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Crash Bag, Vol. 58: Full-On Wolf Parade Mode

Posted By Michael Baumann On June 14, 2013 @ 7:00 am In Crabshurn Urly,Crash Bag,MLB,Potpourri,Talking about feelings | 12 Comments

I want to start this week’s Crash Bag off with a pouring out of wine for LB Dantzler, who we’ve likely seen play his last game on national television. South Carolina lost to the Dirty Foots of Chapel Hill last weekend, which means that we’ve likely seen the last of Dantzler, who was drafted by the Blue Jays but, because of his size, lack of defensive ability and swing, is not particularly closer to being a major league prospect than you or I.

So here’s to the last “Hold Me Closer, LB Dantzler.” On to your questions.

@hdrubin: “Doing a Top 5 thing like High Fidelity. Who are your Top 5 Phillies bloggers and Top 5 Tweeters?”

I love High Fidelity. Fun movie, better book. I also encourage the making of Top Five lists. It keeps the mind active and is a great way to kill time on road trips, as is the Rock and Roll Supergroup Fantasy Draft.

(counts names on Crashburn masthead) (twiddles thumbs)

  • Bill Baer
  • Ryan Sommers
  • Paul Boye
  • Eric Longenhagen
  • Michael Baumann

Yes, I think we can move on.

@CrashburnAlley: “which prospect are you most excited to see make his debut now that Gerrit Cole made his for the Pirates?”

Most of the guys who genuinely make my hair stand on end have already made the show, at least briefly, even if they haven’t stayed there. So that rules out Dylan Bundy, Jackie Bradley, Jurickson Profar, Jose Fernandez and Matt Harvey.

The thing is, the kind of position player prospects I like are lower-ceiling, higher-probability guys, usually players with at least a modicum of speed, good defensive ability and one or both of plate discipline and bat control. This is absolutely the result of my watching as much college baseball as I do. But while I find Miguel Sano, for instance, to be an impressive prospect, he doesn’t give me the fizzy innards. On the other hand, I’m geeked as hell about Nolan Fontana, and before him Bradley and before him Andrelton Simmons. I’m not particularly convinced that Fontana will ever be a major league regular, but I love his game.

But pitchers? Yeah, for pitchers I fall in love with the tools. It’s why I was riveted to Cole’s start on Tuesday, in which he twice made me do the Darvish Moan. (The Darvish Moan, named after Yu Darvish, is when I’m watching baseball alone in my apartment and the pitcher throws a pitch that makes me curl up in my chair, bite my lip and make the noise you make when someone gets decapitated in a Tarantino movie.) So I’m excited to see Jamison Taillon join Cole in the majors, I’m excited for Taijuan Walker in Seattle and I’m excited for Archie Bradley in Arizona.

For position players, I’ll give you two, both of whom are pretty far off. The first is Padres catcher Austin Hedges, who is said to be an absolute killer defender, and whom I am excited to see because I listen to a lot of Fringe Average and every time Hedges comes up, Jason Parks waxes hyperbolic and describes him in terms normal people use to describe the Grand Canyon or a particularly refreshing trip to the john. Now, granted, that’s how Parks talks about every toolsy prospect, but supposedly Hedges’ defense is something to see.

The second is Byron Buxton. After years of ignoring the Twins, I’ve taken an interest in them this season for two reasons: 1) I’ve started listening to the Gleeman and the Geek podcast every week and 2) I’ve struck up a friendship with Mike Bates of NotGraphs and SB Nation, who is not only kind enough to take pity on an obnoxious transplant from the East Coast, but he is also the first Twins fan I’ve ever encountered in real life. So I’ve heard a lot about Buxton, who is, if not the No. 1 prospect in baseball, close to it.

And from what I gather, Twins fans have gone into full-on Wolf Parade mode on Buxton, who, now that he’s hit well in A-ball, is apparently better than Mike Trout and drawing Willie Mays comps. And he certainly seems like a killer prospect who oozes athleticism and skill, but I’m not ready to anoint a 19-year-old the Muad’Dib. So I’d like to see Buxton just so I can see if he’s as good as everyone says.

@SpikeEskin: “crash bag question: @petzrawr has like 18 favorite teams, is this fair to everyone else?”

