Running Mirrors Life

As I have been getting back into running in the last couple months, I’ve begun to think about the parallels between it and life. When you stop and ponder, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from running, just as in life.

I started running when I was around 12 or 13. At first, it was a struggle. I barely even made it a mile or much more than that. I eventually got to the point where I could do a 2.4 mile race in Springfield at Van Horn Park called the Child’s race for kids 15 and under.

Soon, I progressed to running cross country at East Longmeadow High School, eventually building up to being able to run as much as 16 miles at one point. It took a long time to get there (around 4 or 5 years after I started running), but it was well worth it. I did longer runs of 10 or more miles every Sunday during cross country and the summers in my junior and senior years of high school.

The long runs became a time of peace for me. A time when I didn’t have to think about anything but running. Sometimes, they seemed to drag on during hot days or days that were bitterly cold. However, there were times where everything just flowed perfectly and it seemed like I could run forever.

Isn’t that how life works, too? There are days where you feel like you can’t go anymore. Days that seem to drag on forever and nothing is going right. Much like running, where certain runs felt like I couldn’t settle into a good pace at all; I was constantly struggling to get into any rhythm.

Then there are days in life where everything seems to go perfectly. You go to a concert of your favorite artist and they play all the right songs. You go to the Red Sox and Jon Lester throws a no-hitter. Without those bad days, you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the good ones. Just like you can’t appreciate those great runs without having some mediocre or bad ones mixed in.

To quote the famous running book Once a Runner (which I unfortunately haven’t actually read), “You don’t become a runner by winning a morning workout. The only true way is to marshal the ferocity of your ambition over the course of many day, weeks, months, and (if you could finally come to accept it) years. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.”

The gist of this quote was that everyone wanted to know the secret of this runner who was quite good. Was there a certain workout he did that nobody knew about? Was there some special way he trained? The answer, they came to find out from running with him, was that there was no real secret. He simply put in the work every day; he literally pounded the pavement more than most were willing to. It wasn’t about the pace or workouts as much as it was just being consistent.

Looking back to high school, this quote could definitely be applied to my training. After a reasonably good freshman year of cross country, I took things for granted going into my sophomore year and didn’t train all that much during the summer. I quickly paid for it.

Running isn’t all that forgiving. You will be surprised at how quickly you can lose everything you had trained for in a relatively short amount of time when you stop running. Just like in life, when if you’re not consistent with something, you won’t be all that successful.

My times weren’t necessarily worse my sophomore year, yet they weren’t all that much better. Runners who I was close with or would beat my freshman year who trained more consistently than I did left me in the dust in all the races, no matter how much I tried to hang on.

Finally, I’d had enough and realized the only way to get better was to train more. A lot more. I had a fire lit under me due to failure. There was no magic secret. I simply went out there most days and ran, whether I felt like it or not. Gradually, I got better. My junior year, my times dropped a lot and I got the most improved runner award. By my senior year, I was the number 7 runner on the team, getting into the last spot for the Western Mass. Championship. It had been my goal since freshman year. As I was never the fastest runner on sheer talent alone, it was all because of consistency that I was able to improve so much.

During college on the rowing team at UNH, I ran less, but was still in pretty good shape and could still do longer runs/run at a reasonable pace when I did run. However, after college, I began to run and exercise less. Suddenly, after 8 years of running in high school and rowing in college, I had nothing to train for. There was no team to push me anymore. No workouts were given to me, and there was no upcoming race to train for. I still did run some or workout, but it didn’t really feel the same.

Although I have begun running more (only around 2 or 3 days a week right now compared to the 6 or 7 I used to do), it still doesn’t feel quite the same. I certainly can’t run as fast as I used to right now, but that doesn’t seem to bother me as much. It doesn’t really seem to bother me as much, either, that I’m not running as far as I used to. What I am happy about is that I’m running at all.

