Crash Bag, Vol. 52: Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged

I’m three weeks into my first experience as a national baseball columnist of sorts, and I have to admit that I underrated the trolling possibilities that come with such a position.

With my second post, I went after the San Francisco Giants for being an organization of nincompoops that lucked into two World Series titles in three years, and I went after their fans for being almost as obnoxious on the internet as Phillies fans.

And those fans came back at me. The most common refrain: “You’re just bitter after the 2010 NLCS.”

To which I say: You’re goddamn right I’m bitter about the 2010 NLCS. The 2010 NLCS in which a vastly superior Phillies team couldn’t get out of its own way against a team that had about two position players who were worth a crap, who, to their credit, capitalized on one kind of crappy Roy Halladay start and the fact that the Phillies failed to score in Game 6 while Jonathan Sanchez was going round and round in his own mind.

Am I bitter? Absolutely. Do I hate the Giants? Absolutely. I also hate, for the record, the Braves, Cardinals, Rockies, Mets, Yankees and Red Sox. In case anyone wanted to keep track of my biases.

Anyway, I think the only way to cope with that is to just go out of your way to insult everyone, like the real-life sports blogging manifestation of Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged. So while it’s nice when real journalists try to be unbiased, I admire the intellectual honesty in laying one’s allegiances out there and letting the reader make his own judgments. Not because it gives the reader credit, because most people are too stupid to deserve much credit, but because it’s really tough to be completely objective, particularly about something like sports, and we need to stop lying about it.

@Phrontiersman: “If every member of the Phillies competed on GUTS as a kid, who would perform the best at what event? #crashcrag

I see what you did there. You’re a funny person, Paul Boye.

My memory of the individual events of GUTS is a little hazy, other than Mike O’Malley having had hair, which is kind of disturbing. But I will say that it would be immensely entertaining to watch Ben Revere race Chase Utley up the Aggro Crag.

And while we’re on the subject of the Aggro Crag, the GUTS trophy is one of my favorites in sports. I don’t think there’s any argument that the coolest trophy you can win is the Stanley Cup, but I love the statement GUTS made with its trophy. Not only do you defeat your opponents in that game, but you conquer a thing. And when you conquer that thing, you’re rewarded with a piece of that thing to take home and display as a reminder of your mettle. I love it. All things should work this way.

@Jferrie23: “better odds: Delmon Young playing an above average RF or Ben Revere hitting a home run (no inside the park doesn’t count)”

Playing above-average, like, defensively alone? That’s a tall order. Because Delmon is the Starship Enterprise out there in right field, and his throwing arm is an old-school Super Soaker 50. If you’re talking about his all-around game, it’s not particularly farfetched that Delmon could get hot for a few weeks and bump his overall production to league-average levels or beyond. Well, it is farfetched, but not impossible.

It is probably impossible for Revere to hit an outside-the-park home run. He might have the least raw power of any everyday player in the majors right now, and while he can (and does, from time to time) hit the ball out in batting practice, Revere’s in-game approach is more geared toward punching out ground balls. Which it should, given his speed.

Because defensive metrics, even advanced metrics, are kind of a crapshoot in single-season samples, I’m not sure how you’d quantify the odds of Delmon being above-average in right field. But I’d still have to call that more likely than Revere hitting one out.

@tholzerman: “Is it wrong that I reviled at Delmon Young’s first hit as a Phillie being a home run?”

All reactions are acceptable. On the one hand, you should be happy because the Phillies got a run. On the other hand, it came with the Phillies already having been boat raced (SELFISH! SAVING HIS HOME RUNS FOR WHEN NOBODY IS ON! NOT CLUTCH! NOT A TEAM PLAYER!). And Delmon Young did it, so fuck that guy.

Go nuts. There is no wrong answer.

@dan_camp: “as a phils expat living in chicago, what do you do when your 2nd team (white sox) get on base even less frequently than the phils?”

You dump Hawk Harrelson in the river. I don’t know what to tell you, dude. That’s rough. Just like the Bible says, “The wages of Tyler Flowers is outs.”

I am interested in the concept of sports bigamy. I’m all for it, because telling other people your opinions on how to achieve Real Sports Fandom makes you immensely popular among strangers. Women, I’ve found, are particularly interested in hearing people tell other people how to conduct themselves in the arena of attachment to a sports team.

