Crash Bag, Vol. 108: Cape Cod League

@Ut26: “What current Phillie would make the best road trip partner?”

It depends on what you want out of a road trip partner. Really, it depends on what you want out of a road trip. Because if this is your cross-country vacation, you want something different than if you’re just getting from point A to point B. If I’m just in a two-man Cannonball Run, all I want is someone who likes driving more than I do. I hate driving. Ideally, I’d like to control the radio at least up to a point and be left alone to sleep when I’m not driving, but those are negotiable. KTLSW, for instance, is content to carry more than half of the driving load when we go on road trips, which means I can live with her controlling the radio and her refusal to allow me to play Springsteen under any circumstances. Marriage is about compromises.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 107: WAR for Managers

@rarmstrong7777: “is there a manager equivalent to WAR? Could there be if there isn’t?”

There isn’t, and there probably can’t be. The manager’s job is done largely at the margins and behind the scenes, so it’s hard to tell if, for instance, Joe Maddon bringing snakes into the clubhouse has an effect on his team’s performance. Anyone who’s ever had a job knows how much better life is when you have a boss you like and respect, so I don’t doubt that there’s an intangible benefit to having a good manager. How much of a benefit is a harder question to answer. I’ve heard it said that three-time Cy Young winner and Hall of Famer Jim Palmer wouldn’t have stuck in the majors if not for the influence of Earl Weaver. So it’s possible that Earl Weaver was worth 68 WAR to the Orioles just because he mentored Palmer. Or that could be bullshit.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 106: What’s the Phillies’ Plan?

Some self-promotion before we start: not only do I have a book to flog (coming out Nov. 4, pre-order now on Amazon!), I’ve started a weekly baseball podcast with my dear friend Liz Roscher, supreme empress of our rival Phillies blog, The Good Phight. It’s called Defensive Indifference, and for those of you who kept hounding me for a renewed Crash Pod, well, this isn’t it, but it’s pretty close. I’m working on getting the podcast on various syndication services and so on, so look for more of that in the future. Now, on to your questions.

@kgeich: “you have to spend the day with Ruben Amaro, what do you do? Does he survive the day? King Joffrey him?”

DUDE. SPOILER ALERT.

I think that depends on whether we’re just two dudes who just run into each other and decide to hang out and eventually fall in love, like in Lost in Translation or Before Sunrise or Blood Diamond, or if he is who he is and I am who I am. I’ve got ambitions of one day doing long magazine profiles, and if I wind up Wright Thompsoning or Gary Smithing all over someone, Ruben Amaro’s near the top of my list. He’s probably not the most fascinating person, but I get the sense that most of our frustration with the direction he’s taken the Phillies in has as much to do with PR as it does results.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 105: Do You Need to Know What a Plate Appearance is to be a Good GM?

@MattyMatty2000: “Completely serious: can you still be an effective GM if you don’t know the difference between a plate appearance and an at-bat?”

Yeah, so apparently this is a thing Ruben Amaro has trouble with. It’s possible he misspoke, or that he’s just messing with us, but it’s troubling. I’ve written my treatise on what makes a good GM, and it’s not strictly statistical literacy. A GM is a professional administrator, an executive, and he’s not doing the player evaluation on his own, and even if he was, the Phillies have better ways to evaluate hitters than batting average.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 104: Draft Review, Hot Dogs, Book Writing

Let’s get down to it.

@gberry523: “how surprised were you by the Phillies drafting only one high schooler in their first 10 (and barely any later)?”

I wasn’t that surprised that they went college-heavy early, but they wound up picking college players with 27 of their first 28 picks, which is kind of nuts. I don’t think anyone expected that, but I think that factoid is also a little deceptive.

After some consideration, I liked the Phillies’ draft in general: For all the time I spent griping about their plans to pick Aaron Nola, I can live with him at No. 7, and if nothing else, I don’t think they’ve ever picked a player I liked this much in college. I think I was mostly pissed that there were five guys I was sold on as potential superstars, and with the Phillies picking seventh and with the Cubs unlikely to pick one of those five (Rodon, Aiken, Kolek, Gordon and Jackson), it looked like the Phillies would miss out on those guys by one pick, which is exactly what happened. Once I got over that, and once I came to terms with the fact that they weren’t going to pick Jeff Hoffman or Max Pentecost–who, secret agent name aside, I like a lot–I learned to stop worrying and love Aaron Nola and so on.  Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 103: MLB Draft Live Chat

We’re doing something a little different for the Crash Bag this week–Crashburn Alley’s Prospect Impresario, Eric Longenhagen, will join me for a live-streamed chat about tomorrow night’s draft: who might go where, who we like, what the Phillies might do, and what we think the Phillies should do. Come hang out and ask questions in the comments either here or on the video on Twitter at @MJ_Baumann or @longenhagen.

Crash Bag, Vol. 102: The Phanatic vs. Mike Trout

Ooh…ahhh…I’ve got an email…oooh…ahh

@GlennQSpooner: “Any chance Phils go out of the org & choose someone w/analytics background as next GM? If so who are some possible candidates?”

I don’t think they’re firing Ruben Amaro anytime soon. I’ve said it a thousand times and I’ll say it again: the current front office regime is not even close to being on its last legs. He’s going to get a chance to fail at a rebuild before the Phillies fire him, and that rebuild isn’t even close to being over. Not even close.

