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THE YEAR OF THE DRAFT

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Why So Many Action Stars are Short, Bald , Old or Dumb? And the Real Reason The Rock Will Never be the Biggest Action Star on the Planet

Dwayne Johnson aka “The Rock” should be the biggest action hero on the planet.  After fourteen years of making movies – he is not.  This seemingly makes no sense.  Of The Rock’s twenty-three major roles only eight have made over $100 million dollars at the box office, which sounds better than it actually is.  Of those eight, six of them were franchises.  Franchises established prior to his involvement in the film series (Fast and Furious movies, The Mummy Movies, The G.I. Joe movies and The Journey movies). The two other films were comedies, Get Smart and The Other Guys, neither of which even bothered putting The Rock on the movie poster.  Furthermore, he’s not even billed as one of the top two stars in any of those movies expect for one.  Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.  Which made only about two million dollars more than the first Journey movie.  The first Journey movie, “Journey to the Center of the Earth“, stars Brendan Fraser.  This means we live in a world where The Rock and Brendan Fraser have effectively the same box office draw.  Now that makes absolutely no sense, especially when you consider that the NY Times recently published an article quoting a spokesman for the Q Score Company – a company that measures celebrities likability – stating that “in terms of consumer appeal, he’s[The Rock] in the league there with Brad Pitt”.  The same article further elaborates that The Rock “has maintained a Q score that’s consistently way above average, topping Tom Cruise, Mark Wahlberg and Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

According to Rotten Tomatoes, only two of the movies in which The Rock is billed as one of the top four actors, that weren’t Fast and Furious movies, have garnered a “fresh” rating – “Hercules” and “The Rundown”.  The rest.  All stinkers.  Somehow, even as The Rock has been dragged through seventeen “rotten” films, he has always come out the other side sparkling clean.  The critical censuses of The Game Plan reads, “Despite The Rock’s abundant charisma, The Game Plan is just another run-of-the-mill Disney comedy”.  The Tooth Fairy, similarly, reads: “Dwayne Johnson brings the full force of his charm (and his appropriately pale chompers) to the title role, but flat direction and a committee-written script render The Tooth Fairy unacceptably dull.” Walking Tall1: “The Rock makes a competent hero, but the movie is content to let a 2×4 do all the talking.”  Snitch: “Though it features one of Dwayne Johnson’s more thoughtful performances, the presentation of Snitch’s underlying message is muddled by lackluster storytelling and some tonal inconsistencies.”  Gridiron Gang: “The role of probation officer Sean Porter fits Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson like a glove; however, the execution is so clichéd, the youths’ stories (based on real events), fail to inspire.”  Race to Witch Mountain: “Despite the best efforts of a talented cast, Race to Witch Mountain is a tepid reboot that lacks the magic of the original.”  Have critics ever adored an actor who’s made so many awful films?  Is The Rock the Carmelo Anthony of Hollywood?  Does The Rock’s script reader just really suck?  Everything about this continues to make no sense.

The Rock should be a bonafide superstar.  He’s got Schwarzenegger’s physique, Willis’ charisma and a young Stallone’s looks.  He’s critical adored.  He’s likable.  So why isn’t The Rock the biggest action hero on earth?  It shouldn’t make sense, but it actually makes absolute sense.  He’s not short, bald2, old or dumb enough.  And The Rock’s total lack of any humanizing character traits is his fatal flaw in his pursuit of action hero supremacy.

Now let’s take a second to define the parameters; short, bald, old and dumb in the context of action heroes.  Short is the easiest to quantify.  For an action hero, less than six feet is short.  Now, I know technically something like 5’10 is the average male height, but if you expect me to believe that this person is supposed to be a symbol of masculinity, a force that can kick anyone’s ass that steps to them, I don’t think it’s asking too much to be over six foot.  Bald is the next easiest to recognize.  Basically any hint of male pattern baldness or receding hairline will do the job.  Old gets a bit more partial, but if it looks like AARP has started to litter their mailbox or the character can make a believable joke about arthritis – the action hero in question is old.  Now to dumb, dumb is the most interesting one, because the actor doesn’t actually have to be dumb to qualify, he just needs to seem dumb or at least seem to lack self-awareness.  This one is a little tricky, but we’ll get into this more later.

Before you rattle off huge “action heroes” like Chris Evans, Christian Bale or Chris Hemsworth – let me stop you.  Superheroes are not “action heroes”.  Yes, they participate in “action” movies.  And yes, they act as “heroes” in said movies.  But, no one is buying a ticket to see Chris Evans kick some ass.  If they were “SnowPiercer” would have been a hit.  People are, however, buying tickets to see Captain America kick some ass.  Superheroes are costumes.  People are buying tickets to see costumes kick ass.  On the other hand, it doesn’t matter if Arnold is kicking ass as a robot from the future or kicking ass as an undercover Kindergarten teacher, people are buying tickets to see Arnold.  That’s what separates an action hero from an actor playing a super hero in a movie.

Since 1980, I would say fourteen of the most iconic action heroes are Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone, Bruce Willis, Kurt Russell, Stephen Segal, Jean Claude Van Damme, Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, Jackie Chan, Nic Cage, Keanu Reeves and Jason Statham.  All fourteen pass the short, bald, old or dumb rule.  Norris is short and probably dumb.  Bronson is short and old.  1980s Sly was short and dumb.  Current Sly is short, dumb and old.  Willis was bald.  Willis is now bald and old.  Russell is short.  Segal is dumb.  Van Damme is short and maybe dumb.  Gibson is short.  Cruise is short.  Chan is short.  Cage is bald (prior to the hair plugs).  Keanu is dumb.  And Statham is short and bald.  Now Schwarzenegger is interesting.  In reality he’s none of the four, but is perceived as dumb or at least lacking self-awareness which couldn’t be further from the truth.  Arnold is actually the smartest, because he intrinsically understands the short, bald, old or dumb rule and furthermore knows that he can’t fake short, old or bald, but CAN fake dumb.  If you watch Pumping Iron, you can hear in the way Arnold talks that he is extremely articulate, cunning and quick witted.  These are not traits of a dumb person.  But he doesn’t really show any of this off in his movies.  Instead he plays exactly what you think his “type” is; big, bad ass alpha male with little brains and all brawn.  Of course that’s until he uses that “dumb” label to re-transform himself into unlikely and ironic comedy star in roles like Kindergarten Cop, Twins and Junior.  Proving he’s smarter than any of us and probably doubled his career as major box office draw just by playing dumb.

Now there’s one glaring omission from that list of fourteen.  Will Smith.  There’s no way you can argue Will Smith is short, bald, old or dumb, because he isn’t.  So why is he, arguably, the biggest action hero ever?  To be honest, I’m not exactly sure.  But, I would say he is probably the best looking, most charismatic, most talented and most brand aware action hero on this list which might suggest that if you have superstar abilities of such a high magnitude you can even overcome not being short, bald, old or dumb enough to be a legit action hero.

Why is being short, bald, old or dumb a prerequisite to being a successful action hero?

