Saturday, October 29, 2011

Love Letter

I couldn’t wait any longer. I had to write and tell you that I miss you. I still love you. I thought I could handle it. I was wrong.

I didn’t know how to put this into words. That’s why it took so long. I can hardly even formulate my thoughts about you; they are still just so drowned in the muddled confusion of not having you in my life.

After nine weeks away together, I figured a break would be okay. I could move back home and busy myself with work and trivial daily tasks, inevitably forgetting about you in the process. Instead, everyone keeps asking me about it. What happened? How was it? What’s your best memory? I can’t believe they expect me to answer questions like that so soon after we split.

When I do want to talk about you, nobody cares to listen. It’s driving me crazy. My parents actually tune me out now when I bring you up. Some people have said I’m strange for being so broken up about you. For missing you so deeply. That I’m overreacting. Those people don’t understand. And they can’t, unless they meet you too.

You gave me the most memorable summer of my young life. I was expecting a quick fling, not a lifelong romance cut short by the sheer necessity of a busy itinerary. See, other people that have been with you in the past said recovering would take years. I laughed. I’m stronger than that!

Yet here I am, two full months after we split, and I miss you more than anything in the world. I can hardly look at our old pictures anymore. I won’t. I can’t. But it’s all I want to do. I’ll never forget the people we met together, the places we went, the memories we made.

Remember when we went to Italy? Hiked the Cinque Terre? Well, my parents are there right now on vacation. They keep e-mailing me about it. They know we went there. They must know how painful it is to see their pictures and have all my own memories flood back into my skull like a brutal, Ouzo-induced hangover.

Kind of like the hangover I had the morning after we left Istanbul. Do you remember that? What a crazy night. How about Croatia? The walls, the cliffs, the roofs…I thought it was the most beautiful place on Earth. You liked it too, but forced me to leave with you after only three short days.

Can’t we just go back? Me, you and all our friends? Let’s just get out on the water and sail, for old time’s sake. I know I sound desperate. I’m sorry. All sorts of crazy ideas start to populate up in this one-track brain when you are on my mind every second of every day.

You know, I’ve met up with some of your other former flings. They all got a taste at some point. I went to impromptu support groups. Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Cruz. All these little local groups who have been burned just like me. I’m going to Colorado next year for a bigger convention. We’re all a little ticked that you’re gone.

But instead of being angry, we all end up just talking about you. How great you are. Were. We all want to go back. Just take me back to the villa in Mykonos. Where I realized I would love you forever. And how much I would hate you when you left. You have that kind of effect on people.

Oh, who am I kidding? I can’t be mad. You gave me the best 66 days of my life, and then moved on. So, Semester at Sea, I don’t think I will ever quite get over you. Hopefully I will see you again some day, but until then, thank you for the remarkable memories. Thank you for all the unbelievable places we traveled together, the incredible experiences and the lifelong friendships you helped me form.

Thank you for inspiring me. And for changing my life forever. I will never forget you.


Jeremy Dorn, Summer 2011

P.S. – I still listen to our song all the time. And it’s not making things any easier.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Education On A Subject I Know Nothing About

I have a real, final, long wrap-up SAS blog coming, but I wanted to post something for now. This is my final travel writing piece from the class I took this summer. It went through extensive edits, and it's still not nearly polished. Such is a writer's life, eh? But, this section I wrote inspired an idea to write an entire travel writing/autobiography book, much like Kazim Ali but with a different structure. So, this may be a very rough preview to that eventual project! I took out the last 3 paragraphs out of respect for a delicate situation for real people involved - if you absolutely must know what I took out, let me know and I can consider personally sending you the last 3 stanzas. Enjoy!

Rows and rows of blooming sunflowers make for a beautiful train ride through the Tuscan countryside. The rolling yellow fields outside the window are dotted with white villas and decrepit ruins, which leave my imagination confident that they must have been built in the days of gladiators and emperors. Sometimes all that is necessary to experience something amazing is to watch it fly by out an old, dusty window. So, a four-hour trip from Naples to Rome is spent mostly staring out the window. But when the warm sunshine hits that sunflower field just right and reflects a golden glow into the train cabin, everyone gets a second wind.

When we were growing up, my sister and I were never close friends, or polite acquaintances for that matter. We would fight and argue all the time. I didn’t want to share my friends, she cried to get her way, I bullied her with deception and she used her feet as battering rams aimed at my most crucial body parts. And then when I went to college, this all changed; like someone flipped a light switch. The day I left, we realized how much we loved each other and how hard it would be to live 1,000 miles away for the next four years. At her high school graduation, I sported a thick, red beard. It was massive by college sophomore standards. I tried so hard to be a man when she graduated. I went down to the front so my parents weren’t sitting next to me. I looked off into the distance as if pensive. My friends couldn’t see the vibrating smile, shaking a single tear down my cheek, a sharp left around the nose and settling into the tight curls of my mustache. Later, I made fun of my parents for crying over her graduation. When we dropped her off at Chico State in August, it was her turn to cry. She wasn’t ready, she didn’t like the school she chose, and she wasn’t going to make any friends. It was like leaving a puppy at the pound; she was hopeless and lost. On the way back, we passed a huge field of sunflowers. The car was silent as I marveled at the sunset dropping below the horizon, pulling a pink and orange hood over the sleepy yellow field. I remember thinking: Lexie would like this. Damn I wish I had a camera.

Tim and I are brushing up on our Italian in the train cabin, so we can woo local women we hope to meet in the Roman bars. Just as Tim loudly recites how to say “Would you like to play my skin flute?” from his Dirty Italian dictionary, a new traveler cautiously approaches our train cabin. The Italian man who has slept the entire time, wakes up and scrambles to his feet and immediately makes the plastic tray in the hall his new seat. The new guy is a monk carrying a faded backpack and dressed just in a brown robe, a dangling beaded rosary and brown sandals. He bows his head at the Italian man and smiles before taking the seat.

I’ve seen many people dressed like this in Italy; all around Europe, really. In Rome, there was an old woman lying face down on the sidewalk, hands clasped in prayer in front of an empty change tin. She was begging a monk to donate coins. I’ve never been a religious man myself. I’ve got too many fingers to count the times I’ve attended church in my entire life. A couple weddings or funerals, one favor to a friend, and one time doing community service in San Francisco. There is no call to prayer in my life. My mom tried to raise me Jewish. We had Passover and Chanukah, and I learned to spin a mean dreidel. But by age seven, I told my mom I didn’t believe in what the stories told. I still know the menorah-lighting prayer. You could say I’m atheist. Or agnostic; whatever term you see fit. Either way, there is no God to me. I’m more of an “I’ll believe it when I see it” type of guy. I tend to not have faith in in anything outside the scientific realm of possibility, but I still find religion an interesting topic. I wrote a term paper in my Rhetoric class, senior year of college. It covered whether or not intelligent design should be taught in public high schools. I argued that it should be taught. That was my first and last time getting an A+.

The monk and the man strike up a conversation through the open door. Both are clearly Italian and seem to like each other. They are both no older than 30, though the monk’s shaved head makes him look younger than his counterpart. They both seem very pleasant and I regret taking French in high school because I can’t eavesdrop on a very intense and enjoyable conversation. Still, I imagine I can understand what they are saying – a smile and a nod here, a hand gesture there. Just as I am sure about the architecture of rural Tuscany, I am sure they are speaking about religion. I want to be friends with them. They could be talking about the merits of Nazism for all I know, but it’s amazing what a lack of verbal communication and a light brown robe will do for our judgment of strangers.

That’s the great thing about Semester at Sea. I mean, sure. It’s my first time traveling to Europe and I’m getting to do some amazing things. I can go home and show my friends a rug from the Grand Bazaar and a rock from Mt. Vesuvius. But what really amazes me is the social dynamics of a ship cut off from Facebook and text messaging. When we are forced to communicate old school and really get to know each other in-depth through conversation. Some people know me as that guy. The one who added over 100 “friends” on Facebook from the ship before the Bahamas was even on our radar. Oh, we met on Facebook! But I can confidently say that I did it just to meet people. I never spent a night stalking walls and pictures deciding who would be my friend in real life. I’ve met tons of amazing people on this trip, because I put a lot of effort into meeting and conversing with everyone I came across. And it’s revitalized how I approach my relationships; there is a huge difference in the personality of most people from when I met them on Facebook to when I met them on the ship. Never judge a Facebook by its profile picture. This is a family, and I will forever love Semester at Sea for allowing me to be involved in it. Where else could I sit with my new brother Tim and watch a monk take a train through Italy?

A dark-skinned man slides between the monk and the Italian and apologizes to the Italian for interrupting. He is here to sell newspapers and make a few extra euros while traveling. The Italian shakes his head no, and the dark-skinned man turns around to try to market his product to our cabin. He holds up the newspaper and opens his mouth to speak, but spots the monk to his left and quickly tucks the newspaper away under his right arm. Mi scusi he says genuinely before bowing his head and moving on to the next cabin. I look at Tim and we marvel at the respect the monk has of everyone he encounters. This is a real live cultural experience.

In America, we are expected to say yes or no, and then move on. At a baseball game: peanuts, get your peanuts! If you say yes, you hand over half your life savings and get a big bag of too-salty nuts thrown at your head harder than a Nolan Ryan fastball. If you say no, you don’t exist. There is no in-between. Here, you can either admire the work ethic of the fake Rolex salesman as he follows you four blocks, chattering about best price, very nice watch and good gift for lady! Sister! Like all women love plastic timepieces. Still, it’s admirable that they have so much energy and passion for making money, which at the root, is based on bettering their lives and their family’s life. On the other hand, the customer service here is to be applauded. You say yes to the human megaphone from the kebab stand, and they will treat you to a five-star meal. Welcome, welcome! as they pull out your chair. No kebab lover gets by without trading family trees, favorite music or intimate secrets of their love life with the megaphone before the kebab even gets to the table. In America, we are expected to say yes or no, and then move on. These people here? They know how to be human.

