Crash Bag, Vol. 55: We All Prisoners, Chicky Baby

When I got home on Wednesday night, there was a notice taped to the door of my apartment building announcing that the pool would open next week.

I’ve lived here for five months and I had no idea we had a pool. I’m going to have to start working out. I wonder if we have a gym too.

Your questions, starting topically.

@dj_mosfett: “How long will Chase Utley *actually* be on the DL?”

Seems like the requisite 15 days is a decent estimate, maybe a little longer. But you know these oblique injuries–they can go sideways really quickly.

@DangerGuerrero: “do u think dom brown would have a higher ops if he were a giant dragon?”

No, I do not.

Dragons have relatively short arms and large heads, so Dragom Brown would not be able to cover the plate effectively. Furthermore, if he’s got eyes on either side of his head like a dinosaur (I’m thinking scary dragons and not that big flying cat from How to Train Your Dragon), he’d lack the depth perception required to hit.

That said, the power of flight would probably make him a superb defensive outfielder, so it might be worth it anyway.

@stevoc31: “why does Delmon Young exist?”

So Wally Joyner can take him to the Island of Dr. Moreau and turn him into a dragon for experimental purposes. This should happen at once.

@dj_mosfett: “In light of Delmon Young‘s recent batting success, what is the appropriate way to celebrate success for a player you loathe?”

I have two coping mechanisms:

  1. Acknowledge it but insist that it won’t persist for long. This is what I would have done if Wilson Valdez had ever hit over .250 for any stretch of time long enough to notice. That way, you come of as a superior sumbitch while refusing to recognize that someone you don’t like is doing something that benefits your team.
  2. Pretend it isn’t happening. Is Delmon Young hitting well? I really haven’t noticed.

@FelskeFiles: “Is there any player from another team the Phillies could reasonably acquire that would substantially help them? Ethier?”

I was always a big Andre Ethier believer. First of all, he’s just a tremendously handsome man. Look at him. The deep, dark eyes, the flawless olive skin, the rakish stubble, the thick, curly hair–it’s like he stepped off the cover of a romance novel, into the batter’s box and, one hopes, into my bedroom.

But if I just went off my own memory, I’d have rated Ethier as one of the 10 greatest hitters of all time, just because he seemed to kill the Phillies. I have no idea what his career numbers against the Phillies are, but he had, like, six big hits against them from 2008-10 or so, and even if he’d struck out literally every other time he’d faced Phillies pitching, I’d have still remembered him as a Phillie-killer.

So can he help the Phillies? Probably, but only because Delmon Young, Laynce Nix and John Mayberry are so awful. Ethier is a player whose value is bound up entirely in his bat and exaggerated by traditional statistics, who is signed to a contract that would never have been team-friendly if it ran over any term of his career, and which is hilariously rich now considering that he’s declining pretty quickly.

In short, that makes him precisely the kind of player the Phillies would acquire.

@shame_c: “Estimated date of RAJ’s termination?”

When was Judgment Day in the movie…August 29, 1997.

Guys, we’re just going to have to accept that Ruben Amaro‘s not going anywhere for several years. Like I’ve said, he thinks (or at least he says he thinks) that this team can still win a  title as currently constituted, and he can’t start the rebuild to which he is, by the unwritten rules of hiring and firing baseball ops execs, entitled. Not until this team has been so thoroughly scuttled that no amount of wish fulfillment or brazen mendacity can hide the fact that this team is beyond salvation. Then he gets five to seven years to build the team up from scratch. I’d give even odds that my children will remember Ruben Amaro being the Phillies’ GM.

@andymoney69: “gif or jif”

I pronounce it with the hard G, because I can read. But to each his own.

On a related note, I’m a fan of having rules for grammar and pronunciation. I’m kind of a conservative, meat-and-potatoes kind of person, and as such, I don’t like the idea of “they” becoming an acceptable neuter, third-person singular pronoun.  For example. Now, I understand (and frankly enjoy) regional accents and vernacular, and allowing for that keeps alive the geographic and cultural diversity that makes the United States so special. But I am not an anarchist. I am not a fan of throwing away the rules because we’re too lazy to enforce them, and there’s a fine line between linguistic evolution and, when being faced with the kind of intellectual stratification that Huxley foretold in Brave New World, siding with the Epsilons.

I’m engaged to be married to a linguist, and she’s fond of answering my grammar pedantry with pointed arguments about the fluidity of language. Essentially, she says, I’m a dinosaur and my slavish devotion to arcane rules will render me laughably obsolete, and soon. Every time she says this, it becomes more likely that one day I’ll be a widower who’s serving a lengthy prison sentence. I’m all for evolution, but total lawlessness scares me.

@DashTreyhorn: “What baseball team has the best TV broadcast crew?”

I’m just going to get this out of the way. I’m not an enormous Vin Scully fan. Like, I appreciate his place in history and admire the fluid and literary way he calls a game. I love great soccer announcers, because there, perhaps more than in any other sport, do you really get great descriptive quality, and Scully’s the only TV announcer in baseball who does that. But I don’t bat my eyes and kowtow at the mention of his name, nor do I seek out Dodgers home broadcasts just to listen to his voice. There is no baseball announcer I like that much.

