Saturday, January 13, 2007

AN ANNUAL FEATURE: I don't mind losing to another good football team on the road, but I mind losing like this. So, while this city foolishly builds one more tower higher than William Penn's head, we turn once more to the Five Stages of Eagles Grief:
DENIAL: Hey, we won a lot of fun games this year, and we still have the Sixers to look forward to. Oh, wait. Well, the Flyers . . . no . . . okay . . . um . . . . well, all we have to do is convert this fourth and fifteen, while we still have the ball, and, um . . .

BARGAINING: So, we learned that we can win without Donovan, but apparently, not without Shawn Andrews at right guard. Keep him healthy, and, of course, keep Correll Buckhalter healthy for another sixteen games next year, and, really, I'm only asking for one title. (And a Democratic president on 1-20-09.) We're not New England fans here.

ANGER: WHY ARE YOU PUNTING? WHY ARE YOU PUNTING? Did they think they could stop the Saints running game? Andy, they couldn't stop Deuce McAllister all night long. WHY ARE YOU PUNTING?

DESPAIR: Let's review. The last Eagles title was during the Eisenhower administration. The Phillies have won fewer World Series in their 120-year history (1) than the Florida Marlins in fourteen years of existence (2). The last time a Philadelphia team won a title, the 1982-83 76ers, it was so long ago that Cheers was in its first season. How long ago? I go back to this: when the Sixers won the title, no one in Philadelphia yet knew that Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia were siblings, because that was the week Return of the Jedi debuted in theaters.

You want despair? Since the last time a Philadelphia team won a professional title, New York-area teams have won ten -- heck, even Boston has seen six champions (three Super Bowls, two NBA and a World Series) emerge since we last won one. And that's Boston, which was supposed to be the pinnacle of sports disappointment. Please. No franchise in professional sports history has lost more games than the Phillies. No one. Hell, if the Phillies won every single game for the rest of this decade, they still would be a sub-.500 team for their history.

You want despair? I didn't hear Brian Dawkins' name once during this game.

You want despair? Get me talking about our mayoral candidates.

You want despair? We just got beat by Billy Miller, a guy who wasn't good enough to play for the Houston Texans.

You want despair? The thing Philadelphia fans get to hope for over the next four months is that the basketball team keeps losing.


ACCEPTANCE: Ever since McNabb went down, this season was all gravy and icing -- joyous bonus wins extending a season that no one thought was meant to be. This franchise is the gold standard for being good enough to get to the playoffs every year, and, some day, we'll be healthy enough, good enough and smart enough to win a title.

Pitchers and catchers report in thirty-two days. In less than three months, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley re-open Citizen's Bank Park, and not a moment too soon. A long winter beckons.
AT LEAST IT'S NOT QVC: Most of the time, TiVo's "Suggestions" are pretty logical--I have a season pass for "Best Week Ever," so it'll pick up "I Love (Insert Decade Here)" and other various countdown shows, I have a season pass for "Grey's Anatomy," so it'll pick up "Men In Trees," I record a fair amount of crime drama, so "CSI" repeats are fair game--but can someone explain to me why my season pass for "Gilmore Girls" leads TiVo to think I have a particular desire to record programs on the Home Shopping Network?
THAT THING'S LIKE A CHERRY BOMB DROPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF A PUDDING CONVENTION: EW's Whitney Pastorek reviews the top ten hits from this week in 1986, and if you should encounter some snark, some riffing on a favorite chestnut of mine, a Mr. Mister sighting or a good video link along the way, well, that's what friends are for.

Friday, January 12, 2007

REX REGNANT SED NON PRAESTAT:1 By collating and analyzing a series of incontrovertible truths, some of which were revealed to me mysteriously at the tail end of the BCS Championship (Non-Idaho Division) Game, I have determined which of the remaining eight NFL teams will win the Superbowl. Let's do this Shrutestyle:
  • Fact: The University of Florida Gators are the reigning NCAA men's basketball champions.
  • Fact: The University of Florida Gators are the reigning NCAA men's football champions.
  • Fact: A University of Florida Gator was the point guard, sometimes known as the "quarterback," of the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat.
  • Fact: A University of Florida Gator was the shortstop, sometimes known as the "quarterback of the defense,"2 of the reigning MLB champion St. Louis Cardinals.
  • Fact: A University of Florida Gator is the reigning champion of Dancing with the Stars.
  • Fact: Alcorn State, Boston College, Tennessee, Michigan, North Carolina State, Purdue, and San Jose State have failed to win all of the NCAA football, NCAA men's basketball, and Dancing with the Stars titles that they have sought in the last year.
  • Fact: The name Rex means "king."
  • Fact: A king's principal job is to reign.
  • Fact: The quarterback for the Chicago Bears is named Rex.3 Believe me when I tell you: He is a University of Florida Gator.
Eerie. I know.

