Crash Bag, Vol. 1: Crash Bag 2.0

We find ourselves at the end of an era. As Jimmy Rollins trades in his beautiful red Phillies pinstripes for plain old Dodger blue, our very own Michael Baumann (officially) ends his tenure as your beloved Crash Bag curator. Like Rollins, Baumann was remarkably consistent, at one point boasting 99 consecutive weeks of Crash Baggery. And just as Jimmy was the best Phillies shortstop of all time, Baumann was the best Crash Bag…Guy…in Crashburn Alley history. So what if he was also the only one, and thus the best by default! The point is, I’m honored to take over as your NEW Crash Bag guy. Anyway, I hope I can be more J.P. Crawford than Freddy Galvis, but there’s a long way to go before we find out (and hopefully, being J.P. Crawford turns out to be a good thing). Remember to use the hashtag #crashbag on the twitters. Let’s get to the questions.

Rollins is gone. It’s been almost two weeks since the news broke, but still, those words are tough to read. He was the man. He’s one of three players in baseball history with 400 steals, 200 homers, and 100 triples. The other two guys are Johnny Damon and Paul Molitor. By the time he retires, Rollins will likely be the only player EVER with 500 steals, 250 homers, and 100 triples. His departure leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the infield, at the top of the lineup, and in our hearts. Sniff.

There’s been an outpouring of feelings on this site and our twitter accounts, so I’ll spare you any more nostalgia. But I do want to point out (as I did on twitter) that, whether we realize it or not, or want to acknowledge it or not, there is an undercurrent of racism in singling out players of color for “not hustling” or “putting themselves before the team” while simultaneously praising white players for being “gamers” or for “playing the game the right way.” I won’t get into it any more, but if you want to do some deep diving on this, check out the Atlantic article that Bill posted last week.

Without a doubt, I think the answer is Domonic Brown. Is there a Phillies player with a bigger target on his back? At this point, we just accept Ryan Howard and know he will probably not be remarkable. But there’s a ton of pent-up frustration with Dom after his atrocious performance in 2014, and I feel like he’s going to get an earful from the fans, especially if he struggles early in the season. I still believe in Dom, but this is his last shot.

Gee, thanks Brad. I’m glad I don’t actually have to watch either guy next year. Both had some great moments in Philadelphia, and both left town after bad final seasons. No hard feelings toward either player, but I’m just ready for a different team in 2015. There will of course be many familiar faces, but there will be no John Mayberry, Jr. or Kyle Kendrick, no A.J. Burnett, Antonio Bastardo, or Roberto Hernandez, AND NO JIMMY ROLLINS. By Spring Training, there may be no Marlon Byrd either. The Phillies are going to be a very bad team, but at least it’ll be a different bad team than last year.

If I absolutely had to choose though, I’d go with Kendrick. Why? One, I need to get back on Corinne’s good side. Two, maybe the Phillies can just stipulate in the new contract that he has to be “the good Kendrick” instead of “one of the five or ten worst pitchers in the league.” Three, Mayberry’s skill set has been easily replaced. Four, sometimes innings are just innings, and in 2015 there’s going to be about 1,458 innings or so of mostly bad baseball. The Phillies might as well have enough arms to pitch those innings. Again, this is if I had to choose.

Mayberry staying in the division (if you missed it, he signed with the Mets) fascinates me. I imagine he’ll continue his decline, which I outlined in my 2014 report card. Will he get vociferously booed in Philadelphia while he plays out the back half of his career, or will we just not care enough to expend the energy? Perhaps in place of apathy, we can simply nod knowingly in solidarity with our tortured Mets fan brethren.

I actually stopped listening to drive-time sports talk a year or so ago in favor of NPR (and luckily for me, I’m blessed with KCRW). But, in the wake of the bombshell that Jimmy Rollins would be traded to the Dodgers, in a desperate search for any additional information, I did listen to sports talk on my drive home that Wednesday night. And it was excruciating.

Like local sports radio anywhere, the LA stuff is super homery. Any move that doesn’t grossly favor the home team is met with loud skepticism. To me, if I have to listen, that’s entertaining. On the night the Rollins trade was first announced, Max and Marcellus thought an appropriate trade for Hamels would be Hyun-jin Ryu. Like, straight up. I surmise that a real trade, one that actually benefits the Phillies, would make their world come crashing down.

