Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Come Back Shooter

I don’t know too much about college baseball- so forgive me if I decline to opine on the merits of the inclusion of Tulane versus Baylor in the NCAA Tournament.

But I do know something about the nature and purpose of Division I sports. And Tulane’s failure to make this tournament is unacceptable. Considering the investments and salaries made in this baseball program, failing to make the tournament two years in three- and being a bubble outfit last year- is multi-year institutional failure.

I’m only a casual fan- but even I know the program has slipped enormously. Even I can see that frankly the only difference between three years of mediocrity is Shooter Hunt in a few big spots.

With the money and resources they spent here- for a boutique program with 2% of the visibility of men's football- it has to get better. Now.

It is run like a yogwf fantasy demanded by a certain sub-sector of the alumni who are willing to put their parochial baseball interest over the flagship men's programs. Mind you, I'm fine with that; it is their money. But the corollary is, if you demand funding for a secondary project, it had better work. All those bleating for this new stadium and associated baseball nonsense- while pounding those of us who pointed out this boutique sport was taking real monies away from actual Division I activities of relevance- had better man up and get this fixed.

Again, I’m no expert- but from browsing the chats and web sites the problems listed are making me crazy. The first is “Guys got drafted”. Heavens. This is a big money coach- if he can’t manage the roster and talent acquisition, then why is Tulane paying him all this money?

The second and third issues seem to be the growing domination (fair or unfair) of a BCS-style cartel at the expense of Leagues like C-USA coupled with the willingness of cartel schools to recruit and run-off surplus talent circumventing the scholarship limits.

Beats me. But if this is truly the case: college baseball is heading to a "have" and "have not" situation currently representative of college basket ball and football- and then Tulane is further numbered among the “have nots”. Well, then someone who we trust to guide this program has messed up- and made a huge multi-million dollar bad investment in facilities and coaches that peobably can't succede. Investments that go sour in the millions of dollar range demand accountability.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009


Frank Helps You Think It All Out is going on vacation- off to Hilton Head for a week. Thus, this blog will be closed through Memorial Day when we will begin wailing on the Phillies in earnest.

Being Memorial Day, we will take a quick moment to throw out this story on suing apologetic veterans for watching television- which will make you sad. Here is the Steve Lopez piece that started all the trouble


Friday, May 15, 2009

Figuring Out Girls

Sad Note: After I posted today's post, I heard the sad news that Joe Kennedy died suddenly in his sleep. He was just 25 years old.

Joe helped run "The Wave Report"- a good site devoted to Tulane athletics. I enjoyed his work- and Tulane will miss him.


Frank Helps You Think It All Out did not do so well doping out the Kentucky Derby- as the horse from Arabia staggered home fifteenth or something. Undeterred, I will try again at the Preakness.

Perusing the past performances, it looks like it is going to take a Beyer north of 105 to get it done here. So I am throwing out the repeat members of this cast of characters who can’t seem to run to that sort of number: Musket Man, General Quarters, Pioneer of the Nile, most of the longer shots too. Once a horse has tried three or four times at this graded stakes level to run a figure north of 100, it is hard to imagine a colt is just going to wake up and run that big figure- particularly if you are a colt bouncing back from a grueling ten furlongs two weeks ago.

Speaking of bouncing back from big efforts two weeks ago, I’m not exactly in love with the favorite or the Derby winner. Mine That Bird made an awesome move to win- but I’m doubtful he is a lock to run back to that effort: wet track, great rail, super trip. The gelding’s “normal effort” isn’t anywhere close to what will be needed to win the Preakness. On paper, the super filly Rachel Alexandra should cruise here by daylight- but you know, she is a girl. I don’t mean the pejoratively- but horses tend to run big races when they are able to get way loose on the lead. The boys won’t let her do that. Rachel Alexandra will be challenged up top and I doubt she’ll run her usual big number.

I’m back on Friesan Fire frankly. Until the filly showed up, he was the morning line favorite- a price I didn’t like. But the filly’s entrance- and her overwhelming status as the favorite, has driven his price into a more palatable range: four to one? Friesan Fire tore out a chunk of his hoof- so he had an excuse for finishing up the track- but breezed sharply this week so he seems okay. He is no lay-up, but he should run the necessary 105-ish Beyer number needed to score here.

