We Met Meat Loaf!!!

I happened to be on Twitter Wednesday morning when I saw that a local record shop was having an autograph session with Meat Loaf in advance of the release of his upcoming album Braver Than We Are, due out in stores September 16. As you may know, Meat Loaf has been my favorite music artist since about 2001 when I first discovered the original Bat Out of Hell album. Well, I was aware of it prior to that. Mom and Dad had a Meat Loaf record and Mom actually bought the Bat Out of Hell II CD when we first had a CD player on the computer. But something about those eleven-minute ballads really got to me! So I knew I had no choice but to drop everything, skip out of work, and go meet the aging legend of rock. It would probably be my only chance ever!

I picked up Johnny from daycare on the way, because I figured if photos were iffy, they’d have to give in when I came up to the table with a toddler in tow! We waited in a very long line, me holding Johnny the whole time while he watched videos on my phone. Eventually we made it up to the front and had our big chance to meet the legendary Meat Loaf. He shook our hands, signed the album cover we pre-ordered in order to get in line, and posed for a photo. He even gave Johnny a little rub on his head.

The whole thing was being filmed for some reason, and Johnny and I were interviewed afterwards and had to sign release forms. They asked me, “would you say Johnny here is a third generation Meat Loaf fan?” I said “yes, of course!” They said, “please state the whole sentence so we can use it in the video.” So I repeated “I would say Johnny here is a third generation Meat Loaf fan!” They asked “why did you find it important to bring your toddler son along to meet Meat Loaf?” I said “because Meat Loaf is his favorite! I sing Bat Out of Hell to him as a goodnight lullaby!” And that is true, I really have done that! But Meat Loaf is not Johnny’s favorite, Kermit the Frog currently is.

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Johnny Glanzer, Ryan Glanzer, and Meat Loaf get acquainted at Waterloo Records in downtown Austin, Texas on Thursday, August 4, 2016.

Anyway, that’s one thing off the old bucket list! If you had asked me which one living famous person I would most want to meet, I would have said Meat Loaf. He is the only person that seems larger than life, like a mythological creature or something. And now I’ve met him! I suppose the next on my list will be any current or former US president; I’ve still never met a world leader aside from South Dakota politicians like Tom Daschle or Bill Janklow.

Hard to believe this man is still recording albums, acting, touring, and doing these meet-and-greet events as he pushes 70 years old. I hope the new album is a hit! With Jim Steinman back on board as the songwriter, I have no doubt it will be amazing.

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Meat Loaf signed the booklet of his new album “To Johnny. Cool! Meat Loaf”

Tiny Tot Presentation

13631684_1297405003610692_8199529438023879407_nEach family must volunteer 10 hours per school year for Johnny’s daycare. Our family’s time commitment has now been met, thanks to Dad! (I’m sure Lauren would have helped too but I was just so god damned eager to jump in!) First I designed the logos for their little Mother’s Day t-shirts, and then I was coaxed into coming in and giving a presentation on the northern states of our country. Well that’s not true. I signed up for it, and then followed through when asked to do so. Technically these things took only like 5 hours total, but I think they’ll let it slide.

Back when I was a kid, the dads (Reverend Greg Van Heukelom aside) just never did these things. Every time there was a classroom holiday party or something, it was only the mothers that came in. I can’t imagine my dad, Rick Hovde, Mike Korbel, Jerry Brower, or Myron LaMont having come into our third grade classroom and helping organize Halloween games or something! Either times have changed or I’m just an oddball.

I spent much of Wednesday night writing a speech and preparing a PowerPoint presentation with lively photos to dazzle the children’s minds. I also went on some Mommy blogs and found out how to make fake snow (baking soda + shaving cream + freezer) and decided to dress up in all my winter gear.

I walked into the room and there were 20 tiny tots sitting in a big circle waiting for me. Johnny spotted me and happily marched over and sat next to me. He acted so much different in school than at home… so weird to see. I immediately ditched my 3 pages of speech and just went through the 50-slide PowerPoint presentation and talked about all the pictures, mostly from South Dakota and Minnesota, but I had to mention all the northern states. The kids were in fact blown away by my Ziplock bag of “snow” and all laughed when I put on my ski mask, scarf, mittens, etc. Imagine some authority figure walking into a daycare and seeing a large man in a ski mask standing in the middle of the room.

