It’s been a Minnesota minute since we last chopped it up with our pal Sluggo. This weekend Atmosphere kicks-offs their Welcome To Florida tour, so it only made sense to mix it up once again as we talk music, touring, Obama and his dislike for Larry David. If you haven’t already checked out Southsiders, you can now stream the album on Spotify or cop on the Tunes. –Opinionated Jay

Philaflava: It seems like Atmopshere has this 3 year plan with each release since Seven’s Travels. You drop an album, tour, make music and boom, three years later we got another studio release. Are you still on that path?

Slug: Not sure. I can’t say that we’ve intentionally held on that structure. We always end up putting out extra music between album cycles. I think we just hand shit in and the label talks to itself about when it wants to release the music.

Philaflava: We’ll soon be coming up on a year (6/5/2014) since the Southsiders album dropped. Looking back, are you happy with the response the album received from both the critics and fans?

Slug: I’m genuinely happy with how Southsiders was received. The handful of friends that I absolutely needed to understand it, did understand it. I’ve been on this little red wagon long enough to embrace that we have no control over how strangers interpret our crap. One thing I did notice from reading the reviews was that the age of the critic was maybe-kinda-possibly a factor this time? It seemed like younger writers didn’t care for it, whereas some of the older writers at least tried to understand it and say something nice or constructive about it. I believe that’s par for the course.

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First I gotta say, congratulations to the San Francisco Giants because they not only made this series extremely memorable, but what they’ve accomplished in the past five seasons is truly awe-inspiring. Not that Bruce Bochy wasn’t already a lock for the HOF, but I have to think this championship propels him into the greatest managers of all-time discussion. At the very least, he has to be among the 15 greatest managers in the history of the sport.

But before the parade begins, it seems like talk radio this morning is already taking a huge piss on them with this “dynasty” talk. Are they a dynasty? Well how can they not be? They won 3 World Series titles within 5 years. That is unheard of. I would like think they are now a dynasty, right?

So how can people quickly dismiss this? Well, the fact is, they weren’t the best team in baseball this year. They weren’t even the best team in their own division. They were 6 games out of 1st place to end the season. They weren’t by any means a dominating team this year. Buster Posey had a very good year. Hunter Pence had another Hunter Pence kinda year. But aside those two, you could say this team battled a lot of injuries (Belt, Cain, Morse) and some very underwhelming performances. If you could define the 2014 Giants, you would have to say this was all about Madison Bumgarner. He single-handedly carried this team to the playoffs and then to the World Series and then to their 3rd championship. The bullpen certainly deserves some credit too because when Bumgarner wasn’t pitching, the team relied heavily on Machi, Romo, Petit and Affeldt.

All of this is part reason why a lot of people many people dismiss them as being a “dynasty” team. In all fairness, apart of me understands that. The Giants were not a dominating team, full of dominating players. They had piece players and got hot at the right time and found a way to win. If Bumgarner didn’t set the record with 48 2/3 IP, then I think we all can agree none of this would have happened.


In recent years, there has been several dynasties but let’s take a look at two in particular.  The San Francisco Giants won 3 championships in 5 years. Within those 3 seasons they won a total of 274 times.

From 1988-1990, the Oakland A’s  won just 1 championship, yet they appeared in 3 consecutive World Series. In those 3 seasons they won a total of 306 times. Where is this going? Well, they were a bona-fide dynasty team because they appeared 3 consecutive years in the World Series. They weren’t just the best team in their division, they were the best team in the American League. They were the best team in all of baseball for that matter. The difference between the A’s dynasty years and the Giants are 30 more wins.  The A’s featured some of the greatest players of our era; Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Dennis Eckersley and considering all things, even Jose Canseco. They were pure dominance from start to finish and that is why despite just 1 ring within those 3 years, they are considered a dynasty.

Since the 00’s, The New England Patriots are more of a dynasty than the New York Giants. Doesn’t matter the outcome of those Superbowls, the team (Pats) were just a better team, with better players, better coaching, better records and had more success consistency than the Giants. In 98-00, The New York Yankees went to the World Series and won all of them back-to-back-to-back. That was a truly dominating dynasty team.

