Saturday, February 28, 2009
That said, I'm seeing the great Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders tonight at the House of Blues. It's supposed to be a mix of the new album, which I like, some of the band's greatest hits, and so-called deep cuts. So I'm excited.
But one of the songs that has supposedly been left off of the set list, just happens to be one of my favorites The Pretenders songs of all-time. So I'm going to show a video of the band performing it in concert nearly 25 years ago instead.
Here's The Pretenders with "Thin Line Between Love And Hate."
Note, this is the best I could find.
Friday, February 27, 2009
“But the way the third period went was not surprising at all, to us, based on the way the first two went.” Or how about this. “We weren’t sharp at all.” Or “there was no real explanation.” But my favorite Constantine quote has to be this: “We just cashed it in at the end, which is not good. I think we had three games where our team cashed it in this year…once it got 4-1, we quit.”
As is usual for the Aeros when they get more than three days off, they came out like crap in the first period. The only reason the score was tied at 0-0 after the first was the play of goalie Nolan Schaefer. And there were two reasons the score was tied 1-1 after two periods. First there was a pretty play at 10:03 where defenseman Paul Albers split the Rockford defense and buried the puck to tie the score. The second reason was the play of goalie Nolan Schaefer.
Unfortunately for the Aeros, Nolan Schaefer decided to join his teammates, and he took the third period off, allowing Rockford to score five goals, the first one coming just seven seconds into the period. Mitch Love tried to get some life into the game, but not even his four minute double minor for roughing at 5:06 of the third or his five minute penalty for fighting at 11:06 could bring any life to this team tonight.
I don’t think that there’s much more I can add. The game was a disaster. The Aeros once again had a multi-day break and failed to arrive for the game. Just the same old, some old. Except for Constantine saying they quit. He doesn’t say that too often. But this time, it was pretty damn apt.
With the loss, the Aeros dropped to fourth place in the AHL West Division with a record of 28-22-1-8 (65 points). Chicago moved into third at 32-27-2-1 (67 points), and Rockford is now second at 31-24-0-5 (67 points). The Aeros play the Quad City Flames in Quad Cities on Saturday, then take on the Milwaukee Admirals in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
Some of you might have noticed that Kevin Constantine pulled Nolan Schaefer at the 7:08 mark of the third period right after Rockford scored to go up 3-1. And some of you might have noticed that Barry Brust then left the game at the 11:47 mark of the third. And if you were really paying attention, you might have noticed that Brust hopped off of the ice then went down the tunnel.
Brust injured a foot during his short time on the ice and was unable to push off. Constantine’s not sure of the severity of the injury, yet, but he did say the team would probably be calling Anton Khudobin up to the team tomorrow.
Some of you might also have noticed the plus/minus number for defenseman Brandon Rogers, which was a -19 coming into the game tonight, and got only worse. Constantine, too, has noticed this, as has Rogers.
“No one’s probably thought about that more than Brandon,” Constantine said. “At a point of the season he thought about it too much. And the stat itself became something that occupied him so much mentally that he was making life worse for himself. The good news is that he’s gotten over that number. And he doesn’t stare at it anymore.”
The problem, according to Constantine, is that Rogers started the season playing with a shoulder on which he’d just had surgery, so he changed his style of play a bit to protect the shoulder. That caused bad play which caused his plus/minus to start looking bad. And then Rogers started noticing the number, which got to affecting his play, and turned it into a mind thing.
But Constantine thinks his play has started turning around.
Speaking of injuries, Benoit Pouliot was scratched because of a groin strain. He’s currently day-to-day, but Constantine thinks that it is doubtful he will be able to play this weekend.
There were some strange things that happened tonight, besides Rockford’s five-goal third period. For instance, Mitch Love was out on the ice for a first period Aeros power play opportunity. And the team’s one goal came from Paul Albers, who scored his second goal of the season. The assist was from John Scott, for his second assist of the season. And out with them was the line of Mitch Love, Jason Ryznar, and Matt Kassian. So after last night, that group has a grand total of nine goals and 13 assists on the season.
And Rockford’s first third period goal, which came at the seven second mark, was the fastest that a goal has ever been scored on the Aeros to start a period.
Another first for the game came when the Aeros honored one of the Lady Dynamic as the Dynamic of the game. This was the first time this season that one of the Dynamics has been so honored with her photo on the video board and her name spoken by the PA guy. Some quick thinking in the press box by Heather Galindo, Ms. Conduct herself, noted that this was probably because there are 12 Dynamics, and there were 12 games left. So we’ll probably be seeing this the rest of the season.
And I’m pretty sure that if I don’t mention this Mr. Andrew Ferraro will be upset with me, so…
Not only did Ferraro call the time of the IceHogs of the first goal, he also counted us down to the shot.
I’m not really sure what video to play that really fits what happened tonight. But since I’m seeing The Pretenders tomorrow night, and since I’m really looking forward to seeing the great Chrissie Hynde, how about I try playing The Pretenders “Back On The Chain Gang.”
I only wish I had been joking.
According to the Houston Chronicle, "The first unrestricted free agent to visit the Texans' offices is quarterback Patrick Ramsey." And in his blog, the Chron's John McClain expresses surprise at this development. I don't know why McClain is surprised, however. Kubiak played and coached for the Broncos. It seems as if most of his coaching staff has ties to the Denver Broncos. And Kubiak goes out of his way to sign Denver Bronco rejects to the squad.
This should really surprise nobody. And the fact that the Chron's lead Texans writer is surprised by this just goes to show how out of touch the Chron really is.
UPDATED: Apparenly, Mr. Tejada has had a change of heart and will play for the Dominican team after all.
Miguel Tejada announced the other day that he will not be playing baseball for the Dominican Republic World Baseball Classic team this season. He's doing this, we're told by Houston Astros manager Cecil Cooper, because he wants to stay in camp and work on his defense and his play with the Houston Astros.
There's also a brief mention that Tejada would be playing out of position because the Dominican Republic wants him playing at first base and not shortstop. So Tejada, being the crybaby that he is, refused to play. The story also doesn't tell you who the Dominicans are planning to play at shortstop in place of Tejada.
So I thought that I would share this with you.
