Wednesday, February 22, 2006
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
Twins AND Idol Thoughts!
Good morning everyone! Well, two great things are upon us. One, the start of spring training and all of the great articles from mainstream media outlets to the Twins blogosphere. And secondly... we're finally to the voting-off stages of American Idol. Today, I am going to be posting thoughts on each. I would love to hear your thoughts and/or comments on either topic, so I will have a couple of areas for Comments so as not to combine topics, but also you are all welcome to e-mail me and I will try to respond in a somewhat timely manner.
Twins Thoughts & Articles
Here are some links to some great Twins, and baseball, related articles from yesterday and today. Again, feel free to leave some comments, or e-mail me if anything strikes your attention or causes an opinion.
The Strib's Lavelle E. Neal discusses the position battle for a left-handed relief pitcher role for the Twins in 2006. He discusses Darrell May, Gabe White and Dennys Reyes, all veterans brought in on minor league contracts. He does a good job of discussing the three, however, I would think that a brief mention of Ricky Barrett, Dave Gassner or even a cursory Francisco Liriano mention would have been appropriate. I do like that he mentions, and Gardy and Terry Ryan acknowledge, that it is also possible that the team would go without a lefty reliever!
The Strib also took an article from the AP with some quick thoughts on a number of big league teams. It mentions that former Twin Cristian Guzman has laser eye surgery in the offseason and is hoping that it will help him hit better in 2006. Well, it won't take much to be an improvement over his lackluster 2005 season with the Nationals, but will it be enough for him to hold off Royce Clayton for the starting shortstop position?
of mlb.com's Philadelphia Phillies beat writer
Ken Mandel discusses Jimmy Rollins and his self-confidence.
Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel compared him favorably to
Kirby Puckett. Here is what was written:
Asked about the most confident player he's ever been around, Manuel paused, and said: "Kirby Puckett. He was my favorite player."
"I'd ask him how he was hitting, and he'd say 'good,'" Manuel said. "I'd say, 'you're 0-for-20. He'd say, 'I'm still hitting good, just watch me.
"I saw Kirby make $500 dollars a month, and $6 million. He was the same guy, with the same smile, the same energy, every ball he ran out. He had every ingredient."
Manuel said the Hall-of-Famer
recently boasted that he could still hit .275 with a bad eye. He
sees some of that swagger in his young shortstop.
The Twins mlb.com beat writer is Kelly Thesier. Yesterday, she wrote a great article on the 5th starter dual between Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker.
Also, in Kelly's Notes article after yesterday's practices, she included thoughts on the quiet Rondell White slipping into practice, and Michael Cuddyer only needing one glove for spring training. However, the interesting bit of information that she talked about was the fact that Jose Mijares has not yet reported to training camp. It is alarming to me when she quotes Ron Gardenhire as saying, "We are in the process of tracking him down to find out what's going on. We don't know when he'll be in." Hopefully he reports soon and nothing is wrong! I am concerned because if he was having problems securing a Visa, the Twins would be aware of that.
David Dorsey does a very nice job covering the Ft. Myers Miracle for The News-Press of Ft. Myers. He did a Q&A for this site in early November. He is writing daily articles for the paper about spring training now as well. He wrote a great article on all of the players who played for the Miracle last year who are participating in training camp. Yesterday, he wrote a fun article on the first day of training camp. I am finding his articles great because he is familiar with those young players, and he is getting quotes from those guys, rather than the veterans that the Twin Cities papers go after.
By the way, I would be remiss not to mention the Dickie Thon Twins Fan Forum where you can read great dialogue on a number of Twins topics. For fun spring training updates, be sure to check out the Spring Training 06 - Featuring Hallsey Hall's on-site reports. Very fun and interesting perspective on the day's events.
Aaron Gleeman reviews the book The Mind of Bill James. James, of course, is the original baseball stat-guy who helped revolutionize the way some baseball people think about statistics. The book is the James biography, written by Scott Gray.
Today, Pat Neshek discusses the food in the spring training clubhouse, and his first bullpen session of training camp. Interesting as always.
Nick & Nick points out that it is probably not wise to compare Francisco Liriano to Johan Santana. He compares that to the media diving into the M&M Boys nickname for Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau a year ago and how that may have affected them. He makes good points.
As you know, every year Baseball American ranks the top 30 prospects from each organization. In their magazine, they highlight the Top 10 from each. And then right about the time Spring Training starts, they announce their Top 100 prospects. On their website, they have posted thoughts on their choices for numbers 51-100. There are a number of Twins players in that group, which is exciting (although it probably means that just one Twins prospect will be in the Top 50, and I assume in the Top 10!). Anthony Swarzak is #100. Glen Perkins came in at #92. Matt Moses ranks #75. Jason Kubel comes in at #58.
