Alex Rodriguez and the Phillies

October 28, 2007.

A date nearly five and a half years past, by now. The date Alex Rodriguez opted out of his initial 10-year, $252 million contract with the New York Yankees via the Texas Rangers, a decision announced (pre-Twitter) smack-dab in the middle of Game 4 of the World Series between the eventual champion Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies.

It was crazy to think about, but at the time, A-Rod had just completed what would eventually be crowned an MVP season: .314/.422/.645, leading the Majors in home runs (56), RBI (156) and runs scored (143) while posting a 9.2 rWAR, tied for his personal second-best. It was a monster season, and the absolute perfect time to opt out and get even more money than was originally thought possible.

The Yankees were, realistically, the only team that could afford A-Rod’s services at that time, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some calls for the Phillies – just prior to their halcyon days of a title and mega-contracts – to break the bank to bring Rodriguez to Philadelphia (Crashburn’s own Michael Baumann among them). Admittedly, I was intrigued at the thought, especially as some seemed convinced this opt-out actually meant Rodriguez and the Yankees would part ways (check out the lede from this AP story).

We all know how the story ends. But let’s indulge the hypothetical for a moment: what if the Phillies shook the baseball landscape in the winter of 2007 and signed Rodriguez to the deal currently binding him to the Pinstripers? What if his current 10-year, $275 million behemoth was on the Phillies’ payroll from 2008 on?

First, let’s consider the third basemen he would be replacing. Just as the Yankees wouldn’t move Jeter away from shortstop for A-Rod, the Phillies would also probably prefer to keep Jimmy Rollins at that position. Rollins, at that time, had three years and an option remaining on his own deal and was about to win the MVP Award for the National League.

The contractual situation for each position’s starter, entering the 2008 season, looked something like this for the Phils:

C: Carlos Ruiz (pre-arb)
1B: Ryan Howard ($10M paid as Arb1)
2B: Chase Utley (6/$80.5M remaining)
3B: A-Rod goes here instead of Pedro Feliz
SS: Rollins (3/$22M remaining, plus $8.5M option)
LF: Pat Burrell (1/$14.25M remaining)
CF: Shane Victorino (pre-arb; fills in for the departing Aaron Rowand)
RF: Jayson Werth ($1.7M paid as Arb1)

Before adding Rodriguez’s money, that’s a very affordable and productive starting offense, prior to decline and injuries wreaking havoc.

On the pitching side of things, we don’t find the Phils in quite as rosy a situation. The five pitchers that would eventually make the most starts for the Phils in 2008 were:

SP1: Cole Hamels (pre-arb)
SP2: Jamie Moyer (1/$6M remaining)
SP3: Brett Myers (2/$20.6M remaining)
SP4: Kyle Kendrick (pre-arb)
SP5a: Adam Eaton (1/$8M remaining)
SP5b: Joe Blanton (1/~$1.5M remaining after trade from OAK)

Monetarily, yes, there’s seemingly plenty of budget room. But this was not a wholly effective rotation; only Hamels and Moyer went on to post ERAs below 4.20, and the team ERA of 3.88 was buoyed by a very effective bullpen. In that bullpen, Brad LidgeRyan Madson, Chad Durbin, J.C. Romero and Clay Condrey would combine to make about $12.3M (with Lidge accounting for more than half that on his own). The addition of Scott Eyre cost in the neighborhood of $1.5M after his trade.

So the foundation of the 2008 club, pre-Rodriguez, comes in at a rough $65.7M. That number is a bit difficult to fathom given the new eras of spending that this team is currently in, but five years ago, that was the situation. Could $27M have fit into the budget for that season, boosting it to nearly $93M? Maybe. For 2008, things probably could have worked. But with the escalators and incentives built in, how would things have looked going forward? This is a table of future payroll as it stood entering 2008. Actual commitment that were eventually made are denoted (inside parentheses).

Player 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Rodriguez $27M $32M $32M $31M $29M $28M $25M
Howard $10M ($15M) ($19M) ($20M) ($20M) ($20M) ($25M)
Utley $7.5M $11M $15M $15M $15M $15M FA
Rollins $7M $7.5M $7.5M $8.5M ($11M) ($11M) ($11M)
Burrell $14.25M FA
Victorino $480K ($3.125M) ($5M) ($7.5M) ($9.5M) FA
Werth $1.7M ($2M) ($7M) FA
Ruiz $425K ($475k) ($1.9M) ($2.75M) ($3.7M) ($5M) FA
Hamels $500K ($4.35M) ($6.65M) ($9.5M) ($15M) ($19.5M) ($22.5M)
Moyer $6M ($6.5M) ($8M) FA
Myers $8.5M $12M FA
Lidge $6.35M ($12M) ($12M) ($12M)
TOTAL $89.71M $62.5M $54.5M $54.5M $44M $43M $25M
FUTURE ($43.45M) ($59.55M) ($51.75M) ($59.2M) ($55.5M) ($58.5M)

Lidge’s extension took place in-season, so it’s listed as future commitments instead of actual commitments. Of course, adding A-Rod’s money to the books may make the Phillies hang onto Michael Bourn in the first place instead of dealing him away in the package for Lidge.

The ripple effects are all sorts of interesting. Does Howard get his massive extension (or, at least, does RAJ wait until a more appropriate time to negotiate it)? Does Raul Ibanez get signed to replace Burrell, or someone else? Does this ripple out to draft and international spending to further restrict them?

Even A-Rod’s lowest OPS since signing the new deal (.783 in 2012) easily eclipses the best any Phils 3B has put up in that time (Placido Polanco in 2010 with .726). The future money is the rub, though, obviously.

There are numerous ways to branch out in thought here. Obviously, we know now that making such a commitment would not have been worth it in almost any case, but it’s an interesting thought exercise, if nothing else.

Projecting Carlos Ruiz

An interesting yet brief discussion arose in the comments of my post yesterday on the Phillies’ lineup construction. Nik rightfully asked why I didn’t include Ruiz’s numbers after his 25-game suspension in my analysis. After making the adjustment, we discussed the merits of the surprisingly small three-run difference between a full season of Erik Kratz (projected .312 wOBA) and 120 games from Chooch (projected .340). I wrote:

[…] the general perception of Ruiz is probably a bit biased by his ridiculously good 2012 (.398 wOBA). His career average is .340.

Ruiz is now 34 years old, and 34-year-old catchers are rarely as productive as Ruiz was last season. He had a 149 adjusted OPS according to Baseball Reference, making him one of only four catchers all-time — and one of two since 1956 — to post an adjusted OPS of 145 or better at the age of 33 or older (min. 400 PA, 75% of games at catcher).

Player Year OPS+ PA Age Tm
Carlos Ruiz 2012 149 421 33 PHI
Jorge Posada 2007 153 589 35 NYY
Roy Campanella 1955 152 522 33 BRO
Gabby Hartnett 1937 158 405 36 CHC
Gabby Hartnett 1935 151 461 34 CHC
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/29/2013.

To say that 2012 was a career year for Ruiz, whose previous career-high wOBA was .368 and whose career average is .340, is an understatement. His batted ball rates went in all the right directions (though likely unsustainable):

  • Set a career-high with a .339 BABIP, one of only two seasons in which his BABIP exceeded .310
  • Set a career-low with an infield pop-up rate below six percent, well below 2011’s 13 percent and his career average nine percent
  • Set a career-high as 15 percent of his fly balls were home runs, ahead of 2011’s four percent and his sub-eight percent career average

In looking at his plate discipline and ground ball/fly ball ratios, not much changed from 2011 to 2012. He hit slightly fewer fly balls and slightly more line drives, but not enough to be statistically significant, and line drive rate isn’t very reliable in the first place. He saw similar amounts of pitches in the strike zone and swung at them at roughly the same rate. He saw similar amounts of fastballs and similar amounts of off-speed pitches as in 2011. Yet his isolated power jumped from .100 in 2011 (and .143 career) to .215.

