Crash Bag, Vol. 92: Past Tense Utley

Let’s kick the tires and light the fires.

@bxe1234: “Which would you most like to try: luge/skeleton/bobsled? Also, if you could two-man luge with a Phil, who would it be?”

I’m terrified of speed. I’ve never gone skiing and probably will never go skiing for this reason. So I’ll take bobsled, because that’s the one where I can push like a lunatic and sit in the back with my head down until the whole thing’s over. And as far as two-man luge is concerned, I want to be on the bottom so I can’t see where I’m going and have an excuse to just shut my eyes and scream. Ben Revere is very light so he wouldn’t crush me in the high-gee turns, and he seems like a patient man who wouldn’t stab me to death after I’d been screaming in his ear for a 75-second trip down the chute.

@fazzyh: “Which Phillie do you think is the best cuddler? No prizes for making this based on a pure size-related metric.”

Yeah, but size does matter. If you’re going to be enveloped in a loving embrace, you might as well actually get enveloped in a loving embrace. The ideal cuddler is big and strong and not a fidgeter, which–I know I always say Ryan Howard for questions like this, but it’s got to be Ryan Howard. If that doesn’t make this answer worthy of your prize, tough. Go ask someone else.

@TheMuzz34: “am I allowed to enjoy a mediocre Phillies team or do I have to hate everything the entire year”

Take it from someone who’s been listening to “Timber” by Pitbull and Kesha on repeat for the past week without a trace of irony–you can enjoy whatever you want, regardless of whether it’s actually any good. I’ve come to really appreciate Pitbull, because while there’s nothing particularly inventive about his music or compelling about his voice, and his lyrics are in the Nate Ruess/Kimberly Perry/John Lennon seventh layer of Hell of nonsensical, infantile and facile crap, ain’t nobody havin’ more fun than Pitbull himself. And if you think he’s terrible, I don’t get the sense that that bothers him too much, because he’s rich as hell and goes to five parties a week that are more fun than the best party you’ve ever been to. I mean, look at this crazy bastard:


The Phillies are going to suck if you light bonfires and conduct ritual animal sacrifice and cry out against false prophets like some shitbrained fundamentalist–A POX ON YOU, DAVE SCHOENFIELD OF ESPN, FOR PLACING THE PHILLIES 29TH IN YOUR PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS–as if the people who think the Phillies can’t be redeemed in 2014 are somehow responsible for the fact that they can’t be redeemed in 2014. Go back to the Wicker Man, you weirdos.

The Phillies are also going to suck if you rend your garments and wear sack cloth and sit in front of the TV for all 162 games like a masochist. So the way I see it, it’s not your job to watch the Phillies–it’s not even my job to watch the Phillies–so why do something on purpose that makes you feel bad? Take enjoyment where you can–if you enjoy watching them even when they’re bad, go for it. But if you’re like me and seeing John Mayberry more than once a game sends you into a cardiac episode…maybe switch over to another game if the Phillies are down five runs in the fourth inning. Or if it’s Fausto Carmona’s turn (I’ve decided I’m not calling him Roberto Hernandez unless he tells me to specifically) in the rotation…maybe make that the night you’re going to catch up on your Breaking Bad binge-watch or round up the neighborhood kids to play pickup basketball or something. Don’t let anyone tell you what you’re supposed to enjoy. People who can’t let you enjoy what you enjoy in private are nosy douchebags.

@GlennQSpoonerSt: “With so many teams smartly employing the shift and LOOGY RPs why do the Phils still put such a premium on slow lefty power bats?”

The Phillies aren’t putting a premium on slow lefty power bats–they’ve got one, and they got him and signed him to an extension before the shift really became what it is today. And LOOGYs and the shift are the price of doing business for a lefty power hitter, even a good one like, say, Chris Davis. Honestly, I’m interested to see how the use of low-arm-slot lefty relievers and the shift affects the next generation of left-handed power hitters. Because it’s probably too late to teach Ryan Howard to hit around the shift, but will Kyle Schwarber or Dominic Smith continue to just try to hit over or through the shift, or will future hitters of their type cope in a different way?

@hdrubin: “What sitcom (any era) best represents the 2014 Phillies?”

I’m not really going to answer this question, and instead go on my Hogan’s Heroes rant, which a quick perusal of Google tells me I haven’t done here.

