TBAG #2 – A Heartfelt Apology


As you can see, we’ve decided to re-name the TBOH Mailbag from the TBOHBag to something a little bit shorter.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the second TBAG! We hope you enjoy this collection of questions from my Twitter followers and, well, let’s face it, people who felt sorry for me asking a billion times for questions.

Hey, we all can’t have a million followers like SOME people.

*looks crossly at Darren Rovell’s twitter followers*

This may end up becoming a monthly thing, but if we can do it on a weekly basis, that would be a ton of fun and would save me from having to try and think up original stuff to write about.

So, you know, in the future, please enable my laziness. Mmkay?


At this point, I think he has to be the leading candidate, although you can reasonably assume Amaro is going to at least kick the tires on the free agent market. Perhaps the best option for an outside-the-organization addition is Texas’ Nelson Cruz, who is serving his 50-game Biogenesis suspension but could be a reasonably inexpensive option after the season. He’ll be 33 next year, which is precisely the age Amaro wants every player on his roster to be, is right-handed, and hits for power, smoking 27 home runs before his suspension this year, with an OPS of .841. Since 2009, he has averaged 27 homers a year, so he’s also a consistent power threat from the right side.

Because of his PED suspension, he may have a hard time finding anything longer than a two or three-year deal. It’s always a risk signing a player linked to PEDs who is in his mid-30s, and he’s not very good defensively, so it wouldn’t come without a lot of risk, too.

On-base machine Shin-Soo Choo will also be a free agent, he of the .416 on-base percentage, 16 homers and .869 OPS. However, he is a left-handed hitter and will turn 31 next year. Still, he would be an upgrade for a lineup in desperate need of some top-of-the-order on-base guys. Marlon Byrd, Carlos Beltran, and Hunter Pence are all potential right field free agents next year as well.

Aug 14, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Darin Ruf (18) gets high fives in the dugout after hitting a home run against the Atlanta Braves during the ninth inning at Turner Field. The Braves defeated the Phillies 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Still, all of those options would cost more than Ruf, and right now, Ruf is hitting for power, if not a lot else. He went into last night hitting .269/.371/.508, but in his last 46 PAs, he’s hit just .195/.283/.415 for an OPS of .697. He had generated just eight hits during that time, although three of them were homers. Ruf hit his ninth homer in just 134 at-bats last night which, if extrapolated over 500 at-bats, would give him 33 on the year. His seven homers in August are tied for sixth in the big leagues behind Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis, Alfonso Soriano, Donnie Murphy and Justin Upton, who have all hit eight.

So, Ruf has largely impressed, but it’s also kind of been a mixed bag.

The bottom line is, if the Phils can get a good deal on a player like Cruz, they’ll probably go in that direction, and use Ruf as a right-handed bench bat that would spell Domonic Brown, whoever the free agent right fielder is, or platoon with Ryan Howard at first. Many are not convinced Ruf is an everyday player, and it’s still too early to make a determination either way. If Amaro truly believes this team can make a run at the playoffs next year, he may decide to go the free agency route.

However, my guess is he’s seen enough from Ruf to give him the chance to be the team’s every day right fielder in 2014.

I was always good at spelling as a kid. I think that’s because I was trained on the Speak and Spell, which can still be purchased on Ebay for your young children’s educational future. Seriously, it’s an investment, people.

As for Sandberg, the short answer is, I don’t have any idea if he’s going to be any better than Charlie Manuel. We haven’t seen enough of him yet, and we probably won’t know how good he really is until his roster is a little bit better. DO NOT JUDGE HIM BASED ON THIS LAST MONTH OF THE SEASON. Right now, Sandberg is just trying to figure things out, issue challenges to his veteran players through the media, and enjoy his new parking spot.

