Who’s Rooting For the Red Sox?

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The Boston Red Sox won 108 games this year, the most in franchise history and just the fourth time a Red Sox team won 100 or more games in their 117-year history.  The New York Yankees won 100 games. They are playing each other in the playoffs, specifically the American League Divisional Series, for what seems like the umpteenth time.  And so for the first time in history, both the Red Sox and Yankees have 100 wins in the same season, but it is Boston who came out on top in the American League East. Seemingly never slowing down, the Red Sox never lost more than three games in a row, and only did that twice in the course of a long season. With two MVP candidates in outfielders Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez and a strong starting rotation, the Red Sox are set up to make a long playoff run.

Boston’s bitter rival didn’t have too shabby a year either and they too expect to go deep into the playoffs.  Looking at history, when the Yankees had the most wins in a season, they won the World Series. The 1998 Yankees won 114 games in the regular season and then steamrolled to an 11-2 playoff record, including a World Series sweep of the San Diego Padres. With a 125-50 overall record, the best ever, it’s hard to ignore this team when you talk about the all-time greats. That 1998 Yankees teem had the all-star bats of Scott Brosius, Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams and a young Derek Jeter as well as the arms of Andy Pettitte, Orlando Hernandez, David Cone and David Wells, which enabled the Bronx Bombers to finish the year 22 games ahead of the Red Sox to win the AL East. Jeter led the league in runs and hits while Williams won the batting title. Cone compiled his fist 20-win season in a decade, and Wells pitched a perfect game.

Since 1969, only 12 teams have recorded baseball’s best record and gone on to win the World Series that season. So, once again, we learn that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. 

When the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, the year of the miracle in October, they finished with a 98–64 record, three games behind the Yankees in the American League East. But they came back from 0 – 3 to defeat their arch rival in a dramatic seven game American League Championship Series, and went on to sweep St. Louis to win their first World Series since trading Babe Ruth.  

Yes it’s time for baseball in October, and so anything is possible. 

All Rise for The Judge: Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge is an all-star.  He’s a rookie sensation who’s playing lights out and has become an instant fan favorite in and outside of New York.  Judge is the latest Yankee to become a bonafide Bronx Bomber.

The celebrated and renowned Joe DiMaggio hit 29 homers in 637 at-bats in 1936. That record stood for 81 years.  Aaron Judge reached No. 30 on shot to Monument Park in center field in his 293rd at-bat.  The only rookie in major-league history with more home runs before the All-Star break is Mark McGwire, who hit 33 in the first half in 1987 for the Athletics.

Judge continues to lead the major leagues in home runs, in addition to leading the American League in batting average and RBI. The 6-7, 280-pounder will show off his power in the MLB Home Run Derby as part of this year’s All-Star Game in Miami on Monday.

Note to file: keep your eyes on this kid.

A-Rod is Going A-Way

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Alex Rodriguez announced his retirement on Sunday, bringing to an end one of the most hated and reviled professional sports careers ever.  http://ftw.usatoday.com/author/luke-kerr-dineen

And there’s not much more to say. Comparatively, there have been a number of all-star retirements lately: Kobe ended his career with a season-long sendoff that ended with him scoring 60 points in a storybook final game at Staples Center. Tim Duncan closed out his career with a lot less fanfare, but he went out at the end of the season, and was as unpretentious at the end as he had been all along.

But for A-Rod to suddenly and un-summarily drop everything and announce his “retirement” in August when the season is not near over is as fishy and as smelly as the sight and smell of dead fish floating in a polluted river. But it appears that the season has been over for him for some time.

One sports writer put it this way:

Whenever a high-profile sports figure retires it’s only natural to begin debating his legacy. With his last game approaching on Friday, now we shift our attention to A-Rod, and needless to say, the early prospects don’t look good on his post-retirement stock.

So let’s just leave it at that. A-Rod said he didn’t use performance enhancing drugs. And he did. He said the allegations of wrongdoing were false. And they weren’t.  A-Rod was considered A-Fraud by most and many more just had enough of the could-have-been, should-have-been, all-time-great, but wanna-be, boy wonder.

So long A-Rod. You were suspended by MLB for 162 games in 2014 for your involvement in the Biogenesis PED scandal.  And unfortunately, this is what we will remember the most. For his part, when it came to how he wanted to be remembered, Rodriguez acknowledged his past mistakes, with this:

I do want to be remembered as someone who was madly in love with the game of baseball, someone who loves it at every level,’’ he said. “Someone who loves to learn it, play it, teach it, coach it. And also, I’m going to be hopefully remembered as someone who tripped and fell a lot, but someone that kept getting up.

A-Rod With Bat

After you fall down once or twice, keep getting up. That is the essence of a comeback and a turnaround, right?

