For Boston Red Sox fans like myself, the past two weeks have been nothing short of an emotional roller coaster - feelings of heart-wrenching disappointment, laughable embarrassment, and maddening frustration - as the defending World Series champions fell into a 10-game losing skig - the longest in team history since 1994. And though they’re not the first team to have such a streak just one season after winning it all, only two teams in MLB history (1951 New York Giants & 1982 Atlanta Braves) have made the playoffs after losing 10 games in a row during the season.
But now we’re getting ahead of our selves, because yesterday, it all ended. In a rain-delayed, come-from-behind win over the Atlanta Braves, thanks to the suddenly revived bats of David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, the streak ended.
And yet, even in victory, there is no time to celebrate. Last in the American League East with a 21-29 record - eight games back of the division leading Toronto Blue Jays - now is a time of reflection for the team.
How did this happen?
In an effort to answer that question, here are ten surprising statistics from the Red Sox’s historic losing streak:
Outscored by opponents 26-52. It’s impossible to win if your opponents put more numbers on the board. And while the Red Sox did manage to score four or more runs in four of the ten losses, they also scored one or fewer runs in another three. Not to mention they never led after the 7th inning of any game during the streak.
Batted .213 as a team*. Including only the players (12 total*) with 15 or more at bats between May 15-25, the team combined for a dreadful .213 batting average. Six players, including Jackie Bradley, Jr., David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, David Ross, Grady Sizemore, and Shane Victorino batted below the Mendoza Line (or below .200). Meanwhile, Boagarts - who is likely to be moved/replaced by recently signed free agent Stephen Drew - rose to the occasion and recorded a .368 average in the 10-game period.
Outfielders combined to go 17-102 (.167 AVG). Especially terrible during the streak were the performance of every Sox outfielder - Bradley, Jr., Johnny Gomes, Sizemore, and Victorino. Infielders fared only just better though, hitting a combined .234 overall.
Only 6 balls left the yard. Compared to the 11 dingers hit by Red Sox hitters in the previous ten games before the losing streak, Ortiz, Napoli, Gomes and others struggled to power the ball over the wall - usually Boston’s calling card.
Only 18 hits went for extra bases*. Just like home runs, extra base hits were also down for Boston batters during the losing streak compared to the previous ten games (32 XBH). It’s hard to score runs when no one’s in scoring position.
Left 72 runners on base. But what’s even harder is scoring runs when you can’t drive in the runners that do get in scoring position. During the streak, the Red Sox were 14-71 (.197 AVG) with runners in scoring position - worse than the team batting average. That’s not going to put numbers on the board.
Batters averaged 9 strike outs per game. The equivalent of everyone in the lineup striking out once every game, pitchers sent 88 batters back to the dugout after three pitches during the 10-game losing streak. The Red Sox could barely make contact, let alone hit a double or even a home run.
Starting pitchers averaged less than 5.2 innings per outing. Unfortunately for Boston, hitting wasn’t the only struggle during the losing streak - pitching was just as awful. Allowing 38 earned runs themselves, starters barely made it out of the 5th inning, putting pressure on the bullpen to pull the weight. In fact, of the ten losses, only half saw a Red Sox starter last six or more innings - Clay Buccholz (5/15), Jake Peavy (5/18), Jon Lester (5/22 & 5/24), and John Lackey (5/23).
Pitchers combined for 34 BB & 1.56 WHIP. While the starting rotation often failed to do its job, the bullpen wasn’t much help. Combined, the Red Sox pitching staff allowed 34 walks and combined for a walks plus hits per inning pitched of 1.56. Basically, if the previous statistic didn’t get the point across, the pitching stunk.
Four players were placed on the 15-Day DL. And yet, in hindsight, it’s somewhat understandable how such a streak occurred. With Will Middlebrooks, Felix Doubront, Victorino, and Napoli (twice, if you include his day-to-day notice on 5/15) all on the disabled list, Boston was forced to call up prospects to fill in the gaps - a tough position for any struggling team.
I’m a firm believer that you can learn from the past and your experiences. And for the Red Sox, I know this will leave a chip on players’ shoulders for the rest of the season - regardless of what happens. They may have lost ten straight, but the streak is over, and I believe so is the turned leaf of the still defending World Series champions.