In fact, the only broadcast duo that I’d go out of my way to listen to is ESPN’s (now former) Premier League duo of Ian Darke and Steve McManaman. Other broadcast partnerships that I think are active positives–Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit, Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy, even the Flyers’ team of Jim Jackson and either Bill Clement or Keith Jones–aren’t appointment viewing for me. And for some reason, baseball announcers add even less to my viewing experience than any other sport’s. This is not to say that I haven’t turned off a baseball game because the announcers were so awful. Well, I’ve turned off a game on Fox because of Mitch Williams, and I refuse to watch the NESN feed of Red Sox games on because of Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo. But apart from that, I just ignore the announcers by and large. When I watch the Phillies, even though everyone seems to think T-Mac and Wheels are awful, I watch the Phillies’ feed because I like to hear familiar voices, and I don’t know that anyone else’s broadcasters are a whole lot better.

That said, I’ll pick out a couple of the best:

  • San Francisco Giants: Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper. This is the one non-Phillies feed I’ve watched so far this season.
  • Chicago Cubs: Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Kasper works in analytics the way I think you ought to–with concepts, not with numbers. Though while I value his skill, I also value not watching the Chicago Cubs.
  • New York Mets: Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez. I’ve never actually heard them, because that would require watching a regular-season Mets game that the Phillies aren’t involved in, and I don’t like baseball enough to do that. But I’ve also never heard anyone say anything bad about these guys, and they came in second to Scully on FanGraphs’ announcer rankings a couple years back, so people who actually care about such things rate them highly.
  • Houston Astros: Bill BrownAlan Ashby and Geoff Blum. The best baseball-watching experience I’m going to have 2013 was Yu Darvish‘s near-perfect game the first week of the season, a game I watched start-to-finish on the CSN Houston feed. And up until the moment where Blum tried to make a joke about Darvish learning to swear in English and being greeted with the humid, deafening silence that comes when people unthinkingly say something xenophobic into a hot microphone, this broadcast was a joy. It’s a relatively new booth–Blum and Ashby are both in their first year in the CSN booth, so I’m excited to see if this team gets better as the season goes on.

@JNisula: “what would be the saber equivalent of the triple crown and who has done it in the past?”

Well the easy answer is the triple-slash line of AVG/OBP/SLG, and while I think that gives you a good offensive profile of a player, I’d like to have some counting stats in there. If you’re taking a holistic view of a batter, I feel like you need to judge quantity as well as quality.

Here’s why the concept of the triple crown doesn’t gibe with sabermetric principles, such as they are. If we’re boiling hitting down to one stat, it’s probably going to try to be holistic–wRC+ or something like that, although I’m sure Colin Wyers uses something so far beyond that that his gorge rises at my mentioning such an imprecise tool–in which case the leader in one is going to be the leader in all of them, and if it isn’t, it won’t be for any reason than statistical noise or methodological differences.

So you’ve got to pick three stats that are

  1. Simple and well-known. I can put a player’s batting average on the bell curve in my mind just by looking at it, to say nothing of being able to calculate it with one arithmetic function.
  2. Measure the range of hitter performance. What I like about the old Triple Crown categories is that they measure different things–quantity of hits, power and overall run production–about as well as could be expected in a time when we thought man would never travel faster than sound and women were the de facto property of their husbands. I like the range of skills that the original Triple Crown was meant to measure, but now that we’re all not worried about dying of polio, we can measure those skills less crudely.
  3. Used to evaluate batting only. So no WAR or anything.

I don’t think we need to get a whole lot more sophisticated mathematically, only philosophically. So I’d go with OBP instead of average, ISO instead of home runs and total bases instead of RBI. I’m not crazy about total bases, but it’s better than runs or RBI and it’s a simple counting stat. If you have more tolerance for adding linear weights to something that’s supposed to be populist, I’m sure you can come up with something better.

I don’t have a clue if anyone’s led the league in all three in one season, and I was going to find out, but I’ve now officially reached the limit of the effort I’m willing to put into answering this question. Sorry, Johnno.

@mdschaeff: “Better career: Bruce Ruffin or Don Carman?”

Ruffin. “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” is much better than the Toreador Song.

@brandonnagy: “why do the Orioles suck so bad”

Do they suck? They’re over .500. They’ve got Mini-Keg, they’ve got Wieters, they’ve got by far the highest density of former Gamecocks of any pro organization. They play baseball in probably one of my top 10 favorite places to be (not stadia, places of any kind). They started Kevin Gausman last night, for God’s sake. Gausman, by the way, looks just as good as advertised–like a demon stork that came from Louisiana with a shotgun, a banjo and a penchant for missing bats. I know he got roughed up a little at the end, but he has noisy stuff.

