2018 MLB.com articles

9/2: Acuna ties Braves’ record for leadoff HRs

9/2: Deja vu as Braves rally in 8th to beat Bucs

9/2: Swanson showing pop with new batting stance

9/1: Braves storm back with 4-run 8th to down Bucs

9/1: Wright, No. 2 prospect, among Braves’ callups

8/30: Baez makes spectacular clutch grab in 9th

8/30: Heyward exits game with hamstring injury

8/30: Cubs pick up key win behind clutch hitting

8/30: Cubs acquire catcher Wilson; Mazzoni DFA’d

8/19: New Giants lineup struggles against Reds

7/8: Anderson posts scoreless return as A’s cruise

7/8: Blackburn lands on DL; Anderson returns

7/7: A’s storm back with 3 homers, win in extras

7/7: Joyce placed on disabled list with lumbar strain

5/27: Altuve’s historic run ends at 10 straight hits

5/27: Hinch ejected in finale with Indians

5/27: Astros lose wild one to Tribe despite Gattis’ HRs

5/26: Despite Altuve’s big game, Astros fall to Tribe

5/25: Astros rout Tribe with 11 runs in final 2 innings

5/24: Bregman, Marisnick power Astros’ win with HRs

5/24: Hinch likes mixing, matching with OF options

5/8: Castillo, Suarez fire on all cylinders vs. Mets

5/8: Reds acquire Harvey from Mets for Mesoraco

5/6: Early runs propel Miami to 4th straight series win

5/5: Castro’s 100th HR comes at same site as 1st

5/5: Sharp Smith backed by Castro, Bour homers

5/5: Mattingly turning to analytics for lineup shuffling

5/4: Miami unable to recover from Chen’s rough 1st

5/4: Marlins players recall Ichiro’s impact in Miami

5/3: Solarte, Donaldson hot in Cleveland in G2 loss

5/3: Solarte’s 5th hit an 11th-inning slam in G1 win

5/3: Bauer an admirer, emulator of Stroman’s slider

5/3: Blue Jays make moves as Donaldson returns

5/2: Rangers claim C Perez; Andrus to 60-day DL

5/2: Moore struggles in lopsided loss to Tribe

5/2: Forearm irritation sends Martin to disabled list

5/1: Rangers rake back-to-back HRs to seal win in 12

4/30: Rangers rally late, but shaky ‘pen falters in 8th

4/30: Perez placed on DL with right elbow discomfort

4/26: Fulmer dominant in second late loss to Pirates

4/26: Barbato excited in recall to provide ‘pen depth

4/25: Tigers’ offense can’t pick up Boyd in nightcap

4/25: Tigers win slugfest, erupt for 13 runs vs. Bucs

4/25: Lewicki serves as 26th man against Pirates

4/24: Tigers-Pirates rained out; DH on Wednesday

4/24: Gerber shirks family reunion for trip to bigs

4/14: Blue Jays-Indians game PPD by rain

4/14: Urshela begins rehab stint; Tribe faces roster call

2/23: Bobby Bonds first ever with five 30-30 seasons

2/21: Cuban prospect Martinez granted free agency

2/16: Reliever Simmons, Cubs agree to contract

2/14: Buzz: Could Yankees really land Machado?

2/13: Most intriguing position battles for all 30 clubs

2/9: Source: Lefty Holland joins SF on Minors pact

2/9: ‘Bilt to win: Group of big leaguers hits Vandy to train

2/8: CC proud to be part of exclusive ‘Black Aces’

2/8: Resilient Aiken poised to make jump in 2018

2/2: White Sox reportedly add Rondon to ‘pen mix

1/14: Source: Brewers sign Choi to Minors deal

1/14: Hall of Fame umpire Harvey, 87, passes away

1/7: Padres deal Solarte to Jays for 2 prospects

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2017 MLB.com articles

12/30: Reports: Padres reuniting with Ross, Young

12/15: Giants unveil player development staff for ’18

12/3: Iowa, Boston College to play in Pinstripe Bowl

11/28: Orioles ink 14 to Minor League contracts

11/22: Judge has surgery, should be fine for camp

11/8: Canha has wrist surgery, should be ready by ST

11/8: Outfielder Martinez reportedly leaves Cuba

11/8: #AwardWorthy: Astros get 15 Esurance bids

11/4: Blue Jays decline to pick up Bautista’s option

11/3: Lind joins ranks of Nationals’ free agents

11/3: O’s decline options for Hardy, Miley

11/2: McKinney, Lopez win Fall Stars Game Final 2 Vote

11/1: Astros, Dodgers set World Series G7 lineups

10/31: Lawrence outrighted to Triple-A; roster at 39

10/24: Hill, Darvish follow Kershaw in LA rotation

10/24: No changes to Astros roster for World Series

10/21: #AwardWorthy: Vote for Machado

10/21: Jackson, Lindor up for Esurance awards

10/21: #AwardWorthy: Vote for Engel’s glove

10/21: #AwardWorthy: Vote for Kiermaier’s glove

10/21: #AwardWorthy: Vote for Coghlan

10/21: #AwardWorthy: Vote for Best Fan Catch

10/21: #AwardWorthy: Vote for Best Fan Catch

10/21: #AwardWorthy: Vote for Best Fan Catch

10/21: #AwardWorthy: Vote for Andrelton

10/21: #AwardWorthy: Vote for Pham, Martinez

10/21: Betts, Devers are MLB #AwardWorthy

10/21: #AwardWorthy: Vote for Harper, Rendon

10/21: #AwardWorthy Beltre up for Personality of the Year

10/20: A’s help replace 9-year-old fan’s memorabilia

10/20: Ex-Giant Bell named VP of player development

10/11: Gardner’s patience pays off late for Yankees

10/11: ‘Excited’ to advance, Yanks celebrate ALDS win

10/5: Judge struggles vs. Tribe’s curves in Game 1

10/4: Seasoned Gardner set to guide Baby Bombers

10/2: Brewers’ Derby in crowd during Vegas shooting

10/2: MLB announces Wild Card, Division Series umps

10/1: Before they were postseason bound: Indians

9/27: D-backs, OF prospect Patino close to deal

9/26: Indians seal home-field advantage in ALDS

9/26: Cubs lined up for Central clinch on MLB.TV

9/19: Sale, Sox go for sweep vs. Orioles on MLB.TV

9/18: O’s mourn death of farmhand Gonzalez

9/17: Tribe edges Royals behind EE, crisp Kluber

9/17: Flag raised as part of Tribe’s clinch celebration

9/17: Tribe to raise flag before Kluber faces Royals

9/16: Repeat after CLE: Tribe lands crown again!

9/16: Lindor’s extra-base hit streak sets club mark

9/16: Lindor, Indians win, then clinch AL Central title

9/16: Guyer sidelined after aggravating wrist issue

8/18: Twins promote No. 23 prospect Garver

8/18: Heaney returns from Tommy John on MLB.TV

8/17: New England, Southwest win LLWS openers

7/26: Moncada, Devers, Brinson hit 1st career HRs

7/24: Deadline looming, Cozart peaking at right time

7/24: Santana HRs as lefty, righty; Indians rolling

7/24: DeSclafani makes rehab start in Rookie League

7/23: Tribe rediscovering benefits of home cooking

7/23: Kluber’s 14-K gem helps Indians sweep Jays

7/23: Ramirez’s versatility a boon to Tribe’s bullpen

7/22: Salazar dominates with fastball in return

7/22: Lindor’s walk-off HR sparks happiest trot ever

7/22: Tribe to use 6 starters this turn through rotation

7/9: Kluber, Fulmer to close down season’s first half

7/8: Clevinger bests JV again; Brantley clutch in win

7/8: Kipnis exits with right hamstring injury

7/8: Santana rejoins Tribe after birth of daughter

7/7: Cards prospect reaches third on infield popup

7/6: Sale, Sox take on rising Rays on MLB.TV

7/5: Rays, No. 31 Draft pick can’t agree to deal

6/23: King Felix vs. Astros highlights MLB.TV slate

6/22: Surprise power: 30-year-olds tops in HR rate

6/22: Red Sox sign 2nd-round Draft pick Brannen

6/15: Roberts maintaining confidence in Hill

6/15: Indians’ bats erupt in rout of Dodgers

6/15: Bellinger interested in potential Derby showing

6/15: Hill, Tomlin to meet when LA tries to sweep Tribe

6/14: Dodgers shut down Urias due to shoulder issue

6/14: Puig suspended one game, fined for gesture

6/14: McCarthy, Kluber set to square off in Cleveland

6/13: Puig: I ‘stooped to their level’ with gesture

6/13: Kershaw tops Tribe after Bellinger bests Miller

6/13: Pederson back, but A-Gon lands on DL

6/7: Strasburg, Kershaw clash for first time on MLB.TV

6/6: Bone bruise in knee sends Travis to DL

6/6: D-backs place slugger Tomas on DL

6/5: Report: E-Rod advised to rest 3-4 weeks

6/5: No-no doubt: Volquez nets NL Player of Week

5/28: Bats thump Bucs as Harvey finds groove

5/28: Taillon sharp in rehab start at Double-A

5/27: Harvey, Glasnow clash in series finale

5/27: Cutch swinging hot bat after pushing reset

5/26: deGrom’s stellar start, Walker’s 2 HRs lift Mets

5/26: Cutch returns to lineup in the sixth hole

5/25: The Indians tried to stop Billy Hamilton by dropping a bag of quicksand at his locker

