Monday, December 15, 2008
Now I have a new laptop and I can again post here. Here are some thoughts I have.
Alan Jackson CMT Giant Special
I was able to watch the Alan Jackson CMT Giant special over the Internet. I thought it was great. I especially loved the George Strait performance of “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)”. You can watch the CMT Giant special here.
Some Great TTM Returns
I had a huge TTM day on 12/4. I got three signed cards. One was former Viking kicker Fred Cox. I mailed the card to Mr. Cox’s Minnesota address, but the return envelop was postmarked Phoenix, AZ. Mr. Cox must own a winter home in AZ. Lucky him!
I also got my signed Alan Page card back. Mr. Page requires a $20 donation to his foundation in exchange for an autograph. I saw on his foundation’s Web site that his price was going up next year, so I hustled a card out to him. I now have 7 signed cards from the Vikings who were on the last two Super Bowl teams. Tarkenton, Page ($), Krause ($ - also sent me a signed HOF postcard), Bryant, Tickelhoff, Voigt and Cox have signed so far. I must say they have been better signers than some of their NFL brethren. It is a tribute to their character that they are decent enough to sign.
I will try to add to this collection. I have cards for Ron Yary, Chuck Foreman, Jeff Siemon, and Bud Grant ready to go. I hear Mr. Yary charges like $10. I know Mr. Foreman appears at Twinsfest and charges $. I also hear Coach Grant desires a chartable donation. I will send to Mr. Siemon after Christmas.
The third card I received from Camilo Pascual. Mr.Pascual was the first Twin to win 20 games. He did so in back to back years. I sent a card to him c/o Dodgers where he works as a scout. I was very pleased to receive it back signed. I must say Mr. Pascual has one of the neatest signatures I have ever seen. You can read every letter in his name. I don’t think Mr. Pascual is that young anymore, but he sure has some of best handwriting out there.
I wanted to also note I recently got back someone Mr. Pascual knows well. Sam Mele was the Twins manager in 1965 when they went to the World Series. In 2005 when the Twins held a 40th anniversary reunion of that team, Mr. Mele was unable to attend because he was seriously ill. I had assumed he was still not doing so well when I saw another person received a signed card back from him. I went out and bought a card of him and sent it out. About a week later, it was returned signed. I now have signed cards from the three greatest managers in Twins history – Tom Kelly, Ron Gardenhire, and Sam Mele.
Thanks to Mr. Mele, Mr. Pascual, Mr Page, and Mr Cox for taking the time to sign my cards
One other return to mention.
On 12/4 I received a signed card from Wayne Gretzky. I was quite please. I wondered it was a stamp or auto penned. After examining it, it is not a stamp, and it is likely not auto penned. Of course, I have no intentions of ever selling or trading any of my signed cards, so it matters little in the end. After talking to some people I know, it seems Gretzky was a pretty decent signer when he played, so maybe he carried it over to his non-playing days. Whatever, I was just happy to get a return in the mail.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Reba had all women at her event (Kelly Clarkson, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood, Jennifer Nettles (Sugarland), and LeAnn Rimes). Hank Jr. had mostly men with Gretchen Wilson and his daughter Holly Williams as the only women (Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, and Shooter Jennings were some of the men who appeared).
Alan has George Strait, Taylor Swift, Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, Lee Ann Womack, Martina McBride, and Derrick Bentley performing with Carrie Underwood, Brooks & Dunn, and Diane Sawyer offer video tributes to Alan. Hank Williams Jr. and George Jones will appear in person to pay tribute to Alan.
So Alan has four women and three guys performing. What does that mean? Reba was an icon for young female artists. Hank Jr.’s partying, macho songs tended to be beacon for men. Alan Jackson and his music have touched all genders and age groups. The up-tempo partying songs like “Chattahoochee” and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” are balanced out by romantic songs of love like “Remember When” and “Livin’ On Love” and songs of heart break like “Here in the Real World” and songs fond remembrance like “Drive (for Daddy Gene”.
Alan has also written many of his own songs making him a role model to young singer – songwriters like Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert. He cuts across age with the oldest country hit-making artist (Strait) and the youngest (Swift) honoring him. Alan Jackson has truly been the country music artist for all ages, genders, ethnicities, shapes, and sizes.
Below is what I read on the Web was to be the set list for the night and my comments.
Brad Paisley (w/ an appearance by Alan Jackson) “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” – Paisley is a well-know fan of Alan’s and has modeled his career after him, so he needed to here. Obviously this song had to be included, but I think Paisley was the wrong person. He would have been great doing “Here in the Real World”.
Miranda Lambert & Lee Ann Womack “Gone Country” – Alan was an early booster of Lee Ann’s career and she has not forgotten that. I was pleased to see Miranda included in the evening. I know she is a big fan of Alan’s and she leans toward the traditional country singer – songwriter he is.
I have to see this performance to judge it. I am not sure how a duet with these two fine artists will work on this song. Miranda would have been great on “Mercury Blues” or “Where I Come From”. Lee Ann could have tackled one of Alan’s many amazing ballads.
Martina McBride “Where Somebody Loves You” – A surprising song choice as this song was not one of Alan’s bigger hits. Still it seems to be something Martina could do well with. Martina is a long time admirer of Alan’s. The two have duet together and toured together. Then again everyone has toured with Alan. I was not surprise to see her on the list of performers.
Dierks Bentley “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” – Another obvious song choice. I think it will work well for Dierks. He is another Alan admirer, and a singer – songwriter dedicated to music more than image much like Alan has tried to be. I am not a huge Dierks guy, but I think it great he is here.
Taylor Swift “Drive (For Daddy Gene)” – I read on People Magazine’s Web site that Taylor says this song meant a lot to her father and her. I can see why. This is a real classic and something Taylor should have little problem handling. As a young singer – songwriter I Taylor has great admiration for Alan’s work, and it longevity.
I am sure the producers of the show were happy to have Taylor there, as where Taylor goes viewers follow. No offense to Brad, Lee Ann, Miranda, Martina, and Dierks, but none of them are mega – stars. Love her or hate her, Taylor is a mega star.
George Strait “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning” - Of course George Strait is beyond mega star, he is an icon still charting hits and selling records. He is also a close friend and duet partner of Alan’s. Alan and George have been beacon’s of excellence in country music for years. They are icons. George had to be here, just as Alan should be at George’s CMT Giant celebration when that time comes.
Of course “Where Were You…” had to be included and I am glad George was selected to do the song. I have no doubt it will be a brilliant performance.
Alan Jackson “Chattahoochee” and “Remember When” – If I remember correctly at her CMT Giant celebration Reba sang only “Fancy” and at his Hank Jr. did only “Family Tradition”. Alan evidently will get two songs. Classics like these will remain ageless.Alan Jackson, George Strait, Brad Paisley, and Dierks Bentley “Country Boy” – Alan’s present single gets the All-Star group performance. The song is an interesting choice; I would have gone for “Where I Come From”, but they are all country boys.
I would have liked to see Carrie Underwood perform rather than offer a video tribute. However it looks like her concert schedule made that impossible. Brooks & Dunn also offered a video tribute, but no other artist from the early 90’s (Strait covers the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s) is included. I would have been nice for say Vince Gill, Pam Tillis, Clint Black, Travis Tritt, or Garth Brooks to offer a shout out, but I guess with the limited time available you have to give time to the hot artists of the day and real hip old guys like Hank Jr. and George Jones.
Still I think this will be great. Interestingly Reba, Hank Jr. and Alan have yet to make the Hall of Fame, but Hall of Famers from their generations like Alabama, Vince Gill, and George Strait have not be named CMT Giants. Neither has Garth Brooks. Something tells me that will be corrected in the future as CMT Giants will probably continue on for years. For now it is a true country music giant – Alan Jackson.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Hopeully there will be several wins in 2009.
Morneau is one of the best players in all of baseball. He is able to hit for average or power, and his defense at first is outstanding. The Twins were very wise to lock him up to a long term contract. He will be a cornerstone player for the Twins for years to come.