There are very few catchers who have experienced such a power surge in recent times. Since 1990, there have been only 20 catchers that have posted a .200 or higher isolated power at the age of 30 or older. Two of them you’d expect: Mike Piazza and Jorge Posada, who had a handful of qualifying seasons. Two of them occurred last season: Ruiz and A.J. Pierzynski. Others to have multiple seasons include Chris Hoiles, Darren Daulton, Jason Varitek, and Mike Stanley. I took out all the repeat offenders and looked at players who had one year with a very high ISO. Here are the results, and a look at their ISO the following season:

nyISO = next year ISO
ROChigh = rest of career high ISO

Player Tm Year Age PA ISO nyISO ROChigh
Benito Santiago PHI 1996 31 533 .239 .144 .172
Charles Johnson COL 2003 31 414 .225 .193 .193
Ed Taubensee CIN 1999 30 461 .210 .113 .113
Ivan Rodriguez TEX 2002 30 440 .228 .176 .176
Javy Lopez ATL 2003 32 495 .359 .187 .187
Mickey Tettleton DET 1991 30 608 .228 .230 .273
Miguel Olivo KCR 2009 30 416 .241 .180 .180
Mike Macfarlane KCR 1996 32 419 .224 .163 .163
Ramon Hernandez BAL 2006 30 560 .204 .124 .164
Sandy Alomar CLE 1997 31 480 .222 .117 .226
Terry Steinbach OAK 1996 34 571 .257 .145 .168
Todd Hundley LAD 1999 30 428 .229 .294 .294

Only two of the 12 listed catchers posted a better ISO the following season, while the other ten declined by no fewer than 32 points. Seven of the 12 never posted a better ISO than they did the year after, as they continued to decline and eventually retire.

Is there a reason to believe Ruiz is an outlier like Tettleton and Hundley? Ruiz has only displayed such power once (previous career-high ISO was .171 in 2009), while Tettleton had already posted a .251 ISO in 1989 and .185 in ’86. Hundley had four consecutive seasons with a .200 or better ISO from 1994-97.

Tettleton and Hundley also struck out a lot, each with a 23 percent career average strikeout rate compared to Ruiz’s 11 percent. Avoiding strikeouts is great, but taking big cuts is a big part of consistently hitting for power. Using data from 2010-12 with a sample size of 230 players, I found roughly a .2 r-square between strikeout rate and isolated power. Among those hitters, Ruiz had the 29th-lowest strikeout rate, and among those 29 hitters, he had the seventh-highest ISO. Among the 30 hitters with the highest strikeout rate, nearly half (14) had an ISO above .200.

ZiPS sees Ruiz’s ISO dropping down to .149, and as such there is a projected wOBA decline as well, from .398 to .340. His 2012 was certainly fun to watch, but there aren’t any reasons to expect him to continue it going forward, particularly given his age and his plantar fasciitis injury.

How well do you think Carlos Ruiz will hit in 2013, in terms of wOBA?

  • .330-.349 (40%, 144 Votes)
  • .350-.369 (29%, 106 Votes)
  • Below .330 (20%, 74 Votes)
  • .370-.389 (6%, 22 Votes)
  • .390 or above (4%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 362

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Fun with Lineups

Todd Zolecki offers his best guess about Charlie Manuel‘s starting lineup on Opening Day, and it ain’t pretty:

1. Jimmy Rollins, SS
2. Michael Young, 3B
3. Chase Utley, 2B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Delmon Young, RF
6. Domonic Brown/Darin Ruf/John Mayberry Jr., LF
7. Erik Kratz, C
8. Ben Revere, CF
9. Pitcher

Using Dan Szymborski’s (@DSzymborski) ZiPS projections and this lineup analysis tool from Baseball Musings, I decided to see how many runs that lineup is projected to score, and if any other lineup permutations would be preferable. Domonic Brown is assumed as the left fielder but I don’t think there would be a meaningful difference with the other two. The pitcher’s spot was assumed to be the average of all Phillies pitchers-as-hitters in 2012.

The above lineup, according to the lineup analysis tool, is expected to score 4.14 runs per game, or 671 in a full season. The 2012 Phillies averaged 4.22 runs per game and scored 684 in total, so it’s only a slight downgrade. The last time the Phillies scored 671 runs or fewer was 1997, when they finished 68-94. That team had three players out of ten (min. 200 PA) post a wOBA below the league average (.313): Rico Brogna, Kevin Stocker, and Ruben Amaro. Yes, that Ruben Amaro.

The best lineup would be:

1. Utley
2. Howard
3. M. Young
4. Brown
5. Rollins
6. D. Young
7. Kratz
8. Pitcher
9. Revere

That lineup follows some unconventional lineup tactics, such as putting one of your worse hitters in the #3 spot, hitting your pitcher eighth, and putting your best hitter first. Brown in the cleanup spot is likely also surprising, but ZiPS projects him to post a similar slugging percentage to Ryan Howard (.461 to .463) with a slightly higher average and on-base percentage.

According to the lineup analysis tool, the above batting order would score 4.33 runs per game, 701 over 162 games. That marks an improvement of 30 runs — roughly three wins — over the likely 2013 Opening Day lineup. ZiPS projects six players to post a wOBA below the 2012 league average (.311): Revere, M. Young, Freddy Galvis, Kevin Frandsen, Laynce Nix, and Mayberry.

The 2013 Phillies offense certainly won’t be confused with the 2007 iteration, which means they will — perhaps more than ever — be relying on their sterling starting rotation and upgraded bullpen to carry the load throughout the season. Utilizing platoons, making smart pinch-hitting and pinch-running decisions during games, and optimizing the lineup are all ways the Phillies can make small improvements that may add up to one large difference in the end… but don’t hold your breath.

Domonic Brown: Obnoxious and Disliked

I know I linked to the opening of 1776 in the beginning of last week’s Crash Bag, and if you’ll permit me, I’d like to take a mulligan. I think I’ve come up with a better joke, and an excuse to revive last season’s overwhelmingly popular (and by “overwhelmingly popular” I mean “roundly mocked and pilloried”) Cinema Philliediso series. Musical-style.

To set the scene: we’re deep into the summer and the Phillies have been reaping the seeds the front office sowed this offseason, which is to say that everyone’s hurt, Delmon Young is playing everyday, and the Phillies are struggling to stay ahead of the Mets in the division, much less challenge the Braves and Nats.

One hot night, Domonic Brown, confined to the bench in favor of Delmon Young and Laynce Nix, decides he can’t take any more.

Domonic Brown: I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called Delmon Young. That two are called a platoon, and that three are more become an outfield. And by God, I have had this outfield. For five years, Ruben Amaro and his front office have gulled, cullied and diddled this team with their foolish free-agent signings. Raul Ibanez, Juan Pierre, Delmon Young, Yuniesky Bentancourt! And when we dared stand up like ballplayers, they have benched our young players, traded our prospects, mismanaged our bullpen, extended Ryan Howard‘s contract and traded for Michael Young. And still this team refuses to grant any of my proposals on not playing retreads and fossils, even so much as the courtesy of open debate! Good God! What in hell are you waiting for?

Rest of the Team: Sit down, Dom! Sit down, Dom! For God’s sake, Dom, sit down! / Sit down, Dom! Sit down, Dom! For God’s sake, Dom, sit down!

Michael Young: Someone oughta play Darin Ruf more!

Team: It’s 90 degrees, and Chase has no knees–it’s hot as hell in Philadelphia!

Michael Young: Someone oughta play Darin Ruf more!

Dom Brown: I say vote yes! Vote yes! Vote to give at-bats to me!

Team: Someone oughta play Darin Ruf more!

Dom Brown: I say vote yes!

Team: Sit down, Dom!

Dom Brown: Vote to give at-bats to me!

Carlos Ruiz: Someone oughta play Darin Ruf more!

Ben Revere (thinking of how much ground he’ll have to cover): No! No! No! Too many flies. Too many flies. And it’s hot as hell in Philadelphia!