So even though the Orioles are run by a general manager who ordered his top prospect to stop throwing his best pitch, and have (to my knowledge) the only scouting department to be declared persona non grata by a nation-state, the Orioles do not suck.

When I was about eight years old, my mom was going to Baltimore a lot for work. This was in the height of the Ripken/Mussina/Brady Anderson juggernaut, and the Sun would slip a poster of an Orioles player into every Sunday issue. Anyway, colleague of my mother’s down there, who knew I was a big baseball fan, kept sending these posters to me, and for several of my formative years, I had Mussina, Ripken, Mike Bordick and Eric Davis (or photos of them at least) hanging on my wall. I owned an Orioles hat and given that I was still young enough to be impressionable, I seriously considered converting.

Anyway, they don’t suck. They sucked last year and won 93 games anyway, so just be patient.

@Chongtastic: “Which 1 player from the 2008 team would you send back in time to 1993 to be able to take the WS from Toronto?

This is a fantastic question. I think it’s got to be Cole Hamels, just because there aren’t a whole lot of places to upgrade on that offense. The 1993 team had massive advantages at catcher (remember, 2008 was before Chooch got good), center field and third base. The 2008 Phillies were better at first base, shortstop and the corner outfield spots, but thanks to Kevin Stocker‘s rookie hot streak and some aggressive platooning by Jim Fregosi, none of those positions would have been massive improvements.

Much as I loved Mickey Morandini, plugging in Chase Utley would likely have been a pretty significant improvement. Or, stated another way, you’re replacing Morandini (79 OPS+) and Mariano Duncan (93 OPS+) with someone who could win the second base matchup with Roberto Alomar. So I guess if you said Utley, I wouldn’t argue with you.

But having Hamels, particularly the Hamels of the 2008 playoffs…That Hamels would roll up to your place of business in a robin’s egg blue 1970 Plymouth Superbird with go-faster stripes, blasting the noisier parts of Nirvana’s “You Know You’re Right” and step out of the car to politely inquire about your girlfriend. Then he’d go seek her out, pull down his sunglasses to wink, and invite her to hop in, which she would, and off they’d go, blasting down Interstate 94 to his dude ranch in Montana, where he’d raise rabbits and your girlfriend would cook them for him. And he wouldn’t have to stop for gas. That Hamels was awesome.

Anyway, the 1993 World Series featured some pretty awful starting pitching. Apart from Curt Schilling‘s complete game shutout in Game 5, there wasn’t really a difference-making pitching performance in the whole thing. If Hamels rips off seven innings of one-run ball in Game 3 instead of Danny Jackson getting repeatedly kicked in the cerebellum, Carter’s home run ties the series instead of winning it, and you’re going into Game 7 with Hamels on the mound again.

That 1993 Blue Jays lineup, remember, was more stacked than Otis Redding’s record label: three Hall of Famers, plus John Olerud in his .363/.473/.599 season, plus three more pretty good regulars in Carter, Tony Fernandez and Devon White. It fell off pretty severely from there, but more than anything else, I’d ask for a pitcher to slow down that juggernaut enough to give what was actually a really good Phillies offense a fighting chance.

@dan_camp: “since we’re all sick of brandon mccarthy by now, who’s your favorite player to READ about? interviews, articles, what have you.”

Are we sick of Brandon McCarthy? I could see a little fatigue, since his fame has probably outstripped his accomplishments at this point, but I don’t know that I’m sick of him. I actually went back and looked–I use my Twitter primarily for sports, and I follow 359 people. I went back and counted and only 17 of them are active athletes. And in looking back on that list, I really can’t tell you why I follow most of them. I follow Jackie Bradley and Maurice Edu because I like being reminded about what nice guys they seem to be, and I follow Gabriel Landeskog because I want him to be my boyfriend, but McCarthy’s the only one I find to be consistently interesting. Well, him and Roberto Luongo.

But as much as I appreciate McCarthy embracing Weird Twitter and giving off the impression of being the kind of person I’d like to hang out with, I can see why one might tire of hearing nonstop about a player who is, when you get down to it, a pretty unremarkable starting pitcher.

I just hope you’re not suddenly tired of him because he got into it with Keith Law the other day over whether hot streaks are real or just statistical noise. Because all I’ve got to say on their kerfuffle is that I care very deeply about being right about things, and I do get excited about statistics and game theory and I love a good epistemological debate. But you’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and whether or not hot streaks are random variation or the result of an actual cause…I just can’t make myself care. Particularly when it’s in the context of whether or not you walk Miguel Cabrera intentionally. He’s the best hitter in baseball, but Prince Fielder‘s up next. You don’t walk anyone on purpose if Prince Fielder is up next, not even if he’s as locked in as Michelle Lee at the drive in in that scene from The Love Bug.

But I should probably answer your question at some point.

