Ruben Amaro Jr Has Got to Go

I wish my work computer had Photoshop or at least GIMP, but it seems that I’m just going to have to make do with Microsoft Paint, to attempt to organize my illustration of Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr.  As the photo suggests, he’s basically a spineless dunce that should not be a part of this organization anymore, as he is almost singlehandedly running it into the ground. Let’s go back, and get some background on the GM of my favorite professional sports team…..

At the conclusion of the 2005 season, owner David Montgomery decided not to renew former GM Ed Wade’s contract, and instead brought in Pat Gillick to run his team. He inherited a squad that had mixed success over the previous years, yet had failed to make the playoffs each year in a division dominated mostly by any team outside of Washington/Montreal and Philadelphia. The team had some young talent in the minor leagues, led by Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels, and featured some popular veterans on the roster such as Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu. The pitching staff was spotty at best, with Jon Lieber, Vincente Padilla and Brett Myers anchoring a mediocre rotation, with Billy Wagner pitching lights-out in the ninth. Without a doubt, the team needed some major work.

And, despite the consequences, Gillick got to work. It took him one season of re-working the team to get them to the playoffs, and at the conclusion of his third season (2008) he had his third World Series Championship under his belt. How did he manage to turnaround this team so quickly?

His very first move was to deal fan favorite veteran Jim Thome. Although not a popular move, with slugger Ryan Howard waiting in the minors this was a no-brainer. He also let Billy Wagner leave after the 2005 season, bringing in veteran closer Tom Gordon to work the ninth until 2008, where he signed Brad Lidge, who didn’t blow a save the entire 2008 season. The anchor of the Philadelphia outfield since 1998, Bobby Abreu, was even traded halfway through 2006 to free up more cash and gain more prospects for the team’s farm system. Gillick then (cheaply) signed highly touted but oft-injured outfielder Jayson Werth, and cheap but quality journeymen such as Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton to help bolster the staff, which Gillick cleaned house on since inheriting the team. With Howard and Hamels now in the majors, and system talent such as Pat Burrell, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins hitting their prime, the Phillies had one of the most, if not the most, formidable offense in baseball. And as 2008 hit, when their pitching rotation started to click, following a fall playoff push, the Philadelphia Phillies won the division and the following World Series.

And then, to screw the Phillies over for the next 10 years, Pat Gillick left, retiring as General Manager and turning the organizational keys over to his assistant, Ruben Amaro Jr.

To be honest, things started out great for Amaro and the Phillies, as they were back in the World Series in 2009 with great pickups such as Cliff Lee and Raul Ibanez. Even though they lost the Series, they had great success and reason to believe in the next year’s squad, as in the offseason they added Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, making a fantastic pitching staff even with the loss of Cliff Lee, as Cole Hamels remained a constant on the rotation. Although, Amaro’s questionable decisions started in 2010. Ryan Howard was signed to a mammoth 5 year $125 million contract extension at the age of 31, extending his 3 year $54 million contract he signed the previous year, tying the Phillies up with him through 2017, when he will be 38 years old. The pitching buzzsaw seemed unstoppable however, as Philadelphia cruised to the best record in the league, aiming their sights on a third straight World Series appearance. In the playoffs, after cuffing the Cincinnati Reds bats in the NLDS, they ran up against the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS, who sported a much better pitching staff than Cincy. In what ended up being a six game series, the Phillies scored 20 runs in six games, with 11 of them coming in two games, one of those two ending up as a loss. Aside from Jayson Werth who was somehow involved in more than half of the Phillies runs scored in the series, their offense was pathetically lethargic , batting .216 with their AVG w/ RISP being even worse. Heading into the offseason, the hope was that Philadelphia would pursue some hitting to go along with their dynamic pitching rotation.

So, in order to bolster their lineup, Amaro (again) signed Cliff Lee and let go of their best postseason hitter in Jayson Werth. Those moves would definitely help the teams hitting, right?? It wasn’t until panic-time hit (see, when Chase Utley was injured for a good part of the season) at the trading deadline that Amaro realized he needed another bat, and traded for outfielder Hunter Pence. With this addition, the Phillies set a franchise record with 102 regular season wins, and were again poised to make a lengthy playoff run as they matched up against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2012 NLDS. After scoring 11 runs in the first game of the series, it looked as if the offensive woes of the previous year had been solved, until over the next four games the Phillies only managed to squeeze out ten runs, being shut out in the finale by Chris Carpenter who pitched a three-hit complete game. Ryan Howard injured himself on the last play of the season, and again the Phillies got to watch the rest of the playoffs on their own personal television sets.

Again, the question was how to solve postseason and clutch hitting in the lineup. And again, Amaro’s decision was to let go of Raul Ibanez and sign closer Jonathan Papelbon to another lucrative and ludicrous deal, at four years and $50 million. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Roy Halladay spent the majority of the season on the disabled list, and the ace of the staff in Cliff Lee was provided with so little run support that in one game, he pitched ten shutout innings and the Phillies still lost the game. Injured for the better part of this season and the one previous, the Phillies have more than $10 million a year tied up in Utley at this point, not to mention the money due to Halladay and Howard, and the more than $20 million/year tied up in Cliff Lee, who is the only one actually earning his insane amount of money. This, on top of the $11 million/year due to Jimmy Rollins, and at the trading deadline of 2012, the now $20+ million/year due to Cole Hamels, makes the Phillies players some of the most expensive, and oldest (Papelbon, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Halladay and Lee are above age 32) overpaid players in all of baseball. With Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino departing via trades at the 2012 deadline, Amaro had started to clean house with some of the smaller contracted, less popular players, but was balking about doing the job completely. The Phillies finished third at the season’s end, with hope for a rebound the following season.

In 2013, the Phillies core needs were outfielders, a third baseman, and some bullpen help. To assist in the bullpen, Amaro signed 35 year-old veteran Mike Adams to a two-year, $12 million deal. Another poor investment, Adams sat and is sitting on the DL for most of the year. He also signed Delmon Young to a cheap deal, but Young put on some weight and outside of the batter’s box is a detriment to the team, on the base paths and in the field, not to mention the fact that he sat on the disabled list for the first month and a half of the season. Amaro also traded for Michael Young, to fill the gap at third base. Although 36 years old and with most of his power lost in his youth, Young was a good utility pickup to hit for average wherever he’s at in the lineup. In another marginal move, Amaro traded for Minnesota Twins outfielder Ben Revere, adding speed to the Philadelphia outfield. As it would turn out however, Howard and Halladay would be parked on the DL for another good portion of the year, as Revere would also miss a month and a half due to breaking his foot. Amaro’s chief problem continues to be the fact that he does his best George McClellan impression, and does NOTHING AT ALL.

The Phillies have three things currently. Old players, fat contracts, and a losing record. Of these things, two of them could and probably should change (you can’t make them win ballgames). They need to dump a good amount of these fat contracts, or else be cursed to continual losing seasons with a depleted farm system. Lee, Utley, Howard, Young, Young, and Papelbon ALL have value to other teams and should be traded accordingly. I understand that both Utley and Lee are fan favorites in Philadelphia, but there comes a time when despite how many old stars you have on your team, people just do not come to see the games anymore, which generates less profit for your franchise. From 2007-2011, every single home game at Citizens’ Bank Park was designated as a sellout, something that the team couldn’t brag in 2012 or 2013 simply because they were/are not very competitive, which in turn did not bring as many fans out to the ballpark. Injuries to Halladay, Howard, and Utley are recurring problems, especially when it comes to Utley’s knees being at second base. Although they may have to eat a portion of their contracts, there are plenty of teams out there willing to take any of the players aforementioned. The two I would hold onto would be Lee and Halladay, Lee simply because no other team will take on the full amount of his ridiculous contract and he pitches the best consistently, and Halladay to see how he performs coming off of surgery toward the middle of August.

