Foul Territory

A sports blog with no specific focus, though I like wrestling and baseball


Open Letter

Dear Adam Dunn,
I don't care what you said before the season. I'm willing to forgive it as someone eager to please. However, don't listen to all the naysayers who complain about all the strikeouts. None of them are likely to hit 50 home runs this year like you are. Forget about the strikeouts and focus on hitting baseballs into the Ohio River. It isn't like you swing at bad pitches. You've proven you can take a walk, which is about the second most important thing you can do besides clank a few balls off the light towers. Please don't change your approach at the plate. A ground out to the second baseman isn't really better than a whiff, especially with a runner on first who will be doubled up. This year, aim for 200 strikeouts. I'm sure you'll be forgiven when you walk 100 times and hit 50 bombs. Thank you.

Your Fantasy Owner,
Andy Vogel
Andy, 6:52 PM | link



If the Yankees ever get a new stadium in Manhattan, will people still call them the Bronx Bombers?
Andy, 5:42 PM | link


Long Rest Pedro

Long Rest Pedro is a sight to behold, isn't he? He's a much different animal than Regular Rest Pedro. Long Rest Pedro can fling it with the best of them. He may still have that 100 pitch limit, but on long rest, he might not need that many to get through seven innings as he mows down the opposing hitters with aplomb. Regular Rest Pedro still shows flashes of that brilliance, but it's not as common, and the other team gets to him more often.

Long Rest Pedro always calls to mind, for me at least, the American League Divisional Series of 1999. In the deciding game, the Indians took a three run lead before Pedro, having been removed from an earlier game after stepping awkwardly while covering first, entered the game in the fourth inning. My most vivid memory of Pedro (at least until he invented the Zimmer toss) is the feeling I had when he entered the game that it was over, even though the Indians were winning and he was supposedly nursing an injury. I could just tell, as I watched the game alone in the Naugle dormitory lounge at Messiah College, that there was only one way for this game to end.

I was right, as you'll recall. Pedro came in and pitched six innings of no-hit ball, as the Red Sox rallied to win the game and the right to face the Yankees in the ALCS. That was back when Long Rest Pedro and Regular Rest Pedro were the same dominant force in the American League. When Pedro retires, we'll hold his Hall of Fame induction five years later as we all decide whether or not he had the highest peak of any pitcher to ever play the game. He won't get to 300 wins, or even 250 probably, but we'll still remember him as one of the greats and look fondly back on the time when any time he pitched, a no hitter wouldn't have been a surprise.
Andy, 6:06 PM | link


Play Ball

Baseball started in earnest today. Dmitri Young is the big story with his three home runs, and the Cubs have scored as many opening day runs as any team since 1975. Junior Griffey managed to not tear anything, and Adam Dunn hit two bombs, making me look like a genius for nabbing him on my fantasy team. Pedro struck out 12, but the bullpen blew it for him. Get used to that one there, Pedro. I can't wait to see where we are in September. I'm hoping to get to a few games somewhere or other before the season's out.
Andy, 8:04 PM | link


Hard to erase what the whole country saw

This kind of thing ticks me off. The North Dakota Senate has unanimously voted to ask baseball commissioner Bud Selig to declare native son Roger Maris to again be the single season home run record holder. They say that this should be done because the record was broken thanks to steroids. They apparently don't care that steroids were not only not banned by baseball but that none of the players to have broken the record of 61 home runs has ever tested positive for a banned substance. They'd rather deal in innuendo and all but baseless accusations.

Senator Joel Heitkamp sponsored this resolution, and he's had some real doozies when it comes to quotes about it:

In North Dakota when we think something has been wrong, we try to make it right. And when it comes to Roger Maris, and when it comes to steroids, and when it comes to how people have taken this record away ... that's not right.

Sen. Heitkamp said he has gotten several messages wondering why the North Dakota Legislature was wasting its time on baseball. However, he felt obliged to speak out because he believes Maris' record was eclipsed by cheating.

I guess if he believes it, it must be true and require legislative action.  Senator Heitkamp has no idea whether the record was bested thanks to steroids or not, but he really must not care. He probably saw the spectacle of the steroid hearings and decided the time was right for a publicity grab. In that sense, he's been wildly successful, as you can be sure I never would have heard of him if not for this stunt.