I might get tired of Jose Fernandez‘s backstory at some point, but I haven’t yet. I referenced it earlier this week in (shameless self-promotion coming up) my latest Grantland post, but Fernandez’s road to the majors involves sharks and prison, and it’s a big reason he’s becoming one of my favorite players in the league. I also enjoy tall tales about prospects, because the low minors and the spring training back fields are still remote enough that we get some mystery and exaggeration about them. You’ll hear stories about Miguel Sano‘s power and Austin Hedges‘ defense that make you think of John Henry beating the steam drill. It’s got a little bit of the old man who’s been there bending your ear at the saloon to it, and I do love me some folklore.

That’s all for this week’s Crash Bag. Come Monday, I’m gonna wear the hell out of some white shoes.

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  1. LTG

    May 24, 2013 07:40 AM

    1. Your fiancee is right.
    2. What if speakers are obeying meta-rules–rules for creating new rules and changing old ones? Would you still long for the French Academy then? Maybe you can have your law-and-order cake and eat it too. (Or would you insist I say “eat your cake and have it too”?)

  2. LTG

    May 24, 2013 07:56 AM

    Why not WPA for the third saber-triple-crown category? Total bases and ISO basically double counts the same achievement; it would be the same to just make PA one of the categories. And WPA actually measures what people want RBIs (or would you insist on “RsBI”?) to measure: how much a player helped his *team* win. (When I emphasize ‘team’ it means something special and magical.)

  3. JM

    May 24, 2013 08:31 AM

    I love RBI’s. Mostly because I rack them up in my recreational softball league. This is a team stat for sure, but I like the idea of the guy that gets hits when others are on base. Do we love Ichiro for getting 200 hits per season, or Hack Wilson for racking up more RBIs that most players have hits? Seriously, 191 RBIs in 1 season is freakish. I would be more inclined to sponsor the RBI% metric suggested by BB a few months ago as the 3rd saber-triple crown. This would also bring back the ever lively debate on “clutch”…

  4. JM

    May 24, 2013 08:33 AM

    I also agree, whole heartedly, with you regarding the laws of grammatical correctiveness…

  5. LTG

    May 24, 2013 08:50 AM


    Was that last post ironic? (Extraneous commas, lack of hyphen between ‘whole’ and ‘heartedly’, ‘correctiveness’–whatever that is supposed to mean–instead of ‘correctness’)

  6. JM

    May 24, 2013 09:01 AM

    haven’t you ever heard the expression “do as I say, not as I do”? I also like to make up words that sound right, but mean nothing at all. There were also no extraneous commas. The “whole-heartedly” describes my agreement and is therefore ensconced in commas. You correctly point out that I did miss the “-“, and I made up a word. I ain’t mad atcha…

  7. JM

    May 24, 2013 09:06 AM

    I also work in the corporate world, where everyone is so educated that they refuse to call me out on my foibles, for fear that they will look uneducated. This is what I do for fun in the ever-exiting world of corporate accounting….

  8. Jonny5

    May 24, 2013 09:06 AM

    Your Fiancee must be a Communist.

  9. Bill Baer

    May 24, 2013 09:08 AM

    I both agree with Baumann’s fiancee, and I’m a communist.

    Send all the grammar prescriptivists to the gulags!

  10. LTG

    May 24, 2013 09:32 AM

    1) The commas are extraneous because ‘whole-heartedly’ modifies the entire verb phrase ‘agree with you’ and is embedded in it. Commas extract the adverb as if it modified the whole clause.

    2) Also, the ‘also’ is misplaced, allowing for the interpretation that you along with others agree with MB.

    3) This is why I hate grammar prescriptivism, although knowing this stuff is useful for writing in formal contexts.

    On the ‘do as I say’ point, the extent to which grammar prescriptivists fail to follow the rules they themselves endorse, yet experience no communicative failure, leads me to think there is no point in doing as they say.

  11. JD

    May 24, 2013 09:48 AM

    Wait you’re a girl?

    “The deep, dark eyes, the flawless olive skin, the rakish stubble, the thick, curly hair–it’s like he stepped off the cover of a romance novel, into the batter’s box and, one hopes, into my bedroom.”

    Or… not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  12. SteveH

    May 24, 2013 09:59 AM

    So the question about which 08″ phillie goes the the 93 team. I can’t believe I’m typing this but knowing what we know and playing “Monday morning quarterback” isn’t the correct answer Brad Lidge. He doesn’t blow the 29 run game and he doesn’t give up the homer to Carter. Don’t get me wrong Hamels and Utley are better but again, based on what we know Lidge does deserve consideration.

  13. TomG

    May 24, 2013 10:00 AM

    Re: Broadcasters: I like Darling and Hernandez, too. Especially Darling because he can be scathing when he feels it is warranted, and I was fortunate enough to catch him on two occasions when he was particularly scathing, once toward other broadcasters (the Marlins’ Hutton and Waltz), and once toward a player (Ryan Braun). Hutton and Waltz had both worked themselves into a High Dudgeon over what they insisted was a blown call that cost the Marlins a walkoff against the Phillies back in 2010. Darling sounded absolutely disgusted the next day when he pointed out that they were basing their judgment on where the ground ball landed rather than where it was when it passed the third base bag, which was the only relevant issue when it came the ball’s fair- or foulness. (You can see the vid here: NB, Darling wasn’t saying he could tell whether the ball was fair or foul; he was just appalled that two broadcasters – one of whom is a former major leaguer – seemingly didn’t know this simple rule and presumed to upbraid an umpire over it. (On the upside, the ump they were lambasting was Balk-a-day Bob, so … win-win.)

