Monday, April 30, 2007

Guitar Hero II

I never played the original Guitar Hero, but I heard good things. Then my younger brother went to a birthday party and played the second installment, and the next day asked me to swing him out to the local electronics store to buy the game. I was a little skeptical, but I see now that he was right on.

The whole package of the PlayStation 2 version of the game and the guitar is a little pricey at $79.99, but apparently the new guitar is compatible with the original game, so if you decide to buy both games, you only need to buy one guitar. The game is also playable with a normal PS2 controller, but really, if you're playing with the controller, you're missing the point.

When we brought home the game, my brother immediately set it up and created our band, "Silica," so named for the gel packets that came in the plastic wrap with the guitar. (On Saturday, Mark, Mike and I created the band "Cold Knee" after I placed my milkshake on Mark's knee). We hopped right in and started to play a few songs on "Easy" difficulty.

It was fun, but you don't get the sensation of actually playing the song when you play on Easy. It's sort of like in Perfect Dark, if you set the bots' AI to very low, and they'd shoot one bullet every five seconds, and half the time would be shooting it straight up into the air. It's fun to win and kill things, but you don't really feel like a secret agent.

We bumped up the difficulty to Medium, and it was definitely more gratifying. More challenging as well, but that makes it all the more sweet when you complete a song. As a member of "Cold Knee," we began to play through the Hard difficulty level, and I'll tell you, there's a definite jump. But getting the hang of things and playing Woman by Wolfmother and Monkeywrench by Foo Fighters was a real thrill. My wrist ached this morning, but I don't regret the rockin'. What I do regret were those last four wings. Oooh.......

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The NFL Draft

I enjoy watching the NFL draft every year, and this year was no exception. Seeing my two favorite teams picking LaRon Landry and Adrian Peterson back-to-back was definitely exciting; I think they'll both be exceptional NFL players.

But the day wasn't all flowers and butterflies. Listen, nobody likes commercials. When the commercials come on, I tend to look around for other interesting shows that I can switch back and forth from when watching the draft. I was delighted to find out that the new NFL Network is also carrying the NFL draft today, and switched to it a couple times. The problem here is that the NFL Network had commercials at the exact same times as ESPN's coverage. Did the NFL Network have to promise that to be able to carry the draft? If so, they made a horrible error. The only way you get my viewership is if you run your coverage while ESPN is on commercial breaks. That's how you catch me.

Besides all of that, it's got to be easier logistically if they run at different times. When ESPN is on commercial, the NFL Network can be asking Brady Quinn what his reaction is to being snubbed for Ted Ginn by Miami at number 9. Then, when the NFL Network goes to a commercial, ESPN can ask the same question. I just don't understand how this kind of thing happens. I want constant coverage, all the time. I am a product of the digital information age. Instant gratification is the name of the game. Fix it, NFL.

I'm Sweet on Grady Sizemore

I can't help it. Over time, Sizemore has developed from a minimally important piece of my team to my number two keeper, just a pinch behind Miguel Cabrera.

Look at what he did tonight. I was watching the bottom line on ESPN News, and saw he stole a base. I said out loud to myself, "I appreciate it Grady, but I could really use a home run. Things have been a little light recently." I check in later, and he indeed picked up a home run, though of the inside-the-park variety. That means that he wanted to pick up that homer for me so badly that, even though he saw that hadn't hit it hard enough to clear the wall, he just hit the extra gear and flew around the bases.

Yes, that's right. I'm claiming responsibility for that Sizemore home run.

In other Riders of Rohan news, Jimmy Rollins picked up another home run, his 9th of the season. He hears me say that he won't keep up his torrid pace, and gets his bat into another pitch out of spite. Well, Jimmy, I say again you can't keep it up. Now punch another one into the bleachers.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Middle Infielders

For a long time, middle infielders were the bane of fantasy baseball teams. Second basemen and shortstops were like catchers are today. And getting a middle infielder who can hit like Utley was unheard of.

But times have changed. At second base, you've got Utley, Ian Kinsler, Kelly Johnson, and a revitalized Marcus Giles putting up really solid numbers so far this season. And shortstop is even more impressive. Three of the top five ranked players are SS: Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, and Hanley Ramirez. You can find power, batting average, and run production at the two positions now, in addition to the steals you could always get out of them.

