For crying out loud, can’t you just lie to us, Jim Pohlad?

The baseball season is only a little over a month into the season and already the local nine in Minnesota are doomed. The Minnesota Twins stand at 8-23 with the 7-23 Atlanta Braves being the only other team in Major League Baseball to not have at least 12 victories so far. It’s pathetic, it’s sad and it’s painful.

The list of reasons why the Twins are so bad runs as long as it is from Buffalo Lake to San Diego but if you say the right things, maybe the fans will get off the team’s back for awhile and simply accept a losing season. Sure, it’s not the best option, but the right public statement can help, at a minimum, contain the fire for a little while.

The Minnesota Twins can’t even get that right.

Jim Pohlad, owner of the Minnesota Twins, talked with Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune on Friday and made all the wrong comments. The highlight being:

“We’ve been at this for a little while … the owner can’t do a whole lot. But what could (General Manager) Terry (Ryan) do? Or what could (Manager) Paul (Molitor) do? I just don’t know at this point. It’s just a total system failure, so to speak.”

First of all, the owner of a Major League Baseball team can do a lot of things. The owner of any business can do a lot of things, really. The owner has power that is only controlled by the laws and, in this specific case, the rules of the MLB. If Jim Pohlad wanted to fire everybody from Twins President Dave St. Peter all the way down to the fry-cook at Hrbrek’s, he has that power. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of the powers that owners have.

Should someone be fired for this, to put it nicely, mess? There’s truly an argument for both sides. The view that many have right now is that it’s hard to know what to even do to start to fix the Twins. That’s okay for fans and the media to say that they don’t know what to do, but not the owner of the team. Even if Pohlad isn’t the most hands-on owner in the sports world, you still need to be able to say something half-intelligent to put the fans at ease. That something intelligent isn’t putting the blame fully on the players either which is something Pohlad also did in his talk with Scoggins:

“I believe that somebody on this team has to step up as individuals and start winning some games for us. I don’t mean the team. I mean individuals have to step up and win games. They do on other teams. We’ve got to do it for our team.”

Would it be nice if Brian Dozier would be playing like he did before the All-Star break last year? Of course, it would. Would it have been nice if Byron Buxton could have not been a strikeout victim seemingly every at-bat during his MLB tenure to start the season? No doubt. But at the point of crisis, and in the sports world the Twins are well-beyond crisis, someone needs to take responsibility of what is going on.

Jim Pohlad had the perfect platform in front of him to take the blame and say that he needed to do better and that Terry Ryan needed to do better and that Paul Molitor needed to do better, but instead he guaranteed the job security of Ryan and Molitor and blamed the 25-some guys that Ryan assembled and Molitor has to get ready to win games and they both have miserably failed.

Somewhere along the line, most of us are taught, I hope, that you should take responsibility for your actions. Ultimately, Pohlad is responsible for the Twins. Maybe he doesn’t do day-to-day decision making, but he has the authority to put the pieces in place and so far that has failed this year and has been a failure a majority of the time since the team has moved into Target Field.

This isn’t leading up to a call for the Pohlad’s to sell the Twins, if you got the money and you want to be hated by your fans, hey, that’s your prerogative. Just own up to the mistakes of your organization. Be like a politician and lie to our faces if you have to. Say things are in action to fix the problem when, in reality, you don’t have a clue where to begin. Sure, people might still be mad, but at least it looks like you know how to run your business.


The formula to the Minnesota State High School League allowing schools to drop down a class

It’s becoming increasingly hard to run a school in many parts of Minnesota. The state owes each and every school district millions of dollars, for starters, but keeping enrollment up is also a challenge in the out-state and in the biggest cities. The state funds the school districts based on enrollment so it’s pertinent to keep enrollments up and to keep the money flowing.

Enrollments are also important when it comes to the athletic competitions that are organized by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL). A school’s 9-12 enrollment dictates which class of competition they participate in. In a lot of sports that ranges from Single-A to Quadruple-A which is the case in boys’ basketball.

On March 12, Minneapolis North won the Single-A Championship against Goodhue. The same Minneapolis North that won the Quadruple-A title in 2003 and 1997. The cutoff for a team to be moved from Single-A to Double-A is 200 kids and when Minneapolis North’s enrollment was listed as 199 throughout MSHSL materials, well, it turned my head.

I understand that Minneapolis North has seen better times and has seen, literally, a mass exodus from the school’s population, but it’s still hard to believe that a school located in a city with over 400,000 people could only wrangle up 199 students.

The fact is that they didn’t. North has over 200 students which can be shown via documents from Minneapolis’ public schools websites here and here and here.

How is North playing Single-A basketball then?