5/15: Robertson meets Robertson in Cleveland

4/5: Indians unveil Progressive Field upgrades

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2016 MLB.com articles

11/1: Crisp celebrates birthday with Game 6 start

10/31: Return to AL rules boosts Tribe’s lineup, defense

10/30: Fans optimistic as World Series returns home

10/29: Fans rock in Cleveland as Tribe rolls in Chicago

10/28: Tribe fans watch, celebrate at Progressive Field

10/26: Salazar shakes off rust in relief appearance

10/26: Walking dread: Tribe gives Cubs easy access

10/25: Ramirez’s bat awakens with 3 hits in Gm. 1 win

10/24: Ramirez arrives in time to help Tribe’s run

10/19: Title town? Cleveland fans toast ALCS win

10/18: Return to defensive excellence key for Tribe

10/18: DYK: Facts and figures from ALCS Game 4

10/18: Tale of the Tape: Merritt, Estrada square off

10/17: DYK: Facts and figures from ALCS Game 3

10/17: Tale of the Tape: Kluber faces Sanchez

10/15: Tomlin’s curveball-heavy strategy successful

10/15: Kids join the fun at Cleveland Play Ball event

10/14: Indians in good position after preserving bullpen

10/14: Kipnis’ gem keeps Kluber’s escape act intact

10/10: Tribe fans could get used to this

10/7: Indians’ bullpen gets needed break in Game 2

10/7: Indians strike 1st with 4-run 2nd against Price

10/6: Perez makes splash in 1st postseason game

10/6: Family man: Francona’s dad throws out first pitch

10/5: Indians create, donate to Larry Doby Youth Fund

10/2: Arenado, Carter tie at 41 for NL home run title

10/2: Susac’s first ’16 HR lifts Crew in 10th

10/2: Cravy, Marquez meet as Brewers, Rockies close ’16

10/1: Carter lifts Crew in extras with 41st HR

10/1: Rockies eye series win as Hoffman faces Peralta

9/30: Weiss out to ensure LeMahieu’s batting title

9/30: Arenado hits No. 41 as Rockies beat Brewers

9/22: Dodgers host Rox in bid to close in on division

9/21: RBI-leader Arenado’s slam catalyzes Rockies

9/21: Cards overpowered by Rox, can’t gain WC edge

9/21: Cole OK, but sits after being hit during BP

9/20: Blackmon sets Rockies’ mark for leadoff RBIs

9/20: Waino’s 4 RBIs help Cardinals tie for top Wild Card

9/19: Bottom of order comes up big for Cards

9/19: Cards hold off Rox, tie for 2nd Wild Card

9/19: Matheny enjoys managing at Coors Field

9/18: Reynolds out for season with broken left hand

9/18: Murphy shows off power during big league stint

9/18: 5-run 4th leads Rockies to sweep of Padres

9/18: Bettis, Rockies go for sweep of Padres in finale

9/17: Gray’s 16 K’s lead Rockies past Padres

9/17: Gray looking for better result against Padres

9/17: Marquez set for first big league start Wednesday

9/16: Descalso a vital veteran presence for Rockies

9/16: Hoffman’s emergence reminds Weiss of Gray

9/7: Hamstring strain forces Parra to exit game

9/7: Giants stung by Rockies’ 9th-inning walk-off rally

9/7: Butler seeing results from changes to delivery

9/7: Rockies bring smiles to Children’s Hospital

9/7: CarGo earns Clemente nomination for charitable work

9/6: Weiss: Anderson’s success not limited to Coors

9/6: Giants scratch and claw to maintain WC edge

9/6: Rockies call up five to bolster roster depth

9/5: Bettis bests Giants for Rockies’ first CG of ’16

9/5: Raburn exits with left foot contusion

9/5: Rockies grateful for player’s union on Labor Day

9/5: CarGo slams as Bettis shuts out Giants

9/4: Gray laments allowing game to get away

9/4: Blackmon still dealing with back stiffness

9/4: Parra earning time at first base with Rox

9/4: D-backs rally late to win series from Rockies

9/3: D-backs ride 5-run third, hold off Rockies

9/3: Rockies welcome 96-year-old fan to Coors

9/3: Estevez, Ottavino rebound for Rockies ‘pen

9/2: Rockies slam D-backs with late 7-run surge

9/2: De La Rosa, Rockies open weekend set vs. Ray, D-backs

9/2: 7 Rockies prospects set for Fall challenge

9/2: Tapia among Rockies’ roster reinforcements

9/2: Rockies go gold for child cancer awareness

9/1: Weiss has drawn full support from players

8/31: Bullpen lets Rockies’ big lead slip away late

8/31: Cardullo hits slam, but Rox denied DH sweep

8/31: After 1st HR on 29th b-day, Cardullo hits slam

8/31: Rox blank Dodgers behind Anderson’s gem

8/31: Chatwood tapped to start Saturday

8/31: Rox get back Reynolds sooner than expected

8/31: Dodgers, Rockies to pit rookies in first game

8/30: Rain forces doubleheader on Wednesday

8/30: Mundell named South Atlantic League MVP

8/30: Chatwood nears return, could create logjam

8/29: Gray outduels Maeda as Rockies top Dodgers

8/29: Parra gets 1,000th hit; Cardullo notches first

8/29: Qualls still working to bounce back from illness

8/22: Lester to cross Petco Park off list vs. Jackson

8/21: Russell ‘at the top of his game’ with 2-HR showing

8/21: Arenado’s 2 HRs lead to Rockie day for Cubs

8/21: No major setback after foul tip off Soler’s knee

8/21: NL 3B stars face off in Cubs-Rockies finale

8/20: Montgomery impresses in first Cubs start

8/20: Bryant hits blast as Cubs sour Hoffman’s debut

8/20: Rockies’ Hoffman draws Cubs for Major League debut

8/19: Despite loss, dream debuts for Pena, Zastryzny

8/19: Cubs’ streak ends despite Fowler’s feats

8/19: Rain delaying first pitch of Cubs-Rox opener

8/19: Maddon gives Heyward the weekend off

8/19: Lackey, Rondon headed to disabled list

8/17: Anderson, Rox open set vs. Hendricks, Cubs at Coors Field

8/17: Wolters a different hitter since All-Star break

8/17: Freeland making case for Majors rotation spot

8/17: Strasburg, Gray square off to wrap series

8/17: LeMahieu’s hit streak ends at 8 straight ABs

8/16: DJ spins near-cycle to spur Rox past Nats

8/16: Rox call up Bergman, place Chatwood on DL

8/16: Bettis, Gio seeking rebounds in Nats-Rox tilt

8/15: Harper’s big hit saves Max as Nats nip Rox

8/15: Rox weigh options if Chatwood (back) hits DL

8/14: Hoffman making case for call to Majors

8/9: Rox, Rangers to continue Interleague tilt in Texas

8/9: Blackmon belts 7th leadoff homer of season

8/9: Rangers tap Rockies with another late rally

8/9: Ottavino to assume closer role from Estevez

8/8: Griffin, Chatwood each looking to rebound at Coors

8/8: Rangers stun Rockies with rally in ninth

8/7: Cervenka excited to join Marlins’ playoff push

8/7: 3-chiro: 3B for 30th to reach 3,000 hits!

