Monday, March 29, 2010

2010 Baseball Predictions

I think there should be a website that holds prenosticators accountable. How well do the expert's predictions do each year? Do we just go on reading and listening to them, season after season without knowing if they have ever correctly predicted winners prior to the season?

Well, I'm starting with me. After the World Series, we will look back at this post to see how bad I did.

oh, I'm not an expert either. Just a fan.


Phillies, 91-71, 3 pennants for NL team since WW2 Cards?

Braves 89-73, good pitching...surprise.

Marlins 84-78, young talent...surprise.

Mets 81-81, Manuel takes fall...surprise.

Nats 71-91, Strasburg, 11 wins.


Cards 90-72, good pitching wins.

Cubs 85-77, good until final week of season.

Brewers 84-78, good hitting gets you 3rd place.

Reds 78-84, I'll believe it when I see it.

Astros 77-85, nothing to report

Pirates 63-99, great city and ballpark


Giants 87-75, great starters

Rockies 86-76, everyone's pick

Dodgers 85-77, pitching?

Diamondbacks 74-88, a stadium acronym of BOB...really?

Padres 71-91, we miss you Tony Gwynn


Sox 95-67 best rotation

Yanks 94-68 com' mon Rays

Rays 85- 77, I can't put them ahead of Yanks

O's 70-92, getting better?

Jays 68-94, getting worse?


Twins 88-74, solid all around

Tigers 86-76, hope they are successful

W. Sox 82-80, who knows?

Royals 71-91, Where have you gone George Brett?

Indians 66-96, trading away best players, traditionally not good strategy


Angels 85-77, kings until dethroned

M's 83-79, getting better

Rangers 81-81, believe it when I see it

A's 79-83, no passion, I mean me...for this team

Phils over Giants in 5: nailbiting

Braves over Cards in 4: last one for Bobby

Phils over Braves in 6: its 1993 all over again

Sox over Angels in 3: again

Yanks over Twins in 5: again

Sox over Yanks in 7: again. sorry hon, its going to be stressful.

Sox over Phils in 7: deeper rotation wins.

love to hear you predictions. see you in November.

oh, and who said anything about an east coast bias...Georgia is west of here, isn't it?

One Winning Team

Well folks, in the interest of full disclosure. Here is my fantasy Baseball team for the 2010 season. I am in an ESPN auction league, which gives you $260 dollars (fake, of course), to bid on players against 9 other competitors.

I always shy away from spending too much on any one player, which usually makes my teams lack excitement, but also usually puts me in the top third of the league. Does the past guarantee the future? Absolutely not. But that is why we play the game, or in the world of fantasy, that is why other, better athletically equipped real people play the game for us.

C Miguel Montero, Ari C, don't know anything about him, had a few extra bucks for a catcher.
1B Kendry Morales, LAA 1B He helped me out last year, and hence, can do so this year.
2B Jose Lopez, Sea 2B solid, not spectacular.
3B Kevin Youkilis, Bos 3B, 1B For my wife, of course, and for me, hopefully .310, 30 and 105
SS Stephen Drew, Ari SS solid, not spectacular
2B/SS Jason Bartlett, TB SS solid, not spectacular. For 2B/SS, if not Utley, then it isn't worth it.
1B/3B Derrek Lee, ChC 1B I tried to get someone to overpay, and ending up being me.

Jayson Werth, Phi OF He's worth it.
Adam Lind, Tor OF, DH He's also worth it, though most don't know him.
Bobby Abreu, LAA OF Got stuck with him, but an old favorite. Emphasis on the old.
Nelson Cruz, Tex OF Numbers last year were real good. Expect a big downfall.
Shane Victorino, Phi OF Hopefully, he'll be flyin' to 40 stolen bases.
UTIL Billy Butler, KC 1B Don't know him, but numbers were good last year.

Starting Pitchers
Cliff Lee, Sea SP Of course, the news broke moments after drafting him that he is on DL.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Col SP a rockies pitcher??? We are living in a post-humidor world.
Cole Hamels, Phi SP Am I a sucker? Yeah.
Wandy Rodriguez, Hou SP last year was real good.
Ted Lilly, ChC SP I was running out of money, so sue me.
John Lackey, Bos SP best 3 starter in mlb.
Ben Sheets, Oak SP had a dollar left, and a dream.

