Tuesday, February 23, 2010

American Idol Top 24 Preview

I'm just going to skip the pretense of me apologizing for liking American Idol and stuff and get right down to business.

The Favorites

Crystal Bowersox

Why she can win: As far as talent goes, Crystal has probably been the best we've seen this season. Her rendition of "Natural Woman" in the Hollywood was one of the best vocals and she's also shown an ability to play guitar and harmonica, a key attribute in the post-instruments idol world. Also has a nice single mother doing it for her kid storyline to back her up and get votes.

Why she can't win: Crystal's general dirty hippie look and lack of pearly white teeth may make it tough to gain votes with much of America, specifically the large southern voting contingent. The Idol stylists will have their hands full trying to turn her into a pop princess. The folky style also may not have what it takes to win on the show.

Andrew Garcia

Why he can win: The judges have praised him through the roof for his "original" take on a Paula Abdul song (turning it into a lame Jason Mraz knockoff -- real original) and for his vocals which are undeniably the best among a weak class of guys this year. Like Crystal, he's also got the single parent just trying to make it work story going for him.

Why he can't win: America loves the sensitive guy strumming on his guitar when it's a super-hunk like Kris Allen, but will they vote for it when it's an overweight Hispanic guy with annoying hipster glasses? I'm gonna say no on this one.

Katie Stevens

Why she can win: Powerhouse vocals at age 16 (Get ready to hear Randy say "raw natural talent" and "you either got it or you ain't and you got it" many times in the coming weeks). A good and original sob story involving a grandma with Alzheimer's. She's got the look and youthful energy to appeal to the coveted Hannah Montana disney crowd.

Why she can't win: Being a 16 year old performing on Idol is undoubtedly nerve-racking. For every bold and fearless 16 year old contestant like Allison Iraheta, there's seemingly millions of epic fail trainwrecks like Stevie Wright from last season.


Didi Benami

Why she can win: Her "Hey Jude" performance was the best of the entire audition round and she put on a similarly great performance in the opening round of Hollywood Week (on a Kara Dioguardi song no less -- now that takes some talent). Also has a good look and another excellent sob story with her "doing it for my dead best friend" story. Plays an instrument as well and has an original vocal style.

Why she can't win: There's stiff competition among the girls this season, and it's going to be hard for anyone to separate themselves from the pack. Didn't get much TV time during group week or the final audition.

Janell Wheeler

Why she can win: America loves their country music, and Janell has basically the entire country package (ie she's a good looking blonde with above average vocals). She also showed some originality during hollywood week with her country spin on "American Boy", and the judges tend to eat that crap up with a spoon.

Why she can't win: She flopped her final audition, leaving many to wonder whether she has "what it takes" to succeed on the big stage. Doesn't have massive Carrie Underwood vocals and may not have the versatility to handle all the theme weeks.

Aaron Kelly

Why he can win: Again, America loves their country music. America also seems to love shy 16 year old boys (not that it helped me in high school), especially when they transform into talents on screen. Kelly can score a lot of votes with the southerners and 13 year old girls, which are crucial.

Why he can't win: Had a pretty rough hollywood week and forgot the words to his songs approximately 3.2 billion times. He needs to overcome his oh-so-adorable nerves to have a shot at this thing.

Casey James

Why he can win: He's a good looking dude (in case Kara hasn't pointed that out enough times for you) who can play the guitar. Seems to have pretty good blues vocals.

Why he can't win: Didn't show a whole lot of versatility and his voice may not be strong enough to handle the theme weeks. Not much personality (although good looking guys frequently get away with that on the show).

Ashley Rodriguez

Why she can win: Killer vocals and a very good look. Doesn't have much competition in the R&B and soul genres with so many folk/country singers this season.

Why she can't win: Hasn't had much TV time. Could fall into the Lil Rounds trap of being a very good singer who doesn't have the originality to "make a song her own".

Might have a chance

Todrick Hall - showed a lot of personality in his audition, but may not have the vocals to go too far.

Tyler Grady - Chicks will likely eat up his cliched Jim Morrison look, it's just a matter of singing well enough (he didn't get much TV time either).

Lilly Scott - Has a unique look and jazzy, soulful voice, but might not have the whole package that America wants to see.

