Matt said at 9:18 p.m. on Sept. 7:
Hope all is well with you. Figured I would check in with you an e-mail conversation blog entry, which you had proposed earlier this summer. Getting into September with baseball pennant races and Community's fall return seems as good a time as any if you still wanted to. But of course, your blog, so in your court!
Steve said at 12:42 a.m. on Sept. 8:
Hey, that sounds good to me! Care to start it off? Actually, let's consider your message the jump-off point...
Anyway, I'm annoyed by Red Sox fans. There is a weird sense of entitlement going on. Yes, it's disappointing that the team won't be making the playoffs this year. But Pedroia, Youkilis, Beckett and Ellsbury have all missed significant time, and the Rays and Yankees have both played really well. Who wins the AL East each year is now basically a function of health, since the top three teams are ridiculously good.
As far as the Twins go, I think they easily hold on and make the playoffs over the White Sox. Despite their wicked hot streak, the White Sox couldn't take over the lead. Therefore, I don't think it's going to happen.
How about those Vikings? I find it kind of sad that they again had to beg Favre to come back. And then, they had an odd trade in giving up Sage Rosenfels for essentially nothing. He's at least a below-average to average QB, whereas T-Jackson is just downright horrible. Why not just cut Jackson?
Matt said at 1:04 a.m. on Sept. 8:
The AL East is always a division where bad luck plays a huge role (unless you're the Orioles, then just being bad plays a huge role). You'd be winning the AL West, and you'd be only four back in the AL Central. And it's generally a given that the Red Sox could win any division in the AAAA NL. At this point, the Red Sox should really shut down some of their older players for the rest of the season and see if they can blood and upcoming people. That might require some maneuvering with the 60 day DL to free up spots on the 40-man roster, but I think it'd be worth it for the long-term health of the team. The Yankees can always sign other people, and the Rays aren't going anywhere.
I realize that Red Sox fans have gotten into this mentality where they feel like they should make the playoffs every year. Twins fans have too, just without the budget to support it. We just have a crappier division to contend with.
I'm thrilled with this Twins season. I wasn't really concerned about the Nathan injury before the season - as far as I can tell, all closers really are replaceable, even the best ones. I haven't really been proven wrong. At most, the Nathan loss swings three games over the course of the season. I'm much more worried about his ever coming back effectively, given his age (36) and his Tommy John surgery. It's one thing to come back if you are Strasburg, but it's another if you're a closer in your mid 30s.
That said, if you had told me that Morneau would miss 2+ months with mysterious concussion-related ailments and the offense would not miss a beat, I'd never have believed you. Prospects have come up and stepped up, Jim Thome has been the elite power threat the Twins have never had, and they've been firing on all cylinders. I expected to win the division at about 85 games. Given how weak our schedule is, we could conceivably make a run at 93-95 wins and contend for the best record in the league, given the 7 games remaining that the Rays and Yanks have against each other.
I couldn't handle the White Sox catching us from behind. I still haven't forgiven them for the ridiculous 2008 decision to let them have game 163 at home despite our having the superior head-to-head. Well, and I hate the White Sox for many other reasons too. Like Ozzie's backhanded compliments. And A.J. Pierzynski's general level of doucheyness.
As for the debacle that will be the 2010 Minnesota Vikings:
This is one of those seasons that is going to roll in as a 7-9 finish despite astronomical expectations, like the Bengals a few seasons ago. I'm thrilled that we have Favre back. I'm thrilled that Peterson has acknowledged he has a fumbling issue and is trying to solve it. I'm less thrilled that we traded a corner for Greg Camarillo when Housh was about to be made available. And then our other corners all got hurt, so we have two corners and Lito Sheppard's corpse in the secondary.
Re: Rosenfels and Jackson. It was a questionable trade indeed. Especially since we gave up our kick returner/4th receiver as well. Given the gaping hole at receiver with Percy Harvin's headaches (ANOTHER mysterious head injury taking away playing time from a star Minnesota athlete this year) and Sidney Rice's secret preseason surgery, why trade more away? Rosenfels is a competent NFL backup. The gamble is that Favre never misses a game, so you won't need to play the backup. Of course, Favre has never been 40 before. Something's gotta give. The real reason that Childress won't give up on Jackson is his shocking degree of pride for a coach who has never won a big game in his life. He traded up to draft Jackson out of a middle of nowhere small college in his first season, convinced he could turn him into the next Donovan McNabb. And dammit, Childress is going to do it, whatever the consequences. Everyone knows that Jackson is incompetent and should be out of the league. Even Childress has to, deep down. But as Childress prides himself on his QB-molding skills, the release of Jackson would emasculate Childress to such a degree, he will not allow it to happen. As soon as Childress is fired - a good bet for this season - Jackson will be among the first cuts by the new coach. Really, it's a level of coach stubbornness usually reserved for aging, formerly elite college coaches.