Cliff Lee is a total mystery right now. He could be a 5-win player, or he could blow out his elbow and never pitch for the Phillies again. So much has to break right for Lee to have a successful season – after all, he’s 36 years old – but it would make the Phillies much more bearable if he pitches well. Watching Hamels and Lee a few times a week, feeling the world slowly heat up a little, maybe enjoying a nice rookie season from Maikel Franco and one more good start from Chase Utley … well, it wouldn’t be the worst way to pass the time until Aaron Nola is called up.

But the memory of Halladay’s shocking, accelerated descent is still fresh. There’s a nonzero chance that we’ve seen Cliff Lee pitch his last inning as the puckish, nonchalant, strikethrowing machine we loved so much. If he manages to start 30 games this year and finish as a top-50 starter, we should feel lucky. If he doesn’t, we’ll be seeing a lot more of David Buchanan or Jerome Williams or whoever. Perhaps it’s offseason optimism talking, but I don’t think this is a Halladay situation. That would be too cruel. Not even Philadelphia fans could take that punishment.

I wrote about this back in July when Jeff Samardzija was traded to the A’s, and in the past several months we’ve seen a BUNCH more package trades involving veteran players. The Phillies would certainly benefit from such a deal to unload veteran players, but they would probably have to take one (or more) vets back. The prime candidates to be shipped out are Jonathan Papelbon, Marlon Byrd, and Ryan Howard (Chase Utley doesn’t want to leave).There were rumors that the Phillies offered Byrd and Howard to Baltimore, so it seems like they’re trying. I’d relieve Baltimore of Ubaldo Jimenez if they took Ryan Howard, Marlon Byrd, and $21 million (the money to cover the difference between Howard’s $60 million through 2016 and Jimenez’s $39 million through 2017). Innings are innings, and Jimenez was nonawful in 2013, and moving to the easier league can’t hurt. In this scenario, it’s not unreasonable for the Phillies to ask Baltimore for a prospect in the 10-20 range, perhaps one of David Hess, Stephen Tarpley, Oliver Drake, Tyler Wilson, Mike Wright, Steve Brault, or Parker Bridwell. Baltimore badly needs a productive corner outfielder, so this trade isn’t so crazy. Both teams get rid of a toxic contract, the Orioles get Byrd, and the Phillies (only if they send the cash for Howard) get a minor league arm, of which Baltimore has enough to spare. It’s a little bit of shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic, but it would open up two spots for young(er) players to show what they can do, and extra pitching depth is always a plus.

The Tigers still don’t have a good bullpen, still seem like they’re going for it, and still seem like the ideal landing spot for Jonathan Papelbon. Maybe after all this time, if it hasn’t happened already, it won’t happen ever. But there isn’t a more logical destination for his services. If simply clearing his $13 million salary from the payroll isn’t motivation enough to like that deal, just imagine the ninth inning being the sole province of 100 Miles Giles.

* Googles Brandon Leibrandt. * Ah yes, Brandon Leibrandt. This could go in a lot of different directions. What does this question really mean?

1. Do we ever see him pitch as in, will he get hurt and never make it to the majors?
Damn it man, I’m a doctor, not a psychic. Wait, I’m not a doctor. Right. Stuff happens, especially if you’re a Phillies pitching prospect. Just ask Jason Knapp, Adam Morgan, Ethan Martin, Jonathan Pettibone, or Jesse Biddle.

2. Will he not progress and just end up an organizational depth guy?
This brings up perhaps the most important rule of prospects: they’re just prospects. There are plenty of smart scouts and analysts out there, and the amount of data and the methods to analyze it are always improving. But projections aside, it takes years before we really find out. So, maybe?

3. Do we want to see him pitch? Well, for those of us who are old enough to remember his DAD pitching, maybe not. Thanks for the reminder that death is one day closer, Tom.