Welcome to section 400 of the bylaws of the MSHSL:

  1. h) Prior to any classification determination, schools who believe their school demographics unfairly place their team sports (Football, Hockey, Basketball, Baseball, Lacrosse, Soccer, Softball, and Volleyball) in a larger tournament classification may appeal their placement to the MSHSL office provided that the criteria below is met:

                       1.1 The schools’ free/reduced lunch counts provided to the League office by the Department of Education exceeds 50% of the school’s grade 9-12 enrollment.

This is how Minneapolis North is playing in the realm of teams like Goodhue that come from towns with a population of only 1,179. According to Minneapolis Public School documents, North has only 38 students in grades 9-12 that are not eligible for free/reduced lunch. A remarkable 87% of students at North are eligible for the free/reduced lunch program.

To be clear, Minneapolis North isn’t playing tricks on us or making kids magically disappear to get their enrollment to 199, but they are taking advantage, and rightfully so, of the above rule set out by the MSHSL.

The question that remained was ‘why’. In athletics, shouldn’t a student count as a student? Why is there a need to fudge the numbers based on who can or cannot afford lunch? I asked that question to Assistant Director of the MSHSL Chris Franson and here’s his response via email:

“About 10-12 years ago we had a special committee that looked at factors that contributed to kids going out for activities.  One of the things they found was that a disproportionate number of kids who are on freed/reduced lunch participated in extra-curricular activities.  That could be because they didn’t grow up playing the sports, or had extra family responsibilities, or the costs associated with being on the teams was too much.  The committee felt that it was enough of a factor that we should include it in the enrollment calculation.  They found that on average, there was a 40% higher participation rate in kids who weren’t on Free/Reduced Lunch.

“So the 50% appeal came into play about 10 years ago and it allows a school to drop one classification (if approved by the AD Advisory Committee and MSHSL Board) in a particular sport.  We see a few in basketball, but the majority are in games where numbers matter, like football.    We’ve only had about 20 schools who fit this criteria and are large enough that they could drop down a class.  Most of those schools are Mpls. or St. Paul public schools, but we’ve seen it expanding out into the first ring suburbs like Fridley, Richfield, etc.”

The schools are playing by the rules that they are given, so don’t blame North or ‘the about 20 schools’ that fit the criteria.  The question that remains is should this be a rule, should a school’s enrollment virtually change because of the amount of children they have on the free/reduced lunch program?

You can decide.

Album per diem: Elton John – Wonderful Crazy Night

It’s an exciting day here at Album per diem headquarters. My assistant has been running around the office all day just full of excitement. My dog has been running around the living room because somewhere in puppy soul he knows it’s the first time we are going to dive into a brand new album on Album per diem. Released today and featured is the 32nd studio album from the one and only Sir Elton John.

Wonderful Crazy Night is the name of the album and since it’s our first brand new album we are going deluxe. The standard edition of this album has 10 songs, the deluxe has 12 and there’s also a super deluxe edition that has 14 songs. All the songs were written and composed by Sir John and his longtime writing partner Bernie Taupin.

  1. Wonderful Crazy Night – Right off the bat it sounds like some nice old school Elton. The piano throughout the song is phenomenal which is no shock for an Elton album. When I first heard the title, I thought Christmas for some reason. It sounds like a cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie title, but it was a nice little soft rock song.
  2. In The Name of You – It’s not a dark song, but it has a darker sound to it which is something I really dig. What I think must be an electric organ and the electric guitar play off each other really nice to make this cool sound. Another love song, another solid rock song.
  3. Claw Hammer – It has a very musical feel to it. John is describing someone’s flaws, basically, and it just feels like the high amount of personal description found in a song in a musical. It works.
  4. Blue Wonderful – A beautifully written song, but I’m a sucker for the color blue. A simple little love song, but so damn lovely. Seriously, there’s nothing real special about it, but I really dig it.
  5. I’ve Got 2 Wings – Elton John meets Bruce Springsteen in this song. The song tells the story of Utah Smith who was a religious man who went around and played music in the name of the lord. He had paper wings at the time when saving these people, but now he has real wings as Utah is dead. Sorry, there was no poetic way of really saying that so bluntly. It’s a nice story song.
  6. A Good Heart – Another love song. Another solid song. The horns in this song can be very subtle at times, but they bring a nice texture to it.
  7. Looking Up – The song has the feel of a 1990’s country song that had the rock feel that Garth Brooks brought into the genre. That’s a good thing, in my world anyway. It’s nice and bouncy. It has a very uplifting sound to it which is good since it’s about looking up in life. It’s a combination of rock, country and Elton John which brings no complaints from me.
  8. Guilty Pleasure – Maybe I just have Springsteen on the mind, I usually do, but this song would sound fantastic on his The River A rocker about am I a love or just some guilty pleasure which is an excellent take on the term guilty pleasure. The term is popular, but doesn’t really get used this way enough in popular music. The rocking track ends in a nice little out-of-the-blue piano solo which is nice, but almost feels like a song within itself. It really has nothing to do with the track other than being tacked on at the end..
  9. Tambourine – Another love song! Yes a song with the title of Tambourine is a love song. The tambourine is a metaphor and a darn good one at that. Basically, the singer is so in love they feel like a smacked tambourine when they see their loved. It’s full of other great metaphors, too. It’s metaphor city and it cleverly ends with the shaking of a…. tambourine.
  10. The Open Chord – Do you think this album is full of love songs? I do. This one the metaphor is an open chord that the singer is going to play all day which will take away all his sins. It’s a good little love song, I just can only take so many.
  11. Free And Easy – The song sounds like freedom. It just feels like strolling through a park. It feels like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. It’s amazing how musicians can match the feeling of the lyrics with the right music and Elton does that throughout the album.
  12. England and America – I don’t know if I’ve ever come across a song before in my life that has been patriotic for two countries at the same time, but Elton John just did that in this song. He loves England and America and we’ll always love him (I have given myself the right to speak for all of America and England). It’s a good bonus track. The song isn’t horrible, but it feels like a bonus track.

