Monday, March 31, 2008

MLB 2008 Season Preview

My favorite time of year officially starts today: the 2008 baseball season. (I know, it officially started last week with the Red Sox-A's series in Japan, and continued with last night's Braves-Nationals game, but for me, the season hasn't started until the Yankees open up.) Here's a list of vague predictions for the league this year:

AL East:
1. Boston Red Sox -- This division is now a three-team race. The Red Sox are the favorites, of course--they're the champions until someone else takes it away from them.
2. New York Yankees -- The Yankees have two young starters in their rotation (and that could jump to three by year's end) and an entirely new coaching staff, but they still have the raw talent to make a good run at knocking the Sox from their division perch.
3. Toronto Blue Jays -- They made some good moves this offseason, and if the Red Sox and Yankees can't keep their rotations healthy, they could surprise and win this division yet.
4. Tampa Bay Rays -- No longer the joke of the league, but they're not quite contenders yet.
5. Baltimore Orioles -- The new joke of the league. Could lead the majors in losses. Still looking to trade away top talent. Incompetent management that starts in the owner's box.

AL Central:
1. Detroit Tigers -- Arguably this year's most improved team, and they weren't too shabby to start with. My pick for this year's World Series team from the AL, with their only question mark being their closer if Zumaya can't stay healthy and dominant. Todd Jones won't pick up last year's save total if he can't improve last year's ERA.
2. Cleveland Indians -- If they don't steal the division from Detroit, they're a lock for the AL wild card spot. Great rotation + great hitting = a very good team.
3. Chicago White Sox -- A solid team that won't be a serious contender, but watch out for them to play spoiler on some other contending teams late in the season.
4. Minnesota Twins -- Santana is gone, Liriano's health is a question mark, and their #3 starter is a guy named Boof. Sorry, Twin Cities, even adding the Meathook's kid brother to the lineup with the M&M Boys won't be enough to get you into contention this year.
5. Kansas City Royals -- Just like every year, they'll develop some great young talent who will then flee to larger markets and bigger paychecks. If baseball implemented a salary cap, maybe one day they could climb out of this spot.

AL West:
1. Anaheim Angels -- I still refuse to use this team's super-long new "official" name. Sometimes I even call them the California Angels. I miss Gene Mauch. Oh yeah, they're a lock to finish first in this weak division, even if Kelvim Escobar has to have his pitching arm amputated.
2. Seattle Mariners -- King Felix might be the best starter in the game right now. Ichiro will have an all-star caliber year (yet again). But that's nowhere near enough to catch the Angels.
3. Oakland A's -- Suffered some key losses this offseason. You never know what Billy Beane prospect is going to catch fire this year, and they've got a couple of good pitches, but this team is, for all intents and purposes, rebuilding this year.
4. Texas Rangers -- Also in a rebuilding year. They won't make any noise in '08.

NL East:
1. New York Mets -- Adding Johan Santana to their rotation makes them the favorite for this division, and probably for the entire NL. But there's always the chance they could choke. I mean again.
2. Philadelphia Phillies -- They added a closer, albeit an injured one, and their only real loss (Aaron Rowand) will be offset by the emergence of Shane Victorino. They're just waiting for the Mets to make a mistake.
3. Atlanta Braves -- They won't go away. This division will be a three-team race for most of the year. Bobby Cox knows three things: how to hold his liquor, how to keep his woman in line, and how to be a perennial contender.
4. Washington Nationals -- They're getting better, but I just don't see them in the playoff picture yet. Another potential spoiler team down the stretch. If they don't get to .500 this year, they won't miss it by much.
5. Florida Marlins -- Another rebuilding team. Not much more to say.

NL Central:
1. Chicago Cubs -- They could be the highest producing offense in the NL this season. Their question mark is keeping their pitchers healthy. If they can do that, they just might go to the big show in October.
2. Milwaukee Brewers -- The Brew Crew's youngsters are absolutely coming into their own this season. They'll be there to keep the Cubs honest, and if Chicago's pitching falls apart, could be this year's dark horse division champ.
3. Cincinnati Reds -- This year's candidate for Most Improved Team. They won't threaten anyone, but they're on the upswing.
4. St. Louis Cardinals -- They have some offense, but a poor and often-injured pitching staff will keep them from achieving much this year.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates -- See Kansas City Royals above.
6. Houston Astros -- Valverde is a solid closer, but Tejada is washed up and lost without his 'roids.

NL West:
1. Arizona Diamondbacks -- My pick to win this division, despite the continued presence of Randy Johnson in the rotation. Webb and Haren will more than make up for him. If they can bury the Big Cancer during the postseason, they might just make the World Series.
2. Colorado Rockies -- They might not have the success they had in 2007 (especially the late-season run), but they're still going to make some noise.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers -- Joe Torre is still missing a few pieces, but he's got the managerial skills to keep this team on the radar for most of this season.
4. San Diego Padres -- Good pitching, but lacking the offensive output to make the playoffs this year. Trevor Hoffman has at least one more great year left in him.
5. San Francisco Giants -- This team's play is as limp as the wrists know what? I'm not going to go there. Barry Bonds's departure is a blessing in disguise, as no one will be paying attention to how lousy this team is this year. Could compete with Baltimore for the worst record in baseball.

