Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ready to play the real game?

With the Major League Baseball season nearly a third of the way complete, many of the Minnesota Twins faithful have already written off this season. I guess that isn't a complete shocker since the Twins are on a pace to become only the second team in MLB history to have a payroll in the triple-digit millions (in this case, $112.7M) while losing 100 games (The 2008 Seattle Mariners being the first to do so).

What will be interesting to me is how will the Twins conduct business this off-season. With the likes of Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano likely departing via free agency, that's approximately $24 million of salary off the books (including Nathan's $2 million buyout for 2012). In addition, Jim Thome (who turns 41 later this year) will likely retire and Kevin Slowey will for sure not be around in 2012, as the Twins have expressed an interest in trading him this season. That's another $6 million potentially being freed up.

So with possibly $30 million at their disposal prior to 2012, how will the Twins approach investing that money? Naturally they will look to take care of their own, by locking up some arbitration eligible players, plus free agent Jason Kubel. While I have no insights whatsoever into the organization's thoughts on Kubel, locking him up long term would make the most sense since he's only 29 and has been the Twins most productive offensive player this season. And with Cuddyer likely gone after this year, the Twins will need an everyday right fielder. In addition, Kubel has proven to be more durable after spending all or most of the 2005 & 2006 seasons recovering from a knee injury. From 2008 thru 2010, Kubel has averaged 143 games played with 23 home runs and 91 RBIs. Granted he's played a significant number of those games as the designated hitter, he has proven to be a fairly good right fielder when given the opportunity to play there.

Since 2001, when the Twins became relevant again, they have used a formula which they believe in wholeheartedly. That is, carefully scout quality ball players, draft and develop them within the organization and see them through as productive major leaguers. And now that the Twins are no longer a glorified farm system for the markets in Los Angeles and New York, they are actually able to lock up their home grown All Stars (i.e. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau) long term. After all, in their appeal for a new stadium, the Twins told us that the only way to remain competitive was to have a venue which would produce more revenue.

Now that the Minnesota Twins have sold 3 million tickets for the second consecutive season (with the seventh highest ticket prices in baseball no less), there will be a tremendous amount of scrutiny on whether or not they're willing to take the next step. That entails going out on the free agent market and signing a player who could help them immediately. Now when I talk about going out on the open market, I'm not suggesting the Twins pursue someone like an Albert Pujols, who is going to command $25-$30 million per season over 8-10 years. But certainly they have the resources to sign an impact player for 3-4 years and approximately $10-$15 million per season (NY Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, age 28, comes to mind).

While I'm ripe for a surprise, I still have a bad feeling the Twins organization will try to feed us the perpetual "Twins Way" propaganda philosophy. That is, they'll tell us fans they're choosing to use the available financial resources to bolster a depleted farm system with top notch prospects (Translation: we'll be competitive again within 2-3 seasons; be patient).

If that's the message we're given after a 100+ loss season, I think we can safely say the Target Field honeymoon will cease after just two years.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Box score of the week

The final regular season game of 1963 for the New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s. What can you tell me about it?


This features the one and only Major League Baseball game in the career of Houston's John Paciorek. He had been called up when rosters expanded in September, got into the final game of the 1963 season, on September 29, as the right fielder. He went to the plate five times, hitting three singles and drawing two walks, for a perfect career batting average and on-base percentage of 1.000, scoring four runs and driving in three during the game.

Back injuries forced Paciorek to have surgery in 1964, causing him to miss the entire 1965 season. He then played in the minors until 1969, but never again played in the big leagues.

Of the 20 players in major league history with career batting averages of 1.000, Paciorek was the only one to have as many as three at-bats.

Kudos to Mark Heuring for recognizing the significance of this game


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Life is fiction, competition and contradiction

Back in the Spring of 2005, a certain local radio station (which recently changed its format to all-sports) was hosting a contest entitled The Next Big Thing. What it entailed was aspiring radio personalities sending in a demo tape of something resembling a radio show. If the Program Director (Joe O’Brien at the time) felt the demo showed potential, he would allow the radio host(s) to do an actual on-air radio show during the ratings graveyard of 2-4 pm on a Sunday afternoon (in the Summer, no less). Since I didn’t feel ambitious enough to do this on my own, I harassed begged encouraged my good buddy Greg to be my co-host. So on Father’s Day 2005, we were given the opportunity to go on the air! After the two hours was complete, I felt as though I could do another 2-3 hours, I was so amped up! Thankfully, we were given a chance a couple of months later to fill in on the regularly scheduled 4-7 pm Sunday show hosted by Dave Thompson (who is now a Minnesota State Senator). Suffice to say, I had been bitten by the proverbial radio talk show bug.

