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Crash Bag, Vol. 29: Leftover Sandwiches

Posted By Michael Baumann On November 23, 2012 @ 9:25 am In Crabshurn Urly,Crash Bag,MLB,Potpourri | 11 Comments

I think it’s time for a major free agent domino to fall. I’m starting to get bored.

We’re at the point of the baseball calendar where nothing’s really going on. The World Series ends, and then we have award season and arbitration offers, maybe a trade or two (a couple of big ones this year, but that’s not the norm), but by mid-November, we’re into free agency and we’ve got bugger-all to talk about until the Winter Meetings, where nothing of substance really happens anyway. And I know a bunch of national writers are griping about the site of this year’s winter meetings, so let me just say this: I’ve been to the hotel you all hate, and I know it’s a wretched hive of vulgarity and bad taste. But you’re still going to Nashville on a business trip, so if you can’t manage to enjoy yourself, go decompose somewhere else, where you won’t bother anyone, and leave the baseball writing to those of us who still have a pulse.

But we’re still not in the part of the winter where no one’s making any big personnel moves, and at least in the post-New Year doldrums, we’re close enough to spring training and the start of the college season in mid-February that I don’t find myself sitting alone in a dark room, bouncing a baseball off the wall like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.

Being that it’s a holiday weekend, we’ve made like Miley Cyrus’ barber and cut things a little short this week.

@pinvert: “if phils manage to sign uehara, what’re some other names they pursue? adams? or will they stick a mix of the youngins?”

So yeah, the Phillies are apparently interested in former Orioles and Rangers relief pitcher Koji Uehara. This is exciting for two reasons: the first of which is that it puts a Japanese-born player on the Phillies. Since 2008, the Phillies have won the World Series every time they’ve had at least one Japanese player on the team, and have never won a World Series without the aid of a Japanese player. Therefore, signing Uehara guarantees a World Series win in 2013.

That, my friends, is BULLETPROOF LOGIC. There is NO POSSIBLE WAY that the demographic composition of the Phillies roster is unrelated to their postseason success. NONE WHATSOEVER.

No, but for serious, Uehara is among the most underrated players in baseball right now. He’s part of a slew of thirtysomething Japanese middle relievers who came over to the U.S. over the past decade. I consider guys like Uehara, and Hideki Okajima, and Takashi Saito, to be something like the spiritual successor to the Irish-American immigrants of the 19th Century, the massive influx of a certain kind of worker to prop up the American economy in times of trouble. One wonders if there’s some kind of Forkball Famine going on in Japan. Yeah, so anyway…

Uehara might be the best of the Japanese reliever diaspora. His career K/BB ratio is 7.97. He posted a 4.05 ERA his rookie year and hasn’t had a season over 3 since, despite pitching in two of the most hitter-friendly parks in the game. And no one really knows all that much about him, even in a Texas Rangers bullpen that’s been among baseball’s most storied over the past couple years. If he can be had on the relative cheap, I’d literally do a jig. And for all the fuss I make about not signing old middle relievers to contracts of multiple years and multiple millions of dollars, I’d at least bend that rule for Uehara’s sake. The man is a monster, and he’d be at the very worst a near-equal to Jonathan Papelbon.

Beyond that, I’m hearing a lot of fans wishing for Mike Adams, which I’d be okay with as well if the price were right. From 2009 to 2011, he was almost literally unhittable with San Diego and Texas, but he fell back down to Earth some in 2012, posting a 140 ERA+ and a K/BB ratio of 2.65 to 1, not the 5-to-1 or better he’d had in previous seasons. My fear with him is that he’d be valued at his 2009-11 level, but perform at his 2012 level.