1I am illiterate in Latin, so I may have misconjucated "praesto."
3His name is also "Grossman," which roughly translates as "big man." Accuracy: unverified.
EVERY EPISODE ENDS WITH A CELEBRATORY DINNER AT RED LOBSTER: Fans of making it work and carrying on will be thrilled to hear that Bravo has set a deal for Tim Gunn's Guide To Style to begin airing on the network later this year. I hope this means that the deal for Gunn to return to Project Runway is also complete, though there's been neither confirmation or denial of that beyond confirmation that the show will return for a fourth season. According to the story, Gunn "will be offering his patented incisive yet kind advice to 'people desperately in need of' style advice." No word on whether my application will be entertained.
APPEARING TONIGHT IN THE ROLE OF SHRIEKING-AT-4-AM-BABY: Courtesy of a Cosmo Baby who is either (a) preparing his audition piece for the next coloratura soprano role that opens up at the Met, (b) nursing a stealth ear infection that no one can find, or (c) teething his little jaws off, no one's getting a whole lot of sleep in the Cosmopolitan household at the moment. Consequently, last night's new Grey's is being held in abeyance until the weekend. In the meantime, feel free to read what the writers have to say and/or to discuss it in the comments, and I'll chime in once I've had a chance to watch.
A FORCE THAT IS ALREADY STOPPED VERSUS AN OBJECT THAT IS ALREADY MOVING BACKWARD: If we're going to do playoff previews, here's another one. Chicago offense, starring the guy who had this season's three worst fantasy football scores and another guy who couldn't hold his spot in the Arizona Cardinals backfield against Michael Pittman or Marcel Shipp, or Seattle defense, which will be playing this week with only eight men, six of whom will be introducing themselves to each other before the game? Seattle offense, whose signature plays are called "green right zoom f right demand interference flag left unsnap chin strap," "green left 236 z-up dear God where is Darrell Jackson" and "you run there, I don't know, maybe that will work," or Chicago defense, who lost its two signature players and who in the last month has resorted to an ingenious, but ultimately unsuccessful, plan to stop opponents by making suggestive references to Tank Johnson's unregistered weapons cache? Or, to put it more succinctly: Team Because of Tony Romo or Team Despite Interceptasaurus Rex?
ALAS, POOR LIZARDBREATH: For those who follow such things, it looks like Elizabeth Patterson has now been cheated on for a second time.

I've only recently started following the strip again (hurrah for the internet!) after a couple of significant hiatuses (hiatusot?). There's something very grounding about following the adventures of a family that I've known for almost as long as I've known my own family. The fire at Michael and Deanna's on Christmas Eve scored some actual tears.

Sadly, it looks like the story will start moving sideways rather than forward in a few months. As Lynn Johnston put it: "No people will grow older. No dogs will grow older and pass away." Not that Johnston doesn't deserve a break after 27 1/2 years, but I'm still allowed to be bummed.
OOMPA LOOMPA DOOPA DEE DOO: And we have another problem with Schrute. Oompa loompa doopa dee dee, did you believe what you saw on tv?

Apparently, we can see Happy Stanley even when it's not Pretzel Day. That, and other Office thoughts are welcome in the comments, and you can pay me back later for the makeover.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

HER WATERLOO? Meryl Streep to star in film adaptation of the Broadway hit "Mamma Mia".
A NEVER-ENDING PARTY? HA! As we near kickoff time between The Valiant Men In Green And White and America's Team, I wonder -- does this episode of The Simpsons still air in reruns, or have they pulled it?
Long before the Superdome,
Where the Saints of football play,
Lived a city that the damned called home,
Hear their hellish roundelay...

