Crash Bag, Vol. 109: The Utley/Halladay Buddy Film

@Dweebowitz: “How *do* they get out of the mess their stripped farm system and grotesquely overpaid geriatric lineup have become?”

I can’t emphasize this enough: there is no easy fix. There is no quick fix. There is no way the Phillies can overhaul the roster and contend next year, and barring some unforeseen run of luck, probably not the year after that.

The answer is time. You can’t build a contender overnight anymore by buying established players, and the Phillies’ greatest resource, money, makes buying established players the course the Phillies are most able to take. But that’s not how things work anymore. Look at any team that’s currently in good playoff position–either they’ve developed their own talent, or used homegrown talent to acquire established talent, or they’ve been particularly good at picking up pieces off the scrap heap, like the A’s.

The good news is that the Phillies aren’t trying to buy their way back into the playoff race anymore. Signings like Byrd and A.J. Burnett might look like that, but they’re not. They’re damage control. Meanwhile, the farm system isn’t stripped anymore–two years ago, the Phillies were sneaking one guy into the back end of top 100 prospect lists, but after two pretty good drafts, they’ve got three no-doubt top 100 prospects in J.P. Crawford, Aaron Nola and Maikel Franco, and several other interesting prospects besides, and whereas two years ago, all the talent in the Phillies’ system was buried in low-A and rookie ball, those kids–Crawford and Franco among them–are slowly climbing the minor league rungs. Of course, the Phillies haven’t had much success converting minor league talent into major league production in the past five years or so, but that’s a different problem. Continue reading…

Kyle Kendrick’s Fear of a Rainout

With storms descending on southern Ohio, today’s Phillies-Reds game was delayed by rain for nearly an hour and a half, then played to a confusing, numbing standstill as Antonio Bastardo and Aroldis Chapman traded dueling perfect relief in innings (not surprising) to preserve dueling two-hit shutouts by Kyle Kendrick and Homer Bailey (definitely surprising).

Then, with the bottom of the ninth inning set to start and the score tied 0-0, the heavens opened up. This prompted Chris Wheeler to climb down to the field and start building an ark as the umpires called for a rain delay.

It was at this moment that Bailey called Kendrick out to the middle of the field. They sat together on the tarp, and Kendrick, afraid to lose what would almost certainly be his best start of the year, began to talk.
Continue reading…

Domonic Brown: Obnoxious and Disliked

I know I linked to the opening of 1776 in the beginning of last week’s Crash Bag, and if you’ll permit me, I’d like to take a mulligan. I think I’ve come up with a better joke, and an excuse to revive last season’s overwhelmingly popular (and by “overwhelmingly popular” I mean “roundly mocked and pilloried”) Cinema Philliediso series. Musical-style.

To set the scene: we’re deep into the summer and the Phillies have been reaping the seeds the front office sowed this offseason, which is to say that everyone’s hurt, Delmon Young is playing everyday, and the Phillies are struggling to stay ahead of the Mets in the division, much less challenge the Braves and Nats.

One hot night, Domonic Brown, confined to the bench in favor of Delmon Young and Laynce Nix, decides he can’t take any more.

Domonic Brown: I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called Delmon Young. That two are called a platoon, and that three are more become an outfield. And by God, I have had this outfield. For five years, Ruben Amaro and his front office have gulled, cullied and diddled this team with their foolish free-agent signings. Raul Ibanez, Juan Pierre, Delmon Young, Yuniesky Bentancourt! And when we dared stand up like ballplayers, they have benched our young players, traded our prospects, mismanaged our bullpen, extended Ryan Howard‘s contract and traded for Michael Young. And still this team refuses to grant any of my proposals on not playing retreads and fossils, even so much as the courtesy of open debate! Good God! What in hell are you waiting for?

Rest of the Team: Sit down, Dom! Sit down, Dom! For God’s sake, Dom, sit down! / Sit down, Dom! Sit down, Dom! For God’s sake, Dom, sit down!

Michael Young: Someone oughta play Darin Ruf more!