It seems that also on the Dominican Republic roster at the shortstop position are Jose Reyes of the New York Mets and Hanley Ramirez of the Florida Marlins. Yep, that's right, aging steroid criminal Miguel Tejada was shoved over to first base so that two of the best shortstops in baseball could play their instead.
Tejada wants us to think it's so he can concentrate on preparing for this season with the Astros. But it's because he's a crybaby who's upset that he can't play at shortstop.
For the curious, the episode, and the video, were directed by Michel Gondry, one of the revolutionary video directors of the 90s, and the director "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." So here are the Flight of the Conchords with "Carol Brown/Choir of Ex Girlfriends."
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Why not give Jeff Garcia a try? Huh? He's a proven winner, having led the 49ers, the Eagles, and the Bucs to the playoffs. Unlike Matt Schaub, he's a tough bastard who can take a beating. Sure, I know he's about to turn 39, and I know that he actually wants to be a starting QB, but damn, please...
Sign Jeff Garcia. If just that we can get a glimpse of Mrs. Jeff Garcia sitting in the stands. Please.
And you can find a very not safe for work image of Mrs. Garcia from her Playboy centerfold days by clicking here.
Enough with Kristen Wiig already. "Saturday Night Live" already uses her way too damn much, and everywhere else I see her used seems to use her for exactly the same type of role. I like Kristen Wiig. I do. I think she's funny. I think she's attractive. But really, isn't there some other attractive women with comedy talent out there that you can use?
Of course the fans aren't really something that Drayton McLane gives a damn about.
If you're wondering what I'm bitching about, well...
The Astros spring training opener was supposed to start at 12:05 Houston time yesterday. And Mike Hampton was pitching, and he's got a bit of an injury history, so it's not really good to go about screwing around with his pregame routines. But Florida governor Charlie Crist was supposed to throw out the first pitch. And he was running late. Instead of finding someone else, they decided to hold off the start of the game. Which screwed around with Hampton's routine.
Crist finally got his act together and arrived about 15 minutes late.
Mike Hampton wasn't happy: "They said, 'the governor's running late so we'll start at 1:20,'" Hampton said after throwing two scoreless innings. "I was like, 'I don't care if he's running late. Let him pitch the third inning.' Don't mess with my game plan. We're here to play baseball."
But who cares about Hampton and the fans. Charlie Crist got to stop all action so that he could throw out the first pitch for a meaningless spring training baseball game.
Here's The Partridge Family with "I Think I Love You." Oh, and guys, Shirley Partridge, MILF. Right?
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Kerry Wood is injured. Yes, you saw the right, the iron man that is Kerry Wood is injured.
This time out, Wood, who is the new closer for the Cleveland Indians, is suffering from a sore back, and he hasn't thrown since the weekend and isn't expected to throw again for a few more days.
The 31-year-old is known for his injury history with the Chicago Cubs where, in 11 seasons, he took 12 trips to the disabled list. He was forced to move to the bullpen because of continuous arm problems.
The Indians signed him to a two-year, $20.5 million contract over the off-season.
Who can forget the whole "Bo Knows..." bit.
So imagine my surprise to discover the other day that Bo Jackson is now a banker. Yep, Bo knows banking because, apparently, he's opening a bank. And with the way the banking industry is going now, Bo better know his banking. Apparently, he does know just about everything else, so maybe it won't be a problem.
But to get serious for a moment. Man, was Bo something. Remember how he exposed Brian Bosworth as a fraud? He was a power runner who could break big runs. And in baseball, he could hit for power, could run the bases, he had a cannon of an arm in the outfield, and there wasn't a ball that he couldn't track down in center. If the guy doesn't injure his hip in a football game, I really believe he might have turned out to be one of the greatest players of all time in both sports.
I don't really know how well Bo Jackson knew all of those other sports, but damn, he knew football, and he knew baseball. And I want to wish* him good luck with the banking business, as well.
*as if Bo Jackson really gives a damn about what I think.
So today, with the rodeo coming, I've decided to give my 25 Random Facts About the Rodeo. You can find the list over at the mothership.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Barry Bonds is supposed to be the worst person on the planet. His teammates didn't like him. His coaches didn't like him. The fans and the press and the other players didn't like him. He's supposed to be everything that is wrong about baseball.
And he's supposed to be going on trial for perjury next week. After over five years of investigations that nearly ruined the careers of Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield, Barry Bonds is finally supposed to be going on trial. Yet he might walk, because his trainer, Greg Anderson, won't rat him out.
I've read all of the books about Bonds. I've read about how he treated his friends. His family. His teammates. No one likes Barry Bonds. But Greg Anderson won't rat him out. And if Anderson doesn't rat out Bonds, then most of the case that the Feds think that they might have Bonds will get tossed because the only person who can offer supporting testimony for the evidence is Greg Anderson.
Andy Pettitte spilled all of the beans on Roger Clemens within seconds, seemingly. But Anderson has done jail time instead of telling the Feds what they want to know about Bonds. And he might be doing jail time again.
Barry Bonds might be walking because Greg Anderson won't talk. I've got no problem with that. The Feds have screwed up this case from the beginning, and they should never have brought chargers without being able to prove up a case without Anderson. But I don't understand why Greg Anderson won't talk. After all, if Barry Bonds is so damn evil, then why won't he talk?
I don't get it. I just don't get it. But maybe, just maybe, Barry Bonds isn't that bad of a guy after all. Maybe somebody actually likes him. Why else would Greg Anderson be willing to go to jail for the guy?
Do you know that Aimee Mann is married to Michael Penn, the brother of Sean Penn. And do any of you remember that Michael Penn had a huge hit in the late-80s with a song called "No Myth"? I don't even have this song on my iPod, but I heard Aimee Mann, started free associating, and suddenly I'm singing "No Myth." Which got me to trying to find the video on YouTube, but it's not there -- lots of bad covers of it are there, but not the original.
But the MTV website, of all places has it. So, enjoy Michael Penn and "No Myth." (Oh, excuse the short commercial at the start.)
Penn went on to release several albums, though never hitting the big success front again. He's scored several P.T. Anderson films, most famously "Boogie Nights" in which he also appears as the poor engineer Nick stuck trying to record Dirk Diggler's single.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Now there was a play in the first period where it looked like Iowa might have got a goal as one of their players was when in the process of taking a shot as he slid into Nolan Schaefer and the net. From our angle in the press box, we couldn't tell one way or the other, and the replay didn't help any. I know Iowa disputed the play, but the goal judge said no goal and the ref stated that he had blown the play dead.
