Crash Bag, Vol. 69: Baumann’s Second Law of Social Conduct

There are two great regional food-related battles in American language: soda vs. pop vs. coke and what you call a sandwich on a long roll.

I pay a lot of attention to such things because my own linguistic base is mixed–not only have I split my own life between the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast, I’m of mixed parentage, having had ancestors on both sides of the Civil War. Which, in general, has led to my not having much of an accent at all, but occasionally leads me to ask people to go to breakfast by saying: “Y’all want to get some cwawfee and begels?” KTLSF not only being a Southerner, but a linguist as well, probably makes me even more aware of regional dialects than I would be otherwise. Side note: when you ask someone what the greatest moment of his life is, the modal answer, I think, is “the birth of my children,” which is great and noble, but I don’t have any. I can’t imagine it being better than being present for the moment KTLSF became aware that she, like most people from the Southeastern U.S., only uses four of the five vowels. Don’t believe me? Find a guy from a state with an SEC school and ask him to say “pin,” and then to say “pen.” This kind of stuff fascinates me, and when that map of dialects came out on Business Insider a couple months back, I spent way too much time dissecting it.

Anyway, I mostly talk like a guy from South Jersey, with the occasional Virginia/Carolinas inflection or colloquialism thrown in. After almost nine months in Wisconsin, I have not to my knowledge picked up any speech habits from the Upper Midwest, but I could be wrong. I say “soda,” and “traffic circles” instead of “roundabouts,” and “sear-up” instead of “sur-up.”

But the more I think about it, the more sure I am that when it comes to the sandwich thing? I don’t say “hoagies.” I say “subs.” I don’t know why, and it causes me deep shame.

You know what else causes me to feel shame? The Phillies. Let’s talk about those.

@asigal22: “Phillies win 4 of the next 6 world series or you win a million dollars??? Greater good of city vs. Greater good of yourself.”

In the early days of Crash Bag, my would-be Liberty Ballers comrade Jake Pavorsky asked how I’d fix the Phillies if I were given $150 million. My answer: I wouldn’t. I’d buy penthouses and sports cars and good food and bourbon and start a magazine and screw you guys.

My answer is the same even with this lesser sum. $1 million? Not enough to live on forever, but certainly enough for me to concentrate on writing full-time for a few years, maybe buy a new car and move someplace more interesting than where I live now…yeah, the hell with you guys. I’m taking the money without a second thought.

@Living4Laughs: “What should I do when I see tweets that make me angry? Like see red angry?”

Roll with it, and don’t look back in anger. Or, if, like me, you were more of a Bush fan than an Oasis fan, make everything zen. Because it’s the little things that kill.

1990s alt-rock references aside, the inability of smart, circumspect people to ignore things that anger them astounds me. I used to be a chronic arguer and picker of fights. But I was so consumed by hate and scorn that I considered going into politics. Here’s something everyone needs to remember, and I acknowledge that I don’t follow this advice as much as I should: there is no such thing as a relationship you need, particularly on the internet. If you’re following someone who’s making you angry as much as he (and it’s almost always a he) says things that you find funny, or useful, then you should stop. I don’t consume media that I know will make me angry, particularly when I know there’s nothing I can do to change it.

Sometimes, something infuriating will get retweeted into your timeline, or someone you ordinarily like will say something stupid. In those cases, you just have to take a deep breath and let it go. Because a behavior I understand even less than seeking out media you know will make you angry is responding to it. I don’t follow Jon Heyman, for instance. He’s a very well-sourced reporter, but he writes a lot of things I disagree with and that are written from an intellectual space I don’t inhabit. That’s fine–he’s got his gig and he’s entitled to do and write whatever he likes, and he doesn’t bother me in particular. But what do I possibly gain from firing off a tweet to him saying “Lol Heyman your a moron”? Is that going to change his mind? I’d speculate that nothing on Twitter would, and being purposely antagonistic does more harm than good. Because if I did that, he’d block me. As he should–he has more than 100 times as many followers as I do, and probably on that order as many readers, and honestly, I’m shocked he doesn’t have more. I’m a nuisance to him–he gains nothing by responding to such transparent trolling. Which is why I really don’t get it when people are proud that they’ve been blocked. Generally, you have to act like an asshole or a conspicuous idiot for someone to block you.

