Spin Cycle Podcast – Colin and Sow Make Picks for the 2013 Oscars, Part 3

Oscar Himself

And we thought Cal Ripken was durable … Here is the conclusion to the epic 2013 Oscar podcast with Josh Sowers, where we discuss Best Director and, finally, Best Picture.

As always you can listen/download below or download the podcast in iTunes. Enjoy.

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Spin Cycle Podcast – Colin and Sow Make Picks for the 2013 Oscars, Part 2

Oscar Himself

If you made it through part 1 — first off, congratulations — that means that you’re yearning for the next installment. Here’s part 2 of the 2013 Oscar podcast with Josh Sowers.

As always you can listen/download below or download the podcast in iTunes. Enjoy.

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Spin Cycle Podcast – Colin and Sow Make Picks for the 2013 Oscars, Part 1

Oscar HimselfIt’s been so long that I forgot my password to access the blog, but that’s not going to stop us. My partner in crime Josh Sowers and I dusted off  the old podcasting equipment and fired it up for the 2013 Oscars. In Part 1 of 3 (hey, we had a lot to discuss after a year), Sow and I dissect the categories and get a little help from special guest Ryan Raybould.

As always you can listen/download below or download the podcast in iTunes. Enjoy.

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2012 Little League World Series: A Running Diary

This Thursday marked the beginning of the greatest two weeks of the year (and, consequently, the worst two weeks of the year for my wife). That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the 2012 Little League World Series.

I don’t know whether it’s because my dad was born and raised in South Williamsport (he always mutters like a curmudgeon when they incorrectly say “Live from Williamsport” instead of “Live from South Williamsport), or because I never got to play Little League (I was a park league kid through and through…no fancy grass infield or outfield fences for me…they way you knew you hit a homerun is because the field you hit the ball into had to stop play), but I have always had a special place in my heart for the LLWS.

A few years ago I circulated a LLWS Awards MS Word document (yes, this was pre-blog), but I figured why wait until the end of the tournament to talk about it? So I’ll be dropping little comments here throughout the fortnight, being sure to note all the miraculous things that only happen during the LLWS. Enjoy.

Thursday, Aug. 16:

Tennessee vs. Nebraska:

7:07 pm: Nebraska runner makes the final out at home trying to score on a wild pitch…good hustle, good effort…only they were down 12-1 at the time. Maybe the spread was 10.5?

7:01 pm: Nebraska left fielder Nathan Murray gets hit by a pitch, tries to shake it off, and throws his bat towards the wrong dugout…have to applaud the kid for trying to be tough. Definitely some tears welling up at first base…

6:55 pm: One of the Tennessee moms looks just like Sarah Connor from Terminator Part 1

6:50 pm: Tennessee just hit its fourth hr of the game…in a related matter Victor Conte just gave an interview about how rampant synthetic testosterone is in Little League baseball…

6:47 pm: Two things you don’t see too often on Major League hitters: goggles and football facemasks.

6:41 pm: Nebraska’s pitcher is named Thad Huber. Sadly, I can’t think of a good way to make fun of his name. I’m sure his middle school classmates don’t have a problem…

6:40 pm: Nebraska makes a pitching change and sends the current pitcher to third base. Another thing I’d like to see happen in the MLB. I bet King Felix could pick the crap out of the ball at first base…

6:17 pm: A quick reminder about the “special pinch runner” rule. Just one example of the myriad Little League rules that need to be adopted by the Major Leagues: “And David Ortiz draws a walk to start the 8th. That means we’ll see Usain Bolt head out of the dugout to take his place as the special pinch runner…”

6:13 pm: Our “first Web Gem of the LLWS” according to Karl Ravech when the Tennessee center fielder comes in on a ball to make a diving catch. This one was pretty legit, but it reminds me of how unathletic most 12-year-olds look when they do something athletic. I wonder how I looked dropping behind-the-back passes in the Woodland Hills Rec Center gym…

5:15 pm: Almost our first tears of the LLWS when a kid for Tennessee gets thrown out at home. I realize the emotions are running high, but come on. Crying after getting thrown out at home? At least wait until you make an error or walk four straight batters…

Chinese Taipei vs. Germany:

4:00 pm: Germany finally pushes a run across in the 4th; game ends 14-1. Being told that it’s the first run they’ve scored against Chinese Tapei in…well…in ever. One of those dubious achievements like the USA beating Mexico for the first time this week. Hey! We used to suck! But now we…well, we probably just got lucky…

3:45 pm: German kid (well, not really) gets called out for sliding into first base on a play where the third baseman bobbled the ball and never even made a throw to first base. Replay clearly shows that the kid tripped on his way to first and had no intention of sliding. If I’m the kid I have to plead my case about being so full of hustle that my emotions got the best of me and I dove into first. No way I’m admitting I just tripped over my own shoelace while running on national television.

