Crash Bag, Vol. 61: I Will Wear White Socks in Europe

I got a lot of comments about last week’s Crash Bag being a downer. I apologize. I was writing while trying to keep up with the Sixers dropping acid at the NBA draft, and at the end of a long week. Being funny is hard work for me, and it requires time, energy and concentration, of which I had very little.

That said, life is utterly without meaning and you’re going to die. All of you are going to die. I really hope I’m not the first person to tell you that.

@uublog: “What are the odds that Revere’s first homer will be inside-the-park?”

Very good indeed. Ben Revere has 1,364 plate appearances in the major leagues. No home runs. He does, however, have five home runs in 1,755 minor league plate appearances.

I do not know how many of those home runs (if any) left the yard. I’m pretty sure Revere could hit a ball out in the right circumstances, but think about how little power a major league position player must have if one is only pretty sure he could hit a ball out of the park. Since the end of the dead ball era, there have been 25 players to accumulate at least 1,000 plate appearances without ever hitting a home run, including 10 pitchers. Of the remaining 15, the only ones I’ve heard of are Revere and Reggie Willits. Only two players, Tom Oliver and Irv Hall, have batted 2,000 times or more without hitting a home run, which is a mark that Revere ought to pass sometime next year.

One interesting thing about that list is how few stolen bases belong to the players on it. Revere, with 94 stolen bases to his name, has more than twice as many as Willits, who is second on the list with 40. And those 40 came in 57 attempts, which is a pretty terrible success rate. Maybe it’s just because I assumed everyone on that list would be like Revere, but doesn’t it seem strange that players with so little power steal so few bases?

But returning to the original question, I guess the point is that sooner or later Revere’s gotta hit a home run, right? There’s a part of me that’s shocked that Revere, who can barely hit the ball out of a Little League stadium, hasn’t hit a gapper that took a funny bounce or had an outfielder fall down on him yet. You’d think that someone with Revere’s speed would have been able to leg out an inside-the-park home run, but he’s only even tripled 13 times in his major league career, so maybe he lacks even the power to hit a ball hard enough for, like, Andre Ethier to boot it.

As you can see, I’ve talked myself into and out of about three different conclusions while answering this question. So I don’t know. Go ask your father.

@KevinBors23: “thoughts on being a team loyal (rooting for the same team) vs player loyal (rooting for team a certain player is on) fan?”

I presume this is about the looming specter of Chase Utley being traded. Here’s what I’ll say about that.

If your favorite team gets rid of a player you like, by all means continue to root for that player in his new environment. I didn’t stop loving Mike Richards and Jeff Carter when the Flyers traded them, and I continue to enjoy their success in Los Angeles. I’ll continue to cheer for Jrue Holiday as a Pelican and if Utley gets moved, I won’t love him any less.

But remember that we root for laundry. I am a soccer fan because of Thierry Henry. I was kind of aware of the sport and caught the occasional international and MLS game on TV before the 2006 World Cup, but seeing Henry in that tournament revolutionized my relationship with soccer the way no athlete has ever impacted my relationship with any sport. I’d put Henry behind only Allen Iverson on my list of athletes I enjoyed watching. So when I resolved to start following the European game, I chose Henry’s Arsenal as my favorite team.

Well, Thierry Henry left Arsenal within 12 months of my declaring my Gunner fandom. But while I’ll always love him, I couldn’t follow him, emotionally, to Barcelona. Now, where he went mattered, because FC Barcelona is the devil. It’s really the worst. They’re a pompous, self-righteous cesspool of hypocrisy and provincialism.

They’re a club that sets great store in being populist but whose primary method of defeating its competition is by buying their best players. Sure, they develop great young players themselves, but they cast aside just as many, and when they flourish elsewhere, that great populist institution adopts a posture of NO I SAW IT FIRST IT’S MINE MINE MINE and throw a fit until they get Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas back.

They perpetrate the fraud of being morally superior by not selling jersey sponsorships. Until enough Qatari oil money is offered for them to thoughtlessly toss UNICEF to the curb.

