Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Twins trade for Delmon Young

Reportedly the Twins have traded Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, and Edurado Morlan to the Tampa Bay Rays for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Jason Pridie. The trade is a bold move for the Twins.

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

Goodbye Torii Hunter

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

Random Thought - Bryan Trottier

I was just getting back into hockey, and was collecting hockey cards extensively for the first time in 1979-80. That year’s Bryan Trottier card caught my eye. It not only looks good, but the red 1st Team All-Star banner under his picture it said he was someone to reckon with. That card sparked my interest in Bryan, and he soon became my favorite hockey player.

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

Alan Jackson - "Small Town Southern Man"

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 – Using Social Media to Help Become a Country Music Star

I stated in my last post that I am doing a paper on “The Effect of MySpace and YouTube on the Marketing of Country Music”. Social media such as MySpace and YouTube offer us a chance to create a connection with others. Having connectivity with another person is a way to develop a positive relationship with that person, and quite often can lead to benefits (tangible and intangible) for both people.

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.