Sunday, December 30, 2007
There are no clear cut choices for the HOF this year, and two players with connection to the Twins are under consideration. Bert Blyleven spent about 10 years pitching with the Twins; helping them to a World Series victory in 1987. His 287 wins and 3701 strikeouts are among the all-time leaders in those categories.
Jack Morris (see left image) spent 14 years pitching in Detroit. In 1991 he returned to his native Minnesota to pitch for the Twins leading them to a World Series win in 1991. His 10 inning shutout win in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series is greatest one of the greatest World Series pitching performance ever. Morris won more games than any other pitcher in the 1980’s, and was the ace pitcher on three different World Series winning teams.
Despite their successes neither player has come close to making the HOF. Basically BWA voters say Blyleven was never a dominate pitcher during his career and his win – loss record is too close to .500. Morris meanwhile has a career ERA of 3.90 which would be the highest of any pitcher in the HOF. Both men were also not the most accommodating with the baseball writers, who now decide their fate, back when they played.
I watched both Blyleven and Morris pitch for years for and against the Twins. Morris definitely belongs in the HOF. He was the best pitcher of his era, and never seem to fail in a big game. Blyleven I go back and forth on. He definitely was a great pitcher, but I don’t know something just nags at me about his career. I think neither will be voted into the HOF by the BWA. Morris will likely get in via the veterans committee. It is sad that Jack Morris will have to wait so long for a honor he was clearly earned.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Alan Jackson will do well in 2008. His album Good Times comes out March 4 and based on the reaction to his new single Small Town Southern Man on places like Country Universe and elsewhere the album should sell well. Small Town Southern Man should earn single and song of the year nominations. Could Good Times be country album of the year?
Even in this tough time for female artists in country music, Ashton Shepherd will make it. She may not be as successful as Carrie Underwood, but she does not have to be to enjoy a rewarding career.
Taylor Swift is not the greatest singer, but neither is Tim McGraw. He succeeded by making mostly good songs choices. Taylor’s has great potential as a song writer. If she realized this potential on her next album, due in 2008, she could have something. Taylor is also the master of using social media to mobilize and gain fans. This fan base should aid her in her efforts for success.
Faith Hill will leave country music, as she has stated, to make a more soul filled pop album. I wonder if this will be as successful as she thinks, because pop music may in a serious rut in 2008.
Brad Paisley and Keith Urban will have it out for the CMA Entertainer of the Year Award. Since Urban has won previously, Paisley would seem to be next in line. With Sugarland, Josh Turner, and Carrie Underwood coming up behind him, he had better hope he wins in 2008.
Sugarland will continue their ascent to super-stardom and earn a nomination for CMA Entertainer of the Year. Their song “Stay” will earn single and song of the year nominations.
Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith will start fading. Chesney will use this as an opportunity to create more traditional, yet daring, country music.
Josh Turner will continue to rise in the eyes of fans, critics, and award show voters.
Brooks & Dunn will, as they have said, release solo albums. Brooks & Dunn the duo will continue, but their popularity will fade.
Miranda Lambert will either become a star or become frustrated by her inability to get country radio to play her music; with the key being how she mobilizes her fans through social media.
The Dixie Chicks will return to country music in 2008. Why? It is the illogical thing to do. It will also cause the mainstream media to pay a great deal of attention to them, thereby helping them sell albums. Also country music is their natural home, and both sides are probably ready to forget if not forgive.
Gretchen Wilson will disappear for the year while she tries to revive her fading career. Amazing how fast she sank after seemingly being the new voice of women in country music.
Jewel will have a tough time in her bid for country music stardom unless she has more up-tempo songs than the ones I heard on her MySpace page. It will not help her that other pop artists will come flocking to country music and not be really as serious about a real career in country music as she is.
Julianne Hough (two-time winner of Dancing with the Stars) and Lady Antebellum will join Ashton Shepherd as break out new artists in 08.
Martina McBride will fade quickly unless she gets more daring with her music. Her last album was bad, and her great voice wasted. She should make a gospel album, but I sense she is still intent on trying to become a bigger star.
George Strait, Garth Brooks, or Shania Twain will make a daring album of music.
