Friday, February 25, 2011

Can Tampa Bay Raise Expectations for 2011?

If 2008 was a miracle, then 2010 was destiny. Having added Rafael Soriano as the closer to fortify one of the best starting rotations in the big leagues, coupled with key off- and pre-season signings of Jason Bartlett, B.J. Upton, John Jaso, Sean Rodriguez, and Ben Zobrist (among others), the Tampa Bay Rays had lots to be excited about. Anything less than a playoff berth would've been a disappointment. This time around, it was different. No longer could the Rays sneak up on the Yankees, Red Sox, and practically everyone else in baseball. They had to play like an elite team, and they did, but not without some bumps in the road. Sure, the Pat Burrell experiment didn’t work out. And yeah, "Big Game" James Shields lost his mojo as the season wound down. But the Rays scratched and clawed their way into the postseason and, ultimately, the number one seed in the AL playoffs, having won the division on the final day. Unfortunately for them, the Rays ran into a rested, hungrier version of themselves in the Texas Rangers. During the American League Divisional Series, their offense fell flatter than day old soda. In a heartbreaking five-game series, which saw the road team win every game for the first time, Tampa Bay could not come through in the clutch. Season over. Destiny denied.

Once the offseason rolled in, the dominoes started to fall. The first to go was Joaquin Benoit, the Rays' 8th inning setup man, who signed a 3-year deal with the Detroit Tigers. First baseman Carlos Peña signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs, and starting pitcher Matt Garza joined him a month later. Shortstop Jason Bartlett was (eventually) traded to the San Diego Padres. Sparsely used catcher Dioner Navarro literally walked away from the team, and he was later picked up by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Several key relief pitchers like Grant Balfour, Randy Choate, Dan Wheeler, and Rafael Soriano signed deals with other teams. To cap it off, long-time Rays outfielder Rocco Baldelli officially retired at the age of 29 due to a chronic medical condition that severely limits his physical capabilities to play professional baseball at full strength.

But all that paled in comparison when outfielder Carl Crawford, arguably the face of the Tampa Bay franchise since he made his major league debut in 2002, signed a 7-year, $142 million deal with the Boston Red Sox, a key divisional rival. So much for Crawford being an Angel in the outfield at Anaheim.

However, the Rays didn't stay dormant while gathering around the hot stove. They signed one-year deals for pithcer Kyle Farnsworth, and outfielders B.J. Upton, Johnny Damon, and Manny Ramirez (among others).

For Tampa Bay, it's a sobering conclusion to end what was the 2010 season.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Daytona 500 Win a Blessing for Bayne, NASCAR

"Are you kidding me?!"

That's the sentiment not only expressed by practically all of NASCAR and it's fans (in a good way), it's also what NASCAR rookie Trevor Bayne said over the radio in just his second Sprint Cup start as he took the checkered flag in the fifty third Daytona 500.

In just his second start.

Bayne's victory ties a record for the fewest starts between a win with Jamie McMurray (last year's Daytona 500 winner), who won as a replacement driver for Sterling Marlin back in 2002.

Also, at 20 years and 1 day old, Bayne obliterated the previous record for youngest Daytona 500 winner, long held by Jeff Gordon, who won the Great American race back in 1997 at 25 years and 196 days old.

While not the youngest winner of a Sprint Cup race (Joey Logano holds that distinction at 19 years and 31 days when he won a rain-shortened race in June 2009), he has the same number of career victories as Logano does: one. But this one is going to be too remarkable to forget, for both him and the sport.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I Was At the 2001 Daytona 500

I was at the infamous Daytona 500 ten years ago today, and it's a decision me and my family made that left a personal mark for me on this tragedy.

At the time, I was homeschooled by my mother in central Florida and my father had a lot of flexibility with his work schedule as a pharmacist. As such, we planned several "mini vacations" throughout the course of a normal school year. One of those decisions was to go up to Daytona Beach for the opening weekend of the NASCAR series. It included us getting tickets to see the NAPA Auto Parts 300 in the Busch Series (won by Randy LaJoie) and the aforementioned Daytona 500. We had seats maybe 20-30 rows up, and just to the right of the start/finish line looking out towards the race track.

As far as the Busch Series opener goes, it was marred by ominous gray clouds and a prolonged rain storm that eventually put the race out for about an hour and a half. Actually, we left about halfway through the red flag because my parents thought the delay would never end. It did, and we saw just 15 laps of the race. By the time we went to eat out and returned to our hotel room, the race was nearing the end of it's conclusion. Turns out, we missed a crash on the penultimate lap which all but secured the victory for LaJoie. I was disappointed that we saw so little of this race, and my parents decided that we'd see tomorrow's Daytona 500 in its entirety.

