Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 American of the Year: Seal Team 6

The United States Navy 'SEAL' teams are the Navy's principal special operations force. The 'SEAL' acronym stands for Sea, Air, and Land, and each of these factors was on display on May 2nd, 2011. 

On that day, the Navy's "SEAL Team 6", it's Special Warfare Development Group, got revenge for America and exorcised a ghost that had haunted the nation for two decades, particularly in orchestrating the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. On that day, they killed Osama bin Laden.

"Operation Neptune Spear" was led by the C.I.A. and included their own agents, U.S. Army Airborne Rangers, and Seal Team 6. Their target was a compound in the Bilal Town section of the city of Abbottabad, Pakistan where intelligence gathered over the previous 9 months had led to the conclusion that Osama bin Laden, the murderous leader of the al Qaeda Islamofascist terrorist group, was living.

The mission was to be a "kill or capture" one in theory, but information developed from the intel had led most to feel that those inside the compound would not allow themselves to simply be captured. The American team was ready for a fire-fight. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

At Penn State, Joe Had to Go

It's a sad day in Happy Valley, the home of the Penn State Nittany Lions, a University now rocked by one of the very worst kinds of scandal. 

Former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky stands credibly accused of raping and sexually molesting a series of young boys, some at least as young as 10 years old, and of doing so in some instances inside the football facilities while he was still a coach.

Sandusky stands to be judged on his own for these heinous, monstrous actions. But now comes the important issue of who else knew, may have known, or where made aware of what was going on, and did little or nothing to protect these children.

Last night that fallout spread to school president Graham Spanier and head football coach Joe Paterno, both of whom were fired by the university board. For Spanier it is the end of a 16-year run, and for the iconic 'Joe Pa' it marks the ignominious end to a 46-year head coaching career.

I could write all day long on the circumstances that led to this point, and the guilt, culpability, and responsibility that Sanduskay, Spanier, and others hold in this situation. But I'll leave that to the countless articles arleady out there, already well written.

Here, I want to cover a couple of simple points about Paterno, points that highlight the reasons that for days my own mantra was "Joe must go!" Now that he is rightly gone, the issue of his responsibility needs to be addressed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Meeting Jessica

Jessica Liversidge was just 18 years old when she laid down to sleep in the early hours of Sunday morning, October 23rd. She never woke up. She was my niece through marriage, the only child of my wife Debbie's sister, Vickie, and Vickie's husband Joe.

I had only seen Jess in person twice since she was a very little girl, both times in her pre-teen years. Once their family visited our home in the Somerton section of Philadelphia. Another was at the funeral for her maternal blood grandmother, Alma Marshall, Debbie and Vickie's mother by birth.

I say "by birth" because the whole family relationship story is kind of unique, reminiscent of an "Oprah" episode where family members who were long estranged or never knew about one another are suddenly united or reunited.
Alma had 4-5 children already when she discovered that she was pregnant with Vickie.

This was the early 1950's, still the post-World War II years, and times were tough in the household. Knowing she was carrying a life inside of her, but believing they could not afford another child, she and her husband Bob decided to give Vickie up for adoption.

Incredibly, it turned out that Alma still wasn't done with mothering. About two years later, my wife Debbie came along, and the couple decided that it must be God's will to keep expanding their family. They kept Debbie, and even ended up adding two more children to their family after that.

Vickie was adopted by what all accounts seem to indicate was a wonderful couple who raised her in the area in and around Downingtown, Pennsylvania, about 40 miles to the west of the Marshall home on Huntingdon Street in Philly.

Friday, October 21, 2011

War is Not the Answer

One thing that should be fairly clear from Soviet involvement in Afghanistan in the 1980's, and American involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000's, is that waging war in the Middle East is not a winning long term strategy.

In the short-term, deposing dangerous regimes and tyrannical rulers with military force is something that may indeed be necessary.

Sadam Hussein certainly was tyrannical, torturing and killing his own countrymen. The Taliban and al Qaeda certainly were dangerous, deadly entities. All had to go.

But in the end, there is certainly one truth that has to be faced up to: the United States of America cannot be expected to place large numbers of troops in any foreign country forever.

There comes a time when we need to bring our troops home or redeploy them. I believe that President Obama is right in bringing our troops home from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Now, I don't agree with this President on very much. He is likely a Socialist, certainly an ultra-liberal, big government, anti-capitalist. But to say that he is wrong about every single thing the man does on every issue at every turn is to simply be a partisan contrarian yourself.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Phillies: Where Do We Go From Here?

I'm writing this on the day after the Philadelphia Phillies ended the most successful regular season in franchise history with one of their most devastating playoff losses. The team of the "Fantastic Four", the "Four Aces", lost to the Saint Louis Cardinals last night, at home, by a 1-0 score. Shutout by Chris Carpenter and sent packing for the winter, where do the Fightin' Phils go from here?

Let's begin with the basics. Who will be back in 2012, who will not be back, and what are the biggest question marks as far as the current players on the roster. After that we can do a little gazing into a crystal ball to see who, if anyone, GM Ruben Amaro might target in the Hot Stove League.

The list of who will be back begins with Amaro himself, who is signed to a contract through the 2015 season, and whose time with the team must be considered nothing short of a complete success. As the Assistant GM to now MLB Hall of Famer Pat Gillick and former GM Ed Wade, he was highly influential in building the 2008 World Series champions. As the GM, he has made bold moves that have kept the club in strong contention.

Next on the list of those coming back is manager Charlie Manuel, who signed an extension taking him through the 2013 season. Manuel's steady hand and generally easy-going manner endear him to today's ballplayer. He is the club's all-time winningest manager. He led the team to that 2008 World Series. Unless the soon to be 68-year old finds his tenure cut short by health, he will man the helm for at least two more years.

