnist work in which Germán was blamed for the Yankees not signing Dallas Keuchel. If you didn’t read that and don’t see how that makes sense let me save you the trouble: it doesn’t make sense. The truth of the matter is that someone in a market littered with lots of media takes needed a fresh one and decided that that one would set him apart. And I suppose it did. Thankfully there aren’t a lot of players who will get that sort of treatment, mostly because there are only so many players on teams who play in cities with crowded media markets, like New York, which inspire such magically creative thinking.

 

Q: Where are the likely places Madison Bumgarner could land?

A: Bumgarner is certainly the top player available at the deadline this year. And there are a lot of teams who would love have him. Basically every contender with a hole in their rotation which, practically, means every contender. I feel like for both baseball and cosmic purposes, though, he should go to St. Louis. The Cardinals could use a boost to catch Chicago and Milwaukee, they have prospects the Giants might want and, honestly, is there a place where his red ass demeanor would fit in better than with the Cardinals?

 

Q: What bottle of bourbon are you most looking forward to being released this year?

A: I love bourbon, but I’m generally not an enthusiast type who keeps track of hot releases and stuff. Even if I was, living in Ohio which still has a heavily regulated liquor market which keeps a lot of things from being sold here makes that sort of thing hard to do. Still, Kentucky is less than a two-hour drive away, so I suppose I could get into that mindset if I wanted to. I usually just don’t bother. I buy my same general rotation of bourbons most of the time. Evan Williams and Old Grandad bonded when I’m being budget-conscious or just defaulting. Johnny Drum or E.H. Taylor if I happen to be in Kentucky. Four Roses single barrel or Blanton’s when I’m splurging (though Blanton’s is getting hard to find and a tad too expensive for what it is).

That said, on my last trip to Kentucky, back in late April I toured the Castle and Key distillery. They’re a newer operation in a very old, nicely-renovated distillery that has yet to bring bourbon to market. It’s aging in barrels now and probably won’t be available until late 2021 at the earliest. Based on the tour and my conversations with the people there and based on what I’ve read about their approach, I’m eager to try their stuff when it finally comes out. Well, I think I still am. One of the big reasons I was interested in the place is that they hired a woman as their Master Distiller, which is not a thing that I think has ever happened at a Kentucky distillery, at least since the end of Prohibition. They poached her from Woodford Reserve, where she was the Master Taster. About three weeks ago she announced she was leaving. Everyone is saying nice things but I hope to hell it was for some neat opportunity or something rather than her fleeing the place. Worth watching.

 

Q: Lou Whitaker – Hall of Famer? (I say yes, but I’m biased).

A: He is in my book. Statistically speaking he’s better than about half of the second basemen already in the Hall. He hit for power. He got on base. His defense was outstanding and, even in this era of greater appreciation for defense, his glove is still underrated. If he came up in the 90s instead of the late 70s no one would question it, but he has just fallen between the cracks. My hope is that Alan Trammell’s induction by the Veterans Committee is a harbinger of Whitaker’s induction the next time his era is considered.

 

Q: How much (if at all) do your kids like baseball?

A: Some of you may remember when my kids were, for a hot minute, budding Dodgers fans a few years back. Well, that didn’t take. They don’t hate baseball. They’ll go to games with me once or twice a year and they have fun — we’re going to Los Angeles next month and we plan to see a Dodgers-Angels game in Dodger Stadium and they’re excited about that — but they are not sports fans at all. They really, really don’t care about sports. Beyond baseball writing being what puts a roof over their heads, sports simply has no relevance in their lives. My son, almost 14, is into video games and general internet/nerd culture. My daughter is 15. Her interests are varied and her clique(s) are a bit hard to define, but she is decidedly not a sports or sports-adjacent person. I did tell her this morning about Dock Ellis’ LSD no-hitter which took place 49 years ago today and she thought that was cool, but whether that should amuse me or concern me is unclear.

Frankly, I’m pretty cool with them not being into sports. I like sports and always have, but I’m also pretty clear-eyed about how messed up our society’s priorities and values can be when sports are involved and I’d rather that my children have as few hangups along those lines as possible.

 

Q: Rank and discuss these: Pro wrestling entrance music, Political candidate entrance music, Batter walkup music, Reliever entrance music.

A: This is in the news because of the list of walkout songs of the Democratic candidates that circulated the other day. Most of them are pretty questionable choices. I mean, I love The Clash but ain’t no one in that group punk enough to pull that off. Especially Beto O’Rourke, who walks out to “Clampdown.” He used to be in a band, but he’s traded that life for something a lot less punk-like, let’s leave it at that. It’s like some 60s radical who went Wall Street in the 80s still nodding along to “Fortunate Son.” Can we just not? I like Elizabeth Warren’s choice of “Nine to Five” by Dolly Parton, though. No attempt to be hip but every attempt to be on-message about what her campaign stands for. More of them should do that.

