Reds Signing of Aroldis Chapman

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Has the baseball world been turned upside down? The Major League’s most coveted foreign import free agent, Aroldis Chapman, finally agreed to a five-year, $30 million dollar offer over the weekend! The offer came not from the big money spenders (New York Yankees, Mets or Boston Red Sox), but by the Cincinnati Reds. Equally surprising, the Cuban defector’s runner up in bidding was the Oakland Athletics! The deal is exceptionally well suited for the Reds who look to be cutting their payroll from last season’s roughly $73 million in contracts. Chapman will have little to no effect on this purging, as his complicated contract only includes up to $2.5 million for the first season and $3.5 million for the next two. This relatively inexpensive investment should certainly pay dividends, if for nothing more than just exciting the Reds fanbase who last year had their lowest attendance in 23 years.

Many scouts consider the 21 year old Chapman the world’s best left-handed pitching prospect, and anticipate he will be joining the Reds’ rotation sometime within the next season. The problem is, most scouts don’t feel he is ‘Big League ready,’ so the majority of the 2010 season will likely be spent working on control issues in the minor leagues.

Here is the excerpt on each of Chapman’s pitches, as rated by Baseball Intellect:

Fastball – Chapman’s fastball is typically clocked in the 93 – 96 range and will occasionally touch 97 – 99. The pitch has tremendous life and carry through the zone with some natural tail. Chapman’s control will vary from start-to-start. On average, his control of the pitch is decent and will often be at least around the strike zone. But commanding the pitch is a different story. Pitching to a right handed hitter, the catcher’s mitt might be positioned on the inside corner and Chapman’s ball will often end up right down the middle.

Curveball – A good change of pace offering with a solid two-plane brake. However, Chapman will sometimes slow his arm down when throwing the pitch. It’s clocked as low as 69 mph, getting as high as 75.

Slider – Chapman’s most effective off-speed offering…I’ve heard the pitch can hit 90, but I’ve only seen it come close to that mark once and I’m still not sure the pitch was a slider. I’ve typically seen his slider in the 79 – 83 range. The pitch has major consistency issues and can rate anywhere from below average to plus.

Change-Up and Cutter – Chapman possesses both a cutter and change-up, neither of which he uses often.

Chapman’s release point is inconsistent and it will vary with each pitch type . . . Chapman has to coordinate a lot of moving parts however, and that will naturally lead to an inability to consistently repeat his mechanics though he has the athleticism to do so.

Aroldis, who is most commonly compared to Hall of Fame shoe in – Randy Johnson, has the potential to be a top-end starter on many rotations and at the very least a quality middle reliever. With the recent success of young Cincinnati starters Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto, he could eventually become a solid number 3 or 4 starter behind Aaron Harang in the next couple seasons.

The Reds pulled of a phenomenal deal here! It will presumably solidify the back end of their rotation in the coming seasons, or could certainly strengthen their aging bullpen that includes Fransisco Cordero and Arthur Rhodes. This move alone bolsters the Reds staff to the point I consider them the 2nd best pitching staff in the NL Central, behind the St. Louis Cardinals, earning them 4 X’s for this deal.


Youth in Revolt

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Story – Youth in Revolt is a film in which Nick Twisp (Michael Cera) is a sex-obsessed teenager who meets the girl of his dreams on a family vacation. Sheeni Saunders (Portia Doubleday) is a free-spirited and beautiful girl and exactly what Nick is searching for to burst away from a life long constraint of virginity. The two are kept apart by a vast array of things and the only way for that to change is for Nick to transform himself. The movie is filled with comedic stunts by Nick and his newly developed alter-ego, Francois, to gain the undying love of Sheeni. To be honest, I was expecting another Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, but the story quickly develops into something that kept my full attention,always keeping me wondering would happen next.

Cast – The two stars of the film are Michael Cera and Portia Doubleday, who will hopefully become much more famous than any of the other girls Cera fumbles for in his films. The secondary actors are a proud list filled with: Jean Smart, Zach Galifianakis, Steve Buscemi, Fred Willard, Ray Liotta and Justin Long, all of which did an excellent job and could have been huge stars in the film, but were limited by screen time.