So what’s this all mean? Nothing. A dynasty is a dynasty is dynasty. Just like there will always be better teams, coaches, players, movies, flavors of ice cream or dime pieces. We can dissect all the different reasons why the Giants, a team full of many unspectacular players, that are kind of reminiscence of a AAA team are not the best dynasty team we’ve seen. We can talk about how just 1 person is truly responsible for their recent success but we can also talk about how they find ways to win. How their 2nd best pitcher (Cain) had season-ending surgery and didn’t give this team more than 90 innings pitched all season. We can talk about how former 2x CY Young award winner Timmy Lincecum hasn’t even been the same guy in over 3 seasons now. Despite his recent no-hitter, he was pretty much a non-factor for the Giants as he pitched all of 1.2 innings this entire World Series. E-40 did more for Giants baseball this World Series than Timmy L. Baseball is unlike any other sport. The best teams don’t always win. This year two wild card teams found their way into the World Series. That’s the beauty of the sport.

Some other takeaways I have after this World Series…

Just last month I ranked Madison Bumgarner #10 among the best pitchers in baseball. Some questioned it, but I’m really thinking the separation between him and Kershaw is a lot closer than you think. Maybe its hyperbole. But careers are made in the post season and at age 25, Bumgarner is just about to get even better. Having success when it counts (post season) means a lot. It’s why I value guys like Curt Schilling higher than most HOF voters do. Clayton Kershaw is still the best pitcher in baseball, but after these past weeks, I think Bum went from star to super-star status. He is 1 year younger than Kershaw. They both have similar frames. Both throw lefty but Kershaw has thrown significantly more pitches than Bummy so in a few years we might be seeing a change at the throne.

This much I know. If I’m a manager and I need to pick one of those guys to pitch for me in the World Series, I would be taking Bumgarner every fucking time. That’s gotta mean something.

Lists in general are silly and subjective, but they’re a lot of fun to create. I comprised this list based off what I feel are the current best pitchers in baseball. Some might be currently injured, some had bounce back years and some suddenly became stars. My criteria is skill, consistency, competitiveness and of course statistics. While somebody can say both Corey Kluber and Garrett Richards had amazing break-out seasons, you could even argue that Kluber deserves to be included in this years CY Young conversation, I would just have a hard time saying he is a better pitcher than say Jose Fernandez or Matt Harvey simply because of one season. So while injuries certainly didn’t help a few of these guys with their rankings, I won’t discredit pitchers for recent health concerns unless it was career-threatening. This is my list of the 50 best pitchers in major league baseball. Thanks to Pitcher GIFs and Pitchcraft for the swag and whatnot.

1. Clayton Kershaw

Hands down the very best pitcher in baseball since Pedro Martinez or Randy Johnson. He is on Koufax levels right now and the separation from him the rest is a hell of a lot.

2. Felix Hernandez

A workhorse who has been on a shitty team (up until recently) that received little run support for years. If he was in a major market he would be more appreciated for his talents, such as his wicked circle change. While Kershaw is in a league of his own, King Felix is the 2nd best pitcher in the game and easily the best AL pitcher and has been for many years now.

3. Adam Wainwright

Another true workhorse who may not have the flashy appeal as Kershaw or Felix, but consistently puts in brilliant season after season for St. Louis. A real finesse guy that is pleasure to watch, especially when he throws that cutter. He even reminds me a lot like Roy Halladay too.

4. Chris Sale

His freakish delivery and pitching repertoire makes him the most exciting pitcher to watch. He is just untouchable on most nights. I don’t think people realize just how great Sale really is.

5. Yu Darvish

He has more pitches than anyone I know and all of them are pretty spectacular. Fastball, sinker, slider, change-up, curve, you name it. They’re all nasty.

6. Johnny Cueto

The past 4 seasons his ERA has never even touched 3 (2.29 this season). What he is doing, even after the injuries he’s had is remarkable. He is Pedro-like this year and entering his prime he should continue this dominance.

