Stop Saying That or I’ll Hit You In the Face With a Fish

This is going to make me sound naive, but I dream of a well-reasoned, thoughtful internet. The internet of baseball is an interesting internet, one as likely to produce a moment of comedic genius as it is to foster an echo chamber of half-cocked hysteria. It’s a wonderful place.

So it’s with the greatest severity that I say that while I love 90 percent of what Phillies fans have been saying, there are a couple themes to the Twitter conversation, as well as comments on this and other blogs, that convey a laudable passion for the game and the team, but also a startling level of delusion and/or ignorance. And yes, I realize there are probably things I say that y’all find irritating, but that’s a different conversation. This isn’t about irritating–this is about wrong. One man’s irritating is another man’s hilarious, as has been proved conclusively by the continued popularity of Diablo Cody as a screenwriter.

But irritating is not misguided, and I’m here to educate. In that spirit, I’ve developed a machine that allows me to appear in real life whenever someone trips one of these Phillies-related keywords. This is a monkfish. With my machine, I will travel the city, appearing out of nowhere like Batman, wielding a monkfish as my sword of justice. Why a monkfish? Well, according to Official Crashburn Alley Fish Correspondent @erhudy, the monkfish has a large surface area area to better create the satisfying slapping sound we’re after.

So here are a few things that you can say that will guarantee that I materialize out of the ether, tap you on the shoulder, and hit you as hard as I can across the face with my monkfish. If it should come to pass that you meet the concussive force of my smelly, rubbery, disgusting bludgeon, don’t be mad. I do this out of love.

“So You’re Telling Me There’s A Chance…”

I’ve been fond of posting daily updates on the Phillies’ record relative to both .500 and the playoff race, as well as the earliest date they could have a .500 record, and their playoff odds. Today, July 30, if you’re curious, the Phillies are 12 games under .500, 16 1/2 games out of first place, and 12 1/2 games out of the Wild Card. The earliest they can return to .500 is August 12, and their playoff odds stand at 0.1 percent.

Whenever I post this, I’m greeted by the famous line from Dumb and Dumber, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance…” While I imagine this is usually said in jest, I’d like to note that it doesn’t take a whole lot of creativity anymore to make reference to the “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By’.” of Farrelly Brothers quotes.

It’s more the spirit of not having given up that, I hope, has been beaten out of us as fans by now. It’s over. It’s been over for about six weeks, and, looking back on it, it was frankly never even that close. I’m not telling you there’s a chance. If anything, I’m quoting those odds to tell you that there isn’t a chance. Even a week ago, when the Phillies were in the process of sweeping the Brewers, they’d have needed a comeback on par with the 1951 Giants to make the playoffs. You know, the Giants who walked off against the Dodgers on Bobby Thompson’s home run and needed to close out the season 50-12 to even get to that three-game playoff. And needed to cheat to get there.

After getting kicked in the privates by the Braves, however, I think the Phillies are far enough out of it that no one will be saying “Yeah, but the Cardinals last year…” ignoring the fact that the Cardinals were tied for first place in the division in the last week of July last season.

But I think we’re done with this whole hope thing, which is good. I hope we don’t need to have this talk again, because if we do, I’m bringing my fish next time.

Mike Olt!”

Apparently we’re doing the “Trade Cliff Lee” thing again. Because apparently people, including Ruben Amaro, if the scuttlebutt is to be believed, think that’s a good idea. Because trading a No. 1 starter who’s signed to a below-market deal at the nadir of his trade value is a no-brainer. Particularly when that value has been depressed by factors outside his control.

But the fans are on board because the prevailing opinion, based on absolutely nothing, is that 1) the Phillies will trade Lee 2) too the Texas Rangers 3) for third base prospect Mike Olt and 4) that it will be worth it. I think Olt is a nice player, and if the Phillies had traded the last two months of Cole Hamels‘ contract to Texas for him, it would have been a coup.

Olt is purported to be one of the top third base prospects in the game, a low-risk guy who plays good defense at third and hits for power. People hear these things and immediately rack their brains for other good defensive third basemen with power to associate him with. A list of good defensive third basemen with power: Mike Schmidt, Scott Rolen, Brooks Robinson, Adrian Beltre…Olt is not those men.

Mike Olt has never played a major league game. Few, if any, of the people advocating that Lee be traded for him, have seen him play in any venue apart from this year’s Futures Game, and of those, I doubt more than a handful have the scouting acumen necessary to draw any meaningful conclusions. Few, if any, of us had even heard of Olt six months ago, and now he’s the Pause that Refreshes, the King in the North, the Hero of Canton, the man who can rescue this team from years of shortsightedness and mismanagement.

Olt strikes out a lot. Last week, on Baseball Today, Keith Law speculated that Olt, promoted to the majors tomorrow, would hit about .240/.330 with 20-25 home runs in his first full season. He should improve some from there, but that’s an assumption, to say nothing of the original baseline being based on speculation in the first place. Expert speculation, but speculation nonetheless. The probability is that Olt will be a good major league third baseman. But I have no idea where the idea came from that he’d become a star.

