Friday, July 10, 2009

Top 5 Worst Current Baseball General Managers

Tim's Top 5:

1. Dayton Moore - Lest Ryan feel he's all alone on this one, I have to admit, he's earned his way atop the list. His retarded move to acquire the fourth worst hitting shortstop of whom I'm aware (#1 and #2 were both Royals as of this Monday in Tony Pena Jr. and Luis Hernandez, #3 is the woeful Alex Gonzalez, though I think Jimmy Rollins wants to make this list...) is just one of a litany of moves that are directly contrary to both his stated goal (to get the Royals players who could get on base) and any conceivable baseball strategy. He's neither Adam Everett (a worthless hitter who seems to be on winning teams a lot) nor a draw-the-walk patient hitter. And he plays a position that is likely to be adequately filled once Mike Aviles gets back next year, a thought that completely slipped my mind earlier today when I already thought it was a terrible acquisition.

What's more puzzling is how much he's regressed. When he first became the Royals' GM, he made a lot of sound moves that seemed like they'd put the team on the right track. He dealt head case Mike MacDougal for prospects,

Career high point: Re-signing Zack Greinke, signing Gil Meche to a way above market 5-year, $55 million deal that actually panned out, selecting Joakim Soria in the Rule 5 draft, trading the felonious Ambiorix Burgos for Brian Bannister.

Career low points: acquiring Mike Jacobs, signing Kyle Farnsworth (both of which prevented the Royals from signing Orlando Hudson), signing Jose Guillen to a multi-year deal, traded JP Howell for Joey Gathright.

2. Ned Colletti - "Hey, do you mind paying for Casey Blake? I'll give you one of the top 25 prospects in all of baseball AND be your best friend." I assume that's how the average call with Ned Colletti goes. Either that or " you're a one-dimensional outfielder who doesn't get on base, gets caught stealing all the time, and can't hit for $55 million enough?" Ned Colletti has signed Jason Schmidt to a long-term deal (Schmidt's yet to pitch under that), given out huge money to a collapsing Andruw Jones, big years and big dollars for Juan Pierre, dumped Edwin Jackson for Danys Baez and Lance Carter (who then disappeared off the face of the earth). He's made one good move, and even that didn't pan out this year.

Career highlight: Trading not much for Manny Ramirez, getting the Dodgers to the NLCS.

Career lowlights: pretty much every other move he's ever made. Hopefully Carlos Santana for Casey Blake will top that list.

3. Omar Minaya - Quick, name all the moves that Minaya's made that have panned out. By my count, the number is one. The man who's responsible for one of the top five most lopsided trades in history (Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and hey, why not Lee Stevens for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew) has made one really good move since becoming GM of the Mets -- trading a bunch of nothing for Johan Santana. Signing Francisco Rodriguez has worked out for this year, but is a deal with very high B.J. Ryan potential. He's been armed with loads of money and has turned it into mediocre #5 (or worse) starters -- Oliver Perez, Pedro Martinez; he's traded some valuable players for nothing (Heath Bell, Matt Lindstrom, Brian Bannister), that ultimately left him with a pitching staff that's mind-blowingly awful for a team with a $100+ million payroll.

4. Brian Cashman - Hip hop Jor-hay! Both New York teams make the list, Cashman's idiocy is just hidden under a gigantic brown bag with a green dollar sign on it. When you can simply buy away your mistakes, it's less noticeable that you've made nothing but mistakes for your tenure as GM. The horrific tenure as GM is masked by an infinite payroll, but this team paid Giambi $20 million a year to be a lousy first baseman, has paid Jeter $20 million to be a "team captain" that can't field his position, will be paying A-Rod $30 million a year when he's scuffling, and gave A.J. Burnett five years and the right to opt out. It's really astounding to think what a quality general manager could have done with the money that's been wasted on Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, and the like.

Career highlight: uh...none? He's signed some great players, but he did so by having more money than anyone else.

Lowlights: Pretty much every contract on the team.

5. Jim Hendry - Like three of the four above him, Hendry comes from a team with money, but he has no clue what to do with it. Hendry had a good start to his career, adding Aramis Ramirez for nothing, signing Derrek Lee, and building a franchise that looked like it had a bright future. Then, on the verge of greatness, they've laden their team with overrated players like Alfonso Soriano, gambled on mediocre Japanese talent in Kosuke Fukudome, and traded away their most useful piece for nothing, only to have him end up on the St. Louis Cardinals.

