Welcome to the final Crash Bag ever. It’s been a pleasure doing this for the past 21 weeks, and I hope you’ve had as much fun reading this as I’ve had writing it. It’s been a great 9 months at Crashburn Alley, but I’m at least reasonably confident Bill is going to have to fire me for some of the horrifically offensive things I wrote in this post. So enjoy, and I’ll see you around the block.
@hangingsliders: “If Braves play Nats in NLDS, who should Phillies fans root for?”
Hmmm. On the surface, this looks like a tough one. A matchup between division rivals with whom the Phillies have enjoyed a robust antagonism in recent years. There are reasons not to like both of these teams, and one could easily make the argument that the only partisan interest Phillies fans should have in this series is that the aliens from Independence Day come and destroy all life on this planet so neither of these teams can win. I totally respect this position: it’s a position I take twice every college football season, when Clemson plays Miami and Georgia plays Florida. So if you’re content to recuse yourself and either not watch or not take a rooting interest, that’s certainly an option.
But here’s the thing: This is not Sophie’s Choice. If you’re going to root for a team in this series, there’s a clear answer.
Here’s why you’d hate the Nationals:
- Bryce Harper offends you. He’s 19 years old and has national (so to speak) fame and millions of dollars in the bank. And people have been telling him how great he is since he was a child. If I were Bryce Harper, my ego would be so big I wouldn’t be able to find pants that fit. I’d have a douchey customized Mercedes and put bazookas on it. I’d have a douchey haircut and go out to center field with an eagle on my shoulder. That Harper seems only to be a self-aggrandizing airheaded bro ought to be enough to get him beatified. Plus he plays a rather entertaining brand of baseball. I view him as a positive, but if you want to project your own personal code of ethics onto a kid and say that he failed to live up to it without ever meeting or speaking to him, that’s your prerogative.
- Natitude. Yeah, it’s annoying, and yeah, it screams of pumping oneself up in the hope that the body will be able to scrape up enough loose change so it doesn’t bounce the checks the ego’s writing. But you know what? The Nationals have made good this year. They deserve to crow a little.
- Jayson Werth. Bill wrote about this yesterday, and he’s absolutely right, but I think he pulled his punches some. Look in the mirror. Are you sad that a grown man took a better job without considering the feelings of strangers? Are you sad that a grown man might take offense when those who had once supported him pilloried him for taking that better job? Are you sad that a grown man, having been turned on and having had horrific verbal abuse hurled at him (including cheering when he comes to physical harm), might hold a grudge?
I’m not sure what Phillies fans want from Werth. We started it by treating him horribly since he left, and he’s only responding in kind. And yes, I say “we” because we’re responsible for the actions of whoever was born in reasonable geographic proximity–that’s how sports fandom works. So when a bunch of morons go to Washington and cheer when Werth breaks his wrist because he hurt their feelings by taking a better job without considering the emotional impact on a bunch of strangers, we all suffer the consequences. This is not how honorable men act. This is not how right-thinking, rational men (forgive me my gender-normative language, but it’s mostly men we’re talking about) behave. A man you’ve never met hurt your feelings by taking a better job without consulting you first. And you think this gives you the right to hurl insults at him? Get over yourself. Grow up. There are debates with two sides, where I can disagree with someone, shake his or her hand, and walk away friends. This is not one of them. When Jayson Werth worked for the Phillies, he played hard and he played well. He doesn’t anymore, so he doesn’t owe them, or us–particularly not us–a goddamn thing.
I don’t understand grown-ass men who, again, are offended by a man they’ve never met taking a better job without considering the feelings of strangers. Whatever else they may be outside of sports fandom, their actions in this case are offensive, deplorable and indicative of weakness. They disgust me.
(uses asthma inhaler)
So anyway, there are a few reasons the Washington Nationals might not make your innards fizz. But let’s not confuse their upstart, spunky and frankly adorable brand of brashness for evil.
For that’s what the Atlanta Braves are.
The Atlanta Braves are a symbol of oppression and hegemony that has slipped under the radar because greater, more oppressive hegemons exist elsewhere. They are Franco’s Spain. The Atlanta Braves are primary colors, crisp, starched white uniforms in a palace of blandness. They are DAR apple pie-and-bunting Americana, wrapping themselves in the flag while perpetuating racist stereotypes and glorying in the historic oppression of a people who couldn’t defend themselves.
