20 Favorite Alternative Rock Songs of the 90s

[Please check out my new blog, Jonesing For Film, a movie review blog]

I compiled this list with the one criteria that I couldn’t include any of the “big” bands of the 90s Rock scene.  So Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M., Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine, Radiohead, U2, Foo Fighters, and a few others were excluded.  They’re not exactly “deep cuts” and a few of them were big hits, but a few of them have also probably gotten lost in the shuffle.  Almost every time I hear them, I’m transported back to high school.

20. Filter – Hey Man, Nice Shot: Before “Take My Picture” there was this song.

19. Collective Soul – Run: Varsity Blues soundtrack

18. Counting Crows – A Murder of One

17. Barenaked Ladies – Alternative Girlfriend: I love two lines from this song. 1.) “Your parents understand, but you don’t care.” And 2.) Old at being young, young at being old.”

16. The Eels – Novocaine for the Soul: Before I sputter out…

15. The Dandy Warhols – Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth: Heroine IS so passe.

14. The Nixons – Sister: I had forgotten this song and was very happy when I stumbled across it a few years ago.

13. The Presidents of the United States of America – Peaches: Always loved these guys. Hard to pick between this and a few other songs.

12. Schtum – Skydiver: This song makes me think of the Saturday Morning Recovery Show on 94.3 WCYY.

11. The Sundays – Summertime: I wish this band had been bigger. I love the voice of the lead singer. Also great is “Here’s Where the Story Ends.”

10. Local H – High-Fiving M.F.: “Your glory days are over and so’s your stone-washed jeans.” Yeah, take that, hair bands… (NSFW because of language)

9. The Flys – Got You (Where I Want You): For the teens who didn’t watch Dawson’s Creek, this song, for the Disturbing Behavior soundtrack, made us fall in love with Katie Holmes. Also, the rest of their album sounded NOTHING like this song.

8. Butthole Surfers – Pepper: Quiet, loud, quiet loud. “They were all in love with Di and they were doing it in Texas.”

7. Spacehog – In the Meantime: I still don’t understand all of the lyrics, but I love this song.

6. Seven Mary Three – Lucky: “Cumbersome” is a grungier song, but I loved the stripped down nature of this song.

5. The Bogmen – Suddenly: Just a fun, funny song. I shout this one out in my car whenever it comes across my iPod.

4. Soul Coughing – Super Bon Bon: Awesome awesome awesome beat.

3. Everclear – Santa Monica: The best Everclear song. Great guitar riff. And one of my favorites of all time.

2. Rustic Overtones – Iron Boots: Horn section in this song is so awesome. Hard to find a clean version on YouTube because they’re not well-known outside of Maine. But this is easily one of my most favorite songs of all time.

1. Temple of the Dog – Hunger Strike: I said no Pearl Jam and no Soundgarden, but I didn’t say anything about Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell together in the same song. Again, one of my most favorite songs. Ever. Period. Special bonus, I’m posting the music video AND the surprise performance that they sprung on the world a few years back that gave me chills.

~Moose (jonesingforfilms.wordpress.com)


Bill Belichick Is Bold

ESPN writer Tim Keown wrote an opinion piece on ESPN.com about the end of the Super Bowl.  He says that while the decision by Belichick and the Patriots defense to allow the Giants to score a go ahead TD in order to get the ball back with enough time to have a chance to score was the right call, it was not a fitting end to the Super Bowl.  While he makes an interesting case about how it is a situation unique to the game of football, I think his argument fails to be compelling because he doesn’t accurately understand what kind of coach Bill Belichick is.

His premise about Belichick being the “great defender of all that is manly and stoic and arrogant in the world of the National Football League…” is flawed to a fault.  As a Patriots fan, there are plenty of examples of Belichick playing the percentages and doing what seems counter-intuitive over doing what is deemed conventional wisdom.  There are two prime examples.

First, the 4th-and-2 play against the Colts back in 2009.  Conventional wisdom was to punt, give the ball back to Manning, and take your chances with a struggling defense that was tired and had been shredded in the 2nd half by Manning as he charged back to make it a close game.  They went for it, and failed, but the percentages at that time, according to people who do the numbers crunching on percentages for these things said he was actually making the right call based on the percentages.

