BLOG TALK: BILL FROM CRASHBURN ALLEY

Chase Headley in Lego form

If you guys have forgotten how a firesale plays out, then this year’s non-waiver trade deadline should help refresh your collective memories. With the Shane Victorino to the Dodgers trade done and Hunter Pence to the Giants deal closing as well, we’ll be looking at a different outfield and a thinner payroll for the Phils. At least in the team’s current state, this is a very good thing, and most importantly, Domonic Brown finally gets a chance to play regularly at the major league level.

On a related note, I shot Bill Baer from Crashburn Alley a few questions (very) late last night, and no more than ten minutes later, my inbox was home to some quality responses from him. We chatted about RAJ’s shortcomings, music, blogging, and the best move the Phillies could make right now. It’s a great way to kick off my unnamed interview series (send me good suggestions!).

It seems that night owls have all of the answers.

SOP: Ignore all of the trades that have been made. What’s the one trade that the Phillies need to make?

BB: Anything for Chase Headley. I know Michael Baumann, one of the writers on the blog, vehemently disagrees with me on this, but I think Headley would be just about the best move the Phillies could make in the next couple years. Third base is a really undersaturated position, so if you don’t strike gold, you’re pretty much digging through the trash heap. Headley is gold. He’s like the third base version of Chase Utley in that he does a lot of everything really well — he hits for average, hits for some power, can steal some bases, and plays good defense. Plus he’d be under team control for a couple years.

SOP: Do you think RAJ understands how to plan for the future? What is his biggest flaw?

BB: It’s easy to say he doesn’t given everything that’s transpired, but I think he simply chose to weigh the upcoming few years (relative to 2009) more than the few years after that. It was a calculated decision where they concluded their best shot(s) to win another championship were in the immediate future, and they weren’t wrong. But there was risk involved, and the risk was that they wouldn’t realize that championship potential. The downside to the Howard, Lee, Halladay, etc. contracts is that they become huge impediments if you don’t capitalize on their presence early. The 2012 Phillies were the result of a gamble gone bad.

Amaro’s biggest flaw is that he is too willing to gamble with long-term contracts. It’s one thing to make a colossal mistake like the Ryan Howard contract in 2010, but it’s another thing entirely to compound that with superfluous multi-year contracts to trash-heap players like Danys Baez, Ty Wigginton, and Laynce Nix, and then paying $50 million over four years for a closer in Jonathan Papelbon.

SOP: On to sports blogging: what’s the obsession with everyone trying to break a story first? Why are there so many bloggers who are trying to do the same things that the beats do?

BB: A lot of art is imitation. Writing is, of course, art, even if it’s about something as mundane as sportswriting. Many bloggers are young people trying to get into the business (as I was), so it’s hard to find a niche right out of the chute.

Bloggers, though, really shouldn’t try to be like the beat writers. It’s, to use a sports metaphor, a low-percentage shot. The beat writers have cultivated relationships with sources and honed investigative skills over many years. It’s very unlikely that a freshman in college is going to beat them to any meaningful story.

Instead, aspiring writers should try to find another angle, whether it’s analysis, humor, or something else. The blogosphere is very crowded, especially with Twitter, Tumblr, and such. You’re competing for a lot of eyeballs and you’re not going to do that by going down the same path hundreds of others have gone down before you.

SOP: Name a blogger or writer (not from CA) who you respect. Which qualities stand out the most?

BB: I’ve always been a fan of Schmenkman at The Good Phight. He’s kind of an enigma to be honest, because he isn’t out there on Twitter and whatnot, but his work is and has always been outstanding. He does a lot of analytical stuff like myself or Matt Swartz, and he’s very thorough without being boring. Schmenk has been at it for a while and he’s the most underrated blogger, in my opinion.

SOP: What music’s been playing on the old Crashburn Alley iPod lately? If you played for the Phils, what would your walk up song be?

BB: I’ve been playing the new Aesop Rock album, Skelethon, over and over. He’s a bit of an acquired taste, but if you like intelligent, lyric-heavy rap, I cannot recommend Aesop Rock enough.

The last song on the album, “Gopher Guts,” has a soliloquy at the end that is all kinds of awesome and something we can all relate to. Other songs on the album discuss giving yourself a (bad) haircut, and being afraid of eating green beans as a kid. I don’t see 50 Cent or Kanye West covering these pressing issues.

Now that I think about it, this kind of sounds like I’m doing PR for him, but I just really enjoyed the album.

My walk-up song would be the intro to Between the Buried and Me’s “Prequel to the Sequel”. That’ll get the crowd pumped up.

Visit Crashburn Alley for statistically-centered analysis of the Phillies by Bill and his excellent staff, even if you fear numbers like I once did. Additionally, Bill’s book 100 Things Phillies Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die is available now from fine retailers everywhere.


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