Crash Bag, Vol. 11: WBC, HOF, and Mascot Fights
This week, we come to you in the middle of March Madness to deliver you the Crash Bag. In this week’s edition, we actually talk mostly about baseball with discussions about actual players and their performance. That’s how you know baseball season is nearly upon us. In the spirit of the first question here, I have to put in a plug for the World Baseball Classic. If you’re not watching yet, fix that post haste. While Spring Training baseball brings its own simple joys, the WBC is real, competitive baseball. I’ll admit that I never watched it until this year, but, now that I have, I’m absolutely hooked. If you like the World Cup, the Olympics, or any other sort of international athletic competition, the World Baseball Classic is for you. This has been a public service announcement.
@Matt_Winkelman: MLB says they are replacing the WBC with a US only tournament between states, what state wins?
The primary contenders aren’t surprising: Texas, Florida, and California. For the purposes of a tournament, I’ll throw in a 4th team as a dark horse: North Carolina. Let’s look at their lineups, top-3 starting pitchers, and top bullpen arms:
|Catcher||Travis d’Arnaud||Mike Zunino||Cameron Rupp||Minor Leaguer|
|1B||Freddie Freeman||Anthony Rizzo||Brandon Belt||Ryan Zimmerman|
|2B||D.J. LaMahieu||Daniel Murphy||Anthony Rendon||Brandon Phillips|
|3B||Nolan Arenado||Josh Donaldson||Matt Carpenter||Kyle Seager|
|SS||Troy Tulowitzki||Manny Machado||Trevor Story||Corey Seager|
|OF||Christian Yelich||Trea Turner||Charlie Blackmon||Wil Myers|
|OF||Giancarlo Stanton||Ian Desmond||Randall Grichuk||Cameron Maybin|
|OF||Adam Jones||Keon Broxton||Hunter Pence||Dustin Ackley|
|SP||Kyle Hendricks||Chris Sale||Clayton Kershaw||Madison Bumgarner|
|SP||Stephen Strasburg||Zack Greinke||Noah Syndergaard||Chris Archer|
|SP||Gerrit Cole||Jacob deGrom||Scott Kazmir||Alex Wood|
|RP||Jake McGee||Cody Allen||Tyler Thornburg||Carter Capps|
|RP||Addison Reed||Wade Davis||Brandon Finnegan||Seth Maness|
|RP||Zach Britton||Sam Dyson||A.J. Ramos||Bobby Parnell|
For North Carolina to win, they would rely heavily on Madison Bumgarner post-season magic and the performances of the Seager brothers. They don’t have the depth, though, to reliably be able to overcome any poor performances from their stars.
Without disrespecting Kershaw and Thor, that Texas team falls firmly into the realm of “pretty good” in comparison to the squads Florida and California would be able to assemble. They could win it, but I would put them in as an underdog.
I find it hard to pick between California and Florida objectively, so I’m going to just spit-ball position by position based on my personal preferences.
First Base: Florida
Second Base: Florida
Third Base: Close, with slight edge to Florida
Outfield: California could well have the three best outfielders on these two teams, though I could be tolerant of preferring Turner over Adam Jones.
Starting Pitching: Sale v. Strasburg, assuming both are healthy, feels like a wash. Greinke v. Hendricks is surprisingly close after Greinke’s struggles in 2016 and Hendricks has the sort of defense here to make his stuff work just fine. Cole and deGrom also feels like a wash.
Relief Pitching: Britton gives California a huge edge, so long as Buck Showalter isn’t managing the team.
I guess overall, then, I have to take Florida as the favorites, but this would be an interesting matchup.
@tssmythe: Pro: Stairs seems like a capable hit coach; Con: more Davis and Kruk in booth. Are fans net winners or losers? #crashbag
I don’t think there’s any answer other than to say that fans are the net losers here. While Stairs certainly seems like a capable hitting coach, it’s unclear how much tangible impact having a good hitting coach actually has on player performance. If Hernandez, Herrera, and Joseph improve on their 2016 seasons, and Franco breaks out in 2017 under Stairs’ tutelage, I could change my tune.
Even so, the hit to the broadcast team is something fans will have to deal with for three hours 162 times in the next six months. Ben Davis is awful. His tone of voice is dull, his insight is nonexistent, and every day I have to continue to hear him broadcast Phillies games makes me angry. Even with the caveat that Spring Training is Spring Training for everybody, I haven’t heard much out of Kruk to say he’s much more exciting than Davis. This broadcast version of John Kruk is a far cry from the mulletted personality that was so central to the 1993 Phillies. This guy is much more toned-down and professional. His insight seems to also be bland, and, given that he has had experience in broadcast leading up to this gig, I don’t see it improving all that much. Stairs, if you’ll recall, was immediately a hit in the booth. From his first Spring Training games, he was breaking down player swings and approaches at the plate with aplomb and mixing in his typical Canadian charm.
While the improved level of play on the field and the eventual arrival of many top prospects will certainly improve the fan experience, those developments will occur despite the feeble efforts of Davis and Kruk, Fans are the definitive losers here.