However, the Twins need to find him a good backup. Morneau cannot be asked to play every game next season. Michael Cuddyer was supposed be Morneau’s backup, but Cuddyer was hurt all season. While Cuddyer will likely be back and healthy next season, the Twins should look at getting someone else on the team (Jason Kubel?) some time at first just in case.
Alexi Casilla 2nd Base – Demoted to the minors in the middle of spring training, Casilla was not exactly lighting it up in Triple A when injuries forced his call- up in April. However, once here Casilla seized the opportunity and become the igniter to a Twins hot streak. Casilla has learned to play within himself, and how to work counts and get walks. While he could not keep up his early .300 + batting average, he never lost sight of his role as the team’s number two hitter. Casilla looks like a solid .280-.290 hitter who can earn walks, bunt, and move runners along. He is also a plus in the field.
Some people has suggested moving Casilla to short which he played a lot of in the minors, but I am against that move. Casilla has settled in comfortably at second. It would be unwise to disrupt him now.
It also should be noted that Casilla is also a positive influence on fellow Dominican Carlos Gomez with whom Casilla rooms with on the road.
Nick Punto shortstop – Almost by default Punto ended up being the shortstop. Adam Everett was suppose to man the position but was always hurt. After he bombed at 2nd Brendan Harris took over and faired okay, but was then needed at 3rd. Punto is best as a utility player who does not play everyday. He is a capable defender at multiple positions, but only a marginal hitter. He is also injury prone.
Punto is a free agent and might been in demand because of his versatility. Everett is also a free agent though he will not be in demand because of two straight years of injuries. I think the Twins will take a stab at resigning Punto as he is a Gardenhire favorite, but he might be to expensive.
Even it they do resign him, he might be more valuable in a utility role than as the starting shortstop.
Who would be the starting shortstop? Matt Tolbert could be the answer. He looked good at second before being hurt, and can play short. Brendan Harris could slide over to short. He is solid though not great on defense and he can hit. Everett could be resigned, or another player brought in. There does not seem to be a player in the minors ready to come up and take the job.
Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher 3rd Base – Harris was solid on defense and a capable hitter. Buscher was a solid hitter who has issues on defense. Neither looks to be a full-time answer, and neither has a lot of power. Luke Hughes and Danny Valenica will challenge from the minors. Both have power potential with Hughes being viewed as closer to ready.
Look for 3rd and short to be positions with lots of competition for playing time.
Joe Mauer Catcher – Mauer was simply brilliant this year. Winning his second batting title in three years, Mauer continues to shine as a hitter. Defensively Mauer was dominant, and he brilliantly handled a young pitching staff. Mauer is the best catcher in all of baseball, and amazingly is still only 25.
Mike Redmond will be back as Mauer back-up. Redmond handles the bat and pitching staffs well. More importantly he handles s being a backup to a Minnesota icon even better. Wilson Ramos is rated as a top catching prospect with a powerful arm and even more powerful bat, but he is considered at least a couple years away.
Carlos Gomez, Denard Spahn, Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, and Jason Kubel – Outfielders and DH – The Twins will have five players who have proven they not only belong in the majors, but should be starting but have only four spots open for them to play. How Gardenhire sorts this out could be critical to the team’s success next year.
While one could be traded, they might all be kept for fear one might be injured or one might take a step back from their play this season. Also the Twins could use the depth especially when the need a pitch hitter. In years past the pitch hitting choices have been slim. This would beef that choice up.
Cuddyer is likely to return to starting in right. He is a good defender with a strong arm. He is also a right handed bat with some power, and the Twins really need that. Throw in that Cuddyer is one of the clubhouse leaders of this team, and his position looks secure.
Gomez is a dynamic talent. In the field Gomez as more range and a stronger arm in center field than his gold glove winning predecessor Torii Hunter. Gomez has speed to burn and stole most bases by a Twin in over a decade. Gomez also looks to have power potential. He swings a little too freely, and a can get a little too worked up. Still I cannot remember another Twins player who much five tool talent as Gomez does. The question is can he harness it. I think the Twins will try to find out by keeping him the starter in center field.
Kubel played mostly at DH and thrived. He was second on the team in HR’s and third in RBI’s. Kubel also was not bothered by not being able to play in the field. Many players don’t like to DH because they like playing in the field where they don’t have to sit around and think about their last at bat. Kubel seems to not have that problem. On a team desperate for power hitters, Kubel’s power will likely get him a lot of at bats at DH.
That leaves Delmon Young and Denard Spahn.
Young was suppose to hit for power and did not. He swung freely, but still managed to his .290. He showed some base stealing ability. He also displayed an incredible throwing arm in the field, but seemed to have problems tracking balls in left field which was not his normal position.
Young is only 23 and has great potential and the Twins gave up a lot to get him. It would be hard to see them replacing him. However Spahn came up at mid-season and showed gold glove caliber defense. He also thrived in the lead-off sport where he hit well and worked the count. Spahn also showed great speed on the base paths finishing second to Gomez is stolen bases.
Spahn true strength may lay in his ability to play all three outfield spots well. I foresee Spahn playing a lot, but not in one set outfield spot unless Young is traded.
Look for all five of these guys to play in 120 or so games, but no one will play in 150 – 160 games like Morneau will. I really like this outfield DH depth and youth. Hopefully it will develop into something great.
Outfield prospect Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks are causing a lot of buzz, but neither is ready to challenge for a major league spot right now, but they are on their way. Jason Pridie will be back at Triple A as insurance, but he will not be able to make the big club. He could be traded.
Scott Baker – Baker pitched well down the stretch and overcame early season injuries to serve notice he is the new ace of the Twins staff. There is no reason not to think next year will be a big year, however due to injures, Baker still has not made 30 starts in a year. He must stay healthy.
Francisco Liriano – Speaking of pitchers who must stay healthy, Liriano looked horrid in his initial return from Tommy John surgery. However after a stint in the minors Liriano look very good and served notice he was ready be starter #1a to Baker’s starter #1 status. Baker and Liriano could be an impressive right – left combination.
Liriano however has had history of loafing during the off-season. That cannot be the case anymore as he needs to come to Spring Training 2009 ready to go. If not, there will be some upset folks with the Twins.
Kevin Slowey – Slowey pitched the Twins only complete game shutouts this season, and easily solidified his spot in the rotation. Slowly does not have Baker and Liriano’s impressive stuff, but he has the ability to locate his pitches and keep hitters guessing. Slowey should become a valuable member of this rotation for years to come.
Nick Blackburn – Blackburn only made the team because Scott Baker was hurt in Spring Training, but he seized the opportunity and was an affective starter for most the year. At season’s end he had some rough outings, but then proved his toughness and competitive spirit by pitching a great 6 1/3 innings while giving up only 1 run in the playoff game against Chicago. That fine performance likely ensured Blackburn a spot in the 2009 rotation.
Glen Perkins – After an injury plagued 2007 season, Perkins was sent to the minors to get back in shape for a role as a starter. Brought back during mid-season, Perkins had some good outings and some dreadful outings. Still he was able to tie for the team lead in victories. Going into 09 he has the lead in earning the fifth spot in the rotation.
Joe Nathan – The Twins wisely signed Nathan to a contract extension and he responded with another All-Star season. Nathan remains an elite closer.
Jose Mijares – One of the September call-ups from the minor leagues, Mijares suddenly became the go to guy in the 8th inning. With an electric arm and incredible poise, Mijares looks to have made the team in 09, with the 7th or 8th inning role reversed for him.
Pat Neshek – The designated 8th inning reliever, Neshek promptly blew out his elbow and was lost for the season. Apparently on the road to a full recovery, Neshek will be asked to work the 7th or 8th inning.
Jesse Crain – Recovering from shoulder surgery in 2007, Crain was used with caution in early 2008. As the season wore on Crain was used more and more and for the most part was affective. Crain has a good arm and will be expected to work with Mijares and Neshek in the innings leading up to the 9th.
Dennis Reyes and Craig Breslow – One of these left handed relief specialists will not be back. Since Reyes is a free agent expect it to be him. Breslow though is not assured of a spot on the team with the decision on those below clouding things.