Siobhan Magnus - Was impressive vocally in the brief times we saw her in Hollywood week. Needs the Idol stylists to do a lot of magic.

Lacey Brown - Is an idol veteran after making the top 50 last year, has a unique look and good voice. Needs to stand out from the crowd though, as many other singers may be co-opting her niche.

Lee DeWyze - He sucks, but America loves their Nickelback and Daughtry knockoffs.

Jermaine Sellers - Received high praise from the judges in his first audition and has some personality. Needs to stop being a jerkface before America turns on him.

Michael Lynche - Has a good voice and a newborn daughter, but there's rumors that he's been disqualified.

No chance of winning, so everyone can laugh at me when one of these people does

Haeley Vaughn - Has some talent, but most country voters won't vote for a black girl (harsh, but true) and she seems very prone for an Idol stage-fright freakout.

Alex Lambert - Must have pictures of Simon Cowell or something, since he sucked at every single step of the Hollywood rounds and has no personality, yet inexplicably was put through. Can maybe sneak into the top 12 as a vote for the worst candidate, but that's it.

John Park - Seems to be talented, but I'm not sure if his look (this is just a euphemism for him being Asian if you didn't catch on) will appeal to most of America.

Jose Munoz - Who?

Katelyn Epperly - Was underwhelming whenever she got screen time. Competition among the girls is way too stiff for her to slide by more than a couple of weeks.

Michelle DeLamor - Who? Has gotten basically no screen time, but there's a chance I end up regretting listing her here.

Paige Miles - Who?

Tim Urban - Was a last second replacement for a disqualified contestant. Was never even approaching being good in any of his previous auditions and wears a winter hat indoors.

My Prediction:
I'm going out on a limb slightly and sticking with Janell Wheeler as my pick to win AI9. She's shown originality, plays the guitar, and obviously has the looks. It just seems like America is due for a country winner, and she's the best country contestant they've had since Carrie.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Commercial Trends That Must Die

Super Bowl Sunday is the day all of America's best and brightest advertising executives wait for the entire year. Much time, resources, and thought is put into the advertisements, and it's often a company's best chance to get their name out there and educate eager consumers about the benefits of their product. So naturally, you would expect this day to be full of original and funny ads, showcasing the skills of the people working for these companies and not be the typical idiotic commercial fare featuring talking babies and guys not wearing pants.

Of course, if you thought that last Sunday, you were wrong. Really, really wrong. Most of the super bowl ads this year made me long for the DVR. In addition to not being funny, many were blatantly offensive (and I'm not talking about the relatively innocent Tim Tebow pro-life ad), completely lacked originality, or were just plain horrible. The deluge of ads also revealed some trends that are seen disturbingly often in commercials today. Here are the key ones that should die, preferably in some way involving fire.

Talking Babies
Made famous by the wonderful people at E-Trade, last Sunday we were subjected to another series of talking baby ads. Get it guys? THE BABIES ARE TALKING. Babies don't usually talk do they? No. That's why what we're watching right now is so incredibly funny.

Talking babies have long been a go-to joke that will appeal to the generally dumb masses (a popular TV show instantly comes to mind here). It's a lame, one-joke premise, and it's time for E-Trade to move on and stop abusing innocent children by forcing them to be in their brutal commercials.

Guys Really Like Beer -- Look at the Crazy Stuff They'll Do to Get It!
This seems to be the most popular trend in beer commercials today, and of course the Super Bowl had some more. The most textbook example of this genre of commercials was the Bud Light commercial featuring a group of people making a human bridge so the beer truck could drive into town.

These commercials are cripplingly unfunny. The joke in every single one is exactly the same, and usually involves a completely outlandish presence with a lot of bad physical humor and sight gags. The lack of humor wouldn't be bad by itself, but of course in these commercials it's all done with the disturbing subtext of alcoholism -- if running all the way across town and holding hands with people so a truck can drive over your spine, allowing you to obtain your precious, precious booze isn't addict behavior, then I don't know what is. If I were an advertising executive for a beer company (and I can only pray that one day I will be), I would prefer to focus on the taste of the beer rather than emphasize how hopelessly addicted people are to it.