If you like Elton John this is no real departure for him. It’s a nice sounding album despite his range being probably two octaves lower than his prime. He still sings well, just not real high. If you are a fan of love songs, it is that time of year, this album also has a lot of them, probably one or two too many for my tastes.

If I had to pick one, I’d go with Guilty Pleasure. Blue Wonderful is also up there for me.

Next up: Neil Diamond – Tennessee Moon

Album per diem: Queen – Innuendo

I’m a big fan of Queen. Queen was the first that I was fully exposed to that was outside of the realm of country music. I love my country music, but Queen taught me that there is a whole lot more out there than just the single genre.

Innuendo was released on February 4, 1991 in the United Kingdom and the next day in the United States. It was the last album the band put out while lead singer Freddie Mercury was still alive. That theme rises to prominence throughout some of the tracks.

  1. Innuendo – Queen is probably best known for ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ which is simply the best rock opera out there. They go back to that kind of formula for the title track and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s not ‘Rhapsody’, but how many bands could really pull this kind of thing off twice?
  2. I’m Going Slightly Mad – This is one of my all-time favorite Queen songs, probably because I am slightly mad. The instrumentation gives it this dark and haunting feel of going mad, plus the description of how he is mad (one wave short of a ship wreck, one card short of a full deck, knitting with only one needle) is just absolute brilliancy.
  3. Headlong – Rock and roll at its finest. It’s a little heavy, but fast-paced with Brian May absolutely killing it, as usual, on the guitar. This song is a hardcore rock song that also has “Hoop diddy diddy – hoop diddy do” in the lyrics. That’s how freaking great Queen is.
  4. I Can’t Live With You – If the Rolling Stones got really experimental, this is what they would try to sound like. A solid rock and roll love song that is really catchy. It’s the weakest track so far and I still love it.
  5. Don’t Try So Hard – Freddie was denying that he was sick, but we now know he was already fighting AIDS when the band was making this album. It truly comes off as one of those songs that comes from someone who knows their time is almost up. It’s a good message, don’t try so hard, just be you.
  6. Ride The Wild Wind – It’s the same as ‘Don’t Try So Hard’, but while trying to be squeezed into a real commercial feeling rock song. It doesn’t have the same emotion. For some bands this would probably be groundbreaking, but we hold Queen to a higher standard.
  7. All God’s People – Might be the weirdest religious song I’ve ever heard. It has a little reggae feel to it. Give freely we are all God’s people which is a good message, but, even as a Queen lover, it’s one of those weird sounding Queen songs. It doesn’t sound bad, but it’s not the best either.
  8. These Are The Days Of Our Lives – Roger Taylor did a much better job writing this song that ‘Ride The Wild Wind’. It’s a retrospective song again, but it’s a slow meaningful one. The bongo drums on it are a nice little touch. And no this song doesn’t have anything to do with the soap opera The Days Of Our Lives.
  9. Delilah – I looked it up. It’s a song about Mercury’s damn cat. His favorite cat, but still it’s a song about a cat. I love Queen, but they just made me listen to a song about a cat. What the hell. I mean the ‘meow, meow, meow’ lines might’ve given it away, but I thought maybe I was just missing a really big metaphor. Nope. It’s a song about a cat.
  10. The Hitman – This sounds like a hit for Guns ‘N Roses. I like the sound. It’s quite the rocker, nothing too critically to acclaim about it other than the rock sound. A song about a hitman is kind of a rare treat that was pulled off fairly nicely here.
  11. Bijou – The Wikipedia article for the album describes this song as an inside out song which is the perfect description for it. It’s a guitar expect for a break where Mercury sings a total of 31 words. The rest is just plain and simple beautiful guitar playing by Brian May. May is one of the best guitarists in the history of the world, so you know this track is good.
  12. The Show Must Go On – When Queen knocks it out of the park, they hit the ball into the next county. This song is the last track on the last album that Queen released while Freddie Mercury was still alive. It’s a pretty powerful statement to go out on. ‘The Show Must Go On’ and it did with Mercury continuing to record up through the end which resulted in the final Queen studio album Made In Heaven.

