than three weeks after the Big Daddy Baseball League "went public" on
the Diamond Mind Baseball leagues directory, Jason Wichmann, a 29-year-old chemical engineer from
Delafield, Wisconsin, became the 12th member of the league.
Wichmann's team, the Delafield Ogres, drew the #4 pick in the inaugural
draft, and after Alex Rodriguez, Mark McGwire and Greg Maddux were
selected with the first three picks, Wichmann was given the onerous task
of taking the first step toward building his franchise.
The 1998 MLB season had just wrapped up
a few weeks earlier, and the baseball world was still buzzing over the
unprecedented exploits of McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Sosa, who was
five years younger than McGwire, seemed to be a solid foundation around
which to build the Ogres franchise. For the Ogres, he would hit
.312/.368/.622, with 60 home runs and 137.6 runs created.
By the time Delafield's second round
pick snaked back around, there were few "ace" pitchers remaining in the
draft pool, so Wichmann decided to take advantage of his Tigers
Stadium-modeled ballpark (HR factors of 116/162) by loading up on more
power hitters. With his next three picks, Wichmann selected Greg
Vaughn (.280/.362/.634, 56 HR, 133.8 RC), Carlos Delgado
(.260/.371/.522, 37 HR, 116.9 RC) and Eric Davis (.364/.422/.638, 30 HR,
117.5 RC.) Later in the draft, he filled out his lineup with
sluggers like Dean Palmer (.282/.346/.493, 31 HR, 93.4 RC), Jay Bell
(.227/.316/.392, 23 HR, 72.3 RC) and Glenallen Hill (.237/.292/.457, 16
HR, 37.1 RC in 304 AB.)
The pitching staff was filled by
innings-eating soft-tossers such as Jamie Moyer (5th round), Carlos
Perez (6th), Omar Olivares (12th) and Scott Karl (13th), each of whom
tended to give up a lot of home runs. Not surprisingly, then, the
Ogres led the Eck League (by a wide margin) in home runs with 266, and
ranked third in home runs allowed with 197.
The Ogres were expected to field an
exciting, high-scoring team, and they didn't disappoint. Delafield
led the Petralli Division with a 15-10 record after the first chapter,
and scored a BDBL-best 176 runs -- 37 runs more than the next best team.
But the Ogres fell to just 11-20 in Chapter Two, and halfway through
that chapter, Wichmann abruptly resigned due to "time constraints" and
"wanting to spend more time with (his) kids." Eric Zigmund,
brother of Plattsburgh Champs owner Tim Zigmund, was immediately named
as Wichmann's replacement.
Zigmund's first act as GM was a trade
with the Akron Ryche, in which Davis was traded -- along with Karl --
for Rickey Henderson and relievers Rick Reed and Vic Darensbourg.
Henderson, who at age 39 had stolen 66 bases in MLB '98, was an unusual
addition to a team built around the longball -- especially considering
that Davis (.375/.426/.704 with 18 HRs in 216 ABs) was having a
phenomenal year for the Ogres to that point in the season.
This change reflected a radical
difference in philosophy for the new ownership. Prior to the third
chapter, Henderson was traded for Rusty Greer, who was better known for
his ability to draw walks than hit home runs. That same chapter,
Vaughn (along with Perez and others) was traded in exchange for rookie
Geoff Jenkins and several others in an attempt to add youth for the
The Ogres went 43-37 in the second
half, but were no match for the surging Massillon Tigerstrikes, who went
51-29 over that period to clinch the division. With their new
lineup in place, Delafield scored just 376 runs in the second half
(6th-best in the 12-team Eck League) and finished with a
record of 81-79 -- five games behind Massillon.
That winter, the Ogres were moved into
the Ozzie League, so that the two Zigmund brothers could compete against
each other head-to-head. The franchise was renamed the
"Minneapolis Haymakers" and placed in the Butler Division, where their
competition would be the defending-champion Stamford Zoots, Madison
Fighting Mimes and Marlboro Hammerheads.
The elder Zigmund proved to be an
active GM in the winter of 2000, making nine trades involving a total of
24 players and 14 draft picks. Zigmund continued to redefine his
team by stripping away several prominent power hitters, including
Delgado and Sosa. In exchange, he received several young players
considered to have significant upside potential: Ruben Mateo, Jeromy
Burnitz, Armando Benitez, Cliff Floyd and Jeffrey Hammonds.
Although each of those players enjoyed a season or two of excellence,
none of them ever rose to the level of superstardom that many expected.
One young player acquired by the
Haymakers that winter who did live up to his enormous potential was
Alfonso Soriano, who was acquired from the Salem Cowtippers in exchange
for pinch hitter Armando Rios. But less than 24 hours after he'd
acquired Soriano, Zigmund traded him to his brother in exchange for
Felipe Lopez and a couple of farm picks. "We believe we may have
acquired the next Alex Rodriguez," Eric Zigmund stated at the time,
in reference to Lopez.
