Crash Bag, Vol. 100: She’s Not Having It


I’ve finished my book, Philadelphia Phenoms: The Most Amazing Athletes to Play in the City of Brotherly Love, and so I’ve returned to other writing pursuits, which comes out November 4. If you’re the book-readin’ type, please order it on Amazon, and while you’re there, buy Bill’s book too. We actually make money off these books, so if you enjoy the work that we produce here, for free, go buy our books so we can produce more material. Even if you don’t like my writing, buy the book anyway and burn it in protest. My prose is so hot it’s easily flammable. More self-promotion is to come as the release date approaches, so if you lose the link, don’t worry, you’ll see it again.

Before I get into your questions, I want to pull back the curtain for a moment and talk about the future of the Crash Bag. I’ve been doing this for two years now, and I want to liven it up a bit, so what I’d like to do is tweak the format: every week, I’ll take one question and explore it in a sort of post-on-request system, provided I get a worthwhile question, then answer other, shorter questions as they come in. Also, because of changes in my own schedule, I’ll be posting on Wednesdays instead of Fridays from now on. That said, I generally aim to please, so if there’s a particular form or subject you’d rather read, or if you have suggestions of any kind, find me on Twitter at @MJ_Baumann or email me at crashbaumann (at) gmail (dot) com. I’m all ears–I only want to keep doing this if people are enjoying reading it, so I welcome any and all feedback, even if you just want me to keep the Crash Bag the way it is. I legitimately have no idea what you guys think, so don’t be shy.

Now, on to your correspondence.

@FelskeFiles: “What do you honestly think about Domonic Brown. -0.5 fWAR through 5/12. What is he long-term?”

I’m trying not to, honestly. Well let me say this first: I wouldn’t put too much stock in WAR totals this early in the season. I believe WAR is the most useful stat we have in baseball because of its ability to reduce dozens of different factors, from position to park effects to run environment, offense, defense, pitching and so on into a simple value that’s easy to understand and compare. But because WAR flattens out so many different inputs, it’s not incredibly precise–if you think of evaluating players as painting something, WAR is like a roller. The more area you have to cover and the more paint you have to work with, the better, but if you’re painting something smaller you need a brush. You wouldn’t want to paint a house, or even a room, without a roller, but we don’t have rooms’ worth of data yet. Even at the end of a season, when filling out mock MVP and Cy Young ballots, I usually assume a margin of error of at least a win in either direction.

That said, I’m not exactly thrilled with Brown’s performance this season. I’ve been gradually walking back my expectations for him since 2009 or so, when he was going to be our Jason Heyward or The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton, to expecting a Hunter Pence-like player, to just hoping for him to be an average regular. If this slump happened in August, after Brown had had 400 decent plate appearances’ worth of statistical buffer, we probably wouldn’t be that alarmed, but at the same time, I’m running out of excuses. It all comes back to what Bill wrote the other day about the Phillies’ mystifying inability to develop young players recently.  I don’t know what the problem is or how to fix it, but this rebuild is going to take forever if the Phillies can’t turn guys like Brown, Ben Revere and Cody Asche into starters.

@JonCheddar: “would you compare the Phillies more to a tire fire or hot, stinky, steamy, diarrhea dump?”

The latter. I’m not writing all of that out again because thinking about it hurts. The Phillies are the second of two burning incidents for two reasons: 1) the unpleasantness lasts for quite some time and 2) we saw this coming. Like you know that dousing your Five Guys burger with Texas Pete is going to give you the burning runs, but it TASTES SO GOOD you can’t help yourself.

@PhilaBCoulter: “JP Crawford is tearing up Lakewood. Clearwater bound soon. I think he’s starting in the bigs in 2017. Possible or wishful?”

I don’t think that’s unreasonable–Baseball Prospectus lists 2017 as his ETA, and he’ll be 22 on Opening Day 2017. Let’s call that slightly on the optimistic side of what we can expect. That said, given the way the Phillies have turned top-100 prospects into organizational players in recent years, anything can happen, and the only question about Crawford’s game–the bat–is one that scares me to death. That might be the result of years of disappointment (see the previous answer on Domonic Brown) having made me both extremely pessimistic and extremely conservative in what types of prospects I like.

My overwhelming bias toward high-probability college players over high-upside high school players is at least partially the result of my following the college game for its own sake, but let’s take two outfield prospects in this draft: Georgia high schooler Michael Gettys and Oregon State junior Michael Conforto. I’d draft Conforto, who’s an inferior athlete and carries almost none of Gettys’ superstar potential, without hesitation because I know he can hit, and if you can’t hit, that’s the proverbial ballgame. So Crawford’s doing great right now, and everyone loves him, but I can’t get over the overwhelming fear that he’ll get to AA in two years and suddenly turn into Adeiny Hechavarria. Nothing will eliminate that worry for me until I see evidence to the contrary. This is where someone like Longenhagen, who knows better, ought to come in and tell me to chill the fuck down before I give myself a stroke, but the world is a merciless place in which we cycle inexorably toward lonely, painful death. And this is true for minor league baseball players more than most.