One girl kept raising her hand. “Um, Mr. Ryan??? Um, a bear tried to eat me once… but I got away.” “Um, Mr. Ryan??? I saw a wolf in the woods once… and um, he was making FIRE!!” The teachers were like “Hey! Remember what we talked about? Be a role model.” After I told the kids how long it takes to drive in a car from Austin to Carpenter, one kid was like “umm, if you took a spaceship… into space… um, you could go to the moon, like, a lot faster.” Uhh… sure, kid.

The kids were very glued in for the first 5-10 minutes but after that they started talking over me and many got up and wandered off. Nevertheless, it wound up being pretty fun. The teachers were all very impressed and asked me to come back again someday.

5 Years in ATX

It’s been FIVE years this week since we relocated to Austin, and it’s time for my annual assessment! I had written three different posts for this, each with about 25 revisions. But in the end I decided to just simplify.

I’ve realized that Austin is a great city that meets or exceeds just about all of our needs. I can–and do–often bitch about the heat, of which I’m very ill-equipped to handle (just try strapping a squirmy toddler into a carseat with a heat index of 110º), and the fact that traffic is bad, but that’s really about the end of my complaints. I’ve tried to make Austin out to be the bad guy in the last two years, but there’s not a lot bad you can say about the city non-weather or infrastructure related. Austin has been good to us as we have had successful careers here and raised Johnny.

But that’s not to say I want to stay.

No, the main problem I have after five years with Austin is that it’s 1,161 miles from Minneapolis, and I now know that’s where would much prefer to be. I think I used the same word last year to sum up my feelings, and that is “disconnected.” Aside from Lauren and one other random friend, every other person I’d ever met in the first 29 years of my life lives hundreds or thousands of miles away. And to go back even for a few days with a toddler takes months of planning and thousands of dollars.

We’re not the only ones to relocate here. Two of our best couple friends both moved here from out-of-state as well. But in one case their parents moved here too, and the other moved here with several other college friends, plus a side of their family is within driving distance. Another relocated-to-Austin friend convinced his cousins to move here. I had one other co-worker who moved here from Virginia who was totally solo and knew no one, but last year she–for a lot of the same reasons as I’m describing–went back to Virginia. We’re like the only people I know here who are here totally on our own. And for some reason that bugs me a lot.

I mean this will be the sixth straight Fourth of July where we’ve been here on our own. I’m not saying my friends or family from South Dakota and/or Minnesota are doing something TOTALLY AMAZING that we can’t attend, but to never spend holidays with them is crappy. My brother and sister both have new houses I’ve never seen. Lauren’s family has a cabin on a lake they all frequent. And ticket prices at Target Field are cheap now!

I think Lauren and I have generally the same feelings on the subject, only my timeline is NOW NOW NOW and Lauren is much more logical and saying “let’s give it a couple years and see what happens.” We are both also open to living in a different new city someday. I would totally be up for moving every five years. But right now I just have this urge to get back to Minneapolis, and I’m sorry but that’s just the way I feel.

Having said all of that, I’m doing well. I’m not some blubbering mess. I have lots of fun here and, well, we’re parents now anyway so it’s not like I’d be gallivanting all over town. We get regular visitors passing through here.

Anyway, this was my annual chance to share my many emotions with you all. To sum up my feelings after five years–Austin’s a great city especially now that the rock-throwing bandit is off the streets, but I miss the Upper Midwest–Minneapolis specifically. We’ll be here another year or two barring some unforeseen incident, so check back in 2017 for my 6-year review.

Tattoo

They say you can take the boy out of the Midwest, but you can’t take the Midwest off the boy’s chest. I think that’s the saying. Well it’s true.