OK, that aside: I’ll say 1. Wrestler music, because they more or less invented and perfected the practice; 2. Reliever entrance music because when it’s on it’s on; 3. Batter walkup music, though even the best choices get old when you hear them four or five times a game; and 4. Politician walkout music because, unlike athletes, they are constantly told by the artists who wrote or performed the songs they’re using to cease and desist due to how lame they are. No one told The Boogie Woogie Man, Jimmy Valiant, not to use “The Boy From New York City,” did they?

Wait, they did. So he just came up with his own damn song. And it was AMAZING. If you just want to hear that, go to the 1:20 mark, but you should probably just watch all of this, dudes.

 

Q: How about answering the question from the Joe Sheehan newsletter yesterday: Bellinger for Trout, who says no?

The gut feeling most of you will probably have — Angels say no — is my feeling too and, ultimately, where Joe comes around to for practical reasons. His analysis was pretty intriguing, though, and muddied the waters enough to makes the conversation one worthy of a good talk over a beer or whatever.

No, the Angels would not trade Trout, but if you take away the politics and P.R. and the egos of it all — and forget that Angels fans would tar and feather Arte Moreno if he let it happen — it’s not crazy to say that the Angels would be better off with a younger but still excellent player in Bellinger and some money to burn over the next couple of years given how far away they seem to be from putting a good supporting cast around the older but still in his prime Trout. The complication, actually, would be that Bellinger might cost more than Trout in four years when he’s free agency eligible. And that the Dodgers would probably say no too for their own reasons that have little to do with, you know, how great it would be to have the best baseball player on the planet on their roster.

Joe is really good at making what we think are clear answers — Angels say no! — far less clear by virtue of applying logic, rather than emotion, to the question at hand. You should subscribe to his newsletter. You get good stuff like that almost every day.

 

Q: What do you think of Rick Hahn’s job as White Sox GM?

A: He made some good trades unloading Adam Eaton, Chris Sale and José Qunitana, but if the White Sox are going to take a step forward he’s going to have to show that he can add supplemental talent and convince a free agent to join the club. For all the talk that the Sox were going to be fishing in deep free agent waters last offseason, nothing materialized and from what I can tell White Sox fans are not thrilled with that. For now, though, let’s give him an incomplete. He has torn down and has begun to build up, but it remains to be seen if he can top out the structure.

 

Q: Chances Byron Buxton cracks the top 10 MVP votes?

A: Pretty good, I think. At least if the Twins stay in first place. Buxton is having a great season — he’s hitting .271/.322/.528 with ten stolen bases — and he’s playing great defense. That gives him a 2.8 WAR, which is currently seventh in the American League. I know WAR is not the be-all, end-all, but I suspect that while voters look to a lot of factors when choosing between the top couple of candidates, I bet a lot of them also default to WAR rankings when looking down the ballot. Not that they’d HAVE to do that with Buxton — he’s an exciting player who has had a number of highlights on a fun, successful team and those sorts of players always do well in MVP voting — but even if it’s a worst case scenario and people just overlook him beyond the stat line, there is reason to think he’d get top-10 votes from a lot of voters if he keeps his season up.

 

Q: Orioles tickets on the resale market hover around $20 and $15 direct purchase. How on Earth are prices that high??? With attendance around 12,000 — about 25% of capacity — demand sure seems too low and supply seems too high for me to commit $125+/- for a night out with the family for this team. 

A: I won’t pretend to know all of the ins and outs of how the secondary ticket market works, but I imagine at some point, be it due to fees or hassle or whatever, it’s simply a bigger pain in the butt for someone to sell their tickets for, like, $7 than it is to just eat ’em and have the ticket go unused. Given what MLB tickets cost from the box office to begin with, the sorts of people who buy season tickets or a ton of retail-level tickets that they may or may not use are probably fairly comfortable financially speaking to begin with and may decide that extra few dollars they might make aren’t worth it. I’m not sure how this works with things like dynamic pricing options and all of that. Or if there’s a floor that a secondary service imposes or anything. I simply don’t ever use the services except to, occasionally, buy a ticket. I do, know, though, that if teams are less interested in selling out stadiums than they ever have been before — and that seems to be the case for several reasons — some of that dynamic likely trickles down to the secondary market too.

 

Q: How far can you punt a football?

A: I am going to guess that, conservatively, it’s been 15 years since I’ve even attempted to punt one, and when I actually played football — I played through my freshman year in high school and quit during summer camp before sophomore year — no one ever asked me to punt, most likely because I do not look like the sort of person who can punt well. I dunno? Thirty yards if I hit it just so? Maybe that’s unrealistic. I have no idea. If anyone has a football I can borrow I’ll try. I haven’t owned one for about 15 years either. See, above, about my kids not being into sports.

 

Q: Which 31 year older actor do you plan to challenge to a fight?

A. This was another thing that popped up earlier this week. Thank you, Justin Bieber. I’m sort of screwed on this one, though, as the most famous actor who is 31 years older than me is Harrison Ford and I’m guessing that even in his mid-70s he could pound me into a pasty goo. He lives on a ranch in Montana or someplace and probably chops wood and crap all the time. Country strong, that one.

