Monday, April 04, 2005

Black Label Society
Webster Theater, Hartford, CT, 4/3/05

Saw BLS at the Webster in Hartford last night - another great performance by Zakk & company. Sold out show was completely packed (though the crowd thinned out at the end). To start things off, some guy came out and did various Pantera riffs. He sounded pretty good, it was a nice gesture and in all honesty, was better than seeing a lame opening act. Meldrum didn't impress me, but they didn't really bother me either. They finished with a cover of "Walk" by Pantera...nice idea, but they didn't quite pull it off.

BLS's set was what really counted, and they didn't disappoint. The setlist was as follows:

Stoned & Drunk
Destruction Overdrive
Been A Long Time
Funeral Bell
Suffering Overdue
In This River
Suicide Messiah
Demise Of Sanity (order may be wrong on this one)
Spread Your Wings
T.A.Z./Acoustic solo
Mama, I'm Coming Home (crowd sing along, Zakk just played guitar)
Spoke In The Wheel
Fire It Up
Genocide Junkies

Sounded great as usual, a lot of jamming within and between songs. Zakk's guitar wasn't loud enough initially, but it sounded fine shortly into the set. "In This River" was incredible, decicated to Dimebag, with an extended solo in the intro and at the end of the song. "Suicide Messiah" also had a much longer solo after the pause that follows the last chorus. Very glad to see Zakk jam on the acoustic guitar for a while, a nice change from the usual solo I had seen in other shows. It was amusing when the crowd was trying to sing along to "Mama, I'm Coming Home"...there would be some mumbling at the beginning of each verse, then everybody would remember the words by the end. "Spoke In The Wheel" ended with the whole band joining and Zakk wailing away for quite a while. The heavier stuff obviously sounded excellent as always, but I think this setlist was a better with a few mellower songs and more improvised playing by Zakk. I would obviously love to see more from Sonic Brew, but I understand why he plays the newer material. He always puts on a great show no matter what, his guitar playing and overall showmanship make up for any problems with the setlist.

The crowd wasn't as wild as the last time he played the Webster. That 2002 show, along with Jerry Cantrell at Lupos in Providence, were definitely the two roughest shows I've ever been to. The crowd were still into it though. The long wait between Meldrum and BLS (at least an hour) probably had something to do with the lack of moshing, etc. My initial guess was that Zakk was watching the end of the Yankee game before he went on, but I could be wrong - word on the street is that he was out on the town, which wouldn't be surprising either. Overall a real solid show, just what I expected. Much better in a small club then seeing him on Ozzfest, still can't wait to see BLS again though.

Next up - Sevendust? Velvet Revolver? Audioslave? Hopefully all three (not likely - Audioslave is sold out), but at least two of those shows would be great. Scroll down for my Queens of the Stone Age reviews. I also may chime in with some thoughts/analysis on the current MLB seaons, as well as next year's UConn men's basketball team (sans Charlie Villanueva). Stay tuned...
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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Queens of the Stone Age
Webster Theater, Hartford, CT, 3/26/05

After having my review of the new Queens of the Stone Age CD rejected by the Daily Campus (see below), I decided I’m probably done with the paper. At the very least, any reviews I planned to write are much less of a priority. I didn’t bother writing a review for the QOTSA show at the Webster Theater, since I had no idea if they would run it. But this show was incredible, so I feel the need to get something on here about it.

I first saw QOTSA at Lollapalooza in 2003, as well as Audioslave and Jane’s Addiction. With that trio, it was one of the better shows I have seen, and QOTSA sounded damn good. But their performance that day/night does not even compare to the show they put on last Saturday. I can’t say it’s the best show I’ve seen, but it’s not far behind my 4 Pearl Jam and 5 Jerry Cantrell shows.

They played for just about 2 hours, longer than I expected. They managed to get through plenty of songs (23 – setlist below), but still featured quite a few extended guitar solos/jam sessions. They did more from the new album than anything else (9 songs, 1 new cover), but more than half the setlist was of older material. When a band has 4 excellent albums there are always songs you want to hear but don’t. That being said, I can’t find any fault with this setlist.

I was incredibly pleased that they opened with some older stuff, “Mexicola” and “If Only” in particular. Everything sounded great, as the band was extremely tight, yet able to seamlessly take songs in different directions. Its nice to see a band stretch out and take some chances, and do it so well. Josh Homme is one of the top frontmen around, but everyone in the band had their moments. Alain Johannes filled in capably for the fired Nick Oliveri, Joey Castillo sounded good on drums, and Troy Van Leeuwen was great on rhythm, lead, and slide guitar, as well as bass and keyboards.

For me, Mark Lanegan’s performance was definitely one of the highlights. I’m a big fan of him from his Screaming Trees days, and he’s also done some really cool solo stuff that I’ve discovered over the last year or two (I recommend his latest, Bubblegum, or the mellower Whiskey for the Holy Ghost). I spotted him wandering the streets of Hartford and hopping in cab prior to the show, but he was ready and in top form when he finally came out (my brother was in a convenience store with him, but he opted to not bother him, as I did in my brief encounter with Cantrell a few years back). His role in QOTSA is unchanged – he appears on stage, sings a few songs, then just walks off without saying a word. He came out twice Saturday for a total of 7 songs. I was in the front row against the gate, directly in front of Lanegan. They redid one of my favorites, “God Is In The Radio” – not sure if I like it better than the original, but it was pretty badass live. “Song For The Dead” was also one of the best songs of the night, even heavier and more intense than the album version. These were probably Lanegan’s two best moments, but he also did a nice job singing with Homme on other songs, their distinct styles compliment one another well.

The newer material was sharp, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear “You Got A Killer Scene There, Man” and “Long Slow Goodbye,” in addition to the more obvious choices (“Little Sister,” “In My Head,” etc.). They started out with bang, and never let up the entire night. I cannot think of more than handful of bands better than QOTSA right now (Pearl Jam, maybe Audioslave…). Wish I had made an effort to get to the Boston show, I just hope they swing back towards the east coast on this tour. Not much else to say, I really cannot convey how impressive their performance was, Queens of the Stone Age are not only as unique as any band out there, they’re just as talented. The message board has gone unused and spammed…but feel free to chime in…I’ll probably review Sunday’s Black Label Society show here as well (also at the Webster), check back.

Oh yeah, Throw Rag blows. Saw more of their singer than I ever needed to. Playing the spoons is amusing for about 2 minutes, not an entire set. Anyway, here’s the setlist:

Queens of the Stone Age
Hartford setlist, 3/26/05

Intro (Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?)
How To Handle A Rope
Everybody Knows That You Are Insane
The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret
Feel Good Hit Of The Summer
Leg Of Lamb
(Josh yelled at security guard, mocked girl who twice tried to bum money off me)
Little Sister
(Lanegan enters)
Hangin’ Tree
In My Head
God Is In The Radio (new version)
Burn The Witch
(Lanegan exits)
Long Slow Goodbye
Tangled Up In Plaid
If Only
(Lanegan re-enters)
Precious And Grace (ZZ Top cover)
Song For The Deaf
Song For The Dead
(Lanegan exits)
“You Got A Killer Scene There, Man”
Skin On Skin
Go With The Flow
I Think I Lost My Headache
No One Knows
Someone’s In The Wolf
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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Queens of the Stone Age - Lullabies to Paralyze

I guess I can't expect the Daily Campus to just print my articles whenever I send them - its always worked, but not this time. Tuesday, Queens of the Stone Age released Lullabies to Paralyze. I wrote a review, but they ran a different review that was much more critical of the album. So to prevent my writing to go completely to waste, I've included my article below. Basically, I'm very pleased with this CD, not at all a letdown from their three previous albums. I'm psyched to be seeing the band at the Webster Theater this Saturday, and I'll definitely have a review in the DC or right here.

Queens of the Stone Age - Lullabies to Paralyze

When discussing the follow up to their 2002 breakthrough album, “Songs for the Deaf,” it would be easy to focus on what is missing from Queens of the Stone Age. Gone are Dave Grohl and Nick Oliveri. Mark Lanegan appears on the album, but in a noticeably smaller role. Expecting any less of the group would be a mistake, however. While the group’s first two albums did not generate the same mainstream success as “Songs for the Deaf,” they were still top notch rock albums that did earn the band a loyal following and much respect among fans and peers. Frontman Josh Homme has always been the driving force behind QOTSA, and his abilities are again apparent on “Lullabies to Paralyze.” Despite the changing lineup, QOTSA has again made an incredible rock record that separate

“This Lullaby” gives the album a slower, more somber beginning than prior discs, though this is no criticism. Lanegan’s deep and rather haunting vocals are fitting for this short acoustic opening to the CD. “Medication” sharply contrasts the first track with a much faster-paced and heavier sound. Guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen provides an aptly played slide intro to “Everybody Knows That You’re Insane,” which grows more aggressive as the song progresses.

“Tangled Up In Plaid,” and “In My Head” stand out as catchy songs that still maintain their edge. The same could be said of the album’s first single, the current hit “Little Sister.” This is one of the many tracks where Homme is able to further establish his lead and rhythm guitar work as some of the most unique in rock today. Another highlight is “Burn the Witch,” which features some of the most prominent guest appearances on the disc. Lanegan again lends his vocals to the odd, bluesy number, while ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons offers exceptional guitar work.

