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.

Continue reading…

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.

Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 66: Destroyed in Seconds

It seems like everyone who went to college had that one professor who really made a profound impact on his or her own life. I had, like, nine. And one of those was Gordon Smith, a political science professor at South Carolina. If you go there, or know someone who does, I can’t recommend Dr. Smith enough as a professor.

Dr. Smith is one of the leading American leading scholars of Russian politics, and his career dates back long enough that he was a visiting professor at Leningrad State law school in the 1970s, where one of his students was the young Vladimir Putin. One of the advantage to taking a class on Russian foreign policy from someone who’d been to the USSR as much as Dr. Smith had is that his lectures are dotted with colorful and relevant anecdotes, such as this one.

On the night the Soviet Union fell, Dr. Smith’s phone rang. It was a colleague from Moscow.

“Gordon,” he said. “You’ll never guess where I am right now.”
“Well, where are you? Are you okay?”
“I broke into the Kremlin. And there’s nobody here.”

This has nothing to do with baseball, except I’m getting a fall-of-the-Soviet Union vibe about the Phillies right now.

Thanks again to Justin Klugh for filling in last week, but I’m back now and I’m ready to answer some questions. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 65: Climb a Staircase of Opponents’ Throats

Editor’s Note: Actually, I’m not the editor, am I? Anyway, this is Baumann, and we’ve got a special treat for you today–for the first time ever, we go outside the Crashburn Alley family for the Crash Bag, with Justin Klugh of That Ball’s Outta Here, among other outlets. You can follow him on Twitter at @TBOHblog

What’s up, nerdlingers?  Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 64: Truth and Reconciliation

Okay, let’s get this over with.

@BerenstainGer: “I don’t care about steroids in baseball. Am I normal?”

I care, I guess, just not very much. I think if you’re of a certain age, you don’t really remember a clean game. I was in fifth grade when they found Andro in Mark McGwire‘s locker–the baseball of jacked-up freaks is the only world I’ve ever really known. And if you’re in the same boat, I have to imagine that you’d view PEDs the way we view speeding, as an activity lots of people do, but the prohibitions against which are only sporadically enforced. That’s not the best analogy, but particularly after the hand-wringing and garment-rending and demands, simultaneously, for truthfulness and vengeance, I can absolutely understand why a fan would want to just move on and get back to baseball. I know I do. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 63: Some Massive Betrayal of the Faith

Some free advice to anyone who drives a mid-2000s Toyota Corolla. If you have an FM adapter for your iPod (which you all should, since Toyotas of that vintage have neither a tape deck nor an MP3 plug-in, you can make your steering wheel sound exactly like a cowbell. Just hold the wheel with your left hand at 9 o’clock and bang the adapter against the wheel at around 4 o’clock. It makes a sound like a cowbell and you’ll hum “Low Rider” to yourself every time you get behind the wheel.

Your questions:

@asigal22: “Crashbag Question: If the phils trade Papelbon and M. Young, but sign Utley, that is a win-win?”

The Phillies, according to Baseball Prospectus, have a 6.3 percent chance of making the playoffs and about half that chance of winning the division. And while that’s certainly not a precise number and it’s not literally impossible for them to come back, it’s probably not too far off the truth. And if you’re one of those people who thinks wanting to reload for next year (to say nothing of years to come) in the face of overwhelming evidence your team is beaten is some massive betrayal of the faith…in other words, if you’re one of those people who decides to forge ahead in the face of the overwhelming likeliness of defeat, spouting all the while that idiotic line from Dumb and Dumber, then maybe you hang on, win 82 games instead of 81 and lose Young for nothing at the end of the season. But major league GMs are paid to make smart decisions based on significant available information, not to shield you from have to confront a state of the world you find inconvenient.

The Phillies bought low on Young, and he’s played okay so far this season–.288/.344/.414 is well above average for an on-base guy this season, even though his defense has been so bad as to beggar belief. Scuttlebutt is that teams are interested in Young, and as a veteran right-handed bat, he could be quite a useful pickup for a team with designs on a playoff run. Would you get a top-100 prospect for him? Almost certainly not, but the Phillies are just now rebuilding a farm system that was decimated in service of building five consecutive division winners and if Ruben Amaro and his men have their eye on a sleeper prospect in the farm system of an interested team, absolutely trade him. Besides, even if you can’t do math and think the Phillies are still in it, they could plug Kevin Frandsen in at third base and probably not lose a whole lot in terms of 2013 production.

Papelbon may actually be at the peak of his trade value right now. Relievers, particularly relievers with lots of career saves, are overvalued at this point in the season, as general managers of contending teams 1) get nervous and try to just add any extra talent or 2) actually view another good relief pitcher as the last piece of a championship team. Even with his ridiculous contract and declining fastball velocity, someone would give up an asset for Papelbon, plus you’d clear upwards for $40 million from the team’s books by trading away the rest of his salary for 2013, plus the next two years, plus his vesting option in 2016. Which you know he’d hit because whoever has the most career saves is the closer until his arm falls off.

Now, to Cliff Lee. He’s still one of the best, most consistent, most durable starting pitchers in the game. Yes, he’s getting paid $25 million for the next two seasons, plus a $27.5 million vesting option in 2016, his age 37 season, if he pitches 200 innings in 2015 or 400 in 2014 and 2015 combined. Which, considering that he’s done so or is on pace to do so in eight of the past nine seasons, looks likely. It’s a lot of money.