7.  Jose Fernandez

If not for his TJ, Jose would easily have been among the top 4 pitchers in baseball. Stanton didn’t save the Marlins, this guy did. There is no doubt he’ll collect a few CY Young awards before his career ends.

8. Cole Hamels

After Kershaw and Sale, Hamels is probably the best LHP. He is stunted by playing with an anemic offensive team like the Phillies, but pound for pound, he has one of the best change-up in the game. 200+ innings  5 years in a row now.  And he is getting better with age (30).

9.  Max Scherzer

Everyone is expecting a decline but instead he put up a 6 WAR again and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down whatsoever

10. Madison Bumgarner

Just 24 and hasn’t even hit his prime yet. If 2015 is anything like 2014 he should jump up a few spots with ease.

11. David Price

Price was in beast mode 4 years ago then started to show signs of wear and tear, but he battles and keeps you in games. That is, unless it’s the post season.

13. Jon Lester

Unappreciated. He always pitched in tough divisions. Not as gifted as Cole Hamels but his post seasons numbers speak for themselves.

14. Masahiro Tanaka

Show me you’re healthy and you can do this for a few seasons in the MLB.

15. Matt Harvey

Again, TJ set him back and I fear with the pressures of New York and his warrior mentality he is either going to be a top 5 SP or become another Mark Prior.

16. Zack Greinke

A little bit of a pussy but is doing great things with LA. Maybe the best #2 in the NL.

17. Corey Kluber

A 4th round pick in ’07 that came out of nowhere. Reminds me of another big guy that used to play for the Tribe who wear a lot of Air Jordans on the mound. Let’s see if he can keep this up.

18. Stephen Strasburg

I keep hoping he’ll figure it out like Verlander did because he is a great pitcher who can and probably will be among the very best soon. Quietly having a fantastic year despite his inconsistencies.

19. Aroldis Chapman

Nobody throws heat like this man. If he played for a good team he would have 45+ saves and 125k’s yearly.

20. Julio Teheran

21. Andrew Cashner

I might have a man crush on Cash despite looking like a True Blood reject too, but I think he can actually stay healthy he’ll be one of the best pitchers in the NL.

22. Justin Verlander

I refuse to write him off (yet). His last few outings have shown signs of promise. He is just tired and having too much fun in his personal life. He is a guy who will adjust (like Cliff Lee did).

23. Cliff Lee

The question remains; is he a legit ace still or has he hit a wall? Last year at age 34 he was one of the best SP in all of baseball. We’ll see.

24.  James Shields

Every team would love a pitcher like Big Game James plugged in their rotation. He is the epitome of a gamer.

27. Garrett Richards

25. Jeff Samardzija

He is the reason why win is a meaningless stat for pitchers.

26. Tyson Ross

An under-the-radar kinda player (because of SD) but a true ace and about to enter his prime with lots of strike-out potential.

27. Gerrit Cole

Just 23 and in his 2nd seasons. There is no reason he can’t be ranked 10 spots higher next year. He has a ton of potential.

28. Dellin Betances

The future Yankees closer might resemble a WWE wrestler but he can throw a curve like Doc Halladay.

29. Zack Wheeler

Ranked higher then the next few because of his age and potential. Surely, any GM would take Wheeler at age 24 over most people remaining on this list.

30. Jordan Zimmermann

31.  Jered Weaver

Say what you will about Weaver and his decline, he still manages to put up respectable numbers (18-8. 200 IP, 164 k) and is a seasoned vet who can lead his team to the World Series.

32. Yordano Ventura

Not only is he figuring git out, he is lights out too.

33. Dallas Keuchel

34. Michael Pineda

When he is healthy he is filthy. Reminds me of the early years of Francisco Liriano.

35. Sonny Gray
36. Alex Wood
37. Lance Lynn
38. Homer Bailey
39. Phil Hughes

40. Michael Wacha

Injuries set him back a bit, but the true #2 on the St. Louis Cards if you ask me.

41. Chris Archer
42. Chris Tillman
43. Greg Holland
44. Henderson Alvarez
45. Kenley Jansen

46. Rick Porcello

Still very young in pitcher years and is becoming a top middle of the rotation pitcher.