4. Does he get traded like so many Phillies prospects before him?
Who knows, right? That’s the real reason I took this question. Although the Phillies have traded many of their young players over the last five years or so, that train stopped rolling. The team has finally dug in for a full rebuild, and Ruben Amaro, Jr. and Pat Gillick have made several positive moves in the past year. The Roberto Hernandez, Antonio Bastardo, and Jimmy Rollins trades have all been steps in the right direction. Given the recent trend, I think it’s more likely than not that Leibrandt will stay in-house for a while. It’s also more fun this way, because if the on-field MLB product is going to produce 70 to 75 wins and is going to be a chore to watch on most days, then we can at least distract ourselves with projecting all the minor league players.

That’s all the time we have today, friends. See you next week.

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31 comments

  1. Tony

    December 22, 2014 05:56 PM

    Jimmy is one if my all time favorite Phillies. He was extremely durable and if he was helped to accomplish that by occasionally jogging on a sure out, then that was ok by me. But to suggest that the only reason fans noticed that was because he was black is ludicrous. Fans noticed it BECAUSE HE DID IT.

    Writers like you throwing out nonsense like that is contributing to the current prevalence of race insanity in the US.

    • DMo

      December 23, 2014 12:47 AM

      I feel like Jimmy was a bit unlucky. I never like to see players jog down the first base line, but it’s certainly not as if Jimmy’s the only one who’s done it. But I think there have been at least a couple occasions where his lack of hustle actually led to a missed opportunity (opposing team dropped a pop-up or misplayed a ball). The result is that people criticized Jimmy for those instances far more than they would have if the routine plays had been made on defense. Is it fair that he gets extra criticism for doing what plenty of other players do? No. But I also don’t think it’s fair to say he’s been singled out on account of his race.

      • Romus

        December 23, 2014 09:33 AM

        Ironically, in the discussion, you would have someone like Pete Rose.
        We all know what he did on the field as for the ‘hustle’ thing.
        But off the field he could be nasty and testy or snarky with the best during his playing days. Sometimes just a bit miserable.
        JRoll is just the opposite….nicest guy you will ever meet off the field.
        I hope to be at the ‘Bank’ on August 4th for his return and give him a standing o.

      • Adam Dembowitz

        December 23, 2014 02:22 PM

        It was an embedded youtube video of The Dude saying “that’s just like, your opinion, man” but I guess something got messed up with the video. It was up last night though!

      • Romus

        December 23, 2014 03:28 PM

        Great guy flick.
        ‘DONNY, WTF, BUTT OUT, YOU ARE NOT PART OF THIS CONVERSATION’…….Walter (Goodman) to Donny (Buscemi)

      • glovesdroppa

        December 28, 2014 10:52 PM

        Suggestion for the next crash bag:
        Marlon Byrd and Cliff Lee (unless he pitches 200 innings) will be free agents after this season. This will free up over $30+mil in salary. Ryan Howard and Chooch will free up another $30+mil in ’16.
        While the team is in rebuild-mode, what are the chances the Phils use a decent portion of this money on free agents? Assuming there will be dwindling ticket-sales, will management pull in the reins on spending this money or are we in the class of LA, NY, Bos franchises that will spend money each year regardless?

    • Boston Phan

      December 23, 2014 11:02 AM

      I think you are overreacting. All the author said is that there is an undercurrent of racism in the way players are talked about and then he referred to an article which takes a step towards trying to quantify that undercurrent.

      Rollins was not the only Phillies player to jog on sure outs, but he has caught much more heat for it than other Phils players. Maybe it is due to his prominence as a Phillie, or perhaps his longevity with the team. However, given that different labels and characteristics are attributed to people of color in general, I do not think it is nonsense to expect that to occur in baseball as well.

      • eddie

        December 23, 2014 11:43 AM

        Except that the research specifically found that there was NOT any such undercurrent toward african-american players like Jimmy, and had to stretch their definitions and use some questionable methodology to find a pretty slight bias against Latinos.

        “Racism” is not a small accusation, and ought not be based on such a weak foundation.

      • Scott G

        December 23, 2014 01:21 PM

        I think it’s ridiculous to get mad at any player for jogging on sure outs. Especially, an aging player with a history of ankle/calf injuries. Rollins has a ton of steals, and triples that suggest he isn’t lazy. Who cares if he doesn’t sprint to first on a routine grounder to the pitcher or second baseman.

