Our long national nightmare is over

Finally, thank God, Francisco Liriano is back. Liriano, whose agent was worried would never get back to the majors this year, will Start for the Twins Sunday afternoon when hopefully, they will be going for a 3-game sweep of the Cleveland Indians.  This move comes on the heels of the AL Central leading Whtie Sox picking up Ken Griffey, Jr. This move, along with the acquisition of Rochester first baseman Randy Ruiz, will hopefully be the type of trade deadline move within the organization that will lead the Twins to their 5th AL Central title in 7 years.

This does mean the end of the line for Craig Monroe, who hit a few big homers (including one against KC that may turn out to be a turning point game for the Twins, as well as Livan Hernandez, whose recent shelling at the hands of the White Sox was his last start as a Minnesota Twin. While I think Livan did as well as could be hoped for this season, it was clearly time for him to move on, and a rotation of Liriano, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey, with Boof Bonser hopefully getting better, should be very good for years to come. However, with that, here goes my tribute to Livan Hernandez…


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1st Annual TalkingHeadElGringoLoco Turner Field/IHOP Throwdown

Since my buddy ArmchairTalkingHead has the pics uploaded (including one of me destroying a poor IHOP in Douglasville, GA), here’s the text version of the trip to Hotlanta, GA yesterday.

After eating lunch at the awesome Santa Fe Cattle Company in Gadsden, we left former Hamilton Aggie quarterback Justin Palmer, along with former Aggie and Bevill-Fayette basketball star Adam Cranford and the Talking Head. We got to Turner Field at around 5:00 pm EST, which, of course, meant we had 2 hours to sweat our balls off in the heat of the deep South. After getting tickets (7 rows above the wall in right field for $11), we headed for the gift shop, where all Mark Teixiera merchandise was marked 50% off. Of course, this still meant the shirt would cost nearly $30, and would be useful as a dishrag (or, perhaps in 2027, a possible “throwback.”). After taking our seats, annoying maraca guy sat in front of us, waving the damn thing like a baby using a rattle during a church service. Finally, he left, but rather than getting some leg room, 3 guys who are approximately the size of myself and the TalkingHead combined (and anyone who sees the pic knows how huge we are) sat right in front of us. They loved “Frenchy” (but not as much as the girls above us who screamed “WE LOVE YOU, JAY-EFF” before every friggin’ pitch), got annoyed with Cranford when he said he hoped Mark Kotsay would hit a 3-run homer in the 8th that would have tied the game, and generally were annoying. Luckily, me and the TalkingHead (me wearing a Twins hat, him a Cards hat) got out of Atlanta unscathed (but slightly lighter in the wallet, what with the TalkingHead getting a citation for being a “party pooper” and “too handsome” and me giving up $10 for a Braves hat-that I never got-to the greater Cobb County “Meals on Wheels” program).

The fun part after the game was at the IHOP in Douglasville, Georgia, where I (after eating very little after lunch) had decided to eat a pancake and egg breakfast (Loco Rule #1: If you go to a restaurant that is famous for something, i.e. International House of Pancakes, you MUST eat the signature item your first time there). However, my friends did not realize that years of Russellville High eating habits had caused me to eat at a Kobayashian pace. After finishing 3 eggs, 3 pancakes, and 2 sausage patties in roughly 3 minutes, I received a standing O and a startled look from a waitress who clearly had not seen a good ol’ fat Alabama boy eat like that in some time. I did, however, take the time to lick the plate clean…


A fun night, sure to be remembered by all those there, and the poor waitress at IHOP who probably will have nightmares forever about the fatty in the Rochester Red Wings (Twins fan, represent!) t-shirt.

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2008 SEC West Predictions

After my lame attempt at predictions yesterday, today will be the day I go with a little more of my knowledge base, the SEC West. Without further adieu…

1. LSU-The Tigers, under Nick Saban and Les Miles, have pretty much forgone the whole “rebuilding” phase and have just decided to reload. The loss of Ryan Perrilloux to Jacksonville State (that’s in Alabama, kids) will hurt, but the Tigers should still be solid enough on both sides of the ball that it won’t matter. Possible danger lurks in trips to Auburn, Gainesville, and Columbia, but everything else should be winnable.

2. Auburn-A young Tiger team with a new offensive mindset will try to get back to Atlanta since the star-crossed 2004 edition. Tony Franklin, who helped implement the offense at powerful Hoover High before taking his show to Troy and setting all kinds of offensive records, is the new offensive coordinator. Look for the Tigers to struggle some early, and trips to Tuscaloosa, Starkville, and Morgantown, West Virginia will be tough, but the Tigers fairly easy home SEC schedule (except, of course, LSU and Georgia) should go a long way.

