Wednesday, October 31, 2007

what do we do now?

For my second post of the day...
So the Sox have once again won the World Series, their 2nd in 4 years after an 86 year drought. Not bad. The lovable losers have morphed into the perenniel favorites. It's a weird feeling.

But the question always remains, what do we do now? Just in case Theo Epstein and the rest of the Red Sox front office are reading the blog of danny, here are some thoughts on the issues.

Resign Curt Schilling? Supposedly Schilling wants a one year deal at his current salary, somewhere around $13 million. I don't think there's any way you can pay him that much. That's too much money for a pitcher who is guaranteed to miss at least 10 starts next year, and pitch hurt in another 10. Yes, he's a proven postseason star and a self-proclaimed great mentor to the younger pitchers, but $13 million is more than he's worth. If he'll come back for less, and maybe work some incentives into the deal (extra money if he reaches 30 starts, etc), then you might keep him. Otherwise, he'll be bringing his decomposing body somewhere else. With that said, Schilling should never have to pay for a meal in this city again. He helped bring 2 championships to Boston and pitching in 2004 with the bloody ankle will go down in history as one of the gutsiest performances in sports. I'll love the man forever.

Resign Mike Lowell? This seems to be an obvious "yes", doesn't it? I mean, he led the team in RBI, played an outstanding 3rd base and was named MVP of the World Series. Quite a resume. But let me throw a damper on things, just for some perspective. One, this was a contract year, and there are a number of guys who had great contract years, signed for big money, then never produced like that again. It's a fact of sports (Adrian Beltre is a recent baseball example). Mind you, I don't think Lowell is the type to play hard only for the money, he takes pride in his game and is naturally competitive. I'm just pointing out the facts. Two, I don't think the Sox will end up resigning him, but not because they don't want to. They will be hesitant to offer him any contract longer than 3 years (with a club option for the 4th), and someone out there will give him more years. More years means more guaranteed money. If the Sox offer him a 3 year deal at $12 million per, and someone else offers him a 5 year deal at the same money, he'll take the second deal. Can you blame him? I hope they resign him, he's a valuable part of the team and one I'd hate to see get away. I'm just not sure it's going to happen. Which leads us to the next question...

Go after A-Rod? We Sox fans shudder at the thought of A-Rod wearing a Red Sox uniform. After all, purple lipstick doesn't coordinate well with Fenway green. He is what ever fan loves to hate: he get's paid more than anyone ever should, he's a prima donna, he plays in a way that is considered "bush league" (slapping the ball out of Arroyo's glove in 2004 [see picture], distracting an infielder on a popup this year), and worst of all, he doesn't perform well in the postseason. In the world of sports, those are good reasons not to like a player. No one can deny his statistics during the regular season, but when you pay someone that much money, you want postseason results. I hope the Sox take this into consideration.

Here are a couple things to think about. One, A-Rod is looking for a deal of $30 million per year for at least 5 seasons, probably more. For that money, we can resign Lowell and go after another pitcher or two to help our rotation/bullpen. Two, he would probably bring too much baggage into the clubhouse, and the Boston team thrives on a laid back, "we are family" type atmosphere. Even though I'm sure A-Rod isn't the incarnation of evil as some seem to suppose, he has never been known to help team chemistry. Three, we have won 2 World Series with A-Rod playing for our biggest rival in our own division! How valuable can he be? Do we really need him? Would Theo really tie up that much money in a guy we have won 2 titles without?

I hope the answer is "no." We don't need him, in fact, he needs the Sox more than the Sox need him. Let him go to Chicago, or LA, or LA of Anaheim.

Free Agents? The Sox could use another pitcher if Schilling leaves. We'll be bringing back Beckett, Wakefield, Dice-K, Lester and Buckholz, who could join the rotation next year. Wakefield is becoming more injury prone in his old age, the Sox will need some insurance for him. They could also use some help in the bullpen, since Timlin is only getting older, Gagne will be (thankfully) gone and Okajima, while great, can get worn out. As for the offense, I'd guess that Coco Crisp will end up being traded to make room for Jacoby Ellsbury, the man who won all of America a free taco (see picture). Unfortunately, Drew will be back, since no one will take him. If Lowell walks and the Sox don't sign A-Rod, then they'll have to fill the 3rd base position and have no one in the minors to do so anytime soon. They do have the option of moving Youkilis to 3rd, his original position, and signing a 1st baseman (Carlos Pena from Tampa Bay?). Either way, they are in a good position: they don't have to make any major moves other than figuring out what to do with Lowell. That's a good place to be in coming off a championship.

