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Crash Bag, Vol. 54: Clean, Comfortable Undergarments

I’m going to see Star Trek: Prepositions this weekend. I told myself I wasn’t going to do it, but I will, and it’s going to be terrible and I’m going to be immensely grouchy and it’ll ruin my weekend.

I’ve spent way too much of your time already badmouthing J.J. Abrams’ attempt to figure out what it would be like if Michael Bay produced and directed a Star Trek fan script written by Dave Callaham. But let me say this–the “Trek” in Star Trek isn’t a verb. Whenever there’s a titular line, as far as I can remember, it’s used as a noun. For instance: Q in the TNG finale: “It’s time to put an end to your trek through the stars.” And Zefram Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact: “And you people, you’re all … astronauts … on … some kind of star trek.”


The Star Trek universe can’t be rid of him soon enough.

@Major_Hog: “Is it wrong to buy new socks and underwear because you can’t be bothered doing laundry?”

No. Nothing wrong with it at all. I support such behavior, in fact. Because laundry is stupid. I’ve probably bought socks and underwear rather than doing laundry…maybe half a dozen times in my life. First of all, socks and underwear are pretty cheap, and the feeling of new socks and underwear is one of those little things everyone’s always telling you to enjoy. Furthermore, it’s important to keep your your private parts clothed in clean, comfortable undergarments–fresh ones every day, and brand-new ones as necessary. I support this practice wholeheartedly.

@uublog: “how does [Trouble Will Find Me] compare to previous [The National] albums, in your opinion?”

I like it a lot, because I love me some The National. Having had only about a week with it so far, it’s probably too early for me to draw conclusions, just because of the way I consume music. I pick out one song I like and then listen to it on repeat, often neglecting to listen to the rest of the album. For instance, I’ve owned both Pickin’ Up the Pieces by Fitz and the Tantrums and Record Collection by Mark Ronson & The Business Intl. for two years and I know for a fact that I’ve never listened to either album all the way through, and there’s probably at least one song on each album that I’ve never heard at all.

This is why I can’t be a Serious Music Writer the way Paul probably could. Music is probably the only form of entertainment I consume purely for my own enjoyment, and not because I’m looking to learn either information or some technique so I can incorporate it into my own writing.

The other reason you shouldn’t trust my opinion is that I’m the only person I’m aware of who likes The National and whose favorite album by that band is Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers. But my early impressions are that “Slipped” is a superb song, a slightly less doleful “Runaway” from High Violet, and probably going to be one of my top 10 favorite The National songs, easily. As for the rest of the album, I don’t know that there’s any song I don’t like, but no other speaks to me the way “Slipped” does. Which is an incredibly stupid thing to say, but whatever.

If I had to sum up my feelings about Trouble Will Find Me in brief, I’d say that The National did what they’re usually not good at (vocal layering and upper-register vocals) very well, thank you Sharon Van Etten, and were way too showy about what they’re usually very good at–lyrics and interesting rhythms. At their best, The National is melancholy and subdued, but always with a good groove. You don’t groove all that much on Trouble Will Find Me. There’s none of the head-bobbing you get from Boxer and none of the balls-out rock that characterizes large parts of Alligator. Even as a fan of nonstandard time signatures, the first two songs made me kind of seasick. I still liked this record a lot, but not as much as any of The National’s past four albums.

Though “Don’t Swallow the Cap” is pretty groovy, now that I think about it. I dunno. I have no idea what I think. Ask me in six months.

@CM_rmjenkins: “what do you think about the signing of German outfielder Julsan Kamara? Also, predict the 16th pick in the draft.”

Well the first thing I want to do is admit that when I looked at the report on MLB Trade Rumors I read it as “midfielder” rather than “outfielder,” because the Germans produce thousands of the former and very few of the latter.

From the Phillies’ perspective, this probably doesn’t mean much. It seems like the kid’s talented enough, and I’m glad they’re spending some time looking at what has not been a traditional market for talent. But Kamara won’t even come to the U.S. until next summer, and when he does, one would assume it would take him several years to make it to the majors, if he makes it at all. So if Kamara turns into a prospect, we’ll find out when it happens.

