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Jun
13

While Loss Was Disappointing, Season Meant Something For Hokies

If you've seen the movie "Moneyball", you may remember when Brad Pitt - who portrays Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane - masterfully delivers this blunt quote in the middle of the film:

“If you lose the last game of the season," Beane says, "nobody gives a s***.”

While this quote oversimplifies every team’s season but the one left standing at the end, the sad reality is that there is some truth to it. No matter how outstanding a team may play for a majority of the year, losing the last game of the season puts a damper on everyone's memories of the journey to get there.

Virginia Tech baseball is experiencing this sad truth right now. The Hokies’ 11-2 defeat to Oklahoma in Game 3 of their NCAA Super Regional series will probably leave a bit of a bad taste in the mouths of everyone associated with the program. Fans will undoubtedly be disappointed in how things ended, but nobody will be more upset than the players and coaches who lost the game.

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Jun
08

Mancini's Career Year Hasn't Affected His Uncertain Future

If this is really the end for Trey Mancini’s career in Baltimore, he sure is going out with a boom.

The 30-year-old slugger is having one of the best seasons of his career, slashing .303/.374/.448 and sporting a career-high 138 OPS+. Baseball Savant, which measures advanced metrics, tells a similar story, as Mancini sits in the 96th percentile in expected batting average and in the 92nd percentile in expected slugging.

Sadly, Mancini’s resurgence has been marred by the elephant in the room — the Orioles’ refusal to commit to Mancini long term.

The Orioles and Mancini agreed to a one-year deal this offseason with a mutual option of $10 million for next year. Even as Mancini puts together the best performance of his career, the chances of a rebuilding club committing to $10 million for a 31-year-old first baseman/designated hitter is quite low.

It isn’t like the Orioles couldn’t afford him. The club carries an $11 million club option on journeyman starter Jordan Lyles, who’s been relatively reliable this season. Outside of Lyles and John Means’ $2.9 million contract, no other money is currently on the books for the Orioles.

Not only has Mancini been the Orioles’ best hitter this season, but he isn’t blocking anyone in the minors. Mancini has spelled his comrades in the field just 23 times this season, compared to 30 games when Mancini has served as the designated hitter. Nobody in the minors has proven they’re ready for that role yet — the closest option has been Tyler Nevin, a Mark Trumbo-style fielder with an OPS+ of 74.

Despite all of this, Mancini sounds like he’s accepted that his time in Baltimore is limited.

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Jun
03

Nobody Is Laughing At The Baltimore Orioles Anymore

The greater baseball world has spent the better part of the last three years clowning the Baltimore Orioles, mocking the club’s poor performance and low payrolls, while the franchise attempts to reinvent itself and collect younger talent.

To be clear, the on-field product in Baltimore has been awful since 2018. After a disappointing 2017 season, the Orioles flat-lined in 2018 with a 47-115 record. The club hasn’t won more than 54 games since and in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, the Orioles still only won 41 percent of their games.

Those outside Baltimore expected the same in 2022, but fans knew differently. We knew the curve was beginning to turn, and with the arrival of The Savior (Adley Rutschman) and some all-around growth, suddenly nobody is laughing at the Orioles anymore.

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May
06

Hokies Depth Chart Right Now Is One Big Unanswered Question...

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

It’s been nearly a month since Virginia Tech wrapped up their spring practice schedule and since then, I’ve spent far too much time thinking about hypothetical depth charts and special packages that we might see in 2022.

I’ve also spent a fair amount of time coming to grips with a hard truth — this year’s roster has too many questions for my liking.

Surprisingly, my main concerns have nothing to do with quarterback. Grant Wells played rather well in Virginia Tech’s Spring Game and while Jason Brown wasn’t very productive, he spent much of his afternoon trying to escape Tech defenders.

And that’s a great place to start.

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Mar
31

Spring Has Sprung For Hokie Football And It Feels...Different

Things really are different this spring in Blacksburg.

We’ve officially rotated back to football season and nothing feels the same. Literally every aspect of the program feels dramatically different right now — and that’s a good thing.

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

We can start with the football program’s roster of players, which has new faces at many positions. Nobody knows who is going to play quarterback, though two of the favorites — Jason Brown and Grant Wells — are new to the town.

The lack of familiarity continues on offense. Jadan Blue probably has a starting spot locked down at wide receiver, but he’s still learning his way around campus. Da’Wain Lofton has a new number (3), but at least he knows where the position rooms are. Kaleb Smith is the lone Blacksburg vet in that position group, meaning several fresh faces are going to get a look.

The offensive line is a toss-up as you generally don’t replace three starters overnight. Johnny Jordan, Slias Dzansi and Kaden Moore are still around, but most of the remaining offensive linemen on the roster are newbies.

Linebacker might be the only spot where many of the same players are still around, but more guys are getting added to the room. Brent Pry’s preference for the 4-3 defense means the Hokies need more bodies there. JR Walker has already transitioned over to linebacker, as have the McDonald twins. One of those brothers, Jorden, has already shifted to defensive end. Who knows, more changes could be coming.

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Mar
15

Blueprint Of A Comeback: How The Hokies Bounced Back

As I watched Virginia Tech seal the program’s first-ever ACC Championship in men’s basketball, I began re-tracing the Hokies’ steps in my head.

You remember the Hokies sitting at 2-7 in the conference, reeling from a buzzer-beater defeat at the hands of Miami in Cassell Coliseum? I mean, how could you not? It was Virginia Tech’s third-straight defeat, a streak kicked off by an inexcusable loss to Boston College.