Apart from that, I’d like to see the kids run the middle innings of the bullpen, if possible. I think Phillippe Aumont and Justin De Fratus are more than ready to take on high-leverage roles, and Antonio Bastardo is at the very least a competent high-strikeout lefty out of the pen. If more veterans come, I’d rather they be of the low-risk variety. I know it didn’t work out that well, but I loved the Phillies’ acquisition of Chad Qualls last season. They picked a guy with devastating stuff (which he had), but enough red flags and question marks that he’d accept a short-term, low-money contract (which he did). They were then able to run him out there (which they did) to see if he was still damaged goods (which he was), knowing that if that were the case, they could cut him loose without swallowing a lot of money (which they did). I don’t say this a ton, but that was textbook-perfect process from El Rubador, and I’d love to see more of it this offseason, not only in the bullpen, but to fill out the back end of the bench.

@fotodave: “If you could cast the Phillies from all of David Fincher’s movies, Whats the stating lineup?”

I’ve been thinking about this one all week. It’s been very interesting. Bear in mind that I’ve never seen Alien 3, Panic Room, or that silly-looking Benjamin Button movie.

  • Cliff Lee: Mikael Blomkvsit, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The handsome, dour businesslike hero.
  • Ryan Howard: Arthur Leigh Allen, Zodiac. Big guy. Walks with a limp. Leaves a trail of dead bodies in his wake.
  • Carlos Ruiz: Lisbeth Salander, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The freelance badass. I can’t think of a character in a Fincher movie who’s really as upbeat as we all like to think Chooch is. Maybe Sean Parker in The Social Network, but he’s kind of a drug-addled paranoid freak.
  • Roy Halladay: Det. Somerset, Se7en. The aging hero, kind of world-weary, still motivated to do his job well.
  • Kyle Kendrick: Erica Albright, The Social Network. Because people call him a bitch on the internet.
  • Jimmy Rollins: The Narrator, Fight Club. You get the sense that he really only ever wanted an orderly existence.
  • Jonathan Papelbon: John Doe, Se7en. In terms of his public persona, Papelbon is by far the most likely Phillies player to go around yelling “Awww, what’s in the box?” but there’s no blank stare quite like Kevin Spacey’s in Se7en, and no blank stare quite like Papelbon’s on the mound. And let me say that that movie is almost 20 years old, but it has aged incredibly well.
  • Chase Utley: Tyler Durden, Fight Club. Because he’s devastatingly attractive, and because he only exists intermittently.
  • Cole Hamels: Det. Mills, Se7en. What’s in the batter’s box? Oh, Bryce Harper? Plunk him.
  • Domonic Brown and Darin Ruf: The Winklevoss Twins, The Social Network. Because they’re both big, intimidating guys, and because they look so much alike.

@SoMuchForPathos: “You’ve been commissioned to write a Phillies-themed sonnet cycle. Describe scope, foci, and ultimate aesthetic value.”

Well, as LFO so famously sang, “Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole lot of sonnets.” In fact, their coupling of “sonnet” with “hornet” remains one of the more creative instances of slant-rhyming of 1990s pop-rock, perhaps rivaled only by Muse’s “soon/direction” couplet in “Filip,” off their debut album Showbiz. But I digress.

I’d have to write a lot of them, because I’d start at or near the beginning of Phillies-related history. Perhaps a sonnet here about the fantastic 1890s outfield of Hamilton, Delahanty and Thompson, or the mastery of Eppa Rixey, or the epilepsy and alcoholism of Grover Cleveland Alexander. Then on through the heady days of the Baker Bowl, where the likes of Chuck Klein posted team batting averages in the .300s for a last-place club.

A sonnet for Eddie Waitkus, reportedly the inspiration for the character of Roy Hobbs. On Richie Ashburn’s speed, on Granny Hamner’s knuckleball, on Tony Taylor and Larry Bowa and Steve Carlton’s slider, Mike Schmidt’s mustache, and Macho Row. And then on to more familiar subject matter.

And at the end, probably three or four hundred sonnets of–judging by my previous efforts at sports-related sonnets–middling aesthetic value at best, I’d be wishing for the fate of John Keats. Not only to have my work inspire adoration, great emotion and weltschmerz, but also to die of tubercolosis.