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Seller Beware: A History Lesson From The Houston Astros

The MLB trade deadline is the great divider. With two months left in the season your team is either going to make a push for the playoffs or sell off veterans and look to the future. Even though a lot can change in two months of baseball, July 31 forces general managers to make these distinctions quickly, so as not to be left in the dust. Some fans even welcome their teams becoming “sellers” to bring in young talent for the next year and beyond. However “selling” is no easy task, so be careful what you wish for.

This year there were a lot of big names moved at the deadline, including Ryan Dempster, Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino. Yet no team traded away more vital pieces to their team than the lowly Houston Astros. If there was a player you could name on the Astros roster at the beginning of the season, he was certainly traded by July.

Brett Myers. Carlos Lee. Wandy Rodriguez. J.A. Happ. All gone (and not exactly household names to begin with).

Who did they get in return for these superstars (at least Astro-versions of superstars)? Your guess is as good as mine.

Yet the Astros really had no choice. As of today they are the worst team in baseball and are well on their way to 100 losses. Most of the players they traded were going to be free agents at the end of this year (or next) and likely leave for a team that will finish FEWER than 30 games out of first. I don’t blame them for making the deals they did, even if they now have very little talent left on their Major League team and not much more in their minor league system. The Astros are in big trouble for the next five years, but the problems started way before this season.

“At least I’ll be traded soon…”

The Astros’ issues started in 2009 when their big league team, coming off an 86 win season in ’08, did not live up to expectations. They were a .500 team coming into July 31 and held out hope by not moving anyone at the non-waiver deadline. As things continued to snowball, they traded Ivan Rodriguez in August for two players who have yet to reach the majors.

2010 is when the rebuilding went completely haywire (profanity excluded). That July, Astros fans saw three-time all-star Roy Oswalt dealt to Philadelphia for Jonathan Villar, J.A. Happ and Anthony Gose (who was quickly flipped for Brett Wallace). Villar, 21, has yet to reach the majors and is a career .256 hitter in the minors. Happ has been a disappointment and now at age 29 has been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, who want him to be a reliever. Wallace, 25, has yet to prove he is capable of consistently hitting at the major league level.

Two days later Houston traded Lance Berkman, the face of the organization, to the New York Yankees for Jimmy Paredes and Mark Melancon. Paredes, 23, is an “ambidextrous” gap hitter (code for not enough power) who may only project to be a backup infielder. Melancon had a good 2011 and was traded in the offseason to Boston for Jed Lowire, 28, and Kyle Weiland, 25. Lowrie’s hitting .253 this year as their starting shortstop and Weiland has been out since April 25 because of shoulder surgery, always a promising sign for young pitchers.

Then there was last year, when the ‘Stros traded Pence and Michael Bourn in deals that already have hints of disappointment. While four of their top 10 prospects, according to mlb.com, came directly from those two trades, all four players acquired for Bourn have had terrible 2012 seasons at both the major and minor league levels. Things aren’t looking great, but Astros fans maintain hope. Some will make the argument that there’s still talent in the players the Astros got back in these trades or the players they were later traded for.

You can keep telling yourself that, but let’s be honest. They are the worst team in baseball and, to make things worse, they entered this year with a very average minor league system, 18th according to Baseball America. The prospects they’ve added the last two years may be decent, but if you’re waiting on the next Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, don’t hold your breath. According to MLB.com they do not have a prospect in the top 30 (see link above).

So what’s the lesson to be learned from the Astros? Trade your established veterans at your own risk. If you don’t get quality in return, you’ll end up with a roster of nobodies whose best player is a 5-foot-5 slap hitting second baseman. Next year’s planned jersey change may make this team literally unwatchable.

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