Crash Bag, Vol. 70: Howard Roark is a Terrible Architect

I’ve got a search saved on Twitter for “Crashbag.” Often, when I ask for questions, people respond directly to me, but others follow the original question-asking procedure from all those months ago and just toss a question out into the ether with the #crashbag hashtag affixed.

To my knowledge, “Crash Bag” is not a very commonly-used idiom in English-speaking culture, which is to say that I don’t pick up a lot of tweets on that filter that aren’t meant for me and for this purpose. Except every so often, I get a few in a language I don’t understand and can’t recognize. So this week, I finally decided to dig around and see what these interlopers were talking about. Apparently they’re Indonesian, but Google Translate doesn’t recognize the word “crashbag.” So if anyone speaks Indonesian and can tell me what “crashbag” (or some word that’s kind of spelled like it) means, I’d be very interested to know. I really hope it’s not something horrifyingly vulgar. Indonesia’s a big place, and it’d be bad for the blog to offend everyone there.

Start it off, Boss Man:

@CrashburnAlley: “Yasiel Puig has a walk-up song with his name in it by Mr. Criminal. Who would you want to write your self-titled song?”

First of all, it’s a damn travesty that Yasiel Puig is using a tribute song that’s not by Puig Destroyer.

Second, what band I choose has a lot to do with what the song is for. If we’re assuming it’s my walk-up song, then it’s got to be something special. Last spring, back when times were happier, I went through the process of picking out entrance music for Jonathan Papelbon and ended up choosing Every Time I Die’s “Ebolarama” over the Kick-Ass remix of John Murphy‘s “Adagio in D Minor.”

I’d be happy with something like “Adagio in D Minor,” but it’s got to have lyrics with my name in it. So let’s explore some more options.

  • The Gaslight Anthem: A New Jersey band, which is a plus, with kind of a hard-edged aesthetic. Brian Fallon has recently become one of my favorite lyricists. However, most of my favorite Gaslight (and Horrible Crowes) songs are kind of sad and emotionally evocative, and I have a hard enough time hitting a baseball without having to see through tears.
  • Gorillaz: Something like “Dare” or “Feel Good Inc” would be fun, if not the best in pump-up music.
  • Michelle Branch: If she’s writing a song about me, it means she knows who I am, and that means that after ten years of furious letter-writing, maybe I’ll get a response!
  • Wolf Parade: Just because.
  • The White Stripes: Nothing fancy, maybe just a little bit of screeching bluesy guitar and a shouted refrain.

Or, you know, I could just use the Franz Ferdinand song that’s already been provided for this purpose.

@chongtastic: “what is your all time dream team lineup of owner, GM and manager? (not limited to MLB)”

So here’s the thing–I think that out of the 30 best GMs in baseball history, I’m pretty sure about 26 or so are working right now. Maybe you’re not a fan of Ruben Amaro or Kevin Towers or whoever, but the person you’d take instead would be someone who’s retired recently, like John Schuerholtz or Pat Gillick. Knowledge is advancing in this game impossibly quickly. So I’d absolutely take an active GM.

For an owner, you want someone who’s willing to spend money on the team, but then get out of the way and let the pros run it. It’s great to have an owner care about the team as much as Jerry Jones, Arte Moreno or Ed Snider, but it kind of gets canceled out when the owner makes you spend a billion dollars on Ilya Bryzgalov or Josh Hamilton when it’s not a good idea. I guess ideally you want a charismatic owner who galvanizes the community, like Mark Cuban, but I think all you can really ask for is somebody like Jeffrey Lurie, who invests in the team, but lets his football people make football decisions. I know you’re trying to bait me into answering with Mark Cuban for that question, but you really don’t need him.

  • Owner: Paul Allen Ideally, you want your team to have the ownership of the Dynamo Berlin soccer club, which won a bunch of East German titles in a row because their club was run by the Stasi. But failing that, someone like Paul Allen pours money into the various teams he owns, but doesn’t derive his massive ego from his involvement in the team the way Cuban or Jones does. Write the checks and go to the luxury box. We’ll call you when you’re needed.
  • GM: Jon Daniels Jeff Luhnow is a hot name, but right now he’s more sizzle than steak, if only because he hasn’t been running the Astros long enough for the steak to cook yet. If he pulls off that rebuild and turns the Astros into a juggernaut five years from now, though, I might change my answer. Daniels has been outstanding as the Texas Rangers’ GM, building up an impressive farm system, managing the international free agent market well, making bold trades when the time calls for it and, most importantly, knowing when to walk away from star players. In addition to Luhnow, you could talk me into Jed Hoyer, Theo Epstein, Brian Cashman, Andrew Friedman, John Mozeliak or an un-retired Gillick. Any one of them would smoke Branch Rickey.
  • Manager: Earl Weaver He platooned like Casey Stengel, cursed like a sailor and had enough self-confidence to recognize that the smartest thing a baseball manager can do is almost always nothing. I’d also be okay with Stengel, Joe McCarthy, Manny Acta, Joe Maddon, Terry Francona (which I can’t believe I’m saying after his stint with the Phillies), Davey Johnson or Gil Hodges.

