Thank you, Dustin, For Giving Baseball Everything That You Had

It’s cliched, but with Dustin Pedroia, it’s absolutely apt: he gave it everything that he had.

Often, that was considerable. A Most Valuable Player Award in his second full season, 2008, which came on the heels of his Rookie of the Year campaign. And then there are the four Gold Gloves, his four All-Star game appearances, and his three World Series rings.

But in the end, everything he had simply wasn’t enough to get Pedroia back in the Red Sox lineup. That’s what a partial knee replacement will do to a guy. If you can’t run, you can’t play.

During Pedroia’s retirement news conference, held Monday on Zoom, he said that he played every game like it might be his last. And not just every Major League game, either. His philosophy, he said, dates back to his Little League days, and it’s one that we all do well to heed in whatever endeavor we pursue, and in every area of our lives.

Take nothing for granted; tomorrow is promised to no one.

Yes, it’s a shame that then-Orioles’ star Manny Machado’s slide in 2017 ushered in Pedroia’s premature end as a player while he was still very close to his prime. But, as Pedroia observed Monday, that kind of injury could have happened during his rookie season.

Indeed, Pedroia’s cup is more than half-full. It’s not unreasonable to argue that it has been overflowing for quite some time. When the club drafted him, the Red Sox had just won their first World Series title in 86 years. Today, thanks in large part to Pedroia and his infectious, winning attitude, they have three more championships.

Of all the great moments in Pedroia’s career, the one that stands out most in my mind is one that actually set in motion a Keystone Kops blunder that sent the BoSox to a crushing loss.

In this freeze-frame of the Fox television broadcast, Dustin Pedroia prepares to fire home in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the 2013 World Series. Without Pedroia's stellar play, the ensuing Keystone Kops ending never materializes.In In this freeze-frame of the Fox television broadcast, Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia prepares to fire home in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the 2013 World Series.

It’s Game 3 of the 2013 World Series, which is tied up at a game apiece. The Cardinals are threatening in the bottom of the ninth inning with the game tied at 4. The Sox infield is drawn in to cut down a potential runner at the plate.

As if on cue, the Cards’ Jon Jay slaps a sharp ground ball to the right of the mound. Pedroia spears it on a short hop after leaping to his right. He gets to his feet and lasers a perfect strike to Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to nab St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina at the plate.

From there, however, everything unravels.

First, third baseman Will Middlebrooks fails to catch a slightly errant throw from Saltalamacchia. Then, sprawled out on his stomach, Middlebrooks lifts his legs and trips the Cards’ already-gimpy runner, Allen Craig, as he frantically starts to scramble home. The third-base umpire rightfully rules obstruction, and though a throw beats Craig to the plate and Saltalamacchia applies the tag in time, Craig is awarded the winning run.

The scene isn’t complete without observing, in the immediate, chaotic aftermath, Pedroia lifting up his arms in befuddlement. Then, as the call sinks in, he drops his head and trudges off the field, crestfallen. Shave off his beard and trim 20 years from his age, and he’s a Little Leaguer glumly leaving the field on the short end of the stick. It’s quintessential Pedroia.

Of course, none of that craziness happens without Pedroia first making an extraordinary play in an extraordinarily crucial moment.

The Keystone Kops ending to the 2013 World Series’ Game 3 sequence. It began with Dustin Pedroia making a remarkable play, snagging a hard-hit ball, then nailing Yadier Molina at the plate.

Fortunately for me and the rest of Red Sox Nation, Boston swept the next three contests to overcome the 2-1 Series deficit. And it has also been our great good fortune to see Pedroia bring his indefatigable grit and talent to the game for as long as he did. 

Not only did his cup overflow, but so did that of every baseball fan–especially we Red Sox denizens. The passion that Pedroia exuded every time he took the field brought each of us back to those times when we, likewise, had the joy of playing the sport.

This column also appeared on February 2nd on the Boston Patch.