So in that vein, I think it’s healthy to have a side piece in sports fandom, as long as you know what side your bread is buttered on, and those two teams aren’t in direct conflict. Like, I grew up a Virginia Tech football fan–do I have to give up a lifetime of allegiance when I go to a different college with a different team? I should hope not–the Gamecocks and Hokies never play each other, and cheering for both gives me (in most years) two opportunities to root against Clemson, which I like a lot.

And I’m a big fan of following the local sports team, regardless of your primary affiliation. You’ve got to get at least a little wrapped up in the local club in order to fit in. For all the time I’ve spent in Columbus over the past few years, I’ve become quite a big Blue Jackets fan, a feeling aided by the rather incestuous relationship they have with the Flyers (I love you, Jakub Voracek, and I miss you, Sergei Bobrovsky). Living in Wisconsin has also caused me to develop something of an affinity for the Badgers (who, being in the Big Ten, play “football”) and the Milwaukee Bucks.

If I lived in a city with major-league sports, I’d absolutely take in the occasional game, maybe buy a limited season ticket package if the price was reasonable. Who knows–given the right confluence of team and uniform, I might even buy some team-branded gear. If I lived in Chicago, I would absolutely hit the occasional White Sox game. Sounds like a great time, even if they suck at getting on base.

That said, when I lived in South Carolina, I absolutely did not cheer for the Braves. There are no circumstances in which it is okay for civilized men to cheer for the Braves.

@AntsinIN: “how long is your first dance song list?”

For the Crashburn Alley Royal Wedding? (Note: Screw you, Ryan. And screw you, Longenhagen. I got engaged first.) I’m pretty sure we’ve got it nailed down to one song. It’s actually one of the first decisions KTLSF and I made.

I will say this: weddings have more compulsory elements than a figure skating competition. Weddings are a wonderful thing–you declare your everlasting loyalty and devotion to a man or woman you love deeply, and you get all your friends and family in one place when you do, so they can call you out if you go back on your promise. Then you throw an enormous party and, ideally, everyone goes home happy from the food, drink, dancing and basking in the residual happiness of the newlyweds. It’s such a beautiful thing that just writing about it is making me start to cry.

But damn, there are a lot of rituals to respect. You gotta get some of your friends to dress alike, then you’ve gotta nominate people to give speeches, and you’ve got to make people watch you dance, not only with your new husband/wife, but with your mother/father as well.

Plus the throwing of flowers and undergarments and the Electric Slide and suddenly you’re down to only moments of actual eating and drinking and spontaneous, all-inclusive dancing…too many rituals. Just get two people who love each other, a priest or judge, a grill, a quantity of meat, a big-ass cake, a few kegs of beer and some music. Then just let them all mix until everyone cries uncle. That’s the way to do it.

@asigal22: “why the hell does Betancourt have so many home runs. I’m convinced that its just to piss off Philadelphia”

A couple weeks back, I was discussing Yuniesky Betancourt with online sportswriting bon vivant Jack Moore, who is a Milwaukee Brewers fan. He was complaining about watching his team play Betancourt at first base, as one might when Yuni Betancourt plays first base for one’s favorite team.

Well, that skidmark on the underpants of baseball is now slugging about three million for Milwaukee. And to be honest, I’m actually relieved he isn’t doing that for the Phillies, because I really don’t want to have to explain that players with nearly decade-long track records of being almost exactly replacement level, whose gloves have always been cringeworthy and whose bats have never once been even league-average, don’t suddenly turn into power-hitting first basemen in the blink of an eye.

So I’m not pissed off that Yuni’s doing so well elsewhere. Rather, I’m relieved he’s putting some other team’s fans through the ordeal of either having to wonder when he’s going to revert back to his natural state or being unaware of his natural state and having to endure the disappointment when it returns. I’d sooner endure the slings and arrows of outrageous John Mayberry strikeouts.

@fotodave: “so where’s a great to vacation in October when your team didn’t make the playoffs?”

