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Opening Day 2013…and Be a Blessing to Us

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“Baseball is reassuring.  It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.”  ~Sharon Olds, This Sporting Life, 1987

It is good to have survived the last five months. The Mayans were wrong about the end of the world and despite the the best efforts of the Unholy Trinity of Politicians, Pundits and Preachers, in spite of Sequestration, North Korean Nukes, Al Qaida terrorists and troubles brewing around the world and at home we finally made it to Opening Day.

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Some for me baseball, maybe more than any other thing brings a sense of order to my universe. Some of my earliest memories involve baseball. I played in my back yard, in sandlots, parks and real baseball fields. I learned the game from my late father and when he was deployed to Vietnam my mom would come at watch my Little League games. Most of my broken bones have been the result of injuries sustained on the baseball or softball field, which make me look forward to my next assignment at the Joint Forces Staff College all the more since the faculty and students play ball almost all year round.

I have always loved the game and like Walt Whitman seemed to believe that there is something healing about it like no other game. Whitman said that baseball is “our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

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I wonder sometimes if Whitman would think that perhaps the Dominicans and Japanese appreciate “our game” more than us? Considering how well they do in international competition and how many of “our” star players come from those countries and others he might have something to say about it. Perhaps that the game transcends America itself and allows Americans to appreciate men like Ichiro, Big Papi, Robinson Cano, Pablo “the Big Panda” Sandoval, Jose Reyes, Hideki Matsui and many more, 243 on Opening Day 2012 that were on Major League rosters, over 100 being Dominicans.

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Now as for me I think that is a sign of the greatness of this game. It is a game that I think more than any transcends culture. To watch the enthusiasm of the players and fans of the non-US teams in the World Baseball Classic was a joyful experience for me. I don’t know maybe in our faced paced thrill a minute ADD inducing  and violence addicted American culture we have forgotten the joy that this game can bring. Maybe we are too cynical and have even done damage to it with the Steroid and Performance Enhancing Drug use scandals.

I don’t know, I could be wrong but I do think that a trip or two to a ballpark every year would be a good thing for every American. In fact I don’t even think that it would need to be a big league ballpark because the joy and mystery of the game can be found anywhere there is a baseball field where boys of every age find a bit of magic in  the crack of a bat, running out a grounder, stealing second base or striking out the side.

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The great Jackie Robinson said something that I think is incredibly profound: “Baseball is a curious anomaly in American life. It seems to have been ingrained in people in their childhood…. Baseball is, after all, a boy’s game, and children are innocent of evil. So even adults who are prejudiced revert to their childhood when they encounter a baseball player and they react with the purity of little children.”

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So to all of us who looked so forward to this day. Yes it is a day that comes every year, and for some people the season seems too long, the games too many and the pace, well not fast enough. But that being the case it is a human game, a game that I think allows has a spiritual sensitivity unfound anywhere else in sports. Yes it is a game, it too is a business and well for some people like me a religion.

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This weekend I plan on getting to a game or two at the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish in Norfolk Virginia. I won’t make the home opener, but I will get some of the Norfolk Tides opening home stand.

I hope to see you at the ball park this year. Trust me. It will do you good.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve Loves the MLB Winter Meetings now More than Ever, Ron Santo Elected to Hall of Fame and Happy “Repeal Day!”

The Big Prizes at the Winter Meetings: Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder (Photo Jeff Curry/US Presswire)

“You win pennants in the off season when you build your teams with trades and free agents.” Earl Weaver

Yes my friends it is the time of year that the great Earl Weaver said was the most important to building championship teams.  The off season, particularly the winter meetings which are taking place this week in Milwaukee Wisconsin.  It is only Monday but things are heating up with discussions surrounding some of the league’s biggest stars and just who might sign them to big time contracts.

Every team has needs and during the winter meetings the goal is to find ways of meeting those needs from sources outside your system with the goal of producing a winning team.  At least that is what one hopes but things don’t always work out as planned.

Now the Miami Marlins are spending money like a drunken sailor and eying the biggest “fish” in the Sea of Free Agency.  So far they have spent 26 million on closer Heath Bell and 102 million for 6 years on Jose Reyes and are heavily engaged in courting Albert Pujols. Other teams are working hard to sign other major Free Agents and make deals and for me this is so much more exciting because I have finally gotten on Twitter and I am getting to hear the trade rumors, speculation and deals as they happen. This is cool.  Of course it is so much information that I cannot process it all at once and it will give me grist for later posts about how I see things stacking up for the various teams.  Big stories other than Pujols and Fielder include C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehle and even speculation about the possible return of Manny Ramirez.

As for my hopes…I hope that the Giants get some solid hitting this week, I would love to see Fielder or Pujols in San Francisco or for that matter Baltimore but that probably will not happen. I hope that the Giants get hitting and that the Orioles get some pitching and maybe another big bat.  Of course bad deal for the Dodgers is always welcome and a meltdown of the rest of the AL East greatly appreciated.  Hey I can dream can’t I?