Which brings me to coin Baumann’s First Law of Social Conduct: Don’t be an asshole or a conspicuous idiot, and Baumann’s Second Law of Social Conduct: Don’t tolerate assholes or conspicuous idiots if you don’t absolutely have to.

@AJDaboss64: “so i just accepted a job in the NOVA area, any suggestions for dealing with/pissing off Natitude?”

Well, I’d say that you should deal with them by not pissing them off. Don’t be an asshole–that’s Baumann’s First Law of Social Conduct. And hear this: if you get into an actual, serious fight over sports, you’ve done something wrong. I made this mistake a couple weeks ago when Arsenal was losing–a friend of mine, who’s a Spurs fan, was trolling nakedly on The Internet, and I got my feelings hurt and said some things I regretted almost immediately. Don’t do that.

So how to deal with Natitude? Embrace it. Talk to the locals–try to understand their strange baseball customs and be a courteous visitor when your interests don’t overlap with theirs. It can be fun to have friends who root for different teams, so try to make some.

@JossMurdoch: “At what point would it be worth intentionally walking the winning run in to end extra innings, considering injury risks, and pitcher rest etc.?”

Obviously inspired by last Saturday’s Phillies-Diamondbacks game, which was so long and boring and pointless I assumed it had been directed by Terrence Malick. I understand the logic of the question, but I don’t know that such a point actually exists. Practically, it makes no more sense to lose a tie game in the 19th on purpose than it would a tie game in the 9th–it’s still essentially a sudden death (not really, but you know what I mean) environment. And while these games sometimes go on long enough that you can imagine a manager just getting fed up with the whole ordeal and throwing in the towel, the only thing more soul-crushing than playing a seven-hour, 18-inning game is playing that game and losing it on purpose. And besides–why guarantee a loss to save your bullpen to win the next game, when going into that game your bullpen won’t be any more rested than the other team’s? Better to just take your chances now and shuttle a couple middle relievers back and forth for tomorrow.

Because really, by the time you start using position players to pitch, it’s only a matter of time before somebody scores. That’s really the upper limit to the whole ordeal, and it comes soon enough, relatively speaking, that it’s not worth taking a game on purpose.

@Major_Hog: “I like how baseball managers wear the team uniform, what other sports should do this?”

It’s kind of insane that baseball managers wear uniforms if you think about it. Does any other major sport have this tradition? The problem with the other major team sports (I can’t speak to rugby or cricket or hurling, so if I’m wrong, let me know) is that so many of their uniforms are built to accommodate pads–how silly would a hockey coach look in padded pants, knee socks and a sweater? I think the only reason we don’t think it’s absolutely insane for baseball coaches and managers to wear number uniforms is because we’re used to it.

So what should coaches wear, if not uniforms? There’s the suit-and-tie option, which is standard for basketball, hockey and (most of the time) soccer coaches. I think that’s a little ostentatious, though GODDAMN does it look good on Jose Mourinho. What a handsome man that is. First rule of coach clothing: Jose Mourinho gets to wear whatever he wants, that handsome son of a gun. (Takes cold shower, returns to finish writing the Crash Bag.)

Anyway, I think the sweet spot is about where football coaches are, maybe a little more formal. Nobody but the coaching staff wears suits to ballgames anymore, so maybe that’s overdoing it some (particularly in baseball, which is mostly played in overwhelming heat). But at the same time, coaching is a white-collar job, so you should show up for games dressed appropriately. Which is another way of saying: “Have some self-respect Belichick, you look like a derilict in that hoodie.” I think some sort of team-branded sweater or polo shirt, or maybe a blazer with a team patch, is the way to go. The details can be left up to the coach, as Jogi Loew did with his sweaters at the World Cup, or Steve Spurrier with his customary polo shirt and visor, or Arsene Wenger, who’s 6-foot-4 and still manages to wear parkas that are too big for him and have zippers he can’t operate.

I think the ideal in team-branded semi-casual coaching wear, however, has to be that exquisite long-sleeve t-shirt-and-khakis combination Jurgen Klinsmann wore a few games back. What an outstanding outfit.