Joakim Soria, KC RP stud.
Andrew Bailey, Oak RP second year dud?
Rafael Soriano, TB RP is Tampa Bay in the mud?
Trevor Hoffman, Mil RP old as crud.*
Carlos Marmol, ChC RP worse than Elmer Fudd.

So all in all, I'm happy with my team. My prediction, a solid 2nd place, 6 points behind the winner.

*Have I mentioned that I am now at the age when announcers call players old and slowing down...AND THEY ARE USUALLY ABOUT MY AGE?

Play ball.

Balancing Deep Emotions

Today, we celebrate Palm Sunday. We read the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem, with the crowds waving palm branches, placing their cloaks as a red carpet while shouting "Hosanna!".

Jesus descended into the city from the Mt. of Olives riding a donkey. A donkey was an animal used by kings during times of peace, as opposed to riding a horse in times of war. Hosanna was a cheer that meant, "Save us". This story points to a crowd believing that their promised Messiah was entering the city to enter in an era of triumph over the Roman Empire.

Yet we know that this story ends with the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Holy Week is an intense week of balancing the extreme emotions of life. Joy, Triumph, sadness, shock, abandonment, resurrection.

The Scripture readings we used in Sunday's service included Zechariah 9:9-10, Luke 19:28-40 and II Corinthians 4:7-12.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthian church identifies some paradoxes which help us in our pursuit of balancing emotions. He described himself as "hard-pressed, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed".

A good sports coach will guide his or her team throughout a season, reminding them that their not as good as their best victory nor as bad as their worst defeat. It is tempting to think that you will be a champion because you played a game where everything went right, or to think that you have no chance when your team gets beat badly. But the dynamics of competition are such that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

As we balance our emotions, this model of sports is helpful. Each day has its moments of triumph and struggle, hope and despair. We are not as great as our most triumphant moments, nor as bad as our worst moments. We are to balance our emotions, and by faith, keep focused on the goal.

We move forward by faith. If we live purely by our emotions, life will be like a never-ending roller coaster, with high peaks and low valleys. We are so fragile as human beings, with our emotions changing like the coming and going of the wind. Faith shapes our self-understanding.

Faith is forging ahead
  • fighting against injustice, not fleeing problems
  • embracing challenge, and encountering strength to endure them
  • seeing our plans, in light of God's plans
  • today, with a hopeful future in mind
  • remembering the past, not living in it
  • strengthened by the vision of new reality
  • when sad, not hopeless
  • when afraid, fearing God alone
  • when joyful, because of God's promises

If we try to be totally happy all the time, we will actually decieve ourselves, because it is impossible to be happy all the time. Perhaps the best route to take when balancing our emotions is to identify what emotion is at work within us, and acknowledge that emotion before God. For God is able to guide us through our valleys and also help us move mountains.

May each of us draw close to Jesus Christ this Holy Week.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day Trips From Las Vegas

Continuing my comments on our recent trip to Las Vegas...

We took two day trips that were outstanding: The Hoover Dam and the Valley of Fire State Park.

The Hoover Dam was a chance to tour the Depression's biggest public works project. Paying four dollars an hour to workers, with a ton of concrete being poured every 75 seconds. It was said that without the metal cooling sheets placed in between each pour, that the Hoover Dam would take 100 years to cool down. How crazy is that? The tour is fascinating, and the site of the Dam outside is breathtaking. There is even a tour in the original visitor center that had a model of the 7 western states and how the Colorado River has influenced development.

There is a bridge being built in front of the Dam that will connect traffic between Arizona and Nevada. The current traffic pattern was quite intense, as it winds its way up the mountain and over the Dam.

Our second trip was to the Valley of Fire State Park, 50 miles north of Las Vegas. This park is a stunning view and interaction with rock formations and mountains. We had a great time climbing the red rocks. The vastness is incredible with the mountains surrounding this Valley of Red Rocks. Simply beautiful.

Most people go to Vegas to gamble. But for Aurie and I, the sites of the strip were a distant third to the Hoover Dam and Valley of Fire State Park.

