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Big League Stew

Answer Man: Brandon McCarthy talks beaning, his shoulder, Twitter, graying hair, being tall and the value of wins

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Brandon McCarthy of the Arizona Diamondbacks wants you to be aware of one thing: He might use sarcasm from time to time. A smart-alecky and self-deprecating personality helps when dealing with a maddening shoulder condition that's cost him innings and dollars, and might limit his career.

His attitude also makes him a fun follow on Twitter. He's not only a jokester, practicing a standup routine nobody will ever see in person. McCarthy actually contributes thoughtful responses in everything from social issues to analytics in baseball.

After a recent Cactus League game, McCarthy sat down for a long Answer Man discussion that touched on, well, a variety of topics. Hey, if he can handle his barking shoulder — not to mention getting hit in the head with a line drive — he can do this. So grab a coffee, use the restroom and settle in!

David Brown: What’s the last thing you remember before getting hit in the head?

Brandon McCarthy: I think I remember everything. I don’t know if it’s me actually painting the picture. I remember as the ball was coming out … actually, I don’t know. I was unhappy with the pitch. I didn’t want to … It was weird. Before I threw through the pitch, I thought “This would be a good time for a change-up.” And I didn’t have a change-up for that. And I remember getting hit and I guess I remember the rest.

DB: Do you ever get mad at your shoulder?

BM: No. I might when I’m done playing. It’s just something that’s out of my control so I don’t ever get angry with things I don’t control because it’s dumb to do. People that worry about stuff they can’t control bug me. If there’s something you, literally, could be doing to [change] something then that’s a whole different issue. I feel like I’ve tried everything I can, within reason, to do with my shoulder. And if it doesn’t respond and fix itself, then it’s just the hand you’re dealt. But, no, I don’t get mad at it.

DB: Going through your shoulder thing, has that helped you learn to not worry about things you can’t control?

BM: It’s probably helped quite a bit. It’s kind of the chicken and the egg — I’ve always kind of had that — but when you keep going through it, you could sit here and spin yourself into a tizzy and end up with a brain tumor the size of a grapefruit. Or you just kind of say … the only way I can handle it and don’t get bummed out when I’m hurt again is, I give myself 24 hours where I can be mopey and feel [lousy] and then there’s no more. I don’t focus on it, I don’t think about it. It’s just, literally, what do I have to do tomorrow to get back in five weeks. That’s the only way I can handle it now. And I get through it mentally fine.

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DB: Did the White Sox World Series dynasty start to fall apart the moment they left you off the postseason roster [in 2005] when you were a rookie?

BM: No, that’s when they won!

DB: Was the seed planted, though? I still disagree with the decision to leave you off the roster [and kept Orlando Hernandez].

BM: Well, I do too. But then it actually worked out in Game 3 [of the ALDS] with El Duque when he went nuts, it worked out right away. The bases loaded with no outs situation. After that I was like, “Well, I don’t really have a leg to stand on anymore [laughs]. I probably should stop complaining.”

DB: We're not going to know who got the better end of the John Danks trade — if anyone — until 2025, are we?

BM: Oh, I think you can pretty well close the book on that now and say the White Sox won that one. If we move the timeline a couple years, then maybe. But if you get four really good healthy seasons out of him, pitching as well as he was when I was just kind of sputtering along, it’s pretty one-sided.

DB: Stuff can still happen between now and then.

BM: Yeah, but now you run that chain out where it’s different organizations and different situations and, hell, he’s still there. It’s not one that I ever think about anymore, but … part of the reason for making the changes was that I hated that the deal was that one-sided. It annoyed me knowing that I was the [worse] side of it. So now I’m trying to catch up and make that not the case.

DB: Don’t know if you remember, but you were playing the White Sox last year in August and you hit A.J. Pierzynski with a pitch and he gave you a look. Don't you just love that guy?

BM: I do. Actually, me and A.J. have been friends for years. I texted him right after the game. We swore at each other. … I don’t know why … I mean, he instantly felt like I was throwing at him and he looked right away. It was weird. I don’t know if that’s because we talk [smack] to each other all the time.

DB: Well, he’s — and I mean this in a complimentary way — he’s an instigator.

BM: Yeah, he is. He’s the best I’ve ever seen at that. I don’t know how he does that and he stays in that mindset. But [redacted] he’s good at that. He’s just a professional pain in the ass. He’s got it to work for 10-plus years though.

DB: Let's say you wanted to rebrand — take back, if you will — the term "McCarthyism." What is your ethos?

BM: We could snuff out the people who don’t understand sarcasm. We’ll do this big Red Scare, finding people who don’t understand sarcasm. We’ll teach it to them. There are too many people, even super-smart ones, that don’t get it. It makes for too many awkward situations where people make you feel like the idiot.