After 2004, the front office decided to shake things up. They let Orlando Cabrera go and signed Edgar Renteria, who they thought was an upgrade. They let Dave Roberts, one of their most important backups, walk and never found a way to replace him. They let two pitchers, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe, walk and never filled the whole. I hope they learned not to mess around this time. If you can win with this team as currently constituted, then there's no need to play around. Patch a few holes, let your young guys play and don't mess with success.

when "being myself" is a sin

Lisa and I just got our wedding video the other day and had a chance to sit down and watch it. It was great to look the ceremony again, relive some of our favorite parts (the hymns, of course, rank near the top of the list), and see our friends and family who attended. Most importantly, there is no video evidence of me making a fool of myself on the dance floor, therefore it may never have happened. Nice.

But there was something in the video that helped me see something I did not know about myself. During the ceremony, I looked completely unemotional. Honestly, my facial expressions barely changed throughout, it was eye-opening to me. What disturbs me is that I loved the ceremony and was genuinely moved throughout, there were a few times where I thought I would end up crying (and did, during How Great Thou Art). I can point those times out in the video, but if you didn't know me, you'd probably never think that was the case. After running this revelation across a few other people, I've been informed that this is often the case with me.

There's nothing wrong with looking unemotional, of course. I'm not a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve, though I'd bet I'm more emotional than some might think. But this also brought to mind something I felt conviction over this past summer. You see, I was a part of a faithgroup (small group) in our church led by my good friends Matt & Pam. Every week Pam would prepare a time of worship through singing for us, but most of us rarely sang. It basically turned into the Matt and Pam Family Singalong, with a couple others singing in a barely audible voice.

I was convicted, however, in my failure to worship as a part of the community in these times. See, I often like to listen to the congregation worship on Sunday mornings. Hearing the voices of God's people singing can be a powerful experience. I also like to spend more time thinking about the words and what they teach us about God. These are both perfectly acceptable ways to worship.

However, in a smaller corporate worship setting, it may be inappropriate to do this all the time. Here's why: corporate worship, by definition, is a time for a group of people to worship the Lord in unity. While we may "connect with God" personally, that is not the primary goal of corporate worship (see some thoughts on corporate worship here and note in particular Jeremy's comment). In a smaller group, it can actually be selfish, and it certainly was for me. Sure, I can trot out the "I have a horrible voice, I'm saving you from the pain" argument (which is true, to be sure), but that again is selfish. If my silence causes discouragement for someone else, in particular the leaders, then my worship is self-focused, not blessing God or my brothers and sisters.

I can't turn myself into someone who suddenly shows every emotion on his face: I wouldn't even know how, and it would probably be dishonest to do so. However, I can, especially in corporate worship times, do a better job of promoting unity in the Spirit by participating more. A lack of participation is not "being myself", it is being selfish. And that is a sin.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

5.5 random things: world series edition

5.5: This post is dedicated to the handful of folks who still read this blog. It's funny, I think the least favorite posts on this blog are ones about sports, yet I managed to churn them out far more regularly than any other subject. Why is this? I'll give you the primary reason- they take little thought. I can pump out a Red Sox post in 20 minutes (most of which is spent checking my facts anyway), whereas a post on a biblical passage or theological issue requires much more thought and precision. So, I can assure you the quantity of posts on a given subject is not proportional to the importance I place on that subject, in fact, the inverse may be true.

5: Winning the first two games of the World Series was obviously important, but one reason I haven't heard anyone mention yet is this: we don't have to pitch Josh Beckett on 3 days rest in Game 4. Even if the Sox lose tonight, they still have a 2-1 lead going into Game 4, and you would only pitch Beckett if it were a must win game.

