Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Twins trade Santana to the Mets

The Twins have traded two-time Cy Young Award winning pitcher Johan Santana to the New York Mets for prospects Carlos Gomez, Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra. There is much to say about this deal, but I will try to stay concise.

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

Twinsfest Part 2

Saturday I had to do what I hate doing at Twinsfest – wait in line for a long, long time. I had to wait over 2 hours in line to get Joe Mauer’s autograph on a baseball card. Twins fans love Joe Mauer, in part because he is from Minnesota. I have to admit he seems like a nice person.

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.

Twinsfest 2008 Part 1

I attended Twinsfest 2008. Twinsfest is the winter celebration of all things Minnesota Twins. I have gone for several years in a row now. I always enjoy myself.

Friday night Twinsfest was abuzz with the report that Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer had signed long term contracts. I found universal approval for this from all the people I talked to at Twinsfest.

Also Friday I got Michael Cuddyer to sign a picture of him dumping Gatorade on Jason Kubel after Kubel hit a walk off grad slam against Boston in 2006. Kubel was not at Twinsfest this year. His wife just gave birth a couple of days ago, so he stayed home with her.

Delmon Young was signing with Cuddyer. I got him to sign an Official Major League Baseball. He has an odd looking autograph, but I did a chance to have this conversation with him.

Me: Delmon, I am happy you are here, we need you.
Delmon: I need you guys, I need to be here.

Translation – Delmon is happy to escape Tampa and its losing ways for Minnesota and its winning ways. Hopefully, Delmon will have a big year. We do need him.

Later Friday night I got a chance to have to have Hall of Famer Rod Carew sign an official 8x10 photo of his from 1977 season. I also got to check out a model of the new Twins ballpark. Looks good though I do not see why they want to put bleacher seats out in left-field. If I go to a game, I want a “seat” to sit in, not a bench. The Twins people said they bleachers are just like Wrigley Fields bleachers. Yeah, that’s nice. I will be buying a ticket down the base lines.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Twins Sign Morneau and Cuddyer to Contract Extensions

The Twins have wisely signed Justin Morneau to a reported 6 year $80 million dollar contract. Morneau is the Twins’ most valuable player, and the team’s only proven power hitting threat. His retention was imperative.

Michael Cuddyer was also signed to a contract extension. He reportly got $23 million over 3 years with a club option on a 4th year for another $12. Cuddyer is one of the friendliest, classiest Twins ever. He is also a key member of the team. I heard Ron Gardenhire say on KFAN radio that Cuddyer is the leading candidate for replacing Torii Hunter in center field. That means Delmon Young will take Cuddyer’s place in right.

With Johan Santana and Joe Nathan sagas still brewing, and trade rumor swirling around both, it was important for the Twins to make a statement about wanting to remain competitive. This is that statement.

Hopefully, the Santana situation will be resolved shortly. It will not be good to have this cloud hanging over the team’s head to start the season.

I am heading down to Twinsfest tonight. Twinsfest is the Twins community fund annual fundraising event. There are lots of things to do including getting player autographs. I will try and get Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau’s autographs. I figured that most fans I meet tonight would be in bad moods, because of the Santana situation. However, this news should liven up fans mood.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Albums cover and track listing for "Good Time"

Alan Jackson's new album “Good Time” will be out March 4th. I found this album cover and track listing. I know the title track is an up-tempo song, because I saw a YouTube video of Alan performing it in concert. Also “Never Loved Before” is a duet with Martina McBride according to a press release I read. That press release also highlighted “1976”, “Country Boy” and “Sissy”.

Normally albums have between 10-14 songs, but “Good Time” has 17, which is nice to see. I look forward to hearing this album.

Track List:

1. Good Time

2. Small Town Southern Man (current single)

3. I Wish I Could Back Up

4. Country Boy

5. Right Where I Want You

6. 1976

7. When the Love Factor's High

8. Long Long Way

9. Sissy

10. I Still Like Bologna

11. Never Loved Before w/Martina McBride

12. Nothing Left To Do

13. Listen to Your Senses

14. This Time

15. Laid Back And Low Key

16. I You Wanna Make Me Happy

17. If Jesus Walked the World Today

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sugarland – The Next Female CMA Entertainer of the Year

I believe Sugarland will be the next female act to win CMA Entertainer of the Year (EOY). In the last 26 years the only female acts to claim EOY were Reba McEntire (1986), Shania Twain (1999), and the Dixie Chicks (2000).