White Males Have Been Repressed For Far Too Long -- It's Time for a Revolution!
This trend has been around for awhile, but it took a particularly hateful turn last Sunday. From having to hear CBS commentator Jim Nantz refer to a man as a "spineless schlub" because he had to go shopping with his girlfriend instead of watching the game (the horror, the horror!) to an insanely misogynistic Dodge Charger commercial stating that their car was "man's last stand" against things like "watching your vampire TV show" and "carrying your lip balm", it was a good day for white males seeking to release themselves from the shackles of their oppressors.

Yes, we middle class white males have it hard for far too long in this country. I'm sick of having to carry your two ounce container of lip balm, I want to watch football and drive cars! Perhaps one day, black people and women will understand the sacrifices that us middle class white men have to make on a daily basis. I mean, I have to CLEAN THE SINK AFTER I SHAVE. Do you have any idea how time consuming that is? Between that and having to eat fruit for breakfast (real fruit, not skittles), it's amazing that it's taken this long for us to stage a rebellion. Well, now it's happening, and we will finally be free and get the rights and privileges that we, as middle class white men, deserve.

Budweiser Clydesdale Commercials
Every year Budweiser attempts this act of subterfuge, where they hope to distract from their previous ten commercials that involved objectifying women and promoting rampant alcoholism by making everyone go "OOO LOOK AT THE CUTE LITTLE HORSEYS." It may work on most people, but I'm not falling for it anymore. Either make all of your commercials mawkish and sugary or don't do it at all.

GoDaddy.com/Scantily Clad Women Commercials
I think by now most people can find barely clothed women without the helpful advice from GoDaddy.com to "go to godaddy.com to see the shocking conclusion?" Wait, you mean that there are women potentially undressing on a web site? Well, I must go there immediately! This kind of PG-13 sexuality just looks hopelessly outdated in the age of the internet, not to mention that it's another example of the rampant misogyny seen in far too many commercials these days.

Doritos Commercials
This isn't really a trend, but man Doritos sucks at making commercials. While a part of me enjoys watching them brick every single attempt at humor during the Super Bowl, most of me wishes they would just give up.

I'll try to end this on a positive note, and leave you with the obvious best super bowl commercial.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Best Ultra Mainstream Songs of the 2000s

I think I've ranted enough about various popular songs in this blog, so it's time to man up and admit to liking some of the biggest radio staples of the decade. Because the truth is, not every pop song is bad -- in fact, the good to bad ratio probably is the same as any other genre of music: a whole lot of crap, but occasional gems that make all the crap kind of worth it.

Whether most music dorks want to admit it or not, there is a definite art to making a quality pop song that appeals to the masses. Songs that succeed in this are just as refreshing to hear as any great indie song: the choruses are catchy, the hooks are meticulously crafted, and the production is top notch. Songs that pull this off are rare, but they do exist.

With this in mind, here are some songs that pull that off:

10. Justin Timberlake - Cry Me a River

I'll just kick off the list by getting it out in the open: I kind of like Justin Timberlake. Free from the teenybopper exploits of NSYNC, he's become a real pop star with songs like this. For pop song standards, the lyrics are very good (and let's face it, how can you not like a song dissing Britney Spears?), and Timbaland - possibly the greatest contributor to pop music this decade - gives his usual excellent production. The result is possibly the best dis song of the decade.

9. Nelly Furtado - Say It Right

Already a pattern is emerging with many Timbaland songs on this list. Expect it to continue, since this decade was mostly about production and he was the best producer. "Say It Right" is one of the more unusual songs to get big from this decade. It's basically just a beat in the background and eschews the typical verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus format. What mostly makes it great is the vocal delivery of Furtado, the beats, and the well written lyrics.

8. Britney Spears - Toxic

As I mentioned, pop music this decade was mostly about the production. Nobody is going to mistake Britney Spears for a great singer, but she sells this song (mostly with her skankiness) thanks to the production. The chorus is extremely catchy and I'm a sucker for that high pitched hook.

7. Christina Aguilera - Beautiful

This song is ultra corny, but it always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside (and these songs usually make me gag in terror). The obvious message of the song is one heard a lot, but also one worth repeating in my opinion. I think what I like the most about it is that in an era full of production and HOT BEATZ, it's a simple piano song completely sold by Aguilera's amazing voice. Also, that gay guy singing it in "Mean Girls" was funny.