You see, going with the flow is really the best thing you can do in both running and life. When you force things to happen in life, forcing that relationship you really want to happen or really obsessing over getting a certain time or pace when you’re running, it doesn’t seem to work out too well. Lately, I have been trying to just run. To just enjoy the time and distance I am running, no matter how slow or short it may be. The best runs, I have found, are the ones where you just let things flow. Those long runs that seem like you could keep going forever, or those faster runs where it feels like you’re flying and will never come back down.

Although I have gone through a lot of struggles in life already which I have referenced in previous blog posts, I have begun to take a new attitude towards it due to the lessons running has taught me. You can’t expect to go out there and run 10 miles right away, nor can you expect to run 10 miles after not running in a while. At least not in my case. I have to tell myself, too, that I can’t expect things to happen like moving to New York or somewhere else like I want to without being consistent at saving money, at trying to find a job I like that pays reasonably well, at doing all the little things.

The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.

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Red Sox/ Yankees Weekend Preview

This weekend, the Red Sox and Yankees face off for a crucial 3 game series at Fenway Park. The Red Sox will have either a 4 or 5 game lead over the Yankees going into it, depending on whether the Yankees win or lose tonight at the Mets. Though the Yankees have a 7-5 advantage in the season series, the Red Sox have won 4 of the last 7, including taking 2 of 3 last weekend at Yankee Stadium. No matter what happens, with a lot of talk about the rivalry being renewed with all the young talent on both teams, there should be a great buzz in the air at Fenway.  With 2 of 3 games last weekend going right down to the wire, fans of both teams should be in for a treat. Here, I give my analysis of the pitching match-ups, some questions/ keys I have going into the series, and ultimately, the prediction of who will win it.

Pitching Match-Ups:

Pomeranz (12-4, 3.39 era) vs. Montgomery (7-6, 3.94 era), Friday, 7:10 P.M.

This is possibly the most interesting pitching match-up, with both players coming off pretty solid outings in the last series. Pomeranz went 6 2/3 innings while giving up 7 hits and 3 earned runs in a win Saturday vs. the Yankees, while Montgomery went 5 1/3 innings while giving up just 2 hits and 1 earned run in a no decision vs. the Sox Sunday night, despite some hard hit balls for outs. Both pitchers have relatively similar stats this year and each had success vs. their rival the last time out, making this the toughest one to call as far as the advantage. If I had to give a slight advantage, it would be to Pomeranz, as the Sox are 15-8 in his starts this year, while the Yankees have gone 9-13 in Montgomery’s starts.

Sale (14-4, 2.51 era) vs. Sabathia (9-5, 4.05 era), Saturday, 7:10 P.M.

This is another intriguing match-up. While Sale has pitched very well in 3 starts vs. the Yankees this year, giving up just 3 earned runs, he has yet to earn a win, with the Sox scoring 4 runs total in those 3 games. In a dominating performance Sunday night, Sale registered 12 strikeouts in 7 innings against the Yankees while giving up just 1 earned run and 4 hits. Sabathia has been dominant against the Sox this year, beating them in both starts and giving up no runs. The Sox lost those games by a total of 11-0.

I would give the advantage to Sale here. Although it is possible he may not be quite as dominant the 3rd time around against the Yankees, Sabathia is just coming off the DL. That alone is cause to believe he won’t be able to replicate his first two starts against the Red Sox. Sabathia has struggled some against the Red Sox in previous years and I have a feeling the 3rd time this year will be the charm for the Sox against him. For reference, I had a feeling Luis Severino, who had been on fire, was due for a bad start. Last Saturday, he gave up 10 runs to the Sox. I also had a feeling the Sox were due to win a Sale start vs. the Yankees after losing the first 2, which they did on Sunday night. Here’s to hoping I’m right again.

Gray (7-7, 3.37 era) vs. TBD, Sunday, 1:35 P.M.

This one most likely favors the Yankees, depending on who the Sox start. Sonny Gray, who’s having a pretty decent year, has gone 6 starts in a row pitching at least 6 innings and giving up 2 or fewer earned runs. He’s allowed no runs in 2 of those starts. Doug Fister, coming off a rough outing on Monday, is a likely candidate to start, but the Sox aren’t sure whether he will or not.