New Orleans!
Home of pirates, drunks, and whores!
New Orleans!
Tacky, overpriced, souvenir stores!
If you want to go to Hell, you should make that trip
to the Sodom and Gomorrah on the Mississipp'!
New Orleans!
Stinking, rotten, vomiting, vile!
New Orleans!
Putrid, brackish, maggoty, foul!
New Orleans!
Crummy, lousy, rancid, and rank!
New Orleans!

The good news is that Saints RB Reggie Bush seems to have some extra money to contribute to the recovery.
SOMEBODY SHOVED ME, I WONDER WHO . . . I WONDER WHO IT COULD BE: An angry San Francisco mob brutally assaulted members of a Yale a capella group at a New Year's Eve party, and I wish the injuries were less severe so we could make fun of this incident. But when there's a kid with a jaw broken in two places, wired shut for the next two months, the comedic options are probably limited. Not that I'm stopping you.
THE THRILL OF VICTORY, THE AGONY OF DEFEAT, AND THE SHEER POINTLESSNESS OF A ZERO-ZERO TIE: Does David Beckham planning on bending it in the United States make you any more interested in soccer generally, the MLS in particular, or the British tabloid fascination with Posh and Becks?
THE DOCTOR IS OUT: After twelve years on a show that saw everyone else leave years ago, actress Laura Innes, who plays ER's Dr. Kerry Weaver, will herself finally check out of County General in this week's episode.

Back when ER was must-see tv (a period ending when Mark Greene took ill, I believe), the Weaver character was a quiet reason why -- yes, she was often The One Who Said No, but it always seemed to come from a sincere, well-meaning place, and she was no cartoon villain. For Mark Greene, Doug Ross and the gang, she was a worthy, formidable adversary, and to Rocket Romano, she was no friend. (We can argue about whether her journey out of the closet was (a) true to her character or (b), especially in the case of the Sandy stuff, good tv.)

Innes has also directed ten episodes of ER, five episodes of The West Wing (including Shibboleth and Let Bartlet Be Bartlet), one episode of House, and has one memorable appearance on My So-Called Life to her credit. Let's hope her next career move is a rewarding one.

(In answer to your question, it's "yes, they did -- congenital hip dysplasia.")

edited to add: TVGuide has more from Innes, on her desire not to leave by helicopter as it were: "It was kind of mutual — one of those things where it just feels like you're running out of steam. It's awfully hard to leave this show, though, because it's such an incredible joy. But it seems like [it's] time, doesn't it? I just told them, 'I don't want to be sick or die.' I didn't want to send this message that this woman who had this history of disability and is gay — now we're going to kill her off. I said, 'Let her have a happy end.' So I'm happy about that."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

LET'S ROB MICK JAGGER! In a year where the best new sitcom of the fall was The Class, with its wildly scattershot characters and material, we fortunately have a good one, even if I missed a bit of it due to "political programming"--The Knights Of Prosperity. I'm not sure if it hooked me during Mick Jagger's speech about his temperature-controlled "hat room," or during Donal Logue's speech about having been born "with a plastic spork in my ass, not a silver spoon in my mouth," or if it took until the "we can't change the name, I already bought the t-shirts!" bit, but this week's episode, featuring "I'm With Meshuggah" and "Kiss Me, I'm A Mensch" t-shirts (the gang's hideout is in a Jewish religious supplies store) and the debut of the funky, 70s inspired theme song, solidified my love.
YOU KNOW, I'M GOING TO BE A GREAT BIG BRIGHT SHINING STAR: Did anybody mention it's Hall of Fame Week here at ALOTT5MA? And if you're going to have drugs (steroids) and rock and roll, then as Joel Stein reminds us, you must not forget sex. So I'll see you this Saturday at Mandalay Bay for the Adult Video News Porn Star Hall of Fame induction gala. Don't forget that a tuxedo fashioned with velcro or snaps comes off easy, but a crotchless tuxedo doesn't need to come off at all. I'm looking forward to seeing all of the old AVNPSHoF old-timers (like Chelsea Manchester, Jim Malibu, Tiffany Mynx, and Julian St. Jox) and reminiscing about the time when we inducted the name Missy all by itself because it sounded so hot. Then we'll load up the Camaro and head down the strip to the XRCO Hall of Fame ceremony, which really exists only because, like country music, one academy just can't handle all of our stuff. And speaking of handling all of our stuff, I -- oh, you get the idea.
THAT'S "M.C. TEEN WOLF" TO YOU SORRY-*SS WANNABE WHACK-CHEF TYPE HATERS. FEEL ME? Don't make him get all soignee up in this bad boy, neither. Biatch.