On the field, those returning include Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Carlos Ruiz, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, John Mayberry Jr, Michael Martinez, and Domonic Brown. Every one of those players will be returning and will make up the bulk of the Phillies position players on offense and defense for the 2012 season.

On the mound, returning will be Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Vance Worley, Joe Blanton, Antonio Bastardo, Jose Contreras, David Herndon, Michael Stutes, and Michael Schwimer. Hamels has a club option that the Phillies are certain to pick up, and he will likely be the target of a club attempt at a long-term contract this off-season.

This takes us to the question marks among the current crop of players, and there are a handful of big ones as well as a couple of smaller but possibly important ones as well. These players include Jimmy Rollins, Roy Oswalt, Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge, Brian Schneider, Wilson Valdez, Ben Francisco, and Kyle Kendrick. Let's take the biggest names one at a time.

Jimmy Rollins has been the heart and soul of this franchise for at least a half dozen years. It's senior member, 'JRoll' has been a Phillie his entire career, which began really with his first full season back in 2001. He was the 2007 NL MVP when his proclamation that the Phillies, not the then-powerhouse New York Mets, were the "team to beat" in the NL East proved prescient.

The arguments to bring back Rollins are emotional. He is the acknowledged leader. There is not a single fan who grew up as or became one in the past decade who can imagine the Phillies without JRoll at shortstop. Thing is, I've already been here, done this. I went through the same with Larry Bowa almost 30 years ago. The day will come, and that day may indeed be here.

The rub with Rollins will be the contract. He is a free agent for the first time in his career, and he is well aware that this will be his final shot at big bucks. He can still spark a team as shown by his 16 homeruns and 30 steals, and he was perhaps the team's best hitter in the 2011 playoffs. But he turns 33 years old next month. How many years, and how much money, do you give the guy? And how much of that is for what he has done, rather than what you believe he will do?

My guess is that Jimmy Rollins will be looking for at least a 3-year contract worth at least $40 million overall. At least that, and he is rumored to be seeking a 5-year deal. Freddy Galvis is the Phillies organization minor league Player of the Year. He turns 22 years old next month. He is already considered Major League-ready with the glove, an exceptional defender. He would probably be an all-glove, little-hit guy for at least a couple seasons. I am guessing that he is the Phillies 2012 starting shortstop, and that we are watching the final weeks of the JRoll era.

Roy Oswalt is another toughie. He just turned 34-years old last month, and the club has a $16 million option for 2012. A couple months ago, it looked like his balky back might lead him to retirement, especially if he could go out on top with a championship. But he got healthy, said he felt great at the end of the season, had his fastball popping again, and is looking to return. It says here that starting pitchers of his experience and pedigree do not grow on trees, and that the Phils should pickup that option and bring back the "Four Aces" intact for one more shot at the brass ring.

Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge have been at the core of the Phillies back-end bullpen for the past four years. The iconic scene of Lidge dropping to his knees after his strikeout and perfect season clinched the 2008 World Series will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of the team and it's fans. He will get free dinners around this town, justifiably, for decades. But his time is likely up. The club has an $11.5 million option on him for 2012, but with Lidge turning 35 in December, and a bunch of young relievers ready, that money can be spent better elsewhere.

Madson is a far more interesting situation. He is a free agent. His agent is Scott Boras. He will definitely be looking for big money as a closer with some team. He has been a career-long Phillie, and did a strong job for the club in his first full season as the full-time closer this past year. At age 31, he should still have a few strong years in his right arm. My guess is that he is going to look for a 4-5 year deal in the $50 million range. That might be difficult for the club to take on. But if they really believe that he is a shutdown closer, it might also prove to be money well spent. I call it 50-50 on Mad Dog returning.

Brian Schneider is a good, reliable, talented backup catcher. Same on Wilson Valdez as a backup infielder. Both should be back if they don't price themselves out of town, which is doubtful. Ben Francisco, despite his big NLDS pinch-homer, is likely gone. He is eligible for arbitration, but the club saw enough from Mayberry and thinks highly enough of Brown to make Big Ben disposable. I say they don't offer arbitration here. The final question then is Kyle Kendrick, also arbitration eligible. Another one that I see as 50-50. He has grown, has some talent, could start for many teams. He may be a trade piece.

So it says here that your 2012 Phillies will have an infield of Howard-Utley-Galvis-Polanco, Chooch behind the plate, the Flyin' Hawaiian in centerfield, Pence in right, and a platoon of Mayberry/Brown in left. Michael Martinez wilil be the main man off the bench, both Schneider and Valdez back for depth. I also believe the club may look at bringing in a big bopper-type veteran bat to come off the bench, though they may start the season as-is and try to add that in-season.

In 2012, your rotation will be the same as this year: Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt, Worley. You might see Joe Blanton and/or Kyle Kendrick back if the decision is made not to keep Oswalt. You also might see one or both of them dealt away. Hard to imagine the club bringing all 7 back again if healthy. The pen will be Contreras, Bastardo, Stutes, Schwimer and Herndon, and I believe the club either brings back Madson, or signs a proven shutdown free agent closer such as Jonathan Papelbon or Heath Bell.

You will definitely be saying goodbye for good to Raul Ibanez and the werewolf chants. I wouldn't expect to see Ross Gload coming back either. I also wouldn't expect to see Ruben Amaro Jr pull another rabbit out of his hat this winter. His most important work will be signing Hamels to a longterm extension, and making the difficult Rollins, Madson, and Oswalt decisions.

The Philadelphia Phillies won the NL East in 2007, and have now won the division title five straight years. They won the World Series in 2008, and have won more regular season games each year since winning that crown. They have proven to be a great team. But a combination of age and contracts are catching up to them, at least to the point where change will come. They have shown to this point that they can weather the changes and keep on winning and contending, but this will most definitely be the most interesting winter yet.