And why doesn’t anyone realize it (except Arnold who, ironically, is probably the smartest action hero of all-time)?

Well, when we think of what we want in an action hero we really only think of two things.  We want them to kick ass and we want them to deliver one liners.  That, in theory, requires two things.  Muscles and charisma.  All the above actors have those two things.  The Rock has those two things.  The Rock probably has more of those two things combined than any single actor on the list.  What The Rock doesn’t have is something that humanizes him.  Something that makes us either identify with him or something that disarms him.  For guys like Cruise, Gibson and Willis we feel like we can be like them.  They’re not physically intimidating.  They don’t seem like big muscle headed bullies.  They seem, almost, like underdogs.  For guys like Van Damme, Sly or Arnold, we feel better than them.  Yeah they’re handsome and tough and strong, but at least we’re smarter.  Even if we’re not, they make us feel better about ourselves.  We’re on a level playing field.  No one likes rooting for the guy who has everything.  The Rock is huge.  According to Google , he’s 6’5 260.  That’s not relatable unless you’re a NFL defensive end.  He’s also smart.  Strongly self-aware and funny.  He gives eloquent interviews displaying cleverness and thoughtfulness.  He has too much going for him.  It’s unfair.

In the current landscape of action movies there are four main figures that have been The Rock’s major foils.  And guess what?  They all pass the short, bald, old or dumb rule.   Tom Hardy standing at a tiny 5’9.  Liam Neeson, who has been receiving his monthly subscription to AARP for the last twelve years.  Channing Tatum, who probably isn’t likely to be accepted to Mensa anytime soon.  And finally the total antithesis of The Rock, Vin Diesel who is impressively short, bald and dumb.  Unfortunately for The Rock he isn’t good enough to be Will Smith and he isn’t short, bald, old or dumb enough to be the action hero we want him to be.  The Rock’s best move now may be to stop being so damn likable and turn heel, because if he’s too good to be the hero, he just might make the perfect bad guy.

1 We’ve went into this before.
2 Now, The Rock has recently shaved his head making him effectively bald, but, well before the bic look, he established himself in the action star with hair.

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The Last Great Yankee Dynasty: The Lords of the Rings

In 1996 George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, hired Joe Torre to be the 31st manager of the illustrious franchise.  A franchise with 22 World Championships in its 95 year history – easily the most of any American sports franchise.  But history was history, it had been 18 years since the Yanks last brought the Commissioner’s Trophy back to the Bronx – the longest drought the franchise had ever experience since it won its first in 1923.  With a mix of grizzled vets, young homegrown talent and some foreign imports, Torre’s Yankee’s ripped off a run that hadn’t been seen since the 1950s.  Four championships in five seasons including a three-peat to end the millennium.  Stamping themselves as one of the greatest baseball dynasties of all-time.

With spring training’s first full team work outs starting this week, it marks the first time since 1996 that no Yankee from their last great dynastic era will be on the 40-man roster.  All connections to late 90s dynasty severed.  A chapter in history closed.

I’m not here to mourn the end, but to celebrate the memory of the ’96-’00 New York Yankee Dynasty.  The bracket below comprises the 36 most important Yankees of that era, with one goal in mind – to find the most important.  We’ll call him the Lord of the Rings.

Rules

1.  ELIGIBILITY:  You must have played at least one game as a NY Yankee between ’96-’00 and have won at least one ring to be eligible.
2.  SEEDING: Seeds are determined by WAR (wins above replacement) as a Yankee between ’96-’00.
3.  SCOPE: Nothing done in the player’s career outside of the time frame of ’96-’00 will be taken into consideration.
4.  ADVANCEMENT CRITERIA:  Who ever advances is chosen by me based on performance, importance, what they represented, how they were received by fans, but mostly just my opinions.
5.  PLAY INS:  The four 8 seeds are determined by play-in games.

Guys Who Just Missed

Jose Vizcaino – One fantastic moment, breaks my heart to leave him off the bracket.
Clay Bellinger – Okay utility guy, nothing special.
Andy Fox – Poor man’s Clay Bellinger.
Glenallen Hill – 16 hrs in 40 games in 2000 – incredible.
Kenny Rogers – No one likes this guy and I refuse to celebrate his time on the Yankees.  #Worst.

 

T H E  B R A C K E T

 

Lord of The rRings

(click to enlarge)

 

Steinbrenner Region

Play-in
Charlie Hayes vs. Homer Bush

Somehow, between 1996-2000, Homer Bush played in less than 60 games as a New York Yankee which baffles me, because my memory of Homer is so vivid.  In ‘98, he slashed an impressive .380/.421/.465.  He had a great baseball name.  Homer Bush.  But, in reality, he was little more than a blip on the Yankee Dynasty radar.  Sort of a like the anonymous Storm Trooper who gets gunned down in the second act of a Star Wars movie.  Bye Homer.

Charlie Hayes, on the other hand, owns one of the most indelible moments of my childhood.  The image of Hayes settling under a high flyball in foul territory to clinch the Yanks’ 23rd world championship is burned into my frontal lobe.

(1) Bernie Williams vs. (8) Charlie Hayes

Charlie got over Homer, but Charlie can’t get over Bernie.  Hayes lasted just a season and a half with the Yankees during their historic run, while Bernie was a pillar of their reign.  A tall, lanky, quiet – sort of nerdy – center fielder who loved playing guitar, Bernie may have been the most talented player day in and day out on these Yankee teams.

(4) Wade Boggs vs. (5) Doc Gooden

The 1986 World Series pitted the Boston Red Sox vs. the New York Mets.  The Yankee’s most historic rival vs. the Yankee’s hometown rival.  In a fit of sublime irony, the ace and the best offensive player on each of those teams ended up playing key roles in the New Yankee Dynasty – Wade Boggs, Darryl Strawberry, Roger Clemens and Doc Gooden.

For all the folklore surrounding Wade Boggs – the 107 beers, the chicken eating, the talking to himself – his most memorable Yankee moment came on a horse.  For some reason, after seeing Mo Vaughn ride a horse the year before, Boggs became obsessed with riding a horse in Yankee Stadium.  He made it his mission.  After ‘96, he did it.

Doc Gooden had his Yankee moment on May 14, 1996 when he threw a no-hitter against the Mariners – no easy task with a lineup that featured Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner.

But, c’mon Wade rode a damn horse around Yankee Stadium – that’s too tough to beat.

(3) Roger Clemens vs. (6) Darryl Strawberry

1986 World Series Part Duex.

Darryl Strawberry is one of the rare guys beloved in both the Bronx and Queens.  In ’98, when Yankee Stadium underwent some structural issues and the Bombers had to play a few home games in Shea Stadium, Strawberry rose to the occasion and – of course – belted a home run in his homecoming.  And – of course – the crew at Shea got really excited and raised their big mechanical apple for him one last time.  Despite suspensions for cocaine use and multiple run ins with the law, Straw always remained a fan favorite.  When he belted his 300th career home run in ’96 – which was a walk off no less – the Bronx went crazy.

