Crash Bag, Vol. 98: Carrying Asche Around

I was thinking about heist movies the other day. Heist movies are one of my three favorite genres of movie, along with movies about journalistic ethics and movies where a small group of guys go to do something during World War II. Now, I’ve seen bad examples of the other two, but the worst heist movie I’ve ever seen was Ocean’s 12, which wasn’t horrible in absolute terms so much as it was very clearly half-assed compared to the other two installments in the series. Have I been lucky, or is it just impossible to make a bad heist movie?

But that’s my question. What are yours?

@Living4Laughs: “As a fan of Jimmy Rollins is it best to block out the negative media attention and non fans’ feelings? It bothers me.”

I think that’s what I’m going to have to do, because I tried explaining to someone that Rollins isn’t actually conspicuously selfish and lazy and all that other specious, unfalsifiable (and I believe, racially coded) nonsense that gets thrown around, and even if he is, he’s the best shortstop in team history anyway, so how big a deal can his lack of ostentatious hustle really be? Let’s look at two other infielders: Nick Punto routinely dives into first base, which actually makes him slower to the bag, while Robinson Cano actually does routinely dog it down to first base. Like, it shows up in the numbers and everything. And I love Punto, but he’s a career utility infielder, while Cano has missed a total of 14 games since 2007. Chase Utley has missed fewer than 14 games in a season only three times in his career. And apart from Utley, Cano is the best second baseman since…Roberto Alomar? Joe Morgan? Cano’s going to the Hall of Goddamn Fame is my point, whether he busts his ass on a hard grounder to second or not.

Rollins isn’t that good, but if he has crippling intangible issues (which again, is a premise I won’t grant until and unless I see even specific accusations, let alone evidence, that he’s conspicuously and detrimentally apathetic), they don’t hurt the team unless they’re impairing the team’s ability to score runs or prevent its opponent from doing the same. Both of which he’s done better than any other shortstop in Phillies history, better than all but a handful of players in Phillies history and better than all but a handful of contemporary shortstops.

So like I said, I’m done arguing this.

One point I do want to make is the distinction between this being a controversy and being a media circus. Because to my knowledge, the local media has been pretty neutral about this whole Rollins malarkey, and those that haven’t (David Murphy) have called it out for being transparent scapegoating bullshit, which it is. And the national media guys, at least such as I’ve heard, have reacted with brow-wrinkled puzzlement. In the past, I’ve anticipated a negative media reaction toward a player and overreacted, only for no reaction to come, so I want to avoid repeating that mistake.

@Moerms: “can Asche go to the OF to make room for Franco? Should he?”

I mean, he probably can. Unless you run like your feet weigh 50 pounds each, like Franco does, if you can play third base, you can play an outfield corner. The problem is that tricky defensive spectrum: we’re at a point now where we think (but don’t know for sure) that Asche will hit well enough to be a decent third baseman. It’s very unlikely that Asche can hit well enough to be an everyday left fielder. Domonic Brown slugged almost .500 last year and was about a two-win player in left field, thanks to the high replacement level in left field and his terrible defense. And by the way, that boggles my mind. We know about the hose, and he was going to play wide receiver for the Miami Fucking Hurricanes if he hadn’t signed with the Phillies out of high school, and while he’s bigger now than he was at 18, he doesn’t exactly bring Pete Incaviglia to mind, at least to the naked eye. I’ve been hearing about his terrible defense for three years now, and I’m still shocked that he isn’t a good defensive outfielder.

Anyway, Asche certainly shouldn’t go to the outfield now, because not only will he likely not hit well enough to start, the Phillies are already pretty well set with corner outfielders. It’s not like Marlon Byrd can carry Asche around on his back like Yoda on Dagobah, is it?

The last issue is that there’s no rush to bring up Franco. He’s only 21, so it’s a miracle he’s even close to being major league ready now, and it’s not like having Franco and not having Franco is going to be the difference between having playoffs and not having playoffs. And it’s not like there aren’t things he can still work on for half a season in AA or AAA that will help him more in the long run–plate discipline, pitch recognition, footwork at third base–than being the fifth man in a rotation for the four corner spots would. If Franco mashes and sticks at third, then Asche being surplus to requirements is a good problem to have, and then you move him, either to the outfield or to another team to fill a need elsewhere. But I don’t find that outcome to be particularly likely.

@TheBSLine: “When (as in what year) should we expect to see Maikel Franco as an everyday player in a Phillies’ uniform?”

