Crash Bag, Vol. 104: Draft Review, Hot Dogs, Book Writing

Let’s get down to it.

@gberry523: “how surprised were you by the Phillies drafting only one high schooler in their first 10 (and barely any later)?”

I wasn’t that surprised that they went college-heavy early, but they wound up picking college players with 27 of their first 28 picks, which is kind of nuts. I don’t think anyone expected that, but I think that factoid is also a little deceptive.

After some consideration, I liked the Phillies’ draft in general: For all the time I spent griping about their plans to pick Aaron Nola, I can live with him at No. 7, and if nothing else, I don’t think they’ve ever picked a player I liked this much in college. I think I was mostly pissed that there were five guys I was sold on as potential superstars, and with the Phillies picking seventh and with the Cubs unlikely to pick one of those five (Rodon, Aiken, Kolek, Gordon and Jackson), it looked like the Phillies would miss out on those guys by one pick, which is exactly what happened. Once I got over that, and once I came to terms with the fact that they weren’t going to pick Jeff Hoffman or Max Pentecost–who, secret agent name aside, I like a lot–I learned to stop worrying and love Aaron Nola and so on. 

I know relatively little about the rest of the draft class, but even though they went college-heavy, they got a lot of toolsy players anyway: third-rounder Aaron Brown, a two-way player from Pepperdine who played extremely well in a Super Regional loss to TCU this weekend, is tall, long, athletic and extremely unpolished. There’s eighth-rounder Sam McWilliams, a 6-foot-7 teenager from Tennessee who hit 94 at times this season and whose body is all projection. Fourth-rounder Chris Oliver is an SEC-hardened reliever with a mid-90s fastball, but is still very unpolished. ESPN’s Chris Crawford told me seventh-rounder Emmanuel Marrero might be the best defensive shortstop in the draft. So there’s still talent to dream on.

Then there’s sixth-rounder Brandon Liebrandt, the son of a former major league pitcher who became Florida State’s Friday night starter as a freshman, which is no small feat, before missing most of this year with some fluky injuries. Liebrandt doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he’s 6-foot-4, left-handed and knows how to pitch. I also saw 19th-rounder Joey Denato, who owns all of Indiana’s pitching records, in person when I went to profile his batterymate Kyle Schwarber, who went No. 4 overall to the Cubs. Denato’s 5-foot-10 and throws in the mid-80s, but he’s left-handed, durable and smart. Between those two and 13th-rounder Nathan Thornhill, a senior out of Texas, I bet you get at least one back-end starter.

Given how high the Phillies drafted and how bad their farm system is at the top, I wanted them to get back into the game with one swing. This draft won’t do that, but generally you want to get at least one good major league player out of every draft class, plus some odds and ends. I think they’ve got that with Nola, maybe a second with Brown, Oliver or McWilliams, plus a few possible role players besides. It doesn’t restore the kingdom in one fell swoop, but it’s not a bad start.

@TaxingAuthority: “93 NLCS game 6 lineup was all lefties vs Maddux. How far ahead of his time was Fregosi? Whole game on YouTube if you want to see”

So it is.

I don’t know how much good that was supposed to do against Maddux, who got everyone out back in 1993, but Fregosi platooned full-time at second base and both outfield corners and started two switch hitters in Dave Hollins and Kevin Stocker. The other three starters, Darren Daulton, Lenny Dykstra and John Kruk, were all preposterously good left-handed hitters. That team was awesome.

The 1993 Phillies were my introduction to baseball, and I wish I’d been old enough to appreciate them then. (I own and can recommend More than Beards, Bellies and Biceps by Bob Gordon and Tom Burgoyne as a refresher.) But that Phillies team was constructed a lot like a modern Oakland A’s team, with the emphasis on the OBP, pitching depth and roster flexibility. Possibly to this day, the most effectively creative roster ever constructed in franchise history.

@petzrawr: “what was/is the worst part of writing a book?”

Speaking of books. Hey, I don’t know if y’all knew this, but I’ve written a monograph. In fact, I just sent in the second draft Monday. It’s called Philadelphia Phenoms: The Most Amazing Athletes to Play in the City of Brotherly Love due out Nov. 4. You can pre-order it here, and I strongly urge you to do so.

The worst part about writing a book like the one I wrote is setting up interviews. Not the interviews themselves–once I got people on the phone, they were pretty cool with talking about how awesome they were–but setting them up. Tracking down contact information, getting through the PR professional, getting over the pre-interview nerves I still get, that sort of thing. I’m in the middle of Jonah Keri’s Up, Up and Away right now, and it’s magnificent. The parts about baseball are great, and they’re the least interesting parts of the book. But I’m astounded by how many former players, coaches and executives, plus business and political leaders from Montreal over the past 50 years, that Jonah was able to track down and talk to. It’s exhausting just to think about.

Anyway, because I don’t have Jonah’s wide-ranging name recognition and because I had less than four months to put the whole thing together, from the day I signed the contract to the day I handed in the manuscript, I didn’t get as many people on the record as I wanted to, and that’s the big regret I have. Writing is easy. Research and editing are hard. There’s a scene in Munich, where Ciaran Hinds tells Eric Bana: “I knew guys like you in the army–you can do any terrifying thing you’re asked to do, but you have to do it running.” That’s how I feel about writing–I can pump out 4,000 words in an afternoon, but everything that goes into setting that up is tedious and fraught with emotional tripwires.