The Ron Santo that I remember

One great thing to happen today was the vote to induct the late Ron Santo into the Hall of Fame. Santo received 15 of 16 votes from the Golden Age Committee composed of 16-member Golden Era Committee comprised of Hank Aaron, Pat Gillick, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tommy Lasorda, Juan Marichal,Brooks Robinson, Billy Williams, Paul Beeston, Bill DeWitt, Roland Hemond, Gene Michael, Al Rosen, Dick Kaegel, Jack O’Connell, and Dave Van Dyck voted Ron Santo into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Santo played as a Third Baseman for 14 years for the Chicago Cubs and one year for the White Sox and was an outstanding player.  Santo was a 9 time All Star who hit 342 Home Runs and 2254 hits, a .277 Batting Average and had 1331 RBI and was excellent defensively winning 5 Gold Glove awards.  But the raw numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Santo also had 1108 walks a .362 OBP, .464 SLG and .826 OPS.  Santo played the majority of his career battling Type I Diabetes and concealed it until 1971 fearing that he would be forced to retire. He began a broadcasting career with the Cubs in 1990. He had his legs amputated in 2001 and 2002 and died December 10th 2010 of complications from bladder cancer and diabetes. Some may contest his election but I always thought that he should be in the Hall of Fame.

But on a more serious Constitutional issue I wish all of my readers a Happy Repeal Day. Yes this is the anniversary of when Congress righted a gross wrong by passing the 21st Amendment to the Constitution which repealed the 18th Amendment and restored balance to the universe.

You see back in July of 1919 following the Great War a large group of “values voters” got together and decided that it was the consumption of alcoholic beverages that was leading the nation to ruin. The fact that we had been on the winning side, or God’s side in what was not the “Mediocre War” but the “Great War” and were moving into economic dominance was of little matter.  Pharisees like to make their own rules as they go along.  So the Congress passed the 18th Amendment which banned the production, consumption or transportation of said alcoholic beverage in the country.  One of the promoters of this was a man named Welch who coincidently marketed Grape juice.  If you go to a church that uses grape juice for communion this is where it bean as churches used wine before that time because it was accepted as Biblical.

Of course when organized and for that mater disorganized crime took over what had been the previously legal activity of producing alcoholic drink the prohibitionists decided that tougher law enforcement was the answer. Of course that didn’t work and the problems that had been previously associated with the consumption of alcohol in its legal form got worse everyone knew that a great fraud had been perpetrated on the American people.  When that failed as it was bound to do groups of people, decided to disobey the law, including my grandfather Ernie and great uncle Johnny who ran “stills” in Wayne County West Virginia while others who lobbied to repeal the dreadful act.  Finally on December 5th 1933 with great irony the vastly prohibitionist and Mormon legislature of the great state of Utah ratified the 21st Amendment to end the fraud that religious hucksters masquerading as promoters of family values perpetrated in 1919. Let’s hope that that we don’t have top go down this road again. After all we in the Navy are still suffering from the decision of prohibitionist Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels ended the use of alcohol in moderation on Navy ships in 1914 making us one of the few non-Islamic in the world navies to be “dry.”

So I wish everyone a Happy Repeal Day and God bless America!

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

The Big Prizes at the Winter Meetings: Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder Jeff Curry/US Presswire

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The BCS (Bogus Championship Series) Sham, Tebow the Heretic wins Again, and Moolah over Miami…

It is amazing to see how the Bowl Championship series works. I think we should rename it the Bogus Championship Series.  I am old fashioned it just seems to me that we have an SEC West rematch as the national title game. Sorry, LSU won that Alabama should not be considered for the National Championship. Yes they are a solid team, one of the best in the country but it would have been far more “national championshippy” to have two teams out of the same division playing for the “national championship” if that is what it pretends to be. Even in sports that have “wild card” berths such as Major League Baseball and the NFL never can a wild card team play for the World Series or Super Bowl against a team from its own division. Same goes for the NHL and the NBA. The fact is that we should have LSU playing Oklahoma State for the Title or another team that actually won its Conference Championship.

The fact is that in most sports in fact all but the BCS there are times that an excellent team doesn’t get to play for the championship simply because someone in their conference, division or league had a better record.  If an entity wants to call its title a “national” title it should include two teams that represent different conferences.  What a sham, the real national title game will not be played just to replay the SEC West championship. When you look at the other BCS games it is clear that the BCS process has failed again. Since we are never going to get a playoff system in Division One NCAA College Football or a tournament like in NCAA Basketball we would be just as well off to go back to the old bowl system and let everyone argue about what team is number one.  We end up doing that now anyway most of the time so let’s end the BCS farce.  Actually you could probably have a real playoff system but there is far too much money in the current system for anyone, the NCAA, the Universities and the Bowl Game sponsors themselves to want to change it no matter how bad of system it is.

From real failures we go to the man that so many want to fail, Denver Broncos Quarterback Tim Tebow.  Now I am not a Tebow fan or promoter by far and certainly am not a Broncos fan unless they are playing the Cowboys or Steelers. However, despite the fact that he is not the kind of quarterback that has dominated the sport for decades.  Since the day he was drafted he has been treated with distain by most of the sports media and former players that serve as commentators.