By Opening Day, Zigmund had succeeded
in redefining his team as a more well-rounded offensive ballclub, which
included three players with .400+ OBPs, and six players with .500+ SLGs.
However, the team still lacked a dominant starting pitcher, as the
rotation was still filled with inning-eating soft-tossers.
Minneapolis got off to a 12-12 start in
Chapter One, but were outscored by 19 runs as the team's pitching staff
allowed more runs than any other team in the Ozzie League. The
Haymakers followed that performance with a 13-11 showing in Chapter Two. Then, at the end of that
second chapter, Eric's brother Tim shocked the league by turning in his
resignation due to "personal reasons."
The Haymakers continued to play .500
ball through the course of the summer, but couldn't keep pace with the
Zoots and Mimes in their division. On August 18th, Eric Zigmund
joined his brother by resigning from the league due to "lack of free
time" and an impending wedding. At the time of his resignation,
the Haymakers owned a 52-54 record, and trailed the Zoots by 13 games.
The team remained ownerless through the
end of Chapter Five. Finally, on September 24th, 2000, a
23-year-old college student from Newton, Pennsylvania named Tony Chamra
was introduced to the league as the new owner of the Haymakers
franchise. Chamra, who elected not to begin managing the team
until the following season, was the second-youngest owner in the league at
that time (behind only 11-year-old Bobby Sylvester.) Chamra's
first act as general manager was to take advantage of the Rule 18.13
loophole and release Eddie Taubensee, Rusty Greer and Paul Byrd without
The Haymakers finished the 2000 season
with a record of 79-81 -- 20 games out of first place in the division.
Once again, with new ownership came a new franchise-building philosophy.
That winter, Chamra began erasing the relics of the Zigmund and Wichmann
eras by molding the franchise in his own image. He made a
total of nine trades that winter, involving 21 players and 8 draft
picks. Among the many players traded were Edgar Renteria, Felipe
Lopez (a.k.a. "the next A-Rod"), Mateo, Ruben Rivera, Ben Grieve, Manny
Aybar, Jon Lieber and a young David Ortiz. For the most part, this
represented a good chunk of the notoriously failed prospects of the
early 2000's, as Mateo, Rivera and Grieve each appeared among the top six
prospects in baseball as ranked by Baseball America.
In exchange, among the players Chamra
received were Mo Vaughn (.296/.371/.538, 31 HR, 102.8 RC in his final
full season) and Bernie
Williams (.279/.359/.512, 28 HR, 105.6 RC overall.) In the free agent draft, Chamra had
little money to spend, as Vaughn and Williams were earning a combined
$16 million, so he merely plugged holes as best he could with players
like Brian Anderson (13-12, 4.14 ERA in 200+ IP), Lee Stevens
(.295/.376/.537, 63 RC in 298 AB), Armando Reynoso (9-9, 3.78 ERA in 176
IP) and Neifi Perez (.255/.282/.343, 63.9 RC.)
With the change in ownership, the
newly-dubbed Villanova Mustangs moved back into their old division in
the Eck League (which had since been re-named the Person Division), where their competition would be the South Carolina
Sea Cats, Kentucky Fox and Massillon Tigerstrikes. But that wasn't
the only major change in Villanova, as their ballpark model also
changed, due to the Tigers leaving Tiger Stadium in favor of Comerica
Field. With its home run factors of 72/52, this represented a
radical change for the Mustangs franchise.
The Mustangs were hoping to top their
franchise record of 81 wins in 2001, but after two chapters of play --
in which they posted a 23-31 record -- it became apparent that rebuilding
would be the wisest course of action. So, on April 20th, Chamra
traded free-agent-to-be second baseman Jay Bell to the Kansas Law Dogs,
receiving Hector Ortiz, Bryce Florie and two draft picks in exchange.
While Bell hit .270/.354/.468 for the Law Dogs down the stretch, neither
Ortiz (138 career BDBL ABs) nor Florie (97+ career BDBL IP) would ever
make an impact in the league.
At the season's final trading deadline,
the Mustangs were sporting a record of 49-57, and were clearly looking to
dump every player they could to build for the future. Chamra made
a total of four deadline deals, dumping Rick Reed, David Eckstein,
Bernie Williams, Rod Beck and Jeff D'Amico, and receiving Homer Bush,
Vicente Padilla, Carl Crawford, Cliff Floyd, Craig Counsell and Chad
Durbin in exchange. Of the group, Floyd became the team's MVP a
year later, hitting
.325/.383/.564, and Crawford eventually turned into a perennial all-star
(though not for the Mustangs.)
The Mustangs finished the 2001 season
with a record of 71-89 -- 21 games out of first place in their division.