Above is also a great example of why the New Yankee stadium will never be able to hold a candle to the old.  The stands filled to capacity with too many shirtless beer guts in the bleachers to count, all erupting as one.  

Now to Clemens.  Let’s just say everyone in Queens hates this guy’s guts.  That’s not an understatement either.  In a pure fit of possibly chemically induced rage he once threw a broken jagged piece of wood directly at every Met fan’s favorite player – Mike Piazza – during a game. And not just any game, a World Series game!

Originally I picked Clemens to advance, but after years of defending Clemens as being a “super competitive perfectionist” maybe in hindsight he was just a jerk.  Strawberry upsets The Rocket.

Darryl vs Roger – too real.

(2) Orlando ‘El Duque’ Hernandez vs. Shane Spencer

In 1998, Shane Spencer was the pasty white man’s Linsanity.  After toiling in minor league obscurity for eight years, Spencer captured the imagination of everyone smashing 10 home runs in a little over a month (or in mathematical speak, 1 homer every 6.7 at bats) and had people, in full sincerity, calling him the next Mickey Mantle.   Between Keith Van Horn and Shane Spencer there was never a better time than 1998 to be a melanin deficient sports folk-hero in the tri-state area.

Spencer wasn’t the Yankees only rookie phenom in 1998 though.  Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez equally captured New York’s imagination.  Here is what you need to know about Hernandez, he’s Cuban, he’s at least four years older than he claims, he’s got the most famous leg kick since The Heartbeak Kid  and he’s one of the greatest postseason pitchers of the Wild Card era.

While Spencer’s success in ‘98 was merely a flash in the pan.  El Duque established himself as one of the best Yankee starters of the era.  And that’s why he advances.

Torre Region

Play-in
Joe Girardi vs. Cecil Fielder

Joe Girardi.  Joe Girardi.  Joe Girardi. Joe Girardi. This

Joe Girardi.  Joe Girardi.  Joe Girardi. Joe Girardi.

Sorry Big Daddy.

(1) Andy Pettitte vs. (8) Joe Girardi

While Girardi’s grit and toughness made him a sentimental favorite, Andy is Andy.  And Andy is good.  He is the only pitcher to record a start in all four World Series appearances for the Yanks between ‘96-’00.  Andy also finished top 5 in the Cy Young voting three times while notching 88 regular season wins over that span trailing only Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez.  Andy’s presence constituted one-fourth of what would come to be known as the Yankees’ “Core Four.”  See you later Joe.

(4) Jeff Nelson vs. (5) Mike Stanton

Nelson got out righties.  Stanton got out lefties.  They formed a doubled barrell backend of the bullpen with one goal – get the ball to Mo.  Stanton was good,  #PeakStanton coming in the 2000 Subway Series where he appeared in four out of five WS games, shut out the Mets and recorded two wins.  Nelson, meanwhile became a cult hero, imitating his high leg kick and crazy sidearm delivery became standard operating procedure in little leagues scattered across New York and New Jersey during the late ‘90s.  Nellie continues.

(3) Jorge Posada vs. (6) Jimmy Key

Jorge, sometimes known as Georgie, had a few cups of coffee in ‘96 with the Yankees, then studied under the tutelage Joe Giradi for the next three seasons – the Rube Baker to Girardi’s Jake Taylor – by 2000 Georgie had the job to himself and emblazoned himself as one of the premier offensive catchers in the American League.

Jimmy Key was the wily vet for the Yanks in ‘96 – the Eddie Harris.  His biggest moment came in game 6 of the World Series when he outdueled future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux to clinch the Yankees’ first title in 18 years.

It still has to be Jorge though.  Hip-hip-JORGE!

(2) Mariano Rivera vs. (7) Mariano Duncan

“We play today, we win today…Das it.”  That line right there is Mariano Duncan’s greatest contribution to the New York Yankees.  Now, while that shouldn’t be overlooked, the other Mariano aka Mo aka Super Mariano aka The Sandman aka The Greatest Closer of All-Time will not be overtaken by a catchphrase.  Rivera by a thousand furlongs.

Zimmer Region

Play-in
Luis Sojo vs. Graeme Llyod

One of my favorite moments of  ‘96-00 Yankee run was this seven minutes right here:

It’s why Graeme Lloyd, the tall lefty Australian, will always have a place in my heart.  Also – one more time – shoutout to Darryl.

But, Luis Sojo was basically the de-facto mascot for the Bronx Bombers.  A pudgy, affable back-up infielder who wasn’t really particularly great at anything at all, but damn was he likable.  Also there was this:

In the words of The Kingsmen, “LOUIE,  LOUIE …”

(1) Derek Jeter vs, Luis Sojo

C’mon.  Really?  Do you even have to ask?

(4) Chuck Knoblauch vs. (5) Chad Curtis

Chad Curtis – oh Chad Curtis. The way you threw the ball so hard from leftfield that you would literally flip while throwing was a sort of likable idiosyncrasy.  Clowing Jim Gray on National TV in the most polite way possible, also very likable.  But calling out Saint Jeter of Kalamazoo – unforgivable.  Absolutely unforgivable.  It cannot be forgiven.

Chuck Knoblauch, you couldn’t throw a ball from second base to first.  Which is more personally embarrassing than unforgivable.  Actually pitiful might be a better word.

Also, why is the first thing that comes up when I google either of these guys’ names a mugshot?  This is terrible.  Horrible.  This matchup ends in DQ.  Both guys are disqualified.  I refuse to choose.  No one advances.  Just send Jeter straight to the Elite Eight.

(3) David Wells vs. (6) Tim Raines

Boomer vs the Rock.

Raines won two rings as a Yankee.  Led the first ever back-back-back home run barrage in playoff history.  And, during his brief stint as a Bomber, joined Ty Cobb, Lou Brock and Ricky Henderson as the only players in MLB history to swipe 800 bags.

All due respect to Tim, but Tim was never perfect.  David Wells was.  He also once wore Babe Ruth’s hat in a game – so that’s also pretty cool too.

(2) Tino Martinez vs. (7) Chili Davis

“My dad gave me a haircut…and it wasn’t a very good one. When I went out of the house, my friends got on my case and said it looked like someone put a chili bowl over my head and cut around it.” – Chili Davis.  Everyone loves Chili Davis.  No one doesn’t like Chili Davis.  Chili Davis is a pretty dope guy.

Tino averaged 28 homers and 115 rbis from ‘96-00.  In ‘97, Tino smashed a career high 44 dingers, finished second in the MVP race and, most importantly of all, brought the Home Run Derby title to the Bronx.

Chili is dope, but Tino is important.

Stottlemyre Region

Play-in
Ricky Ledee vs. Jim Leyritz

I like Ricky Ledee a lot.  I once saw him hit an inside the park home run live which – for some reason – happens to be one of my favorite childhood memories.  But, nothing he’s ever done is as important as this:

or even this :

or, really, even this:

leyrtiz

Yep, that’s Leyritz going 0-10 in the World Series against the Yankees.  A very loyal move of him, being a mole that one season and all.