Other than that, Amaro needs to set up shop and start a fire sale with Utley, Howard, Young, Young, and Papelbon. Unload some huge contracts and stock up on young talent for the farm system, as it’s fun to watch good young players such as Dominic Brown come up and play for the big league club. The money tied up in Rollins is basically chump change and on par for a shortstop of his caliber, and young players who have shown promise such as Revere and Brown need to be rewarded when the time comes. Darin Ruf is a viable option at first base, and anyone in the horrid Phils’ pen can do just as well as Papelbon, seeing as he hardly needs to pitch with the Phillies winning as few games as they have been recently.

Bottom line is, Amaro needs to take a page out of predecessor Pat Gillick’s book and start to clean house. Gillick wasn’t afraid to part with beloved stars such as Thome and Abreu, in which case Amaro shouldn’t be afraid to part with Utley and Lee (and company) to restore the team’s future. In my opinion, if he can’t provide for the future of the franchise, then he shouldn’t be a part of planning the franchise for the present. He’s made mostly bad moves, and hasn’t had the balls to make the moves he should. Give him the rest of the season and the offseason following, and if he hasn’t done anything to restore the franchise to its former glory, then can him and move on. Amaro is simply wasting too much money and time into a team that simply does not win, thanks in part to him.

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MLB Trade Deadline Special

A quick rundown of every MLB team and what their status is and what their plans should be.

Baltimore Orioles-Moderate Buyers=They already acquired Feldman to lengthen the rotation and K-Rod in the back end of the pen but a DH bat would be intriguing. Kendrys Morales or Marlon Byrd would fit.

Boston Red Sox-Moderate Buyers-They don’t need much unless they are willing to pony up and acquire Jake Peavy which I don’t think they will or should. Fly ball righty in Fenway.

New York Yankees-Moderate Sellers-If the phone rings about Joba Chamberlain and or Phil Hughes answer it. The compensation for Hughes has to mitigate the potentially lost first round pick compensation that would be received once he leaves in free agency so that decreases the likelihood of getting a deal done. If Michael Young could be acquired cheaply, a suspended A-Rod could easily be replaced at 3B.

Toronto Blue Jays-Sellers-They will do nothing, which is what they should’ve done last November before acquiring those winning studs from the Marlins. Trade Johnson and Buehrle and Jannsen but they won’t. Lind should go too.

Tampa Bay Rays-Moderate Buyers-This risky acquisition of injured Jesse Crain makes sense. They don’t have much else to add however.

Chicago White Sox-Fire sale sellers-Rangers are out for Alex Rios but they should listen to calls about Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Alejandro De Aza for sure, and Peavy but only at the right price. Peavy is a bargain next year at 14.5 million for one year so they would have to bring back a decent haul.

Cleveland Indians-Buyers-They could still use starting pitching depth but this market is lacking. It would have been conceivable to deal Asdrubal Cabrera at one point in time but now their success forbids them from doing so. The bullpen is weak and could be upgraded.

Detroit Tigers-Moderate Buyers-They added Jose Veras which was cheaper than Joe Nathan so I think they are done. However, left field should be addressed. This team is awful defensively and Dirks is not a strength so a utility outfielder with speed would be beneficial.

Kansas City Royals-Nothing-They won’t trade Ervin Santana because they won’t get enough in return so, beyond that, there is nothing to discuss. In my opinion, they should trade Greg Holland because he would instantly become the top reliever on the market. The Red Sox and Pirates would be calling immediately. His value is at its highest now but they won’t pull the trigger.

Minnesota Twins-Fire Sale-Justin Morneau must be traded. The Orioles could be a destination. Glen Perkins and Jared Burton should also be dealt from the pen along with Jamey Carroll as a utility player.

Houston Astros-Moderate Sellers-They did what they had to do in trading Jose Veras. Now, sit back and wait in case the Braves or Red Sox overwhelm you for Bud Norris but that is doubtful.

Los Angeles Angels-Moderate Sellers-They dealt Downs which they should have. Beyond that, this team is going nowhere so if the right offer for Howie Kendrick comes along, or Erick Aybar to say the Cardinals or Kendrick to the Dodgers? Take it.

Oakland Athletics-Buyers-They have young talent to deal. Jake Peavy would be a perfect fit for the ballpark and the team at the right asking price. A veteran hitter like Michael Cuddyer could be a nice lineup strengthener too.

Seattle Mariners-Nothing-This team is mostly young so they won’t do much at the deadline. They want Morales back next year so they will hold onto him.

Texas Rangers-Buyers-Nelson Cruz will be suspended, so who fills in? My guess is Hunter Pence but it won’t be cheap. They could look at Delmon Young as a cheaper option as well. Hold onto Joe Nathan. I don’t foresee a big deal coming however because they gave up a decent amount for Garza who they desperately needed.

San Francisco Giants-Sellers-Sergio Romo, Tim Lincecum, and Hunter Pence should all be marketed heavily. Scutaro could be dealt as well. The asking prices will and should be high but one of those players should be unloaded.

San Diego Padres-Nothing-You can’t trade Headley because there is no team. Marquis is on the DL so he can’t be dealt. Joe Thatcher and Huston Street should DEFINITELY be dealt but their unwillingness to do so in the past makes me cautious to predict that they will deal either one.

Los Angeles Dodgers-Buyers-Shocking I know. They could use infield depth for sure and it would be nice to find a taker for Andre Ethier who will most certainly be put on waivers. The bullpen needs help but the rotation is squared away now. Unfortunately they missed out on Scott Downs.

Colorado Rockies-Sellers-Cuddyer has incredible value right now but has one year remaining on his deal which will make for a tough decision. Betancourt is on the DL so all in all, there isn’t much to sell here unless someone calls about Tyler Colvin.

Arizona Diamondbacks-Buyers-They could use a starting pitcher like Jake Peavy, Phil Hughes, Bud Norris and so on. Michael Young would be an interesting addition here.

St. Louis Cardinals-Buyers-Cliff Lee is in their prospect price range but they are extremely and justifiably hesitant to part with Wacha, Martinez, Rosenthal, and others. I think they will stand pat but Alexei Ramirez could be a nice addition at shortstop.

Pittsburgh Pirates-Buyers-Trade for Alex Rios. That would be a big splash, but maybe only for the sake of making one, so that would be a tough internal decision. The bullpen has been overworked so a veteran arm or even a Joba Chamberlain would be a nice fit to help deepen their pen.

Milwaukee Brewers-Sellers-Not sure what they are selling though. Aoki maybe. No one wants Yovani Gallardo or John Axford and Jim Henderson doesn’t command enough to necessitate a deal.

Cincinnati Reds-Buyers-They need an outfielder. De Aza or Byrd would fill in nicely until Ludwick maybe returns.

Chicago Cubs-Nothing-They don’t have much less to sell and have done well so far in their three deals.

Washington Nationals-Sellers-Gasp, yes they should sell. Drew Storen and or Tyler Clippard could bring in some value. Adam LaRoche to Baltimore makes some sense too but I think they are done for the playoffs.

Philadelphia Phillies-Fire Sale-They won’t do it but they should. Trade Lee and his absurd contract, trade Michael Young because he has value, trade Delmon Young because he is stealing potential playing time and cotton candy from the cotton candy vendor and trade Carlos Ruiz. Why not? Oh and get a muzzle in one of those trades so you can shut Jonathan Papelbon up.

New York Mets-Sellers-Byrd should go. Parnell at the right price would be a good deal to make also because they are not going to compete until 2015.

Miami Marlins-Sellers-Trade Justin Ruggiano. The Rangers and others would listen. Trade Steve Cishek. The Pirates and Red Sox and Dodgers would listen.

Atlanta Braves-Buyers-They need another starter. Maholm is hurt and declining anyway. I would give Chicago what they want for Peavy who could replace Tim Hudson on the mound and in the clubhouse. The Scott Downs pickup was solid.

DC Doesn’t Create Despicable Crap

Well, the title of my post is at least mostly true. No film studio is ever perfect, but for the most part DC comics are well represented with solid movies. The DC Film universe is somewhat less cluttered with films, and has a little bit more longevity to it than those of Marvel. Read into this however you like, it could be that DC is simply less greedy than Marvel, or that the DC universe isn’t as relatable on the big screen as the Marvel characters. For all intents and purposes, I’m going to leave out the original four Superman and Batman movies. What makes super hero movies real is the quality of the effects to supplement the story. And, as beloved as those movies may be to some people, if you go back and watch them today without a sentimental connection, the effects and production value seem quite silly. To enlarge the DC film universe a little more, however, I am including those DC graphic novel imprints that were made into movies. Now, to begin, we’ll pick up with DC’s movies post-1997, after two of their arguably worst movies ever, Shaquille O’Neal’s Steel and George Clooney’s nipple-suited Batman and Robin.