4: It was weird seeing Schilling walking off the mound on Thursday night and think that it may have been the last time he does that in a Red Sox uniform. Yes, he has fallen quite a bit over the last couple years as a pitcher, but that is largely due to him pitching with his ankle all sown up in 2004. The question some are asking now: is Schilling a Hall of Fame pitcher? Here are my thoughts, in a nutshell. If you are looking purely at stats and comparing them to Hall of Famers, then no, he shouldn't be elected. But when you consider that pitching statistics have changed so much over the years, I'm not sure that should be the deciding factor (just at hitters with impressive stats today should automatically be elected). His postseason exploits are legendary, and that has to count for something. And think about this: Jim Bunning, Don Drysdale, Bob Lemon, Hal Newhouser, Gaylord Perry, and Don Sutton are all in the Hall of Fame. Are any of those guys really better than Curt Schilling?

3: Some of Francona's decisions made throughout the year have been proven to be genius. Two that stand out as particularly sucessful: giving Papelbon frequent rest throughout the season, and shutting down Okajima for a month near the end of the season. Both look extrememly healthy and sharp right now, and the numbers bear it out. They have been practically unhittable, and I'm beginning to wonder if Okajima could win Series MVP (even without a win or a save) if he has another game like Game 2 (7 batters, 7 outs, including getting out of a Schilling jam).

2: Francona has been put in a difficult position of choosing between Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz to play in Colorado (where there is no DH). He has opted to sit Youkilis, at least for part of their time there. That's a tough decision, and even though Youkilis is their hottest hitter, I think it may be the correct one. Sitting Lowell is difficult, his defense is outstanding and he's been swinging a great bat. I'm not sure how you can sit Ortiz, he's the best clutch hitter of his generation and hitting just fine. Youkilis is obviously a better defensive first baseman, but that rarely comes into play (and he'll get in late in the games when defense becomes especially important). And while Youkilis is hitting the cover off the ball, let's not forget he's doing so in large part due to Ortiz and Manny hitting behind him. Take Ortiz out of the equation, and I'm not sure Youkilis is batting over .500. Anyway, Francona may consider sitting Ortiz in game 5 with the left handed pitcher.

1: A few things that have stuck out to me:

I can't believe Matt Holliday got picked off first in the 9th the other night. That has to be the biggest baserunning blunder in the World Series since Jeff Suppan's brain lapse in Game 3 of 2004.

Coco Crisp has fallen so far that the Sox will barely be able to get anything for him in a trade this offseason. Can you say "package deal?"

Dice-K has recently been described as a "power nibbler", which I think is pretty accurate. He's hoping he stops nibbling and starts pitching tonight.

Can you believe JD Drew is the team leader in hitting and slugging in the World Series?

The Sox scored 15 runs in 2 games, and the only homerun was from Dustin Pedroia.

Comparing the pitching staffs: Sox pitchers have given up 3 walks and 11 hits in Games 1&2, Rockies pitchers have given up 15 walks and 23 hits.

There's an old saying in baseball: momentum is only as strong as the next day's starting pitcher. The Rockies can turn this around quickly if they get a strong performance from Josh Fogg tonight.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

more from the wedding

Some of you may have heard that I got married to a wonderful young lady named Lisa on October 6 (see my post a few days ago). The wedding was perfect and the reception was tons of fun. I'll throw a few pictures up with some comments.

Here we are during one of the hymns, you can see our pastor, Sean, in the background. You've heard mention the Charles Wesley Corollary before (my old roommate, and fellow newlywed, Jonathan calls it the Hymns-Spirit Theorem). The thought is that "the power of the Spirit evident in any given meeting is proportional to the quality and quantity of hymns that are sung." Lisa and I aimed high for our wedding, singing 3 of my favorites: Be Thou My Vision (click the Corollary link for some thoughts on that hymn), Come Thou Fount and How Great Thou Art, my favorite hymn of all. Well, the Corollary held true in our wedding, it was a powerful time of worship for everyone. Part of our goal for the wedding was to honor God by celebrating His goodness and grace, and I felt like we were able to do that during this time.

Sorry to post a picture of us smooching, but it was part of the ceremony, so what do you want from me? You'll see my best man, Ryan, giving his approving smile in this picture. You may remember Ryan from a post from a little over a year ago entitled I went to a worship service and a wedding broke out, which was my running diary of his wedding weekend. I had the pleasure of being his best man, so I was happy to return the honor. He was a great best man; I was psyched we were able to continue our tradition of going to Dunkin' Donuts on Saturday morning (as we did in seminary, and on his wedding day).

