Cal Poly Baseball Players Persevere through the Minor Leagues

(This was originally an article for JOUR 203)

On June 4, 2019, Cal Poly pitcher Bobby Ay was drafted in the 9th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He now gets to add himself to the list of Cal Poly baseball alumni who are fighting through the grind of minor league baseball, going all the way back to 2011. Over the past decade, Cal Poly has had plenty of success in Baggett Stadium, but often times we see our favorite baseball players’ names disappear after graduation.  

This arduous process is not unheard of for most college baseball players, as the game of minor league baseball produces far more losers than winners.

In most sports it takes time to get to the top, which is why almost all major sports have lower talent leagues. Whether it’s the G-league for the NBA, the CHL for the NHL or even the former European League and soon-to-be XFL for the NFL, new players can almost always come to expect this addition to their professional career. 

Nowhere is that more true than the MLB, which has eight different levels of minor league teams, not including independent or international leagues. This, combined with over 1200 players being drafted each year (not including international prospects), means that to get to the MLB you have to prove you belong.

In the 2010s, 36 Cal Poly alumni have been drafted and played minor league baseball. The final addition to this list, Bobby Ay, was the only player drafted from Cal Poly in the 2019 MLB draft, the smallest number of the decade. The year before in 2018 three players were drafted, including Alex Mckenna, who recently was involved in a car accident. 

These players are Cal Poly’s new wave of talent, and are still looking to establish themselves in the minors. Teams typically give their prospects two years after being drafted to evaluate before releasing them, so once they survive this their minor league career is much more solidified.

As simple as it sounds, making it more than two years in the minors is far from a given. Twenty of Cal Poly’s 36 prospects couldn’t make it past this two year milestone, including every Cal Poly player drafted in 2016. With the high number of prospects entering the minors yearly, talent alone isn’t enough to stick around. To make a career out of baseball, you gotta have the intangibles.

Larry Lee, coach of Cal Poly’s baseball team since 2002, believes that coachability is a crucial part of making it up the minor league ranks. “Work hard, open minded, continue to get better on a monthly basis, it’s an impossible game to master so you just have to keep making small improvements. 

He also mentioned how unpredictable the success of certain players can be, saying that “there are very few sure things in baseball”. If you were drafted in the first round, you wouldn’t really be any more likely to make the majors than someone from the tenth round.

However, where you get drafted does determines the amount of money you make in your minor league career, which makes it more difficult to stick around if you get drafted in a later round. The 2015 Cal Poly draftees have found ways to defy this, with three people drafted after round 10 still playing in the minors. The five active players from this draft class are the most of any year.

If 2015 was the year of quantity, then 2012 was the year of quality. The two most successful Cal Poly baseball players from this decade were both drafted in 2012; Mitch Haniger and Mike Miller are the only two players this decade to have played in the MLB from Cal Poly. 

Mitch Haniger is one of the MLB’s rising stars, being rewarded an all-star appearance and Most Valuable Player votes in his only full year of MLB baseball. His 2019 season was cut short due to a ruptured testical and strained back. He is the only prospect to be drafted in the first round from Cal Poly this decade.

Mike Miller was drafted almost 300 spots later, but worked his way up to AAA ball in only 4 years. On June 27, 2016 he achieved his dream of playing in the MLB. After coming in as a defensive replacement in the top of the 9th inning down by 6, he grounded out to the shortstop. 

The game ended quickly thereafter, and so did Mike Miller’s MLB career. He has not played in the major leagues since that at-bat. He’s back in AAA ball now trying to get back to the show, but as of right now, his MLB career reads one game, one at-bat, one ground out.

Lee also touched on a second, equally as important factor in reaching success at the professional level: luck, especially for later round picks. “It’s really political, things really have to fall into place if you don’t sign for a lot of money,” Lee said. “Sometimes you just end up in the wrong organization, stuck behind some high level guys in the majors.” 

Quite frankly, for a lot of prospects, it just doesn’t work out.

While most of the other Cal Poly draft classes from this decade are remarkable for what was achieved in the diamond, the 2014 class was far more notable for what they did outside of the minors.

Nick Torres, the only player from this class still playing baseball professionally, has recently abandoned minor league baseball to play in the Mexican Baseball League. As baseball becomes more globally connected, playing in an international league is quickly becoming a viable pathway to the MLB.