They claim to play the most perfect possession game in the world, but it’s really just 11 short guys playing keep-away, the sort of evolutionary ideal of “I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you!” that, if seven-year-old tried to pull off for 90 minutes, he would be punched swiftly and deservedly in the crotch. And when they do lose possession of the ball, their outfield players split into two groups of five–one to grab and tug and trip and kick the opposing players until they get the ball back and the other to surround the referee in open-armed, slackjawed outrage that anyone with the audacity to commit such an act of defense hasn’t been red-carded. I hate watching them, I hate reading about them and I hate that they exist. They’re like the Pittsburgh Penguins, but if they were founded on the principle of states’ rights.

But that’s not why I couldn’t switch teams. Once you declare your allegiance to a team, that’s it. You are part of a community, and not one that honorable people leave without cause. Even though I was a newcomer not only to the team but to the sport, I knew better than to just follow one player from club to club. Players are temporary. Teams, and the communities that support them, last a lifetime. I don’t trust people who switch team allegiances for anything other than the most dire crimes by team ownership: moving the franchise, for instance, or selling to Jeffrey Loria.

You have declared your citizenship in one nation, and while you may visit others and hold affection for others, you may never betray your homeland. We have a word for such people. We don’t have many sailing ships, but we still have yardarms to hang traitors from, and if we don’t, we should.

What I hate about the way we discuss patriotism nowadays is that we confuse patriotism with military service. I appreciate the commitment and tenacity with which our fighting men and women vow to protect our physical security. It’s a necessary, dangerous and difficult task they do, and I appreciate their doing it. But I don’t think putting on the uniform of our armed services makes you a better, or even necessarily more patriotic, person than pursuing another occupation. It means you’re willing to risk your life for king and country, which is a hell of a statement to make, but it also means 1) joining an organization whose primary purpose is to kill people and 2) letting others make your moral judgments for you. Both of which make me deeply uncomfortable, because I don’t like confusing “I’m right” with “My dad can beat up your dad.”

But the side effect of holding up the military as the primary example of patriotism is that it makes it seem like you are either 1) patriotic, and support everything your country does or 2) cynical, vocally critical and ashamed of what your country does. I don’t want to be either of those things–I love my country. I’d rather be American than any other nationality. I’d rather live here than anywhere else. It is my home and the community to which I belong, and those things are deeply imbued in how I view myself, perhaps, frankly, more than any other characteristic I have.

But I don’t like a lot of what this government does. I don’t like much of its foreign policy, its reluctance to reduce the influence of money on politics, its lackadaisical and spineless approach to public healthcare reform and its apathy toward public education. It bears very little resemblance to the government I would design if I were starting from scratch, and those things do not dampen my patriotism one bit. I will get way too into our participation in international sports. I will fly Old Glory from my porch. I will vote and otherwise participate in the political process. I will get choked up when the National Anthem plays and weep openly at the end of Miracle. I will sing along unironically to “Proud to Be an American.” I will wear white socks in Europe.

Which brings us back to the original question. Barring outright societal collapse, you don’t get to change your nationality. No matter what reprehensible things your government does and no matter what team they trade Chase Utley to. If you want to defect, you can defect, but we can send you to jail or hang you from those yardarms if you ever want to come back.

I have a friend who, when the Phillies got rid of her favorite player, switched allegiances to his new team. Just like that. Now, our friendship is not based in baseball, so it remains intact, but you’re damn right I look at her differently now than I did before this took place. That’s not okay.

So be player loyal. Chase Utley is still Chase Utley, no matter whose uniform he wears. But remember that your primary allegiance is to your team, and if you have any integrity whatsoever, that will never change.

@Living4Laughs: “5 most attractive players on the phillies 40 man?”

  1. Cole Hamels
  2. Mike Stutes
  3. Chase Utley
  4. Zach Collier
  5. Phillippe Aumont

A couple other notes: Tyson Gillies is a horrible human being, but he’s quite attractive from certain angles. Jonathan Pettibone also has some angles that work and others that really don’t. Humberto Quintero may not be traditionally attractive, but he has a kind face. I like him.

@mdschaeff: “20 years since I left the Vet after Mitch Williams got a hit at 4:41am. There’s a question in here somewhere. My question is: Strangest/best thing you’ve ever done at 4:41am?”

That’s awesome. My story is nowhere near as cool.

