Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Some cold Ice T

I've heard a number of people over the years make a comment akin to, "isn't it odd/funny/ironic/hypocritical that Ice T wrote Cop Killer and then played a Detective [Odafin "Fin" Tutuola] in Law & Order: SVU?" The short answer is no.

The long answer is that Ice T is an entertainer, and he does whatever he wants so long as it entertains (and makes him money). He went into rapping and then other music because he wanted to express himself (and earn money). He branched out into acting for the same reasons. That Laurence Olivier played a Nazi in Marathon Man and then a Nazi hunter in The Boys From Brazil doesn't make him a makes (made) him an actor. Ice T himself played a cop in New Jack City the year before Body Count released Cop Killer.

The moral of the story is, people have to stop looking at art and entertainment as propaganda. Even when it has a "message," most of the time it's someone's personal expression. I figure that when Ice T sat down to write Cop Killer, he was trying to share his anger, tell a story, provoke his audience, and sell some records. He was not trying to convince 16 year olds to shoot police officers. Or as this article spells it out:
In the spring of ’92, mere weeks before the King riots, another hip-hop anti-hero matched NWA’s ante. Ice-T, an Army veteran, retired pimp and rap’s self-professed original gangster (his 6 ’N the Mornin’ predates Straight Outta Compton by a year), had taken the unusual step of fronting a heavy metal band, Body Count. Together they released Cop Killer, a thrashing attack on inner-city policing. Bursts of gunfire underscored the song’s venomous lyrics:

Cop killer, better you than me
Cop killer, f--- police brutality
Cop killer, I know your momma’s grievin’ (f--- her!)
Cop killer, but tonight we get even

The American mainstream was horrified. U.S. vice-president Dan Quayle called Cop Killer “obscene.” Sixty members of Congress signed a letter to Warner Bros., Body Count’s record label, slamming the song as “vile” and “despicable.” After an estimated 1,500 U.S. stores pulled the band’s self-titled album from their shelves, Ice-T announced that the song would be removed from all future copies. He refused an apology, though, citing his First Amendment right to free speech. “I’m singing in the first person as a character who is fed up with police brutality. I ain’t never killed no cop. I felt like it a lot of times. But I never did it,” he told reporters. “If you believe that I’m a cop killer, you believe David Bowie is an astronaut.”

Monday, April 28, 2008

NL West 2008 Predictions

Arizona Diamondbacks - 92 wins
Los Angeles Dodgers - 88 wins
San Diego Padres - 86 wins
Colorado Rockies - 79 wins
San Fransisco Giants - 70 wins

ARI: I wish I had posted this four weeks ago when I finished my advanced scientific calculations, because then I wouldn't look like I was just piggybacking on the Diamondbacks' early season success. However, this team, which scored only 30 or something runs last year, has a very solid offense that will carry them well. Chris Young (.252 EqA - equivalent average) has the potential to be a very tough hitter, leading an offense with Eric Byrnes (.277 EqA), Conor Jackson (.277 EqA), and Mark Reynolds (.275 EqA). Those are all guys that can easily give you 20 homers and 90ish RBI. What makes this team really impressive is the pitching. Brandon Webb (.296 OBPA - onbase percentage against, 7.4 K/9 - strikeouts per nine innings) is a beast, Dan Haren (.292 OBPA, 3.49 K/BB - strikeouts per walks ratio) has great control, and if Randy Johnson (5.54 K/BB in 56 2/3 IP) can give them some innings, and if Micah Owings (.326 OBPA) can be servicable, you have a potent pitching pyramid (if they were stacked up on top of each other, with the fattest one on the bottom). Brandon Lyon (1.82 K/BB, 4.9 K/9) doesn't impress me.

LAD: I'm sure the Dodgers are the favorites to win the West, but fuck 'em. I still like Jeff Kent (121 OPS+ - adjusted OPS), Matt Kemp (.294 EqA) can be solid, and Russell Martin (113 OPS+) is one of the better catchers in a league full of crappy ones. Even if Andruw Jones (.251 EqA) has a comeback year, you still have Juan Pierre (75 OPS+) and Rafael Furcal (76 OPS+) bringing down the run scoring opportunities. I do like their pitching, to an extent. Hiroki Kuroda is a question (23.3 projected VORP - value over replacement player), as is the previously injured Jason Schmidt (125 ERA+ in 2006). Brad Penny (.325 OBPA, 1.85 K/BB, 5.8 K/9) doesn't strikeout as many as we are led to believe. Derek Lowe (.308 OBPA, 2.49 K/BB) and Chad Billingsley (.322 OBPA, 8.6 K/9) are decent enough. Takashi Saito (.209 OBPA, 10.9 K/9) and Jonathan Broxton (10.9 K/9, 3.96 K/BB) help spearhead a nice bullpen.

SDP: A great pitching staff is very important, but it can't overcome a meh, eh, or bleh offense. San Diego offers a fragrant blend of all three. You have Brian Giles (109 OPS+), Kevin Kouzmanoff (109 OPS+), and Josh Bard (107 OPS+), which are acceptable, but don't offer much in terms of power. There's Adrian Gonzalez (.293 EqA), but even he will be dwarfed by Petco Park. Enough about the hitting, though; the pitching is where the Padres shine. Jake Peavy (.272 OBPA, 3.53 K/BB) is a dominant ace, and Chris Young (.281 EOBPA) is a respectable #2. There's definitely something to like about the aging Greg Maddux (.309 OBPA, 4.16 K/BB), too.

COL: Remember when Colorado went to the World Series? Not so much this year. Matt Holliday (.318 EqA), Todd Helton (.310 EqA), and Brad Hawpe (.297 EqA) all had amazing seasons, but it wouldn't be shocking to see them regress a little. When I figured out my prediction, though, I didn't factor in any regression. The reason I predict them to win so few games has to do with this pitching. Jeff Francis (.332 OBPA, 2.62 K/BB) is their top of the rotation guy, and he's really better suited as a #2. Aaron Cook (3.3 K/9, 1.39 K/BB) can't strike anyone out, and Ubaldo Jimenez (7.5 K/9, 1.84 K/BB) can't stop walking people. Manny Corpas (.280 OBPA, 2.90 K/BB) and Brian Funtes (155 ERA+) round out a nice bullpen (at time of publication, Fuentes has replaced Corpas as closer...take that as you will).

SFG: If there is a more laughable team in Major League Baseball right now, they are only slightly more of a joke than the Giants. The offense in San Fransisco is putrid. Abysmal. Ridiculous. Their best hitter is either Aaron Rowand (.294 EqA, career 106 OPS+) or Randy Winn (.274 EqA, career 101 OPS+). They may be glad to be rid of Barry Bonds, but they'll miss his production at the plate. The Giants also claim to be building young, but the only young pieces of any real interest for 2008 are Tim Lincecum (.308 OBPA, 9.2 K/9), Matt Cain (.312 OBPA, 7.3 K/9), and Jonathan Sanchez (10.7 K/9). Barry Zito (1.58 K/BB) is another long term contract bust, but if the Giants can get something decent out of him, they may be able to squeeze out a few extra wins (as of publication, it appears Zito has been moved to the Brian Wilson (.258 OBPA, 2.57 K/BB) is good enough to be a closer for the Giants.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cherry blossoms and tulips

(P.S. - I didn't forget about my NL West picks. I've been getting hundreds of emails about it from prisoners across the country, so just to placate you, here are my rankings for 2008: Arizona 92 wins, Los Angeles 88 wins, San Diego 86 wins, Colorado 79 wins, San Fransisco 70 wins)