Crash Bag, Vol. 111: Lists and Counterfactuals
Oh, God, I’ve done 111 of these. What have I done with my life?
@benafflaco: “Robin Williams was the first celebrity’s death that actually caused me sadness. I haven’t experienced this with an athlete. My question is, who of current or recent Phillies, is going to cause all teh tears, when he croaks, for our generation?”
I think we’ve experienced that with Harry Kalas. One of the first open-a-vein big feelings sports columns I ever wrote was a column for my college newspaper mourning Harry Kalas. That really was like a death in the family, probably because if you were born in the Delaware Valley between 1975 and 2000, odds are Harry Kalas is your father anyway. But that whole Kalas/Ashburn/Musser crew was like the surrogate uncle to a generation of Phillies fans, and while there have been beloved Phillies players in recent years, it’s tough to imagine any of them meriting that kind of reaction. I mean, Harry was the voice of the Phillies for multiple generations and was beloved almost universally in a way that’s hard for any player to match. There is nothing anyone can say that will convince me that the Tom McCarthy hate is rooted in a frustration that he’s not Harry Kalas. You could’ve brought Red Barber over and Phillies fans would’ve hated him.
But back to the original question: I think Roy Halladay is at that point, and Chase Utley as well. If Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins and Cliff Lee aren’t there yet, they’re close. The good news is that I’m pretty sure all of them will outlive me and I’ll never have to deal with it.
@JeromeSzpila: “Create the most entertaining lineup of current MLB players. Could be based on talent, antics, personality, etc.”
As it happens, this is a topic I’ve tackled on multiple occasions, but when I wrote about it on Grantland, I mostly focused on on-field attributes only. Add personality and some of the answers change, I imagine.
- Catcher: Derek Norris
- First base: Joey Votto
- Second base: Jose Altuve
- Third base: Alex Rodriguez (You said “entertaining,” not “likeable” or “admirable.”)
- Shortstop: Andrelton Simmons (Change this to Elvis Andrus if you can tag-team him with Adrian Beltre)
- Left field: Bryce Harper
- Center field: Jackie Bradley
- Right field: Yasiel Puig
- Starting pitcher: Brandon McCarthy
- Relief pitcher: Sean Doolittle
@ryne_jones: “field a starting 9 who you would want to see do (or attempt) a backflip a la Jarrod Dyson last night”
Building lots of teams. Let’s get a mix of players who I think could pull off some gymnastic moves and a few players who’d be fun to watch fail.
- Catcher: Jose Molina
- First base: Prince Fielder
- Second base: Jose Altuve (I’m pretty sure he’s just the most entertaining everything)
- Third base: Brett Lawrie
- Shortstop: Jean Segura
- Left field: Marc Krauss
- Center field: Mike Trout
- Right field: Jayson Werth
- Pitcher: Chris Young
@gberry523: “why is Ruben Amaro so bad at the 100,000 Pyramid?”
I don’t have an answer. The only reason I’ve included this question so I can link to Zoo With Roy’s recurring Ruben Amaro Plays the $150,000,000 Pyramid, which is the only recurring post series about the Phillies that’s funnier than the Crash Bag.
@AstrosCounty: “what did the sweep of the Astros do for you Phillies fans?”
The only one of those games I watched a significant part of was the 15-inning game, which was a blast, because I love weird baseball. It was fun, but a three-game sweep of another bad team only does so much for morale.
The Astros series before that, however, against the Blue Jays, was magnificent. I made my first trip to Minute Maid Park–first trip to Texas, actually–as part of the SABR conference, and loved it. Architecturally, Minute Maid was unlike any other stadium I’ve been to, and in a good way. The food was great–I consumed a loaded baked potato filled with brisket at one point–and the Saturday night game was unlike any I’ve ever been to. Even though it ended 8-2, it might have been more fun than the Wilson Valdez Game. A partial inventory of the things I saw:
- R.A. Dickey (as far as I can remember, I’d never seen a knuckleballer in person before)
- Mike Foltynewicz’s major league debut, including him throwing Jose Bautista four straight 99 mph fastballs.
- A Jonathan Singleton inside-the-park home run (my first inside-the-park HR in person)
- Robbie Grossman robbing a home run
- L.J. Hoes going into the stands for a catch
- Jose Altuve scoring from first on two throwing errors
- Chris Carter hitting a home run out of the stadium
- Chris Carter stealing second base
If you watch enough baseball, it starts to get monotonous, like you develop a tolerance for the cool shit that happens. Sometimes it takes a really wild game, viewed in person, with other people who love the game, to appreciate how fun baseball is.