Steve said at 12:07 a.m. on Sept. 9:
I'm not even sure who the Red Sox can and should rest at this point. Beltre is a free agent, as is Victor Martinez, so there really isn't any huge penalty to working them into the ground. (In fact, it's a bit of a moral hazard, since the Sox could press them enough to get them hurt, which would then make either one a bit easier to re-sign, potentially.) Pretty much all of the interest and healthy minor league players are up. Lars Anderson got a couple hits tonight, which was nice to see, although I think he and Josh Reddick are more bench types on a playoff contender as opposed to starters.
Nathan is probably done, because as you note, most closers are pretty fungible, unless you're Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman. When Papelbon is a free agent, I imagine that the Red Sox will let him walk, because some stupid team like the Mets will outspend them plenty for him.
I think the White Sox are done. (Note: I have no idea how they and the Twins did tonight.) The only chance they have in my opinion is if they manage to sweep the Twins in a head-to-head series. The Red Sox needed to do that against the Rays last week, and instead, they dropped three of four if I recall correctly. The Twins are a bit odd to watch, because they could be an elite team if they just upgraded some of the gaping holes in their lineup to mere flesh wounds. I'm looking in your direction, the combination of Tolbert, Punto, Harris and others.
Childress, besides looking like a child molester, does strike me as a guy completely overmatched in the NFL. I think he lucked into a contract extension since everything that could have went well for the Vikings last year did, until Zombie Brett Favre finally took over the body of Surprisingly Effective Brett Favre. By the way, as a Vikings fan, how do you feel about him in general? He will essentially be your fandom property for life now, since I can't imagine him being welcome back in Green Bay for a long, long time. Your projection of 7-9 for the Vikings seems about right to me, since they now have to play a tougher schedule this year, at least on paper to start the season.
Matt said at 12:59 a.m. on Sept. 9:
Danny Valencia has been filling that Tolbert / Punto / Harris hole shockingly well since he got called up in July; he's just hurt at the moment. Valencia has had an OPS+ of 126 this season. Conventional stat lovers can note he is hitting .343. (By the way, the Twins opened it up to 5.5 games today.) Given the rivalry between the two, a White Sox sweep could change the nature of the race, but it seems unlikely at the moment.
By the way, I too am looking forward to the Mets vastly overpaying Papelbon as a rapid recoil from the K-Rod fiasco.
Favre gave us a magnificent season last year, and he's been totally rehabilitated at this point in Minnesotan eyes for his entire career in Green Bay. That said, long term - UNLESS we win the Super Bowl this season - I can't see us being willing to claim him as one of our own. We're actually going through the same scenario with Jim Thome right now, who could be the second most popular player on the Twins after Mauer despite being a part-time DH.
I find the issue of fan ownership to be a really interesting one, though, across all sports. Do Celtics fans feel as though they have equal claim to Kevin Garnett as we do? They may well, and could make a case for it. It's endemic of larger issues of cultural ownership, and it's at a level for which there are no real consequences. But these are the same issues that pop up in the real world as well: do Russia and Ukraine have equal claim to the Crimean Peninsula, given that it was transferred during the Soviet period from the former to the latter essentially on a bureaucratic whim? If both Russians and Ukrainans feel that the Crimea is theirs, does it matter what the Crimeans feel to either of them? Favre will always feel like a Packer, I would imagine, but will that matter to the Green Bay fans?
That said, the issue is most fun when it comes up to choosing players' Hall of Fame caps. I love the arguments. And I find it ludicrous that some players go in with no team on their cap. Be a man. Don't pretend you didn't like one of those teams / fans / cities / public transportation systems better. You did. Just like every teacher has a favorite student. It's all a bucket of lies.