The following day had much better weather and, from the looks of it, was bound to be a great day.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rock On... Discerning Genuine Love

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, or Single Awareness Day for some people, and it's always an interesting time of year. Couples either strengthen, or they crash and burn. Two people may commit themselves to marriage, or one (or both) may tell the other to get mentally committed. Whichever way the pointer swings, one thing is for sure: relationships make or break based on love. But what is love? It's a question asked for millennia, from philosophers to novelists to contemporary musicians. It's an even bigger kettle of fish when people mistake "love", or infatuation, for love. Almost everyone wants to be in a fulfilling, lifelong relationship, and the only way to achieve that is for both people to accept each other unconditionally as possible. But how do you know if a relationship is true or not? Below, I give you my six points defining what love is and isn't. Please use these tidbits to better yourself, your significant other, or anyone else who wants to know if your/their relationship is built upon a steady rock or shifting sand. Godspeed.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentine's Day Playlists Inspired by the 1980s

I'll say it once, and I'll say several times over on this blog. I love the music of the 1980s. I grew up on the music from the 1980s. And I wholeheartedly believe there has never been a more revolutionary decade in the way we see and hear music today. Part of that reason is the pure raw emotion you can hear from those vocalists, putting their heart and soul into their records – something that is profoundly missing from contemporary musicians of the 21st century. There is no other holiday celebrating a wide array of emotions like Valentine's Day, or Single's Awareness Day as some put it. Whether you're celebrating love, suffering from heartache, or holding out hope for that special someone, there's a vast number of songs to fit your mood. As a 1980s music connoisseur, I give you my personal 11-track playlists for the secure, for the scorned, and for the seekers to commemorate February 14. Enjoy.

For the Secure
*"The Way You Make Me Feel" by Michael Jackson, Bad
*"Hypnotize Me" by Wang Chung, Mosaic
*"Girl You Know It's True" by Milli Vanilli, Girl You Know It's True
*"Crazy for You" by Madonna, Vision Quest (soundtrack)
*"Together Forever" by Rick Astley, Whenever You Need Somebody
*"Keep On Loving You" by REO Speedwagon, Hi Infidelity
*"Shake You Down" by Gregory Abbott, Shake You Down
*"Hands to Heaven" by Breathe, All That Jazz
*"Endless Love" by Lionel Riche & Diana Ross, Endless Love (soundtrack)
*"Right Here Waiting" by Richard Marx, Repeat Offender
*"Faithfully" by Journey, Frontiers

For the Sullen
*"Love Stinks" by The J. Geils Band, Love Stinks
*"Shattered Dreams" by Johnny Hates Jazz, Turn Back the Clock
*"Everything She Wants" by Wham!, Make It Big
*"Wot's It to Ya" by Robbie Nevil, Robbie Nevil
*"Don't Wanna Fall in Love" by Jane Child, Jane Child
*"If You Leave" by OMD, Pretty In Pink (soundtrack)
*"You Keep Me Hangin' On" by Kim Wilde, Another Step
*"Tainted Love" by Soft Cell, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret
*"What Have You Done For Me Lately" by Janet Jackson, Control
*"Heaven Help Me" by Deon Estus, Spell
*"Missing You" by John Waite, No Brakes

For the Seekers
*"Lost In Love" by Air Supply, Lost In Love
*"Addicted To Love" by Robert Palmer, Riptide
*"The Power of Love" by Huey Lewis & the News, Back to the Future (soundtrack)
*"Everlasting Love" by Howard Jones, Cross That Line
*"I Want to Know What Love Is" by Foreigner, Agent Provocateur
*"One More Try" by George Michael, Faith
*"Looking For a New Love" by Jody Watley, Jody Watley
*"Someday" by Glass Tiger, The Thin Red Line
*"What About Love" by Heart, Heart
*"Love Changes (Everything)" by Climie Fisher, Everything
*"When I'm Back On My Feet Again" by Michael Bolton, Soul Provider

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mubarak Officially Walks Like an Egyptian Scorned Out of Office

After thirty years as the political head of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak officially resigned his post today, thus severing the longest presidential tenure in the history of the country.

But it was not without controversy. Why? The same people that had voted him in all these years finally decided that he had worn out his welcome.

And if you were in their shoes, you'd probably feel the same way, too.

More than half of Egypt's population lives on less than two dollars per day. Basic human rights, such as the right to free speech and various means of communication, were suppressed. Corruption was on the rise. Job growth was stunted. Mubarak himself promised reform, but he never followed through. (Hmmm, some of this stuff sounds familiar.) Overall, democracy was practically non-existent.

It was high time to make a stand.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

S.C. Woman Abandons Delivered Baby in Arena Bathroom

Last Friday night, an enjoyable night at the circus in Greenville, South Carolina has turned into a high-wire act of survival for a newborn. A woman is reported to have given birth in a bathroom stall sometime during (or after) the performance, and she abandoned her new baby boy there. The child was found several hours later by cleanup crew members at the Bi-Lo Center, which is where the event was hosted.

As of Tuesday night, the child is in critical condition, where he is being treated for hypothermia.

Personally, I can only hope and pray the child fully recovers from this montrosity and finds a loving mother who won't dump him, because his biological mother has shown no regard for his life. Children are born social beings who need the tender touch and bonding of their mother (primarily) in order to survive in this world appropriately. And don't get on my case that his mother will change. She won't. If she can't take accountability for bringing a child into this world, then what right has she to raise him up accordingly? It's bad enough some children end up with lousy parents. It's a horse of another color to be deserted by the one person that brought them into this world.