So I went and got a tattoo Monday night! It was both short-sighted and years in the works at the same time. Struggling with occasional home sickness for three years, I’d long been toying with the idea of getting the state outlines of South Dakota and Minnesota as a reminder of my humble upbringing, but the outlines themselves seemed very boring. South Dakota is nothing more than a rectangle with a few little juts here in there on the eastern side. Minnesota is a much more recognizable shape, but nothing particularly interesting either. Even as a professional graphic designer, I could absolutely not think of any way to make these designs more interesting, like filling them in with a road map, license plate, or state symbols, and not look weird to me.

On a whim Saturday I was driving by the local tattoo shop and just swung in to feel it out and the guy was like “sure I can take you back right now!” I balked at that idea but did schedule an appointment for Monday.

I decided to put the two states together as they appear geographically and just leave them as the plain old outlines for now. I can always fill them in with something later on. I also decided to have them done on my chest. If it was on my back I would never be able to see it. This may not have been the greatest placement because anytime I move my arm South Dakota gets warped/stretched. In order for it to look right I have to be seen perfectly still. And soon my chest hair (I shaved it in that area) will grow back and Minnesota will be covered and probably less visible. But then again how often do I go running around shirtless? No one is going to see it unless I’m swimming or get sucked into the porn industry to make ends meet.

Anyway, Mo at Steadfast Tattoo did a fine job and I was in and out in under twenty minutes. I have a very low tolerance for pain, but it was relatively painless. Much less so than someone popping a zit on my back.

It really isn’t much to see. But like I said I will someday think of some way to get it filled in with something more interesting.

The fresh new tattoo in the shaved area of my chest.

The fresh new tattoo in the shaved area of my chest.

Seattle

Over Memorial Day weekend, Lauren, Johnny and I flew out to Seattle to meet up with Mom and Dad for a fun vacation. Why Seattle? Because I wanted to go somewhere COOLER than Austin. And I have long wanted to visit Seattle. And the Twins were playing the Mariners. Also because meeting the Glanzers somewhere fun sounded, well, more FUN than us going there or them coming here. That’s something we’d like to do more of in the future, as long as we’re living in Austin–meet up with family or friends at neutral destinations where it’s new and fun for everyone, just like we did with Walsh and Sarah in Mexico half a year ago!

The flights to and from Seattle were interesting. We’ve flown with Johnny a half-dozen times now, but not in the past 9 months. It was simple before–he was a baby, he just sat there and spaced out and nursed or played with jingling keys. Now he had a real attention span and just sitting there isn’t going to cut it. Thank goodness Lauren bought some sticker books–Johnny had me plastered with stickers by the time we touched down in Seattle. On the way home he slept during takeoff. Our plane took a detoured path to fly right alongside Mt. Rainier! It was the most amazing sight I’ve ever seen on a plane. It wasn’t below us or off in the distance. It was RIGHT alongside the plane. I was in the aisle and struggled to see past the two people to my left, but got a decent glimpse. It felt like we were dangerously close to the mountain. What a view.

We chose to rent a house from Airbnb rather than rent a hotel. Our house was in a ritzy well-to-do area of town and featured steep hills, picturesque greenery and great city and nature views. The house itself was nothing particularly special, but it was fine for the five of us, save for the fact that there were no curtains and the sun BLASTED in starting at 3:45am every morning, meaning Johnny woke up way too early. While we enjoyed our time there, the home owner chewed me out afterwards for leaving a mess including what he believed to be a vomit-stained pillow. It was Johnny’s pouch, but I absolutely didn’t want to get into a big confrontation with this guy and put a damper on the trip, so I just paid his outrageous fee, gave him a less-than-stellar review and tried to forget about it.

Johnny’s sleep was the only problem of the trip. He woke up for good at 3:30, 3:45, 4:30 and 5:10 the four days, compared to his usual 7am. I expected him to be thrown off going two time zones west, but not that much. That meant whichever of me and Lauren woke up with him had to nap later in the day just to stay afloat. A number of times on the trip, pure exhaustion just set in. Lauren came home the final night to find me sleeping on the hardwood floor in the living room using a couch cushion for a pillow.