My favorite example, however, remains the Monday night game against the Broncos in Denver back in 2003. The Pats were going to have to punt out of the end zone, down by one, late in the 4th quarter.  Belichick instructed his long snapper to snap the ball over the punters head and out of the end zone for a safety, putting the Broncos up by 3 points.  This eliminated the possibility for the Broncos of a blocked punt recovered for a TD at best or excellent field position at the very least.  Instead, the Pats were able to free kick from the 30 and change the field position, get a stop, and come back and score on a TD pass to David Givens to win the game.  It remains one of my favorite games of the Brady-Belichick era.  It seems obvious that it was the right move, aside from the favorable outcome, if for no other reason than the change in field position, but the conventional wisdom is to never put points on the board for the other team.  There is nothing arrogant, stoic, or manly about giving away free points, whether 2 or 6.

The fact is Belichick has the freedom to do things unconventionally because of his success.  It’s a luxury that few coaches probably do not feel like they have, which is why more teams do not do things like this.  But Belichick has never been a completely conventional coach either.  It’s why he plays Troy Brown or Julian Edelman at CB, Mike Vrabel as a goal-line TE, or Dan Klecko as a blocking FB.  It’s why he played nearly an entire second half against a Drew Bledsoe-led Bills offense with nobody on his defense in a 3 point stance.  He takes chances all the time, whether the rest of the league, his critics, or the Patriot fan base thinks it’s emasculating or wrong, because he doesn’t care about the perception of things.  He’s interested in putting his players in the best position to actually win the game.


Bad Form, NBA!

In fantasy sports, most leagues have a veto system to accept or reject trades that happen between teams in the league.  When a trade is agreed upon there is then a review period when the rest of the teams can vote to accept or reject the trade and if half of the teams vote against the trade it does not go through.  I feel like there should only be a few instances when a trade should be rejected, even if it looks like a lopsided trade.  Unless it is a case of collusion between the two fantasy owners, I believe a trade should be allowed to go through.  A fantasy owner, especially one who pays to play in a league, is allowed to managed his team however he sees fit.  As long as he is managing his team in good faith, even if you disagree with his decisions and believe he is mismanaging his team, he should be allowed to do so.  If both teams feel like a trade helps their team, that trade should be allowed.  A fantasy owner who veto trades because they think they’re “unfair” or make one team “too good” or because they weren’t a part of the deal is “That Guy.”  Don’t be That Guy.  Last night, the NBA had a couple of its owners and people in the league office who were That Guy.

Last night, the NBA nixed a 3 team trade involving the New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets, and Los Angeles Lakers that would have sent, among other various players and draft picks, Chris Paul, one of the best point guards in the league, to the Lakers; Pau Gasol, one of the best big men in the league, to the Rockets; and Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin to the Hornets.

The Hornets are currently without an owner, and so the team is essentially owned and operated by the league and the other 29 owners.  A handful of them complained to NBA Commissioner David Stern about the deal being unfair, and so under the pressure of these owners, Stern said the trade was voided and dead.  Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who gained a ton of national sympathy in 2010 for playing the role of the jilted lover when LeBron skipped town to go play in South Beach, squandered any and all sympathy I had for the guy with the most ridiculous, rhetoric-filled e-mail I’ve read from a billionaire who was whining like a 5 year-old girl because he didn’t get his way.

Here’s the thing: If you don’t think the Hornets should trade Paul because it’s a conflict of interest because the team is owned by the league and you don’t want to show favoritism to one or two teams over the other teams that essentially co-own the team, that is fine.  But you need to squash the trade rumors and trade talks before negotiations get serious and a deal is completed.  You can’t wait until a deal is consummated and then proclaim, “Whoa, wait just a minute, this is not right!”  Where was Dan Gilbert a week ago with his ridiculous e-mail to David Stern when the talk about the Hornets trading Chris Paul started to get really serious?

If you’re going to void the trade now, does that mean that other big market teams like the Celtics and Knicks aren’t allowed to try to acquire him now?  Do the Hornets have to have Chris Paul on their roster for the entire season and get ZERO compensation when he leaves next summer instead of the haul they were getting from this trade?  Do they even realize that this how bad this makes them look?  Is the league now going to unilaterally decide whether trades are fair or unfair just because a few owners are complaining?

This makes me think a two things:

1. The lockout ended prematurely.  The owners clearly are not on the same page with each other.  There is still a have and have-nots divide between the owners that was not resolved by the deal to end the lockout.  They rushed this deal with the players and crammed everything into a condensed timeframe to make things work so games could start on Christmas day.  And it’s inexcusable because they could have done this deal back in July or August.  It didn’t need to get to this point anyway.  It’s chaos right now.  The NFL was frenetic when their free agency started, but they still had over a month before their season started.  The NBA will have a matter of weeks to sort things out.  It’s a mess.