Thanks to my entering the blogging arena in late 2004, I got to know members of the Northern Alliance Radio Network (mainly Brian Ward, Mitch Berg and Ed Morrissey), who in some variation have been on AM 1280 The Patriot since March 2004. Occasionally I offered gentle reminders that I wasn’t a complete novice in the radio biz and thus would love to fill in on some broadcasts if the opportunity ever arose. It was about 2-1/2 years of badgering before I finally received a chance to be a substitute co-host back in January 2010. Over the next sixteen months, I landed several guest co-host spots to the point where I was making regular appearances every few months. Thankfully I had friends such as Kevin Ecker and Derek Brigham who were willing to be guest co-hosts, despite busy schedules.

All the folks whom I have named in this post have had a role, whether instrumental or minor, in my having an opportunity that I have craved for many, many years: my own talk radio show! I received a brief call last week from Operations Manager Lee Michaels who expressed an interest in my putting together a live, local show. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance and received confirmation yesterday that we are a go!!

The debut of my one-hour program will be Saturday, June 4 at 3:00 pm, immediately after Mitch & Ed’s show! As of right now, I haven't a name for my new program (i.e. "Volume II" and "The Final Word" have been used in previous NARN programs) but I would certainly welcome suggestions. Feel free to leave submissions in my comment section.

Thanks again to everyone for their well wishes and I hope to have you call in to the program (After all, it is about ratings).


Monday, May 23, 2011

Quick Hits: Volume XXVI (UPDATED)

-It's official. In November 2012, the voters of Minnesota will have an opportunity to decide if marriage should be defined between one man and one woman, and whether it should be so stated in the Minnesota Constitution.

There have been several states which have put this to a vote and the people have voted overwhelmingly to define marriage as one woman and one man. And lest you think this is strictly an issue ginned up in the "red" states, the citizens of such liberal havens as Oregon and California have passed similar amendments.

If nothing else, the Minnesota electorate will substantially increase because of 2012 being a Presidential election year. In addition, more "values voters" will turn out due to the traditional marriage amendment finally appearing on the ballot. Combine that with the Obama administration thumbing its nose at enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act (an actual Federal law on the books), and it's feasible that not only will Minnesota vote to uphold traditional marriage but that a Republican could carry this state's ten electoral votes for the first time since 1972.

-With the House debating the marriage amendment for several hours over the weekend, the DFL naturally accused the MN GOP of taking its collective eyes of the real issue at hand, which is the state budget. Never mind that the GOP had conceded to Governor Mark Dayton's call for compromise ($34 billion is directly in the middle of 32B and 36B, right?) and submitted a budget on time (which the Governor will not even address until after the session ends). As far as the DFL is concerned, it's more expeditious to smear the Republican legislative majority as being preoccupied with taking away one's "civil rights" or Sen. Tom Bakk labeling the GOP a "cult" because they cling to the time-tested economic theory that you cannot tax your way to prosperity.

I believe Jodi Boyne, Public Affairs Director of the MN House GOP, summed it up best:

DFL: no budget, no reform, no redistricting map. Didn't support original (Gov. Dayton) tax plan. Thinks GOP is cult like. Heckuva session.


-On baseball's opening day back on March 31, the Los Angeles Dodgers hosted their arch rivals in the San Francisco Giants.

Unfortunately, the hoopla surrounding Opening Day took a back seat to an awful incident of fan violence. Giants loyalist Bryan Stow was severely beaten by a Dodgers fan for apparently no other reason than donning a Giants jersey in Dodger Stadium. Stow only recently awoke from a coma but remains in critical condition at a San Francisco hospital.

Finally, after nearly two exhaustive months of investigating, authorities have a primary suspect in custody.