8/7: Marlins roll on Ichiro’s historic day

8/7: Marlins’ ex-Yanks laud A-Rod’s career

8/7: Ichiro eyes 3,000th hit in Marlins-Rockies rubber match

8/6: Stanton’s long-distance area code: 504 feat

8/6: Pinch by pinch: Ichiro a hit away from 3K

8/6: Marlins add lefty Cervenka in deal with Braves

8/6: Marlins rally in 9th to turn tables on Rockies

8/5: CarGo, Descalso return to starting lineup

8/4: Bettis takes leadership role with Rockies’ staff

8/4: Birthday bash nothing new for Reynolds

8/4: CarGo OK after turning ankle on 2-homer night

8/3: Descalso’s experience could be key for Rockies

8/3: Dodgers to recall Stewart to take on Rockies

7/24: Surging Rox set to tackle important road trip

7/24: Weiss shares memories of Griffey, Piazza

7/24: Healthy again, McGee’s velocity returning

7/24: Anderson shows competitive fire in win

7/23: Braves’ Jenkins set for first Coors Field test

7/23: Oberg recalled to bolster Rockies ‘pen; Qualls to DL

7/23: Anderson looks to capitalize on Braves’ aggressiveness

7/23: Rockies hang on after Gray’s gem vs. Braves

7/22: Rockies break routine, take infield practice

7/22: Change in strategy benefits Bettis

7/21: Logan unconcerned as trade rumors swirl

7/21: Youngsters Gray, Teheran ready for rematch

7/20: Archer fans 11, delivers quality start in victory

7/20: Rays’ hits parade keeps Rockies at bay

7/19: McGee eager to face former Rays teammates

7/19: Inclement weather delaying start of Rays-Rox

7/19: Anderson, Story send Rockies past Rays

7/18: Miller uses break to get healthy … and married

7/18: Rays-Rockies series opener delayed by rain

7/10: Bullpen an area clearly in need of a boost

7/10: Rupp has four RBIs in Phils’ rout of Rockies

7/10: Eflin, Chatwood square off in first-half finale

7/10: Rusin throws sim game as next step in rehab

7/10: De La Rosa hopes to slow Freeman in Atlanta

7/9: Rockies’ rookie dings Phillies for first win

7/9: Gray’s comfort level at Coors Field is evident

7/8: Eickhoff, Anderson look to conquer Coors

7/7: Final Vote: Make Story an All-Star; vote or tweet until 2 MT

6/30: Wolters emulating catching idols behind the plate

6/30: Norris to make Dodgers debut vs. Rockies

6/29: Blue Jays conquer Rox behind Sanchez, Donaldson

6/29: Blue Jays, Rockies close series with young arms

6/28: Blue Jays wale on Rockies after hailstorm

6/28: Happ, Butler square off in Jays-Rox series

6/28: Dahl, Hoffman, Tapia picked for Futures Game

6/28: CarGo vaults Tulo on Rockies’ HR list

6/27: Story, LeMahieu improving, won’t need DL

6/27: Sizzling stretch nets Blackmon Player of Week nod

6/26: LeMahieu, Story injured in Sunday’s win

6/26: CarGo hits slam, Reynolds’ HR walks it off

6/26: Rockies still envision Butler as a starter

6/25: Corbin-Bettis matchup wraps series

6/25: Wolters blasts first homer on career day

6/25: Pitch, Hit & Run event a family affair

6/25: Rox win behind big days from De La Rosa, Wolters

6/24: D-backs rally in 9th to take wild one from Rox

6/24: Miller opposes De La Rosa as D-backs/Rox continues

6/24: Rookies Bradley, Anderson step into spotlight at Coors

6/24: Butler gives up 2 HRs but helps save bench

6/23: Ahmed delivers in nick of time for D-backs

6/15: Arenado belts 20th homer as Rox stay hot

6/15: Nova, Bettis to match up to wrap two-game set

6/15: CarGo still rising in All-Star ballot ranks

6/15: Rox, Marlins to begin weekend series in Miami

6/13: Rockies’ annual golf tourney a rousing success

6/12: Rox edge Padres in Anderson’s superb debut

6/11: Estevez named Rox closer after shutdown 9th

6/11: McGee to 15-day DL with left MCL sprain

6/11: CarGo, Chatwood lead Rox over Padres

6/11: Gray finds success with changeup vs. Padres

6/10: Myers’ 3-run HR caps Padres’ comeback vs. Rox

6/9: De La Rosa dazzles with four perfect frames

6/9: LeMahieu powers Rockies’ rout of Pirates

6/3: Disappointment lingers after series loss to Reds

6/3: Suarez leads power surge vs. Rockies

6/2: Logan could return to ‘pen Monday

6/2: Chatwood struggles with fastball command

6/1: Lamb silences Rockies’ potent offense

6/1: Chatwood looks to keep on rolling

6/1: LeMahieu seeing uptick in extra-base hits

6/1: Story making bid to start in All-Star Game

5/31: LeMahieu, Parra, CarGo fall 3B shy of cycle

5/31: Rockies club 7 homers to drub Reds

5/31: Motte being eased back into action

5/30: Rox’s Gray, Reds’ Moscot match up at Coors

5/30: Descalso on fire since return from DL

5/30: Rockies honor military on Memorial Day

5/30: Reds rip 5 HRs, outslug Rockies at Coors

5/29: Giants double down to take series from Rockies

5/29: Blackmon working to improve vs. elite lefties

5/28: Rockies looking to break through vs. Cueto

5/28: CarGo’s hard work to escape slump pays off

5/28: Rehabbing Ottavino has fun facing hitters

5/27: Rockies hoping to solve Bumgarner

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2016 Baseball Preview

Click here to download/view

Today is my favorite day of the year: the day I’m done with all my work on my annual baseball preview.

I’ve written these baseball previews every year going back to seventh grade, and after 10 years, this will be my last preview as I head off into the real world (yikes).

This season’s preview is 35 pages with all the usual analysis, scouting reports, and advanced stats along with breathtaking design from Microsoft Word. As always, the preview is 100 percent free, so feel free to pass it along to a friend or two or twelve.

It’s been a pleasure writing the past 10 years, and I’ll really miss writing these, although I won’t miss the sleepless nights.

Ten years ago, my first preview had David Ortiz on the cover, and I correctly picked the Red Sox to win the World Series. Fitting, then, that my final preview also features David Ortiz on the cover.

Did I pick the Red Sox to win the World Series again? Go find out for yourself.

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Week 4 NFL Picks – Donald Trump

I took two weeks off from writing about my picks because I’ve been lazy busy, but I’m back with another week of picks. Enjoy the picks, or just scroll down to the Donald Trump part.

As always, home teams are in CAPS.

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Game – 5 apples:

Giants (+5.5) over BILLS
I find it pretty funny that Kiko Alonso and LeSean McCoy are both already hurt. Pretty reminiscent of the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade from yesteryear for you baseball nerds.

Vikings (+6.5) over BRONCOS
Adrian Peterson’s newest son is named Axyl, which is not okay. I will, however, stick by him if I’m getting nearly a touchdown against an aging Peyton Manning.

SEAHAWKS (-10) over Lions
This Jimmy Graham-Max Unger deal seems like a real loser for everyone. A depleted offensive in Seattle has slowed down Marshawn Lynch, and Russell Wilson hasn’t used Graham nearly as much as Drew Brees went to him. Meanwhile Unger is wasting away on a bad Saints team.

CHARGERS (-7.5) over Browns
What is Mike Pettine’s end game playing Josh McCown over Johnny Manziel? McCown has proven over and over that he’s just not a good quarterback, and we’ve seen flashes of how great Johnny Football can be. At least have fun while you’re stuck in Cleveland, Mike.

COLTS (-9) over Jaguars
Here is a running list of things better than the Jaguars:
1. Arizona State sorority girls’ attention spans
2. Joey Galloway’s perception of women
3. The Raiders’ owner’s haircut
4. Josh Donaldson’s interviewing skills (GO JAYS!)
5. Chris Stewart’s awareness of where he hit a ball
6. Donald Trump’s ability to keep a straight face
7. Donald Trump’s conspicuousness
8. Donald Trump’s ability to not gun for attention
9. Donald Trump’s ability to create jobs
10. Donald Trump’s image after getting absolutely slaughtered by South Park

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games – 10 apples:

STEELERS (+3) over Ravens
Personally, I’m very excited to see Michael Vick play on this Steelers’ offense. Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Martavis Bryant are pretty similar weapons to LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin that he had in 2010 across the state in Philadelphia.

FALCONS (-6.5) over Texans
Between Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer, don’t you think the Patriots would have held on to one of them if they thought either had potential to be a starter down the road?

BENGALS (-4) over Chiefs
When your fantasy teams are going poorly, the only solace you can take is players you thought were overrated doing poorly. I did not think C.J. Anderson and Jeremy Hill belonged in the first two rounds, and they’re proving me right so far. Also my two teams are a combined 1-5.

SAINTS (-4) over Cowboys
The NFL’s flex schedule late in the season is made so, for instance, two potentially interesting teams lose their Pro Bowl quarterbacks and you get stuck with a bad game. Enjoy Luke McCown and Brandon Weeden, NBC!

KFC Double Down Games – 20 apples:

Dolphins (+1.5) over JETS
Thank God we sent our Who Cares? Game of the Week overseas to London.

Can we stop pretending that Kirk Cousins has potential to be a good quarterback? Dude is already 27 and has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns.

Can we stop pretending that Kirk Cousins has potential to be a good quarterback? Dude is already 27 and has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns.

Eagles (-3) over INJUNS
For anyone who wants to rain on the (really sad) Kirk Cousins parade, Hurricane Joaquin may hit the East Coast right around game time Sunday. That should be fun.

Panthers (-3) over BUCCANEERS
The Panthers are going to start 4-0 and get two weeks to prepare for Seattle on the road. I thought their schedule was a joke until I looked at Atlanta’s, and man, their hardest game of the season may be at Carolina. Wow.

Raiders (-3) over BEARS
I don’t know if this is more of a statement about how bad (Jimmy Clausen and) the Bears are or how much improved the Raiders are.

CARDINALS (-7) over Rams
It still blows my mind that Tyrann Mathieu fell to the third round of the NFL draft. Sure, he’s had drug problems, but the man is a playmaker and should’ve been swiped up in the second round at least by someone. I was personally shocked the Patriots didn’t draft him with one of their two second rounders, since they have a knack for taking players whose stock has fallen because of drugs (Brandon Spikes and Aaron Hernandez).

Texas Pete ain’t from Texas Lock o’ the Week – 50 apples:

Packers (-8.5) over NINERS
How this line is not double digits is beyond me. People must still be stuck on how good this game would have been a year or two ago.

Overall record: 26-21-1

Last week: 11-5

Apple total: 185

Apple total last week: 85

Categories: NFL | 1 Comment

Week 1 NFL Picks – Is Joe Flacco a ELITE quaterback?

I was thinking for a while about what I would write in the intro to my first NFL picks of the year, and then I remembered that no one reads the intro. So I won’t bother.

Here we go again, with home teams in CAPS and wagers in apples because gambling is “illegal.”

Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked Game – 5 apples:

Packers (-7) over BEARS
We’re still waiting to find out if Jay Cutler will work out in Chicago, which has been hard to tell because he’s had great receivers but no offensive line. The Bears tried to fix that this off-season by trading Brandon Marshall and not addressing the offensive line at all.

CHARGERS (-3) over Lions
Every once in a while, we get a player whose head shot is just hilarious. Go do yourself a favor and check out Orlando Franklin‘s picture.

Jordan Matthews

With Riley Cooper and Josh Huff as his biggest competition, Jordan Matthews is going to shoot for 1,500 yards this season.

Eagles (-3) over FALCONS

Titans (+3) over BUCCANEERS
I love the narrative that Marcus Mariota wasn’t throwing any interceptions at the start of camp. That’s probably got a little to do with the fact that he was going up against the Titans’ secondary.

COWBOYS (-6) over Giants
Dallas’ offensive line is so good that almost any halfway decent running back could turn into a 1,000 yard rusher. Which makes me really hopeful that Darren McFadden comes back to relevancy because boy was he fun in 2010.

Dunkin’ Donuts Plain Cake Games – 10 apples:

Browns (+3) over JETS
This season’s first Who Cares? Game of the Week is a doozy.

Dolphins (-3.5) over INJUNS
I’m not sure which is more offensive, Washington’s team name or how they’ve handled RG3.

PATRIOTS (-7) over Steelers
I’m slightly sad we didn’t get to see Jimmy Garoppolo win four games and pull a Tom Brady by taking Tom Brady’s job, but no suspension for TB12 will just have to do.

Saints (+2.5) over CARDINALS
Larry Fitzgerald signed deal with the Cardinals, I guess putting faith in a team that has given him the following quarterbacks to work with: Josh McCown, Shaun King, John Navarre (who?), Kurt Warner, Tim Hasselbeck, Tim Rattay, Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre, Derek Anderson, Kevin Kolb, Max Hall, John Skelton, Richard Bartel (who??), Brian Hoyer, Ryan Lindley, Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, and Logan Thomas. It says a lot about an organization when Carson Palmer is by far the second-best quarterback they’ve been able to pair with Fitzgerald over the past 12 seasons.

Vikings (-2.5) over NINERS
Remember how laughable the Niners were back before Jim Harbaugh when Mike Singletary pulled down his pants during a halftime speech? Yeah, we’re going back to those days this season.

KFC Double Down Games – 20 apples:

Colts (-2.5) over BILLS
The Colts would kick some serious ass four years ago with Frank Gore and Andre Johnson. Too bad those two only got to play on five playoff teams in 22 seasons before meeting up on the Colts.

Seahawks (-4) over RAMS
I sat through an entire Rams-Titans preseason game and wanted to gauge my eyes out, so I’m definitely picking the Seahawks here as punishment.

Chiefs (+1) over TEXANS
I find it hard to believe that a team led by Brian Hoyer could be favored over a team that finished a half game out of the playoffs last season. And, you know, because they drafted Jadeveon Clowney, a.k.a. THE BIGGEST BUST EVER.

Bengals (-3.5) over RAIDERS
One of the funniest moments I can remember from the NFL draft is when the Raiders took Darrius Hayward-Bey as the first wide receiver ahead of surefire NFL superstar Michael Crabtree. Luckily they’ve corrected their mistake by signing him well after it was established that he is not very good.