As with prior work, QOTSA prove they can produce a radio-friendly hit without at all compromising their style of music. There is no indication the band feels pressure to stick with “safe” 3-4 minute songs that will appeal to the mainstream. The group’s willingness to take chances on longer songs with meandering guitar lines might alienate some, but true fans should realize that this band’s occasional musical experimentation is what made them stand out in the first place. “Someone’s In The Wolf” and “The Blood Is Love” run the risk of appearing less focused than the earlier part of the album, but Homme’s interesting guitar work and lyrics keep the songs and album from growing boring.

While the CD remains strong throughout, the final two songs emerge as absolute gems that tie the disc together nicely. “You Got A Killer Scene There, Man” has a more trippy, laid-back feel with effective lead guitar laced around moody vocals. The very well-written “Long Slow Goodbye” provides a poignant conclusion with Van Leeuwen’s guitar work again perfect for the song.

Once a band establishes itself as a success, comparisons to past music are inevitable and sometimes unfair. “Lullabies to Paralyze” compares favorably not only to anything QOTSA have done before, but to any modern album. Homme steals the show, but a variety of musicians make meaningful enough contributions to create a balanced effort. Managing to produce an accessible piece of work that adheres to a band’s roots is easier said than done; QOTSA has no problem doing so. There really is no band like Queens of the Stone Age on the current music scene, and “Lullabies to Paralyze” showcases their consistently distinct and refreshing sound.
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Thursday, March 03, 2005

Black Label Society - "Mafia"

Alright, back to part-time employment with the Daily Campus. Next week Black Label Society releases "Mafia," Zakk Wylde's 7th release with the band. I put off a few assignments to review it, and luckily the article made it in the paper. So if you're interested, here is my review of "Mafia." I don't think Zakk can top the vastly overlooked "Sonic Brew," but his latest is a damn good hard rock album. Enjoy.
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Monday, January 31, 2005

Nothing To Say...

I can't imagine any circumstance under which I'll have time to write anything meaningful here this semester. I should worry about "getting my Master's degree" and "finding a job." But since my last post was a cocky proclamation of the Yankees superiority to the Red Sox, I felt the need to put something up here. One change that might be relevant - I've posted the links to every Daily Campus article I've written in the left sidebar. So if you come across this site for any reason (I can't imagine why you would), feel free to peruse my writings on Larry David, Pearl Jam, or Dubya, among others. That's all for now, and maybe for a while.
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Monday, October 11, 2004

Gimme Some Truth

"A-Rod isn't a clutch player."

"The Yankees have no pitching."

"The combination of Schilling and Pedro is too much for any team."

One by one, the myths are falling. All year I listened to fans, critics, and knuckleheads talk about A-Rod not being "clutch." Sure, he had a down year by his lofty standards. He went from having historic seasons to merely having a "great" season. Of course, his numbers went down partly due to the move from Texas to New York. Not the pressure as much as the stadium itself. He and Gary Sheffield were the first righthanded hitting Yankee teammates to ever each hit over 35 home runs in the same season, so they must have done something right. A-Rod was also one of the most efficient base stealers in baseball, swiping 28 in 32 attempts. I understand he struggled with runners in scoring position. But if you're that talented, its more likely a fluke than anything. And as the season wore on, he player better under pressure, making his early season struggles irrelevant.

It doesn't matter what I say about A-Rod, though. His play in the American League Division Series erased the silly notion that he could not perform under pressure. While the title of "best player on the planet" belongs to Barry Bonds, A-Rod is the best player at the moment. This series against the Red Sox will be what people remember, but I have no doubt A-Rod will continue to dominate games like he has his entire career.

Another thing that bothered me in the ALDS was the constant refrain of how the Yankees as a team don't hit well with runners in scoring position. I'm sorry, but the goal for a team is to score runs, and the Yankees excelled at doing so. What Joe Morgan and others fail to realize is that calling 2nd and 3rd base "scoring position" for the Yankees is extremely flawed. For 7 or their 9 starters, the batter's box is scoring position. Ask Juan Rincon if it mattered that Ruben Sierra wasn't in "scoring position" in Game 4. Why is it so much more reliable to get runs via a series of hits as opposed to a single swing of the bat. I'm all about statistical-based analysis, but the misuse of stats is a terrible development in recent years.

Let's look at the second myth that runs rampant around the baseball world. Everyone, Yankee fans included, says that Yankees have no pitching. There is a reason - the Yankees had the worst ERA of any team that won at least 100 games. This statistic is deceiving, however. Think back at some of the pitchers to take the mound in the Bronx this season - Donovan Osborne, Alex Graman, Brad Halsey, Jose Contreras, Bret Prinz, Scott Proctor, Gabe White, C.J Nitkowski, Jorge DePaula....you get the point. So I ask you: what the hell impact does Donovan Osborne have on the American League Championship Series? While the Yankees don't have Brad Halsey to instill fear into the hearts of Red Sox players, they also don't have his 6.47 ERA.

This all got me thinking - how good or bad are the Yankee pitchers? And how do they compare to the Red Sox vaunted pitching staff? Well, you may be a little surprised to learn that these staffs are almost completely even. I calculated the ERA of the pitchers on the Yankee and Red Sox postseason roster. The Yankees' ERA - 4.13. The Red Sox ERA - 4.10. Hmm, looks like there's not that much of a difference after all. I should mention that Fenway is a better hitter's park than Yankee Stadium, so you could argue the Red Sox pitching is a little better. But the drastic difference everyone seems to think exists is just not there. Also, pitchers like Mike Mussina, Jon Lieber, and Tanyon Sturtze are pitching significantly better than they did earlier in the season. So while El Duque may or may not be a factor, I believe the Yankees stack up quite nicely to the Red Sox.

But what about the dynamc duo of Curt Schiling and Pedro Martinez? Oh god, how could anyone beat Curt and Pedro? Schilling is good. He's damn good. Unbeatable he is not. As a matter of fact, his ERA against the Yankees this year was a pedestrian 4.82. Besides having a 2.14 September ERA, Mussina's ERA against the Sox this year is a solid 3.50. I'm realistic enough to know that the Yankees may very well lose up to two or three games in this series. But let's be sure to look at this duo for what it is, and not what is was supposed to be. Because quite frankly, Pedro does not exactly intimidate the Yankees. I may be wrong, but I believe the Red Sox are 11-19 against the Yankees in games started by Pedro. We college graduates have a word for that - mediocre. This is not a biased Red Sox hater spewing nonsense either. There is a very strong case to be made for Pedro in his prime as the most dominant pitcher in baseball history. In terms of ERA vs. the league average, baserunners per 9 IP, winning percentage, etc, this man was in a league of his own. As soon as he faces the Yankees, that all becomes irrelevant. If he pitches a gem, the Yankees pitch better. If he's off a little, the Yankees pound him. Of course, it wasn't just the Yankees beating him this year. A 3.90 ERA is above average. It is not what you expect from Pedro though. And it will not be enough to advance to the World Series.

So after all this rambling, am I guaranteeing a NYY victory? Not quite. But I fully expect the Bronx Bombers to emerge with yet another American League pennant. Unlike Andy Pettite, some people never get tired of dominance. The Yankees do not just have history on their side, they have a more talented, more productive team. Over 162 games, the Yankees proved to be a more productive team. For all the hype, the Red Sox are just a really good 2nd place team. I'm not naive enough to think the Red Sox can't win, as anything can happen in the playoffs. All I can do is watch the best rivalry in sports and hope for the best - call me crazy, but this may be the year the real curse ends.

Yanks in 6.
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Thursday, October 07, 2004

Mikey & Me

The Daily Campus ran my review of "Songs And Artists That Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11" today. It's a great mix as chosen by Michael Moore himself. Enjoy.
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Sunday, October 03, 2004

Mark Lanegan - Bubblegum

Here's a review of the new Mark Lanegan album that I've written. It was intended for the Daily Campus, but it doesn't look like they'll run it. I figured I mine as well put it up here. Check back soon for a review of last week's Pearl Jam show in Boston, as well as some playoff baseball analysis. So here's my review of what I consider to be one of the top 2 or 3 albums of the year:

For over 15 years, Mark Lanegan has exhibited one of the best and most unique voices in all of rock. While he was most successful as the front man of the Screaming Trees, his solo albums each displayed stellar singing and songwriting. In recent years, the prolific Lanegan has surfaced with one of the hottest rock bands in the world, Queens of the Stone Age. His increased contributions as a vocalist on QOTSA’s “Songs For The Deaf” coincided with the group’s rise in popularity, though it was Dave Grohl who generated far greater attention as a part-time band member. Turning his attention towards his own Mark Lanegan Band on his latest release, “Bubblegum,” the overlooked Lanegan has produced what is arguably his best work as a solo artist.

On earlier solo releases such as the underrated “Whiskey for the Holy Ghost” and “Field Songs,” Lanegan has favored a largely stripped down sound. This style is again effectively employed throughout “Bubblegum,” but the album also displays Lanegan’s versatility. Featuring contributions from P.J. Harvey, QOTSA’s Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri, and G & R’s Izzy Stradlin and Duff McKagan, among others, the Mark Lanegan Band has a different lineup on nearly every track. Yet “Bubblegum” remains cohesive, and is the most well rounded release of Lanegan’s accomplished career.

The opening “When Your Number Isn’t Up” is driven by a simple, yet effective bassline and the faint sounds of guitar feedback. When listening one cannot help giving all their attention to Lanegan’s deep and rather haunting vocals as his lyrics paint a picture of sorrow and desperation. The pace picks up on “Hit The City,” which features a memorable duet between Lanegan and Harvey. The song is one of several where the presence of a female vocalist serves as a perfect complement to Lanegan’s raspier tone.

