Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Torii Hunter Gave Twins Fans Hope

Torii Hunter, more than any other Minnesota Twin player, came to represent the Twins revival during this four division titles in six years run. His strong play was supplemented by his likable personality. Hunter was the best and most important Twins player from 2000-2003. In 2004 Johan Santana replaced Hunter as the best player, and in 2006 Justin Morneau became Twins’ most important player. Still, fans had a special place for Torii Hunter and he remained the team’s dominant personality.

On Sunday, September 24, 2007 Torii Hunter likely played his last home game as a member of the Minnesota Twins. His contract is up, and while I think the Twins will try to resign him, I fear another team will give him more money and years.

Hunter correctly received standing obviations and chance to take a bow in his final home game. Hunter played hard every game. Sure he wasn’t always the best hitter, and he did not always pickup that needed rbi, but he always played to win. That is why he will, if he indeed leaves, be missed. I want to extend a personal thank you to Torii Hunter. Torii, you maybe did not help us get to the World Series, but you gave us hope that we could.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ashton Shepherd – the New Female Voice of Country Music?

Ashton Shepherd could become the new female voice of country music. She is that good.

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

Random Thought - Rick Martin

I just got a signed hockey card from Rick Martin. Originally known as Richard Martin, Rick was a star left winger for the Buffalo Sabers during the 70’s and early 80’s. His best years were 1973-74 and 1974-75 when he had back to back 52 goal seasons. He also scored over 40 goals three other seasons.

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

Thank You Terry Ryan

Terry Ryan has decided to end his tenure as Minnesota Twins General Manager. Good for him. He is leaving on his terms and few general managers can say that. Terry Ryan has definitely earned the right to do so.

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

Alan Jackson

Alan Jackson is my favorite country music artist. He conveys simple truths about life that many other music artists seem to miss. Like George Strait, Alan has never tried to reach beyond himself to be something he is not. I consider Alan Jackson on par with Hank Williams Sr., Willie Nelson, and the other legends of country. I feel he is the greatest country singer-song writer of his generation.

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.

Jacque Jones

Jacque Jones was my favorite Minnesota Twin from 2000-20005. I felt that as Jacque Jones went, so went the Minnesota Twins. It seemed to me that when Jacque hit well the Twins won. When Jacque did not hit well the Twins lost.

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.