Many have written about why this is. I believe the question to be asked is what are the CMA voters looking for in an EOY and what artist can deliver what the voters want.

I think CMA voters want an act that will sell lots of records, get lots of radio play, tour well, is respected, and seen by the voters of the CMA as an artist they wish to put forward as the face of country music.

Sugarland is the duo of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush. While Bush is a man, Sugarland qualifies as a female act because Nettles is the lead singer, and her female voice is how fans identify Sugarland.

Sugarland’s two albums have sold a combined 4 million copies with six top 10 hits with two going to #1. A 7th top 10 hit is on the way in “Stay” a song considered to be their best performance yet. In 2007 Sugarland ended Brooks & Dunn’s strangle hold on the CMA Vocal Duo award and they are expect to win the award again in 2008.

Nettles is considered a brilliant vocalist, and Sugarland is considered an excellent live act that plays well in concert and on television. They have made savvy use of the Web especially MySpace and YouTube. In 2007 Sugarland headlined on tour for the first time.

Carrie Underwood is the other female act mentioned as the next female act to win CMA EOY. Underwood has sold more albums, has more #1’s than Sugarland. Underwood is more famous, and won more awards. Still history shown Underwood is likely to face a backlash. CMA voters may feel she has been awarded enough. Since she has little present competition for Female Vocalist of the Year, voters may feel content with giving FVOY and giving EOY to others.

Underwood is going out on tour with former EOY winner Keith Urban. Each night fans and critics will get to compare the two in concert. I think Underwood is brilliant, but I fear she will have a tough time overcoming Urban’s incredible live performances. Few have Urban’s all-around musical ability and stage presence.

Suglarland’s Nettles, a charismatic live performer, commands a stage. Along with Bush, she provides energy on stage found only in great entertainers like Garth Brooks and Keith Urban. Add this to the fact that Sugarland faces no backlash, and Sugarland looks to have a clear path to EOY in 2009 or 2010. I might be wrong, but it is a feeling I have.

Friday, January 4, 2008

New Female Artists Keep Making Country Music

For years we have heard about how tough it is for female artists in country music with most recent commentary being an article in 11/7/07 edition of the Tennessean. The article stated that only 20% of artists being played on country radio were women. Women continued to sell good, but they are not headlining tours, or getting key award nominations.

With those obstacles in their path you would assume the number of women wanting country careers would be dropping, instead it is on the raise. Here are just a few of female acts looking to break into country music in 2008:

Julianne Hough – The two-time winner of “Dancing with the Stars” proves she is more than one of the best, and best looking professional dancers, she can also sing. On her MySpace page she has a couple of songs, and in her blog she states she is already in Nashville making a country album.

The key to any country artist is good songs, good voice, stage presence and, oh yeah, good looks. Julianne has the voice, stage presence, and looks. It will be seen if she has the songs. However, her fame from “Dancing with the Stars” can only help her attract attention. If her music is good, she will be on her way.

H. Williams III (Holly Williams) – Daughter of Hank Williams Jr. and Granddaughter of Hank Williams Sr. Holly Williams is moving closer and closer to her destiny. In 2004 did a rock lending album then on March 16, 2006 Holly and her sister Hillary were in a serious car accident. Hillary got the worse of it, but both survived. Much like Hank Jr’s fall of a mountain in Montana in the 70’s, this could the decisive moment in Holly’s life. Her father decided to make his own kind of country after his accident, one gets the feeling she will make her own kind of country after her accident

Jewel, Kelly Clarkson, Michelle Branch, Jessica Simpson & Jessica Harp – Female pop singers are going country in droves. Will they be welcomed, or see as carpetbaggers? I think if Clarkson does go country, she will be welcomed. The other will have problems.

Ashton Shepherd – I have written some already about Ashton, but her talent and pure country sound need mentioning again. Ashton is the starting to get some traction on the country singles chart. Continued progress up the charts could mean big things for her, because she has talent.

Star De Azlan - I have also written about Star. I really like her debut single “She’s Pretty”. Like Shepherd, Star is moving up the charts. She could be something as well.

Heidi Newfield – The former lead of Trick Pony is recording a solo album. Her distinctive voice is already known to country radio listeners which will give her a chance to succeed.