Thursday, January 31, 2008


You know, even before this Johan Santana trade, I was totally disabused of the notion the Mets are trying to “catch” the Phillies. Yes, those dogged Phillies won National League East. But with 89 winswell, I’m not saying hand that title back. I am not saying that it is unfair or somehow ill-gotten. But I also realize that this division championship was more about the paucity of the choking opposition, than any really true merit in the Phillies club.

The Mets were the Vegas favorite to win NL East- even before this trade. So, I disagree this was some sort of trade to balance the power in NL East. Frankly, New York ain’t in any rebuilding mode- they are in a win-now mode.

Consequently, the Mets acquisition of Johann Santana is something they had to do, because it makes their team immediately a lot better. He is one of a small handful of players that makes a team eight-to-ten games better. One can overthink these things, right? The Mets added a super pitcher, without subtracting any major league talent. Jayson Stark does his normally astute analysis here. But again, while the lack of having an immediate roster move from AAA is a potential problem for the Mets, the lack of said move isn’t costing them ten games.

That being said… it is a gamble. This simply isn’t a total slam dunk for the Mets- in the sense that while this is a good trade for 2008, it is organizationally problematic at some level.

Frankly, I’m so invested in the theory that “the road to ruin in baseball is throwing big dollars and multiple years to thirty-something pitchers with increasing wear whose value is sure to decline” to back up now. From a “players on the field” standpoint, Santana is a lay-up. But the Mets have undoubtedly taken a lot of organizational flexibility away. This is essentially a free agent contract Santana is getting- and the thing about free agency is that you pay the top dollar per win generated. No one else with your capacity to pay (here- say eight or so other clubs), almost by definition, thinks the guy is worth more. A free agent move is a sign of weakness- not strength. You are paying up the most- because you have a big problem.

So there is potential for substantial opportunity cost here. If Santana’s deal is 7 years, $150 million… well, what really is the over/under on Johann’s win total over that time span? One hundred wins? It is an interesting question; I know I’d take the under at 90. And figure Kyle Kendrick’s o/u for the next 7 years is fifty wins (at like $120M less).

The opportunity cost is mitigated; one big institutional advantage the Mets have over the Phillies is the ability to routinely spend $20-40M more per campaign on talent. That surplus now goes largely to Santana- and what figures to be a plus now will hopefully be an aging albatross in four years. So the trade on paper is an overwhelming win for the Mets- but perhaps in reality notsomuch. I still think the Mets come out ahead (I would have done it)- but more narrowly than most think now.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Too Early, Saturday Morning

Tulane -1.5 at ECU. ECU is no great shakes- but Tulane has been shaky on the road in spots.

More importantly, the South -3 over the North. I dunno about that frankly- I have a feeling the North will come to play. And the South's home field advantage won't be a factor.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Three In A Row People

Billy Joel is to headline Jazzfest! And in other exciting news to emerge from the Crescent City, the Green Wave wins its third straight game and improving to 13-6 (3-2 in C-USA).

Bluntly, like the previous win over Rice, this game has lost any relevance outside of “Tulane simply can’t afford to lose it. Ever.” Consistently routing an SMU-level team via dominating the game late is a given now- wins are expected. I realize SMU and Rice played periods of each game tight in the second half. But as Tulane fans know brutally well- when outclassed, there is a big difference in being in the game and being in a real position to win it late. Neither Rice nor SMU had a real chance with under two minutes to go.

But while there is no credit in these pair of wins, they did avoid disaster-and so these two wins go in the bank toward Tulane’s march to 21-ish victories- and an outside shot at the NIT with a good post-season conference run. They have two more in the same bucket coming up: ECU and again horrid Rice- teams with 200+ RPIs that shouldn’t push the Wave (although they’re road games- and I remember the Buffalo disaster).

