Monday, November 10, 2008

Latest Baseball Happenings

So, I just read the funniest thing I've seen in awhile. Major League Baseball made a mistake. What else is new, right? Well, today, the Rookies of the Year for the American League and the National League were announced, and I'd say that they were pretty accurate and not very surprising. The American League honor went to Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. Geovany Soto, the young catcher of the Chicago Cubs, was the winner for the National League.

Longoria and Soto were definitely my choices for the award before the results came out, and apparently the Baseball Writers' Association of America, the voters, agreed with me, because Longoria won unanimously and only one voter didn't put Soto first on his ballot. With the results in, I decided to check to see who had also received votes in the "election." In the American League, Chicago's Alexei Ramirez and Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury finished second and third, respectively, not really surprising. Then, something curious came up when I was looking at the National League results.

Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds was Soto's runner up, and Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens finished third. Again, both of these players were deserving of consideration for the award. Then, as I was scrolling down the list, something jumped out at me. I had to re-check to make sure I wasn't going completely out of my mind, but I wasn't. Right there, in fourth place in the Rookie of the Year voting, was Cincinnati's sensational pitcher, Edinson Volquez.

Before you think that I'm complaining because Volquez isn't good enough, I'd like to point out that in my opinion, based on last season, Edinson Volquez is one of the best young pitchers in the game. Although he didn't finish as good as he started, he definitely has potential to mature to be a feared pitcher. But no, that's not my problem with his name's mention on the list. The problem is that it was the Rookie of the Year voting, and, in case everyone's forgotten, Edinson Volquez is not a rookie.

Volquez became more of a "household name" (among avid baseball followers, at least) this season when he started out strong. Everyone wondered where he came from, and soon it was learned that he was traded to Cincinnati from the Texas Rangers for Josh Hamilton. This deal ended up being the best for both teams, as Volquez tore through the National League lineups and Hamilton knocked around American League pitching like they've been doing it their entire lives.

But while Volquez may have gained a lot of popularity during the 2008 season, he's been a lot longer than this. To make sure I wasn't making myself look like an idiot, I did a little research. First off, the Major League Baseball requirements for rookie consideration:

A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list).

Okay, so in order for Volquez to be in the running for Rookie of the Year, he would have had to have pitched less than fifty innings before this season. So, I checked his career statistics. In 2008, he pitched 196 innings. His career innings total? 276. In other words, before this season, Volquez had logged eighty innings of work, well above the maximum of fifty required to be called a "rookie."

Throughout this research, I found a blog on on this mistake. The writer of the blog did a lot more investigating than I did; he actually called up the BBWAA to see what was up:

BBWAA secretary/treasurer Jack O'Connell graciously admitted the oversight: "It was a mistake. It slipped through the cracks." Turns out three writers incorrectly filled out ballots with Volquez in second place, and BBWA didn't catch the error. Although BBWAA usually picks off flawed ballots before they are counted, O'Connell disclosed that this has happened "multiple times" in the past. BBWAA will not correct the mistake because it would not change the winner.

Well, that's just a great way to look at things, isn't it? I mean, these "voters" are the BASEBALL WRITERS' ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA. The name speaks for itself. What do they do for a living? They write about baseball. Wouldn't you think that if it was your job to report on baseball, you would know whether or not someone was a rookie before casting your vote for him? I'm a die-hard baseball fan, and I know that Edinson Volquez was not a rookie this past season. Shouldn't these writers be following the game even more closely than I do?

Regardless, O'Connell was right, it wouldn't have affected the outcome in any way had the votes not been cast for Volquez, but I think it's the principle of the thing.

In other news, two trades have occurred tonight:
1) The Colorado Rockies have traded outfielder Matt Holliday to the Oakland Athletics for a trio of players believed to be reliever Huston Street, starting pitcher Greg Smith, and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, and
2) The Florida Marlins have traded outfielder/catcher Josh Willingham and left-hander Scott Olsen to the Washington Nationals for second baseman Emilio Bonifacio, right-hander PJ Dean, and infielder Jake Smolinski.
First off, I think that the Holliday deal is kind of out of the ordinary for the Athletics. I mean, that entire team is based off of the theories of moneyball, and a high-profile player like Holliday is strange for an Athletics team of late. The Athletics don't usually have a power hitter of his caliber in their lineup, so it's definitely a change. He will make $13 million in 2009 and become a free agent after the season, so he is probably just a one-season rental for the Athletics, but they definitely don't pay $13 million a season for one player very often.

Oakland owner Lew Wolff has recently told confidants he's tired of losing, and this may be the first step toward contending again.