The monk catches me looking at him. I look away quickly, but not before he can nod and smile at me. I look down at his feet to avoid the awkwardness of just being publicly busted and wonder why his small backpack is rounded at the back. Just a couple minutes later, he answers my question by unlatching the top and turning the bag to show the Italian what he is traveling with. It’s a familiar sight; in fact, I spent most of my childhood carrying one too. The entire contents of the monk’s bag are a shiny new, black and white soccer ball. He laughs at something the Italian says and puts the bag back at his feet. Tim leans over to whisper to me. This is awesome he says, before I shush him and continue my corner-of-the-eye observations.

I remember one soccer game in particular. I was 12 and my dad was still the coach. This was the end of the bookend for me. By that, I mean it was before I let life take me by the throat and make me its bitch. I lost that innocent sense of determination that made me such an easy kid to raise. The teenage years and most of college was when I was just part of the herd and never tried to stand out. This soccer game pitted the best of the best. My team, the Sting against the Scorpions on a local football pitch (as they call it on this side of the world). The game went down to the wire, knotted at zero. Then tied at one. The equalizer at two. And with ten minutes to spare, I took a shot and it hit the crossbar, bouncing into the net in slow motion. I told you I’m not a religious man. But for a moment in this game, I felt like I was floating through heaven. Waiting out the final minutes was agony; purgatory if you will. Nothing in the world was more important than beating the Scorpions and securing middle school bragging rights for years to come. The whistle blew. Sting 3, Scorpions 2. I ran like crazy toward the sideline, celebrating with my teammates. I jumped into my dad’s open arms and pumped my fist in the air as he held me, yelling like I had just knocked out Mike Tyson. I know my dad loves that moment. He talks about it all the time. Not the game, or the win, but the moment we shared on the sideline after one of the most memorable days of my life. When I tell that story, I shiver. I get that pre-tear feeling of moistness developing deep in my stomach and slowly, painfully, slithering up my chest and through my skull into the back of my eyes, before I clear my throat and kick the ladder back into the depths of my manhood. What is heaven like? Who can tell me? Got any photo slideshows? Perhaps an autographed halo? Well, I imagine that day, that victory, that paternal embrace; is what it feels like to be saved.

Another beggar walks by moments later, this time an older woman with long, tangled hair. She waves a small piece of paper with a picture of her hungry children on it above her head and says something in a curious tone. Her gaze lands on each passenger one by one until finally resting on the monk, who also kindly refuses to donate money. Whereas the newspaper seller saw a respected man of God, this woman saw a generous, empathetic opportunity for success. The variety in their attitudes catches me off guard. The woman mimes what I believe to be You think about it, I will come back. And when she does come back, the monk apologetically hands the paper back to her. She contests his decision and begs him to reconsider. The monk puts his hands together as if in prayer and softly says something to the woman. She smiles, nods and walks away, seemingly content with his reason. And I see why. Because this time I’m sure of what he said: Instead, I will pray for you.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Our one and only port in Africa; Morocco is an amazing blend of city, slum, culture and religion. It took a grand total of about 27 minutes for me to fall in love with this port. I was so shocked by how different it is from all the other ports and how it was a genuine foreign country to me. The other places had their moments too, especially Istanbul, but Morocco was just so much more different. It wasn’t a place you could feasibly go on a tropical vacation for a week like the other ports.

Anyway, here’s why I fell in love with Casablanca and Marrakesh: On the first day, me and a couple friends just walked around downtown Casablanca. We found a little bazaar area and checked out the awesome drums, outfits, etc. they had first. So, remember the whole “man this place has crazy awesome places to shop and barter” from my Istanbul? Well, the Wal-Mart that is Morocco makes Turkey look like the Container Store. Bad simile aside, the products, prices and ability we had to bargain in Morocco blew every other country out of the water.

So, after the bazaar, we met a couple locals who brought us to their rug shop and did the typical sales pitch where they serve tea and sweet talk us into trying to buy their 1,000 dirham rugs. Not happening. But they were really cool guys and cordially invited us to “get high like bird” with them later that night. Okay then. The rest of the day consisted of visiting the huge mosque in Casablanca that is brand new and absolutely gorgeous, then heading back to the ship for the night to pack for Marrakesh in the morning!

But, before we could do that, my roommate convinced me to go back to the mosque later that night to see the evening prayer for Ramadan. I could not be happier that I went. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. They all lined up facing Mecca and the overflow outside the mosque was enormous. Thousands upon thousands of people crowded around and praying in unison to this booming, beautiful prayer. Also, while we were waiting, a bunch of little local kids came and started messing with us and taking pictures with us. They absolutely love taking pictures and seeing pictures of themselves, which got our group to thinking that a Polaroid camera (if they were still being made) would be a perfect gift for a child in another country.

The next morning I went alone for a bit downtown in Casablanca, to buy train tickets for Marrakesh and just explore on my own for the first time on the trip. It was actually really rewarding having no distractions and doing whatever I wanted in such a foreign place. I had to run across streets, dodge traffic and find my way around unfamiliar streets. I had two locals approach me at one point when I was waiting to cross the street and was a bit nervous until they asked in French if I was American. When I said “oui,” they shook my hand, smiled and said “Welcome!” in a thickly-accented excitement.

Another thing I forgot to mention about Morocco is that it was the first time I got to use a language I learned in school. The primary language there is Arabic, but there is also a huge presence of French because of the former colonizing of the region by France. That was really fun for me trying to converse with the people of Morocco (and I’ll admit, I was shaky at first but got pretty comfortable with it again by the end!). On the train that night, I spoke enough French to accept an invitation to share an authentic Ramadan meal with two gentlemen in our cabin, thank them and find out where they were from.

That night, we got to our ghetto little riad (hostel, basically…) and immediately went to check out the medina/main square of Marrakesh. It was really cool at night – there were monkeys, cobra charmers, tons of drum circles and all sorts of cool street shows going on.

The second day in Marrakesh, we went back to the main square and shopped around a little bit, before grabbing a horse and buggy and taking it out to La Palmerie, (palm groves, basically) and going on a 30-minute camel trek! It was very hot, loud and smelly, but it was so much fun and such a cool experience! My camel’s name was LuLu and our guide was very friendly despite the language barrier. That night, we had drinks on the outdoor terrace of our riad (the place was nice, but the area was scary…unfortunately, we took a better price to sacrifice A/C in our riad. It was about 100 degrees every night in our room! And at least 105 outside!) before going back to the square and meeting some friends to go out to a club. The club we ended up at is closed during Ramadan, but the bar was still open and it was an awesome place! Maybe you’ve heard of Pacha? It’s supposedly the 2nd-largest club in all of Africa!

On our third day in Marrakesh, we signed up for a day trip through the owner of our riad that took us to a Berber village (the indigenous population in Morocco are called Berbers) in the Atlas Mountains. We went on a waterfall hike and spent the day wandering around the village. It was a really incredible experience for our last day in any port on Semester at Sea. We met a couple from Spain and another from England who were all very nice and came on the trip with us. Also, it was our last night – so we tried to do it big, went back to Pacha, drank in the medina, etc.

Overall, Morocco was an absolutely perfect ending (in fact, in my English class the next day when my professor had us go around the room and say two words to describe the port of Casablanca, my choice was “perfect, ending”) to an unforgettable, life-changing trip. It was one of my favorites, if not the favorite port for me on this trip and I really cannot wait to come back and explore it more in depth.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


You know you’re in a cool place, when literally the first thing you hear upon stepping off the ship in port is a call to prayer from the mosque. I knew immediately that Istanbul would be nothing like the other ports. The singing of the prayer was beautiful and strangely mystic. It was cool to think that it was a completely normal occurrence for the Muslim Turks. On the first day, I had an FDP to go to a poetry reading for my English classes. British poet John Ash, American Mel Kenne and Turkish Gonca Ozmen (all living in Istanbul now) read and discussed their poems.

Now, I’ve been to tons of poetry readings at this point in my life, but this one was special because of the place we were in and because Ozmen read hers in Turkish and then had them translated into English. Overall, it was a really cool experience and even inspired my next English assignment. After the FDP, I went back to the ship and met a group of friends to go to a nearby hookah lounge. We found a cool place that had a bunch of beanbags surrounding small tables on a lawn outside a restaurant. We all stayed there and talked and drank for a few hours before calling it a night. But one of the coolest parts of the whole night was when the last call to prayer came on while we were sitting in the middle of this local establishment. Everyone went completely silent and we all listened to the prayer ring out over the sky.

On the second day, I got my first taste of the marvelous monstrosity that is the Grand Bazaar. My mom and sister would go absolutely crazy in this place. It’s almost too difficult to describe…just a gigantic maze of shops selling anything from spices to lamps to jewelry to Nike shoes. We got lost in the Bazaar for hours and came out with a few cool items to bring home. Overall that place has to be experienced more than anything but I can tell you that with the female Dorn negotiating abilities, they might have owned the place by the end of the day.

The third day in Istanbul was especially cool, because I spent the afternoon in ASIA! Because of that little side-trek, I technically hit four different continents on this voyage! I love being able to say that! We took a ferry across the strait to the Asian side of Istanbul, which really wasn’t much different than the European side. Some architecture reflected it a bit, but nothing huge stood out. We walked and checked out some more shops before heading up the hill and more into town once we got there. Once in the main shopping area, we got some lunch and did a little shopping before hitting up a really cool record store on the way back.