That winter, Chamra went to work once more, and completed five trades
involving eleven players and seven draft picks. The only player
acquired by the Mustangs at this time who would make an impact in 2002
was reliever Kaz Sasaki, who went 5-5 with 41 saves and a 2.44 ERA for
Villanova that season, for only $100,000 in salary.
That winter, Chamra went into the free
agent draft needing only three players to fill his 45-man roster.
He filled those spots by signing three veterans: slugger Jeff Kent
(.286/.368/.470, 19 HR, 104.5 RC) for
$10 million, starter Rick Reed (10-13, 4.75 ERA in 195 IP) for $5 million and reliever Mike Myers
(6-1, 1.83 ERA in 44+ IP) for $2 million. Despite having a full roster heading into Opening
Day, the Mustangs lacked a true all-star caliber player outside of Sasaki and
Kent, and thus were predicted to finish in third place in their
Despite the lackluster prediction,
Mustangs ended the second chapter with a 35-19 record, tied for first
atop the Person Division. Their record was a bit of an illusion,
however, as the Mustangs were outscoring their opponents by just 14
runs, while the New York Knights owned the same record despite
outscoring their opponents by a whopping 104 runs.
that his team was just a few key trades away from competing for a
playoffs spot, Chamra took an enormous gamble when he acquired Ken
Griffey, Jr. from the Atlanta Fire Ants prior to the Chapter Three
deadline. At 31 years of age, Griffey was coming off an
impressive, though injury-shortened, MLB season. At that point in the 2002 MLB
season, Griffey had played just six games due to injury, and speculation was that
various injuries would continue to plague him for
the next several years. With five years and $50 million left on
his contract, Griffey was considered to own one of the riskiest contracts
in the league at the time, and was considered by many to be virtually
At the same time, Chamra acquired
free-agent-to-be Jarrod Washburn to boost his pitching staff. But
Washburn posted an ERA of 5.37 for the Mustangs in 120+ innings down the
stretch, and the Mustangs went just 11-15 in Chapter Three.
As a result of that poor showing, Chamra raised the white flag and
placed several of his most valuable players on the market.
During Chapter Four, platoon players Craig Wilson, David Segui and Mike Myers were
dumped in exchange for young prospects Tim Hummel, Corky Miller, Eric
Byrnes and Garrett Atkins.
But when Villanova bounced back with a
15-11 record in Chapter Four, and finished the chapter tied for the EL
wild card lead, Chamra changed his strategy and began looking for ways
to contend once again. At the final trading deadline, Chamra added
impact outfielder Moises Alou, who hit .320/.390/.473 in 203 at-bats for
Villanova down the stretch. But Alou came at a heavy price, both
in terms of salary (Chamra paid a $3 million penalty to release him at
the end of the season) and in the player traded (Crawford, who would
soon become a low-cost all-star outfielder for the next several
The Mustangs went 16-10 in Chapter
Five, but fell two games behind the red-hot Phoenix Predators in the
wild card race. The Predators then went an EL-best 20-8 over the
final chapter, leaving Villanova (10-18) in their dust. The
Mustangs finished the season with a record of
87-73 -- 13 games out of first, and 12 games behind in the wild card
It was the franchise's best showing to date, but the acquisition of
Griffey (who hit just .264/.358/.426 in 197 ABs in MLB '02) weighed
heavily on the team's salary cap in 2003. That
winter, Chamra made five trades, cutting some salary (Rick Reed, Moises
Alou, Jeff Kent and Corey Koskie, among others) in exchange for some
youth (including Andy Marte, Boof Bonser, Bobby Kielty, Jimmy Rollins,
Josh Fogg and Josh Karp.)
At the league's first-ever free agent auction, Chamra spread his money around to three players: Carlos Lee (.259/.356/.470,
27 HR, 95.8 RC, $5.5MM), Ismael Valdes (11-16, 4.21 ERA in 201+ IP, $5.0MM) and Adrian Beltre (.259/.286/.410,
71.2 RC, $6.5MM.) Then, in the free agent draft, Chamra filled
the holes in his roster with mediocre veterans such as Jeff Suppan,
Charles Johnson, Jeff D'Amico and Mark Hendrickson.
Although the Mustangs appeared to be a
competitive team on paper, the competition within the Person Division
was fierce, and Villanova was picked to finish in last place. The lineup included only two players with an OPS
above 800 -- and both of those players (Floyd and Ty Wigginton) were
only available for only half the season. The starting rotation was
comprised of four #3 starters (Corey Lidle, Valdes, Fogg and Suppan.)
And with Sasaki suffering through an off-year, the bullpen was
After a 10-18 start to the season,
Chamra quickly raised the white flag once again. At around that
time, Chamra somehow became
ensnarled in a blockbuster four-team trade with the Allentown
Ridgebacks, Cleveland Rocks and Great Lakes Sphinx. By the time
the dust settled, 'Nova ended up with MLB rookie Brandon Webb and young
pitchers Adam Eaton and Brandon Duckworth. In exchange, they
parted with Floyd, Boof Bonser, D'Amico, Sasaki and Felix Rodriguez.