Matt Imhof was one of the most highly touted prospects to come out of Cal Poly when he was drafted in the second round. Only three years into his career, at only 23, he experienced a freak accident while lifting weights and lost his eye. 

After major struggles with depression and self-identity following the injury, he announced his retirement to focus on life after baseball. 

Chris Hoo was the complete opposite as Imhof. Drafted very late, he was never particularly close to making the majors. After he was demoted back to A Ball, the Marlins offered him a job as a bullpen catcher, allowing him to fulfill his major league dream in a different way. 

Recently, he took a job at Cal Poly to work with the baseball team and be closer to his family in California.

Life after the minor leagues doesn’t always have to come at the expense of baseball. Giving up the grind of the minors doesn’t immediately void these prospect’s love for the game.

Nick Grim was the third and final player drafted in 2012. He didn’t have the same success as Haniger or Miller but he played minor league ball for a few years before calling it in 2016. He recently began playing in a low-level independent league called the Pecos League.

“I’m not really trying to get back into affiliated baseball, I just want to play for fun and it’s 10 minutes from my house,” said Grim about what motivated him to play in the Pecos League. “The chance to play [baseball here] in a competitive setting was more fun, especially now that my family can see me play”. 

Many other prospects have continued to quench their thirst for baseball post-retirement with similar independent leagues, which allows them to enjoy the intensity of professional baseball in a more comforting environment. Grim is still deciding if he’s going to play next year.

Baseball more than any other major sport is about patience. This translates aptly to the minor league process. Cal Poly alumni have had to struggle through the grind of uncomfortable bus rides, nights away from family, and constant pressure of performance all at a chance of their life-long goal of making the MLB. Even if it’s just for a single at-bat.

Luckily, these athletes are not isolated in their pursuits. The brotherhood created at Cal Poly between prospects doesn’t end at graduation, or even after the minors. They are forever connected by their sport, by their college, and by their dreams.

When asked about staying in touch with teammates, Grim laughed and mentioned that he talks to his teammates all the time, to “see what they’re up to”. Last Saturday, Grim, along with a bunch of other teammates attended 2014 draftee and bullpen catcher Chris Hoo’s wedding. 

Their names may have disappeared to us, but the brotherhood that was formed with each other will never wither.

How Tortillas Highlight the Highs and Lows of One of College Soccer’s Best Rivalries

(This was originally an article written for JOUR 203)

It’s a typical San Luis Obispo afternoon, and as the sun begins to drape behind Bishop Peak, over 11,000 soccer fans file into Cal Poly’s Spanos Stadium to watch the central coast’s biggest soccer game: Cal Poly vs UC Santa Barbara, otherwise known as the Blue-Green game. Although the sheer attendance of these games makes this one of the most significant collegiate rivalries, anyone familiar with these match-ups knows that what really makes it stand out is in the bleachers, hidden from the security staff: tortillas!

(Flickr)

On Nov. 2, thousands of tortillas littered the field, and dozens of fans were escorted out as UCSB defeated Cal Poly at home 2-0 in their second match-up of the year. Such has been the tradition for years, but as Cal Poly continues to crack down on tortilla throwing, the future of the flour-based rivalry looks increasingly unsustainable.

Recorded incidents of tortilla throwing between the schools have been reported since the 1990s, but it hardly took off overnight. Over the years, Cal Poly became increasingly involved in tortilla throwing during UCSB games, although it wasn’t a staple of the rivalry at first, mostly because there wasn’t one.

This began to change and starting in 2001, UC Santa Barbara won twelve straight games against Cal Poly, showing unadulterated dominance on the soccer field. Much like those games, Nov. 2 wasn’t the close match that many people anticipated. Despite only giving up three shots to UC Santa Barbara all game, they still scored two goals, giving Cal Poly an abysmal save percentage of 33%. Cal Poly had 19 shots, none of which went in. 

It wasn’t much prettier in the first game of the year either, as UCSB won 3-1 on October 5. Fittingly, this is the first time that UC Santa Barbara swept the season series against Cal Poly since 2006, the last year of UCSB’s 12 game win streak. Additionally, it marked the last year of UC Santa Barbara dominance over their central coast counterparts and the induction of the house that Spanos built.

Flickr

In 2007, Cal Poly finished construction on Spanos Stadium, and had their first winning season this century. They even split the season series, finally ending UCSB’s win streak. The rivalry was starting to take shape, and in 2008 it would solidify.