Boof Bonser- Bonser started the season in the rotation and I thought he would be a key to the Twins having a successful season. Instead Bonser lost his spot in rotation with a string of bad outings. Once in the bullpen it took time for Bonser to get comfortable. By season’s end he was being called on in more and more critical spots. Bonser has a very good arm, and he is out of minor league options so the Twins have to keep him on the big league roster, or trade him or release him.
Phillip Humber – Like Bonser Humber is out of options so the Twins must decide what to do with him. One of the players acquired for Johan Santana, releasing him would look bad. He may get a shot and working long relief.
Matt Guerrier – Guerrier has worked his way up from long reliever to taking over as 8th inning guy when Neshek got hurt. And for a while Guerrier was an affective 8th inning guy. Unfortunately Guerrier imploded and several late-inning Twins leads were blown because of Guerrier’s failings. Guerrier is up for arbitration so it is possible he may not be back. If he is back it will be in a reduced role.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I did get my autographed photos from Alan, Wynonna, and joined Dwight’s fan club for a year. The photos were very nice looking, and I still have the Alan and Dwight photos framed and on display in my house.
Now well over a decade later I decided to write some of my favorite country artist again. Using my experience with sending baseball cards to players to sign, I created my own country music star baseball cards to send. Knowing that the bigger the star, the less likely I was to get a response, I choose four older artists whom I had enjoyed. Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Clint Black, and Travis Tritt were a major part of the 90’s country boom, but only Alan is still a major commercial force.
I sent cards out to all four. I got one of them back quickly. Unfortunately it was a RTS from Vince Gill. I had the wrong address. I am still searching for a better one to send it to though I think I am on to something.
39 days after I sent all four out, my first success arrived and it was ALAN JACKSON! I must admit I was surprised. He is still very popular and though he probably can’t match Taylor Swift or Carrie Underwood in the amount of mail they get, he still must get plenty. That said he did sign a card for me and even personalizing it. Thank you Alan Jackson!
I hope to send out more to the likes of Dwight Yoakam, Pam Tillis, Brooks & Dunn, and others. I loved 1989-1995 country music and most the artists from that time period are more apt to sign as they are not getting as much fan mail as they use to, and they understand they must work maintain the fan base they have now in order to be able to keep making a living making music.
I will avoid the big stars of today like Carrie, Taylor, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, and Sugarland as they are less likely to sign due to the volume of mail they get. I will also avoid Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire. I can’t find anywhere to send the Garth item to making me think he has stopped signing autographs. I have read on multiple Web sites that people who have gotten a response from Reba have gotten pre-printed autographed items meaning the items like a picture were created with autograph already on them. She actually never signs them. I find that surprising as in her early career Reba signed a lot of things. Evidently her priorities have changed.
I will try and post updates here on my successes. I will also work harder and updating my baseball, hockey, and football successes as well.
Another nice person is former North Star hockey player Bobby Smith. I sent a hockey card to Mr. Smith up in his native Canada, and I included a dollar to pay for return postage as I had no Canadian stamps to put on it. Well Mr. Smith not only signed my card, but put his own stamp on the return enevlop plus he returned my dollar to me. Thank you Mr. Smith! With the economy as bad as it is, I can use every dollar.
Rich (Goose) Goosage also proved to be a nice guy signing for me, and a lot of others, right before he was elected to the HOF. Why is that good? Well after he was elected to the HOF he started to charge for autographs. He could have held on to all the cards he received before getting elected to the HOF and sent them back asking for money to sign them. Instead he did the right thing and signed the ones he got before for free, and then charged people who sent to him afterward. Not all players would or have done the same.
Former Twins pitcher Al Worthington not only signed my custom baseball card on the front but the back as well. He also included a signed 3 x 5 photo of himself, some religious materials, a copy of an article of him in Life Magazine which he signed, and signed letter explaining why he had included the religious material.
He put all of this in his own envelop and put his own postage on the letter.
But one of the nicest things I ever got from a player was from former Twin Juan Rincon. I sent Juan a card to sign after he had been released from the Twins. I also sent him a note thanking him for his time with the Twins and urging him to keep his head up and that I felt he would be back in the major leagues soon. Not only did he sign my card, but he also included a hand written note thanking me for my kind words. That was great stuff from a great guy.
These are just some of the nice things that have happened.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
The Pohlads let Torii Hunter leave, but did sign Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan to long–term contract extensions. Hunter had an average year with his new team while Morneau had an MVP worthy season, and Nathan remains a dominate closer.
The Pohlad brothers also were willing to eat the remainder of the contracts for Craig Monroe, Livan Hernandez, and Mike Lamb when it became obvious their time was up. It’s not the Pohlads fault that GM Bill Smith choose to bring these guys instead of going with the youngsters right away.
The Pohlads did offer big money to Johan Sanatana, but there was no way they could have given Santana the $140 million he got from the Mets.
Bill Smith, general manager of the Twins – Grade of D
Smith gets an F bringing in free agent Livan Hernandez, Adam Everett, and Mike Lamb, and for trading for and Craig Monroe. I had written that I thought Everett’s gold glove caliber defense would help the Twins. However, you cannot help a team when you can’t play. Everett’s season long battle with injuries was unfortunate. Also unfortunate was Lamb’s inability to handle the full time job at 3rd. I, and a lot of other people, expected Lamb to hit 15-20 HR’s. He hit 1. Monroe had a couple of big home runs, but mostly looked old and slow. Hernandez meanwhile did get some early wins, but quickly turned into the most hittable pitcher in baseball.
Smith trade of Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to Tampa for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris looks bad too. Garza is now living out his promise as a top flight starting pitcher while Bartlett’s play at short was so good, the Tampa area media voted Bartlett the division winning Tampa Bay Rays team MVP. Harris started the season as the Twins second baseman and looked lost. A move to short and then to 3rd help him a lot in the field, and he was solid with the bat. Unfortunately he looks like nothing more than a platoon player. Delmon Young was supposed to be a superstar in waiting. Will we are still waiting. In Young’s defense he was asked to switch positions from his natural right field to left field in a stadium – the Metrodome – where it is hard to play the outfield. Young did hit for a solid average, but he must hit for more power. He is very young, so he may yet have a bright future, but right now this trade is looking real bad.
Smith gets an incomplete for the trade of Johan Santana to the Mets for Carlos Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra. Santana had another fine year, and did nothing to make the Mets regret the move. Gomez quickly became a Twins fan favorite with his display of dynamic talent. As a defensive player Gomez as more range and a stronger arm in center field than his gold glove winning predecessor Torii Hunter. Gomez has speed to burn and stole most bases by a Twin in over a decade. Gomez also looks to have some power potential. Unfortunately Gomez also swings too freely, and a can get a little too worked up. Still, he is a major talent.
Humber and Mulvey look to be noting more than fifth starters or long relievers. Humber is out of options so the Twins have to either keep him on the major league team or trade or release him. Guerra has a live pitching arm, but is very raw. Time will be needed with him.
A lot was asked of Bill Smith in his first year and he did not deliver. I do give him credit for admitting his mistakes and getting rid of them. With a less hectic off-season approaching perhaps Smith can focus in and get something productive done.
Ron Gardenhire, manager – Grade A
I like to second guess some of Gardenhire’s moves during a game, but I cannot question the job he did this season with this team. Working with three everyday players (Gomez, Spahn, and Casilla) who were basically rookies; handling a staring pitching staff with pitchers who had little major league experience, and having to deal with a bullpen on the verge of meltdown; Gardenhire somehow willed this team into being within a run of winning the central division.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
· Having lost the best pitcher in baseball in Johan Santana, an All-Star outfielder in Torii Hunter, their starting shortstop in Jason Bartlett, and an innings eating starter in Carlos Silva.
· Off-season additions Livan Hernandez, Craig Monroe, Mike Lamb, and Adam Everett were almost all complete busts.
· Star player Michael Cuddyer missed almost the entire season due to injury.
· Major acquisition Delmon Young – who was suppose to hit 20 + HR’s and have 100 + RBI’s - hit 10 HR’s and had 68 RBI’s.
· Three starting players – Carlos Gomez, Denard Span, and Alexi Casilla were in their first full year in the majors
· None of the Twins five starting pitchers Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowly, Nick Blackburn, and Glen Perkins had ever gone a full year as a starter in the major leagues.