NOTE: After the writing of this article, it was learned that an injury suffered by Ryan Howard in last night's Game #5 loss was possibly one that will keep him out for all or a significant portion of the 2012 season. If that is the case, Mayberry is your 1st baseman, Brown gets a full shot in left field, and it may mean new life for Ben Francisco if the Phils want a platoon or depth option. More needs to be learned about Howard's injury going forward, but this one hurts - literally and figuratively.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Ending Always Comes At Last

In 1973, Art Garfunkel marked his debut as a solo artist separate from his longtime partner, Paul Simon, with a song titled "All I Know" that included these haunting lyrics:

"But the ending always comes at last, Endings always come too fast, They come too fast, But they pass too slow"

For everyone of us, there is an ending coming. Not the end of the year, of a job or career, a relationship. An ultimate ending. And none of us ever wants to talk about it. Very few of us even want to think of it much. But we will all face that ultimate ending to our lives.

I am going to ask you to just take a moment to be morbid. Think about the people that mean the most in your life. Your family: parents, spouses, children and more. Your very best friends. The people that you count on to be there for you through your worst times. They will all be gone one day. The only real question is, who will go first, you, or them?

It has been said that there are no atheists in a foxhole. The implication being that if you are truly faced with death, the very real possibility of it, perhaps even the likelihood of it, then you will abandon your atheism or agnosticism for an outreach to a God that to that point you shunned.

This article isn't about morbidity. It is not about negativity. It is not about giving up. It is not about hopelessness. It is about the truth of this life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: Are We Expected to Forgive?

Father Mychal Judge lost his life ministering at the Twin Towers on 9/11

One of the most basic foundations for any person of faith is the notion put forth by 18th century English poet Alexander Pope in that "to err is human, to forgive divine", and that we should love even our enemies. But how far does that go?

Are the families and friends of those killed in the Islamofascist terror attacks against America on September 11th, 2011 expected to forgive the terrorists who carried out the attacks and those who helped plan it, including people like the now-deceased Osama bin Laden?

Are the families of Holocaust victims to be expected to forgive their Nazi captors and murderers, including Adolf Hitler? The families of Sharon Tate, the Labiancas, and their other victims expected to forgive Charles Manson and his followers? The families of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman expected to forgive O.J.?

Would the widow of murdered Philly cop Danny Faulkner, Maureen, and his fellow Philadelphia police officers be expected to forgive Mumia Abu-Jamal? Would all of the jPhilly police officers' families who had their husbands, wives, sons, daughters, parents, friends and co-workers taken from them in recent years, even over the department's history, be expected to forgive those who murdered or were otherwise responsible for the deaths?

There is an easy answer to what is basically one question: should we be expected to forgive people for the very worst things that they could possibly due to us and our loved ones. That answer is an unequivocal, resounding, empowering "Yes".

Sunday, August 7, 2011

God Speaks to You Personally

So many of us, believers and non-believers, search in our lives for some direction or path to follow, one that will lead to our best chance for happiness, peace, and love.

We know that nothing is guaranteed, that even the best laid and followed plans can be scuttled by any number of circumstances outside of our control.

But how do we give ourselves that best chance to find what we are all looking for in life?

I would suggest to you that your best chance lies in listening to the voice inside of you that has been there since your youngest moments, that has travelled with you throughout your life, and which will speak to you right up until the moment of your death and beyond.

God created you in His image and likeness. He gave you at least one special gift as well, many of us more than one. To some he has entrusted great intellect. To others great physical beauty. To some he instilled the ability to lead others. For some it is the gift of oratory, or art, or writing, or singing. Analytical abilities, mechanical abilities, technological proficiency.

In bestowing upon you whatever gift it is that He granted, there comes with it the responsibility to use that gift to make the world in which we live a better place for ourselves and our fellow man, to whatever extent we can achieve such a goal.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Church Matters

There are some who will tell you that they don't believe it is important to attend formal church services, such as the Catholic Mass. They will tell you that their relationship with God is private, between them and Him, and that they talk and/or pray to Him on their own.

People who use this excuse to avoid regular church services do so for a variety of reasons. Let's leave out the atheists and the agnostics, we already get why they don't go to church. The people that I am most interested in addressing here are the Christians of the world who stay home on Sundays.

The church avoiders include those who believe in "something", but feel that there are many religions around the world, who is anyone to say that theirs is the one, true church, and thus refuse to commit to any one set of beliefs, staying away from church for this reason.

The avoiders also include the obvious, the true lazy excuse-makers. They just don't feel like getting up early on a Sunday morning, or setting aside time on their days off from work to feel obligated to give up some of that free time.

The church avoiders also include those who are angry with their church, such as Catholics who stay away because of issues such as the Church position on abortion, or gay marriage, or because of the recent explosion of priest sexual abuse scandals.

In the end, all of these people who are avoiding church, making excuses for what they feel are valid reasons or ways of thinking, are getting it wrong. In the case of the "something" believers, they are missing the Truth of Christianity. For the lazy, they are thumbing their nose at God, who asks only one hour of the 168 in your week. For the angry, they are committing the mistake of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

The Truth of Christianity is found in the person and the teachings of Jesus Christ. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me" is what Jesus said. You have only a couple ways to confront that statement. You call him a crazy man or a liar, or he was telling the truth.

The laziness of true excuse-makers who are otherwise believers is perhaps the worst of them. These people know they should be in church, but they would rather sleep, or go out to breakfast, or read the paper, or watch a ballgame. Again, God's own words as given to us in His most basic commands: "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath". He asks you for an hour of your week. Christ suffered on the cross for hours for you. That is too much for you? Really?