The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office is reviewing the arrest of Giovanni Ramirez, the suspect in the beating of San Francisco Giants' fan Bryan Stow at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day, a spokeswoman for the D.A.'s office said Monday afternoon.

Ramirez, 31, who has two prior felony convictions, was booked Sunday evening on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. He was apprehended in an early-morning raid by LAPD SWAT officers at an East Hollywood apartment complex after an intense, seven-week manhunt.

Police said that a tip from Ramirez's parole officer was the key break in the case.

What I find just as appalling is the fact that the Dodgers' ownership squabble unwittingly resulted in this incident. Frank McCourt, who owned controlling interest in the club, and wife Jamie (the Dodgers' former CEO) were in the midst of a tumultuous separation when this incident occurred. Speculation has been that there were financial cutbacks in an effort to enhance the franchise's value in preparation for a sale. As such, ballpark security was one of the areas which took a hit.

Now that Major League Baseball has taken over the day-to-day financial management of the Dodgers, they are no doubt gearing up for what may be a heavy lawsuit filed by the Stow family.

UPDATE: As expected....

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wall to wall, people hypnotized......

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."-
Matthew 24:36

Given the aforementioned passage of scripture, it appeared the organization We Can Know was quite hasty in its prediction that the rapture would take place on Saturday, May 21, 2011. Since that date has come and gone, God's Word was, not surprisingly, reaffirmed.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have to admit I flippantly dismissed WCK's claim of Saturday being the day of the return of the Lord. The fetching Mrs. Carlson even joined in the frivolity by acknowledging it being rather apropos that the date of her 40th birthday was being dubbed "the day the world ends."

On the flip side, I will readily admit that the talk of Jesus Christ coming to take His bride away caused me to think about that event more deeply. Specifically, am I really ready to move on to eternity? Have I done all I needed to ensure my name is in the Book of Life? And how many others know the Lord because of my testimonies? It's no accident that one of the guidelines which I try to live up to is that of the late Leonard Ravenhill, who inquired "Are the things you're living for worth Christ dying for?" Now I'm not suggesting that there is anything we as humans can do to "settle up" with God for sacrificing his son Jesus so that we may have eternal life. That is a debt we'll NEVER be able to repay. But through His grace, we can impact others in ways which our human flesh is not capable.

I would agree that We Can Know was ill-advised in their declaration that they indeed knew "the day and the hour." But I don't think it's far-fetched to say they unwittingly caused Christians (or perhaps even non-believers) to assess their own readiness for the actual event.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Box score of the week

No surprise that I've chosen to feature one of many memorable games in the Hall of Fame career of Harmon Killebrew.


Courtesy of the Star Tribune:

This is the stuff that legends are made of.

Eight-year-old Jack Guiney, hospitalized in New York for weeks with burns over half of his body, greeted his hero as he strode into the room on May 20, 1964.

It was Harmon Killebrew. The Twins slugger was in town for a two-game series with the Yankees.

Killebrew gave an autographed baseball to Jack, who pulled a ball glove from under his pillow and said, "Would you autograph my glove, too?"

After a little baseball chatter -- "I'm a shortstop," the bandaged boy said -- Killebrew made a deal with the lad: "If you hurry up and get well, the next time I'm in town, I'll take you out to the ball park and you can meet all the fellows."

With the afternoon game near, Killebrew said it was time he headed head to the stadium.

"I'll watch you on television," the blue-eyed, freckle-faced youngster said from his Manhattan hospital bed.

"Maybe I'll hit you a couple," Killebrew responded.

Sure enough, he did just that, starting with a two-run home run in the first inning. The second homer came on his last at-bat, a solo shot in the eighth inning, capping off the Twins' 7-4 victory.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

It's on now!

Well it wasn't totally unpredictable that this Minnesota legislative session would be an entertaining one. On one side you have the Republicans controlling both chambers of the Legislature for the first time ever. On the other, you have a Democrat Governor who's beginning to exhibit some of the bizarre behavior (i.e recently calling the GOP budget plan "barbaric") which earned him Time magazine's title of worst U.S. Senator back in 2006.

