Crash Bag, Vol. 49: Fielding Like a Baby Zebra

You know it’s early in the season when half the Crash Bag is about Michael Young hitting like an aggressive blackjack player.

@Chrisbcox: “How is Michael Young’s gritty character and leadership attributes paying off so far for the Phillies?”

Well, I can’t speak to his gritty character and so on, but he’s hitting .375/.459/.594 through nine games, so that’s going pretty well.

It’s really too early to even start giving small sample size caveats, but if you think I haven’t been enjoying the heck out of this little Michael Young renaissance, you’re dead wrong.

@Phisportsfan11: “Updated season predictions for Michael Young?”

150 games, .400/.500/.600 triple slash line. I’m all in on Michael Young. He plays the game the right way and all that.

No, but seriously, he was always going to hit some, particularly against lefties. For all the overhyped leadership nonsense, he’s still hits for a relatively high average (if not much power or patience). And having any kind of offense at all from third base stands out on the Phillies, who haven’t had a decent-hitting third baseman since they traded Scott Rolen. After getting Stockholm Syndromed within an inch of our collective life by Placido Polanco, David Bell, Abraham Nunez and Pedro Feliz, it is nice to have a third baseman who once knew what the heck he’s doing with a bat.

But, as is so often the case, there’s another shoe yet to drop.

@Doc_Ruiz2012: “Is ‘Past a diving Young’ going to be the catchphrase of 2013?’

Yes, that shoe.

I can’t do this question justice. I’ve turned to experts twice before when important questions came in that eluded my areas of expertise (noted internet bon vivant Ryan Petzar for Power Rangers and the Solid Verbal’s Ty Hildenbrandt for college football), and I think it’s time to call in another expert. Ladies and gentlemen, pray silence for Lana Berry, host of the Baseball Roundtable, conqueroress of the Wendy’s Meat Cube and the world’s leading authority on ground balls being hit past Michael Young. Or at any rate, she’s the biggest Texas Rangers fan I’m aware of.

Well it’s a trendy catchphrase that you’ll get a lot of use out of if you do it right. I got a lot of use out of it when he was only used as the DH/utility infielder (lol) so I can only imagine how much fun Phillies fans are going to have with him at 3B full-time. Sure he has a “Gold Glove” (5 years ago) and is an MVP…of the All-Star Game, but his defensive skills are sub-par. The best thing to do is embrace Past A Diving Young (or #PADMY) and enjoy the hilarity of his fielding. Otherwise you will hate your life. An even more fun thing to do is call it Pasta Diving Young (I have a graphic for this somewhere). Trust me, IT’S A BLAST. Just remember to use the #PADMY hashtag every time otherwise it’s just sad and not fun anymore. Remember to embrace the hilarity and oh god I am so sorry he plays defense for you everyday. OH I MEAN FUN. IT’S FUN.

@hdrubin: “Would it work to go Utley-Rollins-MYoung atop the lineup?”

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of bucking the tyranny of the middle-of-the-order power bat and putting your best hitter, or at least your best on-base guy, at the top of the order. The Phillies did it with Bobby Abreu for a couple months a decade ago, and he hit like gangbusters. Though he always hit like gangbusters, so make of that what you will. I seem to remember the Reds toying with putting Adam Dunn in the leadoff spot around the same time, because screw it, the man had a .400 OBP, but I am too lazy to look that up at the moment.

But putting Utley, who’s the team’s best hitter (and, with Carlos Ruiz in the pokey for doing what every type-A upper-middle-class AP Circuit teenager does before finals, their best on-base guy) at the top of the lineup also removes a lot of power from the heart of the order. And since we’ve all woken up to discover that Ryan Howard needs to hit the ball in order to access said power, it’s not like the Phillies have a whole lot of that to spare.

I’m okay with keeping Ben Revere in the leadoff spot, because he gets on base okay and if you don’t hit him there, he’s not going to hit for enough power to go anywhere but seventh or eighth. Beyond that, my major concerns are 1) breaking up the lefties, which Young, as a right-handed hitter with a decent-sized platoon split, can do well and 2) having anyone, and I mean anyone, except for Howard hitting behind Utley. If Chase Utley is going to have his last .380 OBP season in 2013, I don’t want to watch him get left on second base 210 times because every pudknocker on a 40-man roster can get Ryan Howard to chase three sliders out of six pitches. If I were managing the Phillies and I had Carlos Ruiz back from suspension, I’d arrange my lineup thusly:

Revere, Utley, Ruiz, Brown, Rollins, Young, Howard, RF du jour. Maybe swap Brown and Utley and tell Dommo to take more pitches. But that’s why I’m not a major league manager.