Note that I'm not actually sure how to spell "soignee" anymore. Or "biatch". Beyotch?. High school french class was a long time ago. So was the rest of high school. Fortunately or unfortunately for him, Marcel doesn't have that problem.

Could have predicted (totally called it) this week's Top Chef outcome in a vacuum (or law office reception area). Pearl as my witness. (Hi Pearl.) I'm intrigued by the tease of next week's kerfuffle but I don't have much to say.

The floor is open for those that do.
KIMBERLY CALDWELL V. JULIA DEMATO, ROUND VI: There are few parts of the Idol cycle I enjoy more than the Hollywood episodes -- after the auditions, when the 200 top kids get whittled down to 24 after a series of grueling individual and group performances. It is high drama, when we finally can focus on the better performers and hear them try their best under stressful circus . . . so why is Fox airing just two hours from Hollywood this season, while scheduling ten hours of repetitive, often degrading audition episodes from across the country?
RAY OF LIGHT? It's Hall of Fame week here at ALOTT5MA and moving on from my pet causes of seeing The Replacements and Harold Baines, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has narrowed this year's list of nominees to 17 finalists. Among those making the cut are former commissioner Paul Tagliablue, O lineman Bruce Matthews, Art Monk, Thurman Thomas, Derrick Thomas, Richard Dent, and Ray Guy, who if finally elected, would be the first punter with a bust in Canton.
THREE SIX MAFIA, ONE, SCORSESE, ZERO: Listening to my iPod today, I realized that this year is going to be the strongest year since 1999 for nominees in the Best Original Song category at the Oscars (when "Blame Canada," "Save Me," "Music Of The Heart," and "When She Loved Me" lost to "You'll Be In My Heart"). Not only do you have three original songs from Dreamgirls (the original "Campell Connection" song is too briefly featured to qualify), but also several original songs from Ben Folds from Over The Hedge, and songs from Jack Johnson, Melissa Etheridge, Avril Lavigne (whose song is shockingly great), OutKast, and Chris Cornell. The musical performances could actually be a reason to watch this year rather than just an excuse for the Debbie Allen Interpretive Dance Troupe to do their thing.

Related: Seven finalists for the Best Makeup Award. As amusing as it might be to refer to "Academy Award Nominees Click and Santa Clause 3," seems to me this is a virtual slam dunk for Pan's Labyrinth.
THE OFFICE SUPERSTORE -- OF TERROR: Is it just me, or are the giant scissors that people use at ribbon-cutting ceremonies really creepy?

Aaaiieeee! Make them go away!
AND I AM TELLING YOU THAT I'M NOT SINGING: It's now been widely reported that Jennifer Hudson is under contractual obligation to the folks at Dreamworks/Paramount to not sing "I Am Telling You That I'm Not Going" live in any setting prior to the Oscars. Is this a good move in that it prevents folks from thinking "Why buy the cow and see the movie when I can get the milk (her performance of the song) for free on YouTube?" or from realizing that "Listen" and Beyonce's performance of it ain't all that? Or is it a bad move in that it raises questions about just how much of the performance of the song is the product of studio wizardry and editing vs. Hudson's own vocal abilities, particularly since unless the Academy departs from precedent, "I Am Telling You" will not be sung on the show? Discuss.
HAROLD AND LAUD: Forgive me if you are sick of reading about the Baseball Hall of Fame, but I have to give that old horse one last beating. Among the many oddities in yesterday's results, I can't seem to reconcile how Harold Baines garnered just 29 votes (5.3%). Baines was just two votes away from falling below the 5% threshold required to stay on the ballot.