2. The dirty little secret of the NBA right now is that David Stern does not have the power that he once had.  He is going to step down as commissioner sooner than we realize, I think.  There are a lot of new owners in the league that weren’t around when the last lockout took place in ‘99.  There are a lot of owners who paid top market dollar to buy these teams, even the small market ones like Cleveland, and want to see returns on their investments.  Stern doesn’t have the same pull and cache with these guys that he did with the last group of owners.  It’s telling that this trade was voided almost immediately by Stern and no real reason was given for it and even more telling that it was because a handful of owners pitched a fit about it.
Whatever the outcome, the league did itself a major disservice last night and it was a major misstep just a week after so many people were so happy to have the league back.  I don’t even like the Lakers, I don’t even know if this trade would have necessarily made them better since they were giving up Pau Gasol and keeping Andrew Bynum, but even I think it was a terrible decision and poor handling of the entire situation be the league.

Reading in 2011

I have tried to make more of an effort to read in the last few years, with varying degrees of success.  As my current job is overnight and affords me a lot of free time, it’s usually torn between movies, reading on the internet about news and sports and pop culture, or reading books.  Movies have actually also inspired me to get more into books too, as I’ve purchased and have read or intend to read several books that have movie adaptations that have been released recently or are scheduled in the next few years.

One thing I have noticed is that my reading habits have changed.  Sadly, I still read very slowly, which means it can take me a long time to get through a book.  But where in the past I used to read only one book at a time, I’ve developed a habit of reading 3 or 4 books at a time with different levels of involvement for all of them, depending on my mood at the time I’m interested in picking up a book, physical or digital.  As it stands right now, I am currently reading three books with three more that I have started and not progressed in much because I lost interest for one reason or another.  I’m not sure whether this is a good habit or a bad habit.  probably mostly bad, as I see similar traits in other aspects of my life.  For instance, when I come back from the grocery store with a lot of new groceries, I am eager to sample at least a little bit of everything at the very beginning (does this happen with anyone else?).

I used to read one book and not pick up another one unless I completed it or decided to drop it altogether.  But, then again, I didn’t necessarily do a lot of leisure reading growing up and most of my reading in high school and college came from books I had to read for classes, so even then I suppose I was reading multiple books at the same time, just required reading instead of reading for pleasure.  So maybe the conclusion is that my adult self is compensating for the lack of the classroom and homework in my life.

At any rate, I made it a goal of mine to read 25 books this year, which was, admittedly, very ambitious on my part, given that it would require a rate of just over 2 books per month.  I actually started out pretty well for the first couple of months, which is longer than I usually stick with anything resembling a New Year’s resolution.  But as spring turned into summer, my consistency in reading fell by the wayside.  At the rate I’m going, I should end up reading about 15-16 books this year, which is pretty impressive to me.

Here is a list of the 13 books I have read this year, including 2 that I started in December of last year:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King
Zombie, Spaceship, Wasteland by Patton Oswalt
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Love Wins by Rob Bell
Religiously Transmitted Diseases by Ed Gungor
At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft
A Good Man Is Hard To Find by Flannery O’Connor
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity Shepherd’s Notes by Terry L. Miethe

Currently, I am reading the following books:
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The War for Late Night by Bill Carter
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

I have essentially dropped The Turn of the Screw and The Invisible Man, though they remain on my list of books I am currently reading on Goodreads.  I found the writing style of Henry James interminable and The Invisible Man was tough sledding for some reason.  If I were to pick one back up, it would most certainly be The Invisible Man.

A Game of Thrones I will pick up again, probably after I finish Jane Eyre, because I loved the first season of the show on HBO and want to get through the other books before I see any future seasons.  But it is tough sometimes to read something that you have already seen adapted.  I would have had that problem with Pride and Prejudice had it not been for the zombified version of it to read concurrently.

Which is why I am currently trying to make my way through Jane Eyre, which I got for free on Amazon for the Kindle, but am forced to read on my laptop since I don’t actually own a Kindle.  Yet.  There was a very well-reviewed movie adaptation of Jane Eyre that was released this past spring which came out on DVD this summer.  It is currently sitting near the top of my Netflix queue, but I want to read it before I see the movie.