Building on that last answer, I think it’ll be sometime this year. I assume he’ll get significant time after rosters expand, and if there’s an injury to Asche or Ryan Howard later in the season, I’d imagine Franco would be on the list to fill that hole. But when it comes to Franco, I’m in favor of taking a cautious approach because he’s so young, his game still has holes and he has no place to play everyday. Back in 2010, when Shane Victorino got hurt and the Phillies called Dom Brown up, I was excited for sure, but I certainly wasn’t in favor of rushing him or leaving him on the bench when he could be playing every day in AAA. And Brown was a year older and more polished in 2010 than Franco is now.

@joshjurnovoy: “would you accept Paco Rodriguez as a Phillie if it were to happen some day?”

No. I hate that guy. I hate his stupid name and I hate that stupid pump-fake leg kick he did in college, even if he doesn’t do it anymore. There are two kinds of college athlete I hate: the kind who consistently beats the piss out of a college team I like, to the point where I want him to play for the pro team I like (Donovan McNabb at Syracuse vs. Virginia Tech being the exemplar of this type, so that worked out well for me) and the kind who I just find so annoying I want him to be lost at sea so I never have to think about him again (Riley Cooper at Florida vs. South Carolina, which didn’t work out that well). Paco is in the second camp. I wouldn’t hate him as much as I hated Delmon Young, because Paco’s actually good, but it’d be close.

@Wzeiders: “I’m a normal person with no kids and I’m not a vicious collector, how can i get an autograph at batting practice?”

I’m very much not the autograph type. I collected an autograph from Eric Lindros after a Flyers practice when I was eight, and I’ve never personally sought one since. In fact, I’m all in favor of just not talking to famous people, which isn’t a great attitude for a reporter, really. My advice would be to hire a child to get the autograph for you, so you don’t look like a creep. Because hiring a child you don’t know is less creepy than asking for autographs as a grown-up.

Besides, the selfie is replacing the autograph anyway. Not to make this all about Jackie Bradley, but judging from his Twitter feed, he will take a pre-game selfie with anyone who asks, then if you post the photo on Twitter and tag him, he’ll retweet it. He’s so nice. I love him to pieces.

@Ut26: “Are there any better reasons to watch the 2014 Phillies than Ben Revere‘s smile?”

Ben Revere’s baserunning, I hope, because I’ve got him on more than one fantasy team and I need stolen bases.

@meechone: “Not sure if you can handle this one but: Who had the dopest verse on “No More Worries”?”

Timon. Nathan Lane and Robert Guillaume carry that movie.

@wheresbenrivera: “Kendrick is in his 8th season w) the Phillies. Are we 5 years away from Wall of Fame potential through sheer longevity alone?”

Oh my God. No, right? I mean, Mike Lieberthal‘s on the Wall, but he made a couple All-Star teams. No way.

Though since integration, Kendrick has the 14th-most wins of any Phillies pitcher, and if he wins 12 games this year, he’ll finish the season in the top 10. No. This can’t happen.

One side effect of not caring about wins is missing out on tidbits like Cole Hamels not having won 100 games in the major leagues yet, which seems odd, considering how good he’s been and for how long. But no, Kyle Kendrick is not going on the Wall of Fame. He’s much better now than he was when I ragged on him constantly a couple years ago, but I will not allow it.

@jackieinertia: “which Phillie is most likely to blame a fart on somebody else?”

Hehehe. Probably Rollins.

@kchristine: “will ccl games ever be relevant in America?”

I hope so. The only reason I can think of that it isn’t…well, three reasons. First, my experience might be skewed because I’m a Union fan and they’ve never been to the CCL, but it doesn’t seem like teams make a big deal out of CCL qualifying or the games themselves. Second, you get MLS on national cable all the time, but I can’t remember seeing a CCL game on TV. And third, an American team hasn’t won since 2000. Which is inexcusable, because there’s no reason for Mexican teams to dominate MLS the way they have.

But the real reason I want to see CCL become relevant, and this might be a chicken-and-egg thing, is that the winner goes to the Club World Cup, where they face the winners of the other continental championships, and we get to see Bayern Munich or Real Madrid or whoever beat the crap out of Real Salt Lake. Which might not be great from a standpoint of national pride, but I’m curious to see how our best would do against the best from other nations.

@GlennQSpooner: “What fictional High School would you most like to have attended? I’ve narrowed my choices down to Bayside High & West Beverly.”