How To Hit a Home Run

Reggie Jackson Sports_Illustrated

Everyone wants to hit a home run. Everyone wants to hit it out of the park and over the fence and further and higher than everyone else. And everyone wants to have everyone cheer for them. It’s part of our DNA. No one wants to strike out and leave runners stranded on base. No one. But the question is, “how do you hit a home run?” or more importantly, “how do you consistently hit home runs?” A simple web search produced this answer:

“I would say the main factors that go into hitting distance are:


A) Batter’s Strength

When the ball hits the bat, the force is applied the opposite direction of the swing, trying to push the bat backwards. A stronger batter can apply more forward force and resist the ball’s force.

B) Pitch Velocity

The faster the pitch, the farther it will soar. This is because the ball picks up kinetic energy, which is then used when sending it over the fence. You will sometimes see contests where fans are chosen to try to hit a homerun off a tee for a car or some big prize- in reality, almost all of the players wouldn’t be able to because there is no kinetic energy to add to the hit that the pitch provides.

C) Bat Speed

Kind of takes a back seat to the batter’s strength, because obviously if you’re stronger you’ll be able to swing faster- however certain technique can help improve bat speed

D) Connection (hitting the ball at the right angle and on the optimal spot “sweet spot” on the bat).”

So, what is the spiritual tie in?  How to you translate this sports analogy to life?

Batter’s strength is number one.  You first have to be strong enough.  And strength comes through endurance and perseverance and patience and tolerance. It doesn’t come overnight but time is not the answer either.

Strength comes through training and practice and preparation and correct application. It’s not that simple, but then again, it’s really a factor of willpower and backbone and drive and determination.  It’s about overcoming and obstacles and sticking to it and hanging in there and going the distance.

“Dealing with and overcoming setbacks and stumbling blocks is what builds your character and ability to grow. Remember, don’t take things personally. People do things to other people because it makes them feel better. They try to get you to feel as bad as they do about themselves. You need to be careful with emotions. They can be a very negative force in your life that can direct you on paths better not travelled. We all experience bad things from other people. It’s how and what we do with those experiences that define who we ultimately become.”

Pitch Velocity is number 2. In other words, the harder and faster the ball or “the situation” comes at you, the higher the chance of you hitting it farther. In other words, if we want to hit home runs, we should get excited when it’s hard and it’s difficult and it’s challenging. Because the darker the night, and the fiercer the fight, the sweeter the victory.

Bat speed and Connection are factors of practice, practice, practice. “Practice? We talkin’ bout practice?”  (Where is Allen Iverson when you need him?)

So, as you watch this year’s Home Run Derby (note that you’re watching, not me, because it’s just not my cup of tea), let’s remember one of the greatest home run hitters of all time, Reggie Jackson, “Mr. October.” In the 1977 World Series, Reggie hit three home runs in Game Six against the Dodgers on three consecutive at bats. Not too shabby.

Reggie Jackson Card

So, here’s to the home runs in life that you and I will hit.

Yogi Berra Said It All

Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra (May 12, 1925 – September 22, 2015) was known for baseball and bravado, backtalk and just plain babble. He had more quips and quotes than we can count. Sure he was a little monster on the field, but it was what he said almost more than what he did that we remember most.

Yogi was a catcher, manager, and coach who played 19 seasons in the Majors, from 1946–63, and then one more victory lap in 1965, all but the last for the New York Yankees. He was an 18-time All-Star and 10-time World Series champion as a player, Berra had a career batting average of .285, while compiling 358 home runs and 1,430 runs batted in. He is one of only five players to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award three times. Widely regarded as one of the greatest catchers in baseball history, Berra was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

As a player, coach, or manager, Berra appeared in 21 World Series and won 13 of them.

Berra, who quit school after the eighth grade, was also known for his malapropisms which is an act or habit of misusing words ridiculously, especially by the confusion of words that are similar in sound. Yogi was also known for his pithy and paradoxical quotes while speaking to reporters. Simultaneously denying and confirming his reputation, Berra once stated, “I really didn’t say everything I said.”

And here are a few more:

Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.

A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.

If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.

You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

The future ain’t what it used to be.

You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.

Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.

Little League baseball is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets.

You can observe a lot by just watching.

It’s deja vu all over again.

And the most famous one of ‘em all:

It ain’t over till it’s over.

Rest in peace, Yogi.

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/y/yogi_berra.html#mtVQfK4GQl2JUxTq.99

Come Back from Way Back: You Gotta Bounce Back, a.k.a., Bouncebackability

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What do track and field and baseball have in common? In fact, what commonality do all of sports share? Comebacks.

If it was a movie, most people would have scoffed and said it was impossible. But it happened. Just ask anyone from Boston, they’ll tell you they were at the games. The hated rival New York Yankees were embarrassing the Boston Red Sox on their way to a 3-0 lead in the 2004 best-of-seven ALCS, including a 19-8 shellacking in Game 3.

Most Red Sox fans now will say they always believed it could happen. They would be lying.

Game 4 went into extra innings but ended with David “Big Papi” Ortiz hitting walk-off home run in the 12th inning to avoid the sweep. Papi then hit a game-winning single in the 14th to win Game 5. From there came Curt Schilling’s bloody sock game and lots of home runs in Game 7… Leading to the Red Sox’ first World Series win in 86 years and the greatest comeback in team sports.  It was so good that ESPN did a 30 for 30 documentary on it, “Four Days in October.” And my story is almost as dramatic.