Rick Porcello would also make sense since he would have 5 days rest coming off a start Tuesday. Although Porcello has been shaky in some outings, with a 7-14 record overall, he has gone 3-0 in August while striking out 19 batters and giving up 10 earned runs. While Porcello has been a far cry from last year’s Cy Young performance, he has showed signs he may be turning the corner. If the Sox do start Porcello, I feel they have a much better chance to win the game than if they started Fister. However, no matter who pitches, the Sox have shown an ability to come back and have produced some late inning magic this year, with 9 walk off wins.

Food For Thought:

Don’t Judge Me?

Everyone knows Aaron Judge started off the season on a tear, batting .329 with 30 home runs and 66 RBI. After the All- Star break, however, he’s been a different story, batting just .185. The pitchers adjusted to him and he is now in the midst of another historic run: 33 games in a row with a strikeout, the most ever in a single season. However, Judge has hit 2 home runs in the last 3 games, including a 457 foot bomb last night. He’s gone 4 for 13 in those 3 games, possibly showing signs he may be turning a corner. That could be bad news for the Red Sox. If Judge does turn things on this series, it could really spark the Yankees. Although he has been held in check this year vs. the Sox so far, with only one home run in the 12 meetings, it is only a matter of time before he does some damage. Could this be the series? We shall see.

Baby Sox Mania?

We all know about the Baby Bombers, but the Red Sox have some young talent of their own. When Rafael Devers hit a home run off Aroldis Chapman in the 9th inning to tie the game, everyone in the stadium, including the announcers, were shocked. The home run sparked the Sox to a 3-2 win in 10 innings. Devers has batted .348 with 6 home runs and 13 RBI in 18 games this year, showing no signs of being fazed by the MLB. Another hero of the series last weekend in New York was Andrew Benintendi, who has been on fire in August, batting .372 with 5 HR and 12 RBI in the last couple weeks. 3 of those home runs and 9 of those RBI came against the Yankees last weekend.

With a walk off hit last night, Mookie Betts is showing some signs he could have a big series. Xander Bogaerts also may be turning a corner, with a home run in the 9th inning last night, along with 3 hits on Tuesday night. If those four young guns can continue hitting well, the Sox will have a great chance to take this series.

Prediction:

The Sox will take two out of 3. Now, obviously I am a Red Sox fan, so this could be taken with a grain of salt. However, the Sox do, I feel, have the edge in 2 of the 3 pitching match-ups. That, combined with the fact that they have an AL best 38-21 home record and the Yankees are 29-33 on the road, should be reason to believe they can take the series. Even though these 3 games arguably mean more to the Yankees, there has been some real magic this year at Fenway Park, reminiscent of 2013.

Why a Fan is a Fan

Thousands of people are gathered in a stadium. A man steps up with a bat and smacks a ball high in the air. Now, none of these people know the man hitting the ball. Yet, they still want him to succeed in the worst way. As the ball sails further and further, the crowd rises and begins to yell. The ball finally lands over the fence, and the crowd is sent into a frenzy. Why is this? Why do millions of people call themselves baseball fans? Fans of a team of players they don’t know. They don’t have any actual say in what happens in games. Their life won’t change either way whether their team wins or loses. Yet, they still live and die with every pitch.

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Rogers Center, AL Wild Card game 2016, Orioles vs Blue Jays
Even as a big Red Sox fan for almost my whole life, the idea of being a fan still confounds me at times. I suppose it is more understandable for a kid to be a fan, to live and die with their team. After all, they are more innocent and haven’t really experienced as much in life. For an adult, however, it gets more complex. The thought of writing this article came to me this weekend really, as the Red Sox are in a crucial series with the Yankees, battling for first place in the AL East. Memories of old came back to me as it feels the rivalry, albeit different from the past, has been growing in intensity.