3. Alabama-After an off-season of turmoil, including the stunning Jimmy Johns situation, the Tide should still be able to make some headway in Nick Saban’s second year. Assuming that guys like Mark Barron, Ivan Matchett, and Julio Jones are within 4 ZIP Codes of the hype, the future will be awfully bright for the Tide. Sure, road trips to Athens, Baton Rouge, Knoxville, and an opener in Atlanta against ACC favorite Clemson will be tough, but the Tide should still progress enough to make 2009 a frightening year for Tide opponents.

4. Mississippi State-The surprise team of 2007, the Bulldogs will not have the luxury of sneaking up on anyone (especially Alabama). Still, Croom’s bunch should still win a few ball games, probably some they have no business winning. Look for senior defensive back Derek Pegues to be a machine, by the way.

5. Ole Miss-Houston Nutt takes over a struggling Rebel program, desperate for something—anything—to keep it going. Unfortunately, although quarterback Jevon Snead (a Texas transfer) should be an upgrade, and Michael Oher of The Blind Side fame, as well as defensive lineman Greg Hardy, should be monsters at their positions, the damage of the Orgeron era will not be finished in one year. However, the bigger problem resides about 200 miles west, where a young team losing its 3 best offensive weapons resides…

6. Arkansas-Much has been said about the departure of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Marcus Monk. Losing Houston Nutt didn’t help, but Bobby Petrino may be an upgrade there. However, his offense probably won’t work with Casey Dick trying to hit Robert Johnson on pass after pass. That leaves it up to a Hog defense that was, to put it mildly, putrid last year. If Petrino lasts the whole season and they can recruit players that fit his offense, the Hogs could make some strides. But don’t look for it in 2008

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2008 SEC East Football Predictions

With the end of SEC Media Days (which featured Phil Fulmer being served with a subpeona, the awesomeness of Dicky Lyons, Jr, and the possible arrival of a new Warren Sapp Glen Dorsey in Auburn defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks, now is as good a time as any to make SEC predictions. Part 1 today will be the Eastern division


1. Florida-Most people think this is Georgia’s to lose. Me? I think UGA’s schedule (which, just in conference features trips to Auburn, Baton Rouge, Columbia, and Jacksonville for the Cocktail Party, as well as home dates against Alabama and Tennessee) will be too much for them-or anyone-to handle. With Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, along with Brandon James and Percy Harvin, back, the Gator offense should be explosive, while the defense, so young last year, should improve tremendously with the tutelage of Charlie Strong.

2. Georgia-This is a team that could easily win the national title, and be denied by losing 3 games. Seriously–at Auburn, at LSU, at Arizona State, Florida in Jacksonville, at South Carolina—that’s just ridiculous. Still, look for the Dawgs to again be extremely tough, as Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno lead a tough offense, with a defense that absolutely terrorized poor Colt Brennan and the Hawaii Warriors returning basically intact, the Bulldogs could still make some noise.

3. South Carolina-Many thought last year would be the breakout year for Spurrier and crew, but a devastating injury to star linebacker Jasper Brinkley, as well as a few tough losses to end the season saw the Gamecocks fall to 6-6 and out of the bowl picture. With newcomer Tommy Beecher at quarterback, expect the Gamecock offense to struggle early. But, with a fairly stout defense back, if they ever find their stride, look out. The Cocks could be rising.

4. Tennessee-The SEC East champs of 2007 (which still baffles me, to be honest), they return some good weapons in Austin Rogers, Josh Briscoe, and Lucas Taylor in the receiving corps, as well as Josh Cottram at tight end and Arian Foster at running back. Still, they lost perhaps their two most important members: quarterback Erik Ainge, and offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe, who took over the moribund (and that’s a gross understatement) Duke football program. While the Vols return the pure awesomeness that is Eric Berry on defense, they will probably still struggle. Trips to Athens, Auburn, and Columbia, as well as home games against Florida and Alabama could be too much.

5. Vanderbilt-The Commodores have still not been able to crack the glass ceiling of 5 wins under Bobby Johnson, but it’s not for lack of effort. Still, losing all-World receiver Earl Bennett, as well as offensive lineman Chris Williams will probably hurt the team. Still, they should get a boost from probable starter Mackenzi Adams at quarterback, and if not him, then 2003 Alabama Mr. Football Chris Nickson. The schedule for the ‘Dores is not that bad, two trips to Oxford (one in Ohio for Miami, one in Mississippi for my beloved Rebs), along with home dates with Rice and Duke, give the team a shot at 4 or 5 wins. More than that, though, may be asking too much.

6. Kentucky-Although the awesome Dicky Lyons returns, not much else does. Steve Johnson? Gone. Andre Woodson? Gone. And it’s not like the Wildcat D has been overpowering lately either. With the struggles of the basketball program lately, this was UK’s chance at maybe giving football a fighting chance. But with Billy Gillispie getting commitments from 8th-graders, well, it looks like that’s not gonna happen either.