At the time of the trade, Webb had just
six MLB starts under his belt. And while he had done very well in
those six starts (42 IP, 31 H, 14 BB, 35 K), his lackluster minor league
track record didn't lead many to believe he would ever become an impact
pitcher. Little did anyone realize at the time that Webb would be
among the best pitchers in baseball over the next several seasons.
The following chapter, Chamra made
three more trades, acquiring Chad Moeller, Freddy Sanchez and Mike
Sweeney in exchange for Mark Hendrickson, Charles Johnson, Valdes and Jose Castillo.
Aside from the players Chamra acquired through trade that year, he also
acquired several useful players through mid-season free agency, such as Chone Figgins, Bill Hall, Jesse Crain, Jason Phillips and
Merkin Valdez (who was traded to Allentown later in the year.)
The Mustangs wrapped up the 2003 season
with a record of 66-94 -- their worst showing in franchise history.
And with Griffey's $10 million salary still on the books (after another
injury-shortened MLB season), and with a roster still filled with
mediocre veterans, the outlook for the 2004 season wasn't especially
Few franchises in the BDBL, however, had
a brighter outlook for the 2005 season and beyond. After
trading away Crawford for a short-term fix in 2003, Chamra appeared
hesitant to repeat the same mistake again.
From that moment on, he began stockpiling prospects with the intention of
building a long-term dynasty.
With Garrett Atkins, Webb, Andy Marte and Adam
Wainwright in the Villanova farm system, the Mustangs owned an enviable
bounty of young talent. But Chamra was determined to stockpile
even more. In the winter of 2004, Chamra made a total of six
trades, in which he acquired some of the brightest young stars in
baseball: Rich Harden, Jeremy Reed, Joel Hanrahan, Casey Kotchman, Jack
Cust, Marlon Byrd, Jason Johnson, Travis Hafner and Ryan Madson.
In exchange, Chamra sacrificed several impact players who may have
helped his team contend in 2004, including Webb, Carlos Lee, Jason Phillips,
Ty Wigginton, Corey Lidle, Jeff Suppan, Mike Sweeney and Figgins.
That spring, the Mustangs ranked #1 in
the annual BDBL Farm Report by a wide margin. Despite the fact that the
team's top prospect -- Harden -- no longer qualified for the survey, the
Mustangs owned four prospects ranked among the top 20, and seven ranked
among the top 100.
Chamra opened his wallet in the 2004
auction, and splurged on 33-year-old slugger Brian Giles (.258/.386/.489,
110.6 RC) at $11.5
million and 29-year-old ace Kevin Millwood (13-14, 4.65 ERA in 234+ IP) for $9.5 million.
In the free agent draft, Chamra added Gil Meche,
Edgardo Alfonzo, Jon Riedling, Johnny Estrada, Chad Cordero, Jeremy
Giambi and Noah Lowry -- a good mix of players for both immediate and
Another radical realignment of
divisions in the BDBL led to the Mustangs moving into the Higuera
Division, where they would now be competing in the toughest division in
the league, against the defending-champion Allentown Ridgebacks, Kansas
Law Dogs and Great Lakes Sphinx. As such, the Mustangs were picked
to finish in third place.
It didn't take long for Villanova to
fall far behind in their division. By the end of Chapter One, they
were nine games out of first place. By the end of Chapter Two,
they were 17 games back. Early in the season, Chamra continued to trade with his
favorite trading partner, Allentown GM Tom DiStefano, swapping Jeremy Giambi and
future #1 starter Noah Lowry for Terrance Long and future all-star
catcher Michael Barrett.
At the Chapter Four deadline, Marlboro
Hammerheads GM Ken "The Shark" Kaminski was in the midst of his usual
mid-season tinkering ritual, and Chamra saw this as an opportunity.
With the Hammerheads just two games behind in their division, Kaminski
agreed to trade Miguel Tejada -- an all-star shortstop Kaminski had
signed over the past winter at a salary of $10.5 million -- in exchange
for Millwood (who, by then, had become a $9.5 million liability for the
2005 season), Jimmy Rollins and two others. That would be the final
trade of the season for Chamra.
Villanova finished with a 61-99 record
in 2004 -- another new franchise record for losses. But with a
roster stacked with so many great young players, the future looked
bright, and putting together a contending team for the 2005 season
seemed like a good possibility.
Chamra, however, felt his team was still
another year away from contention. So, in the winter of 2005, he
adopted a strategy that was both highly unorthodox and highly
controversial, all in an effort to bring a championship trophy to
This strategy began when Chamra traded
Tejada, along with young star reliever Chad Cordero, to the Atlanta Fire
Ants in exchange for three prospects: Joe Blanton, Dan Haren and Xavier
Nady. Trading Tejada meant that the Mustangs would have an extra
$10 million to spend on free agents, but by trading away the best player
on the team, it also meant the Mustangs were essentially giving up on
The purging continued with the trades
of three more essential stars -- Barrett, Giles and Adam Eaton -- to
the Ravenswood Infidels. Again, the Mustangs received only
prospects (Dontrelle Willis and Nick Swisher) in exchange.