We saw a man checking out of the resort and the topic of the Hoover Dam came up. "Oh, I wish I had had time to see that". I kind of got the feeling that he probably did have time, but had used it on the strip. To each his own, but the reality is that he missed out.

If you have the chance, don't miss out on two beautiful, worthwhile and enjoyable experiences. You won't be throwing your money away!

Las Vegas, The City Where I Sleep

I'd like to thank two very important people. Make that three!

First, to my wife, who suprised me with a Trip to Las Vegas for my Christmas Gift.
Second, to our friend John B. who generously gave his us his timeshare for the week.
Third, to my mom, who moved into our home to stay with our two girls. Actually, two human girls, two canine girls and one male cat. During a flood, GO MOM!

I want to provide a few thoughts on the week. I have not been reimbursed by the Nevada Tourism Commission for these thoughts. And the way business is going, they don't need me to.

We had a delightful time in Las Vegas. I think everyone should go to Vegas at least once in their life. If it is indeed America's playground, you should see how many American's play. Remember, people watching is still the greatest free entertainment going.

I found it interesting that the airport is in the middle of the city, and I believe that is due to the vast expansion experienced in recent decades.

Vegas is a city that is surrounded by mountains. It is simply beautiful to look around the strip and see these mountains.

The casinos are a unique experience. Each one having thousands of gaming machines, with millions of dollars placed into those machines. Each casino also having a theme, with most having a mix of free exhibits along with paid attractions. Two experiences that were definitely worth their money were the gondola ride at the Venetian and the Shark Reef exhibit at Mandalay Bay.

My five favorite casinos were
  1. New York, New York. The view from the outside is stunning, and the inside streets with shops was really cool.
  2. the Venetian. I loved the canals and the architecture.
  3. Mandalay Bay, a stunning monstrosity of a place.
  4. The Belagio, with its world famous fountains.
  5. Paris Las Vegas, with its half sized Eiffel Tower and beautiful architecture.

The only casino I found disappointing was the Excalibur. A middle ages theme was a great idea, but they did not continue the theme inside the building to the extent that they could have.

The first casino we went in was the Tropicana. Compared to the others, it wasn't as elaborate, but it was definitely the feel or picture that most people have of a casino. Perhaps, casino classic?

We loved people watching, walking the strip, taking pictures, seeing what was next on the Strip, shopping, site-seeing and having a good time.

We gambled about $14. I was shocked that I didn't come home a millionaire. What happened, Vegas?

I have two final thoughts on this post.

We stayed on the south end of the strip, at the Grandview, which was a beautiful place to stay. They built the South Bay casino next to it. The southern end of the strip seems to be the next big thing. I want to go back in 20 years to see how much it develops. It was really fun to be in Las Vegas during March Madness. There must have been 500 people watching basketball in South Bay, cheering and groaning during the games. What a fun time.

Second, we have completely adopted our children's schedules. We were up at 6am and in bed by 8 or 9 each night, so we did most of our site seeing during the day, followed by quiet dinners and post-dinner walks on the south end of town. We woke up at 3:30 am to catch our plane, and driving down Las Vegas Boulevard, we saw the city skyline lit up in its nightly glory for the first time on our trip. Boring? No, we had a great time. To me, New York will always be the city that never sleeps. Las Vegas, a great place to vacation, and when a young parent, see sites AND get some rest.

Thanks Aurie, John and Mom!

My next post will comment on our day trips outside Las Vegas to the beautiful Valley of Fire State Park and Hoover Dam.

Deep Emotions: Sadness

For years, I have floated back and forth between writing manuscripts and using outline notes. When I first started blogging, I tried once again to write my sermons so that I would have content to post.

A lightbulb just went off in my head (yes, it does happen once in a while). On weeks that I do not have a written manuscript, why not blog the summary of the sermon? Better than nothing, right?

During Lent, we have been focusing on deep emotions. Today, we discussed the idea of sadness.

The Scriptures used were Psalm 42, John 11:1-37 and Revelation 7:7-19.

Webster's defines Sadness as "affected by or expressions of grief and unhappiness".