I take pretty boring vacations, so maybe you’ll want to ask someone else. Usually, when I take vacations, it’s to see people. I’ve gone on baseball road trips to Pittsburgh and Baltimore the past two seasons, and I do weekend trips to Washington, D.C. about once a year or so. Which, when you put it like that, doesn’t sound like a particularly gripping getaway. Though I will say that if you’re a history or politics buff (as I am), seeing the White House or the Capitol Building just chillin’ there in the middle of the city like it’s normal never gets old. You can do a lot in Washington–it’s a really easy city to get around, thanks to a good public transportation system, and if you’ve done the Smithsonian, you can do the various monuments and memorials and parks, and if you’ve done that you can go to the National Archives and see the Constitution and Declaration of Independence (which is immensely cool), and if you’ve done that you can explore some of the city’s quirky neighborhoods. I’m not particularly sure I like Washington, but I’ve never had a bad time there.

Though if you’re in the area, you need to, and I mean NEED to visit the National Air and Space Museum annex out near Dulles Airport. Everything worth seeing in the museum on the National Mall is in the lobby–the Apollo 11 capsule, the Bell X-1, the X-15, the Spirit of St. Louis, and so on.

But at the annex, the Udvar-Hazy Center, they’ve got enough space to show off some really legitimately cool aircraft: the Me 163, the Space Shuttle Discovery, examples of the most important and most intriguing aircraft ever created. If you’re an aviation buff at all, you need to go. And you probably need to go alone, because I spent about three hours in a two-room museum and I can only imagine how bored any potential companion would have been.

I also went to Montreal a couple summers back, and can’t say enough good things about it. It might be a little cold if you go in the baseball offseason, but it’s just an impossibly cool city in a really pretty landscape. You don’t need to speak French, but it helps.

Or, if you’re into the whole drinking margaritas on the beach thing, I guess you can go to, like, Bermuda or something. I’ve never been, but I hear it’s nice.

@Sainthubbins: “What’s the wrongest you’ve ever been about something?”

Well, I’m wrong about things in everyday life quite frequently. I imagine most people are.

The sports-related thing I’ve been wrongest about is either the March Madness bracket I filled out in 2002 or my AL West prediction in 2010.

The 2002 NCAA tournament is the only time I ever put money into a college basketball pool, because I was young and stupid and everyone else was doing it and I was high on my own ego for having called Hampton over Iowa State in a 15-over-2 upset the previous year. I don’t know that anyone can verify that I made that prediction, but you’re going to have to trust me.

So I got home late from whatever I was doing at school on the first day of the tournament, and found that three of my Final Four teams were losing. My bold prediction for that year was going to be that Southern Cal (a No. 4 seed) would upset Duke and make the Final Four, because I was in love with Jeff Trepagnier, but the Trojans didn’t even make it out of the opening game against UNC-Wilmington, a school against which I still hold a grudge to this day. I lost Southern Cal and two other Elite Eight teams in the first round and it took all of 48 hours for me to start pulling for UCLA to upset my national championship pick, Cincinnati, in the second round. Which they did.

It’s either that or my being really high on the 2010 Seattle Mariners. It’s not entirely clear to me why Jack Zduriencik became the in-vogue GM that year, but it was suddenly really cool to jump on the Mariners’ wholesale run prevention strategy. They had Jack Wilson, Casey Kotchman, Ichiro, Chone Figgins and Franklin Guttierez in the field, with a rotation headlined by Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee, in one of the game’s most pitcher-friendly ballparks. It didn’t matter if they only scored two runs a game–they were going to give up one, tops. Thus saith the trendy internet baseball groupthink of the day.

Let’s talk, briefly, about drunkenness. Imagine, if you will, the most Journey-singing, vision-blurring, balance-wavering state you’ve ever experienced. Past the point of just letting someone else drive home, but full-blown acting out “Clothes Off!!” by Gym Class Heroes drunk.

That’s how drunk I was on the Jack Z Kool-Aid. Plastered. Wasted. Loaded. Stoned. Shammerhoused. Taking-leave-of-one’s-senses drunk. I had so thoroughly talked myself into the Mariners’ Run Prevention Uber Alles method that I picked them to win 88 games and the division.

And here’s what happened: Lee and King Felix both had absurd seasons, which was good. But the offense was worse than anyone could have imagined. That’s not an exaggeration–they had a team OPS under .300 and scored fewer runs than any other team with a designated hitter had before or since. And they lost 101 games. So I was pretty wrong about that.

@jtoombs51: “if you could send one baseball player on a mission to Mars, who would you trust the most to do the best research”

First of all, it’s something like six months one way to Mars, so let’s assume that we’re sending one baseball player along with military officers and scientists, because I cannot fathom the loneliness that comes with being the only person in Mars, a place so isolated it takes between four and 21 minutes to even get a radio transmission back to Earth. And I thought the delay was bad here!