I’m increasingly optimistic that Houston- while their RPI is marshmallow soft, now is getting Top 25 votes- is going to put a real run at the NCAA Tournament- which opens up an NIT slot for the rest of the League. Eleven wins, fourth place gives the Wave a shot going into the conference tournament.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wyoming and Montana

The Times-Picayune reports:
"Casey Blum of Moorpark, 6-3, 245, was a three-year starter at defensive end.... Blum chose Tulane over official offers from California-Davis, TCU, Villanova, Utah, Colorado State, Wyoming and Montana. He is fully qualified with a 1,400 on the SAT."
To be 19, with a 1400 on your boards, with criteria and goals that somehow support interest in that collection of schools (Montana and Villanova and Cal-Davis?).... good on this young man.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Bobby Fischer

At age 64, Bobby Fischer is dead.

I have no comment on Bobby’s later life shenanigans- clearly a toxic mix of insane and reprehensible. His death is undoubtedly a mercy.

He was always nuts- but he always had a “rational chess component”. Even a casual student of the game, like we are here at “Frank Helps You Think It All Out”, could read through his games and marvel: brilliant in the attack, always looking to attack. He played the white pieces- and the natural advantage of initiative that they grant- more brilliantly than any player ever. I am a player of very modest capacity- but I know my game is a child of Fischer’s. I was taught to play in the mid-70s by a neighbor as part of the chess semi-craze that filtered its way through the northeast United States. My book schooling in chess was at the hands of Fischer; P-K4 is my whole game.

Bobby managed to couple his chess brilliance with a seemingly infinite capacity to rail at the system of global chess- a system wholly devised and dominated by the Soviets, exhibiting their worst impulses of control and paranoia, to further their political and social agendas. It seems utterly crazy today, but the Soviets intent to dominate chess as a proof of an “intellectual” superiority over the west and their client states met with more than limited success. It was a circumscribed audience obviously- but the intelligentsia of large parts of the west was loaded with apologists looking for excuses to build up and excuse Soviet Russia.

When you read about the Fischer-Spassky match of 1972, the Cold War aspect of it was the powerful subplot. Americans rallied behind a high school drop-out who mined the depths of his own paranoia to do the Russians one better. He didn’t just beat Spassky at chess; he destroyed him and the system throughly- as the Soviet chess system around their champions became unglued, petty and rude. Fischer gave not one inch to the machine- instead he introduced them to a whole new cornucopia of bizarre ruminations and fantasies.

In retrospect, it is clear Fischer paid a terrible price for his obsessions and paranoia; he couldn’t turn it off and it ate him up. Never exactly on an emotional keel to begin with, he got worse and worse.

But like a lot of folk “heroes” in American history, he managed to rise to the occasion for a period when he was needed most. Fischer had no small role in ending the post-1960s malaise that gripped America- and he won big when it counted most. He was a hugely imperfect champion- but he fought his little battle with his little part of the Soviet system where and when he could. His later sins are awful- but for today maybe, let’s remember 1972.

Speaking of brillant performances versus master level Russian players....


Thursday, January 17, 2008


Whew- that was close.

The Tulane Green Wave salvaged its season last night- going on the road as a modest ‘dog to beat the quality mid-major operation that is Tulsa. The Wave really, really, really needed that one. While the out of conference season was full of pleasant surprises (get bent Tigers!)- this opening three game C-USA conference slate was tough. I’d have preferred 2-1- but they were road ‘dogs twice, against squads that figure to be upper division teams, in that three game stretch. So 1-2 will do. Just couldn't afford the disappointment associated with a doughnut after their solid start.

It is funny how just one win changes a conference season. Last year, a key win over Tulsa in the conference tournament produced convincing evidence that Tulane had restored itself a germane program in our semi-decent League. This year, Tulane was one loss away from a potential season-long slog from 0-3 back to something like break even. Now Tulane is right back to a legitimate shot at double-digit League wins.

For a first round conference bye and twenty total wins, the Wave probably needs to sweep the next five, get four at a minimum. Three are on the road- but they get horrid Rice (3-13) twice, SMU is bad and a good Tulane C-USA team should beat East Carolina even away from New Orleans. UTEP at 11-4 does look tough on paper- but if you look closely that current mark is close to outright fraud.