Safeco Field was the 14th Major League stadium I’d visited and it didn’t disappoint. Safeco is renowned for having some of the best concessions and THE best beer selection of any stadium in the league, and I did my best to try them all. The roof was closed, but the stadium was nice–right along the same lines as Minute Maid Park and Miller Park, in my book. Our seats were field level right down the third base line, though we didn’t come close to any action. The Twins pulled out a thrilling 5-4 win, shockingly sweeping the Mariners on the road in what has been an otherwise awful season.

I think we all really liked our time in Seattle. For me, I was in absolute heaven weather-wise. Cool, drizzly and overcast almost the entire time. The day we were leaving the sun came out and to my amazement a bunch of mountains were suddenly visible from our rental house and the nearby parks! It would have been a great day to explore, but I was happy with the way things went. Mom especially was freezing the whole time. It wasn’t the warm vacation she may have envisioned! I truly believe I could get on board with Seattle weather full-time. If a return to Minneapolis isn’t in the cards in the coming years, I think I would happily discuss Seattle as a worthy Plan B.

Here’s a list of everywhere we wound up visiting. I doubt many of these restaurants made Seattle’s “must try” lists, but I will give us credit for going off the beaten path and trying things for ourselves. I think it gave us a truer taste of the city.

Thursday, May 26
Pike’s Market – the most ballyhooed Seattle landmark.
Von’s Gustobistro – lunch and cocktails. I thought it was the best restaurant of the trip!
Whole Foods – because we needed to stock up on baby supplies and beer for the house.
Via Tribunali – got takeout from a woodfire pizza place which left a bit to be desired.

Friday, May 27
The 5 Spot – really good breakfast with hearty portions and a bourbon pie for dessert!
Kerry Park – best view of Seattle and a modern playground.
Northwest Folklife Festival – stumbled through a large city festival.
Seattle Children’s Museum – it was no Thinkery, but Johnny had fun.
Space Needle – didn’t pay to go up, but was fun to see from the bottom.
Queen Anne Beerhall – neighborhood German fare and beers.

Saturday, May 28
The Hi-Life – breakfast spot that was the sister restaurant of 5 Spot. Had no idea.
Westlake Center – Mom and I ventured out to find her a warm sweatshirt.
Discovery Park – took a long, hilly hike down to the beach. It was hard work.
Theo – a chocolate factory that Lauren actually considered working for in the past.
The Barking Dog Alehouse – neighborhood dive bar with decent food.
Purple Cafe and Wine Bar – late night wine and apps.

Sunday, May 29
Top Pot Donuts – tasty donuts from Seattle’s favorite chain.
Safeco Field – Twins vs Mariners… highlight of the trip for me!
Ten Sushi – last chance Hail Mary for local sushi… not the best I’ve had.

Monday, May 30
Queen Bee – coffee for the road.

Family enjoying a cool day in Seattle.

Family enjoying a cool day in Seattle.

An enhanced image of our rental property. Couldn't have asked for anything more picturesque.

An enhanced image of our rental property. Couldn’t have asked for anything more picturesque.

Little buddy prepares to leave on Monday morning. What a cute fella.

Little buddy prepares to leave on Monday morning. What a cute fella.

Johnny meets Mariner Moose.

Johnny meets Mariner Moose.

Momma, Johnny, and a pretty tipsy Poppa after the Mariners game.

Momma, Johnny, and a pretty tipsy Poppa after the Mariners game.

Johnny freaks out when Gutierrez cranks a 2-run homer off Jepsen in the 9th to pull within a run.

Johnny freaks out when Gutierrez cranks a 2-run homer off Jepsen in the 9th to pull within a run.

Nothing beats a ballgame with Grandpa and Grandma!

Nothing beats a ballgame with Grandpa and Grandma!

Pregame view of Safeco Field.

Pregame view of Safeco Field.

Mom, Dad, Dave Niehaus's statue, and me.

Mom, Dad, Dave Niehaus’s statue, and me.