I want to possess not only that shirt, but its vital aura. I was honestly still bummed out that the USSF hired Klinsmann instead of Dominic Kinnear until I saw that outfit. Now I’m all-in on Klinsy.

@fschultz35: “is Vladimir Guerrero a hall of famer?”

Well, like many things in life, I defer Hall of Fame judgment to Jay Jaffe, whose JAWS system (available on Baseball Reference, which you can find by click on Vlad’s name and scrolling down) puts the Vlad about where I had him in my mind–on the fringe. JAWS, which I’ve mentioned here before, is a quick way to balance a player’s peak versus his longevity and compare him to his competition, and Guerrero ranks 20th among right fielders all-time, with 23 players in the Hall of Fame.

There are a couple players in the game right now who I think are slam-dunk, no-doubt-about it Hall of Famers who won’t get in for reasons that have nothing to do with the selective and overactive moral litmus papers of certain members of the BBWAA. I think Carlos Beltran is one of them, as is Adrian Beltre. I think Chase Utley‘s close, and I’d vote for him because I’m acutely aware of how late in life he started playing every day and because I value peak over longevity. Also because when it comes to Utley, it’s very, very difficult to shake my homerism.

Guerrero was great at his peak. Probably not as great as Utley, but he accumulated almost 60 wins over his career, including two seven-win seasons, three more five-win seasons and three more four-win seasons. So he was really good for a really long time. He won an MVP award and he was a hell of a fun player to watch…when I set out to write this I was planning to say that I wouldn’t vote for him, but I think I’ve talked myself into it. I’m like…60 percent sure I’d vote for him.

@CajoleJuiceEsq: “Why do you idolize Jonathan Franzen?”

Franzen’s strengths are threefold:

  1. He creates deep, flawed, three-dimensional characters and puts them through hell, to the point where you feel what they feel, viscerally. Very few real people have put me through an emotional ringer the way Gary and Denise Lambert of The Corrections and Patty Berglund in Freedom have, or Martin Probst in The Twenty-Seventh City. Franzen’s principal characters are more complicated than most actual human beings, and the end result is that you find yourself wanting to be along for the ride with people who often horrify you.
  2. He situates these characters in settings that are equally richly detailed. He writes in a manner that describes the mundane as if it’s extraordinary. I find this style absolutely enrapturing to read, and I’ve tried to adapt it to my own writing. What I’ve found is that it’s very easy to write about baseball like this, but I have just as hard a time pulling it off in my fiction, which tends to be rapid-fire dialogue rather than the multi-layered masterpieces of set design that Franzen creates. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt as home in a novel’s setting as I did in the 1980s St. Louis of The Twenty-Seventh City, and the Minneapolis of Freedom and the Philadelphia of The Corrections feel just as real.
  3. He writes like a normal person, about normal person things. Franzen has four novels, the first two of which could be generally described as conspiracy thrillers (though nobody would confuse them for the work of Dan Brown), but the other two are about nuclear Midwestern families. I read a lot of science fiction for fun–I’m currently on what must be my fifteenth re-read of the X-Wing series from the Star Wars expanded universe, and my bookshelves are full of Heinlein and Orson Scott Card–but when I’m serious about reading, I want to read realistic fiction. The reason: it’s easy to write when you’ve got the backdrop of historically important events or magic or space travel. In those cases, the setting can sweep the reader away. But when you’re reading real literary fiction, the author lives and dies by the quality of his (or her) prose and the depth of his characters. It’s why I thought Silver Linings Playbook was the best movie of 2012. I saw and loved LincolnZero Dark Thirty and Argo, but the degree of difficulty in getting the audience to care about some lower middle class schmuck dwarfs the difficulty of getting the audience to care about Osama bin Laden.