ALDS: Tigers over Angels, Red Sox over Indians
ALCS: Tigers over Red Sox
NLDS: Diamondbacks over Mets, Cubs over Rockies
NLCS: Diamondbacks over Cubs
World Series: Tigers over Diamondbacks

Hat tip to my good buddy Pat for pointing out that I originally had same-division teams playing each other in the ALDS.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Enemies List: Delmarva Power

This one's personal, not political. My utility company sends out its meter readers during the normal 9-to-5 workday, when I'm out of the house. My gas meter is in the basement, so they can't read it. About once a year, they'll jack up their estimate to get my attention, and I'll phone in the correct meter reading (which always ends up with me having a credit balance on my gas bill.)

But this year, I switched my electric provider to another company under Delaware's (relatively) new utility-choice program. Now, all of a sudden, my phoned-in reading isn't good enough, and they have to set up a meter reading appointment, based on 4 hour blocks. The first one starts at 8 AM (when I leave for work) and the last one starts at 4 PM (when I'm not home from work). Therefore, to get my punitively high (about $800) gas bill back to where it should be, I'm forced to either take time off from work, or else schedule them for the 4-8 PM block and hope they don't get there before about 6:00. I could make the case that I'm being punished for having a job and living alone, but the timing of this move seems to suggest that I'm being punished for ditching their excessive power rates and choosing a different supplier. Oddly enough, they're allowed to withhold payments from my supplier until I either correct the gas reading or pay their gas bill extortion inflation.

And what's worse than that is their ignorant and rude customer service staff. I was shuffled all around their phone system while trying to call in the meter reading/schedule the appointment, and every single one of them had a bad attitude, and...shall we say...a rather uneducated dialect. A helpful hint for future hiring practices: a supervisor in customer relations can "ask" me anything she wants, but should never, EVER try to "axe" me a question. Likewise, I want to schedule "an" appointment, not "a" appointment. Bill Cosby would not approve.

If you're a customer of this outfit that has been treated as poorly as I have, there is hope. You don't have to set up a Google bomb to make their site spring to the top of the results when you search for "hunk of shit". Instead, just keep your cool on the phone with their dropouts, and when you've finished, fill out this form to register a complaint with the state regulators, like I did. If enough of us fill out complaints, they will eventually have to take notice and make this monopoly behave itself.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Security Cartoons: So Bad They're Funny

I just got a link to a cartoon site from a colleague here at work. The catch? They're intended to educate end users about security-related issues (like e-mail viruses and phishing). The info is good, but the presentation is, for lack of a better word, terrible. Fortunately, it's so terrible that it comes all the way back around and ends up as hilarious unintentional comedy. I've been sitting here for the better part of twenty minutes reading one of these cartoons after the other. They're funny in a similar way as Pokey the Penguin, except the hilarity is accidental rather than ironic.

Friday, March 21, 2008

ObaMack-Daddy, Part 2

This video is long, but hilariously funny. Especially because it's of a pastor saying the word "tits" in a sermon. Yes, my sense of humor does have a sophomoric streak.

Hat tip to

ObaMack-Daddy, Part 1

We all know what Don Imus said--here's what presidential candidate Barack Obama thought should happen to someone who made a bad joke:

In case you somehow missed it, here is (in my mind) the most provocative of the statements made by Obama's own pastor of many years, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

And here's Barack's condemnation of the man who calls for God to damn America:

Just sayin'.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

March Madness 2008

It's that time again--the only time of year when I'll watch basketball. I haven't watched the NBA regularly since Jordan retired (the first time)--he's the best player who'll ever come around in my lifetime; why bother with pretenders to the throne? (And yes, I did watch LeBron James's first game, and was unimpressed. Ditto for MJ's comeback with the Wizards.) But I do enjoy the college game--hungry young kids who haven't yet earned their mega-million dollar payday, who actually play defense, and who actually get called when they travel with the ball. I entered into a bracket-picking league (on Yahoo), but I didn't have the stones to actually put money on it this year. And somehow I ended up with my worst bracket ever--all four #1 seeds reaching the Final Four, no seed lower than 3 in the Elite 8, and my biggest upset #7 West Virginia over #2 Duke in the second round. I should have watched more of the conference tournaments to get ready for this one--I only saw a couple of games last Sunday. For the record, my finals pick is Memphis over Kansas to win it all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spitzer? I Hardly Know Her!

N.Y Gov. Eliot Spitzer, seen at left describing one of his sessions with high-priced call girls, is set to resign today.

I know I should feel bad for his wife and daughters (the oldest of whom isn't much younger than the women he was messing around with), but I can't help but feel a little smug watching this sawed-off little hypocrite crash and burn. For all his reputation as an "anti-corruption crusader", his most high-profile "cause" was one of the utmost importance: making sure radio DJs don't receive free beer or concert tickets from record companies.

When The Spitz's resignation takes effect on Monday, the country is going to have its first known blind governor. I think it would be funny and yet somehow appropriate if they switched in a copy of the Kama Sutra on him for the inauguration ceremony.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Oxy Morons

Another nominee for the Darwin Awards.

Seriously, I just can't muster up a lot of sympathy for someone who steals a cancer patient's pain medicine. Yes, I know the one who died didn't do the actual stealing, but I'm sure he asked his buddy, "Where'd you get the pills?" before ingesting him into his body. And if he didn't, then this outcome was inevitable anyway.

Maybe I'm just cranky because my own (cold) pills are wearing off. Almost time to go to the drugstore and pass a background check to prove that I'm not a meth dealer just so I can get some medicine that actually works.