SEC West predictions will be up tomorrow. Hopefully


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Liriano is annoyed

Full disclosure…in 2006, I fully expected this to be the Twins year. Cy Young winner Johan Santana would be in a contract year, the bats of Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, and Michael Cuddyer would still be going strong, and a solid group of young pitchers like Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, Boof Bonser, and Kevin Slowey would be beginning successful MLB careers. Well, Morneau and Mauer have definitely lived up to their end of the bargain, and Baker, Perkins, and Slowey seem to be on the right track to success. However, Santana is no longer a Twin (he’s with the Mets, where for the first time in years, he didn’t get to the 5th without being pulled for a non-rain reason last night. However, the real reason the Twins looked to be on the upswing was another young lefty. Kid by the name of Francisco Liriano. In the short time he spent with the Twins in 2006, he put up these numbers:

121 IP, 144 K, 89 H, 32 BB, 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP

It should be noted that his season ended with him needing Tommy John surgery, and the prognosis of him being back in 2008. When he started this season, he struggled, including a pretty terrible start at Oakland where he didn’t get out of the first inning. However, since then, he has been dominant at AAA Rochester, going 7-0 with a 2.73 ERA since his return to the minors. With the craptacular Livan Hernandez still pitching, many Twins fans (myself included) are wondering why Liriano hasn’t gotten called back up.  So is Liriano and his agent. Clearly, it’s a difficult situation. Liriano feels the Twins don’t want him to come back up and make him arbitration eligible (where he probably would expect to get a slight raise, if only for his contributions in ’06). However, He Shall be Livan will be owed $5 million, and frankly his trade value is so low nobody will take him. Some clubs could afford a hit like that, but the Twins aren’t one of them, so expect Livan to be pitching more than the Cisco Kid down the stretch.

This will, by the way, probably cost the Twins the AL Central, but oh, well, I’m surprised they’re doing this well.


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Concussion in the face

It’s been a busy week in the WWE the last couple of weeks. Thanks to a draft show, Jim Ross is no longer on Raw, as he traded spots with Smackdown’s Michael Cole. After the drafting of HHH to Smackdown, C.M. Punk (with the help of Batista) brought one of the big 3 belts to Raw, beating Edge. However, one of the more surprising stars is Kofi Kingston, a proud son of Jamaica who upset Chris Jericho to win the Intercontinental Title. Oh, wait, did I say he was Jamaican? Sorry, it turns out he is really Ghanan. In an era where kayfabing (acting like storylines are real) is dead, this really is stupid. Both of his parents are academicians, and although his mother doesn’t necessarily seem to approve, his father does. However, not everyone agrees, and because of that, I now have one of my all-time favorite quotes…

But Mr Sarkodie-Mensah’s friends in Ghanaian academia, like Raymond Osei-Boadu of the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, are horrified.

“I cannot bring myself to understand,” says a disconsolate Mr Osei-Boadu.

“Why would a person who is very capable of going to graduate school decide to jettison all that for concussion in the face?”

Concussion in the face. Sounds like fun for the whole family.

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Alabama’s Johns arrested for selling marijuana

Jimmy Johns, shortly after being arrested for cocaine and marijuna possession and distribution

Jimmy Johns, the pride of Brookhaven, Mississippi, was arrested for attempting to sell crack cocaine to undercover Tuscaloosa Police officers, and was summarily dismissed from the football team yesterday. This has been a long, and troubling road for Johns, who was Mississippi’s 2004 Mr. Football. Johns spurned other instate schools like my beloved Ole Miss and Mississippi State for Alabama, but after a decent sophomore year as backup runningback behind Kenneth Darby, he moved to linebacker, where he struggled under the very disciplined Nick Saban system. Pressed into duty at runningback against Louisiana-Monroe, a game that ended in a 21-14 disaster for the Crimson Tide, Johns fumbled deep in Warhawks territory, giving Monroe the ball back and virtually sealing the victory. Tuscaloosa News columnist Cecil Hurt wonders if Saban could have gotten rid of Johns earlier, considering some of his past problems, but that’s mere speculation. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would have thought cocaine possession.

Another slightly disturbing element to this story is this website, which apparently shows Johns selling pitbulls online. While this may be innocuous enough, remember a certain quarterback who got in trouble for fighting pit bulls last year, and can lead to more speculation. We can only hope this is merely Johns trying to find homes for abandoned puppies, but considering his past*, it doesn’t look good.

*-The irony is that in my 2 and a half years at Ole Miss, I developed a fairly close friendship with two guys from Brookhaven, one of whom was a devout sports fan, the other one who was meh on sports. Both told of how Jimmy Johns was the exact opposite of the stereotypical jock: studious, polite on and off the field, humble, quiet, and on the fast track to success. While I guess it is possible for someone to highlight the positives and devalue the negatives of a local sports star, I think it’s inaccurate to think my friends were being anything but truthful when mentioning him to me. After all, it wasn’t like he was saving the day for Ole Miss or anything. His family is claiming that he got in with the wrong crowd, and that seems to be the most plausible explanation I can think of. He was released on bail at 4:00 pm by his family. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

All criminal defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.

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