@JakePavorsky: “You’re forced to uproot the Phillies franchise and move them. Where do you put em?”
Do I get to go with them? Because then I’d send them to either Nashville or Montreal and never leave. If I’m worried about the franchise succeeding, the question gets a lot more complicated. I did a little bit of back-of-the-napkin demography for a question last summer about how I’d add/contract/move teams if I were given unlimited power. Anyway, the new markets I tried to move to were Vancouver, Montreal, San Antonio, and Raleigh-Durham. So probably one of those.
@SoMuchForPathos: “What’s the best nickname not currently being used by any North American sports team?”
Related to that question, I also renamed a couple teams:
- Marlins move to Montreal and become the Montreal Voltigeurs
- Rays move to Vancouver and become the Vancouver Olympians
- Expand to 32 teams, including the San Antonio Jackrabbits and the Durham Bulls
- Rename the Cleveland Indians to the Cleveland Spiders
- Rename the Atlanta Braves (on the recommendation, incidentally, of the person who asked this question) to the Fightin’ Oglethorpes of Georgia
I don’t know if this is the best nickname not currently in use or not, but as backlash against the cultural appropriation of Native American mascots grows and grows (and my views have evolved on that as well, I’ll admit), it makes more and more sense for the Indians to rename themselves to the Spiders–it’s a unique nickname that has history with the franchise and can be adapted to either an intimidating or fun, fuzzy family-friendly form. I think that’s up there. I’ve also got a soft spot for nicknames in non-English languages, though with no MLB teams in Mexico or Quebec, we’re short on those.
@shamus_clancy: “What if the A’s never left Philly?”
Well, if they’d stayed and the Phillies had gone to Kansas City back in the 1950s…I don’t know. I can’t bend the temporal arc of the universe that far back in the past. The A’s have been far more successful than the Phillies…well…always, really. But if they’d stayed in Philadelphia and the Phillies had gone west, there’s no reason to believe they’d have remained so, particularly considering how heavily tilted the American League has been toward the Eastern division.
I don’t think a market the size of Philadelphia could support two teams, particularly considering the city’s demographic trends. Philadelphia is about 20 percent larger than it was when the A’s were founded in 1901, but it makes up a much smaller percentage of the national population–the American population as a whole now is more than four times what it was then. In fact, the city’s population is shrinking–only about three quarters as many people live in Philadelphia now than lived there in the 1950s, when the A’s left. Of course, there’s more to whether a city can support a team than the population within the city limits, but that illustrates how things have changed.
You know what’s funny, though? For many of you, we’re better off as Phillies fans than A’s fans, even assuming that everything in each team’s destiny from 1954 until now stayed the same–regular season fortunes, front offices, everything. I was born in 1987–since then, the A’s and Phillies have both won three pennants and one World Series, but all of the Athletics’ World Series trips to the World Series took place before I was old enough to understand baseball. I might have more fun rooting for the A’s now than the Phillies, but I wouldn’t be able to remember my team playing in the World Series.
@Matt_Winkelman: “If given the choice how would you rebuild the farm system; high impact/risk (Cubs), high quantity, lower risk/impact (Astros)?”
An interesting question, because if you asked me which specific team’s farm system I’d choose, I’d choose Chicago’s, though perhaps I’m overrating Kyle Schwarber‘s makeup and plate discipline, as well as Kris Bryant‘s beautiful eyes. But in general, because I’m a pessimist, I’ll take low-risk prospects every single time if the ceiling is anywhere close to being equal. It’s why I’d have drafted Carlos Rodon over Brady Aiken or any high school pitcher. The fewer things that have to go right between now and the player’s trip to the majors, the fewer things can go wrong. I’d probably be a terrible farm director.
@Living4Laughs: “Most enjoyable team to watch this year?”
Ever since I’ve had MLB.tv, I’ve usually watched the Rangers, Orioles and Dodgers the most. The Rangers have been replaced by the A’s this year, for obvious reasons, as well as the Indians, just because they’re on local TV where I live. I think Cleveland’s been pretty fun in spurts, as have the Astros and Brewers.