BRONCOS (-4.5) over Ravens
Why would we need to make America great again when we have “Is Joe Flacco a ELITE quaterback” sign show up at the first GOP debate?

Texas Pete ain’t from Texas Lock o’ the Week – 50 apples:

Panthers (-3) over JAGUARS
Here is a running list of things better than the Jaguars:
1. Reggie Bush’s hurdling technique
2. Randal Grichuk’s throwing arm
3. Matt Williams’ popularity
4. Kansas State’s marching band’s ability to form a spaceship
5. Curt Schilling’s memes
6. Jeff Francoeur’s outfield defense
7. Jeff Francoeur’s ability to make contact
8. Jeff Francoeur’s plate discipline
9. Jeff Francoeur’s baserunning
10. Jeff Francoeur’s ability to tell that a teammate isn’t deaf for over a month

Overall record: 0-0

Last week: 0-0

Apple total: 0

Apple total last week: 0

Categories: NFL | Leave a comment

Top 25 Songs (feat. T-Pain)

As you may (or may not) have noticed, I haven’t done a ton of writing on this website this year. Between my 2015 Baseball Preview and coverage of Vanderbilt baseball, I’ve had plenty to keep me busy, but I wanted to bring back an old favorite this summer.

In my seven years of blogging, I’ve pretty much always stuck to sports. That changed two years ago when I ranked my Top 20 Kanye West songs and followed it up with my Top 20 Usher songs last summer.

They’ve been fun to write, got good conversations going, and, more than anything, allowed me to enjoyed thinking a lot about my favorite songs of the past decade.

Each of the three artists I’ve ranked so far have been important to me. Kanye West is the greatest artist of this generation, Usher was the first artist I ever saw live in concert, and T-Pain made more iconic anthems than anyone during my early years of listening to pop music (2007-08).

There’s a great article in the New York Times that notes how 14 is a formative age for musical tastes. T-Pain was dominating the Billboard when I was that age, and his songs are among my favorite. The number one song on this list is more or less my favorite song ever.

One of the reasons T-Pain was able to dominate the Billboard in the mid-to-late-2000s was because he would admittedly work with anyone. Yes, he got to work with great artists such as Kanye West, Ludacris, and Lil Wayne, but he also helped create plenty of one-hit wonders by singing iconic hooks for no-name artists like Maino, 2 Pistols, and Baby Bash.

We even got such gems as T-Pain collaborating with Adult Swim and Cartoon Network to create hilarious animated shorts like “Auburn Sucks” and the 90-minute movie “Freaknik: The Musical,” plus he used his (in)famous Auto-Tune on President Obama.

I was lucky enough to see T-Pain live at Vanderbilt’s Rites of Spring this year, and it was pretty much the greatest moment of my life. He sang all his best songs for well over an hour and even free-styled over Royals by Lorde. I cried a little.

Anyway, I digress. This is a list of my favorite songs by one of my favorite artists ever. I don’t expect you to agree with all the rankings (although I won’t argue about the top four songs), but I hope this starts a conversation about a top-hat wearing, (formerly) dreadlocked, Auto-Tuned rapper (ternt sanga) who is somehow only 29.

25. I’m Sprung

T-Pain (2005)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 8

We’ll kick off this list with T-Pain’s first top-10 Billboard song. Despite bringing Auto-Tune into the mainstream, this song isn’t very heavy on Auto-Tune, which is a rare find on this list. T-Pain’s debut album was titled “Rappa Ternt Sanga,” and he really shows off his voice in this song. He sang the song complete sans auto-tune for Larry King late last year, and it turns out he’s actually a really good singer without Auto-Tune. He showed off his voice for NPR a month before that as well. This song falls lower on my list because it’s somewhat repetitive and a little slow for me, but it’s still a classic.

Best T-Pain Part:

“She got me doin’ the dishes
Anything she want for some kisses
I’m cookin’ for her when she gets hungry
All she doin’ is actin’ like she want me”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Doo doo doo doo-doo doo doo doo doo-doo doo doo-doo doo doo

24. Hey Baby

Pitbull (feat. T-Pain) (2010)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 7

This was a last-minute call for me over Go Hard by DJ Khaled with Kanye’s great “George Bush hates black people” reference. I really hesitated putting a Pitbull song on this list, but this hook is too infectious for me to ignore. T-Pain was so good that he helped give Pitbull his third ever top-10 single. Top-10 was old hat for T-Pain at this point, though, since he had already been a part of 13 other songs to chart that high. The duo would later collaborate with Sean Paul to create Shake Señora, which topped out at 69 on the Billboard Hot 100. I feel like that’s a really Pitbull thing to do.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Hey, baby girl, whatcha doin’ tonight?
I wanna see what you got in store
Givin’ it your all when you’re dancin’ on me
I wanna see if you give me some more”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

None it’s Pitbull

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:


23. Shawty Get Loose

Lil Mama (feat. Chris Brown and T-Pain) (2008)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 10

Lil Mama is best known for her (banger of a) song Lip Gloss, but T-Pain saved her from being a one-hit-wonder, elevating her to a two-hit-wonder with her second (and likely final) top-10 Billboard song. T-Pain collaborates with Chris Brown, who will appear a few more times on this list, and is able to keep up with her high-speed, high-energy beat with a rare 16 bars of rap with impressive speed. This is one of the few times T-Pain is featured on a song but doesn’t sing the hook; it’s just fun and infectious and brings me way back to 2008.

Best T-Pain Part:

“What it do, Teddy to the Piz-ain
You already know, tell ’em I’m the miz-ayne
Shawty, yee ain’t messin’ wit a lizz-ame
Imma have you loose on the floor, you gon’ be steppin’ wit a cizz-ane”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“The way we get loose, we move our shoulders
Forward, heads back
Get it in Control like Janet Jack”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Nappy Boy!!!

22. Drankin’ Patna

T-Pain (2014)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: N/A

This song hasn’t charted well because it’s not on an album yet and hasn’t been marketed well as a single. I hadn’t even heard of it before I went back through T-Pain’s discography and stumbled upon it, but it’s great. Believe it or not, T-Pain said it’s his favorite song right now, adding that “Drankin’ Patna’s one of them songs that you go around the country and just look for people to drink with, and I think I’ve found a few. But nobody can beat my wife. That’s not even a question.” The song is very solid, but I’m not too surprised he picked it as his favorite considering when Snoop Dogg asked him what his favorite drink is, he took a long pause and said, “I’m alcoholic, man, that’s a very tough question.”

Best T-Pain Part:

“Oh I think I need her to drink a drink with me
I found the girl of my dreams and I got you
I done found me a drinking partner
Everybody want her
She be sipping that Corona
And we ain’t turnin’ up in the club without her
I done found me a drankin’ patna”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:


21. I’m Dancing

T-Pain (feat. Flo Rida) (2011)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: N/A

I remember eagerly waiting for T-Pain’s fourth album to come out, and RevolveR took seemingly forever because it was delayed over a year. I’m Dancing was supposed to be on the album after it was leaked to the internet with Dance With Me, but neither song ended up making the final cut nor even got released as a single as Rap Song, Take Your Shirt Off, Reverse Cowgirl, and Booty Wurk eventually were. It doesn’t even exist on iTunes, although you can find it on Spotify. Still, this is one of those songs that I get instantly excited for as soon as it comes on. It checks off most of the boxes of a great T-Pain song: a catchy hook, high energy, a couple “shawties,” and a strong guest appearance by a big name.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Do you wanna party?
Do you wanna go home?
Let’s get this party started
We can do it all night long
And I, I’m dancing
And I, I’m dancing
Let’s get this party started”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Yeah I got a grand I’m the man
I don’t take it out the rubber band
Girl it’s the courtesy of T-Pain”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Hey hey … hey!

20. Good Life

Kanye West (feat. T-Pain) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 7

From my No. 20 to No. 14 songs, we’ve got seven great songs from 2007 and 2008 on which T-Pain is featured. They’re all really closely bunched together, and I could easily be convinced that they belong a couple spots differently than I have them ranked right now. Good Life is obviously a great song because it’s by Kanye (and off one of his best albums), but it falls at the bottom of this group because I didn’t have the same connection to the song as I did to the next six songs when it originally came out. My list, my rules.

Best T-Pain Part:

“The good life, better than the life I lived
When I thought that I was gonna go crazy
And now my grandmama
Ain’t the only girl callin’ me ‘baby'”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Have you ever popped champagne on a plane, while gettin’ some brain
Whipped it out, she said, ‘I never seen Snakes on a Plane'”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Hey… heyy… oooh!

19. She Got It

2 Pistols (feat. T-Pain and Tay Dizm) (2008)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 24

Not only has T-Pain dramatically changed my life by making some of the best music known to man, he also made 2 Pistols boatloads of money by singing the hook to She Got it. Sure, he largely ends up just saying “She got it” (66 times to be exact), but as always, T-Pain manages to make the hook sound great. I’ll admit to buying two other 2 Pistols songs (You Know Me and That’s My Word), but I can assure you that none of his other music is good, especially when he’s not featuring T-Pain, Ray J, or Trey Songz. Also, did you know that 2 Pistols came out with his second album just last year? Good for him.

Best T-Pain Part:

“I know she got it cause she lookin’ at me like she want it
She drop it low, make me wanna throw some D’s on it
Whatever it is you can’t stop it
Cause she get low, when she on that pole, and that lets me know”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Excuse moi, let me talk to you for a second
Lil mama so fine she got the whole squad sweatin’
Damn, how you fit all that in them jeans?
Was the question that I asked followed by lemme Buy U a Drank”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Yeah-eah… Yeah-eah-eah… Hey!

18. One More Drink

Ludacris (feat. T-Pain) (2008)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 24

This is irrationally one of my favorite Ludacris songs (up there with Get Back, Runaway Love, Pimpin’ All Over the World, and Money Maker), and it has been for a long time. I even did a project my senior year of high school where I made a commercial for Coca-Cola using this song (I’ll sell the rights to it for cheap, and I think the Atlanta connection with Luda is a surefire win). I was very upset when Luda didn’t sing it at Commodore Quake last fall, and I can’t remember if T-Pain sang it at Rites this year, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t. It’s a real shame because this song has a great message that Luda gives at the end: “You hear what I’m sayin’? People too picky these days, dammit. Too tall, too short, too fat, too skinny. Have a couple of drinks and quit discriminatin’.” The music video is hilarious too.