I used to watch Hogan’s Heroes reruns with my dad when I was very little, but all I remember is the theme song, which is spectacular, in the top one percent of all TV theme songs before or since. It occurred to me some years later that this is a sitcom set in a Nazi POW camp. I mean, it’s not like that’s a setting that carries overwhelming negative emotional baggage for hundreds of millions of people. On one hand, you can hand-wave away any appeal to common decency by saying it was 1965, but on the other hand…there were actors on the show who lost relatives during the war, and one spent time in a concentration camp himself. I just can’t believe that at no time during the production of the snow did someone stand up and say “You know, maybe it’s not such a great idea to make light of Nazi POW camps. Maybe we should choose a different setting.” Can you imagine how quickly a show like that would get laughed out of a network producer’s office nowadays?

@Living4Laughs: “how do I deal with people that use championships to evaluate an individual player? Help.”

A question occurred to me earlier this week during that Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate, which I didn’t watch, because I’d sooner actually go to Hell than watch two people debate religion. I think Hell is actually being forced to sit in a room while a fundamentalist Christian and a fundamentalist atheist yell at each other over your head. What occurred to me is that it’s easy to argue in good faith, or even have an exchange of ideas, when both sides are interested in learning. But there are people who are interested in keeping the sports debate grounded in the reductive and the ineffable, because that’s all they’re either willing or able to understand. Someone who says, for instance, and because I assume this is about Peyton Manning, because it’s always about Peyton Manning, that he’s not the best football player ever because he only won one Super Bowl is either unwilling or unable to comprehend how little impact one athlete has over the outcome of a game, particularly in NFL football, where 90 different players dress for each contest and coaches have an outsized impact compared to, say, baseball. And that even assumes that players are the sole determining factors in a game when sports are largely determined by chance.

I was going to outline a sample argument, but it’s not worth the time. You’re debating sports with someone who falls into one of three categories: 1) Too stupid to realize how little impact any player has on any game, let alone any season 2) Too obstinate to seek out a more nuanced point of view given that realization or 3) Able to do those things, but more interested in making you angry than in having a debate. I know I went on a whole rant about fighting bad arguments a while back, but I don’t know how to convince people like that, because men like that–and it’s always men. I’ve never ever met a female sports fan like that–aren’t interested in learning.

@Marc_Normandin: “How do you think Jackie Bradley Jr. is going to do in his rookie season?”

The book on Bradley has been thus, pretty much forever: elite center field defense, elite plate discipline, some, but not much power and some, but not much speed. Here’s what four projection systems say about him:

  • ZiPS: .245/.322/.375, 498 PA, 9 HR, 13 SB, 1.5 WAR
  • Steamer: .256/.332/.402, 398 PA, 8 HR, 10 SB, 1.5 WAR
  • Oliver: .254/.329/.419, 600 PA, 14 HR, 10 SB, 2.8 WAR
  • PECOTA: .251/.339/.399, 374 PA, 8 HR, 6 SB, 1.7 WARP

I’m a little more optimistic than the computers, if only because it’s Jackie Bradley we’re talking about–what am I going to do, not be optimistic? And I think Bradley having cratered last year, when outfield injuries and an incredible spring training forced the Red Sox to call him up maybe a little before he was ready, tempers expectations a little, which is a good thing.

I have a better picture in my head of what JBJ is going to look like when he’s fully formed than I do of what he’s going to do in his first full season. In a year or two, I think he’s going to be a .270/.350/.420 type hitter with an overall profile that resembles–if you’ll forgive a cross-position and cross-racial comparison–a very very poor man’s Chase Utley. I certainly don’t think Bradley’s going to be a perennial all-star or a borderline Hall of Famer, but the things he does well are the same things Utley does well: plate discipline, defense, baserunning, and he does the other things well enough that his game really won’t have a weakness. What made Bradley such an obvious pick when he was coming out of the draft is that the defense has been there since he was a sophomore in college, and plus defense at shortstop, catcher or center field makes you a passable regular even if you can’t hit all that well–see Ben Revere and Peter Bourjos. I think that with proper coaching, he’ll develop the kind of preternatural baserunning instincts we saw out of Scott Rolen, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth, and like Utley, he might only steal 10-15 bases a year, but once he gets his eye in and learns to read major league pitchers, he might only get caught once or twice. Now, Utley at his peak was a 7-8 win player. Bradley’s ceiling is probably 3-5 wins, because he’s nowhere near the hitter or the athlete Utley is (or was). But he’ll get there the way Utley did.

