Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with the founder of a very controversial, yet interesting website. Adam Conn, founder and lead writer for ContractBud.com took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about Baseball, Bud Selig, and Sports in general. This is the first of what will be a vast number of interviews this off-season. Stay tuned throughout the off-season for exciting interviews, free agent rumors, predictions, and perhaps a random work of fiction from Dave Beyer. In the meantime, enjoy the interview and make sure you check out Contract Bud, it’s a must read.
Joe: Adam, since most people do not know who you are, why not take this chance to first, tell me a little about yourself.
Adam: I grew up all over the midwest, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin — the heart of the Big Ten, and at the time, bad baseball, football, and basketball at the professional level. So while I picked specific teams to root for, like the Cubs, Packers, and Penguins, all of them pretty much lived at the bottom. I learned to become a fan of the sports themselves instead. Like most kids, I played baseball, but moved on to soccer and wrestling as my main sports.
Joe: So with that being said, do you find yourself rooting for any team in particular in Major League Baseball?
Adam: Well, I’m still loyal to the Cubs, but in that way that true Cubs fans are loyal — I get confused when they actually are winning. I avoid wearing my Cubs paraphernalia when they are winning so it doesn’t appear that I’m a bandwagon fan. Having lived in Boston for 10 years, I continue to follow them; living in Minneapolis now, I follow the Twins as well. I did like the Yankees for a while in the 70s, but after August 2, 1979, I couldn’t root for them any more.
Joe: What are your thoughts on this year in Major League Baseball, as we have a chance to look back?
Adam: I was very pleased with how the playoffs turned out — with the exception of the Angels and Braves not even attempting to play in the postseason, but who is going to remember that at all. I was probably the only person outside of St. Louis that thought the Cardinals were the best team in the National League. I think it showed the cracks in the Moneyball system as well, which not too many people have discussed right yet. I was pleased to see the potential in Detroit and Cleveland, and to see Tampa show some signs of life, and to see Texas rebound after Alex “The Curse” Rodriguez was exiled; that was great.
Joe: It’s interesting you mention Moneyball, as I just recently finished reading it for the first time. What are your thoughts on the book?
Adam: It’s a system doomed to collapse based on it’s success and Beane’s ego about it. Beane prides himself on finding oddballs like Hatteburg, and cheap pickups and weirdos in the draft. But his thinking might make him make more mistakes — find someone who resembles Hatteburg on paper, but in reality won’t produce. I’m also doubtful of his system to find pitching. I think Theo Epstein’s approach may work. Find those Moneyball oddities, but also spend big money on the right people. Getting away on the cheap won’t get you as far.
Joe: Do you feel people too much faith in OBP and Bill Jamesian philosophies, or are they valid?
Adam: I think there’s a way to find a good compromise between the numbers guys and talent. I personally fill my fantasy team each year with the guys who draw the walks, score the runs. I tend to stay away from those who strikeout twice as often as they hit a ball. I tend to root for the guys who play a multifaceted game. Carlos Beltran for example. Speed, defense, power, average, etc.
Joe: Speaking of Carlos Beltran, where do you see him next year? Why?
Adam: As a Cubs fan, I’d love him in the friendly confines, and I don’t rule it out. The Yankees, of course, will do everything they can to get him. I know the Astros have to consider keeping him. He was everything to them this post-season. LA is a a possibility, and perhaps the Angels. He’s the number one free agent on the market, and he’ll have to go to a big market team.
Adam: He’ll be a very rich man.
Joe: So, no team prediction?
Adam: It really rests with Scott Boras. Boras would love to get him on the Yankees, but keep in mind Bernie Williams is his client too. With the Yankees looking to dump Kevin Brown, and having already dumped Travis Lee, he might have some problems. The Yankees are the obvious front-runners, but I think if Boras wants to improve his own reputation, he’d consider a team like the Cubs as his primary spot. That way, he could take credit if they break their World Series drought.
Joe: Ok, let’s switch gears a little. I recently discovered your site. One of the first things a visitor notices when they log on is the name. Tell me about the story behind it.
Adam: After November 6, 2001, I said “Instead of contracting baseball, we should contract Bud Selig instead.” After musing about making a one-issue website, I decided to make ContractBud.com a general sports editorial website, dedicated to the improvement of all sports. We really aren’t about what’s good for roto baseball or fantasy football, nor are we a shill for any one team. It’s also not a bloggy “gee this sucks” site; we try to make recommendations for improving the situations.
