Crash Bag, Vol. 88: Paul Bunyan Lager

I know y’all are probably sick of hearing about the Hall of Fame, but I’ve got one last parting shot: I don’t think taking the vote away from the writers is the answer, because if you assign it to a special committee, it will concentrate power in a smaller, less empirically inclined, more reactionary group than ever. Just look at the NHL, or even baseball’s Hall of Fame itself–most of the most embarrassing members of the Hall of Fame are Veterans Committee candidates who made the grade based on cronyism and old grudges. If the Hall of Fame does commission a special panel, I bet Jay Jaffe isn’t on it, despite his having come closer than anyone else to quantifying the Hall of Fame case and writing more extensively on the debate than any other writer. Maybe you get John Thorn. Maybe you get Bill James as a form of analytical tokenism. But I guarantee you that panel produces worse results than an electorate of sportswriters.

If I had unlimited time and this month to do over again, I’d try to craft an alternative electoral system to try to get around the issues posed by the 75 percent threshold and 10-vote maximum. But I only remembered that I owned a copy of Arend Lijphart’s Patterns of Democracyso that wasn’t in the cards. Though if you’re at all interested in comparative electoral systems, it’s worth the cent a used copy will run you on Amazon.

Anyway, Crash Bag 88. Lindros. Let’s go.

@Ut26: “Top 3 Wheels replacement options? Bottom 3?”

I sort of answered this a while ago, so I’ll keep it short.

Top 3:

  1. Any non-player. One thing I liked about Wheels is that he doesn’t recite the same “you-had-to-be-there” stories that most non-players have in the broadcast booth–he’s more of a folklorist than anything else, and I found that to be a welcome change of pace in a world where having played the game is a prerequisite for an analyst role. Having been good at throwing or hitting a baseball could not be a more different skill set than is stringing together words for public consumption, and Gary Matthews The Elder could not have been a more stark reminder of that. I’d take anyone from this site–well, probably not, because Bill can’t go on TV without revealing what he looks like, Paul’s stories take longer to develop than continental drift, Eric would get bored and want to go scouting, and I don’t think Ryan could go nine innings on television without cursing. So maybe not us. In the last post, I said I’d take David Murphy (the local columnist, not the Rangers outfielder), so let’s go with him. I’d also be okay with John Manuel from Baseball America, who has kind of a funny voice and would be off his beat by miles covering the Phillies, but he did some color commentary during the NCAA playoffs, including that insane extra-inning regional elimination game between FAU and North Carolina, and he was absolutely tremendous. Also, no way Jayson Stark gives up a national columnist gig for the broadcast booth, but he’d be awesome too.
  2. Doug Glanville. If if must be a player, and must be an ex-Phillie, I’d be totally cool with Glanville, who’s been doing some writing and studio work for ESPN since he hung up his spikes. After a certain point, being a good color commentator isn’t about knowledge, but it’s about making it sound like you’re having fun and connecting with the listener. It’s why we love Scott Franzke and Larry Andersen so much–the way they call the game it just sounds like you’d want to hang out. I think Glanville’s got something of that charisma, and seems like he’s not so married to stereotypical jock bravado, and he’s still got an outstanding mustache. Plus he’s a local guy–grew up in New Jersey, went to school in Philadelphia–so he might be more likely than another national media personality to join the local broadcast team.
  3. Brad Lidge. More than one person who saw Lidge speak on a panel at the SABR convention last year said Lidge would make an outstanding broadcaster, and Lidge, like Glanville, exudes kind of a calm, thoughtful, nice guy ethos. I’ve got less of a handle on Lidge as analyst than I do Glanville, but I’m optimistic.

