I’m just going to leave this here…
I’m just going to leave this here…
Andrew Benintendi. HOLY CRAP. The day after hitting his first career HR, he makes the catch of the year. Kid’s got potential…
Mookie Betts. Wow. All 5 Red Sox runs on 2 HUGE HRs for the very important W vs. the Baltimore Orioles. That swing put the Red Sox in a 3-way tie for the AL East lead with the Os and Toronto Blue Jays.
Now a few days removed from the end of swimming events at the Rio Olympics, it’s a good time to reflect. The US finished with 33 swimming medals, matching their previous record for one Olympics (2012 London) and continued to prove that swimming is a US dominated sport (the next highest medal total was Australia with 10). It all starts with the now 28-time medalist Michael Phelps, who has been grabbing headlines for more than a decade, but the other, lesser talked about stories are just as impressive and important. Here are two of my favorite stories from the swimming portion of the Rio Olympics.
Maybe the greatest story coming out of the pool in Rio is thanks to 50-meter specialist Anthony Ervin. In 2000, at age 16, Ervin won gold in the 50-meter at the Sydney Olympics. That was the beginning of a steep decline for him as he battled Tourette’s and drug addiction, forcing him to drop out of college (University of California at Berkeley) and “retire” from swimming at 22-years old. He was homeless on a number of occasions and was close to death more than once, including a suicide attempt. In 2011, he re-enrolled in college and began to get his life on track. He competed in the 2012 London games, taking 5th in the 50-meter.
In Rio, Ervin won a gold medal with the 4×100-meter freestyle relay team and won gold in the 50-meter. He became the oldest male swimmer to win an individual medal in more than a century at age 35 and won gold in the same event 16-years apart, an unbelievable feat that ties a record. If Ervin isn’t the comeback story of the entire Olympic games, I don’t know what is.
He wrote a book detailing his life that has gotten some acclaim, Chasing Water. His story is an inspiring one and because of that, his book jumped onto my fall reading list.
Madeline “Maya” DiRado
The story of Maya DiRado is fascinating. She began swimming at age 6 and has been going ever since, until now. She appeared in her first and last Olympic games in Rio, winning 2 gold medals, 1 silver, and 1 bronze in her 4 events. For most, a 23-year old debuting at the Olympics with 4 medals would be the beginning of something looking ahead 4 years, but for DiRado, this was the end. She has a high-powered career with McKinsey and Co., a management consulting firm, waiting for her in Atlanta and has ended her swimming career to pursue a consulting career.
Maya has always been a very intelligent person, going to high school at 13 and getting a perfect score on the math SAT at age 15. She entered Stanford at age 17 and graduated, putting her education as a priority alongside swimming, not pushing it aside until after her career was over like many athletes do. She spent the last 2 years training for Rio, knowing it was her one Olympic shot and boy did she make the most of it with her 4 medals. It’s an inspiring story and I have the utmost respect for the difficult decision she made to walk away from the sport. It’s just too bad we won’t see her compete in Tokyo in 4 years.
Anyone who has watched Mookie Betts play since his MLB debut in 2014 knows that he has the potential to be a special player. His speed in the field and on the bases, his defensive prowess, and his ability to handle a bat with very fast hands make him a star in the making. This season he has continued to improve and has quickly worked himself into serious consideration for AL MVP with just 6 weeks left in the season.
Betts has a .313 average with 26 HRs, 84 RBIs, 34 doubles, and 18 stolen bases (as of 8/16), which is incredible for a leadoff hitter (primarily). He ranks in the top 5 in the AL in batting average (2nd), doubles (2nd), triples (4th), runs scored (3rd), and slugging % (4th) and in the top 10 in stolen bases (6th), singles (9th), and HRs (10th). Not too shabby for a 5’9″ 180lb player in just his 2nd full year in the big-leagues.
To add to his offensive numbers, in 113 games played in the outfield, Betts has just 1 error (.996 fielding percentage) and 9 outfield assists. The most impressive thing regarding Betts’ defense? Until 2014, he had never played a professional inning in the outfield. Before being called up to the majors he had played just 45 games in centerfield in the minors in 2014.
