April 4, 2009

MLB Preview

The 2009 baseball season is upon us, and it's time for some thoughts on the 6 months of summer action to come.

Can the Rays compete in the 2009 AL East? (Photo: Brian Cassella)

Most interesting pennant race:
AL East. Typically the traditional Red Sox vs. Yankees slugfest, the emergence of the Rays last year left the Yankees out of the playoffs. Can a retooled Yankees team (Teixeira, Burnett, Sabathia, etc.) reclaim their playoff spot? The answer is probably yes, but at whose expense? I actually think it will be Boston. The Rays' young talent looked pretty solid, and their pitching is deep enough that David Price is starting the season in the minors. Red Sox Nation won't take a 3rd place finish very well.

Most balanced division: AL Central. This division is as up-for-grabs as it gets. Everyone but the Royals has a good shot at winning the division, but any one of those teams could finish last as well. Will the D-Train get back on track and help the Tigers get back to the World Series? Will the Indians stay healthy and crush everyone? It's anyone's guess.

Matt Wieters as a star at Georgia Tech (Photo: Peter Aiken)

Most interesting young player: Matt Wieters. The young catcher out of Georgia Tech is probably the Orioles best prospect and is expected to make a big splash this year. Based on what I saw at GT and what I've been hearing, he could be the full package as an All-Star catcher. Don't be surprised if he happens to get a couple innings as a pitcher as well, since he was a dominant closer at Tech as well.

Player(s) most worth watching: This has to go to two players I strongly dislike. A-Rod has been in the news a lot this offseason, and usually underperforms under pressure. However, his success will be the key to the Yankees' success, both getting to the playoffs and winning once they get there. The other player is Manny. Manny being Manny will be the story in LA this year, and if he plays like he did the last couple months of 2008, the Dodgers will dominate the NL West. A funk from the headstrong star could land Torre and the guys in 3rd place.

Most interesting division: This may be a biased pick, but I'm going with the NL East. The Phillies are obviously the returning champs, and I don't know how well they'll be able to sustain their dominance. The Mets have had the talent the last couple years, but just haven't delivered. No one should be surprised if they win this division. The Braves have bought themselves a new rotation, and if it stays healthy, the Braves should have enough offense to make things very interesting. On the bottom side, the Marlins are always worth watching to see the stars of the future and for the occasional World Series run. The Nats should be better than last year as well, but I'll leave that to Jeremy.

Cliff Lee's continued dominance is key to the Indians' aspirations.

Division winners:
AL East: NY Yankees
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
AL West: LA Angels (of Anaheim)
AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays
NL East: NY Mets
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
NL West: LA Dodgers
NL Wild Card: Philadelphia Phillies

World Series prediction (sure to be wrong):
Indians over Dodgers. The Indians will be unstoppable behind Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, and a healthy Hafner and Martinez, while Manny and Torre will carry the Dodgers behind their always strong rotation. With my curse now fixed on them, I'm sure neither will make the playoffs.

Enjoy the season!

April 2, 2009

Redskins' Incompetence on Display Again

The Redskins are no strangers to offseason news, but we usually have to wait until October to see that they've totally screwed the pooch yet again. A pair of early-April stories that surfaced again today make me think this might be the best year yet for Redskins' incompetence. Given this organization's track record, I'm thrilled to see the new depths they might achieve.

hblahblah "Mr. Cerrato, most adults aren't this captivated by the birdie."

The first and smaller news story is that the Titans are strongly considering filing tampering charges against the Redskins, who reached an agreement in principle (and a lot of principal) with DT Albert Haynesworth a mere hours after free agency began. The Titans have asked the league to conduct an investigation. Already, Skins GM/lapdog Vinny Cerrato has made comments on his radio show that could be construed as a reach-out to Haynesworth before the period opened. On March 11, Skins KR/RB Rock Cartwright said "I kind of had an idea they were going to sign [Haynesworth] anyways ... One of my teammates said they had the same agent and ... he said they had been talking." Haynesworth and WR failure Malcolm Kelly have the same agent. The quote and tidbit about the shared agent come from Fanhouse.

The league is notoriously bad about enforcing the tampering rules, but maybe there will be a little fire behind all this smoke. The penalty is usually forfeiture of draft picks, but it's rare for the Skins to have many anyway.

The bigger story is that the Skins publicly swung and missed in their attempt to land promising, young, petulant QB Jay Cutler in a trade with Denver. The Skins incumbent QB, Jason Campbell, has long been the target of Redskins fan ire. Many even would prefer Todd Collins. In a related note, most Skins fans are somewhere between delusional and stupid.

Campbell has reacted well to the news that he was wanted less than an unpopular malcontent whose rookie head coach tried to replace him with Matt Cassel within minutes of taking the job. "Hey Jason! We loved you all along!" That doesn't work on girlfriends, and I bet it doesn't work on quarterbacks either. At least they didn't go after Kyle Boller.