DB: Who is on your list of disloyal, un-sarcastic umpires?

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BM: I don’t know, especially on the field, because I never speak to anybody.

DB: Even the catcher?

BM: The catcher … once in a while, and it’s an extremely utilitarian speech. I know a lot of people can talk and they know the umpires, but I get out there and I try to go to a different place. I think Tim McClelland actually made a sarcastic comment to me in a game. So he’s on the good list. The rest, I haven’t spoken enough to.

DB: During the Super Bowl, they played a commercial with a Paul Harvey voiceover and you made a cheeky joke about buying farmers — which some people didn't like.

Have you figured out how many farmers you could buy, just for fun?

BM: Haha. None. I guess the farming community’s not a big fan of mine right now. That would be the lack of sarcasm angle, that people don’t understand it.

DB: Any farmers come to your defense after you tweeted about the Super Bowl commercial?

BM: I like pointing out the people that don’t “get” stuff, but there wasn’t too many of them. I did get a whole bunch of farmers defend me and I was like, ‘This had nothing to do with farmers!’ Everybody’s just run past the point here. And I heard from nobody with Dodge [laughs].

DB: Do you view Twitter as your best opportunity to perform and give away your best jokes for free?

BM: Yeah. Outside of being a crazy person at the ball. Any stupid thing that crops up there, it’s just an easy way to get it out there. You can see if anyone agrees with you, if anyone thinks it’s funny. Or if they just tell you that you’re an idiot. I don’t know if there’s any other option, other than an open-mic night and actually having to structure a joke and getting booed. It’s a pretty safe way to do it, from your living room couch.

DB: Have you thought about doing [stand-up comedy]?

BM: No. In a different universe, that would be fun to go try, even though it’d be miserable and hard as hell and I can’t imagine how hard that is. No.

DB: I was hoping you’d like to try it. It might be one of those things that, even if you fail, it might make for a fun or valuable experiment.

BM: The joke-writing aspect of it, that would be the fun part. That would be the challenge. That’s more fun to me than the actual performing. That’s why I respect those guys. They actually have to create an act and a persona and emphasize certain words [cadence, delivery, diction]. That’s a whole different thing. Twitter’s simple, it’s just writing sentences.

DB: So that’s why, when you go on the field and pitch, you don’t talk to anybody because you’re in a zone performing. And if you applied that to stand-up comedy, it wouldn’t work.

BM: Right, because if you did it that way, you’d be like Mitch Hedberg.

DB: Well that would be OK.

BM: Yeah, if you could perform at that level. Good luck to the next Mitch Hedberg.

DB: Do you and your wife fight fair [in real life] because you say funny things to each other on Twitter that seem personal?

BM: We don’t ever actually fight. And that’s part of the fun of it. You can say stupid little [messed]-up stuff to each other, where everything is kind of half-based in truth. It’s a good way to passive-aggressively air out little differences. It’s really worked on that angle.

DB: You’re not on the Oakland A’s anymore, but do you think we can get a bunch of their fans to wear Cardigan sweaters for when Andrew Carignan pitches? So that could become a thing?

BM: If him and Sean Doolittle were starters, that could be a thing. Being in the bullpen, that’s tough to do. It’s more for Doolittle. He’s really big into Cardigan sweaters. Doolittle’s the guy. We worked together on that. Carignan always dresses like he’s coming from a clambake. It’s like the colors that don’t ever come in a box of crayons. Gingham shirts, oversized polo and boat shoes.

DB: Do you have a rider in your contract that says “No kiss cam” at Chase Field for 2013-14?

BM: I have a rider in my own life that says “none of that.” I don’t like scoreboard cameras, period. I don’t ever want to find myself on one, especially for the Kiss Cam.

DB: Do you have any idea how close we are to having a gay MLBer come out?

BM: No, because I don’t personally know one to know where his thoughts are. I hope we get closer and closer or, that we’re getting there, but I still think there’s a lot of obstacles — well, they’re not obstacles. They’re the same as they will be in 15 years. It’s just going to be the ensuing attention that will come on. I think that’s the biggest hurdle. And that’s never going to change, because the attention is going to be there with the media. Everything is going to filter through there. I think we’re miles and miles closer in terms of clubhouse attitude and relative feelings as a society. In terms of media, that’s always going to be there. The first one is going to be the news. I hope that there’s some. I actually hope there’s two or three and they decide to come out at the same time to where it might possibly lessen it. And then it’s not such a …

DB: It wouldn’t be any bigger of a deal if there were multiple …

BM: Right, and you could spread out the attention, so not every single national writer came into that clubhouse. Just anything to sort of soften that blow.

DB: And maybe there’s a camaraderie.