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Red Sox vs Orioles, September 2016
I guess you could say I was born into being a fan. Since my dad followed the Red Sox his whole life, I took to watching sports at a very young age. I would study the paper, soaking in all the stats and standings my little mind could handle. When I was around five or six, I tried to bargain with my dad, telling him I would sleep late if he let me stay up to watch a game that started at 10. I remember crying at maybe six years old as the Sox were eliminated from the playoffs , sitting with my dad listening to the game on the radio. At 11, I was heartbroken yet again when they lost the ALCS to the Yankees on a walk off home run. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

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Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays, one of my favorite MLB players
As the years have gone by, I feel like the heartbreak when the Red Sox lose, the feeling that the world is over and nothing will ever be the same, has lessened quite a bit. Just a couple of days ago, the Red Sox blew a 3-0 lead in the 8th inning to the Yankees and ended up losing the game 5-4. Years ago, many objects in the house would have taken a beating and I would have been quite upset for a long time after. Not that I didn’t let out a few choice words this time. However, I didn’t react in quite the same way. I knew the Red Sox would have a chance to win the next day (which they did) and was able to get over the loss much quicker, without harming anything in the house.

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Red Sox celebrating after beating the Yankees, “Win Dance Repeat”, July 2017
Even though the losses are less bitter, I don’t really think the thrill of victory has lessened too much. Just as I was jumping for joy when Big Papi hit a walk off home run to win game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, I was thrilled to see Christian Vazquez drill one over the center field wall to complete a wild walk off win just a couple of weeks ago. I jumped for joy in the same spot in my living room as in 2004. The World Series win in 2013 for the Red Sox was a special one, arguably as exciting as 2004. After the Boston Marathon bombings, everyone remembers Ortiz proclaiming it was “our —- city” and the team rallying together for the city and all of New England, ultimately winning it all. I have fond memories of watching the last game at a bar at UNH, with a wild celebration taking place. Thankfully, I got out of dodge before things escalated too much.

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Yankee Stadium, July 2017
Maybe I just answered the question in that last paragraph, at least somewhat. Part of the reason fans are fans is that they feel the team is representing their city, their region, a large part of what they stand for. New Englanders want the Red Sox to win so badly because they feel they represent the characteristics of the region: toughness, tenacity, and the never say die attitude. Perhaps the reason fans love their team so much is they have fond memories of watching games growing up with their dad, or their friends and other family members.

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Big Papi’s last game in Yankee Stadium, September 2016
When you go to a game with thousands of other people cheering as that ball hit by that man who you don’t know sails over the fence, you feel a connection, a sense that you are all there collectively willing the team to victory. In some ways, watching the game night in and night out, you do begin to feel as if you know the players, at least you know the way they play the game and what they’re like on the field and towards the fans/media. When players like Big Papi give speeches to rally a city as he did in April of 2013, it makes you believe that these players, at least some, are in it for more than just the millions of dollars and the fame. Some really do care about the fans, the city and team they represent, and it shows. That is why fans are fans. That’s why they watch so many games, live and die with every pitch, and shell out thousands of dollars over a lifetime just to watch these guys play. So, the next time someone questions why you do what you do, why you’re a fan, just stop and look around when you’re at a game. You’ll know you’re not alone.

Red Sox Notebook

Things Are Bitter on Twitter:

A few weeks back, when the Red Sox and Yankees played each other, the Yankees fired off a couple of jabs at the Red Sox on Twitter. After one win, they referred to the Red Sox as the “team in second place” and made fun of their slogan “Win, Dance, Repeat”, changing it to “Win. Dominate. Repeat.” The next night, they referred to the Sox as “the team still in second place.” When the Red Sox took over first place, their Twitter account made sure everyone knew they were in sole possession. I took to Twitter, asking the Yankees, “Who’s the team in second place now?” Promptly, the Red Sox lost and the Yankees won the next night, causing a Yankees fan to fire back to me, “I don’t know, you tell me?” The Yankees had been in command of the East for a while before sliding and losing 8 of their last 9 games. With the two teams tied now for first and the resurgence of the Yankees, a less bitter yet fun nonetheless rivalry could be brewing. The current Yankees team, full of young talent, doesn’t have any real “villains” like A Rod, making for a team that I can’t really say I have a strong dislike for.

