February 12, 2009

Swim the Atlantic? Proof 10% Is Now Good Enough

The great human interest piece over the weekend was that cougar Jennifer Figge became the first person to swim the Atlantic Ocean. Ok, obviously she didn't stray too far from the beach in Portugal and end up in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. She swam MOST of the ocean, or so we were told.

Ok, she only swam from the Cape Verde Islands, well off the west African coast, to Trinidad, well off the South American coast.

Ok, she really only swam 10% of the way, according to her own people. That's 250 miles, or roughly 40% of the distance from Cape Hatteras to Bermuda.

In related news:

Orlando Cabrera of the Chicago White Sox has claimed the single season home run crowd after hitting a mind-boggling 8 or 80 homers last season.

Everyone who finished the Skokie, Illinois, 5K to Fight Lawyer Insensitivity is being credited with having completed the Boston Marathon.

I walked from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., today.

This blog is in the top 800 in traffic.

February 11, 2009

Idol Preview/Recap

So for those of you who are new to ECB, here's fair warning. In possibly the most gay thing that we collectively do, and something that you probably could not predict, we review and predict the results of American Idol following each performance round. We do our best to recap after each evening's performance and predict the results of that night's voting. If we don't get to a particular performance review, sue us. And just as a side of bragging, we've been remarkably on in previous seasons, picking the winner usually with at least 6 contestants remaining.

The format for this season will be interesting. Three groups of 12 finalists. One group to perform each week. Each group of 12 will be voted down to three, the last male standing, the last female standing, and the next-highest vote getter. That means that nine contestants will get axed in each of the next three weeks and that will leave nine surviving contestants, three from each group. The judges will then use three "wild cards" to choose three people who have been eliminated to be revived. That will be the Final 12. And then two more will be eliminated. And then you'll have your American Idol concert tour.

The hottest American Idol finalist ever? Who remembers that she finished 16th in 2007?

So a few thoughts on the Top 36

- BOWIE, MARYLAND REPRESENT!!!! A Marylander is in the Top 36. Nicely done. Ju'Not Joyner.

- I didn't think that there would be such a noticeable decline in the talent going from the top 24 to the top 36. All I can say is that we know now that in previous seasons, positions 25 through 36 were dreadful, based upon some of the dregs that got through this season.

- Five early favorites: Alexis Grace, Anoop Desai (the Indian voting bloc will come out strong), Stevie Wright, Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta. Anoop, Danny, and Alexis all perform next week, which means that they've got a card handed against them already... next week's lineup seems a little too stacked for me (aside from Tatiana). It means that one of the following two weeks we're going to get a shitshow.

- Horrifying: I think that if there was a pay-per-view contest with Tatiana Del Toro getting more and more pain steadily inflicted on her based upon the number of people who purchased the contest, it would be one of the highest grossing PPV's ever. Holy hell... girl, SHUT UP!!!

- Horrifying pt. 2: Vote for the Worst will be out in force to get Norman Gentle/Nick Mitchell through. Listen, the man will make a great drag queen. How would you feel if you've been eliminated from Idol and you see this asshole still performing and STILL getting votes? Wow.

- Horrifying pt. 3: I'm about to sound horribly old, but I think this season will be known for the most painful contestant piercings ever. I've seen horseshoes through the nose, cheeks pierced, lips pierced, and God knows what else that we haven't seen.

- Separated at birth: Waldo (of Where's Waldo fame) from Alex Wagner-Trugman

- Separated at birth pt. 2: Jaime Pressley (of My Name is Earl) from Kristen McNamara

- Un-P.C. thing to say for the night: Scott MacIntyre (blind guy) really isn't all that good.

- Late-breaking update (edited morning of 2/12): Joanna Pacitti, the good-looking chick who consistently forgot the lyrics to her songs and had previously had a record deal, was booted from the competition, replaced by somebody who I don't remember, who got zero face time, and and who got eliminated last night.

Nationals Do Something Relevant

The Washington Nationals today signed 28-year old left-handed slugging first baseman/outfielder Adam Dunn to a two-year deal, details to be announced tomorrow, but Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated reports that the total contract is $20 million.

In seven full years in the big leagues, Dunn has averaged 37 home runs and 89 RBI per year. While he strikes out a disproportionately high number of times per AB, his slugging percentage is pretty damn good.

To put this into perspective, last year, Lastings Milledge and Ryan Zimmerman were tied for the team home run lead.

With 14 home runs.

Last year, Lastings Milledge led the team in RBI.

With 61.

Dunn isn't just a hitter. He also brings solid fielding to the diamond. Playing right field, left field, and first base at various points in his career, he has a career .974 fielding percentage. This .974 fielding percentage, while not great, puts him right in the middle of the pack of last years' Washington Nationals, slightly below Austin Kearns, and ahead of Elijah Dukes and Ronnie Belliard.