Mike (via email): “Is it physically possible for a Phillies reliever to start an appearance without throwing 4-6 consecutive balls? 

I switched over to DirecTV this spring and – seeing as how I’m in South GA – was thrilled to get the Extra Innings package thrown in for free. My work schedule often keeps me away from the house until almost midnight, so watching a pre-recorded Phillies game has become a habit at my house. It’s gotten to the point where any time Diekman, DeFratus, etc.begins an inning, I can just go ahead and fast forward through the four-pitch walk that inevitably begins the frame.

Seriously… How can the bullpen be so consistent in doing the one thing that relievers aren’t supposed to do? When I write my memoirs, the book will be titled after the advice I got from my dad every time he had to come to the mound after I dealt a walk or two… ‘Just Throw F***ing Strikes’. I feel like that’s valuable advice to the bullpen on any given night.”

Phew. I feel ya, dude. Not sure I have anything else to add to that. Moving on.

@Tigerbombrock: “have you, or any other people that bash Atlas Shrugged, ever actually read the book? Or anything by Rand?”

I haven’t read Atlas Shrugged, though I do think that’s a wonderful title for a novel, from a purely aesthetic point of view. My relationship with Ayn Rand’s fiction begins and ends with The Fountainhead, which I read when I was in high school. As a novel, well, I’ve read worse. But the central struggle in the book is that Howard Roark is a terrible architect and he’s the only person who doesn’t realize it. He (and the narrator) just sort of operate under the assumption that he’s right and literally everyone else is wrong and not as enlightened as he is. Most people grow out of that mindset by the time they’re 16 or so, because usually, when everyone says you’re wrong and you can’t accept it, it doesn’t make you a genius–it makes you an asshole. So in accordance with Baumann’s Second Law of Social Conduct, I didn’t attempt to scale the mountain that is Atlas Shrugged. Nevertheless, my problem with Rand is less with her fiction than with the acts of class warfare that have been undertaken in her name. I don’t know if that’s fair or not, but that’s where I stand.

I will say that if you’re in the mood for a work of mid-20th Century American fiction that espouses hilariously juvenile right-wing political ideals, I can’t recommend Robert Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” enough. I’ve always been a big fan of Heinlein’s, and this is one of his best works–just a really fun, well-written, imaginative book.

@Wzeiders: “Which member of the Phillies would be the most likely to fail a Voight-Kampff test?”

That link comes because it’s been a long time since I’ve read “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”

So who’s most likely to be an android, among current Phillies? I dunno, maybe the guy who’s pretty much always scowling and performed at such a consistently high level for so long that in an effort to prove his humanity he released tandem videos:


I still remain unconvinced.

@cdgoldstein: “Why do you hate fun and love grammar?”

I’m pedantic. It’s going to be the cause of the dissolution of my marriage, I’m pretty sure, because KTLSF went to college to become a linguist, which means she doesn’t think rules exist for language, or that the meanings of words are entirely fluid, so when I call somebody out on not using a word correctly, it’s my fault for being an intransigent tightass. Of course, in ten years, calling someone an intransigent tightass may mean the same thing as telling him to make you a cheeseburger. Who the hell knows anymore?

Anyway, I’m an intransigent tightass because I went to school to become a newspaper reporter and copy editor, which means that I was injected with an obsession with minutiae. I took a class in undergrad where the professor would fail you for an assignment if you misspelled a person’s name or formatted a paper incorrectly. You don’t recover from that sort of thing easily.

@TheGreyKing: “how many/which MLB teams would you consider “untouchable”? (will never move/change no matter how bad things get)?”

So which teams will never move or undergo a name change? Never is a long time. Believe it or not, the Phillies are the only one of the original 16 MLB teams that hasn’t either moved or changed its name. They flirted with the idea of changing to the Blue Jays in the 1940s, but never pulled the trigger. Even the Yankees started life as the Baltimore Orioles, then became the New York Highlanders, then became the Yankees in 1913.

