Crash Bag, Vol. 6: Hot Stove with Gravy
Happy Thanksgiving! This is my favorite holiday of the year. There’s no agenda other than to eat an enormous, irresponsible quantity of amazing food, do no work, and spend time with friends and family. No gifts, no praying, nothing … except an awful, murderous backstory that’s really convenient to tuck away for the sake of celebrating and giving thanks. So without further ado, let us commence the Thanksgiving Crash Bag.
This topic almost made it into the last Bag, but I felt it deserved a lot of room to breathe.
— Llcooolg (@g_linwood) November 13, 2015
Following and writing about this team have proven to be a significant challenge for me over the last several years. The developments of the past two years have alleviated some of the difficulty, while simultaneously creating an additional problem: in being positive and hopeful about the Phillies’ rebuild, I’ve sometimes found myself unconsciously Trusting the Process. Unquestionably, the Phillies are not ready to contend in 2016. But I’ve said repeatedly that, assuming the development of the prospect core of Maikel Franco, J.P. Crawford, Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Nick Williams, and Jake Thompson, the Phillies will be an interesting fringe playoff team in 2017. That’s not really a Hot Take, but it does shave a year off the traditional rebuild narrative. Of course, I believe in the young players the Phillies have diligently assembled, thanks in large part to former GM Ruben Amaro, Jr., but more importantly, I believe in the organization’s commitment to winning. There’s nothing we can do to get 2011 or 2012 back, and the “failure” of winning “only” one championship is hardly an indication of what Middleton & Co. have in mind for the Phillies moving forward. With a still-fantastic stadium, a new television contract in one of the 10 largest U.S. media markets, and enormous payroll flexibility for both 2016 and beyond, the Phillies are as financially healthy as any non-Dodger team in the sport.
So they should spend that money. Spending it on a seven-year deal for a 30something pitcher does not seem to be the wise move for the team — not this winter, anyway — and is probably not attractive to players of that description who want big money and immediate playoff appearances. However, the rare opportunity to sign a 26-year-old outfielder in free agency is not one to take lightly. Jason Heyward has already established himself as the most complete right fielder in baseball, and though his development hasn’t progressed as originally projected, he’s still not fully formed as a player. He has 20+ homer power, has stolen 20+ bases three times in six years, has a .353 OBP for his career (in 3,429 plate appearances already!), and has three gold gloves. Heyward is a Bobby Abreu in the making. If that doesn’t warm your cold little heart, you probably booed Bobby Abreu. Jason Heyward is not a typical free agent. His skills, youth, and experience, and the potential for him to get even better, add up to make him the most valuable player available right now. It might take a 10-year, $250 million contract to land him. Would you pull the trigger?
There’s plenty of examples you could bring up to be a wet blanket, if you wanted: Albert Pujols, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez (twice!), Prince Fielder, Joe Mauer, Matt Kemp, Derek Jeter, Todd Helton, Carl Crawford, Alfonso Soriano, Shin-Soo Choo, and Jayson Werth. And yes, on a smaller scale, Ryan Howard. Here’s my counterpoint: Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, Odubel Herrera, Roman Quinn, Dylan Cozens, and Cornelius Randolph. I’m excited about all of those players as much as anyone else, but if even one of them becomes as good as Jason Heyward is now, it’ll be a coup for the Phillies. If any of them become as good as we hope, it’ll be a nice problem to have. Of course, none of them can develop properly without playing time and space to grow. But the science lab era of the Phillies is going to end sooner than later, and there’s no doubt that the Phillies’ two biggest needs are quality outfielders and starting pitchers. The team has very little money on the books for 2016, and even less for 2017. I’m not saying they should spend money just to spend money. I’m saying they should spend big money on arguably the best rightfielder in baseball, who has yet to hit his prime and who can be the leader of the next Phillies world championship team.
One of the first things I tried to figure out after reading this question was what to do with the turkey. Where’s the turkey, Matt? I made an executive decision, and it’s the pitching staff. It’s the star attraction, and like it or not, all eyes are on the turkey in the center of the table. So it only makes sense that if the pitchers are turkey, the stuffing is the player that spends the most time inside the pitcher’s … head.
C – Stuffing. Solid, reliable, and the backbone of a respectable Thanksgiving dinner. Now, there’s many kinds of stuffing, and not every one of them can be a wild mushroom and rosemary sourdough conversation starter like Buster Posey. But even Stouffer’s stove top is comforting, like watching Carlos Ruiz creak through one more year in the sun.
1B – Mashed Potatoes and Gravy. Big and immobile, but they can pack a lot of punch. With the right approach, they can be the star side dish. On the other hand, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you end up with dry, flavorless garbage that can’t even get on base 30% of the time.
2B – Brussels Sprouts. What’s bad about roasted brussels sprouts? Have you seasoned them properly? Have you actually tried to construct a side dish squad with a legit Brussels sprouts? Have you — and I don’t eat it but I know it’s amazing — hit it with bacon? It’s got 20/20 and a gold glove without even trying.
3B – Greens. Collard greens, kale, chard, whatever, just give me something leafy and green and hearty. Pack it with garlic and lemon and onion, and would it kill you to hit 20 homers? It really ties everything together when you have a legit pop of green at the hot corner.
SS – Cranberry Sauce/Relish. Punchy, energetic, and bursting with the flavor you desperately need to cut through the heaviness of the meal. There’s no such thing as Thanksgiving without some citrusy, tangy cranberry.
LF – Mac and Cheese. I don’t eat it on Thanksgiving, but I know a lot of you do. If executed properly, maybe with a baked approach, it has the potential to be one of the most prominent flavors in this lineup. Unfortunately, there’s an innumerable amount of flat, meh macaroni and cheese dishes out there. I don’t place less value on any other position.
CF – Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows. Yeah, I said it. This flavor explosion will leave you begging for more. You get the starchy mouthfeel you want, and then BOOM! You get popped with sweet pineapple, and roasted marshmallows to finish it off. It’s a star.
RF – Creamy Butternut Squash/Pumpkin/Sweet Potato/Cauliflower Soup. Pick whatever flavor you want, but if you don’t have a good one, you’re just lacking something celebrating the season. It doesn’t have to be heavy, either. It just has to have caramelized onion in the base and be made with the flavor that reminds you of the best time of year.
Bench – Biscuits, Rolls, and Cornbread. You sorta need them, I guess, but I’m not touching this plate with all the other stuff on the table.
Manager – Green bean casserole, which just celebrated its 60th birthday. It’s old, and everyone has an opinion about it, even if they’ve never given it a try.
That’s it. Go try to enjoy your family. Happy Thanksgiving!