Our last day in Istanbul was spent again at the Bazaar for a while (I got a rug!) and then celebrating the first night of Ramadan by servicing the local liquor stores and clubs all night. Overall, Istanbul was an amazing experience and I really cannot wait to come back here and explore it for a longer period of time. Anyone who hasn’t been to Istanbul needs to include that in any European travel plans they may make. It really was an incredible place!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Bulgaria was the forgotten port for most people on our ship. To me, it was always just “the port that replaced Egypt.” We were originally scheduled to go to Alexandria in Egypt before the political unrest there made it impossible. So, it’s safe to say I had low expectations for Varna, Bulgaria. Maybe it’s because I didn’t cram a bunch of plans into the three days we had there, or maybe I’m a patient person, but I actually loved Bulgaria.

On the first day, I went on an FDP to visit a Bulgarian village about a half hour north of the port. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life – we were the first people to come visit this village, so they really pulled out all the stops for us. We met what seemed like the entire local population of the place, took a walking tour of the school, church, some homes, the distillery (their brandy is a BIT stronger than ours…) and the barrel-maker’s shop.

We also got a delicious, buffet-style lunch with a Bulgarian song and dance performance. We met a beat boxer who was ridiculously talented and hoped to place third in this year’s annual competition to crown the best beat boxer in the Balkans. The kids in the village were especially memorable; they all loved getting their pictures taken and when one girl in our group busted out the bubbles, they went crazy! It was so fun interacting with the kind people there and really living in their world for a day. If I had the means of getting back there another day, I definitely would have!

On the second day, we met a few Bulgarian girls who kept staring in our cabin window as Tim, Ryan and I were hanging out. Apparently, ours was the biggest ship they had ever seen and that’s why curious Bulgarians would keep wandering past and taking pictures all day. Later that night, we went out to the clubs on the beach (the whole beach walk by our ship was full of bars and nightclubs) and met a local guy who rapped for us, and I ended my night overlooking the beach and the town from the top of a nearby hotel on a failed mission to find a swimming pool.

The last full day was filled with a lot of beach recovery time, a little more clubbing and meeting another cool local. Before we left on debarkation day, I grabbed some cool souvenirs and ate at a pirate-ship themed restaurant near the port called Mr. Baba’s. A word to the wise: if you don’t want to spend the night going in and out of the ship bathroom, then DON’T order the “Cannibal Platter” at that place…

Overall, I was very happy with our trip to Varna. I could definitely go back, especially to the village and to see a few more touristy places that I missed. On to Istanbul next…I can’t wait! It should be the most unique of our ports.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Athens confounded me. We almost switched our itinerary to avoid Greece due to the “riots.” And I heard that the port in itself was nothing special. I imagined a lot of old Greek ruins and hills covered with blue-roofed villas. What I got in Athens instead was a completely normal big city. The first day, a few friends and I took a cab to the Acropolis to see the Parthenon. We got there around sunset and got some awesome views; the place definitely lives up to its reputation as a must-see destination.

After seeing the Acropolis and wandering around downtown Athens for a couple hours, I couldn’t help myself. We found out about a nearby outdoor movie theater playing Harry Potter 7, part 2 in English. The theater was serving beer and wine and was in an outdoor courtyard. I will spare you the movie review, because that’s not why I’m on this trip, but I will just ask where you saw HP7 this summer?

The next morning, I got on an early ferry to the island of Mykonos. Five other guys and I had rented a room in a hotel around May. When we got there, the owner at the reception desk found our reservation and looked up at my friend Will who organized the whole thing and said in broken English “ooh you have the BEST one!” Well…she wasn’t kidding! For 58 euro each, we had two nights and three days in Mykonos in a 2-story room with two separate balconies right next to the hotel pool, overlooking beaches and harbors and more beautiful white Greek buildings in the distance.

Our first day in Mykonos, we walked along the coastline until we got to Paradise Beach. That place is essentially a club 24/7 and was a ton of fun until we went back to the hotel around midnight. The second day, we met up with some friends who had an amazing villa right above Super Paradise Beach (yes, that’s different than plain old Paradise Beach). It also had a really cool club and a nice beach to its name.

On the last day, we had to pack up and go back toward the airport to get back to Athens. But to kill time before the flight, we walked around the little downtown area which was absolutely amazing. Cobblestone streets, tiny alleyways, tons of shops and lots of locals filled our day, as well as a few more delicious gyro meals. Those gyros are definitely the best local food I’ve had on this trip so far!

We got back to the port later that night and tore up a local karaoke bar (and we found a cool hole-in-the-wall place called Bar Kit Kat). That turned out to be our last hurrah in Greece, since everyone used the first half of debarkation day to recover from the previous four. All in all, Greece was really cool. Especially the time spent in Mykonos. I’ll definitely be going back there to hit up Santorini and spend some more time in Athens!

Monday, July 25, 2011


Croatia was definitely my favorite port to date. By no means was it more fun, beautiful or interesting than the other two ports we have been to, but there was something just really captivating about it. I was told by a few people that Dubrovnik would amaze me but because it’s not as well-known as the other ports, I was skeptical. By the end of the first day, my sources were proved right.

On the first day, we stepped out into blistering temperatures and made our way through Dubrovnik to the Old Town, inside the walls. It is a really nice, stone-street town with tons of different types of architecture and street performers everywhere. Everyone was really nice, and we took most of the day just walking around, taking in all the views.

Speaking of the views, the ocean and the orange roofs of Dubrovnik were breathtaking from almost every angle. There were great cliff jumping spots and cliff side bars, as well as big sandy beaches where you can kayak, windsurf, wakeboard or anything else. The nightlife was limited, but still fun. There were clubs in the Old Town that were a lot of fun, and even though Semester at Sea pretty much dominated them, it was really cool.

The highlight of the whole trip to Dubrovnik for me was the third day, when a group of us paid for a three-island snorkeling tour on a private boat. We hopped on early in the morning and got to go to a cove with some awesome underwater caves. We spent a couple hours exploring the reef and the caves. Second, we went to an island with a nice beach for a long lunch and just spent some time playing in the water and taking naps on the beach. On the way back, we stopped at one more huge underwater cave and snorkeled there and we also got to do a cool cliff jump. It wasn’t very high, but if you include the treacherous climb up and the distance you had to jump away from the cliff to avoid hitting the rocks, it was pretty sweet!

Overall, Dubrovnik is the one I’m definitely looking forward to revisiting the most (so far). I could see myself spending a significant amount of time there and I think it’s because as opposed to Spain and Italy, there aren’t as many people (locals and tourists alike) and only one big thing to see (the walls). So when you have done that, you get a real relaxing vacation in a legitimate European country. Greece is coming soon, then Bulgaria, Turkey and Morocco! Stay tuned for Athens and Mykonos in a couple days!

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Well, my back and legs hurt, I’m dead tired and I can’t eat pasta or pizza anymore…but Italy was the most amazing week of my life! First thing when we ported in Naples, a few friends and I grabbed a taxi and went up to Mt. Vesuvius, the volcano that famously destroyed Pompeii long ago. Our driver, Giuseppe (pronounced, according to him, “Josep”) was the coolest guy ever – he drove us around for eight hours, waiting for us to climb the mountain, explore Pompeii and even eat authentic pizza for the first time. He sang for us, let us stop to take pictures, and everything in between.

We trekked up Mt. Vesuvius and got to look into the crater and all that jazz, but it was a little disappointing until the very top – that’s when the fog miraculously lifted and gave us a 360-degree view of what felt like the entire country of Italy! What a great way to start our trip to Italy. Next, we were whisked away to Pompeii, where we were greeted with a few testers of local alcohol (I believe it’s spelled lemoncello?). I’m not going to lie, most of the testers tasted like crap, but it was still fun. We brought a bottle of wine to Pompeii and sipped it while exploring the awesome ruins.

Later in the day, we saw the coliseum of Pompeii, the only structure that seemed to still be somewhat intact. We also saw some bodies trapped in plaster, an old brothel and the community baths. After running through a closed-off vineyard and hopping a brick wall to meet Giuseppe on time, we headed back to Naples.

Naples itself wasn’t that impressive to me – the garbage workers are on strike right now so there are garbage piles everywhere. But even more than that, it just was a creepy, crowded city; which is unfortunate, because all the surrounding areas (Vesuvio, Capri, etc.) were really cool! But the one thing I can definitely say for Naples is that the pizza is freaking amazing! Best pizza I’ve ever had in my life, hands down. No more Pizza Hut for this guy…

The second day, I went to Capri with a huge group of Semester at Sea kids…we took a 45-minute ferry there and rented a little boat. We grabbed some HUGE, cheap bottles of wine and got an hour and a half long tour of the coastline of Capri. That little town is absolutely gorgeous – unfortunately the world famous Blue Grotto was closed due to high tides, but we still got to get out and swim, see a natural arch and other cool things.

On the third day, I did Mt. Vesuvius again because some of my friends hadn’t done it yet and wanted to…once again, it was awesome! Then, we caught a train to Pisa that night and got in around midnight. It was actually a really cool little town in my opinion, but I could definitely see why you would only go there for the leaning tower. After eating and wandering for a bit, we found a hostel called the Pisa Hostel and got some nice cheap rooms for the night (we only slept for a few hours…). We got up around 6 am to trek over to the leaning tower and got some awesome pictures of it as the sun was rising!

As soon as we could, we got on a train from Pisa to the Cinque Terre. For those of you who don’t know, that is a succession of five little cliff side towns on the west coast of Italy. They are absolutely gorgeous – we took the whole day to hike through them. Some of the most amazing views and pictures were captured here, and I can’t wait until I have a good internet connection so I can show everyone!