And speaking of movie adaptations, I come now to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  A terrific spy novel by one of the masters of the genre.  The movie is scheduled to come out this November, featuring an all-star British cast.  The trailer hooked me for this movie, and convinced me to read the book.  And I was not at all disappointed.  Tinker is one of the movies I am looking forward to most this fall and winter.  I will definitely be seeing it opening weekend.

My biggest task on the horizon is also related to a movie that has been announced that is scheduled for 2013, Anna Karenina.  Luckily, I have enough advance notice that I can pace myself and try to tackle that one in 2012.  Probably along with 3 or 4 other books at the same time.


Review of “Drive”

I had heard a lot of buzz surrounding the movie Drive, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling.  Last night after small group and before work, I stopped in at the theater to check it out.  I was not prepared for what I got, but in a good way.

Drive has a simple, straight-forward premise.  A movie stunt driver also moonlights as a wheelman for armed robberies in Los Angeles.  He develops a relationship with Irene (Carey Mulligan), a neighbor in his apartment whose husband is in jail, and her son, Benicio.  When the husband is released, he owes some bad men some money, and The Driver agrees to help in order to protect Irene and Benicio.

The first thing you need to really know about this movie is that it is not a typical action movie in the vein of The Fast & the Furious franchise.  It’s much more arthouse stylization, subdued and focused on the characters than the cars.  I have seen two other Refn movies: Bronson and Valhalla Rising.  Both movies have some extreme brutality to them, but Valhalla Rising in particular is the movie that I see a lot of similarities to in terms of the quiet, stoic, brutal killer that Mads Mikkelsen played in Valhalla Rising and the character Gosling plays here.  No name is given, like out of an Eastwood western.  He does not speak a lot of dialogue.  The Driver is a man of few words and quick, decisive action.  You also get the feeling that there is a lot bubbling just beneath the surface of this guy who mostly maintains his cool.  Also, the quiet, simple, protective nature of the man to the boy also calls back to Valhalla Rising for me.

Gosling and Mulligan do a great job of creating chemistry and longing for one another in this movie, with so little actually said between the two of them.  Instead, a lot is expressed in the way they look at one another throughout the movie.  A lot of movies would be lazy and add really bad dialogue to express the love and affection that is blooming between them, but this one doesn’t and is better for it.  There is a really beautiful scene in an elevator that is one of the most memorable of the year for me, both because of the beauty of it and then how quickly the pendulum swings in that scene.

Also, this seems like the movie that will have the one score that will stick out to me more than any other I hear this year.  A lot of the movie is a tribute to previous movies in a similar vein as this from many years ago.  The jacket The Driver wears, the leather driving gloves, the toothpick, all harken back to a previous era, as does the music, which is a great evocative retro-80s synthpop score that really adds another layer to everything you’re watching.  Do yourself a favor and listen to “A Real Hero” “Under Your Spell” and “Nightcall” and tell me you don’t picture yourself driving in some scene that Michael Mann is directing.  I don’t even really like a lot of music from the 80s, especially synth-based stuff, but I was really digging it in this movie.

Drive does a very good job of combining some really great action and, at times, exquisite gore with arthouse tendencies without being too pensive for its own good.  And there are some good, understated acting performances in this movie as well.


A Red Sox Postmortem

There was a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth in Red Sox Nation after the season ended abruptly with the greatest September collapse in baseball history.  The Sox blew a 9-game lead and surrendered the Wild Card to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night by losing to the Orioles.  The Rays came back from a 7-0 deficit against the Yankees to win in extra innings and punch their ticket to October baseball.  Meanwhile, Red Sox fans are left wondering what happened to their team this season and with even more questions about the future.

The Red Sox came into the year with high expectations, some deserved, some undeserved.  After some major offseason acquisitions in the form of 1B Adrian Gonzalez and LF Carl Crawford, some people were ready to anoint the Red Sox the greatest team ever and were comparing them to the 1927 Yankees before a single pitch was even thrown.  These people were idiots.  SP Josh Beckett got some overly excessive criticism in the preseason for saying that he’d never been on a 100-win team and thought this team could do something special.  41 of 41 ESPN “experts” predicted the Red Sox to win the AL East and most of them also predicted the Sox would make or win the World Series this year.  Expectations for this team, both internally and externally, were pretty high.

So what happened?  They started out 2-10 and ended the season 7-20 in September.  In between they went 81-42, which is a .659 winning %, which if they had maintained for the entire year would have put them around 107 wins.  The way they started had everyone baffled, because of the talent on the team.  Then they hit their stride and everyone thought they were the best team in baseball.  And then they imploded in September and the way they finished was even more baffling than the way they started.

