Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Not living up to the hype: Delmon Young continues to struggle

Baseball players go through hot and cold streaks. It’s only natural that over a 162-game season that players will experience ups and downs. However, fans are starting to become concerned that Delmon Young’s horrendous start in a Twins uniform is more than just an extended slump. I didn’t buy into all the hype surrounding Young when he was traded to the Twins. I agreed that the Twins were getting a young, toolsy player with a solid upside, but I saw no evidence to pencil him in for 25 homers this season and 30-plus longballs for the next five years like many others did.

Check out his minor league stats and his numbers with the Rays last season. As Young moved up to higher levels of competition, his power numbers dropped and his on-base percentage dipped. Not good signs. An inflated RBI total last season probably led many people to believe that Young possessed more power than he actually does, which makes his horrendous start even tougher for fans to handle.

That said, the kid still is in his early 20s. He will have plenty of opportunities to live up to his hype and find his power stroke once again. Meantime, it’d be nice if he would show us something besides a strong arm and decent speed. He looks completely lost at the plate, flailing at pitches out of the strike zone early in the count and having difficulty getting the ball out of the infield. Last night he nearly cost the Twins a game with a defensive blunder and lack of hustle on a ball hit down the line in the ninth inning. There's a difference between a slump and being terrible at baseball. Right now, Young is more the latter.

It’s time for Young to have a seat next to Ron Gardenhire for a game. Last night’s disaster in the ninth is the perfect reason for the Twins manager to bench the enigmatic outfielder for a game and hopefully get his first season as a Twin back on track.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Turn off the TV and pick up a newspaper

Judd Zulgad’s column in today’s Star Tribune reassures us that WCCO TV lead sports anchor Mark Rosen will not be leaving the station any time soon. Ok. Fine. Great. Good for him, I guess.

We’ve heard a lot recently about the demise of the newspaper industry. America’s shrinking attention span, desire to get news as it happens, the emergence of many quality Internet news and analysis sites, and newspaper’s own mistakes have led to the dilemma. It’s unfortunate, in my opinion, but also inevitable that times change and adjustments need to be made. What I can’t understand is why people seem to be dismissing newspapers, but still valuing the local television sports anchor.

Anchors like Rosen, Jim Rich at Channel 9, and Randy Shaver at Channel 11 appear on our television screens each and every night telling us…nothing really. Someone writes some copy that they read off of a teleprompter while a few generic game highlights run on the screen. After the highlights, sometimes we get a clich├ęd sound bite from an athlete. This process repeats itself for about three or four minutes before the sports anchor sends it back to the news anchors with some sort of cheesy transition.

Sports anchors in the Twin Cities rarely do any sort of actual reporting. Analysis and unique insight into the local teams are just as rare. Compare the amount and quality of work from the local sports anchors with the local beat writers. Essentially, the beat writers do the sports anchor’s job for them, probably for significantly less pay and far less recognition. It’s reporters like Michael Russo, La Velle E. Neal III and Chip Scoggins that plug into the local teams and do a pretty good job at telling us why a team is successful or unsuccessful, break news on transactions or inside team happenings, or let us know which player recently was arrested and why.

The television anchor then takes this information, condenses it into something that can be easily read off a teleprompter, and then reports it as news. Hey, it’s a great gig if you can get it, but why people even pay any attention to the local sports anchor these days is a head scratcher. Is it because we feel we have some sort of emotional attachment to the TV anchor because we can see him? Do we feel the information is more credible when it’s coming out of the mouth of Mark Rosen because he looks like a decent guy? Do we somehow trust him more because he has a TV voice?

Also, why do all local TV sports anchors have to be such blatant homers and shills for the local teams? It can’t be that hard to at least act like an objective journalist the four minutes they’re on the air. Mercifully, Rod Simons of Channel 5, the most embarrassing member of Minnesota’s television media contingent, recently was given the axe. This “reporter” once led the traditional “Let’s Play Hockey” bit before a Wild game and was so blatant in his homerism that I’m surprised he didn’t wear a Vikings or Twins jersey on the air.

Consider this my plea to the world: If you want quality reporting, in sports, politics, news, or whatever, pick up a newspaper or find a reliable Internet news site. Only turn on the television to watch the big game live or catch up on old episodes of the Sopranos.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sevendust's Hope and Sorrow delivers.....sometimes

It's been a little over a year since Sevendust released Alpha, it's heaviest and possibly its strongest effort over its 10-plus years of existence. A friend of mine and fellow Sevendust fan was stationed in Iraq when Alpha was released and asked me to send him a copy. I was so impressed with the record's intensity, I thought it might inspire my buddy to single-handedly go out and win the war by himself. That didn't exactly happen. Oh well.

