Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Pray for a moment

There is one day that we can all point to as the most devastating we've seen in our lifetime. For most of us, its the same day that occurred nearly four years ago.

But the devastation and destruction of Hurricane Katrina - and the emotional toll its already taken on me - is on par with anything I've seen in my lifetime.

Don't get me wrong, I'm hardly the victim.

Take, for instance, my cooperating teacher at Washington-Irving Middle School. She left last Thursday to take her daughter on a 17-hour trip to New Orleans to move her into Tulane University for her first weekend of college.

Upon arriving on Saturday, she was told to unload her belongings into her first-floor dorm room and exit the city. Mrs. McDonald - my coop teacher - reluctantly left her daughter with her roommate's family, who lives in Louisiana. At first, she was told that the students could reconvene at the school on Wednesday, so a three or four day stay at her roommates was feasible.

Now, the city is in ruins.

It's unlikely that the school will be re-opened in weeks, and the entire semester could potentially be cancelled. There are dead bodies, sewage and garbage floating in the streets of New Orleans, which lies 80 percent covered by the murky brown water. Caskets from past burials are also floating down the streets. There is no clean drinking water. No power. No way to enter or exit the city.

Mrs. McDonald hasn't heard from her daughter since she left New Orleans in a contraflow on Sunday morning. She was back at school today beside me, but it broke my heart to see her distressed about her daughter. Carol, the daughter, is her baby, and has never been away from home for an extended period. Now this. Belongings aside, Mrs. McDonald doesn't even know if her daughter is safe, and the heartbreaking part is, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of people in similar situations. Some of those situations are even more severe.

What's the point of this post? I guess I'm just emotionally distraught from a long day of worrying about a girl I never knew, and about countless of other people I have never met before.

Many people have lost their lives, and many towns along the Gulf Coast - some worse off than New Orleans - will take years to rebuild.

If you could, just pray. A lot of people need it.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Another steroid bust?

On the heels of my previous post, I believe we are a mere 48 hours away from baseball being sent into a tailspin with the revelation that two or more prominent stars and faces of the game have tested positive during the 2005 season.

Although Clemens seems to be a front-runner, I'd like to add Johnny Damon, Gary Sheffield and Alfonso Soriano to the list in my previous post.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Coldplay, the King and Steroids Predictions

Note: Please check out the links embedded within my posts. Just click and it'll take you to a related article. Neato, torpedo!

*It's official: Starting on August 24, I will be a sixth grade teacher at Washington Irving Middle School. God help me.

*I caught Coldplay live for the second time in two years this past Thursday, and this concert may have been even better than the first. They played mostly from their new album, X&Y, but the entire performance was fantastic. They just flat out entertain. Period. They don't come through our neck of the woods often, thus it should be a priority of yours to see them the next time they swing through.

*In baseball news, Felix Hernandez continued his dominance Monday night. He threw 8 innings of 1 run ball while striking out 11 against the sad sacks that are the Kansas City Royals. He has allowed just two earned runs in 21 innings, has 21 k's over that span, and has only allowed a handful of fly-ball outs. Even in the single run he allowed the Royals, he allowed a pair of singles, then two consecutive fielder's choice outs that finally allowed the first runner to score. Both of the fielder's choices could have resulted in double plays with better defense.

In all, his statistics are staggering, even against the Tigers, Twins and Royals.

- In 21 innings, only 14 hitters have reached base. Eleven by single, three by walks. Hernandez has yet to allow an extra-base hit.

- The ERA stands at 0.86, the WHIP is 0.67, and the batting average against is .151. Oh, don't forget he's only thrown his slider twice in three games - and its regarded as his best pitch.

Hope on for the ride. This kid is going to be fun to watch for the next 15-20 years. And just think, I will be 35 with a house and a bunch of little McGill's by the time he even hits his prime.

*In this article, Eddie Guardado compares King Felix to former teammate Johan Santana.