They can’t lose to the Owls or Mustangs and be credible- but I guess they could survive a slip versus ECU or UTEP. But a good 20-win team in a decent mid-major League has to play consistent night after night- it is part of last season’s 10-6 legacy. Outside of Memphis, they’ve proven themselves relevant to the League story. Now, Tulane has the pressure of winning the winnable games- or there is disappointment.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

When Does Rice Get Here?


The stupid New York Post puts the stupid Tulsa Golden Hurricane -5 over Tulane. Now, Tulsa is by no means a disaster. They feature a decent road win at Colorado in the last two weeks, a tough road loss in multiple overtime to UCF.

But the line surely indicates the good bloom is off the Wave’s quality start. At 0-2 in League play, tonight game in Oklahoma is probably the proverbial “must win” for either the 20-win season or 10-win conference season expected after Tulane roared to a 10-4 start- with positive wins over St John’s, Georgia, Auburn and Louisiana State

The schedule certainly lightens up some; Rice and SMU frankly can’t get here fast enough. But .500 in C-USA could be a fifty-fifty proposition with a loss tonight.

Tulane finished fourth in the League last year, winning ten games. But obviously, C-USA is up from the utter train wreck it was last year. Concerning the NCAA tournament, they’re probably on track to get back to being a multiple bid League: UTEP or Houston could join Memphis with a 14-2 League mark. One will get there. Another outfit might get in the NIT- which leaves the League in the running for four post-season teams.

As indicated above, Tulane was in that top four mix last year- but obviously was no where near NIT level- so the League is better. It’ll be hard to march that ten win mark from last year- even though this year’s team is clearly better- for example: 3-0 versus the SEC- than last year’s outfit. Only this casual image of Jennifer Whittington- the reigning Miss Food City- is of solace.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Six and a Half?

Tulane is +6.5 over USM is this morning's NY Post- which seems crazy high to me. But admittedly, I know zero about Southern Miss- so maybe they’re actually preety good.

Still, that is unfortunate. Tulane is not catching many breaks with this early schedule- and an 0-2 League start would take some of the shine off the fine OOC start. Hard to see 11-5 (i.e. improved from last year), with Memphis still in the hole, if they lose today. So again, a conference game with some juice.

I will say, that with USM six-plus over Tulane, that obviously Vegas at least is willing to call some sort of renaissance in C-USA. The OOC schedule definitely proved Tulane was better than the bottom third- maybe even bottom half- of the SEC. This line suggests USM is too. Throw in UAB and Houston being in that same Tulane “class” or better. Memphis is obviously a national power.

Almost half the teams in our League might be near .500 or better in the South’s power conference- and Memphis would probably win it outright. And this League, with four, five outfits going to win 20 games- might have enough RPI juice to get a second team in the NCAA. And getting our League back to multiple bid status is a must for all the teams in C-USA to move forward.

And of course- a tout toward one of my favorite blogs- and fellow BlogPoll alum (representing Southern Miss).


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

None Of It Matters

Like all of mid-major football America, I was struck dumb by SMU’s $2M a year deal with June Jones. That isn’t to say it is a good hire- but holy smokes- this is the busted C-USA, not West Virginia.

But you know, it makes sense. It is a desperate play- for a school that sort of has to be desperate.

SMU is a lot like Tulane- a private school, same League, the only I-A program in a football-crazed major metropolitan area that couldn’t give a fig, same recent one historical generation problematic athletic record.

But SMU is also every Tulane fans' dream. They hire and fire coaches for not winning- Jones is the fourth head coach in the last ten years- none left voluntarily. They back up the program with big bucks: both facilties and coaches. In 2000, they actually went and built that all time Tulane fan’s fantasy: the fabled on campus stadium.

And you know what. The Mustangs are a failure. No one goes to the games (an incredible 9th in attendance in C-USA). Their W-L record is worse than ours.

Tulane ain’t good either- but we didn’t just drop something like $60M on a new stadium- and another $30M in related facilities and coaches. Rather than praising SMU for its “commitment”- one ought to realize they are sitting on an enormous disaster. You simply can’t justify the bang for the buck.