I’d go a little more outside the box. And much as I respect the classics, I have to go with Peak County High School from the WB classic Everwood, a show I watched every episode of for reasons that are to this day not entirely clear to me. It’s not as hardscrabble as John Adams High in Boy Meets World, and since I’m sure none of you watched Everwood, Peak County comes with the following advantages:

  • The fictional Everwood, Colorado was a gorgeous town, with sweeping mountain vistas and the kind of big sky people in Los Angeles and New York have only seen in movies.
  • Everwood has a population of, like, 90, but it has three doctors, including a world-class neurosurgeon. So you’re getting fantastic healthcare.
  • The girls at PCHS look like Emily VanCamp, Nora Zeheter and Kate Mara. Which is not true of the high school I actually went to. In fact, Ephraim, the main character, was a whiny douchebag, a real asshole, who wasn’t perceptibly better-looking than I was in high school, and he dated at least four girls who are more attractive than anyone I’ve ever met in person before, much less actually dated. Girls were the only thing I really cared about in high school, so this consideration outweighs all others.
  • Chris Pratt went there in his first major TV role. Chris Pratt is hilarious and I want to be his friend.

What a ridiculous show that was. And I loved it so much.

@sixersfan1220: “what kind of year will it take for RAJ to be fired/let go?”

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: I don’t think there’s an outcome within the realm of reasonable likelihood that is bad enough to get Amaro fired in 2014. And I wrote about this earlier in the week, but he’s doing a legitimately not terrible job with this rebuild. Not good, but legitimately not terrible. Not only are the Phillies kind of a slow-moving, conservative, stay-the-course organization in general, nobody’s firing GMs now.

@the_trev: “How many teams in the NCAA tournament could beat the Sixers right now? 1? 5? 25?”

None. Every team in this tournament is made up of kids. The Sixers are not only bigger, stronger and possessed of more polished all-around games than any college team, basketball is a part-time job for a college player and a full-time job and then some for a pro. If you put the Sixers in March Madness, Thad Young would be the best player in the tournament by an unimaginable margin. The gulf between college and the pros in terms of strength, speed and stamina is interstellar. To say nothing of that bullshit you hear from old people about how the college game is more fundamentally sound is one of the least true things that’s commonly said about sports. The pros shoot better, pass better and play better defense than the college kids. An NBA team, even a bad one, takes the very best college players, then gives them more time to practice under the tutelage of better coaches. Thad and MCW would condescend to those guys.

Saying a college team would beat a pro team is a fun piece of hyperbole, but the Sixers would beat any team in the tournament by 40 points, except maybe a Kansas team with a healthy Joel Embiid. Maybe.

@michaelweil: “Realistically, what is the best April record the Phillies can attain with crap/crap/crap as 3/4/5 in the rotation?”

I’d be more than satisfied with .500, which goes for the season as well, because missing a start or two of Cole Hamels isn’t really an enormous deal. And over the course of a month, the sky’s the limit. If I might direct your attention to the 2003 Kansas Cit y Royals. That team was absolute buttcrack. Carlos Beltran, Raul Ibanez, Mike Sweeney, Angel Berroa in a good year…I mean, the second-best position player on that team was Joe Randa, if you want some perspective. And their pitching was even worse: only two pitchers threw 100 innings. They were bad. Jose Lima bad. Runelvys Hernandez bad.

They started 16-3 and ended April 17-7. There are two related points to take from this story: 1) Anything is possible over the course of a month and 2) If the Phillies start 16-3, those wins will be in the bank, so they might have a shot at making the playoffs, but that won’t mean that they’re actually good. The reverse is also true: if they start 3-16, let’s keep the wailing gnashing of teeth under control. God vindicates the righteous, and balance is eventually returned to the Force.

@SpikeEskin: “who is the worst player ever inducted into the Hall Of Fame in a normal (non vet committee) vote?”

That’s an important distinction, because the Veterans Committee has conducted some serious bullshit over the years.

It’s probably someone from way back in caveman days, because the pool of all-time talent was shallower then, and I’m of the opinion that the game advances over time, so much so that if you put 1908 Honus Wagner in a time machine and dumped him, as-is, in a major league lineup today, I doubt  he’d hit get 20 hits over the course of a season. So it’s easier to just chop off those early days (say, pre-1901) and just judge these players relative to their competition.