Finally, Chamra managed to do the impossible, and found a taker for
Griffey's contract in the Nashville Funkadelic. In exchange, they
agreed to trade minimum-wage reliever Shingo Takatsu to the Funk, and
took on $13 million in unwanted salary.
The Mustangs paid a $2
million penalty under Rule 7.16 (for finishing with 99 losses), $17.8 million in penalties
for releasing players under contract and $9 million for Kip Wells (who
was acquired in the Nashville trade.) In total, Chamra paid $28.8
million in penalties (including Wells, who posted a 6.27 CERA in 132+ IP
in 2005.) But with only $8.4 million allocated to actual player
salaries, this left
the team with $26.3 million to spend on free agents, with only seven spots to fill on the 35-man roster.
Rather than spend all $26.3 million,
however, Chamra did the
unthinkable, and ended the free agent draft with $5.8 million still
sitting on the table. No team in the history of the BDBL had ever
left so much money unspent -- intentionally or unintentionally.
Following the draft, Chamra then attempted to give his $5 million free
agent acquisition, Corey Koskie, to his favorite trading partner,
DiStefano, in exchange for Allentown's 26th-round draft pick (a $100K
pick.) The league erupted in protest, and the trade was eventually
If the trade had gone through (and
actually, it did, several chapters later) Chamra would have
intentionally spent a total of $30.6 million -- or roughly 40% of his
team's total payroll -- on something other than player salaries.
It was a mind-boggling strategy, which sparked debate throughout the
course of the season.
Of course, in dumping his superstar
players that winter, Chamra acquired several players who would play a
key role the following season. Willis (17-7, 3.97 ERA in 247 IP)
enjoyed a tremendous season for the Mustangs in 2006, becoming the ace
of the pitching staff at only $1.6 million in salary. Haren was
later traded, but became an all-star pitcher at minimum wage a year
later. Swisher batted .251/.344/.527 in 2006, with 25 home runs
and 39 doubles, also while earning minimum wage. And Blanton
(15-10, 4.31 ERA in 215 IP) was yet another minimum-wage star for the
Despite carrying a payroll that was
roughly half of the league's average, despite trading away many of the
top players on the team over the winter, and despite intentionally
leaving nearly $6 million on the table in the free agent signing period,
the Mustangs got off to a respectable 29-27 start after two chapters of
play -- good for second place in their division.
Incredibly, Villanova played .500 ball (40-40) in
the first half of the season, and then went 36-44 in the second half to
finish at 76-84. It was a tremendous accomplishment for a team
that appeared to be doing everything in its power to lose games.
While Chamra managed to dump a
seemingly "untradeable" contract earlier that season by dumping Griffey,
he picked up an equally untradeable contract at the Chapter Five
In exchange for Haren, Jarrod Washburn and Kip Wells, the Mustangs
acquired rookie phenom Zach Greinke, prospect Gio Gonzalez and Mike
Hampton. More so than Griffey (who still had considerable value in
short usage), Hampton was universally regarded to own the most
undesirable contract in the BDBL, with two seasons remaining at $10
million per year. In the winter of 2006, Chamra paid a $10 million
penalty simply to get rid of Hampton. But he felt it was worth
the money to acquire Greinke, whom many felt was a future Cy Young
That winter, Chamra locked in his two prized young
pitchers -- Rich Harden and Greinke -- to long-term contracts of nine
and eight years, respectively. Harden's contract length
represented the longest contract ever assigned to a pitcher in league
history. Through the next three seasons, Harden and Greinke would pitch a total of only
150 innings in the BDBL.
Meanwhile, Haren became a perennial all-star.
After three years of hording young
players and top prospects, the Mustangs were finally primed in a
position to contend heading into the 2006 season. Travis Hafner, who'd
been acquired in trade from the Akron Ryche in the winter of 2004, became one of
the team's top hitters in 2006, hitting .306/.417/.544 with 117.4 runs created,
while earning just $1.1 million in salary. Willis ($1.6MM),
Blanton ($100K) and Harden ($100K) all earned close to minimum wage as
well, as did Swisher ($100K.) Two more products of the
Villanova farm system, relievers Neil Cotts (4-1, 3.21 ERA, 14 SVs) and
Jesse Crain (7-9, 3.49, 10 SVs), both earned minimum-wage as well.
With so many key impact players
consuming so little in salary, Chamra was free to spend big bucks on
free agents, which he did by signing Jim Edmonds (.282/.416/.549 w/
120.4 RC) and Mark Buehrle (16-11, 2.82 ERA in 252 IP) for $12.5 million
each in the auction.