After a horrible (to say the least) overnight train ride from Monterosso to Civitavecchia (where we ported for our days in Rome), we finally got to explore the big city itself! Our first day, we explored the Spanish Steps, went down to the Trevi Fountain and the Villa Borghese. All three were pretty incredible sights. The second day in Rome, we hit the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Vatican City. I loved all these places, and the Sistine Chapel definitely was worth the visit (yes, I snagged an illegal picture with my camera in there).

On the last day in Rome, we visited the Pantheon, then took the train back to Civitavecchia for one last pizza/gelato meal. Overall, my visit to Italy was an absolute blur, and despite all the sore muscles it was worth every Euro spent! I cannot wait to go back, especially to Rome and the Cinque Terre. Stay tuned for a brief recap after Croatia, where we are porting tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


This has been a long time coming…my FIRST blog on this entire trip! I apologize for taking so long to get everyone updated. It’s 1:30 a.m. right now and I’m lying on my bottom bunk talking to my two roommates – Ryan from Colorado who goes to school at University of San Diego and Robyn from Chicago who goes to Butler University. We are part of the “Caribbean Sea,” which is how they separate the halls and decks into each Living Learning Coordinator’s (LLC) section. Omar is our hilarious LLC, who helped lead us to victory today at the Sea Olympics!

Team Blue, the Caribbean Sea, tied for first with Team Green, the Bering Sea, after a day of grueling events that included a pull-up competition, crab soccer, volleyball, tug of war and synchronized swimming (just to name a few). I participated in crab soccer (yes, you crab walk and play soccer – absolutely ridiculous, I got some nice blisters on my hand…) and volleyball (Winners! Beat the Bering Sea by one point!).

Anyway, like I said, we were tied at the end of the competitions, so at the “closing ceremonies” our two seas had a dance off in front of everyone else. We pulled out the overall victory with the brilliant inclusion of two small children who are traveling on the ship with their parents, who busted moves like the worm, the Bernie and the Dougie! So, you are reading the blog of a newly-crowned 2011 Semester at Sea Summer Voyage Sea Olympic Champion!

Here’s a little bit of info to get you all caught up:

There are 676 students (staff, crew, faculty and lifelong learners included, over 1,000 passengers are on the ship) representing 290 universities here. There are six of us from Washington State University, and the majority of people are from somewhere in California. University of Colorado, University of Virginia and a couple other big schools like Ohio State University and University of Texas are also well-represented.

The Bahamas were incredible…I got in with a bunch of people I met on my flight from SFO to Ft. Lauderdale. We took two flights to get to Nassau, and then a shuttle to the Sheraton, which was situated conveniently right on the beach. I spent most of those two days on the beach or in the pool, just trying to meet new people and take it all in. We all went to Senor Frog’s the first night and tore it up for a little bit, which was especially cool because we could see the ship at the port down the block! My roommates in the Sheraton were Tim and Craig, both from Southern California. They are really cool guys who ended up rooming nearby in my hallway – I hang out with Tim the most out of anyone on the ship, and Craig and I always find some time to catch up too.

As the “Communications Assistant” for my work study position, I got to board the ship a day early. Tim, Craig and I could not believe it when we finally stepped onto the ship for the first time and got such a warm welcome from the staff and crew on board. We took a while to just explore the ship, then kind of settled in and went to work making friends. I can legitimately say that I have made over 100 new friends on this ship, and many more acquaintances.

I spent the second day helping with general boarding, by greeting and directing new students which was the best job possible since I got to meet every single student that came up those stairs for the first time. I’ve since kind of settled in and have a couple nice little groups of close friends that I spend a lot of time with, but I have been trying to continue meeting people every day because I know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I want to be able to keep in touch and visit all these people some day! My main crew includes Tim, Mary and Cedar from Colorado (students at Colorado St.), Kate and Madison from Northern California (University of San Francisco and Sacramento St., respectively) and a few more kids down the hall from Minnesota! I became good friends with Javier too, who just left our ship yesterday. He was sailing as the inter port student, which means he lives in Barcelona but he tagged along on our voyage to Spain to help answer questions, give lectures, etc.

My work study job is interesting and not as painstakingly difficult as I’d expected. I’ve still been able to send some blogs home to All-Outdoors and help them out, and I have plenty of time to do homework, volunteer in the ship’s writing center and join a few groups around the ship. If you want to see any podcasts, blogs, photo slideshows or videos that I may have helped write, edit or produce, check out the website at

Anyway, we just left Spain last night and it was pretty sad; I want to go back already. We all had a ridiculous time in Barcelona. I got to experience Las Ramblas, the markets, the nightlife, La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell, the beaches, the cheap wine, the paella and sangria and even a Flameco show! All in 3 and a half short days. I really did not want to leave (although I’m sure that’s how I will feel about every port). There is so much I could write about and elaborate on, but it just won’t do Barcelona justice.

I think most of these stories will be better told through word-of-mouth stories, or just when I get home because I don’t have the time, energy or internet bandwidth to write out the ten pages it would take to explain how amazing this trip is and how epic Barcelona was and how excited we all are for Italy! I can tell you that the classes are awesome (except the generic, required Global Studies class – super lame), the people are even better, and the ports are the best. I am legitimately thinking about trying to find a way to get a job with this program so I can continue seeing the world through their trip.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE e-mail me! My email here is and it’s completely free for me so just get at it! I check it a few times a day and it’s way easier to communicate with (just ask Mom, Dad, Lexie, Bryan or Jill – they figured that out!). I’d love to hear from anyone and I will gladly tell some stories as a reward! Well, I have to hike Mt. Vesuvius in Naples tomorrow morning, plus go to Pompeii with my English class, PLUS go to L’antica Pizzeria de Michel for dinner with my friends. I have a rough life. So let me sleep. Miss and love you all…Ciao!

P.S. - I heard that the Warriors drafted Klay Thompson....................................................GO COUGS!!!!!!! Season tickets - anyone down???

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Jam Shots - June 12th, 2011

Well, kicking this weekly blog off was short-lived. I will be taking off to the Bahamas this Tuesday, then continuing on the MV Explorer for Semester-at-Sea to Barcelona, Naples, Rome, Athens, Dubrovnik, Istanbul, Casablanca, and Varna, Bulgaria. Needless to say, sports (unless it’s European soccer) will not be on my mind very much.

But fear not! I return August 25th, and Jam Shots returns with me! Hopefully without an accent. So this is the last week for a couple months, but here goes anyhow! Today’s topics: Miracle Mavs, Nyjer Morgan is absolutely ridiculous, a personal revelation, and a very objective, unbiased approach to this burning question – can Matt Kemp actually win a Triple Crown?

Jam Shots, Episode 3, 6/12/11


Amazing. The Mavs have defied all odds and already accomplished the impossible. No, I don’t mean being up 3-2 on the mighty Miami Heat. Screw that, I meant they actually won more games than yours truly predicted! Proving me wrong when it comes to sports is akin to out-scarfing Joey Chestnut, out-running Forrest Gump or out-tweeting Anthony Weiner It just doesn’t happen.

Seriously though, I’m very impressed. LeBron disappeared behind a casual triple-double in game 5 and D-Wade missed time with a hip bruise, but I still must give props where props are due. The Mavericks shot almost 70% from three-point range. J.J. Barea, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and of course Dirk Nowitzki were very clutch. The Dallas role players are stepping up huge in this series, whereas the Heat are just getting random spurts of brilliance from players like Juwan Howard, Joel Anthony and Udonis Haslem. No consistency though, and it is all resting in the awkward hands of Chris Bosh, and on the bruised ego of LeBron James and the worn-out Dwyane Wade.

Don’t get me wrong – each of those three at their worst is still a pretty good NBA player, but something needs to happen in Miami tonight to spark this team. They have a huge advantage playing at home for this game and possibly the next, but the way the Mavs have been shooting and effectively shutting down LeBron in the 4th quarter is bad news for The Franchise. I’m not one to go back on my word, so I still have the Heat winning, just in 7 now.

The hopeful bandwagon fan in me says LeBron and D-Wade will combine for at least 60 points in game 6 and completely deplete the momentum the Mavs have built up. And while I (seriously!) would love to see Dirk win a championship, there is this indescribable desire in me to see Dallas lose this series. Not because I necessarily like Miami. Not because I’m mad at Mark Cuban for not purchasing the Dodgers and getting them out of their damn financial predicament. Partially because those fans are all fans of the arch-nemesis Dallas Cowboys. But, mostly because I have a man-crush on LeBron. There, I said it! Can you blame me? The guy (at least for the first three quarters…ZING!) is unstoppable and just an absolute freak. Too much fun to watch.

Oh, and for the people who think the “give-LeBron-a-dollar-he-will-only-return-3-quarters” joke is that funny? It’s called a processing fee. Get over it. It’s only 25 cents for Heatles’ sake! If you are really so cheap that you are going to cry over a single coin, then you shouldn’t be rooting for the richest owner in sports to win the championship. And if you’re not rooting for the Mavs after that brilliant way of proving you wrong, there is plenty of room on the Heat bandwagon over here, so jump on (we lost about half of our wagon after Game 5. It’s getting lonely in here…)!

Speaking of how I love the most hated player in basketball…


…I thought about it and realized I must have some sort of major personality flaw. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I seem to gravitate toward both rooting for and admiring the most hated athletes on the planet. Sure, there’s LeBron (who I still don’t think deserves all that hatred by the way, though I can understand it). But what about Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter in baseball? Manny was the MLB’s class clown, but also to many a villain. A-Rod is pretty much hated by everyone who isn’t a diehard Yankee fan, and he does something every few weeks that makes me hate him a little bit too. But I can’t say I don’t respect the guy’s ability to play ball. Let’s just say I hate him a lot less than most people.