Part of the reason for their implosion can be attributed to injuries, certainly.  For most of August and September, the Sox had to rely on John Lackey, Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller, Erik Bedard, and Kyle Weiland to mix and match around the starts of Jon Lester and Josh Beckett.  The loss of Clay Buchholz with a back injury was significant.  Less significant was the season-ending injury to Dice-K, the Japanese “National Treasure” that they can have back anytime.  But a look at the contrast in their offense and defense is troubling: 1st in runs, 2nd in batting average, 1st in on base percentage, and 1st in sligging percentage, but 22nd in ERA, 28th in quality starts, 16th in WHIP, and 9th in batting average against.  And those offensive numbers are misleading, because they scored a lot of their runs in bunches and had a lot of games where they struggled to produce runs when they needed them.

Some players had great individual years, Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz, and Alfredo Aceves in particular.  Lester and Beckett were mostly good, but wore down toward the end.  And other guys like Lowrie, Scutaro, Salty, Reddick, and Bard had stretches where they played well.  But too many guys had atrocious seasons; most notably John Lackey, Carl Crawford, J.D. Drew, and Dice-K.  Kevin Youkilis had a lost season with several nagging injuries.

Crawford, whom they spent $142 million to acquire in the offseason, was never comfortable all year.  A dynamic player in Tampa Bay his entire career, he seemed to struggle initially trying to live up to the expectations of his big contract and never got on track.  It didn’t help that they never really found a proper place for him in the lineup either.  I still think Crawford can return to form and be a productive player, but he needs to do some serious work and soul searching in the offseason.  There are some guys that just aren’t able to cut it playing in the intense atmosphere that is Boston and I hope Crawford is not another name that has to be added to that list.

John Lackey easily submitted one of the worst pitching performances in franchise history.  The only thing he didn’t do this season was squat down and leave a steaming turd on the pitchers mound.  Although that probably would have been more impressive than the way he pitched this year.  In his two years in Boston, he has simply not gotten the job done.  Beyond that, he is a terrible teammate by the looks of things.  He throws his arms up in the air and rolls his eyes when defenders make mistakes behind him when he is on the mound.  He is abrasive and antagonistic with the fans and media, who tried to cut him a lot of slack because his wife is dealing with breast cancer.  But now it has come out that he is leaving his cancer striken wife.  So not only is he a bad teammate, his is also a bad human being.

Now that the season is over, word has come out that there were some serious clubhouse issues going on behind the scenes that were not talked about.  People complaining about bus rides, a pitcher drinking beer in the clubhouse on days he wasn’t scheduled to pitch, and general team chemistry issues could not be resolved for some reason.  Also, a lack of conditioning on the part of some players was an issue.  Part of the blame for that is on the manager, Terry Francona, and part of that is on the players as well for not stepping up and showing any leadership in the clubhouse to bring each other together and bond over the course of the season.  There was a famous saying about some past Boston teams with a lack of comraderie that there were “25 cabs for 25 players” after every game.  I would say that this team was a lot closer to that than the “Cowboy Up” group of 2004 that circled the wagons and, to a man, would probably take a bullet for one another (well, except for maybe Orlando Cabrera…).  And when Terry Francona is the person divulging all of this information during a media session the day after the season, you know it’s a serious issue, because Francona goes out of his way to protect the players and shield them as much as possible from media scrutiny.

So, where do the Sox go from here after this historic collapse?  Well, it looks like Terry Francona may move on and there is also a possibility that Theo Epstein does too.  Personally, I think letting either of them go would be a mistake, unless they just don’t want to be here anymore.  They share some blame here, but there is plenty of blame to go around and the players need to be held accountable for their performances and their actions too.

On the plus side, the team is able to rid themselves of J.D. Drew, whose contract is finally over.  David Ortiz, Jonathan Papelbon, Jason Varitek, and Tim Wakefield are also free agents.  Tough decisions are going to have to be made about whether any of them are brought back.

They almost need Papelbon to come back, even if they need to overpay him by a few dollars, because Daniel Bard is clearly not ready to be the closer for this team as he wilted in a major way down the stretch, sporting a 10.64 ERA for the month of September.

Players like Varitek and Wakefield, as much as they have done for the organization and as beloved as they will always be by the fans, need to be nudged out the door, preferrably into retirement, but the cord needs to be severed with these guys.

