Monday, June 29, 2009

New Radio / New Music?

I had my radio conk out a couple weeks ago, and just recently got a new one installed. It's got an auxiliary input (for an iPod or mp3 player) as well as a USB connector (for flash drives). A lot of people have already got those features in their cars, but for me this is a whole new world. I don't have to make CDs anymore (though I'm sure I will).

All of that is an extremely boring lead-up to me saying I'm going to finally get a chance to listen to more music. The sheer amount of music I have at my disposal is staggering; it's time for me to delve into the archives to find some gems.

I'm currently working with my brother's Creative Zen Touch, but I've run into a compatibility issue. The mp3 player is older, and doesn't have a Vista-compatible driver. And of course, I was too cheap to pay the extra $100 to have XP installed on my new computer, and just accepted Vista (which every day seems like a bigger mistake). So in order to update the content on the Zen, I have to use an older computer, which means I'm transferring music files from my main computer to an external hard drive, then to the older computer, and finally to the mp3 player. What kind of joke-ass operating system can't use drivers from its predecessors?

The other option is to just use flash drives, but the storage capacity on the ones I already own isn't exactly overwhelming. I've got a 2 GB one that I use for my personal work, and a 512 MB one that I've had forever and I'm unsure as to how much longer it'll work. Oh, and I have a 256 MB one that went through a washing machine, still works, but I don't trust.

So my options are
  • Use mp3 CD's, storage capacity of 700 MB apiece.
  • Use my old flash drives, storage capacity of 512 MB.
  • Use the Zen Touch, and commit to spending 15-20 minutes in file transfers every time I want to change the music.
  • Buy a new flash drive or two with greater storage capacity.
  • Buy a new mp3 player.
For the time being, I think I'll use the old flash drives, but I'm going to start prowling the Internet for cheap flash drives and mp3 players, and wait for something to pop out at me.

Top 5 Artists Whose Music I'm Going to Explore Now:
  1. Kiss - Plundo has been a fan of Kiss for as long as I can remember, and I've added a song once every year or two to my regular rotation (I Was Made For Lovin' You, then Detroit Rock City, most recently Love Gun). It's time to get knee deep and see if these boys can play.
  2. Rush - I've heard songs by Rush I've liked, and songs I haven't. I enjoy progressive rock as a genre, though, and Rush is allegedly one of the best. It's only fair that I give them a legitimate chance.
  3. Pharoahe Monch - While I've cooled off on rap as a whole, I still enjoy the occasional foray, and Pharoahe Monch seems to be my most frequent target. He just rhymes everything. It's pretty impressive.
  4. O.A.R. - Know thy enemy.
  5. Yes - Another "prog rock" band, but I've only heard maybe two songs from Yes. They seem to skew a little bit more towards standard music than Rush, so I actually expect to like more Yes songs, but I feel like I need to listen to more Rush.

Friday, June 26, 2009

NBA Draft Debriefing 2009 Part 2: How Did They Do?

Now that we've addressed how those of us who don't get paid anything did in their draft day projections, let's look at how those who get paid millions did. We'll split this business into a couple of Top 5 lists, since that's how I like to look at things.

Top 5 Picks (quality and value)
  1. Blake Griffin, Clippers, #1 overall. Sometimes, the best pick you can make is the one everyone knows you're going to do anyways. I don't want to repeat myself too much, but suffice it to say that I think he'll be a big time player in the NBA.
  2. DeJuan Blair, Spurs, #37 overall. I stand by my statement that Blair was worth taking in the top 10. Getting a top 10 guy in the second round is awesome.
  3. Ty Lawson, Nuggets (from Timberwolves), #18 overall. Lawson is a gamer, and it looks like he'll have plenty of teams to show up. In Denver, he can be a star, a perfect transition piece from Chauncey Billups.
  4. Brandon Jennings, Bucks, #10 overall. The more I've seen of Jennings, and after seeing a brief interview with him last night, I'm sold. There's no doubt in my mind he can be as good as any point guard in this draft.
  5. Jordan Hill, Knicks, #8 overall. The Knicks were undoubtedly disappointed that Stephen Curry got swiped one pick ahead of them, but I think I've got Hill ahead of Curry in terms of potential. People worry about Hill's commitment, but I think the Knicks got a guy who could explode...in a good way.
Top 5 Trades (quality and value)
  1. Spurs acquire Richard Jefferson from Bucks for Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, and Fabricio Oberto. The Spurs basically traded two crummy big men and Bowen for a dramatic improvement over Bowen. Lots of teams will cite "financial flexibility" when they make trades; I prefer to look at "getting better" as the main factor.
  2. Wizards acquire Randy Foye and Mike Miller from Timberwolves for the #5 pick (Ricky Rubio), Etan Thomas, Darius Songaila, and Oleksiy Pecherov. I like Songaila as bench depth, but the other two guys were just bodies. Rubio might make this deal look silly later, but by adding Foye and Miller, Washington now has five proven scorers. Do something, Flip.
  3. Magic acquire Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson from Nets for Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston, and Tony Battie. Lee was a solid producer for Orlando last year, but Alston is a constant headache. Carter, for all his flashiness, is a reliable scorer who can also fill up the rest of the stat sheet.
  4. Knicks acquire Darko Milicic from Grizzlies for Quentin Richardson and cash. Richardson had become an overpaid underperformer in a crowded backcourt. Milicic gives the Knicks a solid defender with decent hands who can start fast breaks in Mike D'Antoni's high-powered offense.
  5. Cavaliers acquire Shaquille O'Neal from Suns for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, Cavs' 2010 second round pick, and $500,000. I'm not in the camp that thinks Shaq is going to be the difference in Cleveland, but he's certainly better than Ben Wallace. Moreover, he's got a $20 million contract that ends after this upcoming season, so even if he's a total bust, he'll have value for teams like Memphis, who'll undoubtedly be looking to shed more payroll, just as soon as they find any.
I'd like to write a section about the Wizards, and perhaps I'll get an article together in the future, but if I were to write it now, it'd basically just be re-hashing the Mike Miller trade and the passing on DeJuan Blair. Let's wait a little while for some new news. See you next year, NBA draft.