If the season were to end now, I believe Mookie Betts would finish 2nd to Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros in the AL MVP voting. Altuve is having in other-worldly season, hitting .362 with 19 HRs and 73 RBIs so far and is deserving of the honor, but Betts is nipping at his heals. If Altuve’s average dips over the last 6 weeks of the season and Betts continues to put on a show, the AL MVP race could tighten quite a bit and Betts could find himself with some new hardware.
The biggest issue for the Red Sox thus far in 2016 is winning close games and low-scoring games. On Monday afternoon, the Red Sox checked off both boxes when they beat the Cleveland Indians 3-2. The beginning of a 4-city, 11-game road trip was tight until the final out and despite some scary, heart-stopping moments from closer Craig Kimbrel, the win was extremely refreshing. Before Monday, the Red Sox were an abysmal 4-32 when scoring 3 or fewer runs. That’s an incredibly concerning trend, especially if the Red Sox hope to make the playoffs and have a chance at winning anything. Guess what the postseason is full of? Close, low-scoring games.
This 11-game road trip is pivotal for the Red Sox. The trip includes 2 games against the Baltimore Orioles who are just ahead of the Red Sox in the standings and then 4 against the Detroit Tigers who are nipping at their heals for the 2nd wildcard spot. If the Red Sox emerge from this tough road stretch at 6-5 or better, they will be in great shape as a friendlier September schedules waits around the corner. They need to carry their 4-game winning streak and all the momentum it gives them into Baltimore, because we know the Orioles will be ready for a dog fight.
The other major promising thing from Monday afternoon was Drew Pomeranz. He picked up his first win in a Red Sox uniform and looked strong through 7.2 innings. He allowed just 1 run going into the 7th, but got into a little trouble in the inning allowing his 2nd. To go along with allowing just 2 runs, he had 6 Ks, 5 hits, and just 2 BBs. Monday was just what the doctor ordered and gave fans hope that some strong performances down the stretch are not out of the question from him.
Since the opening ceremonies 10 days ago, I have been watching an unhealthy amount of the Olympics in Rio. Day and night there is action in individual and team sports from trampoline to basketball and everything in between. There have been countless incredible and inspiring performances and over the next few weeks I am going to try to write about some of them, but today I need to vent about one particular US athlete: Hope Solo.
Solo has been a controversial figure during her more than a decade in net for the US Women’s National Team (USWNT). She has had incredible success and is considered to be one of the best US goalies of all time. She has won 2 Olympic gold medals and a World Cup gold medal in her career and holds the US record for clean sheets. All of the accomplishments are great, but she has time and time again proven herself to be an embarrassment to USA athletics.
The most recent in her history of saying stupid things to the media came after a PK loss to Sweden in the Olympic semi-finals on Friday. She said Sweden played like “a bunch of cowards” and then “the best team did not win today. I strongly and firmly believe that.” She got beat and her reaction is to bash the opposition, not take any blame. Could she be any more of a sore loser?
This is just the latest in a long line of unsportsmanlike conduct from Solo. In 2008, Solo was benched in place of Briana Scurry for the World Cup semi-final match against Brazil. After the team lost 4-0, her post game comments, “It was the wrong decision, and I think anybody that knows anything about the game knows that. There’s no doubt in my mind I would have made those saves.” That situation got so bad, her teammates would not allow her to even attend the 3rd place match. A real team player.
All her talking is one thing, but what put me over the top is her blatant lying about a domestic violence situation in 2015. The police were called to her sister-in-law’s house where she claimed she was a victim of domestic violence at the hands of her 17-year old nephew. After interviews with all involved, it appeared Solo was lying and was actually the drunk aggressor. She claimed in an interview that she was a victim and not a criminal, trying to bring attention on the fact that she was the smaller female, so how can she be the aggressor against a 6’8″, 270lb male.