    The other time, Darling pointed out what a class act Ryan Braun was in his televised press conference when he threw the guy who collected his urine sample under the bus, strongly implying that the guy must somehow have contaminated his sample, or allowed someone else to. Because we all know that the MLB network routinely breaks into regularly scheduled programming when they cover the televised press conferences of unknown urine sample collectors, also, right? I think the word Darling used to describe Braun’s choice to do this was “shameful”. I was waiting for somebody with some juice to point this out about Braun’s press conference, and as far as I know, Darling is the only one who did so in a non-mealy-mouthed way.

    As for the Phillies’ broadcast guys, they really don’t bother me too much. I really don’t expect to learn much from broadcasters. All I want is foax who get as giddy as I do when the Phils win, and as downcast and petulantly resentful as I do when they lose; and TMac, Wheels and Sarge fit that bill fine. When he Phils are still in a game and then some butthole – let’s say, for the purposes of this hypothetical, Chipper Jones – goes yickety (HAR! “yickety”! Why did that never catch on? No wonder that Hooters waitress had (presumably consensual) sex with ol’ Chipper! … Or as Chipper would say, she “went yickety”) on them, TMac always says something like “… and that one is not coming back …” in the exact same voice that a 7-year-old uses when he says “thanks” after opening a birthday present that he hoped was that Utley jersey he’d asked for only to find out it’s a three-pack of generic brand tighty-whities. And that’s fine with me because I, too, at that point, feel as though I’ve been given a pack of unwanted and unneeded tighty-whities and hafta pretend I like them … or, at least, that I don’t wanna kill whoever gave them to me.

    With Wheels? When he goes into one of his interminable anecdotes, just imagine you’re Homer in an ep of The Simpsons and you’re tuning out one of Grandpa Simpson’s “In my day …” stories. Mentally chant your mantra of “D’ohhhhhmmmm!” to yourself. Trust me, the experience becomes oddly enjoyable.

    Hahahaha! No it doesn’t! That’s what you get for trusting me!

    As for Sarge, how can you not love him, what with his fancy lids and grasp of the obvious? “He just threw him a fastball which is that particular ball that is fast, if you will …” How can you argue with that insight and why would you want to?

    That said, if someone would guarantee me that, were Wheels, TMac and Sarge to die tomorrow in an industrial accident (which is an accident that happens in a particular industry, if you will), we would get LA and Scott Franzke in their stead on TV, I’d help pay for that particular accident, if you will.

    Because I love it when LA sez, “Should we go to The Cloud?”

  14. Tim

    May 24, 2013 10:17 AM

    I was also going to suggest WPA as a component of a modern triple crown, as LTG did. There are a lot of great stats that measure pure, context-free production, I’m keen on woba, for instance, but WPA includes the context of winning (and losing) games. It would be a good complement to some of the straight-production stats out there and include a different side of the game, plus it’s essentially a counting stat, though not in the whole number sense that we’re used to.

    By the way, I was a linguistics major in college, so I figured I’d weigh in on the language debate part as well. I try to strike a balance between “correctness” and an acknowledgment of language change in my formal writing (i.e. work stuff), but I try not to get too hung up on it elsewhere. This is hard for me, because I grew up in a family of word and grammar snobs. But the key thing in linguistics – and what a lot of people don’t get about it – is that linguistics doesn’t care about rules or correctness, it’s a study of human behavior. And the way humans behave in terms of language use is that words constantly change their meanings (and pronunciations) and so-called rules come in and out of fashion all the time. So if you end up being slavish to whatever set of rules are correct at any given time, you will inevitably be left behind.

    So in the real world, my policy is to cling to the “correct” usages for as long as they seem viable, but then give up and go with the flow when it becomes inevitable. That way, you’ll generally sound smart and educated, but won’t come off like a pedantic prick most of the time (hopefully).

    And yes, punctuation evolves just like grammar and usage (there’s an interesting article on today about how the apostrophe was invented and the not-that-crazy movement to get rid of it entirely).

    All that being said, there are definitely fads in grammar and usage, and it’s best to try to avoid those and recognize true long-term changes.

    If anyone wants a great read on the subject, dig up David Foster Wallace’s 40-some page review of Garner’s Modern American Usage Dictionary (it’s anthologized in “Consider the Lobster”), then go out and immediately buy that dictionary, which is awesome (and which, I have to brag, I got to help edit a small section of the latest edition).

  15. Jonny5

    May 24, 2013 10:24 AM

    I just had a discussion last night with my baseball nerd friends and we did decide that when “they say” or “they said” is uttered from a person, it’s because the person is either.
    A) Making shit up.
    B) Listening to people who made shit up.
    C) So full of shit they don’t know what “they” themselves are talking about.