Jeter? This one doesn’t make sense to me – all he has ever done to be a target of hatred is wear the pinstripes. You won’t find a classier act in all of sports than Jeter, who cemented his place in the Hall of Fame by about 2001. He and Ken Griffey, Jr. will always be the two guys that made baseball for me when I was growing up. I think if I was in either situation, I would miss the birth of my first child and/or ditch my wedding if I had the opportunity to see Jeter get his 3,000th hit in person. Forget the uniform, this guy is a living legend and deserves to be treated like one, so all Jeter haters (yeah, that’s you Hank Steinbrenner! What?) can go to Hell!

Perhaps the most confusing one to most of my friends, but the one I’m most proud of is my beloved San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Besides his good looks, incredible intelligence and professional demeanor, Smith is a beast on the football field. He has the arm of Peyton Manning, the heart of Drew Brees, the legs of Michael Vick and the confidence of Tom Brady, all wrapped into one future Hall of Fame QB. Okay, well that’s what he was supposed to be. Unfortunately his stats don’t match and he’s currently leading the Niners’ volunteer training camp as a free agent who new coach Jim Harbaugh (in a VERY subtle attempt to share who their new QB would be…) gave a playbook to despite the lockout.

Smith is approximately on chance #16 with the 49er faithful. Most fans are absolutely fed up with his lack of production and the 49ers dismal record with him at the helm. So why, you ask, do I still back him? Why do I love Alex Smith? Is it because I have his jersey ($30.00 at Big 5)? I’m a huge fan of the University of Utah, where he played in college? I’m delusional? No, no. None of the above. It’s because he does have the brains to be a top-tier NFL quarterback. He does have the confidence. He does have the physical tools. And we have seen those flashes of brilliance here and there. He has looked like Joe Montana in a few games over his career, like Steve Young on a couple 4th-quarter drives.

Now, that last part isn’t a bunch of comedy. It’s absolutely true. I have watched every second of every 49er game since Smith came into the league. I know the day he puts all these tools he has together is going to be a beautiful day, as long as he’s still wearing 49ers’ red and gold. I know if we let him walk, he will do it somewhere else. Smith took a huge pay cut to stay in the Bay Area and take care of “unfinished business.” He feels he owes something to the fans, and that’s why he won’t give up, despite being the most hated player on the roster. I have to respect that, and I have reason to hope. Harbaugh is our coach, a notorious developer of quarterbacks. Our O-line is improved again. And we have an offensive scheme in place that actually utilizes Smith’s strengths for once and doesn’t rely on handoff, handoff, and screen pass every possession.

Long live Alex Smith and go 49ers!


Just a real quick Dodger plug here. I know it’s always a conversation that comes up. I know I’m biased. But STILL, does Matt Kemp have a legitimate shot at winning a Triple Crown (even if not this year, eventually)? Right now, the kid is hitting .331 with 19 home runs and 55 RBI’s for an offense that is finally starting to pick up. He has been the unquestioned star of this team and is finally playing to his potential after a huge Rihanna-induced hangover last year. Kemp leads the National League in homers, is 2nd in RBI’s by 1 and 5th in average by 10 points. Pitchers have not figured out a way to get him out yet. I’m just saying, if it comes down to the wire and he’s still close in average, he’ll have a shot at it because the power numbers will be right up there. How can you root against this?

My last order of business today is Nyjer Morgan. If you haven’t seen his post-game interview yet, catch it here:

First of all, he didn’t know it was the 9th inning? Are you kidding me? Anyway, that guy must have something wrong with him. He looked like a child hopped up on way too many Pixie Stix after the game. I kinda liked the reaction though; it made me laugh almost as much as his Answer Man session last year.

He also got into a brawl with the entire Marlins team last year after he was retaliated against the day after taking out their catcher at home. He got a couple good hits in on the pitcher, but was absolutely leveled by Marlins’ first baseman Gaby Sanchez who came running in with a blindside clothesline hit. It was baseball brawlism at its finest. I couldn’t find any good video on it for you, but definitely look around for it because it’s awesome. Just imagine what would happen if he played outfield on a team with Manny Ramirez in left and Coco Crisp in right. And if Carlos Zambrano was pitching, John Rocker closing?? My god, there would be a brawl every single night. And Buster Posey would still be crying about the violence, asking us to play in football pads with Nerf balls.

That’s all folks. Keep an eye out for this blog while I’m abroad – I will be updating at least once a week on the ship about my exploits in Europe and Africa! Thanks for reading, and Jam Shots will be back in a couple months!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Jam Shots - June 5th, 2011

I just want to say, for the record, that I’ve seen a few collisions at home plate since the Buster Posey situation, and nobody’s made a big deal out of it. Although Jordan Schaefer did bunt a pitch off his face, and the league is now considering outlawing bats and balls. In other news, the Mavs pulled off the impossible, and won a game against the Heat! Unbelievable.

In today’s episode, Albert Pujols wasn’t dormant for long, Adam Jones makes an incredible catch, the Heat choke on their own ego, and an argument that would make Skip Bayless proud (that’s not a good thing). Plus, the most overrated baseball players in the game today. Enjoy!

Jam Shots, Episode 2, 6/5/11


Let’s start with the biggest sports story of the week. The Miami Heat, behind 36 points from Dwyane Wade, had a huge lead midway through the fourth quarter of Game 2, only to start bricking shots, throwing the ball away and performing a vanishing act on defense en route to losing by 2 to the Mavs. Dirk Nowitzki had the last 9 points for Dallas, who showed a ton of confidence and impressed me with their ability to keep cool in that situation.

The Heat looked foolish celebrating Wade’s three, the last shot before the furious rally mounted by the Mavs. Well, the celebration was kind of cool actually, and was blown way out of proportion by the media, (surprise, surprise), but there is no doubt that it fueled the Mavs. So the question is, after the comeback and heading home to Dallas for three games (why do they change the format?) in a row, can they actually pull off the upset and win?

Well…no. It was a fantastic game and all, but it took a miracle for them to pull that game out, coupled with a complete collapse by the Heat. Wade, Bosh and LeBron will not let this opportunity slip away. I’d be hard-pressed to believe the planets will align again like that. Don’t get me wrong; Dallas is a good team, and Dirk is a star. But, I’d be shocked to see them win more than two games in this series. Sure, they have home-court advantage now, but the Heat have been an amazing team on the road this postseason, and playing that poorly at the end of Game 2 is going to fuel the three-headed beast.

I’m giving the Mavs one game at home, losing in 6 overall.

In other completely unrelated basketball news, a few mock drafts have Washington State University’s Klay Thompson going to the Warriors with the 11th pick. Why is this relevant? Because, as a WSU alumnus, I would absolutely love to see him go to Golden State so I can see him play nearby…sure, it’s selfish, especially since he doesn’t exactly fit the Warriors’ needs. But still, he’s the greatest player in Washington St. history so you won’t hear any complaints from me if the Dubs snag him. But, if Bismack Biyombo, the unknown center from Congo falls to that spot, we must take him. Forget the team needs, I want that jersey!

And just for the hell of it, I’m still baffled that Reggie Miller was not elected to the Hall-of-Fame on his first try…blasphemy! Wait, he wasn’t even one of the 12 finalists? What the f*&! are those Nazi’s in the Hall committee smoking? That’s more ridiculous than…


…the fact that the Buster Posey talk is still dominating the headlines (or the fact that I used the EXACT same segway as last week). Even Buster himself is sick of the talk, saying “we all need to move on.” At least one respectable person who has given their two cents is on point about this. Cue Hall of Fame catcher, 14-time All Star, and widely regarded “best catcher there ever was,” Johnny Bench:

“Buster is laying in front of home plate, and it’s like having a disabled car in the middle of a four-lane highway. You’re just going to get smacked. Show them the plate. You can always catch the ball and step, or step and catch the ball, as long as you’ve got the runner on the ground. And if you have the runner on the ground, there’s less chance of any severe collision.” - Bench

Okay, seriously. We’re moving on now.

Remember that Albert Pujols guy? Well, um, yeah. He’s back. Pujols hit two home runs yesterday, including a walk-off in extras. He almost single-handedly won that game for St. Louis, who already has a lead in the NL Central. That’s not very fair to the other teams that they can still be so good with below-average production from Pujols and Adam Wainwright out for the season. It also doesn’t bode well for my pre-season pick of the Milwaukee Brewers to win the division crown…sigh. Oh well, I love watching Albert play and it looks like he’s heating up with the weather, which is great news for all baseball fans (save for anyone who likes the Cubs – but they never had a chance to begin with).

Speaking of home runs, anyone who hasn’t seen Mitch Moreland and Justin Upton’s home runs from Monday, can find them here:
Anyone who thinks Moreland’s home run did not travel over 500 feet must be dealing to the NBA H-O-F committee. I just love a good dinger. Ah…that came out wrong.

Even though those home runs were sweet, nothing compares to this unfreakingbelievable catch by Adam Jones of the O’s. Tell me what you think: is it better than Willie Mays’ catch? We know Mays’ will always be the original icon of that kind of play, we know he made the catch in the playoffs and also covered tons of ground, AND wheeled and fired a strike back to the infield to keep the runners from advancing. But, Jones made his as he crashed into the center field wall, and I’m not sure how the ball physically went over his shoulder and into the glove before impact. You be the judge; let me know which catch you think is better.

Last but not least, Sports Illustrated released their annual “Player’s Poll,” which asks almost 200 MLB players to rank their fellow players and coaches in certain categories. The most popular, most read and most controversial list came out recently. Who is baseball’s most overrated player? According to the poll, Alex Rodriguez tops the list, followed by Yankee teammates Joba Chamberlain and Derek Jeter. The Nationals’ Jayson Werth and Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon rounded out the top 5. This is another interesting debate – surely, I can see why these guys are on the list, but I question if A-Rod and Jeter are actually “overrated.” Overpaid, definitely. But so is anyone making that much money to play a game.