For those staying away out of anger, you are only punishing yourself. Your anger should be directed at priests who committed these heinous sins, and at the bureaucrats who protected them. But your experience at Mass on Sunday is your chance to overcome these sins. Coming together as a community of believers in worship shows that, no matter what, you will not lay down, your Church cannot be laid low by men.

In his "Why Should I Go to Mass on Sunday?", William J. Bradley says it well: "When we go to Mass we tell the world around us who we are and what we represent. Simply by going to Mass makes us all evangelists to our family, friends, neighbours and the community in which we live."

At Mass we are encouraged by God's words in the Bible, we are strengthened by our Lord's gifts in the Sacrament of Eucharist, and we are uplifted by our fellow parishioners prayers. Find a schedule of Catholic Mass at your local church. Walk in and slip into a pew. Listen. Pray. I believe that you will be surprised at what God will open in your heart, mind, and soul.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Christ Will Come Again...When?

This weekend marks Palm Sunday, the beginning of one of the two holiest weeks in the Christian calendar.

On Palm Sunday we remember Jesus' entering the city of Jerusalem in Triumph to an explosion of good will, palm branch waving, and shouts of "Hosana" before undertaking the most important activities of his life.

These events included the overturning of the money-changers tables at the Temple and driving them out of that holy place, and resulted in some of his most famous teachings:

"Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive"

"Many are invited, but few are chosen"

"Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God"

"Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted"

He also was asked a question during these final days in Jerusalem regarding which was the greatest of the commandments, and famously replied:
"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself."
He even foretold the coming of Christianity itself when he lectured the Jewish chief priests and the Pharisees that "the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit."

The week which began in triumph and proceeded on through inspiration, challenge, and controversy would ultimately move to his betrayal, arrest, trial, persecution and would end with his death on the cross for all of our sins.

Christians also believe that Jesus Christ is destined to come again in what many refer to as the "End Days", the "End of Time", the "End of the Age", or in the "Apocalypse" period at the end of time. This belief doesn't come from a teaching of men, but from the promise of Christ himself in those same final days of his life.

But when will Jesus return?

Friday, March 25, 2011

MLB 2011: Philadelphia Phillies

Charlie Manuel, new contract in hand, skippers the N.L. favorites

Whatever you may want to call the Phillies starting pitching rotation, and there have been at least a half dozen nicknames tossed around town over the last few months, it will be those arms that make or break this particular version of the Fightin' Phils as they shoot for a 5th straight N.L. East division title, and a 3rd World Series berth in the last 4 years. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels make for the best starting pitching rotation that baseball has seen for years, perhaps ever.

Halladay will turn 34 years old in mid-May, and he is clearly the Ace among Aces. The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner last year in his first season with the Phils (it was his 2nd career Cy Young), the man known as 'Doc' tossed a perfect game last season, and then pitched a no-hitter to open the playoffs. He has been an all-star in 7 of the past 9 seasons. He has logged more than 220 innings pitched for the past 5 straight seasons.

When Cliff Lee turned down the Yankees tens-of-millions in order to return to a place that he claimed to love, he immediately renewed what was becoming a passionate affair with Phillies fans over the last few months of the 2009 season. After leading that Phils club to the World Series, Lee moved to Texas and led that club to it's first-ever Series appearance last year. He has been comfortably above the 200 innings pitched mark the past 3 seasons, and won the 2008 A.L. Cy Young Award. He won't turn 33 until Labor Day weekend.

Roy Oswalt turns 34 a day before Lee turns 33, and would be the lead Ace on almost any other team in the Majors. Oswalt has been over the 200 innings pitched in 6 of the last 7 seasons, and was the 2005 NLCS MVP when he led the Astros into that franchise' only-ever World Series appearance. Cole Hamels is the kid of the group at 27 years of age, and is the only career-long member of the franchise. The 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP, Hamels has been over the 180 innings pitched mark for the last 4 straight years, and may be in line for a dominating season pitching out of the #4 slot in the rotation.

Put those four arms at the front of any team in baseball, and you have a contender. But that's not all the Phillies have at their disposal on the mound. There is the current 5th starter, Joe Blanton, who is a legitimate #3 for most teams and solid #3-4 on any contending club. The 30-year old righty has been over the 170 inning mark in every single full season that he has pitched. 26-year old Kyle Kendrick pitched over 180 innings last year. Clearly the Phils have more than enviable depth that not only would serve them well throughout a long season, but it also can make for valuable trade bait should any holes develop in the everyday lineup or bullpen.

That everyday lineup has previously been the Phillies calling card. The booming bats and lightening legs combination in the batting order of Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth and supporting players such as Pat Burrell, Placido Polanco, Raul Ibanez and others led the Fightin's to their early successes in winning the 2007 division title and the 2008 World Series. Longtime cornerstones Burrell and Werth are gone now (Pat the Bat having won another World Series last year with the Giants) and both injuries and age are creeping up on some of the rest.

Let's start out with the apparently healthy guys. Ryan Howard is believed to have had a down year last season. But the 31-year old slugging 1st baseman bashed 31 homers and drove in 108 runs despite missing nearly a month with an injury. In his prime, healthy, and in shape, Howard should be primed for another big 35-40 homerun season out of the cleanup slot. At 30 years old, the dynamic Shane Victorino has now won 3 straight NL Gold Gloves in centerfield, and he was 3rd in the league last year in both triples and stolen bases. Left fielder Raul Ibanez will turn 39-years old in early June, and is likely beginning his final season in Philly. He is a supporting bat now, still fully capable of a .270-20 homer-80 rbi season. Carlos Ruiz is the catcher, and one of the best in the game at both handling a pitching staff and in his catch-and-throw skills. He is also a tremendous clutch hitter.

