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. 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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Solving the Maize: Reflections on Ruf, Asche and Player Makeup

Twelve-hundred miles due west of Citizens Bank Park, where a golden sun beats down on the heart of America, armies of corn sway in uncanny unison from horizon to horizon and Eric Crouch jerseys are acceptable bridal party garb, David Seifert’s odometer turns over.

The Phillies Mid-Western Area Scout is responsible for signing two of the primary reasons any of us are still watching the big league club this year, Darin Ruf and Cody Asche. For the die-hards, Ruf and Asche have been the warmth emanating from the dumpster fire that is the 2013 Phillies. Their arrival in the big leagues has been the subject of much discourse in the Media Market of Brotherly Love because of some of the over-arching issues Ruf and Asche represent as it pertains to talent evaluation and because….well, there’s really nothing else to talk about. We here at Crashburn have been no different. Since Ruf’s outer-body experience in Reading last August, nobody in the system has been discussed more on this site because of the insane juxtaposition between his numbers (this site’s traditional modus operandi) and the opinion of the entire scouting industry (except for one guy I know of). It’s time we take another look at both players from the scouting perspective and discuss how and why opinions have changed, if they have at all as well as reflect on the scouting process itself. Continue reading…

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. 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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Crash Bag, Vol. 68: Let Them Sing

I’m about to say something, fully aware of the irony the venue provides. I started doing the Crash Bag last May because I was bored and unemployed, and looking for something steady to contribute. I figured a mailbag would be fun and relatively easy, and a bunch of writers I look up to–Bill Simmons, Katie Baker and Drew Magary in particular–have done it, so why not?

But there are a lot of mailbag columns out there. I don’t think this is a bad thing–mailbags tend to be casual, cover a wide range of topics and encourage community involvement, all of which I like–and even if I did, it’s not like I have an special claim to the format. But right now, I’m reading four of them a week on Deadspin, plus various and sundry other weekly mailbag columns and listener email podcast segments. Counting the Crash Bag, I’m exposed to probably as many as a dozen a week.

I just wonder if we’re in a mailbag column bubble right now. I have no plans of stopping the Crash Bag any time soon, but now might be a good time to short your stock anyway.

@ryne_jones: “what is the best color”

Blue. It’s versatile and brings out the color in my eyes. Next question. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 67: It’s Important to Score Runs

I’m currently eating a salad. Not the kind of salad I like best, which is so much meat and cheese and starchy crap it’s really a taco or a buffalo chicken sandwich but with so many vegetables you can’t avoid them, but a real salad: spinach and a little feta cheese and raspberry vinaigrette dressing. It’s delicious, but I can’t enjoy it fully because I know in two hours I’m going to be hungry again and I’ll wind up eating an entire block of cheddar cheese and an entire box of crackers because I have no self control.

But seriously: spinach, some sort of berry and some sort of stinky cheese. It’s outstanding.

And I know y’all hunger too. For your questions to be answered. Away we go.

@FelskeFiles: “If there was one Phillies player you would suspect could go all Heisenberg on everyone, who would it be?”

I am uncertain.

@ethan_witte: “handicap the odds of people becoming next Phils manager. I hope Dave Martinez is 3-1″

It’s tough to put numbers on this question, because not only do we not know who the next crop of candidates is, we’re not even certain that Charlie Manuel‘s in his last season. (I think he is. He seems to want to keep going, but I imagine Ruben Amaro‘s going to sit him down at some point and either make him a special assistant to the GM or put him on an ice floe.)

Anyway, not knowing much about the personalities or tendencies of potential managers, Martinez (currently the bench coach for the Rays) makes sense. The assumption is that a manager will train coaches who think and operate like him. In football, this is why just about every current head coach either worked for (or worked for someone who worked for) Bill Walsh or Bill Parcells. So if you assume that Martinez is to Joe Maddon as Maddon was to Mike Scioscia, then of course you’d want him. The same with John Farrell getting hired by the Blue Jays a few years ago–they couldn’t get Terry Francona, so they picked one of his top assistants. Or Bo Porter and Davey Johnson. Having no inside information at all, here’s how I think things shake out, and I don’t give a crap if the numbers don’t add up:

  • Ryne Sandberg (5-to-4)
  • Dave Martinez (5-to-1)
  • Manny Acta (10-to-1)
  • Brian Butterfield, Red Sox third base coach and defensive shift guru (10-to-1)
  • Mike Scioscia, after being fired by the Angels (15-to-1)
  • John McLaren (15-to-1)
  • DeMarlo Hale, Blue Jays bench coach (2o-to-1)
  • Tim Bogar (50-to-1)
  • Hensley Meulens, San Francisco Giants hitting coach, manager of the Dutch national team, and the guy I’ve just now, for no reason, decided I want if they can’t get Acta (150-to-1)
  • Jim Fregosi (200-to-1)

So yeah, that’s an arbitrary list of former managers and current assistant coaches with equally arbitrary numbers next to their names. Remind me to revisit this when the names of potential interviewees start getting leaked.

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