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First off–a big thanks to Bill and Liz for keeping the Crash Bag running in my absence. But daddy’s home now. Let’s have questions.
@loctastic: “what possible questions could people have regarding the phillies at this point”
I have no idea, but by God I’m going to write a Phillies mailbag column.
Also, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Crash Bag hasn’t really been about the Phillies for a while now.
@5ToolsPie: “Is it possible for the Phillies to contend next season?”
Now ask the obvious follow-up question.
ASK THE BLASTED FOLLOW-UP QUESTION.
What’s that? Did someone say “Is it likely that the Phillies will contend next season?” I think I did hear that. The answer to that question is no. So their top two starting pitchers are better than just about anyone else’s in the National League, with the possible exception of the Dodgers. That assumes Cliff Lee won’t go through the same meltdown Roy Halladay unexpectedly went through over the past 18 months. They’ve got two good young outfielders and one of the best second basemen in the game.
And what else? What else in the Phillies’ pipeline makes you really confident they can be 15-20 games better in 2014 than they were last year? What Bryce Harper are they going to bring up? With Ryan Howard, Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon representing a wasteful boondoggle of governmental proportions, what great free agent savior will close the gap to Atlanta and Washington? And even if there is money to be spent, what value is there to be had in free agency?
No. No, I say. The Houston Astros will contend (and I mean legitimately contend, not this bullshit sneaking around .500 in July until the lumpenproletariat in the Philly.com comments hyperventilates themselves into hallucinating a Wild Card spot) before the Phillies do. The hell with your optimism.
@bxe1234: “Who’s your congressperson and WHAT THE EFF IS WRONG WITH ALL OF THOSE A-HOLES?”
Ah, topical humor. Come back, government! You want to know the truth? I have no idea who my congressman is. Tammy Baldwin, who’s now the first openly gay U.S. Senator ever, used to represent my district, but she, you know, ran for Senate. I’ve had interesting U.S. representatives in the past: Jim Florio, who went on to become governor of New Jersey, then Rob Andrews, who’s represented the New Jersey 1st forever, then Joe Wilson, the Republican congressman from the South Carolina 2nd who famously shouted “You lie!” from the gallery while President Obama was talking. What an asshole.
I doubt my congressman is that colorful, but not only do I not know who he is, I didn’t know where I lived for four months. This is absolutely true–apparently, Madison’s got this little vestigial suburb that’s also called Madison, which is a municipality I did not know I inhabited until I went to register to vote. I feel like they should’ve named it something less confusing.
Anyway, Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional district, in case anyone who cares more than I do wants to tell me who I’m voting against in 13 months.
@AlexRemington: “Will Robinson Cano instantly become one of the worst contracts in baseball this winter?”
Instantly? No. But he’s going to get nearly $30 million a year on the open market, despite being a 31-year-old second baseman. And make no mistake–Cano’s a great player. But free agency is totally bonkers nowadays. Players don’t reach free agency, in most cases, until their primes are over, and now that teams seem to realize this, they’re locking up their best players to long-term contract extensions long before free agency. And paradoxically, teams have more money than ever, and with caps on what teams can spend on amateurs, fewer places than ever to spend it. So when a potential Hall of Famer comes available in a weak free agent class, teams are going to break the bank for him, even if they know they’re going to regret the last five years of the contract.
I’d say eventually this deal starts to look bad, but it’d only be the third-worst contract on the Angels. And if whoever signs Cano wins the pennant twice before he gets too old to play second base anymore, I think they’ll mind the downside of what’s certain to be a hilarious contract a little less.
@StashingtonDC: “As Bud Selig is retiring, who do you think will be the next commissioner, and what change do you hope he/she brings to the game?”
Well Rob Manfred’s going to be the next commissioner, and while I imagine he’ll stay the course for the most part, I really have no idea what to expect. I realized this the other day–I identify the beginning of my life as a sports fan as coming sometime in mid-1993, and since then, the four major sports have only undergone two commissioner changes–Paul Tagliabue to Roger Goodell in the NFL 2006 and David Stern to Adam Silver in the NBA just this summer. Both Silver and Goodell were executives in their respective leagues before taking over, and while it’s obviously too early to tell what kind of commissioner Silver will be, Goodell’s pretty much been a more cyncial, megalomaniacal version of Tagliabue.