Now I am not saying outright that Baines is a Hall-of-Famer (a position I will take with Goose Gossage, Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Tommy John, and Ron Santo). But, if Tony Perez is a Hall-of-Famer, then Baines deserves a lot more consideration. Look up similar batters to Perez at Baseball Reference, and the first match is Baines.
Player              From  To Yrs   G    AB    R    H   2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB   SO    BA   OBP   SLG   SB   CS OPS+
Tony Perez 1964-1986 23 2777 9778 1272 2732 505 79 379 1652 925 1867 .279 .341 .463 49 33 122
Harold Baines 1980-2001 22 2830 9908 1299 2866 488 49 384 1628 1062 1441 .289 .356 .465 34 34 120

The two intangibles between the two, as far as I can figure, are that Perez is associated with the beloved Big Red Machine era and Baines is remembered primarily as a DH, even though he played over 1,000 games in the outfield. In coming years, the Hall of Fame will have to deal more and more with players who spent considerable time at DH, but it is worth noting that Paul Molitor, among other Hall-of-Famers like Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield, spent considerable time playing DH. Also of note, is that Perez batted .238 with 6 HR and 25 RBI in 172 postseason at-bats, while Baines batted .324 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in 102 postseason at-bats.

Again, I don't want to say Baines is a Hall-of-Famer, but he deserves a lot more consideration than 5.3%. (For some more background on Baines, including how White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf feels personally responsible for Baines not reaching 3,000 hits, read this. )

And one last note. The Hall has updated the list of potential inductees for coming elections and it looks to be somewhat slim pickings, which bodes well for Dawson, Rice, etc. Of the future eligible players, only Rickey Henderson in 2009 is a slam-dunk (that will be an entertaining induction speech). Roberto Alomar will probably make it too, despite his salivary glands, while Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, will all get a lot of consideration in 2010. And then of course there is Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro in 2011.
WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE CHRISMUKKAH: I've been waiting to offer my thoughts on the cancellation of The O.C. until I finished catching up on the final episodes of 2006 (aka "The Slutty Alien Stole My Pregnancy Test!" and "Woof Woof! We're Getting Married!?"). Having now done so, my verdict doesn't much differ from others who have opined on the subject (incidentally, how meta-fantastic is it that I am linking to an article that extensively quotes Our Favorite TV Writer Alan Sepinwall as an authority?): the show is going out on a superbly high note. But I would like to offer my own thoughts on the good, the meh, and the outright annoying.

The Good: The (non-dead) Ladies Cooper. Julie Cooper's character has come a long way since season one's dragon mama getting booty calls from her daughter's boyfriend. Julie has become a fabulously complex character, reminding me of a heavily madeup Michael Corleone -- always getting dragged back into the muck despite her best efforts. As for Kaitlin Cooper, from the minute Willa Holland was cast, I was impressed at how well they'd done at finding a physically appropriate younger sibling for Marissa (unlike the original Kaitlin actress), but waited to see how the acting would hold up. The terminally weak season 3 had too much Marissa/Kaitlin sister-warring to be any fun, but this season has been another matter entirely. In fact, the show has done something affirmatively innovative with the character: they've given her a brain. And that's a worthy daughter for Julie Cooper.

The Meh: The Ryan/Taylor relationship. Yes, props to whoever decided that Ryan should learn to crack a smile this season and that Taylor should become a central character. I love both characters (Taylor's riffs on her sexual encounters with Henri-Michel could possibly not be any funnier), but just don't buy them as a couple. Not for a minute.

The Outright Annoying: Seth Cohen. Seth Cohen. And once again, Seth Cohen. Recognizing that I may offend one of the show's remaining 47 devoted viewers, I would like to posit that Seth Cohen has become all but unwatchable. Back in season one, Seth was the vanguard of the richly deserved new nerd chic trend. He was emotionally clumsy while also verbally agile; he was sweet and sardonic and clueless and possessed of a rapier wit capable of skewering anything and anyone, most of all himself. But now -- four years, one true friend, and one fabulous girlfriend* later -- Seth has lost his inner sweetness and insecurity. Now he's just immature, self-centered, and annoying. The number of plotlines that can be summarized as "Seth, thinking of no one but himself, sets off a chain reaction of unfortunate events" is just way too high. (Seth can't bring himself to tell anyone that he didn't get into Brown! Seth invites himself along for Ryan and Taylor's romantic Vegas New Year's Eve!) Yawn. I'm over you, Ironist.