Because I hate, hate, hate writing in iambic pentameter. I prefer poetry that, if it has a structure, only does so to enhance the meaning or emotional impact of the piece. I know I go on and on about Dylan Thomas, but his best work is musical, lilting, fitted together with a variety of structures that you’d expect to find in a woodwind quartet. Iambic pentameter (unstressed syllable, stressed syllable), is essentially an accent on every upbeat. Ska music, if you will. And I don’t know about you, but I burned my hemp necklace, Vans sneakers and Less than Jake hoodie when I was 15, like every right-thinking American should have. So while I like Shakespeare as much as the next guy, he writes kind of like a guy with a patchy beard and a trombone.

But enough about this. It’s time for…

THANKSGIVING FOOD LIGHTNING ROUND

@uublog: “What are correct opinions on Thanksgiving foods? Stuffing – unnecessary or terrible? Skinless mashed potatoes – best potatoes?”

I’m glad you phrased it this way, because there are as many opinions on Thanksgiving foods as there are households serving Thanksgiving dinner. Which is good, because this is America, and we slaughtered the hell out of those Indians so we could serve turkey and potatoes however we like on the fourth Thursday in November. Let’s not let that freedom go to waste.

For instance, both Bill and Paul think stuffing is a waste.

Now, I’ve railed against the “Catchy quote of dubious sourcing/Q.E.D.” line of logic before, but I’d like to submit this catchy quote of dubious sourcing, most widely attributed to the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “You’re entitled to your own opinions, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.” Not because I think it’s gospel in and of itself, but because I believe it to be empirically true that stuffing is an essential part of a quality American Thanksgiving dinner, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is not only a freedom-hating Communist, but anathema to the civil society we’ve worked so hard to found, for whose sake so much American blood has been shed.

And let’s be clear–I’m not talking about that Stove Top Box O’ Soft Croutons nonsense. That I could take or leave. I’m talking about hand-shredded bread, mixed with spices and chopped vegetables, then mashed up and shoved up that turkey’s butthole to marinate in the glorious juices of birdflesh. The kind that comes out soft, and spicy, and tastes of liberty and the warm embrace of friends and family.

In short, when I’m dictator of the world, this anti-stuffing junta, this Thanksgiving Fifth Column of Paul’s and Bill’s, will be put to death like the enemies of the state that they are. In fact, if any baseball blog of greater moral fiber than this one, is interested in my services, feel free to write to me at “I Don’t Want to Prop Up This Anti-Stuffing Dystopia Any Longer, Freedomland, N.J., 08050.”

Yeah, as for the rest, I like white meat over dark meat, but not by much. I’m not a big apple pie person at all, but I’ll chalk that up to my own weirdness, as well as a desire to eat as much cherry pie and pumpkin pie as possible. Other favored foods of mine: cauliflower, broccoli, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole and cranberry sauce (which we’ll get to later). I feel like ham is a decent optional second meat, but is by no means necessary. Neither, it should be made clear, is ham an acceptable substitute for Turkey, but I’ve been to Thanksgiving dinners with 30 or more attendees, and sometimes with a gathering that big, it’s worth it to cook a change-of-pace meat.

And as far as your point about skinless mashed potatoes being the best potatoes, I’ll say this: I prefer them to mashed potatoes with skin, and they’re among the best potatoes, but I can’t categorically call them the best potatoes. I mean, there are so many options: home fries, latkes, shoestring fries, raw fries with bleu cheese dressing, Belgian frites, and, perhaps most importantly, twice-baked potatoes. Skinless mashed potatoes are, as I’ve said, in the discussion, particularly with appropriate amounts (read: a lot) of butter and/or gravy, or even just with salt and pepper, but naming the best kind of potato, categorically…well, that’s above my pay grade.