They’ve had the building for seven years now- and two coaches (Cavan and Bennett) have been able to use the promise of it and the reality of it to recruit- and nothing. Since the Mustangs broke ground : 4-6, 3-9, 4-7, 3-9, 0-12, 3-8, 6-6, 6-6, 1-11.

Frankly, they’re in so deep they need to throw the Hail Mary. It might be good money chasing bad- but when you are already $100M in the hole, you have to justify it. You can’t just quit on that sort of investment.

And it is a fair question to be asked of any athletic booster of Tulane agitating for a nine figure commitment to football and associated toys. Why would Tulane’s experience be any different? It might be different- but if Tulane were to spring for a $100M spending spree on coaches, facilities and stadiums- it would change the over/under on our five year win total by maybe five games.

I don’t see why replicating the SMU experience guarantees Tulane success- and yet a lot of Tulane fans disagree. It makes me very nervous- to hear glib calls for a new stadium or a new this or that... I look an SMU and realize that in C-USA it is VERY possible to make an off-the-charts commitment and fail anyway.

Maybe it is worth it. But SMU had tactical problems- but throwing $100M at tactical problems probably doesn’t solve the strategic problems at busted C-USA football outposts one iota.

This $2M SMU is offering Jones isn’t a sign of strength- but a sign of desperation. Otherwise they’ve literally thrown $100M down the toilet with no significant advancement in football, athletics or the university. It is counterintuitive- but Tulane disregards that lesson at its peril.

Anyway, here is the opposite take from a good C-USA blog: SMU Football Blog

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SMU Football Blog: By now you all have heard the news… Coach Watch Day 72.

SMU Football Blog

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Trying to Stay Classy

Try to stay classy...try...try...

Forget it. Get bent Tigers! Honestly, there is no other way to put it, no cynical spin to put on Tulane’s tenth win of the season: 68-63 over the LSU Tigers. Perhaps befitting Tulane’s first win over the Tigers in the two major sports in 25 years, it was simply a great win, a dramatic win, an important win for a program that really- seriously- can aspire to credibility rather than disappointment. Coach put it succinctly: "What a great win for our basketball program. All of the guys really stepped up."

A hallmark of Dave Dickinson since he came here is the organization his teams show late in games. Again, this game with LSU came down to the last minute tied- and the Wave out-executed in crunch time. They made clutch shots, got all the rebounds, made a lot of foul shots in the second half.

This is just nothing to nit-pick about- a satisfying win to end a 25 year drought in the major sports versus a bitter arch-rival. All is sunny: a 3-0 record versus the SEC, 10-4 mark overall, real heady expectations (12 wins in conference? 24 wins overall?). Tulane’s over/under right now is something like 22.5 wins- which is just crazy!

I’m happy!


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Juiced For LSU

Amidst all the college football hype and attention, the Tulane fan tonight shuts off the plethora of bowl choices and will gather around his scratchy internet feed. Tonight Tulane tries to put a cap on one of the nicer, quieter stories of mid-major college basketball. The Wave gets a chance to run its record to 10-4- and further sweep a trio of out of conference basketball games versus the SEC.

Yes, the Louisiana State Tigers are due in New Orleans.

I got to admit; I’m juiced for this game. It is why you are a Green Wave fan in spite of incredulous odds and many disappointments: a real winnable toss-up (LSU -2 over the Wave)with a bitter, ancient rival. Plus, while it is possible to point at intangible Toledo-style “improvements”- even dopes like me get the tangible ones: winning. And whipping these guys is a real tangible move forward for the program. Plus, oh so very satisifying.

You can become comfortable with losing. I know I do it concerning Tulane. One can be too accustomed to finding silver linings that you forget to look for the actual sunshine. I was talking to a friend about the NFL season: he is fired up about the ‘skins 9-7 mark; I’m crushingly disappointed in the Eagles’ 8-8. Which of the two mentalities is akin to the Tulane football community? As opposed to Tulane baseball?

Not tonight though. There is sunshine out there Tulane. Be greedy. Win the game.

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