6. Eminem - Lose Yourself

As you can probably guess, I'm not usually a big fan of the rippity rap or whatever you kids are calling it these days. But "Lose Yourself" is one of those great songs (like most on this list) that defy these types of barriers and are just plain great. While I know next to nothing about who is actually good at rapping and who isn't, Eminem seems to be pretty adept at it on this track. But what makes Eminem better than just about any other rapper is his ability to craft that piano hook and the chorus around his rapping.

5. Justin Timberlake - My Love

Justin Timberlake/Timbaland appear on the list again. The futuristic synthesizer sounds downright cool, especially when combined with Timbaland's trademark beats and Timberlake's falsetto voice. And, for once, a rap interlude (by TI) actually seems to have a place in the song and doesn't ruin the entire thing.

4. Rihanna - Umbrella

While I could do without Jay-Z's pointless rap at the beginning, the rest of this song is pure pop perfection. The whole "you're my umbrella" thing is admittedly corny, but for whatever reason I find the lyrics of this song really poignant and authentic, and of course it has a chorus that gets stuck in your head for days (along with the ella-ella-ella part).

3. Beyonce - Crazy in Love

This song mostly makes the list because of that horn hook, which was constantly stuck in my head before I even knew what song it was from (I wasn't keeping to up to date with the pop music in 2003). It doesn't get much lamer than just having a horn thing stuck in your head, but I and many other Americans were cursed with it thanks to this song. That's really all the analysis of this I have, sorry.

2. Outkast - Hey Ya!

Outkast has become sort of the official hip hop/rap band for dorky white guys, and songs like this are why. Even an eternal pessimistic and cynic like me has to admire how ridiculously upbeat and happy this song is. Throw in the experimental techniques Outkast is famous for and their penchant for surprisingly good lyrics and you have the recipe for a song that is just fun to listen to.

1. Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone

It should become apparent by looking at my favorite artists list that I am a big fan of chick rockers. Kelly Clarkson made chick rock cool again with this endlessly catchy staple that made her a true superstar, not one just created by American Idol. This song probably rocks harder than any other pop song this decade (and a lot of popular "rock" songs, right Nickelback?), and Clarkson's vocals are top notch as usual. Anyone who says they don't like this song is a liar.

Does anyone else have favorite songs that got a lot of radio play? Don't be afraid to admit it!

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Most Horrifying Pop Culture Trends of the 2000s

The 2000s decade is almost in the books, so it seems like now is a fitting time to take a look back at some of the events that shaped our time. Perhaps the biggest change in culture came in the form of pop culture: the rapid innovation in media and the internet brought widespread change to how media was delivered, and it now saturates our society than it ever has before. Of course, with all this media saturation, it was inevitable that there would be some obnoxious trends that developed that would drive me (and possibly only me) insane. These are some of the pop culture phenomenons from the last decade that I would rather forget:

5. The Rapid Decline of "SportsCenter"

Did any TV show this decade start out as must-see TV and devolve into unwatchable I-want-to-stab-my-eyes-out garbage faster than "SportsCenter"? Possibly Heroes, but other than that I'm stuck. "SportsCenter" began the decade as a must see show for me and has rapidly declined into a typical sports media screaming fest devoid of any real sports content.

It's hard to tell what caused the precipitous decline of "SportsCenter". It's possible that as I grew older, I just got tired of the catch-phrasey shtick of most of the anchors and was able to notice their spotty analysis easier. Perhaps it was caused by overexposure, since "SportsCenter" is on at least 11 times a day. While these are both potential causes, I think it's pretty clear that the show went way downhill through the decade.

For one thing, does "SportsCenter" even show highlights anymore? The original point of the show was to catch you up on all of the sports happenings of the day, usual via well edited highlight packages. The anchor would throw in their personality a bit but for the most part, the show was about the sports.

"SportsCenter", despite its name, is no longer about the sports now. It's merely a platform for annoying personalities to be... annoying. Any sports content from the highlight packages are now drowned in an intolerable deluge of catch phrases ("BOO YA! HE JUST RAMSHACKALACKA'D THAT PLAYA HATA WHEN HE SAW HIM ON THE STREET. COOL AS THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PILLOW!"). Any semblance of analysis has been replaced by idiotic former players yelling at each other about things they don't know anything about, and you can count on basically any sports story being handled in the most reactionary and moronic way possible. Real analysis is generally considered not good enough for TV and replaced by empty suits like Trent Dilfer.