Team: It’s 90 degrees, and Chase has no knees–it’s hot as hell in Philadelphia!

Michael Young: Someone oughta play Darin Ruf more!

Dom Brown: I say vote yes! Vote yes! Vote to give at-bats to me!

Team: Someone oughta play Darin Ruf more!

Dom Brown: I say vote yes!

Team: Sit down, Dom!

Dom Brown: Vote to give at-bats to me!

Carlos Ruiz: Someone oughta play Darin Ruf more!

Ben Revere (thinking of how much ground he’ll have to cover): No! No! No! Too many flies. Too many flies. And it’s hot as hell in Philadelphia!

Team: Someone oughta play Darin Ruf more!

Jimmy Rollins (gesturing to Delmon Young and Darin Ruf): Can’t we play these guys here?

Dom Brown: Vote yes!

Ben Revere (pointing to spray charts): No, too many flies here!

Dom Brown: Vote yes!

Team: Oh, for God’s sake, Dom, sit down!

Dom Brown: Good God, consider yourselves fortunate that you have Domonic Brown to abuse, for no sane man would tolerate it!

Team: Dom, you’re a bore. We’ve heard this before. Now for God’s sake, Dom, sit down!

Dom Brown: I say vote yes!

Team: No!

Dom Brown: Vote yes!

Team: No!

Dom Brown: Vote to give at-bats to me!

John Lannan: Someone oughta play Darin Ruf more!

Dom Brown: I say vote yes!

Ryan Howard: Sit down, Dom!

Dom Brown: Vote to give at-bats to me!

Cliff Lee: Will someone shut that man up?

Dom Brown: Never! Never!

(we’re going to have to go audio-only for this next part)

(Brown, frustrated, storms out of the clubhouse and onto the field, where he begins to pace and continues to sing)

Dom Brown: Dear God. For three solid years they have been sitting me. Three whole years! Doing nothing.

(Looks up and goes to address God Almighty directly.)

I do believe you’ve laid a curse on North America. A curse that we here now rehearse in Philadelphia. A second flood, a simple famine, plagues of locusts everywhere–or a cataclysmic earthquake I’d accept with some despair. But no, you sent Amaro–Good God, Sir, was that fair?

He gives us useless fossils and retreads, I would just as soon be dead! Useless fossils and retreads! Would that I were dead, in foul, fetid, fuming, foggy, filthy Philadelphia.

Jonathan Papelbon: Someone oughta play Darin Ruf more!

Dom Brown: Oh, Good God!

(Offstage, the voice of Shane Victorino appears. His form comes into focus, and Domonic Brown begins to talk to him.)

Shane Victorino: Dom, Dom, is that you carrying on? Dom?

Dom Brown: Oh, Shanf, I have such a desire to knock heads together!

Shane Victorino: Then why on Earth do you stay there? Come here to Boston, Dom–it’s only 300 miles. If you took the Acela you could be here in four hours.

Dom Brown: How could I do that, Shane? I’m no further along than I was when I first came here.

Shane Victorino: I know, my dearest. I know. But that’s because your general manager is a moron. Reinforcements could be on their way–I’ll tell you what I’ve seen. But Ruben did a stupid thing and drafted Larry Greene. Up in Boston things are awful–we have tensions running high. Youk and Gonzo are departed, and Jacoby’s end is nigh. But we’ve got Jackie Bradley

Dom Brown: I know–and our system is dry. I wrote to you that the Nationals had traded for Denard Span and the Braves had acquired both Upton brothers. I asked you if you had any advice, because our team is too old to compete and we have next to no prospects coming up to help. Now can the Phillies get help in time to avoid embarrassment?

Shane Victorino: No, Dom, they cannot.

Dom Brown: Well why not?

Shane Victorino: Because you neglected to tell your GM that it’s not 2000 anymore and he can’t field a winning team by paying old guys lots of money.

Dom Brown: Well, it’s easy! Anyone who pays even passing attention to the game has known that for 10 years.

Shane Victorino: Oh, yes, of course.

Dom Brown: Well let it be done, then!