Speaking of this woman, whoever she is, her demeanor is deplorable, and she needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. Laws and agencies designed for child protection services are in place for a reason, and a failure to comply with either of them are grounds to lose one's child(ren). And her thinking? She wasn't thinking. I understand giving birth in an arena bathroom stall for her is an abnormal circumstance, but it's even more abnormal to leave the child like a piece of excrement to be flushed out of her life. At the very least, she should've called her husband or boyfriend or, gee, I don't know, maybe even 911 to help both of them receive initial care. I'm just amazed that people like her are allowed to procreate.

This just goes to show that there are simply too many freaks in the world and not enough spots in the circus for them all to join. Or, in this woman's case, jail.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

37 Facts About the Number 37

In honor of my favorite number, 37, I present to y'all 37 facts that involve the number 37. I kid you not...

*All American Express cards start with the number 37 (or 34)
*Richard Nixon was the 37th President of the United States of America
*Thriller by Michael Jackson spent 37 non-consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200 during its tenure
*There have been 37 as-of-yet unidentified radio signals received from outer space
*"Normal" human body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius
*The Green Monster at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts is 37 feet tall
*SPAM was invented in 1937
*37 is the smallest irregular prime number
*William Shakespeare wrote 37 plays in his lifetime (10 histories, 10 tragedies, 17 comedies)
*People who died at age 37 include artist Vincent Van Gogh, comedian Mitch Hedberg, baseball player Lou Gehrig, Archduchess Marie Antoinette, and poet Dylan Thomas
*The human hand is moved by 37 skeletal muscles
*There are 37 bars in the digits of a digital watch
*Psalm 37 is one of the few psalms in the Bible that are acrostic (i.e., the first letter of every other verse is a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet)
*The 37th Pillsbury Bake-Off, held February 27, 1996, was won by Kurt Wait of Redwood City, California, a.k.a. contestant #37
*The first score in Super Bowl history was a 37-yard touchdown pass from Green Bay Packer quarterback Bart Starr to receiver Max McGee
*The Hindenburg took 37 seconds to burn (coincidentally, in 1937)
*Abraham Lincoln was first elected to the House of Representatives at age 37
*Amelia Earhart disappeared in 1937
*Joshua Slocum, in 1895, became the first person to sail solo around the world; he did so in a 37-foot sailboat
*37 seconds elapsed between the sighting of the iceberg and its collision with the Titanic
*The "number of the beast", 666, is divisible by 37
*Super Bowl XXXVII (37) was won by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Oakland Raiders, 48-21, in 2003
*Caligula became the third Roman emperor on March 16, 37 A.D.
*37 is the atomic number of rubidium
*February 6 will always be the 37th day in a Gregorian calendar year
*37, biblically speaking, means that the Word comes from the almighty God
*In "The Deal", a second season episode of Seinfeld, Elaine says to have slept with Jerry 37 times prior to the show's beginning
*There are 37 slots in European Roulette
*I-37 is located in Texas, and it stretches from Corpus Christi to San Antonio
*The most wins in a single season of men's college basketball is 37, held by Duke (1986, 1999), UNLV (1987), Illinois-Champaign (2005), and Kansas (2008)
*9/11 occurred during the 37th week in the calendar year of 2001
*There are 37 ways to make $5 using denominations of 5.00, 1.00, 0.50, and 0.25.
*There are 37 U.S. Federal Reserve Banks (12 District Banks and 25 Branch Banks)
*Bobbi McCaughey, the mother of the world's first surviving septuplets, spent 37 days in the hospital when she had the babies
*The pitcher who gave up Barry Bonds's record-breaking* 756th home run on August 7, 2007 wore number 37
*The only person in baseball to have his number 37 retired is Casey Stengel, who managed the New York Yankees and the New York Mets; both retired his number
*The United States of America won a Winter Olympic-record 37 medals at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, besting the previous record held by Germany at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, Utah by 1

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The X Greatest Super Bowl Upsets of All-Time

With about 24 hours 'til the kickoff of 'Super Bowl Sunday' between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers tomorrow, this year's contest has all the makings of a true classic. Both teams are among the oldest – and winningest – franchises in the history of the NFL. They've got potent offenses and stringent defenses. Their fan bases are notorious and passionate, each with signature paraphernalia. Unless either team wins by more than two touchdowns, history will look back on this game kindly.

However, I think it's the upsets that draw the greatest intrigue among casual and die-hard fans because they have much more taglines and stories to tell beyond the final score. And besides, who doesn't love an underdog winning it all with more skeptics than believers heading into the big game? As such, here are what I consider to be the ten greatest Super Bowl upsets of all-time. Number one may surprise you.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

5 Things I've Learned Within 1 Month (and 1 Day) of Blogging

One month and one day ago today, I established Rock Talk, my own personal blog on various topics of interest. Over a dozen original pieces of mine have been posted, from birds dropping dead out of the sky to the attempted assassination on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords to my takes on why most current relationships are flawed. And in that (short) stretch of time, I have come to realize five things about being a rookie blogger...