I didn't ask Schaefer about this play because, well, by the end of the game, I had forgotten. So I checked with someone I knew who definitely had a better view than I did. And Mr. Fred checked his camera.
This is the best photo that he has of the play.
The puck can't be seen, but it appears that it must have gotten into the goal. Why they didn't call it a goal, I'm not sure. But I'll go with explanation from the PA guy that he got from the ref: no goal because he'd blown the play dead.
And once again, can we just say great work with the camera there Fred.
Of the five that were nominated, Slumdog Millionaire was definitely the best of the bunch. I've actually seen it twice, and the joy of the movie, the Dickens-type plot twists, still surprise. The cast of unknowns is good. And Danny Boyle is quick becoming one of my favorite directors -- every film I've seen the guy does has been different from the last. He doesn't repeat himself. Each film of his has been in a different genre -- horror, mystery, sci-fi, romance, contemporary, etc. And he's nailed it with about every film.
The best film of the year, however, was Wall-E, and I fail to understand just exactly how it is the Pixar films are always treated as being not worthy of a big award. It was more original, more entertaining, more engrossing, than just about any of the nominated films. Wall-E just happened to be the movie that Continental was showing each way across the Atlantic on my vacation trips in November. I'd seen it in the theater, and I watched it a whole bunch of times on those flights, and I've yet to tire of it.
I thought Sean Penn was good in Milk, but I really thought Mickey Rourke was deserving for The Wrestler. Nice to see Kate Winslet finally get her Oscar.
And I don't think I'm alone in saying that that had to have been one of the worst Oscar ceremonies of all time. Hugh Jackman was awful. And what was with that Jedi Council thing for the acting nominees. I don't know about you, but instead of listening to five former winners talk about each of the nominees, I would have preferred to actually see clips from the nominated performances. But maybe that's just me.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Here's the thing. We don't see everything that happens. So I saw a scrum at the net. I saw Mitch Love trapped in a headlock at one moment. I saw Jason Ryznar down there. So I assumed that, since Kassian was part of that line, he was on the ice when things started.
According to my sources, who got it from Mr. Kassian himself, the entire line change hadn't been made yet, so Kassian was still on the bench when things got started. So he came out for the scrum. Which made him the sixth man on the ice. And as we saw with Matt Foy a couple of weeks ago, we know what's supposed to happen to the first guy who comes off of the bench for a fight. Luckily, there wasn't a fight. It appears that the ref used some discretion and didn't kick Kassian out of the game. And probably, if Kassian hadn't have done his little thing with the glove and tried to start a fight, there would have been no penalty on Kassian whatsoever.
I should have checked on that after the game last night, because I could believe that Kassian got a ten minute misconduct for this dangling of the glove. So apologies. I'll try to do better.
And Mr. Fred, you're right. The penalty kill was fantastic last night.
But enough of that nonsense. Here's Elton John and "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word."
That’s what the Aeros record for the season was when neither they nor their opponent had been able to score a goal in the first period. 0-10-1-0. So come the end of the first period tonight, when the Toyota Center crowd of 11,714 saw the Aeros and Iowa Chops skate off of the ice to a 0-0 tie, it looked as if the Aeros were staring at defeat.
But that was the old Houston Aeros. That wasn’t the Houston Aeros team that was on a five game winning streak. That wasn’t a Houston Aeros team looking to put space between themselves and the teams below them in the standings for a playoff spot. That was a team that hadn’t been graced with the presence of NHL vet Kurtis Foster.
Foster, who’s been down in Houston rehabbing from a gruesome injury he suffered last season with the Minnesota Wild, seemed to bring a new life to the Houston Aeros. A sense of confidence. A presence of can-do. A spirit of victory.
So perhaps it was fitting that Foster, who had five assists to go with five games he had played with the Aeros this season, was the one who put the Aeros up 1-0 at 6:46 of the second period on a wicked slap shot from the boards up behind the circle.
“Schultz just kind of threw it over and I just kind of held on to it looking for a pass,” Foster said after the game. “And they just kept skating away from me so I thought I might as well wind it up and I was able to hit that corner. It’s nice to get a goal. It’s been a long time since I scored. It felt good.”
And though Nolan Schaefer let up a puck slip between his pads later in the period that resulted in a game-tying goal, these Aeros refused to die.
Behind the play of Foster on the defensive side, and the bone crunching hitting of the Love/Kassian/Ryznar line, the Aeros put on a display of physical hockey and speed that, while not resulting in any goals for the rest of the game, kept the Iowa Chops off balance and unable to put anymore points on the board, resulting in a game that was 1-1 at the end of sixty minutes.
And just like 0-10-1-0 spelled doom for the Aeros as the first period ended, the Aeros overtime/shootout record of 4-9 seemed to spell doom as well. Only the Aeros had an advantage. For despite all of their problems in the extra period this season, the Aeros were still better than the Iowa Chops who were 3-9 in OT/SO play.
Neither team could score in the overtime, and it was down to the shootout. Neither team scored in the first round, and while Schaefer kept the Chops’ Drew Miller from scoring in the second round, Iowa goalie Dave LeNeveu was unable to stop Corey Locke who went five-hole to give the Aeros the advantage. Schaefer gave up a goal to the Chops’ last shoot out skater Adrian Veideman, but Jesse Schultz iced the game with his goal.
The 2-1 win gives the Aeros a season-high six-game winning streak, and improves their record to 28-21-1-8 (65 points). And since the second place Rockford IceHogs did not play tonight, the Aeros moved into second place in the AHL’s West Division. Rockford’s in third place with 64 points, and Chicago’s in fourth with 63 points. The Chops got a point for getting to the shootout, but they’re still in fifth place with 60 points while Peoria, with a loss to Chicago, dropped into a tie for sixth place with the idle Quad City Flames, both teams having 56 points.
The Aeros are off for most of the upcoming week, and they won’t return to game action until Friday night when they take on the Rockford IceHogs at 7:05 at Toyota Center for what will be the first of a three game weekend – the other two will be on the road, however.
MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
Tonight’s game saw one of the more entertaining fights of the season, and of course, it involved Mitch Love. Love, who is listed at a generous six feet tall, went at it with Iowa’s Francis Wathier who is 6’4”. And Love got in several shots before Wathier really knew what was coming and easily came out the victor.
