Crash Bag, Vol. 83: I Am Easily Shamed

Let’s start things off with a furious bout of wishful thinking.

@asigal22: “Is there a record this season that gets Amaro fired? If so, can he get the Phillies there?”

I don’t think so. Well, let me rephrase–there is such a record, but it’s like 36-126 or something ridiculous and bad as I think the Phillies are going to be, they won’t be record-settingly bad. I’m pretty sure the Phillies’ win total this season is going to start with a 7, and if it doesn’t it’ll be because Cliff Lee falls off a cliff, not because of anything Ruben Amaro‘s done recently. This has been inevitable since 2010, and that we’re just now feeling the effects of the decisions that killed the Phillies’ chances at contention doesn’t mean that they’re fixable in the short term. A few weeks ago I set an over-under date of something like December 9, 2015, more or less out of the blue, and asked around whether people thought Amaro would be gone before or after that date. I’d take the over, just because I can’t imagine what would change between now and then to change the mind of ownership. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 81: Semi-Serious Baseball Questions

I got a new laptop since the last time I wrote the Crash Bag, and it has a touchscreen. It’s so cool–I could never go back to a non-touchscreen computer now. This week I tried to scroll on my wife’s Macbook by touching the screen and nothing happened and my first thought was: “What a piece of junk.”

The only thing I need now is some kind of program to make my desktop and all my applications look like the LCARS system from Star Trek. You know, like this:

And I know there are apps that let you play around and press the buttons and stuff, but I’m talking about the whole shebang. I had a Winamp skin that did this a while back, but never anything for the whole computer. Let’s get on this.

And let’s get to your questions.

@dschoenfield: “Don’t you think somebody should do a study on when MLB players peak? Could perhaps be helpful for RAJ.”

Yeah, that’d be nice. Someone ought to get on that and show it to Ruben Amaro before he signs another player who’s old enough to be my dad. Well, Marlon Byrd isn’t literally old enough to be my dad, but you get the point.

I’ll say this–there’s something to be said for swimming against the current. To a certain extent, you’re not going to find low-risk, high-upside bargains in the free agent market, because that’s not where the value is anymore. But shouldn’t you be able to finagle the occasional bargain by taking a stab at a player most teams think is too old? For instance: the Mariners got 29 home runs last year out of Raul Ibanez, a 41-year-old they paid less than $3 million. And he would’ve been a steal at that price if they’d DH’d him full-time instead of giving him 97 starts in left field, which is something an insane team would do. As a little more than a half-time left fielder, he gave back about two and a half wins (NOT RUNS, WINS) with his defense alone. Ibanez got 97 starts in left and his glove alone was about as great a detriment to the Mariners as Domonic Brown, an All-Star, was a net positive for the Phillies. You can’t let that happen. Civilized people don’t let that happen.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 78: Ted Williams Shift

The other night, when I was watching a Cardinal (I believe Carlos Beltran), hit a screaming line drive straight into the Ted Williams Shift for an out, I remarked that if I were dictator of baseball, I’d outlaw the shift, which generated this response:

@SamMillerBP: “Why?”

Fair question.

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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. 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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