In case anyone’s wondering in the future, this is the moment where I realized we were dealing with Past Tense Utley.

@LonettoMB: “Tony Wroten: legit Sixer going forward?”

I think so. Spike Eskin and Mike Levin addressed this very subject on the Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast yesterday and I largely agree with what they said–Wroten probably isn’t a future star, or even a starter, but he’s fast as hell, big enough to defend both guard spots and even though he’s as bad a shooter as you’d ever want to see, he’s very efficient in his shot selection–all layups and threes–and he attacks the rim the way my cat attacks my chicken sandwich while I’m eating lunch. Sam Hinkie took over the Sixers the way Jeff Luhnow took over the Astros–the major league team had been completely mismanaged and was devoid not only of big league contributors, but of prospects and tradeable assets. You trade all the players you won’t be able to use when the team gets good again, then find as many castoffs and buy-low guys as you can and blood them. Cross-sport metaphors often don’t work, but this one is almost too perfect. Thad Young is Jose Altuve, Nerlens Noel is Carlos Correa, Michael Carter-Williams is Mark Appel and Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker is Carlos Rodon.

Anyway, if you get ten of these guys and one or two turns into a useful role player, you win. Tony Wroten is…Matt Dominguez, maybe? Dominguez is a pretty terrible hitter, but one of the best defensive third basemen in the game, which makes him an okay regular. It’s way more likely the third baseman on the Astros team that wins the AL West in 2016 is Correa or Rio Ruiz, but Dominguez might still be around, and he’s a useful role player or trade chip. I’m thrilled the Sixers got that much out of Wroten, and remember–he’s only 20 years old–a year and a half younger even than MCW. He’s probably not done improving. I like him bunches.

If you made it this far, I like you bunches too. Thank you for patronizing the Crash Bag, and Go USA.

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  1. Carmine Spellane

    February 07, 2014 11:43 AM

    Lumping John Lennon in with those imbeciles? True, Lennon turned out some drivel during his days with the Plastic Ono Band, but his lyrics for the Beatles were by far better than the ones written by Sir Paul. Comments like this don’t help your credibility. You are, however, right about Hogan’s Heroes.

  2. Scott G

    February 07, 2014 11:49 AM

    I agree that it’s probably about Peyton Manning, but I’ve also heard the same thing said about Roy Halladay and other players like him.

    My retort usually goes something along these lines (although I tend to be arguing with what I have to assume are your Type 1 or Type 3 people descriptions):

    I guess Jamie Moyer is better than Roy Halladay. Or, Joe Flacco, Trent Dilfer, Brad Johnson are as good as Peyton Manning. Ben Roethlisberger is even better than Peyton Manning.

    I think an argument that bothers me more than the Championship wins determining quality of athlete is when people cite that Donovan McNabb threw up in the Super Bowl (which I don’t believe there’s any visual evidence of, and I’m fairly certain their would be a camera on both QBs anytime they’re on the field). Who cares if he threw up?

    • Tim

      February 07, 2014 03:16 PM

      Yeah, that McNabb throwing up thing always bothered me. If it were true (which it probably isn’t), wouldn’t that actually be something that the toughness crowd would applaud. I mean, the guy gave everything he had and left it all (literally) on the field. Wouldn’t taking yourself to the physical limit and continuing onwards actually be good (not nearly on par, but at least in a similar vein to Jordan playing through the flu – though I guess the difference is WINNING)

      • Scott G

        February 08, 2014 02:28 PM

        Well, I think people claim that he threw up because he was a) out of shape, or b) choking (these people say throwing up is the literal response to choking).

  3. Oliver

    February 07, 2014 12:56 PM

    I wouldn’t call Bill Nye a “Fundamentalist Atheist,” and the debate was about evolution vs creationism, not about religion. I do agree that listening to a ‘debate’ between an atheist and a religious fundamentalist sure does sound like hell though.