Other 1942 actors: Ian McShane (he could probably kill me too); Richard Roundtree, the original Shaft, and he’s one bad mother- SHUT YOUR MOUTH; Werner Herzog, who, without question, can summon dark forces to defeat me or, at the very least, inspire me to stare into the abyss until (a) it stares back; and (b) I go mad with existential terror; Chris Sarandon — who went to the high school I went to, by the way — and played the ruthless Prince Humperdink in “The Princess Bride.”; and Tobin Bell, the guy who played Jigsaw in the “Saw” movies. MAYBE I could take him if he doesn’t have time to plan ahead, but I doubt it. I’m so, so dead.

 

Q: What was the most enjoyable MLB game you’ve ever attended?

A: The greatest performance, objectively speaking, I ever saw in person was Madison Bumgarner’s five shutout innings on two days rest in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. The most enjoyable, though, was a Greg Maddux start he made for the Dodgers in 2006 when he was past his prime. I wrote about that once. I still think about it all the time, for reasons other than just baseball.

 

Q: Do you think players struggle a bit their first year after becoming a father (because they’re exhausted)?

A: It can’t help. At least if you’re a hands-on father. Sleep is hard to come by if you’re carrying your fair share of the parenting load. You spend a lot of time on the floor and, while that’s probably not as big a deal for a pro athlete as it is for a schlub new dad like I was, it’s not great on the knees and hips. I doubt we have any data for this because no one keeps track of which players are new dads, I don’t suppose. I will say this much, though: fatherhood, if you’re doing it right, is the most important and most consuming thing you can do and, while we all adjust to it eventually, everything else recedes in importance the moment that baby shows up.

 

Q: What syntax would make Max Muncy‘s “get it out of the ocean” comment actually clever and less awkward?

A: A lot of people have noted that Muncy’s response to Bumgarner telling him not to look at his McCovey Cove shot from Sunday afternoon was kind of weird:

I hit the ball and then he yelled at me,” Muncy explained. “He said, ‘Don’t watch the ball, you run.’ I just responded back, ‘If you don’t want me to watch the ball, you can go get it out of the ocean.’”

Obviously the notion of not watching the ball and Bumgarner retrieving it don’t really flow together. But I’m not gonna try to parse it. We know what Muncy was trying to get at — he hit that ball a mile and that trumps any of MadBum’s red ass concerns — so he gets a pass on witty execution. He’s not Dorothy Parker, you guys. He’s a ballplayer. Just go with it. If anything he gets extra points for not making it sound better in the telling than it went off in the moment. Points for honesty.

 

Q: Red Sox – really this mediocre, or bound to snap out of it with a 20-6 month in July?

A: I keep saying they’re too talented to keep this up and I still believe that. But I also said that in 2012, 2014, 2015 and other years when they should’ve been much, much better than they were, so I don’t know.

 

Q: How long until the Cubs realize that the husk of Carlos González is going to do them more harm than good?

A: He had a couple of OK games out of the box for them and now he seems to be sinking back into Carlos Gonzálezdom, so I don’t suspect it’ll be too long. The Cubs do a lot of things that aggravate me, but holding on to guys who can’t help them too long because they are ESTABLISHED MAJOR LEAGUERS is not one of ’em.

 

Q: Do you think Joey Votto gets into the Hall of Fame?

A: I think so. I know we’re pushing 20 years into the “Moneyball” era and we’re all enlightened now and all of that, but on-base percentage is STILL underrated, as is just how freakishly inner-circle Joey Votto’s on-base abilities have been. And that’s before you realize he’s also a .309 career hitter, so it’s not just the walks, and that he has a career slugging percentage of .524, so when he does hit it he has, for most of his career, hit is super hard. A 152 OPS+ and 58.8 career WAR in 13 seasons are also Hall of Fame numbers.

The problem, though, is that he seems to be hitting a wall this year. And, as I was writing this post, he left a game with back tightness. If he’s breaking down physically and can’t give voters a lot of counting stats and one of those 20-years-in-one-uniform narratives, I worry that he’s going to be overlooked.

 

Q: Do you realize how great your relationship is with your kids? Great job.

A: Thanks! I do realize it. And I’m amazingly and astoundingly grateful for it. Even when they do stuff like they did last night and ask for pineapple pizza and threaten to steal each other’s kneecaps (?)

I have no idea. For the record, I did let him get Hawaiian pizza. A small one, just for him. And I did relent and picked up Anna some Chinese food. Mostly because I didn’t want to eat pineapple on a pizza either and figured getting some Chinese was the best option. You do things for your kids if you can, even if they’re just the worst people sometimes.

Wait: sorry. I said all that stuff at the top about not judging other people’s tastes and here I go judging my son for Hawaiian pizza. That’s terrible of me.

Nah, screw it. You can judge some things. Hawaiian pizza is straight trash. This is just fact.