Naturally, the DFL as a whole is being less than forthright regarding the GOP's budget proposal of $34 billion. You're probably hearing such statements like "all cuts" budget, which is the most dishonest. The fact is the Republican budget is 6% more than last biennium, when the budget was $32 billion. So in essence, the GOP has compromised by increasing spending as opposed to their initial inclination of rolling back to 2009 numbers. As such, Governor Mark Dayton has also had to come down from the ridiculous proposal of $37 billion.

Of course the one seemingly insurmountable stalemate remaining is in regards to increasing taxes. Mark Dayton's signature issue in the 2010 campaign was to increase taxes on couples making $250,000 per year and individuals making $150,000 annually (i.e. what Democrats call "the wealthy"). Ahhhh, a couple of issues there. First, a good number of folks who fall into that income range are those who run small businesses. It's rather difficult to expand one's business if their proverbial legs are cut out from under them. Why just yesterday someone requested a case study of a state which raised taxes and created private sector jobs. Might wanna step on that one, since the session is slated to end on May 23. Secondly, another group which falls into the aforementioned income category are highly paid professionals. However, they have been amongst the hardest hit in these days of high unemployment. Rather difficult to rely on revenue from a source that may very well dry up in a matter of months.

On the other side of the aisle, House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove), with many in the GOP caucus standing alongside him, reiterated his party's pledge to not raise taxes, period.

Based on all that, it would appear a near certainty that the session will not end as scheduled on May 23. There's also a fighting chance that a special session would not yield an agreement either. From there, the only option remaining would be a full government shutdown.

I guess we could say this is actually one thing Mark Dayton knows well: shutting down offices.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Harmon Killebrew: 1936-2011

Not much more to say regarding the death of Twins Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, who died Tuesday morning from complications of esophageal cancer.

He was 74.

It seems pretty obvious from those who knew Harmon considered him a much better man than a baseball player, and he was one heck of a baseball player.

With that, I'd like to point you to a musical tribute to the Twins legend. In 1995, local singer Jeff Arundel paid homage to the slugger with a tune simply titled Harmon Killebrew.



Saturday, May 14, 2011

Harmon Killebrew

It is with profound sadness that I share with you that my continued battle with esophageal cancer is coming to an end. With the continued love and support of my wife, Nita, I have exhausted all options with respect to controlling this awful disease. My illness has progressed beyond my doctors' expectation of cure.

I have spent the past decade of my life promoting hospice care and educating people on its benefits. I am very comfortable taking this next step and experiencing the compassionate care that hospice provides.

I am comforted by the fact that I am surrounded by my family and friends. I thank you for the outpouring of concern, prayers and encouragement that you have shown me. I look forward to spending my final days in comfort and peace with Nita by my side.

-Harmon Killebrew, MLB Hall of Famer

Yes, it appears that Killebrew will enter the twilight of his life in much the same way as he lived it: with grace and humility. Granted, I have never met Harmon. But reading the testimonials from those who were close to him and knew him well, the statement he released yesterday epitomizes the dignity with which he has always carried himself.

My earliest recollection of Twins baseball was 1979, about three years after Killebrew retired. But in 1984, when it was announced that the man called "Killer" would enter the baseball Hall of Fame, I attended Harmon Killebrew night in a May game at the Metrodome (I'm sure I have the commemorative Harmon Killebrew tin can around here someplace). While an average Twins team was drawing maybe 15,000 fans per game, nearly 40,000 came out to pay homage to the greatest slugger in Twins history, who hit 573 home runs in his career (well before the steroid epidemic).

To this day, Harmon's legacy still resonates throughout Twins Territory. If there was any question of how much Killer is beloved, you needn't look any further than the utter devastation expressed by Twins players, coaches and management upon yesterday's news. In fact, the Twins players have universally agreed to honor Killebrew by donning the creme colored 1961 jerseys for all their remaining home games this season.

Now let's hope the Twins give an even greater salute to Killer by actually showing a semblance of offensive prowess.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Box score of the week

Let's go back to a meaningless September 1975 regular season game with my beloved Twins visiting the Chicago White Sox.