Characters – Once again, Michael Cera proves why he’s Hollywood’s go to awkward teenager in his role as Nick Twisp. He will forever be typecast that way, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy watching his fumbles and follies! Cera does show glimpses of breaking out of that role with his alter-ego Francois, but behind the mustache and cigarette he plays the same character with just a little more attitude. I thought it was odd how quickly he is thrown into the movie without much development, but it doesn’t take long to figure out how he works. Portia is someone I quickly fell in love with, and the beach-scene explains why! The supporting characters are all magnificent and I wish they had more screen time, they’re hilarious!

Relativity – Any teen boy who’s had an awkward moment with a girl can relate to Cera’s character in this movie, probably more so than any of his previous characters. Like so many teens before him, Cera is deadset on losing his virginity and goes to humorous ends to make it happen, much like the adventures most the guys I know went through. I didn’t meet many girls in my teenage years that related to Doubleday’s character of Sheeni, but she’s a “unique” stereotype many have seen before on screen.

Intangibles – This movie includes short bits of animation and a bunch of quotable comedic lines. The animation is cute the first time, but weird beyond that. They are very brief though, and there aren’t very many. While I wasn’t a fan, they aren’t of much consequence so I can ignore that. The quotable lines are all lines from Cera’s character of Francois and I can’t wait to use them on my lady! As for theater laugh-factor, I found myself laughing out loud a bit more frequently than the audience as a whole, but could hear quiet chuckles from the other males in the crowd with their dates.

This movie certainly won’t reach my all time favorites list, but I did enjoy it quite a bit and will give it a slightly better than average 3 X‘s to encourage anyone that’s been a teenager to see it!


2009 MLB Awards

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Starting November 16th, Major League Baseball began naming the winners of the four major awards in MLB: Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young Award, and Most Valuable Player.  Aside from the fact I feel baseball waits too long to name winners, over 2 weeks from the last World Series Game, the awards always stir debate year after year.  Today, I’m going to rate how the awards were handed out compared to how I thought they should have been handed out!

American League Rookie of the Year (November 16th)
Andrew Bailey RHP, Oakland Athletics

This race, to me, came down to Elvis Andrus SS – TEX, Rick Porcello SP – DET, and Oakland pitchers Brett Anderson and Andrew Bailey.  Before the season began many felt Matt Wieters C – BAL was going to have this award claimed easily, but after waiting over a month to join the big league club, and then underperforming he fell out of contention early.  Bailey had more K’s than IP, finished in the top 10 in saves, and was the only rookie named to the All Star team.  Anderson tossed 145 Ks in 170.1 IP and fanned nearly 3 times more batters than he walked.  Porcello led all rookies with 14 wins and emerged as a top starter for the contending Tigers.  Still, I feel that the award belonged to Andrus.  He’s already regarded as one of the best defensive short stops in the bigs, and also led all AL rookies in hits, triples and stolen bases.
My Predicted Winner: Elvis Andrus

National League Rookie of the Year (Novemer 16th)
Chris Coughlan LF, Florida Marlins

Even with impressive performences by Randy Wells SP – CHI(N) and Andrew McCutchen OF – PIT, this race was based in the NL East.  Chris Coghlan OF – FLA, Tommy Hanson SP – ATL, and J.A. Happ P – PHI were the top contenders in my mind.  While Coghlan batted an impressive .321 avg (NL rookie lead) and also led NL rookies in OBP, hits, and runs, I felt that he gets shadowed by Hansons hype and Happs impressive performances in Phillies playoff run.  Happ was a diamond in the rough early in the year when the Phillies staff was struggling. He also had a sub 3.00 era in a hitters park, combined with 12 wins and 119 K’s.  Hanson, who joined the team later in the season, also threw over 115 K’s with 11 wins and a sub 3.00 era.  Hanson did so with almost 40 less innings than Happ, and I really thought his preseason hype would win him the award.
My Predicted Winner: Tommy Hanson

