Crash Bag, Vol. 83: I Am Easily Shamed

Let’s start things off with a furious bout of wishful thinking.

@asigal22: “Is there a record this season that gets Amaro fired? If so, can he get the Phillies there?”

I don’t think so. Well, let me rephrase–there is such a record, but it’s like 36-126 or something ridiculous and bad as I think the Phillies are going to be, they won’t be record-settingly bad. I’m pretty sure the Phillies’ win total this season is going to start with a 7, and if it doesn’t it’ll be because Cliff Lee falls off a cliff, not because of anything Ruben Amaro‘s done recently. This has been inevitable since 2010, and that we’re just now feeling the effects of the decisions that killed the Phillies’ chances at contention doesn’t mean that they’re fixable in the short term. A few weeks ago I set an over-under date of something like December 9, 2015, more or less out of the blue, and asked around whether people thought Amaro would be gone before or after that date. I’d take the over, just because I can’t imagine what would change between now and then to change the mind of ownership.

From the boss:

@CrashburnAlley: “what would be the funniest pair of ballparks to use with that overlay tool? (…)”

Coors Field and AT&T Park. There’s been a rash of home run distance-related analysis with the free agent signings of Brian McCann and Phil Hughes, two players who generate a lot of home runs, and whose free agent movement somehow involves Yankee Stadium. The thing is, ballpark dimensions aren’t the only thing that determine whether a fly ball turns into a home run. What you’ll see in the chart above is that one of the most extreme hitter’s parks in baseball, Coors Field (No. 1 for scoring, No. 8 for home runs), is larger in almost every dimension than AT&T Park (No. 27 for scoring, No. 28 for home runs. So sure, you can say that a cheap homer in San Francisco would’ve been a double in Denver, but that ignores wind patterns, temperature, humidity and atmospheric density. So like most things in baseball, the park overlay graphic is interesting, but it requires a lot more context to actually tell you anything.

@Benafflaco: “Ruben Amaro’s Starting XI for the USMNT, using any current American pro soccer players. Not, like, Lebron at CB.”

By the time most of you read this, the World Cup draw will have happened, which is exciting but will also probably result in the USA having a group of, like, Brazil, the Netherlands and France or something. It’ll be terrible and we will all feel great shame when America’s finest are bounced unceremoniously from the World Cup.

Anyway, here’s who I’d play, assuming everyone’s healthy and in form:

GK: Howard
DF: Cameron, Besler, Gonzalez, Fabian Johnson
CDM: Bradley, Jones
AM (right-to-left): Zusi, Dempsey, Donovan
ST: Altidore

I think Altidore, Bradley and Dempsey are mortal locks to start, barring injury. Altidore has his detractors, but he’s leaps and bounds ahead of any other striker the U.S. has, and even if he’s not scoring, he can hold the ball up for a set of midfielders who aren’t shy about shooting. Dempsey is a Klinsmann favorite, and I’m pretty confident at this point calling Bradley the best American outfield player ever. Donovan should be a lock if Klinsmann ever forgives him for taking a sabbatical, and Howard’s pretty close to being a sure thing, though Brad Guzan (FORMER GAMECOCK) has closed the gap to the point where it’s possible that Howard will, for the first time, go to the World Cup as something other than the best American goalkeeper (I know Kasey Keller started ahead of Howard in 2006 for reasons passing understanding).

I’m not a huge Zusi fan, but he provides good service from the wing and on free kicks, which is nice when you’ve got one of the more physically imposing strikers in the game. I could see Josh Gatt on the right wing if he breaks through under the tutelage of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Molde, or Brek Shea on the left with Donovan moving to the right, or Joe Corona or Mix Diskerud up the middle with Dempsey moving out right.

Jones irritates me, but I don’t know that there’s a better partner for Bradley out there–putting Diskerud or Stu Holden back there in kind of an Aaron Ramsey role prevents Bradley himself from getting forward, and Kyle Beckerman is a quad-A defensive midfielder–I’m shuddering just thinking of what someone like Mesut Ozil would do to him.