NBA Draft Debriefing 2009 Part 1: How Did We Do?

The NBA draft is in the books, and while the talent level of the players available in this draft may not be as exciting as it was in past seasons, the amount of talent that changed teams over the past week is astonishing. We'll start with a review of my picks and how they compare to what actually happened. The number after the player is how early or late I was in picking them. A plus sign means I was early, a minus sign means I had them going later.
  1. Clippers - My pick: Blake Griffin. Correct!
  2. Grizzlies - My pick: Ricky Rubio. +3
  3. Thunder - My pick: Hasheem Thabeet. -1
  4. Kings - My pick: Jordan Hill. +4
  5. Timberwolves - My pick: Tyreke Evans. -1
  6. Timberwolves - My pick: Stephen Curry. +1
  7. Warriors - My pick: DeJuan Blair. +1...ROUND
  8. Knicks - My pick: James Harden. -5
  9. Raptors - My pick: DeMar DeRozan. Correct!
  10. Bucks - My pick: Gerald Henderson. +2
  11. Nets - My pick: Jrue Holiday. +6
  12. Bobcats - My pick: Brandon Jennings. -2
  13. Pacers - My pick: Terrence Williams. -2
  14. Suns - My pick: Austin Daye. +1
So obviously DeJuan Blair was my big misread. How he managed to slip through all those teams at the bottom of the first round is utterly beyond me. I knew I put him higher on my projections than most mock drafts had him, but the fact that no playoff team thought he was worth their first round pick is astonishing.

Jeff Van Gundy said all night that maybe the most reliably predictable aspect of a game is rebounding, and Blair was a monster on the boards. He's long, he's strong, and he's got a serious motor. No joke, when the Wizards passed on Blair with their second round pick, I felt like I was watching a championship piece slip through their fingers. And of course, the San Antonio Spurs were happy to gobble him up at pick 37.

The other surprise for me was Jonny Flynn going at number six to Minnesota. He's undersized even for a point guard, and you simply don't find many NBA stars who are undersized. I honestly like Ty Lawson more than Flynn. Time will tell whether I'm seeing this correctly, but I stand by my mock.

Other than Blair and Flynn, though, I think we here at Joe & Joe did a pretty good job of handicapping the draft. We got two lottery picks correct, four more we missed by just one slot, and two more by just two slots. That's pretty good in my book.

Part 2 of our 2009 NBA Draft Debriefing will look at how teams tried to improve themselves through the draft, as well as through trades in the days leading up to the draft. And I'll probably bring up DeJuan Blair seven or eight more times. See you then.

The King of Pop

As I'm sure all of you have heard, Michael Jackson died yesterday afternoon at the age of 50. I spent some time online, watching music videos on Youtube, perusing Facebook, and reading news, and people seemed to fall into two camps with regards to their response to the news of Jackson's death.

The first group lamented the passing of a music icon. There were a lot of fond memories, people talking about how they look forward to a bump in his radio play over the next few days, and more than a few people saying "rest in peace" (or "rest in piece").

The second group took the opportunity to get one last jab in and try to make some snide comment about Jackson's past. The most common "joke" (I put it in quotes because it doesn't really show any creativity, and isn't particularly funny) was that, now that Michael Jackson is dead, children can sleep easily at night. Because, you know, pedophilia is a riot.

Some people do fall into both categories, and it's not surprising that they produce some of the better jokes. They're able to be in touch with the fact that Jackson was a cultural giant, while still wanting to make some jokes.

You guys know me. You know I don't really get offended ever, and this isn't really an exception. I'm not offended that people are taking this person's death and making fun of a possible trauma that a child or children may have gone through. But when I see people my age making these comments, it strikes me as a very sincere form of pandering.

People want to be perceived in very specific ways. These people, the people making these jokes, are unwilling to acknowledge the value that Michael Jackson offered. They won't admit that, for a time, they really liked Michael Jackson (which is a fair guess, because fucking everybody liked Michael Jackson). They'd like to be perceived as above nostalgia, above the sentimentality of those times. Over time, it became "cool" to make fun of Michael Jackson. But in my mind, today, and going forward, it's particularly "uncool."