(1) David Cone vs (8) Jim Leyritz

A lot of New York Met castoffs found their way to this New Yankee dynasty.  All respect to Doc, Dwight and Vizcaino, but Cone was easily the most important ex-Met turned Yankee.  Coming back from a potential career ending aneurysm in ‘96, Cone flirted with a no-hit bid before being taken out of the game due to pitch count restrictions and having the no-no surrendered by the pen.  That was just a sign of things to come though.  Coney would pitch a perfect game three years later.

Cone also posted a crazy 1.41 World Series ERA through 19.1 innings as a Yankee.

All that said Jimmy Leyritz pulls off the miraculous upset, because – NAH, just kidding.  Of course David Cone advances.

(4) Scott Brosius vs. (5) Hideki Irabu

Irabu came to New York as the “Japanese Nolan Ryan” and left as a “Fat Toad”.  Scott Brosius came to New York as just some guy who was going to play third base and left as a World Series MVP.  The moral here; always under-promise and over-deliver.

(3) Ramiro Mendoza vs. (6) John Wetteland

Ramiro Mendoza was a sort of hybrid spot starter meets long man meets set-up man.   From ‘96-’00, he started 55 games, came in relief 104 games and finished 30 games.  Mendoza effectively played the role of Swiss Army knife for the Yankees’ pitching staff.  Wetteland though.  You can’t not pick the guy in the center of this picture.

Long live Wetteland and his dirty hat.

(2) Paul O’Neill vs. (7) David Justice

Justice only spent half a season as a Yankee during the golden era, but that half season saw him knock 20 round trippers in a little less than 80 games.  Which is pretty boss.  Paul O’Neill’s a God though.  Water coolers beware.

SWEET SIXTEEN

rings2

Steinbrenner Region

(1) Bernie Williams vs. (4) Wade Boggs

You think I’m really going to pick a Boston Red Sox over Bernie Williams?  C’mon man!  Just to give you an idea of how good Bernie Williams was in the late ‘90s – from ‘96-’00 he is the ONLY Major League Professional Baseball Player with over 3,000 plate appearances to slash .300/.400/.500 and win at least one gold glove (he won four by the way).  That’s right – Bonds didn’t do it, Griffey didn’t do it,  A-Rod didn’t do it, Pudge didn’t do it, Chipper didn’t do it, No-mah didn’t do it.  No one did it – except Bernie.

(6) Darryl Strawberry vs. (2) El Duque

I’ve already posted multiple videos here of Darryl never backing down and being generally indignant.  I remember being in the stands for one game where Strawberry got hit by a pitch and refused to take his base.  He just stood in the batter’s box, barking at the pitcher to throw the next pitch.  That’s just who Darryl was- a Badass Mother Fucker.  It’s what made him beloved.  In the movie of the 1990’s New York Yankees, Darryl Strawberry is played by Samuel L Jackson.  No if, ands or buts about it.

El Duque won hearts by being absolutely unflappable in any situation.  Pure ice water ran through his veins.  In his first ten playoff games, El Duque went 8-0 boasting a 1.91 ERA.  Just crazy good.  He once also threw his entire glove to first base to get an out, because – like I said – nothing flaps this guy.

El Duque sails through to the next round.

Torre Region

(1) Andy Pettitte vs. (4) Jeff Nelson

Both Pettitte and Nellie took part in all four championships runs.  Besides a funky delivery and some solid bullpen work, Nelson can’t really compare to Andy.  Pettitte was a full-fledged star.  A home grown Yankee.  My first sports related temper tantrum is attributed to Andy Pettitte.  In ‘96, after reading that Pat Hentgen won the Cy Young Award over Andy Pettitte, the power of a thousand Chris “Mad Dog” Russos ran through my eight year old body as I stomped, screamed and cried, “HE WON 21 GAMES!  21 GAMES!  THIS IS NOT FAIR!  21 GAMES!”

Andy wins this one.

Andy also has the best pickoff move of all-time.

(3) Jorge Posada vs. (2) Mariano Rivera

Here’s the first instance of the Core Four facing off against each other in the bracket.  While Georgie’s major contributions came in the 2000 season, Mo’s effect on the dynasty was apparent through the whole run.  Even before taking over the closer role from Wetteland, Mo was dominant.  In his sole year as a set-up man he managed to finish third in the Cy Young voting – almost unheard of for someone not starting or closing games.  Mo’s sheer brilliance powers him through to the elite eight.

Zimmer Region

(1) Derek Jeter vs. DQ’ed

I’ll just leave this here.

(3) David Wells vs. (2) Tino Martinez

I love David Wells.  If this was me picking by pure favorites, it would be David Wells.  I may have been the only Yankee fan pissed off when the Bombers traded David Wells for Roger Clemens.  David Wells was big and fat.  David Wells had a mustache.  David Wells drank beers.  David Wells got into fights.   Overall David Wells basically just caused ruckuses.  David Wells was a ruckus maker.  David Wells enjoyed ruckuses.  Tino’s going to advance though, because Tino’s a “classic” Yankee.  Clean shaven, classy, button up guy.  He also led the Bombers in home runs and rbis during their run – so there’s that too.

Stottlemyre Region

(1) David Cone vs. (4) Scott Brosius

Every true Yankee fan that lived through the Torre era earnestly and truly appreciates Scott Brosius.  During his tenure, he won a Gold Glove, a World Series MVP, got elected to an All-Star game and somehow posted 98 rbis in 1998 season while mostly batting in the bottom third of the lineup.  His bare handed plays at third are tattooed on the inner retinas of any Yankee fan who saw him play.

David Cone is too important though.  From ‘96-’99 he was a fully realized ace.  One of the best starters in baseball.  Only six pitchers with at least 600 innings pitched had a better ERA+ during those four seasons – Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens and John Smoltz.  Four of those guys are first ballot Hall of Famers, one is Roger Clemens (basically a first ballot HOFer minus the baggage) and the last is Kevin Brown (don’t get me started).  That’s some pretty nice company.

(6) John Wetteland vs. (2) Paul O’Neill

John Wetteland’s role in the grooming of Mariano Rivera should not go understated.  Mo has publicly called Wetteland his “mentor.”  “I was attached to him like a leech,” Mo reminisced, “I learned a lot from him, how to pitch, especially in the playoffs.”  Wetteland was the Chris Partlow to Mo’s Michael Lee.  Nevermind the 71 saves Wetteland compiled as a Yankee or the 7 more he added in the playoffs or his ‘96 World Series MVP performance.  Wetteland’s most enduring legacy to the New York Yankee’s was his mentorship to Mo.  Bottom line.

Now that that’s out of the way – Paul O’Neill advances.

Maybe the best “pure” hitter on these Yankee teams, O’Neill also had the uncanny ability to also save the Yankees in the field.  Whether it was World Series games

or, more memorably, keeping Cone perfect.