Solo’s half sister Teresa Obert, who was present at the time of the domestic incident, described what she saw:
“She grabbed him by the head and she kept slamming him into the cement over and over again. So I came from behind her, and I pulled her over and, you know, to get her off my son. And then, once she got off, she started punching me in the face over and over again.”
The story itself has more twists and turns than I care to write about and I’mt not an investigative reporter with inside knowledge, but the entire thing pushed me over the edge. Playing the victim to get public support is insulting to everyone, especially all of those who have been victims of domestic violence. Talk about setting a bad example.
The few examples above are just that, a few examples. Solo has continually been focused on herself with a complete disregard for others. With any loud athlete, when they are winning, talk can get overlooked and pushed aside. Winning or losing, I’m done. I love the US and support nearly all US athletes in the Olympics and other international tournaments, but consider me out on Solo.
She is a terrible representation of a US Olympic athlete. At age 35, she is nearing the end of her playing tenure with the USWNT and I, for one, will be happy if she never takes the field again wearing the red, white, and blue. She doesn’t deserve to wear the colors and represent the USA.
After taking a week off, I’m refreshed and ready to go. Unfortunately, the Red Sox are decidedly not refreshed and struggling with injuries and fatigue with a big 11-game 4-city road trip in front of them. Besides the obvious recent DL stints for Steven Wright (shoulder soreness) and Ryan Hanigan (ankle tendinitis), Xander Bogaerts and David Ortiz are looking slower and fatigued as of late. It’s a big concern for the Red Sox who are fighting for a postseason spot.
Bogaerts had played in 108 of the team’s first 110 games of the season, which is a lot to expect from a guy playing shortstop. The overwork is beginning to show it’s ugly head. Since July 24th, Bogaerts is hitting .231 and his season average has dropped .020 points. He does not have a HR in August and his bat has looked slow compared to April and May. By all measures, his .313 average, 14 HRs and 69 RBIs is a very strong season thus far, it’s how far it has dropped and how fatigued he has looked over the last several weeks that is most concerning. He got the day off on Sunday vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks and is likely to have another day off on Monday as the team travels to Cleveland. I’m worried the rest is a little too late.
For David Ortiz, the outrageous first half of his retirement tour is in the rear view mirror. At the all-star break, Ortiz was hitting .331 with 22 HRs, 72 RBIs and 34 doubles, which were all at or near the top in the AL. Now, in 26 games since the break, he has begun to shoot back to earth with a .239 average, 4 HRS, 18 RBIs, and just 3 doubles. Like Bogaerts, his overall stats are impressive for the season (.310, 26 HRs, 90 RBIs, 37 doubles), but the sharp downward trend is a huge concern moving forward for the 40 year old. At his age, he’s much more likely to continue to decline the final 6 weeks of the season.
If the Red Sox are going to get a playoff spot and contend this year, Bogaerts and Ortiz have to be healthy and able to produce when it counts. At this moment, I have no confidence that either player can rest and regroup enough to have a significant impact down the stretch.
The Red Sox have been searching for ace-like performances all season long. Rick Porcello has played the stopper role at times and David Price has occasionally looked strong, but Steven Wright has been the closest thing to an ace and he proved it Friday night. In his 4th complete game of the season, Wright shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers to set the tone for the 3-game set that ends the 11-game road trip.
Wright has been more hit-or-miss as of late (mostly hit…pun intended), but Friday night he reestablished his ability to dominate a baseball game. He struck out 9 and allowed just 3 hits against a very good Dodgers lineup. It was a performance the Red Sox very much needed and will continue to need as the postseason push wears on in August and September. If Wright can return to his more dominant form on a consistent basis, Porcello can continue his very strong season and David Price can at least pitch reasonably well most outings, the Red Sox have a legitimate chance.
The Red Sox are now 5-4 on this gruelling west coast road trip and with one more win this weekend, can secure a winning record as they come home next week. With lots of road games remaining on the schedule, winning series on the road is pivotal in determining if they will be playing on October.