Shane Victorino: Dom, I’m afraid you have a more urgent problem.

Dom Brown: More urgent?

Shane Victorino: There’s one thing that this team’s done well in Massachusetts Bay. Don’t smirk at me, you ne’er do well; pay heed to what I say. We dumped a bucketload of salary on Los Angeles’s team. Now we’re flush with cash and prospects, and there’s naught to do but beam! But you can’t have Jackie Bradley…because you drafted Greene.

Dom Brown: Shane! We should have had Jackie Bradley.

Shane Victorino: You’ve got Larry Greene.

Dom Brown: Jackie Bradley.

Shane Victorino: Greene.

Dom Brown: Bradley.

Shane Victorino: Greene.

Dom Brown: Bradley.

Shane Victorino: Greene.

Dom Brown: Bradley.

Shane Victorino: Greene.

Dom Brown: Bradley.

Shane Victorino: Greene.

Dom Brown: Bradley.

Shane Victorino: Greene.

Dom Brown: Bradley. (sigh)

Shane Victorino: Greene.

Dom Brown: Done, Shane, done.

Shane Victorino: Done, Dom. Get into the lineup, Dom.

Dom Brown: As soon as I’m able.

Shane Victorino: Don’t stop writing–it’s all I have.

Dom Brown: Every day, my dearest friend.

Both: Till then, till then, I am, as I ever was and ever shall be, yours, yours, yours, yours, yours.

Ryan Howard (offstage): For God’s sake, Dom, sit down.

(c/g to Ian Riccaboni of Phillies Nation, who inadvertently inspired this post. Blame him, not me.)

 

The Order Is: Engage the Darin Ruf

Shout it from the rooftops, proclaim it from the highest mountaintops! Send heralds and criers to deliver the news, for salvation is close and hand! The world will be in harmony and we shall be united in brotherhood, for our prayers are answered.

DARIN RUF IS STARTING TONIGHT. Rejoice and be glad, you sorry sunzabitches.

I have here, in greatest Crashburn Alley tradition, the substance of Charlie Manuel’s pregame speech to the team announcing that Ruf would be starting in left field and batting seventh.

Unfortunately, we don’t have video for this one, but we do have audio for most of it.

Here we go:

Charlie Manuel: Comrades! This is your manager speaking.  It is an honor to speak to you today, and I am honored to be serving with you on the maiden voyage of our front office’s most recent achievement. And once more, we play our dangerous game. A game of baseball, against our old adversaries: the Washington Nationals.

For years, your fathers before you and your older brothers played this game and played it well. But today, the game is different. We have the advantage.

It reminds me of the heady days of Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, when the league trembled at the sound of our cutters. Well they will tremble again at the sound of our home runs. The order is: engage the Darin Ruf.

Comrades, our own team doesn’t know our full potential. They will do everything possible to test us, but they will only test their own embarrassment. We will leave our stadium behind–we will pass the Nationals’ starting rotation, pass their vaunted bullpen, and lay off their home stadium…and listen to their “Natitude.” While we conduct batting drills.

And when we are finished, the only sound they will hear is our laughter, while we fly to Miami, where the sun is warm and so is the…comradeship.

A great day, comrades: we bat into history.

Red October indeed.

Small My Nose? Why Magnificent, My Nose!

In case you missed it, Ryan Howard hit a home run. Against a left-handed reliever. To put the Phillies ahead against the Mets in the top of the 9th inning. It was awesome. It did this to the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

The reaction from Mets fans, however, was less than warm. Thanks to the official Twitter account of The Good Phight, it has come to our attention that not only are Mets fans generally (and justifiably) upset at The Big Piece himself, but more specifically at his notoriously large nose. The level of discourse, however, has been disappointing–not much beyond hurling expletives at Ryan Howard and declaring his nose to be big.

Boy, a bunch of uncreative, boorish villains making obvious and dull comments about a hero’s large nose? I feel like I’ve seen this one before.