Such a horrid movie.

Road To Perdition (2002) – If you haven’t seen this movie, do yourself a favor and find a stream or copy of it somewhere when you have some free time. With an all-star cast that includes Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Daniel Craig and Stanley Tucci, this film is a fantastic 1930s gangster period piece that follows a former mob enforcer in his revenge path against a mobster who killed his family. Hanks and Newman give especially great acting performances, and cinematographer Conrad Hall won a posthumous Academy Award for the movie’s cinematography.  7/10

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003) – I almost equate this movie to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I want so badly to like it a lot. And it starts out really well, and stars Sean Connery, so about a third of the way through I’m really excited about where it’s all going. And then, things just start getting weird when they start taking the whole fantasy part of the League a little too far. Then characters start acting without motivation, and general lunacy and chaos descends upon the plot. What could have been a really cool action movie with some interesting characters forming the League, turns out into a disappointing strange mess. 4/10

Catwoman (2004) – This is actually a really really really really really bad movie. I won’t waste my time explaining why, because the one time I watched it I shut it off about twenty minutes in. At least Halle Berry is attractive, which saves this from a goose egg. 0.5/10

Constantine (2005) – Honestly, I don’t mind this movie a whole lot. It’s one of Keanu Reeves (John Constantine) better roles, as he seems pretty fit to play Messianic roles rather well. The movie is filled with religious symbolism and has a rather complicated plot filled with inconsistencies and holes, but at the very least this movie makes you think, especially if you have religious beliefs. It’s fun to watch and talk about once, but that’s about it. 5.5/10

A History of Violence (2005) – Just like Road to Perdition, this is an oft forgotten DC graphic novel movie adaptation that is one to not miss. Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn in Lord of the Rings) stars as a small town local restaurant owner who in defense of his employees kills to robbers who hold up the place. As his fame grows, a big city mobster (Ed Harris) comes to town stalking him and his family, claiming that Mortensen’s character is actually a gangster with big city ties from years ago. He then has to face the accusations while dealing with the growing tension and newfound popularity at home, and his questionable past. Maria Bello and William Hurt also co-star in an Academy Award nominated screenplay in which everything is so well done that it all seems real, where you can relate to the characters and their trials. Because so few people have seen it, I can’t really say a whole lot more without ruining the plot, so take my advice and find a venue to watch it if possible. 8.5/10

Batman Begins (2005) – This is where DC starts getting their ball rolling. With bringing in Christopher Nolan to direct, Batman has been changed forever thanks to this realistic, gritty reboot of the popular caped crusader. Nolan’s cast is spot on, with Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne/Batman), Katie Holmes (love interest Rachel Dawes), Gary Oldman (Lt. James Gordon), and Liam Neeson (villain Ra’s al Ghul) starring. This movie spawned the idea of series rebooting, as Nolan did this film so well after the 1997 disaster of Batman and Robin. Right up there with 2008’s Iron Man, this is one of the, if not the best superhero origin stories ever put onto the big screen. Chances are that you have seen this movie and most of its sequels, so you know how good it is. The only criticism I can think of is that I would have liked to see more of a romantic subplot and attachment built up between Bale and Holmes’ characters, which is the only place this movie really falls short at. 8.5/10

The Dark Knight (2008) – The best superhero movie franchise just keeps getting better with this installment. With Katie Holmes being replaced with Maggie Gyllenhaal, the only possible acting weakness has been removed. Bringing in Heath Ledger as the Joker and Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two Face, Ledger steals the show with his character, leaving what are great performances by the rest of the cast, in the dust with the audience begging for more of the Joker at each go-around. A seamless plot chronicling Batman’s psychological battle with the Joker, this movie is astoundingly good. If you haven’t seen it, please come up from whatever rock you live underneath and steal a DVD player and a copy of this movie if you have to. Words really do not do this film justice, but I’ll attempt to use numbers to demonstrate how good it is. 10/10

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) – The conclusion to the Dark Knight Legend, Tom Hardy is brought on to play the enormous villain Bane, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is introduced as the police officer John Blake, and Anne Hathaway is cast as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Set eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne (Bale) has hung up his cape and cowl, and retired from his role as Batman. He lives with his butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) in his manor, holed up to live a secluded life. It isn’t until the international terrorist Bane (Hardy) comes to Gotham City that Wayne is forced to take up his mantle once more and face a foe who at least equals his physical prowess. Hathaway, Gordon-Levitt, Caine, Morgan Freeman (Wayne Enterprises tech expert Lucius Fox), and Marion Cotillard form an ensemble cast to bring about the conclusion of the series. Unfortunately, this movie is the most marred with plot holes and inconsistencies, and leaves a few questions at the end. However, the entire political atmosphere created by director Christopher Nolan paints a fascinating scene in which most of the plot holes end up being forgivable. Overall, a fantastic movie, yet one that could not live up to its predecessor and is about on par with the first series installment. 8.5/10

the dark knight rises

V for Vendetta (2005)- Remember, remember, the fifth of November. Next to The Dark Knight series and Watchmen, this is DC’s best movie. An action/political drama, this film has the best entire cast of any movie save The Dark Knight or Man of Steel. Hugo Weaving stars as the titular masked character, the outcast vigilante known simply as V. In near futuristic Great Britain, following the collapse of most ordered governments due to disease and war, England has been strengthened but also taken over by the government who now runs things in a Nazi-esque dictatorial style. Weaving plays the outlaw who attempts to restore freedom to the people and reveal the true nature of the forming of the dictatorship by exposing its horrific origins and past. Natalie Portman co-stars, feeding off Weaving’s fantastic performance and putting on a good show of her own as Evey Hammond, a British Television Network employee with her own torrid past that is used in conjunction with Weaving to bring about change in the fascist state. Stephen Rea almost steals the show with an amazing acting job as the Inspector tasked with hunting down V, as he wavers on the line of doing his job and doing what he knows to be morally right. John Hurt, Stephen Fry, Roger Allam, Rupert Graves, and Tim Pigott-Smith are also featured, finishing out what is a great working cast. A great detective and political story, this is a must-see for anyone with any sort of natural intelligence. 9/10

Superman Returns (2006) – Personally, I really disliked this movie. I love Kevin Spacey, but not a bald Kevin Spacey. I like Superman as a hero, but not when this movie picks up from after the second Superman movie which was released 30 years prior and nobody from my generation is going to remember. I also just don’t like anyone else in the cast, apart from Kevin Spacey. It’s a boring, vanilla cast with a boring, vanilla story, that when it put me to sleep, it was the best thing to happen to me all movie long. I did stay awake enough to see that the plot was pretty dumb with Spacey’s Lex Luthor attempting to create a continent out of kryptonite and become a real estate mogul. That’s such a cool movie premise (sarcasm). 4/10

Stardust (2007) – I confess, I didn’t see this movie, nor did I have any plans to at all when it was released. Reading its synopsis now, ehhhh………. I like Matthew Vaughn (X-Men First Class, Kick-Ass) who directs, but a romance-fantasy film just wasn’t appealing when I was 16. If it’s on Netflix, I’ll give it a chance. The late great Roger Ebert gave it a 2.5/4 and called it “fun”, so I’ll say……6.5/10

Watchmen (2008) – This epic I have to watch every year to remind myself of how good most of it is. Taking place in an alternate-reality 1985, the movie starts with the masked vigilante The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) being killed by an unknown foe. The so-called Watchmen superhero group made up of various masked vigilantes has recently been outlawed by third term President Nixon as the United States and USSR are on the brink of nuclear holocaust. The film follows the main character Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley in an amazing acting job), a psychopathic vigilante who tries to find out what is happening to masked heroes and why The Comedian was killed. The movie follows typical Zack Snyder non-linear storytelling style which works out perfectly in this film. Not for those with weak stomachs, this movie has very well done stylized action and can be rather gory. Although not a Hollywood A-List cast, every single cast member from Matthew Goode to Malin Akerman delivers big in their roles and creates a fascinating and very well done adaptation of the famous graphic novel on realistic heroes. It’s an entertaining and thought provoking tale that although a few rather awkward sex scenes and some blue penis on display, makes for a fantastic film. 8.5/10