Pleading (for) the Fifth:

The Red Sox have been struggling all season to find a fifth starter, not that the rest of their rotation has been perfect. Chris Sale has obviously been spectacular for the most part, leading all of the MLB in strikeouts. Drew Pomeranz has been a pretty serviceable pitcher himself. Rick Porcello, coming off a Cy Young year, has been anything but stellar, with David Price not quite performing at the caliber he is capable of just yet. The fifth starter, however, has been the biggest hole for the Sox. With Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright, an All Star last year, out with injuries, the Red Sox have used several pitchers to fill the holes. Brian Johnson looked like he could be a good option, pitching a complete game his first start, but went out with an injury as well. Just today, the Red Sox have picked up Doug Fister off of waivers from the Angels. A pitcher who has a career ERA of 3.60 in the MLB but has been in AAA this year, it is not clear whether he could be a useful 5th starter or not. Possibly, a change of scenery could help him. It could be worth a shot to try him out there.

(Not So) Sweet Swinging Leon:

Last year, Sandy Leon was a welcome surprise in the batting department, getting the nickname of Sweet Swinging Sandy Leon from radio announcer Joe Castiglione. This year, however, he has not quite lived up to that name, with his batting average dipping from .310 last year to just .233 this year. The batting of Leon gave a boost to the lineup last year, and if he is able to turn things around, that could be a factor in the Red Sox making a run at the division and in the playoffs. The other Sox catcher, Christian Vazquez, has been a pretty decent hitter, batting .294, and has turned in some great defense. As the two catchers have been pretty much splitting duty, it would be great to have both hitting well.

Searching For the 8th (inning) Wonder

Another question mark for the Sox has been the 8th inning setup man, with closer Craig Kimbrel dominating the 9th inning. Matt Barnes has been the setup man for the most part this year, but it seems to me that Joe Kelly would be the better option. Barnes has allowed 3 earned runs in his last 2 appearances. In the last one, he gave up 2 walks in a row, a game the Sox lead 4-2 when he came in but went on to lose 6-4, with the 2 runners Barnes walked scoring on a grand slam. With a lower WHIP and ERA and the ability to bring more heat, it seems like it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try Kelly out more often as the 8th inning setup man, instead of in earlier innings like the 7th which he has mostly been used in recently.

Will the Real 3rd Baseman Please Stand Up?

Another major hole the Red Sox have had is at 3rd base, where they have used 7 different players this year, the most in the MLB. Deven Marrero has had his moments, but hasn’t really been able to hit consistently. The same could be said for Josh Rutledge. Pablo Sandoval has recently gone to the DL with an “ear infection and flu”. Most likely, this is just an excuse for the Red Sox to sit him down, as he has been a big disappointment in his time in Boston. I have heard different rumors of trades for the Red Sox to get a 3rd baseman, with the Royals’ Mike Moustakas’ name coming up often. He would certainly be an upgrade for the team if the price was right. In any event, with the worst production from any team in the MLB at the 3rd base position, something has to give in order for the Sox to make a serious playoff run.

Best of the Rest:

With all 5 teams in the division being separated by just 5 games, there is no reason to count anyone out just yet. The Orioles and Blue Jays sit tied 5 games behind the Red Sox and Yankees after taking different paths to get there. The Orioles started hot but have been cold recently, with the Jays turning it on lately after a bad start. However, both teams did make the AL Wild Card game last year. With some exceptions, they do have mostly the same teams as last year, so there is no reason to think they couldn’t each make a run at the playoffs or division still. The Tampa Bay Rays have been somewhat of a surprise this year themselves, sitting just 2.5 games out of first. A team that doesn’t have stellar pitching but one that can certainly hit well, they too could contend for the top spot in the division. Overall, the Sox record against the AL East isn’t too great, with all teams in the division usually playing them pretty tough. The only prediction I will give right now is that it will certainly be an exciting and competitive rest of the year in the AL East.