The author of Psalm 42 identified some common reasons why people feel sad.
  1. being mocked, or made fun of
  2. having memories of better days
  3. feeling alone
  4. suffering of the body

The good news of the gospel does not promise that we will always be happy, or that we will never be sad. The good news of the gospel is that we might have eternal life that transcends life as we now know it. Jesus came as a human, fully experiencing the whole spectrum of emotion that we feel. Jesus, have lived as human, was then able to sacrifice, resurrect, ascend to his Father in heaven and justify the children of God, granting eternal life. Good news is good because of its ultimate promise, not its immediate effects.

We see the humanness of Jesus in the story of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Scripture declares that Jesus loved these three, and after the death of Lazarus, it is said that Jesus was deeply troubled in his spirit...and that Jesus wept.

Individually, Mary and Martha said the same thing to Jesus, "If you had been here, my brother would not have died". Isn't this a universal thought we have toward God? "If only you had been there, then..."

In the Revelation passage, we receive a promise from God, "And God will wipe away every tear" These words come to those faithful who had endured great trial and tribulation. In the passage, those who had endured were in the presence of God, and were filled with joy and peace. The difficulties were done. Eternal life had begun.

To close the sermon, I differentiated between the two ways that sadness takes shape: over grief and unhappiness. Grief is a process, without a timeline and essential to any healing process. Depression is a sustained experience of sadness, with added mental aspects and dynamics. But sadness is a universal feeling, it can be experienced over something simple, and can come and go rather quickly.

I suggest that when we are sad for reasons of unhappiness (as opposed to grief), that perhaps what is most needed is a reconnection with a purpose greater than ourselves. Sadness is replaced by happiness when we remember what is important. I'm open to hearing comments as to the veracity of this last statement. Am I onto something, or am I missing the point?

Ultimately, sadness is one of the deep emotions we all feel. It is best to be honest before God when we are experiencing it. Tears are one physical way we can deal with our sadness. We are not always promised happiness in this life, but we are promised a God who knows when we are sad, and will one day wipe away our tears.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stockton Elementary School Board

Well, I've handed in my petition to run for the local elementary school board.

If elected, the end of my term with coincide with the beginning of my daughter's scholastic journey. I look forward to helping and supporting the school that will help and support our daughters.

I try to encourage my students at Kean and the parishioners of Stockton to be involved in their community. So here is one attempt at combining belief with action.

We'll see how it works out. If nothing else, there will be some blogging opportunities!

Community Garden

Tolkien described the Hobbits as people who 'liked things that grow'.

Not that I am claiming to be a hobbit, but that description resonates with me. I want to be part of things that are growing. I want to see new life burst and spring forth around me.

This year, Stockton residents will be gathering at the Prallsville Mill grounds to grow our first Community Garden!

The Mill will be hosting the garden, with longtime Stockton historian and resident Karl Cathers acting as Master Gardener. The Environmental Commission will be networking volunteers who love gardening, or are ready to start loving to garden.

If anyone grows their own plants from seed, we would welcome vegetables and herbs come planting time. In April, we will coordinate a schedule for planting and maintaining the garden.

Thanks in advance for your excitement and participation!

Deep Emotions: Jealousy

The second in my 2010 Lent sermon series on Deep Emotions. This sermon was delivered to the Stockton Presbyterian Church on 2/28/10. Scriptures used for the sermon were Exodus 20:4-6, Mark 9:33-37, I Corinthians 3 .

We like to have our conversations about The Greatest. The Best. These are the discussions that fascinate us. We make our lists and debate the data. Our discussions about the greatest include...

  • The 27 Yankees or the Big Red Machine?
  • The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
  • Washington or Lincoln?
  • The Great Gasby or Ulysses (These are books, for those who don't know)
  • Casablanca or Citizen Kane (These are movies, for those who don't know)
  • Muhammad Ali…well, I guess if your nickname is the greatest that hinders discussion.

The Gospel of Mark tells us about a who is the greatest discussion that was not beneficial or fruitful.
“The disciples did not answer him because they were talking about which of them was the greatest.”
To which Jesus answers: oh, that is an easy question to answer: none of you are. He brings a child to them and reframes greatness.

Unlike many of our 'greatest' discussions, the disciples argument about which one of them was the greatest was rooted in jealousy. Jealousy is defined as
Mental uneasiness from suspicion or fear of rivalry or unfaithfulness
The secondary definition is
Vigilance in maintaining or guarding something.

