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Big Daddy Baseball League

O F F I C I A L   S I T E   O F   T H E   B I G   D A D D Y   B A S E B A L L   L E A G U E
slant.gif (102 bytes) BDBL: 10 Years in the Making

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December, 2008

Franchise History: Villanova Mustangs

Mustangs in a box:

Franchise wins: 766 (15th all-time)
Playoff appearances: 1
Division titles: 1
League titles: 1
Championship titles: 1
100-win seasons: 1
100-loss seasons: 0
Franchise RC leader: Travis Hafner
Franchise wins leader: Dontrelle Willis

Less 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 team's future.

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 penalty.


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 division.

Despite the lackluster prediction, however, the 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.

Calculating 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 untradeable.

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 seasons.)

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 race.


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 merely passable.

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 bright.


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 future benefit.

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 Villanova in 2006.

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 season.

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 withdrawn.

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 '06 Mustangs.

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 deadline.  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 candidate.


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 Chapter Two.

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 the trophy.

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 innings.

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 '07.

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 Gonzalez.

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 Rule 18.11.

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 division leaders.


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 2008.

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.