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.