Career highlight: Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton for Bobby Hill and Jose Hernandez. Sighing Ted Lilly.

Career lowlights: having to hand over Mark DeRosa to sign Milton Bradley, who can't play in the field and stay healthy and hasn't played well when he has played. Paying big money for Alfonso Soriano.

Not that far off: Ruben Amaro Jr. - the Ibanez signing didn't make sense, the fact that it has worked thus far doesn't mean the three years will be good, the other moves have all been uniformly stupid, and signing Pedro will be a disaster. He'll be back on the top 5 soon; Ed Wade - he loves making high-risk, no-upside deals, whether it's giving up Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett for Michael Bourn and Geoff Geary or giving Mike Hampton a multi-year deal. Billy Beane will make it soon if he keeps having seasons like this one, where he's made three of the worst acquisitions in the game (Cabrera, Holliday, and Giambi).

Dan's Top 5:

1. The Spectre of Dave Littlefield - OK, so technically he's not been a GM since 2007, but I still blame him for the shittiness of the Pirates two seasons after the fact. I'm waiting to see how Huntington chooses to fail to revitalize the team, but until then, I can still hate Littlefield.

2. Dayton Moore - He's in charge of the Royals, right?

3. Jim Hendry - I wouldn't actually say that he's a bad manager, but as a casual Cubs fan, it sure looks like he's paying a lot of money to get mediocre results. Still, a faulty cost-benefit ratio isn't the worst of possible offenses.

4. Brian Cashman - I figured that whoever is currently writing a paycheck to Alex Rodriguez should be included on this list automatically.

5. Neal Huntington - I have absolutely nothing against this guy yet, but I take note: during the 2009 off season there were "no significant transactions." Given my poor knowledge of management, I say that's good enough for inclusion in this list.

Honorable Mention - Billy Beane. Partly personal bias from reading Moneyball, but also the fact that the A's are really in the toilet nowadays.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Top 5 U2 songs (1991-2009)

Tim's Top 5:

So I'm seeing U2 at Giants Stadium later this year (along with opening act Muse). I have little doubt it will be awesome, I've noticed that I'm really a sucker for open-air stadium shows (no tinnitus issues and the only acts I've really seen in such venues are Springsteen (twice) and The Police. But I'm finally going back and getting all the albums pre-Joshua Tree that I've still never heard much of...hence this bifurcated list. I don't have Zooropa, but have the other post-1991 albums in one form or another, though my IPod got full before I bought No Line on the Horizon, so I've not listened to it much. Aside from the atrocious "Get On Your Boots", it's a strong album.

1. City of Blinding Lights from How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb - The other reason to bifurcate this list is because it's on an album that can't possibly have spawned the best U2 song of all time...right? I'm not so sure. The intro carries a lot of weight on its own, the key progression on the keyboard is a real unifying force that matches the more orchestral progressions from The Joshua Tree (like the intro to Where the Streets Have No Name). Like that song, it takes more than a minute to reach the vocals and nearly 2 1/2 minutes before we hit the chorus to the song. The lyrics open with a hat tip to Bob Dylan and "My Back Pages" and swell into one of U2's most romantic songs. It gets bonus points for being the best used song at a political rally in my lifetime -- when Obama came out to this song at the Democratic National Convention, I dropped the CD in my alarm clock and wouldn't wake to anything but City of Blinding Lights until after the election. Unlike many U2 songs that build in one continuous crescendo (see One), it builds up, peaks, and drops, but each verse is still at a stronger level than the one preceding it. It strikes me as a profoundly mathematical arrangement, but it's so intuitive that it really works for me. I'm not sure what it is, but it's a magnificent song, one that it took U2 almost 30 years to create. I'm just grateful that it showed up on an episode of Entourage that ultimately persuaded me to buy the album.

2. Zoo Station from Achtung Baby- Every U2 album has an opening track that kind of signals the direction that their album is going. "Where The Streets Have No Name" is silent for nearly 30 seconds, signaling the quiet desperation of The Joshua Tree, "A Sort of Homecoming" shows a kind of mixed bag, a band uncertain what it's doing with its own growing fame, but a noticeable withdrawal from the political ethos of War while relying on an ever-increasing size to their sound, "Beautiful Day" was the first real sign that U2 was officially old, with Bono mostly talking through the track and the other vocals sounding heavily produced or augmented. Well, "Zoo Station" may be the best of all of them, announcing U2's desire to break from The Joshua Tree and indulge in a more German sound, capturing industrial music, John Cage percussion, and a whirlwind of music in the place of silence. It also makes an odd cameo in a movie I'll always love (About A Boy), which was what first made me listen to the song in its own right and not just as a track on U2's seminal album.