*I don't mean to leave my affection for Summer Roberts (and, for that matter, Sandy Cooper) unmentioned -- they've just been consistently fun throughout the show's run and thus there's nothing to say. Except that I love a girl who names a rabbit "Pancakes."
WOW, THAT'S TERRIFIC BASS! I don't know how we've missed it, but I've already spent entirely too much time today answering the critically important question of our day and time--"Will It Blend?" (The answer is, of course, "Yes, it blends.")
"I ADORE THE COFFEE, BUT THE CROISSANTS ARE LITERALLY THE WORST ON THE PLANET": The NYT takes a look at the continuing breakfast wars between Starbucks and McDonald's:

Ms. Kennedy’s food research and development team is charged with fulfilling the new motto printed on the sandwich wrappers: “Great Coffee Deserves Great Food.” That means food that suits the Starbucks psychographic: warm chocolate croissants, tarragon chicken salad, possibly even the return of quiche. It also means nodding to nutrition trends with items like cheese-and-fruit boxes and whole-grain pastries.

"Because of the coffee, our customers look to us for culinary challenges,” Mr. Barr said. “They want flavor, but they also expect a certain kind of thoughtfulness.” Although the Starbucks sandwiches are unmistakable McMuffin clones, re-engineered for the Starbucks demographic, “thoughtfulness” put Cheddar and fontina instead of American cheese on top of the egg. . . .

Upgrading the coffee was an easy fix for McDonald’s. But for Starbucks, the road to a complete breakfast has been longer — and more emotional. “Nothing is more disappointing to us than when a customer comes in and can’t find something to eat,” Mr. Barr said. “We are determined to serve food our coffee can be proud of.”

So, although Starbucks has only 5,700 United States stores to McDonald’s 13,800, the fight for the American breakfast is on. That stroll from Starbucks to McDonald’s has been targeted at both ends. Don Thompson said that McDonald’s has nothing to fear from the Starbucks breakfast sandwiches. “We’re back there cracking eggs and frying bacon,” he said. “There is nothing like hot, freshly cooked food, and our customers appreciate that.”

That said, I believe there's a third front to this battle that the reporter is missing, with 4400+ locations in 36 states (note: not all of them are in Southern New England), home of the pink-and-orange logo, and the donuts that require a good dunking . . .

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

EVERYBODY LIES: I figure people will have much to say about tonight's House, which brings to an end the David Morse arc, giving House his obligatory adversary/match for the year (Vogler in Season 1, Stacy/Mark in Season 2). A question to start our discussion--in tonight's episode, who behaved more out of character? Was it House in relation to Wilson, or was it Cuddy in the final act? And did Cuddy do what she claimed to do to House, or was that an elaborate cover story (Cf. "Detox")?
YEAH, BUT I BET ITS RINGTONES ARE LAME: We should probably have a thread to ooh and aah about the iPhone.

In conjunction with today's announcement, the company we've long known as "Apple Computer" is now just "Apple Inc."
STEP THREE WAS WHAT, AGAIN? Via Blinq, the inevitable, glorious followup to "Dick In A Box" -- Philly represents in "Box in a Box".
FEATURING NATHAN FILLION AS THE NEW GUY FROM CORPORATE: In something sure to excite at least portions of the ALOTT5MA population, Joss Whedon is apparently looking at directing an episode of The Office. No word on if Pam or Karen will mysteriously discover superhuman powers, if Vance Refrigeration and Dunder Mifflin Northeast are sitting atop a Hellmouth, or if Michael Scott will suddenly discover he has an annoying and symbolic younger sibling.
I'VE GOT MY BOOKS: Since cracking open Rousseau's The Confessions back in June of 1968 just a month before I was born, Art Garfunkel has read a lot of books, 980, to be specific, with the most recent being Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf. Now you can peruse Garfunkel's entire reading list in order here. And if you're looking for a great birthday or anniversary gift, why not use Art's list a guide. My wife can look forward to receiving a copy of Master and Commander for our next anniversary.

Link via The Onion AV Club Blog.
LOOKS LIKE I WILL HAVE TO WAIT ANOTHER YEAR TO USE ALL MY GOOD LINES FROM TOP GUN: Ripken and Gwynn are in. Ripken received 98.5% of the votes, the third highest percentage ever, while Gwynn, who arguably was the better if less publicized of the two, received five less votes, finishing with 97.6%.

Goose Gossage now looks like a shoo-in for next year when the best first-timer on the ballot will be Tim Raines. Gossage received 71.2% of the votes and no player has ever received over 70% of the votes and not eventually been elected.