My first pregame beer. Exploring a stadium for the first time is my favorite.

My first pregame beer. Exploring a stadium for the first time is my favorite.

Johnny and Grandma get to know one another over some Elmo.

Johnny and Grandma get to know one another over some Elmo.

Momma and Johnny emerge from the dense woods.

Momma and Johnny emerge from the dense woods.

The family at the halfway point of what was a grueling hike.

The family at the halfway point of what was a grueling hike.

Momma and Johnny along what I guess could be considered the Pacific Ocean.

Momma and Johnny along what I guess could be considered the Pacific Ocean.

The beach we hiked to... not the greatest reward at the end of a long hike.

The beach we hiked to… not the greatest reward at the end of a long hike.

Love this shot of Johnny on the beach throwing rocks.

Love this shot of Johnny on the beach throwing rocks.

The gang had no idea what they were in for at the beginning of this hike!

The gang had no idea what they were in for at the beginning of this hike!

Grandpa and Johnny at the Queen Anne Beerhall.

Grandpa and Johnny at the Queen Anne Beerhall.

Me being dumb at the Space Needle.

Me being dumb at the Space Needle.

The family at the Space Needle.

The family at the Space Needle.

Grandma and Johnny on the Kerry Park slide.

Grandma and Johnny on the Kerry Park slide.

Seattle from Kerry Park.

Seattle from Kerry Park.

The family at Kerry Park, just down the street from our house.

The family at Kerry Park, just down the street from our house.

Seattle in all its glory.

Seattle in all its glory.

Johnny and the grandparents near our rental house.

Johnny and the grandparents near our rental house.

Hold hands for safety!

Hold hands for safety!

Johnny's first beer of the trip.

Johnny’s first beer of the trip.

Grandma and Johnny browse the Von's menu.

Grandma and Johnny browse the Von’s menu.

Wow, lotta liquor. Do they have E&J brandy though?

Wow, lotta liquor. Do they have E&J brandy though?

Starting off the trip heading to Pike's Market.

Starting off the trip heading to Pike’s Market.

Pike's Market, pretty dead on a Thursday but quite the scene inside.

Pike’s Market, pretty dead on a Thursday but quite the scene inside.

Big Four! I think? Me, Lauren, Mom and some stranger.

Big Four! I think? Me, Lauren, Mom and some stranger.

Cute fella in his collared sweater get-up.

Cute fella in his collared sweater get-up.

FUN times on the plane with Big Bird!

FUN times on the plane with Big Bird!

What a good little flyer.

What a good little flyer.

A slow, wet slide.

A slow, wet slide.

Gramps and Johnny

Gramps and Johnny

Bedtime Setlist

I have had to switch up my daddy bedtime ritual of late due to various reasons. I used to be able to rely on him sucking down a warm bottle of milk in my lap and that would put him to sleep. But lately I’ve had to resort back to his infantile days of singing him to sleep. And it’s working! The only problem is I have to come up with songs off the top of my head.

Here was tonight’s setlist, at least what I can remember. He was pretty much sleeping around #8 but I kept going to be sure.

  1. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” – Wizard of Oz
  2. “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Love You” – Dean Martin
  3. “Maggie May” – Rod Stewart
  4. “Time After Time” – Cyndi Lauper
  5. “Everlasting Love” – Howard Jones
  6. “More Than Words” – Extreme
  7. “On Bended Knee” – Boyz II Men
  8. “Tell Me It’s Real” – K-Ci & JoJo
  9. “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive” – Travis Tritt
  10. “The Right Side of Wrong” – Bon Jovi
  11. “All Through the Night” – Welsh lullaby

Update: Night 2 Setlist

  1. “Dancing In The Moonlight” – King Harvest
  2. “Neon Moon” – Brooks & Dunn
  3. “That Summer” – Garth Brooks
  4. “Hair of the Dog” – Nazareth
  5. “Thank You For Loving Me” – Bon Jovi
  6. “All Through the Night” – Welsh lullaby
For some reason this shot of Johnny tonight at dinner doesn't even look like him. Caught him at just the right moment after he flirted with the third straight waitress. He literally had two waitresses feeding him. What a charmer.