Bottom 3:

  1. Mitch Williams. There might not be a worse studio talking head working right now than Wild Thing, who sits on a set at MLB Network and just talks indiscriminately. He makes Harold Reynolds look like Dan Szymborski. He’s so bad that as long as blackout rules would prevent me from watching the visitors’ feed on if I were in the Philadelphia area, I’d view that as a non-trivial negative in terms of moving back to the region of my origins. That’s not an exaggeration. The looming specter of 162 Mitch Williams games terrifies me.
  2. Rex Hudler. Currently of the Kansas City Royals’ commentary team, Hit Dog might leave for a bigger market. He’s not awful–he’s just really loud and not conspicuously judicious either in form or content of his analysis. Probably an upgrade over Sarge but a step down from Wheels.
  3. Darren Daulton. Perhaps the only member of the 1993 Phillies who doesn’t have a commentary or studio gig. A couple years back, Dutch was promoting a book, I think, though it could have been a line of tin foil hats for all I know, and he left life-size cutouts of himself around the area’s sports bars. One place I frequented had two stories of seating and offices on the third, with windows that looked out on the street. The management of this place would put the cutout of Dutch in the window and leave the lights on behind him so it looked like there was a man up there staring at you. Creeped quite a few people out. I’d take that cardboard cutout over the genuine article.

@Phixated: “What’s the rationale for canning Wheels and Sarge but not TMac?”

Because Wheels is old and Sarge is incoherent and T-Mac, while not inspiring, is a competent play-by-play man. I know most of you think T-Mac is beyond saving and he drives you up the wall, but guess what? So would about 25 of the 30 local TV announcers working in MLB right now, particularly if they followed an announcer as distinctive and beloved as Harry Kalas. We could have had Red Barber come in and y’all would have hated him. Maybe T-Mac develops some chemistry with his new partner and y’all hate him a little less, but I doubt it. He was doomed from the moment he sat in Harry Kalas’ chair.

Another reason: play-by-play guys are kind of like NBA coaches. They all get stamped out of the same mold, and most of them are competent but flawed. Above all else, maybe ten percent make a really profound difference one way or the other. Kalas was part of a generation of beloved play-by-play guys–Dave Niehaus, Ernie Harwell, Harry Caray, Vin Scully–who were part of their teams’ identities and who have almost all retired or died. If they’d fired T-Mac too, I bet his replacement would be another vanilla white guy who’s kind of a C+ announcer and y’all would have loved him because instead of following an icon, he’d be following a pariah. Context is everything.

@scottdkessler: “If the Phillies operated like the Union do, would they still be signing a $2.5 billion deal?”

Much as I’d like the Union to have signed Michael Bradley, whom I adore and believe is the greatest outfield player the U.S. national team has ever fielded, I’m going to pass on the invitation to take a shot at the Union’s management and say this: it’s almost impossible to lose money on a team in MLB or the NFL, while it’s extremely difficult to turn a profit with an MLS team, particularly when you make puzzling personnel decisions that nail your team to the mid-table, put your stadium in a sand pit 10 miles from anyone who can afford season tickets and find out after your team is up and running that you don’t really have the cash on hand to operate it. Okay, maybe not pass, but foul it off. But it’s tough. I don’t know that the Phillies are really run any better than the Union–it’s just that you could any slapdick franchise in this market in this economy and it’d be worth $2.5 billion to televise. Baseball, football and (usually) basketball make money. Hockey does if you’re in a good market or you’re creative, and soccer doesn’t really yet. It probably will one day, but not yet.

@bradblackburn: “What secret pain would Sybok invoke in an attempt to manipulate Cliff Lee?”

A couple months back, I made up a few awards for a Grantland post, one of which was the Terence Malick Medal, given to: “The baseball figure who suffers through the most pointless, boring, soul-crushing, Sisyphean, unpleasant season and somehow emerges in one piece.” In short, the personality whose season most resembled a Terence Malick movie.