Best T-Pain Part:

“If I take one more drink, I’m gon’ end up fuckin’ you
Is that what you wanna do, shawty?”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Surrendered to the woman end up bringin’ me home
Cause she started lookin’ better every shot of Patron, yup!
I jumped up with a devilish grin
Cause tonight, damn right I might do it again”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:


17. Shawty

Plies (feat. T-Pain) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 9

How can you not love a song featuring T-Pain that is called “Shawty?” I don’t think there could be a more classic T-Pain song with the sheer amount of Auto-Tune and “shawties.” People like to make fun of Lil Jon for only saying “okay,” “yeah,” and “what?” in his songs, but T-Pain has his own Holy Trinity of words. That’s “shawty” (pronounced “shaw-tay”), “woah” (pronounced “woah-ooh”), and “yeah” (pronounced “yea-yea-yeah”). Look out for them in all his songs. For some reason, I just love the part right after the hook when Pain just sings “woah” over and over for 24 seconds before sprinkling in a couple “shawties.”

Best T-Pain Part:

“Now, even though I’m not your man, you’re not my girl imma call you my shawty
Cause I can’t stand to see you treated bad, I beat his ass for my shawty
And we ain’t did nothin’ that we ain’t supposed to do cause you my shawty
Baby girl you know I be home, keep me on the ringtone
Shawty sang it to me girl!”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“I exposed her to real and now she hate lame
Remember she used to run from me, now she like pain
She call me sometimes just to ask is it her thang
Ever since I ran up in shawty, she ain’t been the same”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

“Woah oh-oh woah woah woah oh-oh woah woah woah oh-oh woah
Woah oh-oh woah woah woah woah woah woah woah oh-oh woah

16. I’m a Flirt

R. Kelly (feat. T.I. and T-Pain) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 12

I’m not going to pretend like T-Pain alone made this song how great it is because he only sings one verse (and doesn’t even sing the hook), but he just adds the icing on top of the cake. The only thing holding this song on my list is its general lack of T-Pain; he sings less than a minute of the five-plus minute song. On the other hand, it would have had a totally different feel with him singing the hook instead of R. Kelly. There’s another version of this song out there with Bow Wow singing instead of T.I. and T-Pain, but I can’t imagine what madman would prefer that version.

Best T-Pain Part:

“I be like como se llama, lil mama me llamo Pain
What is your name?
I’m feeling your vibe and I’m hoping you feel the same
Imma wink my eye and let you know I got the game
When I pass by I know exactly what you say
He’s so fly, yes he’s so cool”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“She looking at you, and I walk by
You turn your head, she wink her eye
I can’t help it if she checkin’ for a platinum type of guy
She be calling my daddy, and I be calling her mommy
She be calling you Kelly when your name is Tommy”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

When I uh, when I uh, when I uh, when I…

15. The Boss

Rick Ross (feat. T-Pain) (2008)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 17

The Boss is the quintessential Rick Ross song in my book, and T-Pain absolutely delivers on the hook and his short interlude. T-Pain also happens to continue the trend of repeating the name of the song a ton, just like She Got It and Shawty. This time he says “boss” 24 times in a 10-second span. Just great stuff. Man, I love T-Pain. You also get to enjoy a good deal of shirtless Rick Ross and seeing just how big of a boss he is in the music video that was shot well before Ricky Rozay became skinny.

Best T-Pain Part:

“And shawty straight diggin’ me, and I ain’t even rich
I know you n****s on the sideline like, “Ain’t that a bitch?”
I’m on my job and I ain’t gettin’ off
Cause it’s just another day in the life of the goddamn boss”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“I don’t smoke twenties, eight hundred for the izzerds
I’m the biggest boss that you seen thus far
You can tell by the strongs that’s standin’ by the car”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

The boss, boss-boss the boss
Boss-boss the boss, boss-boss the boss
The boss, boss-boss the boss
Boss-boss the boss, boss-boob the boss

14. Cyclone

Baby Bash (feat. T-Pain) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 7

This is another song that people just get hype for as soon as it the song starts. Everybody recognizes it, and Lil Jon did a great job incorporating synths. It’s pretty amazing considering how great this song is that Baby Bash has done quite literally nothing since this song came out. But did you know that Baby Bash came out with five whole albums before Cyclone came out? Only two of those even cracked the Billboard Top 200. Just think about that. Him making Cyclone is like a blind squirrel finding a nut, except it’s more like a tone-deaf squirrel writing a hit song (but only because he was working with T-Pain). Even though he doesn’t sing to the hook to the song, T-Pain puts the magic touch on this song by making car engine/cat noises at the end.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Shawty got looks (and)
Shawty got class
Shawty got hips (and)
Shawty got ass”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“She moves her body like a cyclone
And she makes me wanna do it all night long
Going hard, when they turn the spotlights on
Because she moves her body like a cyclone”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:


13. Up Down

T-Pain (feat. B.o.B) (2013)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 62

Despite working on his new album Stoicville: The Phoenix, T-Pain has barely come out with any songs since releasing RevolveR in late 2011. Up Down has been the highlight of the small bunch; Drankin’ Patna and Make That Shit Work are his only songs along with some featured parts on random artists like Sergey Lazarev, DJ Kay Slay, and Wisin & Yandel. Did I make up those names? Maybe. Anyway, the beat of Up Down is infectious, and B.o.B does a great job on the third verse. Just a very good song overall.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Go do a show then
Bring some more in
Pockets bigger than a Samoan
I’m at the stage every time shawty go in”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Let them bands go, let them bands go
Watch a n***a throw a grand or so on that camel toe
And be like ‘Damn boy, why you cuffing that ho?’
The whole team smashed her and you ain’t even know”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Ahh… ahh… ahh!

12. Turn All The Lights On

T-Pain (feat. Ne-Yo) (2011)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 113

I honestly have no idea how this song didn’t chart well. This is yet another song that gets me instantly hyped and is one of the first times T-Pain really experiments with EDM. The hook just sounds like the anthem to somebody’s Friday at 5 p.m. This is easily T-Pain’s best song off RevolveR; some people prefer 5 O’Clock or Drowning Again, but those are too sad and slow for my taste. All the best T-Pain songs are about going to the club, drinking, and having a good time. That’s a pretty common theme through all his songs really.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Take off your shoes (shoes shoes)
Ain’t nobody gon’ see nothin’
Bring out the booze (booze booze)
Baby girl stop frontin’
Ain’t nothin’ to lose (lose lose)
And I ain’t gotta work no more
Fuck that place, fuck my boss
Imma buy the bar, don’t care what it costs”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Shawty is a perfect ten
This angelic body made for sin
I love the way you get it in
Come over here and shake it for a gentleman”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:


11. All I Do Is Win

DJ Khaled (feat. T-Pain, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, and Rick Ross) (2011)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 24

Nobody pumps out songs with A-List rappers quite like DJ Khaled. He’s due for his eighth album in ten years in a few months and already has 112 songs released during that span. I may or may not own 37 of them. Although I’m So Hood and I’m On One charted better, All I Do Is Win is undoubtedly his most famous song for no other reason than every single sports stadium in America (and likely abroad as well) owns this song and plays it after they win a game. Just like after they win a championship, they will play We Are The Champions by Queen. Not but a minute after the US Women’s Soccer Team defeated Japan (wooooo!!!!), the sports bar I was at started playing the song. But I don’t mind because it’s great, and T-Pain kills the hook.

Best T-Pain Part:

“All I do is win win win no matter what
Got money on my mind I can’t never get enough
And every time I step up in the building
Everybody hands go up
And they stay there, and they stay there
And they stay there, up down up down up down”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Time and time again while I’m sipping on this gin
Al Davis said it best, ‘Just win baby, win!'”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:


10. Got Money

Lil Wayne (feat. T-Pain) (2008)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 10

Lollipop will always be Lil Wayne’s best song (and was atop the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks), but Got Money is right there with it. T-Pain gets Lil Wayne to use Auto-Tune for pretty much the first time of his career, and the song is a jammer. The hook is unforgettable, and it brings me straight back to middle school dances. Those were the best times.

Best T-Pain Part:

“If you got money
And you know it
Take it out your pocket and show it, then throw it like
This-a-way, that-a-way, this-a-way, that-a-way”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Okay we go one for the money
Two for the show
Now clap your hands if you got a bankroll
Like some clap on lights in this bitch
Imma be clappin’ all night in this bitch”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Yeah-eah… ooh-ooh… ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh

9. I’m N Luv (Wit a Stripper)

T-Pain (feat. Mike Jones) (2005)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 5

Although it falls at the back of my top 10, this song is potentially the most classic one by T-Pain, his top charting song for the first album and three years of his musical career. For one thing, he finally answers the age-old question of a nice way to describe a girl’s brown eyes (butter pecan brown). According to the song’s Wikipedia page, he produced the song using GarageBand in about two hours. I find that very hard to believe but worth sharing. And if that’s true, that should be the commercial for GarageBand right there: throw together some Auto-Tune, synths, and sexually-charged lyrics and get a top-10 Billboard song in two hours!

Best T-Pain Part:

“Droppin’ low
She comin’ down from the ceiling to the floor
Yeah she know what she doin’ (yeah yeah yeah)
She doin’ that right thang (yeah yeah yeah yeah)
I need to get her over to my crib and do that night thang
Cause I’m in love with a stripper”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“But I can’t even lie, the girls are here so fly
She slidin’ up and down that pole got me mesmerized
Mike Jones don’t ever trick, but goddamn she thick
I can’t lie, I must admit”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:


8. I’m On A Boat

Lonely Island (feat. T-Pain) (2010)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 56

At No. 8, I love absolutely everything about this song, which should tell you how great T-Pain is/how much I love T-Pain. As with most Lonely Island videos (shouts out to I Just Had Sex and Jack Sparrow), the choreography is incredible, with so many little Easter Eggs around the video. As for T-Pain’s part, his constant background singing is perfect for the absurd lyrics, and he hits on all three of his key words (woah, yeah, and shawty) in the last 14 seconds of the song in the best way possible. The song is parodying many rap cliches and was actually nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the Grammy’s, an honor T-Pain rarely earned (unfortunately).