So here we are for our first dance, with Direct Effect playing Ray LaMontagne's song Hold You in My Arms. I don't mind slow dancing, but I hate any other form of dancing. But, as a good husband ought to do, I made a fool of myself on the dance floor for the sake of my wife, who happens to love dancing. Don't worry, I was repaid by being able to watch the Red Sox and Patriots on our honeymoon. See, we're learning how to compromise already!
In all seriousness, the wedding turned out to be exactly what we wanted it to be: a celebration of the goodness of our God. We gave Sean one simple instruction: preach the gospel. At the very least, we wanted folks to come away with an understanding that there is a God in heaven who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. We chose our Scripture reading accordingly: Ephesians 2:1-10 and Psalm 103. We had so many folks come up to us and tell us how blessed they were by the service, and many mentioned how moved they were during How Great Thou Art. Lisa and I were so honored to know that the character of God was proclaimed clearly in both the preaching and the hymns, and we're thankful for the opportunity to worship the Lord in this setting.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Red Sox vs Rockies: 2007 World Series thoughts

For the 2nd time in 4 years the Red Sox have made the World Series. For the 1st time in their relatively short existence, the Rockies are making an appearance. I realize the oddsmakers are practically handing the Sox the title, but I'm not sure how anyone can dismiss a team that has won 21 of their last 22, including sweeping the first 2 rounds of the playoffs. Maybe it's the pre-2004 Sox fan still grumbling within me, but I'm not that confident. Here are some thoughts about what I think is not going for them, followed by a list of things working in their favor.

What is working against the Sox:

Colorado's hot streak.
Inconsistent offense
4 inches of snow in Denver
Inconsistency from any starter not named Beckett
Gagne-Lopez-Delcarmen (8 2/3 innings, 10 runs in the postseason)
Setting a record for hitting into double plays
Manny's grasp of the English language
Papelbon dancing in spandex

What is working for the Sox:

Josh Beckett
An offense that finally came alive (example: Youkilis batting .500 in the ALCS)
Putting Jacoby Ellsbury in for Coco Crisp
Homefield advantage (a big deal for this Sox team)
Timlin-Okajima-Papelbon (17 innings, 0 runs in the postseason)
Schilling remembering he's a clutch pitcher (may forget by his next start, though)

We have the advantage of pitching Josh Beckett in game 1, which gives Francona 2 options: pitch him on 3 days rest for games 4 and, if necessary, 7 or more likely pitch him on regular rest for game 5 and in relief after that (if necessary, of course). There is no doubt that Beckett is the most valuable player on this team for the postseason. He is the only starter with any sort of consistency, someone who is quickly turning his postseason exploits into legendary status. In 8 career postseason starts he has thrown 3 shutouts. This year he has walked only 1 batter in 23 innings allowing only 15 baserunners in those 23 innings. If I'm Colorado, I'm a little worried about facing him to start the series. You can't plan on scoring a lot of runs on him, so you have to make him throw a lot of pitches early and get to the bullpen (note the Gagne, Lopez, Delcarmen trifecta of crappiness).

If I'm Francona, I'd drop Gagne from the roster for the World Series and put Tavarez back on. Hopefully you won't need him, but he certainly can do better than Gagne, especially if you need a pitcher to go a few innings in an extra-inning game. I'd also leave Ellsbury in for Crisp (that's a no brainer) but not fall to the tempation of benching Lugo for Cora (who, contrary to the belief of some, would not be any better).

To be honest, I'm not sure what all there is to say about this series. I feel like at this point in the season we know what we are getting from everyone involved. The question is this: will the proven clutch players on the Sox (Beckett, Schilling, Ortiz, Manny, etc) keep it up or will this be the year that the younger, unknown players from the Rockies begin to make a name for themselves. The Sox just faced a similar team in a similar situation in Cleveland (who could be great for years to come), and proved that their experience was able to overcome. Here's hoping the same happens in this series.

Prediction: Red Sox in 6, Manny Ramirez World Series MVP #2, repeating his famous line after the 2004 World Series victory "I don't believe in curses, I believe you make your own destination." (Note, I actually think Beckett will win MVP, but I wanted to fit the Manny line in here somewhere.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

October 6, 2007

Best. Wedding. Ever.