And while Manuel had his weaknesses (bullpen usage, playing small ball, excessive use of John Mayberry, etc.), he is still the greatest manager in the history of the franchise. So that would be kind of a high bar for Sandberg to meet. If “Ryne” is going to be “better” than Manuel, he’s going to have to become the greatest manager in Phillies history. And it would be kind of rare for a team to have their franchise’s two best managers manage one right after the other.

That said, I will take this opportunity to add that it is kind of ridiculous how Manuel has been martyred in the media and by the fanbase over the last week. Perhaps Amaro firing Manuel the way he did was actually the best thing that could have happened to him. Amaro made Charlie a hero, a sympathetic figure now immune to criticism. All of the tributes and atta-boys to Manuel over the last week were certainly deserved, but let’s not put him on a path to sainthood.

Not worried at all. Two things on this…

Aug 18, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies left fielder Domonic Brown (9) singles during the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies defeated the Dodgers 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

First, Brown’s insane home run blitz in May is certainly going to be atypical for his career. He will probably never get that homer-happy again. It was just an incredible run that has skewed everyone’s expectations of him. I don’t see him as a 35-40 homer guy. I think he’s a guy that will hit 25-30 home runs a year, but I doubt he’s going to be among the league leaders in dingers on a regular basis.

And second, don’t forget that Brown missed much of the second half with an injury. He’s only played 20 games since the All-Star break, including last night. And going into last night’s game, he had hit .268/.312/.465 for an OPS of .776 with those four homers and two doubles in 77 PAs. And while those aren’t amazing numbers, they’re also not terrible. And it’s a small sample size. The league is adjusting to Brown and Brown is adjusting back.

So no, of all the things on this team, the last thing I’m worried about is Brown’s second half power numbers. I would like to see him hit a few more doubles and triples, though. But he’s still a young player learning to play the game. I think next year, he’ll take another step forward, and I’m very excited about his future.

This is a really important question that I wanted to get to the bottom of. And, with the help of the worldwide googleweb, I got my answers.

The good folks at The Annals of Improbable Research probed this question in-depth, and their answers were illuminating.

"Paskevich and Shea. “The ability of woodchucks to chuck cellulose fibers” Annals of Improbable Research, 1995.Groundhogs, aka woodchucks, aka whistle-pigs aren’t hogs (obviously). Instead they are rodents (of the Sciurid family, which I personally feel to be an awesome name). They live all over the US, and it’s pretty common to see them along the side of the road (usually as roadkill, but sometimes you get lucky and see a live one).They don’t ACTUALLY eat or throw wood. Instead, they eat grasses and insects and pretty much everything else at ground level they can get their hands on. But they can, apparently, CHEW wood, and that’s where the idea for this study came in."

Whoa. Mind. Being. BLOWN.

"The authors decided to use the word “chuck” to mean “chew” (I suppose because upchucking is the opposite?), and wanted to see how much wood a woodchuck could chuck. They obtained 12 woodchucks (by “various means” that are not described, I picture some middle aged guy in a suit trying to stalk one), and food deprived them to ensure they would eat the wood. Then, they fed each woodchuck a 2×4 (yes) and watched how fast they ate it."

Has PETA read this? Not cool, guys.

"All the woodchucks ate the wood, none actively attempted to toss it, and none upchucked. They could, apparently digest the wood pretty well, and consumed it at a rate of 361.9237001 cubic centimeters per animals per day (no error bars, and the food deprivation was nuts, 12 days, leading me to think they didn’t REALLY…). They note that, while none of the woodchucks attempted to throw the wood, they probably would have, had they been capable.So the next time someone asks you, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? You answer is clear! He’d chuck 361.9237001 cubic centimeters of wood per day, which is the wood that a woodchuck COULD chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood."

Can you even believe how much you learn by reading the TBAG every week?

Listen, Klugh, I know you want me to apologize to you for usurping so many of your story ideas here, but it ain’t gonna happen. This is a dog-eat-dog world, man, and we’re all wearing milk bone underwear. And don’t be jealous just because I can recall all the details of the Gary Redus-era of the Phillies better than you can.

