Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Why SCOTUS Pick Should Be Pryor

It has been announced that President Donald Trump is going to publicly announce his nominee for the opening in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on Monday evening.

The announcement is to take place during a live television broadcast at 8:00pm EST. This is a high profile time slot, and is entirely befitting the important nature of this vital nomination.

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest federal court in our nation. Established in 1789 by our original U.S. Constitution, the SCOTUS has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all courts in the land. 

Thus, SCOTUS is the final arbiter on nearly all court cases of vital national interest. Decisions are rendered by a majority vote of the Chief Justice and eight associate justices, all of whom serve a lifetime term.

That last part is vitally important. Once a justice is appointed to the SCOTUS, they serve until they either die, retire, resign, or are impeached and convicted by the U.S. Congress. Since no SCOTUS justice has ever been successfully impeached and convicted, appointees are almost certainly going to serve as long as they wish.

The only U.S. President to serve a full term in office and not have the opportunity to appoint a justice to the SCOTUS was Jimmy Carter. Now, less than two weeks into his first term in office, President Trump gets that opportunity.

Trump's pick is vitally important for a number of reasons, but primarily because the court vacancy that he is filling has been open for nearly a year. Last February 13, longtime noted SCOTUS justice Antonin Scalia passed away suddenly in his sleep at age 79.

Monday, January 30, 2017

For the Pittsburgh Pirates, No News is Bad News

For the Pittsburgh Pirates and their passionate fan base, the 2016 season was one of extreme disappointment. After three consecutive playoff appearances, the beloved Bucs missed the postseason party.
The Pirates struggled to a record of 78-83 last season, good only for third place in the National League Central Division.
In each of the prior three years, Pittsburgh came in second place, with the team repeatedly falling just short of a division crown. The club finished within two games in 2014 and 2015 after falling three games short in 2013.
In 2016, the Bucs fell 7.5 games short of the second-place St. Louis Cardinals. But that was not their biggest concern heading into the offseason. Pittsburgh also finished a distant 25 games behind the eventual World Series champion Chicago Cubs in the division race.

Colorado Rockies All-Time 25-Man Roster

The Colorado Rockies were born when the city of Denver was granted an expansion franchise by Major League Baseball in 1991. The club then began play in the National League West Division in the 1993 season.
Over the ensuing quarter century the franchise has not experienced very much on-field success. They have yet to capture a division crown, and there have been just three trips to the MLB postseason.
Early in their history, from 1995-97, the Rox treated their fans to three consecutive winning seasons. This has been the only time they have produced that long a stretch of winning baseball.

THE BLAKE STREET BOMBERS

The 1995 team was an offensive juggernaut that finished in second place, just a game short of a division title. But those Rockies captured the NL Wildcard to become the first Colorado team into the playoffs.
Nicknamed the “Blake Street Bombers”, they were led by four men who each cranked more than 30 home runs. The Rockies would lose in that 1995 NLDS by 3-1 to the eventual World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
After that brief run of success it would be a long decade before Colorado would contend once again.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Sermon: Are Catholic Schools 'Better' Than Public?

"See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ" ~ St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians (New Testament, Colossians 2:8)




It's a question that does not have a simple answer: are Catholic schools "better" than public schools here in the United States?

You will hear and read many Catholic school parents and students make the claim that they are indeed better in every way.

But you can also find many proponents of the American public school system who will claim that there is nothing inferior about the education they provide.

There have been a number of formal studies made on the issue. Mai Miksic with the CUNY Institute for Public Policy took on the question in his June 2014 piece "Is the 'Catholic School Effect' Real"?

Miksic's piece concludes that "there is no lack of rigorous research...indicating a possible Catholic school advantage."

However, Miksic also correctly points out that many proponents of Catholic schools point to simplistic statistics such as higher standardized test score results achieved by their students.

Education is, in the end, about much more than test scores.

