Crash Bag, Vol. 72: Chase Utley Frolicking in a Meadow

Hi, I’m Bill Baer. You might remember me from such films as “Jesus Christ, you signed Ryan Howard for how much?!” and “a 60-minute film that consists entirely of Chase Utley frolicking in a meadow”. I’m filling in for the esteemed Michael Baumann this week as he is off in Georgia getting married. Congratulations to both Mike and Kate (TLSF) on their happy day.

If you are a fan of The Daily Show like I am, you know that correspondent John Oliver filled in as host of the show for a few months during the summer while Jon Stewart was in the Middle East filming. While I have never been a particularly avid fan of British humor, I thought Oliver did a stand-up job. Anyway, Stewart is back and Oliver is back in his old role on the show, doing skits. But he warned Stewart of the future on Monday night’s show. I’m going to be the Oliver to Baumann’s Stewart.

(Skip to 3:35)


@usfsucks: Is there any hope that 2014 will be better than 2013?

I think so. Look at it position-by-position. At catcher, the Phillies probably bring Carlos Ruiz back, healthy and without losing time to a suspension. Good. First base, a healthy Ryan Howard. (Hopefully platooned with Darin Ruf, but not likely.) Chase Utley at second. Maybe a rebound from Jimmy Rollins at shortstop. A full season of Cody Asche at third base instead of Michael Young. A healthy, full season from Ben Revere in center. A healthy Domonic Brown in either corner. Maybe a free agent outfielder (Corey Hart?) for the other corner instead of Delmon Young. A bullpen that’s a year older and a year wiser. A starting staff that still has Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, and won’t give 13 starts to a 6.71 ERA-producing Roy Halladay. Maybe the Phillies finally have the dice roll their way and they get some All-Star caliber performances from a handful of guys.

If everything breaks right, I could see them being in contention for the NL Wild Card. They’re not far off from a .500 team as is.

@cody011: Look into your glass ball. When’s the next time the phillies will be contenders? Or does RAJ need to be axed before you can?

This is a good follow-up question given the way I left the last one. I think they could be tough to beat in 2015 if they cut down on the mistakes. The last two years have been a result of a bunch of mistakes, big and small, adding up. If the Phillies start utilizing 21st century methods of analysis, if they start understanding the value of platoons, if they stop giving rich, multi-year contracts away, etc. then a lot of what has ailed the Phillies lately will no longer be a problem. Did you know that the Phillies, this year, gave over 800 combined plate appearances to Michael Young and Delmon Young, who combined for -2.3 WAR, according to Baseball Reference? Laynce Nix, -0.6. Ezequiel Carrera, -0.4. A handful of others are in the red as well. Going by WAR, mediocre personnel decisions would have made the team 4-5 wins better than they are now, having reaped the penalties of awful personnel decisions.

So the question is, has Ruben Amaro learned from his mistakes? Is he capable of adapting? If he trades the farm for Giancarlo Stantion or signs Jacoby Ellsbury to a six-year, $140 million contract, then no, he hasn’t. If he plugs the corner outfield hole with Jeff Francoeur and Luke Scott, then no, he hasn’t. This is ostensibly Amaro’s last chance to show his ability to evolve. Otherwise, I think he gets canned after the 2014 season. Either way, I’m seeing 2015 as the earliest they can be preseason favorites to win the NL East.

@fjrabon: you can renew any cancelled TV show you want, as often as you want, or go back in time and void the Howard contract, which?

The ratio of TV I watch compared to Phillies baseball I watch is about 1,000 to one in favor of Phillies baseball, so I will choose to void the Ryan Howard contract forever and always. I’m terribly out of the loop on everything pop culture. I haven’t seen Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, or any of the other current obsessions.

The only TV show I’ve ever gotten wrapped up in is House. But as much as I’d theoretically like to bring that back, I would get sick of it eventually. I’m almost done running through the series from season one to eight right now, and I’ve pretty much had my fill. Somewhere around the seventh episode of season eight (“Dead & Buried”) when Dr. House digs up the corpse of a kid to attempt to solve a case, I realized the series had jumped the shark. Many say it jumped the shark much, much earlier. There are only so many situations you can put the same cast of characters into and still make it interesting.

Think of it like the end of Sandy Koufax‘s career compared to Steve Carlton‘s. Would you rather end it early and on top, or drag it on and on when you’re clearly a shadow of your former self?

