Crash Bag, Vol. 4: Hatred, Presidents, and Survivorship

As we all sit around–eyes wide and mouths hanging open with drool making its way on to our nice shirts–watching the current state of discourse in this country what with their alternative facts, obsession with crowd size–which definitely is a metaphor for the same thing hand size was in the primaries–and multi-billion dollar walls, we need a break with talk of things that don’t remotely matter. In that spirit, I bring you the Crash Bag, where the facts are already alternative. Period.

@Matt_Winkelman: Who is your least favorite current Phillie?

In years past, this would be such an easy question to answer that it wouldn’t earn a place in the Crash Bag. Ah, who am I kidding; of course it would appear in the Bag! For the record, for the past three years or so, any answer besides Cody Asche, Jonathan Papelbon (when around), or Darin Ruf would be totally unacceptable.

Those players are all gone, and good riddance for that. There’s a plausible line of thinking that would have it as a positive to have one easily hatable player on a team to serve as a scapegoat or locus for collective anger when things go bad. I buy into this “bigly.” One of the best things about watching Sixers games and following along on Twitter this season is how literally every bad thing can be put on the shoulders of Jahlil Okafor. That certainly makes it easier to endure losing. Just get rid of Okafor–the apparent source of all that sucks–and the Sixers will go undefeated.

On the whole, though, the fewer unlikeable people on one’s favorite team, the better. And the Phillies have done well to rid their major league ranks of obvious objects of hate. As I see it, though, there are three candidates for hatred on this roster.

  • Cesar HernandezHernandez’s blunders on the base paths is frequent enough that it really is frustrating. Perhaps more frustrating is the variety of ways he manages to get out on the base paths. One day he’s sliding past a base; the next, he’s running with contact on a one-out pop-up; the following week, he’s trying to advance one too many bases; I forgot the time the week before that when he was picked off first base.

Working against Hernandez is that he may actually be good at baseball. He hit above league average for the first time in his career (107 OPS+) while playing defense that is well-regarded. All that adds up to a player worth between 3-4 WAR. It’s hard to hate a good player, especially on a team with plenty of bad players.

  • Adam MorganAll things considered, Adam Morgan seems like a fine dude. It’s even reasonable to construe him as likable. After a major shoulder injury and a loss of velocity, Morgan has now thrown nearly 200 major league innings. That’s a good story. If the reason a player is bad is because of an injury completely out of his control, I can’t in good conscience hold that against him.

The problem with Adam Morgan is that he feels too much like a throwback to an era of Kyle Kendricks, David Buchanans, and Tyler Cloyds that I’d prefer to be done with. It’s an irrational hatred–I admit that fully–but I feel negative emotions whenever Morgan takes the mound.

  • Clay BuchholzBuchholz is an easy scapegoat. He’s frequently injured, has a reputation of not fully living up to his potential as one of the top prospects in baseball, and is frustratingly inconsistent. Red Sox fans hated him and their teams have mostly been good for the last decade or so. If Buchholz struggles early in Philly, he’ll be widely seen as “blocking” more prospect-y pitchers and ruining what otherwise figures to be a pretty good rotation. I don’t consider him my least favorite Phillie just yet–Adam Morgan holds the crown for me–but I can see that changing within the next 10 weeks.

@KeithWinder: MLB starting lineup of presidents. No DH.

I realize you said no DH, but Taft is the DH. He’s huge at 6′, 300 lb., so big that legend has it that he got stuck in a bathtub once. He won’t be able to field, but if he gets into one, look out!

SP: Donald Trump. He’s an expert at deception in his use of “crowd size” and “alternative facts” to distract us all from the other meaningful and controversial actions he is taking in the office. He’s also unpredictable, which will make it impossible for hitters to predict what pitch is coming next.

C: Teddy Roosevelt. “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Soft movements are key to catcher framing. I good framer who carried a big stick at the plate is an MVP-caliber player

1B: Franklin Roosevelt. His wheelchair will limit his range, but, as president, he greatly expanded the role and power of government. Power is what we want at 1B.

2B: Richard Nixon. Second base is the island of misfit toys. Nixon, as someone who thought everyone was out to get him, certainly believed he was a misfit in Washington. If you will it, it is no dream.

3B: George W. Bush. We want quick reactions out of the hot corner. Bush was quick in pursuing many of his foreign policy ideas and wasn’t afraid to use power when he thought it was needed.

SS: Thomas Jefferson: He covered a lot of ground with the Louisiana Purchase, which is also indication he would be open to a below-market contract.

LF: Dwight Eisenhower. He allegedly played centerfield in high school, but given that he didn’t make his college team, he’d likely have to be moved off the position.

CF: Abraham Lincoln. I like height in my centerfielders–think Jake Marisnick.

RF: Harry Truman. In right field, we want someone with a strong arm and good power. Truman’s use of the atom bomb on Japan at the end of WWII no only showed he could execute the equivalent of throwing a guy out at third from right field, but it displayed his power potential as well.