Perhaps someone should explain to the Senator that there was no ban on steroids in the summer of 1998 when McGwire took down Maris' record. Should he counter that they were still illegal, someone should then mention that so are the amphetamines that Hank Aaron has admitted to using and nearly all players of Maris' era were on. Also, I'm sure Babe Ruth threw back a few beers that were illegal during prohibition, so the legality argument carries little weight with me. Sure, it would be best if steroids were eliminated from the game but this push to revise history is a sham.
Andy, 6:27 PM | link


Picture Time

I have little to say, other than this: Watch Real Pro Wrestling tomorrow and every Sunday for the next nine weeks. To whet your appetite, here are some wrestling pictures.

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Andy, 4:07 PM | link


Picture of the Day

Here you can see a picture of 415 pound Chris Taylor being thrown by a much smaller opponent in the Greco-Roman portion of the 1972 Olympics. This is one of the more famous images in amateur wrestling history.
Andy, 6:01 PM | link


Here's a Hearing

I've decided this post goes on both blogs, so don't be surprised.

I only caught about 30 minutes of the steroids hearing yesterday while I was on the treadmill, and the thirty minutes I saw were the players' panel. I've read a few different recaps, the best being Will Carroll's and David Pinto's. From the sounds of it, there were four separate panels, and here is the reaction to each, keeping in mind the reaction is to both the panel and the congressmen:

1. Senator and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning - Boring
2. Parents and doctors discussing use by children - Misinformed
3. Current and former baseball players - Useless
4. Baseball officials - Well Played

Of course, the big story to come out of the hearings is Mark McGwire and his refusal to answer any questions concerning his past. He wouldn't say whether or not he used performance enhancers, which is his right, I suppose. His stock answer, "I'm not hear to discuss the past, I'm hear to be optimistic for the future," made me cringe every time I heard it, and not because it makes me think he is or isn't a steroid user, but more because is was just so dissatisfying to hear. He wouldn't answer questions about the past, regardless of whether they involved illegal activity.

All that said, however, he didn't ask to be dragged into this, and it's all Jose Canseco's fault that he even had to appear. McGwire has kept a low profile to date since his retirement, and I think he'd be pretty glad if we never heard from him again. Until this month, he's been able to live his life, play golf, and be with his family without fear of hearing his name on the news every day for a month straight. I think he wishes he could stop being pestered by reporters and legislators so he could live his life the way he wishes. I've said before that I think my stance on his participation would be different if he had been trying to keep a life as a public figure since his retirement, but he has clearly desired to keep a low profile. I think the problem was not in that he didn't want to talk, but more in his execution. He was clearly uncomfortable and just wants to be left alone. I think we should leave him alone, and the Skip Bayless and Buster Olney types who crave attention should just find something else to write about.

Of course, the most ridiculous thing was the suggestion that all children under age 18 be mandatorily drug tested. Fourth amendment? What fourth amendment?
Andy, 2:11 PM | link


Tourney Time

The tournament starts today. No, not that tournament. The NCAA Division I Wrestling tournament, which, oddly enough, takes place in the same city as the Final Four two weeks from now. Oklahoma State is the odds on favorite to win and stretch their title streak to three years. John Smith has done an outstanding job in the time that he's been in Stillwater, but there are a few other teams looking to knock of the Cowboys, like Illinois and Lehigh, with Iowa State and Nebraska lurking in the shadows.

I did a quick comparison of the two tournaments. There are 64 teams left in the basketball tournament after the play-in game. Of those 64, according to my calculations, there are 20 schools that also have wrestling teams, with Bucknell making it 21 when they restart their program next year. I'd say this is understandable, as there are 327 Division I basketball teams in the country compared to only 86 Division I wrestling teams, so it would be foolish to expect most of the basketball schools to also have wrestling. Put another way, of the past 10 national champions in basketball, only Duke, Maryland, and Michigan State have wrestling teams, and only Michigan State has a team that is nationally competitive.

There are far more opportunities for competing in college basketball than college wrestling, just in terms of the comparison between high school and college. In 2003, approximately 541,000 boys played high school basketball while approximately 240,000 wrestled. In wrestling, only the starters get to wrestle (in most cases). Allowing for injuries, position battles, and teams that don't fill all 10 weights, I'd say there are about 12 athletes that see significant action on a typical college wrestling team. In basketball, there are between 12 and 15 athletes on a team, but I'd say only 8 or so see significant action. In all divisions, there are around 224 wrestling teams and 1002 basketball teams for 2004-2005 according to the NCAA website. I'm going to leave out overall team size from this calculation, as there is no easy way to accurately determine it for all 1226 teams under consideration here, and I'm only looking at athletes who get significant competition opportunities. These numbers equate to approximately 8016 playing opportunities for NCAA basketball and 2688 opportunities for NCAA wrestling. This means that there are around 67 high school basketball players for every college spot and around 89 high school wrestlers for each college spot that sees significant action. This is not taking the NAIA or NJCAA into consideration, and there are far more NAIA and NJCAA basketball teams than wrestling teams, further skewing the ratio toward basketball.

