Crash Bag, Vol. 53: The Paper Jubilee

Happy news, everyone! On the second Friday in May 2012, I fielded Twitter questions in this space for the first time. Which means that today marks the one-year anniversary of the Crash Bag. Or rather, tomorrow is the actual anniversary, because years don’t work that way.

On this day last year, I was three days from finishing grad school, with no job lined up, nor prospects for one looking imminent. And five months into my tenure at Crashburn Alley, I hadn’t really found my niche yet. So, fearing the impending abyss of a completely unstructured life, I suggested to Bill that I start writing a weekly mailbag column. The first one was almost completely about the Phillies, and nobody read it. But just like in the old parable about boiling a frog, the past 52 Fridays have turned the Crash Bag into a smorgasboard of absurdity and whimsy, and one that I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing. So going into the 53rd consecutive weekly column (51 by me, one each by Ryan and Paul), I thank you for your continued readership, your questions, your comments.

Apparently the traditional first anniversary gift paper, which makes me think whoever came up with the traditional anniversary gifts should have consulted me first. That’s way too terrible a gift to give, way too early in a marriage. “Here, honey, I got you a ream of printer paper!” You’d earn every bit of being sued for divorce with that gift.

And I know it’s supposed to be nice paper, like stationery or something. But (and I know KTLSF won’t read this, so there’s still a danger of this happening) if I got stationery for a wedding anniversary gift I’d roll my eyes, point to my laptop and assure my beloved that I won’t get mustard gassed by the Jerries while I’m at the front. Because paper is a stupid gift best suited for a time when you had to crank-start your car.

In that spirit, come and celebrate the paper jubilee of the Crash Bag.

@Cody011: “What type of propect(s) can we reasonably expect to obtain during the inevitable mass fire sale?”

Well that’s kind of pessimistic. Though it looks like we’re right back where we were one year ago.

If it came down to it, the Phillies probably have four guys to jettison: Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and the Wickersham Brothers, Michael and Delmon Young. If the price was right, it’d probably be smart to get rid of Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon too, and probably Kyle Kendrick before he gets expensive in arbitration (I can’t believe I just typed that). But that’s only if you’re going full-bore urban renewal on your rebuild. Two months ago I’d have included Roy Halladay on the list of assets, but I can no longer do so after his tragic death from shoulder brokenness.

I think that if either Young hits fairly well (though as I write this, I’m watching Michael Young boot a surefire double play ball that was hit at his belt buckle, so who knows?), he’ll net you some quantity of cash and minor league system fodder. Now, an org guy is a decent return for someone you’re going to let walk anyway, but anyone who comes back in a trade for either or Young is likely to play more games in an Iron Pigs uniform than a Phillies uniform.

Utley and Chooch, however, would probably produce a fairly substantial return. The biggest part of that return would likely be in tears, from me. I’d probably cry a lot if Utley or Chooch got traded.

But both players are, even in their thirties, above-average regulars and good defenders, whose contracts are more than reasonable, particularly if their new teams are only paying for a couple months. For that, you’re on a sliding scale, ranging from the Phillies’ return for Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino to the Mets’ return for Carlos Beltran a couple years back. Ethan Martin and Tommy Joseph are both pretty good prospects, though neither is a consensus top-100 guy. I think that Utley, based on reputation and position, would get you a player in the bottom half of the top 100. Maybe Ruiz too, but we’ll see how he hits now that he’s off the study drugs.

The absolute perfect scenario in an Utley trade is that you get some GM who fears for his job whose team is on the fringes of contention. Second base isn’t exactly the deepest position in the game right now, and Utley’s one of the best ever to play the position, so even at age 34, Dayton Moore (I heard Kansas City mentioned as a possible destination a couple days ago) might enter the last week of July four games back of Detroit and, motivated by his powerful fear of unemployment, might flip a…well, probably not Kyle Zimmer…and the Phillies are probably looking for more immediate help than Bubba Starling…well, you get the idea.

