Crash Bag, Vol. 79: Return of the Monkfish

I think it’s time to bring back the monkfish. A friend of mine, Matt Winkelman, is encountering the wages of writing about minor leaguers for a team-specific blog, which is to say that people are trying to tell him that Maikel Franco is a better prospect than Miguel Sano.

I don’t think that’s literally the dumbest thing you could possibly say on any topic, but it’s up there.

And poor Matty Winks, besieged by stupid people, is in the kind of place that I was in last summer, when I wrote a bunch of stuff telling people what to think and how to act on the internet. Most notably, I made a list of things Phillies fans used to say that made me want to hit them in the face with a fish.

It’s time for the Return of the Monkfish.

None of them was as stupid as saying Maikel Franco is a better prospect than Miguel Sano. Because “Oh they got a big Dominican third baseman, well so do we and that’s the same thing right? Except ours is better because why do you hate the Phillies?” is worthy of The Monkfish.

@Wzeiders: “I you could pluck one Phillies player from the 93 team and place him on next year’s team, who would it be?”

Almost certainly a position player, because the 1993 Phillies had a pretty terrible pitching staff. Which is to say that they had four starters who had pretty good careers, but none of them was all that good that year. Well, three starters who had pretty good careers, plus Tommy Greene, who got Cy Young votes with a 116 ERA+ because man was less evolved back then.

But those Phillies had kind of pedestrian pitching and a bunch of terrible defensive players, but they were on base constantly: three players had OBPs over .400, three more were at .360 or better. I’d probably take Lenny Dykstra, because if you hit .305/.420/.482 with 37 stolen bases, you’re going to score an enormous amount of runs. Dykstra would’ve won the MVP that year if Barry Bonds hadn’t been Barry Bonds. Other acceptable answers: Darren Daulton, who wasn’t as good as Dykstra in 1993, but who represent a bigger improvement over whoever replaces Carlos Ruiz than Dykstra does over Ben Revere, and Dave Hollins, for the same reason except with Cody Asche.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 77: Max Pentecost

Yesterday morning, Keith Law and Christopher Crawford took a crack at ranking the top 30 prospects for next year’s amateur draft. It’s on Insider, so I won’t ruin the content too much, but many of my favorite college prospects were there, including Trea Turner, Aaron Nola, Tyler Beede and Carlos Rodon, who’s going to go No. 1 overall and upon whose doorstep I’ve been sleeping for months in the hope that he’ll notice me and love me the way I love him. South Carolina’s two big junior stars, Joey Pankake and Grayson Greiner, were not on the list, which is slightly disappointing if not entirely surprising.

But the big story is this guy: 11. Max Pentecost, C | Kennesaw State

What.

Max Pentecost? MAX PENTECOST. You’d get laughed out of The Expendables with a name like Max Pentecost. Max Pentecost drives a Plum Crazy Dodge Challenger and hides a Desert Eagle behind his chest protector. Rock Shoulders is wimp’s name by comparison.

@LikeShackleton: “Can you tell me everything about Max Pentecost?”

You’re in luck. I can do precisely that.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 76: Moose Tracks

Starting to get the distinct impression that the Phillies are gaslighting me.

@asigal22: “why on earth would RAJ purposely resign Michael Martinez? I’ll take a contract too if he wants to sign bad players”

I want to rip off 3,500 words about how dumb a move it is to re-sign Mini-Mart. But you know what? I can’t anymore. I’m not as young as I once was, and I just don’t have the energy to do it anymore. I used to get angry about the Phillies routinely, like truly, passionately angry, but I’m like an old dog with arthritis and kidney disease and I don’t want to do anything anymore except lie down on the rug and give you the sad eyes and drool all over the place while I wait to die.

It doesn’t matter, but the ship is sinking and signing any roster filler this early in the offseason, let alone someone like Mini-Mart, is just…why? It’s moments like this when it becomes clear that one of the universe’s few mercies is that life is short.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 75: The Fetishization of Bacon

It is with a heavy heart that I announce that this will be the final Crash Bag. Because we’re going to have to cancel the internet. Thanks to this:

That’s right. “Bacon Moustache” showed up in my timeline, and I’m declaring the internet closed, and by extension, Twitter, Crashburn Alley and the Crash Bag itself. We need to stop the scourge of internet speak and the fetishization of bacon. I think it’s time to add another one of Baumann’s Laws of Social Conduct. Baumann’s Third Law of Social Conduct: If you use the verb forms of “victory” or “failure” as a noun*, or if you engage in the worship of certain foodstuffs (bacon and Sriracha), you will be turned into a college freshman that doesn’t get invited to the cool parties. In 2007. And there you will remain forever, with Matthew Inman mansplaining about why it’s okay not to respect women on the internet.

*Caveat: “Win” is acceptable as a noun if and only if it refers to a discrete unit of victory, e.g., the Phillies are looking for their first win since 2011. We’re grown-ups here. Let’s start talking like it.

@Brandon_Warne: “One year in, is there any clarity as to who is winning/leading the Worley/May for Revere trade?”