Tech fans across the spectrum admitted, either internally or externally, that this season probably wasn’t going to end in an NCAA Tournament appearance. No matter what folks say on Twitter these days, we all thought the same thing on Jan. 27 — barring a miracle, Virginia Tech’s season was essentially over.

An attempted resurrection would require some key improvements and changes, all of which came to fruition down the stretch. Virginia Tech not only salvaged their season, but ended on an impressive run that featured consecutive wins against the conference’s top three tournament seeds — Notre Dame, North Carolina and Duke.

So what changed? How did we get here? It’s worth a deeper examination.

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Jan
24

Ricky Thinks It's Doubtful This VT Team Makes NCAA Tournament

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)
Sean Pedulla (left) and Nahiem Alleyne

I’ve never been very good at easing into tough topics. Ask my editor, the wise and thoughtful Dave, and he will tell you the same thing. Too often, my ledes hit the reader over the head with a giant mallet rather than leading them to the topic I’d like to discuss.

So, the above paragraph is my latest attempt to lead my audience to an uncomfortable truth that I’m writing about today — Virginia Tech men's basketball is probably not going to make the NCAA Tournament this season.

At 10-8 with just two ACC wins, the Hokies are all but dead in the water. Barring a sudden turnaround from multiple players, we have learned exactly who the Hokies are this season — a below-average Power 5 team.

I honestly can’t believe I’m writing this with 13 games left on the schedule, but I’ve seen enough. Virginia Tech does not look like they're going to accomplish their goal of reaching March Madness.

Even in failure, there is opportunity. So, during these final 13 games, here’s what I’m hoping to see from the Hokies.

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Jan
17

Brent Pry Gets It. He Showed That Today On The Drillfield...

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

So much of hiring the right college football coach comes down to “fit”.

There’s no concrete definition of what that means, but you know exactly what I mean when I write that. Bostonian Brian Kelly is an awful fit at LSU, but the Tigers’ athletic department hired him anyway. Shane Beamer was a great fit at South Carolina, and the Gamecocks looked competent for the first time in years this season.

In sports, fit matters. It matters more so in college athletics, which is why it was critical for Whit Babcock to find someone who fit in Blacksburg. Not just anybody can be a head football coach at Virginia Tech.

We just finished learning that lesson in earnest.

Enter Brent Pry, who in the span of just a few days seems to have confirmed that he is the right fit at Virginia Tech.

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Jan
05

He's Back! And Ricky Has A Few Resolutions To Share...

First and foremost, I hope that you and your loved ones enjoyed your holiday season. Christmas and New Year’s are important holidays on the calendar for my family, and it almost always means a trip west to see Father LaBlue on his Tennessee farm.

After my return, I, like many of you, watched Virginia Tech get demolished on national television. And to make matters worse, the ACC Network replayed the Hokies’ abomination for the few freaks who get off on bad football.

But all that is in the past now. As the calendar turns, so does Brent Pry and Virginia Tech.

I imagine that nothing is going to be the same. Did Justin Fuente ever tweet out a rallying cry to the fanbase after an abysmal performance? Did the Hokies ever walk up to a premier Power 5 program and take one of their best coaching assistants?

I didn’t think so.

So with a new year and a new coaching staff comes new resolutions for the Virginia Tech football program. Here are my recommendations:

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Dec
06

Here's To Fresh Starts As We All Get Ready For 2022...

December has arrived, which means the year that was 2021 is coming to a close.

But before it does, two new eras are beginning.

First and foremost, I have mostly completed the process of moving into a new apartment. Getting ready for and actually moving my belongings into my new place has taken up most of my free time over the last week-plus, which has led to my hiatus from DullesDistrict.com. Thankfully, Emperor Scarangella has held down the fort quite nicely with some engaging content.

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

And of little concern to anyone reading this, Virginia Tech settled on their next head coach — former Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry.

Pry has spent the last week doing many things, perhaps being even more busy than I have been. He’s attended two Virginia Tech basketball games, met with most of the Virginia Tech athletic department, held a press conference, taken at least one trip back to State College, Pa. and started recruiting players to his new home.

Along with my busy schedule, I also wanted to take a couple of days before I gave my initial reaction to Pry’s hire. I was a bit confused at first — one of Whit Babcock’s biggest criteria for Justin Fuente’s replacement was that the candidate had to have head coaching experience. Pry has none, though his resume is certainly worthy of the job.

As I listened to Pry’s press conference and the other public appearances he’s made, I became convinced that Babcock couldn’t have found a better fit for the position.

It helps that Pry’s background helped to groom him for this moment. Pry worked as a graduate assistant with Frank Beamer, Bud Foster and Co. back in 1995, which just so happened to be the year JC Price and the Hokies earned a landmark Sugar Bowl win. Pry gritted his teeth for the next decade-plus before landing at Penn State with his old boss James Franklin.

In Happy Valley, Pry’s defenses were outstanding. He recruited and developed players, a critical combo when it comes to college football.

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Nov
22

Hokies Showed Heart, But Miami Showed Superior Talent...

Virginia Tech’s 38-26 loss to Miami was disappointing in many ways, as it would have been nice for interim head coach JC Price to earn a win in his debut.

But it wasn’t in the cards.

The Hokies were outmatched on the field Saturday night, and Tech’s loss confirmed what many already suspected — that there is a talent gap between Virginia Tech and some of the better teams in the ACC.

As a disclaimer, I am fully aware the ‘Canes are now 6-5 and have already lost three games to ACC opponents this season. But if you watched Saturday night, you saw the kind of talent Miami still has on the roster.

You saw what sets them apart.

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