The two relievers’ numbers don’t warrant any praise, so they definitely have earned their spots on this list. And as soon as Werth inked that contract (I called it by the way – check out my Bold Predictions/Burning Questions blog), he became Werth-less. I have a soft spot for DJ as he and Ken Griffey, Jr. are the two faces I point to as the guys who epitomized the sport for me growing up. And it’s hard to hate on someone who is so respectable. But A-Rod on reputation and salary alone claims a spot.

So, who do I think should slide into that last spot? Here’s a doozy for ya: how about someone like Zack Greinke? He’s likeable, got filthy stuff and a Cy Young award to boot – but his career numbers are really not that good. I don’t know if I would go as far as to include him on the list, but he is treated like the second coming of Tim Hudson, when he’s really not.

*Other Sports*

General -
I hate Skip Bayless. There is no reason for me to introduce this topic with that line, other than the fact that I know he would side with the wrong argument in this debate: To be considered a truly great player, does one have to win a championship ring? The issue obviously arose with Dirk and LeBron, both ringless, facing off in the Finals this year. Apparently, whoever wins will finally be labeled “great.” Because they both are not already, right? I can think of plenty of players who will never, ever be remembered, let alone considered “great” like James and Nowitzki who have a ring; even multiple rings!

Look, I can see where the argument comes from. Who cares how dominant a player is in their sport if they never win it all? But for some, it just wasn’t meant to happen. I normally wouldn’t be one to believe in credence like that, but it’s different in sports. The logic just isn’t there for the other side. Bayless, undoubtedly, and his cretins would have to say then, that Ernie Banks is not an all-time baseball great. Same with Ted Williams, the last man to hit .400 in a season. Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton and Karl Malone in the NBA. Dan Marino and Jim Kelly in the NFL. The list goes on and on.

Greatness is based on individual achievements and legacies are built on how many championships a franchise has won. Williams' Red Sox were mired in the middle of an 84-year title drought while he played. I think he did all he could though: he hit .344 with 521 home runs in his career. He was elected to the All-Star game 17 times and won 2 A.L. MVP’s. The debate for greatest hitter of all time is never complete without him being mentioned in the top two or three. And you’re going to tell me that because he never won a World Series, he’s not an all-time great? Screw you Skip Bayless.

Soccer –
Sooo…I would love to see the USA National Team be a world force in soccer. And I know Landon Donovan wasn’t playing yesterday, but we looked like a Special Olympics team losing 4-0 to Spain in a friendly in New England. We still have a long, long way to go. But, for the casual soccer fan, how pretty were some of those goals by Spain??

And I leave you with this clip. The coolest thing I’ve seen since Wayne Rooney’s bicycle kick goal a few months back.

That’s all for now. Check back next Sunday for more Jam Shots!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Jam Shots - May 29th, 2011

I have been a college “graduate” for exactly three weeks now. But just yesterday I was finally able to sneak out of my full-time job to catch an Oakland A’s game with my family. My first ballgame of the summer was a success; a 6-2 victory for the A’s. My passion for sports has never waned, but going to the game rekindled in me a desire to couple that passion with writing, my other favorite thing to do. If I’m going to be a writer, might as well practice, right?

My Mom always suggests that if I want my blog to attract more followers, earn more money from advertisements, etc., then I need to stick to one topic and report on it in regular intervals. So even though I leave for a two-month voyage around the Mediterranean in less than three weeks, I’d like to take these next few Sundays to start doing just that. Look for Jamblin’ Man’s weekly sports report, posted every Sunday morning. Here’s the first edition, and I could not have asked for any more exciting, controversial topics to reflect on for my inaugural session of Jam Shots.

Jam Shots, Episode 1


Scottie Pippen, former Ron to Michael Jordan’s Harry, said on ESPN Radio yesterday that LeBron James is the greatest basketball player of all time:

“Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to ever play in the game, but I may go as far as to say LeBron James is probably the greatest player to ever play the game.” - Pippen

Needless to say, his comments shocked the sports world and infuriated a certain analyst. After almost immediate backlash, Pippen did back off the original comments with a new Tweet, claiming he meant only that James could potentially be as good as MJ someday. Sure, but he will never measure up. The minute that LeBron decided to take his talents to South Beach, he assured he would have a tarnished legacy. Even if LeBron wins 6 or more championships, wins more MVP awards, scores more points than Jordan, whatever…he will have done it with two other super star teammates. That fact alone makes me believe that LeBron will never be considered a greater basketball player than MJ, let alone the greatest of all time. He’ll be mentioned among the greats, no doubt – but it’s going to take more than a few rings and a lot of hype to surpass MJ as the greatest player of all time.

For the record (and for all you LeBron haters – yeah, I’m looking at you Ian Laettner), James agrees with me:

“Michael is an unbelievable player,” James said Saturday. “I got a long way, a long way, to be mentioned as one of the all-time greats. Not even just Jordan. It’s a lot of great players that have played in this league — Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. All these guys with multiple rings. Bill Russell, all these guys that have pioneered this game for me and [ Dwyane Wade]. So I’m gracious, humbled by Scottie’s comments, especially with him being a teammate of [Jordan’s] and seeing Michael on a day-to-day basis. As far as me, I don’t know. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m better than Jordan or I’m not better.”

Speaking of LeBron’s hand-picked all-star team, the Miami Heat are back in the finals, with a rematch of the 2006 series against the Dallas Mavericks. I might get tarred and feathered for writing this, but I hope the Heat win. Sure, Dirk deserves a ring, but I’d like to see LeBron & Co. shut all the skeptics up once and for all. I actually think it’ll be a better series than most people expect, but I still don’t see how the Mavs can pull the upset. I’m not sure if Nowitzki can be stopped by anyone, but if he drops 40 points per game in the Finals, the 75 points James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are going to combine to average will render that stat pointless. Either way it will be an entertaining series, but just don’t be surprised when the Miami Heat are celebrating a championship (and probably the first of many) in a couple weeks.

One last note as far as basketball is concerned (I can’t help myself) – for all you people sippin’ that LeBron haterade, take a peek at this: In the final 2 minutes of the Heat’s clinching game 5 win in Chicago, James had 8 points (two huge 3-pointers), an assist on Wade’s 4-point play, a rebound and a block of Derrick Rose’s three-point attempt at the buzzer. Back in game 2, he scored nine of the Heat’s final 12 points in a win that evened the series at 1-1. And against the Celtics in games 4 and 5, he put them away when he scored 11 of the Heat’s final 13 points in game 4 and the final 10 points in the clinching game 5.

Still not clutch? Fine, one last stat – Only five players in NBA history have tallied 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in one season: John Havlicek and Michael Jordan each did it twice, Larry Bird did it three times, and Oscar Robertson has done it six times, tied for most all time with 26-year-old LeBron James. Yikes. Maybe Pippen is on to something…


Before I get to the topic we all know I’m going to dissect to shreds, I just want to throw one general baseball complaint out there. I was watching the Dodgers get dominated by the Marlins tonight on MLBNetwork, and in the 3rd inning after Hiroki Kuroda walked to lead off and Rafael Furcal followed with a single, the Dodgers had runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs. Here’s the situation – they were already down 2-0 and had Casey Blake, Andre Ethier, and Matt Kemp coming up (in other words, the 2-3-4 hitters). This seems like a no-brainer situation in which Blake should bunt and put the runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out and two of the most dangerous hitters in the league coming up. Instead, manager Don Mattingly let him swing away…and swing away he did, at three straight breaking balls. Unfortunately, he didn’t actually make contact on those swings. All the Dodgers ended up getting from the rally was an RBI double from Kemp.

My point is, this has been an annoying trend I’ve noticed in the last couple seasons. Major League Baseball players can’t bunt, and even if they can, the managers don’t call them. A few teams still play some great small ball, but it’s mostly all but disappeared. It’s very frustrating…I’ve always said if I was a manager, I’d make sure every single one of my hitters could bunt effectively. I’m not saying calling a bunt would have helped the Dodgers win, but their chances to score more runs in that inning and possibly swing the momentum would have been greatly increased.

Maybe Bud Selig should consider changing the official rules to say that any time there is a bunt situation, the batter must attempt it at least once. No, no. That would be almost as ridiculous as…

…the incredible debate and controversy that has ensued since Florida Marlins outfielder Scott Cousins plowed over San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey for what proved to be the winning run in the 12th inning earlier this week. Posey’s leg and ankle were badly injured on the play and he may now miss the rest of the year; a huge blow to the defending world champions. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the link below (unless you don’t like human bones and ligaments twisting in awkward, uncomfortable directions…):

The real story is not the young star’s injury. It is the dispute that has exploded since he went down. Almost immediately following the game, tons of people (Giants fans mostly, understandably) were up in arms about the path Cousins took to the plate, the way he “launched” himself at Posey and the general danger catchers are in when blocking the plate. Soon thereafter, those people were calling for a rule change that would protect catchers in collisions. I heard everything from outlawing that type of play completely, to setting guidelines for when and how the runner can slide into home. So let’s settle a few things here.

First of all, there is no reason to blame Cousins. It was not a dirty play or a cheap shot. He did not come in with the intent to injure Posey. He came in with the idea that if he scores, the Marlins take the lead in a game that pitted two playoff contenders. The guy immediately went to Posey when he realized he was hurt and made sure he was okay. His eyes moistened in an interview the next day when faced about questions involving Posey’s injury. Anyone who thinks that Cousins went in on a cheap shot in the collision is a moron. Buster Posey would have done the same thing if he was the runner; it’s how the game is played.