        Maybe there is a racial undercurrent, but maybe it has something to do with his being in the leadoff spot, and a large part of his game being his speed. When people see a fast guy not trying to be fast, maybe they overreact because of that.

    • Adam Dembowitz

      December 23, 2014 02:20 PM

      You’re right, “race insanity” isn’t because of racists, it’s because I am shining a light on racist thought, speech, and actions.

      I do appreciate being called a writer, though.

  2. Shane

    December 23, 2014 09:39 AM

    Speaking about prospects. A few years ago, I ran across an article that quoted a study that was done on MLB Draftees and what eventually happened to them between 1987 and 2001. While the link I saved does not work, I did capture some of the stats from the article.

    There appears to be a correlation between draft round and success in the Majors.
    For example, a first round pick has a 40% chance to at least hold a “starting/everyday” job for a few years.
    Second rounders come in at 20%, 3rd round at 13%, 4th at 8%, 5th at 12%, 6th at 10%, 7th at 6%, 8th at 6%, 9th at 7%, and 10th at 5%.
    When graphed, it closely resembles: f(x)=1/x
    Looking at those numbers and the curve, I did a trend line in excel, and I can argue that there are 4 levels of prospects.
    1) 1st Rounders with a 40% chance of making it as a Starter.
    2) 2nd Rounders with a 20% chance
    3) 3rd Rounders with a 15% chance
    4) Everyone else with about an 8% chance

    Seeing that Leibrandt was a 6th round pick, he’s in category #4. The 6th round numbers from the study give him a 70% chance of never making it out of the minors. Not even as a bench player/bullpen depth.

    • Romus

      December 23, 2014 09:47 AM

      Steve……….good information.
      Will save that.
      Phillies were lucky with Howard and Rollins being non-first round picks and the production and output they received from them.

    • Romus

      December 23, 2014 09:50 AM

      Sorry…my bad. .Shane

  3. eddie

    December 23, 2014 11:34 AM

    I’m sorry, but that Atlantic article is pretty deeply flawed. It includes things like “impatient” and “overaggresive” as racially-coded pejoratives … well the objective reality is that hitters from the Caribbean are less patient at the dish. There are perfectly logical reasons for why they develop that approach — “you can’t walk off the island” is a cliche for a reason — but it’s clearly a real thing.

    Dismissing the possibility that Pujols fibbed about his age because he’s since acquired US citezenship is laughable … frankly, the last few years should make us wonder even more if Pujols is really his claimed age.

    The whole thing reads like motivated reasoning. The researchers were confident they’d find discrimination, and then stacked the dect to make sure the evidence would fit.

    • Bill Baer

      December 23, 2014 12:02 PM

      White guys will pretty much do anything as long as they don’t have to admit that other people suffer from racism or sexism.

      • ITM

        December 23, 2014 01:34 PM

        Says the guilt-ridden, self-loathing white guy.

        Let me throw this out there…could it be that more black/Latino players are tagged with the “lazy” or “dogging it” adjectives, because objectively they are the players who more often play the game in that fashion? Not all, but at a much higher percentage than caucasians. And to say otherwise to me is simply ignoring the obvious in order to avoid being labeled a racist.

        By the way, on the field and off, I am a Jimmy Rollins fan. I was a Pete Rose fan, but on the field only. Separate the art from the artist.

      • Ryan Sommers

        December 23, 2014 02:14 PM

        I don’t see how it’s “obvious” at all. It’s just something every dude with a regional column likes to say.

      • eddie

        December 23, 2014 03:32 PM

        “White guys will pretty much do anything as long as they don’t have to admit that other people suffer from racism or sexism.”

        Oh, horseshit. Acknowledging that racism and sexism exist doesn’t entail lockstep agreement with every single claim of racism and sexism. I have no problem simultaneously agreeing that disparate treatment of the otherwise highly similar Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker suggested elements of racism, agreeing that some criticism of Jimmy Rollins carries of whiff of racism to it, and believing that a study that calls it racist to recognize the objective fact of lower walk rates is horseshit.

        It’s my observation that SOME white guys are eager to deny the reality of racism and sexism … it’s also my observation that others are eager to find it everywhere so that they can paint themselves as more enlightened or “in solidarity with the oppressed”or whatever.