3. One from Achtung Baby - That's right, although "One" has been named as the best song in history in several polls that the BBC had done, I would put it third. It's a phenomenal song, laden with raw emotion and confusion (which explains why people play this profoundly depressing song about divided souls at weddings), but it lacks the revolutionary force of Zoo Station. It's a more developed sound than we got on The Joshua Tree, but it's more remarkable as a well-written song than as an eye-opening performance or change to music. It's a continuous crescendo from start to finish, with the music swelling and Bono's pleading growing stronger and yet wearier simultaneously.

4. Walk On from All That You Can't Leave Behind - Although All That You Can't Leave Behind won a fair amount of critical acclaim (seriously, Rolling Stone, the #139 album of all f***ing time? Better than Darkness on the Edge of Town? #1 Record? Radio City? Not even close, the second half of it is all but unlistenable), following on the hells of Pop, it's a profoundly uneven album and loses its way about halfway through. But this is one of their best and most uplifting songs about triumphing over the mundane with a solid spoken narrative intro that sets the song up beautifully. They milk the beauty of poetic repetition at the end and close out the song with force, it leads into "Kite", another song worthy of consideration...and then the album goes off the tracks after "In a Little While".

5. Original of the Species from How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb- It's remarkable primarily because it's a very quiet song that really has a broad spectrum of sounds. At first it's the string section that's really the driving force, then there's a piano bridging the next gap, and then the vocals get more depth and force as the song continues to its conclusion. It's one of the few songs on the last three albums where you really have no doubt that Bono's voice actually sounded that way -- the weakness and age show up, but they're completely indispensable.

Honorable Mention: Magnificent, No Line on the Horizon, Even Better Than The Real Thing, Discotheque - Sorry, but if you removed the lyrics, it's a phenomenal Propellerheads track, as it is, it's just a strong point on a middling album.

Dan's Top 5:

Man, U2 really sucks these days.

1. Mysterious Ways from Achtung Baby - OK, I really like this one, but I've heard it far to many times over the past year to say many good things about it at the moment.

2. Beautiful Day from All That You Can't Leave Behind - loses point for being associated with a campus christian organization I was very loosely associated with.

3. Vertigo from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb - To be fair, it sounds far better if you're in Ireland getting drunk and listening to a local band cover it.

4. Elevation from All That You Can't Leave Behind - Bonus points for vocoder use and Bono's Joshua Tree-era high notes.

5. All Because Of You from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb - Hey, it's kinda catchy.

I don't particularly love any of these songs, but these are the ones I don't skip when they come up on my iPod. I have much love for anything before Achtung Baby, which really marked the downfall of this band in my eyes. Come to think of it, exactly half of the band's 12 albums came out before 1990, and the remaining 6 have all left something to be desired.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Top 5 Reasons We Haven't Updated

I'm hoping that this post serves its intended purpose in that it will reignite this blog rather than drive the nail into the coffin. That, and I hate seeing the Killers list every time I devolve into one of my pseudo-Aspberger-syndrome bookmark click-fests.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Laziness - I think everyone knew this was coming at #1. It's like trying to list best rock bands of all time or something - there's no question that the Beatles will be at the top of every non-moron's list. Nowadays - especially since I passed the PhD candidacy exam - I have adopted a particularly "meh" attitude to putting forth a lot of effort to anything. Especially things on the Internet.

2. Social Life - I'm not ashamed to proclaim that I have a girlfriend now. What I am ashamed of is proclaiming it to random people on the street who clearly don't care, and as a result tend to get annoyed with me. And by posting this on the Internet, I'm effectively doing the same to any readers we may have. (Sorry, but you're really asking for it.) But it's true - I'm a happy guy.

3. Pop Culture Sucks - I can't really piece together a moderate list of good things related to pop culture that I've experienced since February. Sure, I saw a pretty cool concert, and got a decent album. I thought Star Trek was a fun movie. But the bare minimum for this site is five - kind of like the opposite of an express checkout lane. There's just not enough good stuff out there - or if there is, it sure isn't making itself obvious.

