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Crash Bag, Vol. 67: It’s Important to Score Runs

Posted By Michael Baumann On August 16, 2013 @ 6:45 am In Crabshurn Urly,Crash Bag,MLB,Potpourri,Talking about feelings | 9 Comments

I’m currently eating a salad. Not the kind of salad I like best, which is so much meat and cheese and starchy crap it’s really a taco or a buffalo chicken sandwich but with so many vegetables you can’t avoid them, but a real salad: spinach and a little feta cheese and raspberry vinaigrette dressing. It’s delicious, but I can’t enjoy it fully because I know in two hours I’m going to be hungry again and I’ll wind up eating an entire block of cheddar cheese and an entire box of crackers because I have no self control.

But seriously: spinach, some sort of berry and some sort of stinky cheese. It’s outstanding.

And I know y’all hunger too. For your questions to be answered. Away we go.

@FelskeFiles: “If there was one Phillies player you would suspect could go all Heisenberg on everyone, who would it be?”

I am uncertain.

@ethan_witte: “handicap the odds of people becoming next Phils manager. I hope Dave Martinez is 3-1″

It’s tough to put numbers on this question, because not only do we not know who the next crop of candidates is, we’re not even certain that Charlie Manuel‘s in his last season. (I think he is. He seems to want to keep going, but I imagine Ruben Amaro‘s going to sit him down at some point and either make him a special assistant to the GM or put him on an ice floe.)

Anyway, not knowing much about the personalities or tendencies of potential managers, Martinez (currently the bench coach for the Rays) makes sense. The assumption is that a manager will train coaches who think and operate like him. In football, this is why just about every current head coach either worked for (or worked for someone who worked for) Bill Walsh or Bill Parcells. So if you assume that Martinez is to Joe Maddon as Maddon was to Mike Scioscia, then of course you’d want him. The same with John Farrell getting hired by the Blue Jays a few years ago–they couldn’t get Terry Francona, so they picked one of his top assistants. Or Bo Porter and Davey Johnson. Having no inside information at all, here’s how I think things shake out, and I don’t give a crap if the numbers don’t add up:

  • Ryne Sandberg (5-to-4)
  • Dave Martinez (5-to-1)
  • Manny Acta (10-to-1)
  • Brian Butterfield, Red Sox third base coach and defensive shift guru (10-to-1)
  • Mike Scioscia, after being fired by the Angels (15-to-1)
  • John McLaren (15-to-1)
  • DeMarlo Hale, Blue Jays bench coach (2o-to-1)
  • Tim Bogar (50-to-1)
  • Hensley Meulens, San Francisco Giants hitting coach, manager of the Dutch national team, and the guy I’ve just now, for no reason, decided I want if they can’t get Acta (150-to-1)
  • Jim Fregosi (200-to-1)

So yeah, that’s an arbitrary list of former managers and current assistant coaches with equally arbitrary numbers next to their names. Remind me to revisit this when the names of potential interviewees start getting leaked.

@Wzeiders: “I just started watching Star Trek: Voyager for the first time. Should I keep going?”

Sure. Serious Star Trek people (like Ryan, for instance) are liable to hate Voyager. I don’t get it. Of the five live action series, I’d probably rank it fourth. It’s not as intelligent as TNG, it lacks the expansiveness and imagination and incredible heights of DS9 and it wasn’t the groundbreaking, iconic series that TOS was. I go back and forth between TNG and DS9 as the best of the series. (Colin Wyers will knife you for saying anything but the Original Series was best, but not only did he like Babylon 5, he’s 150 years old.) Voyager can be silly at times, annoying at others, and some of the stories are just stupid, which is a side effect of the effort to get seven seasons’ worth of material out of a small, isolated crew moving so quickly across space they can’t even have any consistent allies or antagonists.

But the crew is generally smart and fun and easy to root for. They do a lot of interesting things, meet some interesting people, make you laugh, occasionally put a scare into you and grapple with the Prime Directive and other ethical questions from time to time. And it’s episodic enough that if you run into an episode that sucks (and there are many), you can skip it and not miss much.

@DashTreyhorn: “What’s the best kind of haircut?”

I had long hair in high school, because I wanted to front a grunge rock band when I grew up. But about 10 years ago, I went to the barber with a photo and told him to make me look like this:

Because Aaron Samuels’ hair looks sexy pushed back. And that’s what I did for about six or seven years, until I realized how little having a beard insulates you from “Bieber Haircut” jokes. Then I started asking for this:

It just now occurs to me that every haircut I’ve ever asked for is based off a rom-com love interest of Lindsay Lohan’s. This is going to take some unpacking.

My problem is that I have the least interesting hair on Earth. It’s not wavy, it doesn’t tousle particularly well and it’s not an interesting color. So I’m stuck with relatively conservative haircuts, though I do like the Chris Pine side part. Much as I wish I had, like, James Marsden’s hair or something, I can’t make my hair do what his does.