And Matt Kassian got a ten minute misconduct penalty toward the end of the second penalty for attempting to insight a fight with one of the Iowa players. There was a scrum around the Iowa goal and all of the players were tangled. Kassian got lose and was skating around the edge of the fun when he took off one of his glove and waived it at one of the Chops, trying to get him to fight. The fight didn’t happen, and Kassian spent the rest of the second and about the first half of the third period sitting in the penalty box.
That aside, it’s easy to see how these guys, along with line mate Jason Ryznar have become not only crowd favorites, but favorites of Coach Kevin Constantine.
“They’re a steadying influence in our team’s confidence of the physical part of the game,” Constantine said tonight. “And their shifts are amazingly consistent….Five on five…they’re as good of a line as we’ve got right now.”
Speaking of favorites, the guys love Kurtis Foster. As we walked into the locker room after the game, they all started pointing us to Foster and telling Andrew Ferraro and myself that he was the guy we needed to talk to. We were going to him anyway, but they were all so eager to see us give him some attention.
And as much as the guys like Foster, he likes them. “It’s a great bunch of guys here. Lots of fun times,” he said. “They definitely made it easy for me. They welcomed me in. The coaches were great…They made the game fun.”
Kevin Constantine, while hoping the team doesn’t lose it’s attitude when Foster returns to Minnesota, also felt that Foster has helped this team get on this current win streak.
“We go on a winning streak when he starts playing,” Constantine said. “I hope it’s not entirely connected to him playing. But it’s not completely disconnected him to either. A point a game, a goal tonight that becomes a critical goal, a steadying influence back there, I don’t think I could overemphasize how important he was to the team.”
On top of that, what Constantine liked the most about Foster is what the rest of the guys all seemed to like about Kurtis Foster. Foster genuinely seemed to enjoy playing here, and did everything that he could to fit in with the guys and make himself part of the team.
“He just fit in. He was just one of the guys on the team,” Constantine said. “He never presented himself as a guy living on borrowed time here, just waiting to go back. His professionalism, fitting in with our group, was phenomenal. That’s what I think the coaching staff appreciated the most, his great attitude in coming here.”
Foster’s returning to Minnesota on Sunday. And while he was happy to be here, happy to be playing again, it’s not hiding anything to say that he wants back in the NHL.
“And whenever it’s time to put me in the lineup I’ll just be tickled pink,” he said. “It’ll be a fun day. I’m just excited to get back up there.”
Nolan Schaefer stops one of Iowa's shots. Courtesy of Fred Trask.
While most of the attention tonight was focused on the team’s sixth straight win, and Kurtis Foster’s impending return to the NHL, there was another milestone last night that shouldn’t be forgotten. Nolan Schaefer not only got the win tonight, he also got the 100th win of his professional career. And he got on a night where he stopped 24 of 25 shots.
Iowa’s one goal came on a mistake which Schaefer thought he had stopped. “We kind of had a turnover and it surprised me a little bit,” he said. “I came out and [a Iowa player] took a good slap shot that was right in the hole of where my blocker and my pad goes. And it kind of bounced around bit and I thought I had it, but I guess I didn’t.”
The puck actually slipped out behind him and Iowa’s Drew Miller was just standing there, waiting to pounce on the opportunity.
Kurtis Foster's goal tonight gave him six points for his six games with the Aeros (1-5=6). It should also be noted that Jesse Schultz got the assist on the Foster goal, giving Schultz not only his 25th assist of the season, but also his sixth straight game with a point (6-2=8). This was, however, the first time in six games that Schultz did not score a goal, breaking his career-high of five straight games with a goal. But I'm sure that Schultz is happy with getting the goal in the shootout for the win.
This was also the first time in eight games that the Aeros power play unit didn't score. And it was the first time that they failed to get a power play goal against the Chops in their last three games.
While the Aeros are now 1-10-1-0 when neither team has scored after the first period, they are now 17-4-1-3 when they score the game's first goal. And I also need to note that Mr. Prediction, Andrew Ferraro, predicted that the team to score the first goal tonight would win the game.
Here's a note for the sound crew. "The Final Countdown?" Really? The game's going to overtime. The crowd is alive. The building is jumping. And you play "The Final Countdown." That's the best you could come up with? If ever a situation was appropriate for Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up," that was the time.
And speaking of music, I thought I would play us out with this little ditty that I heard a portion of at the game tonight. This should also get you in on your feet and into a good mood -- it's also keeps with the 70s music theme that I've been on. So here's K.C. & The Sunshine Band with "Get Down Tonight."
Saturday, February 21, 2009
That said, I hope that everybody enjoys the game tonight.
Photo courtesy of Fred Trask.
I've wondered about the current on-going crucifixion of Alex Rodriguez. Did he lie to the press about using steroids?* Sure. Was he caught? Sure. Has he admitted to using steroids? Sure. Has he come clean about everything, told the truth about everything? Probably not.
*I'm using steroids as a catch-all to include steroids, HGH, and other possible performance-enhancing drugs.
But that doesn't explain the treatment he's getting.
Really, do any of you out there really think that Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, or Jason Giambi have come totally clean about their involvement with steroids? Think a minute. Has Jason Giambi ever admitted to actually steroids? No. He just apologized for his various misdeeds, but he didn't cite specifics. And don't get me started on Miguel Tejada's purchased-but-didn't-use-HGH excuse. And Pettitte's story has changed a couple of times since he came clean the day after the Mitchell Report was released.
So why is A-Rod getting such treatment? Why is he being treated from the others?
Roger Clemens I get. I've long suspected that he was a jackass, and everything I've read since the Mitchell Report confirms that -- seriously, read Andy Pettitte's depo and you'll hate Clemens' guts. And Clemens pulled a Gary Hart and dared everybody to come after him. So he's getting what he asked for.
Barry Bonds I get. I don't like it, but I get it. Nobody's ever liked Barry Bonds. Ever. His teammates have always hated him. Opposing players. The press. Everybody has always hated this guy. So while the press was more than willing to overlook Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's misdeeds because they were nice guys and people liked them, Barry Bonds had to be brought back down to earth.