We didn't have to wait long for Alpha's follow-up, Chapter VII Hope and Sorrow, which came out April 1. While Alpha made me want to destroy things, Hope and Sorrow makes me want to give peace a chance. But if peace doesn't work, breaking things is the next best thing. Hope and Sorrow lacks the punch of Alpha, but that doesn't mean it's a bad record. Sevendust is not afraid of melodic and mainstream rock and usually shines when venturing into those territories. Hope and Sorrow is much more accessible and gentler than Alpha. However, it's also not as fresh, or as fun.

The album opens with "Inside," a track featuring a breakdown that would make Hatebreed red with envy, and transitions into "Enough," a groove-laden rocker that is undoubtedly Sevendust. Alter Bridge's Mark Tremonti's solo on the next tune, "Hope," is the only highlight of the track before we're hit with "Scapegoat," another hook-heavy Sevendust staple.

From there, the album tends to blend together, with the exception of the standout first single, "Prodigal Son." All the ingredients of Sevendust are present: groove-heavy hooks, LaJon Witherspoon's soulful crooning and intense yelling, Morgan Roses's unique drumming style, and the overused sing/yell song structure that only Sevendust seems to actually make interesting. It's a solid album, but it's nothing we haven't heard before, either from Sevendust or other bands. Guest appearances from American Idol's Daughtry and Alter Bridge's Miles Kennedy actually do more to hurt the album than help, unfortunately. Each song also has an extended intro, which gets old after a while. It's almost like the band listened to the record, realized it needed something else, and threw on an intro before each song to try and be "different."

With Clint Lowery back in the band, I'm hoping their next effort is stronger than Hope and Sorrow. Hope and Sorrow is decent, but Sevendust has established over it's 10-year run that it's capable of much more than decent.

Final verdict: 3 out of 5 stars.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Suggested Reading and Other Tidbits

Not much time to post recently, but I have come across some interesting stories and tidbits that I wanted to share. Some of it's a little dated, but all are very interesting. Be sure to check out the Washington Post story on the Hillary Clinton campaign.

  • Peter Baker and Anne Kornblut did a wonderful story in the March 6 Washington Post on the dysfuntional Hillary Clinton campaign. It sounds like having a camera inside the Clinton campaign would be reality TV at its finest. Perhaps the chaos is a good thing, as the former First Lady is making quite the comeback. Even in Victory, Clinton Team is Battling Itself.
  • You could probably replace "Spain" with "Minnesota" in this headline and it would still be accurate. Spain's Socialists Prepare Economic Stimulus.
  • More on the light rail boondoggle, this time from Joe Soucheray at the Pioneer Press. Did I hear correctly that it's going to take about 35 minutes to get from one downtown to the other on the train? This project gets sillier every day. Have a Name for University Ave. Train? Oui!
  • This is an interesting account of Slayer's Reign in Blood tour in 1986-87. If I could travel back in time, I'd go back to 1986 so I could see Slayer and all of the old 80s thrash bands in their prime! Slayer's Reign in Blood Tour Recounted in April Issue of Decibel.
  • I picked up MLB 08: The Show for the PS3 this weekend. Normally, I hate console arcade baseball games, but this one may change my mind. It's very realistic and super fun to play. MLB O8: The Show.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

McCain must be wondering why a liberal is using his campaign

Isn’t it ironic that the issues of experience and terrorism are now working for Hillary Clinton? Or that Clinton is now viewed as the candidate that takes a strong stand on issues and has specific plans if elected? Clinton is even claiming the media favors Barack Obama. Whoever thought we’d see the day that a Clinton could claim media bias and actually have a valid case?

All of this is bad news if you’re John McCain.

McCain probably was planning on using the exact same campaign against Obama in the general election that Clinton is using right now to badger the Illinois senator in the primaries. Clinton’s 3 a.m. phone call ad could’ve easily been designed by a republican operative. Obama’s lack of experience and weakness on terrorism were probably set to be two of McCain’s main talking points. Cries of media bias would’ve helped McCain shore up even more of the republican base that so despises his sometimes liberal ways.

Instead, Clinton became so desperate to stop Obama’s momentum that she made these her issues. And it’s working.

