Crash Bag, Vol. 111: Lists and Counterfactuals

Oh, God, I’ve done 111 of these. What have I done with my life?

@benafflaco: “Robin Williams was the first celebrity’s death that actually caused me sadness. I haven’t experienced this with an athlete. My question is, who of current or recent Phillies, is going to cause all teh tears, when he croaks, for our generation?”

I think we’ve experienced that with Harry Kalas. One of the first open-a-vein big feelings sports columns I ever wrote was a column for my college newspaper mourning Harry Kalas. That really was like a death in the family, probably because if you were born in the Delaware Valley between 1975 and 2000, odds are Harry Kalas is your father anyway. But that whole Kalas/Ashburn/Musser crew was like the surrogate uncle to a generation of Phillies fans, and while there have been beloved Phillies players in recent years, it’s tough to imagine any of them meriting that kind of reaction. I mean, Harry was the voice of the Phillies for multiple generations and was beloved almost universally in a way that’s hard for any player to match. There is nothing anyone can say that will convince me that the Tom McCarthy hate is rooted in a frustration that he’s not Harry Kalas. You could’ve brought Red Barber over and Phillies fans would’ve hated him. Continue reading…

Raising the White Flag

Last Thursday’s trade of Roberto Hernandez to the Dodgers is both troubling and encouraging. The deal sparked a series of events and renewed old questions that bear heavily on the future of the Phillies. Josh Beckett‘s going on the disabled list, possibly for the remainder of the season, certainly factored significantly in the specific timing of the trade, but that’s really only relevant from the Dodgers’ perspective. The trade’s immediate impact was that it forced the Phillies to call up emergency starter Sean O’Sullivan, a replacement player if there ever was one, to take Hernandez’s turn in the rotation. (Sorry, Sean.) From a broader viewpoint, Thursday’s interrelated events were an indelicate signal that the front office really has given up on this season.

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Adding A Bit of Character into Analysis

For a while, most Sabermetric analysis was very cold and impersonal. Lots of column-sorting in Excel, tabbing through pages in the web browser, and querying databases. The evolution of Sabermetrics has made it simple for a casual fan, a die-hard, and your cadre of baseball writers to criticize and compare your favorite (or least favorite) players.

Somewhere along the line, having the ability to compare and contrast any players at any position in any era has, at times, left us without the perspective we once had in our prior ignorance: that baseball players are people, and as such, are fallible. I don’t level this criticism as an innocent bystander — one need only search the site for any article about Ryan Howard for evidence of my own hand in this.

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Phillies Claim Jerome Williams off of Waivers

Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported yesterday that the Phillies claimed pitcher Jerome Williams off of waivers from the Texas Rangers. Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reports that the Phillies are sending $20,000 to the Rangers as compensation. To make room for Williams on the roster, the club designated Sean O’Sullivan for assignment. Williams is expected to start Tuesday.

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The Return of Jimmy Rollins’ Power

A year ago, eulogies were being penned –the once great Jimmy Rollins was done. The former MVP and once elite shortstop hit a paltry .252/.318/.348 with just six home runs as defensive metrics began to sour on a man who had once been among the league’s best defenders at shortstop. Rollins set career lows in ISO, HRs and RBI. His rWAR (-0.2) was far and away the lowest of his prodigious career. All of this combined with the fact that he was a 34-year-old playing one of the most physically demanding positions on the field and the Rollins’ Demise narrative was defensible but, as it turns out, also wholly inaccurate.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 110: Why Bad Things Happen

@Matt_Winkelman: “Given the Phillies signing Lenin this summer, can you make a team of former and current world leaders?”

(cracks knuckles)

I’ll try to go easy on American presidents with common names, but my lack of knowledge of, say, obscure Italian provincial dukes is probably going to hamstring me here a little.

  • C: Lenin Rodriguez (Vladimir Lenin, premier of the USSR, 1922-1924)
  • 1B: Fred Merkle (Angela Merkel, current chancellor of Germany)
  • 2B: Donovan Solano (Javier Solana, former Secretary General of NATO and de facto foreign minister of the European Union)
  • 3B: Tony Batista (Fulgencio Batista, president of Cuba, 1940-1944, 1952-1959)
  • SS: John McDonald (Sir John A. MacDonald, first prime minister of Canada, 1867-1873, 1878-1891)
  • LF: Mike Morse (Mike Moore, former prime minister of New Zealand, 1990)
  • CF: Cameron Maybin (David Cameron, current prime minister of the U.K.)
  • RF: Trot Nixon (yeah, you know this guy)
  • DH: Starlin Castro (Fidel Castro and Josef Stalin if you’re from New England)
  • SP: Derek Holland (Francois Hollande, current president of France. And not the Netherlands, at it happens, which I think is kind of messed up.)
  • SP: Masahiro Tanaka (Kakuei Tanaka, prime minister of Japan, 1972-1976)
  • LH RP: Joe Thatcher (Margaret Thatcher, prime minister of the U.K., 1979-1990)
  • RH RP: Luis Aquino (Corazon Aquino, president of the Philippines, 1986-1992)
  • CL: John Franco (Francisco Franco, dictator of Spain, 1939-1975)

Sorry for playing fast and loose with the spelling–this could have taken all day otherwise. Actually, it pretty much did take all day.

@neal_kendrick: “If everything happens for a reason why do the Phillies suck?’ Continue reading…