Like the father from a 1980’s ABC sitcom it just always seemed like O’Neill was there – keeping the Yankees safe.

Elite Eight

rings3

Steinbrenner Region

(1) Bernie Williams vs. (2) El Duque

El Duque is my all-time favorite pitcher.  The trademark leg kick.  The clutch playoff performances.  The high socks.  The eephus pitch.  I like just about everything about him, but he’s no Bernie.  A switch hitting centerfielder who could run, hit for average, hit for power and field his position – he was a true five tool threat.  And somehow he was underrated during his late ’90s prime.  If driving in 100+ runs year-after-year and winning a battle title wasn’t enough, he was also perennially among the league leaders in OBP and OPS, well before the Moneyball era popularized those statistical categories.  During ‘96-’00, no switch hitter in baseball had a higher batting average, on-base percentage or slugging percentage than Bernie Williams.  He was surely the preeminent switch hitter in baseball during the late ‘90s (*I’m starring at you Chipper*).

Torre Region

(1) Andy Pettitte vs. (2) Mariano Rivera

There’s three reasons Andy’s run ends here.  1.  He’s the only PED guy that’s made it this far and I can’t in good conscience send a PED guy to the final four.  2.  While I know this is suppose to only reflect my feelings on these guys from the ’96-’00 seasons, Pettitte leaving after the ’03 season for Houston really had me feeling some type of way.  3.  Mo is just too good.  In 60 playoff innings pitched from ’96-’00, Mo posted a 0.75 era.  In the ’98 and ’99 playoff runs, he didn’t give up a single run.  Not one.  Not even an unearned run.  That’s other worldly.

Zimmer Region

(1) Derek Jeter vs. (2) Tino Martinez

Jeter’s cake walked into this Elite Eight so far.  That’s because I’ve been saving words for him.  Of course he’s going to advance to the final four, but now, pitted against the Yankee’s premier power hitter, I have to start making his case.

In ’96, not so coincidentally the same year the dynasty started, Jeter arrived as the fresh faced rookie.  He batted .314, posted a .370 on-base, scored 100+ runs and drove in another 78 – unanimously winning the Rooking of the Year award.  In his first postseason he batted .360 with an on base% over .400 sprinkling in clutch moments along the way.  Not bad for a rookie.

From ’96-’00, Jeter finished top 10 in the MVP voting three times.  He slashed an impressive .323/.396/.470 while averaging 200 hits and 120 runs a season.  He won a World Series MVP, an All-Star MVP, led all position players in WAR in 1999 and had more hits than any other professional baseball player.  And these are just the numbers, measuring Jeter just by his numbers is like measuring Beyonce by just by her days with Destiny’s Child.  It doesn’t even begin to tell the story.

Stottlemyre Region

(1) David Cone vs. (2) Paul O’Neill

George Steinbrenner dubbed Paul O’Neill “The Warrior.”  He was relentless in his pursuit for success – often smashing water coolers, breaking bats and throwing helmets when he felt like he let the team down.  Even with all the emotion he played with though, he never showed up an opponent.  When he hit a home run out to the O’Neill bullseye signs in right, he’d humbly bow his head and run around the bases.  Never flicking his bat and admiring his shot.  He did his job, after the inning he’d trot out to right field where he could be caught practicing his swing in between pitches.  David Cone was great, but Paul O’Neill was more than the heart and soul of the last Yankee dynasty.  He was the balls of it.

Also Pauly had one of the great Seinfeld cameos.

Final Four

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It’s about to get super real.  The hardest decisions of my life are about to take place.

(1) Bernie Williams vs. (2) Mariano Rivera

For three straight years Mo was the last pitcher standing (four actually – but let’s not talk about the fourth).

Mo recorded 19 postseason saves from ’97-’00.  He quickly established himself as the greatest closer of all-time.  It’s really tough picking Mo over Bernie.  Mo appeared in a little less than 40% of Yankees games between ’96-’00.  On the other hand, Bernie batted clean-up for the bulk of them but Mo’s once in a generation impact and talent shoves him past Bernie.  Mo is sort of like Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, even though Hannibal Lecture haunted the screen for just 16 minutes, there was no question he was more than just a bit character.  He was a leading man.  Same goes for Mo, he was much more than a supporting player who pitched an inning or two here and there.  He was an unmistakable force looming out in the bullpen.  His mere presence in the ballpark changed the game.

(1) Derek Jeter vs. (2) Paul O’Neill

If O’Neill was the balls of the franchise, Jeter was the face.  Always cool and calm with unwavering confidence, Jeter seemed like a Superhero out on the field.  Nothing fazed him.  He never got rattled.  No moment was too big.

Whether he was a rookie facing a future Hall of Famer in the World Series:

Or caping off a come back in the ALDS:

Or playing his arch-rivals in the ALCS:

Or squaring off against that same future Hall of Famer from before a few years later, again in the World Series:

Or was down late on the road in the World Series:

Or had to throw an absolute strike to hold the game at zeros:

Jeter delivered.

He always played hard.  Never took a play off.  Never showed an opponent up.  Never said a wrong word to the media.  Never distracted the team.  Never cheated.  And was always the first guy out of the dugout to congratulate a teammate.

I love Paul O’Neill and his farewell video is one of the best things on the internet, but his road ends here.

Finals

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(2) Mariano Rivera vs. (1) Derek Jeter

Was it ever in question?  Of course Derek Jeter was going to win, but sometimes it’s about the journey not the destination.  The point of this bracket was to remember what made these Yankee teams a juggernaut.  It wasn’t one player.  It was about a team working in unison as one.  It was about an unflinching desire to win.  It was about the drive to be great.  Derek Jeter just happens to be the face of that.  Maybe Jeter wasn’t as dominate as Mo or fiery as Paul or ‘toolsy’ as Bernie, but Jeter was the ultimate winner and to these Yankees – that’s all that mattered.

 

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Today Keith Olbermann is… “THE WORST PERSON IN THE WORLD”

Dear Mr. Olbermann ,

I just watched your Jeter farewell video and would like to point out why almost everything you just said is false, misleading or just plain dumb.

0:08 “Derek Jeter…did not invent baseball” – True, that was Abner Doubleday.

0:10: “He did not discover electricity” – True, that was Ben Franklin.

0:12: “He’s not the greatest shortstop to ever live” – True, that’s probably Honus Wagner

0:18: “And among all the terrific players in the history of the New York Yankees he is not by any measure number one.” – Well not exactly, by the measure of hits, doubles and stolen bases he is number one, but your greater point is true –  Babe Ruth is number one.

0:28; Jorge Posada – “For me [Derek Jeter’s] number one”

 You – “Ruth, Gehrig,  DiMaggio, Mantle, Munson,  Nettles, Randolph, Mussina, Ruffing – heaven forbid – A-Rod.  NO Jeter, because as Jorge Posada has just explained to us mortals, Posada saw Jeter play which is the crux of the disconnect here, because objects in the side mirror may actually be smaller than they appear. ”

I don’t think you’ll get much argument here from most baseball people that yes, Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle are better than Derek Jeter.  So you got that right, but Munson,  Nettles, Randolph, Mussina, Ruffing , heaven forbid A-Rod?  Hmm let’s take a closer looks.