The other trade isn't really big news, but I like the Marlins (they're my favorite team, after the Yankees of course. I have a thing for teams that beat the Yankees in the World Series - I also like the Diamondbacks). Scott Olsen will most likely be in the Nationals' starting rotation. I mean it's not like they have anyone better - the ERA of their starting pitchers in 2008 was hovering near 5. Josh Willingham doesn't seem to have a place anywhere on the team, because the Nationals already have Austin Kearns, Elijah Dukes, and Lastings Milledge for the corner outfield positions, and Jesus Flores at catcher. Bonifacio lost his second base job with the Nationals last season when Anderson Hernandez joined the team, so they didn't really have anywhere to put him. The other two players included in the deal are Minor Leaguers.

So, only November and already a few deals going down. Can't wait to see what the rest of the off-season has to offer.

PS -> It's technically Tuesday, so 156 days until the Yankees' home opener 2009 !

Friday, November 7, 2008

Auto-Tune Does Not Equal No Talent.

“I just got tired of turning on the radio and everything just sounding the same,” remarks the Tallahassee, Florida native whose government name is Faheem Najm. “I know it might sound corny, but I wanted to try and make something different.” After doing an unofficial remix of Akon’s “Locked Up,” the African sensation signed T-Pain to his Konvict Music imprint.

I'm a little disturbed that I actually have something else to bitch about already. That something would be the fact that people mistake T-Pain's use of auto-tune on his songs for an inability to sing and rap. Ummm, no?

Since when does being different make something bad? This is just another classic case of people judging something before they get to know it. If you only know T-Pain from the songs you've heard on the radio (Buy U A Drank, I'm N Luv With A Stripper, even Good Life), then you are not even CLOSE to knowing his music or his style. A glance into my iTunes tells me that I have 208 songs either by T-Pain or featuring T-Pain. If I had to estimate I'd say a good 150 of them don't use auto-tune at all. Auto-tune is just an effect used to create a different sound every now and then. He doesn't use it as his means of making music; he has some pretty sick tracks if you just give him a chance. Besides, no one flipped out when Kanye started using auto-tune on his entire new CD, 808s & Heartbreak. If "Love Lockdown" and "Heartless" aren't awful because of auto-tune, what makes T-Pain's songs "suck?"

T-Pain is in my opinion one of the best and most unique voices in the hip-hop/R&B genre. His collaborations are second to none, and he's worked with the best on his way to becoming the best. And if all goes according to plan and "T-Wayne" becomes a reality, he'll be one-half of the best-selling collaborative hip-hop CD of alltime; you can mark my words on that one. There's no way people can resist an entire CD of T-Pain and Lil' Wayne; it's just not possible.

If the artists out there thought that T-Pain was a joke, they wouldn't be lining up to work with him. From Kanye to Lil' Wayne to Akon to Chris Brown to Flo Rida to Justin Timberlake to DJ Khaled to Fabolous to R. Kelly to Usher to Lil' Mama to Plies to Sean Paul, every one has respect for what T-Pain can do, whether it's rapping, singing (with or without the auto-tune), or producing. T-Pain can do and has done it all.

“In the past nineteen days, I’ve gotten more than twenty-five calls from artists who want to work with me,” T-Pain explains. “Right now, it’s a very exciting time.”

T-Pain's third studio album, Thr33 Ringz, comes out on Tuesday, and I'm definitely looking forward to it, based on the songs that I've heard from it so far. "Karaoke" featuring DJ Khaled basically lays out what I've been saying - how people hated on him for using the auto-tune and mistook it for a sign of weakness, then tried to copy his style. The album cover has a circus theme to it, and the Thr33 Ringz name evokes thoughts of the three rings:

“It came from people telling me that I’m running the game, that I’m the ringleader of the game,” T-Pain says humbly. “That’s where the whole circus imagery came from. I started putting it together with the idea that the circus is just like the music industry. You’ve got your different acts, all of the different animals, etc.”

Now, obviously, if you're not a fan of hip-hop, rap, R&B, whatever you want to call it, then you're not going to like T-Pain. The same way I will never listen to heavy metal no matter how "good" someone tries to tell me it is. But I just don't understand people who can, for example, be huge fans of Lil' Wayne, and then hate "Got Money" because of T-Pain's voice, or be Kanye fans and not like "Good Life." How does that make sense? Alright, don't go out and buy T-Pain's CDs, but to boycott a song by your favorite artist because you don't approve of who he's collaborating with? Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

I'll end by saying YES, T-Pain is definitely different, but that's what makes him great. I used to think that I liked rap music until one day about a year ago I realized that I like T-Pain, Jay-Z & Lil' Wayne, and anything they do. Three men who have completely set themselves apart from the rest of the business.

And honestly, the rest, "just to me, sound like a bunch of karaoke."