      • Phil Ease

        December 23, 2014 10:22 PM

        Ironically, stereotyping all “white guys” is racist.

      • tom b

        December 24, 2014 10:32 AM

        i’m the first to say just as many whites suck as other races but your guys self serving comments are rather trite. as far as the point on rollins have any of you looked at his baserunning stats. seems if you throw out the steals,which is a stat he cares about, the rest of his baeserunning has been pretty mediocre for someone with his speed. maybe if you busted from 1st to 3rd instead of strolling you would be thought of as a hustler. but then those aren’t stats he would worry about. no team record to break

      • Phil Ease

        December 24, 2014 05:47 PM

        @Bill

        My understanding of the meaning of racism is several-fold, inter alia: (1) hostility to persons of other races on account of their race status, (2) feeling superior to persons of other races on account of their race status, and (3) making race-based stereotypes.

        Your comment violates #3. I take it that you’ve encountered racists who are blind to their own racism. But, painting others’ motivations based on their race is as racist as making a disparaging stereotype about someone of another race.

      • Bill Baer

        December 24, 2014 11:01 PM

        Racism is structural. In most of the industrialized world, white people cannot experience racism because white people have power, much in the same way that cis men cannot experience sexism because cis men have power. Put another way, racism is prejudice plus power.

        What you described is simply prejudice.

        That black people are targeted by law enforcement at disproportionate rates compared to white people is an example of institutional racism. A white person being targeted by a black cop due to his skin color would not be experiencing racism.

        Here’s a thorough explanation: everydayfeminism.com/2013/08/racist-against-white-people/

      • Phil Ease

        December 25, 2014 06:16 AM

        @Bill

        Merriam Webster definition #2 of racism: “racial prejudice or discrimination.” The notion that blacks (or members of any other group) cannot be racist toward whites on account of lacking institutional power is wrong. Members of all races can exhibit racial prejudice or discrimination toward members of other races (or their own race).

      • Bill Baer

        December 25, 2014 09:08 AM

        Sociologists have been attempting to have the dictionary definition amended for decades. It’s vague and incomplete.

        For instance, in the textbook, Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (Adams, Bell, Griffin), they define racism as, “The systematic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites). This subordination is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms and values, and the institutional structures and practices in society.” ( pp. 88–89)

        In Understanding Race, Ethnicity and Power: The Key to Efficacy on Clinical Practice, Elaine Pinderhughes addresses the confusion you and others feel about this sociological definition: “Acceptance of this fact can constitute a peculiarly painful moment in the struggle to understand. A psychiatric resident protested, “If that’s true then there is real inequality in this group. You ( people of color) can point a finger and say “racist” and we can’t, and that’s not fair. The sense of injury that Whites feel stems [in part] from recognition of themselves as trapped in the systemic process of racism, which benefits them and exploits people-of-color.” (Pinderhughes, 1989, p. 90)

        And here’s a great excerpt from Beverly Daniel Tatum: Link

      • Phil Ease

        December 25, 2014 11:54 AM

        @Bill

        We’ll have to agree to disagree. While systemic racism surely exists, racism starts with individual attitudes and behavior. Only when enough individual racists work together does organized racism occur. The opposite of racism is a lack of prejudice and an absence of discrimination: we need to take each individual we meet as a unique person and not part of some stereotype.

        I’d have no problem incorporating your sociologists’ definitions into the dictionary, but it would a less good idea to remove the existing definitions.

        If you want the last word on this topic, be my guest. I feel we’ve adequately debated the issue on the merits.

      • Bill Baer

        December 25, 2014 12:08 PM

        I think we’re more in agreement than it seems; this has simply become a matter of semantics. However, I think it’s a semantic argument worth having because it helps shape our perception of the way others live.

  4. Shawn

    December 25, 2014 08:13 AM

    I’m still trying to figure out why race was even brought into the conversation. When I originally read the question, I didn’t even think about Jimmy’s race and probably wouldn’t have if you never wrote anything about it.

    Other than that, I enjoyed the column.

  5. Oliver

    January 02, 2015 06:23 PM

    Welcome to the crash bag!

    As a fellow socal person I have to ask, kcrw or kpcc?

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