@TyLau27: “I got invited to go to a wedding with the girl I like. She sort of likes me back but it’s complicated and she’s not having it. I was selected as her date for my charm, ability/willingness to dance, and lack of tattoos in comparison to her other options. She is the Maid of Honor, and will be off taking pictures and working the crowd for much of the reception. 

I am looking for tips on survival. If you can work it so she likes me by the end of the night too – Even better.

I have been told that the bar is free Miller Lites, pay for everything else, in case that is a factor in your verdict?

Crashburn, what is my play?”

First of all, I appreciate Tyler’s faith in me as an outlet for advice about women. I will say that I’ve been in this situation before: going to a wedding where I hardly knew anyone because I was the maid of honor’s plus-one, and every time I’ve done that I’ve wound up married to the MOH. The downside is that I know nothing about dating because I met my wife the first week of classes freshman year of undergrad and I therefore haven’t had to actually try to get someone to date me or even like me since Ryan Howard was a rookie. I therefore know everything there is to know about women, dating, love and sex and will disburse that wisdom upon you now.

There are three questions in your one question:

1) How Do I Survive Not Knowing Anyone While the MOH is Taking Photos/Giving Toasts? I feel you. I’m painfully introverted and hate breaking the ice, which is why my wife and most of my friends are outgoing people who aren’t afraid to talk to strangers. My strategy is usually to grab a beer and stand in a corner until someone (you know, one of those weirdos who find themselves compelled to talk to people they don’t know) comes over to talk. This is a risky strategy, because I once found myself in just such a predicament as you’ll be in and I started talking to a guy who designed video games. I play FIFA and such on the Xbox, but I don’t play “video games” as such. I made a joke about how I was considering buying the latest Assassin’s Creed because it indulged a Revolutionary War fantasy I have and I was rewarded with a 30 minute monologue about the history and design of the series, which is information I was never interested in having, and I’m the guy who knows all the serial numbers from the starships in Star Trek. The good news is 1) eventually MOH will come back and you’ll have her to lean on and 2) most strangers have a modicum of self-awareness and can engage in small talk to kill the time.

2) How Do I Get This Girl to Like Me? I asked Liz Roscher of The Good Phight, who is a dear friend and the person I consult on all things involving women, about this issue, and she delivered this gem of a line: “If a woman invites a man to a wedding, she either needs him there or wants him there.” She might have invited you there because she doesn’t know or like most of the people at the wedding and wants a wingman, or she might have invited you there because she thinks you’re cute and wants you to carry her books and hold hands on the band bus or whatever it is kids are doing nowadays. If there’s any uncertainty, I’d err on the side of operating as if the first case is true, though I don’t think you should act particularly differently either way. Your play here is to make sure she’s having a good time. Dance if she asks you to, chat with her friends, tell her she looks nice, make sure she has food or drink as she wants them. Tell her her toast was great. (It will almost certainly not be, unless you’re going to a wedding with Amy Schumer or something, but that’s a lie that won’t hurt anyone.)
If you’re there for moral support, that’s the act of a dependable friend; if you’re there as an actual date, that shows you to be a real mensch, the kind of guy who’d be a good boyfriend and, in the basest biological sense, produce sturdy, survivable offspring. As far as the bar goes, “the play” is certainly not to get wasted drunk unless she tells you early on that she wants to get hammered and commit acts of lustful sin upon your person, in which case I’ve written a lot of advice you won’t need. Get buzzed enough to dance and make small talk, but not so buzzed that there’s even a remote chance of you embarrassing yourself.

3) “She sort of likes me back but it’s complicated and she’s not having it.” I am not even remotely equipped to unpack that statement. I hope for your sake that it means you’re in the third act of a Nora Ephron movie, but it could mean anything. If it means that you’ve expressed interest and been unambiguously rebuffed, respect that and just enjoy the evening. If she’s not interested, she’s not interested and there’s probably not anything you can do to change that. And the more you try, the closer you come to wearing fedoras and posting My Little Pony porn on the internet. It’s a slippery slope, Tonto. If it is ambiguous, your supportive, charming and otherwise menschlike behavior could put you over the top. Read the room and figure it out. 

This has all been a very long-winded way of re-expressing Baumann’s First Law of Social Conduct: Don’t Be An Asshole.

I do want to point out something funny that I learned at my own wedding. Wedding photographers have call sheets, a list of who they want to take pictures of, when, where and in what order. That makes sense. Our photographer used acronyms on her call sheet, and some of them amused me, particularly “Father of Groom” (FOG) and “Mother of Groom” (MOG), which is how I refer to my parents to this day.

@sixerfan1220: “what are you willing to sacrifice to get jose Fernandez healthy?”

Dude, I am so pissed. I don’t know that there’s any sports outcome that I’d trade a real-life thing I value for, but Fernandez is so awesome I’d come close. I’ll say this–I’d trade the health of a non-trivial Phillies player for a healthy Fernandez. Anybody but Utley, Lee and Hamels I’d give up in a heartbeat, and those three guy’s I’d have to think about.

