Friday, March 28, 2008

My View of the Twins Lineup

Here is my view of the Twins lineup.

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

Joe Nathan Signs Extension

The Minnesota Twins have signed closer Joe Nathan to a contract extension that will keep him around till 2011 with an option for 2012. He will get over $11 million dollars a year which is less than half what Johan Santana will be making a year with the Mets.

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

Alan Jackson's "Good Time" Debuts

Alan Jackson’s “Good Time” lands at #1 on both the Billboard Country and Overall Album sales charts. It is the 12th time Alan has topped the country album chart and the 4th topping the overall album sales chart.

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

A Review of Alan Jackson's "Good Time" Album

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

Update on the New Female Country Singers I Have Been Talking About

Ashton Shepherd releases her new cd on March 4th. Her lead single has made the top 30, but is not advancing well. I will be interested to see how a second single does for her.

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.