The rest of the bats may make or break the entire Phillies season. At the start of spring training it was expected that top prospect phenom Domonic Brown would battle veteran Ben Francisco to replace the productive Werth in right field. But Brown broke the hamate bone in his hand early in camp, and Francisco had a strong spring to apparently nail down the job, at least to start the season. His ability to be productive in his first real chance as a starting regular in the Majors will be one key, as will Brown's return from injury by mid-summer. 3rd baseman Placido Polanco is now 35-years old and coming off a solid season in which he was limited by an elbow injury. He has been slow this spring to recover fully, but should be healthy and the Phils should be able to expect a little more than last year's 6 homers and 52 rbi.

The biggest questions and answers in the Phillies lineup concern the mega-talented Keystone combo of 2nd baseman Chase Utley and shortstop Jimmy 'JRoll' Rollins. Both players turned 32 years old this winter, missed major chunks of the 2010 season with injury problems, and are going in completely opposite directions this spring. For JRoll it appears to be a year of recovery and a return to being the dynamic, driving force at the top of the team's batting order. For Utley, it's more injury concerns, this time a chronic, cranky right knee that has just not responded thus far to simple rest. Chase has not played in a game during spring training, will start the year on the DL, and is likely out at least until May.

The Phillies can likely get by with Utley out even for a couple of months. As long as Rollins, Howard, Ibanez, Polanco, Victorino, Francisco and Ruiz remain healthy, the lineup will have plenty enough offensive strength to compliment the outstanding starting pitching. 2nd base will likely be professionally manned for defensive purposes by Wilson Valdez, who was excellent spelling Utley, Rollins and Polanco last season during their various injuries. Veteran Luis Castillo has been brought in at the end of spring for a quick look-see, but must seriously impress to stick. The bench has talent and experience in Ross Gload, Brian Schneider and John Mayberry. Either Michael Martinez or Brian Bocock are also likely to help as depth.

Besides the big losses of Utley and Brown, the bullpen is where the 3rd big loss has developed. Closer Brad Lidge is now scheduled to begin the season on the DL for the 3rd time in his 4 seasons with the Phillies. The man who was "Lights Out" and perfect for the '08 World Series champs collapsed in '09, but then rebounded nicely last year. Until he is ready to go, the end of games will likely fall to either perennial back-end guy Ryan Madson or wily veteran Jose Contreras. Veteran lefty J.C. Romero is also back. The rest of the pen will come from some combination of righties Danys Baez and Scott Mathieson, and lefties Antonio Bastardo and Mike Zagurski. All may be needed at one time or another to get the club through, though with the Big Four starters all burning up major innings totals, that will alleviate a need for middle-innings relief most nights.

Fortunately for the Philadelphia Phillies, they are being guided by one of the most professional players managers in the history of the game in Charlie Manuel. The man who has gone from a talk-show joke to the beloved "Uncle Charlie" thanks to his success was rewarded this off-season with a contract extension. Manuel's calm hand and down-home style guided the team through last year's injury debacle, and he is the perfect man at the helm of this ship to guide it through almost any type of storm. He is likely to ride the big horses in his rotation and whatever regulars in the lineup are healthy as far as they will take him, which should be pretty far once again.

In my previous two MLB predictions articles here, I tipped my hand that I was predicting the Phillies to win their 5th straight N.L. East crown, their 3rd National League pennant in 4 seasons, and then lose a dramatic and exciting World Series to the Boston Red Sox. The Fightin' Phils could just as easily win that Series if all of their starting pitchers are healthy and clicking come October. However, the one big thing that could keep the team from even meeting that ultimate goal is injuries. The fans who will once again sellout every date at Citizens Bank Park have to hope that the Utley, Lidge and Brown situations don't end up becoming a harbinger of things to come.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

MLB 2011: National League

Call them what you like, because they've had 'em all hung on them at one time or another over this past winter. The "Phab Four", the "Four Aces", the "Four Horsemen", whatever. Just as long as Charlie Manuel can call on them every fifth day, the Philadelphia Phillies will win their 5th straight N.L. East crown and their 3rd National League pennant in four years before falling in one of the best World Series in decades to the Boston Red Sox. At least that's the call here.

I'll cover the Fightin' Phils and all the specific reasons in my next article here in the coming days. Let's spend some time talking about who will be doing the chasing, and who can take their place should those injury woes become overwhelming. Last year I said that the Atlanta Braves might be the one team that could give the Phils a run for their money in the N.L. East, and I was right on there. In Bobby Cox' final season at the helm, Atlanta stayed with the Phils for most of the season, even leading the division for awhile, and made it into the playoffs as the N.L. Wildcard before bowing to the eventual pennant-winning Giants in a tough playoff series.

The Braves may have an intimidating lineup if everything goes right. If Chipper Jones stays healthy. If rookie 1st sacker Freddie Freeman is a Rookie of the Year contender. If their young rotation and bullpen arms all hold up and produce. With newcomer Dan Uggla and catcher Brian McCann joining last year's phenom Jason Heyward, the Braves should again contend for the division and playoff races.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

MLB 2011: American League

I wonder how Philadelphia Phillies fans would feel about Terry Francona (above) managing his club to a World Series title for the 3rd time? Especially if this time those Boston Red Sox defeat the Fightin' Phils for the world championship, as I am predicting is going to happen in late October of 2011.

The American League's East Division is where you can find the greatest blood feud in baseball history, that between the Bosox and their hated southern neighbors, the dynastic New York Yankees. Both clubs have had recent success, with the Red Sox winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007, and the Yanks winning it all in 2009. For this coming season, I am picking the two clubs to battle for the A.L. East crown, and for Boston to come out on top.

