Sunday, February 22, 2009

Just when I think i'm out...

Jeez, has is really been has it really been five months since my last post here? Time really flies when you're suffering from blogger burnout.

Following the culmination of the extremely LONG 2008 baseball season, which ended with the Red Sox suffering a devastating seven game ALCS defeat at the hand os the the upstart Devil Rays, who subsequently went on to lose one of the most craptacular World series in recent memory, my creative juices were flowing at an all time slow. Couple that with the gut-punch season-ending injury Tom Brady suffered in the first quarter of Game 1 of the 2008 NFL season, and it's easy to understand why my blogging battery was empty.

But if there's one thing that can always bring me out of the off-season doldrums, it's the Oscars.

That's right, the World series, the Super Bowl, the election of America's first African-American president and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression couldn't bring me to contribute one measly post in the past five months, but roll out the red carpet in front of the Kodak theater, and I'm all in.

Let's be clear, the reason I'm inclined to write right now is not because I'm a sappy sucker who gets all goo-goo eyed at the sight of pompous and pampered celebs patronizing the ticket buying public as well as each other by pretending to be more important than the president for one evening a year (who am I kidding, they think they're more important than the president EVERY other evening, too). No, the reason I reentered the blogosphere is because I can't stand the arrogance of the voting Academy, which every year ignores obvious candidates for the major awards and selects films and stars based soley on & promises, politics and posturing.

Now I realize this is not a new practice. Obvious winners have been getting snuubbed for decades, starting with Citizen Kane in 1941 and including dozens of movies, actors and actresses which were either nominated and didn't win, or more embarrasingly, never nominated at all.

Which brings me to the point of this piece (finally). Before Hollywood hands out the hardware for the 81st time tonight, I wanted to go on record with my five nominations for Best Picture, based on films I have seen and regardless of genre, box office gross or pedigree. Remember, these picks are based on the films I've seen, and any omissions I may be guilty of are not due to purposeful slight, but from lack of sight.

-Slumdog Millionaire 11 noms including Best Picture & Director
Even if you still haven't seen this year's entrant from the "little movie
that could" category, chaces are you've heard about it. A lot. The small- budgeted ($15 mil) indie with the funny name and all-Indian cast from director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) has been gaining momentum for months, garnering major wins at the Golden Globes, SAG and nearly every other critics choice awards across the country.

But there's a funny thing about this familiar foregin fairy tale turned feel good story of the year - it actually deserves all the accolades and its status of Best Picture frontrunner.
Unlike former indie Best picture darlings Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, Slumdog takes a woe-is-me plot (boy from the tough streets of Mumbai with a hardscrabble upbriniging) and turns it into the feel-good movie of the year. Viewers happily go along for the ride as Jamal (Dev Patel) braves every conceivable obstacle to be reunited with the love of his life, the radiantly beautiful Latika (Freida Pinto), including making it to the final round of India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Boyle's directing is superb, the cinematography, blending modern Mumbai with its dark, dirty roots, is mesmerizing, and the performances from the cast of unknowns will have you on the edge of your seat until the breathtaking final answer. Everything you could ask from a BP nominee and more, this slumdog is destined to rule the streets on Hollywood's biggest night.

-The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 13 noms, including Best Picture, Actor & Director
If ever there was an appropriate title for a film come Oscar time, this is it, for the case of Button going from Best Picture frontrunner to near-guaranteed also-ran is a curious one indeed.

Featuring an all-star cast (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, suppporting actress nominee Taraji P. Henson), an esteemed director (David Finchter, Seven, Zodiac) and a respected pedigree (a screenplay adapted by Forrest Gump screenwriter Eric Roth from an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story), plus a huge marketing campaign, Button had all the makings of sure-fire Best Picture winner.

But a strange thing happened along the way to immortality for the big-budgeted ($150 mil) Button - it got trounced in the pre-Oscar parade of awards and suddenly found itself losing all of its momentum to the upstart Slumdog in the court of public perception. Sure the tale, about a man (Pitt) who ages in reverse, has all the elements of a BP fave - star power, schmaltz factor, boffo box office, lengthy run time - but suddenly all those factors meant nothing as the Slumdog espress kept gaining momentum.

Bottom line is Button is a fine movie, filled with awe-inspiring visual effects, terrific performances and tender moments, but it does not lift the spirits and  tug the heart like the Mumbai millionaire does. That has left Button destined to finish as a distant runner-up when the hardware is handed out.