The box score I featured is the Major League debut of pitcher Tim Stoddard. "Big deal" you say? Well, Stoddard happens to be the only athlete in history to win an NCAA basketball championship (1974 NC State Wolfpack) and a World Series ring (1983 Baltimore Orioles). Kenny Lofton came close to duplicating that feat, as he appeared in the NCAA basketball Final Four with the the 1988 Arizona Wildcats (who lost to Oklahoma in the National semifinals) as well as playing on two World Series runners-up (1995 Cleveland Indians and 2002 San Francisco Giants). Coincidentally, both Stoddard and Lofton are alumni of East Chicago Washington High School.



Well, I had a "box score of the week" banked to post early this morning. However, Blogger.com seems to have had some technical issues resulting in a few of my posts being nuked. Included in the carnage was a brilliant (if I do say so myself) evisceration of the vapid talking points from the left regarding the MN traditional marriage amendment. Shoulda posted the damn thing to True North, now that I think of it.

Oh well, que sera, sera.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Quick Hits: Volume XXV

-To no one's surprise, President Barack Obama received a bump in his approval ratings a week removed from the capture and killing (or "murder", says Juan Williams) of Osama bin Laden. But I have to say that I was pretty surprised to learn the latest AP poll showed said rating at 60%, with 53% saying Obama deserves re-election.

But as NRO's Jim Geraghty pointed out, we need to look at those who were polled.

It is a poll of adults, which isn’t surprising; as I mentioned yesterday, you don’t have to be a registered or likely voter to have an opinion on the president.

But then you get to the party ID: 46 percent identify as Democrat or leaning Democrat, 29 percent identify as Republican or leaning Republican, 4 percent identify as purely independent leaning towards neither party, and 20 percent answered, “I don’t know.”

With a poll sample that has a 17-percentage-point margin in favor of the Democrats, is anyone surprised that these results look like a David Axelrod dream?

Not really. Besides, the President will have to answer for the skyrocketing National Debt and mediocre unemployment numbers under his watch. Of course, any broaching of those subjects may well result in Obama constantly invoking the name of bin Laden, as if that alone should clear a path to re-election in 18 months.

It would be reminiscent of that early 1990s Saturday Night Live skit when President George H. W. Bush (played by Dana Carvey) used the phrase "Operation Desert Storm" over and over again during an address to the nation.

-In an almost straight (no pun intended) party line vote, the Minnesota Senate passed a bill allowing voters the opportunity to decide if marriage should be defined between one man and one woman, and whether it should be so stated in the Minnesota Constitution.

By supporting this bill, Democrat LeRoy Stumpf was the only legislator to vote opposite his party.

Naturally, the feverish rhetoric was ratcheted up surrounding this hot button issue. In fact, I was on the receiving end of some of the vapid talking points espoused by "gay marriage" supporters. When I commented on Sen. Mike Jungbauer's Facebook page that Minnesotans have demanded a vote on this issue for quite some time, one lady asked me "I didn't get to vote on your marriage, why should you vote on mine?" Still another gal chimed in by saying "It's none of my business who someone loves. It makes me sick to think about putting discrimination into our Constitution."

In a statement just prior to the vote, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk decided to give Minnesota a history lesson, essentially saying that blacks were given the right to vote, but now civil rights may be taken away from gays.

A couple things in response. First, marriage is NOT a "right." It is a religious exercise, one in which government should not have meddled in the first place. And since marriage entails making a covenant before our Heavenly Father, He sanctions only those vows according to His word (aka the Bible): the covenant between one woman and one man.

Secondly, we traditional marriage supporters were constantly lectured by many Democrats and other "gay marriage" advocates that the need for a Constitutional amendment seemed like overkill since same sex marriage is already illegal. Well if that's true then what in the hell is Sen. Bakk talking about when he says "rights are being taken away from gays?" How can that "right" be taken away if same sex marriage is indeed illegal? Because you and I know darn well that some activist judges will someday get a wild hair and declare that law unconstitutional, thus making such unions legal via judicial fiat (like what happened in Massachusetts). So the rationale for the vote is simple: It's kinda difficult to declare something unconstitutional if it's an actual amendment to the state constitution.


Monday, May 09, 2011

One step up and two steps back

With 20% of the 2011 Major League Baseball season gone for the Minnesota Twins, they find themselves with a record of 12-20. Extrapolate that out over a 162-game stretch, you have a record of 60-102. While I don't believe the Twins will be that awful, I'm having a very difficult time conjuring up any positive aspects of this team.