And you know what? I’d pay it to him if I had plans to win a World Series in that time, particularly considering the increasing scarcity of bankable free agents. Lee is the Phillies’ most valuable realistic trade chip, the only player they can move for multiple significant assets, and that’s why he’d be a good player to trade, not as a salary dump but as a piece to move for younger, cheaper players. But considering Lee’s repertoire and durability, maybe it’s worth keeping him around and seeing if you can rebuild in the next three years. I’d at least listen to offers, but if nobody ponies up something too good to turn down, there’s no harm in keeping him.

Which brings us to Utley. Utley is 34 and has a checkered injury history, and could be a massive upgrade at second base for Oakland, Baltimore or Los Angeles. Even Tampa, if they wanted to bolster their chances, could move Ben Zobrist elsewhere on the diamond if they wanted Utley. You couldn’t get multiple impact prospects for him, but I bet you could get one good player, someone who would fit in with Jesse Biddle, Maikel Franco and Adam Morgan as a back-end-of-the-top-100 type, or somewhere thereabouts. Odds are Utley won’t be a significant contributor to the next good Phillies team even if they do keep him, so the rational thing to do would be to trade him.

But that’s where my rationality ends and my fandom begins. Utley’s never played anywhere else, he was the best player on the best stretch of teams in franchise history and the closest thing to a true Phillies Hall of Famer for 20 years in either direction. He’s said he wants to stay. So I’d extend his contract, even if it’s not the best thing to do for the team on paper.

So I think the situation you described–trade Papelbon and Young, re-sign Utley–is my ideal scenario, again, depending on what kind of offers they get for Cliff Lee.

Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 62: A Tropical Fruit Coma

I ordinarily write this over the course of three nights, asking for questions on Twitter intermittently as I go. But I tend not to get that many unless Bill retweets my request for questions. Now, I know this is because he has about five times as many Twitter followers as I do, but it still makes me feel like the parent the kids don’t respect and won’t listen to.

Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 60: Put that on Your Eye Black, Tebow

Lots of football in this Crash Bag. Not sure how that happened.

@uublog: “Who is the Monkey’s Paw of sports you can write about intelligently?”

I needed this reference explained to me. I know people seem to think I’m really well-read and esoteric, but I’ve only got about a dozen cultural references that I just keep rotating. Anyway, apparently there’s this monkey’s paw that grants you three wishes, but gives them to you in really horrible ways. It’s a parable about being careful what you wish for, but for people who think King Midas is too mainstream.

But the Monkey’s Paw of sports is pretty definitely Donovan McNabb, at least from where I’m sitting.

Eagles fans wanted McNabb gone pretty much since the moment he showed up. They blamed him, and pretty much him alone, for three NFC Championship game losses and a Super Bowl loss. It’s difficult to overstate the idiocy of blaming a team’s faults on its best player, but if you’re going to assign a 1:1 relationship between McNabb’s performance individually and the Eagles’ performance as a team, you have to be careful what you wish for. Because if that’s so, what does it say about McNabb’s importance to the team that his departure was followed, within three years, by the Eagles going rapidly and completely to shit?

I wouldn’t blame the decline and fall of the Philadelphia Eagles wholly on McNabb’s departure, because I’m not the kind of person who believes, for instance, that the sun rises and sets because Helios pulls it across the sky with his chariot. Which is just as ridiculous a thing to believe in as McNabb having been the Eagles’ big problem. Continue reading…

Crash Bag, Vol. 59: Move Along Home

Very few questions this week, but a spectacular crop. Let’s dive right in, like a hyperactive toddler into the ball pit at McDonald’s.

@SoMuchForPathos: “Speak, if you would, on the parallels between Chula and baseball.”

And there are many. Chula, for those of you who don’t remember, is a board game played by a species called the Wadi in an early episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. There are five players: one who sets a strategy and rolls the dice, and four others who are transported into the game and made to overcome various puzzles and physical challenges, descending down the levels of the board to home.

I know that the episode of DS9 that featured Chula, “Move Along Home,” was almost universally decried as terrible. Like, the conceit is that the Wadi are the first species the Federation made contact with and brought back through the Wormhole, so you’d think they’d be important, but they get written out after one episode. But think about the game–one person calls the strategy and literally rolls the dice, leaving the outcome not only up to his in-game players, over whom he has no direct control, but largely to chance. Those players go from one level to another, trying to go home…does this sound familiar to anyone?

Which brings me to the real point of this whole exercise. The games are similar enough that you could probably get the Wadi leader, a boisterous, charismatic, mustachioed huckster named Falow, to do color commentary on a baseball game with little to no prep time. Would this not be the best thing ever?

Tom McCarthy: “Revere on first, nobody out, Phillies down 2-1 in the eighth inning. Michael Young to the plate. What do you think–does Charlie Manuel call a bunt or a steal, or does he let Young swing away?”
T-Mac: “Stammen takes the sign, the pitch…and Revere takes off! The throw from Ramos…not in time!”
Falow: “Double their peril, double your winnings!”
T-Mac: “1-0 the count to Young. Stammen with the offering–and Young lines it into the gap in right! Revere around third, the throw from Harper is not in time! Tie ballgame!”

Hey, people who think baseball is boring? I’ve solved it. Completely. Continue reading…