People know Ray Charles was an addict. People are pretty sure that Tupac was a killer. And yet, both of those artists are mostly remembered today for their accomplishments and their talents, and their shortcomings are only remembered as part of the whole picture. My guess is that five years down the road, Michael Jackson will be remembered most for creating some of the finest music in the past quarter century, and his missteps will be looked upon as just a part of the tragic figure who touched our lives for so many years.

In honor of the King of Pop, my All-Time Top 5 Favorite Michael Jackson Songs:
  1. The Way You Make Me Feel (1988)
  2. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough (1979)
  3. Human Nature (1983)
  4. You Rock My World (2001)
  5. Black or White (1991)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

NBA Draft Preview 2009

I may not be as tuned in to college basketball as I once was, and I have never known anything about international basketball, but as always, I'm more than happy to talk about a topic I have no business talking about. As such, let's dive right into my 2009 NBA draft predictions!

I'll just be covering the lottery. "My hypocrisy only goes so far."
  1. The Los Angeles Clippers select Blake Griffin, forward from the University of Oklahoma. No surprise here, Griffin is the highest caliber player in this draft by a wide margin. Most analysts I've heard talk about Griffin say he'll be a fine player, but never a star. He's still got work to do on his offensive game, but he's got the best hands I've seen in five years in the draft. A guy that strong and with those rebounding instincts won't be able to help being a double-double producer on a daily basis. I expect him to be a star.
  2. The Memphis Grizzlies select Ricky Rubio, guard from Spain. There's talk about other players at this pick, but I really think the Grizzlies will look at Rubio as the most talented guy available, and since they're not exactly brimming with talent in Memphis, they'll grab him. He doesn't have tremendous physical skills, but at point guard, you need instincts and polish, and despite being only 18, Rubio has both in spades. Could end up being the best player from this draft.
  3. The Oklahoma City Thunder select Hasheem Thabeet, center from the University of Connecticut. Thabeet is a junior, but he's still extremely raw. He's got good physical skills and surprising touch on his shot, but he'll be drafted mostly based on his defensive upside. He's 7'3" with long arms, but he'll have to work better on his positioning at the next level, because he won't always be a half-foot taller than his opponents anymore. He's a ways off from knowing what to do on offense, but he's capable of becoming a very solid two-way player.
  4. The Sacramento Kings select Jordan Hill, forward from the University of Arizona. Talk about a team with needs all over the place. While SG James Harden is more of a known commodity, the Kings don't need the safe pick. They need to hit the jackpot. Hill would give Sacramento three recently drafted interior players, and you have to think one of them will pan out. He's got a lot of potential, but right now is just an athlete. His development will depend heavily on his commitment to improving. If he's game for it, though, Hill could be as good as Amare Stoudemire.
  5. The Minnesota Timberwolves select Tyreke Evans, guard from the University of Memphis. Minnesota really just needs players, especially after trading Randy Foye and Mike Miller, but Evans happens to fit a particular weakness at point guard. He's big, athletic, and can create his own shot. There are attitude concerns, specifically that he likes being a one-man show, but I don't generally put too much stock in "character" in the NBA; they're all so young that it's unfair to judge them. And say what you will about Evans being a ball-hog, but his teams were successful, which is all that matters.
  6. The Minnesota Timberwolves select Stephen Curry, guard from Davidson College. This is all assuming the Timberwolves don't make some sort of trade on draft day, which seems more and more likely every day. Curry's stock has risen steadily since the end of the NCAA season, and while they say you can always teach someone to shoot better, it's nice to not have to. Curry still has work to do to become a legitimate point guard and avoid becoming a Stephon Marbury on the court, but he can shoot so well that he should be able to become a scorer for Minnesota immediately.
  7. The Golden State Warriors select DeJuan Blair, forward from the University of Pittsburgh. I've seen Blair fall as late as 21 in mock drafts, but he seems to be a perfect fit for the Warriors. They're overloaded with backcourt and wing players, and while Andris Biedrins is a solid big man, they've got nobody to complement him. Blair is strong and plays with big time energy. He may need some conditioning to keep him going over the longer and rougher pro game, but he can give Golden State worthwhile minutes right away.
  8. The New York Knicks select James Harden, guard from Arizona State University. Harden is a polished player who can fit into a lot of offenses. He's got a good ability to get to the hoop, and I've seen him go all the way up to #2 in mock drafts. I think his limited upside will make some teams sour on him, but he can certainly be a contributor going forward. Rarely do the Knicks make value picks, usually electing to go outside of convention to get their picks, but I think if Harden somehow slips this far, New York has an easy pick.
  9. The Toronto Raptors select Demar DeRozan, guard from the University of Southern California. DeRozan is another guy who's seen his draft stock fluctuate as we get close to the big day. He jumped a lot after workouts, then teams cooled a little as they continued to watch college film. Right now, he's really just an athlete, and in the short term will allow as many points as he scores. Still, he could develop into a great wing guard, and while his range will never scare anyone, he's got the tools to take over games down the road.
  10. The Milwaukee Bucks select Gerald Henderson, guard from Duke University. The Bucks just traded Richard Jefferson for some big men who won't be around in a year. They'll need someone to play a G/F position for them for the foreseeable future, and Henderson fits pretty well. He won't ever be a big time scorer, but like most Blue Devils, he's got good fundamentals and plays good defense. He's a smart player who projects to a high caliber sixth man on a good team, or the third best player on the Bucks.
  11. The New Jersey Nets select Jrue Holiday, guard from UCLA. The Nets feature a point guard who has just started to come into his own (Devin Harris), so why would they grab another potential point guard in Holiday? Well first, this draft is very guard-heavy at the top. If you draft a forward here, you're giving up a good amount of value. Second, Harris and Holiday both sort of play like shooting guards, so you can work around the perception that you've got two point guards. Holiday is raw, and won't become Allen Iverson, but his upside might be Andre Miller, someone both of us Joe's just love.
  12. The Charlotte Bobcats select Brandon Jennings, guard from Italy. Jennings is the nightmare for the NBA and NCAA hoops; he told the league to take their "one-and-done" system and shove it, playing in Europe for a year after graduating high school. He honed his skills against professional competition, and now he's draft-eligible. The Bobcats will look at Johnny Flynn here as well, but they've already got a point guard who shows poor shot selection and is prone to turnovers. I think they'd rather roll the dice with a potential star in Jennings.
  13. The Indiana Pacers select Terrence Williams, guard from Louisville University. Williams is sort of an anomaly among college athletes. He's a great defender with questionable scoring ability. On a team that needed scorers, Williams would be a bad fit, but on Indiana, he can slide into a role immediately and take time to work on his offensive game. I don't think Williams will ever be a star, but my guess is he ends up on a lot of winning teams due to his work ethic and intensity.
  14. The Phoenix Suns select Austin Daye, forward from Gonzaga University. Daye doesn't have much of a defensive presence, but he and Robin Lopez could give Phoenix a pleasant inside combo. The more guys you can work into a frontcourt rotation to keep Shaq healthy and fresh, the more frequently Shaq will be able to take over games. Daye is more of a wing player, but he's tall enough (6'10") that he can block passing lanes and disrupt things on the interior. Daye is a better fit on the 2004 Suns team than he will be on the 2009 one, but he'll still be solid.
In doing these projections, I've started to see why teams are always willing to take chances on power forwards and centers. There's never any depth at frontcourt positions in the draft, so when you see a guy who you think could pan out, you lunge at him. That's why I expect DeJuan Blair to be scooped up early this year, and why I probably made a mistake not projecting someone to take a chance on B.J. Mullens in the lottery. It's just tough to find good big men these days.