Sure enough, by Baseball Reference WAR, the worst Hall of Fame position player who played his entire career after 1901 was Lloyd Waner, younger brother of Paul Waner, who’s also in the Hall of Fame and very much deserves to be. Lloyd put up big batting average numbers in the late 1920s and early 1930s, a period of time that makes the Steroid Era look like 1968. He didn’t hit for power and he didn’t walk, and he got in on the Veterans Committee after putting up 24.1 career WAR. Mike Trout, at age 22 and with two and change seasons under his belt, has 20.8. On a lighter note, Paul and Lloyd Waner were called “Big Poison” and “Little Poison,” which would be adorable enough on its own, but they got those nicknames, or so the story goes, after a sportswriter heard a fan calling them “Big Person” and “Little Person” and misunderstood the fan’s accent.

The lowest WAR total on that list among players the writers voted in belongs to Roy Campanella, but he’s a hard case. Campanella was an outstanding defensive catcher with a career .500 slugging percentage and a three-time NL MVP. He had some down seasons, but that low WAR total is the result of three things: 1) catchers play less than other position players, so they put up lower counting stats 2) Campanella was a black player in the 1940s, so he didn’t get to the majors until his age-26 season and 3) he was paralyzed in a car accident after the 1957 season, which probably cut a couple more seasons off his career.

I view 60 career WAR, give or take, as being the standard for a Hall of Famer, taking context into account. I think you have to get under 50 to get embarrassing, and unless I’ve missed someone, the BBWAA’s only given us four of those guys: Campanella, Lou Brock, Ralph Kiner and Jim Rice. Campanella we’ve covered, and Kiner only played 10 years in the majors, so his counting stats (including WAR) look a little sad, but he led the National League in home runs his first seven seasons in the majors, and on a per-at-bat basis, he’s up there with the best power hitters in history. Brock probably isn’t as good as his reputation, but he retired with 3,000 hits and more stolen bases than anyone else in the history of the game–are you not going to vote for him? Rice is probably the worst player the writers voted in, but while I certainly wouldn’t have voted for him, there are probably thirty guys the Veterans Committee put in the Hall of Fame who weren’t as good and don’t, like, say, Campanella or Larry Doby or Bill Mazeroski, have any overriding historical significance. And besides, I’m way more embarrassed by Barry Bonds not being in the Hall of Fame than Jim Rice being in.

The worst player the writers ever voted in is a pitcher, and it’s one of two teammates: Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers. Hunter was a very good starting pitcher for four years in the early 1970s who surrounded those years with a bunch of crap. He’s overrated because he had funny hair and a funny nickname and he won way more games than he should have because he played for three straight World Series teams in Oakland from 1972-74, then played for three more with the Yankees from 1976-78. Playing for teams that won six pennants and five World Series in seven years will inflate your win totals, which was what mattered to Cy Young voters in the 1970s and Hall of Fame voters in the 1980s. Better at his peak than Jack Morris, but if I had to put one or the other in the Hall of Fame on evidence, I’d take Morris without a second thought.

The other option is Fingers, who has pretty much the same story as Hunter, but as a relief pitcher. Before I did any digging, Fingers and Bruce Sutter were the first two names that came to mind, and their totals are similar, but Sutter had the better peak and shorter career, which, all things considered, I prefer to a compiler. Even if you don’t hold Fingers being a reliever against him, he was really only great in one or two seasons. Even among relief pitchers, he’s nowhere close to Trevor Hoffman or Mariano Rivera, which is where I think you have to be if you want to make the Hall of Fame as a reliever. Fingers is in the Hall of Fame for his mustache and name. I’d probably single him out as being the worst player the writers ever put in.

@hdrubin: “Two-parter. 1) Why Koyie Hill, not Ryan Lavarnway? 2) Is it possible RAJ has a master plan that will work?”

First of all, that’s not a two-part question–those are two distinct questions. Anyway Koyie Hill and not Ryan Lavarnway because the Phillies don’t need a legitimate major league backup so much as they need a warm body to stash in the upper minors, so it’s not worth giving up an actual asset for Lavarnway (if the Red Sox are even interested in moving him, which I don’t know to be the case), rather than the bottle of laundry detergent it likely took to get Hill.

And second…sure. I’m all but certain RAJ has a master plan, and we’ll find out if it works, but not for a few more years.

@TyLau27: “what should I be drinking while watching march madness? Preferably something I can sip on, but can slam in case of celebration.”