    So just remember when somebody tells you:

    “They say” vaccines contain dangerous levels of mercury causing autism.

    Or “They say” Almond butter dissolves belly fat.

    Just ask this person speaking who “They” are, and smugly enjoy the blank stare you get in return as the person realizes you just snagged them on point A,B, or C above.

    Accepting the use of “they say” is promoting lies, deceit, the consumption of bad information, among other “bad” things.

  16. TomG

    May 24, 2013 10:25 AM


    “And the way humans behave in terms of language use is that words constantly change their meanings (and pronunciations) and so-called rules come in and out of fashion all the time. So if you end up being slavish to whatever set of rules are correct at any given time, you will inevitably be left behind.”

    So what you’re saying is there’s hope for “yickety” still?

    I, too, highly endorse the DFW essay Tim alludes to. You can find the version of it that was publisher in Harper’s (soon to be “Harpers”) here:

    NB: You will need a PC with at least one terabyte of memory to access that essay online.

  17. TomG

    May 24, 2013 10:26 AM

    uh .. *published*

  18. Jeff

    May 24, 2013 10:27 AM

    Vin Scully has had a nice career, but it’s probably time for him to hang it up. Next time the Phillies play LA, watch the Dodgers broadcast and count how many times he mistakenly refers to Ryan Howard as “Frank Howard.”

    Call me crazy, but when it comes to play-by-play guys, I tend to place a fair amount of importance on them not being senile old coots who think they’re watching players from the sixties.

  19. LTG

    May 24, 2013 11:10 AM

    Grammar prescriptivists are tyrants! MB wants to prescript me and take my land! Where are Harmodius and Aristogeiton when I need them!?!?

  20. max

    May 24, 2013 11:28 AM

    RE: athletes to follow on twitter: fernando tatis (@fernandotatis17) it’s gold, jerry. GOLD!

  21. Scott G

    May 24, 2013 01:22 PM

    Ron Darling sounds like he always has peanut butter in his mouth while he’s talking

  22. Dan

    May 24, 2013 02:04 PM

    I live in California, so usually listen to games on the radio on my way home from work, which means I have to listen to the home team’s radio broadcast because that’s what Sirius tells me I can listen to. And I have to say, over the last few days I’ve come to the conclusion that the Marlins’ radio guys are the worst I’ve ever heard. First, he called Carlos Ruiz “Cheech”, which is just plain laziness in your research. Later when discussing an injury, he didn’t know what a “lat” was, and stated that he didn’t know as if it would be CRAZY for someone working with professional athletes on a daily basis to be familiar with the common name for a major muscle group. But I guess there are more Yankees and Phillies fans in south Florida than they are Marlins fans, so I suppose it’s doesn’t really matter.

  23. SJHaack

    May 24, 2013 02:58 PM

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer as an excellent broadcast team, because you address the Orioles in the next question and they are awesome broadcasters. I highly recommend tuning in. The Orioles have some good players, and a great tv crew to hype you up about them.

    I’m going to wholeheartedly dispute your assertion that the 2008 Phillies were better at 1st than the ’93 squad. Outside of hitting dingers, John Kruk was a much better player in 1993 than Ryan Howard was in 2008. He gives up about 60 points in slugging, but is ahead of Howard in OBP by *90* points. He walked 111 times that year and hit .316. He was also less awful in the field and less awful on the basepaths.

    I would probably go with Chase or Cole, though I would seriously consider Pat the Bat.

  24. LTG

    May 24, 2013 04:53 PM

    Pat the Bat is interesting. His WAR from 2008 makes him basically the equivalent of Incaviglia, but that might be due to the difference in hitting contexts. So, how do we translate from 2008 to 1993? Raw stats or value metrics? Is this even a question with an answer?

  25. EricL

    May 25, 2013 01:04 AM

    For relative offensive performance I think you can use a normalized stat like wRC+/OPS+.

    Incaviglia’s wRC+, while playing primarily as platoon player in ’93, was 119.

    Burrell, who played every day, posted a 125 wRC+ in ’08.

    Milt Thompson, the other half of that ’93 platoon, was 82.

    Burrell and Incaviglia were plodding fielders (although the defensive metrics are kind to Incaviglia for the ’93 season but that’s not really a large enough SS to mean a whole heck of a lot), while Thompson was better.

    On the whole Burrell would be an improvement over the LF platoon, but Utley over Morandini would be a much larger upgrade, as would Cole over any non-Schilling starter.

    SJ, you might be right about Howard over Kruk, and definitely and if you look solely at their WAR numbers for ’93 and ’08.