(props to MSi for the idea for this rant.)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New Yankee Stadium - We'd Better Get What We're Paying For

The new Yankee Stadium is set to officially open its doors on April 16, 2009 in time for the Yankees' home opener in what is sure to be an interesting season. As everyone knows, the Yankees failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since the strike-shortened 1994 season due to a variety of reasons ranging from injuries to lack of starting pitching to underperformances from key players. The team and its fans are hoping that the change that the new Yankee Stadium provides will drive the Yankees to victory, something really not felt since their last win in 2000.

Ever since a new stadium was announced, I was not exactly looking forward to it. After all, I don't know any other stadium besides this one (and Shea of course, but that's gone now too, even faster). As time went on, ground was broken on the new stadium and preliminary drawings and sketches were released of the Yankees' new home. Over two years have passed since the groundbreaking ceremony in August of 2006, and I can't believe how the space - as well as my feeling on a new stadium - has transformed.

I learned to deal with the fact that my second home was being torn down and turned into a park/museum. I hoped that when all was said and done and this new structure was opened that it would all be worth it. As of now it would seem that those hopes have come true, because the new stadium looks amazing. I mean it kind of looks like a bank, but other than that, I can't wait for Opening Day 2009.

I can only wonder if it looks like a bank on purpose, based on what the Yankees have the nerve to charge for tickets. Let me break this down. Since the 2005 season, I have had some type of season ticket plan for the Yankees. That first year, I had a 46-game weekday package that consisted of two seats located in the Tier level, box 620E, seats 21 and 22. The seats were great; they aimed directly down the first base line and the Yankees' dugout and were within perfect foul ball range for lefties. In 2006, we kept that package with those seats, then added a full season package, also in the Tier level, box 643C. These two seats were mostly used as a business incentive for my dad's employees, and occasionally we would sell some of the tickets on StubHub (until the Yankees decided that was "illegal" and started revoking season ticket licenses of offenders, but they don't do that anymore).

Then, in 2007, our 46-game package was upgraded. We moved to box 604B, which was situated almost directly behind home plate, and I couldn't have been happier. I loved those seats. That year we also moved our full season package down into the loge level in left field, box 514B. Again, those were mostly given away or sold, although I sat there a few times such as Opening Day and a few Red Sox games. Then 2008 came. Our 604B seats remained and we moved our 514B seats back up to the Tier level, now in box 616F, two sections closer than we had originally been when we first bought a package.

The environment of 604B was incomparable to any of my other ballpark experiences. The cast of characters who sat around us were all either fun to talk to or fun to make fun of. Then the inevitable happened - the end of 2008, the end of Yankee Stadium, the end of an era. None of us knew what our fate would be come April in the new stadium. We didn't even know if we all could afford to come back next year.

Face value on my 604B as well as my 616F tickets last season was $55 each, advance, $65 each, day of game. What that equivocates to is roughly $14,000 for four seats, which isn't exactly pocket change. Everyone knew what was to come when we received our relocation in the new stadium, assuming all to be equal. But then a funny thing happened - they made our seats into outdoor suites.

What was once considered to be the best kept secret of the Stadium by anyone who has ever sat there suddenly became a "Premium" section because upper management believed that they could get more money. That's always what it comes down to, isn't it? The choice became clear: either opt for the Terrace Outdoor Suite section of the stadium, sure to be pricey, or go through the process of being relocated and guarantee that we would be sitting nowhere near behind home plate and the ticket price may just go up anyway.

What we ultimately ended up doing was purchasing four seats, together, in the Terrace level Outdoor Suite section. We were placed in section 320A, which is slightly off-center toward the first base side, in the fifth row. Price? $100 per seat per game. AKA, $32,400 a season, basically double what we were paying last season. At least, we figured, we'd be able to sell the tickets to games we weren't going to and make enough of our money back. Then, surprise, surprise, the Yankees did something that no one was expecting.

Our season ticket contract came in the mail last week. No joke, the package weighed about two pounds. Enclosed were two separate contracts - one was the ticket contract, and one was the seat licensing contract. Wait, what? What seat licensing? The new Yankee Stadium doesn't have seat licensing...

Oh, but it does. What everyone failed to mention until the contracts came out was that the $100 that we're paying per seat per game next season is not the price of the ticket. The seats are $65 a game, the seat license is $35 a game. It doesn't seem like a big deal though, right? I mean we're still only paying $32,400 a year, right? Well, technically yes, but this seems to be a way to prevent resale at high prices. If $35 of the $100 is going toward a seat license, probability says that the ticket itself will have a face value of $65. People see a ticket with a face value of $65, are they going to pay $100 for it? Not guaranteed, no.