Second, why did it take an injury to a popular player to get the discussion on rule-changing rolling? Last year, Cleveland Indians’ catcher Carlos Santana was knocked out for the year on a play at the plate and nobody even blinked, despite Santana’s own star potential. Yesterday, the Astros’ Humberto Quintero was run into on a force play at home plate and is now on the DL with an ankle injury and not a word about the runner was mentioned. It’s because Posey is a household name. If Eli Whiteside, the Giants catcher-formerly-known-as-backup had been in the game instead of Posey, the fans shrug it off and move on.

Giants fans, I sympathize with you. Posey is the heart and soul of that team, and he’s a fantastic player. But please do not mistake bad fortune and disappointment for malice and an inept rulebook. It was very unfortunate that Posey fumbled the ball on that throw home, which led to his positioning in the collision. It is horribly unlucky that his foot stuck awkwardly when he was bowled over, causing the injury.

At the same time, he was blocking the plate on a game-breaking play and Cousins has all the right in the world to do anything he can to score that run. When the throw beats him by two full strides, he is going to do what any other hard-nosed ball player would and run into the catcher and try to knock the ball out of his glove. Regardless of whether or not he knows Posey has dropped the ball, if he tries to hook slide around him on the assumption that Posey missed the throw, and he is wrong? Then he’s easily tagged out with a backhand swipe, and the game is still tied, not to mention Cousins is scolded by his manager for not running over the catcher.

Now, I can totally understand people being upset that Posey is out, that the Giants lost the game, even at Cousins for being the one to run over Posey. But what I can’t understand is the sudden worldwide movement to change a rule that has been established in baseball since the beginning of time because of one injury. Part of the game is the collision at home plate. Otherwise, the runner has absolutely no chance if the throw beats him, to score a run that could literally change a game, which can change a season, which can change a franchise, which can change history!

Posey and Bruce Bochy both advocated for the rule to be “looked at.” They think there should be some sort of measure in place to protect a catcher (as if shin guards, a chest pad, a mask and helmet weren’t enough already…) on plays at the plate. I cannot respect those opinions, especially from two guys I thought were diehard baseballers. Sometimes middle infielders get injured by sliding base runners trying to break up a double play. Should we outlaw sliding? Or maybe allowing a team to turn two is excessive. A few times a year, a batter gets plunked in the head by a 90 mile-per-hour fastball. Is pitching too dangerous for the game? How about hitting? My advice: don’t overreact to this situation and just move on.

If we are being literal, Bruce and Buster, your guy was technically the one breaking the rules (rule 7.06) on that play. Neither guy is to blame, in my opinion. But everyone needs to move on and realize that home plate collisions always have been and always should be a part of the game of baseball. Maybe Posey should take his time on the DL to learn from future Hall-of-Famer Ivan Rodriguez, or even Whiteside, who made this play the day after Posey went down (and against a much, MUCH bigger base runner).

Bottom line, if Posey and Bochy’s cries get this rule changed, I will have lost all respect for them. You would never hear Pudge or Jason Kendall or any other badass backstop complain about a hustle play like that. That said, I hope Posey heals because he is fun to watch. But maybe the Giants should consider moving him to the outfield or first base. If you can’t stand the heat, get outta the kitchen, right?

*Other Sports*

Hockey - Are the San Jose Sharks the biggest choke artists in NHL history? Good thing I don’t care enough about the sport to…well, care.

Soccer – The UEFA Champions League Final was today, pitting two storied clubs against each other: Manchester United vs. Barcelona. Lionel Messi and David Villa scored second half goals to clinch the Cup for Barca, and watching that game made me realize how much I will always love the sport of soccer. If you can find them, check out the highlights of the goals by Messi and Villa (Wayne Rooney’s goal for Man U wasn’t too shabby either!). I never thought I’d see the day when SportsCenter led off their show with a soccer highlight!

Football – I hate the f***ing lockout.

That’s all for now. Check back next Sunday for more Jam Shots!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bold Predictions and Burning Questions: MLB 2011

Tomorrow is arguably the best day of the year. No, it’s not Christmas. Not the first day of Spring Break. And Dos Equis is certainly not shipping free barrels of Lager to my house. But sports fans, rejoice! Tomorrow is Opening Day for Major League Baseball! We are on the precipice of an uninterrupted seven month path to glory. Along the way we will witness surprise, devastation and history.

We will welcome Jim Thome into the 600 home run club. Derek Jeter will surpass 3,000 hits to solidify the most surefire Hall of Fame resume of any current player. The Atlanta Braves will become the second organization in the history of baseball to lose 10,000 games. And if all goes as planned, there will be no steroids, there will be no corked bats; just the blissful greatness that is classic baseball. Bunts, sacrifice flies, pitching and defense will reign supreme.

Anticipation for the 2011 version of Major League Baseball is very high. America’s pastime comes back in full force, and with it 30 teams with one common goal - to be champions of the world. There are the regular contenders: the Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies and Braves. The talented young teams from the West: the A’s, Rockies, Giants and Rangers. Up-and-comers: the Reds, Astros, Marlins and Orioles. The wounded: the Cardinals, White Sox, Twins, Angels and Rays. The confused: the Brewers, Tigers, Cubs and Dodgers. And the ones that just won’t make the cut: the Blue Jays, Royals, Indians, Mariners, Diamondbacks, Padres, Nationals, Mets and Pirates.

But baseball is a crapshoot. Injuries and experience and money take a toll over the long season. San Diego came out of nowhere last year and almost won the N.L. West. San Francisco had no business winning the World Series with their offense. And Toronto’s Jose Bautista came out of sheer anonymity to lead the majors with 54 home runs in 2010. The point is, we never know what will happen.

But we do know every team has a burning question that needs to be addressed at some point during the year. Here is a team-by-team power ranking, complete with my own burning question and personal version of ESPN analyst Matthew Berry’s “Bold Predictions.” Ladies, and gentlemen, it’s time to play ball!

30. Cleveland Indians

Burning Question: Will the Tribe get any production out of Grady Sizemore? I guess a fairer question is, will he get healthy?

Bold Prediction:
Young catcher Carlos Santana is going to have a HUGE year. I’m talking an average north of .300, 20 home runs and 85 RBI’s.

29. Seattle Mariners

BQ: The Mariners won’t contend with their anemic offense, so can they resist trading Felix Hernandez to the Yankees?

BP: Rookie starter Michael Pineda and second baseman Dustin Ackley will each finish in the top 3 of the Rookie of the Year voting. Pineda is absolutely filthy, reminding many of King Felix himself, and Ackley has been much-hyped and won’t be in Triple-A for long. He got on base at a .441 clip this spring.

28. Washington Nationals

BQ: Who will hold down the closer’s spot? Will it be Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen or someone I completely overlooked?

BP: Jayson Werth will be Werth-less. Don’t get me wrong, he will be one of the more productive hitters for the Nats. But don’t expect 2010 numbers. I’m thinking something along the lines of .265, 18 home runs and 75 RBI’s.

27. Toronto Blue Jays

BQ: Can Jose Bautista get anywhere near his 2010 production? I doubt it, but if he does, will he have any help?

BP: The young battery combinations of Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, Ricky Romero, and Brett Cecil throwing to J.P. Arencibia are going to be unbelievable. I’m especially excited to see what Arencibia can do in a full season, and to finally witness the greatness that is supposed to be Kyle Drabek. I’m predicting sub 4.00 ERA’s for all the starters and 20 HR/80 RBI for the catcher.

26. Kansas City Royals

BQ: When will the loaded farm system be promoted? How long do we have to wait to watch a group led by infielders Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers and starter Michael Montgomery try their hands with the big club?

BP: Here comes Alex Gordon! Once one of the elite prospects in the game, Gordon has failed to live up to his lofty expectations. This year I’m looking for 25 home runs and 90 RBI’s.

25. Pittsburgh Pirates

BQ: When will the rotation catch up to the offense? When will the pitchers start holding a lead so Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez’s numbers actually mean something?

BP: James MacDonald will start answering that question. Here’s a guy the Dodgers will surely regret trading; I expect 12-14 wins and 200 K’s out of MacDonald’s electric right arm.

24. Arizona Diamondbacks

BQ: Will they regret trading the power of Mark Reynolds? Sure, they still have tons of offense and Reynolds was on both wrong sides of the number 200 (average under, strikeouts over)…but how appealing does a Geoff Blum/Melvin Mora platoon at the hot corner for a full season sound?

BP: Justin Upton and Stephen Drew will both be all-stars this year. Upton is already an offensive powerhouse, and Drew has been coming along slowly. I expect them both to represent the National League in backup roles come July.

23. New York Mets

BQ: Are they healthy enough to even contend through the summer? Johan Santana, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are all key players that have had injury issues…can they contribute like previous all-star seasons?

BP: David Wright will go 30/30, hit over .300, drive in over 100 runs, and win a Gold Glove. He won’t win the MVP, but he’ll certainly be in the conversation.

22. San Diego Padres

BQ: How important was Adrian Gonzalez to this offense in the long run? Can anyone step up and replace some of his production?

BP: Mat Latos’ numbers will inflate. He’s starting the season on the DL, but when he comes back I don’t expect numbers anywhere near last year’s. I’ll still expect to see 13-14 wins and a sub 4.00 ERA, but he won’t be the man-child many perceived him as last season.

21. Chicago Cubs

BQ: Can Mike Quade bring this team together? Carlos Silva was released, Matt Garza is struggling, their biggest off-season addition was Carlos Pena, who is notorious for flirting with a .200 average, and there’s already been another dugout fight. Can the rookie manager fix these problems in time?

BP: The Cubs will not win the World Series! Oh, it’s supposed to be bold? In that case, Aramis Ramirez is going to drop 25 home runs and knock in 100 runs again. He’s going to re-establish himself as a premier National League third baseman.

20. Baltimore Orioles

BQ: How will new additions like Mark Reynolds, Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero play out under manager Buck Showalter?