  26. Tass

    May 25, 2013 01:00 PM

    Since nobody else commented about it, the following players won the OBP, ISO, and WPA triple crown since 1945 (WPA isn’t calculated pre-1945 on B-R):

    Barry Bonds – 1992, 1993, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
    Mark McGwire – 1998
    Mike Schmidt – 1981
    Dick Allen – 1972
    Willie McCovey – 1969
    Carl Yastrzemski – 1967
    Ted Williams – 1949, 1954
    Stan Musial – 1948

    B-R doesn’t have a yearly leaders table for ISO, so I had to use Play Index and go through it manually 🙁 I think this list is correct, but it’s definitely possible I missed someone.

  27. Todd B

    May 26, 2013 05:53 AM

    As a life-long fan of Love Bug, my eyes totally lit up with the title of this article. I thought, “Could it really be, a Love Bug reference in a Phillies blog?” Couldn’t be happier to see that! Ok, I could be happier, but you get the point.

    And I agree with the Lidge on the ’93 team. We win Game 4 and 6 with Lidge, so the series is ours and Canada can start sucking a year sooner.

  28. hk

    May 27, 2013 05:38 AM

    I don’t care why Delmon Young exists, but I do care why he still exists in a Phillies uniform. To the fans who defended the DY signing with comments like, “if he sucks, RAJ will just cut him”, when is enough PA’s to cut him and prevent him from cashing in on the attendance and weight clause bonuses that will be coming due in the next few weeks and beyond? The facts are:

    1. He has been a below league average hitter in 81 PA’s.

    2. Despite what Pencilfish’s eyes tell him, DY’s been a below league average RF. Fortunately, the manager’s eyes tell him differently than Pencilfish’s and even he recognizes the need to replace DY in RF late in games that the Phils are leading.

    3. He’s such a bad base-runner that the manager feels compelled to pinch-run for him with a pitcher…and not just any pitcher, a pitcher is being paid $24M per season.

    4. This one may not be a fact because I heard it on sports talk radio and am not sure if it was the host’s opinion or if he was quoting the front office, but the host said that the reason the Phillies called up Martinez to replace Utley was because they needed roster flexibility because of the need to replace DY on the base paths and in RF late in games. If this is true, DY is effectively costing the team two roster spots while producing below average results at bat, in the field and on the bases. If so, it speaks volumes about DY and about the front office’s incompetence.

  29. Phillie697

    May 28, 2013 02:03 PM

    I would walk Barry Bonds in his prime everytime he’s up to bat just on principle, and I don’t care if Prince Fielder is up next. For example, in 2001, the first year of his ridiculous 4 year span, he had a BB% of 26.7% and slugged .863. In other words, he averaged more than a base per PA. Walking the guy, hence giving him a free base, is actually statistically less advantageous for his team than actually letting Bonds swing away. That wasn’t even, unbelievably, his most ridiculous season; in 2004, his BB% was 37.6% while slugging .812.

    Oh, and I agree with MB. Not that I’m a grammar nazi, but the fact that many of the accepted use of words and grammar these days arose from the fact that they were frequent mistakes that people made, and they would even acknowledge that they were mistakes if you pointed it out to them, that they now become the accepted norm. That is basically condoning people for not being educated. Why make people have education if the accepted norm is for them not to use said education? Hell why send kids to school at all? Instead of bettering ourselves, we can just change the “standard” with which we govern ourselves to whatever frequent mistakes we make. Yes, that’s how I want my society to evolve. Brilliant.

  30. Western Dave

    May 28, 2013 03:43 PM

    So what are you using for gender neutral pronouns?

  31. LTG

    May 28, 2013 04:20 PM

    “That is basically condoning people for not being educated…” (The rest turns into unjustified and hyperbolic generalization.)

    This is precisely the sort of socio-political hand-waving that makes me skeptical. Why are arcane and for-the-most-part-useless rules of grammar and diction part of a good education? What makes one dialect the dialect of the educated?

    The claim isn’t that language is lawless but rather that the rules taught in grammar-schools and the apparent rigidity of word-meaning are not the laws of language. Perhaps, we should all be educated in what the laws really are, or at least, the best theories of them. On the other hand, as long as communication takes place in an untroubled manner–or in a troubled manner precisely when the matter is troubled–why do non-linguists-and-philosophers need to know how it takes place?

  32. Phillie697

    May 28, 2013 04:31 PM

    Because, LTG, I would still like to think that rules, however arbitrary they are, are the “social contract” with which we decided to bind ourselves with in order to have a civilized society, instead of choosing to live in anarchy. That’s what laws are, no? Yes, laws and rules evolve over time, but what you and others advocate here, basically is a brazen disregard of the rules for no other reason other than because “you can’t be bothered.” I have YET to hear any semi-reasonable “reasons” why certain rules should be changed other than “I don’t want to be a grammar nazi.”

    My problem isn’t so much with the proposition, but the mindset.

  33. Phillie697

    May 28, 2013 04:49 PM


    I have to make a correction after reading your latest post. “Why are arcane and for-the-most-part-useless rules of grammar and diction part of a good education?” If your reason is that some of the rules serve no purpose for the most part, then please, point out what those are. I am all for getting rid of useless rules. After all, I’m pretty sure you don’t advocate getting rid of the use of punctuations completely, do you? Yet you and I both know that some people do indeed write like that (in addition to not being able to spell worth a darn). You OBVIOUSLY advocate for SOME rules yourself.