Tune in Thursday night to see how things pan out. Even with the Wizards out of the first round, I'm still excited. What can I say? I just love the NBA draft.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Donte Stallworth's NFL Suspension

The NFL missed a golden opportunity to send their players, coaches, executives and, yes, fans a message with the suspension of Donte Stallworth following his conviction in a DUI manslaughter case. They had an opportunity to clearly and definitively address a league epidemic, but chose instead to hand down a rather toothless "indefinite suspension".

First off, I just want to say that I really can't and don't want to comment on punishment Stallworth received from the state of Florida. I'm not well versed in Florida law, nor do I know what a typical punishment is in a case like this, so I'm just going to assume Stallworth received the standard punishment for being drunk and ending a human life by barrelling into him with a Bentley. Sure 30 days in jail seems a little light, but, like I said, I don't know Florida law.

Instead, my focus is going to be on the NFL suspension Stallworth received and what the league should have done. Like I said previously, Stallworth received an indefinite suspension from the NFL, which I read as "you can return to the league whenever you get the blessing of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell". While this punishment is effective and necessary for "once-in-a-lifetime" cases such as Michael Vick's, the league could have used the notoriety of the Stallworth cases to address one of its ugliest and most ingrained problems.

The NFL has a huge problem with drinking and driving. HUGE. Yahoo! Sports writer Josh Peters wrote an incredible article addressing it here. The one number that leaps off the screen is that 73 players on 2008 rosters had been arrested for DUI. Let's put that in context, that is basically about 5% of the players in the entire NFL. That's an epidemic and an embarrassment.

So how could the Stallworth issue be used to address the NFL's problem with DUIs? First, Goodell should have used the media focus to make a new NFL mandate. My suggestion would be that Stallworth is receiving a two year suspension from the NFL. I would then use the Stallworth forum to announce that from this day forward any and all DUIs convictions will be at least an automatic one-year suspension. Further more, a DUI arrest (regardless of whether or not the player is convicted) is an automatic four game suspension, because after all, isn't the suspicion of putting your life and the lives of your fellow human beings at risk worth at least the same penalty as using steriods.