Its October 17, 2008, and a sold out crowd of 11,075 fill Spanos Stadium. It’s the highest selling regular season college soccer game of it’s decade. This is the teams first meeting of the year, and looks like an instant classic, still scoreless going into double overtime. Suddenly, a vodka bottle is thrown in the direction of UCSB’s goaltender from the south bleachers, several more bottles follow. The goaltender is ok but a delay of game is called by the referee, which kills Cal Poly’s momentum, and leads to a UCSB goal only a few moments after play resumes to end the game. An otherwise fantastic game became overshadowed by the projectiles that determined it. 

But how do we get to tortillas? In basketball, UCSB’s opponents shot technical free throws in multiple games because of tortillas thrown onto the court mid-game, including an incident (Feb. 13, 1997, against Pacific) where head coach Jerry Pimm pleaded with the fans mid-game to stop throwing them. The fans responded to his outcry by hitting him in the head with a tortilla. 

Cal Poly’s former head coach Paul Holocher also described the tradition as “stupid” and “not apart of being a fan of the game” in a press conference following a Blue-Green game. In terms of on the field play, it’s hard to argue that the act of throwing tortillas doesn’t dilute the on field product.

Even if the field conditions aren’t ideal, tortilla throwing has become so integrated in the Blue-Green rivalry it could be too late to turn back now. That bottle thrown in 2008 introduced thousands of college students to the rowdy, rambunctious atmosphere that makes soccer such a global force. The rivalry injected life into two otherwise insignificant NCAA programs.

In the years following 2008, Cal Poly and UCSB officially formalized and embraced the rivalry, even creating a website in 2012 showcasing the match-ups between the two teams in every collegiate sport.  Without a doubt, the Blue-Green rivalry had been established as one of the fastest growing in all of collegiate sports.

wayback machine

Since 2011, every single Blue-Green soccer game has sold out in Spanos Stadium. According to the NCAA, 17 of the 25 highest attendance non-tournament collegiate soccer games are Blue-Green rivalry games.

Despite this astounding attendance record accompanying the rivalry, there are signs of fatigue, with the last two Blue-Green games in Santa Barbara not cracking 10,000 in attendance for the first time since 2010. Around 2016 the website for the rivalry was deleted, and all the photos of the vodka incident were deleted too. Cal Poly also has increased the cohesion of their pat-downs, and number of security guards in the student section.

Kaitlyn Robles, a third-year student at Cal Poly, believes that the primary factor behind the crackdown is the cultural appropriation associated with throwing tortillas. “Cal Poly has been insisting for a few years since I got here that throwing tortillas is insensitive.” Robles also sees the lack of UCSB representation as a factor behind the accusation, saying “UCSB students don’t really come to the games in SLO as much, so probably not a good look for Cal Poly to throw most of [the tortillas, UCSB] are the Gauchos after all.” 

As Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara prepare for the next chapter of their rivalry, plenty of uncertainty about its future still remains. UCSB has been debating the retirement of their Gaucho mascot for something less insensitive, while Cal Poly has been making extremely concerted efforts to increase inclusivity following recent scandals. 

While the Blue-Green rivalry was once certainly a priority for both schools, the lower than average attendance and lack of parity between the two teams this season could spell the beginning of the end. Of course, tortilla throwing remains common practice at schools such as Texas Tech and there will likely always be people in support of the tradition. However, in an age where sports rivalries are becoming increasingly trivialized by students, tortillas might just have to stay in the grocery store.

On my way home from the Blue-Green game last Saturday, I met Hatim, an Uber driver who went to school at UCSB, but now lives in SLO. “I used to watch the games all the time, not much any more,” Hatim said. He was disappointed to hear that both of the Blue-Green games this year were quite one-sided. “You can’t always win everything.”

Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want: Music’s Answer to the Elephant’s Foot

2018 was one of the past decades’ greatest years for music; it had everything I wanted from a year musically. As a rap fan, G.O.O.D. Music dropped five albums in five weeks, including Pusha T’s Daytona and KIDS SEE GHOSTS. Artists like JPEGMAFIA and SOPHIE released breakthrough, genre-pushing experimental albums. Drake even got posterized by the Story of Adidon in one of the better modern rap beefs.