Let’s look at Munson, Nettles, and Randolph first.  To be honest as you point out many current Yankee fans haven’t seen these guys play.  Me included.  But, I would assume that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) did watch these guys play and those guys vote for the Hall of Fame and they made the determination that none of those guys are Hall of Famers- while, in all likelihood Jeter will be a first balloter.

As for Mussina.  I did see him play.  And Posada saw him play.  And the BBWAA say him play.  So the “crux of the disconnect” doesn’t really play here.

As for A-Rod.  Sure, statistically he is better than Derek Jeter.  Who cares about his rampant steroid use and the fact that he is one of the biggest black eyes in Yankee and baseball history?

As for Red Ruffing, it only took the BBWAA  19 years to elect him into the Hall of Fame, not exactly the makings of an immortal.

Also not for nothing but in that list of ten, where is Yogi Berra (one of the three greatest catchers of all-time), Whitey Ford (the greatest Yankee’s starter ever) or Mariano Riveria (the greatest closer in the history of the game).

2:05 “He’s not dead yet” True.

2:25 “How many times did Derek Jeter lead the American League in any offensive production category? The answer is three.”  True.

2:35 “How often did Jeter lead the Yankees in any major offensive production categories?  …  17 times.”    This is a bit misleading because Jeter spent his entire career batting either leadoff and second – meaning it would be unrealistic for him to lead your team in HRs, RBIs or SLG%.  Also you very slyly leave out runs.  Which Jeter led his team in SEVEN times.  But why let facts get in the way of a good story?

2:55 “How many MVP awards did he win? None.”–  Also true, but let’s not ignore the rampant steroid use in the Majors for the majority of Jeter’s career – which Jeter, himself, was never involved in.  Some food for thought, in the seventeen years of Jeter’s  career the AL MVP winner has tested for, been suspected of or linked to steroids or HGH in ten of the seventeen instances.  Not exactly a level playing field.  This may also explain your statements at the 2:25 mark.

3:03 “Of these six more or less contemporary players who has the lowest career WAR.  Adrien Beltre, Chipper Jones, Albert Pujols, Jim Thome, Larry Walker or Derek Jeter?  Right, Jeter” – True again.  And again let’s ignore that three of those players have been linked to steroid use.

3:20 “Those ten great Yankees I mentioned…where does Jeter rank among them for best WAR per season with the Yankees?  Oops, he’s eleventh.”  True, but again in this list one is a known steroid offender and seven others only played their prime years in New York allowing for their WAR per season to be inflated by not having to deal with the inevitable aging decline in statistical production.  Oh and by the way in TOTAL WAR, Jeter ranks fifth on the all-time Yankee list behind Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle and DiMaggio.

3:39 “You don’t know who Red Ruffing was do you?”  False, I do know who Red Ruffing was – but try to be a little less condescending it’s not a very becoming trait.

4:02 “Jeter’s only the 19th guy to come to the plate 12,000 times or more and where does he rank among that special peer group?  13th in slugging, 14th in OPS, 12th in Home runs, 13th in triples, 14th in doubles and 14th in RBIs”  True, but extremely misleading.  Out of that special peer group of 19, Jeter ranks 9th in plate appearances, meaning 12th in homers, 13th in triples 14th in doubles and 14th in RBIs is actually pretty good, especially when you consider he was was a top of the order hitter not expected to hit homers or drive in 100+ runs a year.   Now, since he was a table setter, let’s look at the stats he was expected to contribute in;  Stolen bases, eighth on that list.  Runs Scored, eighth on that list.  On base %, eighth on that list.  Hits, fifth on that list.  Batting Average, fourth.  Not too shabby.

4:30 “Anything on defense we can hold on to?  Not really, no.” False, the guy does have five Golden Gloves – only four shortstops in history have more.  And then there’s this

and this

and this

and this

and this.

5:00 “What about all those World Series wins?  You mean those four in his first five full years.  Which means if you believe if he led the Yankees to those wins and it wasn’t Paul O’Neill or Tino Martinez or Bernie Williams or the whole team”  – Yes I do believe he led them to those four World Series wins.  Earlier you touted the stat WAR, well Jeter led the Yankees in WAR in two of those four years.  And in the four championship years combined guess what Yankee led the team in WAR?  Yep, you guessed it.  Derek Jeter.

5:50 “ It can be argued that if Derek Jeter benched himself…then the Yankees may actually be in the Wild Card race.”  – That’s a stretch.   If Derek Jeter had benched himself the Yankees would be playing some combination of Dean Anna, Branden Ryan and Stephen Drew at  shortstop.  They have combined to hit a sparkling .163 this year.

6:00 “DiMaggio and Mantle both quit rather than stink” –  False, in Joe DiMaggio’s final season he hit .263.  Mantle hit .237.  Both pretty stinky.

6:20 “Why isn’t Jeter immediately retiring after his final game in New York?”  Because nothing says leader and class quite like quitting on your team mid-season to hand the reigns over to the immortal Stephen Drew.

6:35 “Derek Jeter will play his final game at Fenway Park too, making a mint.” Well that’s a super sweet gesture by the Red Sox, I didn’t know teams split revenues with the shortstops of the opposing teams.  Thanks for enlightening me Mr. Olbermann.

Warm Regards,

Gregory A. Massaro

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The Only Songs that Matter of 2013

Making a massive playlist of the best songs of the year is easy.  Distilling that list to only a few songs that truly matter is hard.  I did this in another life and now I’m going to do it again here.

The process starts like this.  Compile every song that made you feel anything over the last year.  That’s the first draft.

Then cut out any of the songs you threw on the list just to feel like a good, well rounded music fan.  That’s the second draft.

Now cut the songs that you really had to try and remember.  The songs that really mattered should have come to your mind almost immediately.

Here’s where the tough decisions get made.  If you did the first three steps correctly you should only be left with songs that you’ve pumped through your  car speakers, headphones and laptop a silly number of times.  It’s time to trim this list down to only the essentials.  Ideally to a number under ten.

Then, and only then, you have the songs that matter.

Now for the list.

Songs that almost mattered:  James Blake –  Retrograde | Drake – Hold On, We’re Going Home | Trinidad James – All Gold Everything | Kendrick Lamar feat. Jay Z – Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe (remix) |  Rich Homie Quan – Type of Way | Pusha T feat. Rick Ross – Millions | A$AP Ferg – Hood Pope | A$AP Ferg feat. A$AP Rocky, French Montana, Trinidad James, SchoolBoy Q – Work (remix) |  Ciara – Body Party | Jheno Aiko feat. Childish Gambino – Bed Peace | Tegan and Sara – Closer | Lorde – Tennis Court | Lil’ Wayne feat. 2 Chainz – Rich as Fuck | Chance the Rapper – Nearly everything on Acid Rap | Jay Z feat. Rick Ross – F*ckwithmeyouknowigotit

T H E  M I G H T Y  S I X

Vampire Weekend – Hannah Hunt 

I can’t help but think of Lena Dunham in Girls whenever I listen to this song.  I also can’t help but feel emotions whenever I listen to this song.  It reminds me of Vampire Weekend’s I Think Ur A Contra (one of my favorite songs ever).  The melancholy melody.  The sparse lyrics.  According to Spotify it was my most played song of the year.  All hail Ezra Koenig.