The Red Sox struggled through an injury-marred 2010 and missed the post-season. But over this past winter the club was reinforced with a pair of game-changing offensive talents in 1st baseman Adrian Gonzalez and left fielder Carl Crawford. AGonz will bang the ball all over Fenway Park, and Crawford's speed paired with that of Jacoby Ellsbury will give the Bosox' game something new with which to challenge opponents. Add in 2nd baseman Dustin Pedroia, 3rd sacker Kevin Youkilis, and veteran right fielder J.D. Drew and Boston has some of the best offensive talent in the game. On the mound the Sox are deep and talented in both their rotation and in the bullpen, with a tremendous mix of veterans such as Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon and kids such as Jon Lester and Daniel Bard. This is, given reasonable health, clearly the team to beat.

The Yankees lineup is aging in spots, particularly on the left side of the infield where future Hall of Famers Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez perform. But both of these players will be back and should perform well in the coming season, and Jeter should become the first Yankee in history to reach the 3,000 career hits milestone. With Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano, this may be the best all-around infield in baseball. The Yanks appear to be a little short on outfield pop, and their starting pitching has serious depth problems.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

TV Watch: "Shameless"

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Emmy Rossum, William H. Macy star in "Shameless" on Showtime

The problem with cable television series is that they tend to show a lot of sex, especially among non-married individuals, drug and alcohol abuse, crime commission, and the entire array of man's worst and basest actions. "Shameless" has all of that.

The greatness of cable television series is that they don't hide from any of those very real elements of the struggles, tragedies, and triumphs of modern men and women. It would be nice if families were perfect, whatever that is, but as human beings we are imperfect. To ignore rather than explore that imperfection would be a disservice.

Showtime has become perhaps the leading television network for presenting quality series, and it's new creation "Shameless" gives it yet another hit. The Gallagher family is certainly shameless in their actions. They are willing to and do lie, cheat, and steal in an effort to keep their dysfunctional, lower-class "white trash" family afloat.

The family is also shameless in their love, affection, and dedication to one another individually and the entire family as a unit. In this regard they do what so many other cable television series have been able to do, they draw us in and get us to sympathize, empathize, and root for their efforts to overcome the great obstacles that are thrown in our life paths by both circumstance and our own poor decisions.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Priestly Bad Apples

There is an old saying that I often reminded folks to consider: "don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

The meaning behind this simple old saying is that it is the baby which is by far the most important, precious thing. It may be sitting in a pool of filth, scum, and slime. So what? Toss the water, keep the baby.

The same theory can be applied to many things in life, but most especially must always be remembered when dealing with the most important things. One of those most important things is your spiritual life. Christians throughout history have far too often thrown the baby, in this case the Church, out with whatever bath water was mucking things up at any particular time.

In the past, Christians have left the Church, the only one founded by Jesus Christ himself, because they didn't like things that were going on within the hierarchy, or because they didn't believe in some matter of doctrine, or because they had been let down or felt betrayed by some scandal. This is exactly how Protestantism and Orthodoxy began.

The splits, or schisms, within the Church have left many wounds unhealed after centuries, and have left hundreds of millions of true believers in Jesus Christ susceptible to heretical teachings and practices.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Birth Pains of the New Caliphate

It's been a couple of years since I've seriously broached this topic. The recent riotous uprising in Egypt, categorized by the usual American media suspects as attempts at "democracy", bring the topic clearly back to relevancy.

In actuality, the topic has always been relevant, but it always takes something major to wake up the American public.

For the great unwashed, and for those media talking heads who nearly lost their own heads this past week at the hands of these alleged democracy-loving demonstrators, let's do a quick refresher on just what exactly is the Islamic "caliphate", and why we all should be concerned about it.

A very long story begins in the first half of the 7th century A.D. with the birth of Islam under it's founder, Muhammad, a man believed by followers of that faith to be the greatest and final messenger of God. Muhammad first spread this new faith by peaceful preaching and teaching, but he and his followers eventually turned to violent and forcible means.

In the aftermath of Muhammad's death in 632, physical and spiritual battles arose for control of Islam by two groups who we continue that struggle today, 1,500 years later -  the Sunni and the Shiites. The Sunni were larger and stronger, and overall Islamic power was centralized under a leader who was known as the 'Caliph', the successor to Muhammad. The lands and peoples over which the Caliph held control became known as the Islamic Caliphate.

For centuries this Caliphate spread by conquest known as 'Jihad' throughout the lands of the Middle East, across northern Africa, and into both Spain and eastern Europe. By the end of the 17th century, just before the emergence of America as a nation and culture, the Caliphate controlled an area as large as the old Roman Empire.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

For Republicans, Rape Is Still Rape

I am a proud Republican, and more than that, a proud Conservative, which I happily type with a capital 'C' in front.

I do not support every plank that the Republican Party puts forth, nor do I support every politician that takes up the 'Red' banner.

Those who get my vote, such as George W. Bush, sometimes only get it because they are better than lousy liberal alternatives.

I am also a proud father and grandfather of three beautiful daughters and a wonderful granddaughter, the husband of a loving wife, and a brother-in-law, cousin, uncle, nephew, co-worker, neighbor, and friend to many outstanding women.

All that prefaces my position now in full support of a bill (HR3) put forth by New Jersey's outstanding congressman Chris Smith that would essentially end any taxpayer funding of abortions, as well as any tax breaks for health insurance that covers the same.

The usual suspects in the liberal community, from the radical fringe such as MoveOn, to the agenda-driven Planned Parenthood, to supposedly mainstream Democrats looking to protect their political power, are predictably against this legislative initiative.

However, as usual, they don't stop at simply voicing common sense opposition in a debate of ideas. Instead they have stooped to tactics such as using code words, spreading divisiveness, and misinterpretation.

The tactic chosen to oppose the anti-abortion legislation, or as those of us firmly on the side of right and good choose to call it, the pro-life legislation, is incredibly and intentionally ugly. They have chosen to paint Republicans as somehow supporting, denying, or minimizing the crime of rape.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The End

"and in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make"

42 years ago on this date, music history was made on a London rooftop. It was January 30th, 1969 when the most popular, influential, and arguably greatest band in the history of music on this planet set up their instruments and cameras to record their swan song.