@edelman86: Which current Phillie is most likely to #RAISETHECAT

Odubel Herrera. Next question.

@GlennQSpoonerSt: What would stop a team w/low payroll obligations like @phillies from front loading massive contracts to Harper & Machado in 2019?

Well, for one, the Nationals and Orioles could stop this by signing Harper and Machado, respectively, to extensions before they hit free agency in 2019. That’s a big one. But, it’s becoming increasingly unlikely with each passing year that Machado and Harper continue to produce at superstar levels that they would be willing to sign such an extension that would prevent them from cashing in in free agency before their 30th birthdays.

Just brief aside on that: free agency for superstars is perhaps the only part of the entire MLB and MiLB labor situation that works out as a clear win for the players. These two would be wise to take advantage of this and set a high benchmark for agents, players, and the union to use in future negotiations with cash-flooded teams.

The other thing preventing the Phillies, specifically, from signing these guys is the fact that other big market, low payroll teams will be in competition. The Yankees don’t look like they’ll have large payroll obligations and they can always get in the way of the Phillies signing a player of Harper or Machado’s quality.

Lastly, the Nationals have made relatively clear over the last decade or so that they don’t have a problem spending money on players they like–Werth, Scherzer, Strasburg–so they will be players in the Harper sweepstakes and will probably be closer to a World Series than the Phillies.

Those are all relatively minor concerns, though. The short answer to your question is that very little would stop a team from throwing massive contracts at Harper and Machado. That’s the way free agency is meant to work.

@rmginn: Which [Phillies] player would win a team-wide Hunger Games?

The Hunger Games are won not by brute strength, but by a combination of sound, patient strategy and possessing one or two 70-80 grade skills that you can turn to when the going gets tough. It’s like Survivor, but with the added component that you have to physically kill people and avoid being killed yourself.

Cameron Rupp, because of his rugged appearance and size, would probably enter as the betting favorite in the Capital, but would be a poor pick. He doesn’t have any discernible skills that would give him an advantage over the competition and his size would make it difficult to avoid detection.

Maikel Franco would be too aggressive early in the game and be one of the first eliminated. Odubel Herrera would flip his weapon after his first kill and another opponent would take advantage of that to get rid of him. I don’t even want to consider how Cesar Hernandez would manage to get out of this game, but I do know that it would be mind-numbingly stupid.

Aaron Nola‘s command leads to an easy comparison to Katniss, whose ability with the bow and arrow allows her to a) kill people and b) get food. Having had to work with sub-elite stuff throughout his career, Nola should be able to work the strategy component of Hunger Games, attacking other opponents with the crafty savvy he has used to attack opposing hitters.

There’s also Luis Garcia, the improbably survival of the 40-man roster crunch. He’s a reliever and neither particularly young (29) nor particularly good (4.25 career ERA in 127.1 innings). Yet, with the 40-man roster saturated with prospects and actual major leaguers, Garcia sticks around. Survivorship is a skill that plays well in Hunger Games. Stick around long enough and you limit the amount you actually have to do to win the game. In terms of a carrying tool, Garcia is somewhat famously a barber, suggesting that he has some level of skill with sharp objects from scissors to razor blades. Unfortunately, these are close-range weapons, which will limit their effectiveness in this game. But, Garcia has proven to be sneaky enough in his avoidance of detection from Matt Klentak’s 40-man roster maneuvers that he could use similar tactics to sneak up on opponents in the Games to use his weaponry.

Everyone else on the roster seems unremarkable, so I think this comes down to Nola and Garcia. Garcia is more battle-tested in surviving threats of elimination whether it’s rising from a barbershop to a major league bullpen or remaining on the 40-man roster due, likely, to his sneakiness. The barber will win.

That’s all we have time for this week. Thanks for the questions, which, for my money, keep getting better each week. Keep the trend going.




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  1. Carmine

    January 30, 2017 02:36 PM

    I live in DC and observe the Nats up close. Harper has had one superstar year, 2015. He has immense talent but gets hurt doing stupid things like running into walls and sliding head and hands first into bases. These next two seasons will determine if he is truly a superstar or simply a very good player. I also am not sure the Nats will be closer to the WS by then. Werth is at the end of the string; Murphy may never have another year like 2016, and the team persists in the fantasy that Ryan Zimmerman is still a good baseball player.
    Further up I-95, however, Machado has shown he’s a rare talent. At this point in time, Manny is the better bet.

  2. JustBob

    January 31, 2017 03:17 AM

    Phillies have basically a 0% chance to sign both Harper and Machado if they both hit free agency.

    Even signing one of them is going to be tough especially given the Dodgers and Yankees will have loads of money to spend right now that offseason along with other teams likely willing to break the bank for such rare free agents. There is also the question of how competitive the Phillies will be by then. If they don’t appear to be poised to be a playoff team in 2019, that limits their chances further.

  3. Shane

    January 31, 2017 04:05 PM

    I would prefer they not sign large free agent contracts until a potential winning core of players is identified. Right now, I do not see it. Is it really Franco, Nola, Herrera, and Joseph?

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