American Idol Thoughts
We're back to it, and it is going to be a busy week of American Idol action. Last night, the 12 girls/women each sang a song in the two hour episode. Tonight, 12 boys/men will take their turns in front of the judges. And finally, on Thursday, two males and two females will be eliminated. They will do this for the next three weeks, until they are down to just six guys and six gals. Then, there will be eleven weeks of competition designed to get us down to the new, the fifth American Idol.
I know that there are many of you who do not care about my American Idol thoughts, and obviously that is fine. I mean, odds are that you're not even reading this! But anyway, some may wonder why I chose to write about this show. There are a few reasons. First, I like to show that I do have interests beyond just baseball and sports. Second, I actually just really enjoy watching and following the competition. Is it a sport, no, but it is certainly just as competitive! Third, and I have said this before, but I think that American Idol should be mandatory viewing for all kids in elementary school, middle school, and maybe even high school. I know that will never happen, but hear me out. Let's be honest, in high school, there is frequently the jocks and the music people. To me, this show would show all students that the arts can be just as fun, creative, competitive and entertaining as athletics. It may have the ability to make the choir a cool activity, and it may allow more of the athletes to "cross-over" into that realm. Finally, it is my website, and I want to write about things that interest me. So, if you enjoy the show, or enjoy how I write about it, I'm glad, and I hope that you'll enjoy following it here throughout the season. If not, well, I will almost always have other thoughts, sports, baseball and/or Twins thoughts, so just check those out and tune out my American Idol Thoughts.
Of course, I want to get your feedback on the show, particularly if you do follow it. I would love to read your comments, opinions and rankings. Feel free to e-mail me, or get a debate going in the Comments section. Alright, lets talk about last night's episode. I am going to write about each performance, and then I am going to rank how each performed last night. My ranking is not a prediction of who will be voted off. Believe me, the vote has frequently confused all of us. It does, however, say who I think is very much at risk of leaving. I will also then predict who I think will be eliminated. Enjoy!
One final note before I get started. For the first time since season two, I watched very little of the previous American Idol episodes. Normally, those are my favorite episodes, but I just did not watch. I think that is a good thing in a way. I don't have the preconceived notions on any of the participants that Fox pretends that they don't give us. They pick their favorites and run cute little stories on them. I haven't seen any of that, so I go into this "judging" with no real biases. I can develop them on my own after hearing them actually sing. (I should also point out that I have no musical training. I really don't know much about this stuff other than I like to think that I have a pretty good ear for talent.) Again, I'm not claiming to be right, just expressing my opinions and hope you'll be interested in some debate.
Mandisa - Never Runaway
Mandisa was good singing the Heart song. Definitely. She has a very good, very strong voice. She actually looked like she was having a lot of fun on the stage, which I think is very important. Horrible outfit. She would appear to be safe heading into the vote.
Kellie Pickler - How Far
Pickler went country and chose a Martina McBride song. I fully admit that I am not a fan of country music. However, I was fully behind Carrie Underwood all of last season and can appreciate a talented country voice such as Underwood, or Josh Gracin, from previous seasons. However, Kellie Pickler is nowhere near their level of talent. She was very flat right from the beginning. In the more upbeat portions of the song, she was OK, but overall, it was just not very good.
Becky O'Donohue - Because the Night
O'Donohue should definitely be a model. She's totally got the looks, the height and the mug shot perfect for a model. She should not be a singer though! She picked a great song, and I would love to have heard it sung well. Vocally, she was horrible. Visually, very nice. By the way, she played Division 1 basketball at Niagara University, and well, she is a very attractive individual.
Ayla Brown - Reflections
My favorite going into the competition. Why? Because she will play Division 1 college basketball on a full scholarship to Boston College. And then I heard her sing. She picked a Christina Aguilera song, which is always difficult, and I thought that she was incredible. She had a great voice. It was very controlled and yet very strong when needed. She was on key the entire song. I thought that she was excellent, clearly the best to perform to that point...
Paris Bennett - Midnight Train to Georgia
... and then I heard, watched and listened to Paris Bennett. The 17 year old Georgia native was absolutely incredible. She had spot-on vocals. She showed such a fun personality and stage presence. I had goose bumps within the first 10-15 seconds of her song. As I wrote in my notes while watching her, "She just gets "IT" and has "IT"" It is obviously that quality that you can't really explain, but you know IT when you see IT. After this performance, I think that Bennett is a star in the making! (Her grandma, Ann Nesby, performed in Sounds of Blackness. They spent a lot of time in Minnesota.)
