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.