This is the time of year when everyone falls in love with prospects. In the past week, I’ve heard Phillies fans crying out for not only Olt, but Starling Marte of Pittsburgh and Gary Brown of San Francisco, as if those guys are sure things, as if this fan base hasn’t lived through Tyler Green, Mike Grace, Gavin Floyd, Wayne Gomes, Travis Lee, Domonic Brown, Joe Savery and Anthony Hewitt. We of all people should know better.

A prospect is a lottery ticket. Some have better odds and higher payouts, but all have the distinct possibility, even the likelihood, of failure. Remember the last can’t-miss corner infielder the Rangers traded for Cliff Lee? I think the Phillies should collect as many as they can, but not at the expense of valuable long-term commodities like Lee. And what prospects they do collect are uncertain. So let’s stop pretending we know more than we actually do.

And one last note on Olt. It appears that part of his popularity involves the potential to raise our hands and should “Mike Olt!” whenever he does something good, in the style of Arrested Development‘s Steve Holt. I’ll admit that this is very cool, and very funny, and even that I’ve done so on our podcast before. But if he makes his Phillies debut August 1, and that gag hasn’t gotten old by Labor Day, I’ll hit myself in the face with my monkfish.

“Baby Aces”

This was cute during the “Four Aces” heyday, when someone started referring to the Phillies’ minor league starters the Baby Aces. Adorable, but inaccurate. The Phillies haven’t really had a prospect with true No. 1 starter potential since Cole Hamels. Jarred Cosart and Kyle Drabek were close, but concerns about Cosart’s delivery have turned him into more of a closer prospect than a starter prospect, and Drabek has had trouble staying healthy and finding the plate when he is.

And both have been traded anyway, so it doesn’t matter. But Jesse Biddle and Trevor May, if everything works out well, are probably more mid-rotation guys than aces, and I’ve yet to hear anyone in the know characterize Brody Colvin or Tyler Cloyd as anything more than a fifth starter. This one isn’t of paramount importance, but given how much disappointment we’re going to experience over the coming months anyway, let’s not make it worse by artificially raising expectations.

I guess the point of all this is: let’s not freak out about prospects for no good reason. It only ends in heartbreak.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go see the fishmonger.

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22 comments

  1. BradInDC

    July 30, 2012 12:30 PM

    NO ONE SHOULD PAY MONEY TO WATCH DIABLO CODY’S YOUNG ADULT. Some day you’ll see it for free and think, “Yeah, that’s the right price for that.”

  2. BenJah

    July 30, 2012 12:36 PM

    HA! i imagine you’re going to get some heat over this post, but it’s right on – cheers

  3. Bloe Janton

    July 30, 2012 12:58 PM

    ………….So you’re telling me there isn’t a chance?

  4. JM

    July 30, 2012 01:07 PM

    Phillies go 50-10 to end the year! I only need this because a Braves fan said he would buy me a jersey for every Phillies player if they did….alas,I haven’t cleared any closet space….

  5. Noah

    July 30, 2012 02:02 PM

    You wouldn’t think something as ugly as that fish would be so delicious and yet… I think there is a lesson in there for us all. Something about John Kruk or something.

  6. Phillie697

    July 30, 2012 02:02 PM

    I should have thought about this idea, getting a fish to whack people with, MB.

    It was literally not even two weeks ago on this very blog when people said such things as:

    “Wins are not what’s important right now. Seriously????? I will say it again your blog is horrible, go get your fan graphs and throw them out the window. let’s sell everyone, ruin a good thing, run all the fans out of the ball park and loose all the games in the second half. Why should the Phillies try to win, because to you that’s not important. You obvious don’t remember the 90?s when the team or horrible and nobody went to the vet.”

    “By this logic, once Auguts 20 rolls around and the Phillies are 11 games out of the wild card, why even play Chase Utley or Carlos Ruiz at all?

    I’m not attacking the logic, I’m just taking it a step further. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Papelbon, Hamels (if he’s here), Rollins, Utley, Ruiz, and Howard should all be shut down for the remainder of the season after about August 20. Play the rest of August with a 17 man roster, give Kendrick/Worley/Sanches/Valdes the Jim Tracy rotation-treatment, and enjoy your new draft position. Once it gets to 40-man rosters, it’s even more of a reason to not play these guys. Yeah it sucks for the fans, but I don’t give a damn about the people in section 308 booing Jayson Werth.”

    “While I agree with the title of the article, I don’t agree with a lot of the content. I think there is a greater than 0.4% chance we sneak into the playoffs. 10 games? 2.5 months left? Move up 4 games a month and boom! You’re there. Not to mention this will be the first time all season where Charlie has the lineup and staff that most closely resembles the one that won 102 games last season. I won’t give up until we are mathematically eliminated. Thus I don’t think we should be dead sellers at the deadline. Now that may change in 2 weeks, but right now I strongly disagree with being a strictly selling team. I do think it’s wise to at least shop a few players, see what’s out there, get a feel for the market so if you do wind up selling you’re prepared, but right now, I think the objective should be as Herm Edwards says: ‘You play to win the game!!!’.”