@peatebutterston: “700 Level wrote an article saying Pence trade is worst move of Amaro’s tenure. Thoughts?”

I think that’s accurate. I think Ryan Howard‘s contract extension is up there, as is Jonathan Papelbon‘s free agent contract. I think you can make an argument for Papelbon’s deal being worse not because it had a greater negative impact, because Papelbon’s been pretty good and I don’t give a shit if David Montgomery and his confreres pay too much out of pocket for something, and neither should you. That said, signing a reliever of that age to a contract of that length was a move that stood out as…I’m not sure how to say this delicately, so I’ll call it as a below replacement-level move. Factor in the fact that it was signed just days before the new CBA took effect, so the Phillies gave up a first-round draft pick to sign Papelbon, while if they’d waited a week or so (I forget exactly how much time passed, but I think it was a week), they could have had the same player on the same deal and not given up the draft pick.

But Papelbon only sent a late first-rounder to the Red Sox, and if you factor in that the Phillies demoted Domonic Brown to make room for Pence (who wasn’t outproducing Brown by that much anyway) instead of benching Raul Ibanez, that was just an unacceptable price for a team that was going to make the playoffs anyway to pay for a decent corner outfielder. I railed against that trade before it even happened, and I still think it’s the worst move of Amaro’s tenure as GM, if not in terms of philosophy than at least in terms of impact. It’s been three years now, and there’s never been a point at which you could call that trade defensible.

@cool_pond: “heres my question”

Whoa. What are those even supposed to grip? Are those ice cleats?

@JNisula: “Joey pankake vs kevin bacon = breakfast?”

Yes, Joey Pankake was drafted in the seventh round by the Detroit Tigers last Thursday. I will miss him. But as I said at the time, after Smoak came Bradley and after Bradley came Pankake–there will be another after Pankake.

As far as pankcakes + bacon = breakfast…I guess that works, but I’ve gone on record before as not being a huge fan of breakfast foods. I’d say 98 percent of the breakfasts I’ve consumed in the past two years have been either 1) a banana or 2) a bagel with cream cheese. I don’t like eggs, though I’ve gotten to the point where I can eat them if I have enough hot sauce and my hangover’s bad enough. Ditto sausage links and patties. Bacon’s fine, but it’s not a meal. And pancakes and waffles are just big mounds of bread, and no matter the shape, man does not live on bread alone.

I don’t get people who crave breakfast or who order breakfast foods when lunch and dinner foods can be had. Breakfast is what you eat in the car on the way to work so you don’t get a low blood sugar headache before noon. My list of breakfast foods I actively enjoy: 1) Biscuits and gravy 2) its Yankee cousin, creamed chipped beef on toast 3) hot pork roll sandwich. Everything else is essential nutrients that I’d just as soon consume in pill form.

@wkgreen06: “could a competitive starting 9 be put together with players RAJ had traded away during his tenure? If so what are your 9?”

Let’s see. From what I remember, all the big trades were heavy on pitchers and outfielders, so maybe not.

So no. Unless you liberate Wilson Valdez from independent ball and call Michael Young out of retirement, you can’t make a decent starting 9 strictly out of players Ruben Amaro has traded away. Now, if you add in players drafted with supplemental picks the Phillies gave up for signing free agents (yes, I know that’s a tenuous line to draw, but shut up, this is just for fun), you get Nick Franklin, who was drafted with one of two picks the Mariners got when the Phillies signed Raul Ibanez. That gets you a second baseman, but even including him, plus Pence and Victorino–who should’ve been traded away–we’re still at least one third baseman short. Jason Donald‘s OPSing .528 at AAA this year, so maybe we could use him if we’re not that concerned about actually being competitive.

@TheBSLine: “Which Phillies player(s) would be the best representative(s) of the American people in Congress? (Inspired by G. Cobb)”

Jimmy Rollins, right? I’ve answered some form of the “Which Phillies player would make the best politician?” question a few times, and it usually comes down to either Rollins or Ryan Howard. Maybe Cole Hamels, since he’s a burgeoning philanthropist. I don’t doubt that any one of them would make a better member of Congress than Jim Bunning.

Part of me is a little sad that we won’t actually get to see G. Cobb in Congress, but I grew up in the New Jersey 1st, so believe me when I tell you Gandhi couldn’t get elected as a Republican there.

@fisherofmung: “is there a 3rd Law of Social Conduct for when your brother in law is an asshole and you have no choice?”

Man, that’s rough. I’m lucky, because not only do I like my in-laws, I live at least six hours away from anyone I’m related to, which is awesome. I can’t recommend that enough. Anyway, my recommendation would be that you avoid him if you can, but because you didn’t invoke the Second Law of Social Conduct, I fear that’s not an option. The worst-case scenario is that the “brother-in-law” is your wife’s sister’s husband and your wife and her sister are very close and not only spend a ton of time together, but you and Bro-Lo El Cunado are expected to hang out too. (I apologize for being heteronormative in this section, but I’m having a hard enough time keeping track of everyone involved in this family without going into he/she and brother/sister and so on.)