A lot have fans have asked if it's time to hit the proverbial panic button for this season. My response is simply that when one has a feeling of resignation about something, the feelings of "panic" almost seem rather moot.

When I think of the performance of the Twins in the first five weeks of this season, what immediately comes to mind is that Bruce Springsteen lyric "one step up and two steps back." It seems that whenever there's a glimmer of hope of the Twins finally snapping out of their funk, they suddenly come crashing to Earth and sink lower into despair.

After a 6-12 start, the Twins beat the Baltimore Orioles in the finale of a four-game series in Baltimore, which gave them their first multi-win series of the year. Upon returning home to Target Field, the Twins swept a brief two-game series from the Cleveland Indians after two solid games from their starting pitchers as well as some rare offensive outbursts (14 runs, 23 hits in the two games combined). But then came a season long losing streak of six games where they were swept at home in three games by the Tampa Bay Rays (outscored 29-6) and on the road against the Kansas City Royals, where the only thing hit hard that series was starting pitcher Carl Pavano beating up a trash can after a poor outing in the series finale.

Sitting at 9-18 last Tuesday, the Twins sent struggling starter Francisco Liriano (he of the 9.13 ERA going in to that start) to the mound against fellow cellar dwellers the Chicago White Sox. But Liriano stunned Twins fans (as well as the baseball world) with a no-hitter in the 1-0 win. The Twins completed a two-game sweep with a 3-2 victory the next day and then won the opening game at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox Friday evening. Ah, but reality bit them again as they mustered only three hits Saturday in a 4-0 loss against the Red Sox and then turned a 3-0 first inning lead (with "ace" Pavano on the mound) into a 9-5 defeat on Mother's Day.

As of this post, the only two players performing consistently well have been Jason Kubel (Second in the American League with a .351 batting average, 10th in OPS) and Scott Baker (Top 20 in the AL amongst starting pitchers in ERA and WHIP). THAT'S IT!!

At this point, the 2011 Minnesota Twins can be placed into two categories: Woeful underachievement (Pavano, Liriano, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer) and injury prone (Joe Mauer, Delmon Young, Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Jim Thome).

As long as those labels stick, there's no sense in panicking over something which appears to be a forgone conclusion.


Saturday, May 07, 2011

.....but I'm a creep....

I have been tabbed to co-host the Northern Alliance Radio Network this afternoon at 1:00 pm on AM 1280 The Patriot. With regular co-host Ed Morrissey out on assignment, it is honor for me to join my friend (and regular co-host) Mitch Berg for what I'm sure will be a blazing two hours.

I mean, it's not everyday you can discuss the capture and subsequent killing of the country's #1 most wanted man. Of course, I'm referring to Osama bin Laden and how he was taken out by US Navy SEALs last Sunday evening. We'll certainly discuss the operation itself as well as the fallout for the Obama administration and how 2012 is still far from a certainty as far as re-election is concerned.

Ah, but there's plenty happening in Minnesota with the budget battle, the traditional marriage amendment and the Cornish bill which Mitch has been all over the past couple of weeks.

So check us out on AM 1280 on the ol' radio dial or click this link to listen via the internet.

As always, we value listener input, so give us a call at (651) 289-4488.

Until then......


Friday, May 06, 2011

Happy milestone birthday

The best Best Man a guy can have

When I was planning on getting married in the Summer of 2000, there was no question that my brother Eric was going to be my best man. Upon asking him, he was very hesitant to accept. It wasn't that he didn't feel it was a tremendous honor, as much as the fact he wasn't comfortable with the responsibility which came with it. The biggest source of trepidation was the best man toast at the reception. Many people would literally rather die then have to give a speech in front of a room full of people. But that wasn't the case with Eric. No, he'd prefer to be thrown into a pit with every carnivorous member of the reptile family as opposed to public speaking.

Nevertheless, he agreed to fulfill his brotherly duty. As the wedding day arrived, he fretted every minute of that day leading up to his big moment. I don't recall what he said the first few minutes but it was his closing remarks which I'll always remember.

