Ah, yes... April 20th. Birthday of Barney Gumbel and Adolph Hitler, National High Five Day (this year, at least), and the well celebrated "Hippie New Year." Quite the day, no?

As a reformed fake hippie, I always feel a little reminisceful when April 20th rolls around on the calendar. This year marks the eighth anniversary of of my High School's Senior Skip Day, a day where us jerk-asses piled into our cars and drove out to my parents lake for an afternoon full of fishing, smoking, and beer drinking. And although the beer bongs from that glorious afternoon cloud my memory up a little, I distinctly remember my buddy Chris' intense desire to smoke a bowl on the boat in the middle of the lake at exactly 4:20. The man had goals, I must admit.

The best part of that April 20th was showing up at my mother's 7pm Cursillo mass three sheets to the wind. I sat down next to my now brother-in-law (he had been dating my sister for about six months at that point) and he leaned over to me and whispered "you seriously reek of beer and smoke. Are you drunk?"

"Man," I retorted, "we're Catholic -- half of the guys in here are drunk."

Ahhh... Childhood.

But I'm not on this ol' laptop here to talk about the past.

So far today, I have received three different text messages (one from my buddy SamE who I had not heard from in over 18 months... I guess this is how we keep in touch now) containing the following:

This is a cellular blunt so don't fuck up the rotation.
Keep this shit moving til the whole world hits it.
Happy 420!"

Now, I must say that I do find this message mildly amusing, mostly because I don't really smoke pot (aside from Lionel Hutz's bachelor party, I have not toked since fall of '04) yet I'm pretty sure people assume I do; and also because, with the unbelievable strides which telecommunications have made in the last decade or so, this is what we, america's young adults are using it for: "Cellular Blunts."


[Have a super happy fun weekend everybody. Sorry about the lack of posting around these parts as of late, but my life is excrutiatingly boring and, trust me, you don't want to hear about it. If you simply are just dieing to read my crap, just simply head on over to the Daily Redbird. Gracias.]



The New Hotness

Today marks my first endeavor with The Daily Redbird. It's a new/reprise site put together thru InsideStL, featuring Josh Bacott and Pat Imig of Joe Sportsfan, Jason Major of The Krimil, Matt Sebek of InStL and, of course, myself.

We will be updating 2 to 3 times everyday, so I hope you will flip the dial and tune on in over there every now and then. Please, check it out. We shall not disappoint (the link will stay up there to your left from here on out.)

Have a good weekend everybody... I've got to ride my bike for 13.1 miles Sunday Morn to cheer on The Lady Friend while she runs a half-marathon. If that wasn't enough, we have a wedding the night before and it's not like I can go to a wedding and not get ass-bombed, so if you live in the StL and smell a mix of whiskey, Marlboros, and reception-hall chicken breast on Sunday morning, that's coming from me, peddling away on the ol' Gary Fisher.

No doubt I will either be dead or whiney come Monday and I'll want to vent here on these fine Internets (hopefully the latter.)

[Don't forget, it's the first Cards-Cubs series of the year this weekend. Should be fun.]



The FYC's 2006 NL Central Preview

[Full disclosure: I'm a Cardinals fan. Actually, I’m kind of a huge Cardinals fan. Most of my money goes towards the St. Louis franchise, because, well...I am an idiot. Chances are you already knew that, but in case you didn't now you do. I was as impartial as I could possibly be while writing this preview. Hopefully, my works reflects my efforts, but in case it doesn’t, go suck an egg.]

St Louis Cardinals
2005 Record: 100-62, first place in the division. Defeated the San Diego Padres in the NLDS. Lost to the Houston Astros in the NLCS.
Projected 2006 Record: 96-66

The Cardinals lost outfielders Reggie Sanders and Larry Walker and second baseman Mark Grudzielanek over the off-season, but they were a combined age of 267 and used up the entire organizations supply of cortisone shots last year. Really, it's not that big of a loss. Neither was that of long time fan favorite and Phish-head Matt Morris, since he has the right arm of a 63 year old arthritic. However, their replacements, Juan Encarnacion, Larry Effing Bigbie, Junior Spivey and Sidney Ponson, are not exactly up to par.