I was in a band in college. I don’t think there was ever any illusion that we’d make it big or anything, but we rented practice space, played local bars and house parties not infrequently and recorded two albums in three years. It was just oodles of fun.

Junior year, we were recruited to play a set at Relay For Life, which was cool, because any opportunity to play to strangers was huge for us. We were set to play later at night–the organizers wanted the live acts (as opposed to recorded music) to go on in the wee hours to help keep the energy up. I think our set was supposed to be between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m., or somewhere thereabouts.

Anyway, South Carolina does its Relay For Life at the Blatt PE Center, which used to be the on-campus gym until they built The Strom, a palatial, state-of-the-art facility that I thought was the state capitol building the first time I went to Columbia. The Blatt has the gym itself, but also a large, grassy field for intramural sports.

That field was supposed to be the site for Relay for Life, which would have made unloading our three amps, a small PA system, a keyboard, six-piece drum kit and about half a dozen stringed instruments easy. The bar we played most often had a back entrance that was maybe 40 feet from the stage. Loading and unloading took the four of us about 10 minutes, plus another 10 to get everything plugged in onstage, and we anticipated a similar setup time for the field.

Until they moved it inside when it rained like the apocalypse all weekend.

So we pulled up to the front entrance of The Blatt at around 10 p.m., two cars full of gear. In order to get from there to the basketball court where they’d set up the actual Relay, we had to go down a long hallway, up some stairs and then back around the Cape of Good Hope. The distance between the cars and the venue also meant that we left our bassist to watch our stuff at the cars, our drummer to watch our stuff in the gym while our lead guitarist and I dragged all our crap from one place to the other. There was no air conditioning in the building (which really ought to be against the law in South Carolina), so what was ordinarily a tiring and sweaty exercise turned into a grueling one. I found a picture from that night. I look like a shaken baby. It took us the better part of two hours to get set up, then probably another hour or so (we had someone else watch our stuff while breaking down, which seems like something we should have considered beforehand).

We played a great set, contributed in a very small way to curing cancer and left. By the time all that was over, and we’d dropped all our equipment back at the storage facility we practiced at, it was probably close to 4 a.m. I lived with two of the other guys in the band, and our third roommate was hosting a friend of his from high school, whose band had come from Greenville to play a gig at a bar downtown that night. So when we got back, it wasn’t a party by any stretch, but there were about a dozen musicians in post-gig buzz mode, just hanging out and drinking cheap beer until the sun came up.

So that’s probably not the craziest thing I’ve done at that hour, but it’s a good memory of something sort of unusual.

@4Who4What: “In Pacific Rim, two pilots have their brains joined in order to control a giant robot in unison. if the survival of earth was at stake, which double play combo do you want piloting the giant robot to save us? can actually be any double play combo ever”

Well, there are a couple ways to go about answering this question–do you want a good double play combination or one that has played together so long that they can read each other’s minds and do all that stuff Tom Hanks was griping about when they told him Ken Mattingly couldn’t go to the moon.

Because you could make an argument for some great, but relatively short-lived double play combinations: Roberto Alomar and Cal Ripken, Travis Jackson and Rogers Hornsby, Bobby Doerr and either Johnny Pesky or Vern Stephens. Even Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson were only a double-play combo for about four and a half years.

I think you’d be okay, actually, if you went with Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, who have been playing side by side whenever Utley’s healthy for almost a decade now. It’s crazy to think that Chase Utley is winding down his career and has never known a full-time double play partner other than J-Roll. You could also pick Honus Wagner and Claude Ritchey, because while Ritchey was kind of an unremarkable ballplayer, Wagner was better, by himself, than about 80 percent of the double play combinations ever to be assembled.

But there’s really only one answer: Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell. Those two came up to Detroit together in 1977 and played side by side until the mid-1990s. There’s probably no double play combination whose members are more closely associated in the public imagination. So for 15 years of partnership, plus the fact that while neither is in the Hall of Fame, both could be, I’d probably choose Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker to pilot my enormous alien-fighting robot.

I can’t believe that movie got made.

@dj_mofsett: “What job would you want to do if you could only do it for 1 year?”