@mattjedruch: “over/under 2 points for USMNT at the World Cup?”

Over. I think one of two things happens: 1) the USA beats Ghana and draws either a Portugal team that’s Cristiano Ronaldo and a bunch of other guys running around aimlessly or a Germany team that’s already clinched advancement and is resting its starters or 2) the USA loses to Ghana and goes home 0-0-3, scoring, like, one goal in the process.

@Wzeiders: “If you were Cole Hamels and just pitched 133 pitches over 7 and then watched the bullpen implode, you’d be mad, right?”

Well, either I’d be mad or I’d be so beaten down by the past two and a half years that I’d be incapable of feeling feelings anymore, and I’d have turned into a cold, dark, empty person who just shrugs at everything. Imagine if they made The Stranger into a movie and made Meursault a woman and cast Kristen Stewart to play her. That’s how Cole Hamels is probably reacting right now.

@the_trev: “J-Roll is averaging about a hit per game played (35/34), or 1 hit every 4.2 PA (147/35). Assuming he plays every game, the over/under for him setting the franchise hits record would be Jun 8 at Cinci. Are you taking the over or under?  If you’re feeling especially clairvoyant, what type of hit does J-Roll get to break the hits record?”

Well, first of all, thanks for doing all that math for me. I’d take the over, because I don’t think he plays every game or hits .276 for the next month. I think that’s early, but not by much. If he’s close going into that weekend, I might take a road trip down to the Nasty Nati to see it in person. As for the type of hit, I’m going to go with a home run, because not only am I feeling clairvoyant, I’m feeling lucky. Sometimes you’ve got to roll the hard six, Starbuck.

@WetLuzinski: “if you had your druthers, would you prefer to commit fraud or choose from a cornucopia of felonies (and if so, which one?)”

Fraud, even felony fraud, is dumb. It’s the worst kind of crime–not sexy or exciting or fascinating, but the kind of thing weasely rich white guys do to get more rich. My preference, of course, is to not commit any kind of felony, because I don’t really relish violence and don’t want to end up in jail. Actually, a quick Googling doesn’t reveal any felonies that I’d feel inclined to commit even if I knew I’d walk. Maybe perjury.

@gearadelphia: “What, if anything, can the Phillies do to improve the team’s bullpen?”

I’m not sure there’s much to do at this point. Maybe call up Kenny Giles when the time comes. But listen, the bullpen is not the problem. Bullpens matter on the margins, which is why they so often influence who wins the World Series: in the playoffs, all the teams are good, so relatively finer distinctions, such as relief pitching, can swing a short series because the margins are so thin. So it’s not like the bullpen doesn’t matter at all. That said, the bullpen is what you improve to put your team over the top, the way the Rangers did a few years ago when they traded for Koji Uehara and Mike Adams. It’s not the first thing I’d fix. The Phillies are losing games because Jake Diekman and Antonio Bastardo have been inconsistent and Mario Hollands and Jeff Manship are terrible. They’re going to lose more games in the long run because Dom Brown and Ben Revere aren’t hitting and because Cody Asche plays third base like it’s a vaudeville routine. It’s an ugly way to lose, but it’s not really something worth fixing until later.

Like if I decided that I was going to act on a lifetime longing and try to woo Michelle Branch, I’d get around to perfecting my acoustic cover of “Thunder Road” to impress her when I show up at her door unannounced, but first I’d spend six…no, eight months at the gym and get a haircut and so on. Let’s not put the cart before the horse.

@Derosatheo11: “which Big 4 league (NFL/NHL/MLB/NBA) will fold first? Last?”

Oooh, I like this one because we just assume that sports will go on forever the way we know them now, which is crazy. It’s absolutely nuts. Only 50 years ago the NHL had six teams, the southernmost of which was in New York. Seventy years ago the NBA didn’t even exist at all. It’s preposterous–preposterous, I tell you!–to think that our grandchildren will enjoy the same sports landscape we do.

That said, I don’t think an entire sport has reached the popularity level of the Big Four at any point in American history and fallen off the map entirely. So I think the NFL will be first to go because eventually we’ll all realize that if you play tackle football long enough, you’ll suffer brain trauma and die. It might not disappear entirely, but it’ll be like boxing or horse racing–a niche sport that intersects the mainstream sports culture only for its biggest events and biggest ethical scandals. I expect that to happen in my lifetime.

And I think the NBA will be the last league to fold. Basketball is cheaper to play and easier to learn than baseball or hockey, and it’s only getting more popular worldwide. I think it’ll be close, but eventually the NHL owners will stage one lockout too many and interest will wane, and Major League Baseball will crawl so far up its own ass the game will be lost forever. Fun image.

That’ll do it for the Crash Bag. Remember to send in questions, comments, grievances and suggestions via Twitter and email, buy my book and I’ll see y’all next week.

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