Crash Bag, Vol. 109: The Utley/Halladay Buddy Film

@Dweebowitz: “How *do* they get out of the mess their stripped farm system and grotesquely overpaid geriatric lineup have become?”

I can’t emphasize this enough: there is no easy fix. There is no quick fix. There is no way the Phillies can overhaul the roster and contend next year, and barring some unforeseen run of luck, probably not the year after that.

The answer is time. You can’t build a contender overnight anymore by buying established players, and the Phillies’ greatest resource, money, makes buying established players the course the Phillies are most able to take. But that’s not how things work anymore. Look at any team that’s currently in good playoff position–either they’ve developed their own talent, or used homegrown talent to acquire established talent, or they’ve been particularly good at picking up pieces off the scrap heap, like the A’s.

The good news is that the Phillies aren’t trying to buy their way back into the playoff race anymore. Signings like Byrd and A.J. Burnett might look like that, but they’re not. They’re damage control. Meanwhile, the farm system isn’t stripped anymore–two years ago, the Phillies were sneaking one guy into the back end of top 100 prospect lists, but after two pretty good drafts, they’ve got three no-doubt top 100 prospects in J.P. Crawford, Aaron Nola and Maikel Franco, and several other interesting prospects besides, and whereas two years ago, all the talent in the Phillies’ system was buried in low-A and rookie ball, those kids–Crawford and Franco among them–are slowly climbing the minor league rungs. Of course, the Phillies haven’t had much success converting minor league talent into major league production in the past five years or so, but that’s a different problem. Continue reading…

Roy Halladay Expresses His Feelings for Chase Utley on Twitter

Roy Halladay joined Twitter a few months ago and has quickly become a must-follow. Not only because it gives us access to a former Phillie, but because he’s often unintentionally hilarious and takes the time to interact with his haters. On Tuesday afternoon, while people were clamoring over the Chase Headley trade, Halladay decided to get a bit personal and express some feelings for Chase Utley.

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Jimmy Rollins Officially Joins the Phillies Elite

From Ed Abbaticchio to Jon Zuber, Baseball-Reference.com lists 1,804 players as having stepped to the plate for the Phillies since their inception in 1883 and Jimmy Rollins has officially outhit every single one of them. He has surpassed every mythical name from Phillies past and every childhood hero for those of us (un?)fortunate enough to be raised Phillies fans. From Delahanty to Ashburn to Schmidt, Rollins now stands alone.

Rollins had barely touched first base to secure his new title before he was asked about whether he would accept a trade. The Phillies drank champagne while people passionately ticked off the reasons why Rollins shouldn’t be elected to Cooperstown. And I would be shocked if as Chase Utley toasted his teammate of 11 years, there wasn’t someone somewhere still talking about how Jimmy is lazy and/or selfish.

I know that it’s likely Jimmy’s days in Philadelphia are numbered. I know that his Hall of Fame credentials are borderline at best. And I also know that no matter what happens there will be fans that actively reject and/or dismiss his greatness in the same way Abreu’s critics and Howard’s critics and, yes, even Utley’s critics live on. I also don’t care.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 104: Draft Review, Hot Dogs, Book Writing

Let’s get down to it.

@gberry523: “how surprised were you by the Phillies drafting only one high schooler in their first 10 (and barely any later)?”

I wasn’t that surprised that they went college-heavy early, but they wound up picking college players with 27 of their first 28 picks, which is kind of nuts. I don’t think anyone expected that, but I think that factoid is also a little deceptive.

After some consideration, I liked the Phillies’ draft in general: For all the time I spent griping about their plans to pick Aaron Nola, I can live with him at No. 7, and if nothing else, I don’t think they’ve ever picked a player I liked this much in college. I think I was mostly pissed that there were five guys I was sold on as potential superstars, and with the Phillies picking seventh and with the Cubs unlikely to pick one of those five (Rodon, Aiken, Kolek, Gordon and Jackson), it looked like the Phillies would miss out on those guys by one pick, which is exactly what happened. Once I got over that, and once I came to terms with the fact that they weren’t going to pick Jeff Hoffman or Max Pentecost–who, secret agent name aside, I like a lot–I learned to stop worrying and love Aaron Nola and so on.  Continue reading…

Listen My Children: Ben Revere’s Mighty Swing

Listen my children

Do you remember what it was like to go to a baseball game as a child? The overwhelmingly green grass; the intoxicating aroma of hot dogs and cotton candy; the complete and utter joy of an afternoon at the ballpark. A child doesn’t know or care about the contract status of the men playing a child’s game on the diamond below. A child doesn’t know or care about the aging curve or player projections. No, for a child, the game is simple. Cheer when good things happen for the home team, pout when bad things happen, and cry when terrible things happen (yes, Joe Carter, I’m talking about you). The only game that matters for a child is the current one, the only pitcher that matters is the one standing on the mound and the only batter that matters is the guy digging into the batter’s box.