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I ran track in high school.

Because I was the only high hurdler on the team, I ran the 110-meter hurdles out of necessity. The last track meet of senior year was the Penn Jersey Conference Championships. My father, who had never witnessed any of my meets, was able to attend this one. The race was called the start was clean. But at the eighth or ninth hurdle, I banged elbows with the runner next to me. The collision set off a chain reaction. I crashed into the next hurdle and down I went, taking a few other runners with me.

Looking back, an onlooker who wanted to mix sports metaphors could have screamed, “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!” (The immortal words of Howard Cosell.) Anyway, the picture was as unsightly as a train wreck. Disappointed, mad and embarrassed, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and went to sulk on the other side of the track. Soon, after a huddling of coaches and officials, the decision was made to run the race over, with no penalties to any runner. I was relieved when my coach came jogging over to relay the news.

The storybook ending is this: I won the race, and was honored to be First Team – All Conference. Finishing first, my last race was my best one, and the only one my father saw me run. I was glad to make my Dad proud.

Looking back, I often use this race as inspiration for life. How many times have I stumbled and inadvertently caused others to fall, but yet I was given a second chance? (Too many to tell here!) After each fall, each miss-step and each mistake, I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start over again. I call it “bounce-back-ability:” It’s the ability to get back up and keep it moving.

We should live with the knowledge that as we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, we make “Dad” proud by enduring trials, temptations and utter collapses. Our Heavenly Father is not looking down with anger or disdain; He loves us and wants the best for us. He is there cheering us on and encouraging us to get back up and try again.

How To Get Thrown Out Of A Game

Jun 12, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) before their game against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Bryce Harper, right fielder for the Washington Nationals, is a good player on his way to being a great player. He was the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year, he’s playing the best ball of his career, and he has ALREADY been twice named the National League Player of The Week by MLB.  And it’s May. Wow.

That being said, Harper is also known to be somewhat of a hellion. In addition to being on a hitting hot streak, Harper’s also earned a reputation at times for being a hot head, which has now in some way contributed to two ejections during that same stretch.

Since launching three home runs against the New York Mets on May 6th, Harper has been baseball’s hottest hitter. Over a 12-game stretch that began that afternoon leading up until Wednesday’s game against the New York Yankees, Harper hit .535/.630/1.349 with 10 home runs and 23 RBIs over 54 plate appearances. Not too shabby.

But for the second time in a week, Bryce Harper and Manager Matt Williams were ejected from a game for an exchange with an umpire. The first came on May 13th, when Harper’s temper clearly got the best of him following a strikeout in Arizona. Following the ejection, Harper launched into a heated tirade against home-plate umpire Rob Drake.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20:  Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals argues with home plate umpire Marvin Hudson #51 after being thrown out of the game in the third inning against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park on May 20, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

And I witnessed a similar scene play out last night at the ‘ole Ball Game. Harper was mad at a strike call and mad when Home Plate Umpire Marvin Hudson told him to get back in the batter’s box. Harper, being the head case that he sometimes can be, stuck just his BIG TOE in the box, which irked Hudson to no end and caused the ejection. The funny thing is, Harper was in the box until Hudson turned his attention to the Washington dugout. Either way, there doesn’t seem to be nearly enough here to warrant an ejection, but Hudson clearly took Harper’s maneuvering as a dismissal of his authority.

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In this case, Hudson could have easily squashed the problem without letting it escalate. By the same token, Harper may have baited a bit by not just getting back in the box. You can find fault in how both men handled the confrontation, but here’s hoping both will be wiser the next time they’re in this position.

But here’s why Harper REALLY got ejected. He said this after the game:

I don’t think 40,000 people came to watch him ump tonight,” Harper said after his fifth career ejection. “Plain and simple. Especially when we’re playing the Yankees. The Yankees are a good team, we’re a good team and we’re rolling. I don’t want to get tossed. There’s no reason for me to get tossed in that situation. I don’t think I did anything bad to get tossed. Maybe he just had a bad morning or he didn’t get his coffee.

So there. It’s as plain as day and as the nose on your face. If you’re a logical and reasonable and sensible person, you don’t have to be an old-fashioned fart to understand that Harper’s hubbub and hullabaloo helmed from his line of thinking, and his lack of logic is EXACTLY why he got tossed. Harper has an attitude problem. His taunting of the ump by sticking just his big toe into the batter’s box was a clear dismissal and disdain of authority. And, being the Millennial that he is, Harper didn’t see anything wrong with the taunt and the tease.

So let’s learn the lesson. Use wisdom. Don’t make matters worse. Don’t make an ugly situation uglier, a dumb situation dumber, or a sticky situation stickier. Don’t make a dim situation darker. Don’t make a harsh situation harder. And don’t make a difficult situation utterly intractable. Don’t do it. You may want to, but in the end, you’ll wish you hadn’t.