The back line is anyone’s guess. Cameron could play anywhere, or in defensive midfield. Could be DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Evans as fullbacks, could be Besler and Gonzalez or John Anthony Brooks and Clarence Goodson or Maurice Edu–I have no idea how this is going to shake out, except that I’m very relieved that Jonathan Bornstein, Ricardo Clark and Robbie Findley will not be in the setup.

@ETDWN: “how would you have felt if the Brown for Cespedes trade had actually happened?”

Honestly, as one of Brown’s biggest fans, I’d have been okay with it. They’re not particularly dissimilar players: corner outfielders with plus power and superior athleticism that doesn’t translate to defense. Neither one has all that much of a track record in the majors, and they’ve both had their ups and downs, so despite Brown being 26 and Cespedes being 28, I’m not particularly certain which one is the better player. If Cespedes is 2012 Cespedes, I’d take Cespedes. But if he’s 2013 Cespedes and Brown puts together the power he displayed in 2013 with the plate discipline he’d showed in his pro career beforehand, then I’d take Brown.

I think Cespedes is a little closer to what he showed in 2012 than 2013, and I do worry about Brown’s approach. Plus Phillies fans have been griping since before I can remember about how lefty-heavy the lineup is, and there are, like, five guys who have more righty power than Cespedes. So I’d take Cespedes, even though he’ll reach free agency sooner and cost more than Brown before he does. But I don’t feel great about saying that, and this isn’t a trade I’d go out of my way to make.

@Shawny_Mac12: “why don’t you ever answer my crashbag questions? Do they suck that bad?”

Aww, dude. I didn’t mean to hurt you. But I am easily shamed, so let’s tackle one.

@Shawny_Mac12: “Would you rather have Ryan Howard from his ages 25-33 seasons or Jim Thome from 25-33?”

Let me just say that questions like these are why I love Baseball Reference.

Thome, age 25-33: .285/.418/.588, 157 OPS+, 368 HR. Average: 148 games, 41 HR, 28 2B, 104 R, 114 BB, 158 K. And not like this matters a whole lot, but four All-Star games and four top-10 MVP finishes. Age 34 was where Thome got hurt and Howard took over.

Howard, age25-33: .271/.361/.545, 134 OPS+, 309 HR. Average: 129 games, 34 HR, 77 R, 65 BB, 154 K, though those numbers are skewed downward by his late start to 2005 and injuries in the past two seasons. His per-162 game numbers are very close to Thome’s.

It’s pretty wild how similar Thome and Howard are as players, but Thome gets the edge in on-base skill and durability. Otherwise it’s about a dead heat. Those extra 57 points of OBP are the difference between a Hall of Famer like Thome and a player like Howard, who was a superstar at his best but falls short of being Hall-worthy. Which is not a slight–Howard’s going to retire with somewhere around 400 home runs, a World Series ring, an MVP award and north of $200 million in career earnings. That’s in the 99th percentile of all first basemen, wouldn’t you think?

That was a robust set of baseball questions for this being an offseason the Phillies are largely sitting out. I didn’t even need to–

@CrawfordChrisV: “Pentecost fan-fic! (clap clap, clap clap clap) Pentecost fan-fic! (clap clap, clap clap clap)”

Okay, Max Pentecost. Those of you who find these segments annoying can tune out.

@Hegelbon: “If Max Pentecost had to get out of the country, but was under a manhunt ordered by a corrupt leader, how would he do it?”

Max Pentecost wasn’t sure how long he’d been asleep, but thwarting the assassination of the Croatian Prime Minister had taken a lot out of him. If not for him, Pentecost reasoned, Prime Minister Horvat would be dead and the hardliner, Interior Minister Ivo Prosinecki, would be in power. That had allowed Pentecost to rest easily on his sofa for…four hours before the buzzing in his shirt pocket woke him. He pulled out his phone and saw that the Special Action Directorate command center was calling him. He hit the button to accept the call.


“Max, this is Davidson. You’ve got to get out of there.”

Pentecost, still half asleep, rubbed his eyes. “What?”

“Max! Wake up!”

Pentecost sat up on the sofa and sleepily reached for his shoes. “Okay, I’m up.”

