Crash Bag, Vol. 109: The Utley/Halladay Buddy Film

@Dweebowitz: “How *do* they get out of the mess their stripped farm system and grotesquely overpaid geriatric lineup have become?”

I can’t emphasize this enough: there is no easy fix. There is no quick fix. There is no way the Phillies can overhaul the roster and contend next year, and barring some unforeseen run of luck, probably not the year after that.

The answer is time. You can’t build a contender overnight anymore by buying established players, and the Phillies’ greatest resource, money, makes buying established players the course the Phillies are most able to take. But that’s not how things work anymore. Look at any team that’s currently in good playoff position–either they’ve developed their own talent, or used homegrown talent to acquire established talent, or they’ve been particularly good at picking up pieces off the scrap heap, like the A’s.

The good news is that the Phillies aren’t trying to buy their way back into the playoff race anymore. Signings like Byrd and A.J. Burnett might look like that, but they’re not. They’re damage control. Meanwhile, the farm system isn’t stripped anymore–two years ago, the Phillies were sneaking one guy into the back end of top 100 prospect lists, but after two pretty good drafts, they’ve got three no-doubt top 100 prospects in J.P. Crawford, Aaron Nola and Maikel Franco, and several other interesting prospects besides, and whereas two years ago, all the talent in the Phillies’ system was buried in low-A and rookie ball, those kids–Crawford and Franco among them–are slowly climbing the minor league rungs. Of course, the Phillies haven’t had much success converting minor league talent into major league production in the past five years or so, but that’s a different problem.

And let me say this–it’s mystifying to me how many people think the Phillies can turn the direction of the franchise around quickly. I just don’t understand it. And it’s not just Philly.com commenters either, the kind of people who think the team’s biggest problem is Jimmy Rollins doesn’t try hard enough or that the Marlins would trade The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton to the Phillies for “prospects.” Not specific prospects, but “prospects.” Or “prospects and draft picks.” I’m talking about dedicated, informed fans, many of whom remember the 1990s and are aware that most teams don’t make the playoffs most years, and still think the Phillies are some small number of player transactions away from returning to the level of dominance they achieved from 2007-2011. I don’t know how you can take anything approaching a critical view of this franchise, its management and its assets and think that there’s an exit strategy other than letting the fire run its course and letting the forest regrow on its own.

To be honest, I’m staggered more people didn’t see this coming in 2010, but it’s easy to want to let the future take care of itself when things are good. The problem is that when you adopt that approach, you don’t get to be shocked and outraged when the good times don’t last forever. The level of naivete and impatience I’ve encountered makes me wonder how some of you people function as adults. The team is bad. They’re going to be bad for a while, barring an act of God or the next Josh Donaldson walking off the bus in Reading tomorrow. There’s nothing you or I or even Ruben Amaro can do to change that, so sit back and enjoy the crushing hopelessness.

@MichaelJBlock: “In light of Roy Halladay‘s epic Utley love fest, what’s your all time favorite teammate gush moment? “

There’s nothing like a good bromance in baseball. Occasionally you watch two guys on the field and it’s like watching a married couple, either because they’re so desperately in love with each other (Halladay and Carlos Ruiz) or because they flirt outrageously (Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus). Then there’s the Jedi Master/Padawan relationship: Chipper Jones and Freddie Freeman, Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper.

Halladay’s monologue on the virtues of Chase Utley is certainly one of the most earnest examples, but it’s not my favorite. I’d still go with Doc and Chooch.

@bxe1234: “Aren’t you glad Our Savior Darin Ruf is back with the big club?”

Oh, for sure, man. Things can’t get any worse.

@baldimorechop: “Expanding on Grantland article, thoughts on Ruiz to Baltimore? Even worth it?”

I think it’d make sense, for the same reasons Ben laid out in the post: at age 35, Chooch probably isn’t going to be on the next good Phillies team, while the Orioles are in first place and in dire need of a catcher. Matt Wieters isn’t in that Posey/Molina/Lucroy tier of catcher, but he isn’t bad and the Orioles must miss him. Now, Ruiz isn’t the player he used to be, but he’s sure as shit better than Nick Hundley, and the Orioles, stuck in a dogfight for the division, need all the help they can get. And Ruiz would make a credible starting catcher for the Orioles next year if Wieters isn’t ready to start the season.

As to the question of whether it’s worth it, I don’t even know what that means. I don’t think anyone realistically expects a 35-year-old catcher on a multi-year contract to be enough for the Orioles to give up Hunter Harvey, but with a player like Ruiz, you’re hoping to get one or two interesting young players and hit the lottery. When the Mets traded Marlon Byrd to Pittsburgh last year, they got Dilson Herrera and Vic Black, both of whom turned out to be legitimate prospects. If the Phillies traded Ruiz and ended up with that, you’d have to call that a huge win. Then again, they could end up with two guys who never make it out of A-ball, and nobody’s going to be able to tell the difference until 18 months after the trade.

@tholzerman: “Team Pie, Team Cake, or Team Diabetes?”