Ah, yes! That’s right. So this is the part where Ryan Howard takes up the challenge:

What? How? You accuse me of absurdity? Small my nose? Why magnificent, my nose! You pug, you knob, you button-head, know that I glory in this nose of mine, for a great nose indicates a great man: Genial, courteous, intellectual, virile, courageous as I am and such as you poor wretch will never dare to be even in imagination. 

 Of course, in the play, Cyrano de Bergerac finds the man who says his nose is “rather large,” coins several more clever insults, then challenges the man to a duel and stabs him to death while composing a poem.

So because Howard is not here to defend his own nasal integrity, allow me to play the surrogate Cryano to Mets fans’ Vicomte de Valvert. Here are twenty better insults about Ryan Howard’s nose.

  1. Spatial: Ryan Howard’s nose is bigger than Jon Rauch.
  2. Aesthetic: Ryan Howard’s nose is uglier than Jon Rauch’s tattoos.
  3. Narcotic: Dwight Gooden would have died long ago if his nose were as big as Ryan Howard’s.
  4. Financial: Fred Wilpon would have spotted Ryan Howard the cash for a rhinoplasty, but then Bernie Madoff came along.
  5. Rhetorical: I betcha Ryan Howard’s nose expels more hot air than Mike Francesca.
  6. Zoological: Between Ryan Howard’s nose and David Wright‘s ears, we’re halfway to building an anteater.
  7. Biomechanical: Ryan Howard’s nose is so big Oliver Perez could hit it with a baseball.
  8. Lovesick: Ryan Howard’s nose is as big as the hole Jose Reyes left in the Mets’ infield.
  9. Comparative: Sure, that home run was out of Citi Field. It wouldn’t’ve been out of Ryan Howard’s nose.
  10. Literary: Ryan Howard must have said the Mets were good an awful lot.
  11. Anatomical: Ryan Howard’s nose is longer than Daryl Strawberry’s neck.
  12. Regretful: Bobby Bonilla’s contract is almost as sad as Ryan Howard’s nose.
  13. Analytical: Ryan Howard’s nose is so fat, even Steve Phillips wouldn’t have traded Kevin Appier for him.
  14. Romantic: Ryan Howard’s nose is so ugly, even Jeromy Burnitz wouldn’t have talked to it at a bar.
  15. Respiratory: Jon Niese could have just swapped.
  16. Facial: Ryan Howard couldn’t have a beard like R.A. Dickey‘s–there’s just not enough room left on his face.
  17. Aromatic: The Mets stink. Ryan Howard was the first to know.
  18. Athletic: What’s the only thing that runs worse than Ryan Howard’s nose? Jason Bay.
  19. Sabermetric: Ryan Howard’s nose’s fWAR is higher than Johan Santana‘s this season.
  20. Inquisitive: Someone ask Ryan Howard’s nose what it feels like to be a bigger waste of space than Omar Minaya.

Go Phillies. Screw the Mets. Go read Cyrano de Bergerac. Or watch Roxanne. But seriously, screw the Mets.

O Batter, Where Art Thou?

I don’t know if you guys were aware, but Cliff Lee is really good at throwing baseballs. We seem to have forgotten this in the hype over the frankly insane notion that it might be wise to trade Cliff Lee to…some other team for some other ballplayer. But that has not come to pass, thank God. Tonight? Seven innings, no runs, five hits, one walk, seven strikeouts, and with the bat, 1-for-3 with a stolen base, a run and an RBI. A “screw you for even thinking about trading me” performance if ever I saw one.

We’ve all wondered how Cliff Lee became so good at baseball.  When Lee rejoined the Philliesin 2011, he caught a ride to Spring Training with Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. Lee told Hamels, Rollins and Howard during that car ride.