Best T-Pain Part:

“Never thought I’d see the day
When a big boat coming my way
Believe me when I say, I fucked a mermaid”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Hey ma, if you could see me now
Arms spread wide on the starboard bow
Gonna fly this boat to the moon somehow
Like Kevin Garnett, anything is possible”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Yeahhhhh yeahh-yeahhh yeahh-yeahh.. woahhh-ooooh sh-sh-shaw sh-sh-shaw sh-shaw-shaw sh-shaw-tay shaw-tay yeahh-yeah-yeahhh

7. Freeze

T-Pain (feat. Chris Brown) (2008)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 38

Easily the best song on Thr33 Ringz (apologies to Can’t Believe It), Freeze is a hard song to dislike. The song was originally supposed to be featuring Omarion, but it was eventually changed to Chris Brown. That’s a good thing because as it turns out, Chris Brown and T-Pain go together like peanut butter and jelly. They’ve collaborated on six songs, netting four songs that cracked this list (including three in the top ten) along with Look At Her Go and (the admittedly catchy) Algo Me Gusta de Ti. I’m pretty disappointed this song never charted well because I love it, and more people need to.

Best T-Pain Part:

“You know what I do if you can do it too
Then that’s just somethin’ that makes me more attracted to you
And I, and I wanna see you break it down, for me
Yes, we in this private party girl I like your body
But can you tic, tic, tic, tic, tic, tic, pop, lock, and drop it?”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Girl lets get it poppin’ (crackin’) tell me how you feel
Let’s get up on this floor and do this thing for real
Cause we, you and me, can really break it down, together”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Woahh-ooh ah-ahhhh-ahhhh-ahhh woahh

6. Best Love Song

T-Pain (feat. Chris Brown) (2011)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 33

I’m not sure I like Chris Brown and T-Pain trying to harmonize (or rather, I know I don’t like it), but that doesn’t stop Best Love Song from being one of T-Pain’s best. When a bunch of singles leaked off of RevolveR, this was the only one that really charted well and ended up being the only leaked single to make it onto the album. The up-tempo beat and nice lyrics work together well, and the song is hard not to like. If T-Pain and Chris Brown collaborated on an album like Watch The Thrones or Face Off, I wouldn’t complain at all.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Turn up the bass, turn up the treble
I’m ’bout to take it to a whole other level
DJ turn up what you’re playing
I want the whole club to hear what I’m saying”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“You know it’s right, just do the wave
Girl just move your body like a snake
And if you wanna get with me
Put your hands in the air, show me that energy”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Hey hey hey hey-hey-hey hey hey hey heyyy hey hey hey-hey-hey hey hey hey

5. All the Above

Maino (feat. T-Pain) (2009)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 39

Give me synths, drums, and violins in the background of a song, and I’m all about it. Add in a T-Pain hook, and it’s an all-timer. I’m honestly shocked that this song didn’t chart well considering how widespread this song is. It’s been used by so many (college) sports teams, and nearly everyone knows the hook. That’s probably because the hook is simple and catchy, including “all the above” 28 times throughout the song. But still. I find it amazing how many people (especially girls) know this song, and pretty much everyone loves it. Even more amazing because Maino is the biggest one-hit wonder T-Pain has ever made a hit song with; dude only has two other songs that charted in the Billboard Top 200 (Hi Hater at 108 and Let It Fly at 106).

Best T-Pain Part:

“Tell me what do you see, when you’re looking at me?
On a mission to be, what I’m destined to be
I done been through the pain and the sorrow
The struggle it’s nothing but love
I’m a soldier a rider a ghetto survivor and all the above”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“The new Benz is all white, call it John McCain”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:


4. Bartender

T-Pain (feat. Akon) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 5

Now we enter the pantheon of T-Pain songs: four songs from 2007 that can all make a case to be T-Pain’s best single. Bartender is a little slower than the other three atop the list, which bumps it down a bit, but it’s every bit as good as the rest of the group. Like any great T-Pain song, this one is about drinks and has a killer verse by a featured artist. Also like any great (T-Pain) song, people immediately lose their mind when it comes on because the beginning is instantly recognizable. No. 4 is no insult, it’s just a testament to how great T-Pain was, especially in 2007.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Broke up with my girl last night so I went to the club
Put on a fresh white suit and the Mini Coop’ sittin’ on dubs
I’m just lookin’ for somebody to talk to and show me some love
If you know what I mean… uh huh”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Got a passenger side that’s empty wantin’ it to be yo’ spot
Put you on my Billboard we can act like the charts I can end up on top”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:


3. Kiss Kiss

Chris Brown (feat. T-Pain) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 1

I was really tempted to make this the number two song, but this song gets a very respectable bronze medal. By far T-Pain’s best work with Chris Brown, this is an unforgettable song that was built to be sung along with because of its call and response nature. Brown originally wanted the hook to be “She’s chunky, chunky (chunky, chunky) / She’s thick, thick (thick, thick),” but thankfully someone had him change it. The beat is just so iconic, which is a main reason why this song peaked atop the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks, knocking Crank That off the top of the chart. I’m still waiting on Nappy Boy Radio to go live, though, because I would buy a subscription in a heartbeat.

Best T-Pain Part:

“She want that lovey dovey (lovey dovey)
That kiss, kiss (kiss, kiss)
In her mind she fantasize ’bout gettin’ with me
They hatin’ on me (hatin’ on me)
They wanna diss, diss (kiss, kiss)
Because she mine and so fine, thick as can be”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“I’m the epitome of this demonstration, I got the remedy
You feelin’ me, so why is you hatin’ on my anatomy?
It’s bird-like, yeah, you heard right
Girl I’m the king, so that means I’m fly”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:


2. Buy U a Drank

T-Pain (feat. Yung Joc) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 1

No song brings me back to leanin’ and rockin’ at middle school dances (with the exception of Lean wit It, Rock wit It) quite like Buy U a Drank. It’s just such a classic, and I absolutely love T-Pain backing himself up in the hook with a few signature “woahs,” straight out of Ne-Yo’s So Sick. This was T-Pain’s first-ever No. 1 Billboard single, and it’s also the only song to ever chart in each of the top 12 positions, the second to ever chart every top 10 position. It would be the greatest T-Pain song if not for his third number one hit…

Best T-Pain Part:

“Baby girl, what’s your name?
Let me talk to you, let me buy you a drink
I’m T-Pain, you know me
Konvict Muzic, Nappy Boy, ooh wee”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“Won’t you meet me at the bar, respect big pimpin’
Tell me how you feel, mama tell me what you sippin’
A certified dime piece, deserve Louis 13
150 a shot, 3 for you and 3 for me”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:

Yeahh-yeah-yeahhh… ahhooooh-oooohh-oooohh

1. Low

Flo Rida (feat. T-Pain) (2007)

Billboard Hot 100 Peak: 1

The was the most iconic song of 2007 and my time at middle school (just edging out Crank That), and T-Pain sings the most iconic part. It was the most downloaded song of the 2000s as well because it’s that amazing. You know how Metta World Peace wore #37 because MJ’s Thriller was atop the charts for 37 weeks? If I were in professional sports, I would wear No. 110 for the number of weeks Low was atop the Billboard Hot 100. This song is so great, I can’t even put words to it. This was the first major hit song when I started listening to pop music, and it will always have a special place in my heart. I will audibly freak out if it ever comes on the radio. That’s why it ends up atop my list. I’m also waiting to go to a dynamic duos date party, in which case I need someone to wear apple bottom jeans and boots with the fur to go with my baggy sweatpants and Reeboks with the straps.

Best T-Pain Part:

“Shawty had them Apple Bottom jeans
Boots wit the fur (wit the fur)
The whole club was lookin’ at her
She hit the flo’ (she hit the flo’), next thang you know
Shawty got low-low-low-low-low-low-low-low”

Best Non-T-Pain Part:

“That’s what I told her, her legs on my shoulder
I knew it was over, that Henny and Cola
Got me like a solider, she ready for Rover
I couldn’t control her, so lucky oh me
I was just like a clover”

Funny T-Pain sound of the song:


Categories: Other | Leave a comment

Dansby Swanson’s rise to become Vanderbilt’s best player

(First appeared in The Vanderbilt Hustler)

Sitting in his first grade classroom, Dansby Swanson’s counselor spoke to his class, talking to them about the importance of school and education. At the end of the talk, the counselor asked one last question so that everyone could leave: Who wants to go to college?

At this point, all of the children got excited, raised their hands, and got up to leave.

Everyone except for a young Swanson.

“What do you mean, you’re not going to college?” Swanson recalls the counselor saying. “I know your family; you’re going to college.”

“I’m going to be the number one draft pick,” replied Swanson.

Such is the life of Dansby Swanson. The man sets goals as high as anyone and to this date has done a stellar job of achieving them. Although he wasn’t drafted first overall out of high school, the Arizona Diamondbacks fulfilled his dream, selecting him with the top pick in June’s MLB Draft.

Vanderbilt baseball head coach Tim Corbin fondly recalls the story of when Swanson walked into his office as a freshman and told the coach that he wanted to be the best player who’s ever played at Vanderbilt.

Even for a program that’s only played at a high level for the past decade, that’s an awfully high bar to set. Pitcher David Price won the Golden Spikes Award in 2007 and was the first overall pick in the MLB First-Year Player Draft. There have been eight other first-round picks since Corbin took over in 2003.

But in his three years in black and gold, Swanson has made a strong case to earn that title.

From a results standpoint alone, he’s been named a Golden Spikes Award finalist and the Most Outstanding Player of the 2014 College World Series. He led the Commodores in nearly every offensive category in 2015. And perhaps most importantly, he helped lead Vanderbilt to consecutive College World Series Finals, winning the Commodores’ first national championship.

But to become the “greatest player who’s every played at Vanderbilt,” it takes more than just production. Swanson says as much himself:

“To me it’s more than stats,” Swanson said. “It involves a lot of creating your own legacy here. Having this place be forever changed because I was in it. I try to make a great impact on the people most importantly. The program, you just encompass everything. You can hit 1.000, but if you’re not a great person, then you’re not a winner in my book. You have every aspect of life in it: Academics, baseball and put it all together, and I wanted to be the best at each of those.”

The “it” factor

Swanson certainly wasn’t a top name coming out of high school. He was the 138th-ranked draft prospect in 2012, according to Baseball America, which is a large reason he ended up going to college instead of signing with a professional team.

“If we’re being honest here, nobody really thought I was that great in high school,” Swanson said. “But I knew baseball was going to be my career path. I just kept pursuing it, I played well in the summers, which is probably what put me on the map, but luckily Coach Corbin thought that I had a chance.”