“One Hundred Days” may very well be the high point of the album as the vocals, instruments, and lyrics all come together perfectly. Dave Catching weaves lead guitar lines around Lanegan’s tremendous vocal melodies as the bass, organ, and piano build an enticing rhythm track.

Though the mellower and more subtle tracks are excellent, Lanegan is not afraid to just rock out either. Methamphetamine Blues” has a pounding, industrial beat with exceptional guitar work by Homme and Alain Johannes. “Driving Death Valley Blues” and “Sideways In Reverse” are other standout tracks with a faster-paced, guitar-driven sound.

Throughout “Bubblegum” Lanegan shows no fear of mixing it up. After the acoustic blues track “Like Little Willie John” comes the chaotic “Can’t Come Down,” which might best be described as having a psychedelic techno sound. “Head” is reminiscent of Screaming Trees, with an electronic touch, while “Out of Nowhere” closes the album with the type of moody feel that is present throughout. It is this ability to incorporate sounds from his past with other styles that makes “Bubblegum” as complete as it is.

Few artists have gone under the radar while making as much terrific music as Mark Lanegan. Though “Bubblegum” is not likely the spawn radio hits, it is as strong a piece of work as any album released in 2004. The music is accessible to a variety of fans without alienating those that have grown to appreciate Lanegan’s previous recordings. Whether leading his own group or lending his talents to other various projects, Mark Lanegan’s music has stood the test of time, and on “Bubblegum” he shows no signs of slowing down.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The time has come for the return of The Penske File...sort of. First of all, I'm making a new site that will have the standings posted for my Home Run Pool. As of 6/5 I'm in 3rd place, one out of the lead. I'm one of nine people (the pool is made up of 11 relatives or family friends) within 9 home runs of each other. Also, I have 5 injured players right now (Ordonez, Chavez, Jones, Everett, Klesko). Things aren't looking good, but stragner things have happened. The link for this site is here. In case you're curious about my picks and how they're doing, they are as follows:

Round (Overall)

1 (1) Barry Bonds - 15

2 (22) Magglio Ordonez - 8

3 (23) Eric Chavez - 13

4 (44) Chipper Jones - 6

5 (45) Scott Rolen - 13

6 (66) Carl Everett - 1

7 (67) Ryan Klesko - 1

8 (88) Jermaine Dye - 12

9 (89) Corey Patterson - 6

10 (110)Brad Wilkerson - 9

The top 8 are counted, so Everett and Klesko aren't killing me yet. All I need is for Barry Bonds to get some more pitches to hit and I think I'll turn out alright, especially since the guys I'm trailing have some injuries (Glaus, Sosa, Sexson).

In other news, in my last week at UConn (which I just graduated from by the way) I had one more article printed in The Daily Campus. I reviewed Black Label Society's new CD, Hangover Music Volume VI. I'm a big fan of Zakk Wylde, and of this disc in particular, but rather than elaborating, I'll post the link here. I'm hoping to get some more reviews in next year as a grad student, we'll see how much time I have.

There may be more in The Penske File soon, no promises though. I do have plenty of free time, its just a matter of whether I have anything to write about, the motivation to write, and if I retained any of my audience from a few months ago.
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Saturday, February 14, 2004

Yankees to Acquire Alex Rodriguez

From Lee Sinins' ATM Reports:

"According to NY Newsday, the Yankees and Rangers have agreed in principle
to the Alex Rodriguez for Alfonso Soriano trade. The Rangers will also get
a minor league pitcher.

Meanwhile, "No announcement is expected today, as a couple very minor
technical details are still to be worked out. However, all sides remain
confident everything will be finalized within a few days, a source said."

A-Rod is expected to move to 3B. This is incredible news, and will leave Theo Epstein's head spinning.

More in a few days.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

More 3B Trouble In The Post-Brosius Era

Two posts in one day-what a great way to waste a snow day at UConn. Be sure to check out the new message board, let me know what you think.

How much money would it take to stop Aaron Boone from playing basketball? Apparently more than $5.75 million. Boone may have torn his ACL playing basketball. If the injury is as serious as it is believed to be, Boone will likely miss the 2004 season. If this is the case, a clause in Boone's contract would allow the Yankees to terminate his contract, paying him under $1 million. This could be bad news for the Yankees.

I have called Boone the weak link in the Yankee lineup (see last week's post) and disagreed with the Yankees trade to acquire him. I did not feel Boone was a significant upgrade from Robin Ventura, and Brandon Claussen was the Yankees top pitching prospect. So why do I consider this bad news? Because Aaron Boone has established himself as about an average major leaguer who is capable of above average production. I do not believe he's a legitimate all-star, but I also think he's better then how he played with the Yankees last year. Plus, he ended the Red Sox season, which has to count for something.

At the time of Boone's injury, there were several players that could be replacements in the Yankee organization: Enrique Wilson, Miguel Cairo, Erick Almonte, and Drew Henson. None of those four are very appealing, unless you're Theo Epstein. A quick look at the stats of this fearsome foursome:

Almonte (2003-NYY) - .260 BA, .321 OBA, .350 SLG, .671 OPS, -3 RCAA
Almonte (2003- AA) - .240 BA, .310 OBA, .380 SLG, .690 OPS, 46 K, 17 BB

Cairo (2003) - .245 BA, .289 OBA, .375 SLG, .665 OPS, -10 RCAA
Cairo (career) - .269 BA, .317 OBA, .361 SLG, .678 OPS

Henson (2003-AAA) - .234 BA, .291 OBA, .412 SLG, .703 OPS, 14 HR, 122 K, 32 BB

Wilson (2003) - .230 BA, .276 OBA, .363 SLG, .639 OPS, -7 RCAA
Wilson (career) - .253 BA, .296 OBA, .358 SLG, .653 OPS

Where's Scott Brosius when you need him?

Henson is not really an option either. Besides his terrible minor league track record, he is reportedly working out at QB, in preparation of being traded of drafted again by an NFL team in the coming months.

Upon seeing these options, I suggested the Yankees sign Tyler Houston, who the Phillies released last year around the time of one of Larry Bowa's tirades. Two days after my suggestion, the Yankees have reportedly signed Houston to a minor league contract.

Houston is far from an elite player, but he may represent an upgrade over Almonte/Cairo/Wilson. In fact, he could play about as well as Boone if he has a good year. In 54 games with the Phillies last hear, Houston's offensive numbers were: .278 BA, .320 OBA, .402 SLG, .722 OPS, -2 RCAA. Nothing great, I know. The previous two season were 4 RCAA/.815 OPS and 0 RCAA/.751 OPS, which means he is capable of about average production. His career OPS is .735, .42 below average, and he has -49 career RCAA. But he has been better in the last few seasons, including 30 HR over 519 ABs during the 2000-2001 seasons. His Offensive Winning Percentage is .512 since 2001. This means a lineup of all Tyler Houstons would win 51.2% of their games with an average pitching staff. He is not a patient hitter, which worries me. But if he hits for a high enough average to keep his OBA respectable and provides some pop at the bottom of the lineup, I think the rest of the Yankee lineup can overcome any lack of production at 3B.

There is one more interesting option within the Yankee organization that only a true fan with too much free time would know about. This player tore up AA last year with the Trenton Thunder. His rate stats are impressive: .306 BA, .447 OBA, .525 SLG, .972 OPS. He combined excellen patience (107 BB) with decent power (31 2B, 18 HR, 8 3B, 78 RBI). So why don't more people know about Brian Myrow? Well, because at 27, he's older than nearly all AA players. At 27, most players are entering the prime of their major league careers, not playing AA. Myrow has never even made it to AAA. But still, you can't totally discount his production last year. Even with Houston, Myrow seems like he deserves at least some chance of making the major league roster. I don't expect him to make much of an impact. At least there's not proof he'll be a mediocre major leaguer. The same can't be said for Enrique Wilson and Miguel Cairo.

I do admit however, that George Steinbrenner can't be pleased with the current possibilites at 3B. There are rumors that the Yankees are interested in re-acquiring Ventura. I would be fine with this move. At least they know what they're getting, and it's unlikely that he would completely bottom out. I just hope no knee-jerk reaction is made. I am pleased with the Yankees offseason (read below), and believe they can overcome Boone's injury.

And besides, the Yankees 2004 3B is probably just keeping the hot corner warm until Eric Chavez becomes a free agent. Just imagine Jason Giambi, Alfonso Soriano, Derek Jeter, and Chavez in the same infield. Now that, I can live with.
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Larry & Me

Check this out. I'm in the Daily Campus once again, reviewing the first season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Larry David's post-Seinfeld creation is the funniest show on TV in my opinion. I didn't come up with the title for the article, but I think it was decent. I'm hoping to contribute to the DC throughout the semester, especially since they actually pay me now. Anyway, I'll let you read for yourself.
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Friday, January 23, 2004

Bye Bye Rocket-Hello #27

I'll admit it: Roger Clemens had me convinced that he was retired. A guy who I respected as a Red Sox and loved as a he was retired. A guy who I respected as a Red Sox and loved as a Yankee was ready to wrap up a pitching career that is as impressive as nearly any pitcher in the history of baseball.

And then Andy Pettite took less money to go to Houston.

And then the Astros told Clemens he could miss games that he wasn't starting to watch his sons play.