The Spirit (2008) – Another movie I must admit that I haven’t seen, it’s apparently a good thing that I’ve skipped over it. It’s said that the cinematography is akin to Sin City and pretty gorgeous, but everything else in the movie aside from Scarlett Johansson and Eva Mendes being in it is awful. I’ll buy that. One point each for hot actresses, and one for cinematography like Sin City. 3/10

The Losers (2010) – The last DC film that I have not seen, but I rather want to. It barely made more than its $25 million budget, but still starts Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen), Zoe Saldana (Star Trek), and Chris Evans (Captain America). Described as an A-Team of sorts, it is said to be full of action movie clichés and is big, loud, noisy, dumb fun. Which, I can live with on occasion. 5/10

Jonah Hex (2010) – Jonah Hex was billed to be an awesome western shoot em’ up with Megan Fox being a babe on the side, and the ultimate dude flick. In reality, it turned out to be the ultimate idiot movie that actually was painful to watch. Thankfully, including the credits, it was only 81 minutes long. I was ready to be put out of my misery far before then however. 0.5/10

RED (2010) – I didn’t enjoy this movie. That being said, I didn’t hate it. I also don’t care to synopsize it because I was primarily bored by everything that happened in it. Normally, I like Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Morgan Freeman movies. Something just doesn’t gel in this one for me though. It’s like throwing firecrackers down groundhog holes. It’s exploding, loud, and occasionally funny. But after nothing really happens for about ten minutes, I move on with my life. 5.5/10

Green Lantern (2011) – Green Lantern is not as bad as some people bill it. That being said, it’s also simply just not a good movie. There’s wayyyyyyyyy too much CGI, the villain is idiotic, and the cast is pretty bad. I think that Ryan Reynolds could conceivably be Hal Jordan, and he could do a fine job as the protagonist, but he’s just weighted down by poor writing and too much unrealistic razzle-dazzle. The hope for this movie coming in would be that it could potentially be a Justice League origin movie, which instead turned super-messy with special effects and lost all semblances of reality. My advice for the series is to create a sequel more grounded in reality that’s grittier and more realistic, and keep both Reynolds and Blake Lively on the cast, while forgetting pretty much everything else that happened in the first film. 4/10

Man of Steel (2013) – This is the Superman reboot and story that everyone has been waiting for. With Zack Snyder at the helm directing, this fantastic cast of Henry Cavill (Immortals, now playing Superman), Russell Crowe (Jor-El, Superman’s Kryptonian father), Kevin Costner (Jonathan Kent), Michael Shannon (General Zod), Amy Adams (Lois Lane), and Laurence Fishburne (Perry White) puts together the darkest, yet most realistic take on Superman yet. With Snyder’s nonlinear directing style, this movie shows Clark Kent/Kal-El coming to Earth and having trouble dealing with his non-human powers on a very human level. With General Zod arriving on Earth in search of Kal, it’s up to Clark to become who he was sent and born to be to stop the aliens from punishing humanity for hiding Kal from Zod. Very well done acting, directing, and action wise, the script could be a little better with some actual attempts at humor (it’s a movie that might take itself too seriously), and the large-scale destruction we see in Metropolis is a little bit too much to believe. Not a perfect movie by all means, but a very good one and a great reboot for the series. 8/10

Red 2 (2013) – What reason would I have to pay money or even time to go see this? ????/10

Part of the reason for DC’s success can be attributed to the fact that they have created several movies based on graphic novels instead of a series of comics. There’s less to draw on for a graphic novel, and more of a linear story to be told than the masses of comics and alternate universes and characters that are in play when we venture into comic book territory. Although the film branch of DC is without a doubt without its faults, it seems that the movies they create are designed to do more than just make money. They retain good actors and directors for successful franchises (see Snyder and Nolan), and focus on the cast, the story, and the realistic nature of how it gets conveyed to the audience. The future of DC film is unknown though, as the only established movie they have concretely on tap is a Man of Steel sequel that will introduce Batman into the Superman universe, which will likely be the prelude to a future Justice League movie. Rumor has it that Christian Bale and the rest of The Dark Knight series cast will not stay on for their roles, which would be a true shame not just for the audience but for the bean counters at DC. Honestly, I do not care how they explain it, but Christian Bale needs to play Batman and the rest of the universe needs to translate over with Man of Steel. There simply is no replacement for Christopher Nolan’s series. If DC were Marvel, there would already be a Batman reboot in place so they could make even more cash out of all the movies to follow. Let us hope that DC continues to stay the course and invoke (mostly) well done movies instead of following the Marvel path to greed.

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10 Songs I Love

A summary of my musical taste in 10 songs:

If I’m going to be writing about music, I think it’s best to give readers a background for my musical tastes. I figure that showing my taste’s will help you understand why I might not like something you like or vice versa. I’ll try to cover the whole spectrum of music I enjoy through 10 different songs, each covering a unique category of music I. Just to note, these aren’t exactly my 10 favorite songs, but more an overview of 10 songs I love. As always, thanks for reading.

1) Classic Rock

Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody

I was pretty close to picking “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, but I think “Bohemian Rhapsody” just edges it out. Every time I hear it, I can’t help but sing along to the line  “I don’t wanna die, I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all!” .

2) 80’s Era “Cheesy” Song I Love Anyway

Toto – “Africa

Any of my friends from senior year of high school can attest to my love of this song. My favorite part is the falsetto harmony “I bless the rain”. Look for that part at 3:32 on the video.

3) R&B Song

Frank Ocean –“Wiseman

This is a much newer song than the first two songs, as it was only released in late 2012. This song was intended to be in the 2012 film Django Unchained, but the director, Quentin Tarantino, couldn’t find a place for the song in the movie, and he didn’t want to dishonor it by throwing it in haphazardly. After listening, you can see why Tarantino cared for it so much.

4) Dance Song

Daft Punk – “One More Time

It’s simple, it’s a bit repetitive, but play this over huge speakers and see how long you can make it without dancing.

5) Hip-Hop Song

Kanye West – “Hey Mama” Grammy Version

Show this to anyone who hates Kanye West. They might still hate him, but they’ll now like one of his songs.

6)Alternative Rock

The Strokes- “Last Nite

The Strokes first album was so good, they spent the rest of their career trying to get close to it in quality, and have not yet succeeded. But man, was that first album great. This song, “Last Nite” takes its opening from Tom Petty’s “American Girl”.

7) Pop Song

Usher – “Climax

Usher is in top form in this 2012 hit song, produced by Diplo. Unlike current pop music, the beat is constantly rising and falling, without ever breaking out into a dubstep frenzy.

8) Old School 50’s Song

Bobby Darin – “Beyond the Sea

Yes, the original was technically written in 1946, but Bobby Darin’s 1959 version is my favorite.

9) A Little Off The Beaten Path Song

Animal Collective – “My Girls

Something about this song is just perfect to me.

10) Favorite live performance song/video

LCD Soundsystem – “All My Friends

Though the quality of the video isn’t the best, the song is.

Please excuse the one s-word at the beginning of the video. The rest is clean.

Is the Harrisburg Senators Stadium Money in the (Metro) Bank?

Review 1 of our Ballpark Tour : Metro Bank Ballpark, Harrisburg PA

This past weekend, my esteemed colleague Mr. Thurston Howell and myself hit the Capital City of Pennsylvania for a day baseball game on Harrisburg’s city island for a Harrisburg Senators (AA affiliate of the Washington Nationals) game, who they played host to the Akron Aeros (AA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians). In our first stadium review, we ate, we drank, we were merry, and we were hot as hell’s half-acre, burning up in the afternoon sun. The consensus of Metro Bank Park is mixed, some very surprising and some very typical of semi-professional baseball.