“Big Papi” David Ortiz is a bigger problem.  He returned to for this year after there were serious questions the last two seasons over whether he was pretty much done.  At 35, his best days are behind him, but he can still be an effective player for another 2 or 3 years.  But the problem is that the Red Sox have 3 elite guys for 2 positions.  The trade for Adrian Gonzalez moved Kevin Youkilis to third base, and the conventional wisdom was that Youk would be fine because it was his natural position.  But this season showed that his body is not capable of being an everyday third baseman any longer.  It is a position that is taxing on the body, and his body broke down over the course of the season.

Here is essentially what I see as the crux of the Red Sox offseason.  As Papi is a full-time designated hitter, something has to happen here.  Either the Red Sox allow Big Papi to leave and sign with another team and make the DH spot a position where they can get guys like Youkilis routine days off in the field, or they bring Papi back and ship Youkilis out of town for whatever they can get for him.  The benefits of keeping Papi over Youk are as follows: he is a local icon, he is universally loved by about every player in major league baseball, and his presence in the clubhouse is a significant bridge for management in relating to Latino players.  The downside to keeping Papi: He is 36, he is limited to pretty much just DH which limits your roster flexibility, a left-handed hitter in a lefty-heavy lineup, and there are some injury concerns.  The benefits of keeping Youk are: you can play him a three positions (1B, 3B, DH) if necessary, Youk is younger and cheaper to keep and the Sox would probably have to pay some of his salary for someone to take him, he is intense and driven on the field, and he is a right-handed hitter in a left-heavy lineup..  The downside of keeping Youk is: he may have more significant injury concerns than Big Papi, even though he is 32, his best days may be behind him as his production slipped significantly this year, and sometimes he psychs himself out for big games.

There is no easy answer for which player to choose to keep.  My heart says Papi, my brain says Youk, mostly.  The deciding factor here may be their lineup composition.  As it stood in 2011, their batting order featured Ellsbury, Gonzalez, Ortiz, Crawford, and Drew; all of whom are left-handed hitters.  That’s more than half the lineup.  In matchups vs. left-handed pitchers, that is problematic.  And if Ellsbury, Gonzalez, Ortiz and Crawford are supposed to be four of your best five hitters, with the fifth being Pedroia (a right-handed hitter), you can’t hit them all in order like that without running into trouble at some point.  And when Crawford doesn’t like to hit leadoff and is making $20 million, so he can’t very well hit 9th, and Gonzo is your best source of power and highest average, it makes sense to hit him 3rd or 4th, it complicates things.  Ideally, the Sox need Crawford to be able to bounce back in 2012.  Ellsbury leads off, and then Pedroia and Crawford hit 2 and 3 in some order, followed by Gonzo in cleanup.  If they bring Youk back, he hits behind Gonzo most nights.  If they bring Ortiz back, then he hits sixth with whatever right-handed bat they bring in for 3B or RF hitting in the 5-spot.

The right field position is going to be upgrade almost by default with the departure of J.D. Drew.  Whoever they get to play there may not be as good defensively, but as long as he is adequate, the upgrade he will represent at the plate and his ability to play through any small injury will more than balance things out.  Might I suggest Corey Hart as a replacement?

As for pitching, Buchholz returning healthy would be a good start.  If you can get a bag of balls for Lackey, I would move him, even if it meant paying half his salary for the next three years.  Dice-K can take his time coming back from Tommy John surgery.  If he never suits up in a Red Sox uniform, I’ll be happy.  Lester and Beckett wore down toward the end of the season.  For all of the speculation about Lackey and other players, I wonder if the comments during the press conference yesterday from Francona and Epstein about conditioning were at least partly directed at them.  Bedard can walk as far as I’m concerned, as the Sox clearly picked the wrong Seattle pitcher to rent while Detroit got the right one in Doug Fister.  After two years of the John Lackey experience, I am wary of the team just throwing money at the top-rated free agent pitcher in the offseason, even if that pitcher is C.J. Wilson and is someone I like as a pitcher.  However, if C.C. Sabathia opts out of his contract for a bigger payday, you offer him a blank check to bring him in, because that guy is a stud, a workhorse.  Sadly, I don’t think they have the pieces necessary to make a trade for someone special like Felix Hernandez, although I would really like to see them try, and Felix deserves to be on a team that can get him wins to match his amazing pitching abilities.  He is too good to be toiling away on a sub-.500 team in Seattle.