But that’s not the question. I’m inclined to say no, for two reasons. First, the Phillies are something of a conservative organization and second, nobody with an analytics background gets hired as a GM. That’s partially because analytics guys as such, the nerds, haven’t been in front offices long enough to rise to the top. But it’s also because just as a general manager needs a different skill set from a player, he also needs different skills than an analytics guy. A general manager is an executive, an administrator. He runs a wing of a company. So you want him to be open-minded and intelligent and surround himself with people with certain skills, but it’s not necessary for him to have any particular evaluative skills on his own.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 101: Phillies Draft Scenarios

Let’s start with the Question of the Week, which I’d like to rename, because Drew Magary uses that name in his Funbag column on Deadspin, so if you have a better idea, I’m all ears. This email has been edited somewhat for brevity, though Peter said a lot of really nice shit about me, for which I thank him. If you want any question answered at length, send it to crashbaumann (at) gmail (dot) com, or on Twitter to @MJ_Baumann.

Peter, via Email: “Let’s say it’s a perfect world – ie, Selig has finally allowed draft picks to be traded, Monty has named you the GM of the Phillies. How would you play this draft for the Phillies? Would you Hinkie it and trade the 7 and maybe JPC or Tocci or JBJ (er, LGJr, well, Cozens?) for a lower first round pick this year as well as a first or second rounder next year for asset stockpiling purposes, or would you try to use those chips to move up to get Rodon/Aiken, et al?

Additionally, what’s your best and worst case scenario for the draft this year? I suppose that could be too oblique of a question to ask, in that the worst case scenario would be something like “Phillies draft Touki, and his arm explodes after 3 pitches in Lakewood”, but I’m curious about your hope for how the front office approaches both the first rounder and the rest of the draft.”

I was actually going to write a post about this last week, when Keith Law’s first mock draft came out, but Peter’s question was interesting enough that I decided to hold off. I’m going to answer it backwards, with the real-world draft scenarios first.

So here’s the thing. Law has the Phillies drafting LSU righthander Aaron Nola with the No. 7 pick. I adore Aaron Nola. I’ve had Twitter conversations with Chris Branch, the Phillies beat writer for the News Journal and an LSU grad himself, that consist only of the word “Nola” over and over. He’s a stupendous college pitcher and the kind of high-floor, relatively low-ceiling major college draft prospect I once clamored for the Phillies to draft–including a certain Jackie Bradley Jr., once upon a time. Nola is as close as there is to a sure thing to make the transition to mid-rotation big league starter. And I view taking him at No. 7 as the worst-case scenario, or close to it.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 100: She’s Not Having It

HELLO, BOYS.

I’ve finished my book, Philadelphia Phenoms: The Most Amazing Athletes to Play in the City of Brotherly Love, and so I’ve returned to other writing pursuits, which comes out November 4. If you’re the book-readin’ type, please order it on Amazon, and while you’re there, buy Bill’s book too. We actually make money off these books, so if you enjoy the work that we produce here, for free, go buy our books so we can produce more material. Even if you don’t like my writing, buy the book anyway and burn it in protest. My prose is so hot it’s easily flammable. More self-promotion is to come as the release date approaches, so if you lose the link, don’t worry, you’ll see it again.

Before I get into your questions, I want to pull back the curtain for a moment and talk about the future of the Crash Bag. I’ve been doing this for two years now, and I want to liven it up a bit, so what I’d like to do is tweak the format: every week, I’ll take one question and explore it in a sort of post-on-request system, provided I get a worthwhile question, then answer other, shorter questions as they come in. Also, because of changes in my own schedule, I’ll be posting on Wednesdays instead of Fridays from now on. That said, I generally aim to please, so if there’s a particular form or subject you’d rather read, or if you have suggestions of any kind, find me on Twitter at @MJ_Baumann or email me at crashbaumann (at) gmail (dot) com. I’m all ears–I only want to keep doing this if people are enjoying reading it, so I welcome any and all feedback, even if you just want me to keep the Crash Bag the way it is. I legitimately have no idea what you guys think, so don’t be shy.

Now, on to your correspondence. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 99: Baby’s First Democratic System

Gregg Easterbrook once wrote (and I’m paraphrasing, because if I have to sift through a billion TMQ columns to find the exact wording, I will end my life, so help me God): “Writing a book is like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer: it feels so good when you stop.”

I’m writing a book, set to come out in November, ranking the 20 greatest athletes in Philadelphia sports history, and for the next month or so, I’ll be concentrating on finishing that, to the peril of any sort of writing I do for fun, including Crashburn. After 99 weeks of uninterrupted service, I toyed with the idea of just lining up five or six guest columns to fill the space, but what comes back in May will be more purposeful than what you’re reading now, which has largely been the product of inertia. So for the last time, at least for a while, I’ll take your questions.

@Hegelbon: “if the Phillies had to be run like a social political system, which would you choose? I’d pick oligarchy.”

That’s kind of how they’re run right now, isn’t it? One person, or group of people, has all the power and delegates it to a bureaucracy that includes the baseball ops people, the PR people, event planners…it’s not a terrible way to run an organization, and a big reason I’m such a fan of career civil service in actual government: we elect the politicians, who (in theory) reflect our goals as an electorate and translate those goals (national security, economic prosperity, and so on) into achievable policy objectives, then turn to the army of wonks they employ to actually carry out those objectives. Because politicians don’t know dick about how things actually work–wonks do, because they do this for a living.

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