Monday, October 01, 2007

2007 baseball awards and other thoughts

It was a bit of a wild ending for the 2007 baseball season, especially with the Mets 1978-Red-Sox-esque collapse and the one game playoff between the Rockies and the Padres. Too bad no one cares because they're in the National League. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the season awards, at least the ones that matter.

NL Rookie of the Year: I'm not going to lie, I had to look this up. It looks like Troy Tulowitzki of the Rockies will win it. 101 runs scored and 98 RBI is a heckuva rookie season. See Holliday above, however, for demerit points.

NL Cy Young: This is a no-brainer, Jake Peavey from the Padres. He ended up with the pitcher's triple crown (leading in wins, stikeouts and ERA), and led in ERA by .65 runs. Great season.

NL MVP: There are a number of people on the Jimmy Rollins bandwagon, and for good reason. Finishing with 139 runs, 212 hits and 20+ doubles, triples, homeruns and stolen bases is pretty remarkable. But I think I'm going with Matt Holliday. There's something about leading the league in batting average, and finishing 2nd in RBI and slugging, 3rd in OPS and leading with 91 extra base hits that strikes me as an award winning season. The point against him, however, is that he plays in Colorado, which means every offensive stat is inflated a bit. Now I'm talking myself out of this pick.

AL Rookie of the Year: Any other year and Delmon Young of the Devil Rays might win this award: 93 RBI and a .288 average is pretty good for a rookie. Unfortunately for him, he started the same year as Dustin Pedroia of our beloved Red Sox. Pedroia: .317 average, 86 runs scored and only 6 errors all season (!) for a .990 fielding percentage. That's a Gold Glove caliber year, except for a man named Placido Polanco of Detroit who made 0 errors in almost 700 chances! When you consider that Pedroia batted .182 in April, his season is even more remarkable. He batted .333 from the beginning of May, making Red Sox fans feel stupid after calling for his benching.

AL Cy Young: I felt that this was Josh Beckett's award to lose going into his final start of the season, and he did. He is the only pitcher to win 20 games in either league, and the first since 2005. He was barely behind in ERA going into that start, but got beat up enough that he ended outside of the top 15. Seeing as how CC Sabathia, John Lackey and Fausto Carmona all finished with better ERAs and 19 wins, Beckett didn't distance himself enough to take the award in my opinion. I say it should go to Sabathia, even though Carmona, his teammate, and Lackey finished with slightly better ERAs. My reasoning: of those 3 guys, who would you most want to pitch for you. I'd take Sabathia any day.

AL MVP: I really want to give this award to Magglio Ordonez of the Detroit Tigers. He won the batting title batting .363, drove in 139 runs (2nd place) and even led the league in doubles with 54. David Ortiz finished strong, batting .332, slugging .621 (3rd place), and 2nd in OPS (1.066). Though, Mike Lowell for the Sox was just as valuable this year, driving in 120 runs. In the end, this award has to go to Alex Rodriguez, who led in runs scored (143, 20 over the next guy), homeruns (54), RBI (an amazing 156 in 158 games), slugging (.645) and OPS (1.067). Mind you, he's still not even the guy I fear the most in the Yankees lineup in clutch situations, but what an amazing season. This will be his 3rd MVP, though I personally think he didn't deserve the other 2 (the 1st in 2003 with the awful Rangers and the 2nd in 2005 with the Yankees when Ortiz should have won it). Anyone who doesn't think A-Rod is the best player in baseball is lying, which is why he'll probably get $30 million per season this winter.

As for the postseason, it's a tough call. The NL is tough to figure, since they haven't even filled their playoff spots with the Rockies-Padres game tonight. I'll pick the sentimental favorite, the Cubs because I love Sweet Lou Pinella.

As for the AL teams, all of them have major flaw: Angels- offense, Indians- little postseason experience, Yankees- starting pitching, Sox- timely hitting. The truth is that the Indians are probably the most well-rounded team, but they don't play well against the better teams. I think that's due more to their inexperience in pressure situations, which is where the Sox and Yankees thrive.

So this is what I'm thinking for the AL: the Sox beat the Angels in 4, Indians beat the Yankees in 5. The Sox then beat the Indians in 6, then go on to beat the Cubs in 7 with Ellsbury stealing home to win it all. Okay, that last part won't happen, but I'll predict the Sox leaving Cubs fans in misery one more year.