47. Alex Cobb
48. Jacob deGrom
49. Wade Davis
50. Tanner Roark

There has always been a certain fascination with rookies. I think many of us are still that way today, but instead of card collecting its collecting prospects in fantasy baseball leagues. In the 90s there was no shortage these type of players. You had Todd Van Poppel, Brien Taylor, Jerome Walton, Kevin Maas, Steve Decker, Sam Horn, Mark Whitten, Bob Hamelin, Jeffery Hammonds, and of course “Big” Ben McDonald.

Per Wikipedia.

A collegiate star at Louisiana State University in both basketball and baseball, McDonald, who stands 6’7″, led the 1988 US Olympic Team to a gold medal, winning complete games against host South Korea and Puerto Rico. During his three-year college career at LSU, McDonald twice helped his team reach the College World Series. He gave up a notable walk off grand slam to Stanford’s Paul Carey in the 1987 series.[1] His best collegiate season came in 1989, which he finished with a 14–4 record, a 3.49 ERA, and a Southeastern Conference record 202 strikeouts. That year, he was selected as a member of the All-America team, and he won the Golden Spikes Award.

Back then many kids opted for school over early growing pains in the minors, so when McDonald was drafted in the 27th round in 1986, he decided to further his education and development as a pitcher by attending LSU. As you can tell, most GMs were sporting semis in the June draft, but he didn’t last very long going 1st overall to Baltimore Orioles. He was not only major league ready, but he was suppose to be what Randy Johnson had later become; a towering flame thrower who had an arsenal of pitches to go along with his notorious fastball.

So what the fuck happened, right?

Well he played for 9 seasons, but really only pitched in 8 of them. He did manage to become a 10-game winner 4x. His best season came in ’93 when he went 13-14 sporting a 3.39 ERA and struck-out 171 batters. That was it though. Not many highlights for the rest of the career and certainly nothing close to the hype that surrounded him when starting out. His cards sky-rocketing in 1990. You couldn’t find an UD rookie card for less than $5, sometimes as high as $12. He was gracing the cover of every magazine and was suppose to be the future ace of the O’s, that later Mike Mussina would end up being. Ben McDonald came in 8th in the AL ROY voting. Sandy Alomar won the honors and Kevin Maas, Kevin Appier, John Olerud and Kevin Tapani finished out the top 5. Soon after the ’91 season those same rookie cards kids were trading for were slowly finding their way in the common bins. By the mid 90s he has lost all of the luster and was labeled an official bust.

Growing up collecting baseball cards is nothing new for most 80s babies. The evolution of a child was titty or pacifier then somewhere after a few years of this pre-school bullshit we got into trading sport cards. As a little pup you look up to athletes. You want to be them and the closest thing we had was owning a piece of them on paper. Baseball cards not only defined my youth but it got me into my first love — baseball. To this day I haven’t left it, despite the numerous heartaches it has caused me throughout the years.

I was very impressionable in my early years, especially around 10 years old. That is when every kid has posters on his walls of famous athletes or musicians . They aspire to rock the dopest kicks (then Jordans) and make sure when their tapes popped it was the latest jam (then Public Enemy).

I remember one day reading (really looking) a Sports Illustrated issue that featured then hot prospect Gregg Jefferies. I should have known it was going to be duped because who really spells Gregg with 2 g’s anyways? Insides the S.I., he was pictured swinging bats in a pool. From that moment on, I always took swings in a pool. This guy was suppose to be the new __________. A sure thing. The savior of the New York Mets and really baseball.  This actually might have been the issue I’m referring too.

So what happened to Gregg Jefferies? To his defense, I will say he did log 14 years of service, with a little over 1400 games played. But did he really save New York baseball? Keep in mind, this is years after the Mets World Series. The Yanks weren’t all that great besides Donnie Baseball. The sport didn’t have a young can’t-miss prospect like we have now. Jefferies was literally a superstar at age 19 before his took his first major league swing. He had a respectable career but really his best years came 6-7 years after his debut while playing  in St. Louis. He was an all-star those years, his only all-star appearances mind you. He later went on to play for a few more teams like Philly, Detroit and Anaheim. He never lived up to his potential. He certainly wasn’t the next Pete Rose. He was more like Bernie Madoff because of all of the money he took from poor naive children like myself. We believed in him, the future and the ROI. We’re left with nothing but a fucking pile of paper cards worth dick. Thanks pal.