*Another can't-miss prospect is BJ Upton, but unlike King Felix, Bossman Junior has to worry about two aspects to his game: hitting and fielding. So while the King trots out every fifth day and focuses his energy on throwing strikes, Upton's hitting is Major League ready, but his fielding is keeping him at AAA.

Currently, Upton has 45 errors after making 5 in the past 3 games. But if there's any doubt as to why Bossman should be kept at short, check out this video. It's about 20 seconds, and it reminds me of those Michael Vick commercials where he throws the ball 100 yards.


*As I mentioned in a previous post, its my hunch that Upton and 19-year old Delmon Young will be kept at AAA for the remainder of the year. Methinks Sweet Lou Pinella could be part of the reason, but not because he doesn't want them there. I'm beginning to wonder if Pinella is going to be canned at the end of the year, and management wants to protect the youngsters from Pinella's cranky and often demeaning managerial style.

*I still feel like there will be a couple more major steroid revelations in the coming days and weeks. Here's my potential big-name candidates. Check back in a few weeks and see if I'm right on any of these.

- Roger Clemens: The stamina is remarkable at 43 years of age. It wouldn't surprise me if he was caught of doing SOMETHING, but it also wouldn't surprise me if he was caught, that MLB would cover it up. He's a media darling, and playing in perhaps his final season.

- Todd Helton: I think its pretty evident that old Todd was on some type of performance-enhancer. He was openly accused of 'Roids, so we can take the "where there's smoke, there's fire" approach. He's been hitting well as of late, and he missed time on the DL. I've often theorized that MLB could have an under-the-table agreement to allow players to secretly serve their suspension on the DL, but thats just a loony Chuck McGill theory.

- Miguel Tejeda: I really think another Oriole is going to get busted, because the initial leak said that Raffy received the steroid from a teammate. Slammin' Sammy is too obvious, so I'm going with Miggy - who has been in a horrendous power slump - or the man below.

- Brian Roberts: At the beginning of the season, he might as well have been wearing a "I heart steroids" t-shirt. His power has been completely sucked out of him, and it correlates perfectly with when Raffy initially tested positive. I like the kid, though, so I hope he was just overswinging early in the season and returned to just being a good hitter as of late.

- Jim Thome: He's probably had sex with steroids. He's a naturally big guy - which is why I chose to leave Adam Dunn off this list - but his body is breaking down awful fast. If he's not on them now, he probably was for a couple years when he was blasting 50 homers per season.

- Austin Kearns: The demotion, the fluctuating weight and the paltry statistics point to something fishy. He has 8 homers and a .240 average, and has had a weight differential of 20 lbs. The testing is actually more stringent in the minors, so thats a good sign. Unless, of course, he tested positive before going down, and has been going through the appeals process since.

- Jason Giambi: One of only a couple active players to have admitted to steroid use in the past. Sure, he didn't use the "S-word," but we all know what he was apologizing for. I think Buster Olney believes he's on something - even if its the legal HGH - and if Buster believes it, I'm inclined to believe my hero.

- Brad Lidge: Relievers might be the most hefty users. Lidge came out of nowhere a couple years back with added velocity on his fastball. He's been lights-out of late...but is it legit?

- Eric Gagne: I'm suspicious of anyone on the left coast, especially Gagne and for the reasons I mentioned with Lidge.

- Jeff Kent: See Gagne - and bad boy Kent might be the heavy favorite of all the names mentioned here.

- Adrian Beltre: I'm going with the left coast/Dodger connection. I feel more inclined to chalk up his production last year to the infamous "contract year." He's a naturally powerful person, but the bat quickness seems to have dropped off and he's settled back into mediocre stats. I'd say little to no chance here, and perhaps the least of any of the guys mentioned.

Only time will tell.

Do you have a player prediction for steroids? Put your player(s) on my comments page, or IM me at woodshedz7.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Yet another return

I've come and gone so much I might as well be referred to as Michael Jordan. And if you aren't comfortable with calling a 5-foot-6 chubby white kid "Air Chuck," just call me Tremain Straughter - because he's in and out or prison so much he's making Pac Man look like an amateur.

