Thursday, July 31, 2008

Trading Deadline Reflections

The trading deadline of MLB has come and gone and two major trades went down and both were shocking to me.

First, Ken Griffey Jr. was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Chicago White Sox for two minor league players and cash. I'm kind of disappointed in a way because I'd much rather he would have been traded a year ago around this time back to the Seattle Mariners. I'm still hoping that before his career is over with that he'll return with the Mariners. This should boost the White Sox lineup but they're still going to have a tough time with the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central.

The other and more relavent to me is the one that sends Manny Ramirez away from the Boston Red Sox. It was a three team deal that also involved the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Dodgers get Ramriez, the Pirates get four players and the Red Sox get Jason Bay. From the perspective of the Red Sox, they get a All-Star OF in Bay who has had similar numbers as Ramirez this year. Personally, I'm torn. Like what I said yesterday, I've liked Manny Ramirez for a long time. But this year it seems his attitude has really taken a turn south (as in not good). I really think the comments he made yesterday really pushed it over the edge. It'll make things interesting next week when I go see the Sox play here in K.C.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Random Sports Reflections

Here's some things I've been thinking on recently:

*Brett Favre's unretirement: I don't know what I think to be honest. It's hard to "pick a side" on the issue. What I do know is this, there is a difference in media coverage today as opposed to ten years ago. When Michael Jordan retired (well the first and second times), there weren't as much media coverage as there is today. Sure ESPN was in full swing but the internet wasn't as big as it is today and there is almost the instant access of media that seems to be prevalent in society today. So while it's been in the news for months now, it was only just this week that he filed the papers to unretire. It will be interesting to see how this event looks five years from now.

*Manny Ramirez and trade rumors: There has been buzz recently about Manny being traded and with the deadline tomorrow there is serious talk about it. I even read some comments supposedly that Manny made to a reporter from ESPN Deportes (who ironically, contributed to a story about Jose Guillen and Trey Hillman which was called out both by Guillen and Hillman as being false) saying that he's ready to leave and that the Red Sox don't deserve him. Honestly, as a Red Sox fan, when I read that I was sad and disappointed in Manny. I liked Manny and yes I put up with some of the stupid stuff the did from time to time. I don't know what to think of him now. I don't think the Sox should trade him. I still think that he and David Ortiz (my favorite Sox player) make for a great 1-2 punch. I guess we'll see how this plays out.

*The Olympics: The Summer Olympics start next week (August 8th). I'm so excited about the start of the games. It's one of the great things that happens during a leap year. I still would some day like to go to an Olympic event (the closest I could have come was in 1996 in Atlanta but I was only 16 and couldn't make it down there). It'll be awesome to watch and see what stories come out of the games this year.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Fourth Royals Game...In Review

On Friday, I went to my fourth Royals game of the season. This time they played the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays. The last time I saw the Rays play was in 2005 back when I was in Seattle. And just like that time, my friend Kyle and I got tickets from a scalper. We ended up getting tickets that regularly go for 25.00 each for 20.00 each so it wasn't a bad deal at all.

It was Buck Night/Fireworks Friday at the ballpark. That meant hot dogs, peanuts and small cokes were a dollar each. I admit I had several hot dogs that night (four to be precise). That was probably the most hot dogs I've had in a long time.

The game was an interesting one. The first five innings or so went by rather quick. Then it really slowed down. Unfortunately, the Royals lost 5-3. They are now 1-3 in games I go to this year.

Afterwards, they had the fireworks display. It was one that rivals any Fourth of July fireworks displays. I must say it was one of the better fireworks shows I've seen.

Overall, it was a good time, though it would have been nice if the Royals had won the game...