According to recently released Census Bureau estimates, populations in two out of every three Greater Cleveland cities and villages have fallen since 2010. And not surprisingly, the city of Cleveland itself has seen the largest decline, falling 1.7% as of July 2013.
But for a city that hasn’t celebrated a major sports championship in 66 years, can you blame Clevelanders?
The Cleveland Browns haven’t had a winning season since 2007 and haven’t made the playoffs since Tim Couch was under center back in 2002. Sure, the franchise is hoping Texas A&M golden boy, Johnny Manziel can work his magic and earn the franchise just their fourth .500 or better season in 25 years, but he’s only a rookie and has yet to beat out Brian Hoyer for the starting job.
Then there’s the Cavaliers.
The Cavs saw some success before LeBron James took his talents to South Beach in 2010, reaching at least the Conference Finals for five straight seasons (2005-2009), but have put together an absolute dismal 97-215 (.311 Win%) record ever since. Kyrie Irving has played well, but Anthony Bennett averaged less than 5 points in his first season in the NBA, and it’s doubtful another first overall draft pick - the team’s third in four years - is enough to put the Cavs back in the winner’s circle.
And of course, who could forget the Cleveland Indians?
The last Cleveland sports team to win a major sports championship (they defeated the then-Boston Braves in the World Series in six games way back when in 1948), the Indians have been the most consistent of the big three, having qualifyed for the MLB post-season in 8 of the last 20 seasons - including a shutout loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2013 Wild Card game. Yet even the franchise’s overall .509 win percentage doesn’t appear to be enough for Clevelanders - the fans want more.
Unfortunately for fans though, it appears they’ll have to wait another year for “more.” As of today, the Indians sit 6.5 games back of the Detroit Tigers - dead last in the American League Central with a 24-26 record. But Indians fans do have something to cheer for: the early success of outfield duo and The Cleveland Show's biggest stars, Michael Brantley and David Murphy.
Because while Clevelanders are busy drooling over Johnny Manziel in pads and licking their chops at the first pick in the NBA draft, the Indians are putting on an offensive clinic. Lead by the bats of Brantley and Murphy, the Indians are currently ranked in the top half of the 30-team league in runs (214, 7th), batting average (.252, 14th), on base percentage (.329, 6th), and slugging percentage (.398, 12th).
The team leader in nearly every major batting category (with a minimum 100 at-bats), Brantley is making a statement in early 2014. Having played just 48 games this season, the left fielder is already one home run shy of his 2013 total (10) and hitting at his highest average since his rookie year in 2009 (.313, in only 28 games).
League-wise, Brantley ranks in the top 30 in batting average (29th), home runs (20th), runs batted in (T-7th), runs (T-16th), slugging percentage (21st), and on base percentage (25th).
For Brantley’s teammate, while fans were busy fleeing the city, Murphy found his way to Cleveland after a down 2013 campaign with the Texas Rangers. But, the 32-year-old looks to be back on track in his new home 46 games into the season, hitting on par with his eight-year career numbers.
And though Murphy doesn’t lead the team in any major batting category, like Brantley, he too ranks among the MLB’s top 30 in runs batted in (18th) and runs (T-21st); his batting average, home runs, and slugging percentage rank inside the top 100 - 78th, T-78th, and 65th, respectively.
Together, Brantley and Murphy have brought hope back to Cleveland sports - if not just provided a temporary distraction before the NBA Draft and NFL season.
Either way, keep your chins up, Clevelanders, The Cleveland Show is on.
At my Department of Communication commencement, NPR Producer and Virginia Tech alumni Rob Ballenger stood at the podium and addressed my graduating class. After congratulating us on all of our accomplishments, he asked us a question commonly asked during job interviews: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
It’s a tough question, asking one to seemingly predict the future, but Ballenger (who has worked in news reporting, public speaking, public relations, and broadcast on both coasts for more than a decade) offered us another way of thinking about it.
Instead of answering “Where do you see yourself in five years,” he suggested we flip the question around and instead ask ourselves, “Five years ago, did I see myself sitting where I am today?”
For Ballenger, the answer was an obvious “no,” and by a mere show of hands, the answer was the same for the majority of my graduating class and myself.