I’m actually very liberal on sports bigamy. While acknowledging that my making rules about what other people can do as sports fans makes me, by proclamation, an asshole, here are my rules on sports bigamy. They might not be universal, but this is the code I live by:

  1. You must choose a primary team. It doesn’t have to be the hometown team, and there doesn’t have to be a good reason for you to pick it. But you get until you turn 13 or until you’ve been following the sport for 12 months, whichever comes later, to pick a team, after which point you only get to change under extraordinary circumstances. And the team being bad isn’t good enough–I’m talking the Sonics moving or Jeffrey Loria gutting the Marlins, or, alternatively, a new home team moving in. If you live in DC and grew up an Orioles fan, the Nationals moving in gives you the option to switch, I think. 
  2. For the four major American sports, you can have up to one secondary team per sport, provided that there is a clear pecking order and no established rivalry between the two. I was gonna say that they can’t be in the same division, but the Blue Jackets (my “second” NHL team) just got moved into the same division as the Flyers, so I dunno what I’m gonna do about that. Nevertheless, if your secondary team wins, or contends for, a title, it’s not forbidden to get all publicly giddy about it, but it’s certainly frowned upon.
  3. I have no idea how to deal with multiple collegiate allegiances. I grew up a fan of Virginia Tech football, and I am still, but that fandom has been superseded since I went to South Carolina for undergrad, and while if I were forced to do so, I’d choose USC, it’s unlikely that these two allegiances will ever collide. That said, you’d have to be one profound sicko to go to school at a rival of the team you grew up living and dying with–I purposely didn’t apply to UVA or Syracuse for that reason. I’ll probably prevent my own kids from going to Clemson or UGA or Florida because if my kid gets a “UGA Dad” t-shirt for Christmas, I’ll burn it. Not the shirt, the kid.
  4. If you are an FC Barcelona fan, You Are An Asshole. Apart from that, root for whatever soccer team you like–just don’t pretend you’re European just because you know who Jose Mourinho is.
  5. If you are a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Lakers or New York Yankees and you didn’t grow up in Texas, California or New York, you are an asshole and God will judge you.
  6. If you are a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, you are an asshole and God will judge you. Not because you’re a Penguins fan, but because you’re from Pittsburgh.
  7. Having a passing affinity for an unrelated team because you like a certain player or because your friend pulls for them is not only acceptable, but encouraged, provided said team is not a rival of your primary team.

I said “asshole” a lot in that response.

@jagenic15: “at what point do the phillies actually get rid of delmon young?”

This offseason, I’m pretty sure. I mean, for all the garment-rending folks (including me) have done over the Phillies landing Delmon Young this offseason, if a general manager who’d ever demonstrated even a scintilla of creativity and foresight had signed The Great Satan last winter, we’d probably have just arched a collective eyebrow and conceded that, in 2003, Delmon Young was one of the most talented baseball players in the world, and even the remote possibility that he’d hit well was worth the likelihood that he wouldn’t. I was going to say, for example, if Jon Daniels had signed Delmon and ordered Ron Washington to play him sparingly and only against lefties…but given the way Daniels builds his bullpens, I don’t think he has a ton of confidence in Wash’s ability to control his own impulses. And if Delmon hits, so much the better. Maybe you use him as power off the bench, maybe you flip him for a reliever or a minor league asset at the deadline.

But the plan all along was for the Phillies to start Delmon Young in right field every day because they thought he’d help them contend this year.

Look at that sentence again. I’m not sure it’s possible to be more wrong than that in one sentence. I count five bad ideas in that sentence, and that’s what they’re doing, and no amount of sub-.600 OPS is going to get them to take him out of not only the lineup but the middle of the order. He’s going nowhere.

@Sean_Bealer: “what is the one move made by amaro that has ruined the phils the most? I’m torn between the pence deal and the first lee deal”

The first Lee deal? You mean where they traded four guys who never amounted to anything for a pitcher who carried them through the playoffs? (Though I did hate that trade at the time because I was in love with Jason Knapp.)

Or do you mean the second Lee deal? It would have been interesting to see that 2011 rotation for another year, with Jayson Werth in the lineup, and yes, I do think Amaro would have traded for Oswalt even if he hadn’t given up Cliff Lee. I thought the second Lee trade was a necessary evil at the time. I loved Phillippe Aumont as a prospect and bought the party line that this deal, and this deal only, would replenish the farm system and free up salary to the point where it would be possible to trade for Roy Halladay.

But it’s not that. Lee was a better player, obtained at the cost of lesser prospects. I’d go with the Pence trade, if not the Howard extension.

@SoMuchForPathos: “I’m still waiting for the hockey fan who can communicate why the sport is so wonderful in terms beyond grunting, ‘The players are tough.’ Not that I don’t like hockey, but hockey fans who prefer that sport to all others always put forth a premise of ‘superior because violence.’ “

Well I’m probably not the best person to articulate this argument, because I don’t prefer that sport to all others. Listen–I own a Dan Carcillo shirsey. I’ve voted Democrat in New Jersey–I’m a big believer in “superior because violence.” But that’s not why I, personally, love hockey.

