Sunday, December 30, 2007

Former Twins via for Baseball Hall of Fame

Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett, and Rod Carew are the former Minnesota Twins who are in the Baseball Hall of Fame (HOF). HOF members Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, and Steve Carlton also played for short periods with the Twins. Now as every year at this time the Baseball Writers of America (BWA) are voting on candidates for the HOF.

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

Selected Country Music Artists Fortunes in 2008

I review what artists will do what in 2008.

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

Looking into Country Music 2008

Rather than review the year 2007, I thought I would look into the year 2008 and see where country music and some of its artists are heading.

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.