· The Twins hit the fewest home runs in the major leagues.
Despite all of this the Twins came within one run of winning the division. Yes, the Twins should have wrapped up the division title in their final series of the regular season when the inexplicitly lost two out of three to Kansas City. Still that they were even in the position at all was amazing.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
However, I got the feeling that Target wanted to enhance their name nationally. Target has really expanded across the country, and having a MLB baseball stadium named after them will definitely raise the profile of their brand name. Add the fact that the new Target Field is right next to the Target Center (home of the NBA Timberwolves) and Target has venues named after it in two professional sports league. Though I am not sure, I think they are the only company that does.
I read that Target will be spending some money to enhance the plaza outside Target Field. That’s good because the people of Minnesota have never really enjoyed the pleasure of a good pre-game gathering place. The Metrodome plaza was never anything to get excited about.
Another good aspect of this deal is the joint marketing venture the Twins and Target will be undertaking. Hopefully this will include a several sections of seats sponsored by Target that will be affordable. I also think there will be multiple player appearances at local Targets.
The Twins and Target look like they will both be around (unlike the Vikings and Northwest Airlines) in Minnesota for years to come. It makes sense they should partner together. Target Field does not exactly flow off the tongue, but at least it is the name that Minnesotans can identify with and take pride in.
Brooks & Dunn’s “Cowboy Town” should not have been nominated for Album of the Year. I thought Reba McEntire’s “Duets” album should have been nominated. LeAnn Rimes and Reba should have joined Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, and Miranda Lambert as Female Vocalist of the Year nominee. Also Alan Jackson’s “Small Town Southern Man” should have been nominated for Song of the Year.
However you can nitpick these things to death. I was pleased to see my prediction that Sugarland would be considered for Entertainer of the Year come true. I was also pleased to see my man Alan Jackson up for Male Vocalist, Album, Song, and Video of the Year.
Here are my predictions for the winners.
Entertainer of the Year will be Kenny Chesney. This will give him four EOY wins tying him with Garth Brooks for the most wins. I personally think Keith Urban should be the choice. I think his live performances and his music are superior to Kenny, but that is a personal preference.
Male Vocalist will be Brad Paisley. Since 1991 only one person, Toby Keith in 2001, has won this award and not won it at least a second time in a row. Paisley won last year for the first time, so the laws of percentages say he will win again. I prefer Alan Jackson here and he deserves it, but it is hard to not say Brad deserves it too.
Female Vocalist will be Miranda Lambert. Miranda is definitively deserving, and she is really making some great music. Of course Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift are the two best selling artist in country music right now. Underwood has won the last two FOY awards, but I get the feeling the industry is tiring of her winning all the time. There was a time in the 90’s when the CMA used the Female Vocalist Award to push female artists to the new level of stardom. I think that will happen here with Miranda.
Group of the will be Rascal Flatts. I think the CMA is tiring of RF as they were not nominated for Entertainer of the Year even though they had a big tour and sold some albums. It seemed to me that RF was never really accepted by the CMA and its voters. I think Lady Antebellum is more to the CMA voters liking, and will soon be taking over this award.
Duo of the Year will be Sugarland. I think they will have a big night. Nashville biggest female stars (Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, and Taylor Swift) are young, and country music core 25-54 female audience may not see them as one of them. Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles (age 34) is someone they can related too more wholly. The country music industry knows this and also knows Sugarland is selling a lot of albums. Country Music needs more superstars, especially with female voices, and the CMA will do its part in promoting Sugarland for that role.
The New Artist of the Year will be Lady Antebellum. Music folks think these guys are great, and the CMA voters will agree. I think Ashton Shepherd should have been dominated and won, but I was not consulted.
Album of the Year will hopefully be “Good Time” by Alan Jackson. I think it is the best album nominated. Of course the CMA could go for a more commercially successes album like Carrie Underwood or Kenny Chesney’s.
Single of the Year will be “Stay” by Sugarland. Simply put this song is sung powerfully and masterfully by a gifted vocalist in Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland.
Song of the Year will be “Stay” by Sugarland. Why? See above.
Video of the Year will be “Stay” by Sugarland. I still remember watching it for the first time on YouTube. Not much happens in the video, but it was definitely powerful.
Vocal Event of the Year Sugarland will win here with “Life in a Northern Town.” Never released a single, and only recorded during a live concert, this song was an improbable success.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Gary has always been one of my favorite Twins of all-time. This class move just re-enforces that feeling. I doubt Gary or anyone who knows him will ever read this blog, but I still want to publically thank you Gary for taking the time to sign my picture. It was most appreciated.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Tire of this happening I sent a contribution to Harmon’s foundation. In exchange for a certain dollar contribution I could get items autographed. The price was not much more than it cost to get into and have him sign stuff at Twinsfest, so I decided to go this route. It worked great. Harmon got, signed, and returned my items in under 30 days. I was most pleased.
Now the bad news, I seriously damaged my signed Gary Gaetti 8 x 10. I was so happy when it arrived, and now I have pretty much ruined it. I spilt liquid on it. The only saving grace was the Killebrew picture I had just gotten was only a short distance away from the Gaetti picture. Luckily it was spared.
I will send another 8 x 10 to Gary, explain in my letter what happen, and ask him to sign a new one. Hopefully he will.
Monday, August 4, 2008
I never understood why the Twins wanted Livan Hernandez. Yet Ron Gardenhire seemed eager to make Hernandez his staff ace. Hernandez had some early success, but his flaws were soon exposed.
The present Twins pitching staff of Baker, Blackburn, Slowey, Liriano, and Perkins are not Hall of Famers in waiting, but I’d argue there are not many teams in baseball who would not have a spot for any one of these guys in their rotations.
I had hoped for more from Craig Monroe. He could have provided power off the bench, and a solid right-handed option at DH. While Monroe did hit a couple of key home runs, it was obvious he was not getting the job done.
I don’t know much about Ruiz except that he is over 30 and this is his first trip to the majors. Usually if you are any good you make it the majors before your 30th birthday, so the odds are good Ruiz will not offer much. Likely he is just holding a spot for Michael Cuddyer who will be returning shortly from the DL. Still Ruiz has got to feel good about finally getting to the majors.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
“Goodbye Earl” was condemned by groups who help battered women; because they felt it signaled an inappropriate way to the situation. They deplored the violence begets violence nature of the song. The song peak at #12 on the country charts and quickly disappeared though it remained popular at Dixie Chick concerts.
Now Miranda Lambert, a personal favorite of mine, has released “Gunpowder and Lead”, a song about an abused woman waiting with a loaded shot gun for her abusive man to come home so she can basically shot, if not kill, him. I have been waiting for a similar backlash to what the Dixie Chicks have gotten to appear. It has not.
The question is why? Is it that Miranda is known for her feisty songs and people expect this and therefore accept this from her? Or did the Dixie Chicks kick in the door, take the heat, and then make it acceptable for this kind of song to now be played?
Hard to say, but I lean toward the latter. The first person or group to do something controversial usually has to take more heat then the next. They also get more credit if it turns out alright.
Miranda has never been a chart maven, but as “G& L” has now become her first top ten, one has to figure she owes the Dixie Chicks for allowing “G & L” to get the chance to be heard.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Most Carlos Gomez cards I had seen were of him as a Met. However, I found a sports card store in Roseville called Three Stars Sports Cards that had a nice looking Upper Deck card of Gomez as a Twin. Cost me $1, but I got Carlos to sign it (he even put his number on it which he does not always do) and now it looks great.
Ever since Shinders closed, I have been looking for a good sports card store. Three Stars not only had a lot of the cards I needed, but they have their inventory computerized so I didn’t need go through boxes and boxes of stuff to find what I needed. I got several cards including a 1966 Harmon Killebrew for which I paid only $4. The book value for that card is $15, and I have seen it at both the Twins Cities Sports Collector Club (TCSCC) & Tom Franzen cards shows for $8-12.