Team: Someone oughta play Darin Ruf more!

Jimmy Rollins (gesturing to Delmon Young and Darin Ruf): Can’t we play these guys here?

Dom Brown: Vote yes!

Ben Revere (pointing to spray charts): No, too many flies here!

Dom Brown: Vote yes!

Team: Oh, for God’s sake, Dom, sit down!

Dom Brown: Good God, consider yourselves fortunate that you have Domonic Brown to abuse, for no sane man would tolerate it!

Team: Dom, you’re a bore. We’ve heard this before. Now for God’s sake, Dom, sit down!

Dom Brown: I say vote yes!

Team: No!

Dom Brown: Vote yes!

Team: No!

Dom Brown: Vote to give at-bats to me!

John Lannan: Someone oughta play Darin Ruf more!

Dom Brown: I say vote yes!

Ryan Howard: Sit down, Dom!

Dom Brown: Vote to give at-bats to me!

Cliff Lee: Will someone shut that man up?

Dom Brown: Never! Never!

(we’re going to have to go audio-only for this next part)

(Brown, frustrated, storms out of the clubhouse and onto the field, where he begins to pace and continues to sing)

Dom Brown: Dear God. For three solid years they have been sitting me. Three whole years! Doing nothing.

(Looks up and goes to address God Almighty directly.)

I do believe you’ve laid a curse on North America. A curse that we here now rehearse in Philadelphia. A second flood, a simple famine, plagues of locusts everywhere–or a cataclysmic earthquake I’d accept with some despair. But no, you sent Amaro–Good God, Sir, was that fair?

He gives us useless fossils and retreads, I would just as soon be dead! Useless fossils and retreads! Would that I were dead, in foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy Philadelphia.

Jonathan Papelbon: Someone oughta play Darin Ruf more!

Dom Brown: Oh, Good God!

(Offstage, the voice of Shane Victorino appears. His form comes into focus, and Domonic Brown begins to talk to him.)

Shane Victorino: Dom, Dom, is that you carrying on? Dom?

Dom Brown: Oh, Shanf, I have such a desire to knock heads together!

Shane Victorino: Then why on Earth do you stay there? Come here to Boston, Dom–it’s only 300 miles. If you took the Acela you could be here in four hours.

Dom Brown: How could I do that, Shane? I’m no further along than I was when I first came here.

Shane Victorino: I know, my dearest. I know. But that’s because your general manager is a moron. Reinforcements could be on their way–I’ll tell you what I’ve seen. But Ruben did a stupid thing and drafted Larry Greene. Up in Boston things are awful–we have tensions running high. Youk and Gonzo are departed, and Jacoby’s end is nigh. But we’ve got Jackie Bradley

Dom Brown: I know–and our system is dry. I wrote to you that the Nationals had traded for Denard Span and the Braves had acquired both Upton brothers. I asked you if you had any advice, because our team is too old to compete and we have next to no prospects coming up to help. Now can the Phillies get help in time to avoid embarrassment?

Shane Victorino: No, Dom, they cannot.

Dom Brown: Well why not?

Shane Victorino: Because you neglected to tell your GM that it’s not 2000 anymore and he can’t field a winning team by paying old guys lots of money.

Dom Brown: Well, it’s easy! Anyone who pays even passing attention to the game has known that for 10 years.

Shane Victorino: Oh, yes, of course.

Dom Brown: Well let it be done, then!

Shane Victorino: Dom, I’m afraid you have a more urgent problem.

Dom Brown: More urgent?

Shane Victorino: There’s one thing that this team’s done well in Massachusetts Bay. Don’t smirk at me, you ne’er do well; pay heed to what I say. We dumped a bucketload of salary on Los Angeles’s team. Now we’re flush with cash and prospects, and there’s naught to do but beam! But you can’t have Jackie Bradley…because you drafted Greene.

Dom Brown: Shane! We should have had Jackie Bradley.

Shane Victorino: You’ve got Larry Greene.

Dom Brown: Jackie Bradley.

Shane Victorino: Greene.

Dom Brown: Bradley.

Shane Victorino: Greene.

Dom Brown: Bradley.

Shane Victorino: Greene.

Dom Brown: Bradley.

Shane Victorino: Greene.

Dom Brown: Bradley.

Shane Victorino: Greene.

Dom Brown: Bradley.

Shane Victorino: Greene.

Dom Brown: Bradley. (sigh)

Shane Victorino: Greene.

Dom Brown: Done, Shane, done.

Shane Victorino: Done, Dom. Get into the lineup, Dom.

Dom Brown: As soon as I’m able.

Shane Victorino: Don’t stop writing–it’s all I have.

Dom Brown: Every day, my dearest friend.

Both: Till then, till then, I am, as I ever was and ever shall be, yours, yours, yours, yours, yours.

Ryan Howard (offstage): For God’s sake, Dom, sit down.

(c/g to Ian Riccaboni of Phillies Nation, who inadvertently inspired this post. Blame him, not me.)


Phillies Sign “Players” to “Low-Risk” Deals

Have you ever thought, “man, Freddy Galvis is great. I wonder if there is a way to get his anemic bat but without his great defensive abilities?” It turns out that there is! And Ruben Amaro, Jr. has found it:

GIF courtesy of Brew Crew Ball

That’s Yuniesky Betancourt! He does that kind of thing a lot, because he’s really bad at fielding. He’s also bad at hitting, and baserunning. If you were the type that liked pithy summaries for things, you might say he is bad at baseball. Very bad at baseball. He is a bad baseball player. Teams often sign bad baseball players, often to minor league deals, which is what the Phillies have handed Betancourt. They do this because there is a certain institutional appreciation for players that have played at the major league level before, regardless of their actual performance while there. Supposedly there is some intrinsic value to having big league plate appearances under your belt, possibly because there is some certainty that your performance will probably not be worse than — well, some arbitrarily poor value. For teams with well-established lineups, there is not much harm in that besides fan frustration. Sure, the Yuniesky Betancourts might get the 80 to 100 plate appearances that some org player may have gotten in some kind of depth emergency, but how many net runs could that really cost you?

Yuniesky Betancourt will seek to test the limits of that question with the Phillies this season, in a lineup that is far from established. By all indications he is up to the challenge. He’s subtracted at least one win above replacement worth of value from his team in three of the last four seasons, by Baseball-Reference’s flavor of WAR. Last season, he managed that feat (-1.2 WAR) despite being given only 228 plate appearances in which to do so. In sum, from 2009-2012, Betancourt has been 5.6 wins worse than replacement. Sure, there are 12 qualified hitters with worse wOBAs than him over that time period, such as Gerald Laird, Pedro Feliz, and Paul Janish. But Betancourt has a worse on-base percentage than all of them, and has been inexplicably awarded more plate appearances. And (and!) his defense is well-represented by the above .gif. UZR isn’t really my bag, but if you’re into it, you’d be interested to know that only two players have accumulated a worse UZR/150 in that four year period than Betancourt’s -12.0 — Dexter Fowler (-13.1), and Jermaine Dye (-26.1).

But hey, it’s OK! It’s just a minor league deal. I say this all of the time. Who cares about minor league deals? This is comforting until you consider that the Phillies have at least 2 projected-everyday players that should be, at most, playing on minor league deals: the Youngs Michael and Delmon. And that the utility infielder depth chart on Charlie Manuel‘s desk currently reads “Freddy Galvis” and “y’know, like, Kevin Frandsen??” As with the Delmon Young contract, it’s time to stop pretending that Ruben Amaro signs “low-risk” contracts and it’s not a big deal. Because there is risk. There is the risk that Yuniesky Betancourt will get significant playing time on the major league squad (I’d bet my house on at least 50 plate appearances), and, like Delmon Young, will actively subtract value from a team that currently looks to be a long shot for the second wild card. There is also the risk (in my book, the certainty), that this deal further confirms our suspicions about Ruben Amaro, Jr.: that he does not know how to identify and acquire good baseball players. For the 2013 Phillies and their front office, there are no low-risk deals. We should have learned this by now.