-WALL-E 6 noms including Best Animated Feature and Original Screenplay
Here is where I start to differ from the stuffed shirts that make up the voting members of the Academy. If a film is good enough, emotional enough and well made enough to both inspire and entertain, why should it be penalized from being included in the Best Picture race simply because it is animated?

For the simple reason that the voters don't believe animated films are deserving of such high praise, evidently.

In the 81 year history of the Oscars, just one film has been deemed worthy enough of such a distinction, Disney's Beauty & the Beast in 1991. Not the Incredibles, not Finding Nemo, not Shrek, not even Bambi, has been able to sway the stodgy voters to see the light that animation can elicit the same emotions and reactions in viewers that live actions films do.

And if ever there was a film to break through that technicolor barrier, WALL-E was it. Like Slumdog, WALL-E takes a simple premise - love and the things people, errr robots, will do for it - and turns it into a magical mystery tour full of harrowing moments, awesome visuals and good old fashioned fun.

Except that isn't good enough for inclusion into filmdom's hierarchy, according to the Academy, because those backward thinking buffoons believe anything that's drawn must be considered kiddie entertainment.

I say that's bullshit, and anyone who has seen WALL-E (and who hasn't) will probabaly agree with me. The time has come to get out of the dark ages and let these amazing animated achievements of cinematic beauty take their place among the Academy's elite. I mean any film that can make a cockroach lovable has to be considered great, right?

-The Dark Knight 8 noms including Best Cinematography & Supporting Actor 
The same setbacks and sterotypes that the Academy applies to the animated genre also fits the superhero/ action/blockbuster realm - these popcorn flicks are too simple, too silly and too...flashy to be considered for Best Picture nomination.

Except the latest installment in director Christopher Nolan's resurrected Batman franchise not only puts those antiquated theories to rest, it turns a whole genre on its ear by making superhero blockbusters not just fun, but respectable forms of entertainment.

Sure the film has its share of flaws, and it's filled with enough mayhem and explosions to make the Unabomber giddy, but so did the Godfather, no? But the fact is the film is the second-highest grossing picture of all time, has shattere demographic guidelines and transcended the traditional audience of fanboys and males aged 13-56 and features one of the most memorable villians in cinematic history, Heath Ledger's Joker. Shouldn't that mean the movie should be considered on of the year's best? In my opion the answer is an obvious 'yes'.

-Tropic Thunder 1 nom, Best Supporting Actor
Another snub due to genre, this hilarious inside Hollywood spoof from director/star Ben Stiller mangaed to turn a slew of genres on their ear while remaining well-acted, directed and intentioned.

Like horror, animation and action, comedies traditionally get no respect when it comes to Oscar time, as if funny movies can't be as great as dramas. But Stiller's film combines many elements - action, comedy, satire, drama - and turns them into one heck of an entertaining film.

While Robert Downey Jr's portrayal of extreme method actor Kirk Lazarus garnered the most attention and the film's sole nomination, the truth is that the whole movie contained enough excellent performances, sidesplitting moments and social skewering to al least earn Stiller a screenwriting nod. But perhaps the Hollywood upper crust does not think highly of the stabs Stiller takes at the types of people who make the decision to nominate such flicks.

Besides, any film that can get Tom Cruise to make fun of himself, and be hilarious at it, should receive special attention, shouldn't it?

No matter. We know how good these films are, and until the Academy decides to get in on the joke, it will forever be considered the butt of such snubs.

Happy viewing.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

NLF 2008 Week 2: Life After Brady

The day the music died in New England
Not sure if you heard about this, but Patriots quarterback Tom Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury eight minutes into the opening game last Sunday.

And at that moment, the 2008 NFL season unofficially ended for New England fans.

Now, some people (read: unmitigated homers and eternal "glass half full" optimists) are trying to put a positive spin on the devastating loss by implying that career backup Matt Cassel could come in and make like his mentor by "pulling a Brady", a.k.a doing what Brady did when he replaced injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001 and go on to league superstardom.

Me, I don't buy it for a second.

For one reason, Cassel hasn't started a football game since high school. He was permanently parked behind Heisman winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC, and then all-everything league poster boy Brady in New England for the last four years. That type of resume doesn't portend to years of success in this league.

For another, he isn't that good. He's somewhat mobile, somewhat accurate, and somewhat efficient. But nothing that he has done, in four years of preseason action and mop up duty, strikes you as seeing a player who has star potential. He looks very much like a career backup, which is what he has been his whole career.