And so I began to think back, back to before I stepped foot on Virginia Tech’s campus as a freshman in the fall of 2010. During my senior year of high school, my AP Statistics teacher, Mr. James Dow asked our class to write a letter to ourselves - four years in the future. He told us he would hold onto our letters and mail them to us when we graduated college.
At the time, I remember I did not know where I would be living in four years (let alone six months) as my parents were anticipating selling our house, but he told me he would hold onto my letter regardless and get the address from me later.
I never thought about that assignment again - until just a couple weeks ago when a childhood neighbor (who also graduated from college this year) texted me asking for my new address. She said Mr. Dow needed to send me a letter.
Today I received and read that letter for the first time in over four years. Here is what I wrote:
This is a time of much change for you and your family. Vicki (my sister) is getting married and moving out to Seattle and you are about to start college at Virginia Tech. Mom and dad are getting the house ready to sell and have no idea where they will end up - Virginia, [North Carolina], even Florida. All they know is they want to go somewhere cheaper than Maryland (and that has at least a pool, if not [a] beach). You hope to go into construction management at VT, but are still unsure of what major fits the best to accomplish that. All you know is you want to own a company someday and build your dream home. Senior year has seen its ups and downs, but having 3 [class periods] was always nice. You learned a lot in the [Montgomery College] class you took - [and] did very well. Friends are not so important as you see the beginning of a new chapter at VT and anxiously await an exciting new start in life.
Joe Kriz, 5/3/10
And what a chapter it has been.
Four years ago I knew I would be moving away from the town I grew up in, knew I would be attending Virginia Tech with the intent of becoming a construction manager, and knew that better times were just around the corner. But had someone asked me “Where do you see yourself in five years?,” I never would have thought I’d be sitting at my parent’s home in Suffolk, VA as a recent Virginia Tech graduate who spent the last three years studying public relations and marketing.
If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that you never know what might happen in your life - tomorrow, next week, or next year. And so just as Ballenger did in his interview with NPR, the next time I’m asked “Where do you see yourself in five years,” I’m going to give an honest answer: ”I don’t know.”
The surge in social media and networking over the past decade has forever changed how we consume and share information and communicate with others. Social networking is inherently social—but what happens when the users are removed from the network? For many student-athletes at colleges and universities across the nation, that is exactly what is happening.
Pressured by possible National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sanctions, fearful athletic programs have begun placing restrictions and, in some cases, blanket-bans on student-athletes and social media. Underlying these regulations is the private-public dichotomy of college sports and the First Amendment right to free speech they infringe upon (Walsh, 2011).
Policies that restrict speech of students—online or otherwise—present obvious free speech issues (Santus, 2014). However, while public colleges are subject to the First Amendment and must protect the student’s rights to freedom of speech, the governing body for major college athletics, the NCAA, is not a government actor and therefore is not subject to the First Amendment (Walsh, 2011). Private universities are also not bound to the First Amendment, but may be bound by state laws or contractual agreements that give students similar free speech protections (Santus, 2014).
This puts college athletic programs in a difficult position. If a program chooses not to regulate the social media use of its players, it may face NCAA sanctions that could result in player ineligibility, loss of scholarships and even postseason bans. But if a program chooses an unconstitutional method of regulating that speech, they could also be subjected to lawsuits and constitutional challenges (Walsh, 2011).
This article will discuss the increasingly complicated relationship between the NCAA, athletic programs, student-athletes, and social media. Through the examination of current NCAA policies and regulations and various athletic programs, this article will argue that constitutional methods of regulation exist, while suggesting alternatives through increased education, improved training and policy-overhaul.
The day before my college graduation, my family and I sat around the table at dinner to celebrate my accomplishments over some beer and food.
In between bites, my brother-in-law put me on the spot and asked what was the number one thing I learned during my four years at Virginia Tech. It was a tough question, but one that I answered relatively quickly and confidently.
Before I get to my answer, though, I thought it was important to reflect on everything college has taught me - about my future career, life and myself. (I’m sure after four years and tens of thousands of dollars, my parents would like to hear I’ve learned more than one thing while at college.)
BUDGET YOUR TIME - AND YOUR MONEY. When you break college down to its core, it’s really a test of one’s time management and self-control. Between class, school work, clubs and organizations, jobs and internships, and maintaining a social life, time management is the difference between getting sleep before a final and having to pull an all-nighter. And without self-control, particularly in regards to alcohol, your fridge will likely contain more beer calories than food calories - neither of which is healthy.
YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL. Despite what your generation may have told you growing up, college is a constant reminder for most that you not only don’t know everything, but that you’re not the best at everything. Use your time at college to discover what you’re good at and befriend others who possess the skills, talents and qualities you do not. And if you don’t believe me, just listen to this.
PURSUE YOUR PASSIONS. Whether you enjoy watching sports, playing video games, blogging, listening to music, taking photographs, working on cars, or baking pies, don’t let anyone or anything prevent you from going after what brings you joy in life. If you want something bad enough, nothing should stop you from achieving success and, ultimately, happiness.
FIND A MENTOR. It could be a professor, faculty adviser, upperclassman, friend, or family member, but it’s important to have someone in your life you can not only turn to to ask questions, but someone who will support and challenge you. A good mentor will bring out the person inside yourself you never knew existed.
NEVER FORGET WHERE YOU CAME FROM. Even as you strive to establish your independence, it’s important to always remember and reflect upon where you came from. After all, you are the summation of the places you’ve been, the people you’ve met, and the things you’ve done. And never forget your parents, these years are as stressful on them as they are on you - emotionally and financially.
BECOME A LEADER. There is a time and place for everything, but don’t be afraid to be the first to step up to the plate. Take on an executive position in an organization, volunteer to lead a group project, or become a campus ambassador. Leadership requires a certain skill set that can only be gained with experience, so take every opportunity to learn and grow as a person and effective leader.
MAKE MISTAKES, AND THEN MAKE EVEN MORE. Just like no one is special, no one is perfect; everyone makes mistakes. And there is no better time in your life to make mistakes than college. For better or for worse, you’re going to blackout after going downtown. You’re going to skip class. You’re going to fail an exam (or four). You’re going to hook up with a random person. You’re going to have a run in with the cops (and might actually get arrested). And you’re going to ruin a friendship after saying something while you were drunk. The point is: you’re going to make a lot of mistakes, but it’s how you learn from those mistakes that determines the kind of person you are and will become.
GET INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY. Chances are you’re going to be at college for a few years, so you might as well get to know your surroundings and become a part of your community. Learn about the town or city, try the best bars and restaurants, visit all the attractions, hike the nearby trails, go to nearby music, food, beer, and wine festivals, and interact with locals. Get active and support the community that supports you.
LEARN OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM. This was the answer I gave my brother-in-law and family; this is the number one lesson I took away from Virginia Tech. Though the end goal of college is to graduate with a degree, roughly only 20% of your time is spent in the classroom learning. But the learning doesn’t have to stop once you leave the room. With the remaining 80 percent of your time spent outside the confines of desks, lecterns and projector screens, use it to learn even more. Read books, watch documentaries, learn a viable skill such as graphic design or web programming, or get a job or internship. Your degree is nothing more than a piece of paper without the knowledge, experiences and skills to put it to use.
And so now as I begin the next chapter of my life, post-college, I hope to put these life lessons to use and hope those reading this can benefit as well.
A little late, but as they say, better late than never.
March was a busy month for me, and for music, as the industry kicked into full gear with new music in anticipation of summer tours and festivals.
Featuring Pharrell, Foster The People, MØ, Dan Croll, Tycho, Future Islands, and ten other artists, March’s Best is an interesting playlist for what was an interesting month that will keep you guessing for the entire two hours.
After six months of practice and God knows how many quarters, I like to think I’m a pretty good pool player.
Growing up, I played on one of those plastic multi-game tables in my basement but hadn’t played much since until I turned of legal drinking age and began frequenting bars.
Recently, I’ve been averaging about five table hours a week, but depending on our play (and how much we’re drinking) my roommates and I will sometimes play that long in one night.
This past Saturday was one of those nights.
During my time playing and watching others play over those five hours, it became apparent that few seem to know or follow proper billiards etiquette. But thanks to my roommate for providing this idea, that ends now with my do’s and don’ts guide to playing bar pool.
DO LEARN THE RULES
There are official American Poolplayers Association (APA) rules and then there are bar rules.
It doesn’t matter what rules you’re playing, but just like any sport, it’s important to know the rules of the game.