I know I’m old because I tried to think about drinking for a 12-hour tournament day and I had to throw up and go take a nap. Maintaining a buzz for that long without making yourself sick or becoming a danger to yourself and others is a delicate balance, one that’s made more complicated by the fact that if you drink beer, you’re going to feel bloated and gross, but if you drink anything but a very weak liquor drink, you’re going to black out by dinner.

My advice would be to only drink on one side of the dinner break: either hit the bar for brunch or start making Irish coffee at noon, then pace yourself until 6, then eat something, take a nap and rally for the night games, or stick to water until dinner, then go out and get wild. (It’s currently 5:15 on Thursday as I write this, and when I’m done typing out this answer, I’m going to go make dinner and switch from ginger ale to Yuengling.)

If you’re choosing a beer to drink while watching sports all day, I’d avoid anything even remotely dark and heavy: a nice hefeweizen, maybe, if you’re willing to splurge on booze. If not (and if you’re in for the duration, you’re going to stop caring how your beer tastes rather quickly), ain’t nothing wrong with PBR or Natty Light.

This comes, of course, with the standard set of disclaimers: don’t be the drunkest guy at the bar/party, make sure you drink water, and when in doubt, call a cab. Saying that also makes me feel old, but I love you guys and I don’t want to see anything bad happen to you.

One housekeeping note: Since May 2012, the Crash Bag has run every Friday without exception, but that streak is going to end after next week. I’ve got a book deadline in May, so I’ll be taking at least four or five weeks off to concentrate on that and re-evaluate this format. So if you want a question answered, send it to crashbaumann@gmail.com or hit me up on Twitter…wow, that sounded just horrifyingly uncool. Let’s try that again. If you have a question, send it to me over email or Twitter, otherwise you’ll have to wait a while.

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6 comments

  1. CJ

    March 21, 2014 02:38 PM

    “…specious, unfalsifiable (and I believe, racially coded) nonsense…”

    When people claim racist “codes” are being telegraphed, it reminds me of claims about racist “dog whistles” that so many claim to hear. Thing is, only dogs – the intended recipient – hear dog whistles. If you’re hearing a racist dog whistle, and picking up on ‘racist codes,’ you might want to stop and assess your own views.

    • Bill Baer

      March 21, 2014 03:44 PM

      You’ve applied the wrong labels to the metaphor.

      Person with the whistle = person delivering the message (a)
      Whistle = racially-coded message (b)
      Dog = racists (c)

      So when Rush Limbaugh (a) includes Barack Obama’s middle name (Hussein) every time he is mentioned, he is appealing to the people (c) who hear the last name Hussein and think of anti-American terrorists (b).

      The “hustle” thing is a bit less extreme than that, but it is dogwhistle nevertheless. Run a Google search for baseball players who have been called lazy, and mark down how many are white, how many of black, and how many are of foreign (Cuban/Dominican Republican/etc.) descent.

      Here’s one study of the issue:

      www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/08/how-mlb-announcers-favor-american-players-over-foreign-ones/261265/

      • ScottBaio

        March 22, 2014 01:45 AM

        Didn’t Cholly bench JRoll a few times for non-hustle? Does that mean he might be a racist?

        I must say that I’ve never heard any (ex) players or coaches excuse non-hustle, it’s only mainly stat saavy, high IQ blog writers.

        Would it be ok for star players to refuse to back up bases on defense for the same reasons for not running out routine grounders.If, yes – Iisisn’t this the point where the line btwn the mlb and any random beer league gets blurred?

  2. Scott G

    March 21, 2014 06:57 PM

    That Cano article is awesome.

    I’m glad you addressed the issue Sixers vs. NCAA teams the way you did as well. It’s insane to think that even a team like Kansas that has some future NBA players on the roster, yet still has players in the rotation that’ll never even sniff the NBA, would beat a team of players who’ve made it into the league.

  3. Trevor

    March 22, 2014 01:11 AM

    Couldn’t agree more about the sixers. I asked because when reading Bill Simmons last NBA mailbag, he asserted that the sixers wouldn’t make it past the sweet 16. I found that ridiculous since everybody agreed that the Cavs could beat any college team in the country when they were in the middle of their 26 game losing streak a few years ago.

  4. ScottBaio

    March 22, 2014 01:50 AM

    Koyie Hill is probably awesome in the club house – the Crash Davis angle is probably the only reason he still finds work. Rupp and Joseph are probably the reason Hill was signed.

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