For some reason this shot of Johnny tonight at dinner doesn’t look like him. Caught him at just the right moment after he flirted with the third straight waitress. He literally had two waitresses feeding him. What a charmer.

Rebuilding Our Yard

When we bought this house in 2012, one of the things that drew us to it was the immaculate backyard. I mean just look at this yard back then! We were sold.

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Four years later, well… it doesn’t look as great. The house was of course on the market so the previous owners no doubt went the extra mile to get it in tip-top shape, but it was clearly well maintained. And here is what it looks like today.

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All of the grass has died, those above-ground planters are totally rotted out, and the little island with the rocks surrounding it is overgrown with weeds. It hasn’t been totally our fault though. Last spring’s flood washed all of the grass away and we each spend most of our free time working (me with freelance, Lauren just a continuation of her normal job). We just don’t have time to spend maintaining that yard that requires a lot of maintenance.

It’s not just the backyard either. The front yard is a bit of a mess itself. All those cast iron plants in front of the house got frostbit at some point and look awful. We don’t have time to maintain that huge strip of sidewalk along the side of our house. Think about it, I would have to weed-eat along the curb for half a block, then back along the outside of the sidewalk, and then back again on the inside of the sidewalk. Plus the same on the front of the house three times over.

But we have decided to get off our keisters and get this yard looking nice again.

The first step was knock out the easiest things. Like that giant hole in our front yard from last year when we had that tree removed. For like 8 months it’s been a big patch of wood chips.

BEFORE: This is what our front yard looked like for months and months. How hard would it be to fill that back in?

BEFORE: This is what our front yard looked like for months and months. How hard would it be to fill that back in?

So this morning Johnny and I set out to Home Depot to buy a few squares of St. Augustine sod and some soil and get this hole covered. It literally took about 30 minutes of work. Dig up the wood chips. Lay down some soil. Lay down the sod squares. Pack it down. Water. Done. Hopefully it lives and grows.

Here's what it looks like after I covered the hole with the sod. We saturated it with water and packed it down.

Here’s what it looks like after I covered the hole with the sod. We saturated it with water and packed it down. Mind you, this is like 18 minutes in, so it may all die and look like shit in a week.

 

Next, it was off to the backyard. I want to build Johnny this sandbox and we decided it should go where those rotted out planters that we don’t use are sitting. Johnny and I set out to buy a crowbar and we came home and tore up those planters. Well, we really didn’t need the crowbar. The wood was so rotted I mostly just picked it apart and threw it in a pile.

I threw all the rotted wood planks and stakes into a pile... TBD what I'll do to dispose of this within city limits.

I threw all the rotted wood planks and stakes into a pile… TBD what I’ll do to dispose of this within city limits.

Next, I guess we’ll take shovels and a wheelbarrow and scatter all that dirt across the rest of the dirt in our yard. And then maybe we’ll rent a tiller and till it all up and see if we can seed that dirt and get some grass growing again, even though the lawn expert I consulted told me there was a 0% chance we could grow grass back there given the extreme heat + heavy tree shade, at least not without running up a shocking water bill.

Those planters were sitting on a concrete slab. That is where the sandbox will go. Johnny, as any 19-month old boy would be, is a big fan of playing in sand/gravel/dirt and right now he’s just picking up fistfuls of dirt near the kitchen door and bringing it inside and tossing it on the floor. Hopefully a dedicated sandbox will provide him with hours of entertainment.

If we can’t get grass growing, I am seriously considering having artificial sports turf installed. We were at a playground recently and were standing on some turf. It looked really nice and was so soft and cushy and I wondered if it would work in a yard. Sure enough, you can buy real used NFL or NCAA football turf and have it installed for as little as 38 cents per foot. It looks fairly real, there’s zero maintenance, zero water bill, and it cleans off easily. The installation would be expensive but would be a one-time fee. Over time it be more economical. I’m not sure what it would mean for resale value though. I like the idea of it, but would most people? Lauren hates the idea of rocks/xeriscaping/mulch so our options for backyard greenery is very limited.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. I didn’t intend to write that much about our yard. Despite having been a groundskeeper at a cemetery for a few years in high school, I know very little about lawn maintenance and gardening, so I welcome any tips and advice anyone may have about anything I’ve discussed!