Cliff Lee: You folks going past Clearwater?
Cole Hamels: Sure, hop in.
Jimmy Rollins: How you doin’, son? Name’s Jimmy. These two soggy sons of bitches are Cole and Ryan. Keep your fingers away from Ryan’s mouth, he ain’t eaten for 13 years, ‘cept Subway footlongs, cheese steaks and grooved fastballs.
Cliff Lee: Thanks for the lift, sir. My name’s Cliff. Cliff Lee.
Hamels: How you doin’, Cliff? Say, I haven’t seen a ballclub here for miles. What’re are you doing out in the middle of nowhere?
Cliff Lee: I had to be at that crossroads last midnight. Sell my soul to the devil.
Rollins: Ain’t it a small world, spiritually speakin’? Cole and Ryan just been baptized and saved. I guess I’m the only one still unaffiliated!
Hamels: This ain’t no laughing matter, Jimmy.
Rollins: What’d the devil give you for your soul, Cliff?
Lee: Well, he taught me to throw this here baseball real good.
Hamels: Oh, son, for that you traded your everlasting soul?
Lee: Well, I wasn’t usin’ it.
Howard: I’ve always wondered, what’s the devil look like?
Rollins: Well, of course, there are all manner of lesser imps and demons, Ryan, but the great Satan hisself is red and scaly with a bifurcated tail and he carries a hayfork.
Lee: Oh, no, sir. He’s half-Mexican, half-Jewish. With empty eyes, and a big hollow ego.  And he travels around with an enormous sack of money and no grasp of the long-term consequences of his actions.
Howard: And he told you to go to Clearwater?
Lee: Well, no, sir. That was my idea. I heard there’s a man down there–he pays folks money to pitch for his baseball team. They say he pays ‘em extra if’n they pitch real good.
Rollins: Clearwater, huh? How much he pay?

 

True Love and a Hamels Extension

According to Ken Rosenthal, Rumor Geyser, the Phillies and Cole Hamels are about to sign a 6-year contract extension  worth “more than” $137.5 million. (UPDATE: The official number is $144 million). In addition, Rosenthal predicts Hamels’ contract extension will set in motion “a series of trades to help the club not only reduce payroll, but also retool.” These could be heady days, my friends.

I’m not going to lie–I’ve been advocating, with my head, that the Phillies should trade Hamels, but now that he has (reportedly) been locked-up long-term, I’ll admit that I wept openly when Rosenthal broke the news.

We’ll have more analysis as the deal becomes official, but for now, enjoy a re-creation of the final negotiation between Hamels and Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.

Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr.: I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and the thing is, I want to re-sign you.
Cole Hamels: What?
Amaro: I want to re-sign you.
Hamels: How do you expect me to respond to this?
Amaro: How about you want to resign with me too?
Hamels: How about I’m leaving!
Amaro: Doesn’t what I said mean anything to you?
Hamels: I’m sorry, Ruben. I know it’s near the trade deadline. I know you need starting pitching. But you just can’t show up here, tell me you want to re-sign me and expect that to make everything all right. It doesn’t work this way.
Amaro: Well how does it work?
Hamels: I don’t know, but not this way.
Amaro: Well how about this way: I love that you can get the better of both left-handed and right-handed batters. I love that you won us a World Series. I love that you hit a home run off Matt Cain. I love that after I spend a season with you I can still see your change-up in the air. And I love that you’re the person I want to pitch Game 7 of the World Series for us. And it’s not because I need pitching, and it’s not because it’s the trade deadline. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your career with someone, you want the rest of your career to start as soon as possible.
(“Auld Lang Syne” begins playing in background)
Hamels: 
You see? That is just like you, Ruben–you say things like that and you make it impossible for me to sign with the Dodgers! And I want to sign with the Dodgers, Ruben! I really want to sign with the Dodgers….(signs contract)
Amaro: What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. “Should old band contracts be forgot?” Does that mean that we should forget old bad contracts or that if we happen to forget them we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot them?
Hamels: Well maybe it means that we should remember that we forgot them or something. Anyway, it’s about great pitchers.

Someone hold me.

 

Losing to the Brewers is Not an Option

Responding to adversity. Timely hitting. An offense that simply would not give up an out, chipping away at a seemingly insurmountable lead, batter by batter, man by man. It was just like the good old days. And it was all thanks to an impromptu team meeting led by Charlie Manuel and Chase Utley before the ninth inning.