With it looking more and more like Francona may be done as manager of the Red Sox, it is fair to speculate who could/should replace him.  I think they have to hire a name manager, they can’t just promote any ol’ Joe Schmoe bench coach from another team.  The first person I would ask is Joe Torre.  Although, I don’t think that is a direction they would go in, because of the chemistry issues on the team and they may think they need to bring in someone more hardnosed and someone who won’t coddle the players as much.  Both Francona and Torre are “player’s managers” and so that might disqualify Joe.  Tony LaRussa would have to be considered.  If they were to hire a bench coach from another team, I would suggest Tony Pena.  A name I haven’t heard, but I would be interested in because of what he had done before he quit earlier this year in Washington is Jim Riggleman.  I don’t know his style or philosophy as a manager, but I know that the Nationals had started to turn a corner with him at the wheel, and for some reason the managment there was not willing to commit to him.

Lastly, if Theo Epstein were to leave for the Cubs job or anywhere else, my first call would be to Billy Beane. Why not?  They almost hired him away from Oakland last time before they settled on Theo.  I would love to see what Beane could do with a sizeable budget for once.  Barring that, I would look to guys who used to be in the Red Sox organization, like Jed Hoyer in San Diego.  Either that, or bring in a local boy like J.P. Ricciardi.

The 2011 Red Sox season was a subpar performance and a disappointment, but I do not think it is the catastrophe that some people are making it out to be, even though it was a historic collapse.  There are a lot of tough decisions to be made in this offseason, but I am still confident that this team will stay competitive and be in the mix for the postseason again next year.


Where Has My Summer Gone?

I can’t believe how quickly this year is moving by.  Summer is nearly over, Fall is just around the corner, or has arrived if you live in Maine and are experiencing the nightly temps in the upper 30s like we have for the past 3 days here.

It has been far too long since I wrote in here.  I would like to post more, but I can’t believe how hard I find it after getting out of the habit of it.  Part of it is due to sheer neglect on my part, but part of it I think has to do with the fact that posting short messages on Facebook and Twitter are more convenient and require far less time and commitment.  But here are a few highlights of my summer.

One of the most discouraging things happened to me this past July.  My apartment got zapped by lightning.  It came in through the DirectTv satellite apparently and fried my DirectTV box, my Playstation 3 and damaged my TV.  The DirectTV box was replaced.  I just recently got the PS3 back and it is fully repaired.  But the damaged TV is something I am going to have to live with for a while until I can either afford to fix it or replace it.  The HDMI slots are completely useless on it, the picture has some purple and green lines slowly moving up the screen continually, and the audio is noticeably worse.  But it still functions and is serviceable.

A few days before this happened, I got my first smartphone: the HTC Droid Incredible 2!  And it really is quite incredible.  The battery it came with was decidedly unincredible, and I recently upgraded that to the longer life battery.  But I am very fond of my smartphone.  I send and receive e-mails, twitter and facebook updates.  I can manage my fantasy teams on the go.  I just discovered that I can watch NFL’s Red Zone on it every Sunday.  There are some really great apps for the phone, particularly Gas Buddy, Bank of America, and MovieTicket.com, and the ringtone maker.  No more purchasing ringtones from the Verizon store.  I can have any part of any song I have set as the ringtone for any of my contacts.  And I’ve made some that I really like, a guitar solo from “Ball & Biscuit” by The White Stripes being one of them.  It really is amazing to have so much available right at your fingertips wherever you are.

Of course, I saw my fair share of movies this summer.  The Hangover II was a slight disappointment, though still pretty funny.  The Pirates franchise needs to end.  I avoided Transformers 3 and didn’t regret it at all.  I don’t know that there was a single movie I flat out loved, but I did enjoy Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (the books sort of ruined the movies for me on a certain level, but this was a great conclusion), Horrible Bosses, Bridesmaids were the most enjoyable.  X-Men: First Class was excellent because of the casting and did such a good job of returning that franchise to form.  Thor and Captain America both surprised me and were a lot better than I expected and perhaps better than they had any right to be, especially Thor.  I enjoyed the childhood nostalgia of Super 8, but my expectations were higher for that movie, and I thought the monster at the end was a letdown.

However, I have to say that thinking over all of the movies of the summer, one of the things that stands out in my mind is the performance of Elle Fanning.  That young girl can flat out act.  I think she is a legitimate star in the making and will surpass her sister Dakota sooner rather than later.  In fact, I’m very intrigued by the future potential of Fanning, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Abigail Breslin.  I hope there are great female roles for all three when they grow up.  And I hope they all make it and don’t become another child star cautionary tale.