Carrie Underwood will have continued success, but find a building backlash to her success. Then her record label will announce Kelly Clarkson will be making a country album putting both of American Idols biggest star alumni in the same genre and on the same label.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I foresee more traditional country music being made. In the ever growing segmented music market that the Web has created, music for the masses is fading quickly. Country Music and country radio, in order to preserve their existence, must prove there is a unique and strong position for them in the market place. While country-pop will not die out, artists and record labels will find that traditional country artists have a better chance to build that unique position, and be able to build fan bases via social media like MySpace and YouTube.
Of course just making traditional country music will not guarantee an artists success. Artists must have talent and a charisma that draws people to them. They must also take the time to mobilize their fan base to advocate for them in the market place.
The cd will live on in country music for 2008, but I suspect more artists will release their music only via iTunes or other downloading services. Producing physical cd’s and having them stocked in stores will be left artists who the label can guaranteed will sell a certain amount of cds.
Country touring will continue to consolidate. Artists will continue to co-headline like Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood are in 2008. Fans that are paying $60 - $140 for a ticket – not counting what they pay for parking, souvenirs, and dinner out – will demand more for their money. Country artists who care about their fans will respond to these demands. Country artists who do not respond will pay by losing fans.
Many veteran artists will find their stars faded, while others will see their prestige rise. New artists will emerge. I will review what artists will do what in 2008 in my next post.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Delmon Young is a future superstar. One of the finest young players in the game, Young’s excellent right-handed bat is just what the Twins need hitting in-between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Though Young is an excellent right fielder, he can also play center field. With former center fielder Torii Hunter gone via free agency, and Michael Cuddyer established in right field, Young is needed in center more. He could also play left field or dh.
Getting a young potential superstar like Young does not come cheap. Garza is an excellent, young arm with a 95 mph fastball. Garza was viewed as Johan Santana’s replacement as the Twins’ #1 starter. Still, the Twins have lots of young pitchers and few young position players. Young is more valuable to them as an every day contributor than Garza is as an every five day contributor.
Young, of course, has a downside. He has had a problem with a sharp temper. In the minors Young was suspended for throwing a bat at an umpire, and he had a blowup last year with Ray’s manager Joe Maddon. However, Garza is not exactly a calm guy either. Many times when he pitched his emotions got the best of him ruining what could have been some good outings.
Bartlett and Harris are about even as shortstops. Both players did not make names for themselves till they got to their late 20’s. Bartlett is the better fielder while Harris is the better hitter. Harris can also play 2nd and some 3rd.
Morlan is a young, hard throwing reliever who played last year in Class A. Pridie is a young outfielder with some potential, and he is a center fielder.
Most trades occur because of needs. The Twins need hitting and position players, and have lots of good young pitchers. The Rays have lots of good, young position players, but need pitching and defense at shortstop.
Young gives the Twins future superstar hitter. Pridie adds depth to a Twins’ minor league system short on good position players. With Garza the Rays now have three great young starting pitchers in Scott Kazmir, James Shields, and Garza. A fourth young pitching star in David Price is on the way. With Bartlett to improve their defensive, the Rays could be on their way to a rare thing for them - contention in the AL East.
The Twins are thinking about contending too. Young is a good pickup. I hate to loose Garza, but I think Santana is about to be traded some top flight young pitching. If the Twins trade Joe Nathan too, they might get even more top young pitchers.
We need hitting and hitting is Young’s thing. Welcome Delmon Young – only a couple more years on the turf then its outdoors to play baseball, but bring your coat it gets cold in April, May and October up in Minnesota.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Torii Hunter gave the Minnesota Twins everything he had for nine years. A 2 time All-Star, 7 time Gold Glove winner, Hunter helped the Twins to four division titles.
Last night Torii Hunter agreed to a 5 year $90 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. With the Angels Hunter joins a championship contending team with a fine owner, and manager.
Torii Hunter leaves me with positive memories. He helped restore the Twins to winning ways and for that he deserves props. He got a chance to get big money, and play for a championship contender, and he took it. That is his right.
The Twins could never match $18 million a year he got from the Angels. The Twins could never give a 5 year to the 32 year old Hunter. As hard as it is to lose Hunter, the Twins, given the situation the found themselves in, did the right thing by letting him go.
The Twins have much work to do this off-season, especially with Johan Santana who I expect is unsignable and will need to be traded. However, I remind myself that Justin Mourneau is the most valuable Twin. More than Joe Mauer, Johan Santana, and Torii Hunter, Mourneau is the key to the Twins winning or losing. Mourneau’s tailspin at the end of the 07 season was the main reason the Twins lost. Morneau’s MVP effort in the second part of the 06 was the main reason the Twins won.