All of a sudden, the Rocket was wearing an Astros cap, drawing the ire of Yankee fans everywhere. I'll miss watching him pitch, and would obviously rather have him on the Yankees. But its not the end of the world.

In fact, let me go out on a limb: If healthy, the Yankees rotation will be much better in 2004 than 2003.

I'll go even further: A healthy Yankees pitching staff will be the best in baseball. And it might not be close.

Am I saying this as a biased Yankees fan? No. I'd like to think I can back this up with objective analysis. Of course there are question marks, and the games need to be played on the field. But with Pettite and Clemens gone, things could be a lot worse. Let's look at why it's pretty damn good to be a Yankee fan right now.

Forget Pettite, Clemens, and the Red Sox for a moment (I'll get back to them later). What baseball fan could argue with these moves.

Jeff Weaver for Kevin Brown. Are you serious? Sure Brown has been injured, and Weaver is a young pitcher who did well with the Tigers. But if Brown makes 75% of his starts, this is one of the best baseball trades in a long time. Money is no object to the Yankees, so I don't consider the financial implications at all. Last year, Weaver posted an era of 5.99 in 2003. And he gave up a crushing home run to Alex Gonzalez that will haunt him for years (though I blame Joe Torre for that). He had a -29 RSAA, which means he gave up 29 more runs than the average pitcher would have in the same amount of innings. Only Colby Lewis and Mike Maroth were worse in the AL. He was of no value to the Yankees, and losing him is addition by subtraction.

Kevin Brown on the other hand, was magnificent last year. He had a 2.39 ERA in 211 innings. His 38 RSAA was 6th in the NL, meaning he allowed 38 fewer runs than an average pitcher. For those non-math majors, that means this trade could save the Yankees 67 runs, assuming similar performances from each player. That alone makes the Yankees much stronger than last year.

Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera, and Randy Choate for Javier Vazquez.
I will admit that I'm disappointed to see Johnson go. His patience and power remind me of a young Jason Giambi. I don't anticipate that type of production, but an OBA of over .400 and 25-30 HRs would not be out of the question for him this year. Rivera may be a good player eventually, but there was no room for him in NY.

Vazquez meanwhile, ranks with Mark Prior, Roy Halladay, and Tim Hudson as one of the best you arms in baseball. His 13-12 record in 2003 is misleading, and does not indicate the high level at which he performed. He managed a 3.24 ERA in the best hitter's park in baseball, while striking out 241 batter in 230.2 innings. His 48 RSAA was 2nd in the NL, and 3rd in the majors. Largely overlooked in Montreal, Vazquez should win 18-20 games in NY, and will be a serious contender for the AL CY Young Award. Mark my words.

So a rotation of

Mussina (3.40 ERA/23 RSAA)
Pettite (4.02/8 RSAA)
Clemens (3.91/10 RSAA)
David Wells (4.14/5 RSAA)
Weaver (5.99/-29 RSAA)
Jose Contreras (3.30/8 RSAA)

will now be

Vazquez (3.24/48 RSAA)
Brown (2.39/38 RSAA)
Jon Lieber (3.70 in 2002)

Contreras is not a sure thing, and Brown and Lieber may have health questions. But Contreras has great stuff, and the other two are completely healthy as of now. I'll take the 2004 Yankee rotation over the 2003 version any day.

And what about the bullpen? Well, it should be as dominating as any in baseball. It includes:

Mariano Rivera (1.66 ERA/21 RSAA)
Paul Quantrill (1.75/19 RSAA)
Tom Gordon (3.16/11 RSAA)
Steve Karsay (3.26 ERA in 2002)
Gabe White (4.05 ERA)
Felix Heredia (2.69 ERA)

While Heredia is a good candidate to drop off this year, Rivera, Quantrill, Gordon, and Karsay are proven commodities, with track records of success. With Jorge DePaula waiting in AAA the Yanks also have a potential swingman/spot starter.

I'd also like to see NY take a shot at El Duque-he would provide valuable insurance in case there is an injury or a starter struggles. At the very least he would be yet another weapon in middle relief. And he brings with him the might Eephus pitch.

What about offense you say? No problem. Gary Sheffield was the best free agent available. Vlad is younger, with a better reputation, but Sheffield has consistently outperformed him, and represents a tremendous upgrade over the 3-headed monster of Karim "mini-Giambi" Garcia, Juan Rivera, and David Delucci. A few stats to back this up. Over the last year, Shefflied is 4th in baseball in Runs Created Against the Average

RCAA                           RCAA    

1 Barry Bonds 817
2 Manny Ramirez 480
3 Jim Thome 464
4 Gary Sheffield 453
5 Jeff Bagwell 447
6 Jason Giambi 442
7 Edgar Martinez 431
8 Alex Rodriguez 413
9 Chipper Jones 410
10 Mark McGwire 392

He has posted an OPS of over 1.000 2 out of the past 3 years, and has a career OPS of .928. While Vlad Guerrero is younger than Sheffield, there is no reason to believe he will become more productive in the next 2-3 years. Would I rather have Guerrero in 5 years? Sure. But for the next 3, my money is on Sheffield to put up MVP-caliber numbers. Also, Guerrero is
1) coming off a year filled with back injuries, and
2) leaving 2003's most hitter-friendly park, believe it or not.
Both are among the top OFs in the game. But criticism indicating that the Yankees got the lesser of the two players is misguided in my mind.

Kenny Lofton provides a leadoff hitter with on-base skills and speed. More importantly, his presence allows free-swinging Alfonso Soriano to move to the middle of the lineup, where his power will be most useful. Also, Bernie Williams can DH most of the time. He had a mediocre year by his standards last year, but with less wear and tear on his body, I expect him to again rank among the best OFs in terms of getting on base and providing occasional power.

The only weakness is Aaron Boone, and possibly Jason Giambi's defense. But frankly, offense is far more important defense. I'd rather have Giambi hit 40 HRs with an OBA over .400 and put up with a few errors than have a slick-fielding, no-hit 1B. And Boone is just about average, and will probably hit 9th in the lineup. My main problem with him is that the Yankees gave up their best pitching prospect (Brandon Claussen) for a player who was not much of an upgrade over Robin Ventura. While he may be the worst Yankee starter, he might be the best #9 hitter since Scott Brosius (will the curse of Scotty end?).

A quick note on Pettite-I'll miss him, mainly because he has been a part of some extremely successful teams. But he is overrated, and overpaid. Few pitchers have benefitted from such great run support. He has the 5th most inflated win loss record of any AL pitcher, based on what his record would be with average run support (courtesy of Lee Sinin's ATM Reports)

DIFFERENCE                      PCT     AVG SUPPORT   PCT 

1 Vic Raschi -.139 .550 .689
2 Johnny Allen -.102 .571 .672
3 Allie Reynolds -.097 .533 .630
4 Jack Coombs -.093 .538 .632
5 Andy Pettitte -.084 .573 .656
6 George Earnshaw -.082 .533 .614
7 Chief Bender -.081 .573 .654
8 Dave McNally -.078 .537 .616
9 Mike Cuellar -.078 .539 .616
10 Denny McLain -.075 .523 .598

Like Clemens, I would rather have him as a Yankee and not an Astro. But I think Vazquez is a huge upgrade over him, and that Brown is an upgrade over Clemens. While Steinbrenner could have offered Pettite a contract sooner, he took less money to play in Houston. I don't believe he had any intention of returning to NY. I guess some people just get sick of winning World Series Championships. I predict about a 14-13 record with an ERA in the mid 4's now that Pettite is playing for a lesser team in a better hitter's park. It's not sour grapes, just a realistic view of his value.

I know the Red Sox are good. Schilling and Foulke are markee acquisitions. But remember-Varitek, Nixon, Mueller, and Ortiz are unlikely to duplicate their career years. Nomar and Pedro will be unhappy with their contract situations. Chemistry can be overrated, but I could see the Yankees having a happier clubhouse than the Sox. (I may do a Yankee-Red Sox position-by-position comparison shortly). So when all is said and done, the 2004 season will look like this:

Yankees over Cubs in 6. And remember where you heard it first.

Monday, January 05, 2004

The Penske File’s 2004 Baseball Hall of Fame Inductees

There was a time when induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame was the greatest honor a player could receive. Then Phil Rizzuto was inducted as a player and the place went to shambles. Ok, that’s not quite true, Mr. Holy Cow is one of many undeserving players enshrined in Cooperstown. Meanwhile, worthy players continue to be denied and show no signs of breaking through. With this in mind, I’ve decided to cast my imaginary ballot in 2004, and thus creating an honor more prestigious than any Cooperstown ceremony. For the time being, I’ll list my choices, and add my analysis/reasoning as time permits. (Note-all statistics are from Lee Sinins’s amazing Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia (SBE). Stat definitions can be found here. Also, check out Lee’s Baseball Immortals, a great alternative to Cooperstown, and his daily ATM Reports).

1. Bert Blyleven, RHP 287-250, 3.31 ERA, 3701 K, 344 RSAA

Here is a player whose candidacy is hopefully gaining momentum, as he is perhaps the most deserving player who has been overlooked in recent years. As far as I can tell, his biggest problem is that his 287-250 career record falls short of the arbitrary number of wins (300) necessary to be elected to the Hall. That’s not a huge concern for me, since I think wins are more a product of an entire team’s performance as opposed to being solely due to a pitcher’s performance. Still, those 287 wins are good enough for 24th on the all-time list. His 313 neutral wins are good enough for 14th on the all-time list, showing that he was often the victim of poor run-support.