I’ve largely been satisfied with my hairstyle choices, so mostly, I say do what you like. Everyone has different hair and a different aesthetic he wants to give off. I’m a very lazy, milquetoast person, and I have a haircut to match. Actually, forget that–do what you think the person you want to find you attractive likes. Because honestly, this isn’t about you, Dash. This is about impressing other people.

@FanSince09: “if the Phillies stopped being a MLB team and became a microbrewery, what would their best sellers be? (basically, name beer after Phillies players)”

I think we’d all be much happier over the next couple months if the Phillies did, in fact, stop playing baseball and made beer instead. Okay, a partial list of the offerings of Phillies Brewing Co.:

  • Freedom Brown Ale: So glad we don’t have to say this anymore.
  • Le Pont Au Papelbon: A lemon gueuze named for Phillippe Aumont, delicious as his curveball and sour as his walk rate.
  • Chooch Mocha Porter: With hints of chocolate. “Chooch” sounds like “chocolate.” This is not very sophisticated wordplay.
  • Big Piece Lager: Because Ryan Howard, like a logger, brings the big wood.
  • High Speed IPA: Because Ben Revere has the most hops.
  • Frandsen Low Places Cask Ale: Because it’s unpasteurized and unfiltered, which means it’s got a whole bunch of crap floating around in it.
  • Tony No-Dad’s Imperial Stout: Thick as Antonio Bastardo‘s butt and dark as a moonless night.
  • Pinpoint Control Bourbon Barrel Ale: Cliff Lee always struck me as a whiskey type more than a beer type. This is the best I can do, considering.
  • Whole Camels Summer Shandy: You want something light to quench the thirst you’d develop after traversing a desert that contains whole camels.
  • Rollins Grand Reserve: Made in small batches. The halo beer–unlike its namesake, it doesn’t pop up very often.

@nerdyITgirl: “How crazy is it that the Pirates only need 10 wins for a .500+ season for the 1st time in 1992? At least one PA team is good…”

I think it’s pretty rad. I really like this Pirates team, even if I do fear all the morons who root for the Steelers and Penguins discovering baseball and ruining it. But until then, I think I’ve adopted the Pirates as my pet team for the postseason.

@elkensky: “will I be happier if I stop following politics and the phillies and only read about cholera epidemics?”

Yes.

I used to be an enormous fan of political process stories, so much so that I went to grad school with the intention of getting a Ph.D so I could teach and research either electoral politics or foreign policy, both of which I found (and to a certain degree, still find) fascinating. But the more I learned, the more I realized that politics are slow-moving, predictable and inexorable. I lived and died with the 2008 presidential election, and by late 2009, it was already obvious that, barring some unforeseen and significant event, Mitt Romney would run against (and lose to) President Obama. I found that what old-school, innumerate sports columnists say about baseball actually is true about politics–that when you learn more, and the mystery goes away, it stops being fun and interesting. (The other thing grad school did to me is turn me from a sensible, right-of-center type into a loud, passionate fringe left-wing socialist. So I hate pretty much everything that happens in American politics now.)

However, I find unhappy events to be a particularly interesting thing to go down Wikipedia rabbit holes on. So I’d expand that from cholera epidemics and say any kind of historical or scientific topic. I’m on a recent kick of reading about mountains, perhaps as a reaction to my being so terrified of heights I don’t particularly like standing on stepladders. It’s fascinating. I’ve read about aviation, space exploration, philosophy, history…just going on Wikipedia and clicking the first link you find interesting can be much more interesting than watching baseball.

@Ut26: “Phillies playoff run begins in 05 not 07 w/ 2 WC system. How does their legacy change? (roster impacts, still 08 champs?, etc.)”

This is a very, very interesting question. I don’t know that they advance very far in either 2005 or 2006, because even assuming they made it past the play-in game against the Astros (2005) or the winner of what would have been a Padres-Dodgers tiebreaker (2006), the top division winner (Cardinals in 2005, Mets in 2006) was an absolute monster both years.

I think the major change is that they never make the Abreu trade. In 2006, they hang on to Abreu and Corey Lidle, because you don’t trade your best player (or one of your best players) when you’ve got your mind on making the playoffs, and if Brett Myers is your No. 1 starter, you need all the pitching you can get. That’s not a knock on Myers–purely considering his on-field exploits, I’m one of his biggest supporters. I thought he was very good in 2008 and more than enough No. 2 starter for a team with that absurd an offense. But the Phillies wouldn’t have sniffed the playoffs if Hamels hadn’t established himself as the team’s top starting pitcher by then. So maybe they try to force a trade for a No. 1 starter three years earlier.

It gets interesting when you consider that the Phillies might have re-signed Abreu. Now, Abreu was a good player for several years after he left Philadelphia, but he left a hole in right field that, over the 24 months that followed, the Phillies used to develop Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth, two players who contributed far more to the cause from 2008 to 2011 than Abreu would have. This, by the way, is precisely the kind of situation for which the Prime Directive was designed. The Phillies would have been better off taking the draft picks for Abreu than the prospects they got, but if I were Pat Gillick in the winter of 2006, I’d have absolutely tried to re-sign him, and if that happens, I don’t know that 2008-2010 happens.