BM: And even if people made jokes, you’d have a way to spread it out so it’s not concentrated on one player. That’s the hardest thing: What would be on the shoulders of that one player, and as mental as this game is, as hyper focused as you have to be on your own, to handle a whole other cause like that, based on how you live your life, I feel that would be insanely difficult.

DB: What do you think of the owner of your favorite soccer team, Liverpool?

BM: I’ve been a big John Henry supporter since he came on, I was really hoping he was the guy. I wanted him more than someone with Arab oil money, someone who could just come in and buy everything. I like the idea of a challenge where you have years of mediocrity before you have a payoff. He was the guy I was really hoping for. And now it’s just the whole process. I still love the Brendan Rodgers hire. That would have been my choice. It’s who I was happy with. Now you just hope they’ll start winning and it’ll all work.

DB: What did you think of the apologetic note he wrote fans on the message board?

BM: I get into it at that level, but I don’t. I get that there’s that side of it. Especially having seen the business side of things here. You understand that there’s a business aspect to it, they do have to turn a profit, they can’t just guy buy everybody every single transfer period. There’s a huge [amount] of fans that don’t understand that. So you have to kind of placate them.

DB: Would you be a fan of somehow adding relegation to Major League Baseball?

BM: Haha. I would. It would never work.

DB: Why not?

BM: Country’s too big. And these are franchises. These are not independent entities. Those are 20-team leagues, but every team is independently owned. How would you promote Reno and drop down someone else? The idea of it, I like. I like having a punishment for extreme terribleness instead of a reward where you get the first draft pick. I like that idea.

DB: You seem like you would have dug college. But you didn’t go? What are the consequences? You ever think about going back?

BM: No. If everything was elective courses. Required courses would have bored the hell out of me. I don’t like learning stuff that I don’t want to learn about. I have an extreme passion for some things. I think it’s like anyone where, if it’s something you want to learn about, you can sit down and dig into it for days and do your own research. But having to go sit in a math class that I’m not particularly good with and don’t have an interest in doing? That would have bored me. It still would.

DB: Do you find Baseball-Reference.com indispensable?

BM: I can use Fangraphs right along with it. I don’t use it as much as some might think … any time I need a quick reference, like of “Player X — did he have a good season last year?” Especially now that there’s a lot of players in the National League that I just don’t know. Hell, some of them, I’ve never heard their names. You don’t watch those games and pay attention to it but then someone says, “No, he’s a good hitter.” And those are the guys I look up at night.

DB: Miguel Montero.

BM: Haha. Actually, everybody here — we played these guys last year, so I know them. But some of these other guys, eh… You go and look stuff up and go, “Holy [cow], this is a really good player!” Paul Goldschmidt is really good. Good approach, stupid power.

On Baseball-Reference, all I know is my similarity score was like Ed Farmer. We were hanging neck-and-neck for a while.

DB: Ed was a closer.

BM: I’m getting to names I recognized. “Oh, good. I’m getting somewhere.”

DB: Have you considered going undercover for Fangraphs so they can accurately measure the D-backs grittiness quotient in 2013?

BM: Haha. No, but I want someone there to come up with a way to quantify mental ability. I wouldn’t define it as “grit” but it could fall in there.

DB: Can you explain?

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BM: There are people that are just better mentally than anybody else. Talent is pretty evenly spread through the game — even from the elite players to the players who are Triple-A starters. There’s not a big gap at all and I know it’s cliche, but there’s really not. And there are just people that are really good mentally.

I know Michael Young is kind of a dividing point for all of the metrics, but he’s one of the best mental players I’ve ever been around. Not just from the teammate or “super teammate” aspect, but he’s absolutely locked in mentally and so, so good at focusing on taking it day to day, at-bat to at-bat and pitch to pitch. And that’s one of those things — it always gets passed over because most people can’t see inside. You only the see the performance [and the result] and what you can quantify. And I wish there was a way to quantify mental ability. Some guys are just better at that, when everybody else would kind of fall apart.

DB: “Clutch stats” don’t do it for you?

BM: No. At least that I’ve ever seen, there’s been no way to actually quantify it. It might be one of those things that, unless you’re in the locker room with him, or coaching him, it’s really hard to see. But there’s some guys where you see it really quick and you know that guy’s way better mentally than anyone else.

DB: The first chance you get to congratulate Ian Kennedy after a start, do you promise to pat him on the behind and say: "Nice heat graph tonight"?

BM: Haha. Is that still going? Is that still going? No, I think it is.

DB: I don’t even know how you compile them. I’m color blind, so I can’t even read them.

BM: Haha. “Why’d you send me a black and white picture again? This site sucks! … Kennedy’s red-headed? Are you kidding me?!”