Phillies Rebuild Now Largely Completed

The Philadelphia Phillies have suffered through five consecutive non-winning seasons. 
The last time that the club fielded a winner was with the franchise record 102 victories of the 2011 campaign.
Phillies leadership spent much of the last three years turning the final pages from the previous championship era. With the trade of Carlos Ruiz and the buyout of Ryan Howard‘s contract, those final pages have now been turned.
The club has traded veterans for prospect packages. There have been high draft picks resulting from the losing campaigns. These have combined to provide a vastly improved farm system.
Some of those highly ranked young acquisitions and prospects have begun to emerge in the big leagues already.

Monday, January 23, 2017

President Trump Needs to Pick His Social Media Battles

On Friday, January 20. 2017, Donald John Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

There is much that is unique about the Trump presidency even before considering any policies, programs, or laws which may be enacted.

Trump is the very first U.S. President who does not have any prior American military or governmental service on his resume. He has spent decades managing his family business well, growing it into one of the largest and most successful private institutions in the land.

Also, as we found out in the Republican primaries, President Trump has an affinity for social media. In particular, the President made use of his private Twitter account to take his message directly to the voters during the primaries.

After emerging victorious from a large, qualified field of candidates, Trump continued engaging his millions of followers on Twitter during the General Election campaign.

His upset defeat of the Democratic candidate, former First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, was fueled partially by his social media engagement with voters.

Trump used Twitter to take his message directly to the people.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday Sermon: Our Responsibility in the New Covenant

The sermon that I heard delivered at church this morning included an interesting line. It was delivered by Rev. Dennis O'Donnell, who said that "many Catholics today are actually very good Jews."

What he was referring to, as he went on to explain, is that in his experiences in talking to many Catholics, it seems to be their opinion is that all they need to do is to follow the Ten Commandments.


You know the Ten Commandments: Keep Holy the Sabbath, Thou Shalt Not Kill, Honor Your Father and Mother, and all the rest? Ten rules given by God to Moses, the "Old Covenant", written down clearly on stone tablets, passed on to the Chosen People, and then to all of us down through the millenia.


Keep the Ten Commandments, and go to heaven when you die. So what's the problem? The problem is that makes you a good Jew. Nothing wrong with that at all...if you are Jewish.


But if you are a Catholic, which makes you a Christian, then more is expected of you. You see, Christians are expected to follow and as best as possible emulate the teachings of Jesus Christ.


As Paul explained in 2 Corinthians, Christ's message is written "not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Philography: Mike Lieberthal

Since 1978, the Philadelphia Phillies have honored the greatest individual contributors to the success of the franchise with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
The Wall includes plaques dedicated to remembering and honoring the Phillies all-time greats. This includes the contributions of club executives, broadcasters, and of course, dozens of players.
Of those players, only two performed at the position of catcher. One of those was Bob Boone, who was selected to a place on the Wall during the 2005 season.
The only other catcher in a history that stretches back to the 1883 season to be honored with a place on the Wall is Mike Lieberthal.
'Lieby' played for the Phillies from 1994-2006. His career is overlooked by some younger fans, often lost due to the period in which he performed.
Lieberthal broke into the big leagues during the strike-killed 1994 season, a year after the Phillies unexpected romp to a National League pennant. His career ended just before the glory of five straight National League East pennants began in 2007.
Lieberthal's career largely spanned a frustrating period in club history. But there is no denying the numbers or his reputation. Lieberthal may have been the greatest all-around catcher to ever pull on a Philadelphia Phillies uniform.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Phillies Gain Little in Signing Michael Saunders

The Philadelphia Phillies are reportedly in agreement with free agent outfielder Michael Saunders on a contract for 2017. The deal is rumored to be for one year, with an option that may be the player’s to exercise.
There have been rumors all off-season that the Fightin’ Phils were looking to add another bat to their lineup. Just last week, club president Andy MacPhail publicly confirmed those rumors, which I explored here.
Word of a possible Saunders deal with the Phillies first broke across Twitter in the early afternoon from insider Jon Morosi.
Later in the day, information began leaking that the deal was for $9 million guaranteed in 2017. The second year option option at $11 could escalate to as much as $13 million.
If the Phillies do indeed complete this signing, what exactly will the club be gaining? In my opinion, very little of significance. In fact, a legitimate argument can be made as to whether signing Saunders improves their talent at all.