Luckily for the Redbirds, those are really the only three weaknesses on a team which has won 205 games over the last two years. The club returns the best player in baseball never to take cattle steroids Albert Pujols, All-Star shortstop David Eckstein, perennial Gold Glove winner Jim Edmonds, the best young catcher in baseball Yadier Molina, and Scott Rolen (who, after missing almost all of last year, is basically like a new addition for the team.)

On the mound, the Cards will go with a rotation headlined by Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter, and lowlined by a fresh out of rehab Sidney Ponson. In the middle are Mark Mulder, Jason Marquis, and Jeff "The Most Boring Pitcher Ever" Suppan. Chances are either Marquis, Ponson, or youngsters Adam Wainwright or Anthony Reyes will be traded sometime during the season for an impact bat.

Jason Isringhausen leads a revamped bullpen, also featuring Braden Looper, Ricardo Rincon, and Brad Thompson (who is the best twelve year old pitcher since Henry Rowengartner in "Rookie of the Year.") Expect Izzy to nearly blow every lead, always letting the tying run on base, yet still earn 40 saves and give me approximately 17 heart attacks over the course of the season.

The Cardinals are set up to have another team that wins between 95-100 games, then comes up lame in the playoffs and pulls an epic choke job, ultimately falling short of the championship. Just like every god damn fucking year. Great.

Milwaukee Brewers
2005 Record: 81-81, third place in the division.
Projected 2006 Record: 87-75

It seems as if just about everyone is high on this Brewers squad. And with good reason. After doing what is seemingly impossible in Milwaukee last year (not having a losing record) the Brewers boast a club full of young, talented, and in-expensive players.

The rotation is headed up by Chris Capuano, Ben Sheets, and Doug Davis, pitchers who all kept their ERA's under 4.00 last year, and in today's game of super-balls, HGH, and bandbox stadiums, that qualifies as good, if not great. Floppy-haired Derrick Turnbow, who perpetually looks both confused and agitated at the same time, was solid last year in his first season as a closer, compiling 39 saves and holding righties to only a .167 average. He throws hard, but he also throws incredibly straight, which often is a recipe for disaster (see Farnsworth, Kyle aka “The Basket,” for more information.)

The always outstanding Carlos Lee shares outfield duties with Brady Clark, Geoff Jenkins, and Corey Hart, who, after not having a hit single in twenty-three years apparently has decided to peruse a career as a Major League baseball player. Good for him.

Heralded newcomer Prince Fielder will man first base after spending last year seeing limited playing time with Milwaukee, mostly as a pinch hitter and DH during interleague play. He's 6' and 260 lbs and is cut from the same model as his dad (Cecil Fielder), meaning that he's going to hit some mammoth blasts, but he is also going to strikeout a lot (in 59 at-bats last season he had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 17-2), never steal a base, and eat small household pets for snacks. Whether or not he'll end up sucking here, then playing in Japan, then coming back to the states only to slug 50 homers and cause me to buy 22 copies of his 1986 Topps rookie card like his old man did remains to be seen.

Milwaukee has compiled a team which has few holes and, more importantly, has done it cheap. If the players stay healthy, they should become a case study for small market teams everywhere: Invest in scouting and player development; Do not make stupid free agent purchases (are you paying attention Kansas City? 5 Million for a 38 year old Reggie Sanders? Good grief.); And get lucky.

Last year's motto of "The Milwaukee Brewers: Better than the Cubs" should probably be replaced by "We're Actually Good Now. Seriously. Like, Better Than The Packers. It's Like 1982, But With Better Hair Cuts."

Houston Astros
2005 Record: 89-73, second place in the division. Winner of the Wild Card, they desfeated the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS and the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS before losing to the Chicago White Sox in the World Series.
Projected 2006 Record: 86-76

The Houston Astros are full of question marks. And that's an understatement if there ever was one. Where to start?

Will Roger Clemens come back? If the Astros are still in contention, probably sometime in July, but who really knows for sure?