Well, the jury’s very much still out on this one, and I’m uneasy about judging trades at any point but the moment the trade is made (so the vagaries of outcome don’t dilute the criticism of process) but I’d say the Phillies. We’re pretty familiar with what Ben Revere did in 2013–a month or so of being cooler than being cool (which is to say, ice cold) before bringing his batting average up over .300 and his OPS up to around league average. Add plus defense and 22 stolen bases in half a season and that’s not elite production, but it’s not bad. When he fouled that ball off his foot, by the way, Revere had put together 28 hits in his last 15 games. As a Phillies fan, I’d say I was satisfied by Revere’s performance, and I absolutely fell in love with his personality and style of play.

And apologies to Brandon (who for the uninitiated, covers the Twins), but the news isn’t so much overwhelmingly good for the Phillies as it is overwhelmingly bad for Minnesota.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 74: Longo in a Horseshoe Mustache

First off–a big thanks to Bill and Liz for keeping the Crash Bag running in my absence. But daddy’s home now. Let’s have questions.

@loctastic: “what possible questions could people have regarding the phillies at this point”

I have no idea, but by God I’m going to write a Phillies mailbag column.

Also, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Crash Bag hasn’t really been about the Phillies for a while now.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 73: Did You Mean Felman Shrung?

Greetings, Crash Bag readers. I am not Michael Baumann. I’m Liz Roscher, Supreme Blog Mistress over at The Good Phight, and I’m filling in for Baumann this week. He still loves you all very much, though. At least that’s what he said. He could have been lying.

On to the questions!

@ilrosso_: Can you describe the Phillies season in a series of Project Runway gifs?

Project Runway is probably my second favorite reality competition show on TV right now. There’s no eating of nasty things, no surviving on an island for 30 days (or as long as other people can stand you), no singing, no housewives, no hoarding, no ducks, and no creepy tiny beauty queens. The contestants make clothes, and they live and die on their talent. Heidi Klum is gorgeous and marvelously, bluntly German. Tim Gunn is wise and fatherly, if your father wore impeccable suits and dispensed brilliant fashion advice.

Project Runway is about fashion and there is almost no overlap with sports. One season they did design costumes for WWE wrestler women, and then there was the season where they had to design a suit for former football player and noted tiny man Tiki Barber. But while there is a dearth of sports, there is no shortage of DRAMA. Fights, breakdowns, crying jags, temper tantrums, back talking, and endless reaction shots of judges looking at singularly ugly clothing. So, @ilrosso_, I absolutely can describe the Phillies season in a series of Project Runway gifs, owing to the intense DRAMA that makes up every single episode. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 72: Chase Utley Frolicking in a Meadow

Hi, I’m Bill Baer. You might remember me from such films as “Jesus Christ, you signed Ryan Howard for how much?!” and “a 60-minute film that consists entirely of Chase Utley frolicking in a meadow”. I’m filling in for the esteemed Michael Baumann this week as he is off in Georgia getting married. Congratulations to both Mike and Kate (TLSF) on their happy day.

If you are a fan of The Daily Show like I am, you know that correspondent John Oliver filled in as host of the show for a few months during the summer while Jon Stewart was in the Middle East filming. While I have never been a particularly avid fan of British humor, I thought Oliver did a stand-up job. Anyway, Stewart is back and Oliver is back in his old role on the show, doing skits. But he warned Stewart of the future on Monday night’s show. I’m going to be the Oliver to Baumann’s Stewart.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 71: The Opacity of Athletes

Yeah, I got nothing. Let’s go.

@TheBigCup: “WHY IS IT A CRASH BAG?”

Because this is the mailbag column for Crashburn Alley. It’s a portmanteau.

@SoMuchForPathos: “Which military leaders would have been good baseball managers, assuming, y’know, that a Caesar or Genghis Khan learns baseball.”

The thing about baseball is that it doesn’t really lend itself to creative tactics. You start bunting and hit-and-running and playing for the platoon advantage all the time and you’re going to start collecting outs the way a stray dog collects fleas. If you put T.E. Lawrence, for instance, in charge of a ballclub you’d go weeks without a batter swinging away with a man on base. He’d be like Tony La Russa in a turban. We don’t know how big an effect a manager has on his team, but all we can quantify is tactical. What we know is that the tactical benefit is small, but the psychic benefit of a manager is believed to be large. I can think of no other reason why three of my favorite GMs in the game–John Mozeliak, Jon Daniels and Neal Huntington–continue to employ three simply abject in-game managers.

No, we want an inspirational figure who knows when to keep his hands off. Nobody with a God complex need apply. We’re after somebody who, given good intelligence (i.e. scouting reports and run expectancy charts) will trust it and act on it and not beat himself by trying to get overly creative. Grand Admiral Thrawn would be a terrible baseball manager, but I imagine he’d be the best offensive coordinator in history. Chip Kelly may be Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Which is why I want Ulysses S. Grant to manage my baseball team. I imagine Grant being kind of a dour yet charismatic manager, and when it comes to tactics, well, here’s his legacy: From 1861-1863, the Army of the Potomac pranced around Maryland and Virginia with overwhelming numerical superiority. And the various generals in charge kept getting cute, trying to turn the war into a battle of wits, which would’ve been a smart thing to do, if the Confederate army didn’t have the three smartest generals on the field.