Bert & The Broken Teapot

First there was Grover’s Bad, Awful Day. It received critical acclaim from many friends, family, and co-workers, so I set out to do one more Sesame Street rewrite. I found the perfect book, too: Bert & The Broken Teapot. There was something about the image of Bert standing in Luis’s shop holding a brown paper sack that screamed “I have to make this about Luis thinking Bert is delivering drugs!” and then another picture of Big Bird holding what appeared to be a flask. It was perfect.

Unlike the Grover story which was a bunch of observations thrown together, this one is a bit more of a cohesive story… and I’m of course using that term loosely.

Now before you go calling me out on ruining a beautiful children’s story, know this: I cherish Sesame Street very much. I grew up on Big Bird and even to this day I enjoy watching Sesame Street episodes or video clips with Johnny. Yes, Elmo and Abby’s takeover of the show has soured things a bit for me, but I am a huge fan of Jim Henson and the Muppet universe and all of these timeless characters. Anyway, I don’t want you to think I am making fun of Sesame Street. I hold these characters very dear to my heart.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy. I certainly laughed maniacally to myself as I wrote it.

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Ryan’s 2016 MLB Predictions

The Twins’ moderate success in 2015 was a big surprise. I thought they’d be awful, and instead they stayed in the Wild Card race until the final weekend of the season. Yes, 83-79 was a big improvement, and no doubt new manager Paul Molitor had something to do with that, but I give a huge amount of credit to Torii Hunter being in the fold. Not so much what he did on the field, but I am a big advocate of teams having a great clubhouse guy and veteran presence like Torii on the team. With Hunter’s retirement, I am afraid the team could fall back to its’ 2011-2014 days where a few losses could spiral out of control and doom the team for the season. Or perhaps Hunter’s words of wisdom had a lasting impression on this young team—a team in which all of its players in the entire organization are younger than me. That’s really quite astounding that there’s not even one middling veteran in the minors over the age of 33… and a bit depressing.

However, I think if the Twins can replace or improve upon Hunter’s production in the lineup, they can make up for his lack of vocal presence. A full season of Miguel Sano will be huge, and I’m liking what I’ve seen from Byung-ho Park in the first few weeks of spring training. Maybe that will make up the difference, or maybe I’m overselling what Hunter’s presence brought to the team.

In the difficult AL Central, I just don’t see this group of guys emerging as the division champs. The Tigers are once again all-in, the Royals are obviously the defending champions, and the Indians boast the best rotation in the AL. The White Sox look improved, but that’s what I said about them last year too. I could see the Twins sneaking into third place ahead of Cleveland, but more than likely I think they finish fourth ahead of only Chicago.

Next year, however, they could finally be the favorites. The Tigers will begin to have a very old, overpaid team that could hamper their efforts for years. If the Indians young rotation does break out, they may not be able to afford to keep them together, much like the Royals will undoubtedly be going through as early as next year with their core. The Twins have the best farm system in the division, if not the league, and 2017 could be the year they push for the division, and 2018 could be the year they challenge for a World Series appearance.

A hot start to the season could change the outlook though. The Twins have buried themselves in the standings in the opening week every year since 2010. They haven’t won on Opening Day since 2008. I think if they can come home from their opening road trip 4-2 and maybe start out 7-3 or so, they could build some confidence and have another surprising year.

In the end, I’d be happy with a .500 mark again, but I think it’s a long shot. My official prediction: 77-85, fourth place in the division.

As for the rest of the majors, things never seem to go the way I expect. Last year I was only able to predict 4 of the 10 playoff teams correctly. There are five teams this year that everyone expects to be absolutely terrible—the Braves, Phillies, Reds, Brewers, and Rockies. One of those teams will probably overachieve and be in the mix for a playoff spot. And there are five teams everyone is certain will be contenders—the Royals, Dodgers, Cubs, Pirates, and Cardinals. Chance are one of those teams has a losing record.