Kanye West – Black Skinhead

I did not like Yeezus.  I loved Black Skinhead.  No other song embed itself so deeply into my head in 2013.  The drums.  The breathing.  The primal screams.  The quotables.  The anger.  It’s already tentatively in my top 10 Kanye songs ever.  And for that alone, I guess Yezzus was worth it.

Wild for the Night – A$AP Rocky feat. Skrillex

The amount of times I’ve drunkenly blasted this song through my iPhone speakers can be estimated, conservatively, at 450 times.  There is nothing better to wyle out to then those lasers and A$AP’s pitched down vocals.  It’s absolutely turned THE FUCK up.  Every pregame needs this to be the exact last song you listen to before you hit the club.  It doesn’t just bang, it obliterates.

Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball

In between, a controversial VMA performance, provocative music videos and a sneakily good  SNL hosting gig, Miley actually released a pretty solid album.  An album that I sort of think will go down as her Justified.  Yes, that means I am totally anticipating her next album to be her FutureSex/LoveSounds.  And yes, I feel like Mike Will is her Timbaland.  And yes, I feel like Wrecking Ball is her Cry Me a River.  And yes, I know this all sounds insane.  But, just trust me, it wasn’t that long ago when we all were laughing at Justin for being a southern white Disney teen star with a funny hair cut trying to appropriate black culture.  It’s all in the playbook.  #InMileyITrust

Chance the Rapper feat. Childish Gambino – Favorite Song

I’ve said it before.  I’ll say it again.  Chance had the best rap album of the year.  Sorry Em.  Sorry Jay.  Sorry Ye.  Sorry A$AP Mob.  Sorry Drake.  Sorry Danny Brown.  Chance won.  And it wasn’t even close.  I know Favorite Song probably isn’t even a top five track on Acid Rap, but that doesn’t matter.  It’s the most infectious song of the year.  If it doesn’t make you feel good, there’s something wrong with you.  Basically, if this song doesn’t make you smile, you probably need to up your Lexapro dosage right now.

Migos feat. Drake  Drake feat. Migos – Versace 

Best verse of the year.  Hands down.  No contest.  Just crazy.  Drake kills it.  Migos isn’t even worth mentioning, just loop the Drake verse.  It was a good year to be Drake.  5 am in Toronto had me thinking we’d finally get some mean Drake.  Which happens to be my favorite Drake.  Then he dropped Hold On, We’re Going Home.  The song that I’m convinced will be playing in the background when I first see my future wife.  Then there was Worst Behavior, Furthest Thing and Pound Cake.  But, I only got one word, well maybe three words,  Versace. Versace. Versace.

T H E  P L A Y L I S T *
(to be played in this EXACT order, the Hannah Hunt-Black Skinheads transition is the highlight of my 2013)

*Favorite Song and Versace (remix) are not available on Spotify, but Favorite song should be track 5 and Versace should be track track 6.

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The Albums of My Millennium

Here’s the thing, I like quantifying things.  I like stats and metrics and formulas.  So, when people ask me a question like, “What’s your favorite music / artist / album?” it can be hard to answer.  It’s not like I have some sort of intricate Excel spreadsheet set-up with all my favorite music graded and rated based on some sort of wonkish self-conceived rubric.  I’m not that much of a nerd.

Wait.  Hold on.  Yeah.

As of a last week, I am that much of a nerd.  Beginning precisely seven days ago I began cataloging my favorite albums and grading them out.

To limit the endless amount of albums that can/will be rated, I’ve started with albums released after December 31, 1999.

To find my favorite album of the new millennia, I took the 40 post-Y2K albums that still find themselves in semi-regular rotation on my Spotify / iTunes / illegal downloaded music collection and began grading.

The Albums (and mixtapes)

50 Cent – Get Rich or Die Tryin | Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap | Kid Cudi – Man on The Moon, A Kid Named Cudi | Drake – So Far Gone, Thank Me Later, Take Care | Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP, The Eminem Show | Fall Out Boy – Take This to Your Grave, From Under the Cork Tree | Frank Ocean nostalgia, ULTRA, channel ORANGE | Jay-Z– The Blueprint, The Black Album, American Gangster, The Blueprint 3 | Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/LoveSounds | Kanye West – The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, 808s and Heartbreaks, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy | Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d city | LCD Soundsytem – Sound of Silver, This Is Happening | Passion Pit – Manners, Gossamer | Sleigh Bells – Treats | The Roots – How I Got Over | The Strokes – Is This It |  Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter 2, Da Drought 3 | The Throne – Watch The Throne | Radiohead – Kid A | Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend, Contra, Modern Vampires of the City | The White Stripes – White Blood Cells, Elephant

The Rubric

  1. Each track on each album is scored on a point scale from 0-2 and added together.  Bonus tracks are not scored.  Skits and Interludes are not scored.  Hidden tracks are scored.  Points are awarded based on how I’d finish the following sentence;
    When this track comes on I…
    0 = …auto-skip.”
    0.5 = …sometimes listen, sometimes skip.”
    1 = …never skip.”
    2 = …go out of my way to listen / put on repeat / add to special playlists / sing into my hairbrush / cry / lose my mind / make-out with the person standing next to me / et cetera. ”
  2. Each track on the album is counted and multiplied by 1.5 to give it a base rating (once again, not including skits, interludes and bonus tracks).  Example: if there are 10 tracks on the album, the base rating is 15 (10 x 1.5 = 15)
  3. Divide points scored (step 1) by the album’s base rating (step 2) and multiple by 100.

The Formula:

(Step 1 / Step 2) x 100 or (Points Scored / (Number of songs x 1.5)) x 100.

***Disclaimer: This is about favorite not best.  All pretension goes out the door right here***

The Top 20

20) Fall Out Boy – Take This to Your Grave (2003) – Score: 8.3

Told you all pretension was out the door.

This CD was stolen straight out of my sister’s bedroom and preceded to live in my Sony Walkman for the better part of 10th and 11th grade.  Calm Before the Storm still creeps into my head bi-weekly, even if I’ve gone months without hearing it, and Dead on Arrival and Grand Theft Autumn  are too high school to even explain.

19) The Roots – How I Got Over (2010) – Score: 8.3*

This spot is sort of like a career recognition award for The Roots.  As much as I love The Roots’ sound, I rarely sit down and play one of their albums straight through from start to finish.  Usually, I just make one big ass Roots playlist and hit shuffle.

That said the first half of this album is without flaws.  It’s crazy good.

18) Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d city (2012) – Score: 8.3

This album made me a K. Dot believer.  I really felt Kendrick was destined for a Talib Kweli career, maybe a Common career if he played his cards right – a super talented rhymer with a hit here and there, but never rising too much higher than the backpacker label.

Damn was I wrong.  The guy’s a superstar.  Insta-classic.

17) Vampire Weekend – Contra (2010) – Score: 8.3

Remember when I said, “Each track … is scored on a point scale from 0-2”, well that was sort of a lie.  One of the 600+ tracks scored actually received a 3.  That track…

“I Think Ur A Contra”

Why?

Because, I love that song more than most things.  It’s my Desperado.

Full disclosure, I’ve probably looked up the word “contra” in the dictionary between 5 and 500 times and I’m still not exactly sure it’s definition.

16) The White Stripes – White Blood Cells (2001) – Score: 8.3

Sometimes you just need to rock your freaking face off.   When talking about Jack White one of my college buddies put it best, “the guy plays from his balls.”

15) Kanye West – Late Registration (2005) – Score: 8.4

This is just the tip of the Kanye iceberg.  There’s not a single skipable song on this album, the beats murder and the features are even better.

14) Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon (2009) – Score: 8.4

Like I said earlier, only one song received a 3, but damn did Soundtrack 2 My Life come close.  It’s my favorite hip-hop song ever.

ALSO, I played Make Her Say incessantly senior year of college, like probably four times a day minimum.

ALSO, I truly believe Pursuit of Happiness is the Smells like Teen Spirit of my Generation.  I can write another 1,000 words explaining that last statement, but I’ll just let it sit with you for now.

13) Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE (2012) – Score 8.5

There are probably four perfect songs on this album.  One of which gives me a lump in my throat every time I hear it and one of which I croon along with – making the ugliest sing-face you’ve ever imagined – every time it comes on the radio.  Sure it’s embarrassing, but who cares.

12) Kanye West – Graduation (2007) – Score: 8.5

BANGER after BANGER after BANGER.  ‘Nuff said.

11) Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006) – Score: 8.6

The first CD I ever owned was Backstreet Boys.

A lot of people don’t know this, but back in 1996 when you bought a Backstreet Boys’ album from your local Sam Goody you were forced to take a blood oath declaring your allegiance to Brian, Kevin, Nick, Howie and AJ.  Part of that oath also included fighting a lifelong battle against NSYNC and everything they stood for.

This wasn’t really a problem until 2002 when Justin Timberlake decided to release Cry Me a River and force a legion of BSB fans into becoming closeted Justin fans.  Bashing him in public for the bleached hair, the curls, the Britney obsession, but secretly knowing every single lyric to Cry Me a River, Rock Your Buddy and Senorita.

Then Justin dropped FutureSex/LoveSounds in 2006.

There was no use denying it.  It was over.  Justin won.   All hail Timberlake.

10) Kanye West – 808’s and Heartbreaks (2008) – Score: 8.6

Sometimes I honestly believe that this is the only album that matters.

We all have our causes.  Bill Gates has malaria.  Hillary Clinton has women’s rights.  I have 808s and Heatbreaks.  It’s the most important album of Kanye’s career and maybe the entire 2000s.  Honestly, I don’t really care how you take that last statement, because it’s true.

808s, I will fight for you until my last dying breath.  I promise.    

9) Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap (2013) – Score: 8.7

Jay, Kanye, Drake, A$AP Rocky, Lil Wayne; 2013 was a mega hyped year for hip-hop releases.  One thing though, Chance beat them all.

Acid Rap is the most fun, most heartfelt, best rap album of the year.  Easy.

I love Chance.  I love this album.  Chance for President.

8) Drake – So Far Gone (2009) – Score: 8.8

This album mixtape totally changed the way I listen to music.  It flipped everything on its head.

I definitely didn’t like this mixtape the first time I heard it.  I wanted more Every Girl in The World type flows, more Bedrock type bravado.  I wanted a Wayne protégé.   Not all this faux-R&B, indie pop, hipster hip-hop mish mash.  Then a few tracks got caught in my head.  It crawled its way into my ear and I listened to this mixtape again and again and again.  That’s when I learned to accept music for what it is and not what I wanted it to be.

Like I said, it changed me.  It made me really love music.  All types of music.

7) LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver (2007) – Score: 8.9

When I don’t want to listen to hip-hop or rock or pop I listen to this album.  It’s a great reset.

North American Scum, Someone Great and All My Friends as tracks 3, 4, and 5 are the Ruth, Gehrig and Meusel of contemporary music.  Then ending the album with the beautifully nostalgic New York I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down makes my heart sink every-single-time. *Sigh*

6) 50 Cent – Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003) – Score: 8.9

I will always be 15 years old when I hear GRoDT.  It’s everything a 15 year old budding rap fan could ask for.  Hit after hit after hit.  Totally exhilarating to listen to.  A juggernaut.  An absolute classic.

5) Jay-Z – The Black Album (2003) – Score: 9.0

The only word that can even begin to describe this album is triumphant.  And even calling it triumphant is a gross, gross understatement.  It’s more than that.  It’s everything Jay wants you to want to want from him.  I promise if you breakdown that last sentence it more than makes sense, actually it’s quite possibly the truest sentence ever written.

The Black Album is also in the pantheon of great driving albums.  Maybe even the greatest.

4) The White Stripes – Elephant (2003) – Score: 9.1

Jack White is so fucking weird.  No album can switch from face melting guitar solo to tender little ditty back to face melter and work so well.  Jack White is far and away my favorite rock star on the planet and this album has everything I love about him on it.

3) Sleigh Bells – Treats (2010) – Score: 9.7

If So Far Gone changed the way I listened to music then Treats obliterated everything I ever thought about anything.  There is nothing in my DNA or history that could foreshadow me loving this album as much as I do.  No one who’s known me for more than 20 second could predict exactly how much I love this album and this sound and this band.

Liking this album and telling people I like this album and knowing they would hate this album or knowing they would judge me for liking an album like this and I not giving a fuck was a revelation.  All of sudden when people asked me “what kind of music do you like?” I no longer felt like I had to say what I perceived they perceived as cool.  I could stand by my tastes, because fuck it.  Sleigh Bells is freaking radical dude.

2) Jay-Z – The Blueprint (2001) – Score 10.4

Ah-Ha!  I bet you thought these ratings only went to 10.

I once forced a co-worker into listening to this album.  Halfway through she said she felt like she wasn’t worthy, that it made her feel too cool, that she wasn’t and she had to keep reminding herself she wasn’t.  I think that’s the absolute best way to describe The Blueprint.  It makes you feel like you’re Jay-Z and that you own New York and that you’re untouchable.

P.S. Takeover > Either

1) Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010) – 10.6

MBDTF is a perfect album and it’s still somehow underrated.  Its main flaw is its perfectness.  People want to nitpick, but there’s no nits to be picked.  Kanye West is this generation’s Beatles.  Deal with it.

* Tie Breakers were decided strictly by gut feelings.

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September 20, 2013 · 3:58 pm