I think having 30 teams, each valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, reduces the potential for teams to move. The Sun Belt is still growing and the Northeast and Rust Belt dying, but while California, Texas and the Carolinas are probably underrepresented among MLB teams, there’s not really a population center to move a team to in many of those places. Maybe in 20 or 30 years, that will change.

Even so, “never” is a long time. I have a hard time imagining the Red Sox moving house anytime soon, but all bets are off when we arrive at the year 2275 and the seas have risen up and swallowed Yawkey Way like a drunken college student consuming his fifth 1:30 a.m. Gordita Supreme. So let’s set some parameters and put odds on each of the 30 teams moving or changing its name in the next 30 years.

  • 50-100 percent: Oakland A’s, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels. The league’s two worst stadium deals, plus two nicknames that will, in a generation, seem so insensitive they’ll need to be changed. Plus the Angels, who have been in the same city with the same nickname since 1966, but in that time have changed the place name of their team four times (they’re dropping the “of Anaheim” next year) without even moving to a new stadium. They’ll fidget again.
  • 20-49 percent: Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks, Washington Nationals, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins. Combinations of dying markets and silly nicknames, plus the Rockies, who might go the Miami Marlins treatment and change their name to the Denver Rockies.
  • 1-19 percent: Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Phillies, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants. Same thing as above–dying markets, questionable nicknames, roots not all that deep in certain places. Plus Seattle and San Francisco, both of which could be annihilated in a geological disaster at any moment. It’s also conceivable that the Rangers could actually move to Dallas, particularly if a third Texas city gets a team at some point.
  • 0-1 percent: New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets. These guys are safe.

@pivnert: “so with the addition of bernadina and promotion of cesar hernandez, is ben revere a possible trade chip this winter?”

Probably not. Neither Hernandez nor Bernadina is anyone’s idea of a regular center fielder. But I’m less interested in this question than I am in what Ben Revere says about his booty.

@Hegelbon: “Why do you think people respond to poor MiLB seasons (see: Billy Hamilton) as markers of true talent instead of developmental stepping stones? Is this a bias against prospects? Development blindness? Or just good policy?”

Well, in Hamilton’s case, his poor AAA season is endemic of the major knock in him as a prospect. I wrote about this a couple days ago, but the short version is this: Hamilton hits for almost as little power as Ben Revere, and while he’s somewhat faster, he also lacks the plate discipline and contact skills that make Revere even a mediocre hitter. So if Hamilton’s going to strike out 100 times against AAA pitching while only slugging .343, odds are that those numbers aren’t going to get better when he faces pitchers with better stuff and better command who are less inclined to pitch around a hitter they know can’t hurt them. Hamilton’s only about to turn 23, so he could improve, but it’s still not a sure thing that he will. So reacting to Hamilton’s bad season is not so much about his not performing in a vacuum, but on his ceiling as a player being predicated largely on an improvement that, one year later, still hasn’t come.

But what we too often forget about prospects is this: the modal outcome is failure. This is especially true for players with one loud tool–like Hamilton–but who also have gaping holes in other areas of their game. Those holes don’t always close on their own.

@Matt_Winkelman: “Explain the allure of big time college sports to someone with no D1 college connections, why should we care?”

I don’t know how to make that case. I think college football is more fun to watch than pro football–I like the greater variation in style of play, the longer slate of games and the unpredictability of the college game, but that’s a purely aesthetic choice, and I certainly don’t expect to sway any NFL loyalists with it.

I follow two college sports closely–baseball and football–and two with at least a passing interest–hockey and basketball. And I think the reason for that has a lot to do with my connections. I didn’t follow college baseball before I went to a school that churns out future pros. I’ve been a Virginia Tech fan for as long as I can remember, because my parents went there, but my Hokie fandom is mostly the result of deciding to follow a good team when I was eight years old. My parents are fans, and they’ll watch the big games, but they certainly didn’t raise me to be a Virginia Tech football fan in the way you hear kids being indoctrinated to root for Notre Dame or Alabama. But I started following Virginia Tech when I was young enough that it didn’t really matter. I don’t know that that’s a switch you can turn on in your 20s, and even I switched my allegiance fully to South Carolina after four years of watching games in the student section and press box at Williams-Brice Stadium.

And that’s really it–I’m a Gamecock fan because I feel like I’m part of a community. That community, and the memories and friendships that came from it, make that fandom what it is, in both baseball and football.

It’s why I don’t have roots in college basketball, and why I hardly follow it now. I took an interest in college basketball between ages 6 and 10, as I did with most sports, and since then I’ve declared myself a fan of UCLA, Temple, Kansas, Villanova and Temple again. Put a gun to my head and I’ll throw in my lot with Nova, but I can’t name a single player who’s on that team, unless Mouphtaou Yarou (which I totally just spelled right on the first try!) isn’t still there as a ninth-year senior. The roots just aren’t as deep there for me.