I did not need to buy any Boof Bosner cards as I had three already. I got 2 of them signed Saturday when Boof appeared at the Twins Pro Shop in Minnetonka. Boof has a rough year on the mound, so the crowd was not large but he remains a nice guy who had no problem signing more than one item for people. I hope Boof can turn it around here in the second half of the season. We need him to establish himself as a good setup man who complements Guerrier and Crain.
Monday, July 14, 2008
I wanted get an autographed Dave Winfield card for my collection not just because he is a Hall of Famer, but he was one of the greatest Minnesota born baseball players. Paul Molitor (St. Paul) and Charles “Chief” Bender (White Earth Indian Reservation) are the other two Minnesota natives in the Hall of Fame. Hopefully soon, Jack Morris (St. Paul) will join them.
I have a card, ball, and photo signed by Paul Molitor, so I was eager to get something signed by Dave Winfield (Mr. Bender passed away in 1954, so getting his autograph would be a little tough). I sent Dave a card last year about the time he released his latest book. I got the card back unsigned along with a signed ad for his book. It should be noted that most players if they don’t want to sign wouldn’t even send the card back. It says something about Dave’s class that he at least had the curiosity to send the card back knowing the card might have meant something to me.
Disappointed, I waited for another chance. It came about a month ago when I learned Dave would sign cards if you included a cash donation. Many Hall of Famer charge for their autographs, but I heard Dave does not actually put the money in his pocket instead he uses it to help others through charitable work.
I have no problem donating a small amount of money to player who helps others, so I sent to Dave in June with a $10 donation. I still worried he might not sign (I was not sure $10 was enough), but to my pleasant surprise I received a signed 89 Topps All-Star card signed by Dave. He even included his Hall of Fame year on the card.
They only way I could be happier were if it was a card of him as a Twin. Sadly, Topps never produced a card of Dave when he was with the Twins. I had a card of him as a Twin which I got a Twins game. The card was part of a promotion stage by Rainbow Foods. Since was it the only one I had, I did not to risk sending it in case it never returned. I have since bought another of those Rainbow Foods cards of Dave as a Twin, but I had already sent the 89 Topps All-Star to him.
I cannot complain though. I am very happy Dave took the time to sign for me. Thanks Dave! It was very much appreciated!
I have listened to country music all my life, so I was familiar with almost all the women he listed. However, if you have only listened to country for a few years, it is worth checking out some of the older artists he talks about.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
July 5, 2008 finds the Minnesota Twins at 48-38 only 1 game out of first place in the A.L. Central Division. I don’t think anyone was expecting this. The Twins had traded away a 2 time Cy Young Award winner (Johan Santana), and allowed an All-Star player (Torii Hunter), and their #2 starter (Carlos Silva) to leave via free agency. If anything most everyone had the Twins peg as a talented, but young team which would hover around the .500 mark.
Yet here they are on the verge of first place. How could this have happened?
1. Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are superstars and playing like it.
It is now apparent that as Morneau goes, so go the Twins. Morneau has been brilliant this year, hitting over .300, second in the A.L. in RBIs, and playing gold glove defense. He is the best first basemen in the American League. That long term extension the Twins signed him to this off-season is looking better all the time.
Mauer is simply the best catcher in baseball. He calls great games, plays well defensively, and hits with the best hitters in baseball. Healthy this season, Mauer could win another batting title. He was voted the starting A.L. catcher for this year’s All-Star game, as he should.
2. Joe Nathan is best closer in baseball.
Many wondered why a re-building club like the Twins would sign the 33 old Nathan to a contract extension instead of trading him. You sign Nathan because his presence gives confidence to a young starting rotation that their efforts will not be blown when it gets crunch time in the 9th. Nathan has saved every game he has been asked to except for 2, and the Twins rally back to win both games.
Having Nathan changes the outlook of this club. In an age where having a great closer is a key, the Twins have the best.
3. Alexi Casilla
In May the Twins offense look spotty, then Alexi Casilla arrived. I heard about Casilla a couple of year ago. He had good success in the minors and when he arrived in late 2007, I was expecting a good hitter who would steal bases and play great defense solving our 2nd base problems for years to come. Well, Casilla looked bad in 2007, and was sent back to the minors early in spring training this season.
However, I learned long ago that many a great player started out their major league career playing bad. When the opportunity to return to the major presented itself Casilla seized it and never let go. Everything I expected in 2007, I have gotten in 2008.
Casilla is the perfect #2 hitter. In fact he has lead off hitter potential. A great bunter, able to work the count; steal bases, and showing some surprising power, Casilla may be the third most important every day Twin.
One last point about Casilla, he has been a pal for the electrifying and sensitive Carlos Gomez. Gomez is a great talent, but needs someone to keep him somewhat grounded. Fellow Dominican Casilla is that guy. Gomez and Casilla are a great 1-2 at the top of our line-up. Remember in baseball, speed kills. Gomez and Casilla have speed in spades.
4. Our young starting pitching is coming of age.
Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, and Kevin Slowey are giving the Twins incredible starting pitching. All have ERA’s under 4, and more impressively all have better than 3 to 1 strikeout to walk ratios.
Glen Perkins also looks to be coming around, while somehow Livan Hernandez is hanging around and winning games. If this young staff keeps developing, they could be the Twins best starting pitching since 1991.
5. The Pohlads, Bill Smith, and Ron Gardenhire may know what they are doing after all.
The Pohlads guessed right on who to give the six year contract extension too (Morneau not Santana). Bill Smith traded Santana to the right New York team (Phil Hughes, the key to the Yankee deal, pitched horrid then got hurt).
Ron Gardenhire is doing some good managing. He kept with Gomez and Delmon Young when it seemed like they were not going to get the job done. He kept calm as the left side of the infield falter. He is smart enough to let his brilliant pitching Rick Anderson work with his young pitching staff without interference.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
After successes with several other players, I sent two more cards to Gaetti in late summer of 07, but never received anything back from him. I assumed he was either not signing, or did not receive them. It looks like it was the latter.
I got some official 8 x10 photos of some older Twins this year, and decided to send some out ttm. I sent out to Tom Brunansky, Greg Gagne, Randy Bush, and Gary Gaetti. To my profound happiness, I have received all four back signed with the arrival of Gary Gaetti’s today. Gary also was kind enough to sign a baseball card for me.
All four of the above listed gentlemen are class individuals. Brunansky and Bush even personalize their photo to me with Brunansky including his old uniform number on his. Gagne was the fastest returning his signed photo in 7 days, Gaetti took 47 days.
Many former and current Twins players are really good about signing autographs through the mail or in-person. I think it says something about the organization and the people and players in it.
Thanks Gary, Tom, Randy, and Greg for signing my pictures and cards. It is appreciated.
Luckily, I was not interested in any of those players. This year my goal was to get some baseball cards signed by some of the less famous players. Things worked out great.
First I got Craig Monroe, Jason Kubel, and first base coach and former player Jerry White. Craig and Jerry put their numbers on their cards as well as signing them. I always like when players add their uniform numbers to their signatures on items. It just seems to make them look better.
I then went and got Alexi Casilla, Matt Guerrier, and Kevin Slowey. Casilla signed his rookie card – adding his number. Slowey also added his number. I like Casilla a lot as a player and hope he will continue to perform well. He has Gomez like speed, but unlike Gomez, Casilla is more willing to work his way on base via the walk.
I moved on to pitching coach Rick Anderson, Brendan Harris, and Livan Hernandez. I was hoping to get the former World Series MVP Hernandez as I don’t think he will be around next season. The Twins will probably go with a younger, less expensive, pitcher next year. All three gentlemen included their numbers on their cards.
I ended with Jesse Crain, Mike Redmond, and Pat Neshek next. All included their numbers. Neshek also draws a little baseball using the P in Pat as the outline of the ball.
That made 12 current players and coaches’ cards signed. I could have had 14 as I still had time and there was not waiting at the Glen Perkins, Adam Everett station, but I did not bring their cards with. Oh well, Perkins should be around for a while with Twins, so I will likely be able to get him in the future.