It’s a Queen album, so it’s automatically going to be solid and that’s what it is. The band knocks a couple songs out of the park and some just are kind of there and not their best work. If you’re a fan of Queen and rock and roll, you’ll enjoy this album. The ones that aren’t even that great are still fun to listen to.

It’s hard to pick one song, but after listening to it again, you have to go with The Show Must Go On if you can only have one. If you can splurge also get I’m Going Slightly Mad and then Headlong. At this rate, just get the album.

Next up: Elton John – Wonderful Crazy Night (it’s release day!)

Album per diem: Rosanne Cash – Seven Year Ache

We’re getting old. Johnny Cash’s eldest child is 60-years-old. That child, from his first marriage, is Rosanne Cash and the artist of our third featured album in Album per diem: Seven Year Ache. Cash notched 11 number one singles on the country chart throughout the 80’s including all three singles released to radio from this album.

So let’s see what the Daughter in the Black has in store for us.

  1. Rainin’ – A nice little face-paced song to open up the album. It’s a solid little country song. There’s a lot of bad country songs out there, but is there really a bad song that’s about rain? Country always knocks out rain songs, even when it’s just rainin’ in her soul.
  2. Seven Year Ache – There’s some songs that just sound perfect sonically and this is one of them. Just everything works. The harmony on this song is beautiful. This is simply one of my favorite songs of all time. A number one and it was written by Cash.
  3. Blue Moon With Heartache – Sonically it sounds like the night with the moon shining down, it’s another beautiful track. The harmonies again are killer. The liner notes list the following people as harmony vocal which explains why this is a recurring theme: Rodney Crowell, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris and Ricky Skaggs.
  4. What Kinda Girl? – The beautiful thing about country music is you can go from a sad heartache song to a total rocker and that’s what this song is. It’s a rock song, that is interestingly written. The song is describing what kind of girl she is, but the first verse makes you kind of wonder if there wasn’t a better way to frame it: “I like some turkey but I don’t eat lamb/No sweet potato but I do like ham”. Like it for the rocking, not really for the lyrics.
  5. You Don’t Have Very Far To Go – The album gets back to the great songwriting with a track co-written by Merle Haggard and Red Simpson. Simply a great heartbreak song. The kind of thing that’s simply missing from country music right now.
  6. My Baby Thinks He’s A Train – I’m a sucker for train songs and a good metaphor, so this song is a winner. I never thought of trains as the metaphor for a man-whore, but damn does it work. It does bring kind of a bad name to trains, but I’ll let it pass in this instance.
  7. Only Human – One of those songs that kinda makes you think. We’d be able to take a lot more in this world if we weren’t human, but alas we are only human. Another really solid track.
  8. Where Will The Words Come From? – Would you like some truth in your songs? I’ve never broken up with anybody, but this song makes it seem just like the moves where it is very tough to find the right words. Another great one.
  9. Hometown Blues – Another rock as it should be. It’s a cover of Tom Petty’s Hometown Blues. The album surely has found a great mix of slower sad songs and some nice rockers to mix up and keep the listener interested.
  10. I Can’t Resist – It’s the love song of the album complete with a wonderful saxophone. She can’t resist the temptation of love and it’s hard to resist the song. It’s a nice love song that has ballad qualities that isn’t totally belted, in a good way.
  11. The Feeling – It’s a groovy song that is a nice track to end the album on. It’s nothing too special, but the groove leads the listener out on a very positive note. It caps off a very, very solid album.

The album doesn’t sound like something her dad would make, but it’s still a wonderful country album. This kind of album is what made the 1980’s a great time to be listening to country music. If current country could turn back to a little bit more of this, I’d raise no complaints. I want to find this album on vinyl because I’d run play this album a lot. I highly recommend this for any lover of music, especially those with a taste for country.

The song you need is still Seven Year Ache, seriously that song is perfection. You need this song. Yes, you do.

Next up: Queen – Innuendo