AL & NL Manager of the Year (November 18th)
Mike Scioscia, Anaheim Angels
Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies

This award almost always lands in the hands of a Playoff team, which should almost always be the case. Nonetheless, Texan Rangers manager Ron Washington impressed a lot of people with his club this season.  He kept his Rangers in the race until the last week of the year, and greatly improved his teams pitching staff.  No doubt though, the AL award belongs to Mike Scioscia, manager of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.   The Angels used 14 different starting pitchers throughout the year.  In addition to the normal ups and downs of a season , he was able to manage his players through the emotional loss of rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart.  For the National League, even thought Charlie Manuel delt well with bullpen problems and Jimmy Rollins early season slup, Jim Tracy moved from bench coach to manager mid-season and got him team to finish 22 games over .500.
My Predicted Winners: AL – Scioscia, NL – Tracy

American League Cy Young (November 17th)
Zack Greinke RHP, Kansas City Royals

CC Sabathia SP – NY(A) finished the season with 19 wins and 197 K’s while leading his team into the post season.  Felix Hernandez SP – SEA also finished with 19 wins and 217 strike outs while posting an amazing 2.49 era.  Wins aside though, Royals starting pitcher Zack Greinke deserves the AL Cy Young for his impressive start to finish season.  An 0.84 ERA in his first 10 starts, and 0.75 ERA in his last 8 outings going into baseballs final week, showed that he threw well from start to finish.  Greinke ended the season with a 2.16 ERA along with 16 wins and 242 Ks.  The only debate here was being on a losing team, though Clemens 1997 and Webb 2007 showed that it could be done. 
My Predicted Winner: Zack Greinke

National League Cy Young ( November 19th)
Tim Lincecum RHP, San Francisco Giants

With a lower ERA and WHIP than his winning season in 2008, and only 4 fewer strikeouts, Tim Lincecum SP – SF did great to defend his title.  St. Louis will most likely be home to the winner though, with aces Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.  Carpenter had an impressive season after throwing only 21 innings total in 2007 and 2008, and had a 2.24 ERA along with 144 K’s in 192 innings and 17 wins.  Wainwright matched Carpenter’s effort with a 2.61 ERA and 212 K’s in 233 innings and 19 wins.  Interesting note: Wainwright’s August 30th birthday matches last year’s AL C Young winner Cliff Lee, though the coincidence may not be impressive enough to match Carpenters comeback in the eyes of the voters.
My Predicted Winner: Adam Wainwright

American League Most Valuable Player (November 23rd)
Joe Mauer C, Minnesota Twins

Everyone loves Yankee captain Derek Jeter, and he has all of the intangibles that scream “valuable”.  His .334 average with 18 homers and 30 stolen bases are some of the best numbers of his career.  Obviously, everyone knows that he’s the heart of the Yankees.  Putting my anti-Yankees bias aside, Jeter has surely deserved this award.  Except Joe Mauer is also having one of his best seasons ever.  The Twins backstop finished with a .365 avg after flirting with .400 most of the season and long out did his 9 homeruns from 2008 by finishing with 28 and almost 100 RBIs.  The Yankees would still be a great team without Jeter, but the Twins would be lost without Mauer. The 26 year old Mauer should win more in the future.
My Predicted Winner: Joe Mauer

National League Most Valuable Player (November 24th)
Albert Pujols 1B, St. Louis Cardinals

They might as well just call this the PNAPA, the Players Named Albert Pujols Award.  His perennially puts the “P” in MVP, and had Barry Bonds not put up the numbers he did in the beginning of Pujols’ career,  Albert would have even more than the 8 he now has.  Pujols hit .327 with a career high 47 homeruns and tied a career best with 16 stolen bases.  The only question here is whether it will be unanimous.  To give other recognition, Hanley Ramirez SS – FLA lead the league in batting average and topped 100 rbs for the first time in his career, and Prince Fielder 1B – MIL ousted Pujols in rbis with 141.  Unfortunately, all they really managed to do was keep Albert from the Triple Crown. 
My Predicted Winner: Albert Pujols

In general, I agreed with the award recipients this year. Specifically, MLB awarded 5 out of the 8 awards to the players/coaches I thought they should. Since we can’t award 5/8 X‘s on theXsection, I’ll translate that to a 5 X scale.