Will Jeff Bagwell be back? Even if he is, how close to the Bagwell of old will he really be?

Will Craig Biggio, at the age of forty, be able to stay healthy throughout the entire season?

Can Brad Lidge, despite having a slider which was once thought to be touched by the hand of god herself, be able to mentally bounce back after his disastrous post-season?

Can Ezequiel Asatcio possibly get any uglier?

So many questions, so few answers. But even with all of those questions marks remaining, some things are for certain.

Roy Oswalt will continue to be one of the best starters in the National League, and will continue to amaze people with his ability to throw in the upper-90's, even though he's 6' (on a good day) and a-buck-eighty-five soaking wet.

Andy Pettitte is still Andy Pettitte. The man had one of the quietest 2.39 ERAs ever last year. Needless to say, he's good.

Morgan Ensberg will more often be mistaken for a nerdy accountant than he will be recognized as one of the premiere third baseman in all of baseball.

The outfield trio of Lance Berkman, Speedy Willie Taveras, and newcomer Preston Wilson will produce solid numbers.

And, for reasons only god knows, there will still be a fucking hill and a flag pole in center field.

The Astros will be good, there's no debating that. But will they be able to replicate a season which took them from being left for dead at 15-30 all the way to the franchise’s first ever World Series appearance? No. No they will not.

Chicago Cubs
2005 Record: 79-83, fourth place in the division
Projected 2006 Record: 77-85

In the middle of Febuary, I was all set to pen the Cubs into a second place finish and perhaps a Wild Card. Somewhere around 88 and 95 wins.

As usual, it was their arms which I thought would pull them through. Carlos Zambrano will continue to be an absolute horse of a pitcher with a muy caliente temper, probably going for 18 wins and pissing off approximately 70,000 Cardinals fans when he plunks Jim Edmonds (it seems to happen every year.) Greg Maddux, fresh off his strenuous off-season work out regimen of playing cards by day and getting black out drunk off of scotch by night, will eat up 180+ innings and finish with a .500 record. Even though they're injury prone, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood are still only 30 months removed from a season where they combined to go 32-17, with 511 K's, and a 2.81 ERA. They've got too much raw talent to be counted out completely.

The infield definitely looks solid. Michael Barret is as durable of catcher as they come, always has been, always will be. Todd Walker is more than a serviceable second baseman. All-Star third baseman Aramis Ramirez, when healthy, is the top offensive third baseman in the National League. First baseman Derrek Lee had a career year last year, and will probably regress back towards his career norms, but even those are more than adequate.

In the outfield, some think the Cubs may have overspent for right fielder Jacque Jones (3yr/$16Mil) but guys with mediocre defensive ability, marginal speed and a lifetime .327 OBP don't grow on trees. Chicago also added speedy center fielder Juan Pierre, filling a hole in their leadoff spot for the relatively low cost of $5.75Mil. The Cubs failed in completing their off-season goal of having all three outfield spots manned by African Americans with French names though, and some dude named Matt Murton (who really isn’t that bad) is supposed to be starting in left.

Overall, that's not a bad team on paper in Febuary. Then the news came in. Kerry Wood needed surgery. Derrek Lee needed to get his shoulder checked out. Prior and Wood will both start the season on the DL. Juan Pierre doesn't know how to draw a walk. Manager Dusty Baker is wearing out all of the pitchers arms again. The closer is Ryan Dempster. Greg Maddux, in a drunken stupor, lost a finger when he got into a fight with a homeless man while trying to steal his dirty tube-socks.

That's when I remembered, even though they look good on paper, they're still the Chicago Cubs. This team could go 162-0, they could go 0-162. I figure they'll end up somewhere around the middle at 76-86.

Another summer in the North Side of Chicago. The Old Style will flow, the chicks in pink hats will have nice racks, and Ronnie Whoo Whoo's antics will continue to make many a frat-boy happy. But mediocrity will reign supreme in Wrigleyville. Same as it always was.