4. Lack of Cynicism - I never thought this would be true, but I guess it is. You know how, when you ask someone how they're doing, they might say something like "fine"? No matter how true it is, it sounds hollow and lifeless. Well, I'm doing fine right now, which has naturally eroded that biting wit and cynicism that it takes to be funny. Not that I ever was funny, but at least I pretended to be witty and cynical enough.

5. The Year of the Ox - According to the Chinese Zodiac, it's been the Year of the Ox since January 26th. I have no idea what that's supposed to mean from an Eastern astrological point of view, but considering that a huge percentage of all the crap I own has doubtlessly been manufactured in China, I feel there's no reason why it can't be the fault of their ancient calendar. Some sort of collective spiritual force conspiring against me. Man, the Rat was a lot better for my work ethic.

Honorable Mention:

Tim's Top Five:
1. I got married. - Basically, the months of April-early June involved me doing the final wedding planning and then spending the last few weeks with my wonderful wife before she left the country. That meant every weekend was spent with her, which leaves little time for sniping at random things via passive-aggressive blog posts.

2. I have a job. - I also had one weekend off between mid-February and my wedding. One out of about...ten. Again, not much time there.

3. I'm a passive follower. - I am way better at following others' lead when it comes to this blog. I've not been focused on generating lists since I've been busy at work, and with no one else to lead the way, I've been slacking.

4. Esoteric topics - the topics that I've considered for my top fives are all things that I know no one else would have a basis to contribute to, which largely defeats the purpose of posting them.

5. Laziness - Yeah, I'm guilty also.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Top 5 Songs by The Killers

Tim's Top 5:

1. "All These Things I've Done" from Hot Fuss - The solo vocal, followed by the drums leading into the guitar, which leads into the bass and fades back. The lyrics do a lot to commend the song because they accent the music so perfectly -- listen to the hard k's in "back of my broken hand" or the line "I'm so much older than I can take" -- the delivery just hits with genuine force. And like several of the songs on this list, it's got a lot of real variation to it -- the first half of the song (perfectly timed) is really just a prelude to the "I've got soul, but I'm not a soldier" transition which adds a real gospel feel to the song as it builds and transitions back into the first segment except with just a touch more vocal distortion this time. And the song title couldn't be placed better as a denouement into the quiet conclusion.

2. "Bones" from Sam's Town - This is in that rarest of categories, a song that induces a complete endorphin dump. If I hadn't taken up running, I'd probably never really know, but if you reach a point of physical exhaustion and have been me, there's nothing better than this song to drop your body temperature about three degrees. The lyrics keep it from being number one, they're really quite silly -- the Tim Burton video does nothing to commend it either, but the horns are perfect. The chorus increases with intensity as the song progresses and

3. "Sam's Town" from Sam's Town - I wouldn't have ever imagined that I'd come around on this album. When I heard it for the first time, it was depressing how bad it was. A few months passed, I heard it again, and it wasn't so bad. And really listening to the album, it's kind of easy to see why it took so long to grow on me. This song is the epitome of why -- it's got about eight songs crammed into 4:06, like the Who recording "A Quick One While He's Away" in 3:18. It goes from rapid to frenzied to leisurely and it's synthesizer-heavy. From the opening swell, it drops suddenly, goes into a ludicrously enunciated spoken word call to arms for Brandon Flowers, then explodes into the closest thing the song has to a chorus of "So why do you waste my time?", it drops back into a middle eight "have you ever seen the light?" and loops itself around again until it reaches the double-tracked sing-along "I've seen London..." Amazing. But not readily accessible -- the first time, it just sounds like a mess. Nope -- masterpiece.

4. "Losing Touch" from Day & Age - I've already christened this with new classic status. Deal. I'm a sucker for horns on Killers songs, clearly, and it makes the songs following it better...hearing Human in the absence of this song leading in...not something I want to experience again. And the amount of spite this songs carries for the people, like me, who just wrote off Sam's Town as worthless or as an attempt to be David Bowie.

5. "Change Your Mind" from Hot Fuss - I'll admit it, Casey Blake using "Read My Mind" as his batting song actually reminded me that it's a great song also, but The Killers are good with songs involving the word Mind. To me, it's probably the best vocals that Brandon Flowers has done on a song, perfectly matching his near monotone to the tone of the song.