Next up: Ben McDonald



In my 30+ years of collecting cards, I’ve never so captivated to a design as I am with the ’65 Topps. There has been plenty of great designs thought-out the years, but none greater than the vibrant, simplistic and classic design Topps created for their 1965 series.

Being an ’80s baby, there’s an awful lot of sentimental reasons as to why ’85, 86 or the wood-trimmed ’87 stand out appeal to me. Of course you had brands like Donruss and Fleer doing wonders too, especially during ’85-87 era. I’m sure a lot had to do with the associations we have with some of those years or players for that matter. Who can forget collecting every star rookie cards, all-star rookie gold cups, draft picks, future stars and rated rookies?

What are some of your favorite baseball card designs?


The Roots – …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

I’m the biggest Roots apologist there is, but there is no defending this album. If I didn’t know any better I would think this was put out strictly for contractual reasons. Some avid fans will probably deem this another experimental release but clocking in at 33 minutes, 11 tracks total, why is Black Thought only on 3 tracks? He is heard for 4 out of the 33 minutes on this album. Imagine buying concert tickets to a Rolling Stones show and Mick only comes out for a few songs and then disappears? This album is severely disappointing from a group that rarely disappoints.

Key Tracks: Understanding, Tomorrow, The Dark (Trinity), When The People Cheer

 Atmosphere – Southsiders

If you’ve enjoyed the progression of the last few Atmosphere albums then you’ll probably enjoy this. While this isn’t as melancholy as the others, both Slug and Ant definitely let us know they’re all growns up on Southsiders. At first, you might be uncertain of its direction. You may not even fully appreciate the release as a whole, but this is an album that continues to get better with each listen.  I’ve read a few people label this “dad rap,” but I’m gonna go with mature rap on this one. Some of the writing is phenomenal, whereas some lines come off a bit feeble. The good stuff is really good, the little filler there  is just that and the obligatory tracks are more than sufficient. Slug is at his best when he is story-telling, which is why Flicker will hit everyone hard, even those unfamiliar with Eyedea.

Key Tracks: Camera Thief, Arthur’s Song, Southsiders, Mrs. Interpet, Fortunate, Kanye West, Flicker


 Open Mike Eagle – Dark Comedy

OME is a thinking man’s rapper. If you’re unfamiliar with him, Dark Comedy might hit you like a ton of bricks and take several listens to truly decipher.  The album covers everything pertinent in our society, yet, the rhymes are delivered in an extraordinary and entertaining manner to help guide you through this 13 track release.  Open Mike Eagle is flourishing on this 4th release and Dark Comedy will most definitely be a favorite among all the critics this summer. With a good sense of humor and sense of self, it’s hard not to root for Mike.

Key Tracks: Qualifiers, Golden Age Raps, Very Much Money, Doug Stamper, Idaho, Informations


Intuition & Equalibrum – Self-Titled

Longtime collaborators Intuition and EQ deliver their first full-length album. If the term “summer release” ever made sense, it would apply this album. EQ does work on here that should propel him from an internet based producer, to just a well-known producer in hip-hop. Intuition has never sounded so good and while most of the tracks highlight his sarcasm, he is equally as straightforward and sincere too. This album is one of those you can let ride out and it’ll have you in just about every possible mood before its over.

Key Tracks: Weight Is Gone, Ain’t The Blues, Best Fool, Make Better, 1st Day of Summer, Imagining

People Under The Stairs – 12 Step Program

If there is one thing Thes One and Double K are really good at, it’s making their albums fun. This might be their best release since the 2002 O.S.T. for what it’s worth. You know what you’re getting with the P.U.T.S. gang, really fresh beats and forgettable lyrics. Their sampling game, however, is nothing short of phenomenal. On 12 Step Program, they get back into their b-boy steez and remind us of why we liked P.U.T.S. in the first place. Come winter, it might be a little difficult to play an album like this, so enjoy it now.