William Kyle Green: In your opinion, which players in baseball today are going to be hall of famers, such as Trout, Pujols, and others?
Let’s start be looking at players who could retire today and make the Hall of Fame. Historically, 60 career WAR has been about the point at which you can start speculating about a player’s Hall of Fame credentials. These players are already well in the clear of that: Albert Pujols (101.1 bWAR), Adrian Beltre (90.2). We’ll get some interesting debates with Carlos Beltran (70.4) and Chase Utley (64.4), though, if I’m being honest, I sadly don’t see Utley getting in. Ichiro is also a lock despite only having 59.9 WAR because of the 3000 hits and being, indisputably, the greatest Japanese player to ever play in the Major Leagues.
Miguel Cabrera (69.6) and Robinson Cano (62.4) are getting to the ends of their careers, but one or two more productive seasons from each should make them locks as well. One could well speculate that Cabrera is already a lock.
Among younger players, Kershaw and Greinke, both at 54.4 bWAR don’t have to do much more to get enshrined. Even if Kershaw never pitches again, I would think he could get in in the same way Sandy Koufax did. His peak years (assuming they’re over, as he’s never pitching again in this scenario) place him miles above any living pitcher. While longevity is perhaps recognized more by traditional Hall of Fame voting with certain career benchmarks like 300 wins, 3000 hits, etc. still looming large, a peak like Kershaw’s is impossible to ignore. Another 2-3 productive seasons from Greinke that get him to the mid-60s in WAR would get him in.
Cole Hamels and Felix Hernandez both sit in the low-50s in career WAR and both probably need to compile for the next three-to-four years to get in the conversation.
Among younger pitchers, both Chris Sale and Madison Bumgarner seem to be well on their way to the Hall of Fame. With Bumgarner’s postseason heroics, he likely doesn’t have too high a WAR mark to clear, but if he can get himself another 20 or so WAR, he should be good. Sale has been stuck with the White Sox in about as much obscurity as a pitcher as good as he has been can have. The Red Sox should help with that.
Among hitters, Trout obviously is on his way. He’s already at almost 50 bWAR and he hasn’t even aged into his traditional peak years. To say all a 24-year old has to do is play out the string to get into the Hall sounds silly, but that’s truly all Trout has to do.
After him, I think we’re digging a bit. Buster Posey, Manny Machado, and Josh Donaldson, to varying extents, all seem to be on their way. If they can stay healthy, Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton seem like players who could get in, but we’re speculating here.
Lastly, I’m emotionally obligated to discuss Jose Fernandez. By any standard, Fernandez should not get into the Hall of Fame. He hasn’t reached the minimum service time to get in, hadn’t had a long enough peak to get in on peak merits and, obviously, didn’t have longevity. I would absolutely make an exception for him, though. Unfortunately, many high-profile players have died tragically in recent years from Fernandez to Oscar Tavares to Yordano Ventura. All of them were mourned and appreciated by fans and the players they interacted with, but the extent to which Fernandez was loved by those who came in contact with him was truly unmatched. He also was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. He was a legitimate contender for the NL Cy Young last year and, for players at his age, had already had one of the most successful pitching careers of all time. His ability and his impact on the game in his short time as part of it deserve to be commemorated.
In summary, that’s eight players who I would put at better than even odds of getting in–Pujols, Beltre, Cabrera, Cano, Kershaw, Greinke, Bumgarner Trout. With at least a handful of others with realistic chances of enshrinement.
@Phixated: How can we facilitate a Phanatic/LaSorda type relationship between Mackanin and Mr. Met?
Unfortunately, I don’t think this is possible. LaSorda comes from an fast-dying species of hot-headed baseball men who seem ripe for a fight over the slightest inconvenience. Not long ago, the Phillies had managers who could play that role with Ryne Sandberg and Larry Bowa–and Bowa is still around–but Mackanin is decidedly not of their breed. By all accounts, that’s a good thing. Sandberg and Bowa’s personalities seemed to grate on players over time as tough love–if we can generously call it that–works well when employed judiciously, but backfires when it’s the only tactic in your managerial arsenal.
Bowa, of course, is still around, and he provides our best hope for being on the angry end of a blow-up with a mascot, so I’ll focus on him. The first step, I think, would be for the Phillies to be good enough that Mr. Met actually cares enough to mock Bowa. Currently, there’s not real rivalry between the organizations as the Mets are more concerned about their relationship with the Nationals at the top of the NL East than with the Phillies. We’re at least a year away–and probably two or three–from the Phillies being firmly on Mr. Met’s radar for stunt planning. Once we get to that point, I don’t think it would take much. Simply dancing next to Bowa between innings of a Mets blowout of the Phillies would get it done. He’d already be seething and it wouldn’t take much to put him over the edge.
Mackanin, at all times, would just close his eyes, take a breath or two, and laugh off any mascot-generated offense.
That will do it for this Crash Bag. Thank you all, as always, for submitting your questions. As always you can submit queries to the Bag through the comment section here or on Twitter with the #crashbag hashtag.