Betancourt wasn’t the only laugher of an inking today. The Phillies also signed 2008 alumnus Chad Durbin to a $1.1 million dollar deal with incentives and a 2014 club option. The bullpen actually looks to be one of the highlights of 2013, so this isn’t necessarily much to gripe about. There are plenty of arms that figure to be good-to-elite in Papelbon, Adams, and Bastardo to take the lion’s share of important innings, whether or not Durbin is on the roster. But that’s the odd thing — Justin DeFratus, Jeremy Horst, Raul Valdes, and Philippe Aumont are available to sop up the remainder at minimum cost. It’s possible that no combination of them can be serviceable, but not probable. You can never have too much bullpen depth, but Chad Durbin is a strange kind of “depth” at $1.1 million, an amount clearly predicated just on the strength of a resurgent 2012. Maybe Durbin will again post a sub-.260 BABIP to do charity for his unfortunate walk rates (10.9% last season), but I wouldn’t count on it. The Phillies should sooner have left their chips with the young arms roulette wheel.

If the veteran-ness of the Youngs and Betancourt is somehow comforting to the stumbling, directionless front office that acquired them, Durbin will be doubly so. If you can’t identify the good players that can help you build a good baseball team, why not go with the names that get tossed around the most, the names that everyone has heard before? Even better, why not go and get the names you already know?

Ruben Amaro: Frozen in Time

Many Phillies fans have been left perplexed after the off-season GM Ruben Amaro has had, acquiring mostly older players (Michael Young, Mike Adams, Chad Durbin) and signing outfielder Delmon Young, a once-heralded prospect who has turned into one of baseball’s biggest scumbags. Tracing each decision to a logical beginning is nigh on impossible if you don’t have the story – the story that left Amaro… frozen in time.

THE YEAR IS 2008. THE PHILLIES HAVE recently completed their parade through Philadelphia, thanking the fans for their support and brandishing their new trophy. Pat Gillick, as promised, stepped aside from his role as general manager after three years of service. Early in November, following some brief interviews, the Phillies decide to progress with Ruben Amaro, Jr. as their new GM.

Amaro, a former Phillie himself between 1992-93 and ’96-98, represented a new era of Phillies baseball, one that was expected to include an enormous amount of prosperity. With a chokehold on the NL East and as the defending world champs, Amaro simply needed to add seasoning to a delicious entree. The Minor League system was flush with talent, such as Domonic Brown and Travis D’Arnaud. The core of the team was under 30 and in its prime, while the complementary players were a mixture of younger players with upside and veterans with lots of experience.

Something strange happened one day during the winter before the team became active in the free agent market. At the end of November, Amaro traded prospect Greg Golson to the Texas Rangers for John Mayberry, Jr., a seemingly innocuous trade. Nevertheless, Amaro stayed at the office late that night to finish up some analysis of other players he was targeting. The yellow light from the desk lamp reflected off of a laptop screen displaying a plethora of numbers organized in a spreadsheet and several charts.

Having pecked away at his laptop keyboard for hours, Amaro’s back began to feel tight, so he got up to stretch and gaze out of his window onto the busy Philadelphia streets under the shade of night. Suddenly, a faint whirring noise captured his attention. Ignoring it at first, Amaro kept staring out of his window, thinking about the future. But the whirring got louder and louder, as if a large computer was being turned on for the first time.

Turning around, Amaro strode towards the hallway, but the whirring stopped. The hallway completely devoid of human life, Amaro eyed the janitor’s closet, slightly ajar.

“Weird,” Amaro thought. “The janitor is usually so good about locking up when he’s done.”

Amaro placed his hand on the door to close it, when the whirring started again. Expecting a rodent, perhaps sitting on the trigger of a battery-operated screwdriver, Amaro swung the door open, revealing a room overflowing with LED lights – red, green, white, you name it. The lights came from a large mechanical structure positioned between two shelves stocked with cans of paint, bug spray, and various cleaning solutions.

Cautiously, Amaro stepped inside the closet to examine his new finding, pulling a shoestring dangling from the ceiling to turn on a light. He slowly ran his hand over the surface, cold and metallic. Stopping at a nameplate, he read, “Freezeatron 3000” with the subtitle, “The World’s First Time Travel Device”.

“What a cool prop from a movie set,” Amaro thought to himself, smirking. “Why would he keep it in his closet, though?”

Sliding his fingers under a black latch, Amaro pried a door open, seemingly big enough for a typical human body. Amaro had no intention of actually putting himself inside the device, despite his skepticism of the device’s authenticity.

Having solved the mystery of the whirring noise, Amaro pulled the shoestring above him once more to shut the light off and return to his office. In the darkness, however, Amaro did not see the mop that had slid down slightly near the door. Stepping on the wooden handle, Amaro lost his balance, slamming back-first into the shelf. A can of paint from the highest level rolled over the edge onto Amaro’s head, knocking him unconscious while his body flailed back towards the time machine. His body crashed against the back of the device with the door closing shut in front of him.

The display on the front read, “Now Traveling: December 2012”. The LED’s flashed sequentially as Amaro’s body lay completely still, slumped over inside the device.

. . .

THE YEAR IS 2013. THE PHILLIES HAVE missed the playoffs for the first time since 2006, after a disappointing trend of post-season disappointment. The team lost the World Series in ’09, lost the NLCS in ’10, and the NLDS in ’11 before missing out entirely in the past season.

Amaro was rescued out of the device by the janitor the next morning, but by then, it was too late. Amaro had traveled five years in the future, owning only the knowledge available to him at the present time. He was creating a new reality.

In early December, Amaro found in an old pair of slacks – the pair he was wearing on that fateful night – his pocket notebook. He had a habit of jotting down his thoughts in that notebook while he was watching his players take batting practice, on the phone, and even watching TV. His last entry was from November 2008 and read:

Players to Target

RP Mike Adams (Padres): age 29, 2.48 ERA, lots of K’s, few BB’s

IF Michael Young (Rangers): age 31, had a bad year (might be cheap?), good contact, versatile

RP Chad Durbin (Phillies): helped us win WS, remember to give gift (watch??)

OF Delmon Young (Twins): age 23, hit .290 with 10 HR, lots of potential

OF Ben Revere (Twins): age 21, .930 OPS with 44 SB in A ball, can’t-miss prospect

IF Yuniesky Betancourt (Mariners): ?????

The notes, of course, referred to the players’ age and stats after the 2008 season. A lot changed in five years though, particularly that everyone was five years older and past their prime, for the most part. Amaro, not realizing his notes were anachronistic, was happy to have found them. He put it back in his coat pocket, then left his home to head to his office.

After settling in to his office, Amaro booted up his laptop as he always does, to read baseball news over a hot cup of coffee. The words “Phillies 2013 Needs” were emblazoned at the top of his browser, the title of an article he found on Bleacher Report. Unable to recall much of anything that happened in the last five years, he figured he would quickly skim it for a refresher. Taken in by the slideshow format, a concept until then completely foreign to him, he excitedly wrote down the titles of each slide, then called an impromptu meeting with his staff.

Standing before a large wood table with the shiniest of finishes, populated by older men in similar black suits, Amaro began to write on a dry-erase board.

“Needs”. He drew several emphatic lines underneath.

“Relief pitching” was the first category. Turning to his staff, he said, “we don’t have any veteran presence in our bullpen.” Having copied directly from Bleacher Report, he wrote, “veteran presents” on the whiteboard.

“Fortunately, I have identified a couple players that may help us in that regard.” Amaro directed attention to a PowerPoint slide with the photos of both Mike Adams and Chad Durbin. “These guys are veterans with experience and could really give us a boost.”

One of his staff members meekly raised a hand. “Um, while Adams and Durbin have had success in the past, don’t you think relying on some of our younger players would be a better, more cost-effective idea? Antonio Bastardo and Phillippe Aumont can do what those guys can do for a fraction of the price.”