The real ultimate what-if is something that I wrote about two blogs and almost four years ago, when Paul and I were shitheel mother’s basement types writing for, essentially, our own amusement at the long-defunct The Phrontiersman.

That question: We all know that in 2001, the Phillies offered Scott Rolen a contract extension and he turned it down. What this post presupposes is, what if he didn’t? Now, that post assumes that the Phillies would go on to acquire Werth and Victorino anyway, which, if you know anything about the Law of Unintended Consequences, isn’t a given. Again, the Prime Directive.

But even in the short term, if Rolen had stayed, Ryan Howard would’ve gotten into the lineup a year earlier because the Phillies would never have had the money to sign Jim Thome. Chase Utley would’ve gotten into the everyday lineup almost two years earlier, because they’d never have acquired Placido Polanco. I truly believe that if Scott Rolen had signed that contract extension, Chase Utley would be in the Hall of Fame.

Anyway, I’m not nearly certain of the details five years down the road now as I was then, but I will say that the question you should be asking is: what if the Phillies had kept Rolen?

@JasonAClairmont: “who’s got the best outfield arm in baseball in the past decade”

Ichiro, right? Which seems absolutely wild for such a short, skinny dude. I mean, you hear a lot of people say Jeff Francoeur or Vladimir Guerrero, which makes sense, because both of those dudes are big, strong fellows. It’s not Shane Victorino. I’ll tell you that much.

@JonCheddar: “is Darin Ruf forrealz? 10 homers, 1.3 WAR in 165 PA. He is the #Truf

I’ve got (opens wallet) eight dollars in cash on my person right now. I will give you all eight of those dollars if you prevent the #Truf hashtag from happening.

Also, there’s no way he has 10 home runs…oh, between this season and last, yes, 10 home runs.

Anyway.

I took a lot of crap last year from people who saw Ruf’s AA numbers and were convinced he was the new blue blood and the great white hope, and that he used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders. I responded with the following caveats:

  • He didn’t make it to AA until age 26. Age relative to league is of paramount importance in evaluating a minor leaguer, either qualitatively or quantitatively. It’s why Maikel Franco and Carlos Tocci are so exciting. Even into your early-to-mid 20s, it’s still an advantage to be older. Ruf was hitting against a lot of teenagers in high-A until he was 25, which is misleading for the same reason you wouldn’t evaluate a 15-year-old hitter against 10-year-old competition, though Ruf’s case is less extreme.
  • There’s no qualitative evidence to override the quantitative data. He’s pudgy. He’s right-handed. He’s big and moves slowly, probably too slowly to play anywhere but first base long-term, which means he has to absolutely mash to become a big-league regular.

But if he hits .287/.370/.573 for his entire career, screw it–give him Ryan Howard’s contract. He won’t, of course, but if he turns into a good platoon bat, a right-handed power threat who can caddy for Howard for the next couple years and man an outfielder corner in an emergency, I’d call that a big win for the Phillies. It never occurred to me that he’d hit this well for any period of time, but he’s going to need a few more times around the league to convince me he’s an actual middle-of-the-order bat. If opposing pitchers have another 400 plate appearances to figure him out and he’s still slugging close to .600, then I’ll eat crow for sure.

So I’d say he’s more real than I thought he was 12 months ago, but less real than his current numbers indicate. Big ups to Ruf, though–I’m enjoying the heck out of his performance, even as I remain unconvinced that it’ll last.

@Hegelbon: “If baseball’s a metaphor for life, is the game’s cyclicality, beginning anew every night, a mockery of our mortality?”

I don’t think so. I think the cyclical nature of baseball, that your goal is to circle the bases and end up right back where you started, has less to do with mocking our mortality than it does demonstrating the futility of human struggle. Even if you’re the best player in the world, you fail most of the time, and when you succeed, you’re in the same position in which you started. The only difference is that you’ve scored a run, and all forms of evaluation are social constructs. This is not to say that numbers don’t matter, but runs matter only because somebody said they did hundreds of years ago, and we’ve just all kind of unthinkingly gone along with it ever since. The joke is absolutely on us.

And even if you stipulate that it’s important to score runs, the individual has so incredibly little control over how many runs he scores and how few his opponent scores. In a world where warning track fly balls are outs and broken-bat loopers are doubles, we make a point to reward good fortune over greatness. And yet we set great store in outcomes over process, day after day after day, year after year after year. Baseball, like life, is grueling, pointless to anyone but the most simpleminded observer, and subject not only to the actions of others but to the caprices of physical forces too fine to control. We’ve dived headlong into an ocean of a false sense of control and are unwittingly swimming toward the bottom until we drown.

The end. Until next week.


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