Cincinnati Reds
2005 Record: 73-89, fifth place in the division
Projected 2006 Record: 76-86

The Reds as an organization have made some strong moves since the end of the 2005 season. First and foremost, they let go of General Manager Dan O'Brien, who was not solely responsible for driving one of the most historic and accomplished franchises in the game straight into sucktitude, but he was the man behind the wheel.

On his way out the door, however, O'Brien made some of the best moves of his career in trading Sean Casey and his $8 million contract to division rivals Pittsburgh for cheap southpaw Dave Williams, re-signing outfielder Austin Kearns on the cheap, and avoiding arbitration to resign young innings-eater Aaron Harang for just $2.35 mil.

With an outfield consisting of Kearns and Ken Griffey Jr., and an infield featuring Jason LaRue, Felipe Lopez, and Adam Dunn, this team is going to score a lot of runs.

However, with a pitching staff featuring the likes of the aforementioned Harang and Williams, along with Brandon Claussen, Paul Wilson (and his 2005 ERA of 7.77), and Eric Milton (who, never one to be beaten by Paul Wilson dominated his way to a 6.47 ERA in 2005) they are also going to give up a lot of runs. Recently acquired crooner Brandon Arroyo will no doubt be a welcome addition to the starting rotation, and will probably push either the aforementioned Milton or Wilson into the 'pen or elsewhere. Speaking of their bullpen...oh, screw it. They all stink (Kent Mercker? Really? He's no Danny Graves, but still…)

Between what could be a juggernaut offense and a craptacular pitching staff, I'm going to call this one a wash and say they'll go a few games under a .500 record, 76-86. But, behind their new ownership, the Red Legs are definitely making steps in the right direction.

[Also, does anyone else find it odd that former Texas Longhorn reserve QB Adam Dunn (he backed up Major Applewhite) isn't the best former 2nd string collegiate QB - turned MLB first baseman? That honor belongs to Peyton Manning's old backup, Todd Helton. Somewhere, Drew Henson is crying.]

Pittsburgh Pirates
2005 Record: 67-95, sixth place in the division
Projected 2006 Record: 62-100

Good lord. Where to start? Well, the Pirates did do a good job in locking up left fielder Jason Bay in a deal which will keep him with the Bucs through 2009. Or until he gets traded to the Yankees for cash and pitching prospects on July 25, 2007. Whichever comes first. He agreed to the four-year, $18.25 million contract after slugging 32 homers, hitting .306, and perhaps most importantly playing in all 162 games. Although, he did put up a goose-egg in last year's Home Run Derby contest, giving his homeland of Canada a black eye which they may never recover from.

The Pirates also did their best to shore up their corner infield by acquiring former Cincinnati Reds first baseman Sean Casey. Casey will probably hit 12 homers keep his average right above the .300 mark, and only go on the DL once (okay, probably twice. Well, maybe three times. Four tops.) Decent, but probably not worth nearly the $8Mil per-season he will be earning. Especially on a team whose payroll is only $38Mil.

Other off-season moves included locking up "kind-of-good" short stop Jack Wilson for three more years, and adding right fielder Jeremy Burnitz. Burnitz would be a good addition to my softball team. To a Major League Baseball team? Not so much.

As for their pitching, their "ace" (and I have never used that term more loosely) Oliver Perez had a winning record last season (7-5) which I guess is a good sign. It's just too bad his ERA was 5.85, which definitely is not good. He'll need to work on that. Last year, then rookie Zach Duke burst on the scene and finished with an 8-2 record and a 1.81 ERA. Whether or not Perez and Duke can both stay healthy for 162 games should be the difference between a 45 win season and a 65 win season in Pittsburgh.

In the bullpen, veterans Ryan Vogelson, Roberto Hernandez, and Salomon Torres shore up an ever-revolving cast of youngsters. They, as a group, will probably suck. I'm pretty sure I still have Salomon Torres' '94 Topps Stadium Club rookie card, so hopefully he does well. But, I'm not banking on it. Sorry, but that's the way it goes.

On the bright side, the Steelers are still the Super Bowl champs, and the stadium looks really cool on TV.


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"I'll be dead in the cold, cold ground before I recognize the state of Missouri."