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Trump’s shameful legacy includes 30,000+ false & misleading claims

Last year, in my “Go Figure: Making Numbers Count” numeracy programs, I focused on the 2020 U.S. Presidential campaign. Anchoring the session each time was my “GOlympics” quiz, in which each letter (G-O-L-Y…etc) covers a mathematical principle that intersects with the art of story-telling.

One of those queries:

“Since Donald Trump became President, the Washington Post has tracked false and misleading claims that he has made. In coverage of prior administrations, the Post has tracked a number of previous presidents’ per-day lying habits. How many other presidents’ false and misleading claims have been tracked?”

Usually, people would guess anywhere from two to five prior Presidents. Once or twice, an alert individual would give the correct answer: zero.

Although it’s obvious that prior U.S. Presidents had fibbed in a multitude of manners, it is safe to say that none had ever done so with as much frequency or flagrancy as Trump. But without a more exhaustive analysis, we have no way of knowing with any precision by how many times our 45th President eclipsed his predecessors in the Liar, Liar Pants on Fire department.

About That Number 0

Quick aside about that “zero” answer: my point in crafting what some might consider a “trick” question is that it should not be seen as tricky at all–zero is not only a bona fide number, but it’s immensely important. One reason for its outsized significance is that it can be embedded into misleading or murky communication.

To wit: “The city council member noted that his vote came because a number of people have been complaining about the issue.”

Each time I covered this question during my Go Figure program, I would pose another one that goes to the heart of journalistic ethics: Do you believe the Post should continue this false/misleading tracker with future Presidents? My students, I am glad to report, would answer in the same manner that I would emphatically argue: absolutely yes!

For one thing, Trump has given all future Presidents a benchmark against which they can be measured. Do they have the gall (and stamina and outright detachment from honesty) to utter false or misleading claims upwards of 21 times a day?

Beyond that, though, it’s only appropriate that, in fairness and balance, Biden (and future Presidents) ought to be held to the same standard of forthrightness that we seek in our leaders.

In Praise of The Post

The task of tracking politicians’ statements, and checking them against the truth, is herculean. The Washington Post deserves the highest praise for its effort, as do all others who tackle such a monumental challenge. It is also notable that the Fact Checker’s editor in chief, Glenn Kessler, points out that his team does not fact-check “to influence the behavior of politicians; we write fact checks to inform voters. What voters — or politicians — do with the information in our fact checks is up to them.”

You should check out the Post Fact Checker’s database of Trump’s false and misleading claims. While charting it along a daily and monthly timeline, the newspaper breaks it down by topic, from terrorism and trade to the coronavirus, his own biographical record, and a host of other categories. It is horrifying to behold–and that’s no lie.

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Oh, baby! New year’s news warms weary soul

In my journalism career, I had the opportunity to write about so many subjects—quite literally from A (archaeologists, academics, activists, annual budgets, and an astronaut, just for starters) to Z (maybe a zoo? a zebra? Well, at least some folks had first and last names starting with the 26th letter of the alphabet).

However, I cannot recall ever writing about a New Year’s Baby—that hyper-local staple of journalism that, come every January, chronicles a community or region’s inaugural boy or girl.

Page 1 of the Jan. 8, 2021 edition of the Harlan News-Advertiser. Inside were police reports, high school basketball game accounts, birthday notices for those celebrating their 70th and 90th birthdays, obituaries and other local news and columns.

This all comes to mind on the heels of my 1,000-mile trek last week from Colorado back to Chicagoland. Along the way, at multiple convenience store/gas stations, I encountered local newspapers that were faithfully on the New Year’s baby beat.

I chuckled at the recurring theme and could not resist purchasing one of those editions, the Harlan Advertiser-News in Harlan, Iowa. The front page proclaimed the news of the birth of Maya Louise Scheffler, the fourth child of Megan Gettys and Adam Scheffler. A pretty cool subplot: one local resident won a year’s subscription to the paper ($69 value) by being the closest to predict the precise time of the first area baby’s arrival. Stunningly, JoAnn Bruck of Earling was a mere one minute off the mark.