The names Bastardo and Aumont not registering in Amaro’s memory, he stared at his objector blankly for several pregnant seconds before moving on.

“Outfield”. The PowerPoint slide updates with pictures of Delmon Young and Ben Revere. Amaro continues, “Here are a couple guys that should absolutely be in our crosshairs. Young’s ceiling is sky-high and Revere looks like he’s going to be a future stud. Can’t believe what he just did in A-ball. We need both of them after losing Shane Victorino and that other guy.” An image of Jayson Werth briefly flashes in Amaro’s mind.

Amaro’s staff, sensing something was amiss, looked at each other with raised eyebrows. The GM continued his praise of the two outfielders. They could not bear to watch, instead burying their eyes in the manila folders in front of them on the table. One advisor texted to another, “Do you think I should tell him about the whole anti-Semite thing with Delmon?” but got no reply.

Despite his staff’s best efforts to get him up to date, Amaro continued to sing the praises of players whose best years had come before his course-altering encounter with the time machine. Behind his back, his staff expressed concern with the GM’s well-being and discussed ways they could compensate for his mental instability.

It was no use. By January 28, Amaro had acquired every player on his list. Proud, he would joke with his staff about how many wins the Phillies would have in 2013, usually starting in the high 120’s, but “settling” in the 110’s. Meanwhile, statistical projections pegged the Phillies as a sub-.500 team.

. . .

THE YEAR IS 3013. THE PHILLIES HAVE not been around since the great meteorite wiped out most of civilization back in 2037. Amaro had accidentally fallen into the time machine again. Climbing atop a pile of rubble that was once Citizens Bank Park, Amaro reached into the pocket of his blazer to retrieve his notebook. The last entry was from November 2013 and read:

Darin Ruf: Give watch???

Kevin Frandsen: Give watch???

Michael Young: Give watch???

Chad Durbin: Give watch???

It continued onto the next page, the ramblings of a syphilitic brain.

Amaro kicked aside some dirt and rocks, revealing the corner of an old newspaper encased in a sturdy frame that once hung on the wall in his office. He dusted it off to reveal the date: October 24, 2013. A picture of Delmon Young and Yuniesky Betancourt hugging sat below the headline, “Phillies Win World Series.”

Amaro smiled, then collapsed into unconsciousness from the sulfuric atmosphere.

Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

The Phillies have led the National League in average batter age for three consecutive years, according to Baseball Reference. They finished with the second-oldest offense in 2009 and the third-oldest in 2008 as well. It’s no secret that the Phillies’ roster is comprised mostly of past-their-prime players, which has led to predictable unreliability due to injuries and declining performance.

It is difficult to grasp just how much the Phillies have invested in older players, though, so I’ve gathered some data to illustrate this better. Using available salary data from Cot’s Contracts, I put the combined salaries into age buckets. First, the raw data:

* Age refers to a player’s age as of June 20, 2013, which is the cut-off date used by Baseball Reference. Because their 2013 salaries are not yet known, pre-arbitration players (such as Ben Revere, Domonic Brown and John Mayberry) are not included.

Player 2013 Salary Age
Roy Halladay $20,000,000 36
Michael Young $16,000,000 36
Cliff Lee $25,000,000 34
Chase Utley $15,285,714 34
Jimmy Rollins $11,000,000 34
Mike Adams $5,000,000 34
Carlos Ruiz $5,000,000 34
Ryan Howard $20,000,000 33
Jonathan Papelbon $13,000,000 32
Laynce Nix $1,350,000 32
Kevin Frandsen $850,000 31
Cole Hamels $20,500,000 29
Kyle Kendrick $4,500,000 28
John Lannan $2,500,000 28
Antonio Bastardo $1,400,000 27
Delmon Young $750,000 27

And the salaries combined into individual age groups:

Age 2013 Salary % of Total
<= 26 $0 0%
27 $2,150,000 1%
28 $7,000,000 4%
29 $20,500,000 13%
30 $0 0%
31 $850,000 1%
32 $14,350,000 9%
33 $20,000,000 12%
34 $61,285,714 38%
35 $0 0%
36 $36,000,000 22%
>= 37 $0 0%

Let’s make it simpler. The same data put into concise age buckets:

Age 2013 Salary % of Total
<= 26 $0 0%
27-31 $30,500,000 19%
32-36 $131,635,714 81%
>= 37 $0 0%

The Phillies are not paying anyone younger than 27 years old more than $750,000. Over four-fifths of their total payroll, at present, is going to players 32 years old or older.

Phillies Prospect Conversation: Jim Callis (Baseball America)

Nobody covers baseball below the Major League level more comprehensively than Baseball America. They have monopolized a niche few baseball fans find themselves obsessed enough to occupy. Even the most passionate seamheads, the ones who keep up with the prospects and minor leagues, often couldn’t care less about what was going on in the ACC over the weekend or who made the U18 national teams. It takes a special kind of goober to get excited about stuff like this, or spend an hour combing through lists like this for fun (Eric’s note: go look at #52 on the 1995 top 100. He was called “Bob”?) I am that goober.

If that’s too deep for you, you should be interested in the Prospect Handbook, an annual purchase I’ve made since my senior year in high school and something that I carry with me 75% of the time from March to November. Ask my fiancé.

I got in touch with Jim Callis about the Phillies list  and he granted me permission to call him on the phone during working hours, a true honor. Callis is Baseball America’s prodigal son. He began work at BA straight out of college, left for STATS for a few years, then came back and is now BA’s Executive Editor. It’s good to be Jim Callis and it was even better to talk to him, if only for about a half an hour, while my homemade chocolate ice cream was turning in the background.

Jim: Hello?

Eric: Jim? It’s Eric Longenhagen.

Jim: Hey, Eric, how’s it going.

Eric: Great, man. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me.

Jim: Happy to help out.

Eric: I wanna talk about this list

(Baseball America’s Phillies Top 10:

1. Jesse Biddle

2. Roman Quinn

3. Tommy Joseph

4. Jon Pettibone

5. Adam Morgan

6. Ethan Martin

7. Cody Asche

8. Maikel Franco

9. Darin Ruf

10. Carls Tocci)

and your relationship with the list. I know you’ve done interviews where BA’s lists are scrutinized or a player’s scouting report is questioned and you’re sort of forced to stand by a list that is not necessarily yours since you assign teams’ systems to each of your writers. Can you talk about what that’s like?

Jim: Sure. When the guys do the lists and finish them they get sent to me for editing. I try not to tinker with them too much because our guys have their own opinions and work hard to acquire the information they put in to the list.

Eric: Looking at Matt’s list for the Phillies, is there anything you’d do differently if you had carte blanche to alter the list?

Jim: Yeah, I think mine would be a tad different.

Eric: Let’s talk about Roman Quinn. I’m in the beginning of this process and already he seems like a polarizing guy. You guys had him all the way up at #2. What are your thoughts on Quinn and do you think he’ll develop physically and add the strength he’ll need to hit at the big league level?

Jim: I don’t think adding strength is a big deal for him because it’s not part of his game. This is a guy who’s going to do use his legs and put balls in play and make all sorts of things happen on the bases. He’s never, ever going to hit fifteen or twenty home runs. Even without that, I think there’s a useful player there. (Eric’s note: I really need to see Quinn. All of these different opinions bug me. Want to decide for myself)

Eric: What about the defense? You think he stays at shortstop?

Jim: I’m not too worried about him staying at short because even if it doesn’t work out, the fallback option is center field and that’s still so valuable. He played a lot of center field in high school.

Eric: Ahead of him you have Biddle. I want to know why you have Biddle at number one even though it seems you gave him the same projection as Adam Morgan and even John Pettibone. They’re all listed as #3 starters. What separates Biddle from those guys for you?

Jim: I think Biddle has better stuff than the other guys. He’s left handed, which matters. I know Morgan is, too, but then when you factor in age, the fact that Biddle is doing this sort of stuff and almost two years younger than Morgan…that’s a factor. And Biddle’s very safe for someone that young.