When as a kid I went to Senators games, I always got a scorecard and kept score, and knew all the names of the prospects of both teams (from Vlad Gurerro to Ryan Howard to Pat Burrell to Bryce Harper (except I wasn’t a kid for that last one)) playing. Although my major league knowledge has significantly expanded, I can say that I’m much more apathetic to the Senators and their version of baseball being played on the banks of the Susquehanna River. The one thing that I do remember as a child though, was that whenever I went with my parents we never spent any money. I was raised very frugally, and getting one hot dog at a game was a complete gift that was hardly to be expected. From what I recalled then, was that the food was good and it was cheap, two things that made everyone who went happy. It wasn’t quite a Dollar Dog Night, where in Philadelphia one time my father stood in line for three innings waiting to get hot dogs (bless him), but they were relatively inexpensive for most ballpark concessions. I was hoping, that coming into a conscious review and having a good sum of money of my own, that I would find the same thing as I remembered.

Metro Bank Park Panorama

1. Accessibility and Parking

City Island is very accessible in Harrisburg, whether you park in the downtown part of the city (or live there) and walk across the river on the bridge to the park, or if you’re driving in from either shore of the Susquehanna. If it’s a busy game, parking and traffic can get a little backed up on the bridge, but we had no trouble at all and got a very close spot when we showed up about 50 minutes prior to game time. Parking is a flat fee of $3 which is negligible, but if you have to park in the Parking Garage in the far back of the lot, you get kind of screwed. It’s easier to get out if you park there, but the walk back and forth isn’t exactly what I’d call fun. It’s not perfect, but if you know what you’re doing, you have no problems what so ever. 8.5/10

2. Tickets

We bought our tickets online for $10 a piece, in the “200” section on the first base side behind home plate. Pretty darn good seats (you have to try really hard to get a bad seat), and for about six bucks more you can get some really great box seats. That’s still a lot of money to see semi-professional ball, so you really shouldn’t be $16 passionate about it, so $10 is a good fit. However, since everyone orders tickets online, they feel that it’s necessary to tack on a $3 convenience charge. Honestly, screw that. I’m making their life easier, not just mine. It should be like 25 cents a ticket, not $3 per transaction. You can print your tickets if you don’t want to stand in line at will-call, but they’re really ugly and boring. However, as it ended up, so are the actual tickets. The only real color in them is advertising the stadium sponsor, and the coupon for $10 off a purchase of $50 or more at Dick’s Sporting Goods on the reverse side. Not worth it. 6/10

3. Beer and Hot Dogs

These are the two main ballpark staples, so I thought that I’d group them into one category by themselves. As far as the beer goes, I was impressed. All your domestics are on tap, including the dreaded Michelob, with many more found in big cans, ranging from Twisted Tea to Mike’s Hard Lemonade to Bud Light Lime, Labatt Blue Light,  etc. Pabst’s Blue Ribbon is also (strangely?) featured on tap, along with some fantastic IPAs from the local Troegs brewery and Appalachian Brewing Company. Fantastically, Angry Orchard hard Cider is also on tap, which is worth a point by itself. It’s cold, it’s plentiful, and it’s easy to find…..just not cheap. $6.50 for 20 ounces of any type, or $7.50 for a can of light or weaker beer. As far as hot dogs go, a Yelp review claimed there was such thing as an “Ollie Dog” that had to be tried, but we couldn’t find it despite asking around. So, we instead each got one hot dog, I got a regular and Mr. Howell got a “jumbo dog” for a dollar extra. The difference is size is hardly noticeable, so save your money and get the regular one. The dogs themselves weren’t anything special, and the buns actually kind of rather stale. Props for having a special kind of salsa mustard available though. Hot dog quality and beer prices kill what could be a great score, instead…..7/10

4. Architecture and Design

The ballpark is pretty ugly. A lot of steel and concrete, with the obligatory ads populating the fence and a huge blow-up Ollie from “Ollie’s Discount Warehouse” dominating the left field seats. The boardwalk/deck is made of that recycled  polyurethane crap that playgrounds are made of in the projects. The seats are very plasticy and kind of pathetic feeling. Since it is right next to the river, the May Flies can get really bad, and when it rains the field is very susceptible to flooding which is pretty much just poor planning. At least some of the stadium decorations and the ability to stand out above the center field fence, and walk in a ring around the field are nice features. 3.5/10

5. Atmosphere 

A sparsely attended day game on a weekend with a first place team? The stadium is designed to hold 6,187 (even though the record crowd with Stephen Strasburg pitching was 8,637)  and the paid attendance was announced as 3,357, which means that at peak there were probably 2500 people actually there. And, with the game ending up as an Akron slaughter of Harrisburg (11-2), at the end of the game the total butts in seats was probably about 1000. The fans we sat around seemed rather knowledgeable about the team, a few admittedly being regulars to the park. Although they didn’t really seem terribly knowledgeable about Major League Baseball, because the only conversation they joined in of ours was about how we were supposedly not allowed to have beer in our section. If you can’t talk about the 1997 World Series with me, you’re not a baseball expert. Major props go to the sound crew though, who played the theme from The Walking Dead when the opponents lineups were announced. Demerits however for using the FOX Sports theme for the hometown lineup announcing. Other quality music played was “Help” by the Beatles and “Call Me” by Blondie when going to the bullpen, and Rick Ross and Kanye West being played during some walkups. More congrats are due for Cee Lo Green’s Forget You (edited of course) being played during an Akron three run homer, and a nice, NHL reminiscent home run siren for the home team. FOX Sports music is a major negative, and sparse attendance doesn’t help…..but an otherwise good ballpark DJ bails this score out from being downright terrible…..5/10

6. Concessions

Another mixed bag here. Having reasonably priced normal ballpark-fare will get you a score of a five. Which, The Senators had plenty of. Mediocre prices for nachos, soft pretzels, soft drinks, peanuts, popcorn, pizza, chips, etc etc. The ballpark specialties are Hershey’s Ice Cream (which has NOTHING to do with the Hershey Chocolate Company), and local bar Arooga’s wings. Honestly, Hershey’s Ice Cream is nothing special, and a dollar for a wing ($6 for half a dozen) on a hot day isn’t very enticing. Where this score increases is their grill, which has a very solid grilled chicken sandwich and 1/3 pound burger, both for under $6. DO NOT make the mistake of putting ketchup on the chicken sandwich, the piece I got was massive and seasoned wonderfully, and saves this concessions score from mediocrity. 6.5/10

7. ADD Generation Appeal

The ballpark located on city island. There’s pony rides, mini golf, batting cages, an arcade, a miniature train that goes around the island, all within two minutes walking distance from the ballpark entrance. Inside, there’s the obligatory speed pitch, bouncy castles, mascots galore, on-field activities, scoreboard activities, and colorful stuff to look at. Plus, ice cream in a baseball helmet? Kids love that stuff. AND there’s the game, which can hold some kids short attention spans, depending on their interests. The ONLY thing that is a drawback is the souvenir shop. There isn’t anything terribly creative and interesting, and everything is priced ridiculously high. 8.5/10

8. Intangibles

No bathroom lines (at least not on a sparsely attended game like we attended), although not the cleanest things you’ll ever run into with overflowing trash cans by the ninth inning. The seats though plain suck. Both Thurston and I are rather slender individuals and we found the seats bothersome. I can’t imagine how they would feel if you were, let’s say, “shapely.” At least there were cupholders. The staff was very outgoing and friendly, and in fact quite bored because of the amount of people there and the score on the scoreboard. Maybe some of them should have been sent to go clean the bathrooms instead of watching the game, but that isn’t exactly my call. We could have traded up to behind home plate with ease, but at that point in time it didn’t really matter. No major food lines either, and the condiments were always full and plentiful. Plus, we got a free bobblehead of Roger Bernadina. The only other thing was that the program really sucked. Thankfully it was only $2, but it’s all black and white and full of ads not to mention about 10 pages long. Uninteresting, and their pencils suck.  The seats and disorganized bathrooms aren’t exactly the greatest, but there wasn’t anything that obviously stuck in our craw. Not an exceptional experience, but one that didn’t really piss us off. 6.5/10