Since the average NFL career is about three years, a one-year automatic suspension for a DUI would be a huge blow to an average player. So much so, that (hopefully) any player would think twice before risking his +$300,000 salary for a night on the town. It would also create the illusion that the league actually cares about responsible behavior from its players, something I'm struggling to believe at the present. Finally, it would send a strong message to NFL fans, may of who are children: Drinking and driving is a serious crime, wildly irresponsible and dangerous and will/should be punished as so.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

My Town Rocks!

So anyhow, I'm writing this as a rebuttal of sorts to Joe's recent post, My Town Sucks, about his sports teams and their woes as of late. Please see below as he documents his loathing for Pittsburgh because they've had some winning years as of late and his hopes to crush his friends spirits by finding joy in their favorite teams failings.

I supposed that I understand how people would dislike Pittsburgh sports teams/sports fans because they are currently on top of two sports. But I would like to point out that really, Pittsburgh is a champion for small-market cities that generally have no chance to win in sports. Let's look at the traditionally good.... no great teams in sports.

NBA - LA Lakers are World Champions, have won 14 championships all time, only 2nd to Boston, with 17 championships- most recently last year. Both are big market cities, with lots of money and every advantage to win year in and out.

MLB- Seemingly the NY Yankees have won 1/2 of the championships ever and the best team in the past 5 years has been the Boston Red Sox.

NHL - Detroit won last year, Pittsburgh this year.

NFL - Pittsburgh current champs. New York last year. New England (Boston) has been the best team overall for the recent past.

What do most of these teams have in common? They are big-market teams with flashy owners and lots of money. Seemingly players would much rather live in New York, Chicago, LA, or Boston than they would Pittsburgh, Detroit, or Green Bay- thus making the big-market teams even more attractive to top-level free agents. Big-market teams are able to buy big-named players for their squads. Small-market teams have to depend on building teams through the draft and their farm systems. Lastly, small market teams often have family-run ownership with many years of stability. Large-market can have this too (Steinbrenner) but those teams would be much more likely to be bought up by businessmen looking to make more money off of a team than teams in Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City or Pittsburgh.

It is reasons like these that I would think that fans of a small market team from any city should root for a Pittsburgh team (or any other small market) before they'd ever root for a big-market team. Let's take a look at this year's 2 championship teams in Pittsburgh, shall we?

1. The Pittsburgh Penguins, NHL Stanley Cup Champions - Small Market franchise. Top Players - Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jordan Staal... each a first-round draft pick from 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. They don't go after flashy free agents, their top free agent this year acquired from another team? Ruslan Fedotenko - who is 7th on the team in scoring. Head coach - Dan Bylsma - a first-time coach who started the year in the minors and never coached at any level prior to this year.
Owner? Mario Lemieux - who is the only reason that this team isn't the Kansas City Penguins. They were bankrupt 5 years ago and have the worst arena in the league. If he didn't care so much to keep the team he loved in Pittsburgh, it wouldn't be here anymore.

2. The Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL Super Bowl Champions - Small Market Franchise. Top Player- Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Parker, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, Santonio Holmes, and James Harrison. Each of these players were either drafted by the Steelers, or signed as an undrafted rookie free agent (both Parker and Harrison). Top Free agent signed this year? Mewelde Moore, 3rd string RB and kick-returner. Their coach - Mike Tomlin, a man with one year of coordinator experience from another small market team. Owner - Dan Rooney, generally respected as one of the best owners in sports ever.

My points here are pretty clearly spelled out. Pittsburgh franchises go about things in the right way. They are small-market teams that build their teams through the draft and spend money on players that came up with their team, not using other small market teams as their own farm system. They have stable owners who are more interested in winning and tradition than they are in making money. In my opinion, any fan of a small market team should be appreciative of these traits, root for small market teams vs big market clubs, and hope that their teams can someday follow Pittsburgh's blueprint and win their own World Championship.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ranking the Announcers - Washington Nationals

So in another Joe Mandi segment that is sure to start, but almost guaranteed to never be finished, I've decided to take a look at one of the aspects of watching baseball that is generally overlooked: the announcers. A quality team in the booth can really enhance the viewing experience, providing insight into the current game and telling "war" stories that remind the viewer of baseball's rich and wacky past. Of course, there is also the flip side of that, the play-by-play guys that don't know when to shut up or the former player-turned-color man that really should have just faded into the baseball sunset. So in an ambitious segment, I'm planning on watching a game from each of the 30 teams (hopefully getting my money's worth out of my mlb.tv package) and writing a little bit about each announcing team. Today I'm going to start with the Washington Nationals since, well, they are currently on TV... easy enough.

6/14/09 Washington Nationals at Tampa Bay Rays on MASN2

I've watched a few Washington Nationals games this year (like I said, they are on local TV and I generally prefer watching bad baseball on TV rather than good baseball on the computer) so I have a bit of background with the announcing team of Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble. And generally I despise them. I realize they have a really tough job, having to help create interest in a recently relocated team that is just plain terrible, but they are generally tremendous "homers" (especially of late, when every close call that has gone against the Nationals has been a travesty of epic proportions). There is also a general awkwardness between Carpenter and Dibble, which tends to make the chore of watching a Nationals baseball game slightly worse. Anyway, I'll try to be objective, but if you know me at all you know that will probably last for about half a paragraph.