My brother is a schoolteacher, and he has strong (negative) opinions about the quality of education offered by young, untrained bourgeois drop-ins like myself, but I’d probably be a high school teacher. In fact, if I knew for a fact that I’d never make it as a writer or musician and I could go back to age 18 and pursue any career, I’d teach high school social studies. I’d also make a point to learn how to talk to women, but that’s not an employable skill outside of Hitch.

@tholzerman: “Is there a more toxic athlete in sports than Dwight Howard?”

I bet Patrick Kane’s blood could melt through steel right now. I’ll confide that it’s been a secret ambition of mine, since I moved to Madison, to retrace Kaner’s steps from that legendary Cinco de Mayo, though with less choking of women. As it happens, though, I’m neither as young, nor as rich, nor as attractive, nor as single as Kaner, so it probably won’t happen.

Also, you know, Aaron Hernandez is apparently the Ice Truck Killer now, so he might be toxic.

@AntsinIN: “who makes the playoffs first, the Sixers or the Phillies?”

Well I think the Phillies are going to be better than the Sixers for the foreseeable future. The Sixers, for all the excitement surrounding them nowadays, are still banking on a lot of uncertain things panning out. Like the center they just drafted not having knee problems. Like the point guard they just drafted learning how to shoot. Like getting the draft pick they want for next year, which includes relying on the New Orleans Pelicans to lose a lot of games despite their insistence on gearing up for a frantic run to a first-round playoff exit that will hurt the franchise in the long run but might save Dell Demps’ job.

But they’ve got a patient, pragmatic GM with a plan, which is something, and they play in a league that hands out six more playoff spots a year, which is something bigger. If Major League Baseball distributed 16 playoff berths, I’d say the Phillies would have a pretty good chance of making it in this season. But the bar is higher in baseball, so it’s not like that’s an apples-to-apples comparison. Let me expand this question into its components and widen the scope to all four major Philly teams:

  • Who Makes the Playoffs Next? 1) Flyers 2) Eagles 3) Sixers 4) Phillies
  • Who Wins a Championship Next? 1) Flyers 2) Phillies 3) Eagles 4) Sixers (This is based on nothing at all. I don’t think any of these teams are winning a championship anytime soon. I put the Flyers first just because the NHL playoffs are a massive crapshoot and the Flyers always seem to make it in)
  • In Whose Management Do I Have the Most Trust? 1) Sixers…..(huge gap)….2) Eagles 3) Flyers 4) Phillies

That last one is interesting, because I’d take the Sixers’ management mostly because they’re new. The same goes for Chip Kelly. We know Paul Holmgren and Ruben Amaro and we’ve lived through their mistakes. Both seem to prefer old, expensive players to young, cheap players. Both tend to neglect the draft but have a flair for splashy trades. The Flyers’ bad moves aren’t quite as bad as the Phillies’ bad moves, but their mistakes hurt more because of the salary cap. I guess the tiebreaker is that the Flyers seem to be better at acquiring and developing young players than the Phillies are? I dunno. We’re all screwed.

Good question. Let’s have another from the same source.

@AntsinIN: “in honor of the 4th, what’s your favorite piece of Revolutionary War trivia/errata?”

I love all Revolutionary War trivia. And Civil War trivia. If there’s one specific historical event about which my knowledge far outstrips the historical event’s importance, it’s the Battle of the Crater. Unless you count various Cold War submarine sinkings as historical events.

I guess I’d pick various things about the Battle of Trenton. I had this image as my desktop background for several years:

My favorite facts about the Battle of Trenton:

  • The Hessian commander, Col. Johann Rall, was given a note the night before that  contained news of Washington’s forces gathering, and ignored it because he was playing chess. The next morning, Rall was shot dead by Continental troops, the unopened note in his pocket. This is well known, but still remarkable.
  • Of the more than 2,000 American troops, none were killed in the battle itself. The most severe wound was suffered by James Monroe, the future president of the United States, who was shot in the shoulder and nearly bled to death.
  • The password for the crossing was “Victory or Death,” which I feel like ought to be the password for all battles.
  • The Battle of Trenton is most famous for galvanizing the American cause at a point where it seemed like all was lost. One of the other measures taken to boost patriot morale was Thomas Paine’s famous essay “The American Crisis,” which starts: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” It was read to the troops in the days leading up to the battle.