@homeofthethrill: “How does one properly respond to ardent M. Young supporters during his torrid start?”

Boy, y’all’re sure caught up in this Michael Young bonanza. How does one respond? By saying: “He’s having a great week, isn’t he? Let’s hope he keeps it up.”

I hated the Michael Young trade when it happened. Hated it. But you know what? I love being right, but I don’t love it so much that I wouldn’t be happy if Young put together the last great season of his career this year, with the caveat that Ruben Amaro would trade him if the deadline came and the Phillies were 15 games out of first place, and failing that, that he wouldn’t offer Young a stupid extension into his 40s. Neither of those are guarantees, I guess, so maybe I should root for him to fail.

But part of not being a slave to the narrative is enjoying when things turn out to be not-totally-shit when you expected the opposite. So if Michael Young slugs .800 in April, nobody’s going to say trading for him was good process, because anyone worth listening to knows that one outlier does not create truth.

And if you find those ardent Michael Young supporters to be irritating, don’t worry–they’ll all disappear when he stops hitting. Remember how many people thought Darin Ruf was the goods nine months ago? Where are they now that it’s become clear that he doesn’t hit enough to overcome fielding like a baby zebra?

@magoplasma: “Am I wrong in remembering that David Bell’s arm was made of the same kind of noodles Hunter Pence is made of?”

Favorite thing about the 2013 season so far? Not having to think about David Bell or Hunter Pence.

@Phrozen_: “Chase Utley extension before season end?”

If he keeps hitting and stays relatively, absolutely. When Utley’s healthy, he’s still one of the best second basemen in the game, so if he wants to tack on another couple years, it absolutely makes sense to lock him up, particularly if his demands are anything approaching reasonable.

And even if he doesn’t do those things, he’s getting to the point with the Phillies that David Ortiz and Todd Helton are at–and I support this line of reasoning even if it’s completely irrational–where you have to take a long look in the mirror before you let a franchise icon walk. Out of Utley, Halladay and Ruiz, Utley is by far the most likely to be in Philadelphia next season.

@Halladay90: “What do you get from Taco Bell?”

A stomachache and body image issues.

But that comes from getting burritos. I’m an occasional gordita/chalupa/cruchwrap enthusiast, but there’s no better value for money than the burrito meal. It’s just kind of a mush of beans and beef product in a soft tortilla tube. Put enough border sauce on it and you’ll get full on something that’s both hot and tasty for about five bucks. Can’t beat it.

@uublog: “what tips can you give to aspiring pun/bad joke enthusiasts?”

The short answer is that you have to start with a punchline and work backwards. And don’t get discouraged if nobody laughs–I’ve spent a lifetime having my jokes met with silence and/or physical retribution and I REMAIN UNDETERRED.

@tholzerman: “two prongs, 1 – Do you foresee the narrative on Dom Brown normalizing from extremes on both sides? 2 – Favorite soup?”

Two very closely-related questions, I see.

  1. That’s a really tough question. For most people, including me, Brown is and will forever be the former No. 1 prospect who sputtered, through injury, mismanagement, and/or his own failings while a division full of Heywards and Harpers and The Mighty Giancarlo Stantons brought low the masses. Either the anticipation or the disappointment will be hard to shake. So in terms of just viewing him for what he is, I say we get there eventually, but not for a while and maybe not ever while he’s still on the Phillies. It took that long for Pat Burrell, who accomplished much more than Brown has. 
  2. Broccoli cheddar, probably. I’m more of a salad man than a soup man. I don’t know that I’ve ever purchased or prepared a can of soup in my life, much less made one from scratch. But if I’m having soup, I’m a big fan of creamy and cheesy as opposed to brothy soups. Though French onion is really good too. I’ll never turn down French onion soup. Another thing I’ve learned just now: if you write the word “soup” six times in one paragraph, it becomes absolutely hilarious.

@Wzeiders: “What are your top 5 baseball movies?”

