Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Thoughts On The Postseason Thus Far

1. The Minnesota Twins just completely flopped. Mediocre pitching, terrible hitting, no execution - not in a dumb Joe Morgan sense, but in a specific no hits with runners in scoring position sense - and no wins as a result. Credit the Yankees with playing well, but the Twins should've beaten Sabathia in Game 1, should've broken the game open against Pettite in the second inning of Game 2 (instead of scoring a measly one run on a Danny Valencia sacrifice fly) and maybe won that game too, and all in all played completely unlike the powerhouse they were from early April to mid-September. The piece they were missing throughout this unmercifully quick series was a right-handed bat to platoon with the miserably sunk Jason Kubel, who has gone from Beast to Least in a mere 365 days. But hey, Kubel did hit that grand slam of Mariano Rivera earlier this season at Yankee Stadium, so he's got that going for him.

2. The Tampa Bay Rays probably should've won their series against the Rangers, especially Game 5, but errors and defense cost them in the end. I listened to most of the Rays/Rangers series in my car, while delivering pizza. If I delivered pizza like the Rays played defense in Game 5, I'd have t-boned a telephone pole the minute I hit the road (messing up the pizza in the process, with toppings sliding everywhere and all that). Then again, maybe nothing the Rays could've done would've mattered because...

3. Nobody seems to be able to hit Cliff Lee, the future postseason immortal currently pitching as a Texas Ranger for his third team in two seasons, and hey, you just know the Yankees are gonna make him an offer he can't refuse as soon as he becomes a free agent, right? I'd say that their payroll is stretched to breaking point right now, but man, oh, man, to quote a late-game text from my friend Craig in San Francisco: "The Yankees are going to sign him just so they stop losing in the post season to him."

4. Speaking of San Francisco, something to keep in mind as the announcers talk about the Phillies left-handed power threat: the Giants are better off when their great one-two righthanded pitching punch of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain are on the mound, than they are with Jonathan Sanchez or Madison Bumgarner tossing: the Phillies have a higher on-base percentage and slugging percentage against lefties than righties (and OPS, natch). It's already Game 3... but my rotation for the Giants here on out would be to return Lincecum and Cain to the mound on short rest for games 4 and 5. They're in San Francisco, home field advantage is in effect. Time to strike while the iron is hot! If this series goes to seven games, Cole Hamels in Philly will likely be invincible. Team Torture needs to win at least two games in SF, or they will not win this series. And Matty and Tim give them their best shot.

5. Respect to Bobby Cox. What a great manager, the greatest in my lifetime for sure.

6. Maybe if Cincinnati hadn't had the worst attendance of any playoff team in the National League, they would've scored more runs against Philly. People of Cincy! Put down the chili and GO TO THE GAMES. Your Reds are one of the most fun, unique, exciting young teams in baseball. And Bronson Arroyo might sing you some Pearl Jam, too, if you ask him real nice and he's got his slow curve working. My NL MVP vote would've been for Joey Votto this year - I say "would've" because, yet again, the Baseball Writers Association Of America has refused to give me my say. Can we start a petition or something?

7. Although the no-hitter from Roy Halladay is an instant legend, for my money the best pitching performance of this year's postseason thus far is Tim Lincecum's 14 strikeout two-hit shutout of the Braves one day later. And when the two met, in Game 1 of the NLDS, Lincecum prevailed. Here's why. The strike zone was called tight, to the point where most strikes could be hit well by a good swing. Halladay refused to accept that, and he suffered as a result (and took the loss). Conversely, the Freak was willing to issue a walk or three, thereby cutting down on the number of pitches that batters could hit with authority, and limited the damage enough to nail down that quality start and win (and one more k than Doc, to boot). It's a risk when a pitcher issues walks, because that allows baserunners, and the opposite of recording an out is allowing a baserunner. But for my money, if a home plate ump is calling an Eddie Gaedel-sized strike zone, a good pitcher should be willing to walk one or two more guys than usual if he knows he can get the strikeout as a result of his ump-induced "effective wildness."

8. Predictions, at 1:17am, from the basement of Mesa Pizza in Dinkytown, Minneapolis: Rangers in six, Phillies in seven. Cliff Lee, meet Roy Halladay. Not sure if you two are aware of this, but you might have something in common...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Know Your Product

The Saints were a great Australian punk band from the late 1970's. Well, they moved to England to make their classic couple of albums (and some less classic albums which, while still very enjoyable in their own right, just don't quite stand up to the first two, no matter what your crazy friend in Brooklyn who is obsessed with Prehistoric Sounds says), but they were Australian.

Their first album, (I'm) Stranded, sounds like a hurricane. The vocals are sneering, slicing nasal acid. The guitar and bass roar. The drums are big and trashy and thunderous. There are a couple slow songs, and hey, they're great too - the guitars are still loud, I think I've never heard louder guitar on a ballad than on "Messing With The Kid." It's an amazing album, hard to beat.

But actually - and this may or not be a key defining characteristic of my musical taste - I've always liked the second album better. It's called Eternally Yours. It's still loud as hell, but the production is a little cleaner, the slow songs have a little less overdrive on the guitar, and ultimately it's less raw. Oh, and there's a horn section here and there. I'm pretty ambivalent about horn sections - basically, the more trebly a horn section is, the worse off I am. And it seems like a horn section makes a song no better and usually worse at least 95% of the time. But a cool, soulful horn arrangement done right can really add a lot to a song - and on the first track, "Know Your Product," the horns do just that. To me, "Know Your Product" is the Everest of punk rock songs with horn sections. The lyrics are essentially a reworking of the frustrated anti-cheap consumerism parts of the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," which always floats my boat. I know it's hard to believe, but I think commercials have gotten even dumber in the last few years. No, actually, that's not hard to believe at all. Brawndo's got what plants crave, right, right... well, "Know Your Product" is a great song, and Eternally Yours is a great album.

Last night, I went out to the Triple Rock, here in Minneapolis, to see one of my favorite bands, Gentleman Jesse and His Men, open up for King Hhan and His Shrines (by the way, those twin "His"-es lead me to wonder: are Jesse and Khan the two most insecurely possessive frontmen out there today?). Well, Jesse/His Men smoked as always. They've added a keyboardist who correctly understands that the only two good keyboard sounds in rock'n'roll history are: 1. Hammond organ providing a big background hum, with occasional rare riffy flourishes, and 2. Piano going dingdingdingdingdingding AND NOTHING ELSE (unless you're The Killer, in which case 2.a. Piano going dingdingding-dingdingding-dingdingding is acceptable). They're great.

And then, ladies and gentlemen, King Khan and His Shrines. All I can say is: WOW. I haven't seen a live band that good in a long time. I mean, I've seen live bands that good - just not in recent memory. It was about an 8-piece soul/rnb/rock/garage/funk/punk mishmash, part Screamin' Jay Hawkins, part P-Funk, part garage tras a la the Gories/the Oblivians/etc., a little bit of mindbending banter and secrets, and of course a whole lotta James Brownism from Khan himself. Well, they were tremendous. I danced, sang along to songs I was hearing for the first time, and cheered especially loudly when it was time to get the band back out there for an encore.

That was when I was run over by a freight train. A glorious, jawdropping, freight train of rock'n'roll perfection.

Warren from Gentleman Jesse's Men grabbed a guitar and joined the folks onstage (making it nine total musicians/dancers up there), and the band launched into the GREATEST LIVE COVER I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE: "Know Your Product," done EXACTLY AS THE ROCK'N'ROLL GODS INTENDED.

Ladies and gentleman: Everest has been climbed. That is all.