More than most seasons, I can't wait for 2009 to kick off. The Redskins appear headed for an implosion above and beyond their usual.

March 31, 2009

Idol Recap - 3/31/09

Hey, look, it's David Spade in the front row of American Idol. He's probably lower than the 15th-most famous person in the auditorium. Wow, we've fallen far. Buh-bye.

So the Idolists visit Ryan Seacrest in Sherman Oaks at his AT40 studio. Nice job showing the clock in the background. I'm sure that the Idolists took a lot away from their 11-minute stay with you, Ryan. But hey, a plug for how multi-dimensional you are. You are truly great.

Anoop Desai - Caught Up
Anoop proves why you should never listen to the guy who played bass guitar in pink spandex for Journey. Anoop basically was a caricature of the Bollywood guy trying to R&B it up. He struts on stage and it just kind of looks like a joke. Pretty horrible.

Megan Joy - Turn Your Lights Down Low
Megan apparently got off her Carnival ship in Cozumel at some point between today and results show last Thursday. Hey, look, it's that cute hair braid that 10-year-olds come back from Mexico with. And lots and lots of shitty costume jewelry that looks like it cost 19 pesos combined. Why am I focusing on her look? Because her voice is like fingernails on a chalkboard at this point. How the hell will America vote her through again? Maybe she can pull out God Bless the U.S.A. to save her for another few weeks like brilliant Kristy Lee Cook.

Danny Gokey - What Hurts the Most
Adam Duritz reminds us why he's still a favorite to win the competition after a pretty sub-par week last week. Pretty damn good vocals. And hey, he didn't play up the fact that he had another death in his family earlier this week. Maybe it was those Idol producers who were responsible for bringing up the fact 4,876,325 times that his wife died.

Allison Iraheta - Don't Speak
Camera zooms in on Tina Turner - wait, shit, that's Allison Iraheta doing her version of Heart sings Bonnie Tyler sings Gwen Stefani. Allison switches it up and "plays the guitar" tonight - actually, she strummed one chord for about 25 seconds and then it was just a prop that got in the way. She's certainly better than some of the performers, but not the best night for Allison. Still, she'll avoid going back to the furniture store for another week.

Scott MacIntyre - Just The Way You Are
It's time for your friendly local pedophile to cover Billy Joel tonight. Seriously, is Scott's voice and laugh and entire persona creepy, or what? Bottom line, I'll give it to Scott, we all know I'm not a huge fan of his, but it was a terrific performance. I gotta say though, he's gotta pick up a pair of Stevie Wonder/Ray Charles dark glasses... those wandering eyes are just distracting as hell. But what do I know, clearly I'm just a shallow ass.

Matt Giraud - You Found Me
Clearly shaken by last week's bottom three, he just tried too damn hard this week. Starting with the first note when he blew his cue. I was waiting for him to pull a Brooke White and start over. He needed to strip it down to just he and the keyboard rather than try to hold up to this insane arrangement and go lead rocker. It was not a good week for Matt. So much wasted potential with this one.

Lil Rounds - I Surrender
Do they tell the Idolettes in the audience that they are required to cheer anytime a note lasts longer than three seconds? If so, that's the only reason Lil got applause tonight. As a total aside, Lil has a weird obsession with wigs it seems. She's going to be in some serious danger if she keeps going on this crappy spiral downwards.

Adam Lambert - Play That Funky Music
Alright, Adam has to start getting scary and horrible again because I really hate him too much to see him win this thing. I will say something nice about him - he does more with the arrangements of his songs than any other contestants. Now, seriously, Adam, please, please, please, please stop the hip shaking. Please. For the love of God. I beseech you.

Kris Allen - Ain't No Sunshine
Kris is pulling the "reverse Lil" and getting stronger and stronger each week to the point that I genuinely believe he could supplant Gokey in the pre-determined Idol final versus Adam Lambert. He's just really picking good songs, doing what he needs to with them, and dominating. I think my wife just added another male celebrity to her "list." And if you don't know what the "list" is, watch Entourage.


Lil Rounds
Megan Corkrey
Matt Giraud

Also, I'm outta here for the next two weeks in the greater Roma, Firenze, and Venezia metropolitan areas. My esteemed ECB colleagues will be covering for me the next two weeks. They will do more justice to these recaps than I ever could.

March 30, 2009

Point of Pride for Terps Fans

We've already covered how this year's Maryland basketball squad exceeded expectations by even making the NCAA Tournament. In case you didn't realize, the Terps beat two of the Final Four teams, Michigan State and North Carolina, during regular season play.

Seriously, people wanted to fire Gary this year?