The Twins must build around Morneau. All moves should be gear to that idea. Still it is sad to see Torii Hunter leave. Good luck Torii. May the Angels and you win your division and lose to the Twins in the playoffs.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I started watching for his name in the box scores in newspaper. I hunted down articles on him in magazines that I found in the public library. And I was fired up when I my first chance I to see him on tv. It was a Saturday night in 1980 on a local board cast of the North Stars playing the Islanders in New York.
I would get to see plenty of Bryan the next year when the North Stars took on the Islanders in the Stanly Cup Finals. The Islanders won, but I was not mad at Trottier, because had become my favorite player of all-time, and he still in today.
The 1997 Hall of Famer was a member of four straight Stanley Cup Champion New York Islander teams. Bryan could not only score (he had six 100 point seasons), but he was a top notched defensive forward who was not afraid to hit someone. Bryan won the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1978-79. He was named to four NHL All-Star teams, and won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 1979-80. Bryan ended up with six Stanley Cup Championships.
I had sent a hockey card to Bryan earlier this year to sign, but never got anything back from him. I had seen on the Web that other people were getting things back from him, so I gave it another try. Not having any 1979-80 Trottier cards to spare, I use my computer to create a Trottier hockey card. It worked out well, and I was very pleased to receive my card back signed and even personalized from Bryan. Thank you Bryan, you are now not only my favorite hockey player of all-time, your name is on my favorite autographed hockey card of all-time.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
It is always good news when new Alan Jackson music arrives. “Small Town Southern Man” is the lead single from Alan’s new album due in February 2008. It is a touching song about Alan’s father journey through life. It is Alan at his traditional country music best and the song has some tempo to it which I like. I hope it will go to number one, and help Alan sell a lot of albums.
It is interesting to note - in light of my recent posts - that I found this song on Alan’s MySpace page before I heard it on radio or his Web site. This is yet another sign of the growing use of social media in the marketing of country music.
I should also note that Alan’s MySpace page is where I got the banner featured in this post. Thanks to Alan and his fan club for making it available for his fans to use.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Star De Azlan is a young woman from Martinsville, Texas who I discovered recently. Ms De Azlan is a new country music artist who has just released her first country single. On her MySpace page I found her amazing new song “She’s Pretty”. It is real country from a real country artist.
There is more to Ms De Azlan’s MySpace page than just her song. She has a short bio and, perhaps more importantly, a short video about herself. In the past, country radio was a new country artist’s major access to the majority of country fans. If radio program directors did not like you, your music, or feared you or your music could be cause division among their listeners, you had no chance at a successful country music career.
Ms De Azlan is now preparing to see if country radio will accept her. Unfortunately she has things working against her. She is a woman, and female artists have a tougher time getting played more than the male artists favored by country radio’s predominately female audience.
Female traditional country singers like Ms De Azlan have tougher time getting airplay than more country pop sounding females. Ashton Shepherd and Miranda Lambert are examples this. Ms De Azlan though has one other thing against her that Ashton and Miranda do not.
I have intentionally identified Ms De Azlan by her last name in this posting. De Azlan is not exactly Brooks, McEntire, Jackson, Williams, or Judd. Ms De Azlan is of Hispanic decent. Few Hispanic artists have ever been successful in country music. In fact, minorities of any kind have had difficulty in country music. Few have even bothered to try.
Star De Azlan is going to try, and in the old days I would rate her chances as not very good. Radio programmers would see her last name and think “what is she doing trying to get on my station.”
Today though, social media like MySpace and YouTube give Star a chance to get pass these uninformed stereotypes. People who visit MySpace pages are always interested in listening to and viewing things. Star has her song playing when you arrive at her page. You quickly hear her country sound, and you understand this is real country music.
More importantly there is a video on the page you can play that introduces Star De Azlan to the fans of country music. In the video you hear Star talk about her music, and where she is from. You hear her tell you in unaccented English that she loves country music greats like George Strait. You heard she got her start in Cheatham Street Warehouse bar where a young George Strait got his start.
Suddenly the connectivity between Star and the user starts to build. Star loves George Strait. Almost all country fans love George Strait. The visitor’s now starts to think, Star loves George Strait well so do I. A connection is made. As we watch the video we learn that Star’s life is like many country fans’ lives. She is one of them. More connections are made.