That would suck. And if that’s the case, you’re in my prayers.

Because what are you supposed to do? If he’s just an asshole and you don’t like him, but he hasn’t done anything egregious, you become the asshole by drawing attention to his assholitude. And that violates the First Law of Social Conduct: Don’t be an asshole. And even if he has, and he’s a racist/misogynist/homophobe/miscreant/Penguins fan and everyone else has decided to tolerate it, you’re still the asshole if you bring it up. People are really touchy about that, particularly around family.

With that said, you’re not obligated to go out of your way to be his friend–I can’t imagine your wife (or your sister, or whoever you’re closest to who connected you to Bro-Lo El Cunado) wouldn’t understand if you talked to her privately and said, “Listen, I really don’t like Bro-Lo El Cunado, is there any way I can beg out of our twice-weekly double date?” If you have to hang out with this guy every night, you’re going to want to kill yourself. If it’s just at holidays or once every few weeks, you can hide at the other end of the dinner table and/or hit the wine so hard you can’t feel annoyance anymore. If you’re willing to tolerate him every so often, an understanding wife or sister will meet you in the middle.

The other thing I’ll say is that if Bro-Lo El Cunado is a nuisance at family gatherings, I guarantee you there’s at least one other person who feels the same way, and if you find an ally, the two of you can cover each other’s backs. If you’re sitting or standing with someone, people feel less compelled to talk to you. My brother and I both want, above all else, not to be bothered, and over the years we’ve become the Stockton and Malone of finding a quiet corner and not talking to each other so nobody else will talk to us. Family get-togethers are like Lord of the Flies: you need allies or else some douchebag’s going to crush your face with a rock.

Hey, look, blogmates.

@CrashburnAlley: “what would you rather watch, any late ’90’s Phillies team for 4 months, or the 2014 Phillies for 4 more months?”

I think just for the nostalgia factor alone, I’d rather watch the late ’90s Phillies. I miss Ricky Otero.

@adamd243: “ketchup on a hot dog: yes or no”

Personally? No. I’m in favor of mustard and one of relish, onions or sauerkraut. But if you want to put ketchup on a hot dog, I’ve got no issue with it. Listen, hot dogs are terrible. Bread is a medium for better food and the hot dog itself is just something to fill you up while you really enjoy the condiments. I don’t personally care much for ketchup on anything, but if you want to mask the taste of your Dollar Dog at CBP with ketchup, that’s your prerogative.

A sausage, however, is a different story. (For clarity’s sake: a sausage, such as a hot Italian sausage or a bratwurst, is not the same as that blackened bullshit breakfast “meat” I decried earlier.) A sausage, particularly a brat, has only four acceptable toppings: peppers, onions, sauerkraut and mustard, the grainier and/or spicier the better. I’ve got a friend who puts ketchup on brats and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t trust him less because of it.

@ethan_witte: “Which version of WAR do you like best, and why?”

I tend to prefer Baseball Reference WAR to FanGraphs WAR and Baseball Prospectus’s WARP, but I’m not sure if that’s because of any mathematical concept as much as it’s because that’s what comes up on Play Index and I like Play Index a lot. (Answers like that, by the way, are why I don’t call myself a sabermetrician.) If I’m doing any serious analysis, I tend to use bWAR as a baseline and check it against the other two to make sure there aren’t any ridiculous statistical flukes. I do this for defensive metrics as well, and if it comes down to it, just use all three.

Thank you for your continued patronage of the Crash Bag. I’ll see you next week.

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  1. Gabe

    June 11, 2014 11:49 AM

    Except for the whole writing thing we are on the same page. I no write good. I introduced my wife and her family to Biscuits and Gravy (Best decision ever to learn how to make it from Mom). I have tweaked it a little and add finely diced hot peppers (those little bastards that are hard to get out of the bottle). So good!!! Colman’s English mustard is the best. A mate introduced me to the Colman’s powdered mustard. That is the winner IMO. I do not get the ketchup thing. There is no complexity to it. Almost had a safety incident at work reading the Lord of Flies comment.

      • Gabe

        June 11, 2014 01:07 PM

        I’m not sure about the legality of it, but one weekend I made a pot of gravy for a breakfast that never materialized. I was on day four of leftovers and had to do something to change it up. Enter the hot sauce. I liked the way it added some zing. Based off a Crab chowder recipe I went with the peppers and everybody loved it. I’ve made it for my mom and dad they thought it was really good (although they have always been supportive). I’m from Southern IN…maybe in the deep south this would get you in trouble???

  2. Dick Ruthven

    June 11, 2014 07:45 PM

    If it smells like a fish, its a dish. if it smells like colone leave it alone.

  3. Oliver

    June 12, 2014 05:10 AM

    Not to be that guy but technically a factoid is “an item of unreliable information that is repeated so often that it becomes accepted as fact” (as per the OED).

    Oh who am I kidding; I love to be that guy.

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