Blyleven’s more important Hall of Fame credentials lie in other statistics however. He had a 3.31 ERA and 344 RSAA (Runs saved against average. It's the amount of runs that a pitcher saved vs. what an average pitcher would have allowed) for his career, placing him 17th on the all-time list, and ahead of pitchers such as Whitey Ford, Warren Spahn, Gaylord Perry and Jim Palmer. Blyleven ranks 5th all time with 3701 strikeouts, and 9th all time with 60 shutouts. Even more impressive is that he had 27 more shutouts than the average pitcher would have had in the same number of innings, which puts him 5th in that category.

I believe the numbers I just illustrated are more than enough to warrant a place in the Hall of Fame. If that’s enough, there is more evidence that strengthens the case. Using the SBE, a case can be made that Blyleven was the most dominant pitcher in baseball over a 20 year span from 1970-1989. Take a look at the following stats:



1 Bert Blyleven 371
2 Tom Seaver 321
3 Jim Palmer 289
4 Phil Niekro 241
5 Steve Carlton 239

1 Bert Blyleven 60

2 Nolan Ryan 57
3 Tom Seaver 49
4 Don Sutton 47
5 Jim Palmer 46

1 Nolan Ryan 4845
2 Bert Blyleven 3562
3 Steve Carlton 3550
4 Tom Seaver 3057
5 Don Sutton 2817

1 Steve Carlton 282
2 Nolan Ryan 277
3 Don Sutton 273
4 Bert Blyleven 271
5 Phil Niekro 264

1 Bert Blyleven 298
2 Nolan Ryan 289
3 Steve Carlton 280
4 Phil Niekro 278
5 Don Sutton 256

This 20-year period of excellence (and dominance) more than fulfills the general rule of thumb that a player must dominate over a 10 year span. Despite his lack of accolades, Blyleven may have been the best pitcher of his time. If I had just one vote (as opposed to 0) it would without a doubt be cast with Blyleven’s name.

2. Paul Molitor, IF/OF/DH, .448 SLG, .369 OBA, .817 OPS, 3319 H, 504 SB, 479 RCAA

Molitor can boast some impressive accomplishments from a long, successful career. Molitor has a career total of 479 RCAA (Runs created above average. A Lee Sinins stat, it's the difference between a player's runs created total and the total for an average player who used the same amount of his team's outs). Molitor produced at an above average level for 18 of his 21 seasons. This combination of excellence and longevity also resulted in the 8th highest hit total in the history of baseball, 3319. He created a total of 1869 runs, tied for 28th all time with Hall of Famer George Brett. Molitor was one of the better baserunners of his time, and his 504 stolen bases are more than all but 34 players. His 605 doubles are 10th best in history, his 1782 runs are 16th best, and Molitor ranks 21st all time with 4854 total bases.

I think Molitor will definitely get in, but he is one of the first players whose candidacy raises questions about whether designated hitters belong in the Hall. 1174 out of his 2683 career games came as a DH, so clearly he was able to play the field for a while. Players like Edgar Martinez will be more interesting to evaluate when they’re eligible (I think he’s a shoo-in). While defense is obviously valuable, I place a far greater emphasis on offense. If two players are similar offensively, I would certainly give an advantage to the player that excelled more on defense. But Molitor is a player who I feel created enough at the plate and on the basepaths to outweigh the fact that he didn’t play the field in over 40% of his games.

3. Ryne Sandberg, 2B, 282 HR, 1061 RBI, 2386 H, 344 SB, .989 Fielding Percentage, 195 RCAA

Ryno is a player I expected to be elected his first time on the ballot. Surprisingly, he is currently 0 for 2, and will have to wait until next year. I do expect him to get in within a year or two, since he had a strong showing this year (60%) and because only Wade Boggs seems to have a good shot of getting among the players who will be eligible for the first time next year.

Sandberg’s raw stats are impressive, but may not be enough to justify his election. Through a series of comparisons among second baseman however, I believe a compelling case can be made.

First of all, Sandberg is the all-time homerun leader among second baseman, with 275 in games he played at 2B. His 716 extra base hits place him in 7th place out of all second baseman, and he is 8th with 3550 total bases and a .458 slugging percentage.

The charts below are all with respect to the league average, and the rankings include second baseman with at least 5000 PA at 2B.




1 Rogers Hornsby 951
2 Eddie Collins 752
3 Nap Lajoie 703
4 Joe Morgan 663
5 Charlie Gehringer 444
6 Roberto Alomar 323
7 Craig Biggio 318
8 Lou Whitaker 266
9 Cupid Childs 259
10 Larry Doyle 253
11 Fred Dunlap 251
12 Bobby Grich 234
13 Tony Lazzeri 226
14 Jackie Robinson 224
15 Jeff Kent 220
16 Rod Carew 214
17 Ryne Sandberg 207
18 Chuck Knoblauch 188
19 Joe Gordon 161
20 Hardy Richardson 155


1 Rogers Hornsby 436 844 408
2 Nap Lajoie 355 784 429
3 Charlie Gehringer 194 904 710
4 Jeff Kent 176 651 475
5 Bobby Doerr 160 693 533
6 Joe Morgan 150 813 663
7 Ryne Sandberg 136 716 580
8 Joe Gordon 128 569 441
9 Larry Doyle 127 496 369
10 Del Pratt 121 552 431

HOMERUNS                        DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Rogers Hornsby 201 271 70
2 Joe Gordon 146 253 107
T3 Ryne Sandberg 94 275 181
T3 Bobby Doerr 94 223 129
5 Jeff Kent 90 255 165
6 Tony Lazzeri 79 172 93
7 Joe Morgan 61 268 207
8 Bobby Grich 59 204 145
9 Charlie Gehringer 44 184 140
10 Bret Boone 40 221 181

OPS                             DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Rogers Hornsby .319 1.080 .761
2 Nap Lajoie .169 .837 .668
3 Eddie Collins .145 .855 .710
4 Charlie Gehringer .105 .884 .779
5 Joe Morgan .101 .819 .718
6 Jeff Kent .095 .866 .771
7 Larry Doyle .089 .765 .675
8 Bobby Grich .084 .800 .717
9 Ryne Sandberg .078 .805 .727
10 Bobby Doerr .076 .823 .747


1 Rogers Hornsby 6.15 11.32 5.17
2 Nap Lajoie 3.08 7.53 4.44
3 Eddie Collins 2.57 7.22 4.65
4 Joe Morgan 2.34 6.79 4.45
5 Charlie Gehringer 2.00 7.62 5.62
6 Cupid Childs 1.75 8.09 6.34
7 Craig Biggio 1.68 6.77 5.09
8 Larry Doyle 1.29 5.48 4.19
9 Roberto Alomar 1.26 6.19 4.93
10 Ryne Sandberg 1.24 5.82 4.58

SLG                             DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Rogers Hornsby .215 .625 .410
2 Nap Lajoie .116 .459 .343
3 Jeff Kent .082 .511 .429
4 Joe Gordon .068 .466 .398
5 Bobby Doerr .065 .461 .396
6 Eddie Collins .062 .430 .367
7 Ryne Sandberg .062 .458 .396
8 Charlie Gehringer .061 .480 .419
9 Larry Doyle .059 .408 .349
10 Tony Lazzeri .050 .468 .418

TOTAL BASES                     DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   

1 Rogers Hornsby 1582 3783 2201
2 Nap Lajoie 1301 3923 2622
3 Eddie Collins 793 4254 3461
4 Charlie Gehringer 726 4257 3531
5 Ryne Sandberg 599 3550 2951
6 Jeff Kent 510 2777 2267
7 Bobby Doerr 491 3270 2779
8 Larry Doyle 481 2654 2173
9 Joe Morgan 416 3962 3546
10 Rod Carew 387 1912 1525

Let me take a minute to say that I do not believe a player should be rewarded because others at his position are weaker offensively. But I do think some comparison to others at the same position is valid. Doing so illustrates that Sandberg is one of the best power hitters to ever play second baseman. While potential Hall of Famers like Craig Biggio, Roberto Alomar, and Jeff Kent, may have had more impressive individual seasons, this should not diminish the accomplishments of Sandberg in his time. Comparisons versus the league average are an excellent way to take into account the overall production during a player’s career, and I believe the numbers I’ve listed for Sandberg make him a deserving candidate.

One last bit of evidence is his prowess as a defensive player. Sandberg had an outstanding fielding percentage of .989. This is tops among all second baseman with at least 1000 games at the position. While I believe offense has a much greater value than defense, defense is still critical, especially for middle infielders. Few players matched Sandberg’s combination of power and defense, and for that, he is deserving of a place in the Hall of Fame.

4. Jim Rice, .LF, .502 SLG, .352 OBA, .854 OPS, 382 HR, 1451 RBI, 2452 H, 266 RCAA.

Close, but no sitar (not yet at least)

Dale Murphy, Alan Trammell, Andre Dawson, Dennis Eckersley.

For some more interesting discussion on this topic, I recommend heading over to the Netshrine Discussion Forum. Look out for my analysis of the Yankees-Red Sox offseason transactions over the next week.
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Friday, December 12, 2003

A brief update

First of all, you may noticed that a distinguished guest has joined the Penske File, despite his nonsensical beliefs that the Braves are better off withouth Sheffield and Maddux. Expect another post from "Bob Kraft" soon enough.