But from a broader perspective, I’m a massive fan of Major League Baseball having an academy in mainland Europe that produces such players as Kamara, because there’s not enough space in soccer and basketball and rugby and hockey and whatever else those silly socialist polyglots play over there for all the good athletes that a relatively wealthy continent of three quarters of a billion people can produce. Just as Allen Iverson growing up playing soccer instead of basketball makes for a great what-if, imagine if Arjen Robben, for instance, had grown up to be a center fielder instead of a soccer player.

Well, first of all, if he had to wear a hat all the time, Robben’s Patrick Stewart-like baldness wouldn’t be so distracting. But just as there’s probably an American Robben who wound up playing baseball or football or hockey, there’s potentially a Dutch or German Chase Utley who grew up playing soccer. Introduce baseball as an option in Europe and eventually you’ll start finding and cultivating world-class talent. Baseball’s conquest of Europe is a big hobbyhorse of mine, and I’ve written about it before, so if you’re interested you can go read that piece. In short, Kamara probably has greater symbolic value than on-field value, but we won’t know one way or another for another five years or so.

As far as the draft goes, it’s pretty much impossible to predict where anyone will go outside the top…I don’t know, five picks or so? There’s more uncertainty in the MLB draft than in the draft of any other major American sport. Amateur players have so much farther to go from draft to big leagues, and the gap in quality of play between high school and the majors is like the chasm in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

Like, occasionally someone will try to be cute and suggest that the University of Alabama could beat the Kansas City Chiefs, or one of John Calipari’s Kentucky teams could hold its own against the Charlotte Bobcats. They couldn’t, of course, but the quality of play is close enough to make it fun to talk about. Well, nobody’s talking about Mater Dei High School beating the Houston Astros, or even Vanderbilt or LSU. In 2011, UCLA righthander Gerrit Cole went No. 1 overall, and he might not pitch in the majors until 2014. And that’s despite pitching for one of the best college teams in the country, and that’s despite college pitchers tending to make it to the majors more quickly than other positions do.

Anyway, if you want a rundown of the top players in the draft, Keith Law’s been giving periodic updates and came out with his first mock draft yesterday. Law has the Phillies taking California high school shortstop J.P. Crawford with their first pick because he’s a “toolsy prep player.” Because that worked out so well with Larry Greene and Anthony Hewitt. But at least Crawford looks like he might have identifiable baseball skills at the time of his drafting and plays an up-the-middle position, which is more than you can say for Greene and Hewitt.

That’s a long way of saying that I have absolutely no clue who the Phillies will take. I would love to see Arkansas pitcher Ryne Stanek, who has fallen from a preseason top-five ranking thanks to a rough junior year, fall to them, but that might not happen. Otherwise, Fresno State outfielder Aaron Judge is intriguing–at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds, he’d be one of the biggest everyday position players in baseball history, but the scuttlebutt is that he might have the athleticism to stick in center field.

The Phillies haven’t taken a college player in the first or sandwich rounds since Joe Savery in 2007. This despite having had some success in the past 15 years or so by spending high picks on college players Chase Utley, Vance Worley, Ryan Howard and Pat Burrell. So they’ll probably pick a high school player. If they go that route, the guy I’d like to see is catcher Nick Ciuffo, for two reasons. First: up-the-middle strength is the rock upon which successful general managers build their church. Second: Ciuffo is a South Carolina commit, so he’s one of, like, six potential first-rounders I know anything about. And I had to pick a name.

While we’re on the subject of the draft…

@TimothyDeBlock: “what round of the MLB draft does Dantzler go in?”

A higher round than he’d have gone in two years ago. The slotting rules favor reaching to draft seniors in the first 10 rounds because they don’t have the threat of going back to college if they get lowballed. Teams have a fixed bonus pool, and if they can sign a senior for under slot in, like, the ninth round, they can apply the savings to someone with more leverage. It’s said that reasoning like this affected the Houston Astros’ draft strategy last year. They took Puerto Rican high school shortstop Carlos Correa No. 1 overall. And it’s not like Correa’s not a stud prospect himself, but he signed for less than slot value, whereas Mark Appel or Byron Buxton would have cost the maximum bonus. So they shifted the savings to reach for other talent. They took Lance McCullers at No. 41 and paid him his slot value, plus some of the money they saved by taking Correa, and he signed. McCullers had upside, and since his dad is a former major league ballplayer, it’s not like he’d need to sign early to pay his family’s bills. So if Houston had offered him slot, odds are McCullers would have thanked them, said no, and played the next three seasons at the University of Florida.