BP: The Orioles will finish over .500 and stay in the A.L. Wild Card race until mid-August. I love the young rotation and the offense is suddenly horrifying for opposing pitchers. Complementing the names above, the O’s boast infielders J.J. Hardy, Brian Roberts, Matt Wieters, and Luke Scott, and outfield mashers Nick Markakis and Adam Jones. Yikes, where did that come from?

19. Houston Astros

BQ: How good can Hunter Pence be? Will he build on his .282/25/91 line from last season?

BP: The long-awaited return of El Caballo! Carlos Lee will finally earn his money in Houston with an average around .305, 30 home runs and 110 RBI’s. His defense still won’t be worth a damn, but he’ll be peppering lasers into the short left field porch at Minute Maid Park all season long.

18. Florida Marlins

BQ: Can young sluggers Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison and Chris Coghlan carry over last year’s success?

BP: Mike Stanton’s rookie season was no fluke. He and star shortstop Hanley Ramirez will both launch 30 or more home runs, drive in over 100 runs, and swipe at least 10 bases. This is just an unfair combination of youth and power the Marlins have. Watch out in 2012.

17. Chicago White Sox

BQ: Is this pitching staff really as good as advertised? Mark Buehrle is aging, Jake Peavy is always hurt, Gavin Floyd and Edwin Jackson are inconsistent and new closer Matt Thornton is making the transition from 8th inning to 9th. Can they be good enough to make a playoff run?

BP: Alexei Ramirez is going to really turn some heads. We know he can make spectacular plays in the field and we saw some power flashes on offense last year, but he will be a 20/20 player this year and border on 90 RBI’s. One of the lesser appreciated shortstops in the game right now.

16. Tampa Bay Rays

BQ: How will the decimated bullpen respond? The Rays lost nearly everyone from their stellar 2010 bullpen to trades and free agency. Can Kyle Farnsworth anchor the new, shaky relief corps?

BP: To continue the theme of aging stars having big years, Manny Ramirez will hit 25 home runs and drive in 85 runs this year. He can’t replace the loss off Carlos Pena, but with that DH spot nailed down, he will focus more on hitting and rebound. Big payoff on the risky signing by the Rays.

15. Los Angeles Angels

BQ: When will Kendrys Morales be back? The Angels have a solid offense, but the day they get Morales’ bat back, their chances in the A.L. West improve significantly. Can they even contend without him?

BP: Ervin Santana is going to be in the top 5 for the American League Cy Young voting. The guy seemed to get it all figured out last year after a rocky start, and I only expect an improvement.

14. St. Louis Cardinals

BQ: How far can the 1-2 punch of Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia take the Cards? Losing Adam Wainwright was a huge punch in the gut, but they still have two elite pitchers. Will it be enough to overcome the Brewers and Reds?

BP: Albert Pujols will not be wearing a St. Louis Cardinals uniform in 2012. There would be nothing that I would like to see more than Pujols be a Cardinal for life, if only for baseball’s sake, but I do expect to see him in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore or Texas after this season.

13. Minnesota Twins

BQ: Are they healthy? Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Joe Nathan are their three best players, and they will not repeat as division champs without them. Can they get healthy in time to contend again?

BP: Carl Pavano will get rocked. He’s a good pitcher, but he’s never been consistent enough for my liking. With the added bats in Chicago and the talent in Kansas City, I foresee him getting knocked around to the tune of 12-11 with a 4.50 ERA this year.

12. San Francisco Giants

BQ: Can Mark DeRosa and Pablo Sandoval make up for the loss of Juan Uribe? There really are no questions about their pitching, but they will need bounce back seasons from these two to have a chance at returning to the playoffs. Will DeRosa and Sandoval be productive middle-of-the-order guys?

BP: Matt Cain is going to be a top 3 Cy Young finisher. I’m looking at around 19 wins and a 2.90 ERA. He’s the definition of underrated, and this year he’ll put it all together in a consistent campaign. Mark my words: Matt Cain will be the Giants’ best starting pitcher in 2011.

11. Los Angeles Dodgers

BQ: Will Matt Kemp bounce back? Kemp’s terrible, awful, ugly year in 2010 led to a broken clubhouse, trade rumors and a fourth place finish in the N.L. West. Can he return to his 2009 form and be a top 5 outfielder again?

BP: The two lefties in the rotation will combine for 32 wins and a sub-3.00 ERA. Clayton Kershaw is a dark horse Cy Young candidate this year and veteran Ted Lilly’s career numbers in Dodger Stadium are staggering. The boys in blue will have to rely on these two and the rest of their rotation to pick up an average offense if they want to compete in the National League.

10. Detroit Tigers

BQ: Can Miguel Cabrera stay out of the liquor cabinet? Just kidding! My real question is do they have any starting pitching depth? Justin Verlander is arguably the best pitcher in the league, but after him it’s the very inconsistent, but still young Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello and journeyman Brad Penny. Can they put together enough quality starts to win the division?

BP: Miguel Cabrera will stay sober. Sober enough to finally win American League MVP honors. I believe Cabrera will lead Detroit to the Central title and hit over .330 with 45 home runs and 140 RBI’s. Staggering numbers I know, but he’s more than capable.

9. Cincinnati Reds

BQ: Is there enough pitching to get them back to the playoffs? Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo are all very hot and cold. Will the offense be able to hold off St. Louis and Milwaukee down the stretch?

BP: Jay Bruce is going to reward the Reds for their investment with a gargantuan year. In fact, he might be one of the most dangerous challengers to teammate Joey Votto’s campaign to repeat as N.L. MVP. I’m thinking .300, 34 home runs and 110 RBI’s from Jay will do the trick.

8. Milwaukee Brewers

BQ: Can the improved rotation get the Brewers over the hump to a division title? There are still questions about the health of Shawn Marcum and Zach Greinke, but they have a dominant front three if they are good to go. Will it be enough?

BP: Prince Fielder is going to go absolutely bonkers this year. The Brewers will be very competitive in the Central, the pitching should keep them in games, and Fielder is in a contract year. I predict a line of .285/40/115 for the royalty of the Brew Crew.

7. Texas Rangers

BQ: How the hell will they contend without Cliff Lee anchoring the rotation? Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson don’t necessarily make anyone shake in their boots, although they are good pitchers in their own right. But in an off-season in which they failed to retain Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, pissed off Michael Young and are relying on the unreliable Adrian Beltre, can they get back to the postseason?

BP: Young will outplay Beltre this season. They are both fantastic players. The only difference is you can count on Young to be productive every season, not just in a contract year. Try telling the Mariners that Beltre is worth a big contract. I see Young going with similar numbers as last year: right around .285/22/90. Which should outpace Beltre’s .265/18/75 line.

6. Oakland Athletics

BQ: Are the additions of Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham and David DeJesus to the lineup going to improve their lineup enough to win the division? The A’s have been awful at driving in runs the last few years. Can these veterans get it done?

BP: Gio Gonzalez will win 20 games. Call me crazy, but I would not be surprised if the foursome of Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Dallas Braden combined for 60+ wins. Gonzalez will be a serious contender for Cy Young and finish around 20-7 with a 2.75 ERA.

5. Colorado Rockies

BQ: Are Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin ready to help Ubaldo Jiminez keep the Rockies in it for the stretch run? The offense is a juggernaut, but as always at Coors Field, they need pitching to keep them competitive. Will the number two and three guys in the rotation live up to expectations?

BP: Troy Tulowitzki will be the National League M.V.P. for 2011. The reason this is a “bold” prediction, is because Tulo is competing against the likes of Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and teammate Carlos Gonzalez. Tulo, with a full healthy season, is going to win a Gold Glove and lead Colorado to the N.L. West title with a stat line resembling .325/37/135.

4. Atlanta Braves

BQ: Can they rely on Dan Uggla to supply the power? They will have a more experienced Jason Heyward, a healthy Chipper Jones, and the dependable Brian McCann, but they will probably still lack on the pop a bit. So will Uggla supply 30+ homers to get them into the playoffs?

BP: The injury bug has gotten to Jair Jurjjens recently, but the guy is absolutely dominant when he’s healthy. He had a pretty solid spring. That being said, I expect 12 wins and a 3.50 ERA in a good comeback year for J.J. That will complement Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson and Brandon Beachy in a really, really good rotation.

3. New York Yankees

BQ: Will they get any wins from starters not named C.C. Sabathia or Phil Hughes? Ivan Nova, A.J. Burnett and Bartolo Colon aren’t exactly a scary 3-4-5. Can they pull it off, or will they go out and make a big trade in July?

BP: Curtis Granderson is poised to have a big season. He’s going to have an improved Mark Teixeira, an even better Alex Rodriguez, and the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium. I’m expecting something along the lines of .270/35/90 and 20 steals.

2. Philadelphia Phillies

BQ: My god, it has to be if they will stay healthy? Chase Utley, Brad Lidge and Domonic Brown all have injury questions right now and will start the season on the DL. The Phils have the pitching to cover the missing offense, but can they win it all without those guys?

BP: I don’t know how “bold” this necessarily is, but I predict the big 4 starters will average 17 wins, 180 K’s and a 3.00 ERA this season. That’s why they are the big 4 – the best rotation in a very, very long time.

1. Boston Red Sox

BQ: Is the pitching going to hold up in the playoffs? The lineup is just unfair, but if Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are the only two starters consistently pitching well, they could get upset in the playoffs. So, can Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett and John Lackey help out?

BP: The Red Sox are going to run away with the AL East, and cruise through the playoffs to a World Series title. Now, let’s say they match up with the Phillies, as I expect. They probably won’t have an easy time winning, per se. But with a lineup featuring Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, they should have too much firepower even for the fearsome foursome in Philadelphia to handle.