So the game starts and Rob Dibble is actually adding some nice insight into the development and weaknesses of Nationals 23-year old starter Ross Detwiler. Things like pointing out that Detwiler is fighting himself by landing his lead foot inefficiently. Of course Dibble then added this gem of modern journalism "late in the game he gets a little bit tired and lazy, and I don't mean lazy in a lazy sense...", poor Jack Buck just rolled over in his grave. All in all, not a bad start, I appreciate that Dibble could add in something "technical" that most of us normal schmucks probably wouldn't pick up on.

Wow, Rob Dibble just gave a great breakdown of why ash bats break differently than maple bats. Things about the grain of the bats are different, with maple bats having a "swirling" grain and ash bats having straighter grain. Dibble really contributed something to my life there and, wow, I was not expecting that. Another great tidbit about all MLB game baseballs being from Costa Rica and batting practice balls coming from Japan... Dibble is really on his game today. It's the 3rd inning, but something tells me these guys can't keep up this pace.

Here we go again with Carpenter and Dibble. Ross Detwiler is struggling in the 4th inning, walking the first two hitters, and Carpenter and Dibble start complaining that he isn't getting any borderline strikes. Come on guys, Detwiler is a rookie and he is having control issues, you can't expect him to get ANY calls. This isn't a massive anti-Nationals conspiracy, this is baseball like it has been played for over 100 years. This is really the problem I have with these guys, they are truly unabashed in rooting for their team. Maybe they are reflecting the partisan political landscape of DC or maybe they are trying to polarize their fan base or maybe Carpenter and Dibble are just pricks, but their hometown favoritism is very off-putting to the uninvested baseball fan.

Over the next five innings (the Nationals would go on to lose 5-4), two unfortunate things happened to the Nats: Willie Harris collided with a bullpen catcher while tracking a foul ball and a Willy Aybar drove in the game winning run with a groundball double that bounced off third base. Naturally, Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble responded to these events by describing the Nats as "snakebitten" and continuing the woe-is-me routine. Unlucky events happen in baseball and they tend to happen more often to teams that play poor baseball, but if you listened Carpenter and Dibble you would have to believe Washington was under some sort of Native American curse.

So, the Nats announcing duo was pretty much on par with the nauseating product they put on the field. I'm not prepared to call them the worst duo in the league (because I know Hawk 'f-ing' Harrelson is out there somewhere), but I'm pretty sure they are in the bottom five.

Current Rankings:

Washington Nationals (Bob Carpenter and Rob Dibble)

My Town Sucks

Joe and I hung out last weekend, and what inevitably came up was a discussion about how much we both hate Pittsburgh sports teams, and our own laments regarding the impotence of our favorite teams. Joe, being from Ohio, is a fan of all things Cleveland, and saw his dreams dashed when the Orlando Magic upended the Cavaliers in six games. Meanwhile, my hopes for success this year ended with the Washington Capitals on the receiving end of a 6-2, game 7 shellacking at the hands of the eventual Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

Sure, the Indians are still technically alive, and the Redskins have a shiny new defensive tackle in Albert Haynesworth, but Joe and I both know that 2009 is already dead for Cleveland and Washington sports fans.

Anyways, while we were hanging out (and eating far too much Domino's pizza), I said something that I regret, but not in the way you think. It's not something I regret saying, because generally I just can't ever regret telling the truth. It's something that I regret was true. I told him, truthfully, that I was rooting against the Cavaliers against Orlando, ever so slightly, because I didn't want him to leave our little club of people whose favorite teams have been mired in failure for my entire adulthood.

The problem, of course, is that the club sucks ass. Why would I want to keep other people in it, when I want desperately to get out of it?

The explanation is partially based on the same reasons I dislike Pittsburgh sports teams: jealousy. In basketball, hockey, and football, all teams are held to the same financial limitations, so you don't have a disparity between "large-market" and "small-market" teams. Put another way, any team can win if they get the right players and system. Yet somehow, Pittsburgh has been able to field a very good football team for the past twenty years. Meanwhile, both Cleveland and Washington have failed to produce a championship caliber team for more than a decade. I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish for something like what Steeler fans have got.

The other large part of the explanation is an innate competitiveness I feel towards Joe, mostly stemming from fantasy baseball. That son of a bitch has been in first place for far too long, so I find myself rooting against everything he represents, even when it means wishing that Brian Roberts and Adam Jones will strike out, hamstringing my favorite baseball team from winning games. The irony, of course, is that Roberts and Jones have been supremely productive, yet the Orioles are among the worst teams in baseball. A slap in the face like that doesn't make me want Joe's teams to be more successful.

I'll try to have a more positive outlook on Cleveland teams going forward, but Joe, you'd better hope James Shields starts getting rocked, or it's back to the LeBron voodoo dolls for me.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Want To Vote For Pitchers

Why is it that Major League Baseball doesn't allow fans to vote for pitchers for the All-Star Game? I've asked myself this question for years, and I finally decided to look into the matter. I should preface this by saying that there's no amount of information I could find, no angle of reasoning I could uncover that would make me think that fans shouldn't be able to vote for pitchers. So this was just an exercise in discovering why other people suggest that only hitters are selected by fans.