I happen to have Kinsler and Rollins, and I'm just loving this production. Will it hold up? Certainly not. But there's nothing wrong with enjoying the ride. Having the two guys tied for second in home runs (behind that bastard A-Rod) playing two traditionally weak positions is a nice little treat. For those of you with similar fortunes, enjoy. I drink to your success....as long as you're not in my league. If you are (Plundo), you can take your middle infielders and go straight to hell.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What Do You Do When You Make A Bad No-Start?

Today, I decided that I wasn't going to start Orlando Hernandez against the Rockies in Shea Stadium, and Plundo chose to not start Scott Kazmir against the Yankees at Tropicana Field. Here are their lines:

Kazmir - 6.2 IP, 1 ER, 5 Ks, no decision
Hernandez - 7 IP, 0 ER, 5 Ks, no decision

In retrospect, we both should've played our respective starting pitchers. But we can't go back in time to change it, so what do you do?

I'll tell you what you do. You look back at the game, and figure out if you should've known better. Kazmir, for example, has put a lot of runners on base all year, and has yet to have one of his classic breakout games. In fact, even in this game, he gave up 5 hits and 2 walks, so it was by no means a shut-down performance. Plus, let's be serious here, it's the Yankees. There are maybe five starters in all of baseball that I run out against the Yankees. Scott Kazmir, for as good as he might one day be, is not one of those five. Benching Kazmir for this start was the right move, Plundo. Stick to your guns.

Now, let's look at Hernandez. El Duque has been decidedly better than Kazmir thus far this season, giving up only 1 earned run in three of his four starts before today. (Confusingly, it was his start against the Nationals in which he got tagged for six runs). Shea Stadium is a pitcher's park, which should cancel out some of the talent in Colorado's lineup.

So why didn't I start Hernandez? Because the Rockies tagged my "ace" Brandon Webb in both of his outings against them, and I got scared. There's no logic to that decision, and I paid the price. Lesson learned.

Holding strong in first place, by the way. But I've got to be more sensible about my starters if I want to stay here. Go Riders!

Monday, April 23, 2007

FIFA 2006

I've played FIFA '07. I've watched it played. I appreciate that the graphics are very impressive. It's got a lot of nice features, and I'm sure it's enjoyable for those who've decided to make the switch, or for whom the 2007 version is their first soccer game.

But for me, it comes up short in enough key areas to prevent me from spending the money to get the new version. The manager mode offers far fewer teams and leagues to choose from, when part of the fun of '06 was being able to join all sorts of obscure leagues and bring the very worst teams to international dominance. Since when is it a good idea to reduce the complexity of a game in its next iteration? Also in the manager mode, the roster limitations aren't designated graphically. So when you're deciding whether to pursue someone in the transfer market or putting a player out there for transfer, you are held to some obscure number of required active players (which by the way seems to change depending on your league), not represented anywhere in the game that I can find. Thanks a lot, EA.

So you can take your FIFA '07. I'm riding '06 into the grave, me and 1 FC Saarbrucken. Me and Hadji and El Idrissi.

Chip, you were right the whole time. FIFA '06! FIFA '06! FIFA '06!

Power Outage

Patience is a virtue.

After starting off on fire, my fantasy baseball team's power numbers have dwindled down to near-nothingness. Rollins added another dinger tonight, but Sizemore and Dunn have been silent for a week now. Sizemore I get; Dunn, I do not. It's not like I expected to lead the fantasy league in homers, but my blood-homer level is getting low.

See, here's the problem. Coming into this season, pre-draft, I had no bones about finishing in the bottom half again, not worrying about the standings and focusing on assembling the building blocks for a run in 2008. But then a funny thing happened: I came out of the gates on fire, and have been in first place since day 3 of the season. How do you sit in first place for three and not want to do what you can to stay there?

I expect that I'll be able to stay level-headed enough to not trade away my future studs for short-term solutions. But the longer I'm in first, the more real the temptation becomes. We'll see.

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...