Crash Bag, Vol. 82: The Hanukkah of Excess

So last week I made an effort to keep the Crash Bag largely baseball-focused. This week, not so much. Sorry.

@jlwoj: “is Friday Thanksgiving Kosher or does it violate everything?”

I think if there’s a good reason for you to celebrate Thanksgiving on the Friday–like work or travel restrictions–then go for it. I don’t presume to impose my own relatively conservative cultural norms on everyone else without a reason. Oh, wait, that’s exactly what I do whenever I write about something like the DH or the shift. This brings up the secondary question, however, of whether it’s appropriate to eat an enormous amount of food and watch an equally enormous amount of football on Friday. And the answer to that is yes. The presence of Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches and two days of college football rivalry games almost makes Thanksgiving a de facto three-day holiday. Four, if you count Wednesday night as the official day of going out to the bar, getting irresponsibly drunk and running into people you hadn’t thought about since high school.

Thanksgiving, in short, is like the Hanukkah of Excess. And here was I, getting all tetchy about having to get on a plane to see the relatives. I’ve been looking at it the wrong way all along.

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On Ryan Howard Benchmarks

Loyal Crashburn readers, you have my sincerest apologies for back-to-back articles on Ryan Howard. It feels like 2010 all over again here. I do want to make a point that I think is rather important, though, as it pertains to gauging the various levels of success Ryan Howard might enjoy in 2014.

In this article by Todd Zolecki, Howard says he is still a “30-100 guy” (meaning 30 home runs, 100 RBI).

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Ryan Howard and 30 Home Runs

Thirty homers. It’s a nice, round number. It’s a decent benchmark for power during the season, and it’s a level Ryan Howard used to reach regularly. And he thinks he can do it again.

His contention is that injuries have kept him from being full strength (understandable) and that age is really just a number (less so). There’s no arguing the injury point; Howard’s missed tons of time over the last two seasons, and even when he was in the lineup, he generally produced – much less just slugged – far below his career averages.

But in baseball, age isn’t always just a number. Sure, now and then you get guys who defy the odds, who put together solid-to-good-to-great seasons well into their 30s (from Raul Ibanez on up through Barry Bonds and Randy Johnson), but this isn’t the norm, especially when the most accessible examples are Hall of Fame-level talents. Howard is not a future Hall of Famer, but he was an elite slugger at one point. That point wasn’t recent, but at least it exists.

So, on its face, the claim that Howard could hit 30 homers isn’t a silly one, but there’s enough to leave one dubious.

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Giving Thanks to the Phillies

On Thursday, many families will crowd around the dinner table and give thanks for all of the wonderful things in their life. Some are in good or improved health, others have recently found employment or received a promotion, still more have found love. Me, I’ll be giving thanks for the grown men who run around in pajamas chasing a spherical object for seven months out of the year. Join me, won’t you?

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Looking at Some Potential Free Agent Pitching Targets for the Phillies

Last night, Dan Haren signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers. In retrospect, it’s a deal I would have loved to see the Phillies make, but it probably was never going to happen as Haren has family on the West coast and wasn’t happy pitching in Washington being so far away. Still, it’s the type of deal that the Phillies should be considering this off-season. Reports have indicated the Phillies have expressed interest in Bronson Arroyo, which indicates the type of signing they ought to avoid — lengthier, more expensive deals. Recently, I had suggested the Phillies target Josh Johnson but he signed with the Padres on a one-year, $8 million deal.

Let’s look over some of the starters still left on the board that the Phillies could target.

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Despite Prince Fielder Deal, Ryan Howard Is Still Untradable

Over at The Good Phight, Joe Catz has a thoughtful article up about the changing marketplace, particularly after the Prince Fielder/Ian Kinsler swap between the Tigers and Rangers. The Tigers, of course, shed themselves of the nine-year, $214 million Fielder contract after just two years and $46 million. They sent $30 million along with Fielder in the trade while taking on Kinsler and his remaining five years and $75 million. This has led many to speculate that a Ryan Howard trade is a possibility. (To clarify, Joe Catz does not make this claim, though Howard’s photo does accompany the article.)

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Crash Bag, Vol. 81: Semi-Serious Baseball Questions

I got a new laptop since the last time I wrote the Crash Bag, and it has a touchscreen. It’s so cool–I could never go back to a non-touchscreen computer now. This week I tried to scroll on my wife’s Macbook by touching the screen and nothing happened and my first thought was: “What a piece of junk.”

The only thing I need now is some kind of program to make my desktop and all my applications look like the LCARS system from Star Trek. You know, like this:

And I know there are apps that let you play around and press the buttons and stuff, but I’m talking about the whole shebang. I had a Winamp skin that did this a while back, but never anything for the whole computer. Let’s get on this.

And let’s get to your questions.

@dschoenfield: “Don’t you think somebody should do a study on when MLB players peak? Could perhaps be helpful for RAJ.”

Yeah, that’d be nice. Someone ought to get on that and show it to Ruben Amaro before he signs another player who’s old enough to be my dad. Well, Marlon Byrd isn’t literally old enough to be my dad, but you get the point.

I’ll say this–there’s something to be said for swimming against the current. To a certain extent, you’re not going to find low-risk, high-upside bargains in the free agent market, because that’s not where the value is anymore. But shouldn’t you be able to finagle the occasional bargain by taking a stab at a player most teams think is too old? For instance: the Mariners got 29 home runs last year out of Raul Ibanez, a 41-year-old they paid less than $3 million. And he would’ve been a steal at that price if they’d DH’d him full-time instead of giving him 97 starts in left field, which is something an insane team would do. As a little more than a half-time left fielder, he gave back about two and a half wins (NOT RUNS, WINS) with his defense alone. Ibanez got 97 starts in left and his glove alone was about as great a detriment to the Mariners as Domonic Brown, an All-Star, was a net positive for the Phillies. You can’t let that happen. Civilized people don’t let that happen.

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