Of course, this year was widely viewed as a referendum on steroids with Mark McGwire on the ballot and the voters showed that Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and even Barry Bonds shouldn't be booking any future trips to Cooperstown. Big Mac got only 128 votes (23.5%).

Other interesting notes:
  • Harold Baines incredibly only received 5.3% of the votes in his first year on the ballot. I'm not ready to say he is a Hall of Famer, but as I have noted before, I would think his non-chemically enhanced numbers 2,866 hits/39th overall and 1,628 RBI/23rd overall) would translate to more support.
  • Andre Dawson and Jim Rice both saw their support drop, when I thought their numbers when reflected against the juiced era would now look that much better. In fact, no player other than Gossage saw his percentages go up this year.
  • Steve Garvey, not being able to count on the votes of his many children, earned 21.1% of the votes in his 15th and final year on the ballot.
  • McGwire's fellow Bash Brother received six votes (1.1% or six less than Paul O'Neil) in his first and as it turns out only year on the ballot. A player must receive five percent of the votes to stay on the ballot.
  • Others who won't be back include Albert Belle, Orel Hershiser and Bret Saberhagen.
  • Jay Buhner got a single vote, while four players failed get any: Scott Brosius, Wally Joyner, Bobby Witt, and Devon White.
BACK IN 1997, DID YOU THINK THAT TEN YEARS LATER YOU'D CARE MORE ABOUT THE GUY WHO PLAYED 'PIG VOMIT' THAN THE GUY WHO PLAYED, AND WAS, HOWARD STERN? Today marks the one year anniversary of Howard Stern's move to satellite radio, and he argues for his continued relevance in an interview with the NYT.

Monday, January 8, 2007

RIPKEN, GWYNN AND GOSSAGE TO JOIN BASEBALL IMMORTALS IN COOPERSTOWN: Once again, I have wasted a good hour, trying to determine who will make the cut when the Baseball Hall of Fame announces its next class tomorrow. My research consisted of perusing columns and stories from the past week written by 35 of the 550 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who are eligible to vote for the Hall. Granted it is a somewhat biased sample, since 9 of those writers work for the Chicago Tribune and 12 work for, but the other 14 are a pretty geographically diverse group.

As you can see from the results below, Rich "Goose" Gossage will join mortal locks Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn to comprise the class of 2007. Falling just short of the 75% threshold for inclusion will be sluggers Andre Dawson and Jim Rice. And in a damning indictment of the steroid era, Mark McGwire will not even come close to making it.

There has been a lot of speculation that Ripken may become the first unanimous choice in the history of the Hall, but thanks at least to Chicago Daily Southtown writer Paul Ladewski's "protest vote," Cal will not get 100% of the vote. Ripken--and Gwynn for that matter--may however break Tom Seaver's record 1992 vote percentage of 98.8 percent.

Here are the complete results of my poll:
  • Cal Ripken........35 (100%)
  • Tony Gwynn........35 (100%)
  • Goose Gossage........30 (87%)
  • Andre Dawson........25 (71%)
  • Jim Rice...................24 (69%)
  • Bert Blyleven..........16 (46%)
  • Jack Morris...............16 (46%)
  • Lee Smith................12 (34%)
  • Mark McGwire........8 (23%)
  • Harold Baines........7 (20%)
  • Tommy John.............5 (14%)
  • Dave Concepcion........5 (14%)
  • Dave Parker........4 (11%)
  • Steve Garvey*............4 (11%)
  • Alan Trammel...........3 (9%)
  • Don Mattingly...........2 (6%)
  • Dale Murphy..............2 (6%)
  • Albert Belle................1 (3%)
Bold indicates first year on ballot.
*Last year of eligibility.

I inadvertently left Harold Baines off yesterday. Interestingly, five of his seven votes came from the Chicago Tribune voters, which doesn't bode well for his overall chances. Remember Baines , with 2,866 hits (39th overall) and 1,628 RBI (23rd overall), is poised to become the all-time leader in those categories who is eligible for but not in the Hall.