And I suggest any of you who are really interested to head over to Yahoo! Sports. They've been doing some stellar work on the upcoming Bonds trial, and you can see that the Feds have let lesser players get away with many things in order to use them against Bonds. Giambi appears to have been just as guilty of crimes as Bonds, but there's no Fed trial coming up against him. And I can't wait to hear the outrage after Bonds gets off -- most of the Feds' best evidence is continuously getting tossed and I think a good defense attorney, which Bonds has, will tear this case apart once it gets to court.
But just what did A-Rod do? Besides not be as likeable as Derek Jeter?
That said, Bud Selig and his pals better be careful or they're attempt to get A-Rod is going to destroy major league baseball. I really think that.
It came out yesterday that A-Rod spent the 2007 season traveling with a trainer from the Dominican Republic, Angel Presinal, that was banned from MLB clubhouses after being caught with steroids in 2001 when he was working with Juan Gonzalez for the Cleveland Indians. Then word came out that MLB might be considering suspending Rodriguez for working with Presinal.
There's just one problem. One very big problem. Presinal is a prominent trainer in the Dominican Republic. He was the team trainer for the 2006 Dominican baseball club that took part in MLB's World Baseball Classic. And he's worked with many, many prominent stars. Like Pedro Martinez, Vladimir Guerrero, Miguel Tejada, and David Ortiz.
How can you punish Rodriguez for hanging with this guy if you're not going to punish Martinez, Guerrero, Tejada, and Ortiz. Especially Ortiz who is one of the biggest current stars in the game and is unrepentant about spending time working out with Presinal. I'm going to give Ortiz the A-Rod treatment right now and say that his statements sound a lot like those that A-Rod has given out over the years. So when does the investigation into David Ortiz get started?
I don't know what MLB needs to do right now. But the crucifixion of A-Rod while letting others who are just as guilty off of the hook really, really bugs me. But if the press wants to keep on with this vendetta, then they better get started on the others. I want Selena Roberts going after David Ortiz now. After all, he was considered to be a washout when he was with the Minnesota Twins -- and the Twins don't give up on many players -- before suddenly becoming a big star with the Red Sox. And he's linked to a steroids guy. So come on, if you want to go down this road, then get to it.
But I have the feeling that Bud Selig is going to screw it up, because screw it up is all that Bud Selig ever does.
P.S.: By the way, if Bud Selig is really concerned with honesty and integrity, maybe he'll get around to letting everybody know who it was in his office that violated a court order and leaked Rodriguez' name to SI's Selena Roberts. But then again, Bud Selig's never really been too concerned with honesty and integrity -- he started out as a car salesman, after all.
(note, Rufus and Chaka don't get started until about 1:35 in. And they fade out before the song ends, but I prefer performance clips over those with just still pictures.)
And yes, that is a great bass line on that song.
P.S.: Remember, if you've got a request, I'll do my best to find a clip on the YouTubes and post it.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Yankee outfielders Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady had accounts with one of the Standford subsidiaries, and as a result, their accounts have been frozen. Damon says he can't pay his bills, and Nady has been cut off from his credit cards, so he's not able to rent an apartment in New York at the moment.
With this, the failure of Manny Ramirez to find a job, and everything involving A-Rod, it's been a bad week to a Scott Boras client.
The trainer, from the Dominican Republic, is named Angel Presinal, and he's been banned from the private areas of MLB ballparks -- including locker rooms -- since the end of the 2001 season. In October of 2001, Canadian Border Service officials seized an unmarked bag containing several forms of steroids. Toronto police and the Cleveland Indians -- which had just arrived in town for a series with the Toronto Blue Jays -- were informed of the bag, and the bag was then delivered to the hotel where the Indians were staying in order to see who would claim the bag. And the lucky person to claim the bag was Presinal, who claimed that it belonged to then-Indians outfielder Juan Gonzalez.
Presinal, who supposedly traveled with A-Rod throughout the 2007 season, operates a gym in Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic and has worked as a trainer for the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic team. In addition, he has also worked as a trainer for Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, and Houston's own Miguel Tejada.
And there are rumors that a suspension could be in the offing for A-Rod's relationship with Presinal, which makes it possible that Tejada and the others could also be facing a suspension for their relationship with him.
SI.com is reporting, however, that A-Rod will probably escape any suspension, but that MLB is considering a suspension of Tejada over his conviction for lying to Congress. And you've got to wonder if the judge in charge of sentencing Tejada might be interested as well, seeing as how it looks as if he's still not being entirely truthful over his knowledge of, and involvement with, steroids in baseball.
So, Drayton, do you still think this trade was a good idea?
Come on. If your team is in Florida for spring training, is it asking too much that some type of medical professional also be there? We learned earlier this week that Mike Hampton had to fly to Houston for heart tests because one Astros doctor was here in Houston. And catcher Toby Hall injured his shoulder earlier this week, but the team doctor won't be able to look at him until this weekend at the soonest because...
He's at the NFL Draft Combine doing medical work for the Houston Texans.
Drayton, when your team is in Florida for spring training, and you've got a bunch of guys on the squad known for their injuries, it might help to have the doctors there also. It might also help to have a full-time doctor.
And what does this tell us about the status of medical care in Florida? The doctors out there must be really bad if they can't treat this stuff.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Trailing 1-0 to the Iowa Chops after one period, and before a crowd of 3339, and looking rather sloppy, the Aeros came out for the second and were quickly hit with two penalties, putting the Chops on a 5-x-3 power play for the first two-and-a-half minutes of the period. But the Aeros escaped and kept the Chops from scoring. Then the Aeros got the Chops into the penalty box, and the Aeros power play took over.
Anyone who watched the Aeros last season would find this hard to believe, but the Aeros are excelling on the power play this season, and at 12:03 of the second, Matt Beaudoin backhanded a wrist shot past the Iowa goalie to tie the game at 1-1. Then at 15:30 Krys Kolanos fired in a shot on the power play to put the Aeros up 2-1.
With the score tied at 2-2 at 1:25 of the third and the Aeros again on the power play, Jesse Schultz saw Robbie Earl on the other side of the goal. So he sent the puck that way. Only Earl never got the puck.
“I saw Robbie Earl open on the other side of the net and I was trying to pass it through the defenseman to him,” Schultz said. “And [the defenseman] went down to try and block it and it went off his skate and through the goalie’s legs.”