In both pre-season polling and in the
Season Preview, the Mustangs were picked to win the Eck League pennant.
But first, they had to get past the two-time BDBL champion Allentown
Ridgebacks. After winning the 2005 championship, the Ridgebacks
weren't expected to be a threat to repeat in 2006. But after
getting off to a 19-9 start (four games ahead of Villanova), DiStefano
pulled off another one of his patented blockbuster mid-season trades by
adding the league's best starting pitcher, Johan Santana, to an already
stacked starting rotation prior to
Unfazed, Chamra stuck to his pre-season
blueprint and refused to trade away any of his team's blue-chip
prospects. The Ridgebacks and Mustangs posted
identical 16-12 records in Chapter Two, but four of those wins for
Villanova came in one series against the Ridgebacks. It was a bold
statement that seemed to be the turning point of Villanova's season.
In Chapter Three, the Mustangs posted
an 18-6 record, while the Ridgebacks slipped to just 11-13.
Heading into the all-star break, Villanova took over sole possession of
first place, and held a comfortable lead of three games. Then, on
July 17th, Chamra finally relented and pried loose a couple of young
players by dealing Atkins, Jason Bartlett and Chris Iannetta to the
Sylmar Padawans. In exchange, he received übercloser Mariano Rivera, who
pitched 27 innings for the Mustangs down the stretch, with 13 saves and
an ERA of 1.35, and played a pivotal role in the post-season.
Eight days later, the Ridgebacks traded
Santana (along with several others) in a blockbuster nine-player trade
with the Marlboro Hammerheads. Villanova now enjoyed an open path
to their first post-season appearance. The team played .650
baseball (52-28) in the second half of the season and finished a
comfortable 13 games
ahead of the Ridgebacks in the division. With 101 wins, the
Mustangs were the only team in a year of unusual league-wide parity to
reach triple digits in wins. However, they would soon discover that
no amount of regular-season success guaranteed a free and easy path to
As the #1 seed in the playoffs, the Mustangs drew the
#4 seed, the Southern Cal Slyme, in the Division Series. The Slyme
went 95-65 during the regular season, and ranked #2 in the Eck League in
runs scored and #5 in runs allowed. In Game One, however, it was
the Slyme's pitching that took center stage, as they held the 'Nova
offense scoreless in a 1-0 victory.
Villanova then took the next two games,
and appeared to be walking away with the series win. But SoCal
took Game Four by a score of 9-5, as Blanton was pounded for eight runs
in just 3 1/3 innings. They then evened the series in the next
game by pounding the Mustangs by a score of 11-2 -- a game in which
Buehrle allowed an astounding 11 runs on 19 hits in 8 innings.
The Mustangs bounced back from that
drubbing thanks to Harden, who tossed a complete game, two-hit shutout
in Game Six to force a seventh and deciding game. With the game
tied at 1-1 in the sixth inning of that game, Hafner slugged a leadoff
homer off of Jose Contreras to put the Mustangs in the lead. Brad
Lidge then entered the game for the Slyme and struck out the three
batters he faced in order to squelch any potential rally.
Willis escaped the seventh inning with
a 6-4-3 double play, but Cotts then walked the first two batters he
faced in the eighth. With the entire season on the line, Chamra
turned to his newly-acquired closer, Rivera, to face the #3, #4 and #5
hitters in the SoCal lineup. Rivera struck out Jeff Kent and
Carlos Delgado, back-to-back, then got EL MVP Victor Martinez to fly out
to left to end the threat.
In the ninth, Rivera recorded two outs,
sandwiched around a walk to Raul Ibanez. Jay Gibbons then hit what
appeared to be the final out of the game down to the first baseman,
Hafner. But Hafner booted the ball, putting the tying run in
scoring position instead. With Rivera at 26 pitches, Chamra made
the bold decision to put his entire season in Rudy Seanez's hands.
The righty-specialist Seanez, facing lefty Torii Hunter, struck him out
to send the Mustangs into the EL Championship Series.
Facing the South Carolina Sea Cats, the
Mustangs lost the first game of the series, but then won the next three.
Two outs away from series victory, Rivera allowed a sac fly in the ninth
to tie the game at 4-4, forcing extra innings. Tony Graffanino
then poked another sac fly in the bottom of the tenth against Cotts to
secure the walk-off win for South Carolina.
In Game Six, the Sea Cats led by a
score of 1-0 heading into the seventh, but a solo home run by Morgan
Ensberg in the seventh tied the game. Andruw Jones then led off
the ninth for South Carolina by doubling, and then attempted to score on a
base hit by Gary Sheffield. But he was gunned down at the plate by
Reggie Sanders, and after walking the bases full, Seanez gave way to
Cotts, who recorded the final out.