@_magowan: “You’re a major leaguer but on the rehab path, do you want to rush back through the minors, or take your time and take it all in”

I don’t know why you’d want to stay in the minors any longer than you have to. By all accounts, the bit in Bull Durham where Crash contrasts life in the majors and the minors is more or less accurate, so I’d imagine that a rehabbing Chase Utley, for instance, would want to get back to the big crowds, comfortable travel and nice hotels as soon as possible. Sure, there’s a charm to the minor leagues, but life has to be immeasurably better when you’re with the big club.

Plus, maybe professional jocks are wired differently from normal people, but I can’t imagine a 30-year-old millionaire enjoying being tossed back into a pool of 21-year-old kids. I loved watching the Mississippi State baseball team during the College World Series, but I feel like if I had to spend any time with those hyperactive man-children in real life, I’d want to kill all of them. I can’t imagine your run-of-the-mill A-ball team is much more mature, and the Bench Mob at least has the virtue of being smart enough to get into college. (Though Jonathan Papelbon is living proof that a Mississippi State education isn’t quite what it used to be.)

But the biggest reason major leaguers wouldn’t be interested in the romance and whimsy of the minor leagues is that they’ve all done it before. Well, not literally all, but most of them. If they wanted to play in the minor leagues, they’d still be there.

As I would, indeed. A happy belated Fourth of July to all of you.

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10 comments

  1. Iatrogenes

    July 05, 2013 08:01 AM

    I never understand when discussions of great double play combination conversations come up, the late 1940s Philadelphia A’s combo never comes up, though they were the greatest of all-time. I grew up with my first baseball love, the Philadelphia A’s. I can still recite the 1948 starting lineup from memory. When casual baseball fans think of the greatest infield double-play combo of all time, what comes to mind? Tinker to Evers to Chance? They weren’t that good, didn’t like each other, and if not immortalized in a 1910 poem, they would never be remembered nor should they be. That poem also got all three into the Baseball Hall of Fame. From 1906 through 1910, the “Tinker, to Evers, to Chance” double play happened only 54 times in 770 games played, and the trio did not collaborate on a double play during any of their 21 World Series games. In 1906, this Hall of Fame trio committed 194 errors. Yikes, even if the fields were awful! The 1949 A’s infield of Hank Majewski 3B; Eddie Joost SS: Pete Suder 2B; and Ferris Fain 1B were the greatest of all-time. That year they turned 217 double-plays, by far the greatest total by a mile both before and since, a record likely to never be broken. During a three-year period, they turned 629 DPs; that record is less likely to be broken than DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. And remember, they played a 154 game season. Ferris Fain hit .300 only twice …and both times led the AL in hitting.

    Joost to Suder to Fain would be in my cockpit, and to me it’s a no-brainer.

  2. Phillie697

    July 05, 2013 11:20 AM

    Do you know why Ben Revere hasn’t had a inside-the-park HR yet? Because unfortunately, Douchbag Young plays on his team, not on the opponents’ teams. If Ben Revere gets to play against Douchbag Young once a week, he’d have like 2 or 3 HRs by now.

    And can’t agree with you more MB. I have seen many a military people who have a sense of entitlement, who think that their sacrifices, which should be applauded and respected for sure, mean they can not only expect, but DEMAND the admiration of their fellow citizens, and when they don’t get that admiration, throw a hissy-fit unlike that of MB’s description of FC Barcelona. I want someone to tell me how that is patriotism, especially when the majority of the people in the military are there often times because they can’t really find another form of employment that they desire, not because they somehow consciously made a real sacrifice to serve our country. And that’s the irony, because those few who did join the military because of a genuine desire to serve are never the ones with that sense of entitlement.

    Perhaps it’s time we as a society realize that, military people are just that, people. They are no more or no less patriotic than the society in general. Although I will disagree with you on this statement MB: “letting others make your moral judgments for you” is not a vice for this particular group of people. I’m pretty sure it’s a virtue.

  3. Oliver

    July 05, 2013 01:48 PM

    Eew, Strom Thurmond?