Plus, come on, think of all the cool things the Phillies could have done with an extra $25 million a year.

@dj_mosfett: Would GTA V be improved if it starred Cole Hamels, Dom Brown, & Roy Halladay?

At the risk of making myself sound like the most boring person on earth, I have never played Grand Theft Auto so I have no idea how to improve it. Though I will say the thought of Hamels, Brown, and Halladay recklessly driving around the city to rob people and solicit hookers sounds hilarious.

Since July 2010, about 99 percent of my video game focus has been on Starcraft II and its expansion Heart of the Swarm.

Starcraft requires a tremendous understanding of strategy like chess, involves decision-making with incomplete information like poker, and is played in real-time. It is incredibly difficult to play. I follow the competitive leagues like I follow baseball. It’s endlessly fun. Check out a stream some time.

@FelskeFiles: former president of Nintendo died today. Better NES baseball game… Bases Loaded or Baseball Stars?

I only played Baseball Stars a handful of times, if that. For me, most of my youth was spent playing RBI Baseball (which was a lot like Baseball Stars, but with MLB players and without the ability to create your own rosters) and Bases Loaded. I have a particular nostalgia for Bases Loaded because I still randomly have the music pop into my head every now and then. Terrible gameplay, though.

This doesn’t pertain to your question, but you’ll never get a real consensus on the overall best baseball video game. Many will tell you Ken Griffey Presents Major League Baseball on the Super Nintendo; others will say MVP Baseball 2005 on the PC. I’m partial to the latter because it had endless customization. I also remember it being the first video game where you could actually practice plate discipline.

@averyledgeliver: What are we to take from Revere’s fantastic June/July 2013? Was it just BABIP luck? Could Cesar be a better choice for CF?

Revere just had an awful April. Everything he did between May and his injury in July right before the All-Star break was exactly what he did in 2012 with the Twins: he hit for a high average, stole a bunch of bases, and made some great plays in the outfield. That is what the Phillies expected to get from him when they traded Vance Worley and Trevor May to acquire him. When spring training starts in late February, Revere will have had seven months to recover from a broken foot. Unless there are complications, I think we should expect May-July Revere in 2014 rather than April Revere.

It’s possible that Cesar Hernandez could outproduce Revere at the position but I wouldn’t count on it. I’m always skeptical of severe position changes, like moving Hernandez from the middle infield to center field. Though to his credit, he has looked capable of handling the transition after just a couple months on the job.

@sean_bealer: if it was your decision, who would be your top managerial candidates?

I don’t really have one ideal candidate as it’s tough to know a lot about them, particularly if they haven’t managed before. How does he handle a clubhouse? (Is he combative, laid back, etc.?) Is he a slave to baseball orthodoxy? (Does he bunt often? Let pitchers stay in just to chase a W?) Does he put terrible on-base guys at the top of the lineup? Can he deflect media pressure from his more fragile players? There are a lot of things about managers that either cannot be known or aren’t made public until he’s on someone else’s payroll. When you’re narrowing your search specifically to modern-minded managers, you are really looking for a needle in a haystack. So I don’t have any particular person in mind.

I do like Joe Maddon, not that he’ll be leaving the Rays anytime soon. He’s stats-savvy, he keeps a loose atmosphere in the clubhouse, and it appears as if he has earned a great deal of respect from his team not unlike Charlie Manuel.

@ut26: You are granted the power to add, subtract, or change one rule in baseball. What do you do and why?

The thing I dislike most about baseball are the unnecessary collisions. Yeah, on a bang-bang play down the first base line, sometimes it’s inevitable that the runner and the pitcher will bump shoulders. But on plays like the one that involved Domonic Brown on Monday night against the Marlins, contact is completely unnecessary and puts the catcher in a non-zero amount of danger. We saw what happened to Buster Posey a couple years ago. (I’m not linking the video because it’s awful.) It’s bad for baseball when players have to miss time to a superfluous injury and it’s potentially career-ending and life-changing for everybody involved. You see the concussion issue that’s plaguing the NFL? We don’t need that in baseball.

I would have a panel review every play that involves a collision between opposing players. They would mete out a suspension (minimum of 15 games) based on recklessness and severity. Repeat offenders would be penalized more harshly. Hopefully, this would eradicate collisions in the game. Close play at home? Slide or accept your base running mistake and go into home plate ready to be tagged.

