Friday, May 28, 2004

Sticker Shock

Sometimes, I find things so annoying and frustrating that I can’t even put it into words. And the strange thing is, in this case, the matter is so stupid and insignificant, yet it enrages me.

The topic is baseball cards. That’s right, baseball cards. Let me explain.

A couple of years ago, this company had an idea. They decided they would get collectors to mail them their baseball cards, the company would put the cards in a plastic case, put a sticker on top, and grade the card on a scale of 1 to 10. And of course charge $10 a pop. That's right, they pay $10 for a little sticker that says "MINT" or "VG" and has a number.


Why didn’t I think of that? $10 for a sticker and a plastic case. Probably because I never would have thought people were stupid enough to fall for this malarkey. Well, I was wrong and graded baseball cards are selling like hot cakes (damn that breakfast lobby!)

It is so infuriating that the entire baseball card community has swallowed this fish, hook, line and sinker. I mean do I really need someone to put my baseball card in a plastic case and tell me it is in near mint condition? I can just look at it myself and tell what condition a card is in. I mean do you have to go to some advanced school and spend years training to detect a gum stain on a 40-year-old piece of cardboard?

And the prices people are willing to pay for these graded cards are unreal. If you go on eBay, it is astounding the difference in price between a graded card and a “raw” card.

For example, a 1965 Mickey Mantle graded 8 out of 10 by PSA recently sold on eBay for $916.03. The “raw” card in the same condition sold for $77. Idiots!!

I really cannot understand how this happened, seemingly overnight. But I guess I have really never understood the hobby since it became a business.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

What a Concept?!?

I hate concept albums. They are usually self-serving, self-indulgent drivel from an artist who thinks he is more insightful and intelligent than he really is. Rarely, and I mean rarely, is a concept album better than its predecessor.

I think the problem is when a band decides to do a concept album, they are limiting themselves creatively. They have forced themselves into this little box, and if a brilliant idea comes up that is outside the box, then it is either scrapped or shelved. Either way, it is lost. I will never understand why artists would pigeonhole themselves like that. I guess the one exception is Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime. Let’s look at some other examples however.

Savatage was coming into their own in the late 80s. 1987’s Hall of the Mountain King and 1989’s Gutter Ballet were arguably the best consecutive albums from an American metal band at the time. Then, they thought they were too good for a regular album and released Streets: A Rock Opera. This piece of crap is so campy, so trite, and so just plain stoo-pid, that it is a joke.

How about Fates Warning? I thought Inside Out was their best album to date when it came out in 1994; the two before it (Parallels and Perfect Symmetry) were also great. Then comes the concept album, A Pleasant Shade of Grey. Yaaaaaaaawwwwwn.

Even the great Iron Maiden tried the concept album with Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. While I certainly like it, it is clear to me that this is the worst album the band has ever released with Adrian Smith in the lineup.

I’m sure there are other examples of crappy concept albums from otherwise good bands that you can find in your CD collection as well.

This brings me to the point of this post. I recently picked up Evergrey’s new album, The Inner Circle. This is their fifth album and until this point, the band has improved with each release. Their fourth album, Recreation Day, was really an outstanding effort, and I was even considering trying to see them next time they came around. With a wife and two little kids, I rarely go to shows, so I don’t go to shows on a whim anymore.

Well, not to worry, I will not need to plan an evening out. The Inner Circle is yet another concept album, from yet another band whose sense of self-importance and self-righteousness has become more important than making a good metal album. So it seems, Evergrey’s nice run is over.

Now Into Eternity is a different story, for now.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Know What I Mean - Vern?

My first three blogs were basically bitching sessions, so I thought I would write in praise of something. Now, before you get excited, it is not a commentary of the joys of the Internal Revenue Code, nor is it something as exciting as the deliciousness of lemonade (that cool refreshing drink).

The topic is Vern Stephens.

Stephens was a shortstop for the St. Louis Browns and Boston Red Sox from 1942 to 1951 (he played another few years, but he was not productive).

He was an 8 time all star, and more telling of his greatness, he finished in the top 7 in AL MVP voting 5 times. Contemporaries of Stephens who are in the Hall of Fame (and coincidently, more famous) are Phil Rizzuto and Pee Wee Reese. (Note: I am of the opinion that anyone named Pee Wee has no business in any Hall of Fame other than the dweeb hall of fame)

Just using the two indicators, all star selection and top 7 MVP voting, we see Rizzuto and Reese fall short (no pun intended) of Stephens. Rizzuto was a 5 time all star and finished in the top 7 MVP voting three times. Reese, although a 10 time all star, only finished in the top 7 in MVP voting 3 times.

Now, it is clear that, Reese and Rizzuto were better defensive shortstops and their teams were perennial winners, but despite his average defense, Stephens was an outstanding offensive shortstop. Baseball geeks point to a statistic called Adjusted OPS+. Without boring the reader further, suffice it to say that the top 5 players in career Adjusted OPS+ are Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig, and Rogers Hornsby. So take it from me, it is a legit stat. It is essentially the player’s on base average plus his slugging average.