Cincinnati Reds All-Time 25-Man Roster

The Cincinnati Red Stockings were one of the eight charter members of the original National League when it first formed in February of 1876.
That first Reds involvement in the NL would not last long. The team was expelled after five seasons for violating two early league rules.

Cincinnati opened their park on Sundays, and marketed beer. The final Reds club finished in last place with a 21-59-3 mark in the 1880 season.
Instead of disbanding, Reds ownership kept the club organized. They would eventually help to form the new American Association in 1881. The AA would last as a challenger to the NL for a full decade from 1882-91. The Reds would capture the very first AA pennant in the 1882 campaign.
Following the 1889 season, Cincinnati re-joined the National League. The club won 92 games by the 1898 season, good enough for a 3rd place finish.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Phillies Looking to Add a Lefty Bat

The rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies escaped the cellar of the National League East Division in the 2016 season. Despite improving by seven games in the standings, the club continued to show significant shortcomings.
The greatest area of short-term concern for the Fightin’ Phils remains with offensive production from the lineup. The 2016 Phillies were the worst offensive team in baseball.
This past season, the Phillies finished last in runs scored (610) by a wide margin. The 29th place team, the division rival Atlanta Braves, scored 649 times. The top two scoring teams in the NL, the Colorado Rockies and World Series champion Chicago Cubs, scored 845 and 808 runs, respectively.
There has been a great deal of speculation in recent months that the Phillies might be interested in adding a new bat to their outfield mix. This addition would come either from signing an available free agent or via trade.
One new outfielder has already been brought on board. The Phillies traded for Howie Kendrick, installing him as the new left fielder. It is believed now that the club is looking to add a more proven right fielder, or a left-handed bat to platoon at first base with Tommy Joseph.
On Sunday morning, Phillies President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail was a guest on MLB Network Radio’s “Front Office” program. Per Jim Bowden, MacPhail stated that the Phillies are indeed looking to add a left-handed bat.

Friday, January 6, 2017

No Way, Jose

The Philadelphia Phillies’ rebuilding program continues to move along at a reasonable pace. After finally resolving to commit to that rebuild, the club has spent the past two years jettisoning aging, expensive players.
The Phils bottomed out in the standings in 2015. That year, the club finished with the worst record in all of baseball. In this past 2016 season they improved by seven games, and escaped the cellar of the National League East for the first time since 2013.
It is expected that the Phillies will continue to move up as the 2017 season unfolds. Not necessarily to a playoff contending level yet, but certainly to make a push for the .500 mark.
The Phillies have added bullpen and rotation depth during the offseason. The rotation was bolstered by re-signing Jeremy Hellickson and by trading for Clay Buchholz. The pen was fortified with additions such as Joaquin BenoitPat Neshek and Sean Burnett.
But the only meaningful change on the offensive side of the Phillies roster was the trade of longtime underachiever Darin Ruf for veteran outfielder Howie Kendrick.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Texas Rangers / Washington Senators All-Time 25-Man Roster

The Texas Rangers were formed from a failed attempt by Major League Baseball to forcibly keep a big league team in the Nation’s Capital.
The original Washington Senators had been one of the American League’s eight charter franchises. That club traced its existence back to the 1901 founding of the junior circuit.
Those first Senators relocated to Minnesota in 1961, where they became the current Twins. Wanting to keep baseball in D.C., an expansion club was created by MLB as a replacement.
The new expansion Washington Senators thus began play in that 1961 season. The team would remain there through the 1971 season.
The Senators had a losing record through each of their first eight seasons. With the nearby Baltimore Orioles as a consistent contender, attendance became a serious issue.
In 1969, baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams was brought in as the skipper with no prior managerial experience. “The Splendid Splinter” would guide the club to its only winning campaign. Williams’ 1969 Senators team finished 86-76 in the first year of MLB divisional play.