  34. LTG

    May 29, 2013 11:10 AM

    Ok, I should respond to this but it would take too long to do it right. So i’mma do it wrong.

    Here’s the gist: the “rules” of grammar and diction, spoken or written, are valid to the extent that they facilitate clear and precise communication. This means their validity is contextual: it depends on what the speaker is trying to say and how the speaker rightly expects others to interpret his intention. These contexts are always smaller than the entire community of the speakers or writers of a given natural language. Nevertheless, conservative linguophiles decontextualize the “rules” and apply them across all contexts without attention to the aims of communication in the context. The most obvious example is the split infinitive. There is nothing wrong with splitting an infinitive in most cases. Moreover, sometimes a sentence becomes clearer when an infinitive is split. Yet, some educated people will declare a speaker or author of a lesser mind merely for splitting an infinitive (e.g., old, curmudgeonly judges on appellate courts).

    It’s also worth noting that written language is more formalized than spoken language because the pragmatic aspects of speaking are missing. For instance, in writing one cannot employ focus (colloquially, stress) to clarify the structure or emphasis of a sentence. So, in writing there are more cases where it seems rules need to be enforced in order to get the writer to communicate clearly.

    Ok, must stop. Can’t write treatise that isn’t part of the dissertation.

  35. Phillie697

    May 29, 2013 08:01 PM


    Well, we ARE talking about written communications here. I can only speak for myself, but personally, I have never had any oral communications with any of you 😛

    Rules are there to establish a common ground. The correct way for a speaker or writer to communicate isn’t what he or she thinks is the most effective way of communication, but what his AUDIENCE perceives as the most effective way of communication; after all, you KNOW your own thoughts, so if you’re STILL trying to communicate to yourself those thoughts, you utterly failed as a communicator. Seeing as how us human beings have not evolved to read minds and therefore cannot possibly figure out what’s the most effective way to communicate with everyone on an everyday basis, most of our communication being with people we don’t really know all that well, the rules are there to establish a standard so that when you communicate a certain way, EVERYBODY understands what you’re trying to say.

    When people flaunt those rules, inevitably they are speaking from an ignorant perspective, because on what planet do you think you can speak for everyone about what’s the most effective way to communicate for every person on earth to every other person on earth? Sure context is important, but please explain to me how, in a discussion about what generally ought to apply in LANGUAGE rules, that context is of ANY importance, since there IS none. It’s like saying we should certainly play Douchbag Young everyday since he can left-handed pitching pretty decently (career .352 vs. L). In that situation, context sure as hell matter (i.e. if a left-handed pitcher is starting, it may not be the worst thing in the world), but do you really want to have a general rule that “all hitters who hit left-handed pitching well should play everyday”? What if you have no idea what kind of player Delmon Young is? Would you still think that’ a good rule? What if we’re talking about Miguel Cabrera, who hits everything and everyone well? That rule wouldn’t be so bad would it?

    Especially on an online forum, when, I hate to say it, but I don’t know any of you any better than I know a potato, those rules are especially important, since I have no idea what is the most effective way to communicate with you or hk or BB or EL or MB or Pencilfish. Context doesn’t do me jack. That’s why rules are important, if nothing other than it sets a level playing field. Otherwise I may as well start writing in Greek here and get upset when not everyone understand what I’m saying.

  36. LTG

    May 29, 2013 09:43 PM

    All of what you say can be true, yet any “rule” be defeasible in various contexts, and so the carping criticisms that MB was talking about void. Unless the mistake leads to interpretive problems, I don’t see the reason to make anything of it.

    There’s a theoretical question about whether rules are the right way to account for how language remains stable within language communities. Regardless of this question, it is pretty obvious that many of the rules that grammarians teach are not really rules at all but guidelines, like comma placement. And some, like the rule against splitting infinitives, are linguistically useless.

    This point becomes even more relevant for spoken language, which gets more attention from linguists and is more likely what MB was talking about in the first place.

  37. Phillie697

    May 30, 2013 09:48 AM

    Like I said, I hate grammar nazis too, and I certainly have never shown to be one. That said, sometimes somebody DOES have a genuine complaint that may SEEM like it’s him or her being a grammar nazi, when in reality he’s just having a difficult time understanding the speaker. I don’t think our hatred for grammar nazi should stand in the way of being able to effectively communicate with each other. That’s not a problem with the rules, but the application of the rules by douchbags. I think maybe that’s what MB is trying to point out: let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

  38. LTG

    May 30, 2013 11:20 AM

    We basically agree until the last sentence. I’m pretty sure, given the story he told, MB was admitting to being a grammar/diction nazi in the true sense not just the false, I’m-just-trying-to-understand-you sense.

  39. Phillie697

    May 30, 2013 11:55 AM

    Well my point is, rules are not bad. Just people are 🙂

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