The Atlanta Braves ruled the National League for a generation, boring their opponents into submission with a combination of understated smugness and a pitching staff that enjoyed strike zone half again the size of the one the Phillies and Mets got. For fifteen years, they were the big kid in the pool, holding our heads under the water and letting us up only long enough to draw one short, frightened, panicked breath before pushing us underwater once again. Just enough air not to drown, just enough hope not to give up entirely. They kept everyone else down and, once they got to the playoffs, invariably gagged it all away to the Cardinals or Marlins or Yankees in almost casual fashion, as if to tease the proletariat by showing how little the elite care for their wealth. If in behavioral rather than financial terms, the Braves are the 1%.
They are to the Phillies as the Phillies are to the Nationals.
The Atlanta Braves are McDonald’s chicken nuggets, men’s rights activists and Larry the Cable Guy. They are Halliburton, BP and the Chrysler Sebring. They are Tom Sawyer’s whitewashed fence, the Omegas from Animal House and the steampunk Nazi zombies from Sucker Punch. They are Sucker Punch. They are the Cylons, Jeremy Piven and Bud Light. They are the ingrown fingernail, the Olive Garden, the sheriff in O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the flood that kills him. They are the all-consuming, suffocating blandness, a malaise, a miasma, the toothache that you ignore because you hate going to the dentist.
They are Kristen Stewart.
The Atlanta Braves are the crisp, starched white of the Imperial stormtroopers. The Atlanta Braves are cloying, over-sugared sweet tea and unthinking, reactionary dominance, the privileged who never appreciate their own good fortune and have deluded themselves into thinking that they’re somehow entitled to their exalted position.
And their fans.
Those fans who supported Bobby Cox, Chipper Jones and John Rocker. Who took for granted an unprecedented run of dominance. Whose knee-jerk reaction to division titles, to playoff losses, to historic seasons by Maddux and Jones and Kimbrel and Heyward, to sadness and death and to joy and love, to all stimuli, in fact, is to call for the firing of Mark Richt. Who lionized Jeff Francoeur. Who condemned Jason Heyward and held high Jose Constanza. Who see Phantom Madduxes in every Tom, Dick and Harry who comes up, throws six decent innings and gets traded to Kansas City and Dayton Moore’s Home for Wayward Former Braves.
Atlanta is an appropriate place to set the pilot of The Walking Dead.
A proper sports city would have gloried in the Braves’ success, cherished it, reached such levels of arrogance and ego as to make Boston and New York blush. But there they sat, glassy-eyed like a child after his first burger at The Varsity, paralyzed like traffic on I-85, lacking even the wherewithal to crow properly. It is an act of negligence, of disdain, to be a Braves fan. It is to hold in contempt the warmth of the blood within one’s own veins, to deny the very capabilities of feeling that define our humanity.
Except for my fiancee’s mother, who is a wonderful woman whom I love dearly.
The Nationals are the cat that keeps jumping on the counter and scratches up your furniture–an ultimately enjoyable and lovable annoyance. The Braves, in short, are the bad guys. And I will not condone Phillies fans supporting them under any circumstances.
@SoMuchForPathos: “Who should Phillies fans (without other real rooting interests) be pulling for in the playoffs?”
Ah, the same question, couched in positive terms. Anyone but the Braves and Yankees. There’s some positive to be found in every other team. I find the Giants kind of distasteful, but if you’re over the 2010 NLCS and stand in awe of Buster Posey, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, or if you still hold some residual love for Hunter Pence, I get that. Ditto the St. Louis Cardinals.
On the National League side, I’ll probably be rooting for the Nationals because I like Davey Johnson and Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. They’re probably the most fun team in the NL bracket.
In the American League, Paul has made his Oakland A’s partisanship quite clear, and while I don’t share it, the A’s are an interesting team. I’m personally in the Texas Rangers’ camp–they’ve come so close the past two years that I’m starting to feel bad for them, they’ve got a roster full of exciting, likeable players and most importantly, this team is simply so good that it ought to have one title before the lights go dark on the Josh Hamilton era.