Anyway, for that reason, it would not surprise me if Little Brad went somewhere in the first ten rounds. Here are the pros and cons:



But like I said earlier, trying to predict the draft past the first five picks is foolish. Let’s just say Dantzler’s probably not going in the first round.

@ThisPhillyFan: “Should Charlie be willing to institute a team-wide fine for 1st-pitch swinging?”

No. What he should do is announce that he’s instituting a team-wide fine for swinging at the first pitch, then not actually follow through. Even though it is, on balance, better to work the count than to go up there, swing at a bad pitch and get yourself out, it’s not like a hitter will never see a get-me-over fastball on the first pitch. If you get such a pitch and pick it up early enough, you should absolutely come out of your shoes and try to hit it a mile.

But if you announce that nobody on the team is going to swing at the first pitch, opposing pitchers are going to catch on and start grooving strikes and you’re going to start every at-bat down 0-1. It’s good to swing just enough to maintain the credible threat of swinging at the first pitch, just to keep pitchers honest.

@CF_Larue: “How successful would Sam Hinkie be as a MLB GM? Would he be better than RAJ?”

Probably not.

Like many sports fans, I keep two large hardcover monographs next to my toilet: Bill JamesThe New Historical Baseball Abstract and Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball. Both books discuss the history of their respective sports at length, including cataloging the shocking irresponsibility of executives in the early days of MLB and the NBA. One comes away from those books with the impression that rather than being the visionary geniuses we think they are, men like Branch Rickey and Red Auerbach were just the least racist, least incompetent general managers of their time.

We’re at a point now that the sheer volume of information there is to know about a particular sport is just massive. And considering that Stan Kasten was simultaneously running the Braves and the Atlanta Hawks only 25 years ago, we’ve been there only recently. But I don’t know anywhere near enough about baseball to be a general manager, even a bad one, and if Sam Hinkie’s been spending enough time to develop the reputation he has as a basketball expert, there’s no way he has enough time to achieve even my own meager understanding of baseball.

That said, if you just dropped Sam Hinkie in a baseball GM’s chair, he’d probably learn pretty quickly. He’d probably delegate the details to the best people he could find, but he’d almost certainly fail.

@sparky9042: “By his own standards, is Scott Proefrock an assistant GM?”

You know, that’s the thing people don’t understand about Scott Proefrock…

@asigal22: “rank the likelihood of being traded: Utley, Rollins, Lee, Delmon Young, Michael Young.”

  1. Delmon Young
  2. Lee
  3. Michael Young
  4. Utley
  5. Rollins

In all honesty, Utley’s probably No. 1, but I just can’t imagine, from an emotional standpoint, a situation in which that’s possible.

@shame_c: “You can watch either USC baseball or the Phillies for the rest of your life. Which of the two do you pick?”

Phillies, no question. It’s a matter of volume–the Phillies play about three times as many games as the Gamecocks do in a single season. I don’t want to have to think of things to do other than watch baseball that extra 100 times a year.

@ethan_witte: “on a scale of 1-10, where do you rank Dom when it comes to Phils “offensive issues”?”

Well, he certainly has them. But while he’ll probably never reach the heights we breathlessly predicted three years ago, at least he’s not hitting under .200 against left-handed pitching (Ryan Howard) or setting a record pace for double plays (Michael Young) or slugging under .300 (Ben Revere). He is maybe a 2 on this scale. Which sucks, because when a corner outfielder of modest defensive talents is putting up league-average offensive numbers and he’s one of your least problematic players, you’re completely screwed. Completely screwed.

@SoMuchForPathos: “What’s the most impressive Apollo mission?”

Unfortunately, it’s probably one of the two that anyone knows anyone about: Apollo 11 or Apollo 13. Apollo 13 is impressive because the ship blew up all the way out in space and they still managed to get all three astronauts home unharmed using procedures and equipment that they pretty much made up on the spot. Pretty crazy.