Above all else however, my 2018 was highlighted by two incredible rock albums. Two albums that couldn’t be more sonically different from one another.

Album Cover for Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy

On February 16, 2018, Car Seat Headrest released the re-recorded, remastered version of his 2011 album Twin Fantasy. Originally recorded in an extremely lo-fi manner in the backseat of his car (hence the band name), Will Toledo used his deal with Matador Records to recreate his Bandcamp classic with a professional budget. The difference is astounding…

…and the result is a tender and sentimental love album that oozes with character. Most of the songs are very dynamic and progressive in structure, and touch on topics from being LGBT to social awkwardness. Its a deeply and profoundly human album.

The second rock album couldn’t be any further from human.

An old gymnasium in Pripyat, Ukraine left desolate from the Chernobyl reactor explosion. (Wikimedia Commons)

Lets go back to April 26, 1986: the date of the Chernobyl disaster. During a routine reactor test, the infamous reactor 4 experienced a power surge that ultimately led to the reactor exploding, contaminating the surrounding area with large amounts of radiation.

Because of the unfathomable heat produced in the explosion, the reactor core melted into a toxic lava that sunk through the reactor, through the concrete floor, and allowing the horrifying byproduct to begin to solidify in the basement.

One of few recorded photos of the Elephant’s Foot. The intense radiation from the mass is causing the bizarre camera effects. (US Department of Energy)

Upon its discovery that same December, it emitted 10 times the lethal dose of radiation. It would only take 300 seconds of direct exposure to the mass to result in death within 2 days. As a result, some have cited Chernobyl’s basement as the most dangerous room in the world.

Today it sits inside a sarcophagus built to lock the radiation off from the rest of the world, leaving the Elephant’s Foot to sit there, slowly sinking through the floor, left to decay out of sight from the public. It also is the only way I can effectively describe the listening experience for the second album.

Album Cover for Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want (Bandcamp)

Trying to explain the sound of You Won’t Get What You Want is like trying to explain having your eyes gauged out. Few words can properly do justice to the manic, demented sonic landscape this album presents. Across 10 tracks, this album batters and bruises you, forcing you to stare its radioactive terror in the eye. It is music’s answer to The Elephant Foot (roll credits). How did this happen? What allowed this mass to form in the basement?

A routine reactor test

If you knew Daughters before YWGWYW, it would be hard to imagine them releasing an album of this magnitude. Formed in Providence, Rhode Island in 2002, they started out as a pretty generic mathcore group, a niche sub-genre of hardcore punk classified by rhythmically complex time signatures and the use of dissonant and jarring sounds.

The most notable thing about Daughters in their mathcore phase, in my opinion, is the names of their tracks, which on their debut album Canada Songs I find to be downright hilarious.

(Spotify)

That being said not much about the music on their first 2 albums stands out, especially compared to the top mathcore releases of the time. In part, this may be due to their miniscule album lengths, with Canada Songs and Hell Songs clocking in at 11 minutes (with 10 songs!) and 23 minutes, respectively.

Our old songwriting was definitely more like “how many parts can we cram into this one song and each of them only happens once”

Samuel Walker (bassist) on Daughters old sound

The new decade gave us a new sound from Daughters, and in 2010 they dropped their self-titled album which sees them transition from mathcore to noise rock. The band keeps the distinct and tortured sound from their mathcore work but replaces the technical and rhythmic melodies with more traditional rock progression. Since it is a Daughters album it doesn’t pass the 30 minute mark, but the album shows potential for all future Daughters releases.

“I don’t think I’ll ever play with Daughters again – I’ve been through way too much stress and I’m in a way better place with writing and being in a band Fang Island. With the new album, I think we ended on a really good note”

Nick Sadler (guitar) on the future of Daughters (Punk News 2010)

The band started to fall apart. Lead singer Alexis Marshall and guitarist Nick Sadler got into an argument during the production of self-titled, causing Marshall to leave the band. The remaining three members mixed and finished the rest of the record in hopes that Marshall would return to the band, which he agreed to do as long as Sadler left the band. Bassist Samuel Walker and Sadler both walked away as a result, the latter joining the acclaimed indie rock group Fang Island.

All that was left was a drummer (Jon Syverson) and a vocalist. The reactor had officially blown up, and it seemed like Daughters was next in the long line of bands that just couldn’t stay together.