Like most writers of his renown, Franzen is often-criticized, and often with good reason. In interviews and in his nonfiction, he comes off as so pretentious even I find his pretension off-putting. I read his work for the first time when I was 19–I was in the market for a novel to read and saw The Corrections and The Twenty-Seventh City in the campus bookstore at college, and, remembering that my dad had read The Corrections when it first came out, I asked him if it was worthwhile, and picked up both books. I learned soon enough that he’d snubbed Oprah when she asked to make The Corrections part of her book club, and while I found that to be praiseworthy at the time, I’ve since come to realize that I only thought that because I was immature, and now I recognize Franzen’s behavior as what it was–petty, uncharitable and a clear violation of Baumann’s First Law of Social Conduct. Nevertheless, I still idolize him, and that’s why.

@AntsinIN: “it’s Labor Day weekend. What group/person is most deserving of a new national holiday?”

I think we’ve got the country’s major historical figures pretty well covered. We have a holiday for our presidents, one for our workers, one for our most famous civil rights leader and two for our military, as well as a general national holiday. Plus various regional, cultural and religious holidays. Given the opportunity to create a new national holiday, I’d probably just pick the day after the Super Bowl or some Monday in late March or early April for convenience rather than to make a statement. But if I had to honor one person or group, I’d chose one of these three:

  • Lincoln Day. President’s Day is when it is to honor both Lincoln and George Washington, but I think Lincoln, in ending slavery and preserving the Union, warrants his own unique holiday, as does Washington for his role in founding the country. So I’d leave President’s Day where it is and call it Washington Day, then establish a new holiday to honor Abraham Lincoln specifically. Placing this holiday is difficult, because many of the most significant moments of his administration–namely the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address and the Battle of Gettysburg itself–already fall on or near national holidays. Maybe April 9, to mark the end of the Civil War.
  • Teachers’ Day. Maybe unpatriotic, as many people view the public education system as godless, wasteful and inconvenient. In fact, my governor tells me that one of the biggest problems with our economy is that teachers get paid too much. But I think if we’re going to honor our military with two holidays, we can grant one to our public educators, who are just as important to our nation’s vital interests as our armed servicemen, and would be as successful as our military if they were as well-supported.
  • Armstrong Day. A day to encourage exploration, bravery and the pursuit of knowledge. We don’t do things like going to the moon anymore–daring, challenging, nation-unifying acts of scientific inquiry that challenge our country accomplish more than the bare minimum required to survive.

@SoMuchForPathos: “I’m not anti-tanking myself, but is there a way to manage the reward of amateur talent and preserve competitive balance?”

Well, there’s a difference between tanking and rebuilding. I think we want to encourage competitive balance while discouraging teams from ever losing on purpose. That’s the goal. There are some people who say that the draft rewards failure, that giving good players to bad teams is unjust or something like that. To which I say: shut the hell up, you childish Randian nimrod. Without a system to redistribute wealth (in sports or in life), where the advantaged pay back a little to make life easier on the disadvantaged, we don’t get fairness or meritocracy–we get massive social inequality. The same with promotion and relegation. Anyone who suggests that such a thing would be good for American sports is so naive as to deserve being duct-taped to the inside of a packing crate and mailed someplace where their ill-considered utterances won’t hurt anyone. Please–just Google John Rawls before you talk in public. You will look like a moron in public with far lesser frequency if you do.

You know what happened when there was no revenue sharing and no draft? The Yankees won the World Series every year. The same in European soccer. It’s great if you’re a fan of the Yankees (or Manchester United or Barcelona or whoever), but it sucks if you’re the overwhelming majority of people. Somehow we think this is a good way to run a country, that we view putting disadvantaged people back on their feet as an inconvenience, as punishing success, instead of fostering a more competitive, more sustainable, healthier society. It’s certainly not the way to run a sports league.

By the same token, we don’t want to encourage losing on purpose. Cyclical as competitive cycles are, sometimes a team needs to tear things down, stockpile high draft picks, conserve money on payroll and test out your young players. As Tom Ziller of SB Nation so brilliantly wrote a few weeks back, that’s not tanking, even if you lose a lot in the process. That’s rebuilding. Tanking is losing on purpose for no reason other than trying to get a better draft pick. Obviously one’s smart, the other we want to discourage.