“Good. Listen to me carefully. We’ve got credible intelligence that a team is converging on your position. Ten armed men in three cars. A similar team almost took Nola 20 minutes ago, but we got her out and she’s in the mobile command center. You’ve got maybe seven minutes to get down to your car and start finding a way out of Dubrovnik.”

“How did this happen?”

“No time for questions–you need to move.”

“I’m getting my shoes and gun, Brax, so you can tell me what’s going on while I do that, can’t you?” Pentecost held the phone to his ear with his shoulder while he buttoned the collar of his shirt and tightened his tie. He then slipped his feet into the pair of low-top driving sneakers he’d left by the couch. “Tell me what happened. Is Horvat alive?”

“Yes, and he’s still in power, but these police elements are loyal to Prosinecki and we don’t have time to litigate over the chain of command. You on your way out?”

Pentecost checked his handgun and stuffed it in his shoulder holster, then threw on his jacket and stuffed the four extra clips of ammunition he had in his jacket pockets, along with his PDA and radio. “I’m on my way out. I’m leaving two suits,” he said as he zipped up his jacket on the way out the door. “I liked these suits, Brax.”

“You get out of this alive and I’m sure the Prime Minister will reimburse you.”

Pentecost leaped down the last four stairs onto the landing and ran out to his white BMW, which was parked at the curb. “Okay, I’m at the car, ” he said.

“Get your radio in your ear and I’ll hook you up with Nola. She’ll direct you to where you need to go. Good luck.”

“Thanks.” Pentecost hung up, fastened his seat belt and started the car. “Nola,” he said. “You there?”

“Roger, Max. You moving?”

“I am. Heading southeast out of the city. You okay?”

“I’m fine. You’re going to want to take the second right, then follow that road out to the highway.”

“Acknowledged. Where’s my pursuit?”

“Behind you, but they’ve got police sirens, so they’ll catch you before you leave the city if you’re not careful.”

“Got it,” Pentecost said as he swung the car onto the road out of the city. He tried to drive quickly, but not so aggressively that he attracted attention, but after about four minutes, he saw a trio of black Audis closing from behind.

“Nola,” he said, “I’ve got three cars in pursuit, about half a click back–are those my guys?”

“Affirmative,” she said. Even above the road and engine noise, Pentecost could hear her typing furiously. “Nola, talk to me.”

“Turn off at the next exit. If they’re still with you after that, I’ll get you to the coast.”

Pentecost jammed the accelerator down and followed the ramp off the highway. “The coast? You want me to swim to Italy?”

“You’re not going to make it to the Montenegrin border. I’m directing you to the coast–the Little Rock is in the Adriatic and we’re working on getting approval from the Croatians to put a chopper full of Marines on the beach.”

“Keep me posted.”

Pentecost slung his car around country corners until, after about twenty minutes, he reached a small seaside town. There were maybe two dozen cottages on one road overlooking a bluff, with one long, sandy path down to the sea. There was no sign of the Marines Nola’d mentioned, but Pentecost drove his car out behind the last cottage and hid it.

“Nola, where’s my backup?”

“Ten minutes out,” she said. “Should be a chopper coming in from due south. In the meantime, I stuck a sniper rifle and an M4 with a grenade launcher in your trunk, so quit griping and get to work.”

Pentecost laughed. “Yes, ma’am.” He popped the trunk and ran around to the back of the car and picked up his weapons. The cottage he’d parked next to was unoccupied, so he set up the sniper rifle on its bipod and hid behind the stoop. This vantage point gave him an unimpeded view of the one road in and out of town, and when the first Audi pulled into view, he shot twice, once through the front grill of the car, destroying the engine block, then through the windshield, killing the driver. Pentecost missed with his next two shots before catching the man in the passenger seat through the chest with the last bullet in his magazine. The car, devoid of direction, slammed into the cottage across the street from Pentecost who, discarding his rifle, stood and drew his pistol. The third man in the car, dazed from the crash, opened the door and Pentecost shot him through the forehead.

“Three down!” Pentecost shouted into his microphone, hoping Nola could hear him.

She could. “Max, the trailing car has pulled around behind you. You’ve got four men in one car coming down the road and three more trying to flank you in the woods to the north.”