These connections allow Star’s brown face and Hispanic sounding name fade to the background, and her music comes forward. She is, after all, no different than any other country artist or fan. Once the connection is established, it spreads. The visitor to her page tells someone else that they have to check Star’s music out. That person is impressed, and spreads the word as well. Like a spider web, news of Star De Azlan will spread out amongst country fans.
It is those fans who will call country radio stations and request her music be played. Those calls will trigger program directors to play her music, regardless of their original thoughts of her. Once on the radio, Star’s career will grow, and stardom could be achieved.
Nothing is guaranteed of course. Still, those who can harness the power of social medium can boost their changes of success. Taylor Swift was once viewed a tall, skinny, 17 year old girl who had a song name after a country music superstar (Tim McGraw). Today, Taylor is a young country music star with over a million albums sold. Taylor used MySpace to build a connection to fans who then acted on her behalf to get country radio to play her music, and help become a country music star.
Star De Azlan must do the same. I hope she is successful. We need more traditional female country artists. However, it will be a tough fight. She will need to use all the resources at her disposable to establish a connection to country music fans. With her MySpace page she is off to a strong start.
P.S. – In case you are wondering, Star and her efforts will be featured in my actual paper.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Miranda has released 6 songs to country radio, and has no top ten hits. Still her debut album Kerosene sold around 900,000 units, and her new album Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is selling well.
Miranda has found an audience not only with the help of country radio, and touring, but with the help of her active MySpace page and YouTube. These new mediums allow talented artists like Miranda to expose their music to people who perhaps do not listen to the radio, or want to listen to artist’s music when they, the listener, want to listen to it, not when some radio station wants to play it.
This is one advantage to using MySpace and YouTube. There are more, but you will have to read my paper, or attend my presentation to learn about them. However, here is a YouTube video posted by nwmac of Miranda singing one of my favorites “Dry Town” at her fan club party earlier this year.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
“Flat on the Floor” and “Let’s Get Out of This Town” were songs that caught my ear not just for the fact that they were good, but that they were country sounding. With all of Carrie’s crossover success with her debut album Some Hearts, Carrie could have followed Shania Twain and Faith Hill’s example, and gone more pop like in her music instead she went more country. That can only be good news for country music.
Country Music needs Carrie Underwood. Along with Miranda Lambert and Ashton Shepherd, Carrie is going to be the leader of a new era for women of country music. Country needs strong, young, female artists for it to thrive, and it looks like Carrie Underwood as decide she wants to be one of them.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, and Mary Chapin Carpenter are names recognizable to even the most peripheral country music fan. In January of 1988 it was a different story. Country Music was going through dramatic change. The new traditionalist movement lead by Randy Travis had taken Country back to its roots and made commercial inroads with record buyers. Travis entered 1988 on top of the Country charts with his hugely successful “Always & Forever” album, which would go multi-platinum within a year of its release, a nearly unheard of feat in Country Music.
Randy Travis’ success proved Country was ripe for a commercial boom, and every label in Nashville wanted to be part of it. With many aging stars fading, Nashville record labels were looking for young talent to supplement the new traditionalist artists. What the labels found was more than a supplement, it turned out to be new foundation for Country Music. Every member of the Class of 89 would come from a different record label. In fact one, Alan Jackson, would come from a label, Arista Nashville; that did not even exist in Nashville in 1988.
(The rest of the article can be found by following the link below. Back in the day, I had to prove I could use HTML to build a basic Web site. I dedicated the site to some of my favorite country music artists. One of the articles I wrote for the site was this.)
Copywrited © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
I have had better success with the 87 Twins. The 87 Twins I have gotten to date include:
Frank Viola - got in person, does not sign through the mail
Bert Blyleven – charges for autographs, but I got him at Twinsfest for charity donation
Juan Berenguer – included a signed card of his own along with mine
Roy Smalley – also a member of the 79 Twins
Don Baylor – got in person, does not sign through the mail
Les Straker – got during the 20th anniversary celebration of the 87 team, lives in Venezuela
Andy MacPhail – the team’s general manager
Carl Pohlad – the team’s owner
Ralph Houk – a senior advisor to Tom Kelly and also manager of the 61 Yankees
I have not gotten:
Dan Schatzeder – He is known for taking months to sign or not signing at all.