If I’d try to explain the appeal of college sports, I’d do it this way: the two sports teams that I care most about are the Phillies and the Gamecock football team, and I love both in different ways. Put me in Citizens Bank Park and get a couple beers in me and I’ll jump and clap and chant–I’ve certainly shouted, laughed and cried my share and then some for the Phillies’ sake–but my relationship with Major League Baseball is intellectual. I love the game. I want to know as much as I can, understand as much as I can about baseball, and the emotional attachment services that passion. It’s the other way around for college football–my introduction to that game was entirely emotional, and whatever knowledge I have about college football today I’ve acquired not for its own sake, but to become a better football fan, to enrich my experience as part of a community.

And for that reason, I don’t know if it’s an experience you can replicate. If you can, it’s an incredible thing to have.

Thus concludes the Crash Bag. Speaking of college football, there ought to be quite a good game on Saturday afternoon if you’ve got nothing better to watch. Take care, and to hell with Georgia.

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  1. wooddt

    September 06, 2013 10:01 AM

    Every Time I Die?! Ebolorama?!
    How did I miss that post?! You can do or say no wrong in my eyes for the next 5 Crash Bags.

  2. alan silver

    September 06, 2013 03:13 PM

    Stop saying ‘dying’ when referring to cities, or entire regions of the country. Just stop.

  3. Chris B.

    September 06, 2013 05:03 PM

    I was born and bred in Indonesia (or at least till I was 13), so I’d like to think I could speak the language at least fairly well, but the last 5 years have sapped me of enough knowledge of the language to the point where I have no clue what that means or if I ever even heard it while there. Sorry!


    September 06, 2013 08:27 PM

    love this crashbag. i learn so much about baseball and the phillies when i read this!

  5. Joss Murdoch

    September 06, 2013 08:53 PM

    May I just interject that having read parts of Atlas Shrugged I would strongly discourage anyone from reading it – Poor prose, backed up by a habit of drifting off mid scene into an internal monologue on the possiblity of growth in the steel and haulage sector over the next twenty years.

    If that doesn’t sound unreasonable, consider that this internal monologue takes place during a sex scene. Involving another person. Who isn’t made of steel.

  6. Nehemiah

    September 06, 2013 09:42 PM

    Joss, maybe you should read the book instead of bits and pieces, since what you said is ludicrous. Regardless of progressives insistence to bash the book because of its strong Libertarian leanings, it is a good novel. I encourage people to read it for its story as opposed to its message. Or don’t. I really don’t care.

  7. Bill Baer

    September 06, 2013 10:49 PM

    Atlas Shrugged is objectively a poorly-written book, without consideration of its philosophy. And yes, I’ve read it. You’ll find no literary scholars — unbiased by Rand’s staunch libertarianism — who hold it up as a legitimate work.

    Not that I could write a novel any better than Rand, but that’s neither here nor there. Maybe I could. I don’t know.

  8. agam22

    September 07, 2013 12:13 PM

    As someone with a fairly libertarian bias, I think there are some very interesting points made in Atlas Shrugged and found it worth my time to read, even if I don’t fully buy into Rand’s objectivism.

    However, her writing is probably the worst I have ever seen from any writer who has achieved any amount of success. She is completely unable to capture any interaction between people without it going to some sort of extended philosophical diatribe and the prose is absolutely brutal.

    If you are someone going into that book already somewhat opposed to her philosophy you will never be able to make it though a novel that long and that tough to read.

  9. Nehemiah

    September 08, 2013 08:57 PM

    I agree it is tough to read. And there are parts that seem needless and long. But I like that kind of writing in my novels. I guess I am just smarter than you guys. (just kidding).

    As far as going into with a biased opinion against her, that is the same with everything. I have tried to read books by people who I vehemently oppose and though I don’t like not finishing books, I have with these ones.

    Bill, thank God. Too many people I know bash this book and than are like, “no, never read it and never will”.

    Saying that, I just want to go on the record here, Catcher in the Rye is the worst book ever written.

    • Shanthi Bradley

      May 17, 2014 07:03 AM

      @tigerbombrock : I thank you for saying that Catcher in the Rye is the worst book ever written.. OMG! it’s the most overrated book EVER!!

  10. pedro3131

    September 09, 2013 03:59 AM

    Meh, the fountainhead was better. I’d still put it ahead of most of the traditional “canon” or any of the crap that’s been written since the early 60s

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