Eric: Speaking of Adam Morgan, I love him. From what I saw last year this guy looks like he has a chance to be a really nice mid-rotation starter. I’ve considered putting a list like this together and have thought about sticking him way up on my list. What do you think about his growth last year?

Jim: You know…it would be defensible to stick him at number one on this list. (Eric’s note: mostly unsolicited, this is the second time I’ve heard this exact phrase uttered by men who are way better at this than I am)

Eric: How do you guys go about compiling your lists? Is it your standard, “our writers see guys and have opinions that are supplemented by scouting contacts?”

Jim: Yeah. It’s an ongoing, year round process and even longer than that, really. We have a history of covering these kids back from when they were amateurs and that stuff lingers in our minds. We cover these guys all season and our thoughts about them build. We get stuff from teams about their own players and then go around sourcing all over. (Eric’s note: Interesting. It seems BA’s process draws info from a longer time period where as others seem to make a higher volume of calls when the time comes to make a list. BA might talk to a scout in June, write down what he says and use it months later when the time comes to make the list. Good? Bad? Needs more thought)

(Jim and I talk about college and high school baseball in the northeast for a little bit)

Eric: Oh, where would Trevor May be on this list if he were still in the organization?

Jim: That’s a good question. Let me pull up the list from before we he was traded and see

(Jim types some stuff into his computer)

Jim: Here it is. Matt had him at #6, between Adam Morgan and Ethan Martin. I am not a Trevor May fan and probably would have dropped him a bit once I got hold of the list.

Eric: Give me some names you think are going to bust out this year.

Jim: Dylan Cozens, who we sort of under estimated and Austin Wright (Eric’s note: That’s a new name.)

(thanking and good byes)

Before we wrap up, one thing I love about BA’s lists are the prospect superlatives they add on. They talk about things like, who in the system is the best defensive outfielder, who has the best curveball…that sort of stuff. I’ve included those along with my comments on each selection:

Best Hitter for Average: Cody Asche (Eric’s note: Steve Susdorf isn’t really a prospect, otherwise I’d stick him here)

Best Power Hitter: Darin Ruf (…….I guess. Who else would I go with? Larry Greene?)

Best Strikezone Discipline: Darin Ruf (I don’t care about walks, I care about production)

Fastest Baserunner: Roman Quinn (Quinn is the fastest man in all of baseball not named Billy Hamilton)

Best Athlete: Roman Quinn (The system is loaded with so many athletes. Aaron Altherr might be the fit here)

Best Fastball: Kenny Giles (Pure reliever, up to 98mph)

Best Curveball: Jesse Biddle (a potential legit 60 hook)

Best Slider: Adam Morgan (Yeah)

Best Changeup: Jon Pettibone (I’d have gone Morgan again)

Best Control: John Pettibone (No doubt)

Best Defensive Catcher: Sebastian Valle (Valle’s pop times aren’t spectacular but he’s one hell of a receiver)

Best defensive infielder: Cesar Hernandez (The fact that a second baseman takes this spot is really pretty sad)

Best infield arm: Maikel Franco (an easy one, some outside the Phils organization wanna see him catch and throw from behind the plate)

Best defensive OF: Tyson Gillies (a 70 runner, plays a legit CF)

Best outfield arm: Kyrell Hudson (an interesting name who I know little about)

Here’s a link to my other conversation(s) and our series primer: Aqui

Delmon Young: The Links

The Phillies’ signing of Delmon Young this week was, by far, one of the most…well, it was something, and a lot of people (both on this site and elsewhere) felt compelled to write about it.

Here’s a collection of links to pieces from throughout the net-webs on everyone’s favorite new acquisition, typically listed chronologically, but in some cases not because existence is pointless.

Crashburn Alley

  1. Ryan Sommers: Phillies Sign . . . *sigh* to 1 year, *groan* thousand dollar contract
  2. Paul Boye: What Happened to My 100-Win Team?
  3. Paul Boye: Caring About Walks and Production
  4. Bill Baer: Failure in Philadelphia
  5. Michael Baumann: Crash Bag, Vol. 38: The Great Satan

The Good Phight

  1. Joe Catanzariti: Are You There RAJ? It’s Me, Joecatz: An Open Letter to Ruben Amaro Jr.
  2. Bill Parker: Delmon Young: A User’s Guide
  3. TheOrangeCone: The Biggest Loser: Phillies Edition
  4. dajafi: Defending the Delmon Young Deal
  5. RememberthePhitans: Love Triangle: Delmon Young, Ruben Amaro, and Domonic Brown
  6. Liz Roscher: Done With Ruben Amaro Jr: A Special Comment

That Ball’s Outta Here

  1. Ethan Seidel: Outfield Still Remains A Weakness After Delmon Young Signs 1-Year Deal
  2. John Stolnis: Ruben Amaro’s Disastrous Off-Season
  3. Justin Klugh: Delmon Young Saga Now Involves Dog Poop, Weight Loss

Phillies Nation

  1. Pat Gallen: Phillies Sign Young to One-Year Deal Worth $750K
  2. Ian Riccaboni: Big Money if Delmon Young Makes Weight
  3. Jay Floyd: Manuel Full of Gusto as Spring Training Nears

The 700 Level

  1. Andrew Kulp: Is Delmon Young the Answer in Right Field?
  2. Enrico Campitelli: Delmon Young’s Incentives Include Over Half a Million Bucks for Weighing Less

Aerys Sports

  1. Karilee Jeantet: Seriously Ruben?!?! Delmon Young?!?!

SB Nation

  1. Grant Brisbee: Delmon Young signs with Phillies
  2. Grant Brisbee: What are the Phillies thinking?

Philadelphia Daily News/High Cheese

  1. David Murphy: Breaking down the Phillies’ signing of Delmon Young
  2. David Murphy: Delmon Young, and the potential tragicomedy called the 2013 Phillies
  3. Ryan Lawrence: Worth the weight: Phillies outfielder Delmon Young’s contract
  4. David Murphy: Over the last two years, Domonic Brown has been better at baseball than Delmon Young

Philadelphia Inquirer/The Phillies Zone

  1. Matt Gelb: Video: Phillies pin right field hopes on Delmon Young
  2. Matt Gelb: Phillies outfielder Delmon Young has incentive to eat less

Delaware Online/Philled In

  1. Chris Branch: Delmon Young is getting paid to not be fat

NBC Philadelphia/Philthy Stuff

  1. Dash Treyhorn: What to Expect: Delmon Young

Sports On Earth

  1. Jon Bernhardt: Swing And A Miss and Run

  1. Jay Jaffe: Winter Report Card: Philadelphia Phillies

Yahoo! Contributor Network

  1. Pete Lieber: Delmon Young a Skeptical Addition to the Philadelphia Phillies’ Outfield

  1. AP: Phillies Sign OF Delmon Young

Had enough? Me too. But if you’ve written about this wonderful moment in club history and don’t see your piece listed above, poke me on Twitter with a link.

Crash Bag, Vol. 38: The Great Satan

I’m kind of cheesed off. I have sat through a series of moves by Ruben Amaro that have driven me slowly to the verge of becoming John Adams, as played by William Daniels in the film version of 1776. You know, just a pissed-off guy with a bad haircut and an obsession with the sound of his own voice who roams the halls singing at the top of his lungs and screaming at people who just want to bathe in their own ignorance in peace. For instance:

I literally do this, sometimes, running around singing and screaming and shouting at people. And it’s not entirely because of signing Raul Ibanez, trading for Cliff Lee instead of Roy Halladay, then trading Cliff Lee instead of Joe Blanton to get Roy Halladay, signing Placido Polanco instead of Adrian Beltre, jumping the gun on extending Ryan Howard‘s contract by two and a half years, then waiting two and a half years too long to extend Cole Hamels‘ contract, not drafting Jackie Bradley, giving up two potential future stars for a mediocre corner outfielder, giving a relief pitcher a four-year, seven-figure contract, doling out large amounts of money to a collection of many worthless players who will add almost no value rather than pooling that money and getting one good player and then spending the minimum on worthless players…and, that’s about it. If you can think of more, please, the comment section is at your disposal. Make yourselves at home.