Just like that, the Aeros were up 3-2, only to give up the tying goal nearly five minutes later. But at 15:10 of the third, the Aeros were once again on the power play and Kurtis Foster was on the point with the puck and fired the puck toward the goal. John Lammers crashed the net for the rebound. It appeared that the puck hit the outside of the net and bounced out only to glance off of John Lammers and into the goal.
“I was just going to the net,” Lammers said, “and it ended up going off of my pants and went into the net. I didn’t even touch it with my stick. So it ended up just kind of a lucky goal, but that’s what happens when you go the net.”
And like that, the Aeros had defeated the Iowa Chops 4-3 for their fifth straight win, which is a season high winning streak. The win moved the Aeros record for the season to 27-21-1-8 (63 points) and put them in sole possession of third place in the AHL West. They’re one point behind Rockford, and two points ahead of fourth place Chicago. Iowa is in fifth place with 59 points.
The Aeros take on Iowa again on Saturday night at Toyota Center with the game set for 7:35.
MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:
Coming into the game, the Aeros had the AHL’s fifth-ranked power play – yes, I know that’s really hard to believe. The Aeros went 4-for-6 on the power play last night. They’re now eight for their last ten power plays against Iowa, and for the season, the Aeros have scored on 14 of 28 power plays against the Chops.
“Our power play has just been good lately,” Coach Kevin Constantine said after the game. “We went on the road, and I thought the reason we were a better offensive team on the road was our power play was pretty good. It’s just more being in a rhythm with our power play than it is anything to do with Iowa.”
“Our power play is kind of carrying us right now,” Schultz said. “And we’re just going to ride it as long as we can.”
They may need to keep riding it as neither Schultz nor Constantine was much pleased by the rest of the team’s play.
“It probably wasn’t our best game, but we just found a way to win,” Schultz said.
“We looked a little lethargic to start tonight, but we did enough to win,” Constantine said, damning the team with faint praise.
The Aeros now have two 20 goal scorers for the season as Krys Kolanos’ goal gave him 20 for the season. Corey Locke also has 20 goals. Jesse Schultz has 18 goals so far this season. The Aeros only had two 20 goals for all of last season.
Schultz’ goal gives him five game point streak (6-1=7). And Corey Locke has a three game point streak after his two assists tonight (1-5=6). Coming into the game, Locke was the AHL’s fifth ranked scorer, and after tonight, he’s got 59 points (20-39=59). He is only three assists away from tying his career high of 42.
Mr. Prediction, the Chron’s Andrew Ferraro, wants me to let everyone know that he said the winner of this game would be the team that scored the game’s second goal. And that team was the Aeros and they did get the win. However, I need to point out that late in the third period, he said the game was going to go to OT, and that didn’t happen.
I only did so-so on my pregame predictions. I was off on the starting goalie. It was Nolan Schaefer instead of Barry Brust. I was off on the starting line – it was Locke/Kolanos/Beaudoin instead of Love/Ryznar/Kassian – and Matt Kassian did not score a goal as I predicted.
However, Krys Kolanos, did score a goal, as I predicted. The Aeros did win, as I predicted. The Aeros did score four goals, as I predicted. Sure the Chops got three goals when I predicted one, but I think I did pretty damn good with that.
To play us out tonight is a song/video that I think works perfectly with the Aeros dominating power play. So here's Oasis with the loud, bombastic "D'You Know What I Mean?"
Oh, and Rob, I got the receipt. Thanks again.
Photo courtesy SI.com/Scott Cunnigham/Getty Images
I've been cranking out the product this week, but last night, what with new episodes of Lost, Life, Life on Mars, and American Idol plus Conan and Craig Ferguson, and having to put together my post for the mothership, I just didn't feel like sitting at the computer for four-plus hours cranking out the product -- yeah, I know if often doesn't look like it, but I actually put in some time and effort towards the junk I produce here.
That said, I thought I would throw out a few quick items.
First, the Aeros have had a three-day break since they last played a game. The Aeros are awful coming off a long breaks. They generally start slow and take awhile to get going, if they ever do. I say Constantine tries something different tonight. I say he throws the Scoring Line of Love, Kassian, and Ryznar out to the start the game tonight. They're the supposed energy line, so let's have them get off a few big hits and get the team into the game right away. I also say Barry Brust gets the start at goal -- Constantine likes to reward his goalies for good play, after all.
Of course, I could be wrong.
Speaking of wrong, I'm going out on a limb and calling for an Aeros victory over the Iowa Chops tonight. Let's say 4-1. Kolanos gets a goal. Kassian gets his first home goal of the season. Benny does something so good so that Ms. Conduct has to keep saying nice things about him.
And here's a H/T to Ms. Conduct for letting me know about the Cal Clutterbuck showing up at a high school hockey game the other night. I like Cal, and I miss talking to him after games.
That's about it....
Oh, I need an idea for the Houston Press for tomorrow. I've already done my one Aeros post of the week, and I because of the Slap Shot post screw-up (it was supposed to have run last Saturday) I actually got two hockey posts in the mothership blog this week, so if you have any non-hockey ideas, let me know. I've got an Astros idea, but if you can top it, I might go with it.
So here's Heart with "Barracuda."
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Today's SI Swimsuit girl is 2009 rookie Esti Ginzburg. She's one of the rookies in this issue.
Family Guy the other night decided it was going to take on Two and a Half Men for being a dumb sitcom. Nothing, to me, is more brain dead than Family Guy, and it amazes me that they're ripping on another show for being dumb.
Now I'll admit, Two and a Half Men isn't one of those intellectual masterpieces. It's not cutting-edge like 30 Rock or The Office, nor does it have the charm of How I Met Your Mother. But it doesn't try to be any of those shows. It just tries to be a sitcom that delivers solid belly laughs week after week. I watch the show and I know it's not high art -- I was one of those fringe who never missed an episode of smart sitcoms like Arrested Development and Sports Night.
But Two and a Half Men doesn't try to be those shows. It's just a show of boob jokes and booze jokes and fart jokes. It does a great job of executing the material. The writing, for dumb jokes, is smart. The directing is precise. The actors perform the material without smirking.
I'm not saying that everybody should like Two and a Half Men. But then again, I like The Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers. I'm a fan of Benny Hill and Monty Python. I like smart humor. I like dumb humor. I just ask that the show actually be funny.