Basketball is just more popular than wrestling, and it will likely always be so. Good luck to all the athletes in both tournaments that kick off today, but for basketball, you should root for the schools that also have wrestling. Sorry, Wake Forest.
Andy, 5:53 PM | link


A Letter to Congressman Tom Davis

Tom Davis is the head of the House Government Reform Committee which has subpoenaed players and officials for a hearing about Steroid use in Major League Baseball. I submitted the following letter on his website:

Mr. Davis,
Please do not waste the time of the U.S. Congress, the Government Reform Committee, and the taxpayers for this display of grandstanding. It seems obvious that the truth is not your goal, as you have left Mr. Bonds, a person right in the middle of the steroids issue, off of your list. You say that having Bonds testify would be a distraction. I would suggest that the only distraction he would cause would be to take the focus off of the Representatives on the committee, which is apparently unacceptable to politicians seeking attention through this hearing. That a book written as a cash grab by a baseball player with a tenuous grasp on the truth could spur your committee to action makes me think that you and your committee might possibly have better things to do in governing this country. Surely we can both come up with hundreds, if not thousands, of issues that are more important and would be a better use of your time. Please consider this in your decisions from here on out.

Andrew Vogel
Raleigh, North Carolina
Andy, 4:07 PM | link

Building Winning Wrestlers

How do you build a winning wrestling team? It's a challenge, and a lot of it has to do with the quality of athletes you recruit, but that's not everything. Teaching your fresh faced recruits how to win is where the money is made. Since everyone is at a different level, you have to figure out what is important for everyone and where there is some flexibility. To that end, I think you have to leave some of the fancier stuff to individual training sessions. Not everyone can learn something of value from watching a video of Cary Kolat and his trick knee, but some wrestlers will be able to pick up a few things without getting any bad habits.

Therefore, I say the foundation of any wrestling team must be good, basic, fundamental wrestling techniques. Everyone who comes to college has a best move, but I still think a coach should teach head inside, head outside, and double leg attacks as a foundation. Sure, you'll have a guy with a great inside trip, and you should let him do it, but don't try to make a move that some people will never really get the foundation of your team's offensive character. The same goes for defense. The funk, trick knee, and other such defensive moves have value, but only in the right hands. In the wrong hands, they lead to lots of takedowns. That's why every wrestler should practice getting the angle and dropping his hips until he can do it with his eyes closed.

Keep it basic, and don't make mistakes. That's how to build a successful team. Once you have a team full of guys with the basics down, then you can move on to the more advanced techniques. Avoiding mistakes is the best way to win a match you're supposed to lose.
Andy, 1:42 PM | link



It's been said elsewhere, but I guess the national debt is solved, the war is over, the Social Security crisis averted, and poverty eliminated. Now that all of that is taken care of, Congress can take a stab at steroids in baseball.

Laughable, of course, but that's exactly what they're doing. Seven current and former players, as well as some officials, have been subpoenaed to testify in front of the House Government Reform Committee. I'm pretty sure that there have to be more important things for our elected officials to be doing besides dragging some ballplayers to Washington to be picked on.

To their credit the MLB Players Association has vowed to fight the subpoenas to protect their membership. It's hard for me to sympathize with Congress on this one. What exactly they plan to accomplish by bringing these players and officials to Washington eludes me. In my understanding, the BALCO case, in which several of these players are involved, is going on right now and has not been resolved. Can't Congress let the legal system do its job and leave the grandstanding for another time?

Perhaps the most sickening part of it all for me is why it's happening in the first place. I can't believe that any of this would be going on if it weren't for Jose Canseco's new book that came out in the past month. It can't be a coincidence that many of the subpoenaed players were mentioned in the book as being users of performance enhancing drugs. Congress had mostly kept out of the BALCO investigation, and it's just now with the revelations in Canseco's book that this government committee has decided to take action.