Oh, and intentionally, mystifyingly, deliberately and repeatedly sandbagging Domonic Brown‘s development. Almost forgot about that.

That’s right, in only four years, Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s CV is so festooned with instances of preposterous folly that when he takes the No. 1 prospect in baseball and turns him into a guy who would have been better off sticking with football, it doesn’t necessarily make the front page.

But in the annals of his history of making puzzling, intellectually lazy and actively destructive player personnel moves, signing Delmon Young is either the worst or the one that finally pushed me over the edge. Maybe both. But I’m just done. Completely over this.

My mother-in-law reads this column, and I want to apologize to her up-front for some of the language I’m going to use today. Come to think of it, my own mother reads this, but she says she’ll still love me no matter what I do–which I interpret as including things I write about Delmon Young–so I’m less concerned about offending her. Love you, Mom.

Come to think of it, I think it’d be better if I didn’t comment on Delmon Young. That can only lead to bad things. On to your questions.

@pivnert: “grrejdjk ##^@^ YOUNG hmmprajvcn #$@#@$ UPTON wuEEFfbn !@!! AMARO cjvnajsSDkl0 8&*%$ #crashbag

Well said. Fine, you’ve convinced me. I’ll talk about Delmon Young.

Listen, the thing about all the moves I listed above is that they were defensible from one point or another. I said this Wednesday night on Lana Berry’s Baseball Roundtable Electric Boogaloo, so if y’all watched that, I apologize for repeating myself, and if you didn’t, don’t bother, because I learned that I’m a much better writer than a talker. Though you could fast-forward to the end and see Paul flip out as Ryan turns his head into a cartoon dog.

Anyway, Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams are good pitchers, even if they’re not worth what they’re being paid. And maybe Amaro thought he could squeeze the last bit of value out of Raul Ibanez, or Michael Young, or Jose Contreras, or maybe he, who ought to know more than anyone else alive about Domonic Brown, knows something we don’t.

But there is no angle, none whatsoever, from which the signing of Delmon Young at any cost is defensible.

There are great players, and then there are players with no weaknesses. Players without weaknesses, who are at least adequate in every facet of the game, are truly rare. I can name Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, Joe DiMaggio, the young Alex Rodriguez…maybe Jackie Robinson, and maybe one day we’ll say this about Mike Trout as well. But someone who is above-average in hitting for power, contact skills, hitting for average, plate discipline, speed, catching, throwing, the elusive “Baseball IQ”–those guys come along a couple times in a generation. Pick almost any transcendent baseball player and I can point out a flaw.

Babe Ruth struck out, relative to his time, at a horrific rate. Albert Pujols is slow. Ted Williams was an indifferent defender. Chase Utley has a noodle arm. Derek Jeter‘s defense went entirely to pot later in his career. Almost every great, even legendary player has at least one thing that even a casual observer can write off as a flaw. But the flawless player–he’s something truly special.

Delmon Young is like that, only completely opposite.

Delmon Young does not hit for a good average. He is among the worst defensive outfielders currently employed in that capacity. He does not make good contact. He does not take walks. He does not run well. He does not throw well. Let me tell you a story about how Delmon Young throws.

When I was in high school, I went to a lot of trips with my church youth group. Depending on the outing, we’d take classes or do team-building activities or do Bible study or do some kind of work in the community. But we had downtime, in which we’d play cards, or listen to music or play some sort of game.

That’s how I wound up, from ages 14 to 18 or so, playing hundreds of hours of Ultimate Frisbee, a perfect game for a bunch of teenaged boys with tons of space and time, but little capacity for organization. During those hours, I got very good at throwing the frisbee. I could go overhand, underhand, sidearm, backhand and all sorts of things that people who wear shorts and hemp jewelry and shower far too infrequently will spend hours and hours bending your ear about or demonstrating for you.

When I was in college, though, I was playing a game of Ultimate, and I got a finger caught in the lip of the disc or something, and the frisbee, which I’d intended to put 50 yards downfield, actually wound up behind me. It was a tremendous embarrassment, and since then–and this is 100 percent, absolutely true–I’ve had the yips about throwing a frisbee. Can’t do it. I’ve got Steve Blass Disease for the frisbee. Which kind of makes it more like Chad Blass disease, but you get the idea.

Anyway, when a guy who, at least in part, throws a baseball for a living, does this…


…that’s not good. You don’t want a guy trying to prevent a key run in the World Series to remind me of myself trying to throw a frisbee after I contracted the yips.

But that’s okay. The Phillies have had bad defense in the outfield corners more often than not, and if they can win a World Series with Pat Burrell, then they can live with someone whose defense invites comparisons to the six-year-old who’s more interested in picking dandelions than playing tee-ball.

If he can hit. But unfortunately, Delmon Young cannot do that either. His wRC+ last year as 89, which makes him a below-average hitter. But for some context, and because I’m expected to write volumes on this topic, let’s go into some greater depth. Delmon Young, in wRC+ last year, was 121st out of 143 hitters who qualified for the batting title last season. In a moment of great good fortune for people like me who like to make facile comparisons to score cheap rhetorical points, the guy one spot behind him on that leaderboard was Young’s new Phillies teammate, Ben Revere.

Revere is a fantastic defensive center fielder with game-changing speed, who patrols power alley to power alley with the speed and grace of a border collie corralling a herd of uncooperative sheep. He steals bases in bushels. And he plays a position that, particularly in the past five years or so, places a premium on defense rather than offense, where you can get away with not being a particularly productive hitter if you can really pick it, or whatever the equivalent colloquialism is for outfielders.

And many people don’t think Revere is a good enough hitter to be be a good major-league player.

So what does it say when, on the aggregate, Delmon Young, or as I’ve taken to calling him, The Great Satan, is roughly the same offensive player and, when placed in a field of grass, resembles nothing so much as one of those bulb-shaped pig-creatures that frolicks in the meadow alongside Anakin and Padme on Naboo in Star Wars: Episode II?

Not good things, I tell you.

The point is, The Great Satan can kind of hit left-handed pitching, and he’s got a little bit of power (though not much more than, say, Coco Crisp, who actually posted a higher slugging percentage than Delmon Young last year), but on the whole, he represents an offensive package so abominable that it would frighten your infant child if it were placed in the body of a good defensive middle infielder.

(this is where it’s going to start getting sweary)

I’m going to tell you another story from my childhood. When I was a boy, my uncle took me fishing once. We got down to the edge of the lake, and he showed me how to get all the sticks and strings and whatever else you put in the water to catch a fish in order. But when he picked up a worm to put on my hook, the worm voided its bowels, leaving a trail of greenish-brown shit about the approximate length and circumference of a mechanical pencil lead in his hand.

Delmon Young, the defensive player, is like that piece of worm shit, the waste of a form of life we esteem so lowly that we sacrifice it, by the thousand, to kill other animals for sport. And not noble, beautiful creatures like deer–slimy, gape-mouthed creepy little motherfuckers who are so many hundreds of millions of years behind the evolutionary curve that they haven’t even grown legs yet.

Delmon Young the ballplayer is not the fish, nor is he even the worm. He is the worm shit. He is the anti-Willie Mays. He brings almost absolutely nothing to the table in any facet of the game.

But then again, neither does Michael Young (I know I’m overstating that point a little, but bear with me), who will cost the Phillies eight times the base salary due to The Great Satan in 2013. So why is this one Young worse than the other?

Because the Phillies were in dire need of a third baseman, and Ruben Amaro, finding himself marooned like William Bligh on an ocean of unappetizing choices, made a play for someone who was good (though never as good as anyone thought) some time ago. Someone who is reputed (inaccurately) to be a team-first player. The Phillies did something stupid in trading for Michael Young, but I can see the logic, warped though it is. And who knows? Maybe he’ll come good. He was good once, after all.