Honorable mention: "Mr. Brightside" is just an amazing song, it's a shame it got largely overlooked for "Somebody Told Me", which is one of the least essential songs in the canon. The distorted vocals segueing into the crisp vocal-heavy wraparound, the swell of the drums into the chorus, which is so blissfully ironic that I have to love it.; "On Top" - very simple, but great production all around; "Why Do I Keep Counting?" - it starts slow, but once it gets into it, it's well worth the wait, even if it is a ludicrously simple song compared to the others; and of course, my favorite police interrogation set to music "Jenny Was a Friend Of Mine" which probably wouldn't even warrant mention if it were not about a police interrogation. Although there may be something on Sawdust worthy of mentioning here, my pick would probably have to be "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town", and the way I phrased this's not eligible. I guess "Move Away" is a top 10 consideration.

Dan's Top 5:

1. "Mr. Brightside" (Hot Fuss) - This song was the highlight of the summer of 2005 for me. I was in Ireland, and one of my principal occupations was burning a copy of Hot Fuss for everyone, because this song was everywhere in the UK at that time. The hook-laden chorus in this song is perfect, and the lyrics are rather enigmatic while still having a fairly clear subject. The epitome of The Killers.

2. "Read My Mind" (Sam's Town) - The highlight of this album for me, the vocal line is perfectly complimented by the backing chord progression. There's also a great contrast between the softer verse and the harder chorus, though no one in the band is overplaying. The song could benefit from a bridge section or a more interesting guitar solo, but I'm not going to complain.

3. "Jenny Was a Friend Of Mine" (Hot Fuss) - The narrative is the best aspect of this song, but it's impossible to ignore the outstanding quality of the bass line. It feels like it was stolen from Peter Hook himself. This probably the best attempt that the band made at recapturing that 80's feel, though the subject makes it feel much darker and more modern than anything you would have heard back then.

4. "When You Were Young" (Sam's Town) - This is probably the reason I was so originally disappointed with their sophomore album now that I think about it. It was the leading single, and as a result, I was expecting all the songs to be this good. Wonderful sonic textures exist in this song - a subtle use of bells, a tone-dulled organ, strings, etc. Again, though, it suffers from a lack of variety as the song progresses - no bridge or interesting instrumental breaks.

5. "All These Things That I've Done" (Hot Fuss) - This one actually placed pretty low for this list, but that's because it's already been mentioned. It has a lot of internal variations, and all I can really do is echo Tim's praise. He's really put a lot more thought into analyzing this song than I ever have.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Top 5 Cover Songs That Are Better Than The Original Versions

Pretty self-explanatory; the topic came up when we were at a bar and someone said that "Crimson and Clover" by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts was the best cover song ever. A-haha.

Ryan's Top 5:

1. "Everybody's Talkin'" - Harry Nilsson - This is definitely one of my favorite songs of all-time, so you bet your ass it's my favorite cover song. Fred "Not Harry Nilsson" Neil apparently performed a version of this song that pre-dates this one. Go figure!

2. "All Along the Watchtower" - Jimi Hendrix -
This is the quintessential example, for me; nothing wrong with the Dylan version, but the Hendrix rendition is iconic rock.

3. "I Fought the Law" - The Clash - Once again, I like older versions of the song, but The Clash definitely knows how to amp up the ass-kickery. I'm fairly sure The Clash could cover anything and I'd like it better.

4. "I Will Survive" - Cake - Cake does the song in their own particular styling. Notably, they amend this lyric: "I should have changed my fucking lock / I would have made you leave your key." See that? They added the word "fucking." Brilliant!

5. "Stand By Me" - John Lennon - This narrowly defeats Van Halen's cover of "You Really Got Me," which loses points because The Kinks are one of my favorite bands. Anyway, I guess it's not a given that this version is incredibly superior--if you're a big R&B fan--and I'm not--so in the end this wins. Also, I like John Lennon. A lot.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Aretha Franklin - Respect (orig. by Otis Redding) - This is the only instance I can think of where the song's meaning is essentially transformed. When Aretha sings it, her womanhood is an essential element of the song.

2. Johnny Cash - Hurt (orig. by Nine Inch Nails) - Easily the newest original on the list to be covered, and by a man who was a living legend. If the Man In Black wants to sing your song, you know it's good.