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Latest Incident of Arguing/Fighting in Minor League Baseball

It's become almost a cliche now in sports. You watch Sportscenter or local sports or even see on the internet the latest incident that goes on in minor league baseball. Most of the time, it's the manager throwing a fit and upstaging the umpire. But this time, it was in my mind ridiculous. During the first inning of a game between Dayton and Peoria (two Class A teams), the managers for both teams got into an argument with the umpire. They then started pushing each other which then led to a brawl. In the midst of this brawl, a pitcher for Peoria threw a baseball intending to hit a player from Dayton. Instead it went sailing into the stands and hit a fan who was there with his wife and kids. The fan was taken to the hospital and the player was later charged with assault. It was so bad and involved so many players that there were 15 players ejected but were reinstated just so they could finish the game.

Here's video of the incident:

My take on this: it is sad that is what minor league baseball has come to be known for. Growing up, I didn't live in an area with a major league baseball team. So if I wanted to go to a baseball game, it was to a minor league game. The team in Nashville (the Sounds) were a Class AAA organization (affiliated with the Reds when I was little then later the White Sox and now the Brewers) that me, my dad and my brother would go and watch. It was fun and the games were good. There was none of this nonsense of trying to shock or do crazy things like there seems to be today. It was about the game. That's something that has gotten lost and should be looked at again. I hope that the players involved learn a lesson from this. Playing sports at a professional level is a privledge and not a right. If they continue to have an attitude like, they will not have that privledge for long.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Redemption Story of Josh Hamilton

By now, most people have heard the story of Josh Hamilton. I wish I had this blog a year ago because I would have definitely talked about him then. It is a story that is compelling to hear.

For those that don't know, Josh was a bright major league prospect. He was drafted in the first round by the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999. He was expected to be one of their marquee guys in the organization. However, he made some bad choices and got caught up in drug use which robbed him of his abilites and opportunities. He was suspended for three seasons and it seemed like he would be a washout. However, after accepting Christ and following after Him, he got clean. He then got back into baseball and made the majors last year with the Cincinnati Reds. That was when I heard about the story.

After a pretty good season last year, he was traded to the Texas Rangers. And this year has topped even last year. He is among the American League Leaders in Home Runs and RBI and was selected as an All-Star by the fans. He even finished second in the Home Run Contest putting up a record hitting 28 in one round. Right now he is on pace to be considered the American League MVP.

And the thing is, he's honest about the struggles that he still goes through. With all the success and such, he still knows that he's human and that alone he can't deal with it. He has the support of his family along with a coach within the Rangers organization who is an accountability partner, friend and family all rolled into one while Josh is on the road. That part of the story is important to why this is year two of the story. It shows again why believers of Christ need to be there for each other, to help bear one another's burdens. That is why we are called the body of Christ. We all work together.

Josh Hamilton's story is one that isn't finished being told. But what has been told so far is yet another story of how God moves in people's lives. I really love the quote Rick Reilly said on ESPN Monday after hearing Josh speak about God's work in his life, "It's a bad night to be an atheist."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sports Analogy: "The Pep Talk"

Most people that know me know I love sports analogies. So it's no surprise that I thought of one last night right before I went to small group. The past few weeks I had been feeling down just with things in my life. I got an e-mail from an old friend and boss of mine and among other things it was an encouragment.

Sometimes in life we have seasons where things aren't going our way or we're getting knocked around. It's in those times where we need people in our lives who can encourage us. The sports analogy is this, the "pep talk". It's halftime or intermission. The team is down, feeling defeated. Coach walks in or the captain of the team and fires the team up giving encouragment and pushing the team to play up to potential. The team is reenergized and ready to go out and face the competition again.

As believers, we have those seasons in our life where we get knocked down. And I believe God places people in our lives to encourage us, to give us these "pep talks". Sometimes we're the ones to give the "pep talk" to those who are down. It's an important part of being a community following Jesus, to help one another to carry burdens we all face.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Reflections on the 2008 Major League Baseball Season So Far...

Well were near the halfway point of the season with most teams having played over 81 games and the All-Star break next week, so I figured I'd look back and see how my predictions held up/not held up this far into the season.