As for me, I have tons to write about, but I'm in the midst of studying for my History of Mathematics final. But hopefully by the weekend, I'll write about some completed and potential baseball transactions-including how if Kevin Brown is healthy the Yankeed have significantly upgraded their starting rotation and why obtaining Alex Rodriguez (and shipping out Manny and Nomar) is not as good of a move as Red Sox fans think it could be. I should add a bunch more over break, but since I won't have my AIM profile up nonstop, continue checking http://rambis35.blogspot.com, or let me know if you'd like to take advantage of the feature that will alert you every time a new post is up. And who knows, there may even be some more guest appearances...
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Thursday, December 11, 2003

Finally, some important information

While I have enjoyed this Penske File, I have found it to be rather drab and boring. The reason why: it does not solely focus on either the two greatest teams of all time, the patriots and atlanta braves. I mean, what else should anyone actually be concerned about? We all know Mr. Penske himself is a big Yankees fan and I for one have heard enough about this dying franchise. Its time for a breath of fresh air.

First I would like to point out that the New England Patriots are going to end the season with a 16 game win streak. It is no wonder why a team with the greatest defense ever assembled would be so successful. Let's not forget that the patriots only lost to the bills because lawyer milloy knew all of the plays. And their other loss coming to the Redskins saw half of their defense go down with injuries. Besides being riddled by injuries, the Patriots have persevered. Rodney Harrison is the best run stopping safety in the league, tyrone poole is the best corner in the league, richard seymour is the best defensive end in the league and ted washington is a run stopping blob.

Other than point out the obvious, I would like to point out how the patriots are going to win the super bowl and win their next 6 games. First of all, kick returner Bethel Johnson is going to tear every special teams apart. Look out Dante Hall, you now are the second best return man in the league. Other than the fact that Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback/punter of all-time, rookie Brooks Barnard who began his nfl career last week is already in my books a hall-of-famer. He was cut by the Bears in camp and kicks like a sure fire pro bowler.

Most of all, no one can overlook Tom Brady's clutch winning ability. Ever close game is a Patriots win. You'd have to be stupid to give Tom Brady more than 30 seconds to orchestrate a game winning drive. Vinatieri doesn't miss big kicks.

I would just like to post that I have bet a certain ankur nigam that the patriots will defeat the chiefs at gillette stadium. He better hope its not a snow game. We all know from legend that the Chiefs are terrible in the snow (aka. a certain madden 2004 matchup in which i was victorious). I look for a big game out of mike cloud, ex-chief. Let's not forget that Deion Sanders says the Pats are the best team in the afc. Frankly, I dont see any team in the nfc that can win a super bowl. Both the Eagles and Rams are proven chokes in the playoffs. It is apparent to me that ankur nigam was a fool to bet me. A fool. Oh yeah, a fool. Yeah, that's right.

Well, i'd like to elaborate on baseball, but i will make all of my fans wait in anticipation.

Signing off,
Bob Kraft
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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

McCabe the writer?

Not much new to say right now, I'll try and get another update in during break. But I wanted to be a publicity whore and put up links to the two articles I had in the Daily Campus on Wednesday 11/19. I reviewed Lost Dogs and Pearl Jam Live at the Garden, the new CD and DVD by Pearl Jam. I absolutely love each, and I'm glad I got to write about them. I didn't choose the title to the article, but I think the rest came out well. Enjoy:

Pearl Jam-Lost Dogs, Live at the Garden

I also reviewed Thank You, the new CD by Stone Temple Pilots, which also comes with a DVD of live performances, videos, and bootlegs (only available with certain copies). Right after I submitted the article, I read that STP was most likely breaking up. I had a chance to reword some of it, but I didn't get too in-depth. Anyway, I'm also very excited about this new release. STP had some flat-out great rock songs. And they were excellent live when I saw them at River Rave at Foxboro Stadium and at the Family Values Tour in Hartford. I'm still hoping for a comeback, but it doesn't look good. Velvet Revolver has some potential, but I don't think they'll be as good as STP, or as my favorite supergroup, Audioslave. Anyway, here's my review:

Stone Temple Pilots-Thank You

Like I said, I'll probably post again soon. I'm sure I'll have something to say on the Curt Schilling to the Red Sox trade if it happens. As always, stay tuned.
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Sunday, November 16, 2003

MLB "Awards"-ha!

MLB's awards have been released over the last week, and I don't know whether to laugh or cringe. Angel Berroa won the AL Rookie of the Year award, apparently because a few writers decided to redefine the meaning of a rookie. I wouldn't have necessarily chosen Hideki Matsui, but the reason given by several who left him off their ballots was that they don't think he should be considered a rookie. That's ok to think that, but to vote based on your own definition seems like the kind of thing that should get your voting privileges revoked. Matsui is a rookie by definition, and therefore is eligible for the award. Voters do not determine who is eligible, they pick the most worthy among eligible candidates.

In the NL, Dontrelle Willis was named Rookie of the Year, as expected. I enjoy watching Willis pitch, and I am totally aware of the excitement he generated in the Marlins surprisingly successful season. But the award is not "Most Exciting Rookie," or "Most Valuable Rookie on a winning team." As long as the award is called Rookie of the Year, I will interpret it as meaning the most productive rookie in a given season. I don't feel Willis was that player.

So who, in my expert opinion, should be the NL Rookie of the Year? Brandon Webb. Hands down. I'm aware that he had only a 10-9 record, which doesn't look too impressive compared to Willis's 14-6 mark. While Willis had a very good ERA (3.30), Webb's was significantly better (2.84). Webb allowed just 140 hits in 180.2 innings, while striking out 172. Willis pitched 20 fewer innings, but surrendered 8 more hits and struck out 30 fewer batters. Opponents hit .212 with a .295 OBA and .307 against Webb. Batters hit .245/.313/.385 against Willis.

Willis's numbers were very good, especially for a rookie. In no way do I wish to diminish his fine season. But I think Webb was clearly more effective. Willis won based on media hype and the overreliance on deceiving Win-Loss records. A look at past confirms this pattern in such awards, but I'm not any less disappointed.

How good do I think Brandon Webb was this season? Good enough to warrant consideration for NL CY Young, and certainly better than the winner of the NL CY Young Award. Eric Gagne undoubtedly had one of the best years for a reliever in recent memory. I can't criticize the performance of a player who had a .120 ERA, held opponents to a .372 OPS, struck out 14.98 batters per 9 innings, and converted every save opportunity. I can criticize the selection of him as the best pitcher in the National League.

Gagne threw just 82.1 innings. He appeared in 77 games, meaning he rarely threw more than one inning. Meanwhile, starters like Livan Hernandez, Javier Vazquez, Mark Prior, Kevin Brown and Jason Schmidt had excellent years and threw 233.1, 230.2, 211.1, 211, and 207.2 innings respectively.

Personally, I would have voted for Jason Schmidt, who led the NL with a 2.34 ERA, and struck out over a batter an inning (208) while allowing less than one baserunner per inning (.95 WHIP). Yet I wouldn't argue too strongly if one were to choose and of the pitchers I just mentioned. Though it makes him no more qualified for the award, it is amazing that Schmidt performed so well with a torn tendon in his arm. 2003 was clearly a career year, and it will be interesting to see if he can replicate his success in 2004. Regardless, I believe he is one of at least 6 candidates more qualified for the Nl Cy Young Award than Eric "This time it counts" Gagne.

Just as a quick note, I think they got the AL CY Young winner right. While Pedro Martinez is certainly the most dominant starter in the game, Roy Halladay threw 79.1 more innings, which arguably makes up for the 1.03 difference in ERA. I am surprised Halladay won in such a landslide however. My top 5 would have been Halladay, Martinez, Tim Hudson, Esteban Loaiza, and Jamie Moyer.
Also, I thought it slightly odd that Andy Pettite received several votes, while teammate Mike Mussina did not. And though I wouldn't have voted for him, I was glad to see that Johan Santana got some recognition for an excellent year.

I agree with both picks for Manager of the Year, and I'm just awaiting the announcement for MVP. In an earlier post (check the archives) I detailed the AL race, with Carlos Delgado my pick. I don't see how Barry Bonds wouldn't win in the NL...but we'll just have to wait and see.

More to come, so check back soon.
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Monday, November 03, 2003

Phillies-Astros Trade

The Astros traded P Billy Wagner to the Phillies for P Brandon Duckworth and minor league Ps Taylor Buchholz and Ezequiel Astacio.

This is a very good move for the Phillies. Wagner has established himself as one of the premier relievers in baseball, and represents a significant upgrade over Jose "I'm going to kill Omar Vizquel" Mesa and Mike Williams.

Wagner had a 1.78 ERA last season and had 44 saves in 47 chances. The hard-throwing lefthander has a 2.53 ERA for his career, and has struck out an average of 12.39 batters per 9 innings. All it cost the Phillies was an unproven 27 year old starter (Duckworth), a 24 year old still in Class A, and one more minor leaguer with decent stats (Bucholz-3.55 ERA in Double A).

While I would always value a good starter over a good reliever, a reliever as dominant as Wagner is certainly a worthy acquisition.

Octavio Dotel will probably take over closing duties for the Astros, with Brad Lidge handling the setup role, although there is no reason they can't share the two roles. Bother were effective last year, but the Astros bullpen will still take a big hit.