3. Cream - Crossroads (orig. "Cross Road Blues" by Robert Johnson) - OK, I haven't heard the original, but "Crossroads" is my favorite Cream song.

4. Jimi Hendrix - All Along The Watchtower (orig. by Bob Dylan) - While I agree almost 100% with Ryan's selections, I've allowed myself one overlapping listing. This is it, because Jimi rocked and Dylan's got plenty of other good songs. He can spare one.

5. The Dropkick Murphys - The Fields of Athenry (orig. recorded by Danny Doyle) - Gains the quality of being much more easily adapted to sports scenarios.

Honorable Mention: Van Halen - You Really Got Me (orig. by The Kinks), Gnarls Barkley - Reckoner (orig. by Radiohead) - only omitted because it's not been released, Joe Cocker - With A Little Help From My Friends (orig. by The Beatles), Creedence Clearwater Revival - Heard It Through the Grapevine (orig. by Gladys Knight and the Pips) - omitted because it's too damn long.

Tim's Top 5:

1. If Not For You – George Harrison - The slide guitar on If Not For You works so magically, I don’t even know how to explain it. I think this is one of the greatest love songs ever recorded, not that you’ll be able to tell from that recording. And as much as I love Bob Dylan, his version of his own song just doesn’t measure up. It sounds like he was borrowing some of Hendrix’s work from All Along the Watchtower and makes it a fluff pop song. Harrison’s recording is a sincere and plaintive cry, almost an elegy in advance. The fact that it also works so well on All Things Must Pass means it would be sacrilege to put any lower down the list.

2. Hard to Handle – Black Crowes – I am a fan of Otis Redding’s version, but it’s not even a close contest. The Black Crowes completely reinvent this song and make it sound completely current (both for 1990 and 2009) and I was in disbelief when I actually opened the liner notes of Shake Your Moneymaker and saw that Otis Redding wrote the song. It’s the quintessential Black Crowes song, the best on what is an absolutely phenomenal album, and this song works blissfully well with the country-tuned sounds that they bring to the table on the album.

3. Slut – Big Star* - I include it solely because it’s on a released album, the inaptly titled “Columbia – Big Star Live at Missouri University” album that is inaptly titled, since 1) it’s not really Big Star (hence the asterisk -- it’s the second iteration of Big Star -- Alex Chilton, Jody Stephens, and two members of the Posies (Auer/Stringfellow), since Chris Bell had died long before the “reunion” show), and 2) there is no such thing as Missouri University. Nice try. But it is a phenomenal performance overrun with exuberance that far outpaces the comparatively turgid and horribly produced Todd Rundgren original. A faster tempo and the less enunciated voice of Alex Chilton prove the key here. If I ever put together a band, there is absolutely no way we would not cover this song in the style Big Star does. “S-L-U-T…she may be a slut, but she looks good to me.”

4. Do Ya – Matthew Sweet – Another live cover, this one is documented on Live From 6A, a compilation CD of recordings from Late Night with Conan O’Brien. It’s the lone track on the album that wasn’t actually performed on the show; they did the track as the sound check before the show. It’s a song that’s uniquely Matthew Sweet, perfect for his voice and unassuming tone and captures the superb musicians that he always surrounded himself with for his albums and tours. ELO isn’t a great band, but they are made to create good covers (OK Go almost made the list for covering “Don’t Bring Me Down,” but it’s hard to say their version is definitively better than the original. No such problem here.)

5. I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better – Tom Petty – There’s nothing quite so ironic as getting on this list by covering a band who made their career by covering other people’s songs. But it worked for Tom Petty, who included this version of a Byrds hit on Full Moon Fever. The cleaner digital production is 99% of the reason that this song improves upon the Byrds song, which is one of their best. But the recording is dated, tinny, contains a heavy tambourine and sounds like a hit song played on an AM radio (unsurprisingly). Petty’s song is a much clearer recording and seems a note higher, matching the song more closely with its lyrics.