9. Warm-Up Entertainment

There’s the hot dog races by little kids on field, the Red Robin burger shuffle, t-shirt launches, The Kiss Cam with Love Shack playing (and a hilarious moment when at the end they put Akron’s bullpen on the Cam). And of course, during the seventh inning stretch a fairly bland version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” followed by something a little more original, “Cotton Eye Joe.” Mostly played safe without anything terribly creative, props for Cotton Eye Joe and putting the Kiss Cam on the Aero’s pen. I like dangerous and exciting things during innings though, like launching bottle rockets out of the MC’s butt at targets on the field (which would grant an automatic 11/10). 6/10

10. Game Quality

Surprisingly, even though this is semi-professional baseball it was a fun game to watch. The starter for the Sens was cruising through the first four and seemed to be rather talented, but then the flood gates opened and he got torn apart. A few plays of questionable effort on defense for both sides, but no errors or plain boneheaded moments. Both teams had very nice jersey designs, with the Senators being very reminiscent of the Nationals home unis, and Akrons away numbers looking like the purple Colorado Rockies alternates which I absolutely love. It was a pitchers duel for the first half of the game, but when the Aeros started tearing into Harrisburg’s pitching, you could tell that on a hot summer afternoon that they started to tire quicly. If you were an Akron fan like the many wearing Cleveland jerseys at the game, I’m sure you had a good time. The game was still fun and well-played, so….8/10

EC (Extra Credit) : Free Roger Bernadina bobblehead that is actually well made gives the Harrisburg Senators their only point and aspect of extra credit. 1

Final Score : 66.5/100

The good thing about the Senators? It’s a small park where you can find everything, there is plenty to do, and you are always going to be close to the action. The bad parts? You’re going to pay pretty dearly for anything of quality, and for a team that’s in first place, the general apathy of the crowd was somewhat surprising. Not to mention that the park isn’t particularly pretty, and that the seats are uncomfortable. And, if you plan it wrong, you end up going to a game where all the May Flies gather by the outfield lights, and die in droves, littering the seats with dead bugs. If you’re local, and you have money to blow, and you pick the right game to go to with a bunch of friends I guarantee you’ll have a good time. Other than that, Metro Bank Park simply isn’t terribly special. Especially when you consider our list of expenses below, which amounts to about four hours of entertainment.

Thurston Howell’s Expenses

1. Ticket – $10

2. Convenience Charge – $1.50 (split)

3. Parking – $1.50 (split)

4. Jumbo Hot Dog – $3.50

5. 1/3 Pound Burger – $5.75

6. Troeg’s Beer – $6.50

7. Angry Orchard Hard Cider – $6.50

Thurston’s Total Expenses – $35.25

My Expenses

1. Ticket – $10

2. Convenience Charge – $1.50 (split)

3. Parking – $1.50 (split)

4. Program – $2

5. Hot Dog – $2.50

6. Grilled Chicken Sandwich – $5.50

7. Shock Top Beer – $6.50

8. Angry Orchard Hard Cider – $6.50

My Total Expenses – $36

I could drop $36 on a pretty darn good date (and pay for two people), and have more to walk away with than seeing a semi-pro baseball game and a Roger Bernadina bobblehead. I’m not saying it wasn’t fun, it was just that in order to have fun consistently there I need to have the wallet of Jay Gatsby. Two beers and two concession items isn’t unreasonable for a hot afternoon at the ballpark, but the prices just seemed a bit outlandish. We’ll see how it compares to the next park when we review it soon, stay tuned for more details!

Ballpark Review #4 – Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles), Baltimore MD

Ballpark Review #3 – Sovereign Bank Stadium (York Revolution), York PA

Ballpark Review #2 – Clipper Magazine Stadium (Lancaster Barnstormers), Lancaster PA

Ballpark Review #1 – Metro Bank Park (Harrisburg Senators), Harrisburg PA

‘Despicable Me 2’ is actually mostly……Spicable?

To tell the truth, I rather stumbled upon the Despicable Me ‘series’ by accident. Back in the summer of 2010, I was in Alaska for a few months and didn’t have ready access to a movie theater or even the internet so I wasn’t aware of box office performances, and other movie current events. When I came home in August, my girlfriend of the time and myself randomly picked this movie out of the air to go see as we were standing in front of the “Now Playing” board at the theater. It was probably the best decision I made in that whole relationship, as the first film installment was somewhat emotionally moving, hilarious, and just absolutely adorable.

So, naturally, with the success of Despicable Me ($543 million profit vs. $69 million budget), a sequel was called into the works, and released over the Independence Day extended holiday weekend. Yes, that would make this review very late, I would admit. But, I promised to take my little brother to go see it, and had to fit his schedule and mine, which as you can tell by the recent lack of blog posts, is tough enough with my schedule (more noticeable this time is the lack of a girlfriend who wants to fit in my schedule and go see it, but that’s another story/rant on its own).

As with most animated sequels, I went into this movie not expecting anything terribly earth-shattering. Unlike the Toy Story sequels, I didn’t think that the central message of the story was going to be universally applicable, as it seemed to be more of just a fun sequel, with more of the hilarious immature little yellow minions that mostly stole the show in the first one.

And to be honest, I was basically spot on. This movie is pretty much The Santa Clause 2. It’s very predictable and nothing terribly heart-tugging or emotional, but still a very enjoyable ride. Illumination Entertainment recognized how popular the minions had become after the first film, and added more of them in the second. It wasn’t an overkill though, it seemed that they struck a good balance between their goofy antics and the rest of the characters, plus advancing the plot along. However, a spin-off movie entitled Minions is planned for December 2014, which will feature these adorable characters even more.

Despicable Me 2 picks up where the first left off, with Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), continuing on raising his three adoptive daughters while balancing his seemingly retired super-villain image. Meanwhile, at the arctic circle, a chemical compound is stolen that is capable of transforming any living thing into an indestructible, crazed monster. The Anti-Villain League abducts Gru one day to attempt to persuade him and his seeming change-of-villainous heart to go undercover and figure out who could have possibly been the thief of the compound. He flatly declines at first, but after realizing that he could go back to using cool gadgets and some persuasion from his girls, he takes the job, and is partnered up with an AVL agent named Lucy Wilde (voiced by Kristen Wiig). Unbeknownst to Gru, his minions are also disappearing slowly but surely as well, as his daughters push him to find himself a wife or at least a girlfriend. All of these plot lines are easy to follow, and lead to one main, fun, but rather predictable conclusion.

To summarize, Despicable Me 2 is an adorable, fun, and funny movie. It isn’t anything terribly ground breaking or new and emotionally tugging, but it’s an enjoyable ride, especially if you’re under the age of 12, or with someone who is and is giggling uncontrollably at some of the minion’s antics. It’s a good matinée movie, fun for kids and adults alike, and an entertaining installment in the series. Overall, I’d give it a……………..7/10

2013 Midsummer Classic Live Blog

11:25 And, Alvarez pops up to end it. By divine intervention, it wasn’t a strikeout. No clear ASG MVP, but Joe Buck wants to award it to either himself or a New York player. Because he knows best. 3-0 American League win, the National League is just straight up. – DC

11:22 Paul Goldschmidt hits a 2 out double off Joe Nathan. And then the umpire calls an obvious ball a strike on Pedro Alvarez (a Pirate). He’ll strike out anyway though. – DC

11:20 Why is the National League so bad? The Pirates. Andrew McCutchen just struck out again. – DC

11:19 The Umpire just wants to go home. Those were some borderlined pitches that Matt Carpenter took that home plate blue rung him up on. Of course, if I were him, I’d call those pitches strikes all day too. The National league just refuses to get their bats off their shoulders. 2 hits through 8 1/3. – DC

11:11 Make a wish, I wish for a NL win. Of course, Jason Grilli gave up the triple to Prince. A Pirate. Go figure. Back to back groundouts though, as the NL infield looks Fielder back to third base. Who is still catching his breath from running 270 feet. – DC

11:10 Prince Fielder just does the impossible and runs, but Fox needs to give Rivera a 5 minute interview.  Why do I expect anything different? – JD

11:07 And hit triples, thanks to Carlos Gomez. – DC

11:06 Prince Fielder also likes to eat. – DC

11:04 Me : (on Blue Diamond Almond commercial) “Almonds are really expensive, and brand name ones? They cost so much.”