@andymoney69: nl east except the braves is a tragedy. which Shakespearean tragedy are the mets, phils, nats, and marlins. show your work

When I was supposed to be reading Shakespeare in high school, I was either napping or playing Game Boy. I couldn’t begin to answer this question. But I’ll Wiki him real quick [pause].

Marlins: The Comedy of Errors — Opening a new ballpark, running the payroll over $100 million, only to severely downsize three months later. Three firesales in the franchise’s less-than-20-year history!

Mets: Much Ado About Nothing — One post-season appearance since losing the Subway Series to the Yankees in 2000.

Phillies: A Lover’s Complaint — Because we love them, but still complain a lot about them. haha, get it?

Braves: Richard III — There are a lot of dicks associated with this team. Wife-beater Bobby Cox, their racist logo and chant, Chipper Jones… that’s three.

Nationals: All’s Well That Ends Well — The Nationals were mediocre for about four months, but have caught fire lately and are on the outskirts of Wild Card relevancy thanks to a 21-7 record since August 20.

They’re all puns based on the title. As you can tell, I’ve never read them.

That’s it, you guys. The tremendous Liz Roscher of The Good Phight will be on Bag duty next week. If you’d like to see your question answered, send it to @LizRoscher on Twitter.

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  1. TomG

    September 20, 2013 08:18 AM

    Speaking of dicks, since I guess someone has to be the dick who first points out that none of the works of Shaxberd you mention above is a tragedy (with the arguable exception of Dick III*, which, ironically enough, you associate with the Braves, which is the ONE team in the NL EAST your interlocutor said was not a tragedy) … well, why can’t I be that dick?

    And so now, thanks to the sentence above, I am.

    And as a dick, I feel compelled, for the sake of consistency, to say: Go Braves! (Wow. That was a mistake because as soon as I typed it my keyboard vomited in my mouth and I became impregnated by Chipper Jones who was attracted by my Hooters-worthy manboobs.)

    Okay, obligatory dickish observations now taken care of, let me commend you on choosing TCoE for the Marlins since it is Shxpr’s only farce and the Marlins are – wait for it! – a farce. Over all, the Twins might be a better match for TCoE (for obvious reasons), but they’re not in the NL East and, while bad, do not qualify as a farce.

    All of that said, I should now point out that none of this matters because all of Shakey’s plays were actually written by Christopher Marlowe even though he was dead at the time.

    So maybe they were secretly written by Delmon Young … who has a decent shot at going to the playoffs now with the Rays.

    And THAT is the King Lear of baseball tragedies of 2013.
    *It was marketed as a tragedy in its day and it technically qualifies.

  2. Oliver

    September 20, 2013 12:03 PM

    While I was going to point out what Tom said (though I’d still characterize Richard III as a History despite it’s glaring inaccuracies), overall a nice job filling in. While I miss the references to The National and many other things I like (seriously, Mike needs to get out of my brain on occasion), the inclusion of Starcraft 100% makes up for it.

  3. Oliver

    September 20, 2013 12:05 PM

    PS. what’s your GSTL fantasy lineup?

  4. Bill Baer

    September 20, 2013 12:06 PM

    Are you talking about the fantasy team you can pick on Team Liquid? Or just picking players for the purpose of this exercise?

  5. Oliver

    September 20, 2013 03:40 PM

    I was talking about the Team Liquid league, but either works

  6. Bill Baer

    September 20, 2013 03:44 PM

    Ah, I haven’t set one up in a couple seasons. My last season was awful, the one before that was actually decent, but I had Flash and Innovation.

  7. Mark66

    September 21, 2013 06:21 AM

    I watched the Mets beat Hamels last nite and I was amazed at what a very POOR pick-off move or rather trying to stop the Mets from stealing he really has. For being 29 yrs old it is horrible for a pitcher to be that bad in holding runners on.

  8. Jack Parkman

    September 22, 2013 12:57 AM

    Wow. Baseball Stars, for sure. Don’t get me wrong, I had my period of Ken Griffey SNES baseball addiction, but it lacked the customization of BS and–given that it came out five years later and on a superior console–didn’t improve enough on the gameplay.

    If anything, KG was stiff, and the baserunning/defense speed and feel were awful.

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