It may be hard to summon the memory, but can you think back to the closing days of the seemingly never-ending 2020? Were you, like so many of us, anxious to put the trying, terrible, tragic, traumatic year in our rear-view mirror? It was a horrible time in countless ways; too many of us have our stories of woe, me and my family included.

Sadly, 2021 has felt like a colossal doubling-down of 2020. At the heart of its terrible tumult: the heinous insurrection last week at the U.S. Capitol.

From afar, like so many millions of Americans, I witnessed that ugliness with a heavy heart. A few days later, making our way back after a week of blunted restoration near the Rockies, my soul was warmed to see these beaming couples along with their healthy children in those newspaper accounts from across the heartland.

Not sure if you had occasion to come across any similar account. If not, here you go—may it offer you, amidst the madness and brokenness, at least a small measure of hope and joy.

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Three Simple Steps to Shoring Up Those Loose LinkedIn Connections & Adding Value

What is your reaction when someone you barely know, or don’t know at all, seeks to connect with you on LinkedIn?

You may agree to the connection, but it will be a loose link at best, unlikely to generate much benefit to either of you.

Keep that in mind as you reflect on whether, or how, to reach out to people that you barely know, but would like to stay in touch with via the increasingly popular professional social media platform.

Here are three steps to consider:

1. Never seek to Link-In with someone you have not met personally or been in contact with previously.

Flouting this counsel will relegate you to the realm of the presumptuous or weird. At minimum, you will come across as unprofessional, and that’s the polar opposite of the first impression you are striving for. On those occasions where you want to Link-In with someone, take an intermediate step of introducing yourself, either in a phone call or an email, so that your LinkedIn outreach isn’t the cyber-equivalent of a cold call.

2. When making the LinkedIn invitation, personalize your greeting.

Especially if you have not met the individual one-on-one, this is paramount.

For example, a while back I was at a business panel discussion. Later in the day, I looked up one of the speakers online and his LinkedIn profile indicated that we share several mutual connections. In my invitation, I noted those mutual connections as well as the fact that I was writing a summary of his panel discussion. Armed with that context, he accepted my invitation.

3. Try to provide value to the new connection as soon as possible.

How often have you had the experience of Linking-in with someone, only to have them fade from memory days, or maybe even only hours, later? For all intents and purposes, you and the other individual are just taking up space on your respective rosters of names and titles.

To rise above that tendency, see what you can to serve the new connection. Maybe it’s a story that relates to their field, or a mutual connection that you can edify in a brief note, in such a way that it might spark a dialogue that leads to something mutually productive.

Best-selling author and acclaimed marketing leader Seth Godin puts it this way: “We remember what you did when you didn’t need us so urgently…It means investing, perhaps overinvesting, in relationships long before it’s in your interest to do so.”

No, Martha, It’s Not 1977 Anymore: You Are No Longer at the ‘Mainstream’ Media’s Mercy's not 1977 anymore!. (Inside Edge PR photo)

Psst…it’s not 1977 anymore!. (Inside Edge PR photo)

Sometimes, we need a smack upside the head with a reminder that it’s not 1977 anymore.

It’s not even 2002, not by a long shot.

For the past 15 years in which I have been plying the public relations trade, I have been banging this particular drum, louder and more insistently: the so-called mainstream media is no longer the sole arbiter of what’s news.

Sure, there are still gatekeepers who decide if you get into this publication over here or on that TV station over there. But everyone now has an unlimited number of publications and TV channels, thanks to the magic of the Internet.

Master marketer and outside-the-box thought leader Seth Godin weighs in insightfully on this note with his post, “The Debate Channel.”

Although his post related to the burgeoning runs for the U.S. Presidency, way back in ’16, his points are relevant across the board, regardless of industry. He’s got plenty of golden nuggets in the piece, but here are a few of my favorites:

“But TV isn’t in charge any more. We each own our own TV broadcasting network—anyone who wants to put on a show, can.”

“Can you imagine a musician today who only performed on TV when asked to by Jimmy Fallon? No music videos, no online work…”

“The organization with an FCC license is no longer in charge, debates aren’t something that happen to you, they’re something you can choose to do.”

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