WHY 2007 WILL BE LIKE 1984: This ought to be interesting. Van Halen, along with R.E.M., Patti Smith, the Ronettes, and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, are you're newest Rock and Roll Hall of Famers. I'm sure the grand finale will be "It's the End of the World..." but even though I am a big fan of the boys from Athens, I'm hoping the evening closes with an extended version of "Hot for Teacher."
I'M JUST HOPING FOR A "PROUDEST MONKEY" JOKE: Dave Matthews guest-starring on House sounds like a pretty horrendous idea, even though Kurtwood Smith sparring with House could be amusing. Also, figures that the day after I watch the "Dr. Cameron gets high on meth and does the nasty with Dr. Chase" episode, the actors involved announce their engagement.
THIS SONG IS RATED R - DISCUSSION OF PANTIES DROPPING AND CHERRIES POPPING IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR PRESCHOOL: I can't think of the last time a new pop song really caught my attention -- as regular readers know, music post-1994 or so is not my thing-- but I am loving Christina Aguilera's Candyman. Seriously -- the Andrews sisters with raunchy lyrics? Fabulous. Ok, so there's a few too many of Aguilera's usual yea-ee-aa-ee-aa-ee-aas, but I can forgive those when the song is this catchy. It actually took me a couple listens to get past the fun boppiness and realize that perhaps this was not appropriate for the dancing-with-the-three-year-old songlist.

I also approve of Aguilera's blonde bombshell mien -- so much better than her previous phases of high skank. I always thought of her as low-rent Britney, but oh, how the tables have turned.

If you haven't heard Candyman yet, go watch one of the many performance clips on youtube. (Sadly, my office recently blocked all access to youtube because of "inappropriate usage" -- we all know what the Internet is for -- so I can't refer you to a particular clip, but there are many.)
FROM EL CERRITO ALL THE WAY TO ALASKA: The NYT reports on children's music fave Laurie Berkner, who does her very best, does her very best, does her very best each day.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

AND YOU'VE JUST HAD SOME KIND OF MUSHROOM . . . My best friend's dad was one of the world's preeminent micologists, and he wouldn't go mushroom hunting without a professional. How long, exactly, does it take to get the memo on that this is not a game for amateurs?
KOY! God bless the throat-beard; it is now the obligation of all us heathens to root against the continued resurrection of the football team (and city) of New Orleans, and for the further exploits of Brian Westbrook, Brian Dawkins, and the other men in green and white with other first names. Three more to go.
DID THEY GET VERY FAR? Well, Who Wants To Be A Greaser? didn't quite inspire tonight -- the best contestants we saw weren't blowaway good the way some Idol hopefuls are -- but it didn't completely suck, either. While the format is virtually identical to an Idol episode in January, the judges thankfully seemed more interested in just judging the talent rather than making spectacles of themselves, the same being surprisingly true of host Billy Bush as well, who demonstrated that Seacrest's job may not be so hard, after all.

Is anyone hopelessly devoted yet?
MORE PLAUSIBLE THAN "BEST ACTOR, BEN STILLER:" A challenge for you folks. As we move into awards season, there are a bunch of people who it's widely assumed will be nominated for Oscars, and a smaller group of people who are equally widely assumed to be winning them (Helen Mirren, Jennifer Hudson, the folks who wrote Listen, and Emmanuel Lubezki, Children Of Men's cinematographer). Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to offer someone who coulda, woulda, shoulda been a contender, but isn't. Please refrain from being quite as ludicrous as Manohla Dargis in today's Times, who has Sacha Baron Cohen for Best Supporting Actor from Talladega Nights, the screenplay for Talladega Nights, and Gong Li from Miami Incoherence as Supporting Actress.

My pick? Jacinda Barrett, from The Last Kiss. Previously known primarily for being "that hot model chick on the boring season of The Real World," Barrett actually gets to be the moral center of the underappreciated and poorly marketed drama. (Attempts to market as "A wacky comedy from the people who brought you Garden State and Crash!" were both inaccurate and ineffective.) No, she doesn't get a grand moment of lashing out in song, like Hudson does, but she may be the one character who's got herself together, but finds her life falling apart because of outside pressures. It's extremely nice work, and had Rachel McAdams not dropped out of the picture shortly before shooting, I suspect her "it girl" status would have led to some more critical and buzz love. Barrett makes you take notice, and makes you even sadder that the rest of her film output this year consists of the exerable Poseidon and School for Scoundrels.