Flight Director Charlie Manuel: So you’re telling me you can only give our guys one more run of support? That brings them to about there. (Taps loss column on standings.) Gentlemen, that is not acceptable.
Engineer Roy Halladay: Charlie! Charlie! We gotta talk about run support here.
EECOM Chase Utley: Whoa, whoa, guys!  Run support is everything. Run support is everything.
Halladay: What do you mean?
Utley: Without it they don’t pitch for us,  they don’t pitch easier with men on, they don’t turn our season around…We gotta start scoring runs. Now. We’re not going to make it to the ninth inning.
Manuel: What do  you mean scoring runs?
Utley: With Halladay’s start, the Brewers scored six runs. At that rate the team is dead in two innings, not four or five. We gotta get this team to score four more runs.
MOCR Engineer Carlos Ruiz: How many? You could win a Kendrick start with four runs, Chase!
Utley:  We’ve got to Rollins on base, Pierre, Howard, Pence, Ruiz, the whole smack.
FIDO John Mayberry: Whoa, put Pence on? What if he needs to run the bases? Charlie, he won’t even know which way he’s pointed!
Utley: The more time we talk in here the more outs they waste out there. I’ve been looking at the data for the past inning.
Manuel: That’s the deal?
Utley: That’s the deal.
Manuel: Okay, Chase. The minute Savery finishes his inning, we’ll start putting men on base. (Utley leaves, Manuel turns to address the team.) Now in the meantime, we’re going to have a frozen offense out there. In a couple minutes we’re going to have to power it up using nothing but Francisco Rodriguez‘s inability to find the strike zone.
Juan Pierre: It’s never been tried before.
Ty Wigginton: Hell, we’ve never even simulated it before, Charlie.
Manuel: Well we’re going to have to figure it out. I want people in our on-deck circle timing breaking balls. I want you guys to find every pitch: every slider, every fastball and every change-up that Rodriguez throws up there, then I want you to talk to the scouts we sent ahead to chart the things. Find out how to squeeze every baserunner out of this goddamn pitcher. I want that scoreboard to tick all the way to seven with time to spare. We’ve never come from behind in the ninth inning and we’re sure as hell not going to lose another one on my watch! Failure is not an option!

 

Ruben Amaro Teaches Chad Qualls to Miss Bats

Bill wrote earlier today about Chad Qualls being designated for assignment. I know that many of you have taken comfort and joy from being rid of Qualls, but none more so than Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. I know many of you do as well, even though, as I write this, Kyle Kendrick has just given up back-to-back home runs to Casey McGehee and Pedro Alvarez in the first inning, so I have a feeling the public anger may not have abated quite so much.

Therefore, it is with great pride I submit to you the transcript of the conversation that took place between Qualls, Amaro, and Phillies assistant GM Benny Looper. As you’ll see, Amaro cashiered Qualls in quite an interesting fashion.

(Chad Qualls gives up home run)

Qualls: For the blood of the Phillies!
Looper: Ruben! Get down! (Looper tackles Qualls as home run ball hits Amaro in the shoulder. Amaro falls over.)
Scott Proefrock: Somebody’s popped the general manager!
Amaro: AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHH! (Looper wrestles baseball away from Qualls and hits him with it. Amaro struggles to his feet.)
Amaro: Whose pitcher are you? Speak smart and speak up.
Qualls: (mumbling)
Amaro: What’s he saying, boy?
Looper: I think he’s making his peace with his agent.
Amaro: To hell with that. He makes his peace with me. (Amaro crouches over Qualls and draws a piece of paper from his briefcase.) I’m making the phone calls around here tonight, you gopher-balling, washed-up reliever. Whose pitcher are you? We miss bats in this bullpen–whose pitcher are you? Do you see this release order? I’m going to teach you to miss bats with this release order. Whose pitcher are you? WHOSE PITCHER ARE YOU?
(Qualls slumps back, dead. Amaro stands.)
Amaro: Well that didn’t help us win very many games. Fine bullpen arm. Shame about it, I don’t think it can be mended.