Album Cover for Daughters – Self Titled (Wikipedia)

Left to decay out of sight from the public

Its 2013 and we’re 5 years out from YWGWYW’s release, but Daughters is no closer to reforming. By now, all the members were living in different states, and half of them were in new bands altogether (Marshall would front the Punk band Fucking Invincible during this time). They all had moved on to new projects, and Daughters was left to decay and deform out of sight from the public.

And then they got lunch.

Marshall and Sadler still aren’t on speaking terms, but they agreed to meet for lunch through a mutual friend, who told each of the musicians that the other wanted to see them. In actuality, neither of them wanted to see eachother, but at lunch they hit it off like nothing even happened.

“We sat down and had dinner and within 15 minutes we started talking about plans. We just needed to be in the same room I guess… it felt that enough time had gone by that any issues that Nick [Sadler] and I had had been not necessarily forgotten but they didn’t seem that important anymore.”

Alexis Marshall (vocalist) on lunch with Sadler.

They started talking about the possibility of making another Daughters album, and even did a couple of New England shows. However, they were still confined by their separate lives, and often would have to go months in between writing and recording sessions.

“Any time off we had from our schedule, I’d get a plane ticket up here [to Pawtucket], figure out where to sleep, and we’d try to write”

Jon Syverson (drums) on the making of YWGWYW

This was a pretty obvious roadblock for the band, and it often left them wondering if they would even be able to put the record out. As tough as it may have been, it gave them all the time in the world to think. They had to assemble this album inch by inch, terror by terror. Slowly but surely, they were sinking through the concrete floor, hardening in the basement.

The horrifying byproduct

You Wont Get What You Want was released October 26, 2018 at 50 minutes long, almost twice as long as any other Daughters album (almost five times longer than their debut!). Instead of trying to cram as many sounds and riffs into a song once, they began to flesh out their sounds and assemble longer, more atmospherically chilling musical passages, building on the sound they started to create on their self-titled album.

Sadler is the band member credited with leading production on this album, and creates a despondent, rotting instrumental palette on YWGWYW. The guitars on songs like Long Road, No Turns sound rickety and soulless, as if they could crumble into dust if they are played too hard. On faster tracks, they pierce your ears with a very Psycho violin-esque sound that is the textbook definition of musical anxiety such as on The Reason They Hate Me. Syverson’s drums are equally demented, and are often distorted to sound hollow and lifeless, most notably on the opening track City Song.

Fantastic production aside, its Alexis Marshall’s lyrics and vocals that set this album apart.

(Discogs)

That bastard had a head like a matchstick, face like he was sucking concrete through a straw. “Some faces not even a mother can love”, says the spit and spatter of broken glass from above. (Satan In The Wait)

Don’t tell me how to do my job you gimme-gimme son of a bitch. They got a name for people like you but I don’t give a good goddamn to remember what it is now. (The Reason They Hate Me)

I need a place to bury the soulless, charming, winter-hell creature upon me. Who boarded the windows? Who closed the screens? (Guest House)

I don’t know what to say when people come apart. The road is long, the road is dark, and these are just the words to somebody else’s song. (Long Road, No Turns)

His shoes come up from off his feet, the shadow haunts him for several yards. The ghosts of what he was, desperate to keep up until gone. Now the road, punching upwards into his soft, naked feet he is never-knowing, never again, forever flowing, no more waiting. His muscles burn, deciding to run till he can run no more. To find everything he can find. To know, to see for himself if there is an ocean beyond the waves. (Ocean Song)

Marshall’s manic and anxious delivery on YWGWYW elevates the record in a way that he hadn’t been able to do on previous Daughters records. Heavy and impacting lyrics covering the deterioration of mental health and becoming unhinged pepper the entire album. It sounds like your’e listening to Marshall slowly devolve into this ghastly, inhumane figure. His cries on the closing track to “LET ME IN” are nothing short of spine-chilling.

When Daughters toured prior to disbanding, they were infamous for their on stage antics. Notable instances include Marshall playing entire shows naked, flossing his ass with the microphone cable, and drinking bottles of piss.

“Sometimes the audience was inconsequential. I just wanted to disgust myself. I just wanted to be this grotesque animal.”

ASF Marshall (vocalist) on past touring antics (Revolver Mag)

Marshall struggled with alcoholism throughout the band’s original run. Going into the release of YWGWYW he was 10 years sober, allowing himself to deliver a portrait of mental health and addiction vividly described by someone who made it out the other side.