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DB: I didn’t have this written down, but I wanted to ask you: You’re doing it well, but you’re graying. Do you hate it?

BM: No. If it stays there, I don’t give a [hoot] what color it turns. Just stay there. I’ve been going gray since at least my early 20s. I’m OK with that. If it’s there, I can do whatever I want with it.

DB: So you would color it?

BM: Yeah. I think the last time I did it was two years ago. It’s too much effort to keep on top of. At a certain point, you’re going to hit that tipping point when, “I’m just going to be ‘that guy’ for the next 30 years.” Do it, do it, do it until, one day when you’re 65, you go out to dinner with friends and you’re gray that day. And nobody knew.

DB: xFIP and WAR are great, but don’t pitchers need wins to take to arbitration?

BM: Yeah, that’s the worst part about wins. It’s the same with RBIs. They are the two numbers that truly get you paid. It’s absurd. But you become conditioned to having to think about it. In the minor leagues, I don’t think organizations push it, but you get built on that because that’s what you grow up with. And then when you should be getting to a point when you realize it’s a worthless stat, now you realize that your entire financial future depends on it, that stupid number, an arbitrary cutoff point.

DB: When guys used to pitch all nine innings 100 years ago...

BM: Great. That’s one thing. I think you could make that stat better by simply [noting] win-loss record in games started. That’s at least better. It still sets a tone for the game. There’d still be flaws with it, but it cuts out some of that noise.

DB: Who is the Republic of Texas to say that you are a woman on your driver's license?

BM: I don’t know. It’s something to talk with [Texas governor] Rick Perry about now. At least they fixed that fast and we didn’t have to fly until we got the new [license]. It was weird, though. Maybe they felt like playing a prank. OR … I mean, it was at a DMV in Texas. It was a Texas fan that still had some opinions [laughs]. That would be funny, actually. I would applaud that, if that’s what happened. I know the lady who I used was a big Ranger fan — just a huge Rangers supporter, super nice. It wasn’t her. But if someone put that in, I’d golf clap that.

DB: Do you find yourself looking and more like Orel Hershiser as you get older?

BM: Does he still have glasses? I actually would be fine with that. I grew up a huge Orel Hershiser fan in L.A., so that would be OK.

DB: You kind of reminded me of him when you came up.

BM: Tall, white skinny guys. Andy Ashby.

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DB: You’re 6-foot-7. Have you thought about maybe trying to be a little shorter?

BM: I wish, so I didn’t have to get clothes custom-done, so that something would fit normally off the rack. Just buying stuff for paintball the other day: Going in and getting camo gear and none of it fits.

DB: I was making fun of you and now I feel sorry for you.

BM: It’s a really horrible problem. I can’t buy … nothing. Off-the-rack doesn’t apply to me.

DB: When you pitch against the Dodgers and Vin Scully calls the game, would you wear an earbud to follow along?

BM: No, but those are actually games that I’ll try to get on DVD, or something. Download. Put it on the Cloud. Somewhere that I can watch when I’m done with my career. Because I’ve at least got one and hopefully I can get some more this year. I would love to go back and watch those. I didn’t watch the one from this past year. Just to have Vin Scully say your name and discuss it. There’s very few things that I’ll go back and watch when I’m done playing, or memorabilia I’ll keep. But those would be ones that I’d love to sit down and listen to.

DB: Thanks, would you like to help me transcribe?

BM: No [laughs]! No way.

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Previous Answer Men (and Woman):

2013 Brandon Belt

2012Gio GonzalezMike TroutNelson CruzNomar GarciaparraJosh ReddickAndrew McCutchenAaron Boone

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2011 Pete Rose Stephen Bishop Orel HershiserWill RhymesLogan MorrisonBilly BeaneLuke Scott

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2010Goose GossageJayson WerthTroy TulowitzkiHeath BellBilly WilliamsJoe MauerNyjer Morgan Charlie ManuelFred LynnBucky DentGary CarterMatt StairsVin Scully

* * *

2009 Shane VictorinoCarlos PenaJay BruceJoe Nathan Joe MaddonJoakim SoriaJoey VottoTom GlavineAdrian and Edgar GonzalezChris VolstadPaul KonerkoEdwin JacksonMark DeRosaTim LincecumDave RighettiPedro MartinezDenard SpanCal Ripken

* * *

2008 • Hunter PenceJustin MorneauDavid WrightErin AndrewsAndy Van SlykeDerek JeterBob UeckerBert BlylevenTorii HunterJoba ChamberlainLarry BowaZack GreinkeKerry WoodHuston StreetJosh HamiltonMilton BradleyCC SabathiaMike MussinaJason BayCole HamelsRon SantoFrancisco RodriguezRyan DempsterEvan Longoria

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