Gun to my head, I’d have to go with Team Pie. Even ignoring meat-based pies, there’s such great variety in pie. The arresting piquancy of key lime pie, the smooth sweetness of Boston cream, the simple, rich spiciness of pumpkin pie…I don’t know that the best pie in the world is better than the best cake in the world, but the variety gives pie the edge.

@TheGreyKing: “If you had to move one current team to its former city completely in tact, which would you move?”

The Nationals, and not because I’m trying to get on Jonah Keri’s good side. I’d love to see a second team in Canada, to say nothing of making MLB an officially multilingual league again. Either them or the A’s, because they’d make a pretty good contrast with the Phillies.

@Rarmstrong7777: “As Ryan Howard comes up in the bottom of the 11th with runners on…is there anyone on the team you want less in this spot?”

Cameron Rupp.

No, seriously, there does seem to be some sort of fatalistic unclutchness surrounding Howard nowadays, though if there’s a righty on the mound, there probably are worse alternatives. (Though he’s actually hit slightly better against lefties than righties this year, which is amusing, if not particularly significant.) The only thing left is for Howard’s SLG to dip below Ben Revere‘s, and we’re only 20-odd points away from that happening.

I just feel bad for the guy anymore.

@RyanGinnBSB: “Steve Spurrier, Phillies manager. Best and worst things to come from that?”

“Welp, I guess there’s not much you can do when your 3-4-5 hitters go a combined 1-for-15.”

“How’s Dom Brown doing? Welp, he’s been pretty awful recently, but we’re going to keep playing him because we ain’t got anyone better coming up.”

“Welp, the good news is that since we’re missing the playoffs, I’ll be able to play 18 holes at Merion before it gets too cold.”

“No, that wasn’t me doing doughnuts in the Phanatic’s golf cart. I don’t know where y’all get this stuff.”

“Welp, since you’re asking me, I guess I’d describe Matt Williams as more of an ACC-caliber manager.”

Lightning round time!

@SFGGothamClub: “Who’ll be dealt to alleviate OF crowd?”

Marlon Byrd. He’s got the most value.

“If Byrd will Size/Revere share in CF continue?”

Byrd hasn’t played center all year. I imagine the center field situation will remain as it is.

“Will Dom’s leash shorten?”

If they deal a corner guy, I imagine Brown’s leash will get longer.

“Chance 2 OFs go?”

Non-trivial. Byrd is probably the most likely player to be traded, but someone else could be released, or a player like John Mayberry could be traded as well.

@Ut26: “Roy Halladay and Chase Utley star in a buddy film, what’s the title, basic plot, and number of Oscars won?”

Cue music.

(Chase Utley, wearing a police uniform, walks up to a tree in a public park, sees a drunken Shane Victorino sitting in the branches.)

Utley: Come on, Shane, you gotta get down. I’ve got people complaining about the noise, and besides, you’re gonna hurt yourself.

Victorino: Boo.

Utley: Boo? Fuck you.

Narrator: Chase was a small-town sheriff. 

Utley: I’m getting the feeling this town is a closed system. Like nothing ever comes or goes, it just is.

Narrator: Whose world was about to get turned upside-down.

(Airplane barrel-rolls over a cornfield, then corkscrews down for a landing in a field. Utley shows up in his police car and jumps out to confront the pilot. Roy Halladay leaps out of the plane.)

Halladay: Good morning! I’m Roy Halladay, I’m the new airmail pilot.

Utley: This isn’t what I had in mind.

Halladay: I’ve seen some weird places in my time, but I’ve never actually been to a town that hasn’t changed since the 1800s.

Utley: Listen, we’re not some big city like Anchorage or anything, but we do okay for ourselves.

Halladay: When it snows here, do you guys eat each other?

Utley: What?

Halladay: You know, like in the Donner Party?

Utley: I know what the Donner Party is.

Halladay: Because I might look into a different route this winter.

Utley: Shut up.

Narrator: But sometimes, things don’t turn out like you’d expect.

(Utley is standing in front of a farmhouse. Cole Hamels, dressed as a farmer, is leaning against the porch.)

Hamels: Just happened out of the blue. My goats have never run off before.

Utley: You think someone stole them?

Hamels: I do. But how do you search the wilderness here? It’s a big wilderness.

Utley: That’s the problem. Unless…

(Halladay and Utley slo-mo-walk out to Halladay’s mail plane. Cut to cockpit in mid-flight)

Halladay: How long are we going to stay up here?

Utley: As long as we have to to find those goats.

Halladay: I was hoping you’d say that.

Narrator: And friendship blooms in unexpected places.

(Halladay and Utley, having found the goats, are at the town’s bar for a party thrown in their honor.)

Utley: What gets you up in the morning to deliver the mail?

Halladay: It’s what I’ve got to do. You’ve got to do whatever needs to be done.

Utley: I admire that about you.

Halladay: You know what I admire about you? Your grit. Your toughness. Your leadership. You keep this town together.

Utley: Yeah, but you made this town better

(Fin.)

That was the trailer for Mail Bonding, an upcoming film about Roy Halladay and Chase Utley, directed by Richard Linklater, and it will win all the Oscars.

That’s all for the Crash Bag. No Crash Bag next week, as I’ll be at the SABR conference in Houston and will therefore have died of being sweaty.

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