The Giants, a couple years back, shipped pitching uberprospect Zack Wheeler to New York for Beltran, which serves as kind of a karmic making whole of the Mets for the Kazmir-for-Zambrano trade. That’s the Cadillac of Utley trades, but considering how roundly Brian Sabean was pilloried for making it two years ago, I can’t imagine its like happening again.

However, I can’t see the Phillies trading Chase Utley. I don’t know if that’s because they’re actually going to keep him and re-sign him as a free agent, or if the idea of Utley wearing another team’s uniform is just so bizarre that I literally cannot imagine it. But let us not dwell on such things. Let’s think about happier topics.

@dan_camp: “would you rather trade Lee/eat salary for prospects or let him go on waivers?”

Well, for now at least, I’d keep him. Winter is coming and all, but there’s still at least a decent chance the Phillies are competitive again before Lee becomes either 1) a free agent or 2) an old man.

And while Lee is quite handsomely compensated for his services, he’s still a really damn good pitcher. You’re not going to arbitrage your way into contention with Cliff Lee, but you’re going to win a lot of games for the money he’s being paid. I think if the Phillies were inclined to trade Lee, they wouldn’t have to eat much, if any, of his salary in order to ensure a decent prospect return. No way you let him go on waivers while he’s still this good.

@tiff1001: “Any tips for how I can bowl better when I’m in Reno this weekend?”

I haven’t bowled in a while, but say hi to the former Attorney General for me.

@loctastic: “has living in WI changed your opinion of cheese at all?”

I’ve always loved cheese, but I’m kind of conservative in what kind of cheese I eat. Like, my favorite kind of cheese is sharp cheddar, so that tells you how imaginative I am with my cheese. I’d say that I’m slightly higher on cheese now than I was six months ago, and I’d say I eat more cheese now than I did six months ago, but my opinion on cheese hasn’t changed too much.

Though considering the willingness of my friends back home to stereotype Wisconsinites, I can only imagine that there’s some Brewers blogger who moved to Philadelphia and has heard nothing from his friends and family but jokes about how he must be gorging himself of cheese steaks and Yuengling.

Which reminds me. Living in Wisconsin has changed my opinion of Yuengling. Since I turned 21, Yuengling has been my default beer. I like good beer, more highfaullutin’ beer if you will, but if I’m just going to sit down and have a couple with friends, I’d have Yuengling. A pretty decent beer for dirt cheap, with the added advantage of being a hometown staple. Well, they don’t have Yuengling in Wisconsin, so for the past several months, I’ve been consuming various Ale Asylum and New Glarus concoctions for the most part. The first time I left the state after moving here was to go to Washington for a weekend, and I had a Yuengling while I was there.

And it was not good. I was shocked. I don’t know what this means for me as a Delaware Valley native. Like, I knew Yuengling wasn’t a Trappist ale or anything, but the worst-tasting glass of Yuengling I’ve ever had was the first one I had after moving to Wisconsin. Really jarring stuff.

@fotodave: “someone compared Roy Halladay’s declines to Steve Carlton‘s rapid fall off. Thoughts?”

Yeah, I can see that. But speaking of Steve Carlton, Deadspin just re-ran Pat Jordan’s 1994 piece for Philadelphia Magazine on Carlton’s retirement and man is it a doozy. I mean, Jordan’s a great feature writer and all, but you probably knew that already. I had just never appreciated what an out-and-out lunatic Carlton appears to be.

Like, I knew he was weird, but I always thought it was exaggerated. If you’re a pro athlete, you can either be 1) smart or 2) introverted, but not both. You can get away with being smart if you’re outgoing and a superstar like Greg Maddux or Peyton Manning. And you can get away with being introverted if you fit some other jock trope, like Halladay does by living a Gatorade commercial. But if you’re kind of smart and kind of weird and don’t really like talking to people, you’re going to get a reputation.