The question now is what they do with the $9 million they saved in this trade. Andy Pettite is rumored to be interested in returning to his home state of Texas, and this gives Houston the financial flexibility to possibly pursue the veteran starter. Such a move would obviously damage the Yankees rotation, so expect the Yankees to make Pettite an offer he can't refuse.

Pettite had a good, not great year last year, and I don't know if the Astros would improve by spending their money on Pettite instead of Wagner. Pettite's 2003 RSAA (Runs Saves Against Average) was 8, while Wagner had an RSAA of 26*. Of course Pettite will eat up a lot of innings, and one could argue the Astros need more help in their rotation than bullpen. I guess that all this means is the Astros cleared some salary while the Phillies made a major upgrade to their team. Its not fair to fully evaluate the trade withouth seeing what moves come next.

*RSAA is essentially the amount of runs a pitcher saves compared to what an average pitcher would allow in the same number of innings. I got these stats from Lee Sinins' excellent Around The Majors Reports. I recommend you go to www.baseball-encyclopedia.com and subscribe. Also, check out his Baseball Encyclopedia, I plan on picking one up in the coming months.
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Sunday, October 26, 2003

The Curse Lives On

Number of New York Yankee World Series Championships before and during Scott Brosius's tenure with the team: 26

Number of New York Yankee World Series Championships AFTER Scott Brosius's tenure with the team: 0

Curse? I think the answer is obvious...

Do I really believe this? Well, frankly, no. Apologies to those who wholeheartedly believe Brosius's exit from baseball led to the ultimate downfall of the Yankees.

I could list a lot of reasons for the Yankees loss. Aging starters, unreliable bullpen, inconsistent hitting, questionable managerial decisions. For now, I won't explore any of those in detail. Why? The Marlins simply outplayed the Yankees. Florida combined dominating pitching, excellent defense, and timely hitting, and deserved to win the World Series. Do I think they were not necessarily. If I were to say the Yankees were better, I would have a 162 game season to back me up. A 7-game series does not always determine the best overall team. It determines the best team at the given time. The Marlins are a very good team that played their best when it counted most, and the results show that.

What's next for the Yankees? Your guess is as good as mine. Since George Steinbrenner has "suffered" through 3 years without a championship, I would venture that only a handful of jobs are safe in the entire organization. Joe Torre's may not be one of them. The idea that any major overhaul is needed seems silly if one steps back and takes an objective look at the Yankees past few seasons. Many teams would kill for a "slump" that includes 3 Division Championships and 2 American League Championships. That being said, changes are imminent, and I'd like to think I can offer some insight into what the Yankees should do.

Without having carefully analyzed the potential free agents, here are some quick areas of need, and possible solutions:

Right Field-A Platoon of Karim Garcia and Juan Rivera just won't cut it. Certainly the team could do worse. But with the available options, this is the position where the team could improve the most. Like many other teams, the Yankees should make a strong push for Vladimir Guerrero. The reasons are pretty obvious. He's young, hits for power an average, and has a rocket for an arm. His bat would look real good in the 3 or 4 hole in the Yankees line up.

Guerrero will have many suitors, and may want to avoid stepping into such a high-pressure situation with what will be very lofty expectations. From a Yankees standpoint, Guerrero's major weakness has been the injuries he has suffered in his career. I think the good outweighs the bad, but this option may prove unrealistic.

I have no idea what Gary Sheffield plans to do. I would not be at all surprised to see him stay in Atlanta. Despite his age, he has to be the second best option after Guerrero. Sheffield had an MVP-caliber year. The only problems is that he was stuck in a league with Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols. Again, I don't know if there is any interest by Sheffield to come to New York, but a tandem of Giambi and Sheffield in the heart of the order could very well put the Yankees back on top.

After these two, the talent drop-off is significant. Reggie Sanders is coming off of a good year, but he is aging and inconsistent. Jose Guillen is coming off of a career year that he is unlikely to duplicate. Someone may end up overpaying for him. Juan Gonzalez has essentially alienated himself from the baseball world, and will struggle to find a suitable contract. Maybe the last guy I want in pinstripes.

Starting Pitching:

I'd love to see Andy Pettite back. He won't be nearly as successful in Texas, playing on a losing team in a hitter's park. Ask Chan Ho Park.

I could do without David Wells. After all his bragging about not working out, his lack of physical fitness caused him to pitch only one inning in the biggest game of his life. Perhaps an incentive-laden deal could be offered, since he was effective for most of the year.

Jose Contreras will probably never be worth the $32 million he will earn. But he has the stuff to become an above-average started if he improves his command. He may very well be be the key to the Yankees rotation next year.

Jeff Weaver. Well, read my earlier post on him. He does have some talent, but I don't see him succeeding in New York. They should explore the trade market for him. If no one is interested, they may just have to put him in the rotation, give him a few months, and hope he avoids being the worst pitcher in baseball. He's better than what he showed in 2003, but he can't be in a good mental state right now.

Of all the free agent pitchers, I think Kevin Millwood is the best fit. I wish the Yankees had made a stronger push for him last offseason. When the Braves gave him away for next to nothing. He would be expensive, but getting a young pitcher who is a legit #2 and a future ace would do wonders for this team.

Greg Maddux is unlikely to come to NY. Bartolo Colon looks like he might be going downhill. I would be weary about acquiring him. I would strongly consider signing a guy like Miguel Batista. With past success as a starter and reliever, I could see him replacing Ramiro Mendoza, who was missed this year. If Weaver bombs, he could step into the back end of the rotation. If all goes well in the rotation, Batista would be a big help the bullpen. He may not be the best option, but he would be a reasonable-priced, productive pitcher who would fill a major need.

That's enough for now. I'll probably stray away from strictly Yankee analysis from this point on. As players change teams, I'll chime in with my opinions on which moves makes sense, which don't, and the impact they will have on the upcoming season.

One last thing-expect Grady Little to be fired on Monday. McCabe choice to replace him? Davey Johnson. Expect a lower-profile guy though, one who doesn't come in with any baggage and will buy into Theo Epstein's ideas.

As always, if you read this, feel free to give me any feedback. Expect to hear more from me soon.
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Thursday, October 23, 2003

Yanks Lose? D'oh!

Jeff Weaver? Jeff Weaver?! Rarely have I had anything bad to say about Joe Torre. But Weaver had not faced a major league hitter in over a month. When he did pitch this season, he was one of the least effective pitchers in baseball. Chris Hammond, Felix Heredia, Gabe White and that other guy...what's his name...oh yes, Mariano Rivera were all available in the Yankees bullpen. Yet Torre decided Weaver was the person he wanted on the mound in the most important situation of the season. I can't figure this out.

I know Rivera threw 2 innings in the previous game. Perhaps he was only available for one inning tonight. If that was the case, I understand not using him until there was a Yankee lead. That still does not justify the use of Jeff Weaver. It was really an unfair situation to put him in. His first World Series experience came after a month of seeing everyone else used because of his ineffectiveness. I don't need to criticize him, since he will get plenty of that from everywhere imaginable. I cannot comprehend what he might be feeling right now.

Maybe Chris Hammond would have blown the game. Maybe anybody would have. But I would have taken a shot with anyone besides Weaver.

A quick note-the most likely reason most people will think of is that Hammond/Heredia/White are all lefties. It must be noted that Hammond was significantly more effective against righthanders than lefthanders this year (.257/.273/.375 vs. .292/.337/.461). Heredia was also better against righties (.225/.310/.335 vs. .233/.282/.459), thus rendering any such reasoning invalid.

Its tough to be this upset after what was one of the best baseball games a fan could ever ask for. But I needed to vent somehow.

Though I hate to do this, I do have to give tons of credit to Carl Pavano. He's a guy I saw play quite a bit when he played for Southington High School and Legion, and is also related to one of my all-time favorite teachers. He tossed an absolute gem, and I'm glad to see his career start to take off. A Yankee win against the Marlin bullpen after Pavano's performance was the perfect scenario for me. But all I really cared about was a Yankees win, so I'm still mighty disappointed.

And for any Red Sox fans, remember this-Pavano was traded (with others) for Pedro Martinez a few years back. Yet unlike Pedro, he pitched in a game that the Yankees lost this postseason. Just another in a long line of tough breaks for Red Sox fans this year. As my good friend Nelson Muntz would say: "HAHA!"
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Sunday, October 19, 2003

World Series Game 1-some thoughts

Just in case anyone doubted it, Game 1 showed that these Marlins will not just roll over and lose to the Yanks. In this area the ALCS felt more like the World Series. As a matter of fact, the atmosphere was better than I remember for any recent series. There is little doubt that the Yankees and Sox were the best teams playing-but in a best-of-7 series being lucky, or having a few hot players can make up for talent differences.

A few things troubled me about the Yankees loss. First of all, I think Giambi needs to get back to the 3 or 4 spot. I couldn't believe that Torre dropped him to 7th in the first place. Since he had 2 homers in Game 7 of the ALCS, I can't really complain. But at this point Torre needs to realize that Giambi has to get to the plate as much as possible, in as many big situations as possible. Giambi has been as productive an offensive player as anybody in the AL the last 5 years. His bat in the middle of the lineup has gotten NY here, and I think they need to stick with what worked. Having Giambi 7th and Johnson 2nd makes me wonder who will start in Florida. As much as I like Nick Johnson, (in a few years he may very well put up Giambi-type numbers) Giambi needs to start every game in this series. The only exception might be if Florida starts a lefty at home, but with Redman starting Game 2 and Willis in the bullpen, I don't see that happening.