The Twins alumni players started signing at 2:30. I got in the Rick Aguerlia, Al Newman, and Terry Steinbach line. Things looked good till Al Newman did not show. I needed Newman for the 87 Twins collection, so I was not happy when he did not show. Still I got Aguerlia, who does not usually come to these events, to sign an 8 x 10 picture and Steinbach signed a card.
I had almost an hour left, so I got in the Harmon Killebrew line, but the line moved too slowly and I did not get through. I did get a sun burn in the process as I forgot to put sun tan lotion on before heading out, and they did not bring any around until it was to late for me.
Disappoints aside, I still got 14 different players / coaches to sign for me adding to my collection. I also meet several interesting people. I also enjoy these events and look forward to the next one.
I assumed there would be a big line for the bobble heads as has been the case in the past. However, to our surprise, there was not any line only 10 minutes after the gates opened, and we both got bobble heads. I will be keeping mine as I already have a couple of others including one of Gary Gaetti who I consider one of my favorite players.
I got to see a big Twins win over Arizonia and future Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson. I always enjoy Twins games, especially wins.
Mauer’s presence ensured a large crowd, but I was most impressed with Slowey. He seems quite intelligent and witty. Mauer also seemed a little more animated than usual. I learned that he could rap, though he decline to do so when asked by female fan.
I was hoping to get Joe Mauer to sign an 8 x10 picture I had created of him. However, Mauer, Redmond, and Slowey would only sign an 11 x 17 picture that all three were on. Since I am not one to turn down free Twins autographed stuff, I took it. Actually, it looks quite nice making it a welcome addition to my autographed items collection.
I enjoyed the evening; and I would go to another one if the opportunity arrives.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
I have been doing some research on who wins CMA and ACM awards. What I have found offers some surprises
Amazingly only six Country Music artists can claim to have won both CMA & ACM Entertainer of Year and both CMA & AMC Vocalist (Male or Female) of the Year. They are:
George Strait, Reba McEntire, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, and Barbra Mandrell
I thought there would be more people. What happened to the others? Here are some notable near misses and what award or awards they are missing:
- Garth Brooks & Kenny Chesney have never won CMA Male Vocalist of the Year
- Alan Jackson, Vince Gill, Tim McGraw, Kenny Rogers, Glen Campbell, and Keith Urban have never won ACM Entertainer of the Year
- Toby Keith has never won CMA Entertainer of the Year
- Willie Nelson & Hank Williams Jr. have never won a Male Vocalist of Year Award from either the CMA or ACM
- Shania Twain has never won a Female Vocalist of the Year Award from either the CMA or ACM
- Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings have never won ACM Entertainer or ACM Male Vocalist of the Year.
- Tammy Wynette, Randy Travis, Faith Hill, and George Jones have never won Entertainer of the Year from either the CMA or ACM
- LeAnn Rimes, John Michael Montgomery, Travis Tritt, Billy Ray Cyrus, Dwight Yoakam, Roasanne Cash, have never won a vocalist or entertainer of the year award.
- I did not include groups or duos in my research.
I think it shows how hard it really is to win awards. While it seems like the same people always win that is not necessarily the case.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Friends in Low Places – Garth Brooks
Chattahoochee – Alan Jackson
Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) – Alan Jackson
Check Yes or No – George Strait
I Swear – John Michael Montgomery
I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack
Okie From Muskogee – Merle Haggard
Behind Closed Doors – Charlie Rich
He Stopped Loving Her Today – George Jones
Always On My Mind – Willie Nelson
Forever and Ever, Amen – Randy Travis
Happiest Girl in the Whole USA – Donna Fargo
Eighteen Wheels & Dozen Roses – Kathy Maetta
Live Like You Were Dying – Tim McGraw
All of these are well known songs. However, only six of them have won both Single and Song of the Year from both the CMA and ACM. Those songs are:
Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning) – Alan Jackson
I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack
Behind Closed Doors – Charlie Rich
He Stopped Loving Her Today – George Jones
Forever and Ever, Amen – Randy Travis
Live Like You Were Dying – Tim McGraw
So out of 40 years these are the only six songs who basically have run the table at the CMA and ACM shows. Is one of these six the greatest country music song? Maybe, maybe not, but one thing is for sure. Only one artist has taken home all four awards for the one song – Alan Jackson. Why? The CMA awards the artist for Single of the Year, and only the songwriters for Song of the Year. Of the above six songs, only Alan Jackson wrote his song.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Brendan Harris proved incapable of handling second base. Manager Ron Gardenhire wanted to move Harris to third, but then Harris’ replacement Matt Tolbert broke his hand needlessly sliding into FIRST base.
Harris seemed stuck at second then starting shortstop Adam Everett developed a bad shoulder and had to be placed on the disabled list. With Everett’s backup Nick Punto also on the disabled list, the Twins called up Alexi Casilla to play short. Casilla though can also play second. So Gardenhire moved Harris to short and Casilla to second.
Casilla started hitting and now seems destined to stay. Harris proved more comfortable at short and he is playing better.
Batting behind lead off hitter Carlos Gomez, Casilla could give the Twins two base stealing threats at the top of the lineup. For a team having trouble hitting home runs, have a good running game is essential.
I looked for examples of center fielders and second baseman that batted one – two and were base-stealing threat. What I found offers hope for Twins fans.
In 1980 Montreal had Ron Leflore and Rodney Scott batting one – two. Leflore stole a league leading 97 bases while Scott stole 63. Montreal went 90-72 to finish second in their division.
In 1978 Mickey Rivers and Willie Randolph hit one –two. Rivers stole 25 bases while Randolph stole 36. The Yankees went 100-63 and won the World Series.
Finally the 1992 Toronto batted Devon White and Roberto Alomar one – two. White stole 37 bases while Alomar stole 49. Toronto won 96 games and the World Series.
Now I am not saying Gomez and Casilla are going to lead us to the World Series. However, I think Gomez is a potential super-star, and Casilla seems to be ready to start living to his billing as a good middle infielder. On a team looking for hope, that is is good news, and news they never would have gotten had there not been injuries.
Monday, May 19, 2008
The best news of the night was Miranda Lambert winning album of the year for “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” In the past the ACM’s have favored commercial success instead of artistic quality in their album of the year winners. However, this year “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” beat out albums which have sold twice even three times as much as it did.
Here’s hoping the win boasts Miranda Lambert career. She has never had a top ten single which is a travesty, because she makes some of the best country music out there. That of course is her problem; country radio wants its female acts making poppy country instead of real country.
Of the performances I liked Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley’s rendition of “Make the World Go Away” which they did in tribute to the late Eddy Arnold. I also enjoyed Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert’s performances.
I did not feel Brooks & Dunn should have won duo of the year. Sugarland clearly had a better year. It looks really bad when you give Sugarland the single and song of year awards and then do not give them duo of the year.
Sugarland outsold Brooks & Dunn the last couple years and charted more hit songs.
The ACM’s have made some “interesting” award choices in the past. Brooks & Dunn over Sugarland for duo of the year is now one of them.
But you can’t stew over who won and who lost. I enjoyed the show despite some sound problems and look forward to the CMA Awards which come up in the fall. Hopefully, Alan Jackson will win some awards there for his great, new album “Good Time”.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Gomez’s fielding has been first rate. He has better range and a better arm than Torii Hunter did. However, Gomez lacks Hunter “feel” for playing defense. Hopefully with time and experience Gomez will pick up this “feel”.
Gomez is the best base stealer the Twins have had in long time, and is on pace to lead the American League in stolen bases.
A lot of people complained when the Twins traded Johan Santana for Gomez, Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Derlios Guerra. Now with Gomez off to good start not as many people are complaining.
People are starting to call Gomez the Latin Kirby Puckett. They point out that early in his career Puckett hacked away at pitches, bunted a lot, stole bases, and played with the same kind of enthusiasm as Gomez does.
I am not ready to call Gomez the Latin Kirby Puckett. Gomez has some similar traits to Puckett, but it is unfair to hold Gomez to such lofty expectations. I will say I always look forward to Gomez’s at bats just like I did Puckett’s, because Gomez like did Puckett has the potential to be a game changer.
Congratulation Carlos on hitting for the cycle; I hope this is just the beginning of brilliant career with the Twins. We need you.