And I’d always assumed that Carlton had gotten that reputation because he didn’t act like normal jocks and he didn’t talk to the press at all.

No. He’s really a nutcase, like a full-bore 9/11 Truther, Free Jahar, New World Order, Alex Jones-listening lunatic. If he were active today, Ryan Sommers would spend six hours a day trolling him on Twitter. I had no idea–apparently by the time I learned about the U.N. and their black helicopters and coming to take our guns and so on, the fascination with Carlton’s beliefs had died down somewhat. Go read that article.

@tylersnotes: “another halladay question: is it better to have loved and lost or never to have loved at all?”

It is absolutely better to have never loved at all. Whoever came up with that saying should be shot. Come to think of it, who said that? Oh. Tennyson? That’s a shame. I like Tennyson, so maybe I’ll spare him. We only repeat that because when you find out that not only does the person you love not love you back, but that you’re going to have to adjust to a new routine and way of living, and that you’re not going to get those months or years back, what are you going to say? “Sorry, chuckles, looks like you done fucked up?” Of course not. We let people down easy.

And that drives me a little nuts. This person’s in incredible emotional pain. Incredible emotional pain, either through breakup or death or whatever other means of separation. Don’t be that patronizing prick who tries to spin all that into a good thing. Don’t do “quote of dubious attribution/Q.E.D.” to someone who’s dying inside. Instead, be honest. Tell the person that it’s okay to be hurt, that it’s okay to be angry and/or sad, but that this feeling won’t last forever and eventually you’ll move on.

But don’t sling that stupid quote at him. Because it’s a lie. Even if you take Tennyson at his word and assume he wasn’t just being florid, like W.H. Auden in “Funeral Blues,” what does that tell you? What did he know? That poem is from 1849. We still had slavery in 1849. We still burned witches and believed that RBI mattered in 1849. What you’re saying is that it’s a good thing that your friend is undergoing this great emotional trauma. And if you’re really friends, he deserves more than your platitudes. You effete, callous bastard.

@SBNHorseRacing: “This is a new one: Phils as all time great race horses. I demand you address this.”

Ah, an area in which I have vast experience!

  • Jimmy Rollins as Seabiscut, because he’s small and from California. 
  • Roy Halladay as Eight Belles, because he died a horrible death in front of everyone on live television.
  • Ryan Howard as Barbaro, because  he had that bad leg injury and everyone spent tons of time hoping he’d come back the way he was.
  • Ben Revere as Charismatic, because he’s charismatic.
  • Domonic Brown as The Pie, because he’s fictional.
  • Chase Utley as Secretariat, because he’s been the best player on the team for almost a decade.
  • Cole Hamels as Affirmed, because he’s probably going to be the last member of the 2008 World Series team to play for the Phillies, as Affirmed was the last Triple Crown winner.
  • Kyle Kendrick as Alydar, because Alydar always followed close behind Affirmed.
  • Carlos Ruiz as Cigar, because his career got going late.

@MichaelJBlock: “Which sport has the better goal celebration? Soccer or hockey?”

Soccer, and it’s so not even close. The go-to goal celebration in hockey is the group hug, which is nice and makes a great statement about teamwork and brotherhood and so on, but you get a truly creative celebration, like Alex Ovechkin’s hot stick or Teemu Selanne gunning down his own glove maybe once a year. And when it does happen, a legion of cranky, xenophobic old white guys (represented by but not limited to Don Cherry) throws a shit fit because people are having fun playing a game.

But in soccer, you get line dancing, secret handshakes and bodysurfing. For particularly big goals, you’ll get the manager in on the knee-sliding action.

And then there’s Stjarnan FC of Iceland, who take goal celebrations as an opportunity to engage in pantomime comedy to rival any college baseball team’s rain delay repertoire.

Soccer. I will suffer no argument to the contrary.

@JakePavorsky: “Legion Of Doom or Howard, Utley, Rollins?”

