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NHRA: A tribute to the Mongoose Tom McEwen, and a recap of Virginia's races

The Mongoose helped launched the NHRA. Courtesy photo

Welcome to Femmefanaticsports.

Tom "The Mongoose " McEwen was a prime component molding and shaping the Wild Life Safari that  we know today as the NHRA. He helped form and shape the sport into the colorful, adventurous wild ride that Motorsports enthusiasts just can't get enough of seeing.

He had such a clear vision of what he knew the sport could be. He not only made it fun and exciting,  he made it profitable. He helped put NHRA on the map.

To have a  car that wins is one thing. To put a team together is another. To sign sponsors is altogether a different animal. How do you win the attention of the sponsors and then convince them that you have a product worth endorsing in an uncharted  arena outside of the norm? McEwen was a pioneer of thinking outside of the box when it came to winning the attention and the confidence of the decision makers.  He was a mover and a shaker.

One of his crowd grabbing rivals was Don "The Snake " Prudhomme. This was a grudge match that not only packed the stands back in the day, (60's and 70's) but also forged an unforgettable bond that parlayed into a lucrative sponsorship deal. Can you say "Hot Wheels?" Kids of all shapes, sizes and ages imagine being on the dragstrip as they race their favorite Hot Wheels car across the kitchen floor. 

Who knew markering and advertising through team sponsorship could be a thing? 

In addition to winning our hearts, and huge brand sponsorships, Tom "The Mongoose " McEwen  also went on to win several National events in Funny Car and Top Fuel as well as induction into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame . 

Thank you Mr. McEwen,  for showing us how it's done. 

Richmond recap

Give me Liberty or give me the win -- the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Richmond  Virginia Motorsports Park.  

What a weekend in Nitro Alley!

As the race for the Championship heats up, there is much excitement in the pits. 

Last week,  Iron Man Clay Millican had back to back wins. Will he keep the winning streak?

The Women of Motorsports Power have been keeping the pace, but with many obstacles. Will Courtney Force stay the course?  Will Angelle Sampey make the cut in Pro Stock Bike? Will Karen Stoffer place? (In the meantime welcome to the club, Kelly Clontz!)  How will Leah Pritchett fare? Will Erica Enders stay killer on the tree? 

The competition here is fierce. You had Mike Green on the sidelines  for team DSR. Unbelievable.  There was also a parade of gratitude for First Responders. Not to mention a most welcome visit by Veteran Top Fuel Champion Joe Amato as well as Guest Appearances with Great Expectations Jim and Allison Lee, and two-time Pro Stock Champion Jim Yates. And the crowd goes wild! Literally, tickets  Sold Out Saturday !

To be back in Virginia  for this Mello Yello Drag Racing Series was an amazing feat in itself, and the stakes this weekend are high. Team Force is suffering as the leader of the pack John is scarred from top to bottom but still has a smile, even when paired up for finals with daughter Courtney. 

Erica Enders gave herself a scare when her ride headed toward the wall but made a good save. Bob Tasca also danced with lightning. But the salsa trophy goes to Cruz Pedregon with his massive "out of body" experience due to a blower explosion.

This was one action packed weekend, to say the least.

In the winners circle 

Top Fuel -- Steve Torrence, 3.812 seconds, 322.96 mph def. Doug Kalitta, 3.844 seconds, 309.56 mph.

Funny Car -- Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.039, 321.96 def. John Force, Camaro, 4.076, 307.65.

Pro Stock -- Tanner Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.595, 208.81 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.628, 208.46.

Next week:  Join the NHRA  Mello Yello Drag Racing Series in Thunder Valley, Bristol ,Tenn- June 15-17, 2018.


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It’s the issue that has dominated Astros conversation all season and it gets louder each time Jose Abreu strikes out or pops up with runners in scoring position.

All the announcers can say is, “Abreu’s been making better contact lately” or “Abreu’s long out in the third would have cleared the fences in 12 ballparks.”