Joe: Many people believe Bud Selig is a huge reason why baseball has experienced the recovery from the strike. Why do you want to see him removed from office?
Adam: Saying Selig is the reason baseball has recovered is like saying Philip Morris is behind the great reduction of smoking in this country. Selig lead the strike in 1994 — he cancelled the World Series. That killed the Expos, who had to disband perhaps the best team we would have ever seen win the post-expansion World Series. He got fortunate that the McGwire-Sosa HR derby and Cal Ripken saved the game. In 2001, after September 11th, what brought this country back together was baseball, not through any effort of Selig. I more credit Disney/ESPN/ABC with saving baseball than Selig. And after all that, he stuck another dagger into the baseball world by announcing contraction plans immediately after one of the best WS ever.
Joe: Selig has been responsible for a number of changes in baseball, such as the new division format, the wild card, interleague play, and home field advantage for the world series for the All Star winner. What are your thoughts on these? Have they in fact made baseball better?
Adam: I think interleague play has cheapened both the All-Star game and the World Series. Plain and simple. The new division format was well overdue, but still poorly executed. The Brewers shouldn’t have been moved to the NL Central, and I think it could have been set up more along geographical lines. I do like the unbalanced schedule. I would have shortened the regular season back to 154 to accommodate the wild card. That would produce more pennant races, and a better traditional ending for the season. We had the potential for this season to end on October 31! Would you want to see it potentially SNOW during the World Series? The home field advantage from the All-Star game wasn’t his idea; I think that was proposed eons ago. It’s not a big issue, unless there is a tie…
Joe: So if you had to replace Selig, who would you replace him with?
Adam: Sol Gittleman. He’s a member of SABR, former minor league infielder, former provost of Tufts University, a heck of a consensus builder. He’s an impressive man both in his knowledge and true love of baseball, his understanding of political divisions between ownership and the players, and his understanding that baseball is a business first and foremost, a sport second, but overall, the passion of the American people.
Joe: One name that was mentioned a while back was NBC commentator, Bob Costas. What are your thoughts on him as a potential replacement?
Adam: I do like Costas as a potential commissioner, but I think he’d run into big problems. He tends to be a little sarcastic, and coy, and would wind up pissing one of the owners off right away. I think baseball needs someone more intellectual, less known; another Bart Giamatti — but with a better health outlook.
Joe: With no change in the commissioner in sight, let’s shift our focus to changes in baseball. One of the articles on your site addresses the question of what changes baseball needs to make. What is the most important change you would like to see take place and Why?
Adam: There are tremendous issues going forward, and baseball will need someone with that strength and resolve — putting a “celebrity” commish in place will only diminish from the seriousness of the position. There are a ton of changes that we’ve address since the site went live. What would be the most important? Getting the next Collective Bargaining Agreement in place by the end of the 2005 season, rather than waiting to do it during the 2006 season. Without that, any changes are meaningless long term. We have the potential for baseball to “hockey” out right now. The free agent market this winter will test how strong both sides are. If it winds up being a fairly quiet and calm off season, we should be fine. But with the potential for Sosa to be traded, and the Yankees to eviscerate their pitching staff, we could see a lot of screwy things going on.
Joe: Ok, let’s move on to your website. Why should people read it? What does it have to offer?
Adam: We offer opportunities for the readers to think beyond the base of fan loyalty and knee jerk reaction. We hope to provoke thoughts and discussions that are bigger than single games and single plays. We investigate elements that are out of the common area. There’s more to discuss than the DH rule or who is exactly who’s daddy. We try to bring that to folks in as many sports as possible. (And we are always looking for new writers!) If you are a fan of sports, we’re the website for you.
Joe: If someone is interested in writing for your site, what do they need to do?
Adam: They would need to contact me at Founder@ContractBud.com. I generally ask interested folks for a couple sample editorials as well as a short list of ideas for potential articles.
Joe: If you could spend the rest of your life on an island and the only thing you had to read was 1 website and 1 columnist, what would they be?
Joe: Finally, I always like to get some book recommendations. So, what are your top 3 sports/baseball books?
Adam: Conduct of the Game by John Hough. Ball Four by Jim Bouton, and The Universal Baseball Association, Inc.: J. Henry Waugh Prop. by Robert Coover.
Joe: Adam, thank you so much for your time. Keep up the good work with the site.
Adam: No Problem.