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Cheese Beer Bread Mix

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While curiously browsing through Wal-Mart’s Christmas shopping specials of snacks and gift bundles, I stumbled across a small box on the bottom shelf.  The box was left lonely in the corner, the only one of its kind.  It was shyly shoved toward the back with no other matches in sight, set as an outcast amongst the groups of Budweiser BBQ sauce sets, Ritz crackers, and tin packages of cookies.  However, seeing “Beer Bread” on the label was enough to make me to stop and investigate.

The bottle was an Amber Harvest Mills Baking product, a Cheese Beer Bread Mix!  I had never seen such a creation, so I rotated the bottle to learn what was included inside and how it was made.  What I had in my hand was a bread mix that lacked one key ingredient: Beer.  Apparently, this 16 oz bottle, and 12 ounces of your favorite beer is enough to bake delicious cheese-bread. It did mention, though, that light beer is not recommended and that ginger ale can be used as a substitute to create a lighter flavor.  The price was advertised for $5.00, but after adding beer and tax, the cost for the bread ends up being closer to 6 bucks.

The directions were simple:

  1. Empty bread mix into a bowl, and add beer (or ginger ale)
  2. Mix with a wooden spoon until moist (*Do not over-mix)
  3. Pour into a greased and floured 9” x 5” loaf pan
  4. Bake in a preheated 375° oven for 45-50 minutes, or until done

I followed said directions by adding a 12 oz can of my favorite beer (Milwaukee’s Best Ice) and anxiously wait 45 excruciating minutes for the concoction to bake.  After taking it out of the oven, I gave it some time to cool off, then sliced up my cheese bread and found that I enjoyed this delicious treat quite a bit!

The convenience of this all-included, simple, mix was a huge plus to the rating of this product.  The taste also had a huge positive influence on my overall opinion.  I will, however, stress that the “greased and floured pan” step of the instructions needs to be followed.  Unfortunately, I ignored this step and suffered through a hard crust that was difficult to remove from the pan.  Other than that though, there were no problems with the mix!  I greatly enjoyed the product and plan on purchasing another in the upcoming week.

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“Sex is fun.  Blankets are a pain in the ass,” states website.  If you own a snuggie, this is definitely a site you should be interested in.  The site is devoted to illustrating sexual positions that are both erotic and warm.  The snuggie has become the solution to having sex and avoiding a chill, and TSS is here to show you how to do so.  From “The Papoose” to “The Pigs in a Blanket,” all of the traditional sexual positions and more have been revisited by TSS to add an extra level of excitement to sex and snuggie use.

The site is a scrolling list formatted with a large, cleverly named titles, helpful illustrations, and a very brief descriptions.  Each individual activity has its own comment archive where snuggie owners and snuggie sutra users can discuss what they like and dislike about each.  Holly, a TSS customer, has claimed, “WOW!! I’m going out to buy a snuggie today. I got business that needs taken care of!” after reading about “The Night In” position.

If I were giving a review of the snuggie itself, it’d be lucky to get 3 X’s, but TSS has embraced the snuggie and learned to deal with its ridiculousness, and found a whole new use for it and fell just short of a full 5 X’s.  Its only flaw is that I still feel the snuggie is basically an oversized robe and for that I couldn’t give it the full award the site deserves.

I will however recommend this site to everyone I ever come in contact with that is an owner of a snuggie and think TSS will soon become a popular theme for swingers parties and orgies.  Buy stock in snuggies now, because when the pervs get a hold of this site, snuggie sales are going to soar!

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