Still, I do have an apology I can make. And I WILL do it in 945 words (I’m at 83 right now).

When Ruben Amaro signed Ryan Howard to his contract extension in April of 2010, I was happy about it and I approved of it.

I know, I know. I can’t look at you all in the face right now, either.

When the deal was signed, Howard was coming off a season in which he hit .279 with 45 homers and 141 RBIs. I thought that was pretty good. Not only that, there was this, from Jayson Stark’s piece reporting the deal

"In addition, he has committed himself to a rigorous fitness and training routine in recent years. He even reached out to Barry Bonds this winter and ended up working for about a week in Florida with the home run king — “one of my idols growing up.”“Ryan has clearly dedicated himself to being a very complete player,” Amaro said. “He’s worked on his defense. He’s worked on his body. He has a special attribute with his power and his run production that not many in the history of this game have been able to accomplish. … The numbers don’t lie. He’s also one of the most durable players we have. Ryan’s basically ready to play 162 games. I think that means a lot.”"

I loved the fact that, the year after the Phils won the World Series, Howard came to spring training 20 pounds lighter. I put a lot of stock in that. It showed me he was a worker and that he was going to do everything he could to make sure his “body type issues” weren’t going to be a problem as he got older.

Jul 3, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (6) on the field before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I was also riding the “high” of the back-to-back World Series and couldn’t see the forest through the trees. I was clouded by the euphoria of success and really thought Howard would be a dominant power hitter well into his 30s.

I ignored his defensive deficiencies and, at the time, even praised him for becoming a better defensive player, despite the fact that he was still really bad. I ignored how terrible a base runner he was, the memories of his NLCS belly-flop triple still dancing in my head. I ignored the history of players his age, with his body type, and their tendency to fall apart rather quickly. I ignored his lefty-righty splits, for reasons passing understanding.

I sometimes have a tendency to react from my heart first and not my head. I think I’m like a lot of Philadelphians that way. Sometimes it’s a harmless reaction, like cheering what is clearly one of the worst contract extensions in modern baseball history. Sometimes, it’s throwing batteries at J.D. Drew.

But I guess my apology is necessary because, as I’ve watched Ryan Howard transform from the healthy, power-hitting first baseman that I loved and adored, to the struggling, old, broken down veteran that he has become, I have obviously been very vocal about how bad the contract was, how it never should have been signed, and how Ruben was a dummy for doing it.

I have to admit that, at the time it was happening, I was so hopped on World Series goofballs that I went along with it. I celebrated. I sent emails out to all my friends saying, “RYAN HOWARD IS GOING TO BE A PHILLIE FOR LIFE!!!!!” 🙂

Of course, now I’m saying “Ryan Howard is going to be a Phillie for life.” 🙁

I spend many days trying to figure out how the Phillies might be able to pawn Howard off on another team or just hoping beyond all hope that he can have a comeback like David Ortiz did this year with the Red Sox.

We’re all hoping that Howard comes back next year with his legs finally healed. It’s very smart for Ryne Sandberg to tell Howard not to bother coming back in 2013. It would absolutely serve no purpose. Howard needs to do everything he can to make sure he has the strength back in his legs to be a real power threat once again.

I will say that it’s a good thing I was not on Twitter at the time of the signing, and hadn’t started blogging about the Phils yet either. There is no tweet out there and no blog post written that some smart aleck can retweet from three years ago reminding me how stupid I was.

Of course, now, I’ve outed myself. There’s no turning back now. This is the truth that I must live with, and I must apologize to you, the reader, for not divulging this information sooner. I hope this doesn’t affect whatever esteem you may hold my opinion on matters concerning baseball and the Philadelphia Phillies and the birds and the bees and whatnot.

How many words is that? Around 900? Eh, that’s gonna have to do, Professor Klugh. Knock me down a letter grade if you must.