For these reason I say the Pats season is over. Oh sure, they might win 10-12 games, thanks to a weak schedule and the pitiful parity that plagues the league nowadays, but so what. A first round playoff loss is not what Pats fans and players strive for, not with three Lombardi trophies already residing in Foxborough.

No matter what else happens, anything less than a fourth trophy is a failure for this team. And if New England couldn't win that last season with Tommy Boy, then I'm willing to go out on a limb and say they're not going to win it this season without him.

But you're welcome to go out and prove me wrong, Matt.
As for the rest of the league, there were plenty of other injuries in Week 1 to depress other fan bases as well. Chargers DE Shawne Merriman finally smartened up and decided to have reconstructive surgery on his mangled knee, so his season is over; New Orleans lost potent offensive weapon WR Marques Colston for 4-6 weeks with a thumb injury; and Titans QB Vince Young injured more than his knee in a win over Jacksonville, as a bizarre scene unfolded in which the police were called to locate VY after his mom worried he might kill himself.

Other than that it was a quite Week 1.

Some surprises included the Cowboys dismantling the supposed playoff-contending Browns; ditto the Broncos destroying the hapless (again) Raiders; the Panthers snuck a last second victory out from under the Chargers; and Brett Favre led the Jets to a win over a game Miami team in his debut with Gang Green.

All of this makes for a wide open season (what else is new), and of course there are some key games to keep an eye on this week. Here are some to watch in my special "farewell to football in Foxborough" edition of the Top 5, complete with my predictions:

1.) Patriots (1-0) at Jets (1-0) 4:15
The first game AB (after Brady) was supposed to be one of the most intriguing on the schedule this year. You've got the Mangini/Belichick angle, made even spicier since the protege ratted out the mentor last season to ignite the whole Spygate saga. You've got Brett Favre's first division clash, leading the little team that wants to be great against the mighty Pats. And now, sans Brady, you've got the Jets thinking they can actually dethrone the king and take over the AFC East penthouse.

Even without Brady, this one promises to be a decent match up, if only to see which QB disappoints his fans more.
MY PICK: Jets 24, Pats 21

2.)Bears (1-0) at Panthers (1-0) 1:00
Both teams are coming off surprising road wins in Week 1; Chicago crushed the rusty Colts, spoiling the debut of Peyton Manning and shiny new Lucas Oil Stadium with a punishing ground game, led by rookie Matt Forte, while Carolina scored a touchdown with no time left on the clock to stun the Super Bowl favorite Chargers.

So the question is, now that neither team can surprise anyone, who will win? I have to go with the home team, because two tough road games to start the season is not conducive to a 2-0 start. As good as Chicago was, they had the advantage of playing a Colts team that was banged up. Look for Carolina to get to 2-0 today.
MY PICK: Panthers 17, Bears 14

3.)Titans (1-0) at Bengals (0-1) 1:00
While Tennessee tries to ease Kerry Collins into the role of savior as Young nurses is knee and psyche back to health, Cincy must erase the memories of a humiliating opening loss to Joe Flacco and the Ravens.

Although the Bengals mustered just 10 points and 154 yards of offense against the stout Baltimore D, I believe Carson Palmer, perhaps inspired by USC's beatdown of Ohio State last night, will come out blazing against the rocky Titans team.
MY PICK: Bengals 27, Titans 20

4.)Steelers (1-0) at Browns (0-1) 8:15 NBC
This bitter old rivalry gets the center stage as the Sunday Night Football game of the week, and for the Browns sake, they better play better than they did in last week's 28-10 embarrassment against the Cowboys. A night game at the Dawg Pound will have the home team fired up, but the Steelers, behind Willie Parker's 138 yards and 3TDs, had no trouble dispatching Texans in Week 1.

Something tells me Cleveland will play much better in this one (how could they play worse?), and if the prime time night game against their bitter steel town foes can't get this team to perform well, nothing will.
MY PICK: Browns 19, Steelers 17

5.) Eagles (1-0) at Cowboys (1-0) 8:15 MNF
Speaking of bitter rivalry games, nothing like a match between these two NFC East teams to spark tension and hatred, right? TOs old team trots into the Stadium riding a 38-3 smackdown of the Rams in Week 1, while the Boys' effortless win over the Browns proved they are the team to beat in the NFC, if not the league.