  4. Chuck

    February 07, 2014 01:14 PM

    A few things:

    1. Can we get a smaller font on the new site? Right now it’s like a large print reader’s digest at grandma’s house.
    2. What is a “fundamentalist atheist”? Considering that atheism is a) a term used largely for explanation because religion has always been the framework for cosmological discussion and b) based off of the scientific method, which is by definition open to new data and, by extension, having itself and all of it’s “tenets” disproved, it doesn’t really classify as something with fundamentals or “beliefs”. It’s an interpretation of reality using hypotheses and available data. This is different than saying “this is what the bible says, so it’s true”. That is what fundamentalism is. You could say that agnosticism is a more reasonable path because it doesn’t pretend to know whether or not there is a god, but atheism doesn’t either. It just reaches a conclusion using the best available evidence, and is just as open to new data/evidence as agnosticism.
    3. When advocating for civil debate, accusations like this seem unproductive: “You’re debating sports with someone who falls into one of three categories: 1) Too stupid to realize how little impact any player has on any game, let alone any season 2) Too obstinate to seek out a more nuanced point of view given that realization or 3) Able to do those things, but more interested in making you angry than in having a debate.” It’s more likely another category: someone for who sports is merely recreation, doesn’t read the same things as you, and probably doesn’t realize they’re making you angry. There are better ways to approach a discussion than assuming someone is stupid, obstinate, or antagonistic.
    4. h/t to Carmine re Lennon. When you take the lyrics away from the music you make them something they’re not. They’re not poetry, they don’t have to make their own music.

    Otherwise, thanks for another entertaining article.

    • Phillie697

      February 08, 2014 07:22 PM

      “Fundamentalist atheist” is someone who not only doesn’t believe in a god, but somehow feels like everyone else is wrong for believing in one, and needs to go out of his way to “change” those people. Every atheist knows that just because something can’t be proven yet doesn’t mean it’s not true; if that was the case, the earth would still be flat and the sun would still be orbiting the earth. Yet for some reason, they need to tell people who choose to believe in a higher, unprovable power that they are wrong. That is what it means to be a fundamentalist, no matter your beliefs.

      For all the cry atheists have done for years about how religious institutions like to shove religion down people’s throats, it seems to me that atheists aren’t any better. In the end, we are all human beings sharing the exact same flaws. Be comfortable in your beliefs and stop seeking external approval, and maybe people will respect you more no matter your beliefs.

      • Chuck

        February 11, 2014 11:39 AM

        Telling people they’re wrong to adhere to religion was not what Nye was doing. He was arguing that ideas should be taught based on their rational merit, not because of religious belief. (For which there is legal justification btw, “make no law respecting religion”)

        Needing to tell someone they’re wrong and to convince them of your beliefs is evangelism, not fundamentalism. Fundamentalism, as I understand it, means to adhere to certain dogmas which exist outside of rational thought or societal moral imperative.

        I’m not sure what your last paragraph means, but it sounds like an ad hominem.

  5. LH

    February 07, 2014 01:36 PM

    Ah, a Hogan’s Heroes reference, good stuff.

    BTW, wtf was up with switching out Kinch with Baker in the last episodes?

  6. SJHaack

    February 07, 2014 02:13 PM

    Point of history: the shift on power-hitting left handers has been employed since before the lefty in question was even born. Ted Williams hit against the shift, for example. Willie McCovey hit against the shift. I first learned about it when it was called the “Thome Shift” in the late 90s. It’s not a new concept and lefties will just have to deal with it the way players deal with any tactical shift in baseball and have for decades.

  7. Pete

    February 08, 2014 12:27 AM

    While I agree that Peyton Manning’s Superbowl record in no way diminishes his greatness, I think its better to defend him on the grounds of SSS where other factors can overcome the impact athlete rather than argue that the impact athlete does not exist. (I also agree that an individual athlete’s impact on any game is often exaggerated, but the NFL quarterback position is not the best example of that kind of overexaggeration.)

    Unless, you really mean that Peyton Manning is just another equal and indistinguishable cog (as far as in game impact) in the machine of an NFL football team, no different than a kickoff return blocker.

  8. Pete

    February 08, 2014 01:11 AM

    I watched Hogan’s Heroes reruns as a kid too. Fortunately, in addition to the theme song and somber historical setting, I also remember some of the content of the shows. The distinguishing characteristic of pretty much every show was too make the Germans the butt of the joke and to look like fools. (Mel Brooks has made this exact thing a staple in his career.)