Upon its release You Won’t Get What You Want was met with universal acclaim. At the beginning of 2018, few would have expected the comeback album from an almost decade-dead noise rock band to release possibly the 2010’s most disturbing rock masterpiece.

Daughters Performing Live (Wikipedia)

Inside the sarcophagus

How did this happen? What happened in those 8 years on hiatus to create this? What happened to the band who named songs things like Pants, Meet Shit?

That band is gone, they exploded with the reactor. All we have left are the decaying remnants, the horrifying byproduct of a failed explosion, sitting deep in a basement. They weren’t supposed to create a masterpiece, not like this.

Could this album have even been created another way? If Daughters never split up, didn’t have to build YWGWYW piece by piece with months between writing and recording, would the have album been this good? If Daughters wasn’t a radioactive blob decaying in an abandoned plant, trapped in a sarcophagus, could they have done this?

I don’t think so; an album of this magnitude isn’t made in a day. It needs to seer in its own radioactive waste, slowly morphing from traditional mathcore into an unrecognizable beast. Time did not age Daughters like fine wine, it rotted them like a corpse.

The latest recorded photo of the Elephant’s Foot, no longer radioactive enough to interfere with the camera. (US Department of Energy)

The last time the elephant’s foot was seen, it only emitted 1/10th of its previous radiation. Fatal exposure once at only 300 seconds now is well over an hour. While its still molten hot, the radioactivity that made it so toxic to begin with is depleting.

“It’s more enjoyable now that I’m aware of what’s happening to me and who I’m talking to and having personally more fulfilling experiences.” Marshall said about his experience touring sober. “There’s a lot of life, and when you’re all fucked up, you’re missing it.”

Westside Gunn – Pray for Paris ALBUM REVIEW

East Coast Hip-Hop/Hardcore Hip-Hop||Griselda Records

One of the more exciting artists coming out of the east coast rap scene, and 1/3rd of the coke-rap heavyweights Griselda. Westside Gunn has always intrigued me because of the unique energy he brings on every Griselda cut. It’s almost impossible to miss his expressive ad-libs on songs, and alongside the slow rise of Griselda to the top of the underground, I was excited to hear what he would deliver on Pray For Paris. Not to mention Griselda is coming off of a couple of solid projects, from Benny the Butcher’s The Plugs I Met to Griselda’s debut album WWCD

Unfortunately, despite presenting itself as a grandiose coke rap odyssey, the album seems to be more style than substance.

That being said, I really like the imagery that the album coveys throughout. Audio snippets like the 400 million intro and the Million Dollar Man outro at the end of Allah Sent Me gives this reader a taste of this unfathomably rich lifestyle that is consistent with most Griselda releases. Additionally, Pray for Paris has some of my favorite production across any Griselda project, with beats from Alchemist, DJ Premier, and even Tyler, the Creator on the song Party wit Pop Smoke. They go a long way towards establishing the lavish tone that Gunn is trying to convey on this album.

The album also starts off on a great note. After the 400 million intro we get a short verse and second-intro of sorts from Westside which leads into George Bondo, the first of two cuts featuring the rest of Griselda, and an easy highlight for the album with lyrics about weight, watches, and wealth. 

We also get a posse cut with Joey Bada$$ and Tyler, the Creator (who I wouldn’t have expected to have such a large role on this album) on 527, which goes over well as Bada$$ and Tyler both deliver verses that showcase their unique styles without the track sounding like a mess.

Unfortunately, the album begins its nosedive on French Toast, where Westside Gunn sings in his nasally, high-pitched voice throughout almost the entire track. There’s also a Wale feature, for some reason, that goes over as well as you would expect. The second Griselda cut Allah Sent Me isn’t much better and is a lot more forgettable than George Bondo.

The quality in the middle of the album doesn’t ever really recover, from the short and forgettable Euro Step and Versace, to the boring and underperformed Clairborne kick, where Gunn pitch-shits his vocals in a Tyleresque way, alongside an utterly unremarkable Boldy James verse. $500 Ounces offers the only redeeming moments with a great Alchemist beat and a good feature from the never-underwhelming Freddie Gibbs. Roc Marciano’s verse on this track doesn’t really do it for me, and I think it takes away from the song’s overall quality.