Look for a good old fashioned dogfight, with neither team willing to back down or let up, and plenty of fireworks, especially if TO scores a touchdown against his old mates. Something tells me he won't mind being fined for the celebration he'll have in store for his ex-BFF, Donovan McNabb.
MY PICK: Cowboys 31, Eagles 28

As always, these are my best guesses, so please don't lay any money on these picks. Enjoy Week 2, and for Pats fans, there's always next year.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

NFL 2008 Kickoff

So I see the last time I posted here was in mid-July. Whoa. Guess I let this one get away from me.

But as the 2008 NFL season is about to get underway I thought I'd better get back to blogging and give my thoughts on what might transpire this year.

Without further ado, here are my five stories to watch for this season and five game to watch this week. No betting info here. It's been long enough since I posted, why alienate the few readers I have left with my piss-poor picks.

Top 5 Stories of the Year:

1.) How will the Pats rebound from 2007?
Since the Patriots failed to complete their perfect season and culminate their undefeated run with another world title, the chant "18-1" has replaced the old familiar Red Sox "1918" refrain as the mocking cry for Boston haters.

Hard to argue with them, too, because coming so close to perfection only to come up short (thanks to a one-in-a-million, miraculous, lucky catch) hurt us pretty badly. But this is a new season, and the Pats have a clean slate and a whole host of issues to overcome in order to make it back to the Bowl.

For starters, Tom Brady missed the entire preseason with a foot injury, so no one is sure how healthy he is and how he will get out of the gate in the opener against Kansas City. he says he's fine, but there's gotta be some rust since he hasn't thrown a meaningful pass since February.

Also the defense has been severely altered in the off season. Stud DB Assante Samuel took the money and ran to Philly, aging LB Junior Seau was not brought back, and a unit that was already pretty old got a year older. Throw in a couple of ugly arrests, the lingering spectre of Spygate, and the hangover effect of falling short in an otherwise stellar season, and all eyes are going to be on New England, especially in the beginning of the year.

2.) Brett the Jet
As you may have heard, Brett Favre went from the Green Bay Packers, where he played in every game since 1992, to the New York J-E-T-S in a ballyhooed unretirement that made headlines throughout the summer.

Now that he has swapped his cheeseheads for the Cosmo crowd, how will the self described redneck adjust to life in the big city, with a new team, new scheme, new coaches, and most important of all, new ugly unis?

I saw somewhere that he has gotten more and more comfortable in the Big Apple as time has passed, but to me that's like saying a wild animal got used to his life in the zoo. They may have adjusted to their new surroundings, but that doesn't mean they are liking it.

Favre will be under the microscope all season, as detractors will be looking to pounce on every misstep and sign of despair and fire off a "he should've stayed retired" story. But don't be surprised if Brett the Jet takes that chip on his shoulder and turns in a playoff berth. Oh, and expect a lot of interceptions, too.

3.)Rookie watch
There was a time when rookies came into the league and carried the clipboard for a few seasons, hoping to get an appearance in an actual game here and there in between playing tackling dummies on the practice squad. But now more than ever rookies are expected to make major impacts on the game and their new teams, which are shelling out big bucks to see their risky draft picks pay immediate dividends on Sunday.

More than a few big time picks have turned into big time busts, putting more pressure on these kids to come out performing like Pro Bowlers right from the get-go.

Some of those candidates who better put up big numbers early this year include RB Darren McFadden, who is expected to give the moribund Raiders a shot in the offensive arm; QB Matt Ryan, who will tackle the monumental task of making Atlantans forget about Mike Vick and a disastrous 2007 season; OT Jake Long, who needs to validate Miami honcho Bill Parcells' decision to lock up the No 1 pick well before the draft; and KC DE Glenn Dorsey, who slipped to #4 due to health and weight issues, then held out for most of camp and comes into the opener already behind the rookie 8 ball.

It's put up or shut up time, guys. You're not in Kansas (or Mizzou or Arkansas) anymore.

4.)How will the Giants follow up their Super season
Many (read: Pats) fans believe that the G-Men's run to the Bowl was a product of getting hot at the right time and having a couple of incredible breaks go their way (yes, we're talking about you, David Tyree). Now with a ring on his finger and Michael Strahan in the TV studio, we get to see how Eli "the other" Manning can produce when his team is the favorite instead of an unexpected underdog.

My guess is that they fall apart like a balsa model in a wind storm, and the loss of Osi Uminyora in the preseason finale will be the beginning of an onslaught of injuries and unfortunate circumstances that combine to fell the soon-to-be former champs. But that's just my unbiased opinion.