My first gripe in what is sure to be a series of endless and less than poignant rants begins with all the ballyhoo circling the University of Southern California football team, who is coming off an impressive season in 2004 and a National Championship. Why do I have a gripe? Am I bitter about their success? Do I not like Pete Carroll? Do I think their colors are gay? Perhaps...but mostly it has to do with each and every preview magazine, web site and talking head discussing whether USC can three-peat as the National Champion.

*We pause while Chuck throws things and breaks a bat on his thigh*

I'm going to say this one time, and one time only. If USC is lucky enough to survive this season unscathed, or they can guide their team of 5-star skill players to the BCS title game again and escape with a victory, they will be two-time BCS National Champions. That's it.

Let me explain to you how this works, professionals. Two years ago, Nick Saban's LSU Tigers defeated Bob Stoops' Oklahoma Sooners in the BCS National Championship Game. As a reward for playing in the National Championship Game, the winner of the National Championship Game is declared - say it with me now - THE NATIONAL CHAMPION! It's truly an amazing concept, but in what is now beyond me, it seems too complex for anyone to grasp.

You may say, "Well, Air Chuck, didn't USC win the AP National Title that year?"

*We pause while his Airness throws his cat across the room and bangs his head on his desk*

Yes, it is true that LSU's reward as the BCS National Championship and an automatic spot atop the Coaches Poll. And yes, its true that the always-knowledgable sportswriters decided to protest the system and place USC No. 1. Hell, USC may have even deserved to be considered the best team in the land, but that's not the point. Even if the know-it-alls were referring to a three-peat of the AP, its impossible, because the AP has pulled out of the BCS equation and will not be a recognized poll this year, so its impossible for USC to win three straight there, as well.

USC wasn't a co-champion two years ago. The system set up by the NCAA did not place them in the title game, therefore they didn't have a chance at the title. If they had beat Cal, they would have been unbeaten and in the title game. They did not, and the system determined they were No. 3.

Even USA Today had a front page story giving pub to USC and the potential three-peat, and they sponsor the Coaches Poll and BCS Champion - which means they handed LSU the trophy two years ago, when USC won this phantom title.

Good luck to USC in 2005. I think they have an oustanding chance to go back-to-back-to...

Well, just back-to-back.

*In baseball news, I watched Felix Hernandez's first home start in its entirity on Tuesday night. I've watched a fair share of baseball in my day, and his stuff is on par with anyone. He tossed eight scoreless innings, and went 1-2-3 in six of the eight innings. He gave up five hits, all singles. He didn't walk a batter. Oh, and he's 19. Enjoy the ride, folks.

*The Devil Rays seem content to let their best hitter - Delmon Young - toil at AAA for the remainder of the season and for a good portion of next season. They have a glut of outfield talent in Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Joey Gathright, Aubrey Huff and Jonny Gomes, with Young and Elijah Dukes in the minors. Methinks a trade in the offseason is the most likely, as Huff will be in his walk-year and Gathright doesn't fit in with the teams needs, as Crawford, Baldelli, Upton and Lugo can all run.

*By the way, Crawford has the sixth most hits all-time for anyone at age 24. I think he made the right choice passing up a football scholarship to Nebraska and a basketball scholarship to UCLA.

*WVU has a kicker. A really, really, really good kicker. Welcome, Mr. McAfee.

*I received my student teaching assignment. I will make my debut under the bright lights of Washington Irving Middle School in Clarksburg. Get out your radar guns.

*And finally, Moneyball has been topped. I never thought it would happen, but Jerry Crasnick's "License to Deal" is far and away the best baseball book I've ever come across. It chronicles the life and times of the underdog sports agents who try to compete with Scott Boras and Co. Crasnick is a solid writer, but the main character in the book - Matt Sosnick - carries it from cover to cover. Highly recommended for the baseball fanatics out there.

*Thanks for reading. The two-week layoff came as I attended my little sister's wedding and took a week-long vacation to Myrtle. Feel free to leave comments.