    Maybe people in 1965, the majority of whom had lived through and suffered in some way during the war, weren’t as unsophisticated as you imagine them. Perhaps they knew exactly what they were watching. Perhaps, having lived through and suffered in some way during the war, they were ready and maybe even needed to laugh about it.

    I agree that the concept for the show would be laughed out of a producer’s office today. But whether that’s a mark of progress is debatable. Surely not progress as far as the current generation who’ve grown up in such an enviornment of political correctness that they can confidently and publicly dismiss someting based on its premise without taking a moment to think about its content. (Reminds me of those people crying out to ban certain books that they’ve never read.) But maybe progress in the sense that (although we live in an age of constant war) we have not had to experience total war or have the need for a good laugh after its horror.

  9. sweatingisnormal

    February 11, 2014 12:55 AM

    Just wondering – how much have you actually seen Bradley Jr.. play?

    P.S.: some people just like watching baseball – win, lose, or draw – and not just wearing a #1 foam finger of our favorite team?

    P.S.S.: Dan Marino would be a better example of individual greatness v. championships & I think you’re being a little harsh on people who disagree with you.

    • Scott G

      February 11, 2014 12:09 PM

      So you don’t think that people who think that Ben Roethlisberger is better than Peyton Manning (solely because of two SB wins vs. one SB win) fit into one of the three categories that Michael pointed out? There is no chance that Ben Roethlisberger is better than Peyton Manning so I’d say they definitely are one of: dumb, stubborn, or attempting to piss you off. It’s entirely likely it’s some combination of 2 or all 3 of those.

      There is no arguing that Ben is better than Peyton. None. Just like there is no arguing that Trent Dilfer or Brad Johnson are better than Donovan McNabb. None.

      BTW, it’s PPS

      • sweatingisnormal

        February 11, 2014 03:32 PM

        Would generally agree that Peyton is held in higher regard than Big Ben, but I don’t think it’s as clear cut as you make it to be. They play in completely different systems & are asked to do different things. Of course Ben can not match Peyton in reading defenses, calling adjustments, and sitting in the pocket & get his throws off in time and in rhythm. However, Peyton can’t touch Ben in creating when the play breaks down, playing behind an inferior line, giving his linemen and receivers that much extra time to do their thing. An argument can be made that Peyton would not have taken those Steelers teams to the Super Bowl as Ben did, because Peyton would have been the offensive stability that he requires to really shine. There are plenty of variables at play, as to who is “better.” Peyton would be the safer pick, but if someone were to point out Ben’s superior ad-lib ability & that that ability actually led to Championships, I’d at least listen and not outright dismiss that person as a total loser?

      • Scott G

        February 11, 2014 07:00 PM

        No. Ben Roethlisberger is not as good of a quarterback as Peyton Manning. That’s the bottom line. Sure he can scramble, and buy time, but that’s not the main job of a quarterback.

        You just said sure Peyton is better at the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd most important things as a QB, but Ben can do one less important thing better. You also left out that his arm was better and more accurate (pretty damn strong when he was younger).

        You’re also making a ridiculous statement about quality of offensive line without any statistical proof. Also, Ben didn’t “lead to championships”. His job was to not lose games by throwing minimally and the steelers ran the ball.

        Even in 2009, he threw the ball 30 times for only 256 yds and 1 TD. Yes, he was the QB, but I’d never say he was the reason they won.

      • sweatingisnormal

        February 11, 2014 07:29 PM

        Those are all opinions, is the point. I’ve watched, played & coached football for over 30 years….that doesn’t mean I’m right, by any means, but does mean that maybe I might not be crazy. I think it is somewhat narrow minded to take QB’s out of their system and try to compare them. It makes much more sense in baseball, but much harder to do in the ultimate team sport that is football. I can absolutely guarantee you that the offensive line is a HOOOOGE factor in Peyton’s success or did you not watch the Super Bowl & not see what the Seattle DL was able to do to Peyton—Peyton didn’t all of a sudden get old & limp but angry young men in your face will make you look it, tho.

    • Scott G

      February 12, 2014 12:16 PM

      Obviously the offensive line is important. I would never say otherwise. You said Ben played behind an inferior line. I was asking for proof, that’s all.

      • sweatingisnormal

        February 12, 2014 03:10 PM

        Fair enough. I would concede that its pretty clear that Peyton is the superior “passer”, I may have taken issue with the article author’s use of the word “QB.”

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