Jealousy can be confused with its synonym Envy.
Envy has to do with possession. HAVING what someone else has.
Jealousy is about resentment. It is rooted in insecurity and anger.

I think I am oversimplifying it, but generally speaking, envy has to do with things, and jealousy with people.

The Apostle Paul, in his words to the church in Corinth, reminds people that they are to be about the Lord, not about one follower of Jesus over another. There should be no camps or teams in the Christian faith. The following 5 principles are taken from I Corinthians 3.


1. Produces worldliness, not godliness (3:3)
While God calls us to have love for people and creation, a basic generic understanding of the world, we are also commanded not to become like the world. That is, we are to become godly, like God. God is saying, “follow me”. Jealousy makes us want to become like other people. God is saying, "become like me".

2. Not based on reality, but self (ish) perception (3:4-7)
I do not feel that all self-perception is selfish. But jealousy does grow our selfish perception. God is real. The twisted perceptions that grow when we allow jealousy to take root within us are not real. We can overcome jealousy be rooting ourselves in what is real. God is real, and God's kingdom is real. Let us work for that kingdom. We do not work alone. By working together: a common purpose guides you.

3. It destroys, not build up (3:10-17)
Our jealousy burns, God’s judgment refines. Paul uses the image of fire to show that what is not building up God's kingdom is something not built upon a solid foundation, and will be burnt away. Our jealousy burns within us when we do not put it out. God's fire, rather than destroying, acts as a refining agent. The common illustration is that of gold, where fire burns away remnants in order for the gold to be made pure.

4. It is foolish, not wise (3:18-20)

5. You already have everything you need. (3:21-23)

Jealousy decieves into thinking we need something, or someone else. But God has already provided for us. In that sense, if we have Christ, we have everything that we need.

Today, our thoughts end with a different idea about jealousy, one which we have not often considered. But one of the names for God in Hebrew Scripture is Jealous. Our initial reaction is we might not know what to do with this name? Is God immature? Has God not developed emotional tolerance? Is God like a little child who cries when he doesn't get what he wants?

Perhaps our second definition of jealousy is helpful here: Vigilance in maintaining or guarding something. Isn’t that what God is trying to do for us? His jealousy is all the things ours is not.

God’s jealousy is: holy, real, building up, wise, offering all things
Our jealousy is: worldly, perceived, destroying, foolish, nothing

Like anger, jealousy is rooted in passion. Our understanding of God is that God is passionate, loving us, wanting us to love him, not bowing to idols that lead to an empty way of life. Protecting us from that which destroys us, maintaining health in our spiritual life.

Let us free ourselves from jealousy. Let God be jealous, God is the only one who knows how to do that with righteousness. We are called to love: God and neighbor. That effort can take a lifetime of energy and devotion.

Deep Emotions: Anger

Deep Emotions: Anger

The first in my 2010 Lent sermon series on Deep Emotions. This sermon was delivered to the Stockton Presbyterian Church on 2/21/10. Scriptures used for the sermon were the book of Jonah and Matthew 12:38-45

And there's always a place for the angry young man,
With his fist in the air and his head in the sand.
And he's never been able to learn from mistakes,
He can't understand why his heart always breaks.
His honor is pure and his courage as well
--William Joel, poet, The Angry Young Man

Today, we start a series of sermons on deep emotions. The purpose of these sermons is to name some common emotions that we all feel, identify some dynamics involved with them and then look at these emotions from a biblical perspective. The purpose of these sermons is not really to become overly introspective. We are talking about these emotions during LENT because, it is a season of reflection. And all reflection should point us toward God and good.

The definition of Anger, according to Webster's Dictionary:
Noun: strong feeling of displeasure aroused by a wrong
Verb: to arouse strong feelings of displeasure
Our current word is rooted in the 12th century, meaning to grieve, anguish or have sorrow

This past week, I received an email forward about a man asking the nation to vote out every current congressman because they raised their salary in the midst of economic uncertainty. It was an angry email.

Now, did this email writer, just figure out that congress gives themselves pay raises, or perhaps, the real issue is that something in his life changed to put him over the edge, and he is looking to blame someone/thing for the problem. And he found it.