"SportsCenter" went from being about the glory of sports to being a second rate CNN that reminds us of everything bad about sports. Attempting to watch a highlight now is like trying to enjoy a live sporting event while a drunk idiot constantly yells and attention-whores behind you. Thankfully most of us can get our sports news from the internet now.

4. Disney Channel Stars Crossing Over Into the Mainstream

For the first part of the decade, the Disney channel and I had a pretty solid, understanding relationship: you keep your business to yourself, and I'll keep mine to myself.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the road, Disney decided to break the code. "Stars" like Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers began appearing on my television programs and interfering with my way of life. Everything was going so well between us, but Disney just couldn't help themselves.

Now I'm not normally one to hate on music or movies that I am clearly not the target demographic for, but at some point one has to take the stand. When the Jonas Brothers began appearing on "The Tonight Show" and "Saturday Night Live" as if they're actual rock stars and not Disney manufactured mannequins; when "High School Musical" started getting released in theaters and actually becoming extremely popular as something other than campy pre-teen garbage; when Hannah Montana somehow became one of the biggest stars in America despite not having a shred of talent. These were all signs that the line had been crossed. These formerly untouchable Disney products now deserved all the hate they got.

However, even worse than all of these, Disney is also at least partially responsible for the frankly disturbing rise to super-stardom of Shia LaBeouf. Who is this idiot, and why is he suddenly on TV all the time? Does it really take a whole lot of star power and charisma to play the main character in a Michael Bay vehicle about transforming robots? Why is he in that Indiana Jones movie? These were questions that I and many others pondered as Shia inexplicably rose to stardom. One can only hope he is a flash in the pan, but given his future IMDB credits, it looks like we're not going to be safe for quite some time.

3. Increased Popularity of 24 Hour News Networks

Possibly the most influential form of media in the last decade were the 24 hours news networks. While CNN existed for a long time, the emergence of Fox News brought their popularity and influence to an all time high in the 2000s.

Normally competition is good for quality, but in the case of CNN and Fox News the opposite somehow seems to be true. When faced with their competitors, the channels instead chose to see who could yell the loudest and provide the most noise to grab the viewer. When covering live events, any kind of journalistic integrity was thrown out the window in favor of loud, attention seeking television.

If you're somehow in need of evidence, all one has to do is look at the balloon boy scandal from a few weeks ago. The family decides to run a huge publicity stunt by throwing up the balloon, and the news networks are all too happy to indulge them. We get interviews with the family, Wolf Blitzer proclaiming that he "saw the boy fall out of the balloon", and then embarrassingly not noticing when the kid throws his family under the bus on live television.

The question on everyone's mind of course was "why would this family pull a hoax like this?" The answer? 24 hour news networks. For anyone seeking publicity, all you have to do is a stunt like this and you will be on the news every hour of every day. While they end up facing charges, the family still got exactly what they wanted. Their name is out there now, and it always will be, all made possible by these networks.

While these news channels may serve a purpose, it is too frequently lost under layers of noise, stupid graphic overlays and scrolls, and poor reporting by the anchors. I don't think anyone really needs 24 hours of news a day, and if they do they can get it on the internet. All these news networks do is play the same tired stories ad nauseam and put a scare into the entire country.

2. The Death of Originality in Television

Television has admittedly not ever been the most original medium, but it seemed like this decade in particular was spectacularly bad. With the multitude of CSI and Law and Order shows along with their knockoffs, the 2000s was a great decade for unoriginality.

Most of the unoriginality comes from CBS, "America's Number One Network." "JAG" became "NCIS" which became "NCIS: Los Angeles", "CSI" became "CSI: New York" which became "CSI: Miami". Even their shows that aren't blatant spinoffs are unoriginal in their own right (just take a look at their cliche-fest Monday night sitcom lineup).

It's particularly amazing to me how seemingly every show is either about someone from the police/detective force or a doctor. Does America really need 30 shows about tough cops trying to solve difficult cases? It seems like despite the length it has been around, there's still a lot of ground left uncovered for TV series.