You could make the argument that Apollo 11 is the least impressive. After all, Aldrin and Armstrong were only on the Moon for 21 hours, and only spent about 2 1/2 hours actually walking around outside. I’ve had bad dates that lasted longer than that. If you’re going to spend four days and hundreds of millions of dollars to go a quarter million miles, you’d think it’d be worthwhile to walk around and pick up rocks for longer than the running time of a Terrence Malick movie.

But what a thing to accomplish. And even though others stayed there longer, did more research, played golf and drove cars, that nobody had ever walked on the moon before makes Apollo 11 the most impressive. Everyone else was just following in Neil Armstrong’s badass footsteps.

@Cody011: “List the best shows available on Netflix.”

I’ve taken a while to get back on the watching-shows-on-Netflix horse, because whenever I’m on there and I feel like watching something, I always just throw my hands up and re-watch The West Wing. So I guess that’s your answer. Here’s the list of shows that I’ve done all the way through on Netflix (or on DVD in a couple cases, but they’re on Netflix Instant) that everyone’s already demanded you see, but are absolutely worth it.

All of those are on Netflix Instant and come with my recommendation. In addition to the obvious ones:

@fotodave: “Whats the realistic upside to Carlos Zambrano? Also, odds of him sharing a room on the road with Delmon?”

First question: The upside is that he gets back into shape, eats up a few innings and holds down the fort until (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) John Lannan comes back. We forget this now, after he started punching out his teammates, but time was Zambrano was a damn good starting pitcher. He’ll probably never be that again, but at the start of the season, I’d have given him much better odds to make at least one effective start in the majors this year than, say Ramon Ortiz or Scott Kazmir. And if he’s so awful he can’t get out of whatever minor league team they send him to, then the Phillies have lost nothing. Distasteful as I may find Zambrano personally, I like this signing.

The second question I’ll answer with another question.

@mdubz11: “WWE style battle royal breaks out among the Phillies roster. Who walks away with the championship belt?”

I get asked this question a lot. Not, like, precisely this question, but some variation of putting the Phillies’ 25-man roster in place of the cast of Battle Royale. The last time I answered it, I’m pretty sure I had Hunter Pence winning, so with him gone, and with Carlos Zambrano possibly on his way to the big club, it’s time to revisit it.

I mean, it’d have to be Big Z, right? This is the only player in the Phillies system (that I’m aware of) who has actually come close to punching a teammate on television. He’s got the size to ward off big, but seemingly nice guys like Ryan Howard and Phillippe Aumont (though Howard, as Scott Barry and Josh Beckett can attest, can get nasty enough if provoked).

The only thing I know for certain is that in the event of such a fight, Ben Revere would be dead in about 15 seconds. He’d try to make peace and Delmon Young would beat him to death with a chair.

@dj_mofsett: “Analyze Prince Harry’s swing

Obviously, His Royal Highness seems like something of an athlete–you’ve got to like the way he follows the ball into the zone with his eyes, and he’s got a short, compact swing that’ll generate a lot of contact. But he keeps all his weight on his front foot, lets his hips come open early and starts the bat really low, so I can’t imagine him ever hitting for much power. It looks like the swing of someone who grew up protecting that thing they protect in cricket, and not someone who was ever concerned with hitting line drives.

Good thing he’s got other options for his career.

(Enter Pedantic Prospect Writer)

Hey, folks. It’s Eric Longenhagen. Michael asked me to take a look at and analyze Prince Harry’s swing, which is like asking Masaharu Morimoto to make you a grilled cheese, but I like a good grilled cheese so let me take a  look…..oh dear god. Ok, there is some good and some bad. The eye;hand coordination looks good though it isn’t exactly difficult to track a ball that was lobbed specifically for you to pulverize. HE doesn’t load his hands properly, they’re far too low. I like to see the hands up near the ears. That back elbow should be level. I like the way he clears his hips (even if they do open up a tad early) and his hands follow. The lower half is a mess. Does he know he’s allowed to stride? Balance is poor. Don’t you have to balance a book on your head when you’re a royal kid and stuff? Lest ye be bani-shed? Org guy for me.

(Exit Pedantic Prospect Writer)

Thank you for flying Crash Bag, and we’ll see you next week.