Wednesday, March 27, 2019

30 Teams, 30 Haiku: My 2019 Baseball Preview

Happy Opening Day, everyone! Even though the 2019 season officially kicked off with two M's-A's games (and a disappointingly anti-climatic end to Ichiro's career) in Japan, it really starts today. The sesquicentennial of professional baseball begins with a number of interesting stories, least of all the battle of "haves" and "have-nots" in the American League. Maybe one team finishes at .500? The chasm between second and third place in the AL Central is already giving me vertigo.

Speaking of the AL Central... I spent last year watching Kansas City and thinking, "yeah, these are the Royals I grew up with." Expectations were modest before the Salvador Perez injury; we (allegedly) have the fastest team in the league, but our rotation has only three MLB-caliber pitchers and our lights-out bullpen from just five years ago is long, long gone. Ah well, at least we're not the Tigers or White Sox.

As for the predictions... you know the drill.

1. Phillies. Bryce? That's pretty nice/Kapler's micromanaging/might be a hindrance.
2. Braves*. Before you ask me/Kolby is not my cousin/...though I surely wish.
3. Nationals. "Rolling with Robles"/Scherzer and young bats ensure/.500 record.
4. Mets. Some curious moves/older, still injury-prone/Diaz? He's legit.
5. Marlins. New colors, same crap/unwatchable hodgepodge of/old, mediocre.

1. Brewers. So underrated/winning with brains and Braun, and/if Nelson breaks out.
2. Cubs*. Windows are closing/meager farm system behind/mostly intact squad.
3. Cardinals. What glitters isn't/Goldy; ace bullpen carries/load off meh SP's.
4. Reds. Sonny days ahead/overhaul has flash, though lack/of depth curbs progress.
5. Pirates. Frugal ownership/stifles; just a weird roster/...or a motley crew?

1. Dodgers. Surplus of pitching/a fading Kershaw is still/rather dangerous.
2. Rockies. Good pitching at Coors?/Only up front; weak bullpen/will curb pennant dreams.
3. Padres. A deep farm system/paired with Machado makes for/2020 hype.
4. D-Backs. All pitching, no bats/losing Souza was brutal/they'll start from scratch soon.
5. Giants. Good grief, this outfield/Bochy stayed one year too long/they'll unload vets soon.

1. Red Sox. Kimbrel's departure/hurts, the rest remains intact/too much depth to lose.
2. Yankees*. Well-rounded as it/is, then they bolster the 'pen?/Easy to Judge that.
3. Rays*. Openers? COME ON/yet the die-hard fans will say/"Wham bam, thank you Pham!"
4. Blue Jays. Not contending, but/make way for little Vlady/and other raw youths.
5. Orioles. Bad, but not boring/new bosses experiment/as youth learns to fly.

1. Indians. Win now, mad scramble/all that Bauer power must/carry the Tribe load.
2. Twins. Underachieving/prospects finally clean up/sleeper playoff team?
3. Royals. No Salvy splashes/the youngsters barely keep their/heads above water.
4. Tigers. A waste of Miggy/but I'll take Gardy over/Ausmus any day.
5. White Sox. Rebuilding hiccups/Eloy and Giolito/need to mature, fast.

1. Astros. Dangerous youth and/a full year of Correa/builds a dynasty.
2. A's. Sketchy rotation/fails to compliment power/bats; home run derby?
3. Angels. Keep swimming, Mike Trout/solid long-term deal, but this/year? They need prayers.
4. Rangers. Gallo, free swinger/symbolizes team gap year/Andrus trade looms near.
5. Mariners. So much turnover/Hunter Strickland, angry fool/throws heat everywhere.

AL MVP: Mike Trout, Angels
NL MVP: Nolan Arenado, Rockies
AL Cy Young: Trevor Bauer, Indians
NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom, Mets
AL ROY: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays
NL ROY: Nick Senzel, Reds
First Manager Fired: Mickey Callaway, Mets
2019 World Series: Astros over Dodgers


Sunday, March 24, 2019

That Wonderful Year in Music... 1989 (Redux)

Last month, I hit the reset button on my best of 1988 list. Now I'm looking down the barrel of 1989, which I honestly think was a slightly better year for music. Ten (or thirty) years on, I don't have too many regrets about what I put toward the top of the list, though in hindsight the rest of my top ten looks a tad shallow.


1. Paul's Boutique, Beastie Boys. (1) Three decades on, this album still snaps. Besides, how can you hate on anyone that rhymes "tomfoolery" with "Chuck Woolery?"
2. Doolittle, The Pixies (2)
3. Disintegration, The Cure (3)
4. Three Feet High and Rising, De La Soul (4)
5. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses (5)
6. On Fire, Galaxie 500 (NR)
7. 13 Songs, Fugazi (7)
8. Full Moon Fever, Tom Petty (6)
9. Energy, Operation Ivy (8)
10. Pretty Hate Machine, Nine Inch Nails (NR). The seeds of '90s alternative were planted heavily in '88 and '89, least of all the shape of industrial metal. Machine was a remarkable opening salvo for Trent Reznor, seemlessly blending bleak electronics with catchy riffs. A quickly ignored curio upon its first release, Machine built a strong word-of-mouth reputation in the next half-decade and transformed Reznor from an outsider to an unlikely place-setter.

Honorable Mentions: Cosmic Thing, The B-52s. (10); Bleach, Nirvana (NR); Oranges and Lemons, XTC (NR).

Best Jazz Album: Letter From Home, The Pat Metheny Group (9). The PMG's sound evolved with each of their '80s albums --give or take the wild detour Song X-- but this album turned Metheny et al. into smooth jazz radio staples. Home is a very accessible, borderline pop album, but by no means superficial fluff. The most delicate moments on the album never devolve into maudlin.


"Like a Prayer," Madonna
"She Drives Me Crazy," Fine Young Cannibals
"Veronica," Elvis Costello
"Living in the Free World," Neil Young
"The Downeaster Alexa," Billy Joel
"The Living Years," Mike + The Mechanics
"The End of the Innocence," Don Henley
"Bust a Move," Young MC
"Knock Me Down," Red Hot Chili Peppers
"So Alive," Love & Rockets


Next Week: my 2019 baseball preview.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Random Notes, March 2019

On the fly and always sly:

+ The impeachment process has began. At least, the beginning of the beginning. Or maybe, imagine the impeachment process as baseball season, and what commenced on March 4th was Spring Training. Say what you will about Michael Cohen's disingenousness and the weight of his testimony last week, it was enough to get the ball rolling.

+ The Democratic Party has never had a concensus on Israel. All this posturing about pledging support to Israel is an absolutely shortsighted way to resolve a thoroughly complicated topic.

+ I grew up watching "Jeopardy," so hearing about Alex Trebek's cancer diagnosis was disheartening. On a personal level, I know pancreatic cancer is pretty much a death sentence. Here's wishing Alex the best.

+ I'm on my way to Austin (again)! More details soon.