  4. #PhilliesTalk

    July 05, 2013 02:02 PM

    Jesse Biddle, Ethan Martin and Aaron Altherr to the Angels for Pujols, Hamilton and Mike Trout.

    Phillies payroll is still $20 million south of the Yankees, enough for a top-of-the-rotation starter.

  5. EricL

    July 05, 2013 02:47 PM

    The international signings just keep rolling in if you’re following Ben Badler on Twitter. Nothing for the Phillies. Braves signings rolling in today.

    Pay closer attention. The Phillies have signed a number of international free agents and are said to be the frontrunners for Luis Encarnacion who is considered one of the best international FA bats available this year, but they have to wait until he turns 16 sometime later this year before they can sign him.

  6. Larry

    July 05, 2013 03:24 PM

    @NeverThinksBeforeHeSpeaks697,

    “Do you know why Ben Revere hasn’t had a inside-the-park HR yet? Because unfortunately, Douchbag Young plays on his team, not on the opponents’ teams. If Ben Revere gets to play against Douchbag Young once a week, he’d have like 2 or 3 HRs by now.”

    How many other National League teams would have Delmon Young on their team playing right field??? He belongs on an American League team as a DH.

    ” especially when the majority of the people in the military are there often times because they can’t really find another form of employment that they desire,”

    I was in the Army Reserves and National Guard which after basic Training and AIT is one weekend a month and 2 weeks out of the summer. Do you think people can live off a part time job??? What about all those people who did the same thing???? I had most of my college paid for thanks to a part time military gig. What a douchebag comment by you.

  7. Howard Wachtel

    July 06, 2013 10:36 PM

    Larry and Mr./Ms. 697,

    Delmon Young, though a poor fielder, is not the reason that the Phillies are where they are. They have much bigger problems than his 4 errors. They can release him and play Mayberry in RF, but that will not help much. 697’s comment about Ben Revere having a few HR’s if he played against Young is particularly idiotic. If you actually paid attention to baseball, you would know that last year Revere played for the Twins and Young for the Tigers, in the same division, so they did in fact play against each other.
    By the way, why do you care that Revere has no HR’s? I don’t care if he never hits one, he is presently performing as one of the best players on the team.

    Howard
    quadratic@juno.com

  8. Larry

    July 07, 2013 12:33 AM

    @ Howard Wachtel,

    First off, I’d like to say to welcome to the site! Maybe you’ve been here before, but I haven’t seen you. I’ve been on this site over the past year, but only started posting within the past month.

    As Far as MR. or MRS 697 goes, I have seen some intelligent posts by him or her, but I’ve seen total bullshit too. I’m gonna take an intelligent guess and say that 697 is a he.

    He is not a Phillies fan who will debate you, but a person who likes to attack you, especially at night when he might be drunk in my opinion.

    As far as his rants on DY and Revere go, they are both on a hot streak, so it’s unfair to try and kill these guys. It’s OK to point out their flaws, but to try and destroy them right now is too extreme.

    “Delmon Young, though a poor fielder, is not the reason that the Phillies are where they are. They have much bigger problems than his 4 errors.”

    His 4 errors alone doesn’t tell you how many hits and runs he has let up. We haven’t replaced Werth who was a 4-5 tool player. So DY has bigger shoes to fill than he can handle, especially with seeing pitches, walks, and of course defense.

    Revere should be our lead off hitter, his best asset is his speed. He is a poor man’s Juan Pierre. He doesn’t get the extra base hits or play as smart as Pierre did for all those years, but he is contributing to this team right now. He’s no Shane Victorino and will never be, but he is showing some value if used correctly. His arm is awful.

    Yesterday a line drive caught in shallow center with a guy on third is an automatic run. That drives every Phillies fan insane. I hope his offense can produce a much higher value that will negate his defensive inefficiencies.

  9. Phillie697

    July 08, 2013 05:21 PM

    You just literally proved my point Larry. You joined the military because it helped pay for college. Am I suppose to take that as you being more patriotic than the rest of us? No one said joining the military was a BAD idea. Far from it. Just don’t claim you’re more patriotic than I am.

    It’s just another job out there. It fits for some people, not for others. Choosing it doesn’t make you any more patriotic than those people who decided to become doctors or bankers or lawyers instead.

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