I don't like Family Guy. It's not funny. There are no jokes. There are just gags that have nothing to do with the flow of the show, and often, the shows make no sense in the concept of an actual plot. One of the great South Parks of all time involves Eric Cartman boycotting Family Guy for being offensive and not funny. He goes out to Hollywood to shut the show down, only to discover the show has no writers. There are just manatees who juggle balls with ideas. When one of the balls comes down a shoot, that's the next line of the show.
So I just find it funny that the Family Guy people think they're better than Two and a Half Men. Then again, I doubt very seriously that the Family Guy people actually understand humor anyway.
Miguel Tejada is a coward. He's a coward who gives out an iffy story about paying over $6000 for HGH but throwing it away before he could use and refuses to accept questions about it while hiding behind his enablers with the Houston Astros like Drayton McLane, Cecil Cooper and his teammates. I'm sure Alex Rodriguez would love to hide behind his enablers. But he doesn't.
So why won't I be surprised when Tejada is accepted around ballparks this summer while A-Rod is met with universal hate. Sure, we still probably don't know all of the facts and details around A-Rod's drug use, but at least he's facing the heat from the media and the public while Tejada isn't.
But here's something that's really pissing me off. I was hearing all day yesterday about how courageous Roy Oswalt was with his statements last week about how steroid users were destroying baseball and how pissed he was at having faced someone like A-Rod while A-Rod was on 'roids. But none of those people congratulating Oswalt's courage yesterday were mentioning how he's embracing Miguel Tejada.
Oswalt is just like his boss Drayton McLane who is all bark and no bite. I want Oswalt saying the same things about Miguel Tejada that he says about Alex Rodriguez. That to me would be courageous. Calling out a teammate as a cheater would mean something to me. Letting a teammate off of the hook is just standard operating procedure and just as cowardly as Miguel Tejada.
I know that I shouldn't be expecting anymore than what I'm seeing. But damn, I want Tejada to face the same pressures that A-Rod does. And if Roy Oswalt wants to go public with his anger and disgust, then he's got to go public with his anger and disgust toward every player, including his teammates.
And what I really want, I suppose, is for Miguel Tejada to be called out for his cowardly behavior. After all, it's Miguel Tejada, the convicted criminal, who refuses to answer for his misdeeds while it's A-Rod, the non-criminal, who's being treated as the convicted criminal. And that's just wrong.
If A-Rod, after all, is A-Fraud, then just who in the hell is Miguel Tejada?
Ortiz notes that Tejada has just been convicted of lying to Congress. He notes that Drayton McLane has stated time and time again that he wants a team of good guys who play baseball the right way. He notes that McLane tossed Julio Lugo aside for supposedly assaulting his wife and for which Lugo was never convicted. And he calls McLane out for this hypocrisy.
Here's the money quote from McLane on the difference between Tejada and Lugo: "Miguel, I think, if you look back to the entire steroid issue that this is a very controversial, very complex deep issue that just wasn't one occurrence. But this is something that had been apparently in baseball for a period of time. We're trying to bring a conclusion to all of this. I think the evidence as we know it is that he had not been proven that he had ever taken steroids. The issue was not steroids. The issue was him defending a teammate." (emphasis mine).
But Ortiz notes in his story that the issue isn't Tejada defending a teammate; the issue is Tejada lying to Congress. The issue isn't Tejada protecting the so-called integrity of the locker room; the issue is Tejada being convicted of a crime while the guy who wasn't convicted gets kicked off of the team. And Ortiz nails the whole situation with one damning line: "At this point, Tejada is the first Major League Baseball Player who has pled guilty to lying to Congress."
What I like about Ortiz's article is that, finally, someone in the major media -- i.e., not me -- is shoving Drayton's words down his throat. Most of us know that Drayton is a hypocritical blowhard whose only concern is making money. But generally, he's never called on it. This time, he is with Ortiz wondering if McLane has changed his "stance on having criminals on the club."
He also tells us that Drayton gave Tejada a hug on seeing him today. I wonder if Drayton gave Julio Lugo a hug. And it kind of makes you wonder about Drayton's treatment of Roger Clemens. The Rocket hasn't been indicted of anything. He hasn't been convicted of anything. He's not a criminal. Yet Drayton has requested that he not come to camp this year and work out with the minor leaguers like he did last year. But why not? If it's okay for a convicted criminal to play for the big league club, then Drayton shouldn't have any problem with Rocket hanging around. Should he? After all, like with Tejada, it hasn't been proven that Rocket took steroids.
But then again, I learned years ago that I could Drayton McLane was lying by his lips: if they were moving, he was lying. And once again, Drayton's lips were moving, so he must have been lying.
But first, as per Rob's comment of album covers, here's my favorite Linda Ronstadt album cover. "Living In The U.S.A."
I don't know, there's just something about those tight blue shorts and the knee high socks that gets to me. But here's the cover that Rob spoke of, with Linda Ronstadt in the polka dot dress.
And this is also a fantastic cover, with all of the polka dots of her dress blending into the polka dots of the backing. And if I remember, the rear of the cover was the lower half of her dress and her legs.
Which leads to today's video, Linda Ronstadt performing "Heatwave" in 1980.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
A. His lips are moving.
B. He issues a press release.
C. He nods his hand.
D. All of the above.
The answer: D. All of the above, though I believe "his lips are moving" is the best answer. In other words, Drayton does nothing but lie. But shock of all shocks, he's actually been caught in a lie. And better, at least two of the Chron's writers are calling him out on that.
The topic of course is Miguel Tejada. And the lie's this: when the Astros traded for Tejada, the day before he was named in the Mitchell Report, Drayton McLane claimed afterward that the Astros had no clue that Tejada was about to be fingered as a steroid cheat. But today, after Miguel Tejada arrived in camp, McLane admitted that they did suspect that Tejada might be named, and that this was a topic of discussion.
McLane likes to play the people of Houston as suckers. And the number of people who continue to pay the outrageous prices for tickets and concessions at that amusement park called a baseball stadium for his poor product shows that he might be right about that sucker part. But maybe, just maybe, more people are beginning to see behind the curtain. And they're not seeing a wizard, they're seeing a rich old man who knows nothing about baseball.
And this comes on the string of various defaults, lawsuits and project failures over the past several months -- including the failure of a project being managed by the winner of the original season of "The Apprentice." So I wonder how the projects being run by the other "Apprentice" winners are panning out?