Rarely have things gone my way in baseball. I have been cheering for the Twins for a quarter-century now and have one playoff series win to show for my dedication. So I am left to believe that the very things I want to happen least are the things that will happen. That is why I’m picking the San Francisco Giants to win the World Series this year. It’s an even-numbered year after all. They won it all in 2010, 2012, and 2014, so of course they’ll do it again in 2016.

The AL is a bit tougher to predict because not one team is a punching bag this year, just like last. I could make a case for all 15 teams making the playoffs. The Royals seem like a good bet to make it back to the World Series for a third straight year, but the Red Sox, Rangers, and Tigers are all in the mix for me as well. Not coincidentally, those are the 4 AL teams to appear in a World Series this decade.

With that, here are my official predictions at the standings.

AL East W L GB NL East W L GB
Toronto 92 70 NY Mets 92 70
Boston* 87 75 5 Washington 88 74 4
NY Yankees 86 76 6 Miami 78 84 14
Tampa Bay 84 78 8 Philadelphia 65 97 27
Baltimore 78 84 14 Atlanta 60 102 32
AL Central W L GB NL Central W L GB
Detroit 93 69 Pittsburgh 97 65
Kansas City* 92 70 1 Chicago Cubs* 95 67 2
Cleveland 86 76 5 St Louis* 91 71 6
Minnesota 77 85 16 Milwaukee 68 94 29
Chicago WS 76 86 17 Cincinnati 61 101 36
AL West W L GB NL West W L GB
Texas 85 77 San Francisco 98 64
Houston 84 78 1 LA Dodgers 90 72 8
Seattle 80 82 5 Arizona 83 79 15
LA Angels 77 85 8 Colorado 69 93 29
Oakland 77 85 8 San Diego 66 96 32

 

AL Wild Card: Kansas City def. Boston
NL Wild Card: Chicago Cubs def. St Louis

ALDS: Texas def. Toronto, Kansas City def. Detroit
NLDS: 
San Francisco def. NY Mets, Pittsburgh def. Chicago Cubs

ALCS: Kansas City def. Texas
NLCS: 
San Francisco def. Pittsburgh

World Series: San Francisco def. Kansas City

AL MVP: J.D. Martinez, DET
NL MVP: Kris Bryant, CHC

AL CY: David Price, BOS
NL CY: Gerrit Cole, PIT

AL MGR: Brad Ausmus, DET
NL MGR: 
Clint Hurdle, PIT

AL ROY: Byung-ho Park, MIN
NL ROY: 
Kenta Maeda, LAD

AL HR Leader: Chris Davis, BAL, 50
NL HR Leader: Nolan Arenado, COL, 48

AL Batting Champion: Manny Machado, BAL, .341
NL Batting Champion: Bryce Harper, WAS, .338

Grover’s Bad, Awful Day

One of my favorite books as a little boy was Grover’s Bad, Awful Day. In the story, Grover simply encounters a lot of misfortune but it all ties up nicely at the end thanks to his supportive Mommy. I was reading this book to Johnny the other day and couldn’t help but ask so many questions in my head… Exactly how old are these characters supposed to be? If you’re in play group, that would indicate you’re not even in kindergarten yet, so why are you walking there without parental guidance? And most importantly, WHERE ARE YOUR CLOTHES?

Then I got a brilliant idea… I’ll re-write the book myself!

I was able to easily take photos of the book, and using Photoshop’s handy Fill > Content Aware tool, take out the text and leave the background. Then, I popped open a beer, kicked back, and let the imagination juices take over. I laughed maniacally to myself as I wrote this. I shared it with a few select people who I thought would appreciate the humor, and most everyone gave me glowing feedback.

I was going to keep this just to myself, but what the hell… here is the first installment of Ryan’s Sesame Street Redux!  (Download the whole PDF here if it’s easier: Download PDF.)

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