"I've watched Brad really mature over the years and I don't hesitate to say I wanna be just like him. So when I go home tonight I'm going to shave my head and put on forty pounds."

Yes, despite being a ball of nerves, Eric managed to display that biting humor we've all grown to love. So it's an absolute privilege to be able to wish a very happy 40th birthday to my younger brother (wow, that's hard to fathom) as well as someone who's become a good friend and confidant over the past few years. We may have gotten along about as well as two cats in a burlap sack when we were kids, but I'm grateful we're buddies now.

Happy milestone Birthday, bro!


Box score of the week

For the second straight week, I am featuring a regular season game from the 1959 season. This time it's a matchup pitting the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Braves.


Pirates pitcher Harvey Haddix had a perfect game through 12 innings in this game against the Braves. However, the score was tied at 0-0 going into the bottom of the 13th inning. A fielding error by Don Hoak ended the perfect game in the bottom of the 13th, with the leadoff batter for Milwaukee, Felix Mantilla, being safe at first base. Mantilla later advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, which was followed by an intentional walk to Hank Aaron. Joe Adcock then hit an apparent home run, ending the no-hitter and the game. However, in the confusion, Aaron left the basepaths and was passed by Adcock for the second out and the Braves won 2-0. Eventually the hit was changed from a home run to a double by a ruling from National League president Warren Giles; only Mantilla's run counted, for a score of 1-0, but the Pirates and Haddix still lost. "I could have put a cup on either corner of the plate and hit it," Haddix said about that game.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Maligned Mendenhall

In the wake of the Navy SEALs takeout of #1 Al-Qaeda terrorist Osama bin Laden, there was myriad reactions from Americans. With at-your-fingertips access to electronic venues to express opinions, there's often a danger of expressing a thought while still in the "heat of the moment." I myself took about an hour to digest President Barack Obama's address to the nation Sunday evening before I shared my thoughts.

NFL player Rashard Mendenhall, via Twitter, made some comments regarding the bin Laden assassination the next day. Perhaps he should have taken a little more time.

The Pittsburgh Steelers running back on Monday tweeted: "What kind of person celebrates death? It's amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side..."

To be fair, Mendenhall was a high school student when the 9/11 attacks took place. I'm certain he was honing his football skills which eventually lead to his receiving an athletic scholarship to the University of Illinois, thus he didn't have much time for television news. The fact of the matter is bin Laden made more than a few videos expressing his goal to destroy America and implement some sort of sharia law. He even openly bragged of how jet airliners flown into buildings was his brilliant idea.

Even if we had only "heard one side", how does one justify the slaughter of 3,000+ innocent Americans?

Ah, but Rashard also alluded to that horrific September day nearly 10 years ago.

Mendenhall didn't hold back, even making a reference to the Sept. 11 attacks.

"We'll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style," he tweeted.

Mendenhall has since deleted his 9/11-related tweet.

Naturally, Mendenhall's comments were met with much outrage and criticism. But Mendenhall also had his defenders, claiming he had every right to speak his mind freely. Once again, that's not the issue. Yes, Mendenhall has every right to speak freely, but guess what? Others have every right to react to his comments. It never ceases to amaze me (as well as frustrate me) that people decry criticism in response to someone's opinion. The fact of the matter is that "free speech" simply means you can say whatever you desire without the threat of your government seeking retribution (the obvious assassination threats to the President being a notable exception). THAT'S IT!! That doesn't mean you won't have detractors.

If there is NFL football this year, you can bet Mendenhall will hear from the fans again. In fact, the Steelers are scheduled to play at Baltimore (a mere 45 miles from Washington, D.C., where one of the hijacked planes crashed into the Pentagon) on the first Sunday of the NFL season --- September 11, 2011.

Getcha popcorn.


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Osama bin Laden: DEAD

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken -- you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
-President Barack H. Obama
Inaugural address on January 21, 2009

Regardless of your political affiliation, the death of Al-Qaeda leader (and 9/11 mastermind) Osama bin Laden is a great thing for this country! I can't help but feel a sense of unity in America tonight since ---well--- the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

And I would be remiss if I didn't convey a HUUUUGE thank you to the men & women in our military and intelligence community! These folks have sacrificed so much over these past several years, while asking little in return. I couldn't be more ecstatic for them and their families to see some of that exhaustive effort pay off. Godspeed, folks!