Even though baseball is by far my favorite sport, and it’s had a ton of movies made about it, you’d have to go pretty deep into my list of favorite sports movies before you got to a baseball flick. Just off the top of my head, I’d put Friday Night Lights, GoonChariots of FireMiracle, The Damned United, the original Fever Pitch, The Great Race…that’s probably about it. And if you haven’t seen the trailer for Rush, the new Ron Howard Formula One movie, you need to, because it looks AMAZING. Anyway, my favorite baseball movies, excluding documentaries and movies I haven’t seen:

  1. Little Big League. The best montage, the deepest roster of substantial characters, the best real-ballplayer cameo (seriously, Ken Griffey‘s turn as the badguy is an all-time great cameo)…there’s nothing not to like about this movie. And in its own way, Little Big League explained things like DiPS and the futility of bunting 10 to 15 years before they hit the mainstream, and in a kids’ movie!
  2. Bull Durham. Used to be a top-3 movie in any genre for me, but for whatever reason it hasn’t aged well in my own mind. Still a classic and infinitely quotable.
  3. 61*. Thomas Jane and Barry Pepper were superb as Mantle and Maris. Kind of like Miracle, in that it really gets into the human drama of a sporting event so famous we almost forget people were involved. And neither movie really aspires to be a great work of cinema, but both are solid films that I enjoy watching every time. If 42 is half as good, I’ll be thrilled.
  4. Major League. Sillier than Bull Durham, and probably not as good a movie as such, but perhaps the most quotable baseball movie ever made. One season–I think it was 2010–two of my friends and I set an over/under at 10,000 Major League reference exchanged among the three of us over the course of 162 Phillies games. I don’t think we hit it, but we came close.
  5. A League of Their Own. This may have been the last time Rosie O’Donnell was legitimately funny. Precipitated a lifelong crush on Geena Davis that I’m still not totally comfortable with.

@episcoben: “If Buster Posey was the protagonist of a post-modern novel, what would the plot be?”

###

The Last Temptation of Buster Posey 
by Michael Baumann

Chapter 1.

Spend enough time on the highway, in the driver’s seat of a 21-year-old Dodge Ram van, and time starts to lose its meaning. You’ll see the sun on the ocean horizon out your left-hand window and you’ll start thinking it’s dawn, even though you know you’re driving up the California coast, backseat full of guitars and stereo equipment and sleeping doughfaced morons like something out of the dreams of some moron teenager who still thinks the works of J.D. Salinger are inspiring instead of being the best argument going for organized book burnings.

The sun will fool you into thinking it’s dawn even though you’ve spent the past 14 hours trying to shield its glare from your eyes so you can drive or block out its radiance so you can sleep. Though the way Mad Bum drives, it’s tough to sleep in the van anymore.

The sun will fool you into thinking it’s dawn even though you saw dawn through clouds of drunkenness and cigarette smoke, giving one last shot at getting the chick with the low-cut jeans and the bad haircut to find an upstairs bedroom to go to.

The sun will keep you awake when you’re still thirty miles from Sacramento, eyes burning from fatigue, telling yourself that after 45 more minutes of driving, an hour of setup and sound check, two opening acts, a two-hour set and another hour’s worth of breakdown, tonight is going to be the first night in three weeks of touring that you get yourself to sleep before 2 a.m. so you can restore yourself to something resembling an appropriate creative state in time for another day of driving and another night of playing.

That’ll keep you awake almost as much as the intermittent checks of the rearview mirror, which are necessary when Mad Bum and Matty let Panda drive the gear van. Panda, the doughiest-faced and most moronic of the bunch, in charge of steering a van full of tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of audio equipment down a highway. An adult’s job for sure.

But I’m the only adult here.

That’s why the girl with the low-cut jeans and the bad haircut wouldn’t sleep with me last night. Because when you make a point to shave and groom yourself and tuck in your shirt and say “yes, sir/no, sir/yes, ma’am/no, ma’am,” people think you’re a prude or a rube.

Timmy used to like that about me. “G.D.,” he said. “You’ve got to loosen up. You look like a fuckin’ prick, like some good boy asshole who’s gonna run and tell my momma that I’ve been spending my money on booze and loose women.” He’d say it with smiling eyes, hidden partially under a mop of artfully greasy hair, which in turn was hidden under an artfully dirty and artfully crooked baseball cap.

“Someone’s got to keep y’all under control,” I said.

“G.D.,” he said. “You’ve got to get off the goddamn goddamn.”

A year later, the van still smells faintly of weed, and it’s still got a new drummer with a beard nobody thinks looks good and an attitude nobody likes, not even Panda, who gets along with anybody who will pay him to play the bass and bring him the occasional box of powdered doughnuts.