Thurston Howell : “I wonder how expensive that hot mama is.” – DC

10:59 Is Tim McCarver really dissecting Metallica lyrics and how they relate to Mariano? I think enter night is a racial term, at least. And off to Never-Never Land can be a good time if Peter Pan is telling it to you. – DC

10:52 #EnterSandman as FOX Sports assumes the position for Mariano Rivera. Joe Buck just went six to midnight. – DC

10:47 I never knew that one could strike out on a 2-1 count, thanks for the education Fox Sports and the incomparable Joe Buck. -JD

10:44 Dom Brown is too busy gazing into Elysium that a double by Jason Kipnis goes over his head for an RBI and a 3-0 AL lead following a double play ball by Torii Hunter. Also, Machado just swung at one that bounced way up there LOL. Newb. – DC

10:40 Back to back hits to start the top of the eighth  by Salvador Perez and Jhonny Peralta off Craig Kimbrel. Joe Buck is dissecting about how it makes so much sense to bring Mo Rivera in for the eighth rather than the ninth, but he’s actually wrong. He just wants to talk about New York more, who probably is paying him per mention. – DC

10:34 No, it’s okay NL. Swing at pitches that are balls, and take pitches that are strikes. Blue Jays pitchers tag-team for back to back strikeouts of Brown and Buster Posey. This offense is pathetic. – DC

10:28 Jim Leyland is afraid of Dom Brown and how he’s gonna hit a game tying home run here following a David Wright single. 2-0 AL, bottom 7. – DC

10:27 Manny Machado. Self-explanatory. -JD

10:25 What a play by Machado. Only 21 years old. I still hate Joe Buck, though. -TH

10:19 I think a better way to Bless America would be Jennifer Lopez streaking across the outfield, instead of her ex-husband Marc Anthony singing a song. – DC

10:16 A fat slug, I mean, Bartolo Colon, could beat Edwin Encarnacion in a race. – DC

10:09 Andrew McCutchen strikes out with a runner on. I bet all the Steelers fans out there are thinking up excuses for why he didn’t get a hit. Fact of the matter is, the Pirates strike out too much, which is why they suck. – DC

10:04 mikey thomasJust realized that Bartolo Colon looks just like Mikey Thomas from Backyard Baseball -TH

10:03 Grant Balfour is kind of losing it. Four pitch walk to Michael Cuddyer, and then the camera cuts quick to Bartolo Colon, who they paged seconds before to tell him to put down the cheeseburger he was eating, as they were about to show him on camera. Also, the only reason he came to New York to play was because they told him there was unlimited free food. And steroids. – DC

10:02 My heart sank when I realized that I would have to listen to the mindless commentary of Joe Buck again in the post-season. -JD

9:52 Jose Fernandez is only 20 years old and is pitching in the All Star Game, which is amazing because when Joe Buck was 20 years old, he was still in 10th grade. -TH

9:48 I feel like I am beating a dead horse but if I see one more blatant endorsement during this game, I may lose all respect I have for Fox sports and the MLB. -JD

9:44 A Phillies pitcher always gives up runs in the All-Star game. Ugh, Cliff Lee. 2-0 AL, bottom 5. Branny Phillips is showboating like a boss though, barehanding double play balls like it’s his job. Wait……… – DC

9:35 Joe Buck should be like the streaking fan. Neither seen nor heard. -TH

9:34 Adam Jones representing Baltimore well. Joe Buck is still talking about the Yankees. -TH

9:33 I am waiting for Joe Buck to gaze upon the faces of Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington in the New York skyline.  Two of his favorite things to do, sell out and blow smoke up the butt of the Big Apple. -JD

9:33 If Joe Buck can see Elysium in the New York sky, I wonder if he can find love in a man’s eyes? – DC

9:32 I guess with all issues surrounding steroids and baseball, the MLB has started to try and find other avenues for revenue. -JD

9:29 Elysium is about as real as Joe Buck’s friends. – TH

(At this point in time, the camera shows the outfield sky, and Joe Buck says “There it is, Elysium” in an attempt to promote the trailer of the movie that was just shown during commercials. It comes off awkward and flat, and there’s a long pause afterward where I imagine everyone hit the mute button to cover up the laughter at how idiotic a comment it was.)

9:27 Joey Votto has “Paint it Black” as his walkup music. Boss. Also, shut up Joe Buck. The Pirates aren’t fun to watch. They strike out the third most in all of baseball. Can’t wait for their second half tank. Still 1-0 AL, bottom of the fourth. Wright up to bat, McCutchen on third pinch running for Beltran, after stealing second and reaching third on a groundout. I bet he gets stranded. (Update) – He does. – DC

9:25 Of course King Felix only is hittable when he’s pitching with the Orioles on his team. – TH

9:25 How much can Fox and the MLB  suck up to the city of New York? Like I thought this was about the players not the host city. -JD

9:17 Joey Votto sucks at fielding, but not as bad as Miguel Cabrera sucks at running. In unrelated news, I wonder if mouth cancer is giving Chris Davis his superpowers this year? – DC

9:13 Hopefully that bat hit Joe Buck -TH

9:11 Nobody likes Mr. Met. Phanatic all the way. – DC

9:09 All Star games are supposed to be a showcase of the best players in the league. Not just a pitching match-up.  I want to see big hits and clutch plays like Ichiro in 2007.  The AL could have the most potent line-up in the game’s history and they have one hit through 3? -JD

9:01 I don’t want to see commercials about women, trucks, or horses. Or country music. Or any of that garbage. Just stop, truck companies. None of that is good. – DC

8:59 Robinson Cano getting beaned is the highlight of the night so far. -TH

8:57 Nomar Garciaparra is a better SS today than JJ Hardy. And, his batting routine is way more fun. – DC

8:50 All right, Chris Sale is dirty. That slider? Making Carlos Gonzalez (the best NL hitter) look like Desi Relaford. – DC

8:47 Darryl Strawberry probably hit up his crack dealer for tickets to the game just for old times sake. Also, why is David Wright hitting cleanup? Is this just a giant NYC lovefest tonight? Besides Robbie Cano getting hit by a Matt Harvey fastball and having to go for X-Rays, that is.  -DC

8:43 Is Matt Harvey, as a young pitcher, really good enough to strike out a batter with the skills like Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Adam Jones? – JD

8:37 Looking at the starting lineups, I must say that I agree with Bryce Harper batting ninth. Superstars like Edgardo Alfonzo hit ninth for the NL in the past. – DC

The Midsummer Classic and Baseball Primer

allstargamelogo

It is that time of year again, or at least this year, it’s really late compared to the past few years. Always played on a Tuesday, the Major League Baseball All-Star game is probably the most fun ASG to watch out of all the professional sports, and it actually (sort of) means something. Although it is going to be played at the home of the grody New York Mets this year, this blogger is still hoping for a National League win and continued dominance by Philadelphia players at Citi Field, just like they’ve done all year in the Big Apple. To celebrate, myself, Thurston Howell and new author Jonathan Drama will be live blogging the game, throwing our thoughts, trolls, and random baseball facts at you in the form of a continually updated post. Blogging will start around roughly game time or a little after (aka whenever I get out of work), which knowing all the pomp and circumstance that Bud Selig and baseball loves, will probably be around 9 PM EST (even though the TV broadcast is slated to start at 8). Drop by during or after the game, and become educated and updated on our thoughts and facts that we have to spread to you, the unenlightened.