But guess what? After looking around for a few days, running various web searches, asking fellow fans and students of the game of baseball, and just thinking about it myself, I haven't found one reason that fans should be allowed to vote for hitters but not pitchers. A couple of the ideas that went through my head before I dismissed them:
  • People wouldn't have enough information to know enough about pitchers. The very notion of that is ridiculous; when you start allowing All-Star ballots to be cast in April, you lose any right to claim that anyone, pitcher or hitter, hasn't played enough to prove their merit. And things wouldn't have changed much in that time anyways; Zack Greinke and Johan Santana are still your starters.
  • Pitchers are harder to evaluate than hitters. There might be a bit of truth to this, in that pitchers seem to rely a little more on luck than hitters do. But with the success of fantasy baseball, the general baseball-watching public is starting to understand the value of WHIP, and how it's a pretty solid representation of pitching quality. Wins and strikeouts should still matter, of course, but as long as you integrate WHIP, you should have a good representation of the best pitchers. And again, you'll get mostly the same pitchers, regardless of WHIP integration.
  • With each team having one representative, you need as many roster spots left up to the manager as possible. Gobbledygook. While certainly the option of grabbing the closer from a last place team has become a somewhat standard method for ensuring full representation, it's by no means the only way to involve every team. Furthermore, you'd still have a plethora of bench spots (both hitters and pitchers) available to sprinkle members of each team. I imagine you'd vote for 2-3 starting pitchers and 1-2 relievers. That's hardly enough to ruin roster flexibility.
I haven't heard a single reason from anyone to suggest why pitchers ought not be voted for when it comes to the All-Star game, and so I'm going to do just that. I'm casting my ballot today for the three starters and two relievers from each league that I believe to be All-Stars. Selig and his friends can stick it.

AL Starting Pitchers
  • Zack Greinke, Royals - Even with his recent underwhelming performance against the Blue Jays, his season numbers are astounding. He's 8-2 with a 1.55 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP, with 91 strikeouts in 87 innings. Moreover, on Kansas City, he's got to be that good to have any shot at a 15-win season. A well-deserved vote for the All-Star Game.
  • Roy Halladay, Blue Jays - While the Blue Jays have slowed quite a bit since screaming out of the gate, Halladay continues to throw gem after gem. He's the majors' first ten game winner of the season, and another twenty win season seems very much within reach.
  • Justin Verlander, Tigers - While his teammate Edwin Jackson has been similarly tremendous, Verlander has an absurd 97 Ks in 77 innings. That he's bounced back so nicely after giving up 17 runs over his first three starts is an even greater testament to how well he's pitching right now.
AL Relief Pitchers
  • Frank Francisco, Rangers - Francisco didn't give up a run until his 18th game of the season, at which point he was 11/11 in save opportunities. A shoulder injury puts his status into question going forward, but for right now, he's one of my two RP picks for the All-Star Game.
  • Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox - While I really do think Joe Nathan has pitched like an All-Star, he hasn't had the same opportunities he's had in the past. Papelbon, meanwhile, has been racking up saves like always, and although he's not as dominant as he's been historically, I don't have any trouble saying he's an All-Star.
NL Starting Pitchers
  • Johan Santana, Mets - This is the Santana we all expected when he was traded to the National League. He's got 8 wins, sparkling averages, and over a strikeout an inning. Additionally, you know he's never going to look like a mistake after the fact.
  • Johnny Cueto, Reds - A year after some of us invested our #1 waiver priority in him, Cueto is showing that he's able to transition from thrower to pitcher. His strikeout numbers have dropped, but he's become miles better at getting guys out, putting him in the top 5 in ERA and WHIP in the National League.
  • Chad Billingsley, Dodgers - Eight wins and better than a strikeout per inning have made the Hundred Dollar Man (C-Bills, get it?) a valuable fantasy commodity. He also happens to be the best starter on the best team in baseball right now.
NL Relief Pitchers
  • Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers - Even if you take out his SIX (!) wins, he's still crushing opponents and pitching like the closer we all figured he'd be. I guarantee you nobody in Los Angeles misses Takashi Saito.
  • Francisco Rodriguez, Mets - Sometimes there are guys from whom the world is expected, and they end up actually meeting expectations. His ERA is bested by only Francisco and Hoffman, but he's got more saves and strikeouts than either of them. The Mets desperately needed to solidify their bullpen, and K-Rod is up to the challenge.
So there you have it, your pitching All-Stars. I'd be surprised if any of those ten guys didn't make the All-Star game (though Papelbon probably could get nudged out with a bad week). Agree? Disagree? Got a reason why we shouldn't vote for pitchers? Say so.

Top 5 Video Games I've Played in the Past Week

With the forum not pulling in a lot of traffic, I figured I'd post my Top 5 lists on here from now on. We'll kick it off with something completely transient and random.