I don’t know that I’d trust any ballplayer to go to Mars and conduct experiments on his own, because if he’d taken the time to become a competent physicist or geologist or whatever, he wouldn’t have been able to become a worthwhile ballplayer.

So we’re looking for someone who can be an asset to the expedition while not rocking the proverbial boat too much. Because for all the bullshit that underpins the Arizona Diamondbacks’ approach to building a team, clutch is huge when every moment brings with it the threat of a life-or-death emergency. Like, it’s nice that Mariano Rivera closed out all those baseball games, but Neil Armstrong had a thruster stick open on him on Gemini 8, and he almost died. I’m pretty sure astronauts spend most of their spare time talking to each other about what overdramatic ninnies baseball players are.

For that reason, I’d be inclined to go back in time and pluck Ted Williams from the ether. Teddy Ballgame, as you may recall, was not only one of the best baseball players ever, but also a great pilot. Like, not just a great pilot for a baseball player (which is to say he was a better pilot than Thurman Munson), but a great pilot in absolute terms, having flown for the Marines in both World War II and Korea, where he was John Glenn‘s wingman.

But Williams, for all his brilliance as a ballplayer and as an aviator, had a reputation for being a grouch. And clubhouse chemistry is huge when the “clubhouse” only consists of eight other people and they’re the only eight people you’re going to see for the next year and a half.

So we’re really looking for an 80 makeup guy. And while my everlasting, turgid Gamecock homerism points me in the direction of Jackie Bradley and Michael Roth, two intelligent, easygoing, unflappable young men, one wonders if Bradley’s overwhelming happiness in particular might grate on his shipmates after 18 months. Effervescence is tiresome in an enclosed space.

Given those considerations, I’d probably choose Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez among current players. I know he’s still just a child, but look up his backstory. This dude rescued his mother from shark-infested waters on his fourth attempt to escape from Cuba, adapted to a new country with a new language in a matter of months, then reached the major leagues at age 20. I think he could hold up to the stresses of long-term space travel just fine.

That’s all for the Crash Bag this week. Thank you for your continued patronage of Crashburn Alley, and we’ll see you next week.

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  1. LTG

    May 03, 2013 09:44 AM

    I’ve read that the contestants were allowed to keep their piece of the crag. The internet is full of lies; I’m not sure whether this is one of them.

  2. Alex Ayers

    May 03, 2013 09:54 AM

    Shout out for being a hokie fan!

  3. LTG

    May 03, 2013 10:04 AM

    *were not*

  4. Phillie697

    May 03, 2013 10:40 AM

    HOW DID I FORGET MB IS WRITING FOR GRANTLAND NOW??? Now I have to back and read all of his old columns >.<

  5. Seth B.

    May 03, 2013 01:35 PM

    As another Phillies fan in Chicago who has adopted the White Sox, I’m glad my demographic is finally receiving some attention in this blog.

  6. RR

    May 04, 2013 04:58 AM

    On the use of “revert back,” because one cannot “revert forward,” “revert back” is redundant. Please don’t follow the masses on this: it’s “revert.”

    And have we called out the umpire and Ibanez enough for botching a called third strike and flyball, respectively, on Burrell “double” in Game 1 of the 2010 NLCS? That set up Ross. Halladay might not have looked so crappy if either the umpire or leftfielder gets their play right. It’s a different game and series if they do.

  7. RR

    May 04, 2013 05:00 AM

    “Burrell’s” double … difficult not to be bitter about that series

  8. hk

    May 04, 2013 06:15 AM

    Slightly off topic – although I guess there’s a segue from the questions about Demon Young – since the Phil’s non-tendered Nate Schierholtz and made him a free agent, do the Cubs still have the right to take Nate to arbitration next off-season? In other words, if a player is non-tendered in his 1st or 2nd year of arb eligibility, do his remaining arb years get voided?

  9. Phillie697

    May 06, 2013 05:15 PM

    Man, MB, you can’t win. You basically write an article about how the Tigers have the division wrapped up IN MAY and all you get is Detroit fans trashing you for being an idiot. Not only that, using “errors,” or the lack thereof, as evidence that their defense is good, simultaneously showing that Tigers fans both can’t read AND don’t know jack about baseball. Glad I’m not a sports writer.

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