But if I were commissioner, I’d do the ten following things. In the interest of brevity (and perhaps in the interest of inspiring future Crash Bag questions), I won’t go into much detail, but here’s the list of my pie-in-the-sky baseball reforms:
- Eliminate all caps on what teams can spend on amateur players, foreign and domestic, and allow the trading of draft picks.
- Balance the schedule. Add two more teams, at least one of them in Montreal. Go to two leagues of two eight-team divisions and eliminate interleague play. I cobbled together a comprehensive plan for this a couple months back.
- Forbid teams from accepting public money for stadium construction or renovation. Cities can pay for infrastructure if they want, but no more disasters like in Miami and Cincinnati.
- Eliminate the DH.
- Reform free agency. Players aren’t making big money until their decline phase, as I mentioned above, which is good for neither players nor teams. Maybe something like the NHL–three years of a rookie contract, then a couple years of restricted free agency with the right of first refusal and draft pick compensation.
- Change the instant replay rules to fit these criteria. Discipline umpires for unnecessarily inserting themselves into the game–they do a good job of getting calls right, all things considered, but umpiring shouldn’t be a sinecure where Bob Davidson gets to pick fights with managers whenever he wants.
- Treat PED use like what it is–a violation of the rules. A grave violation, even, worthy of serious punishment. But no more witch hunts, no more hysteria. You get dinged for steroids, you sit for so many games and the league sends out a press release instead of re-enacting the last 90 seconds of Star Wars: Episode I.
- Heavily subsidize professional baseball in the Netherlands, Italy and Australia.
- No more MLB.tv blackouts.
- This is going to happen eventually, but we should probably tone down the Native American imagery. People will gripe about losing “Braves” and “Indians” for about a year, but in addition to being the right thing to do, it’d also be a huge PR win while Dan Snyder has his thumb up his ass and the NFL refuses to make him budge. If nothing else, I’d settle for ditching Chief Wahoo.
@Dweebowitz: “given a choice of reasonable candidates likely to be available, who would you pick to replace Amaro if you could?”
I wish I had a good idea of who the hot assistant GMs are in the game right now, but I really don’t know who’s next in line for an open GM position. I have a better handle on the managerial candidates, because you see those guys more on TV and managerial vacancies are more common than GM vacancies are, but I couldn’t tell you, “Yes, I think Herbert Hoover, the farm director for the Yankees, is the superior candidate for my GM vacancy.” Even former GMs in media right now often say things that make me want them nowhere near a team I root for. I don’t know that there’s a Pat Gillick just kind of kicking around on MLB Network right now.
Listen, the Phillies have the financial stability, media market and fan support that it really shouldn’t take a ton of intellectual clout for them to rebuild a winner. Even a relatively conservative front office should be able to finesse a top-10 payroll into a team that wins the division every couple years, given a few years to rebuild the farm system.
Here’s where I think the Phillies are: playing out the last years of an aging core without much in the way of MLB-ready talent on the farm or financial flexibility to go after free agents. The Phillies have some exciting prospects, but the real good stuff’s in A-ball or lower. So this situation doesn’t require a total insurance fire, but it does require some patience to build a new young core, such as the Phillies had about eight years ago.
So I’ll kind of answer your question by listing the current GMs I’d want to oversee this kind-of-rebuild:
- Jon Daniels, Texas Rangers
- Neal Huntington, Pittsburgh Pirates
- John Mozeliak, St. Louis Cardinals
- Billy Beane, Oakland A’s
- Andrew Friedman, Tampa Bay Rays
- Brian Cashman, New York Yankees
There are more good GMs than this–as with Cashman, I’d like to see what Jerry Dipoto of the Angels could do if his owner weren’t a meddling lunatic. I’d also imagine Jed Hoyer of the Cubs and Jeff Luhnow of the Astros can pull off a rebuild, but let’s see them do it first.
@fotodave: “what whiskey should accompany the 2014 season?”