After a scoreless bottom of the ninth,
the series once again went into extra innings. Finally, in the
bottom of the tenth, Juan Rincon uncorked a wild pitch to put two
runners in scoring position with one out. Casey Kotchman then hit
a dribbler on the infield grass, and the slow-footed Hafner plodded home
for the winning run, sending the Mustangs to the World Series.
The 2006 World Series featured a
match-up against the controversial Blazers of New Milford. After
seven years of embarrassing futility, the Blazers had gutted their
franchise for one shot at the trophy. But after winning the first
two series of the playoffs rather easily, New Milford ran into a brick
wall. In what became the slowest-paced World Series in league
history, the Blazers were completely dominated by Villanova. They
were outscored 25-13, and were swept in four games straight. The
Mustangs hit .321/.347/.607 as a team, with 11 home runs in the four
games, while 'Nova pitchers allowed just 33 hits and 8 walks in 36
It was, perhaps, an anticlimactic
ending. However, a BDBL championship is a BDBL championship.
And after several years of enduring long, losing seasons and obsessively
collecting young players and top prospects, Chamra attained the ultimate
goal and emerged as champion of the BDBL.
Despite the euphoria of a BDBL
championship, and despite Chamra's best-laid plans to create a long-term
dynasty, the 2007 Mustangs suffered from a collective sophomore slump.
Harden missed most of the 2006 MLB season, and would pitch just 39+
innings for the Mustangs in '07. Greinke suffered a bizarre mental
breakdown in MLB '06 and would not throw a single pitch for the Mustangs
in 2007. Willis followed his brilliant, Cy Young-caliber season
with a mediocre showing (14-14, 4.88 ERA in 234 IP, with 114 BB) in BDBL
Both of Chamra's big-money free agents
from 2006 -- Buehrle (8-9, 5.08 ERA in 154+ IP) and Edmonds
(.254/.347/.488, 62.3 RC) -- suffered through miserable 2007 BDBL
seasons. And Cotts (17.14 ERA in just 2+ IP in '07) had a
disastrous follow-up to his brilliant 2006 BDBL season as well.
On the positive side, Hafner
(.310/.458/.660, 44 HR, 156.2 RC) would enjoy a career year in 2007,
winning the EL Babe Ruth award and placing second in the MVP voting.
Swisher (.252/.372/.540, 42 HR, 120.1 RC) also had a career year at only
$100,000 in salary. And rookie catcher Brian McCann
(.331/.381/.603, 30 HR, 110.3 RC) -- a fourth-round selection by Chamra
in the 2004 farm draft -- would have one of the greatest seasons ever by
a catcher in BDBL history.
That winter, Chamra attempted to patch
the holes in his rotation left by the absences of Harden and Greinke,
and the ineffectiveness of Willis and Buehrle, by trading for Matt
Morris (6-13, 5.86 ERA in 175 IP) and Tim Wakefield (9-5, 3.21 ERA in
154 IP) -- a pair of trades that cost him prospects Chris Snyder and Gio
With stiff competition from Kansas and
Great Lakes expected within the Higuera Division, the Mustangs were
picked to finish in third place in the annual Season Preview.
Throughout the first two chapters, the Kansas Law Dogs loaded up by
acquiring aces Roger Clemens and Johan Santana. Yet, incredibly,
the Mustangs managed to keep pace, and finished the second chapter tied
with Kansas atop the division.
On April 27th, Chamra made the bold
decision to "go for it" by agreeing to two major trades announced on the
same day. In those two deals, the Mustangs took on $20 million in
salary for the 2008 season, adding Pedro Martinez from the New Hope
Badgers and Jason Schmidt from the Los Altos Undertakers. At the
time, both pitchers were expected to miss most of the 2007 MLB season
due to injury, and thus would have been enormous drags on the salary cap
in 2008. Luckily for Chamra, however, both pitchers were so
greatly injured that they were eligible for penalty-free release under
In terms of the players traded, the
cost for the two ace pitchers was negligible (Esteban German, Brian
Fuentes and Joe Blanton.) And both pitchers were effective, as
Martinez went 5-6 with a 3.80 ERA in 104+ innings for Villanova down the
stretch, while Schmidt went 7-8 with a 4.10 ERA in 149+ innings.
But when the Law Dogs began Chapter
Three with a twelve game winning streak, the division race was all but
over. By the time the final trading deadline approached, Villanova
had fallen eleven games out in the division race, and seven games behind
in the wild card race. At the deadline, Chamra traded Gil Meche to
the South Carolina Sea Cats for David Dellucci and Clay Hensley, and
Rollins to the San Antonio Broncs in exchange for Brian Roberts, David
Ross and Trevor Hoffman.
The Mustangs went just 18-38 (.321)
over the final two chapters, and finished the season with a record of
78-82 -- good for second place in the division, but 16 games behind the
Heading into the winter of 2008, the
pitching situation wasn't looking much better than the year before.