But with any big story, there are political ramifications to be sure. Many are already speculating (and in the case of the MSM, rejoicing) on the enhanced prospects for President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. There are also many GOP supporters lamenting Obama's remarks to the nation on Sunday evening, essentially saying the President took sole credit for this victory. At the same token, there are a few political leftists snickering over this grand announcement taking place on the 8th anniversary of President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech. And I myself have questions, specifically the intelligence that lead to bin Laden's death in Pakistan. What if the information of his whereabouts was obtained through some sort of enhanced interrogation techniques used on Al-Qaeda operatives? How does President Obama reconcile this to many of his ardent supporters who vehemently oppose such actions, dubbing them "torture?"

As far as I'm concerned, all that can be set aside for a day.

The fact of the matter is bin Laden is dead! Despite the fact that scores of terror suspects had been captured or killed under both Bush and Obama administrations, the fact bin Laden was never confirmed dead remained the proverbial specter hanging over the Global War on Terror. And while in the grand scheme of things bin Laden's death is merely symbolic, it does bring great peace and comfort to those who lost loved ones as a result of the 9/11 attacks. That is one aspect we should not underestimate at all.

There are so many other thoughts racing through my head in the mere two hours since I first heard this news that I can barely compose this particular post. Alas, there will be plenty of time to digest those.

Once again, Osama bin Laden is dead!! Despite the fact there is little that politico opposites can agree upon these days, we can honestly say that there is cause for joint celebration as this week begins!


Quick Hits: Volume XXIV

-Just as NFL teams and players were beginning to get back into the business of football, the NFL owners' lockout of the players was reinstated late last week.

Hours after NFL players reported to work for the first time in nearly two months, the league announced late Friday the lockout would resume immediately, thanks to an appeals court ruling in the league's favor.

"Looks like we're unemployed again," tweeted Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards, scheduled to become a free agent.

The move capped a chaotic week that began with U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson lifting the 45-day lockout on Monday. She denied the NFL's appeal on Wednesday and the league took halting steps toward getting back to football Friday.

Then the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis granted the NFL's request for a temporary stay of Nelson's injunction order. The appeals court is expected to rule next week on the NFL's request for a more permanent stay that would last through its appeal of the injunction, a process expected to take 6-8 weeks.

The NFL's victory, its first in this bruising court fight, was a narrow one. The 2-1 decision from a panel of the 8th Circuit was issued by Judges Steven Colloton, Kermit Bye and Duane Benton.

Upon the handing down of this ruling, Sports Illustrated guy Jon Heyman pointed out that the two judges in the majority, Colloton and Benton, were appointed by President George W. Bush and thus we're still paying for the mistakes of the Bush administration.

There you have it. The NFL lockout is George W. Bush's fault.

-The Minnesota Twins began the month of May much the same way they played in April: No hitting, no pitching and porous defense. The Twins are now 9-18, tied for last place in the AL Central with the equally underachieving Chicago White Sox. Even more surprising is the Cleveland Indians are in first place with an MLB best 19-8 record.

No question the Indians are having a fine season thus far and have some pretty good looking young stars on their roster. But they remind me an awful lot of the upstart Twins of 2001. After enduring eight consecutive losing seasons, that Twins team started the '01 season 18-6 in the month of April and were 55-32 at the All-Star break with a five-game lead in the division. But immediately after the break, the young Twins showed they were not yet ready for prime time, as they lost 29 of their next 39 games and thus faded from postseason contention.

I wouldn't be shocked if Cleveland falls back to the pack in much the same fashion. The bigger question is will the Twins be able to have a reversal of fortune in that time frame?

-The hearts of conservative single men everywhere collectively shattered on Saturday as right-wing hottie MaryKatharine Ham married Jake Brewer in Virginia. Of course, many of Ms. Ham's male admirers will be in a state of denial over this. That is until irrefutable evidence is presented to the general public. No, I'm not talking about demanding the presentation of a marriage license.

Alas, we must look to a more immutable source:

Yes, ladies and gentlmen, it's Facebook's world and we're merely living in it.