Oof. Utley/Howard/Rollins, but it’s close. I think winning a title pushes the Phillies’ trio over the top, but I can say with no doubt that I am a hockey fan because of the Legion of Doom. I grew up in Voorhees, not far from the Flyers’ practice facility, and the first athlete I ever got an autograph from was Eric Lindros, after a practice at the Coliseum in early 1996. Though I was more of a Mikael Renberg guy than a Lindros guy, for reasons I’m not sure I can articulate today.

One day, when I have a spare couple months, I want to go back and do nothing but watch game tape of Eric Lindros and Allen Iverson so I can appreciate having the most exciting, most polarizing figure in not just one but two of the four major sports playing under my nose while I was growing up. I really took both of them for granted at the time, and I regret that.

@CrashburnAlley: “what was more frustrating, the 2010 NLCS or 2011 NLDS?”

The first draft of the response to this question was all about how little Phillies playoff losses bother me when compared to, say, the Eagles, whom I probably follow less closely than any of the five Philadelphia pro sports teams, with the possible exception of the Union, but whose playoff foibles have created in my soul an ossified patch of anger and frustration, a blemish on my psyche that I’ll never erase, and which I carry with me, like the devil on my shoulder.

But while I was writing that first draft, recalling, among other playoff losses in my history fandom, the following:

And I was all like “No way is either of those playoff losses worse than that list.”

Then I remembered that after the Phillies lost Game 5 of the NLDS, I opened a bottle of whiskey and listened to “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” by Jimmy Ruffin on repeat until 3:30 in the morning. And I didn’t watch a moment of either LCS because I was so pissed off at baseball in general. Not as bad as the Eagles’ NFC Championship game loss to the Panthers, but closer than I thought.

And it’s worse than the year before, at least for me, for a couple reasons:

  • That Reds series, with Halladay’s no-hitter, Hamels’ CGSHO-cum-fist-pump and the comeback off Aroldis Chapman in Game 2, was so awesome, the Giants series was already lost by the time I came down from the high.
  • I’ve kind of forgiven Cody Ross in my heart. I’m not sure when that happened, and I know this is kind of a booboo in certain Phillies fan circles, but he doesn’t offend me nearly as much as, say, Yadier Molina or Chris Carpenter.
  • In 2010, the Phillies were coming off back-to-back pennants. How pissed can you possibly be in that case, if you’re not a Yankees or Red Sox fan? And if you’re a Yankees or Red Sox fan, you’re probably an asshole anyway, so who cares? But by 2011, you could already see the end coming for this iteration of the Phillies. I didn’t think it would actually arrive in 2012, but Ryan Howard tearing his Achilles tendon on the last play of the season was the kind of foreshadowing device I’d roll my eyes at seeing in a work of fiction.
  • The Phillies fell down 3-1 to the Giants, and we had two full days to prepare ourselves mentally for the eventual Game 6 loss. But in 2011, from the moment the Phillies won Game 3, it didn’t occur to me that they’d possibly lose the series until about the seventh inning of Game 5. So many little things went wrong in the Squirrel Game that I almost didn’t count it mentally as a loss. Then I just assumed that Roy Halladay losing a playoff game was a once-in-a-lifetime thing and figured he’d outpitch Big Carp.
  • Due to the vagaries of real life, I didn’t get to watch Game 1 or Game 3 of the 2011 NLDS, while I watched all of Games 2, 4 and 5. And they were terrible ways to lose. Cliff Lee, in Game 2, suffered death by a thousand small BABIPs, while Games 4 and 5 turned on razor-thin baserunning margins. Terrible ways to lose a game.

 

@VoteForDelmon: “Obviously if you were only voting for one Phillies player for ASG it would be Delmon Young. Any other possible Phils All Stars?”

Well, there’s Michael Young, for one.