Well, in terms of bang for your buck, I suggest a big ol’ mess of either Evan Williams or Seagram’s and an equally big ol’ mess of either Coke or ginger ale, depending on how you prefer your bottom-shelf whiskey mixed. I have to say, that while I have a modicum of knowledge of fancy beers, my knowledge of whiskey is severely limited, and thus I might not be the best person to ask this question. Matt Berninger, the lead singer of The National, is famous for getting drunk enough to incite a revolution on white wine at his shows. I once witnessed him climb from the stage to the second story of the Electric Factory during “Mr. November,” a scant 15 minutes after he’d nearly tumbled into the crowd while standing still and singing a slower number. Anyway, quoth Berninger on the subject of wine:
Insofar as I drink liquor, I drink whiskey, but insofar as I drink whiskey, I drink almost exclusively bourbon. I don’t have the expertise to tell you exactly why, but I prefer the taste of bourbon to Scotch and Irish whiskey, to say nothing of drinking America’s greatest hard liquor over its dandyish European counterparts is inherently patriotic. I’m a fan of Bulleit, but I’ve come to understand that as bourbons go, it’s kind of middle-shelf and unimaginative. I’ve also come across a bourbon called Fighting Cock, which I bought because the bottle bore the image of my college mascot and which I expected to be total rotgut, considering its cost and packaging. However, it’s entirely potable and not an unpleasant libation. It comes highly recommended by Franklin Rabon of Talking Chop, who’s seen things you people wouldn’t believe and who knows a good deal more about bourbon than I do. If you can find Fighting Cock, I’d give that a whirl.
So to recap:
- Drink either bourbon or American-made sour mash, unless you’re a foppish, unpatriotic ninny.
- Don’t take my word for it–drink whatever your wallet and palate dictate.
- Don’t be irresponsible–know your limits, drink plenty of water and for God’s sake, play it safe and call a cab if you need to. Or as Orioles announcer Gary Thorne is fond of saying: “Please drink….responsibly.”
@hiphop_JORGE: “When will Mike Martinez make his 2014 debut in the bigs?”
He’s coming back. I know he got released, but come on…termite colonies are less resilient than Mini-Mart. I say he comes back on a minor-league contract and somehow, despite the Phillies having oodles and oodles of infielders better than him, makes his MLB debut on May 20, because somehow the Phillies have still managed not to acquire a backup center fielder, and everyone assumes that just because Mini-Mart is short and can’t hit, that he can run and play defense.
I’m writing the Mini-Mart report card, by the way. I’m looking forward to it with great anticipation.
Ah, yes. So for those of you who missed last week’s Crash Bag, our Prospect Impresario asked Liz to grade the beards of several men on the 20-80 scale favored by scouts. The list included several actors, Kevin Frandsen and the two Crashburn writers who glory in their facial hair. (I have no idea what Ryan’s facial hair situation is, Bill is a machine and therefore incapable of growing a beard and Paul is pretty much unable to grow facial hair, except for a goatee that he had for a few weeks late this summer. He sent me a Snapchat of his goatee, and it was a horrifying, repulsive thing. Given the medium, I’d almost rather he’d sent me a photograph of his privates.)
Anyway, I knew that Prospect Impresario Eric Longenhagen was capable of growing an impressive beard, but the only photo Liz had seen was of Longo in a horseshoe mustache, presumably from Fu Manchu February, and she dropped a 30 on it. Just completely took a dump on it. It was great. I got a fringe average grade, but Liz just straight-up NP’d Eric’s mustache, which led to an equally hilarious response from our Prospect Impresario.
So in the interest of blog solidarity, I’d like to set the record straight. I consider myself to be a worthy evaluator of beards, and Eric doesn’t have a 3 beard. It’s not the black-as-night facemask of the Affleck-in-Argo beard, and while it’s thick and well-groomed, I need to see a little projectability from a beard if I’m going to drop anything higher than a 60 on it. I’m reminded of the rhetoric about Mike Leake and Danny Hultzen when they were coming out of college–almost MLB-ready now, but without the ceiling of anything more than a mid-rotation starter. At least a 50 beard, but–and I hate to go there, because Jason Parks and I have very different philosophies about baseball–it lacks Rig, you know? That’s what’s keeping Longenhagen’s beard from being truly elite.
And so ends the first Crash Bag of the 2013 playoffs. Please continue to patronize Crashburn Alley, not only for the Crash Bag, but for our report card series, the work of our Prospect Impresario, and such news, analysis and frivolity as circumstances dictate. Be good.