Stevie Scott - To Where You Are
She was the opera-trained girl who called herself the "girl version of Josh Groban." My initial reaction was that there was no way that she had a chance with an opera background, but when she mentioned Josh Groban's name, it caught my attention and I figured that she was worth listening to. Well, I think she was OK, but I was not overly impressed. She has a cutesy voice, very soft and very controlled. However, there were some notes that I think that she should have gone powerful on, and she didn't. She should have. It was as if she just did not finish her notes, or even her words in some cases. I think she'll stick, but she could struggle more when they start breaking into genres.
Brenna Gethers - You Are the Sunshine of my Life
Great song. Anything by Stevie Wonder is going to be good. The lead-up to Brenna showed a very strong, self-confident, aggressive woman (who is very, very attractive as well). I thought the song choice was good if she wanted to show a softer side. However, it is also a song that she could have shown a full range and she just never did. It was very dull. She started out slow, and never really got it going. She needs to show energy and enthusiasm to be good. My thought is that if she advances to next week, she will pick better songs and show how good she can be. After her whole arrogant, seductive, conceited, showy act, I think that she will be turned on by the voters that she needs to keep her alive. Arrogance is fine, to a point, and if you can back it up. Last night, it was an annoyance that really may cost her.
Heather Cox - When You Tell Me That You Love Me
The first half, she started off very slowly. And, I kept thinking that she sounded just off enough to make me think that it sounded very karaoke-like. Not horrible, just not up to par with the rest. In the second half of the song, she finally showed some emotion, and was actually rather good. She had battle laryngitis in Hollywood and said that she was back at 100%, but I thought that in the beginning, it sounded like she just could not get down to some of those lower notes. I agree that she should have blamed the laryngitis, just to have an excuse.
Melissa McGhee - When the Lights Go Down
I actually had a hard time understanding her words early in the song so I couldn't exactly tell how well she was singing them. It was all slow and soft. When the song picked up, Melissa's energy picked up, and I thought that she really, really turned it on. She put in a very strong performance, after that slow first 12 seconds!
Lisa Tucker - I am Changing
I have to admit that before this I did not know the song. I really don't know what to say about her performance. Like Paris Bennett before her, I was completely in awe of Tucker's talent. She is a complete natural. Her voice showed great range and strength. She was on note the whole time. She owned the stage throughout the whole song. Again, she is so natural up there, like she's been doing this for years... and then you remember that she is just 16 years old. Amazing!
Kinnik Sky - Get Here
I would compare Kinnik's style very closely to that of Lisa Tucker. However, she was not vocally quite as good. But their mannerisms and voices are very much the same. Sky's main problem may very well be that she is great, but she is not as good as two girls that are 11 and 12 years her junior. Kinnik was very good, but in comparison, she just does not measure up. Now, assuming she continues for awhile, we have to wonder if her age will help keep her more calm than the younger singers. I don't know.
Katharine McPhee - Since I Fell for You
Vocally, she is incredible. Facially, she is incredible. She seems to know what she needs to do on stage to grab the audience's attention. I remember listening to her and at one point I said, "... and... there are the goose bumps." This girl has an amazing voice. She needs to learn how to use her legs and move around the stage just a little bit because she just looked awkward. But she has a lot of talent!
SethSpeaks Ranking of the Top 12 Performances (from last night)
1.) Paris Bennett
2.) Lisa Tucker
3.) Ayla Brown
4.) Katharine McPhee
5.) Kinnik Sky
6.) Melissa McGhee
7.) Heather Cox
9.) Stevie Scott
10.) Kellie Pickler
11.) Becky O'Donohue
12.) Brenna Gethers
Who I think will be the two eliminated contestants on Thursday night?
1.) Brenna Gethers - I think that voters would be willing to give her a mulligan because of her looks and her energy. However, he excessive posturing and her post-show dancing would have been more appropriate had their been a single pole on the stage. I think that people will really turn on her because of her over-arrogance. I think she will go.
2.) Stevie Scott - I also think that her performance was bad. However, the judges were brutal to her, and if we're being honest (a fine, frequent Simon quote), the people that vote are easily swayed by the judges comments.
Remember, tonight the guys will sing. Then on Thursday night, two guys and two girls will be eliminated from further competition. Will I be even close to right in my predictions? We'll see. If you've made it this far, be sure to check out the thoughts on last night's episode over at Curlio.com. But first, check out The Baseball Savants thoughts on the show and the performances!
Tell me what you think. Were any of my opinions completely off-base? How would you rank the performances? Send me an e-mail, or let's talk about it in the Comments here. That is it for today!
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