Spring in My Step

It’s starting to feel a bit like Spring here in Portland. It’s still light outside when I get off of work, March Madness has invaded the Rose Garden, and tonight’s Frequinox party promises to be an intoxicatingly rhythmic ritual. But the surest sign of Spring for me is a live Fantasy Baseball Draft. After winning my keeper league last year, I was unsure if the league would stay together (we’re trying to save it, but we need more Umphreaks!) Still, I always like to play in a fresh new league each year, so I created the Cascadia Baseball League on Yahoo and recruited some friends and past rivals to compete. It’s a 12-team 5X5 Rotisserie League with deep rosters. We filled the last few slots just before the draft, and it looks like a competitive, talented group of players.

Over the past few weeks I’ve developed a pretty solid strategy in ESPN mock drafts. I aim for infielders early as there is much more depth in the OF and at SP. I try not to overvalue RPs. I look for positional flexibility where possible and I try not to get anybody who kills my batting average. Perhaps most important, I have learned to be flexible, because every draft is different and this one was full of surprises. I drafted from the #2 position, which I like better than #1, although I figured I might have to reach here and there when the guys I wanted wouldn’t last another 20 picks. By the end I was happy with my team, but it’s got a much different feel than some of my successful teams of seasons past.

Here’s my round-by-round recap:

1. David Wright 3B – I passed on Pujols thinking I had a better chance of landing a quality 1B later than a 3B.
2. Matt Holliday OF – Move to Oakland won’t hurt as much as some experts think. Considered Berkman, but wanted Holliday more.
3. Johan Santana SP – I never take a pitcher this early, but everybody else had two shots at him and passed. Who am I to turn down a gift?
4. Matt Kemp OF – Missed out on the top tier IFs, but there were some nice OF options here, and I’ll need 5 eventually.
5. Shane Victorino OF – Still too soon for Alexei Ramirez or Troy Tulowitzki, so I went for OF #3, who could approach Sizemore numbers.
6. Rafael Furcal SS – Hoping for a return to health. Best IF option available, unless I wanted to reach for Votto.
7. Francisco Liriano SP – In mock drafts, he was the first SP I would consider taking. Here he’s a solid #2.
8. Robinson Cano 2B – Big drop-off after Cano at 2B, glad he was still there. I’d love more consistency than last year.
9. Joakim Soria RP – Since my strategy was already out the window, why not take the last of the top-tier closers? (Yes, he’s that good!)
10. Yovani Gallardo SP – I struggled with this one, but as my 3rd SP already, I felt comfortable gambling on his upside.
11. Matt Wieters C – I am buying the hype, I guess. He’ll start in the minors, but I can still get a solid C for April later.
12. Justin Upton OF – Another high risk/high reward pick I wouldn’t have made if I didn’t already have quality options ahead of him.
13. Jorge Cantu 1B – Passing on Pujols, Berkman and Votto comes back to bite me here, let’s hope last year wasn’t a fluke.
14. Clayton Kershaw SP – Best of a quality bunch of young arms I could have taken here, including Morrow and Scherzer.
15. Brian Wilson RP – Should have more leads than last year, so another 40 saves is not out of the question.
16. Ryan Theriot MI – Furcal insurance, and good 3-category production this late. Gotta have at least one Cubbie, right?
17. Jim Thome UT – I never take DH-only guys, but I felt I needed the power boost and could afford the speed/average drag.
18. Joel Hanrahan RP – Bad teams win close when they win at all. No one else left on the board has a stronger hold on the job.
19. Cameron Maybin OF – Has job and opportunity, a break out would give me good trade leverage.
20. Ian Stewart CI – Will find ABs and make the most of them, but a healthy Helton could stand in the way.
21. Mike Pelfrey SP – Job is pretty secure and the team will win. More Ks could come.
22. Wandy Rodriguez SP – Same story as Pelfrey, but the Ks are already good.
23. Ramon Hernandez C – Could be good enough in Cincinnati to make Wieters’ performance irrelevant.
24. Casey Kotchman 1B – I don’t like not having a stud at 1B. Still young enough to break out in Atlanta.
25. Armando Galarraga SP – There’s usually good pitching on the waiver wire, so I like having a solid but disposable starter or two.
26. Jesse Litsch SP – See Galarraga, Armando. (Credit where it is due to ESPN’s Matthew Berry, my favorite Fantasy Sports Writer.)
27. Daniel Murphy OF – I’ll take a flier. There’s a reason the Mets didn’t feel the need to spend money on Manny.
28. Jose Arredondo RP – I always like to target a guy with good ratios and closer potential near the end of a draft. This is a last round steal!