So when Grant came over, he essentially went: “Wait–we’ve got more men, and more guns? Like lots more men and lots more guns? Well, screw it then. Let’s just steamroll these bastards, because they’ll run out of soldiers before we do.”

It’s that kind of elegant simplicity that I admire. Put General Grant in charge of the Cincinnati Reds, and here’s what he’d do: “Wait, we’ve got the two best on-base guys in the league, and a bunch of other dudes who hit for decent power but don’t get on base that much? Okay, well let’s put Choo and Votto next to each other and it won’t matter if Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips never walk–they’ll both drive in 150 runs a year.”

Baseball tactics are as easy as baseball itself is difficult.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 70: Howard Roark is a Terrible Architect

I’ve got a search saved on Twitter for “Crashbag.” Often, when I ask for questions, people respond directly to me, but others follow the original question-asking procedure from all those months ago and just toss a question out into the ether with the #crashbag hashtag affixed.

To my knowledge, “Crash Bag” is not a very commonly-used idiom in English-speaking culture, which is to say that I don’t pick up a lot of tweets on that filter that aren’t meant for me and for this purpose. Except every so often, I get a few in a language I don’t understand and can’t recognize. So this week, I finally decided to dig around and see what these interlopers were talking about. Apparently they’re Indonesian, but Google Translate doesn’t recognize the word “crashbag.” So if anyone speaks Indonesian and can tell me what “crashbag” (or some word that’s kind of spelled like it) means, I’d be very interested to know. I really hope it’s not something horrifyingly vulgar. Indonesia’s a big place, and it’d be bad for the blog to offend everyone there.

Start it off, Boss Man:

@CrashburnAlley: “Yasiel Puig has a walk-up song with his name in it by Mr. Criminal. Who would you want to write your self-titled song?”

First of all, it’s a damn travesty that Yasiel Puig is using a tribute song that’s not by Puig Destroyer.

Second, what band I choose has a lot to do with what the song is for. If we’re assuming it’s my walk-up song, then it’s got to be something special. Last spring, back when times were happier, I went through the process of picking out entrance music for Jonathan Papelbon and ended up choosing Every Time I Die’s “Ebolarama” over the Kick-Ass remix of John Murphy‘s “Adagio in D Minor.”

I’d be happy with something like “Adagio in D Minor,” but it’s got to have lyrics with my name in it. So let’s explore some more options.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 69: Baumann’s Second Law of Social Conduct

There are two great regional food-related battles in American language: soda vs. pop vs. coke and what you call a sandwich on a long roll.

I pay a lot of attention to such things because my own linguistic base is mixed–not only have I split my own life between the Mid-Atlantic and the Southeast, I’m of mixed parentage, having had ancestors on both sides of the Civil War. Which, in general, has led to my not having much of an accent at all, but occasionally leads me to ask people to go to breakfast by saying: “Y’all want to get some cwawfee and begels?” KTLSF not only being a Southerner, but a linguist as well, probably makes me even more aware of regional dialects than I would be otherwise. Side note: when you ask someone what the greatest moment of his life is, the modal answer, I think, is “the birth of my children,” which is great and noble, but I don’t have any. I can’t imagine it being better than being present for the moment KTLSF became aware that she, like most people from the Southeastern U.S., only uses four of the five vowels. Don’t believe me? Find a guy from a state with an SEC school and ask him to say “pin,” and then to say “pen.” This kind of stuff fascinates me, and when that map of dialects came out on Business Insider a couple months back, I spent way too much time dissecting it.

Anyway, I mostly talk like a guy from South Jersey, with the occasional Virginia/Carolinas inflection or colloquialism thrown in. After almost nine months in Wisconsin, I have not to my knowledge picked up any speech habits from the Upper Midwest, but I could be wrong. I say “soda,” and “traffic circles” instead of “roundabouts,” and “sear-up” instead of “sur-up.”

But the more I think about it, the more sure I am that when it comes to the sandwich thing? I don’t say “hoagies.” I say “subs.” I don’t know why, and it causes me deep shame.

You know what else causes me to feel shame? The Phillies. Let’s talk about those.

@asigal22: “Phillies win 4 of the next 6 world series or you win a million dollars??? Greater good of city vs. Greater good of yourself.”

In the early days of Crash Bag, my would-be Liberty Ballers comrade Jake Pavorsky asked how I’d fix the Phillies if I were given $150 million. My answer: I wouldn’t. I’d buy penthouses and sports cars and good food and bourbon and start a magazine and screw you guys.

My answer is the same even with this lesser sum. $1 million? Not enough to live on forever, but certainly enough for me to concentrate on writing full-time for a few years, maybe buy a new car and move someplace more interesting than where I live now…yeah, the hell with you guys. I’m taking the money without a second thought.

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