Another key factor for the rest of the Series is the performance of Alfonso Soriano. He has looked absolutely lost at the plate. He's never going to draw 100 walks, and will always be a free-swinger. For most of the year his lack of patience has been outweighed by his power, high average, and speed on the basepaths. At this point he is killing the team with his willingness to chase bad pitches, even when the count is in his favor. With some discipline, Soriano can be one of the league's premier players. Until then, he may never see another good pitch to hit.

With the lefty Redman starting tonight, I might come up with a Yankee lineup like this:

1. Jeter
2. Johnson
3. Posada
4. Giambi
5. Williams
6. Matsui
7. Boone
8. Soriano
9. Rivera

Against Beckett in Game 3, and without the DH, their lineup could look like this:

1. Jeter
2. Posada
3. Giambi
4. Williams
5. Matsui
6. Boone
7. Soriano
8. Garcia

I know Posada tends to hit lower in the order, due to his power. But he has excellent on base skills and he's a guy who I would like to get to the plate as much as possible.

With all this being said, I don't think the Yankees are in bad shape. Part of me expected the Marlins to come in and take one in Yankee Stadium. Without Willis or Pavano available out of the pen tonight, I think the Yankees stand a much better chance of getting a lead late in the game.

A few things about Game 7 of the ALCS. The calling for Grady Little's job has begun, and I don't necessarily think its justified. In retrospect, perhaps Pedro Martinez should have been pulled in the 8th inning. But assume for a minute that Little went to Alan Embree. What if he gave up the tying runs? The same people criticizing Little for leaving Pedro in would be complaining that he took his ace out to use a bullpen that struggled for much of the season.

I'm not saying he was definitely right or wrong. What I am saying is that its hard to fault a man who stuck with the most dominant pitcher of his era. The Red Sox were 5 outs from the World Series against a team that was without a doubt better than them. For that, Little deserves some credit.

There is one more interesting note about Little and Theo Epstein however. Apparently, Little says he will use a full-time closer next season. This is a contradiction to Epstein's idea of how to use his relievers. With Williamson, Timlin, Embree, Arroyo, the Red Sox could easily use Williamson most of the time, while giving the other 3 a shot based on the situation. But this difference in philosophy may cost Little his job.

While I don't believe in using your closer only in save situations, I see a problem in firing a manager who doesn't embrace the closer-by-committee. My question is this-what manager will be willing to go against the idea of the closer as it is used by nearly every team? As soon as the relievers struggle, the media will be calling for a "closer" or calling for a new manager. Epstein has some good ideas, but Red Sox fans had better hope he is realistic in the moves he makes.

And if you're wondering why I didn't mention Kim, its simple: his career as a reliever should be over. He obviously will become a head case in big games. And he was successful as a starter for Arizona this year. Like any Yankee fan, I can only hope he is left in the bullpen. However, if the Sox do move him, they would greatly strengthen a rotation that is average (at best) beyond Pedro.

One last thing: I obviously only posted my "ballot" for AL MVP. I'll try to get the rest of the awards up soon. The playoffs aren't affecting my opinion, so a few more days shouldn't make a difference. In the meantime, I'll be enjoying what will hopefully be a great series. Go Yanks!
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Monday, October 06, 2003

2003 MLB Awards

Yes, after much careful consideration, its here. For now I'm probably just going to list my choices, with descriptions to come in a few days. Here they are:


1. Carlos Delgado, 1B, Toronto
.302/.426/.593, 42 HR, 145 RBI

I'm not sure how popular of a choice Delgado will be, and I don't really care. As far as I'm concerned, he was the premier offensive player in the American Leauge this year. I know that Toronto fell out of contention a while ago, but while I think team performance can be considered, its not one of the more important factors to me. Delgado slumped a little in the second half, but his amazing first half leaves him with the best offensive numbers in the AL.

A major argument I expect from some is that Alex Rodriguez put up similar, if not better, offensive numbers while playing a more demanding position. It is true that A-Rod topped Delgado my a few home runs, and had a slightly higher sluggin percentage. He also played in the most hitter friendly park in the AL. You could make a case that only Coors Field inflates numbers more. In addition, Delgado trailed only Manny Ramirez (by.001) in on-base percentage, which is the key stat for any offensive player. With his durability, ability to get on base, hit for average, and hit for power, Delgado gets my (non-existent) vote for AL MVP.

2. Manny Ramirez, OF, Boston
.325/.427/.587, 37 HR, 104 RBI

Best offensive player on baseball's best offensive team. Sure he's a bonehead, and I'm a die-hard Yankee fan, but in terms of production, Ramirez ranks among the game's best.

3. Alex Rodriguez , SS, Texas
.298/.396/.600, 47 HR, 118 RBI

The AL's best player-he just didn't have the best season. This has nothing to do with Texas struggling as a team, since I thought A-Rod deserved the 2002 MVP. Just not his year (though I expect him to win).

4. Jason Giambi, 1B/DH, NY
.250/.412/.527, 41 HR, 107 RBI

Forget about that early season slump. Giambi obviously had physical ailments, but he bounced back for the monster year we've come to expect from him. Even when he slumps he helps the team by working the count, drawing walks, and serving as a home run threat. When he's on...as fearful a hitter as anyone in the AL.

5. Frank Thomas, 1B/DH, Chicago
.267/.390/.562, 42 HR, 105 RBI

The Big Hurt had another big year, after several "down" years, if only by his standards. Not everyone realizes it, but he ranks among the all-time greats when you considered his blend of excellent patient and power. Even though the White Sox fell short in their bid for a playoff spot, Thomas led the way as they surged earlier in the year.

6. Roy Halladay, RHP, Toronto
22-7, 3.25 ERA, 266 IP, 204 K

Not the most dominant pitcher-but when you consider his innings pitched, he was arguably the most productive and most valuable to his team. As long as he can handle the tremendous workload, he can be the horse for this young Toronto team for years to come.

7. Pedro Martinez, RHP, Boston
14-4, 2.22 ERA, 186.2 IP, 206 K

Though he missed some time due to injury again, he's the best their is when healthy. Whether you're a Red Sox fan or not, you have to respect his ability and amazing accomplisments. As enjoyable to watch as any pitcher.

8. Tim Hudson, RHP, Oakland
16-7, 2.70 ERA, 240 IP, 162 K

I'm a big fan of what Billy Beane has done, and I root for the A's to get to the playoffs, but once thing must be clear-the secret to their success is not just taking walks and getting on base. While that approach is stressed in their development of young players, the big 3 of Hudson, Mulder, and Zito is what makes this team go. With Mulder hurt and Zito performing not quite as good as last year, Hudson was the A's most reliable and valuable player over the course of the year.

9. Bret Boone, 2B, Seattle
.294/.366/.535, 35 HR, 117 RBI

Excellent offensive player by any standard, not just for a second baseman. Safeco Field isn't the best place to hit, but Boone has reinvented himself as an offensive force since he arrived in Seattle. Always a outstanding defender, Boone has been the total package for a very good (but never quite good enough) Mariners team.

10. Bill Mueller, 3B, Boston
.326/.398/.540, 19 HR, 45 2B, 85 RBI

In terms of cost, production, and filling a need, probably the best offseason acquisition in baseball. Theo Epstein thought he was getting a solid defender with solid on-base skills; instead he got the AL batting champ. You could make a case for Trot Nixon, David Ortiz, or Nomar as the 2nd best Red Sox player. And while I don't think anyone will fear facing Bill Mueller when the game is on the line, one can't deny his production this season.
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Thursday, September 25, 2003

I'm not sure if there is any reason for this site to exist. I don't know if I'll ever use it. I'm even less certain that anyone will care. However, if I do ever use this, here is a basic idea of what it will and will not be.

This will probably have nothing to do with my personal life. No deep thoughts on love, none of my problems, nada. I know you don't care. If you do care, talk to me. I'm not the type to pour my heart out on some website. I don't care if other people do it, its just not me.

There are a few things that I might want to write about though, and maybe someone will want to read it. I guess we'll see what happens. Since the Daily Campus didn't pay me last year, and tends to not reply to my emails this year, I doubt I'll write any reviews of CDs or concerts for them. I may very well put up my thoughts on certain bands etc. on here. Like most things I do, it will be for my own amusement. But music has always been of great interest to me, so this may be an effective outlet for that.

Some of you might know that I had my own sports show on UCTV the last few semesters. Due to time constraints and my lack of a co-host, I don't think I'll have a show again. I hope you were sitting down before that last sentence, I'm sure it will cause many a tear to fall. But I still waste plenty of time following and analyzing sports, so I'll probably include that. Postseason awards, rankings, that type of stuff.

One more thing that will probably come up is politics. I've been pretty active in politics since I came to UConn, and certain people will attest to the fact that I will ramble on to no end with my solutions to all the world's problems. Since the DC's commentary has taken a strong turn to the right, I don't know that I'll get a lot of letters published there. I figure this is a good way to enlighten those of you who decide to read this. Sure maybe no one will read it, but I honestly don't care.

Finally, I've been running out of reasons to procrastinate. If I can waste a few minutes here and there writing this, then I've got more reason to put off all the important stuff I need to do. I'll just waste time doing something anyway, so now I can waste your time as well.

I don't know when the next post will be. When the regular season is done for baseball, I'll definitely post my MVP's, Cy Young award winners, and Rookies of the year. Stay tuned. Stay tuned.
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