I also think that, considering how healthy Chase Utley is and how well he’s hitting, that the best Phillies position player of my lifetime will get one last victory lap at the head of an all-star team.

And…well, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Kyle Kendrick is pitching out of his mind right now. I don’t imagine he’ll keep up a 2.45 ERA until July, but his rebirth as a not-at-all-crappy pitcher is starting to look legit. If a Phillies pitcher gets the call, it will probably be Lee, Hamels or Papelbon, but it is not impossible that Kendrick continues to flummox hitters and induce weak grounders long enough that he gets put on the roster.

Thank you for asking questions, reading and commenting over the past year. And to the people who bitched about the Crash Bag early on, thank you for shutting up. Here’s to celebrating the cotton anniversary of the Crash Bag a year from now, even though cotton is only a marginally more useful gift than paper.

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15 comments

  1. John

    May 10, 2013 08:34 AM

    My lasting memory from Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS was when Rollins was on 1st and Howard absolutely destroyed a double to left-center field, only he hit it so hard that Rollins couldn’t score from first. They stranded the runners, Phils lose 1-0.

    That unlucky bounce, and Ibanez’ just-missed 3-run HR, did it for me. 5th worst loss in Phils history for me.

    (#4 Chico Ruiz 1964, #3 Game 4 ’93 WS 15-14 game, #2 1977 NLCS Black Friday, #1 Game 6 ’93 World Series)

  2. John

    May 10, 2013 08:46 AM

    I have to disagree on 2011 being more painful than 2010. Like you said, the writing was on the wall in 2011. When the offense sputtered out against the Cardinals, I wasn’t surprised at all. Against the Giants? I was nervous about their pitching, but I really didn’t have any doubt the Phillies were going to go back to the World Series all season. During the Cardinals series, every time something went wrong, I just thought “here we go again”.

    I still think that the 2010 team was the best team of the whole era. 2011 may have won the most games, and 2008 had the World Series, but I think 2010 was point where both the pitching and offense were elite, or at least near elite, versus the early offense heavy years and the current pitching heavy team.

  3. Tyler

    May 10, 2013 09:24 AM

    I absolutely love the “@VoteForDelmon” account, the person behind it is pure genius.

  4. Phillie697

    May 10, 2013 09:56 AM

    Holy shit it’s been a year? Damn… Here’s hoping for many more :)

  5. Richard

    May 10, 2013 11:12 AM

    Oh, man, I’d forgotten all about Rollins being unable to score on Howard’s double. Now I’m depressed again.

  6. VoteForDelmon

    May 10, 2013 11:23 AM

    The 8th inning of the 15-14 loss was absolutely the most agonizing inning of baseball I have ever watched.

    Fortunately, Delmon Young’s graceful fielding has helped lift my spirits after thinking about it.

  7. Jeff

    May 10, 2013 11:34 AM

    I felt worse after the ’10 loss. The Reds series was so awesome you didn’t think the Giants would score a single run against them. And then Cody Ross and Juan Uribe happened.

    And with their offense in ’11, I had become numb to the feeling of losing a 1-0 game.

    Both don’t compare to the Eagles Super Bowl loss. McBlow’s INTs, screaming at the TV for them to hurry up down 10 w/ 3:00 left, and Givens mocking T.O.’s wing flap which wasn’t even funny the first time when Hines Ward did it 8 months ago… no words.

  8. Rob

    May 10, 2013 11:45 AM

    Thanks for the tip on the Steve Carlton piece. That was a really good read.

  9. SJHaack

    May 10, 2013 01:24 PM

    My only numb memories of 2010 was Ryan Madson, the best Phillies reliever and the one who went under fire and was defended so heavily by Crashburn types, giving up that fluke bullshit and the Phillies… lost. I remember my reaction being essentially a cheesy grin and a shrug. After all the Cody Ross fluke garbage, the Phillies had worked through it. There couldn’t possibly be any of that luck left. The rest of all that terrible and great series has been washed away.