Therefore, I give you the Gold Plan. Adam Gold, a graduate student at the University of Missouri, suggested that the NHL award the highest draft picks not to the team with the fewest points, either directly or by weighted lottery, but to the team that’s earned the most points after being eliminated from playoff contention. This would eliminate the randomness of the draft lottery while encouraging teams to try to win, even after they’re no longer in contention for the title. Furthermore, it would still skew the balance of the draft in favor of the lesser teams, because they’d get eliminated from the playoffs first, and therefore have the most games in which to accumulate points (or, in baseball’s case, wins) in service of getting a higher draft pick. Controlling behavior is all about controlling incentives, and a plan like Gold’s would incentivize winning at almost all points of the season, for almost all teams.

@ethan_witte: “RAJ recently acknowledged the need to expand the statistical analysis dept. Snark aside, can statistical analysis be used incorrectly?”

Sure, but that’s not the point. It’s great that Ruben Amaro‘s at least paying lip service to statistical analysis, but it bothers me almost as much when people think numbers or stats or sabermetrics is the key to baseball as when they dismiss those things entirely. Smart baseball analysis, like smart baseball practice, is about collecting information, in whatever form it comes. To say that statistics or numbers are an end is to miss the point entirely–they’re simply the basis of proof upon which you can build a philosophy. I do not give a tinker’s damn whether Ruben Amaro has no numbers guys on staff or whether he’s hired the entire applied mathematics department from Penn. What I care about is whether he knows to adjust hitters’ statistics for the run environment and their place on the defensive spectrum, whether he understands how player performance is tied to age, where value lies, both in the draft and in free agency…those things are proved by numbers, but they’ve been so well-established by this point that you don’t need numbers to understand them. It’s my greatest frustration with the evangelical sabermetric movement (of which I’d say I’m a member). If our goal is to prioritize numbers, we’ve failed. We should care more about promulgating ideas, and once we’ve made those ideas persuasive, the understanding of the data will follow.

It’s why I roll my eyes when I hear about smart teams using “sabermetrics.” That ship sailed a decade ago, and it leads to a lazy, reductive and (at best) incomplete understanding of the way things work. The real smart teams have a holistic, organized philosophy that governs player acquisition, evaluation and development. To say that the Phillies are suddenly going to stop making stupid decisions because they hired a guy who knows what the residual sum of squares is…well, it’s more complicated than that.

Happy Labor Day, everyone. I’m sure everyone will celebrate this holiday to honor organized labor by griping about Alex Rodriguez‘s selfish use of the rights his union bargained for him.

Leave a Reply

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15 comments

  1. JM

    August 30, 2013 11:28 AM

    I’m all for coaches wearing business casual pants and a team jersey/sweater. Comfy, yet dignified. except basketball coaches, they can continue the blazer routine. few things more amusing than a basketball coach losing all sense of control and whipping his blazer around…

  2. Justin

    August 30, 2013 11:36 AM

    Wow, the ’69’ isn’t even blurred out in the title. Classless. I thought this was a nice family Phillies blog.

  3. Corinne

    August 30, 2013 11:36 AM

    I’m not sure how you discussed managerial attire without a nod to Connie Mack. I’m a little disappointed, Baumann.

  4. Mark66

    August 30, 2013 01:28 PM

    I’m watching the Phils and the Cubs and I’m amazed at how stupid some baseball players still are. I guess they have no idea what chewing tobacco does to a person.

  5. Robby Bonfire

    August 30, 2013 03:57 PM

    Chewing tobacco led to the pre-mature and agonizing deaths of Nellie Fox and Bill Tuttle, who, as a dying man was gracious enough to lecture young people not to follow his example – this with about half a jaw and half a tongue.

    How can anyone in professional sports and all members of our society over 12 not know this?

  6. Dsceee

    August 30, 2013 07:00 PM

    Vlad is a slam dunk HoF. Utley and Beltran are not. WAR is biased.

    To say he isn’t is to ignore that he hit .318, 449 HR, and played an exciting and wining style of play for over a decade, PED and mostly hitter-friendly parks free.

    Check out posts about his chances and you’ll find a blog that shows, of all players in history, his Right Field career ranks second all time. Second, not by some biased system but by accurate stats.

    Check others and you find that the only hitter who had more truly great seasons at the plate than Vlad was Lou Gehrig. Not even PED players can match him. Bat over .300, over 25 HR, SLG over .550, while OBP over .370 for 9 years.