Cliff Lee was my runner-up this year, behind Astros manager Bo Porter, because while he’s a fantastic pitcher who’s played for some fantastic teams, he’s been really unlucky. So he could bring up 2007, when Lee sandwiched a very good 2006 and a Cy Young 2008 with a year where he got booted from the team entirely, and that team went to the ALCS, went up 3-1 and lost a series it would have won if Lee had been on form. Then Lee achieved local legend status in Philadelphia in 2009 in about four days, then got traded, then got BABIPed to death in his only playoff game in 2011 and now he’s in purgatory. Sybok would just be like “Bro, I’ve commandeered a starship–let’s get the hell out of here,” and Lee’d be gone faster than you can say Tyson Gillies.

@JTD_Smith: “Better pets: turtles, ferrets or hissing cockroaches?”

Turtles. It can’t be hissing cockroaches, because the violate the standing rule I have that anything that’s in my home and has more than four legs dies on sight. Ferrets are small predatory mammals, which seems to be a prerequisite for housepets, but I remember my dad talking about my uncle having a pet ferret when they were kids, and I’m told the ferret had a nasty disposition and was oily and smelled bad and set about destroying things around the house, and if you can deal with that in a pet, you might as well just have a sportswriter instead.

@CrashburnAlley: “this is a site designed for stat cherry-picking over time. play around with it, pick a favorite?”

Okay, it’s currently 11:14 p.m. as I open this site…oh crap, I’m never going to sleep. I’m on a defense kick recently, and by extension an Andrelton Simmons kick, so I’m going to go with Andrelton Simmons being the major league leader in defensive WAR from 2011 to 2013, despite playing only one and a third of those three seasons.

Now I’m closing that window before I tool around on that page until I realize that I’ve still got half a Crash Bag to write and I have to be at work in two hours.

@michaelweil: “will the Phillies ever even reach 85 wins again with Amaro continuing as GM?”

Yes. They will ever reach 85 wins again at some point in the future. I’d probably put it at about a 40 percent chance their next 85-win season comes within Ruben Amaro‘s tenure, and that’s less because I’m optimistic about the Phillies’ immediate future than I am convinced Amaro’s got at least two or three more full seasons left.

@Matt_Winkelman: “Design your perfect bar. What does it specialize in? What kind of clientele does it attract?”

Finally, all those Sunday afternoons spent watching Bar Rescue marathons seem well-spent.

I’d have a biggish place, possibly with an on-site brewery. Not as much because I’ve got any particular talent or interest in brewing as because I have a bunch of awesome beer name puns:

  • Nehru India Pale Ale
  • Little Teapot Short and Stout
  • Paul Bunyan Lager (I’ve got an awesome label designed in my head for this one too)
  • Pullman Porter

And so on. But that I could take or leave. I’d start with the food. I like beer as much as the next guy, but as I’ve gotten out of my going out in large groups until all hours phase of my life (put another way: as marriage and sliding into my late 20s have forced me to become more of a grown-up that I’d hoped to be), food has become more important. Time was, I could drink a river of Yuengling and have a normal cheeseburger and be satisfied, but now I want something more interesting. Maybe have a Mediterranean or Indian twist on some of the food. I don’t know exactly what, but we’ll hire professionals for the food, because if I’m even allowed in the kitchen, this place is going under in a matter of days.

So if we’re making food a priority, that probably means more tables and booths instead of the mechanical bull and dance floor, which I’m okay with. Speaking of dancing, there’d be no live music. Unless the band is the reason you’re at a bar, going to a place with a band is a dicey proposition. If the venue isn’t set up for music, odds are it’ll get absurdly loud. And good cover bands are great, but bad cover bands are The Worst Thing On Earth. It’s just a headache I’d rather not deal with.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, I’d festoon the walls with TVs and offer specials for local sporting events, including kegs and eggs for European soccer. I went to a bar in Milwaukee that organized a shuttle to and from Brewers games from downtown, which seems like a worthwhile endeavor if the geography makes it possible. But beyond that–and this is going to sound terribly uncreative–I’d just want it to be flexible, a place where you’d want to go to grab a bite to eat, or watch the ballgame, or stay out a little late and talk to strangers and have to cab it home. I will say that I’d try to cater to the kind of people who get a little loud and friendly, but after drinking good bourbon or the local craft IPA, not an oil drum full of Miller Lite.