Unfortunately (and predictably), the graveyard of TV shows from this decade is littered with originality. Shows like "Freaks and Geeks", "Arrested Development", and "Pushing Daisies" were canceled fairly quickly. The sad truth is that unoriginality works, and the CBS studio executives are smart enough to know it. A spinoff of NCIS is far more likely to succeed than whatever original idea they put in its place.

Fortunately, some original shows managed to find audiences and take off. Most of them are on premium channels like HBO and Showtime, but a show like "Lost" with convoluted science-fiction elements was able to find a home on a major network, perhaps giving hope to original TV in the future (as long as it has a massive budget).

1. Wussy "Rock" Music

As anyone who has seen "School of Rock" knows, rock music is first and foremost about stickin' it to the man. Even former mainstream acts stuck it to the man with great vigor, and the tradition generally held form even into the 90s with bands like Nirvana and Radiohead finding mainstream success with challenging and innovative music.

Unfortunately, the mainstream "rock" (I put it in quotation marks because I refuse to equate this drivel with actual rock music) of the 2000s was basically the opposite of what our rock pioneers imagined. This was the decade where rock music turned from stickin' it to the man to being the man.

The primary culprits of this were Nickelback. Nickelback gets a lot of hate already, but it's really difficult to overstate how much of a blight they are to music in general. Inexplicably they've churned out hit after hit this decade, despite having little musical ability and relying on an odd combination of misogyny and mawkish sentimentality in their lyrics. The fact that Nickelback passes themselves off as a rock group while singing a song called "If Everyone Cared" basically tells the entire story here.

Nickelback's unoriginal, bland music was only the beginning though. After this we've been stuck with Nickelback imitators. Ripping off a band that doesn't have a shred of originality in them is a difficult task, but bands like Daughtry and Hinder were eager to take up the challenge. "Lips of an Angel" attempted to sound like a macho rock song while having lyrics that could easily be mistaken for the latest Hannah Montana song. Daughtry took a similar route, making a huge hit out of the insanely bland "It's Not Over" with the same type of little girl lyrics. When did everything get so soft? Don't any rock groups party all day and do tons of hard drugs anymore?

Sadly enough, these are some of the most successful "rock" groups/songs of the decade. What happened? Even as recently as the 90s it seemed like real rock groups were having the success they deserved. Now the only place to find actual rock music is on college radio stations or (god forbid) buying CDs. The even scarier part is that Nickelback isn't really showing any signs of going away. For whatever reason, the public just loves these unoriginal horse-faced Canadians.

My end of decade writing spree is only beginning, so stay tuned for more! Next one will probably be something more positive.

Friday, November 6, 2009

JJ Hardy to the Twins

The Twins made a great step towards improving their 2010 playoff chances today by acquiring shortstop JJ Hardy from the Brewers in exchange for entertaining center fielder Carlos Gomez.

Gomez was a fun player to watch, occasionally unintentionally thanks to his ineptitude at the plate. While he obviously sucked at hitting, he was an extremely elite defensive center fielder and was actually worth a surprising 2.3 WAR (wins above replacement level) in 2008.

Unfortunately his game took a step down this year, and he began to lose playing time thanks to the emergence of Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer staying healthy. After posting a paltry .287 on base percentage and striking out 23% of the time, he was relegated to 4th outfielder status. In an organization with a pretty strong amount of outfield depth, it obviously made sense for the Twins to trade him if they could get a starting player in return.

Which brings us to JJ Hardy. He's coming off a fairly disastrous season with the Brewers, where his performance tanked to a .302 on base percentage and .357 slugging percentage (this is Gomez levels of bad). However, in 2007 and 2008, Hardy was legitimately one of the best shorstops in the game. Thanks to his above average bat (average on base percentage, above average slugging percentage) and exceptional middle of the infield defense, he provided 4.5 WAR and 4.9 WAR in 2007 and 2008 respectively. That was good for 5th in the majors among shorstops in 2007 and 4th in 2008.

Clearly the Twins expect him to bounce back to this level of play, and there's a decent chance he does. Hardy has a pretty good track record of success and it'd be silly to write him off after one bad season. The best part of this trade is that even if he doesn't bounce back, he's still a fine starting shorstop. If he does, he's possibly one of the best 5-10 shortstops in the majors, which is huge for a team that has had an absolute black hole at the position.