I like “Good Time”. Yes it is a bit simplistic, but so was Alan’s songs “Tall, Tall, Trees” (written by George Jones & Roger Miller) and “Little Bitty” (written by Tom T. Hall).I find “Good Time” to be a great song to listen to while riding in your car, or spending a day on the lake.
When I listen to songs, I first listen to melody. If I like the songs rhythm, beat, and tempo, then I like to focus in on the singer’s voice. If those two elements are appealing, I listen in to the songs’ words. If I don’t like those first two elements of a song, I don’t really care to listen to the words, as the song already has lost its appeal to me.
If fact, I love a lot of bluegrass songs that are just instrumentals, because I enjoy the melodies.
That may not be how other people judge songs, but it is how I judge them. I love “Good Time” rhythm, beat, and tempo. Alan Jackson vocals are great. The words? Like Brooks & Dunn’s “Boot Scootin Boogie” and numerous others party songs, they words to “Good Time” will not entered in a creative writing contest anytime soon.
Still, I like this song. Enjoy playing it. And I am not alone, as “Good Time” is rolling up the country single chart. In the end reviewers will get their say in, but the masses ended up deciding what a success is and what is not. After all history only remembers good artists if they were popular as well.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
I was lucky I like to work ahead on my school work. My computer crashed just days before the last paper was due in my last class. My computer was not fixed for two weeks. Luckily, I had e-mailed myself a copy of my almost finished last paper, so I was able to retrieve that copy with a computer at school and finish it up.
I would have hated to have to start all over with just a few days left to get it done. I was lucky and very happy.
Friday, April 11, 2008
This leads to a key question for country music artists - should they allow the videos remain on YouTube, or order them taken down. Copyright laws allow country artists to demand YouTube remove the bootleg videos. Artists may feel that the bootleg videos cut into their concert ticket or video sales. After all why pay for what you can get free.
However, an artist should think why the person who made the video put it up in the first place. Most videos are uploaded by enthusiastic fans eager to promote their favorite artist, and show how good they are in concert. This kind of enthusiasm spreads, and can lead to more people going to that artists concert, and buying the artist’s music. It is the core, enthusiastic fans that carry an artist career. Alienate those fans, and the artist is done.
I have notice most country artists are leaving the videos up. Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift seem to the most popular country artists for fans to post videos of. Here is a Carrie Underwood one I think is pretty good.
I’m sure some label person thinks that is a great market tool, but it really tells us nothing about the artist’s past. Wikipedia.com and allmusic.com also have bios of country artists. Allmusic.com is an offshoot of the reference book All Music. Like all reference books, it is only as up to date as the year it was written. On their Web site it’s just a copy of what is in the book with maybe a line or two update on the artists recent album. Often the bios are not extensive and sadly some are not much more than a few paragraphs
Then there is Wikipedia. I checked out the bios of Alan Jackson, George Strait, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Brooks & Dunn, Pam Tillis, Vince Gill, and some of new artists as well. Some bios were pretty good, some are not. Some have incorrect information in them. Some seem to be more PR pages written by fans trying to make them look good. Some have extensive tables showing the artists album and single chart success. Some list awards the artist has won. Some have everything, some have little or nothing.
In graduate school, I studied Wikipedia and its effect on our society. When you have a collective effort there will always some good and some bad. The problem with collective efforts like this is getting the people with knowledge involved in the project.
For instances, I could write some real good biographies on some of the artists I have listed. I have read numerous magazine, newspaper, and reference articles about these artists. I have listened to numerous interviews with these artists. I know a lot about them. However, I have to list my sources in any bio I put on Wikipedia. If I have no sources, my work would be called into question. The problem is I don’t have the time, or want to put forth the effort to create such things.
This leads to a lack of true and comprehensive biographies of country music artists. That in turn can lead to people making up whatever they want about the artist and this misinformation spreading across the Internet.
Artists should take more responsibility for making their complete biographies available on-line. For if they don’t they may find themselves representative incorrectly.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Joe Mauer, catcher – I don’t think Mauer will ever show that much power. At best, he may be only a 15-19 HR hitter. Still gold glove caliber, .300 plus hitting catchers are very rare. Mauer will thrive in the #2 spot of the batting order.
Justin Morneau, 1st – As Morneau goes, so go the Twins. He needs to be consistent about hitting HR’s throughout the season, not just hitting a bunch in one half of the season and hardly any the other half. He has to do this because other than Delmon Young, Morneau is the only big-time run producer the Twins have.
Brendan Harris, 2nd – Harris played his first full major league season last year and produced nicely offensively. His defense looks iffy. That means manager Ron Gardenhire favorite Nick Punto will be waiting in the wings. Punto is a great defender, but has been miserable offensively since the beginning of last year. This position could be unstable all year and that is not good.
Adam Everett, ss – He will save several runs with his brilliant defense, and he will kill many rallies with his weak hitting. But with the lack of stability around him at 2nd and 3rd, his defense prowess should vastly outweigh his offensive deficiencies.
Mike Lamb, 3rd – Lamb has never played full-time, so we can’t be sure of what he can do. He looks like he can hit, and hit with some power. However, the reports on his defense are not good. Luckily for the Twins Adam Everett defense can cover up some of Lamb weakness on defense. The Twins need Lamb to hit 20-25 HR’s. Anything less will be considered a disappointment.
Michael Cuddyer, rf – First off Cuddyer is the nicest baseball players I have ever met. He also has one of the best throwing arms in baseball. That said, he has to produce some runs. Last years 16 HRs and 81 RBIs are not enough. I think the less pressure he feels, the better he will produce offensively which is strangely why hitting 3rd in the lineup is best for him. He knows he will have Morneau batting behind him to pick him up, and he won’t have worry about producing if team’s walk Morneau.
Carlos Gomez, cf – I have mixed feelings about Gomez starting the year with the Twins. Part of me sees Gomez hitting well, hitting with power, stealing 50ome bases, and playing brilliant defense. The other part of me sees Gomez struggling and ruining his long term future that would have better served with a year in the minors. Hopefully The Twins need Gomez to feel motivated to prove his detractors wrong and have break out season. If he does not, a lot of questions will be asked of GM Bill Smith and manger Ron Gardenhire.
Delmon Young, lf – Young needs to become the super-star he is projected to be. Most Twins fans are obsessed with Mauer and Morneau so at first the fans will not get on Young about his production. However, it will soon become apparent who the second most important Twins regular is. That would be Young. If he does not produce, teams will pitch around Morneau, and the Twins offense will be worse than last year.
Jason Kubel / Craig Monroe, dh – The Twins did have any power to bring off the bench last year. With Kubel and Monroe platooning at dh, that problem will be solve. Still both men need to be consistent in their production. The Twins need both of them to have good years as they will likely bat sixth behind Morneau and Young.
The Bench – Mike Redmond, Matt Tolbert, Nick Punto and whoever is not dhing will fill out the bench. Redmond is the best backup catcher in the league, and a natural leader. Punto, as mentioned earlier, is all glove not hit. Tolbert has never played in the big leagues, but has potential to hit good and field solidly as 2nd, ss, and 3rd. Monroe and Kubel, as mentioned previously, will provide some pop off the bench.
Monday, March 24, 2008
Nathan was good player to retain. As a person who lived through the Ron Davis era of blown saves and stunning loses in the mid-eighties, I know the value of a great closer. Nathan is possibly the best closer in the all of baseball. With the exception of Pat Neshek, the Twins had no one else capable of handling the role of closer. With Nathan signed, and Neshek set as his set-up man, the Twins bullpen has an excellent back end which should help the whole pitching staff.
It is well known Twins fans did not like losing Torii Hunter and Johan Santana. However, the Twins have now locked up Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, and Joe Nathan to long term deal. They will have not significant free agent issues till after the 2010 season.
This should bring some peace to an organization and fan base which has been very nervous about such things. Now maybe the Twins can get back to playing and winning some games.
Friday, March 14, 2008
The 119,000 copies sold of “Good Time” is the 5th best opening week of Alan Jackson’s career. Considering the poor state of albums sales right now that is not a bad opening week number.