Through about two months of the season, the easy answer to your question was the Miami Marlins. They’re a young team that played and won a lot of close games, and in Jose Fernandez and The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton, they had both the phenomenal and charismatic starting pitcher and the phenomenal and charismatic position player that you’d want from a “most enjoyable” team. Since Fernandez got hurt and the Marlins have fallen off the pace in the division, things have settled down a little, so as of right now, I’d go with the Dodgers. I’m not the biggest Vin Scully fan, but having a good announcer is a huge check mark for the team’s watchability–I’ll admit to seeing a lot less of the Yankees, Red Sox, Reds and Braves than I should just because I cannot stand their TV broadcast teams. But the Dodgers have two of those great starters, plus Yasiel Puig and Kenley Jansen. Add in the uniforms and the general air of fun the Dodgers seem to have, and I’d choose them as of this moment.
@adamd243: “what’s your offseason plan for the rotation? Assume Hamels & Buchanan and uh…uh…”
Would I assume Buchanan? I’ve been burned by his like before. Hamels for sure. I think Aaron Nola will be given a chance to win a rotation spot in spring training, and even if he doesn’t, I can’t imagine he’s not up before the All-Star break. So that’s three, counting Buchanan. It seems odd not to count on Kyle Kendrick, but he’s going to be a free agent after the season. (I can’t believe he’s making $7.68 million this year, by the way.) Anyway, Kendrick’s been so much more for the Phillies than I’d have expected, but he’s probably going to leave as a free agent. Maybe Cliff Lee doesn’t need surgery and comes back? Even if he does, that’s four starters and we’re already breaking into rookies and quad-A guys.
Personally, I’m on board with just packing it in until the 2007-2011 guys are gone and the meat of the past two draft classes is ready to take over. If that’s the case, I could go after (and I know y’all aren’t going to love this) whoever next year’s Roberto Hernandez is. Certainly not a Jon Lester type unless something unexpected happens.
@TheBigCup: “should baseball bats be on fire during use? cause it would look awesome”
Yes, but only if we cover the balls themselves in some sort of flammable coating. We could have all the fielders wear flame-retardant suits and so on, but you’d probably have to shrink the field some, because those things restrict your freedom of movement. You work on this and I’ll sign off when you’ve got a workable plan.
@uublog: “Okay. Aaron Dessner once compared “Lemonworld” to Melky Cabrera. Give other songs in The National catalog MLB representations.”
He did not. That’s hilarious.
- “Fashion Coat”-Yoenis Cespedes
- “Runaway”-Ben Revere
- “Conversation 16”-Jonathan Lucroy
- “Mistaken for Strangers”-Tim Lincecum
- “Squalor Victoria”-Justin Verlander
- “Fake Empire”-Josh Donaldson
- “90 Mile Water Wall”-The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton
- “Graceless”-Hunter Pence
- “Abel”-Shane Victorino
- “Geese of Beverly Road”-Drew Hutchison
- “Mr. November”-Derek Jeter
- “Slipped”-Jason Heyward
- “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”-Miguel Montero
- “Bloodbuzz Ohio”-Johnny Cueto
@longenhagen: “what celebrity has the most desirable level of fame? I have an opinion on this but am withholding it until you write an answer so I can tell you you’re wrong.”
Thanks, Eric. You’re a real pal. So my ideal level of fame is probably informed by my personality, which is both misanthropic and narcissistic. Put another way, I’d want to fans and photographers coming up to me unsolicited to a minimum, but if I told them my name, they’d recognize me. I don’t want paparazzi at my house or photos of me in a Demetris Summers jersey, slumped over at the bar at 5 p.m. after South Carolina loses to Florida. Then again, I also enjoy people telling me how great I am and how much they enjoy my work, so I don’t want to be completely anonymous. I actually think the level of fame a well-respected, well-known national sportswriter has wouldn’t be too far off the mark from ideal for me, particularly if I had nothing to do with prospects, because prospect writers (sorry Longenhagen) have weird groupies and that’s just something I’m okay remaining on the periphery of.
I actually read a story in Entertainment Weekly in which the writer went out in New Orleans for the night with Chris Pratt and nobody bothered them the entire time, which staggered me. On the rare occasions I see a famous person out in public, I almost never start a conversation. I think I’ve done it once, to Duce Staley, in a shitty frat bar in Columbia, S.C. But if I saw Chris Pratt out on the street, there’s a 100 percent chance I’d go up to him and tell him how much I loved him in Everwood. But if Pratt can get away with that, that’s the level of fame I want, because sportswriters don’t make that movie star money.
@TheBigCup: “should baseball bats be on fire during use? cause it would look awesome”
Yes, but only if we cover the balls themselves in some sort of flammable coating.
Thank you for your continued patronage. See you next week.