Another area which I find this comes up in is TV shows. When actors are in multiple long-running shows, which show is given "ownership" of them? I think that's part of the reason that the new TV shows that Jimmy Smits and Rob Lowe get every season fail: they can't be disassociated from their roles. It's why Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton's new show failed despite on paper working so perfectly. Alison Janney once described The West Wing as being on the first line of their obituaries. It's part of the problem of getting a good character like that for so many seasons: regardless of how talented you might be (and you need to be that talented to get that deep into a role), it's sometimes not possible to get out of it.
This problem is one of my concerns this fall for Lone Star, which is possibly the only new show I'm excited for this fall. I fully encourage the use of Adrianne Palicki in as many places as possible, but I'm not sure I'll be able to buy her as a wealthy socialite wife in her late 20s after seeing her for so many years as trailer trash Tyra Collette in Friday Night Lights.
Of course, Bill Cosby got around this by just playing the same character with Phylicia Rashad in multiple consecutive sitcoms. Just like Jennifer Aniston and Michael Cera play the same character in every movie as they did in their TV shows. (Unrelated: the casting of Michael Cera as the Facebook guy seems a little bit creepy to me.) Maura Tierney successfully did it with ER and NewsRadio. Current people doing it successfully are a little rare, but I think Peter Krause is doing remarkably well in Parenthood given Sports Night and Six Feet Under, and Alison Brie is simultaneously playing characters on Mad Men and Community that are pretty different. Though she gets the bonus of one being a period piece.
Steve said at 10:49 p.m. on Sept. 15:
... And since we last messaged, the Twins' lead has swollen to seven games. Yikes! I think the conventional fan underestimates that teams that go on a hot streak and STILL don't wind up with a healthy lead are at a disadvantage. Because of regression to the mean, you figure that the streaking team will eventually fall back a bit. If you streak in September or October, then cool, but otherwise, you have to figure the team will revert to its pre-streak level. Which, for the White Sox, is a .500 team.
I know nothing about the historical territory issues that you propose, so I'll stick to the sports issue. I think at this point, it wouldn't be surprising if Garnett is associated more with the Celtics. He won one championship, and made it to the finals another time, and probably could have gone the year before this one if he had been healthy. (Although, that's a big "if" at this point in his career.) In Minnesota, he put up the majority of his impressive numbers, but only won a single playoff series, right? I don't know how the Basketball Hall of Fame works in terms of the teams, but it wouldn't surprise me if he had either cap on.
I definitely think that if an actor is talented, they can rise above whatever character role they started in. You mentioned Tierney and Brie, who are good examples, but if you want to go to mega-superstars, Kevin Spacey and Tom Hanks have had really different kind of roles throughout their career, and they've been successful.
And I guess we do need to touch on this Top Chef business! Actually, I view the entire finale tainted because, inexplicably, Tiffany got eliminated. She won like 40 challenges, yet somehow, she seemed to get bounces on a fringe competition. What gives??? Kevin has no business being in the finals, since he was in the bottom for seemingly 50 challenges.
Matt said at 12:06 a.m. on Sept. 16:
The Twins have essentially wrapped it up now, which is nice. As for Garnett, the Wolves did make it to the Conference Finals in '04, so he won at least two playoff series.
I agree that on the balance of the season, Kevin had no business being in the finals. That said, I knew he was going to win the second Tom mentioned that he had done the best job showcasing the ingredients that they picked. If there's one thing that Tom and Padma love, it's following instructions. (If there's a second, it's simple food, so Ed was doomed.) I also enjoyed the Ilan sighting, he was one of my favorite winners.
Tiffany was pretty amazing throughout, so it was disheartening to see her not make it. Personality wise, she was by far my favorite this season. The elimination order this season was pretty strange. Kenny seemed to be set up for a showdown with Angelo from the start and then vanished partway through. Angelo started out really annoying me with his arrogance, but then he kept revealing creepy details about himself (that he had crabs, that he had a Russian mail order bride) that just made him unintentionally hilarious. His creeping on Tamesha also made for good theater.
This wasn't the best season of Top Chef, not by a long shot, but it had its moments. For the record, Season 4 is the pinnacle of Top Chef seasons, as it had some of the best characters of all with Richard, Spike, Dale, and Lisa, lovingly referred to by New York Magazine's Grub Street blog's episode summaries (http://newyork.grubstreet.com/) as "The Gorgon." The best chef on the balance of the season did not win, who would definitely be one of Tiffany, Ed, or Angelo, but Kevin had a solid last episode and played by the rules.
For the record, I totally thought the first season of Top Chef was the best. But the fourth wasn't bad either.