Harden again had missed much of the prior MLB season to injury, and
would pitch just 5.2 innings in 2008. Greinke heroically overcame
his mental issues, and would go 7-9 with a 4.14 ERA, but in only 126+
innings. And Willis continued his downward trend, and went 11-16
with a 4.97 ERA in 212 innings.
Offensively, Hafner departed to free
agency, and Swisher (.262/.374/.472, 26 HR, 102 RC) had a somewhat
disappointing follow-up to his promising 2007 season. And McCann's
performance (.225/.271/.334, 38.1 RC in 497 AB) completely fell off a
cliff, following his MVP-caliber 2007 season.
On the positive side, two more products
of the Villanova farm factory graduated to the active roster: Casey
Kotchman (.327/.411/.555, 21 HR, 105.9 RC in his first full season) and
Chad Billingsley (11-10, 4.11 ERA in 153+ IP.)
Convinced that it was time to begin
restocking that farm system once again, Chamra spent that winter doing
just that. In six separate deals, he acquired prospects Adam
Loewen, Chris Volstad, Garrett Olsen, Trevor Cahill, Kyle Davies, Jeremy
Hermida and Mike Pelfrey in exchange for rookie outfielder Chris Young,
Trevor Hoffman, prospect Jon Niese and young hurler Adam Wainwright.
In the auction, Chamra had little money
to spend, and saved the majority of that money to sign Brett Myers -- a
pitcher considered to have more value for the 2009 BDBL season than in
The Mustangs were predicted to finish
dead-last in their division, but remained comfortably ahead of the
surprisingly ineffective Great Lakes Sphinx throughout the season.
Villanova consistently hovered around the .450 mark throughout the year,
and wrapped up the season with a 69-91 record.
For Chamra, it was a difficult year on
a personal level, and his focus understandably drifted away from the
BDBL. After making a trade during the draft, Chamra didn't make
another deal the rest of the year. And aside from two
inconsequential free agent pick-ups at the final deadline of the year,
Chamra didn't sign a single free agent all season -- including the
Chapter Four farm free agent period.
Throughout BDBL history, a handful of
owners have attempted the "stockpile toward a dynasty" strategy, where
they stockpile top prospects in their farm system with the goal of
someday dominating the league for several years in a row. For Tony
Chamra, the Carl Crawford trade of 2002 appears to have been the pivotal
moment of his BDBL career.
At that time, the Mustangs were in the
midst of competing for their first-ever spot in the BDBL post-season,
and Chamra made the Faustian decision to trade Crawford for an immediate
boost toward that goal. When that move backfired, Chamra appeared
to adopt the "stockpile toward a dynasty" strategy soon thereafter.
The following winter, he added Boof Bonser, Josh Karp and Andy Marte
through trade, and the Villanova farm club rose from a #18 ranking in
the annual BDBL Farm Report to #10.
The next year, Chamra could have easily
used players like Brandon Webb, Carlos Lee, Jason Phillips, Jeff Suppan
and Mike Sweeney to compete for a playoffs spot. But instead, he
used those players to add more young players to his stockpile, including
Rich Harden, Jeremy Reed, Joel Hanrahan, Casey Kotchman, Marlon Byrd,
Travis Hafner and Ryan Madson. As a result, the Mustangs jumped
all the way to #1 in the Farm Report.
The following year, Chamra's strategy
really became crystal clear when he opted to punt the entire season -- a
season in which most thought he could be competitive -- by taking on
millions in unwanted salary and paying nearly $30 million in penalties.
By leaving nearly $6 million in salary unspent, and by trading $5
million in salary in exchange for a 26th-round draft pick, Chamra
practically bent over backward to lose in 2005, so that he could "go for
broke" in 2006.
The Mustangs ranked #1 yet again in the
2005 Farm Report, and by 2006 all of the pieces of Chamra's master plan
had seemingly fallen into place. The stars aligned perfectly, and
products of the Villanova farm factory like Hafner, Willis, Harden,
Swisher and Blanton each contributed greatly toward the team's 2006 BDBL
championship. And because all of those recently-graduated
prospects earned so little money, it enabled Chamra to spend $25 million
on two high-impact free agents, which paved the way to the championship.
But the problem with the "stockpile
toward a dynasty" strategy is that prospects often do not perform as
well as expected. And unfortunately for Chamra, his core of
prospects flamed out far quicker than anyone had imagined. And
while Chamra was able to replace some of that lost production when the
second wave of prospects (McCann, Kotchman, Wainwright, Billingsley)
reached the majors, it wasn't enough, and the franchise's record
suffered for it.
Chamra is now attempting to construct a
third wave of premier prospects, all stockpiled through the trading of
established stars. Whether this new wave of prospects enjoys a
longer reign of success than the previous wave remains to be seen.
Chamra willingly conceded several competitive seasons, and intentionally
endured several losing years, in exchange for one shot at the trophy.
It is a strategy that requires incredible patience, and it doesn't
always work. But when it does, it's certainly effective.