There was a bar I went to from time to time in college called Sharky’s that, on Thursday nights, offered $5 all-you-can-drink Miller Lite. A kid got stabbed there in August. So I’d try to steer away from that.

Oh, one last thing I’d do: When Richie Sexson was striking out 60 percent of the time, a bar in Seattle tied the price of Bud Light to his batting average. So if he was hitting .174, bottles of Bud Light were $1.74. I’d absolutely do something like that–price of Paul Bunyan Lager tied to Cole Hamels‘ K/BB ratio or something. Price of Bud Light tied to Kyle Kendrick‘s.

@hdrubin: “You’re RAJ. You’ve been told to make one more splashy move. Tanaka? Garza? Arroyo? Nelson Cruz?”

Do I have an unlimited budget? Then I’d purchase some wild horses, because that’s the only thing that’s going to make Masahiro Tanaka sign in a city that has none of: international panache, a winning baseball team, and a notable Japanese-American community. Though I was saying this a while back–everyone says Tanaka’d sign in Seattle because they’ve got a lot of Japanese-Americans there, but why do we assume he wants to live among people like him? Maybe he wants to branch out. I know if I moved to Japan, I wouldn’t want to live among the German-American diaspora that I’m sure numbers in the millions in Tokyo. Not that I’d want to live in Japan. And if there’s anything living in the Upper Midwest has taught me, it’s that nobody loves fried fish quite like the German-American diaspora. But that’s probably not an apt comparison.

Anyway, Tanaka is the one player left that moves the needle at all. The way this question is worded speaks to that–failing Tanaka, you’re talking yourself into Bronson Fucking Arroyo as a splashy move, and he wouldn’t voom if you put four million volts through him.

@houckc: “what you think of Deadspin buying their HOF vote. And Le Betard’s reason?”

I’ve come around some on Deadspin buying a Hall of Fame vote. I disapproved moderately when they first announced the idea, because it seemed kind of senseless in the same way that anything a 16-year-old who thinks he’s really into punk rock does is senseless. He thinks he’s striking some big blow for creativity or rebellion, but instead he’s just an asshole with a bad haircut and no real guitar skills, but I didn’t say anything because I couldn’t really articulate why it didn’t sit well with me well enough to go against the multitude of people I respect who thought it was awesome.

But I was won over, if not to total approval, but ambivalence, by the reveal post on Wednesday for a few reasons. First, the ballot wound up being something I was okay with, which matters more than it probably should have, but if it wasn’t a three-man ballot for Armando Benitez, Sammy Sosa and Don Mattingly, it falls under the aegis of no harm, no foul. Second, Le Batard didn’t actually get anything for his ballot, which, again, matters to me for reasons I can’t articulate. There seemed to be something nefarious about actually buying a vote that made me squirm, but no money changed hands. And finally, I was somewhat moved by what he gave as his motives.  I really don’t think Hall of Fame voting is a broken system. I think the writers are much better than any select committee would be, and maybe we need to tweak the system, but I just don’t think there’s a better option than to try to shame the electorate into shaping up some. The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice, the saying goes, but every so often you have to lasso the end and yank it a little. I’m not sure what the Deadspin/Le Batard protest accomplished, exactly, but we’re looking at the BBWAA differently than we did 48 hours ago.