Also in the realm of entertainment, I devoured the majority of the series Curb Your Enthusiasm.  What a funny show.  Larry David is a great curmudgeon.  And a lot of the payoffs for the shows are great.  And nothing is off limits because it is an HBO series.  I saw Season 1 probably about a year ago and thought it was pretty good, but not great.  I decided to get back to it and found Season 2 to be far funnier than I remembered Season 1 being.  And I was hooked.  Seasons 2 & 3 were probably the best of the series, though I’m currently in Season 7(the Seinfeld season) and that is pretty good too.  Prettyyyyyyyyyyy, pretttttttty, preeeeetty, pretty good.

At the beginning of this month, I had a really good friend of mine, Jeremy, move away to take a job opportunity in San Diego.  I’ve known Jeremy for about 5 1/2 years now.  We became pretty fast friends after he joined the small group Bible study I also attended.  He’s a really strong Christian and we found out that we had quite a lot of similar outlooks on the Bible, the Church, and Christian life.  We also found out we have very similar personalities, particularly in the passive-aggressive way of dealing with conflict.  We even got to be roommates for a year, sharing an apartment together before he got married to his lovely wife, Hannah a little over 2 years ago.  I was pretty upset at first about them leaving and everything, because I genuinely consider him a Christian brother, and because I’m very possessive and selfish when it comes to my friends.  Needless to say, I look forward to them coming home to visit eventually, and I really look forward to dropping little tidbits here and there to try and bribe, guilt, shame, prod, and coax them into eventually moving back here.

Having said all of this though, I have burried the lede.  That is because the biggest adventure of my summer involved me stepping waaaaaaaaaay beyond my comfort zone.  I babysat a child for pretty much the first time ever.  My friends Ben and Sarah were in a bind and needed someone to watch the 2 year old boy, Toby.  Now, Toby is one of the most adorable little kids ever.  Seriously, look at this picture and try not to say “Aww!”  Back with me now?  So, for whatever reason, this kid loves me, which makes me feel so cool about myself.  In fact, one time this summer I stopped in at their house briefly on my way to small group, and he started crying because I was there for only a few minutes and was already leaving (this is the stuff that causes things like the Grinch’s heart to swell three times beyond it’s capacity).  He also doesn’t completely have his “K” down yet (cut him some slack, the kid just turned 2 last week), so everytime he says something to me, I get something that sounds a little closer to “Ten” than “Ken,” which is awesome.

So I volunteer my services on Thursday to babysit Toby for that Friday night.  And so for the next 24-ish hours I’m a little terrified, nervous, anxious, etc.  I’ve never really done anything like this before.  For the vast majority of my life, I’ve never been responsible for anyone but myself.  And I’ve managed to make it 30 years in this world without having to change a diaper to this point, which I look at a bit like Joe DiMaggio’s streak.  And my friends are entrusting their child to my care for a few hours.  It’s a little sobering to say the least.  I prepare myself and partly to keep myself from getting too nervous by saying to myself, “The goal is to make sure he still has 10 fingers and 10 toes when I’m done with him.”

Of course, the actualy experience was far easier than I had built it up in my mind, which I repeatedly reminded myself of beforehand too.  Toby was ridiculously easy on me.  Really, he treated me with kid gloves.  He was watching Toy Story 3 when I got there a bit before 6.  Sarah gave me a quick tutorial on changing diapers.  He was finishing dinner when I got there.  And it only ended up being about an hour and a half of supervision on my part, because his bedtime came at 7:30.  This was the part I was not prepared for.  No kid ever really wants to go to bed.  So while I took him upstairs @ a little after 7:30, it took me over half an hour longer to build up the nerve to ignore his delay tactics of stories and toys and actually put him in his crib, turn out the lights and walk out the room.  And of course, during that time he did indeed poop, which ended my DiMaggio-like streak.

When I left the room was the longest few minutes of my life, as he cried, “No, Ten.  Why?”  To him, it was as if I had violated the established parameters of our established relationship by putting him to bed; like I had betrayed his trust or something.  At least this is how it sounded to me.  In reality, of course, I had done no such thing.  He was simply testing me to see if I would go up there and get him; to see if he would get his way.  After 10 minutes, he had stopped and was asleep.  But those 10 minutes felt like an hour.

So those were some of the highlights of my summer.  I will try to post more often on here in the future.  I really would like to get into the habit again of writing and expressing my thoughts in an ordered way in a format like this.