Top 5 Games I've Played in the Past Week
  1. Rock Band 2 - What can I say? I love the bastard.
  2. Army of Two - I played it online for the first time last week, and it's kind of intriguing. Plus I've still got hundreds of achievement points to earn.
  3. Pizza Tycoon - It's losing steam, though, as the sheer number of stores is getting tough to manage.
  4. Guitar Hero III - It's not perfect, but the basic tenets are up my alley...figuratively.
  5. Grand Theft Auto IV - I may be done with the story part of the game, but there's still plenty to do (and destroy) in Liberty City.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Top Five 2009 Fantasy Football Sleepers Version 2.0

In the same spirit of my Busts 2.0, here we go with the second iteration of my sleeper list. Again, if you think I'm wrong, yell at me and spit in my face. I find it strangely arousing.

Once again, I'm basing a player's "stock" on Yahoo's fantasy football Big Board.
  1. Eddie Royal, WR, Broncos - Yes, Jay Cutler is a better quarterback than Kyle Orton. But it stands to reason that Royal is a better fit for Orton's skills/comfort zone. Royal is more of a "find me and I'll blow this open" than Marshall, who's a jump ball maestro. I see Royal improving on last year's numbers, and if your league gives points for return yards, he's a stud. 2009 projected stats: 100 catches, 1150 yards, 800 return yards, 9 total TDs
  2. Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles - Though it pains me to say it, McNabb has become one of the more underrated passers in the league. His health is always an issue, but he played 16 games last year and posted a career high in yards. And even though his rushing yardage has dropped dramatically, he's still the most elusive guy in football, and that means plays get extended. I hate-respect him. 2009 projected stats: 3800 yards, 24 TDs, 10 INTs
  3. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers - How is this guy outside the top 5 quarterbacks on the Big Board? Part of it has to do with everyone's love affair with Kurt Warner (which I assure you will end this year), but I have to think the rest of it is that people still don't realize how good Rivers is. Only twice last year did he have more INTs than TDs, he led the NFL in TDs, passer rating, and TD-to-INT ratio. Now do you know? 2009 projected stats: 4100 yards, 33 TDs, 11 INTs
  4. Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings - Harvin is as talented as any receiver in this year's draft. He'll have the opportunity to win playing time (from...Bobby Wade?). And he'll benefit from the scariest play-action move in football (everyone's head turns when Adrian Peterson gets the ball). Hey, there's always one or two rookie receivers who blow up. My bet is on Harvin. 2009 projected stats: 70 catches, 900 yards, 6 TDs
  5. Johnnie Lee Higgins, WR, Raiders - In a preseason game last season, Higgins returned a punt 40 yards for a touchdown, then did a cartwheel and a backflip...after the run. While all the talk will be about Darius Heyward-Bay, and while Javon Walker is certainly the incumbent, there's no doubting Higgins' ability. Over the last three games of the season, he notched twelve catches and four touchdowns (one returning). I don't imagine the Raiders will be all that potent, but Higgins is too good to be kept down. 2009 projected stats: 45 catches, 750 yards, 1200 return yards, 6 total TDs

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Top Five 2009 Fantasy Football Busts Version 2.0

We got a comment on my original post of 2009 fantasy football busts, and it made me realize that a ton of stuff has changed since that post. So, I figure it's time to update things with a new list. So let's have a look at some players that I think won't justify their draft position during the upcoming season. Feel free to chime in if you like.
  1. DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers - I think my original projections were a little low, but still below elite. And for a likely top ten overall pick, you're going to want more than that. 2009 projected stats: 1400 total yards, 10 TDs
  2. Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals - Listen, Kurt Warner is a nice story. And he's back in Arizona, which bodes well (it's hard to be that bad with Larry Fitzgerald). But Warner will be 38 when the season starts, and he's now being ranked as the #4 quarterback on the Big Board, the #25 player overall. No thank you. 2009 projected stats: 3500 yards, 20 TDs, 18 INTs
  3. Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins - Maybe part of this is the homer in me wanting to get Portis out of town, but his production has been volatile. Come fantasy playoff time, Portis was non-existent, averaging 50 yards and .5 TDs during weeks 13-16. The Redskins' offensive line troubles don't help. 2009 projected stats: 1350 total yards, 9 TDs
  4. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Falcons - Listen, I think Gonzalez is a nice addition for the Falcons. He gives Matt Ryan a veteran target in the passing game. But I don't see him getting better with age; rather, I see a regression to the mean. 2009 projected stats: 70 catches, 750 yards, 6 TDs
  5. Matt Schaub, QB, Texans - Schaub has been a sexy pick for two years because of his skills and the fact that he's got Andre Johnson on his team, and for two years he's disappointed. He played 11 games each of those seasons, with a 24-19 TD-to-INT ratio. It might be time to accept that he's just a serviceable quarterback, and won't get much better than this. I never thought I'd say this, but they'll miss Sage Rosenfels. 2009 projected stats: 3300 yards, 16 TDs, 12 INTs
Tell me I'm wrong; I love it.

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...