It is highly unlikely that anyone on that roof on that cold day realized what they were experiencing exactly, which would be the final 'live' performance by The Beatles.

For the legendary quartet that would be forever linked by their musical genius together, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, this was the culmination of a grueling month of work. Throughout January of 1969 the band had worked zealously on the studio recordings for "Let It Be", the album that would ultimately become their final release as a working band.

The concept for "Let It Be" was that it would be all new material which would be performed in front of a 'live' audience at the same time as it was being recorded, a process that had never been attempted previously in contemporary music. But turning this vision of Paul's into a reality proved far more difficult in practice than in theory.

The Beatles were trying to work their way through the stresses and strains that their celebrity, their personal lives and relationships, and simply a decade of working, living, and travelling together had created. These pressures would soon split the band forever, and trying to find a location to shoot this particular project highlighted their problems.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Heed the Call

Jesus Christ was approximately 30 years old, and he was ready to step from the shadows of a life which to that stage had been lived in relative anonymity.

He had learned of the fate of his cousin, John 'the Baptist', and decided that it was time for he himself to begin a public ministry. It was what he had waited his whole life to do. It was the entire reason for his being alive.

Jesus knew as he began that he would need to start somewhere. And so he set out along the edge of the waters of the sea of Galilee, beginning to spread there a message" that the people should "repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand."

As he made those first tentative public speeches and teachings, he was mostly alone, and he quickly came to realize that he needed help. He needed people to help him travel, to organize, to simply be his companions on the journey.

Walking along the edge of the Galilean sea he observed two brothers named Simon and Andrew, and he began to talk with them. He talked and taught, telling the brothers "Follow me, and I will make you fisher's of men!" His divine inspiration was so great that the brothers left behind their nets and began to follow Jesus.

The trio moved along the sea a bit and came upon the fishing ship of a man named Zebedee. Tending the nets with their father were his two sons, James and John, and Jesus again began to speak to the men and called on them to join him, which they did.

From this humble beginning has arisen the greatest church in the history of the world. The very church of the one true God Himself, founded by His only son.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rock & Roll Heaven: John Bonham

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The late John Bonham was the drummer for Led Zeppelin

Sometime on September 23rd, 1980, John Bonham began to drink. This was not an unusual event in Bonham's life. He was a big drinker.

But the binge that he was about to undertake was a big one even by his standards. Over the next day and a half, Bonham, would take approximately 40 shots of vodka in a drinking binge that would end his life.

John Bonham was the drummer for the legendary rock band 'Led Zeppelin', and he was universally considered one of the greatest drummers in the history of rock music.

As he undertook that final late September alcohol binge, he and his mates in Zeppelin were in preparations for their first world tour in over three years, a tour that would never take place.

The legendary original Led Zeppelin lineup was born as a band in London, England in the latter half of 1968, at the height of the 1960's 'flower child' and 'hippie generation' crazes. Jimmy Page, who was and is universally regarded as one of the greatest guitarists on the planet, and his band 'The Yardbirds' had just broken up.

Page met up with singer Robert Plant and began to consider putting a new band together. It wasn't long before the talented Bonham, who both men knew from studio sessions, would be recruited heavily and agree to join the band.

With the addition of bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones the four men originally set out as 'The New Yardbirds', but following their first touring effort it was obvious to all that they had little in common with that original band. The band's name was changed to 'Led Zeppelin', and the rest is music history.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nobody Bakes A Cake As Tasty

1914 was an important year for beginnings. For the planet at large, the year marked the beginning of World War I, the "Great War" as it was known in those days.

This military conflict would last almost five years, eventually see nearly 70 million combatants take part, nearly 9 million of whom would perish, and would see the end of the centuries-old Ottoman Empire that had once nearly conquered the world.

The year also saw the debut film in the career of a 24-year old English actor named Charlie Chaplin who would go on to become the single most famous of the entire silent-film era.

The year 1914 also saw the Ford Motor Company, founded just a decade earlier, institute a new eight-hour work day for it's employees that would eventually be embraced in most every industry across the country.

On July 11th, a big, boisterous 19-year old pitcher by the name of Babe Ruth picked up the victory in his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox. Later that summer, the SS Ancon cargo ship became the first vessel to pass through the Panama Canal in it's long-delayed and highly-valued inaugural opening. In September, Pope Benedict XV was elected to begin his papacy.

George Reeves, who would go on to entertain millions of Americans in the early years of television as "Superman" was born in 1914. Alec Guinness, who would on the far end of the century and in a galaxy far, far away would become famous as 'Obi-Won Kinobi' in the "Star Wars" films was born.

Joe Louis, 'The Brown Bomber' still considered one of the greatest heavyweight boxing champs of all-time, was born. Wrestling promoter Vince McMahon, poet Dylan Thomas, longtime Miss America host Bert Parks, the voice of 'Tony the Tiger' and crooner of the song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch", Thurl Ravenscroft, and baseball legend Joe DiMaggio all began life in 1914.

In the city of Philadelphia that year there was a more modest beginning, but one that would ultimately grow to it's own popularly dizzy heights as a local and regional legend.

It was in that year of 1914 that a baker from Pittsburgh named Philip Bauer and an egg salesman from Boston named Herbert Morris got together on a business venture producing baked cakes. Morris' wife, trying a sample of their creations, said that they were "tasty", and a local legend was born.