5.)New rules for the new year
On the heels of Spygate, defensive players will be allowed to hear signals from the sidelines like the offesnive players have been for years. How all this gabbing in the helmets affects the play on the field has yet to be determined, but something tells me it could do more harm than good. Don't be surprised if in a couple of years, all helmet communications are outlawed anbd we go back to the good old days of plays being brought in from the sidelines.

But the biggest rule chance could be the shoving out of bounds play. No longer will a catch be upheld if an offensive pplayer was forced out by a defender. From now on, if you don't come down in bounds, it's not a catch. This could be one of the single biggest rule changes to come along in years, and after a number of receptions and TDs are taken away, I think players and coaches are going to clamor for this rule to be revoked next year.

Top 5 Games to watch, Week 1
-NY Jets at Miami Dolphins

This one has more story lines than a David Lynch film. Not only do you have the Favre in Gang Green headliner, but the Big Tuna is calling the shots for the Fins against one of his old teams in hopes of resurrecting the once proud franchise, and the new QB for Parcells happens to be the old Jets signal caller, Chad Pennington. Intrigue and interest abound in this grudge match between two clubs that hope to compete with the Pats for AFC East supremacy.

-Detroit at Atlanta
The debut of Ryan will be highly anticipated and scrutinized by people who are curious to see if handing the reigns of a franchise over to a kid who was in college just a few months ago is a good idea. I say how can it be worse than allowing a freak of a quarterback who smoked week and killed dogs to run the franchise into the ground? Not only will Ryan be under the microscope, but Detroit, which had high expectations last year, is trying to get to the playoffs for the first time in 10 years and will rely on rookie RB Kevin Smith to lead them there.

-Dallas @ Cleveland
Definitely one of the more intriguing match ups of Week 1, as the sideshow of T.O., Romo and PacMan travel to the Dawg Pound to battle the feisty Browns. While all eyes will be on Jessica Simpson's fuck buddy and the return of Adam Jones to the NFL after a 1-year hiatus, the Browns, with an explosive offense and solid defense, could surprise the stars of HBO's Hard Knocks by applying a hard knock of their own.

-Kansas City at New England
The Chiefs are predicted to be one of the worst teams in the league, while the Pats nearly went undefeated last season. On paper this one looks like a mismatch of epic proportions, which is backed up by the two touchdown spread. But with Brady shaking off the rust, the defense adjusting to life without Samuel and Seau, and one crummy team always surprising the league, this one could be close than the experts expect.

Put it this way, if the Pats don't win big, or God forbid lose, it's gonna be a long week in the Commonwealth.

-Minnesota at Green Bay Monday Night
This was supposed to be the night that the Packers retired Brett Favre's jersey before the game against the arch rival Vikings. Now it's a curious contest that will be remembered as the first game someone other than Favre starts under center for the Pack since 1992. The Vikes, with stud RB Adrian Peterson entering his second season, have a golden opportunity to steal a win on the not-yet-frozen tundra, and if Favre's replacement Aaron Rodgers doesn't wow the crowds, expect the chants of "we want Brett" to rain down from the rafter of Lambeau Field.

Enjoy Week 1, and I promise I will be back here on a weekly basis from now on (no, my fingers aren't crossed).


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

MLB Mid Season Report and other misc. items

I know, I know, because of my many other endeavors, I've been shirking my duties here at the place it all started for me, TBB.

Shame on me for neglecting my roots.

But with the All Star break upon us I've got a little break in the blogging action, so I wanted to take this time to catch up on things here on my original site.

First of all I want to report that my new nephew, Luke Franklin Starke, who turns three months old today, has turned out to be a very healthy and happy baby boy, despite the fact that he lives in New York.

But as you can tell from this photo, he is clearly being raised the right way:

Good job, Sis (and Nana)!

The second item I need to address is the fact that my talented brother-in-law, Paul Starke, was rewarded for producing such a terrific son by receiving an Emmy for the show he produces/writes for, The Tyra Banks Show.

At the Daytime Emmy Awards last month, the Tyra show was named Best Talk Show-Informative, and Paul was right up on stage when Tyra accepted the statue. Click the link to see a video of the moment (Paul is directly to the left of Tyra, right at the bottom of her hair extensions).

Kudos and congrats to my sister and her hubby for the awesome additions to their lives, and just want you guys to know how proud I am of you both.

Okay, now that the sappy family sentimentality is out of the way, it's time to get back to business. And since my business lately has been baseball, that's what I'm gonna cover now.

If you remember back when I was posting original content here I did a 2008 baseball preview piece. In it I predicted all the division and playoff winners, as well as the major award winners in each league.