    Avoid biased combined stats that mean nothing, watch games, and you know Vlad’s a lock. Racism might keep him out a while.

  7. hk

    August 30, 2013 07:02 PM

    How is WAR biased? Is WAR also racist?

  8. JM

    August 30, 2013 09:04 PM

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure Babe Ruth had better stats as a RF than Vlad…

  9. JM

    August 30, 2013 09:10 PM

    Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, and Reggie Jackson were kinda special too…oh, and some guy named frank Robinson played RF, all he did was be the only player to win an MVP award in both leagues…

  10. Curly

    August 31, 2013 11:06 AM

    Bat over .300, over 25 HR, SLG over .550, while OBP over .370 for 9 years.

    Calling Jason Stark…

  11. Matt

    September 01, 2013 04:00 PM

    Interesting thing about accents. I speak like someone with a mix of Philadelphia area and the Carolinas, which makes sense, as I have a lot of family there.

  12. Phillie697

    September 03, 2013 11:31 AM

    “Therefore, I give you the Gold Plan. Adam Gold, a graduate student at the University of Missouri, suggested that the NHL award the highest draft picks not to the team with the fewest points, either directly or by weighted lottery, but to the team that’s earned the most points after being eliminated from playoff contention.”

    Then you’d just tank earlier in order to get eliminated from the playoffs as soon as possible (like, for example, if you’re the Marlins). I suppose then the rest of the season you’d be trying to win all the time, but really, is it better for the sport if a team tanks towards the end of the season or right smack in the middle? I would think the latter would be far worse for competitive balance than the former.

  13. Dsceee

    September 03, 2013 06:37 PM

    How is WAR biased? Lets’ see, mythical ‘replacement player’ that changes all the time, random adjustments, and the best off all, using subjective variations on stats to create another subjective variation.= (we who teach math and science relate that epic failure in class to significant digit and Risk Compensation lessons, BTW). Plus the biases of what is valuable, and what isn’t, the failure to adhere to stess parts of a game, and on and on. Many blog writers can add a lot more.

    Vlad retired yesterday, two knee operations this summer is why he didn’t play in Long Island. Of course, I had to learn that from Latin media.

    One of only six players in history, SIX, to bat over .315 and hit over 400 HR. Gehrig, Ruth, Musial, Williams, and Foxx. That’s it. Longest batting steak against one team. A power hitter who only hit below .300 once in a full season. 31 game hit streak for Montreal, longest in years. Had a 40-40 season taken away by a blunder HR call at home in Montreal (I saw the HR, umpires were on drugs or something). Would have won more than one MVP if it weren’t for the PED cheaters. Led 6 of 7 teams to Division titles. On and on.

    ONly racism/bigotry will keep him out of the Hall. Not what he did, not how he did it. Clean, fun loving, a team leader, team player, dedicated to success.

  14. Bill Baer

    September 03, 2013 08:37 PM

    mythical ‘replacement player’ that changes all the time

    An average changes all the time as well. It’s just as “mythical”, except you’re simply more used to using average as a baseline. You can use WAR and take out the replacement level adjustment if that idea bothers you. Wins Above Average is a thing.

    random adjustments

    Such as?

    using subjective variations on stats to create another subjective variation

    I assume this is a knock on the inclusion of defensive metrics? I agree it’s imperfect and creates a reason to be skeptical of some WAR results.

  15. Dsceee

    September 04, 2013 06:55 PM

    From Guerrero’s retirement announcement:
    – toughest pitcher to face was Al Leiter, but Kevin Brown was next (though he hit Brown well enough)
    – Felipe Alou, Pedro Martinez were his two biggest influences in the Majors, always respected Manny Acta
    – thinks he did more than enough to get in the HoF but says, “I don’t vote”.
    – Had a right knee operation soon after signing with Long Island, then another in June when it didn’t seem to improve. Never seemed to get better, doctor told him it may never
    – only guy he’s mad at is the owner(?) of Licey Tigres, who he says treated him very badly
    – says playing clean was important to him and he preaches that to all young ball players, no good having that ruining your life
    – loved the fans and loved playing, refuses to talk down about any player

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