That’s not all you have to look forward to though! We’ll be starting our Ballpark Reviews this upcoming Sunday with the Harrisburg Senators, as I’m about to describe below.

harrisburg senators

Throughout the next few months, the writers of this blog will be conducting local baseball semi-professional and professional ballpark reviews of stadiums and parks that are local to the Susquehanna Valley area. The ballparks on the list to review include but are not limited to the following:

Clipper Magazine Stadium – Home of the Lancaster Barnstormers

Sovereign Bank Stadium – Home of the York Revolution

FirstEnergy Stadium – Home of the Reading Fightin’ Phils

Metro Bank Park – Home of the Harrisburg Senators

Citizens Bank Park – Home of the Philadelphia Phillies

Oriole Park at Camden Yards – Home of the Baltimore Orioles

Obviously, since the quality of semi-pro baseball differs vastly from that of pro baseball, the grades will still use the same scale, but be judged on entirely different levels or expectations. The predetermined scale of how venues will be judged will be as follows, with a total score being out of 100, and each category being scored on a scale of 0-10. As far as the scale goes, for comparison purposes, a 0 means utterly horrible, a 5 is totally average, nothing special at all, and a 10 is vastly superior in whatever way mentioned.

  1. Accessibility/Parking – ease of access, congestion, walking distance, price
  2. Tickets – ease of purchase, availability, price, physical quality of said tickets
  3. Beer – prices, temperature, variety
  4. Architecture/Design – physical nature, cleanliness, scoreboard
  5. Atmosphere – ballpark “buzz”, fan knowledge/behavior
  6. Concessions – quality of food, price of food, uniqueness value
  7. ADD Generation Appeal – souvenirs, things to do besides the game
  8. Intangibles – seat comfort, staff friendliness, bathrooms, etc.
  9. Warm-up Entertainment – in between innings activities, 7th inning stretch, music, scoreboard specialties
  10. Game Quality – fan interest, competitive play, closeness to action

EC (Extra Credit) – Anything that merits extra points

Also, (we hope) included will be the games attendance and a list of everything we bought along with its prices. Stay tuned and watch out for the first review!

Hernandez: A Lesson in Separating Athletic Ability and Celebrity Worship

The sickening obsession with celebrities in this country is both unfathomable and inconsistent. Unfathomable because these people do nothing to make the world a better a place and inconsistent because we assign different celebrities different attributes they should embody solely based on their occupation. For example, Reese Witherspoon should be a wholesome, pure person in “real life” because young teenage girls look up to her and enjoy her on-stage portrayals. And, Ray Lewis should be an inspiration to young boys aspiring to learn life lessons from their favorite football players  because of his religious overtones and humble beginnings. NO. Why? These people are entertainers at best, pawns in a celebrity crazed culture at worst. Your ability to deliver bone rattling hits to get our attention doesn’t necessitate the country listening to your stories of inspiration and motivational speaking. The recent Aaron Hernandez saga has given a unique perspective on an absurd issue in American sports culture.

The evidence is mounting against the former New England Patriots tight end. But, as we saw in the Zimmerman case, there is no point in surmising about the verdict until the case is resolved. So, for the purposes of this discussion we should analyze what his alleged involvement has done to tarnish his ascribed position as a role model. We knew next to nothing about him, his personal life, his community involvement, and so on which is perfectly fine. However, upon learning of the murder investigation, the same tale was told of how we should protect our kids from learning of actions like these and hold our athletes accountable to be better role models. That approach is so asinine. The entire perspective we should gain is simple. Athletes and celebrities are the worst role models you can imagine because we know their public identity only due to the fact that they play a sport or sing a song or act in a movie. That is meaningless. Why do we want our kids to want to do that later in their lives? They have a lot of money as a result of their jobs, so that forces us to take interest in their personal lives, religious and political views, or scorn them for going out to too many clubs? Come on. What kind of puritanesque double standard have we created?

Aaron Hernandez is a shady character. He has made judgments about who he associates with and how he handles situations in a different way than most of us would. He also catches a ball for living which is also incredibly different than most of us. Ray Lewis probably murdered or caused the death of another man a decade ago, but would that violent behavior truly surprise you from a man who made his fortune by tackling and pummeling opponents in a testosterone driven vortex of alpha males? I mean, this is ridiculous. I don’t care what happens to Hernandez and wouldn’t have a problem if he were still on the Patriots roster because it makes no logical difference. We like to watch him play football. We don’t like to watch him stand for a murder trail. So draw the line where it should be drawn.

The broader obsession with celebrity athletes that this case manifested yet again is our fault. It is easy to make the assertion that the problem is that these young, rich, and arrogant athletes are making poor judgments and creating a bad example for our kids. But, that conveniently puts the onus on them instead of us. The bad example we are setting for our kids is perpetuating the culture that allows and encourages interest in the lives of these people, these “heroes”. Because they can play a game with a ball? Because they can have their voices synthesized on auto-tune? Because they look pretty on stage? Not only should we not try to emulate these people, we should know how to separate the entertainment value they provide from who they are as people because the latter part does not matter and it really can’t be known because their persona is what we like not them. If you followed the Hernandez case and said that you are disappointed in him for setting a bad example for your kids than your kids have already been irreparably damaged by being taught to think that someone like Hernandez means anything at all in his or her life. It’s preposterous but indicative of the growing celebrity worship epidemic sweeping through American culture which has to be squashed by reason and logic which beg for us NOT TO CARE!

Magna Carta Holy Grail Falls Short

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Magna Carta Holy Grail by Jay-Z

2.5/4

“And We’re All Just Entertainers And We’re Stupid and Contagious”

Holy Grail” begins the album with this phrase, an interpolation of the chorus of Nirvana’s classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Though Jay-Z borrows the lyrics, the sentiment behind the phrase could not be more different. Kurt Cobain, when penning the original phrase, “Here we are now entertainers, I feel stupid and contagious”, meant it as a bit of angst paranoia, afraid of spreading his cynical mindset. Jay-Z re-purposes the phrase as a way of laughing at his critics. Whether or not you agree with his message, you can’t deny that people are listening. When Cobain wrote the original phrase, he was at the beginning of the growth of his success and fame. Jay-Z is at, arguably, the “falling action” phase in the plot of his life. Unfortunately, the lyrics of Magna Carta Holy Grail cover the same ground Jay-Z has covered for the last 3 or 4 albums, and Jay-Z simply doesn’t sound anywhere near as energetic as he was on the bombastic Watch The Throne.

That being said, Jay-Z rolls out the red carpet for Magna Carta. Vocal guests include Frank Ocean, Rick Ross, Beyonce, and of course, Suit and Tie-mate Justin Timberlake. The star-studded producer list stars a comeback Timbaland, the extremely on fire Pharrell, up-and-coming Travis Scott/WondaGurl, as well as the requisite Swizz Beatz, Hit-Boy, The-Dream,  and Mike Will Made It. These collaborators all bring a consistent intensity and quality to the album-you can tell they’re giving Jay-Z the best they have. The quality of the guests only serves to make Jay’s contribution more disappointing. For instance, Hit-Boy continues to show how versatile of a producer he is with the beat for “SomewhereinAmerica”. The beat starts with off-kilter horns and boom-bap drums before adding a twinkling piano loop, and is one of the best beats on the album. Jay-Z unfortunately chooses to spend the majority of the track with throw-away lines such as a repeating joke about Miley Cyrus twerking.

That isn’t to say there is a complete absence of quality songs. “BBC” successfully rides a similar vibe as the break-out hit Robin Thicke song “Blurred Lines”, both produced by Pharrell. “Tom Ford” has Jay-Z riding a “N—– in Paris” style beat, though Jay-Z is missing the contrast Kanye brings. “Picasso”, the albums highlight, shows Jay-Z at his hungriest on the album, and is anchored by a solid Timbaland beat. Jay-Z offers a word of warning for those in the limelight on “Holy Grail”, when he raps “Bright lights is enticing, But look what it did to Tyson”. Jay-Z seems determined not to join the large group of celebrities who blow all their money shortly after making it. As a rap artist, this sets him apart. No other rapper has diversified their investments and business ventures as much as Jay-Z has, proving that he is a “business, man”. Perhaps the biggest problem of Magna Carta is that it’s all an outward appearance. There’s so little introspection into the heart and soul of the man on top of the world. Jay-Z mentions a lot of famous artists on Magna Carta, but unlike Picasso and Da Vinci’s finest works, the album fails to leave a lasting impression.