I just don't get it. What do they hope to accomplish? Why are they doing this? Is it anything more than public relations? I really, truly hope that the Players Association wins out here and gets these subpoenas quashed. If it goes to the full House for a vote, I hope it is soundly defeated, and if it makes it to the U.S. District Court, hopefully the madness can end there so baseball can go back to policing itself and Congress can get back to the business of running the country.
Andy, 9:38 PM | link


Winning Baseball

In reading the team articles at the beginning of each chapter in Baseball Prospectus 2005, a theme has begun to emerge. That theme is planning. The teams that are successful in the Major Leagues are not always the ones with the most resources, the biggest fan base, or the largest TV deal. The teams that consistently win are those with a well thought out long-term plan that they execute year in and year out without much regard for the opinions of the public or (especially) the media. Having a large budget helps, but the flailing about of the NY Mets the past few seasons and the Red Sox for most of the 90s proves that it isn't how much you have, it's what you do with it. The more money you have, the more mistakes your budget will tolerate, but all the money in the world won't replace sound team management (you hear that, Steinbrenner?). That said, there are a few principles that successful teams seem to follow, though each goes about it in its own way.

1. Plan for the future, both in contracts and player development. Mark Shapiro did a good job of this, letting players go who were either too expensive or not going to be around the next time the Indians contended. He had a plan to win three and four years out from when he took over the reins from John Hart. Aging and expensive Jim Thome was let go to sign a contract that is likely to be an albatross in Philly, and Shapiro is committed to developing players in the system so as to extract maximum value out of their pre-arbitration years.

2. Don't hang on to past glory by overpaying over-the-hill-players. Just because a player was a valuable part of a team for seven or eight years, that doesn't mean there's an excuse for misguided loyalty. The Reds drew themselves into a corner with Barry Larkin's deal, even after he was smack in the middle of his decline phase. The Braves, on the other hand, have let expensive players take someone else's money when the dollars paid didn't equal the performance gained. Jaret Wright's monster deal with the Yankees comes to mind here, and Atlanta was smart to let someone else pay him that much money. On the other hand, if Bagwell and Biggio get new contracts after their current deals are up, fans in Houston have every right to revolt.

3. Draft players with good track records, but don't be afraid to gamble on a high school phenom or two. Restricting yourself to only college or only high school players unnecessarily hamstrings a team come draft day. Picking only high school leaves Mark Prior to someone else, while restriction yourself to college leaves Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. on the vine. That said, keep risk management in mind when drafting. Without an unlimited budget, you need to be able to stock your major league team with players drafted by your organization. To do this, keep in mind that high school pitchers tend to flame out, players move down the defensive spectrum as they move up the minor league ladder, and "tools" are ideally possessed by someone who can actually play baseball.

4. Develop a strong minor league system. As previously stated, good young players are a lot cheaper than good old players. Drafted (and acquired minor league) players will be cheap until they become arbitration eligible. Getting as much value as possible out of the young players requires developing those young players from the minute they arrive in the low minors. Setting up a system of player development that will be executed top to bottom results in promoting the players who have shown the skills necessary for big league success. If you want to preach plate discipline, then hitting coaches from rookie league on up must be training hitters to be patient.

5. Make use of freely available talent. Figure out what is available and then make sure you don't overpay for it. Corner outfielders and first basemen that can hit are usually not in short supply, so it makes no sense to overpay for a backup or a pinch hitter at these positions. Similarly, there are a large number of hard throwing relievers who can have great success under the right conditions. This is the secret of the Braves bullpen. They let the expensive guys go because they know the cheap guys can do 90% of the work for 30% of the money. Similarly, don't be lured by the label of "proven veteran." There are countless AA and AAA guys who can do the work of many "proven veterans" for a quarter the cash while getting the valuable experience necessary to become major parts of the next championship team.

6. Don't overpay for free agents. When shopping, consider how old a player will be at the end of a proposed deal. Will he be able to contribute at a level that justifies his salary. If not, take years or dollars off the contract. Not all big contracts are a problem, but many are. Shopping without keeping this in mind results in signing Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright to contrats disproportionate with their ability. It's also good to keep the length of pitcher contracts down, as every pitcher is one torn labrum away from ending his career, and you don't want to pay damaged goods many millions just so he can disappoint.