I do think the album does redeem itself on the tail end, as the last 3 tracks are all quite good. Shawn vs. Flair is probably the most playful song on the whole album, with more traditional 90s boom-bap production, and some of the albums more well-conceived verses. Party wit Pop Smoke is easily one of the better beats that Tyler, the Creator has ever put together, which accompanies possibly the two most cold-blooded verses on the album from Gunn and Keisha Plum. 

The closing track on the album ends the album on a fitting note, with one final verse about from Gunn along with something I’ve never seen before: a tap-dancing solo from Cartier Williams, which Gunn segues into quite cleverly through his verse. 

As a whole, I think despite this album’s inconsistency, at its best it delivers some of the most cold-blooded coke rap of 2020. Unfortunately, for every highlight on this album, there’s a corresponding low-light that weighs the album down, despite its great presentation and production throughout.

6 Bricks out of 10

The New Wave of Country

It is commonly believed that students today have two general types of music they listen to: all music genres, and all music genres except country. However, country music as of late has begun to branch out into new directions in large part to the success of Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road. As a result, country crossovers and influence has exploded.

This can be seen in the revitalization of old-school country, thanks in large part to artists like Orville Peck, Faye Webster, and the late David Berman of Purple Mountains. These artists take the emotional weight of old country music and frame with more modern themes and sounds to advance the genre forward.

Heath Hooper is a photographer and a large fan of country music, as well as the country aesthetic at large. I sat down with him recently to get his take on this growing country trend.

SLOcal Art: A Look at Jason Towne’s Glow Show at Art After Dark

While so far this blog has focused heavily on sports, I want to expand into talking about music and art culture moving forward, and there is no better way to start than by focusing on San Luis Obispo’s local scenes.

One of these artists is Jason Towne, who for the next two months is showcasing his Glow Show gallery at the 4 Cats Cafe. According to his website, Towne describes the art as “paintings on paper designed to be enjoyed with or without black lighting.”

The gallery bisects the cafe into two distinct experiences: the front which serves to display Towne’s original paintings, and the back which houses the Glow Show.

“As an experience, the Glow Show is mesmerizing,” said Cal Poly student Jackson Stanwick, who attended the event this past Friday. “They gave me a black-light flashlight and I got to shine it on all the paintings and such.”

Towne is also hosting art galleries through Nautical Bean Art Shows for the rest of March. Glow Show will be featured at the 4 Cats Cafe through the month of April.

Watching Baseball Die: What is Rob Manfred Doing?

With spring training bringing in baseball for the year, very few baseball fans are focused on the season ahead. Instead, most of the focus is shifted towards the 2017 season, and possibly the biggest baseball scandal since the Black Sox in 1919. 

During the offseason the Houston Astros, who won the World Series in 2017, were caught using technology to intercept the catcher’s pitch signals, allowing the batter to know the pitch that’s being thrown to him. 

Baseball fans wanted blood, a hard crackdown on the Astros and their players. Commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t get the memo, and it doesn’t bode well for his career.

Rumors of the Astros sign stealing have been swirling the MLB the past few years, but the rumors began to elevate in early-November when reports surfaced alleging them of banging a trashcan in the dugout for off-speed pitches in 2017. Popular fans like Jomboy were amongst the first to bring exposure to the scandal by searching Astros games for trash can bangs.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred and other MLB investigators stated they were conducting a “really really thorough investigation” into the scandal. “Any allegations that could affect the outcome of a game or games is the most serious matter,” Manfred elaborated.

Baseball is not a sport short of scandals. From the steroid use that plagued the sport in the 90s and early 00s, to the Pete Rose gambling incident and the Black Sox scandal, incidents like these have always been apart of baseball. Sign stealing had simply become the next chapter.

However, in order for the sport to move forward from these scandals the league had to crack down hard on its perpetrators…

especially when they exceed on the highest level, and win the World Series. Fans league-wide speculated player suspensions, bans from baseball, and possibly even having the World Series redacted.

Manfred did none of these things. Immediately after handing down the punishment, the league was in uproar over the lackluster consequences that the Astros faced. With accusations of other teams like the Red Sox and Yankees also being speculated as stealing signs using technology, many fans believed Manfred needed to set a precedent that this was not acceptable. Not a single player involved received a fine for their participation.

Astros batter Alex Bregman talking about taking place in the sign stealing scandal, answering every question asked with “the commissioner came out with a report, MLB did their report and the Astros did what they did.”