There are also some wake-up contenders. Some of the horses I threw out above could be live for second place. And Big Drama is real quick.

Throwing out the favorite gives you a chance to cash big tickets on any exotic bet- so that is what I will try here: $4 exactas with Friesan Fire on top and Big Drama, Pioneer of the Nile, and General Quarters in the second spot. That is $12 total. Then let’s take $2 exactas with Pioneer of the Nile with the same three underneath.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Save Jamie Moyer

Frank Helps You Think It All Out is an unapologetic Jamie Moyer fan. Watching the old man get cuffed around recently is painful. He has been plenty bad.

The cries for Jamie to be replaced are certain to grow. Part and parcel of this is the Phillies have a replacement on hand, ready to go in J.A. Happ- who has pitched well in his opportunities this season. However, I’m inclined to keep Moyer in the rotation for now.

Haste makes waste, right? Replacing Moyer at this point is a pure panic move. The same people hollering the loudest now for his ouster were the same sort of people who wanted Chan Ho Park removed just a week-and-a-half ago. Had Charlie done that, you’d have no J.A. Happ move left now.

This isn’t like when Brett Myers went to the ‘pen two years ago. There the Phillies were faced with a similar bad situation- a lack of late inning relief pitching. But unlike here, they exhausted every option first. Myers wasn’t helping the rotation- so maybe he could help the ‘pen. It was an obvious move due to a lack of options- thus sane.

Moyer isn’t the same thing.

First, the Phillies are still over .500 in the games he’s started- which is all you expect on a 92 win team from the back of the rotation guys. Other than blowing out the ‘pen a bit, he hasn’t exactly hurt them yet.

Two, until Moyer actually does hurt the club tangibly, why weaken the bullpen? Happ has a role there- quality long relief on a team that has the firepower to take advantage of quality long relief. Fact: as long as the Phillies are .500 in Moyers’ starts, he is not hurting the team. Fact: moving Happ out of the bullpen right now hurts the relief corps. Let’s wait to move that quality arm out until JC Romero gets back or Moyer is a few games under even-steven at least.

Three- back to the Park decision. You have one in-house pitching move- and you want to use it now? The Phillies got 120 games left- games where another starter could get hurt or is ineffective. Moyer did win sixteen games last year, and fourteen the year before that. You got serious dollars guaranteed to this lefty through next year. Again- look at him as a fifth starter- you can’t give up on this experiment and his dollars and his potential twelve, thirteen win upside before you absolutely have to.

Fourth, there is no credible bullpen role for him. The Phillies carry twelve pitchers and use twelve pitchers.

That is not to say they should overthink this either. The Phillies have an open date next week, skip Moyer's turn. Push the decision ten to fifteen games down the road- knock another ten percent off the schedule before burning your hole card.

Surplus starting pitching never lasts. So don't be profligate in throwing away a credible story in Moyer. I would hold open that option on Happ as long as I could. I can almost guarantee the Phillies will face a bigger rotation crisis between now and Labor Day than a pair of shaky starts from a guy coming off sixteen wins. Moyer has kept them in enough games for the club to be over .500 in his starts. So let's let him stay there until he is a real problem- rather than an inconvenient one.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Danny Ozark

If you were to list most underappreciated Philadelphia sports figure, Danny Ozark would have to be at the top of the list. Ozark passed away yesterday- yet another Phillies icon that managed to hang on long enough to see the Phillies grasp the brass ring.

I was thinking about that as I traveled out to Citi Field for my first look at the Mets new playpen. It isn’t my favorite of the new parks- but it is oh so Mets. Going into the Robinson rotunda you have to walk through a cringe worthy exhibit of Camaros. The first giant ad in the place that caught my eye- right on the giant scoreboard- encouraged Met fan to send their gold in for cash. I guess the Met fan hasn’t changed, even if his stadium has.

Bill Conlin describes Ozark's role better than I ever could. Frankly I was only on the cusp of understanding baseball in the mid-70s.

The Phillies were a genuine bad on field product- but were blessed with a plethora of young talent about to emerge: Schmidt and Carlton, Bowa and Boone- the centerpiece fo a decade of competitive baseball in Philadelphia.

These youth movements get fouled up all the time- teams give up on players too soon, fail to develop talent properly. Look at the Mets pitching in the mid-90s: Isringhausen, Pulsipher and Paul Wilson. Generation K was a total failure. Ozark took the successful Dodger way and transplanted it to Philadelphia- where he took the very definition of a losing organization to the cusp of its first title.