To get this commodity, the Twins gave up Gomez, who is basically a 4th outfielder and has not shown he can live up to his "potential". The Twins absolutely crushed this trade, and it makes then one step closer to being a legitimate playoff team in 2010.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

NFL Season Predictions

I'm too lazy to actually make this a big writing project, but here is what will happen this season (I've been working on having more confidence):

East - Eagles
North - Vikings
South - Saints
West - Seahawks
Wild Card 1 - Giants
Wild Card 2 - Panthers

East - Patriots
North - Ravens
South - Colts
West - Chargers
Wild Card 1 - Steelers
Wild Card 2 - Jaguars

Super Bowl: Eagles over Chargers

Monday, August 31, 2009

If Joe Mauer Doesn't Win MVP, I Will Be Slightly Peeved for a Couple of Days

Like any self respecting Twins fan, I have a big old man-crush on catcher Joe Mauer. No, it's not just his boyish good looks, those darling sideburns, and his Minnesota nice charm. It has (slightly) more to do with his brilliance on the baseball diamond. This year Mauer is treading historical territory - he's hitting a ridiculous .368/.436/.615 playing the most demanding position defensively. Only Mike Piazza has come close to putting up these types of numbers as a catcher. It's no stretch to say that Mauer is not just having the best season ever by a catcher, but arguably one of the greatest seasons of all-time by any player.

All this being said, it appears that Mauer may get screwed out of another MVP. He arguably should have won last year and clearly should have won in 2006 over teammate Justin Morneau. This year is the biggest slam dunk choice yet. Mauer has almost singlehandedly kept the Twins afloat in the division and is leading the league in on base percentage (the most important stat in baseball probably) and slugging percentage. Oh, and he's a catcher.

Unfortunately, the one thing that Mauer isn't leading the league in is RBIs (runs batted in). Now I could write at least 9-10 blog entries about how terrible RBIs are and why anyone who cites them as an important baseball statistic should probably die in some way involving flame (and I just might if I continue to run out of ideas). It really does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that RBIs are determined largely by the players around you - you can't drive in runs if there's nobody on base. Justin Morneau racks up the RBIs in large part because he has the guy leading the league in on base percentage batting in front of him.

Seems pretty simple right? Unfortunately, our friends in the sports media aren't exactly the brightest crayons in the Crayola 64 box. Every year more deserving candidates are overlooked for the player who racked up a ton of RBIs and home runs. Positional value is rarely ever accounted for, which is why someone like Morneau wins over someone like Mauer. Defense is basically ignored entirely, even though teams like the Rays have proven that defense has a huge part in winning baseball games. They also almost always give it to a guy on a playoff team, using the old "if he didn't get his team to the playoffs, how valuable could he be?" argument. As if somehow Joe Mauer is to blame for Alexi Casilla, Delmon Young, and Nick Punto hitting like little girls in their first tee-ball game.

This year the de facto big RBI slugger on a winning team candidate is Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira. Teixeira is not even close to Mauer in any statistics except home runs and RBIs and plays first base, the easiest position to find a good hitter at. However, he has those RBIs, and he has the storyline of "solidifying the Yankees infield" and helping them turn from a bad team last year into the AL East champs this year. Never mind that they added CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett to their rotation and are getting career years out of Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon -- in the media's eyes, it's all about Tex, and how he turned everything around singlehandedly. I won't even bring up the fact that Teixeira plays in the new Yankee Stadium, where I could probably hit a home run if I tried long enough (for reference I had one extra base hit in little league past age 8).

The fact that Teixeira's name (or anyone's really) is being brought in an AL MVP discussion versus Joe Mauer is absurd. Mauer missed a month of the season and has still been way more valuable than Teixeira or anyone else in baseball most likely. Unfortunately when the inevitable arguments begin on Baseball Tonight etc, we're just as likely to hear the analysts suggest that Teixeria or Kevin Youkilis deserve the MVP over Mauer. Believe it or not, these people are paid to analyze baseball and yet will likely get this simple fact wrong. I'm expecting the worst, but if Mauer doesn't win MVP I'm still going to be slightly angry, and may even not have my usual smiling and happy exterior the next couple of days. Now you know why.