The first time Corbin saw Swanson in high school, he saw the athleticism, the quick-twitch fibers, how he made things look easy. But it was also his attitude that became a large reason Corbin recruited Swanson to Vanderbilt in the first place.

Character plays a large role in determining how well a player will adjust to college sports.

We now see how high Swanson’s character is — Corbin has praised him for his servant leadership and how he “does everything top-shelf” — but that’s often hard to gauge during the recruiting period. People, especially parents, love to brag about their players.

“I don’t know from a recruiting standpoint if you can know everything you need to know about a kid mentally,” Corbin said. “I think a lot of it you take on their baggage, and sometimes it’s the bags that are snuck on the airplane –so to speak – that you don’t know exist.”

Corbin has developed his own strategy to evaluate prep players’ character. Foremost, he believes you can tell a lot about a player from his parents. Additionally, seeing how the player interacts with his teammates, talking to the opposition and looking at grades and test scores adds to the player’s portfolio.

But another key factor is trust. Corbin and James Beavers, the head coach of Swanson’s travel team the East Cobb Yankees, have a close relationship, and when Beavers said that Swanson was special from a personality standpoint, Corbin listened and followed up with a visit.

“Dansby’s just special,” said Beavers, who has coached a litany of great shortstops including Stephen Drew and Gordon Beckham. “He’s just a special kid in a lot of ways. We used to talk about (Derek) Jeter having ‘it.’ You don’t know what it is, it’s just ‘it.’ That’s what I’ve always felt Dansby has. You can’t put your finger on everything he does, it’s just ‘it.’ He just makes everything happen right. Good things happen to somebody like him.”

The injury

Swanson arrived at Vanderbilt to a veteran-laden team. Outfielders Connor Harrell and Mike Yastrzemski pushed off signing professional contracts a year to return for their senior seasons, Tony Kemp, Conrad Gregor, Kevin Ziomek and Tyler Beede were also established contributors, and the team made the College World Series two years previously.

But with all of the established players on the team, shortstop was open after the Miami Marlins drafted Anthony Gomez. Swanson saw this as a golden opportunity.

“Obviously I wanted to play short,” Swanson said. “It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and I take pride in it. And I wanted to play. I wanted to help the team win, I wanted to lead. I wanted all of those things. And just how I play, I compete in everything I do. Just going to go after it, and whatever happened happened. If I was going to play left field, I was going to play left field. I wasn’t just going to say ‘screw this.’”

But almost as soon as his collegiate campaign began, it came to a sudden halt.

Playing against Monmouth in the seventh game of the season, Swanson reached first base on a walk in his first plate appearance. Chris Harvey tripled down the right field line, but Swanson took a sharp angle around second base and stepped on the bag completely wrong.

Although he ended up scoring on the play, Swanson knew there was something wrong, and he left the game. He had sprained an ankle before playing basketball, but this was worse. When he went to the trainer’s room the next day, he couldn’t put any weight on it.

A quick trip to the hospital confirmed his fears: He had fractured the base of his fifth metatarsal — the outside bone of the foot.

“I saw the X-ray at the hospital, and I knew,” Swanson said. “I didn’t really know what to think. I was just like I guess this is how it’s going to be. My mom was probably more upset than I was because I just accepted it. You can’t get mad at it; it’s in the past. You just have to move forward and try to be back out as quick as I could.”

The original prognosis for Swanson was six weeks until a full recovery, but after four, six and eight weeks, he still wasn’t feeling right. Although he did come back to play four more games in April, his non-dominant shoulder, which had bothered him going back to high school, was re-aggravated during batting practice at Louisville.

Knowing he wouldn’t be back to 100 percent that season, Swanson decided to have surgery on the torn ligament in his left shoulder so that he could be in top condition by the next fall.

Still, that left the coaching staff wondering what could have been in a lost 2013 season.

“I think he would have taken over (starting at shortstop) within a month,” Corbin said. “We had some older guys there, but I just thought it was a matter of time. But at the same time, I wanted him to play his way into it. I just didn’t want to give him the spot right away, but you could tell that within a couple weeks, that he was going to have the position if he was going to continue to play the way he did.”

Although he only hit .188 in 11 games his freshman season, there were signs of a much better player, including a .435 on-base percentage and baseball intellect beyond his years.

“The baserunning in itself was so much different than anyone else,” Corbin said. It was the awareness factor that he had that you could tell was very mature and very good. It would have been very interesting to see what he would have done with that ball club. Because you’re talking about a special player on that 2013 team that would have really added to it.”

The ascent

Swanson’s rise has been even more remarkable considering all the time he’s missed. He only played 11 games between the end of the senior year of high school and the start of his sophomore season, missing chances to play in the Cape Cod League during the summers.

But with how recently he committed to playing baseball exclusively, the quick improvement was also expected — just not to this level.

“He played basketball, so it wasn’t like he was a full-time baseball player,” Corbin said. “So I did think once he got playing baseball full-time, I thought there was a lot of progression, almost like recruiting a Midwest or Northeast kid. It just took some time because he just had been playing so many things.”

Although Vince Conde took over the shortstop job following Swanson’s injury, Swanson grabbed hold of the second base job at the beginning of the 2014 season and instantly became Vanderbilt’s best hitter.

In his first full season, Swanson led Vanderbilt in on-base percentage, runs, and steals from the leadoff position. He was named first team All-SEC, and after hitting .323 with five runs, two RBIs, three doubles, and four steals, he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series.

A natural shortstop, Swanson shifted back to his regular position in 2015 after the New York Yankees drafted Vince Conde in the MLB Draft, and he continued to rake.

The list is hard to believe at times. First on the team in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, home runs, doubles, triples, and walks hitting in the middle of the lineup. Oh, and he was second in RBIs and third in steals.

“What did it for me in terms of me thinking he was elite was how he handled himself in the postseason last year,” Corbin said. “And then coming out here (this season) and playing like he did. It was like he took this experience on as if it was his. And he played so well, he’s so on point, and at that point, I figured this kid has special intangibles, special skills that you don’t see in a lot of kids.”

Reaching the top

Swanson is clearly in the conversation for the greatest player who’s ever played at Vanderbilt, neck-and-neck with David Price.

While he doesn’t have nearly the trophy case Price does — Golden Spikes Award, Dick Howser Award, SEC Pitcher of the Year, SEC Male Athlete of the Year, No. 1 overall draft pick, etc. — Swanson does have one notable edge on Price: winning.

Price led the Commodores to the top overall seed in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, but Vanderbilt did not make it out of its own regional. Vanderbilt also lost in the Atlanta Regional in 2006 and did not make the NCAA Tournament in 2005.

Swanson mentioned that being Vanderbilt’s greatest player means changing the program forever, creating your own legacy, making a great impact on the people. And with consecutive trips to the College World Series Finals and a national championship, Swanson has put the program in a much better place than when he arrived.

Although he doesn’t like to compare himself to other people, the last two years have launched Swanson to the pantheon of Vanderbilt athletes, effectively fulfilling his goal of becoming the greatest player who’s ever played at Vanderbilt.

“He’s up there,” Corbin said with a knowing smile. “I wouldn’t want to say anything in his presence right now.”

Categories: College Baseball | Leave a comment

Buehler’s new delivery shows immediate results

(First appeared in The Vanderbilt Hustler)

Pitching at a high level is all about making adjustments. For Walker Buehler, that involved changing his delivery at the biggest stage of College Baseball.

Pitching for the first time in 18 days because Vanderbilt beat Illinois in Super Regionals in two games, Buehler debuted a new wrinkle to his delivery: starting it off by bringing his hands over his head.

This was an idea that originated with Buehler coming to pitching coach Scott Brown. Months ago, the two had talked about an article on how many Hall of Fame pitchers go over their head in their delivery, and Buehler finally started implementing it, instead of just holding his hands by his waist.

Buehler had been having issues recently with repeating his landing foot and directional line, which led to him being off-kilter at times. There are several problems associated with this complication to a delivery.

“You can lose command; the ball can flatten out,” Brown said. “You don’t get quite the same life on the ball. It may read the same on the radar gun, but the perception is not the same; the margin of error is less. The ability to stay on line causes a little more deception to the hitter.”

Not repeating the same landing spot on every delivery isn’t a death sentence to a pitcher, however. Buehler has been dominant down the stretch, including a five-inning shutout performance against Radford in the Nashville Regional in which he struck out seven batters and only allowed two hits.

But even with the results looking good, Brown wanted to make sure Buehler was pitching to his full potential.

“In that Radford start, I thought he pitched very well from a results standpoint and execution, but I didn’t think his stuff was quite the same that game,” Brown said. “Looking back at some film on it and just how he was at the time, I told him he needed to make a real conscious effort. I thought he was getting cross-bodied in that game, really struggling to get extended.”

Although the two didn’t know it at the time, having eighteen days off, away from live competition, proved to be good for Buehler. With mound sessions and flat grounds in practice, he had plenty of time to repeat this new delivery.

And the results showed immediately. Buehler started off Friday’s game against TCU showing some of his best velocity – 96 and 97 mph in the first inning – and better depth than usual on his breaking pitches. After the game, he said, “It’s been a while since I’ve felt like that.”

Most importantly, perhaps, he only allowed one run and four hits over 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight.

“I think he was more in rhythm,” said head coach Tim Corbin. “I think he was more at peace. I think being able to get over the rubber, stay over the rubber, and really deliver the ball over the hill, however it worked for him. He’s a tinkerer a little bit. I thought his delivery was under control, and he certainly had control of the baseball, and that’s all that matters.”

“The thing that I was most impressed with,” Brown said, “was that his foot strike was the same every time down the slope. And that was the big focus. When his hands were stationary, I thought he got drifty and got side-to-side at times. It was a concern of mine.”

In addition to giving him time to place both his drag and plant foot consistently in the right place, Buehler also found that the new delivery helped his pace on the mound and added a new layer of deception.

“I think it adds a little element of rhythm change,” Buehler said. “A few pitches you don’t go over the head or you pause a little bit longer on some. It’s nice. It’s gives you a little bit more flexibility.”

While there are certainly more adjustments to be made throughout his career, one thing is for certain: the new delivery going over-the-head will be around should the Commodores need Buehler in Game 3 of the College World Series Finals.

Categories: College Baseball | Leave a comment

The future is bright for college baseball’s top pitcher

(First appeared in The Vanderbilt Hustler)

What you see is what you get when it comes to Carson Fulmer:

An intense competitor.