And you shall hear

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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.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 99: Baby’s First Democratic System

Gregg Easterbrook once wrote (and I’m paraphrasing, because if I have to sift through a billion TMQ columns to find the exact wording, I will end my life, so help me God): “Writing a book is like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer: it feels so good when you stop.”

I’m writing a book, set to come out in November, ranking the 20 greatest athletes in Philadelphia sports history, and for the next month or so, I’ll be concentrating on finishing that, to the peril of any sort of writing I do for fun, including Crashburn. After 99 weeks of uninterrupted service, I toyed with the idea of just lining up five or six guest columns to fill the space, but what comes back in May will be more purposeful than what you’re reading now, which has largely been the product of inertia. So for the last time, at least for a while, I’ll take your questions.

@Hegelbon: “if the Phillies had to be run like a social political system, which would you choose? I’d pick oligarchy.”

That’s kind of how they’re run right now, isn’t it? One person, or group of people, has all the power and delegates it to a bureaucracy that includes the baseball ops people, the PR people, event planners…it’s not a terrible way to run an organization, and a big reason I’m such a fan of career civil service in actual government: we elect the politicians, who (in theory) reflect our goals as an electorate and translate those goals (national security, economic prosperity, and so on) into achievable policy objectives, then turn to the army of wonks they employ to actually carry out those objectives. Because politicians don’t know dick about how things actually work–wonks do, because they do this for a living.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 98: Carrying Asche Around

I was thinking about heist movies the other day. Heist movies are one of my three favorite genres of movie, along with movies about journalistic ethics and movies where a small group of guys go to do something during World War II. Now, I’ve seen bad examples of the other two, but the worst heist movie I’ve ever seen was Ocean’s 12, which wasn’t horrible in absolute terms so much as it was very clearly half-assed compared to the other two installments in the series. Have I been lucky, or is it just impossible to make a bad heist movie?

But that’s my question. What are yours?

@Living4Laughs: “As a fan of Jimmy Rollins is it best to block out the negative media attention and non fans’ feelings? It bothers me.”

I think that’s what I’m going to have to do, because I tried explaining to someone that Rollins isn’t actually conspicuously selfish and lazy and all that other specious, unfalsifiable (and I believe, racially coded) nonsense that gets thrown around, and even if he is, he’s the best shortstop in team history anyway, so how big a deal can his lack of ostentatious hustle really be? Let’s look at two other infielders: Nick Punto routinely dives into first base, which actually makes him slower to the bag, while Robinson Cano actually does routinely dog it down to first base. Like, it shows up in the numbers and everything. And I love Punto, but he’s a career utility infielder, while Cano has missed a total of 14 games since 2007. Chase Utley has missed fewer than 14 games in a season only three times in his career. And apart from Utley, Cano is the best second baseman since…Roberto Alomar? Joe Morgan? Cano’s going to the Hall of Goddamn Fame is my point, whether he busts his ass on a hard grounder to second or not.

Rollins isn’t that good, but if he has crippling intangible issues (which again, is a premise I won’t grant until and unless I see even specific accusations, let alone evidence, that he’s conspicuously and detrimentally apathetic), they don’t hurt the team unless they’re impairing the team’s ability to score runs or prevent its opponent from doing the same. Both of which he’s done better than any other shortstop in Phillies history, better than all but a handful of players in Phillies history and better than all but a handful of contemporary shortstops.

So like I said, I’m done arguing this.

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Crash Bag, Vol. 96: This Train

I wonder if anyone from Spain has ever written in to the blog. I’d be surprised if that was the case. Because, you know…

@Bradleycs1: “what do you think AJ Burnett’s reaction to the Phillies implementing defensive shifts will be?”

I know he was unhappy with the Pirates shifting last season, but he’ll deal with it, because he’s a professional, and the Pirates shifted their infielders more last season than just about anybody, one of the consequences of such things being that Pittsburgh won 94 games and Burnett got to start a game in the playoffs. The shift is one of many developments in baseball strategy and tactics that I really, really don’t like from an aesthetic point of view, even though I recognize that it’s smart. For instance, strikeouts are on the rise as teams realize the most reliable way to get outs is to have pitchers who miss bats, while also, somewhat paradoxically, realizing that strikeouts for hitters aren’t terrible if they’re part of an approach that also leads to deep counts, home runs and walks. Meanwhile, stolen bases have also gone out of style to a certain degree, since the high break-even point makes it more important for would-be basestealers to pick their spots more wisely. Continue reading…

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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