    “Are you people kidding me? You’re crazy to think that the Phils are completely out of it. Remember, we’re in “the garbage division”- a division of choke artists. We’re 13 games out, and guess what- the Nats just gave up a two run lead in the top of the 9th- to the garbage Mets!! A 3 run home run to some Met nobody. Keep the faith fair-weather-fans…”

    Sorry, it had to be done. I didn’t appreciate being called out by other “fans” for somehow given up on my beloved Phillies, only because I want them to win again perhaps as early as 2013. No offense, some of us are just better judges of reality than you are.

  7. hk

    July 30, 2012 02:33 PM

    Bill,

    I’m pretty sure that Phillie was wishing he could hit the authors of all of those quotes in the head with a fish.

  8. Bill Baer

    July 30, 2012 02:53 PM

    Oh, I’m an idiot. I thought they were from this thread. I Ctrl+F’d for the quotes and couldn’t find them.

  9. LTG

    July 30, 2012 03:00 PM

    If we get hit with the monkfish can we keep it?

  10. Michael Baumann

    July 30, 2012 03:09 PM

    We’ll see how that goes. I might not be able to afford all the replacement monkfish. I hear they’re pretty tasty, though.

  11. Phillie697

    July 30, 2012 04:12 PM

    Even if I was clever enough as MB to come up with the idea of whacking people with fish, I don’t think I could have ever come up with the monkfish. Yes Bill, I was agreeing with MB, and by extension you two weeks ago.

    And also to agree with MB even more (this is directed at the audience in general)… If the Rangers thinks Olt is going to be the next Mike Schmidt/Scott Rolen/Brooks Robinson/Adrian Beltre, believe you me, he would be just as untouchable as Jurickson Profar. At this point I don’t even think he’ll turn out to be as good as Headley.

  12. Pat

    July 30, 2012 06:21 PM

    Cliff Lee’s value is not at it’s nadir. I’d bet every GM in baseball realizes Lee’s traditional stats don’t reflect how he’s pitched this year. He’ll be less valuable next year when he’s 34 and then again the following year. That’s how it works with pitchers in their mid-30s.

    If Olt produces .240/.330.420 off the bat with good defense, he’s not a star, but that’s a 3-4 win player with a chance for growth. Third basemen with the power/patience/good defense/low average skillset have historically been undervalued. You seem to be underrating what he should become. And just because other prospects fail doesn’t mean pursing Olt is stupid. Yes, prospects often don’t pan out, but a guy producing at AA is certainly more than a lottery ticket.

  13. jauer

    July 30, 2012 08:47 PM

    Alright, I made the cut. I wrote the second one. Why is it unreasonable to want to shut down Carlos Ruiz after August 20? He plays a high-risk position for injury, and he’s 33 years old. I wrote that weeks ago, and look — he’s injured and overused.

    Adrian Peterson played out the end of the season unnecessarily, but for “integrity” purposes (read: fantasy purposes), he was never going to be shut down to avoid injury risk.

  14. Allen

    July 30, 2012 10:03 PM

    jauer,

    Why deny Chooch the batting practice? He’s having a great season, let him keep working on his swing. If Cholly wants to sit him more often that’s fine, but it’s not like Kratz (32) or Schneider (35) is our long-term future at catcher.

  15. jake

    July 31, 2012 06:54 AM

    So you’d rather hold Pence, Vic, Blanton, Pierre etc and pay them through the end of the year, have them walk and get nothing at all in return?

  16. steve

    July 31, 2012 09:56 AM

    Completely agree about Cliff Lee. Don’t trade a #1 starter for a “can’t-miss” prospect that can absolutely miss. Trading Vic and Blanton makes sense, though it’ll be particularly hard to see Victorino in Dodgers uni.

  17. Phillie697

    July 31, 2012 12:11 PM

    @jauer,

    I thought you were being sarcastic two weeks ago…

  18. Sulla

    July 31, 2012 03:06 PM

    Baumann, I have no idea what you’re talking about most of the time, but I think you get it…when you’re talking baseball.

    Amaro is putting this team so far in the hole that it will take a generation just to get out of the cellar, where, I understand, the monkfish spends most of its time.

    Well, maybe that’s it. The organization, consciously, or unconsciously, hired a monkfish to be its GM.In which case Rube’s moves make perfect sense. He’s just seeking his own level…bottom feeding…

  19. jauer

    August 01, 2012 09:57 AM

    No sarcasm, I tried to qualify that with the “im not attacking the logic”. I agreed with BB’s assertion that the main players should be rested; I just think they should be rested even more than what the fanbase would tolerate.

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