I obviously was off about Colorado, Seattle, Cleveland and somewhat with the Mets but I was right about Boston, Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee. Given that at least there is still the option of the World Series prediction holding up (Boston vs Milwaukee) here are the updated predictions:

AL East: Boston (yes still Boston)
AL Central: Chicago White Sox (in a close one with Minnesota)
AL West: Anaheim (I'm not calling them LA) Angels
AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay

Surpise 2nd half AL team: Toronto

NL East: Philadelphia
NL Central: Chicago Cubs
NL West: Arizona
NL Wild Card: Milwaukee

Surprise 2nd half NL team: San Diego

*Richie Sexson was released by the Mariners today. I kind of saw it coming and in a sense kind of glad they did it because they needed to make a change. I feel bad for him. I was there pretty much his entire Mariners career except for this season. He never really lived up to expectations with the money the team gave him. I hope it can be a win-win situation with the team finding a better way to use that freed money and him finding a team where he can contribute.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

An Example of Endurance

Let me preface this by saying, I'm not a big tennis fan. Tennis is probably the one sport that I like the least to watch and especially to play. Mainly because I'm no good at it and never have been. The only times I ever watch tennis is during the Grand Slams (Australian, French, Wimbledon, U.S. Open) and even then it's only until the quarterfinals onward. So I wouldn't say I'm an expert in tennis.

However, I watched a great match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Or I should say parts of it. When I got home from worship service, I turned on the TV just to see who won, thinking it was over with. Oh how wrong I was. They were just coming back from one of the rain delays. I then proceeded to watch them go back and forth with each serve and point. Nadal had several chances to win the match and the tournament in the third set and also the fourth but Federer fought through it and won the tiebreakers to send it to a fifth set.

When it went to a fifth set, I turned the TV off and went to go help stuff envelopes for the church. While we were stuffing, the TV got turned on and we watched the rest of the match as we stuffed envelopes. The way that match ended with Nadal winning was something. I was surprised in a way and in a way I wasn't.

When I was watching it, I was reminded of endurance and what that looks like. These two men played five sets of tennis, with three tiebreakers no less along with several rain delays. The match itself was 4 hours and 48 minutes and with the rain delays it was another 2 hours and 26 mintues on top of that. The match ended as night was falling. It was a long, grueling match and one that saw both of them at the top of their game even after all the rain delays and pushing each other to the limit.

Seeing a match like that reminds me of how following after Jesus is an endurance event. It is not something easily done nor is it quickly accomplished. However, it is truly rewarding to be a part of.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The End of an Era

Last night, I heard the news that the team formerly the Seattle Supersonics was officially moving to Oklahoma City. The city reached a settlement with the ownership allowing the team to move next year.

It is a sad day in sports. There's so much I want to say that I don't even know where to begin. Growing up in Tennessee, we didn't have a NBA team but I did watch it all the time on TV. I would play basketball all the time, even had a hoop at my house. I grew up in the heydey of NBA with Bird, Magic and Jordan. And during that time, I saw the Supersonics. I liked their team and their players like Shawn Kemp aka "The Rain Man", Gary Payton, Nate McMillian. I still remember that Finals back in 96 when they played the Bulls.

Then when I moved to Seattle, I started really following the team and guys like Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. I was living there when they got sold to Clay Bennett and his group from Oklahoma. And honestly, I felt they were going to move. There wasn't one point or time where I felt that Bennett wanted to keep the team there in Seattle. His whole intention of buying the team was to move it. I kept hoping through the losing that somehow he might see that tradition still means something, that fan loyalty means something, that honor meant something.

Yes, I know professional sports is a business. But it is also more than that. Unfortunately, that side of it was not shown by Clay Bennett or his associates or by David Stern and the NBA. I lost respect for David Stern because of this. That is something I never thought would happen.

I do hope that there is a team that is put in Seattle, hopefully soon. Maybe it'll be a situation like in the NFL when Art Modell moved his team from Cleveland to Baltimore and the Browns came back a few years later. Maybe Seattle will have its Sonics again. But there won't be Kevin Durant on that team. There won't be a 2008-2009 Seattle Supersonics team. But there will be a huge bruise on the image of the NBA in my book.