But more importantly, the addition of Dunn shows that the team is committed to signing talent and making this team better. The status quo in Washington would have been toxic. A 59-loss team that didn't improve markably over the offseason (granted, Willingham and Olsen were nice pickups, but not earth-moving pickups), that was out-and-out spurned by Mark Texeira, that is suffering from a ballpark development project that is stalled due to the economy (the surrounding neighborhood of bars and restaurants around Nats Park are now at least 1.5-2 seasons from completion whereas many were supposed to open in time for Opening Day 2009), and that is seeing its season ticket base dry up and shrivel faster than Cloris Leachman, needed a shot in the arm like this. The Nats get an instant star and somebody to build "NatsTown" around. As J-Red says, the only thing Nats fans have to pray for is that he "pees clean."

Additionally, Dunn will have an impact elsewhere in the lineup. He provides protection for guys like Ryan Zimmerman and Lastings Milledge, who before were attacked by opposing pitchers because they often came up with nobody on base and nobody behind them in the lineup.

Finally, somebody like Dunn changes the mindset of the Nationals fans. Whereas before, if we were losing by 3-5 runs after the 6th inning, it was time to head for the exits, as there was just nobody in the lineup who could make the game competitive. Now, that's not exactly the case anymore.

While terms haven't been announced, it's safe to say that Dunn signed with the Nats today for less than the Nats would have had to pay some weeks or months ago, before it became clear that it was a buyer's market for free agents.

Give credit where credit is due, nicely done Kasten and Bowden. And thank you Lerners for opening your wallets.

February 9, 2009

A-Rod "Admission" Masterful

Wasn't it refreshing to hear A-Rod come clean this afternoon in his interview with Peter Gammons? A-Rod never lied to Congress and he never filed a disastrous slander suit against his former trainer. Sure, he might have told a bald-faced lie or two to Katie Couric, but the tabloids have taught us that lying to women is as easy for A-Rod as hitting 40 homers each season.
Innocent A-Rod (Superman I Smallville Scenes)
At a closer glance, though, A-Rod's admission of guilt left a lot of loopholes. Really, A-Rod's statement is almost exactly the same as Jason Giambi's "I'm sorry for that thing I did that I can't talk about", but with slightly more detail. Check out these quotes and what they really say or don't say (transcript here).
PETER GAMMONS: Alex, this weekend Sports Illustrated reported that in 2003 you tested positive for testosterone, an anabolic steroid known as Primobolan. What is the truth?

ALEX RODRIGUEZ: [Blames pressure of Texas contract]...And I did take a banned substance. You know, for that I'm very sorry and deeply regretful...[blames culture of baseball].

Evil A-Rod (Superman III/Richard Pryor Put Nicotine in Kryptonite Version)

So A-Rod was asked about testosterone and Primobolan, but he only admitted to taking "a banned substance." This gives him a bit of an out as he probably doesn't know what his test showed. If it was truly just a survey test, the positive players were probably not notified. If it turns out down the road that A-Rod only tested positive for testosterone, he can say with a straight face that it probably rubbed off of one of the muscular "female" strippers he is known to prefer. Or Madonna. Whichever.

A-Rod was then asked what substances he was taking, where he got them and who introduced him to them. He was able to dance around the issues without naming a single substance or even category of source. He also blamed GNC and the Texas Rangers organization, both of which are pretty safe scape goats. The only thing he seemed sure of was that he did whatever it was that he did between 2001 and 2004, and his career statistical arc proves that the steroids didn't do anything for him.

Somewhat Tarnished Yankee A-Rod (Superman Returns Deadbeat Dad Version)

Gammons asked A-Rod why he stopped, and A-Rod gave a heartwrenching story about an injury he suffered training in Arizona that made him stop and reconsider whatever it was he was putting in his body and whoever it was that he was associating with that provided said unknown substances, though now he can't remember what those substances were or who those people were.

Note: A side effect of steroid use is apparently memory loss.

The remainder of the interview offers just variations on the same theme. A-Rod takes responsibility for something, blames the "culture" for whatever it was that he did, and can't remember anything. Other talking points include "honesty", "gray area", and "kids".

A-Rod in the Playoffs

All in all, A-Rod spent quite a bit of time talking without actually saying anything. The only actual piece of new information that came out of this is that A-Rod is now on record saying he only used banned substances between 2001 and 2004. He told this to a reporter...in the same interview in which he admitted lying to a reporter. A-Rod gets all the "honesty" credit with none of the liability, which is the best possible outcome at this juncture.

Whoever coached him, whether it was Boras or another PR agent, earned their share of his fortune today.