Honorable mention: 99 Problems – Jay-Z – I exclude this because it’s not really a cover, even though it takes its title and chorus from Ice-T’s cut of the same name. But if it were a cover…oh, it’s on the list; Harvey Danger – Save It For Later – Harvey Danger was way too good a one-hit wonder band to burn out as fast as they did; Draggin’ the Line – R.E.M. – this one-note performance is on the Austin Powers: the Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack, and is easily the best thing about that horrific movie. Why more people don’t cover Tommy James songs is well beyond me. They’re a guaranteed success – Mony Mony and I Think We’re Alone Now were both hits for later artists, this song is awesome, and Crimson and Clover just begs to be covered (although apparently the Joan Jett fan Ryan mentioned already thinks that job's done); All Along the Watchtower – Jimi Hendrix; It Ain’t Me Babe – The Turtles, Quinn the Eskimo – Manfred Mann - I lump these in because they’re all Bob Dylan covers. Covering Bob Dylan is obvious, but only a few stick out as real successes. The Turtles capture a sardonic taunting tone to a song that Dylan left untouched, Hendrix simply created a new song, and Manfred Mann recorded a ludicrously catchy but still inexplicable song.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Top 5 Songs You Would Enter A Game To If You Were A Major League Closer

Tim's Top 5:

Let's be honest, a closer is only as good as his entrance music. Actually, Brad Lidge was about 45-for-45 in saves last year...and he came in to Drowning Pool. So, in fact, a closer is considerably better than his entrance music. Unless that closer would be me.

Everything I've read claims that the movie Major League is really responsible for the association of a single song with a closer...but I don't buy it, because at least at minor league ballparks, they did it before that movie came out. I remember Greg Everson coming out before Luis Encarnacion in Omaha to "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" (which is fine for a middle reliever, obviously not really a closer song).

This was a tough list, because there are songs that work until you actually listen to the substance of the lyrics (like, say, Muse's "Time Is Running Out") Oh, and I don't listen to heavy metal, which means that ... yeah, I had to be creative.

1. Pearl Jam - Save You -- Why? Well, I mean, come on, it's a little perfect. It has a great crunching guitar intro, the first guitar comes in, a second, then the drums hit before the vocals come in. And the first few lines are flawless. "I'm gonna save you, fucker (it'd be fine, you can't tell that's what he's saying)/ I'm not gonna lose you / I'm feeling cocky and strong, can't let you go / Too important to me, too important to us, we'd be lost with you")

It does have one lyrical minus -- "Why are you hitting yourself? Come on, hit me instead." This would not exactly inspire the fans' confidence...but perhaps I'm a pitch-to-contact closer along the lines of Bob Wickman and Brandon Lyon, so the fans already hate me regardless of my theme music.

It starts a little too hard, I like the escalation of #5 (and also Enter Sandman, which I think is otherwise not a good song for this purpose), but it's already taken.

2. Alice Cooper – School’s Out – This might be the perfect timing, because there’s a point at 1:14 (right before the high-pitched middle eight) where the song should be cut off by the public address announcer to announce “Your attention please…now pitching …” – if they can draw it out to 1:29, it has a hard bounceback. It’s a profoundly recognizable song, it’s just annoying enough to actually be used as a closer’s anthem.

The lyrics work, I think. Listen, you’ve had your chance to learn how to hit with the shitty pitchers in innings 1-8…school’s out, time to step up.

3. Stevie Wonder – You Haven’t Done Nothin’” Again, the timing on this song is good here. At 1:03, plenty of opportunity for the announcer to cut in to announce the closer’s arrival. I like the funky, taunting beat and I think you just strut in from the bullpen for this one. It was meant to scorn Richard Nixon, but I think it’d work just as well on Trot Nixon. The entire thing just has a very taunting feel to it that is kind of missing with the blaring heavy metal surplusage that has led two different Drowning Pool songs to be used as closer entrance themes.

4. R.E.M. – "Circus Envy" I love this song. The growling beginning and heavy drum and crackling distortion pedal at the beginning really cement it, the opening lyrics are pretty taunting “Here comes that awful feeling again” (though after a few blown saves…we’ll see who’s having the awful feeling). It lightens a little too much about 45 seconds into the song, but the repeating intro loop is really the key.

At 2:29, the lyrics hit their peak “If I were you, I’d really run from me”. True enough, R.E.M.

5. AC/DC - "Hell's Bells" - Trevor Hoffman already has that one, as you can see from this video ...and for a good damn reason. "Thunderstruck" is also a pretty good entrance song, so I think we've identified what AC/DC is good for -- closer songs and songs you know someone would request at a strip club ("You Shook Me All Night Long")

It’s really a shame that Trevor Hoffman never pitched for the Phillies, because if they got the Liberty Bell in center field to “ring” right as he hit the warning track for the first bell…it’d be amazing.