The problem in our society right now is that we could have picked any number of issues that make people angry. It is almost too easy to do.

So regardless of what makes people angry, we certainly see and know the physical effects of anger…
  • Blood pressure rising
  • Ready to defend or attack
  • Teeth grinding
  • Face turning red
  • Adrenaline kicking in
  • The Vein growing out of the forehead

Whenever we are angry, there are also some things going on internally:

  • Our emotional reasoning is not working
  • We find ourselves experiencing a low frustration tolerance
  • We have unreasonable expectations
  • We label people, keeping them in their packages

We become angry because of real or perceived threats, past experiences, learned behaviors, our personality and our lack of problem solving skills.

Anger is in this world because something is wrong. And humans like to assign blame to what is wrong. Sometimes, humans also identify a problem and then seek to solve the problem. That is anger at its best, to identify a wrong, contemplate a solution that is helpful to all parties, and then make the change.

There is wrong in self, surroundings and society.
The wrong in self is dysfunction. Something is not functioning within us. Often, we will flee these types of wrong, in order to protect ourselves from changing.

The wrong in surroundings usually cause us to fight. This is because we are protecting ourselves against attack of our well being or comfort.

The wrong in society is injustice. The system is in dysfunction, not just the individual.

What do some of the verses in the Bible say about anger?

  • In your anger, do not sin (ephesians 4:26)
  • Anger does not produce the righteous lifestyle that God wants (James 1:20)
  • There are multiple verses which site God as angry, and the more I think about that, it is ok. We work so hard to make God not look angry. But what about our definition? Anger is displeasure at what is wrong. Doesn't God's holiness justify anger...if someone is wrong, shouldn't we want God to move the world toward what is right?
  • Jesus said anyone angry with his brother will be subject to judgment (Matthew 5:22)
  • An angry man stirs up dissension and a hot tempered one commits many sins (Proverbs 15:1)
  • A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. (Proverbs 29:11)

Then there is the Story of Jonah, which for our blog readers, I highly suggest you read in its entirety. It takes about 8 minutes to read and is a fascinating story. For our purposes, anger is revealed and grows in Jonah's life because...

  • Ran away from what God had said (whole problem could have been averted)
  • He is dishonest with crew members (stemming from his personal dysfunction)
  • Jonah is greatly displeased that God’s plan is different from his expectations.
  • He then displays faulty emotional reasoning: "I knew you would be nice to them"
    which strikes me as speaking irrationally and internal dysfunction is exposed.
  • He cannot answer truthfully God’s questions: Do you have any right to be angry?
  • This is followed by the story of the vine, and Jonah's anger at a gift given/taken
  • The story ends with God’s concerns being identified, which lead to salvation.

I had a humorous incident occur when preparing this sermon. A book I had needed was not on my shelf. My immediate reaction was to blame. "Someone must have taken it", I rationalized to myself (as if people had nothing better to do with their lives than come and misplace the book they thought I might need for a sermon that week). Rather than taking a step back, and thinking about other options, I saw myself start to blame, and the seeds of anger were growing. I caught myself before the anger grew too powerful, and laughed at the absurdity of my thinking when the book was in the next room, right where I had left it. Putting the anger aside, and using creativity to think of an alternative solution allowed that solution to present itself.

A problem arose, I wasn’t able to solve it, I blamed others, however irrational that was, and then took a step back, came up with a solution, and solved the problem.

This leads me to Good’s Guide to Putting Anger in its place…
1. Take a breath and a step back.
2. Ask yourself, Is my anger based upon imagination or reality?
3. If it is reality, will I internalize or address the anger?
4. If I choose to address the anger, is my solution a positive action.

I think it is appropriate to mention that internalizing does have its place. We are so quick to reject the idea of internalizing anger. Yet, are we better off saying everything that comes to our mind? I do not think so.

The problem is that if we nurture our anger long enough, we end up as the man Joel describes at the end his song, “well, he’ll go to the grave an angry old man”.

Anger is rooted in passion.
Anger is justified against evil. But be careful, for we are not judges of the human heart.

Perhaps love, a passion for the good, should replace anger in our lives.
Perhaps being concerned with what God is concerned about is what we should be doing and being.

“You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. But Ninevah has more than a 120,000 people and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”