The stalking horse in this field is, of course, the Baltimore Orioles, who, despite being baseball’s equivalent to infinite monkeys typing Shakespeare, are very much in the thick of things. The O’s are a fun team–they’ve got exciting young players, the Mark Reynolds circus act and a warehouse full of entropy. As someone who enjoys entropy in tournament sports, I do harbor a soft spot in my heart for the Orioles.
But this has the potential to be a fun offseason; just don’t root for the Braves or Yankees.
@mferrier31: “What would be your lineup/rotation/closer for USA in the WBC, &which phillies do you think will be on it?”
Okay, so the WBC roster includes 28 players, including at least 13 pitchers and at least two catchers. The pitchers are tough calls, particularly the starters, because of injury and fatigue concerns. So younger guys on pitch counts are likely out, as are players with recent injuries. So that cuts out Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg for the USA, which is rough. The good news is that Israel didn’t make the finals, so there’s no national/religious tug-of-war for the likes of Ian Kinsler, Kevin Youkilis and Ryan Braun. So assuming that everyone who’s healthy now is healthy come March, and that everyone is willing to participate.
Catcher: Buster Posey, Joe Mauer and whichever of Matt Wieters and Brian McCann goes less far in the playoffs.
First Base: Prince Fielder. Posey and Mauer can play here in a pinch. It’s also worth noting that Adrian Gonzalez, despite being just as American as you and I, played for Mexico in the past two WBCs. I say we revoke his citizenship.
Second Base: Ian Kinsler, Ben Zobrist
Third Base: David Wright, Evan Longoria
Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins, Manny Machado (Jeter will probably want to play, but screw him)
Outfield: Mike Trout, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, Jason Heyward, Giancarlo Stanton.
Starting Pitchers: Justin Verlander, David Price, Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke (starting pitching and outfield are the USA’s deepest positions–you could make four roughly equal four-man rotations–the last WBC team only had four starters)
Relief Pitchers: David Robertson, Jonathan Papelbon, Craig Kimbrel, Mike Adams, Sean Marshall, Tim Collins, Aaron Crow, Jonny Venters, Joel Hanrahan.
Robertson, Kimbrel, Venters and Mauer at least have health/workload issues, and whether Greinke is allowed to pitch by his new team remains to be seen.
So anyway, that’s, what, three Phillies in Hamels, Rollins and Papelbon? Cliff Lee would probably have a shot to go if he wanted to, but I’d say at least one Phillie makes the American roster.
@buttbbutt: “who is your choice for best performance in a feature length tinkle porn this year?”
@4Who4What: “Will Halladay be peeling off the sides of his beard to reveal its been his duplicate all year, or is this what to expect in 2013?”
@mattjedruch: “who is more likely to have a ‘bounce back’ 2013? Halladay or Howard”
I’ll answer both of these at once. I think the offseason will do Halladay good for one of two reasons. His velocity was down a couple miles an hour this season, and there’s quite a difference between pitching off a 92-94 mph fastball and an 89-91 mph fastball. This winter I think that either his shoulder will heal or he’ll come to terms with his own mortality and adjust his approach to pitching. Roy Halladay still has a surfeit of quality off-speed pitches and top-notch control, and even with the decline in his fastball, we’re still looking at a pretty decent starting pitcher. So even if he doesn’t come back with that extra couple ticks on the heater, Halladay knows what he’s doing. I’m sure he’ll figure out a way to adjust and regain at least some of his effectiveness.
To address your concerns specifically, I suppose it’s possible that we’re dealing with a Roy Halladay transporter accident doppelganger who sees that the Maquis have something to gain by sabotaging the Phillies’ season. I just find it unlikely.
And I think Howard’s going to have a better season by virtue of being able to use the entire offseason to rest and prepare rather than rehabbing a Windowshade Achilles. And when he gets back, the hope is that he won’t be as geologically slow in the field and on the bases as he’s been in 2012. But he’s still going to strike out 200 times and hit into a ton of ground ball double plays. The trouble is that he’s going to slowly deteriorate before our eyes like troubled inner city. For the next four years.
@goldenmonkey: “give me your nightmare offseason for the Phillies.”