Speaking of the BBWAA, there was never any doubt in my mind that they’d strip Le Batard’s vote, but even though I knew what was coming, I hadn’t expect it to feel so stupid until it got here. (Go read Tim Marchman’s response.) I don’t think this is about what Le Batard actually did, which is to crowdsource his ballot. If he’d come out and said “I’m going to vote for whatever ten players the readers of FanGraphs say,” he might have gotten chewed out, but certainly not barred from voting. This is about the entrenched media’s view of Deadspin. I’m increasingly frustrated by the trend of judging a work by the publication in which it appears. Some of Deadspin is dick pics and poop jokes, but some of it is trenchant, honest and necessary sports and culture commentary. I feel this somewhat as a Grantland writer, even though I steer directly into the cliche of being a long-winded, esoteric egomaniac with no concept of how many pop culture references are too many. I’d be more okay with prejudging columns by the byline, but individual sites contain multitudes.

Anyway, if the object of this whole exercise was to bait the BBWAA and the usual suspects into punching themselves in the face, mission accomplished.

And on that bombshell, it’s time to end. Thanks very much for reading, and goodnight.

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  1. Big A

    January 10, 2014 08:46 AM

    Re: the McCarthy question. I see you bought into the Rob Brooks school of thought in that his problem is that he followed Harry. (In fact, Brooks was responding to McCarthy haters’ emails in 2009 by telling them to give the guy 4-5 years and then judge him.). The problem I have with this response is that we’d been given enough of a McCarthy sample size by the time Harry passed and he was thrust into the lead role that the haters had already been established. I remember when McCarthy left for the Mets after his first Phillies stint (where he pretty much played the Gregg Murphy role) that people were relieved he wouldn’t progress farther with the team.

    So I guess I just think it’s risky to hold on to a guy who’s so polarizing when you’re entering years where your fans will be less inclined to watch a broadcast anyway since your team isn’t as good. Broadcasters may not lead you to a game, but they can keep you watching even if the team is struggling.

    Following after Harry is not an enviable position, to be sure, but the McCarthy issue runs a lot deeper than that. Honestly, if anything, the Phillies have been able to use the “following Harry” excuse to shield him, IMO.

  2. JM

    January 10, 2014 09:31 AM

    And now for something completely different….

  3. EddiePinz

    January 10, 2014 09:51 AM

    “T-Mac, while not inspiring, is a competent play-by-play man.”

    This I disagree with. I’ve watched entire half innings go by with out him calling one play.

  4. AD

    January 10, 2014 09:52 AM

    Uh, there’s a bigger reason Dutch probably wouldn’t work out in the booth.

  5. jonny 5

    January 10, 2014 01:32 PM

    I HATED Wheeler. He would annoy me so badly sometimes that I’d yell at him. As if he could hear me. I’m also pretty sure that Mitch Williams would annoy me even more. Have you seen him try to sell cars on TV??? Not good. His postgame he used to be on before (thank goodness Ricky Bo took over) he left was horrible imo.

    Why do you skip Ricky Bo out of curiosity?

    Also why would iron man do this gig while Stark industries seems so fruitful? (at least when somebody isn’t trying to murder him and take over planet earth)

  6. Blocky

    January 10, 2014 01:33 PM

    Baumann, what about your Jagged Little Pilsner? That was always my favorite of your Beer Puns.

  7. Michael Baumann

    January 10, 2014 01:39 PM

    I Googled it and like nine other places already make one.

  8. Mike B

    January 10, 2014 04:42 PM

    Excellent closing line, Jezza.

  9. Boo-urns

    January 10, 2014 07:40 PM

    I love bars with a few TVs during baseball season, I hate bars with any TVs during football season. Way too many thick-necked d-bags screaming at the screen like that makes a damn bit of difference.

    In the end, I prefer the places that have no TVs at all.

  10. Carmine Spellane

    January 13, 2014 12:31 PM

    I am a Phillies fan living in DC. The Nationals, like the Phillies, have a great radio team and a horrible TV team, Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo. Carpenter is an ignorant homer, and Santangelo forever dispels the myth that former players know what they are talking about. Trust me, Tom Mac doesn’t seem so bad compared to those guys. I also watched the Phillies on WGN when they played the White Sox last season. The Sox announcers were horrible too.

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