I enjoy the violence of hockey, and I acknowledge that fighting is stupid while being wholeheartedly in favor of it remaining a significant part of the game. But I’d watch it even if they toned down the violence and the hitting, because it’s the most exciting of the major team sports. For me, the excitement level or a sport is a function of the anticipation of scoring. The more rare scoring chances are, the more important goals (or points or runs or whatever) are, which is why I sometimes drift off during football and basketball–the early parts of the game can often drag as the two teams trade points and feel each other out in the earlygoing. In hockey, goals are relatively rare and they come with little to no warning. Every time a team has the puck in the offensive zone, they’re not only a fraction of a second from scoring, but they’re a fraction of a second from turning the puck over and watching it go the other way, and the later, closer and more important the game, the more exhilarating and terrifying it is to watch–as evidence I submit Wednesday night’s Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

There’s also the pace of the game, the flashy passing, the egalitarian ethic of rolling four lines and everyone (except the goalie) having to play both ways. There’s the international aspect of the game, and the fact that I love both Scandinavians and French-Canadians. I like that hockey is violent, but I don’t like hockey because it’s violent.

Another question.

@SoMuchForPathos: “Mad Men or Game of Thrones?”

Well, now that I’m writing for Grantland, I’m pretty much contractually obligated to think solely in terms of those two shows. And the hour every week I spend listening to the Hollywood Prospectus discussion of Mad Men and Game of Thrones probably wouldn’t be the happiest hour of my week if I had friends or hobbies, but I don’t, so it is. And I’m really worried that now that Game of Thrones is over and Mad Men’s down to its last couple weeks, they’re going to talk about obscure rappers or something the whole time and I’m going to be considerably less happy than I was just a few days ago.

Anyway, Mad Men is better, but I think I like Game of Thrones more. I’m going to co-opt a Mad Men/The West Wing comparison I’ve used for years, with Game of Thrones replacing The West Wing. Also, Game of Thrones is nowhere near as good a TV show as The West Wing.

My two favorite living novelists are Richard Ford and Jonathan Franzen. I’d say Ford’s the better writer of the two, but Franzen writes better books that are more fun to read. I had a creative writing professor in college who told us to consider each word in prose the way one would in poetry–think of how the words sound together, think about cadence and so on. That’s how Ford writes, and I love reading it. But his three best-known works: The SportswriterIndependence Day and The Lay of the Land are about a kind of weird, not-particularly-likeable middle-aged dude and his kind of weird, not-particularly-likeable family. And while the prose is just astounding, the story itself is slow and low-stakes and when I put the book down I’m not enthralled by the story, but I’m a sobbing mess for reasons I don’t really understand. Mad Men is like that–written with obsessive care, very self-contained and understated. Mad Men has more humor and story than the works of Ford, but if you tried to adapt Independence Day for television (I have no idea why I’m italicizing titles of books and not titles of TV shows, but I’m gonna roll with it), it’d be 48 minutes of, like, Bill Nighy and the kid who plays Max on Parenthood driving through upstate New York and not talking to each other. But Mad Men is still, while brilliant television, a real chore to watch at times.

Game of Thrones, however, just flat-out great storytelling. It’s smart without being particularly pretentious. It’s imaginative, it’s dramatic, it’s scary, it’s funny and it’s an absolute thrill to watch every week. That’s why I love Franzen–he’s about 90 percent of Ford in terms of just stringing a bunch of words together, but he’s a superb storyteller. (And he gets so much extra credit for basing at least his latest two novels in everyday life, without the crutch of magic or high geopolitical stakes. You wanna know why I liked Silver Linings Playbook better than Zero Dark ThirtyArgo or Lincoln last year? That’s why.) And he creates exciting characters, ones as sad and weird and flawed as Ford’s Frank Bascombe, but somehow more compelling. That’s why I like Franzen better.

The thing is, the writing and acting in Game of Thrones isn’t as close to the writing and acting in Mad Men as the writing and acting in The West Wing is. Not only that, but there’s the fact that George R.R. Martin makes me deeply uncomfortable. You’ve got this story about a civilization with fascinating politics and populated by fascinating people, but whose most prosperous industry is prostitution. Which is all well and good, but there’s also a lot of rape and incest and teenaged girls gettin’ nekkid and I really really hate to judge a story by its creator’s physical appearance, but…really?

Anyway, Game of Thrones is absolutely more fun to watch, but Mad Men is better and I like it more.

@Phisportsfan11: “compare the 2013 phillies roster to the 2008 phillies roster?”

It’s a lot worse. The end.

Now go in peace.


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