Ashton Shepherd also debuted this week selling 8,000 copies of “Feels So Good”. She comes in at #16 on country album charts and #90 on the overall albums sales chart. Not a bad start for a new artists still fighting for her first top ten hit.
A side note. Looks like Alan’s “Small Town Southern Man” will get to #1 on the country singles chart. If so, it will be his 23 #1 country single on the Billboard’s Country Singles chart. That would tie him with for 9th overall. George Strait is #1 with 42.
Monday, March 10, 2008
I have been listening to Alan Jackson’s brilliant new album “Good Time” which features 17 great country songs. I think it is his best album since “Drive” back in 2002. Here are my thoughts on the songs.
Good Time – A great up-tempo song about having a good time. Looks like it could be a big hit. It is one of my personal favorites from the album.
Small Town Southern Man – A wonderful story song. In fact the narrative in the song is so well done; I am analyzing it for an assignment in my graduate class on rhetorical theory.
I Wish I Could Back Up – I touching ballad about wanting to go back and love a woman again because he had become “smarter” about why he loved her.
Country Boy – Good song, nice tempo. Could have been a Hank Williams Jr. song from back in the 80’s.
Right Where I Want You – This ballad is good, but I am not enthralled with it
1976 – A great auto-biographical song about Alan’s life back in 1976. Nice mid-tempo beat to the song.
When the Love Factor’s High – A ballad that recalls some of the better traditional country music of past. I like this song better than some of people whose reviews I have read.
Long Long Way – An up-tempo bluegrass song that makes me wish Alan had done the bluegrass album he had wanted to do. The trains whistle noise Alan makes recalls the same whistle noise he made in “I Only Want You” from the “Honky Tonk Christmas” album.
Sissy Song – A touching song about the death of a woman who had worked for the Jackson household.
I Still Like Bologna – A humorous and perceptive look at the raise of technology. The melody recalls “If French Fries Were Fat Free” from the album “What I Do”, but the lyrics are superior thereby making this a stronger song.
Never Loved Before – A bouncy duet with Martina McBride about love. The song lets people hear Martina without any of her normal vocal gymnastics.
Nothing Left to Do – The chorus of this songs is hilarious. I like the melody of song as well.
Listen to Your Senses - Not bad, not great.
This Time - Yawn
Laid Back and Low Keyed (CAY) – Another song about being the beach. Kenny Chesney has done 100 of these. Still it’s not bad. An enjoyable listen if you do not try to analyze it to much.
If You Want to Make Me Happy – A brilliant, traditional country ballad. The first time I heard it I knew it would be one of my favorites. Repeated listens have only strengthen that view.
If Jesus Walked the Walked the World – A song about how if Jesus came back today he would be a common man working in the plant and preaching in a country church. The choir at the end of the song was a predictable element, but still a good song.
Monday, March 3, 2008
I was able to listen to a preview her album. I would have like some more up-tempo songs, but the music is good. Still I do wonder what, if any, song on the album will break her through to stardom.
I wrote here about how Star De Azlan would use social media to overcome the obstacles that faced her. Well, her lead single “She’s Pretty” is fading at radio. I also don’t see her, as I hope she would, making full use of social media to generate buzz. Lady Antebellum is a good example of how country artists should be doing things on the social media front.
I still like Star’s song, but I worry things could be slipping away.
Julianne Hough has released her debut single to country radio. Not surprisingly it is not sprinting up the charts. However, it was just release, so there is plenty of time. It helps that Julianne is a more country-pop which is what radio likes. Also her fame from “Dancing with the Stars” helps too.
Each of these women have lots of work ahead of them.
Monday, February 25, 2008
“In some ways, Jackson has become the Ernest Hemingway of country music. In writing, that is. Not necessarily in lifestyle. At Hemingway's best, he told stories very simply, getting directly to the point.”
Flippo point is that Alan Jackson also tells stories in his songs that are simple and get directly to the point.
Flippo also says:
“There isn't another male country artist of any age right now who can match him (Jackson) for what he does best. And that's to write, sing, record and perform country songs of consistent high quality and relevance.”
The New York Times had a find piece on Alan and his up-coming album “Good Times” Times writer Kelefa Sanneh states in the article:
“There’s no question that Mr. Jackson is a country kingpin, respected even by the impatient young singers who complain that the country industry relies too heavily on proven hit makers like him. But outside the world of country music, Mr. Jackson is often viewed less respectfully, not as an American original but as a Nashville clone.”
Mr. Sanneh could not be more correct. Alan is beloved and respected inside the country music industry, but not outside of it. Why else would Alan have won 16 Country Music Association Awards while only winning 1 Grammy Award.
One day those outside the country music world will come to understand how great Alan’s music is. I eagerly await March 4th when I can get a copy of "Good Time".
Monday, February 18, 2008
There are a lot of questions about this team, and now we will start getting some answers. I always enjoy the start of a new baseball season. It signals the end of winter and the start of spring. It also means I can some more baseball cards to players during spring training.
I will be writing more about the challenges that await the Twins this year. However, one problem they don’t have is their ace pitchers won’t be leaving via free agency at the end of this year. Cleveland ace C. C. Sabathia has told the Indians he is done negotiating with them and will become a free agent. Cleveland could lose Sabathia without getting anything but draft picks in return. I guess they should have traded him to the Mets for prospects.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Example, George Strait and Alan Jackson have never won a Grammy for Best Country Male Vocalist. Neither have Brad Paisley, Clint Black, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, Travis Tritt, and Josh Turner. Garth Brooks and Dwight Yoakam have only won one apiece.
Vince Gill has won eight times. I love Vince Gill but he does not deserve eight wins, but the Grammy voters have become fixated on him.
Patty Loveless, Martina McBride, Pam Tillis, and Miranda Lambert have never won a Grammy for Best Country Female Vocalist while Reba McEntire has won only one.
Mary Chapin Carpenter has won four times, Shania Twain and Faith Hill twice. All of them were cross over artists whose music is more pop than country. Giving an award to a traditional female country artist seems almost to never cross Grammy voters mind.
This year winners were Keith Urban, who seems to known more for being Nicole Kidman’s husband then anything else, and former American Idol champion Carrie Underwood. I think Urban and Underwood make fine music, but they were not the best of this year’s nominees. Alan Jackson and Miranda Lambert were.
That does not matter to Grammy voters who think little of mainstream country music. All these voters want to push mainstream country music aside.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
At the beginning of 2007 the Twins had a chance to extend Santana’s contract and did not. Hoping to contend for a World Series, they instead tanked leaving Santana frustrated, and I believe looking to move on no matter what.
Like Torii Hunter, Santana said all the right things, but when he turned down a 5 year $93 million dollar contact from the Twins, it was time to part ways. Unfortunately, Twins GM Bill Smith had an offer from the Yankees of super pitching prospect Phil Hughes and big league outfielder Melky Cabrera plus other prospects. Smith did not take the deal, holding out for more. The Yankees withdrew the offer of Hughes, and Smith was left with this.
Once before the Twins were forced into trading a CY Young winning left-handed pitcher to the Mets. In 1989 Frank Viola was traded to the Mets for a spot starter name Rick Aguilera, top pitching prospect David West, and three other minor league pitchers named Kevin Tapani, Tim Drummond, and Jack Savage.
The Viola trade was widely considered a bad trade by Twins fans and the national media. West never panned out, but Aguilera was converted into a closer and became the Twins best reliever ever. Tapani became a fine #2 starter and along with Aguilera helped the Twins win the 1991 World Series.
Time will tell if this was a bad trade or not, but rushing to a judgment now would not be a good idea.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
I also got Paul Molitor to sign an 8 x 10 picture I made of him. However, the guys behind me in line had a little more unique – a toy rocking horse like we all use to rid when we were kids. According to the owners, the rocking horse was made in 1961 the same year the Twins came to Minnesota. The owners decided they would get as many Twins players as possible sign it. Molitor sure was surprised when they hoisted it up on the table for him to sign, but he did sign it.
I was going to get another autograph from Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young who were signing together again, but the line for them was huge and had already been cut off a over hour before they were suppose to sign. I decided it was time to head home with another enjoyable Twinsfest in the books.