@kalinkadink: “Which type of cranberry sauce do you like better–canned or fresh?”

Canned. I’d go on some rant about how, while acceptable, the value added by homemade cranberry sauce is nowhere near worth the effort, but Albert Burnenko did it much better a few days ago on Deadspin. If there’s homemade cranberry sauce around on Thanksgiving–and since New Jersey, in case you didn’t know, is half peat bog and half sand dune, there usually is at my house–I’ll heap some on my turkey and enjoy it.

But canned cranberry sauce has two advantages…actually, hold that thought. What a laugh it is that we call, essentially, a 12-ounce cylindrical Jello Jiggler a “sauce.” A sauce should be somewhat viscous and opaque, but ultimately liquid. And cranberry sauce isn’t even a “goo” or a “slop.” Not even a “gel,” as far as I can tell. I don’t know what kind of substance it is, but it’s tasty.

Anyway, like I was saying, the canned stuff has two advantages over the genuine article: first, getting it out of the can is the most fun you’ll have the entire month of November. You open the can, use a knife to break the seal between log and vessel, and shake it until the whole works plops out onto your plate, attended by the vaguely flatulent sound of a vacuum seal being broken. It’s awesome, and I’d eat two cans a day just to get to do open it if I could.

The second advantage is, for my money, the most underrated great thing about Thanksgiving. The Koji Uehara, if you will, of this holiday: Leftover Sandwiches. To make a Leftover Sandwich, take a few pieces of turkey and a spoonful of stuffing, with some cranberry sauce and put them on some bread. Not just your garden variety loaf of supermarket white, but sterner stuff. Weapons-grade bread, if you will. Bread to withstand what will, if you do it right, represent close to a kilogram of tasty things from each of the four food groups. Kaiser rolls, bagels, sourdough, that sort of thing. So while you must have turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing, the rest is negotiable. I like to have some mayonnaise as well, and sometimes cheese, but other people like gravy. The point behind a Leftover Sandwich, of course, is to liquidate what food you failed to eat the first time around, so if you want to throw some sweet potato casserole on the pile or something, go mashugana. Wawa has just, in the past couple years, started to capitalize on this, one of the greatest American culinary traditions, with the Gobbler, and my main question about that is, “What took them so long?”

What I was going to say is that if you have canned cranberry sauce, it’s easy to slice into sandwich-shaped discs that you can place on your Leftover Sandwich like the tomato on a Big Mac. But anyway, that’s why I like canned better than genuine cranberry sauce.

@andymoney: “phillies players as thanksgiving dishes (please show your work)”

No. You are not my eighth-grade algebra teacher. I will not show my work.

  • Turkey: Cliff Lee
  • Stuffing: Cole Hamels
  • Mashed potatoes: Roy Halladay
  • Pumpkin pie: Jimmy Rollins
  • Gravy: Jonathan Papelbon
  • Sweet potato casserole: Carlos Ruiz
  • Cranberry sauce: Domonic Brown
  • Cherry pie: Chase Utley (because I love it so much and there’s never as much of it as you want)
  • Ham: Vance Worley
  • Green bean casserole: Darin Ruf (I guess you guys like it, but I don’t really see what all the fuss is about)
  • Before-dinner cheese plate: Antonio Bastardo
  • Pecan pie: Kyle Kendrick (something I used to pass over, but have recently grown to appreciate more)
  • Apple pie: John Mayberry (I mean, it’s okay, but I don’t know why you’d have it if there were better options)
  • Fresh-baked bread/rolls: Nate Schierholtz (No one really seems to appreciate the value added here)
  • After-dinner pastries: Ryan Howard (Because I always eat so many of these it impairs my ability to walk)

It just occurred to me that while I’m writing all this on a Wednesday, y’all aren’t going to read this until Friday, which is after Thanksgiving. Oh, well. You can all do Thanksgiving again this weekend, in accordance with my decrees.

 


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