A nasty three-pitch mix.

An all-out mentality and delivery.

All three of those factors have allowed Fulmer to become the most dominant pitcher in the nation, earning him SEC Pitcher of the Year and Golden Spikes Award finalist honors – the only pitcher to receive a nomination.

Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin has heaped seemingly hyperbolic praise on Fulmer – calling him a once in a lifetime player – but Fulmer has been able to back it up. His level of dominance is just striking.

Fulmer won the SEC Pitching Triple Crown, leading the conference in wins, ERA and strikeouts. To this point, his 147 strikeouts blow away LSU’s Alex Lange, who is second in the conference with 110 strikeouts.

His home ERA was a miniscule 0.80, and he gave up one or fewer earned runs in 11 of his 14 starts, eight of which were shutout performances. He struck out more batters than innings he pitched in all but one start, and he struck out at least 11 in half his starts.

But even though his college career is not over, one of the biggest nights of his life is coming up in less than a week. On June 8, he will be selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Players Draft.

Fulmer is projected by most experts to go among the top ten picks in the draft, potentially in the top five. The average signing bonus value for a top ten pick is $4.9 million bonus, and the average signing bonus value for a top five pick is $6.3 million bonus.

Where a team ends up taking him in the draft is very much up in the air. Whereas the entire baseball industry sees Fulmer as one of — if not the — most dominant pitcher in college, opinions greatly differ on how successful he’ll be at the next level.

“The big question (I’ve gotten from scouts) was if I could either start or relieve,” Fulmer said. “I’ve wanted to start for a very long time. I kept my mouth shut and tried to help the team in any way I could. I was able to get a chance to start, and I’ve loved it ever since.”

Teams spend inordinate amounts of money to travel and scout players, but each team still has different preferences and processes and comes up with different reports on each player. Scouting is an inexact science, but how teams evaluate players like Fulmer will largely shape their immediate future on the 8th.

The makeup

If there’s one part of Fulmer’s game that the entire baseball industry can agree upon, it’s his makeup, the industry term for character. Teams have been scouting him since high school, and his reputation precedes him.

“He’s widely known to be a very positive, plus makeup guy,” said one major league executive. “He gives a great effort every time, he’s a good teammate, his makeup I don’t think is in question by any team.”

Vanderbilt’s coaches have been very impressed with this over the years. Pitching coach Scott Brown points out that he even makes every single conversation, bullpen and practice important.

Much of that attention to detail comes from the most notable aspect of his makeup: his seemingly relentless competitiveness.

“I think it goes without saying that he’s a very intense, competitive guy,” said another front office executive. “You don’t have to have a history on him to know that. You can watch him for a day and realize the guy’s a competitor. We love the makeup of the kid. Our impression of him is that he’s a great guy, and he’s obviously a fearsome competitor, and it’s one of the things that really stands out.”

Fulmer has always been deeply competitive, and it is in large part thanks to his family.

Fulmer, 21, is rather close to his family and is the youngest of five siblings. He has two older sisters, 32 and 46, and two older brothers, 27 and 31, with whom he would play outside all the time.

“My brothers and I have had some instances where’ve gotten into it,” Fulmer said. “We were always outside playing. Flag football would turn into tackle football, that kind of stuff. (My brothers were) bigger than I was at the time, and I feel like that just fueled the fire even more for me.”

His sheer competitiveness has led to another one of his signature attributes: attacking hitters at a high level throughout the game, and using an all-out, max-effort delivery for the entire game.

Some pitchers feel the need to pace themselves throughout a start to make sure they can last as long as possible. That is not the case for Fulmer.

“The beauty of Carson is he throws every inning like he’s trying to close the game out and get off the field,” Brown said. “The thing with Carson is that he also has the ability to go to another gear too. Where he does get into trouble, then boom, he’s just got this mentality where he’s just not going to let them score.”

Fulmer has put that extra gear on full display down the stretch of this season. After allowing a first-inning run against Alabama, he allowed just two hits and no runs over the final eight frames. And after allowing a third inning run in the regional opener, Fulmer didn’t allow a hit or run the rest of his seven-inning start.

Makeup may be a harder attribute to quantify than velocity or break on a curveball, but front offices pay very close attention to this aspect because even the best pitching prospects have high attrition rates.

“When you talk about makeup, you talk about competitiveness, you talk about work ethic, you talk about knowing how to play the game,” another front office executive said. “It’s all going to help you reach your potential. I think in any profession, the better the makeup, the better chance you have to succeed.”

The repertoire

Along with very good makeup, the other undeniable part of Fulmer’s game is his strong repertoire of pitches.

Fulmer has one of the better three-pitch mixes in college baseball, which has allowed him to ascend to the third overall draft prospect and top pitcher ranking, according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo currently.

On the 20-80 scouting scale, MLB.com grades his fastball as a 70, his curveball as a 60, and his changeup as a 50. No pitcher in the draft has a higher grade on his fastball than Fulmer, and only UC-Santa Barbara’s Dillon Tate has a higher grade on his curveball (65).

“He has present velocity that other guys don’t have,” one major league executive said. “He has present pitches that other guys don’t have, he has the makeup that other guys don’t have, so there’s a lot of things that build into why a guy gets drafted where he does.”

Fulmer’s repertoire has been above-average since the moment he stepped on campus, but working with Brown and the Vanderbilt coaching staff has allowed him to gain consistency on his pitches.

Brown slightly altered Fulmer’s delivery by having him anchor his back foot to the rubber out of the windup, similarly to Sonny Gray, which helps Fulmer keep his landing foot consistently on line. Having Fulmer consistently pitching downhill allows for better downward action on his pitches compared to horizontal movement, which can be harder to control.

“That breaking ball is a legitimate fear factor out pitch,” Brown said. “It’s hard to lay off of, and it’s a pitch that I think is an above-average major league pitch for him. The difference to me this year is the ability to throw it for more strikes. He throws it behind in the count, and that’s really helped him.”

Fulmer’s one-two punch of his fastball and curveball has allowed him to dominate through the college ranks, and several front office members have pointed out those pitches and his overall polish could lead to him helping a major league team out later this year out of the bullpen, similarly to 2014 first-round pick Brandon Finnegan with the Kansas City Royals.

If he wants to have a good chance at being a starter long-term, though, further developing his changeup will go a long way to determining his success.

“Some guys can throw those two pitches and never develop that changeup, but it’s hard to go out there with two hard pitches,” one front office member said. “You can go out there and blow a guy out of the water in relief; it’s easy. You just need something else to get them off those pitches to start.”

The role

And that is the biggest question for Fulmer: Can he start at the next level?

Whichever team drafts him likely believes he can be a starter, but there are plenty of scouts who don’t see it that way, such as ESPN’s Keith Law, who ranks Fulmer as the 43rd-best draft prospect because he does not believe Fulmer will be a starter as a professional.

“I think it’s a legitimate question,” one front office member said. “I think you always have concerns about guys like that sticking as a starter. You have concerns about guys who are not as tall and short pitchers. Guys that have gone to Vanderbilt, you look at Sonny Gray. A lot of guys thought he was a reliever out of the draft.”

Shorter pitchers — Fulmer is listed at 6-foot — often are prone to giving up home runs because they aren’t able to get as good of a downward plane on pitches as taller pitchers can. This hasn’t been a major issue for Fulmer yet, however, as he only allowed home runs on 4.3 percent of his fly balls over his college career, compared to the major league average of 10 percent.

More concerning than his height to most, though, is his all-out delivery, which many believe leads to poor command and potential health concerns related to extra stress being placed on the shoulder and elbow.

“My way of pitching is a little different I guess than other guys,” Fulmer said. “Obviously I don’t have the height, but I try to get my body going towards home plate, and that’s what works for me. That’s something I’ve definitely tried to maintain throughout the year. I just try to be competitive.”

Fulmer starts his delivery with his hands high, and close to his chest. He drops his hands, brings them back up, and quickly explodes towards the plate in an almost violent motion.

“People would probably describe (his delivery) as a little bit different because it’s got a high pace to it,” Brown said. “But you’re talking about a martial arts guy that’s a black belt and has the ability to control his body at a high pace. For me, I don’t really see a guy that’s out of control. I see a guy (whose) pistons to his engine are working the way he wants to.”

Having an abnormal or max-effort delivery isn’t a death sentence to pitchers; each pitcher is different. Just as many undersized pitchers have found success, there are plenty of cases throughout history of pitchers with abnormal deliveries starting and having great careers.

“Sometimes special guys can do special things that normal guys can’t, and they can get away with it,” one major league executive said. “If you look throughout history at some of the deliveries Hall of Famers have had, you can find so many flaws with them. It’s just a matter of whether or not on a case-by-case basis certain guys can just be great. Some deliveries of Hall of Famers decades ago would terrify people today, and those are Hall of Famers.”

This distinction between starting and relieving can be a point of pride for pitchers. Fulmer would certainly like to start, as he feels he has the stamina. Back when he was a reliever, Fulmer would come into the game in the seventh and eighth inning and leave the game feeling like he had more left in the tank.

Pride aside, the value to a major league team is even more important. Good relievers will pitch 60 innings a season, and good starters will pitch 200 innings a season. That extra value shows in pitcher salaries: In 2015, 11 starters eclipsed a $20 million salary, but only one reliever surpassed the $10 million mark.

Still, in a volatile draft in which teams are generally happy when more than one draftee out of more than 40 rounds reaches the major leagues, the most important thing for a players is that they succeed, period.

“It gets to a point where that doesn’t matter,” a major league executive said. “He’s had so much success, and regardless of what role he ends up having, the important thing is that he ends up being a good pitcher – not that he’s a good pitcher necessarily in the rotation or out of the bullpen.”

The future

Although the draft may have a larger long-term impact on Fulmer than the rest of his college season, it remains on the backburner for the junior from Lakeland, Florida.

With a Super Regional against national seed Illinois beginning Saturday and a second consecutive College World Series berth on the line, the immediacy of the draft hasn’t fully sunk in yet.

Fulmer doesn’t pay attention to what the experts are saying about his draft stock, about his potential, about his future. All of his focus now is on continuing his dominance of the college game and winning.

“Every time I go out, regardless of what I’m doing to help a team, I’m just going out there and competing,” Fulmer said. “Opinions and stuff like that are out of my control, just coming to the field ready to accomplish something every day and helping my team is the biggest thing.”

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