Key Tracks: Roundabouts, 1 Up Til Sun Up, Cool Story Bro, Pictures On My Wall

Meyhem Lauren & Buckwild – Silk Pyramids

Silk Pyramids sounds like it would be the name of a Raekwon album and after hearing lead-off track 100 MPH featuring Action Bronson, you can tell how just influential Rae & Ghost are to Mehyhem and Action. Buckwild is still criminally underrated as a producer. Meyhem is still criminally slept-on as a rapper. Together, they made one criminally underrated album that if I told you was a shelved album from the mid-90s, you’d probably believe it.  Not many rappers of today can duplicate that distinguished sound of the 90s, maybe Roc Marci, maybe Joey Bada$$, maybe KA, but definitely Meyhem Lauren.

Key Tracks: 100 MPH, Salmon Croquettes, Narcotics Anonymous, Where The $ At, Silk SHirts And Yellow Gold

Blueprint – Respect The Architect

I first heard Print on Aesop Rock’s “Alchemy,” which was off his ’02 Daylight EP. If was from that moment on I realized I was a Print fan.  Respect The Architect is a total of 10 tracks, well 1 intro, so 9 tracks and a minute under 30 minutes total. It’s considered a LP, but the average consumer won’t help but feel like they just bought an EP. What they did buy is one of the best releases of the year. It’s a clean album, crisp boom-bapish production that is very reminiscent of his 1988 release. An earnest album that’s an easy listen and guaranteed to please any Print fans.

Key Tracks: True Vision, Overdosin’, Once Again, Respect The Architect, Bulletproof Resume, Silver Lining

They really do. Fries are the kind of food you can eat no matter what. Have you ever noticed no matter how stuffed you might be, it’s hard resisting those fries left on your plate? Fries are truly the perfect compliment food to any and all meals. They’re universally loved. In Canada, they have poutine, which is basically fries, cheese curds topped off with hot gravy. In some Asian countries, they blend ketchup and chill sauce together for their dipping pleasure.

In Europe, you may find mayo or garlic sauces used, but here in the U.S. we love us some Heinz 57.  The options are endless — salt and vinegar, hot sauce, Sweet Baby Ray’s or maybe some Old Bay sprinkled on. I grew up on some Boardwalk Fries (Thrasher) but also love me some chilli fries as well. Who doesn’t love a basket of fries with melted cheeses and bacon bits? What kind of fries do you like? Steak fries, waffle fries, curly fries, Cajan fries, wedges, shoestring or crinkle-cut?

You may have a preference but really none of them are bad. It’s like a blow job. Below is a list of my top 10 meals with fries. Feel free to post yours.


1. Cheeseburger with fries inside the bun
2. Chicken wings and curly fries
3. Pizza with steak fries
4. Spicy chicken sandwich with fries inside the bun (preferably waffle from Chick Fil A)

5. Fried chicken with fries
6. Any hot deli sandwich (like Primanti Brothers) with fries inside

7. Fried seafood with fries
8. Philly Cheesesteak with shoestring fries inside
9. T-Bone steak with fries dipped in blood
10. Grilled cheese with fries inside

Atmosphere just dropped another track off their forthcoming Southsiders. All pre-orders of Southsiders comes with a bunch of goodies like stickers, shirts, digital downloads and its  even autographed. Plus it will ship earlier than the official street date (5-6-14).

The new single is titled “Kanye West” and can be found below, as well as in our OpJay’s Atmosphere Mix. And if you haven’t already read our in-depth Slug interview, you can by clicking here.

01 : Camera Thief
02 : Arthur’s Song
03 : The World Might Not Live Through The Night
04 : Star Shaped Heart
05 : I Love You Like A Brother
06 : Southsiders
07 : Bitter
08 : Mrs. Interpret
09 : Fortunate
10 : Kanye West
11 : We Ain’t Gonna Die Today
12 : My Lady Got Two Men
13 : Flicker
14 : January On Lake Street
15 : Let Me Know That You Know What You Want Now