The Great Satan was never good, at least not since he came up to the major leagues. He has only twice, in six full major-league seasons, posted even a league-average OPS+, which would be troubling for a good defensive shortstop but is worthy of comparison to worm shit for a corner outfielder the repugnance of whose defense beggars belief. He is not good now, he has never been good, and entering his age-27 season with 3,575 career plate appearances under his prodigious belt, I can say with as much certainty as one can honestly say about such things, that he will never be good.

Worm shit.

Worm shit, no less, at a position where the Phillies needed more mediocrity like they need an amateur tracheotomy. What puzzles me is that the idea that Delmon Young is a leper’s sore on the complexion of baseball in particular and American society writ large doesn’t exactly take a degree in economics to figure out. I quoted wRC+ mostly because it gave me that nifty Ben Revere comparison, but if that’s to highfallutin’ a mathematical concept for you, then let’s use something like on-base percentage.

Delmon Young’s OBP last year was .296. That’s bad for anyone. And it’s not like it was a fluke–the Tigers gave him 608 plate appearances last season, a number that sticks in one’s mind because it’s about six hundred more than anyone with more sensory and intellectual capacity than a naked mole rat would have given a player so modestly endowed with baseball ability. Jim Leyland must be rolling in his grave at such a sight.

Six hundred and eight plate appearances, in which The Great Satan managed to advance ponderously to first base only 180 times. And God only knows what in the garment-rending hell he did once he got there.

So that’s on-base percentage, which isn’t matrix algebra. It’s dividing the most important thing a baseball player can do by the numbers of opportunities he has to do it in. I learned to divide three-digit numbers by other three-digit numbers when I was nine, a concept that apparently escapes our illustrious general manager, blessed be his fucking Stanford-educated name.

Quoth His Rubanity: “I don’t care about walks. I care about production.”

A brief aside–once this asinine experiment, this pastiche of a ballclub, fails to make the playoffs, which it almost assuredly will, the focus ought to turn to how one might reconstruct the Phillies so that they would enjoy greater success down the line. I have absolutely no faith in a man who speaks such offensively ignorant utterances as I’ve just described to undertake a rebuild. But ownership will most certainly give him the chance to fail.

Let’s say it takes Ruben Amaro this year and next to be convinced that he’s constructed the Ishtar of baseball teams and blow it up. Then at least another five, maybe six, for everyone to be convinced that the rebuild has failed, because Ruben Amaro picks players the way most of us pick our eleventh drink of the night: by stumbling across the room, collapsing against a vertical surface and groaning dipthongs more or less at random at whoever we deduce to be in charge.

I was 21 years old when Brad Lidge struck out Eric Hinske to tie up the World Series. With no real hope this season, and nothing but years of idiocy and gerontocracy on the horizon, I’d give good odds that I will watch the Phillies’ next playoff game with my own children. So when I say that the foolishness of Ruben Amaro, like the Biblical sins of the father, will be visited on generations to come, I want you to know that I am dead serious.

But I was going somewhere with this. Oh, right.

So Delmon Young sucks at everything. So why are the Phillies signing him to play a position at which they already have more mediocrity than they know what to do with. Want a bad defensive corner outfielder with some right-handed pop? Why is Darin Ruf not enough? Why is John Mayberry, who has a startlingly similar batting profile to The Great Satan’s, but adds speed and arm strength, not enough? Why do you take valuable development time away from Domonic Brown, the poor quiet, unassuming man whose only crime was being good at baseball at a young age? The Phillies need lots of things, but corner outfield help–even if The Great Satan constituted that–is not one of them.

One thing I hate about American journalism is its continued romance with false equivalence. Sure, there may be two sides to every story, but that doesn’t mean there are two sides worth talking about. I play along with people for argument’s sake a lot, and because I honestly believe in giving people the facts. I’d rather have a well-reasoned discussion with someone I disagree with, if the other person is willing to make a good-faith effort to understand where I’m coming from. And if it’s a difference of opinion, we can disagree and be friends. Even if someone maintains a dogged belief in the face of overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary, choosing to live in a web of untruths, logical fallacy and “Yeah, but still…” I’d rather talk in calm voices, as men ought to, than be enemies.

This is not one of those times, though. Delmon Young is not as good baseball player, and he cannot help the Phillies, and there is no logically consistent argument to the contrary. If you want to accuse me of going all Chicken Little on this, and you want to say that a one-year contract worth less than a million dollars base salary in a year where the Phillies probably weren’t going to do much anyway isn’t as big a deal as I’m making it out to be, do that. You’re probably right. But this is not a good baseball move. And if you think that it is, you’re wrong. And as patient as I am ordinarily, as willing as I am to defend my reasoning against direct attack and try to reach an understanding, I won’t do that in this case. If you think Delmon Young, The Great Satan, is likely to be an asset to the Phillies this season, you are operating under a method of logical reasoning that I really would just rather not pollute my own mind with.

I feel about Delmon Young supporters the way I feel about racists. I’d rather you think like normal people and just be happy, but if you can’t, I can live with that, as long as you keep it to yourself.

Speaking of racism.

(I’ve been waiting my whole life to write a segue like that. I’m going to go bake a cake and pop some champagne to celebrate that segue. Talk among yourselves–I’ll be back in a little bit.)

Like I was saying. Speaking of racism: I am now more almost three thousand words into answering this question, and I believe that I have thoroughly demonstrated, by way of Broadway musicals and frisbee and worm shit, as well as data, that Delmon Young, while he may be The Great Satan, is not a good baseball player.

With that said, he’s almost gone out of his way to demonstrate that he’s a worse human being.

While in the minor leagues, he threw a tantrum after striking out, then, after walking back toward the dugout, threw his bat back toward the plate and hit the umpire in the chest. By way of apology, he could only say that he didn’t mean to actually hit the umpire.

Delmon Young has also been charged with a hate crime, a quality that, near as I can tell, makes him unique among current major league players, despite the best efforts of Luke Scott and Torii Hunter.

By the way, has anyone figured out what Michael Schwimer thinks about having a teammate who not only visited physical violence upon a stranger on the street, but saw fit to shout “Fucking Jews! Fucking Jews!” while doing it? If I were the 6-foot-8 Schwimer, I’d make a point to just stare at The Great Satan menacingly all season.

I know that many of the liberal elitist baseball writers I run with tend to make grand moralistic proclamations whenever a ballplayer gets caught driving drunk or using impolitic language. I’d still have Shin-Soo Choo on my team, DUI and all, because while that’s a major issue that baseball has taken not at all seriously, a good person can make a series of bad decisions, and ultimately be redeemed.

And even if a baseball player does something really bad–like, completely hypothetically, commit a hate crime–there’s probably a point to which I’d be okay with having a really bad person on a team I like if he were a really good ballplayer. I’ve rooted hard for Lenny Dykstra, Brett Myers, Michael Vick, Allen Iverson and all sorts of people I wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole because I thought they could help my team win. I am entirely willing to abdicate my morality in the pursuit of vicarious athletic glory. Miguel Cabrera is a drunk who beats his wife, and I would do backflips if the Phillies traded for him. I am a shallow and weak man, and I acknowledge that. But such is life.

That Delmon Young did what he did creeps me the hell out. That Ruben Amaro would hire such a person makes me a little uneasy. But you can be a bad person, or a bad ballplayer, but not both. And The Great Satan, Delmon Young, is worse than bad in both instances.

I’m not asking for the Phillies to be puritanical, or to take a position of moral leadership, or even to be particularly skilled at assembling a baseball team. I just don’t want them to be so fucking stupid, and so fucking callous, as to render any ridicule unnecessary.

That’ll do it for this week’s Crash Bag, all one question of it. Send in more queries, and maybe we’ll all be in a better mood next time.

Dammit, I didn’t even get to the Justin Upton part of that question. Oh well, there will be other Crash Bags.