There you have it. Six things that will help result in successful baseball. Having a plan is the most important thing, as well as executing it. Don't make any moves that you can't clearly define how they will help your team win going forward.
Andy, 5:21 PM | link


Shot in the Arm

Boy, John Chaney has had a lot of ink spilled on his behalf this past week. For those of you who aren't familiar, Chaney felt that the St. Joseph basketball team was not being called for continually setting moving screens against his Temple team. Irate, he sent in a third string forward for some rough play, and he fouled out in four minutes. One of those fouls knocked a St. Joe's player to the floor, where he broke his arm bracing himself from the fall. Chaney suspended himself from one game, then the school got him for three, then he said he'd skip the entire A-10 tournament, as well as meeting with and apologizing to the injured player's family.

Since then, there have been many calls for Chaney to resign or Temple to fire the 73 year old coach who has been at the school for 22 years. They say time has passed him by if he thought he could send a "goon" (his words) into a game to rough it up a bit. People point to his behavior in the past where he has very publicly lost his temper, though I'm pretty sure this is the first time that he went all Bobby Knight on us. To his credit, Chaney has accepted responsibility for his actions and seems genuinely ashamed of his actions, and he's by all accounts a stand up guy, except for his occasional anger problems. He's done a lot for his school and for the players who he has coached, both those in the NBA and those who are doing other things. He's most definitely old-school.

I don't have a problem with Chaney missing the A-10 tournament or any other amount of games this season. My problem is with the way it's been handled. The SportsProf weighs in with his opinion, and I agree with a lot of his sentiments. What hasn't gotten a lot of play in the press is how the suspensions and penalties and everything else seem to be far more dependent on the health of the St. Joseph player's arm than with any actions by Chaney or his "goon." Is the problem Chaney's actions or the results coming from them? The resulting injury could almost be described as a freak occurrence. I finally saw video of the injury yesterday afternoon. The "goon" committed a hard foul that sent the player to the floor. He braced himself with his arm and then grabbed it in pain. If you watch basketball on television, you probably see similar play every third game or so with a player tumbling to the floor and catching himself. The difference is that he doesn't break his arm...usually. It seems to me that Chaney could have said, "Go break that kid's arm," and if his player failed to do so, we might never have heard about this, since the officials would have called their flagrant/technical fouls and we'd be done with it. Instead, the player received no special instruction to injure a player, but since an injury occurred, it's the story that won't go away.

Which is worse: instructing a player to play rough and having an injury occur or instructing a player to injure an opponent but having him fail to do so? This is the crux of my argument here. All the noise out there has focused on the injured player, and she should get his due, but it seems far more important, in determining the fate of John Chaney, to focus on his intentions rather than the results. The results matter, and they really matter to the injured player, but moving past the results in terms of determining Chaney's fate seems like the wisest course of action to me. Of course, the reactions to the event by the A-10 and Temple suggest that the wisest course of action isn't going to be followed any time soon.

I'm all for second chances, provided proper punishment is meted out. These days, the smallest misstep or misstatement results in cries for firings and resignations, especially since any trip up is instantaneously transmitted across the country via television, blogs, and websites. This is how we get the Larry Summers incident and nationwide calls for Chaney's resignation by people who doesn't even know that Temple's athletic teams are the Owls or haven't seen the incident in question. Summers' statements don't undo a lifetime of academic work that qualify him to be president of Harvard any more than this act by Chaney suddenly makes a 73 year old man unfit to continue in his life's work. Sometimes coaches should be fired, but I'd hope that if this fate befalls Chaney, that it's at least done for some of the right reasons, not to satisfy the media.
Andy, 6:03 PM | link


BP 2005

My copy of Baseball Prospectus 2005 showed up in the mail after what seemed like an interminable wait. It's my first go at owning one of their books, and it hasn't disappointed. Articles about each team along with player statistis and comments for every player that might sniff the majors this year. In addition, they have several articles discussing performance analysis in baseball, as well as an article on the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals.

The guys (and girl) who put this book together, along with the BP website, are very good at what they do and very knowledgeable about their subject. For the bargain basement price of $12.21, it's hard to imagine getting more infor for your dollar. It's interesting for both fantasy baseball players and fans who just want to know more. Of particular interest is their PECOTA projection system that takes all of their combined knowledge and uses it to project performance for every player by comparing him to his previous season and previous seasons of players similar to the one in question. This helps eliminate the sample-size problem prevalent in baseball analysis.

If you're at all interested in the game and its players, you'd be wise to pick up a copy of this great book. Then you'll know who the September callups are months ahead of your friends.
Andy, 10:32 PM | link