He is not the first manager to get a team to the brink and yet not push it over. Still, few organizational cultures went from such big loser to big winners in such a brief time- from joke to champions. Danny Ozark was preeminent in that shift. If not for the Big Red Machine and the residual Dodger-way teams, he might be in the Hall of Fame.

Ozark was a soldier and champion- and for my money, the most important manager in Phillies’ history.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Last night I wandered down to Union Square to see the new documentary “Tyson”. Perhaps it was the light rain or the growing darkness, but my mood was perfect for a dark biographical piece- and I recommend it.

For those of us who were college students twenty years or so ago, Mike Tyson was front and center of our sports universe. He was the last boxer to really command true national and international attention- not Ali, but legitimately aspiring to his celebrity.

I am a fan of the fight game- and Tyson was a big part of drawing me to the sport. Now, he is sort of a sad joke- and one can forget the depths of his popularity in the late 1980s.

In a sport that has always been afflicted by horrid race issues, Tyson transcended such parochialism. He had a wild charisma. He crossed over- popular with the white fight fan. Tyson had a tangible public respect for his Italian trainer Cus D’Amato. He spoke so guilelessly, so knowledgably, about his heavyweight predecessors. Without a trace of contrivance he would go from Ali and Joe Louis to Gene Tunney and Marciano. He was like-able and sell-able- big smile and public respect out of the ring, an agent of terror in the ring. Obviously it all went wrong.

The movie will anger some- only Mike speaks, so only Mike’s side gets out. Short parts are boring, those of us who are familiar with Mike’s biography will bore during the parts of the movie necessary to backfill in Mike’s life story.

But Mike unfiltered, while perhaps unfair, is not uninteresting. Tyson is no dope (his brother is a physician assistant in the trauma center of the University of Southern California Medical Center). He never lacked for self-introspection- see his famous in ring interview after the Kevin McBride debacle about lacking "the fighting guts or the heart anymore."

In the film, he is a middle-aged man, surrounded by children, sobered up (for now), out of money- sort of, well, sane. Or saner than what passed for his life a decade ago. His reflections aren’t without interest or merit- admittedly more the former though. There is a sense of voyeurism rather than self-improvement in observing all things Tyson.

He seems “better”. He is never going to be a typical American- but there might be a second act for Mike Tyson yet.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Desert Party

Real Clear Sports celebrates thoroughbred racing greatest day- the Kentucky Derby- with a series of trashy attacks and barely disguised contempt for the modern landed gentry. Rhoden can barely hide his contempt for us owners of CHDN (chart here). However, since I aspire mightily to be landed gentry, you’ll find me at the windows this Saturday, wagers in hand.

In recent years, I’ve absolutely crushed the last two legs of the Triple Crown- but the Kentucky Derby is a never ending mystery to me. It is a hard race to dope: a cast of characters from across the nation, lightly raced, little back form- and add in the many moves from synthetic tracks to real dirt- it is a crapshoot.

So, I don’t really look to the favorites- but rather someone who might just wake up and grab this thing. You're taking real risk no matter who you pick here- so you might as well be in a position to be well compensated. To wit, I think it is hard to argue that I Want Revenge is not a well-deserved fave. He's been awesome on the dirt at Aqueduct this spring after a nice juvenile career out in California.

But I’m not interest in chasing this meager payout in this enormous field that figures to, as always, be bumping and trafficky.

I like Desert Party. The Godolphin Stable is once again bring one of its UAE wunderkinds over- but at least Desert Party raced on dirt and can definitely hang in on this distance. The UAE Derby won’t be a top-level Kentucky Derby prep event until one of the shiek’s horses get up and get it done. But he is the best three year old from the best stable in the world- I figure he’s a live one. Ramon Dominguez- master of off the pace riding- is up.

I like Friesan Fire roaring up from New Orleans off consistent efforts that would put him in the money here. And Dunkirk- lightly raced- improves a mere hair he is in this to win it.

So let’s put a $30 win bet on Desert Party- and a $10 saver on Dunkirk (if he wins he’ll cover the losses elsewhere). Then let’s play a small $5 exacta box on Desert Party with Dunkirk and $5 exacta on Desert Party with Friesan Fire.

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