This edition of "The Apprentice" is another of the celebrity editions, if you stretch the definition of celebrity to include Andrew Dice Clay, Ty Murray, and Melissa Rivers. So the winner just donates winnings to charity instead of getting an apprenticeship with The Donald, which might have been interested as maybe the winner could learn all about the ins-and-outs of bankruptcy court.
But I'm amazed that people still listen* to this guy spread his business expertise. The only thing he knows how to sell is himself -- and he's good at that -- but he doesn't seem to be so hot with anything else. Though, with the economic times we're in, maybe watching a rich guy who continuously guides his businesses into bankruptcy might be just the right guy to command a reality TV program.
* -- yes, I watched the first couple seasons of "The Apprentice" because there were some hot women on the show. And I watched the first celebrity edition because one contestant was a Playmate and another was Carol Alt, who happens to be one of the most beautiful women on the planet.
(A quick aside: seriously, people, if you see Jay Mohr in anything, don't waste your time. For a supposed comic, the only thing funny about the guy is just how quickly his shows get canceled. I think you can also apply that to Dennis Miller who hasn't been funny since he tried to do football analysis on Monday nights.)
So anyway, I'm taking advantage of my President Day's Holiday yesterday to sleep late. I mean late. I'm in bed so late, in fact, that I'm half-a-sleep when the Jim Rome shows comes on. I figure at the point I should probably get up, because if Rome gets off on a rant I'm not going to sleep because I'll be laughing. But yesterday being a holiday and all, Rome decided to take the day off and go with a guest host.
Now Rome could have gone with someone funny. Or someone who knows something about sports. He did neither. He got Jay Mohr to be his guest host. So I jump out of the bed and shower, but I left the radio on, and as I'm toweling off, Mohr's off on one of his many non-sports tangents. I don't know what started the thing, but at one point, he says that something is as stupid as a cop ticketing someone for parking on the line next to a handicap parking space.
This is one of my pet peeves. No, not cops targeting people for parking on the line of handicap parking spaces. I'm talking about the assholes who park on the lines of any parking space, whether or not it's next to a handicap spot or not. If you can't park properly, then you don't deserve to be driving.
I know that this might come as a shock to some of you -- and it sounds like it does to Jay Mohr -- but you're supposed to park between those lines. You're not supposed to park on them. You're not supposed to park with your vehicle straddling one of the lines. You're supposed to park between them.
And do you know the worst offenders? Yeah, it's those moron rednecks who not only drive big trucks and SUVs, but insist on backing their aircraft carriers into those spaces. Because while these idiots might think they know how to park those behemoths, they obviously don't. Just go out and check any parking lot. You'll see assholes driving trucks who have decided to back into their parking spaces. And they're going to be parked on a line. Now they're going to have plenty of room to get out. But they're going to be parked so that the guy who's parked next to them can't get into his car because there's no room. And once you get in, you can back out without losing your side view mirror.
But hey, at least they backed in their space.
Now that I think about it though, maybe Jay Mohr is right. It is stupid for the cop to ticket assholes who park on the line next to handicap spaces. They should be calling wreckers instead and having the improperly parked cars towed instead.
But if you read his column in today's Chron, Justice argues that the Astros should stay far, far away from Rodriguez. He uses almost the same arguments. Makes the same claims. And comes out with a different conclusion.
This has me wondering. Just how stupid does Richard Justice really think we are? Does he think that those people who read his blog aren't going to read his column? Does he think that people reading the column aren't going to bother looking at blog post -- or maybe he thinks that people who read his column are too old to own a computer and would never think of reading what he writes for on-line consumption.
I will give him some credit, though. Usually, he goes through and changes his blog posts to reflect whatever his new line of thinking is. Maybe his habit of doing this has changed. Maybe his editors wouldn't let him do it this time. Or maybe he just thinks we're so frakking stupid that we'll never catch on to what he's doing.
I have a feeling that I'm going to be watching a lot more of the MLB Network than I am of ESPN come the actual MLB season.
Oh, before the video, here's a little trivia. I've read that the ex-boyfriend of Crow's "My Favorite Mistake" is actually Clapton, though she has never officially confirmed or denied that rumor.
But anyway, here's "Little Wing."
Monday, February 16, 2009
Richard Justice is correct. The Astros should seriously make a play for Ivan Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, the free agent catcher, has stated that the Astros are one of the teams he's considering signing with for this season. And if the Astros can work out the right deal for a one-year contract with Rodriguez, I say that they should do it -- this would probably be a contract like they've got with Mike Hampton.
Justice goes into the negatives with Pudge. Pitchers don't like him because they don't think he calls a good game, or cares enough to call a good game. And he's aging which means his defense isn't what it used to be -- the guy's won more Gold Gloves for his defensive play at catcher than any catcher in MLB history. And his bat definitely isn't what it used to be.
But then think of this. Do you seriously expect me to believe that Humberto Quintero is a better option for catcher this season than Ivan Rodriguez -- who happens to be one of the greatest catchers in MLB history? The Astros seem to be staking their catching future on last year's number one draft choice Jason Castro, but he's had about half -a-season of minor league experience and probably isn't ready for big league play. So maybe they should try and sign Pudge to a one-year incentive laden deal. See if he will go for it. Let Pudge and Toby Hall handle the catching duties this season.
Let Castro hang around with those two during spring training and pick up the tricks of the trade -- he'll definitely learn more from Pudge and Hall than he'll ever pick up from Quintero. As long as, that is, he doesn't pick up too many tricks of the trade from the Pudge. Tricks like steroids.
Yes, Pudge Rodriguez has been linked to steroids. Jose Canseco has said he injected Rodriguez. And Rodriguez' name is linked to that same list on which A-Rod's name was on. But the Astros treatment of Miguel Tejada shows that the team really doesn't give a damn about steroid users, so Pudge should prove no problem fitting into this clubhouse.
And pitchers might not like working with Pudge. But here's the thing, if Nolan Ryan could work with Pudge, then Roy Oswalt can handle Pudge. And if Wandy Rodriguez can't handle it, then tough shit, because Wandy Rodriguez is a career five starter who should consider himself lucky to still have a spot on a major league roster, much less still challenging for a top spot in a starting rotation.