For his career, and that includes some poor years at the end of his career, Stephens career OPS was 19% better than that of his contemporaries. Rizzuto and Reese both finished their career with OPS below the average of their contemporaries.

So, while I have no intention of arguing that Reese and Rizzuto do not belong in the HOF, it is clear to me that if they are, then Stephens belongs as well.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Why Don Corleone, and Every Other Decent Italian, Hates Tony Soprano

I have had this argument more times than I care to remember. My brother-in-law still cannot believe I hate the Sopranos. After all, I’m Italian, and I love the Godfather, so The Sopranos seems like a natural.

How can you like The Godfather and hate the Sopranos? Well, let me tell you all, I hate the Sopranos, and so would Don Corleone.

Before I continue, I am not on of these Italian Americans that say mafia movies ruin the reputation of Italians. I live in New Jersey; I know plenty of Italian Americans who do a good enough job on their own without Hollywood’s help.

So, why does Don Corleone hate Tony Soprano? There are plenty of reasons. Let’s take some quotes. When Johnny Fontaine is crying in the don’s office at Connie’s wedding, Vito asks Johnny, “Do you spend time with your family”. Johnny replies, “Sure I do.” Then the don says:

“Good, any man who doesn’t spend time with his family could never be a real man.”

Not very Tony Soprano, who spends half his time at a nudie bar.

Next, at the meeting with The Turk, Sonny makes a costly error by “speaking when he should listen”. The Don blames this foolishness on Sonny’s infidelity with “that girl” Lucy. Again, this is something Tony Soprano would never say to his child. Tony Soprano would certainly approve of Santino’s behavior.

I think it is pretty clear how the don would feel about Tony Soprano. Pretty much the same way I feel about him, that he has no honor, no courage and the he is definitely, not a real man.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Master of Reality - A Mediocre EP

I wrote a similar review for this album on some metal site, but I think this is an appropriate forum for this information as well.

Master of Reality is hailed by many Sabbath fans as their greatest work. What??? I think Technical Ecstasy is far better (and that includes Bill Ward’s horrendous – Told you once about your friends and neighbors…PUKE) sorry for the tangent there.

Anyway back to Master of Reality. Let’s break it down. At first glance you have 8 tracks. Take away the 2 pointless and silly instrumentals Embryo and Orchid and you have 6. Solitude is a joke; it is almost as bad as – Told you once about your friends and neighbors…PUKE again.

So, we are left with 5. That’s right, a supposedly full-length album with 5 real songs on it. Now of those 5, included is After Forever, the original Christian Rock song. (Would you like to see the pope on the end of a rope?) What was Iommi smoking when he wrote this one?

Into the Void goes on and on and goes nowhere. A good friend of mine once called this song a compilation killer. He put it on a mix tape (yes it was years ago) and then had to fast forward over it every time he played the tape, until I threw it out of his car window. It’s too long, and just plain dull.

Lord of this World, Sweet Leaf and Children of the Grave are all legitimate Sabbath classics, but three songs does not a classic album make, as Yoda may have said.

Finally, lest I forget, Master of Reality will be forever marred by that geigh outro in Children of the Grave. What was that? Whispering? Were they serious?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Ryan Express – Train of Fools

You may remember sometime back, Major League Baseball pulled a promotional stunt called “The All Century Team”. This was basically, the fans voting on who they thought were the best players of all time at each position. Well, the results showed how much the average fan knows and well, they know little. The most telling item of their folly was Nolan Ryan being voted as the best pitcher of all time.


Now the case against Ryan is strong. His walk totals, failures in the post season, never won a Cy Young award, etc. The case for him is like Swiss cheese (it has holes in it and it stinks). The strikeouts are impressive, but does the fact that he is the all time leader in strikeouts (and walks) really make him the best pitcher of all time? Would you call Bert Blyleven the 5th best pitcher of all time? He threw 7 no hitters. Impressive, but even Dick Bosman threw a no hitter. I would say Ryan belongs in the vicinity of number 40, somewhere near Bert Blyleven and Don Sutton, on the “All Century Team”.

So instead of quoting the facts of Ryan’s mediocrity (only 2 20 win seasons, all time leader in walks, 3rd all time in losses, etc.) ad nauseam, I will recollect one game in which he showed his true colors.

The date is October 12, 1980. The place is the Astrodome. In the final game of the National League Championship Series, where the winner wins the NL flag and the loser goes home, Ryan showed his true colors.

The score was 2-2. In the bottom of the seventh, Ryan’s Astros plated 3 runs giving them a 5-2 lead and the NL Championship in their sights. All they needed were six outs. The top of the eighth opens with the fans choice for greatest pitcher of all time on the hill, and the rest is history…..

Ryan gave up three hits and a walk to the only four batters he faced that inning. All 4 runners scored and the Phillies went on to win the World Series.


Why am I doing this, I don't know - someone sent me a link. So, I know I have a lot to say about numerous subjects, but who really cares, I mean why am I wasting my time doing this? Well I do not know, but I know I have something to say about something so soon I'll say it.

Gripping aren't I?