Honorable mention: Wagner - March of the Valkyries - Listen. It is not my fault that Wagner was anti-Semitic. This is the heavy metal equivalent of classical music, and it sounds pretty damn sinister; The Arcade Fire – Keep the Car Running - Again, I thought of this for primarily lyrical reasons, because it seems to me to be the equivalent of “trust me, we won’t be here long”; Muse – Hysteria – start the song 10 seconds in. That’s it.; Jay-Z "Encore" - the reference to Brooklyn keeps it out of the top 5 for me, otherwise I think it’s pretty spot on; Oasis - “Hello” - Start at 12 seconds. I’m not sure why I like it for this – I think it’s the “it’s good to be back” refrain that seems so apropos for a regularly-injured underdog pitcher who survives on sheer guile. You know, the one I’d be destined to be if I hadn’t sucked too much for the injuries to matter; Presidents of the United States of America – “Cleveland Rocks” – if I played for the Indians, you’d damn well better believe I’d be a lousy enough closer to pander to the home fans (all of whom are white and therefore none of them actually live in Cleveland, but they’d still pretend).

Dan's Top 5:

I have included Youtube links indicating when, precisely, I want the music to kick in.

1. Iron Maiden - Run To The Hills - A song about rampaging, murderous war by the white man against the Native Americans. Comes in especially handy when our team plays against the Cleveland Indians or the Atlanta Braves. Or the Washington Redskins, if they decide to quit football and try baseball instead.

2. Peter Gabriel - The Tower That Ate People - One of the most kickass songs that Gabriel's done, and I think it would have the added bonus of frightening little children. Downside - not very effective if you're not dressed in all black or at least wearing black sunglasses.

3. Metallica - Enter Sandman - A nod to my Virginia Tech days, when you could play Enter Sandman (our stadium entrance song) and immediately get everyone in audible range to jump up and down and go absolutely berserk. It didn't even have to be football season.

4. Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell - I will refuse to throw a pitch until the song is finished. I may promptly be demoted to the franchise's AAA team, but a man needs his Meat Loaf.

5. Rage Against The Machine - Bulls On Parade - Still my favorite Rage song after all these years. I could have gone for something a little more obscure to close out this list, but I think that fans will appreciate my taste in music. It sure will make up for the fact that I am a shitty closer and will cost our team the win.

Ryan's Top 5:

I went solely with kickass music, though part of me does want to enter to "Why Can't We Be Friends?" a la Homer's boxing intro.

1. Iron Maiden - The Number of the Beast - Time-wise, this song is perfect. Start it at the normal time, then dim the stadium lights as I enter jogging; at about 56 seconds, right when I throw my first warmup pitch, Bruce Dickinson screams and the crowd goes wild. I would definitely make a point of timing this perfectly. Bonus points in that the tone of the song would ideally terrify the Bible-thumping Mike Sweeneys of the world; regrettably, it would be no deterrent to the Satan-worshiping AJ Pierzynskis of the world (though his ability to hit is a solid deterrent to begin with).

2. Sergei Prokofiev - Dance of the Knights - Probably a bit high for a classical song, but I've had this in my head all day long and have been convinced of its ass-kickery since Muse opened HAARP with it. (Youtube took down the clip, unfortunately.) Ultimately, this song beats other classical contenders ("Mars, Bringer of War," and "The Imperial March" from Star Wars).

3. Morning Glory - Oasis - As far as I can tell, you cannot go wrong with a helicopter sound effect introducing a song. (See: "The Happiest Days of our Lives," Pink Floyd.) (This is where someone cites the Kid Rock/Sheryl Crow song I'm forgetting that features a helicopter.) Lyrically, this song is sufficiently vague enough, as well: "All your dreams are made..." "Today's the day that all the world will see..."

4. Black Sabbath - Iron Man -
As cliche as this song is (it's almost certainly used by some closer somewhere), it's too good for me to pass up. This song is rare in that my favorite part is about ten seconds in, when the robot voice says I AM IRON MAN. But oh well.

5. Kool and the Gang - Jungle Boogie - I have been in love with this song since Pulp Fiction. Play this, I'll throw a 1-2-3 ninth, then we cap it off with "Celebration" by the same band, bam! I rule!

Honorables: "Hell's Bells" was really written to be a sports intro theme.