Well, like any good blogger worth his salt, I'm back to recap my picks, ready to rip myself for all my silly mistakes and break my arm patting myself on the back for all my correct calls.

So if you're interested, keep reading. if not, please be sure to check out my stuff on the other sites.

First thing I did was ask a few pertinent questions related to the upcoming season. Here are the questions, and my then my answers:

Will the Red Sox repeat?
They're in first place despite injuries and inconsistency, so I'm saying yes

Will the Rays finally reach .500 now that they've exorcised the Devil?
Ah, they're not only 16 games over .500, but they've spent a good deal of the half in 1st place

Will Barry Bonds remain an unemployed pariah all season?
So far, yes, and according to this recent article on, the answer is a definite yes

Can the Tigers score 1000 runs with their modern day version of Murderer's Row?
They may score 1000 (they have 449 now), but they've been the biggest disappointment this season

How long before the Brewers regret giving Eric Gagme $10 million bucks (over/under is about 3 games)?
The answer to that is about one month, as Gagme blew 4 saves in the first 3 weeks of the season, then spent the month of June on the DL

Next I predicted the division winners, wild cards, surprising and disappointing teams from each league. Actual leaders in red

American League:
East: Sox Sox
Central: Tigers White Sox
West: Angels Angels
Wild Card: Indians Rays
Surprise: Rays Rays
Dis'pointment: Jays Jays/Tigers

Well I got 4 out of 6 right, so that's not bad. The Sox and Angels lead their divisions, and the Rays have been the surprise of the league by far. The Jays are a major disappointment, but how hard was that to predict - it happens every year!

The Indians, well they are a bigger bust than the Jays, boasting the second worst record in the AL after a four game sweep of the Rays, and Detroit, well I already mentioned them, but they have come on lately and still could win the weak Central.

National League:
East: Mets Phillies
Central: Cubs Cubs
West: Dodgers D-Backs
Wild Card: Padres Cardinals
Surprise: Nationals Cardinals
Dis'pointment: Phillies Padres

Not such a good job with the senior circuit, as I only got one of these right. The Cubs have been the best team in the majors for most of the season, and the Mets are hot now (winning 9 straight), but it took a putrid start and the canning of their manager to light a fire under their underachieving asses.

The Dodgers are one game back in the awful West, so they could take that sorry division, but the Phils have been in first almost all season and the Pads and Nats are the two worst teams in the league. Oops.

Oh well. NEXT!

My award winners are about as spot on as my playoff predictions.

American League:
MVP: Manny Ramirez Josh Hamilton
Cy Young: Josh Beckett Cliff Lee
Rookie of the Year: Evan Longoria Longo

Tracking for 2 of 3 on this as Manny has heated up again after a long dry spell, but still has the numbers (.293/18/60) and capability of winning this award. And Longoria, an All Star and HR Derby participant, is a near lock for the Rookie trophy.

Josh Beckett - chalk that up to wishful thinking.

National League:
MVP: Jose Reyes Lance Berkman
Cy Young: Johan Santana Tim Lincecum
ROY: Kosuke Fukodome Fuko

One out of three here, as Fuko is primed to be the Rookie of the Year. But Reyes has been inconsistent and had run ins with managers and announcers, and Santana is sitting at 8-7 and has been victimized by poor run support.

Now that that's out of the way, I'm going to wipe the slate clean, exercise my bloggers license and give you my mid-season picks.

American League:
East: Sox who'd you think I'd say?
Central: Tigers still can't count out that offense
West: Angels no one comes close
WC: Rays another parade for the Bay area?
MVP: Hamilton if he keeps up this pace (21HR, 95BI), he's a lock
Cy Young: Roy Halladay just can't see Lee or Saunders winning this
ROY: Longoria no-brainer

National League:
East: Mets coming on strong now
Central: Cubs been there all year
West: Dodgers 1GB and better pitching than Arizona
WC: Brewers addition of Sabathia gets 'em over the hump
MVP: Chase Utley if Phils make playoffs, he's in
Cy Young: Edinson Volquez win-win in trade for Hamilton
ROY: Fuko even though he's not a true rookie

Keep in mind that my pick of a Boston/Cubs World Series is still looking pretty solid, so I got that going for me.

Alright, I'm spent now. Hope this gets me up to date.

If I have time tomorrow, I'll recap tonight's Mid Summer Classic and give you my top stories of the first half.

Enjoy the All Star Game.