Now I agree that Tebow doesn’t fit the template that the NFL uses now but he leads and inspires his team to win.  The way that he does it isn’t pretty and he will never be John Elway or Steve Young.  He is to use religious parlance a “heretic.” But who says that he needs to be? What if he is the kid that defies the rules wins games and inspires his team. Isn’t that what it is really about or is it about maintaining an illusion that there is only one way to lead teams and win games?  Tebow for all of his technical limitations finds ways to win and inspires his teammates.  He rapidly becoming a successful NFL heretic. I like heretics and despite it all I hope that he continues to win just to make “experts” look foolish shut his critics up.

Finally the Miami Marlins have spent more money on one player than they did for their entire payroll.  This is actually nothing new Jeff Loria buys a team, wins a world series and discards the team the next year.  However money talks and Loria has a lot to throw around. He signed closer Heath Bell for 27 million and Jose Reyes for a cool 102 million on a six year deal that includes no “no trade” clause.  It looks like they are also serious about spending big money on Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder and possibly Tiger starting pitcher Mark Buerhle. If they keep spending money like this and the Security Exchange Commission keeps investigating this could end up more like an episode of Miami Vice rather than last years CSI Miami season which ended with the Marlins dead on the slab.   Regardless the National League East will be radically different in 2012 with Ozzie Guillen at the helm and what looks like unlimited money to spend.  I can only say I wish the same would happen for the Orioles despite the fact that our uniforms are going to be way cooler than the Marlins new duds even if we lose over 90 games again.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Baseball News: Awards, CBA, Player and Manager Moves…Why the Off Season Matters

“You win pennants in the off season when you build your teams with trades and free agents.” Earl Weaver

The World Series is in the past but the baseball world is abuzz with awards, trades, free agent offers and the possibility of a reorganization of the Major Leagues and even a new five year Collective Bargaining Agreement deal between the players union and the league.  Baseball it seems has become the model of stability and sensibility in the American sporting world.  Even as I write the Owners and GMs are meeting in Milwaukee and the Winter meetings are just over the horizon.  This is where teams are built and where the seeds of future pennants are planted.

One has to admit that the 2012 baseball season was something to behold. The record comebacks of the Rays and Cardinals and epic collapses of the Braves and Red Sox in the final month of the season that led to one of the most if not the most memorable regular season endings in baseball history.  The storybook season of the Arizona Diamondbacks going from worst to first in the NL West was another amazing story.

Awards for outstanding achievement are being given out; Tigers Pitcher Justin Verlander won the American League Cy Young Award on a unanimous ballot.  Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson won the National League Manager of the Year award for leading his team to a Division Championship and Rays Manager Joe Maddon who brought his team back from the abyss to reach the playoffs on the last day of the regular season won the American League Manager of the Year.  The National League Rookie of the Year award went to the Atlanta Braves reliever Craig Kimbrel and Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson took the American League award.  The National League Cy Young still remains as well as the Most Valuable Player awards.

The Cubs and Red Sox are still shopping for managers while the Cardinals chose former catcher Mike Matheny to fill the shoes left by Tony LaRussa who retired after the miraculous finish that led to a Word Series Championship.  Pitching Coach Dave Duncan, LaRussa’s long time right hand man remains as does Hitting Coach Mark McGwire.  Former Red Sox Manager Terry Francona announced today that he will not manage in 2012 something that most baseball experts agree is a good choice.   I agree considering how exhausted Francona appeared after the end of the season and his firing.  The Orioles have a new General Manager, Dan Duquette who replaced Andy McPhail and Red So GM Theo Epstein went to the Cubs in the hopes of reversing the curse.  There are reports tonight that the Cubs will sign Dale Sveum as their new Manager.

It looks as if the sale of the Houston Astros will go through and with it the team’s move to the American League. This will balance the leagues at 15 teams each and allow for year round inter-league play and is part of the new CBA which reportedly could be signed as early as Friday.  The CBA is actually remarkable considering the great consternation caused by the NFL lockout and the probable loss of an entire NBA season due to failures to resolve collective bargaining agreements.  The baseball negotiation process has been fireworks free and negotiators from the owners and player’s union seem to remember the damage caused by the 1994 strike and what happened in the NFL and NBA seems to have learned the lessons of history.

Some of the big free agents look like they could be on the move and one, Red Sox Closer Jonathan Papelbon signed a contract with the Phillies while the Miami Marlins are making serious bids for St Louis First Baseman Albert Pujols and Met’s Shortstop Jose Reyes.  Brewers First Baseman Cecil Fielder is on the market and the Yankees appear to be looking for pitching support to complement their ace C C Sabathia who the re-signed. Plenty of other big name free agents remain to be signed and it will be interesting to see where they all land.

Even though there are no games being played in the Major Leagues baseball is making news and in the process showing how important the off season is to the regular season.  This is going to be an exciting off season for baseball and bodes well for the upcoming regular season.  What a great game.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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