Let’s assume Clinton wins the nomination. A good chunk of people now might actually associate her with being strong on terrorism and having experience. Any objective observer knows this to be untrue, but that’s beside the point. By using McCain’s own campaign strategy against him (out of necessity, not out of brilliant strategic thinking), she already has a leg up on McCain. It’s going to take McCain longer to debunk the myth that Clinton has the necessary experience and the stomach to fight terrorism than it would have had Clinton cruised to the nomination. Maybe he won’t be able to debunk the myth at all.

Two weeks ago, Republicans were praying that the Democrats would nominate Clinton. Now they’ve probably changed their minds; all because Clinton is suddenly experienced, with the will to fight terrorism despite being constantly harassed by the bias media.

Mrs. Clinton, John McCain wants his campaign back.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

More on the Transportation Bill

  • I'm glad House minority leader Marty Seifert acted swiftly in punishing the "Rouge Six" in his party that voted to override Gov. Pawlenty's veto of the massive transportation bill. Independence is a good thing (see my support of John McCain). Stupidity is not. What these six did was not independent. Supporting the largest tax increase in state history while we are in the middle of a turbulent economy and massive state deficit is narrow-minded thinking, not independence. If these six truly wanted to be independent, they would've came up with a plan that reformed Minnesota's massive entitlement system and re-directed some of that money to transportation projects. That's called creativity, which leads to independence.
  • To be fair, I never heard an alternative proposal to the transportation bill come from any Republican. Perhaps they thought it could wait. Or maybe they just didn't have the guts to make a genuine effort at reducing spending in this state.
  • I wonder if Seifert threatened this type of punishment before the veto override vote was made? Also, if the governor is able to order all state representatives and senators to St. Paul for a special session, he should be able to send them home early from a regular session. That would be the best move for the state right now.
  • Centristy offers a well-written and researched alternate point of view on the recent transportation bill. Perhaps the GOP proposal would've been even bigger (albeit with some more creative financing measures)?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Chris Simon does nothing for Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota sports community hasn’t seen a backlash this bad in quite some time. In the last couple of years, this state has seen Randy Moss, Kevin Garnett, Torii Hunter and Johan Santana leave their respective Minnesota teams for new destinations.

Many people were upset when each player left town, but nothing compared to the outrage displayed when the Wild acquired NHL bad-boy and all-time suspension leader Chris Simon for a 6th round draft pick before Tuesday’s trade deadline. Simon has been suspended eight times throughout his career, most recently for attempting to injure an opponent’s foot with his skate. That suspension cost him 30 games, the longest in NHL history. His previous suspension lasted 25. That one was for whacking the Rangers’ Ryan Hollweg in the face with his stick.

Without a doubt, Simon is a goon. But this isn’t figure skating, folks, it’s hockey. A fair number of hockey players aren’t the type of people you would choose to lead your charity drive or take home to your parents. If a team wants to compete for a Stanley Cup, sometimes it’s forced to sacrifice morals and values for that couple of extra wins.

Unfortunately, Simon is the type of hockey goon that is just that: a goon. Simon’s only scored more than 20 goals once in his 15-year NHL career (29 with the Capitals in 1999-00) and has notched more than 30 points only three times (the last being 2001-02). If Simon was a goon that could also help Minnesota win more faceoffs, provide much-needed scoring consistency or provide additional depth on defense, this move would be a good one. Unfortunately, Simon isn’t that player.

Wild fans and the media have trashed team management for acquiring Simon, and rightfully so. General manager Doug Risebrough expressed surprise at the level of fan outrage and scolded the media for not telling “the complete story.” He also bemoaned the fact that the media hasn’t provided any context to the deal and Simon’s history, pointing out that the second-most suspended NHL player is the Ducks’ Chris Pronger.

If the Wild had acquired Chris Pronger, I don’t think you would’ve heard many people complaining. The core reason for the fan’s outrage is the fact that Simon just isn’t a very good hockey player. Several teams in the ultra-competitive Western Conference made deals to upgrade their teams for the stretch run. The Wild appeared to have a lock on the Northwest Division as recently as two weeks ago, but have free-fallen since and now have to battle to just make the playoffs. The team desperately needed a center and some defensive depth. Instead it got Simon, who gives them neither.

The Wild have been coddled in this market since the beginning. Fans continue to sell out the Xcel Center and the media sticks to praising the team despite its perpetual mediocrity. With one move, Risebrough may have killed most of that goodwill. Unfortunately, what Risebrough fails to see is that fans are not necessarily outraged that the team acquired a complete jackass. That’s the icing on the cake. What fans are most upset about is that another trade deadline has passed and the Wild again failed to do anything that will help them rise above that mediocrity.