On top of that, they did the inevitable in forcing their food choices on us. No longer will fans be allowed to bring in outside food for consumption inside the stadium; all food and beverages must be purchased inside at the concessions, which the Yankees now so conveniently own themselves. The new contract takes away basically every single right that we ever had as season ticket holders. The list of what we're not allowed to do inside the stadium is enormous and detailed. There's a section of about 30 reasons for cancellation of a game that we won't get our money back for. If an entire season is cancelled because of a strike, for example, our ticket money will be carried over to the next season, with no refunds. If there's a war that cancels games, they keep our money. Pleasant.

The outdoor suite seats became a completely separate entity from our original season ticket contract in the old stadium; in other words, any person could have purchased these seats if they chose to. Our original seats are still being relocated; in fact that contract went out in the mail this week. Our 616F seats were relocated to section 324 row 9, which is basically the EXACT same spot that they were in in the old stadium, for $10 more per game, which all in all isn't that bad. We're considering purchasing those two seats as well, assuming there's a market for resale. Our 604Bs have yet to be relocated because that was only a partial season package, and the Yankees started the relocation process with full season ticket holders.

I don't even know why they bother calling it a contract. They should call it what it is: us signing our lives and all of our money away to them for the next 4 years guaranteed. All I can say is that it better be worth it.

at least it's pretty... :]

First Post, First Rant

Well hello there. I now have a blog. It kind of developed out of necessity because I kept wanting to write things and share them with people without forcing them on anyone. So, at least with a blog people can choose whether or not to actually read what I have to say. That makes sense to me, I don't know if it makes sense to anyone else.

Anyway, the basis of this blog is going to be for me to rant, basically about anything and everything that happens to me in my life, or that I see happening around me. I've ranted a lot before, like on notes on Facebook and stuff, so this is nothing new to me and nothing new to anyone who has ever read my notes on Facebook. Most of the time they will deal with baseball, just as a heads up, because that's kind of the only thing I care about, but I'm going to take some time right now to rant about the Presidential Election.

It's not so much the election itself that I have to rant about, but moreso the reaction of some McCain voters that I know to the news that Obama had secured the victory. Let's just get something straight - I am in no way, shape, or form a person who forces my opinions on other people. In fact, I like to think of myself as being extremely objective when it comes to issues that a lot of people don't agree on.

I'm definitely not going to sit here at my desk and break down the election because overall I really am not acquainted with all the issues and stands each candidate had going into the election the other day. What I will say, however, is that I was disgusted with some of the things that I was reading coming from those who hoped McCain would win.
I can't even tell you how many statuses I read on Facebook saying
  • that our country is now going to shit because Obama was elected.
  • that he's a terrorist waiting to bomb our country and by voting him into office, we're letting him do it. After all, "his middle name is Hussein," obviously he's a terrorist.
  • welcome to socialism, and my personal favorite:
  • "I'm moving to Canada, who's coming with me?"
I was legitimately disgusted with Americans after reading that. I mean, come on people, this is the year 2008. America is supposed to be the greatest country in the world. How are we supposed to progress if there are so many people that are this ignorant? I'm definitely not sitting here saying that everyone should have voted for Obama, though. While I'm proud to say that I cast my ballot for Barack Obama, I have no problem with anyone who felt that John McCain was a better choice for this country, as long as their reasoning wasn't "because Obama's a terrorist." Obviously, Obama lost a lot of votes in the South because of his color, but that was to be expected because the South almost always votes Republican regardless of who is running for the Democratic party. Last time I checked, being half African and having the middle name "Hussein" doesn't equivocate to "terrorist."

I am completely aware that there are a lot of ultra-conservative people in this country, and that having a semi-black President is not something that everyone was ready to handle. It seemed like too big a change for a lot of Americans. What cannot be tolerated, by me at least, is the ignorance that some people I have encountered possess. Not just anti-Obama either. Example: Someone told me, "Anyone who doesn't vote for Obama is a racist." Really? That's a great way to think. That's a lot better than what this kid at Hofstra wrote on his window: "Vote Republican, not Terrorist." Pleasant people I deal with, no?

Bottom line is that Barack Obama is going to be the 44th President of the United States, the so-called greatest country in the world. He received almost 65 million popular votes. 65 million people can't all be ignorant. Granted many people voted for Obama because he is black, which isn't a good basis for decision-making either. What I'd like to know is how many people know that Obama is only half black? And of the people who know that, how many know that he met his father, a Kenyan man, only one total time after the age of two? Who knows that Obama was raised by white people, and that his mother's last name is Dunham? What if he had run as Barack Dunham?

What needs to be understood is that Barack Obama is going to try his hardest to help point this country in the right direction. The results will not be seen right away, and many McCain supporters will take that as a reason why American voters made the wrong choice, but the truth is that this country can't possibly be turned around by any one man in a short period of time. Come 2012 when Obama's term is over, let's see what he has accomplished and judge him based on that. Until then, everything is just speculation.