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…

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.

Continue reading…

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. 97: Jelly is Great

Tonight, on the Crash Bag: The Phillies fail to score, a man asks a record-breaking question, and I distribute breakup advice.

@asigal22: “Will the Phils be as bad in the regular season as they have been in Spring Training. I know Spring Training is stupid.”

Relax.

I mean, yes, the Phillies are going to be bad, but relax. We’ve gotten so used to the Phillies winning, or expecting to win, that we’ve lost the ability to be relaxed about them losing. The lost 89 games last year, they’ll probably lose about that many this year, and we’ll give up this ridiculous delusion of being able to compete with the Braves and Nationals by Flag Day. So what are they going to do about it? Continue reading…

The Phillies Pulled Off a Rare Feat on Wednesday

Author’s Note: This website is home to a lot of in-depth baseball analysis. This piece is no such thing. In the words below, you will find little else but pure, useless trivia.

Today’s game is the halfway point in the Phillies’ spring training schedule and Opening Day can’t come soon enough. Spring training is an awful tease that tricks me each year into rejoicing that “Baseball is back!” before realizing that the only baseball things that actually happen in March are utterly meaningless games, depressing reports of catastrophic injuries, and needlessly alarming reports of ultimately non-catastrophic injuries. In desperate need of relief from a bad case of the March baseball doldrums, I was thrilled when a statistical oddity in Wednesday’s exhibition game gave me an excuse dive head first into a baseball-reference dot com binge.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 95: American Virtue

@jimmyfricke: “Should Phillies fans be upset about Cruz being signed for 1 year 8 mil while we’re stuck with Byrd for 2 years 16 mil”

Absolutely not. Cruz is a 33-year-old power-before-hit corner outfielder who produces no value on the bases or in the field. Those guys tend to have a couple things in common: they’re overrated in their primes, because they produce homers and RBI, which are flashy, but nothing else. The other thing is that when the bat starts to slip even a little, the whole package falls apart. Look for Nelson Cruz comps and you’ll find names like Juan Gonzalez and Henry Rodriguez, and when those guys started to slip, things got ugly fast. Byrd is older, and didn’t have Cruz’s prime with the bat, but he was, at one point in the past, a good athlete, and I’m not convinced Byrd won’t be better than Cruz in 2014.

The other thing is Cruz costs a draft pick, and for a guy who makes you a 79-win team when John Mayberry makes you a 76-win team, that’s not even worth a second-rounder. The Orioles were in need of a DH and have a better shot at contending than the Phillies do, so this signing makes more sense for them–and even then, I’m not in love with it–but signing Nelson Cruz for a battle for third place is exactly the kind of pothole-in-front-of-the-rebuild move Ruben Amaro deserves credit for not making. The past two offseasons.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 94: Ben Wetzler Lightning Round

NBA trade deadline, labor strife, Little Big League…we’ve got it all this week.

@truelladelphia: “How great is Sam Hinkie?”

Pretty great. Early in the season, I had an expectation of getting at least one first-round pick (either this year or next) for Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, but that stopped being realistic a while ago, thanks to the quality of this year’s draft and the NBA’s inscrutable player movement rules, which gridlocked the draft pick market to a certain extent. Hawes and Turner were both going to walk as free agents this summer anyway, so getting literally anything for them was a win. I would’ve liked to see Hawes go to either Oklahoma City or the Clippers, where I think he could’ve played a significant role on a title contender as a rotation big, but Hinkie got a return on Hawes and Turner while not panic trading Thaddeus Young for 50 cents on the dollar. Second-round NBA draft picks are one of the most useless commodities in sports, but this is where the Astros comparison I’ve been harping on all year comes in–if you take over a team without serious assets, you bide your time by placing a bunch of long-shot bets until you can get some assets. Anyway, Hinkie got rid of three veterans (including Lavoy Allen) for which he had no use and took on a net of either five or six (almost certainly six) second-round draft picks. A smart team can get one rotation player out of six second-round picks, or trade them for something else. This is the guy trading the red paper clip for the house.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 90: Naming Your Baby

Greetings. Let’s talk about how great it is that Bobby Abreu is on the Phillies again.

@Wzeiders: “how great is it that Bobby Abreu is a Phillie again, even if it’s just a fleeting dream I’m scared to wake from?”

It’s pretty great, I tell ya. It’s pretty great. I try not to swear above the break in these posts, but my official position on Bobby Abreu is that if you don’t love him, or at least recognize what a great player he was, you can fuck off and die.

Go ahead. I’ll wait.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 88: Paul Bunyan Lager

I know y’all are probably sick of hearing about the Hall of Fame, but I’ve got one last parting shot: I don’t think taking the vote away from the writers is the answer, because if you assign it to a special committee, it will concentrate power in a smaller, less empirically inclined, more reactionary group than ever. Just look at the NHL, or even baseball’s Hall of Fame itself–most of the most embarrassing members of the Hall of Fame are Veterans Committee candidates who made the grade based on cronyism and old grudges. If the Hall of Fame does commission a special panel, I bet Jay Jaffe isn’t on it, despite his having come closer than anyone else to quantifying the Hall of Fame case and writing more extensively on the debate than any other writer. Maybe you get John Thorn. Maybe you get Bill James as a form of analytical tokenism. But I guarantee you that panel produces worse results than an electorate of sportswriters.

If I had unlimited time and this month to do over again, I’d try to craft an alternative electoral system to try to get around the issues posed by the 75 percent threshold and 10-vote maximum. But I only remembered that I owned a copy of Arend Lijphart’s Patterns of Democracyso that wasn’t in the cards. Though if you’re at all interested in comparative electoral systems, it’s worth the cent a used copy will run you on Amazon.

Anyway, Crash Bag 88. Lindros. Let’s go. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 84: The Burrito Emporia of Queens

Good set of questions this week, so I’ll dive right in. First from the boys at Cespedes Family Barbecue. In my Roy Halladay tribute piece on Grantland earlier this week, I called Zoo With Roy the weirdest, most passionate blog…excuse me, “bolg”…in the history of sports, but Cespedes Family Barbecue is about 94 percent as weird as ZWR. Anyway, they sent a barrage of questions, starting with this one:

@CespedesBBQ: “if you were Domonic Brown, what team would you want to be traded to? you can’t choose the Expos”

So I’m going to interpret this question as involving the following parameters: putting my personality and tastes in Dom Brown’s body. So I’m the same person, but instead of being a married 26-year-old writer who looks like Jonathan Frakes’ slobbish nephew, I’d be a single 26-year-old baseball player who looks like an underwear model and whose salary is like mine, but with significant multiplication involved.

And because this is me being Dom Brown, and not Dom Brown being Dom Brown, this list would look different than you’d expect.

Continue reading…