“Copy that.” Pentecost scrambled back to his car and pulled out the carbine, loaded one 40mm white phosphorous grenade into the tube below the barrel and took aim at the car down the road.

“This game is 90 percent mental,” Pentecost whispered as he took aim. “And the other half is having the better guns.”

The grenade slipped underneath the front bumper and struck a stone on the road, detonating and shooting flame and smoke upward into the car. The sedan burst into flame and rolled over on its roof. “That’s down to three, Nola,” Pentecost shouted to his partner as he turned to face the last group.

“Nola,” he said, “I’m going down the path and onto the beach. Redirect air support as necessary.”


Pentecost slung the carbine over his shoulder by its strap and took off at a run. Halfway down the hill, he heard the popping of gunfire and slid down behind a stone wall on his knees. The three remaining men came running down the hill, and Pentecost dropped the first with a double-tap to the chest. The second he missed at first, then winged in the leg with a hastily aimed shot, then put down for good with another burst. He pulled his gun around to find the last Croatian policeman…

…and found nothing. “Nola,” he whispered, “can you find the last target?” No response. “Nola? Nothing on thermal?” Still no response. “Nola!” Pentecost still heard nothing on his radio, but the whir of helicopter rotor blades grew louder and louder.

Then the sound of a heavy metallic click and, in heavily accented English, “Hands up. Drop your gun.”

“Fuck me.” Pentecost turned to see the last Croatian policeman, standing twenty feet away, rifle aimed at Pentecost’s chest. Pentecost dropped his gun, then reached into his holster, dropped the clip from his sidearm, and placed it on the ground.

Then the Croatian policeman seemed to explode from the chest out. Blood splattered all over the sand, entrails landing at Pentecost’s feet. Pentecost finally heard Nola’s voice, in a sing-song tone, through his earpiece. “Saved your life,” she said.

Thirty seconds later, the Marine helicopter landed on the beach, and Pentecost climbed aboard, taking the seat next to Nola, who was wearing a headset and helmet and clutching a sniper rifle that was longer than she was tall.

“Hell of a shot, kid,” Pentecost said. “Thanks.”

“I know what I’m doing,” she said. “Let’s get the hell out of here. We’ll send someone back for your car.”

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  1. Eric

    December 06, 2013 01:45 AM

    Regarding the first question, I think how the off-season shakes out could be more important to Amaro’s future than just the Phils’ record on September 30 (or October 1 or 2, or whenever they’re ending baseball seasons these days). It really seems doubtful that he has the resources either in cash or in prospects to bring in a game-changing player. And given his behavior so far this off-season and in off-seasons past, he doesn’t seem like the type to get “creative.” If he trots out basically the same team as last year and they win basically the same number of games, I can’t imagine ownership being too happy about it.

  2. hk

    December 06, 2013 05:50 AM


    Yes, but what would the USMNT line-up be if RAJ was the manager?

  3. kbt

    December 06, 2013 10:37 AM

    Ahhhhh, I want low-top driving sneakers!!

  4. hk

    December 06, 2013 03:24 PM

    Not Brazil, Netherlands and France, but similarly a difficult draw.

  5. WayneKerrins

    December 06, 2013 05:35 PM

    A cursory study of Dempsey’s EPL career will highlight left mid as his best position. Yes he’s versatile and can play any non defensive position apart from traditional or holding centre mid. However his lack of express pace neuters any outside threat whereas his long range shooting especially cutting inside with his stronger right foot is perfect for left mid. His aerial prowess is better coming onto to the ball from crosses and his gift of timed, late runs into the box is better served from a wider starting point.
    I know next to nothing about most of the other us players apart from Altidore, Bradley and your usual election of impressive goalies so apologies if you’re not putting him on the left because of others’ limitations.

  6. Daedalus

    December 06, 2013 10:35 PM

    USA will shock the world! Win over Ghana and draws against Portugal and Germany sends them into the elimination round!!

  7. Pete

    December 11, 2013 05:12 AM

    I don’t know. Another 89 home runs for Howard to reach 400. To me, that’s not a gimmie. Sadly, I might be tempted to take the under on that.

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