Decease members of the team include:
The 79 Twins are proving harder to get. The 79 Twins I have gotten to date include:
Roy Smalley – was also a member of the 87 Twins
I sent requests to these individuals, but have not heard back. Some of the requests have been out for months.
Paul Hartzell – just got this back, and I had the wrong address
I will be getting around to these individuals:
Mike Bacsik – It was his son that gave up home run 756 to Barry Bonds
Deceased members of the team include:
Calvin Griffith – the team’s owner
Gene Mauch - the team’s manager
Mike Marshall refused to allow a baseball card of him be made that year. I also hear he does not sign autographs.
It has been an enjoyable experience collecting these autographs. Former Twins players seem to be quite nice about signing autographs both in person and through the mail. It is also nice to get something other than bills in the mail.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Saturday, September 22, 2007
I found Ashton’s music after reading about her in a Chet Flippo column on cmt.com. Chet loved her music and now I know why. Check out Ashton’s myspace page and you will hear her fiery debut single “Takin’ Off This Pain” and her amazing “I Ain’t Dead Yet”.
Ashton sings and writes great neo-traditional country music. In fact her music reminds me of Alan Jackson’s. I recently learned that Ashton has sighted Alan Jackson as an influence. Since I love Alan’s music, this just raises my opinion of Ashton even more.
Lately it has been tough sledding for female country artist’s not named Carrie Underwood. It has been especially tough traditional sounding female artists. However, if Ashton and her record label can keep plugging away like Miranda Lambert and her record label are, Ashton’s could be something else.
I sense some veteran country female artists’ careers are slowing down, and that means new female voices are needed. It is real country music singer-songwriters like Ashton Shepherd we need in country music right now. Hopefully, we will a lot more from her.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
In 1974-75 he team with Gilbert Perrault and Rene Robert to form the fabled French Connection line that helped Buffalo to its first Stanley Cup finals. The Sabers lost the Stanley Cup Finals to the Philadelphia Flyers and Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke - who also was kind enough to sign a hockey card for me not long ago.
Rick’s career was cut short by injuries, but he had nine years where he was able to play most games and all were productive years. He may never make the Hockey Hall of Fame, but was a four time All-Star, and for my money, one of the best left wingers of ever.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Terry Ryan became the Twins G.M. in 1994 replacing Andy MacPhail who had guided the Twins to two World Series Titles. Ryan watched as the Twins minor leagues failed to produce enough talent to supplement his fading major league roster. Forced to basically start over, Ryan fell back on his natural gift to evaluate young talent.
Under Ryan’s leadership the Twins rebuilt their minor league system which would go on to produce Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Joe Mauer, and Justin Mourneau amongst others. Ryan was able to make the one of greatest Rule 5 acquisition of all-time in Johan Santana. Don’t forget all the great trades he made.
Has everything Ryan done work out? No, but without Terry Ryan there might not be baseball in Minnesota. Many Twins fans, me included, were worn down by the losing in mid to late 90’s. If the Twins had not started winning in 2000, would the outcry over contraction been as loud? Would the Twins have a new stadium on the way? I think not, and Terry Ryan can take a good deal of credit for this by turning the Twins into winners again.
Thank you Terry Ryan for bringing back competitive baseball to Minnesota, and I hope you enjoy this new phase of your life.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I will write more about Alan over time. Still let me leave you something to think about; of the artists who debuted with Alan in 1989, who is still at his level artistically and commercially? How about the artists who debuted before 1989? I think it is an awfully short list.
I have no proof this was actually the case. Sabermertics people (people who study baseball stats) could probably produce numerous stats proving that say, for example, Torii Hunter was more important to the Twins success during those years. And while I love examining baseball stats and using them to prove a baseball player importance or unimportance, I sometimes just like going with a feeling that I get that a certain player is the key to a team.
Jacque, like Gary Gaetti before him, is one of those players whose value went beyond stats. Jacque willingly batted leadoff, even if he was not a typical leadoff hitter. Jacque, a left fielder, willingly moved to right field when Shannon Stewart joined the Twins and expressed a comfort level playing left field over right field. This made Stewart more productive and the Twins a better team.
Jacque was a team leader and teammate by example not words. I felt a need to write about Jacque, because I just received autographed baseball card back from him. Baseball cards stir up memories in me, and my memories of Jacque and his play for the Twins came back to me upon looking at this card. I could not help but think how great Jacque would look in left field for today’s Twins. Not to mention hitting leadoff.