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!



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I will be the first person to admit, that before Avatar’s premiere, I thought for sure it would flop harder than You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. Granted, I didn’t have a whole lot to judge the movie on other than that damn Coke-Zero commercial, but there’s just not a whole lot about blue, giant-arrow-shooting, cat-people that I find particularly interesting. With the commercial’s odd looking creatures and large mechanized flying machines, I just saw Avatar as a sequel to all the worst parts (Jar Jar Binks) of The Phantom Menace shoved together. I had assumed that director James Cameron’s “revolutionary” 3D technique was just a gimmick, and I wasn’t about to put on goofy headache-inducing red and blue glasses to watch a glorified 3D movie that belongs at Six Flags.

My entire attitude changed one I read this review, and suddenly I was open to checking it out. My buddy found tickets for about $15 at a relatively close IMAX theater, so we decided to go see it on opening night. The “IMAX Experience” thick-rimmed glasses we received at the door weren’t red and blue, but still made everyone look like Harry Caray. At first, I was pretty disappointed in them (and at Gizmodo for writing such a persuasive review of the 3D technology) when the IMAX in 3D advertisement ran, only to find out shortly that the 3D advertisement was inexplicably shown in plain old 2D! This was realized just as the movie began, as the true 3D effect was completely unmistakable!

It was like nothing I’d ever seen before!* The CG was absolutely incredible! If it weren’t for the super advanced electronics, un-natural fauna and flora, and 8 foot tall blue cat people, I would have had a hard time figuring out which scenes were filmed and which were computer generated! I remember one scene vividly that made me feel uncomfortable. The depth in the shot was so extreme, my instinctual fear of heights made me clench both arm rests next to me!

Ignoring the monumental 3D aspect of the movie for a moment, I’m not sure how well the story would appeal to a wide range of audiences. For example, I’m a huge science fiction fan (and Fern Gully fan, for which most of the movie seems inspired by), but I’m not sure how much I would enjoy the almost 3 hour long movie if I had seen it in 2D. Several scenes seem relatively unimportant, but what’s there to complain about? They’re in freaking three dimensions! I can’t help but wonder though, if the appeal of this movie is simply due to the fact that it’s technologically the first of its kind. 20 years down the line, when 3D movies are mainstream, will Avatar be considered amongst the best?

It’s for those reasons that I wouldn’t recommend anyone see this outside of a 3D IMAX theater. If you do have the means to catch it in all its technological glory, certainly make a point to. Just remember, watching Avatar in 2D would be like buying a Corvette with an automatic transmission; you’d be missing the entire point.

*Not technically true, since I see things in 3D on pretty much a daily basis.

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Reebok Dictator

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When I used to think of Reebok, I certainly did not think of quality slow pitch softball bats.  If you are the same way, I suggest you rethink your stance.

In the beginning of this year’s spring softball season, my brother was persuaded by a sales representative at a local sporting goods store to pick up a Reebok Dictator.  He got the white ASA version of it for just over $120 on sale. Despite the deal, it was still a fairly large chunk of money to spend based on a salesperson’s word.

Before I continue, please let me share the fates of the three most recent bats my two older brothers and I have gone through.  Simply put, the way we treat them is illegal in 49 states (Missouri is the odd one out – everything is legal there).

  • Worth Mayhem – bent at a 10 degree angle after 7 hits in batting practice
  • Worth 3DX – flattened barrel after 2 games
  • Mizuno Wrath – broken into two after being used in 4 games

The first hit with the Reebok Dictator was taken by yours truly.  My brother took it out of its plastic wrapping, handed it to me, and said, “Go forth and dictate.” I remember thinking the feel of the bat was good as soon as I held it, but it was not until I took my first swing that I was impressed with the quality.  I hit a deep fly ball that cleared a 300 ft fence by about 20 feet.  I am no power hitter and was not trying to swing for the fences, but the bat rewarded me with the solid contact I had made on the ball.

Fast forward to the end of the same year’s fall season.  The bat had become a team favorite, and practically everyone was using it for every at-bat of our triple headers.  It was probably for this same reason that it had lost some of its pop, but it never bent, cracked, or broke on us.  Next on our agenda is to go out and buy a new one for the next season.

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I’m going to go ahead and get this out of way in the first sentence: this movie is not the feel-good movie of winter. Repeat, Brothers is intense, and not the movie you should take your grandmother to go see when she’s in town for the holidays. It’s about as much as a ‘war movie’ as Transformers is, but the emotionally charged script would make it difficult to watch for persons that could identify with the characters.  Although supporting actor Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t think the premise of the story is all that realistic, I still wouldn’t recommend anyone in, or thinking about joining, the Armed Services let their girlfriends, wives, or mothers go anywhere near this film.

Warnings aside, Brothers is well done and worth at least renting in the future.  Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire convincingly play rough-neck brothers, but in my mind, the best acting performance of the film is by 10 year old Bailee Madison, who put a 12 year old Miley Cyrus to shame.  Maguire still manages to fit several blank stares into the film, and several story-lines seem to abruptly end before they’re resolved.  I had the feeling towards the end of the movie that director Jim Sheridan was simply giving as many emotional scenes as possible to his big-name actors in the attempt to glean some awards for their performances.