Bar rules typically change with the bar and who’s on the table, but here are probably the most important and frequent ones you’ll hear:
Call your shots. Not everyone plays by this rule (I usually don’t), but it separates the amateurs from the casual players and prevents those frustrating bullshit shots from counting. With that said, regardless of whether you’re playing by this rule, you must call the pocket when shooting at the 8 ball.
Keep one foot on the ground. This one is self-explanatory. If you’re attempting a shot, you have to keep at least one foot (the toe counts) on the floor.
Hit a ball or three rails, or it’s a scratch. When shooting, you must either hit a ball (some players add the rule that you can only hit your color first, aka no combos) or three consecutive rails, or it’s considered a scratch. The three rails rule does not apply when shooting at the 8 ball.
Shoot from the kitchen after a scratch. The ‘kitchen’ refers to the area on the table behind the head string. Off a scratch, the cue ball can only be hit towards the racked end of the table and may not strike a ball inside the kitchen area first.
Knock in the 8 ball early or into the wrong pocket and you lose. Pocketing the 8 ball early or into a pocket you did not call constitutes an automatic loss. To be safe, avoid hitting it at all until the very end.
DO PUT A QUARTER DOWN
An unwritten rule of bar pool, a quarter represents “next up” if there are already players on a table.
Do not verbally call “next,” especially if there are quarters already on the table, as this defeats the purpose of the quarter rule.
Only one quarter is needed to reserve your spot in line; stacking quarters carries no additional weight and does not give you the right to jump other awaiting players.
Also, even though you put a quarter down, it is important to keep an eye on the table so as to be ready when it’s your turn to play. Use this time to use the bathroom, get a drink, and scope out your potential competition.
DO GET YOUR DRINKS BEFOREHAND
Some players (think they) play better when under the influence, but it is by no means a requirement - even at a bar.
However, if you are going to drink while playing, make sure to stop by the bar before the match begins. This will prevent your partner from playing alone or pausing the match to wait for you.
DO SET THE RULES
Now that you know and understand the rules of the game, it’s important to set the rules for the match before you begin play.
If you’re new on the table, go by the rules of the table holders. If you’re the table holders, make sure to establish the rules if the oncomers don’t ask.
The last thing you want to happen is to get in an argument over a rule mid-match that you could have made known earlier.
DON’T BREAK IF YOU CAN’T
Arguably the second most important shot in any match (after the winning shot to sink the 8 ball, of course), every game begins with a break.
The break can set the landscape for the entire match, so don’t set yourself up for failure with a bad break.
Simply put, if you can’t break well, don’t. Let your partner take the shot or even the other team.
DO PAY ATTENTION WHEN PLAYING
Chances are, you or your partner paid for this match and/or want to win, so the least you can do is pay attention.
You should have already gone to the bathroom and got your drinks anyways, so there should be no timely distractions while playing.
And you can talk to that hot blonde across the bar later. After all, you won’t be able to brag about that awesome jump shot if you never take it.
DO RESPECT THE TABLE
Between the large crowds, food, drinks, and smoking (in places that still allow it), bars can be a tough place to play pool. But whether you’re watching or playing a match, the number one rule of billiards etiquette is respect the table.
That means keep your hands, butt, drinks, food, and ash trays off the table.
Most bars don’t allow drinks, food, or ash trays on the tables for obvious reasons, so unless you never want to play in their establishment again, don’t do it. Hold it, use a table, put it on the floor, or pass it to a friend.
DON’T STAND OVER THE POCKET
Another unwritten code of behavior, standing over the pocket someone is aiming at may not seem like a big deal, but it can be very distracting. In what is most likely already a drunk, loud, and crowded setting, the less distractions the better.
In fact, it’s best to stay completely out of a shooter’s line of vision if possible.
DO GIVE THE SHOOTER ROOM
Just as you don’t want to stand in front of the shooter, you also don’t want to take a cue stick to the face.
Give the shooter plenty of room to walk around the table, find his or her shot, and make a solid attempt - you’d want the same.
DO SHAKE HANDS AFTERWARDS
This one’s just good sportsmanship.
Win or lose, it’s good form to shake your opponents’ hands and congratulate them on a good game (even if you don’t mean it).
So the next time you go downtown and think about playing pool, remember my guide.