Don’t worry, Sounds Good has not suddenly changed to a Sports Blog, I’ll be back to posting more music stuff soon. But I really enjoy the writing of Fantasy analysts like Berry (aka the Talented Mr. Roto) at ESPN, and Brandon Funston and Andy Behrens at Yahoo, so I thought I’d take a stab at doing their jobs. If only someone would pay me to do this!

Mantis – The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Umphrey’s McGee released their new CD Mantis about two months ago, but that was just the beginning of the phenomenon. The band is rewarding its die-hard fans with an unprecedented wealth of bonus material, from the mammoth treasure chest that was unlocked by a successful pre-order campaign, to the monthly gems made available via the Mantis Push website, which can only be accessed with the CD in your computer’s disc drive. As if that wasn’t enough, the band’s blog The Floor is constantly updated with backstage videos, late-night demo recordings and streaming audio, sometimes from that night’s show. I’ll try to keep track of it all here and in future comments to this post.

gal_174_649_e_fullPre-Order Bonus Material

Nearly 70 files of audio and video downloads were made available just after the album dropped. Two box sets could be compiled from the material included here. One (let’s call it The Complete Mantis Sessions) documents the genesis of Mantis, from early demos and unfinished tracks to remixes and the entire CD Release Party set from the Vic Theatre. Like the second disc of 2007’s The Bottom Half, the behind-the-scenes tracks offer a fascinating look at the creative process, even if some of them won’t get a lot of play on my Ipod. The other box set is a mid-career rarities set featuring demos and seldom-heard live material. Umphrey’s McGee makes almost every concert available for purchase, but they managed to hold back a few treats, including holiday benefit concerts, a legendary Taper’s Appreciation Night at Milwaukee’s Shank Hall and an appearance with Bela Fleck on 2006’s Acoustic Planet tour.  

Push Content

February’s download gave us another live rarity from Brendan and Jake’s 2008 Acoustic Christmas concert, the seldom-played Never Cease to Amaze, plus the live debut of Prophecy Now in the middle of an epic Bridgeless in Madison, WI. On St. Patrick’s day, we toasted with the Shank Hall 40s Theme and some guest sit-ins from Bela Fleck, Jeff Coffin and Adrian Belew. And once again proving anyone can join in the fun, they released the Umphrey’s McNES version of 1348, a truly unique fan interpretation of the closing track from Mantis.   

I am hoping the band plans to offer more live versions of the Mantis material, perhaps even a complete live version of the album by the end of the year. Think about this – for the price of one CD, Umphrey’s McGee has already given me a great album plus two box sets and they will continue to deliver hours of free music throughout 2009. Is there a better value for your entertainment dollar than that?


This past Sunday night, I had the pleasure of jamming with the guys from MiMo at the Pub at the End of the Universe. MiMo (Music in, Music out) is a relatively new band in the Portland jam scene, but they are making big strides in a short amount of time. Guitarist/vocalist Jordan Inglee has a contagious enthusiasm for playing and building up the scene. He found me on Facebook and when I told him I was coming to see him he invited me to jam on a few tunes.

I listened to the demo tracks on their myspace page and liked their takes on the Beastie Boys’ instrumental soul groove Sabrosa and Herbie Hancock’s jam-session stalwart Chameleon. Jordan put them on the setlist and sandwiched their original tune Barfly in between. I had heard Barfly on their myspace as well, though it seems to be gone now. It’s a fun latin-flavored jam vehicle with a few quirky stops that I was able to either remember or clue in on. Nick, Devin and Josh created a thick, funky groove that was easy to lock into, allowing me to listen to Jordan’s solo phrasings and interact with some percussive color. Having never even met the guys face-to-face until that night, it sure felt like we had played together more than a few times. I hope it sounded that way, too. 

As I write this I’m reminded of a conversation I had with one of many drummers who have auditioned for Mystic Canyon over the years, one who played really well with us but ultimately never joined. He used to say our music was very intuitive, that was why his playing fit so well. I remember thinking at the time that he had just found a polite way of saying “predictable.” But now that I’ve had the experience of jamming on stage with new friends on a song I had only heard once before, I can appreciate what he meant. Barfly is in no way predictable, but the quirky bits made perfect sense, happening exactly where they ought to happen. Good music can have a way of sounding familiar even when you’re hearing it (or playing it)  for the first time.

MiMo, with my congas, 3/1/09 at the Pub at the End of the Universe
MiMo, with my congas, 3/1/09 at the Pub at the End of the Universe