The sun will occasionally shine through the windows at such an angle that it makes Mad Bum jolt out of his curled-up sleeping position on the second bench of the van. Through the rearview mirror I can see Matty and Panda talking animatedly, Matty moving his hands like he’s describing a battle between fighter planes.

“Romo still sleeping?” I ask, knowing the answer.

“Yep.” Mad Bum says under his breath as he climbs into the front seat, wiping drool from his beard. Mad Bum sleeps like a housecat–often and curled up. And when he does, he drools like a mastiff. “Six more shows and the tour is done,” he says, trying to muster excitement.

“You tired?”

“Bored.”

I glance over at him and smirk. Life is good–it’s been nothing but solid bookings and album sales for us for three years, but you play the same twenty songs every night for two months in so many cities you feel like you’ve taken a shit in every bar west of the Rocky Mountains, and you’ll get bored.

Back in the old days, Timmy used to keep us awake. We had one van and a trailer then, so we were all the time making noise and telling jokes, unable to wait to get to the next show where he’d pull off some insane riff or put a new angle on a tune we’d played thousands of times. Life was new–changing speeds, making unexpected turns–he was the best, and he was all I’d ever known. I got spoiled.

“G.D.,” he used to say, “I’m gonna take that stage and I’m gonna put holes in shit.”

“You shouldn’t do that, Timmy, we won’t be invited back.”

“No, you don’t get it. I’ve got the energy tonight. I’m gonna enter these gates with thanksgiving in my heart, buddy.”

“That’s not what that song means, Tim.”

He’d laugh, changing his Mr. Potato Head face from intensity to kid-in-a-candy-store in moments. “I know, man, I’m being figurative.”

“I don’t think that’s what you mean either.”

He’d laugh again and put a hand on my shoulder. “You gotta loosen up, G.D. This is the best time of your life.”

“I think we can do better.”

“Me too,” he’d say. “But if we don’t, this ain’t a bad place to top out.”

We did better, and we’re doing better. But the last offramp to Sacramento doesn’t put a smile on my face–another show, another routine, another city, another night, no sleep, all day in the van, though maybe Romo will ride with Panda and Matty next time. This is the best time of my life, and I’m not loose, and with a life of music and parties and women and travel in front of me, I can’t do anything but remind myself of how much better things would be if Timmy were still with us.

###

I don’t know if that’s postmodern or not, but that’s how the Buster Posey novel would go.

@elkensky: “what is the best crashbag question you’ve ever not answered?”

A couple weeks back, I asked for some last-minute filler questions and @AntsinIN requested something along the lines of a story about the Phillies in the style of various literary giants. Not like the last question, where I tried to be literary about the Giants, but, like, a paragraph on Ryan Howard’s speed in the style of Philip Roth and so on. I didn’t answer it because I was too tired to do it justice, but I should have.

Maybe I’ll tackle that one another time. In the meantime, that’s all for this week’s Crash Bag. If anyone hears of Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum actually starting a band, let me know.

 

Leave a Reply

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8 comments

  1. LTG

    April 12, 2013 08:11 AM

    Ummmm… Polanco used to know what he was doing with a bat. And I’m not convinced Young will put up a better wRC+ than Polanco in his first year of his second stint here.

  2. Phillie697

    April 12, 2013 09:18 AM

    Speak for yourself MB :P I actually defended the MY trade when it happen and think he would rebound offensively (the only one I might add), so if he does end up slugging .800 in April, I’m going to enjoy it both as being a fan AND for being right :P

  3. Ryan

    April 12, 2013 09:33 AM

    A lot of MY’s defensive problems can be mitigated late game or with leads by subbing in Galvis. I don’t think that Charlie understands this yet.

  4. DP

    April 12, 2013 10:07 AM

    “…David Bell…Abraham Nunez…Pedro Feliz…”

    I had suppressed those names from my memory. I feel the need to puke. Maybe some chicken noodle soup will calm my stomach after reading those names again.

  5. JM

    April 12, 2013 11:52 AM

    chicken noodle soup…with a soda on the side??

  6. bill

    April 12, 2013 05:04 PM

    No Sandlot? Seriously?

  7. Michael Baumann

    April 12, 2013 05:06 PM

    Sandlot was tough to cut, but I regret nothing.

  8. Jesse

    April 13, 2013 05:52 PM

    [Requisite “Hey, did no one here see Sugar?” comment]

    But seriously, the movie is great. From the folks who made Half-Nelson, which was also great.

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