    2011 – being in a bar, the whole place going crazy, knowing you’re witnessing history, being on the wrong side of it, and then Philadelphia sports fans in that bar living up to their reputation as the worst fans in baseball as the camera cuts to a man who was simultaneously ending a team’s World Seires hopes and as far as we knew his career as an effective major league baseball player (jury is still out). It was just a sick, terrible moment, knowing that everything about all of it was wrong. Knowing that Ryan Howard, for all his overpaid, over-K’d persona, deserves better than that. Knowing that Roy Halladay, regardless of team but especially on mine, deserves to win in a way that Chris Carpenter never will, but baseball has determined that they end up with opposing fates.

    @John

    It’s funny how we know we saw things that never happened. Rollins and Howard both went 0-4 in Game 5. They only had 2 runners in scoring position the whole game.

    www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PHI/PHI201110070.shtml

  10. Richard

    May 10, 2013 02:18 PM

    ugh, not to pick at the scab, but looking at the details of that game, I’m reminded of other infuriating things:

    Giants tied the game on an error by Placido Polanco, of all people.

    Lincecum was brought in in relief, and the Phillies hit three line drives against him, but the third was Ruiz’s absolutely scalded liner right at Huff, and Victorino is doubled up.

    Never mind the sheer unlikelihood of Juan Uribe hitting a homerun to right field. Gah.

  11. Cheesecrop

    May 10, 2013 06:13 PM

    2010 hurt worse than 2011. In 2010 we lost the chance to three-peat as N.L. champions. To this day, I’ll always say that one blown strike call in the 5th inning of Game 1 cost us a chance to push the Series to a 7th Game.

    If I recall it correctly, it was the 5th Inning of Game 1. Halladay has two outs, two strikes on Pat Burrell, & the score is 2-1, Giants. Halladay throws strike three, Burrell looks at it, & the ump calls it a ball. Burrell then hits a double that drives in a man on second, making the score 3-1. Someone else picked up a hit afterwards, & made it 4-1.

    Later in the game, Jayson Werth hit a two run home run, to make it 4-3, but that’s how it ended. Had the ump called strike three, the game remains 2-1 Giants, till Werth eventually hits what would’ve been been the game winning HR for a 3-2 victory.

    Why do I bring it up? Game 7 would’ve been Matt Cain vs Cole Hamels. At the time, the Phils had had some success against Cain. In addition, the Game 7 would’ve been here, w/a pitcher who’d been through the pressure (Hamels) vs someone pitching in his first Game 7 ever (Cain). I’d like to believe we might have had at least a fair chance to win.

    As it stands…

  12. Cutter McCool

    May 11, 2013 01:17 AM

    Interesting fact–the phillies from 2007-2011 never won a playoff series in which they lost more than one game.

    Discuss.

    (My thoughts–that kind of explains their losses in the close series in 2010 and 11.)

  13. hk

    May 11, 2013 08:30 AM

    Cheesecrop,

    Of course, if the ump calls that a strike, the whole course of history thereafter changes. You can’t say that the Phils would have won the game (or the Series for that matter) if the ump had gotten that call right. All we know is that they would have been down 2-1, not 4-1, after 4 1/2 innings of Game 1.

    Cutter McCool,

    That is interesting, but it doesn’t tell me anything other than that small sample sizes (10 series, in which they went 6-4, over 5 seasons) can produce random, interesting facts. How does that stat explain their losses in 2010 and 2011 to you? Are you saying that they were front-runners over those 5 years and, as soon as things got bad, they choked?

  14. LTG

    May 11, 2013 09:42 PM

    I think you’re being too hard on the love trope. While it might not be appropriate consolation for the newly love-shorn, it is not meaningless nor trivially false. The point is that to have a truly loving relationship one must risk loving. The lover must take the first step and, thus, risk being hurt. Love cannot go as the Misanthrope, Alceste, would have it: “I love you if you love me.”

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