Would have. Didn’t. Abreu is hitting .214 heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Blue Jays. And he appears stuck there. He’s mired in a two-month slump with a slugging percentage bogged down at .264.

What should the Astros do with Abreu – keep playing the $19.5 million disappointment or pull the plug and find anybody else?

Let’s put that debate to the side for the moment and dispel one excuse/explanation we keep hearing for why Abreu stays in the lineup.

“The Astros have to play Abreu because they don’t have anybody else on the roster with real experience at first base.”

Cue the sound bite from Moneyball.

Billy Beane: “(Playing first base) it’s not that hard, Scott. Tell him Wash.”

Ron Washington: “It’s incredibly hard.”

Actually, Beane was right. Playing first base may not be easy, but it clearly is the easiest position in baseball. Almost always, if you’re a Major League player, with a crash course in footwork, you can learn to play first base adequately.

Certainly adequately enough to replace a .214 hitter with no power and a $58 million contract.

From Abner Doubleday to Little League to high school ball to the big leagues, first base has been the best hiding place for a poor defensive player. First base is where a lousy fielder does the least damage. First base is where a big, tubby, slow fumble fingers can stay in the lineup and get his rips at the plate. Next stop: designated hitter or designated for assignment.

A first baseman rarely has to make a hard, accurate throw … or any throw other than an underhanded flip to the pitcher covering first, or tossing the ball back to the pitcher after an infield out. Jeff Bagwell injured his shoulder in 2001, could barely raise his right arm, and still played four more seasons at first base for the Astros. Bagwell could hit.

A first baseman doesn’t need to have much range. He has to protect only a few feet of fair territory to his left. Unlike other infielders, a first baseman can bobble a ground ball and still get the out at first.

A first baseman doesn’t need to be fleet of foot. In 2011, Bleacher Report featured “the 25 slowest players in MLB history.” Thirteen of them were first basemen, including Jim Thome, David Ortiz, Cecil Fielder, Mo Vaughn, Willie McCovey, and John Olerud.

Then there was Dick Stuart. He was a slugging first baseman who played in the ‘60s. He was such a disaster in the field that his well deserved nickname was Dr. Strangeglove. Also Stonefingers. Also the Man with the Iron Glove.

Despite his horrible fielding, he made two All-Star teams and finished his career with 228 home runs. He led the American League in total bases one year and finished Top 10 in homers five times. He couldn’t field. But he could hit. When it comes to first basemen, a good hitter will win you more games than a good fielder will save you.

You like analytics? Let’s crunch some numbers. Between 2000 and 2016 a study by the Hardball Times compared the fielding statistics of first basemen with veteran experience to first basemen with limited or no experience at the position. The study tracked 237 players and approximately 2,691 throws to first from second base, shortstop and third base.

Bottom line: a veteran first baseman doesn’t save all that many runs compared to a newbie at the position.

On average, there are 6.4 throws from an infielder to first base during a game. I know, Framber Valdez is a ground ball machine, but we’re talking average.

Most interesting and germane to the Astros current situation, a first baseman with limited experience at the position, less than 50 games, will cost a team 3.7 more runs over a season – an entire season – than a veteran first baseman.

A first baseman will less than 10 games at the position will cost a team 4.7 extra runs over a season.

A total newcomer to first base will cost a team just 5.4 extra runs over a season. That’s less than one extra run per month.

So just for argument sake, if the Astros were to move Yordan Alvarez or Yainer Diaz or Chas McCormick or Mauricio Dubon or (fill in the blank) to first base, the team would surrender only a handful more runs than continuing to play Abreu, who by the way has led the American League in errors four times.

Didn’t Alvarez work out at first base during spring training this year? Backup catcher Diaz got a start at first this week and promptly hit a home run. He’s 6 for 9 the past two games.

The question isn’t how many runs does playing Abreu at first save the Astros, but how many more runs the Astros would score with somebody else.

It’s not that hard to play first.

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