Friday, May 25, 2007

Finally Some Time

-Been very busy with business and the start of the Grizzlies new season lately. Not much time for the blog. So, we'll touch a bunch of bases in this post.

-Sorry to read that Josh Hancock's estate, executed by his father, is suing Mike Shannon's Restaurant, the towing company, and the guy who's car broke down, the night of the late player's fatal accident. Sorry, because I happen to think Josh's memory will be destroyed by any court procedings that may result. And sorry because I think pursuing this kind of thing is an example of what's wrong with our legal system in this country. There are so many predatory attorneys out there looking for exposure, and willing to take on pay-if-you-win cases, that people in Mr. Hancock's position are willing to risk a dead son's reputation. When someone in this country has the seeds to fight for legislation that makes those who sue pay court costs if they lose, we won't see nearly as many of these ridiculous suits. I'm actually surprized they're not suing Josh's cell-phone company for tempting him to text while driving. When will people begin taking responsiblity for their own actions? When there are financial consequences that prevent the predator lawyers from getting involved.

-The Grizzlies will be a much better baseball team this year, based on the first two games of the season. The line-up has plenty of punch. The pitching appears to be solid. And the defense looks to be very good as well. GCS Ballpark will be a fun place to be, as always, no matter what the success of the team. But, new manager Phil Warren appears to have assembled a very strong club. Should be fun to watch.

-I'm not counting the Cardinals out yet. The craftiness of Walt Jockety, and the savvy of Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan lead me to believe that they will become more and more competitive as the season goes on. And, when they get a healthy Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder back for the rotation in a few months. Well, stranger things have happened.

-The Blues are in the process of gearing up for the new season both on and off the ice. The draft happens in a few weeks where they are positioned to make a big splash. They will likely sign a high-profile free-agent. And, off the ice, they are attempting to bring in new marketing executives that will be assigned the task of making the fan experience better and the sales effort stronger. The Dave Checketts regime is gearing up for big things. We might have to give it a year or two for playoff success. But the fan experience, already very strong, will be even better right away.

-American Idol was not nearly as interesting this year, and totally predictable. I will give the producers credit though for not doing background video pieces on all of the contestants as they have in years past. The reason: Jordin Sparks would have been unfairly handicapped and/or benefitted if they had. Sparks, the eventual winner, is the product of a mixed-race marriage. Sadly, there are many out there who would frown on that to the point of denying her votes. At the same time, her dad is Phillipi Sparks the one-time pro football player. She would unduly benefit from many who would vote for her, and him, out of hero worship. They downplayed the heritage of Nikko Smith (Ozzie's kid) a few years back for the same, obvious, reason. It may not always turn out the way we like it, but the producers do try to present a level playing field.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Beginning of the End?

-What we're witnessing with the Cardinals early this season appears to me to be a harbinger of larger changes on the horizon.

The Tony LaRussa/Walt Jockety era of the Cards is nearing an end. Insiders, and outsiders, are getting indications...and making them public...that Cardinals "out-front" owner Bill DeWitt is preparing the organization for life after Walt and Tony. That, as much as anything, has created a stagnant attitude in the front office, and on the field, and may be at least partially responsible for the pathetic looking club that has been fielded so far this season.

Fox Sports baseball guru Ken Rosenthal, among others, has written about DeWitt's grooming of Jeff Luhnow as a successor to Jockety, and the negative influence it has cast over the operation. Luhnow currently holds the title of Vice President for Scouting and Player Development, but it's apparently no secret in baseball circles that DeWitt has Luhnow ready to take over should Jockety leave, or be fired. And, since Jockety and LaRussa seem to be a package deal, Tony is probably understandably disturbed at the unhappy situation of his boss, and buddy, Walt. And, of course, these things have a way of infecting attitude all around.

One has to wonder if DeWitt is unhappy with the long-term, high-dollar contracts that Jockety has entered into with players like Scott Rolen and Chris Carpenter. At one time both deals seemed like bargains. But now that Rolen seems unable to hit anywhere close to the level of his pre-shoulder injury days, and Carpenter's arm surgery has his career in some doubt, neither deal seems "club friendly" anymore. Then you have the multi-million dollar deal bestowed upon now, very aged-looking Jim Edmonds...and you might see how an owner would start questioning his GM.

To position Luhnow as a possible successor to Jockety is a fairly understandable move on ownership's part. You never want anyone in your company to appear irreplaceable. On the other hand, Jockety's success level with limited resources...comparatively speaking... over the years should put him way above the fray. Having someone hovering in the background ready to take your job shouldn't be something with which Walt has to be concerned. And, if it actually is a distraction that makes its way into player performance, then DeWitt needs to do something to make things right. It wasn't all that long ago that Cardinals games weren't sold-out every time the team took the field. And much more baseball like we've seen in '07 will bring back the "bad ol' days".

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Idol Prediction

You'll notice, if you visit here even semi-regularly, that I have resisted the temptation to write about American Idol this season. It was at this point in the season last year that I was so absorbed in it that I could barely think about anything else. I hate to admit that....but it was true. It was also at this point last year that I was totally shocked by the ouster of Chris Daughtry from the competition. He, of course, as most predicted, has gone on to great success despite the disappointment.

So, I will make this promise. This year, because I don't have anywhere near the same interest level, I will predict how the remaining contestants will finish. And that will be the last time I subject anyone to my "Idol thoughts" on this blog. Incidentally, this year I think America is getting it right...with the exception of the ultra-long and excruciating stay of Sanjaya. His prolonged presence on the show bears out my previous writings about Idol not being a talent contest...but more a popularity contest.

So, let's rank the remaining contestants according to talent. But then let's also predict how they will finish...talent aside.

Singing Talent
1. Melinda Doolittle
2. Jordin Sparks
3. Lakisha Jones
4. Blake Lewis

1. Jordin Sparks
2. Blake Lewis
3. Melinda Doolittle
4. Lakisha Jones

Order of finsh
1. Jordin Sparks
2. Melinda Doolittle
3. Blake Lewis
4. Lakisha Jones

Lakisha has an amazing voice...but often enough she misses on the interpretation of her song. She seems to overpower the song frequently and "overuses" her voice in spots where she needs to back off and communicate the lyric. She is also the most difficult of the bunch to warm up to. For that reason I think she's next to go home.

Blake has been rewarded for his likeability and his willingness to take a risk with songs. His beat box interpretations have been amazing. However, he cannot outperform Jordin or Melinda. He's the strongest male in a weak year for the guys. Being a guy may even get him to the final week of the show.

Melinda has been consistently the best singer...just about every week I've been able to watch. She is a pro. But, she doesn't come through the camera to the TV audience...and she doesn't have the stage presence of either Jordin or Blake. Remember at this point it gets to be more of a personality contest...and while Melinda is likeable...she is not charismatic.

17-year-old Jordin Sparks will be this year's American Idol because she has the total package. She's a great singer with outstanding interpretation of the material. Her You'll Never Walk Alone a few weeks back was tantamount to Katherine McPhee's Over the Rainbow of last year's show. The camera loves Jordin. It's easy to see how she...even at her young age...could move right into professional performing.

So...There's my prediction. By the end of the month we'll see if I'm anywhere in the ballpark.