Signing Josh Hamilton, trading Domonic Brown and one or more of the young bullpen arms (particularly Aumont and/or JDF) for another expensive veteran at God knows what position, emptying the farm system, such as it is, for Chase Headley–NO! Not Headley, for, like, Dan Uggla and moving Utley to third base. Roy Halladay never gets completely healthy and Howard reinjures his ankle.
And heights. Most of my nightmares involve heights. And spiders. I took a nap a couple weeks ago and I dreamed that a spider the size of a Basset hound was in my bedroom, slowly moving toward me and weaving webs between me and the door. It wasn’t really threatening me, but I knew that if I tried to make a break for it, it would pounce on me and eat me slowly and feet-first. It finally got right up next to my bed and I woke up covered in sweat with my heart racing. It was not pleasant.
So my Phillies nightmare offseason probably involves heights and spiders. Maybe Chase Utley pours a jar of spiders down my pants and shoves me off a bridge. That’d be a pretty awful dream.
@uublog: “Season Wrapup Edition! Who/what were the most disappointing and satisfying players/games/events of the season?”
The year in review it shall be.
- Roy Halladay. Never really got off the ground, got hurt, came back…kind of a writeoff season for someone who may no longer be among the best players in the game.
- All the games they lost with the game tied late. We’ll just start with the first one, 2-1 in 10 innings with Joe Blanton on the mound.
- Chad Qualls. Really thought he was going to work out.
- That Chipper Jones walkoff game was a doozy.
- So was the Jordany Valdespin game.
- NOT disappointing, however, was the Lee vs. Cain heavyweight title bout back in April. That was freakin’ awesome to watch, even though the Phillies lost.
- Ruben Amaro. Since the Papelbon contract, he’s had a great year. Lots of shrewd moves: he cut bait on Victorino, Pence and Blanton at the right time and got a good return, he took decisive action on Cole Hamels (though that’s really only correcting a previous error) and he constructed the bullpen extremely well, even if Chad Qualls didn’t work out.
- Carlos Ruiz. Gone from mild-mannered defense-first catcher to full-blooded Dothraki warrior.
- Erik Kratz. I know you know the story, but you haven’t really heard the story until you’ve heard it told by Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus.
- Chase Utley’s home run in his first at-bat back from the DL.
- Phillippe Aumont.
- I went to a game during that last Marlins series and got The Heater at Campo’s in Ashburn Alley. I’d never eaten there before and it might be the best ballpark food I’ve ever had.
@GoingHard_inger: “If you had to choose 1 player on the Phils to make you a delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich, who would it be?”
I betcha Phillippe Aumont would put nutella on it. Nutella is delicious.
@LONG_DRIVE: “After this season, what would be the classiest way to off myself?”
You think this season was frustrating? We’ve still got at least 13 Eagles games left, son. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
That said, I’d go with the homage to Luke Wilson in The Royal Tenenbaums, even though it didn’t work.
@CubeSide: “If you could predict the future, would you say Ruf is in LF on opening day?”
Absolutely not. You know why? Because if I could predict the future, I can’t even begin to describe how low on my list of priorities baseball would be. There’s the moral imperative to at least do some good. You know, preventing crime: murders, rapes, robberies and so forth, pulling pedestrians out of the way of cars and so forth. I imagine I’d have to advise the government in some respects: you know, stuff like “No, don’t invade Vietnam, it will only end in tears.”
But once I’m done with that, I’d do nothing but enrich myself through gambling, the stock market and so on. I’d probably hire myself out at a soothsayer for an exorbitant fee. And once that’s done, I’d probably retire to some remote hamlet in the Alps and read good books and drink good bourbon all day. I guess my point is: if you ever come into the ability to predict the future, whatever you do, don’t waste it on predicting who the Phillies’ opening-day left fielder is going to be.
But to answer your question, I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t rule it out. With that said, I’ve watched enough Star Trek to know that my making that prediction has altered the timeline such that we can’t know if Ruf will be in left on opening day or not. Damn you, temporal mechanics.
That’ll do it for the Crash Bag, and, indeed, for the regular season, as we’ll be into the playoffs by the time next Friday rolls around. As of right now, the plan is to keep doing the Crash Bag every Friday, as usual, but that all depends on the flow of questions. So until further notice (or until Bill fires me), normal service remains uninterrupted. I’m Bob Vila, and for Norm Abrams, thanks for watching This Old House.