Unhappy with the commissioner’s findings, many fans from across the league continued looking into the sign stealing. Databases were built to analyze which Astros players were most and least responsible. Players most responsible included Alex Bregman, recently hired New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran, and World Series MVP George Springer.

However, what few considered as the scandal was unfolding was the impact it had on player’s careers league wide. In most major sports, players are united by their love for the game. By cheating, many Astros players betrayed their brothers, teammates, and friends. Mike Bolsinger launched a lawsuit suing the Astros for 31 million dollars, to be given to various LA charities.

Just a week after the commissioner report, Manfred also announced the possibility of a new playoff seeding, which would include bye weeks, four more teams, and a reality-TV style reveal where high seeded teams would pick their opponent. It was almost unanimously hated after being released, and further made baseball fans question Manfred’s role as commissioner.

As Spring Training has started to take shape, many players were given a chance to speak out on the sign stealing scandal and Rob Manfred.

Cody Bellinger, the reigning National League MVP, on the Astros responses to the sign stealing scandal.
Will Middlebrooks commenting on the MLB’s plea for players not to throw at the Astros.
Kris Bryant, former MVP and member of 2016 World Series-winning Chicago Cubs, being asked about the punishment the 2017 Astros players’ recieved.

And then Rob Manfred called the World Series championship a piece of metal.

This solidified Manfred’s disconnection from the sport in many players and fans eyes. For the commissioner to skimp out on punishment for the Astros whilst diminishing the value of the World Series championship, it made him seem unconcerned with the future of the sport. A sport that has suffered in recent years due to poor higher up decisions.

Justin Turner, a batter for the 2017 Dodgers who lost the World Series to the Astros, being asked about Manfred’s recent actions as commissioner.

While this story has been in development for a while, it seems to have no real end in sight. The lack of punishment and closure into whether the Astros continued cheating after 2017 has placed immense scrutiny on the MLB. Recently, there has been speculation into the Astros using buzzers this past postseason to relay signs instead of trash can bangs. The Astros have been greeted by press at every turn, which should continue well into the season if Manfred continues to withhold information.

Regarding the whole situation, Lebron James of all people summed it up fittingly.

How Nick Foles and the Eagles Are Making Everyone Try Trick Plays

On January 11, running back Derrick Henry threw a game-sealing touchdown from the wildcat formation to Corey Davis to help the Tennessee Titans upset the championship-favorite Baltimore Ravens. The next day, the Houston Texans tried to run a fake punt against the Kansas City Chiefs to keep them from gaining momentum in a 24-7 routing. They lost 31-51.

Each year, it feels like coaches are utilizing trick plays more and more to keep their offense fresh and unpredictable. Nowhere has it been more evident than in the playoffs this past year. This century trick plays have been quite commonplace throughout the regular season, but recently teams have seemingly been much more willing to open the bag of tricks against their opponents.

And you can thank Nick Foles for that. 

On February 4, 2018, the New England Patriots vs Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl (52), the Eagles executed one of the boldest trick plays ever. On a fourth down clinging to a 15-12 lead with 30 seconds left in the first half, the Eagles motion to call “Philly Philly”.

Quarterback Nick Foles pretends to audible, or change the play at the line of scrimmage, and walks away from the snap. Running Back Cory Clement takes the snap, and shovels the ball to Tight End Trey Burton, who throws the ball to Nick Foles for a touchdown.

Executing a trick play of such complexity is hard by itself, but in the largest game of the year, against Bill Belichick, one of the greatest coaches of all time, in a close game where passing on a field goal could swing the momentum of the game, it takes balls.

“Against an aggressive goalline defense, a play like that can be super effective” former high school Wide Receiver Chris Civilikas said about the Philly Special. “But what a lot of people forget is that the Patriots tried the same play like three minutes before.”

This is also true. With 12 minutes left in the first half the Patriots tried essentially the exact same play, only quarterback Tom Brady dropped the pass that Foles caught. The Eagles ultimately won the game 41-33, winning their first Super Bowl since 1960.

Going back to the Divisional Championship, both the Titans and the Texans head coaches stem from the Patriots and Bill Belichick’s coaching tree. Any given week, a team can be the Titans or the Texans, and it was the Patriots’ turn to be the Texans. That’s the magic of trick plays.