The 'Tasty Baking Company' began to produce it's 'Tastykakes'

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Eight Men Out, One Man In

Today is the 90th anniversary of a landmark day in the history of Major League Baseball. On this date in 1921, the owners elected Kenesaw 'Mountain' Landis to the newly created position of Commissioner. His job, to do whatever it took to restore confidence in the American public following the infamous "Black Sox" scandal of 1919.

The reasons for the creation of the position and for Landis' specific hiring constitute an important and interesting chapter in the history of America's pastime. The National League was founded in 1876, replacing the old National Association that had been formed in 1871 to begin some type of organization for the blossoming sport on a national level.

The American League was founded in 1900 from origins as the Western League which had been itself formed in 1893. In 1901, the A.L. elevated itself to major league status and became direct competition for the N.L.'s senior circuit. In 1903, the champions of the two leagues met in the first World Series, a competition that became permanent in 1905.

In 1919, the A.L.'s Chicago White Sox were considered the best team in the game at that time, led by one of the true early legends in the sport, 'Shoeless' Joe Jackson. The Sox had won the World Series of 1917, and were prohibitive favorites in this World Series against the N.L.'s Cincinnati Reds, but the Reds ended up winning what was then a best-of-9 games event, 5 games to 3.

During that 1919 series, rumors began to surface that a "fix" was in, that professional gamblers had successfully paid off some of the White Sox key players to "throw" the series in the Reds favor. These allegations and rumors continued into and through the 1920 season, and a grand jury was finally convened to investigate the matter. The grand jury convened as the Sox were again battling for the A.L. pennant. When Jackson and a teammate, the team's best pitcher Eddie Cicotte, confessed their involvement to the grand jury, Sox owner Charles Comiskey suspended 8 players believed to have been involved, costing them the 1920 pennant.

A highly publicized trial of the 8 players who were allegedly involved took place. One young boy is famously quoted as approaching Jackson with the plea "Say it ain't so, Joe. Say it ain't so."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Voice of God

Let's not duck the obvious challenge to the main theme of this version of the Sunday Sermon series. "Follow the Voice of God" brings with it the possibility that any particular individual will get it wrong. It won't be the true "Voice of God" that they are hearing, but instead may be a hallucination brought on by anything from an abused substance to a mental or physical illness.

That said, there is no doubt in my mind that not only famous individuals throughout history, but also ordinary men and women every single day, receive messages directly from the Almighty. Sometimes these are specific lucent and palpable words and phrases of command. More often they are whispers of direction.

When you as a normal, rational, thinking human being feel yourself being consistently and repeatedly guided by what you might simply describe as "something inside me" towards a certain path, be it in your familial relationships or career choice or general life direction, you should seriously consider that this may very well be that 'Voice of God' whispering into your mind and soul.

God has many important things that he wants done in our world. I believe that he repeatedly has used the actions of human beings who have accepted his message and direction, have listened to it fully, understood it correctly, and not been afraid to embrace it and follow through on it in their lives in order to make a difference to humanity in large and small ways.

Today is the anniversary of the beginning of the trial of Saint Joan of Arc in 1431 at the English-occupied city of Rouen in Normandy, France. Joan was a young girl at a point in history when that was a particularly difficult time for someone of her age and sex to be taken seriously. But Joan heard the 'Voice of God', listened to it fully, overcame doubt and fear, took His message to action, and changed the course of world history.

Joan was born and raised at a difficult time for her home country of France. The historic rivals in England had taken advantage of a number of internal French leadership tragedies and political problems to conquer and control large portions of the country. At around age 12, Joan was alone in a field when she experienced a vision

Saturday, January 8, 2011

NFL Playoff Predictions

There is really only one way to make predictions on the outcome of some game or tournament and have yourself taken seriously, and that is to make them before even a single moment has been played.

So here we are, just moments away from the kickoff of the first game of the NFL playoffs, and that makes it time for my personal predictions on how this month-long tournament will play out.

Let's start at home with our Philadelphia Eagles. What a tremendous, in some ways over-achieving season it has been for the Birds. When the team left training camp in early September, most fans were planning on a rebuilding year as Kevin Kolb took over at quarterback after a decade behind Donovan McNabb. An 8-8 finish that showed positive signs for 2011 would probably have been considered a success at that point.

But in the opening game against Green Bay, Kolb was injured. In stepped Michael Vick. The rest, as they say, is history. Vick emerged as an uncommon weapon, and an NFL MVP candidate. The team took off behind his acrobatics, bolted to the front of the NFC East, and then capped it all with a rally for the ages in a late December game against the rival New York Giants to take the division crown.

That the team faltered in it's final two regular season games should not be as much cause for concern as it seems to have become for some fans and members of the media. The team was obviously thrown off by the sudden switch of the Vikings game from Sunday night to Tuesday night due to snow a couple of weeks ago.

That surprising defeat led to the full-scale benching of regulars for the finale against Dallas, as Andy Reid basically gave them a bye week. The result was a close, last-minute loss by the Eagles subs to the Cowboys regulars.

The more important factors for the Eagles entering the opening week matchup are their opponents, and the condition of their own players. The Eagles have lost key contributors in the past couple of weeks, while the Packers have played extremely well since the return to health of their outstanding quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

I want the Eagles to win. I will be rooting hard for it to happen.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dutchman Curves Out Spot in Hall

On June 2nd, 1970, while I was just a little 8-year old wrapping up the 3rd grade year at Our Lady of Mount Carmel school in South Philly and had not yet become the big baseball fan that I have since, the Minnesota Twins called up from their minor league system a 19-year old right handed pitcher by the name of Bert Blyleven.

In that first abbreviated season of four months length, the kid with just 21 minor league starts under his belt used a devastating curveball to help him rack up 10 victories for Minnesota. For that debut performance The Sporting News selected him as it's American League 'Rookie of the Year' for 1970.

Over the ensuing two decades, Blyleven continued to bedevil hitters in both the A.L. and N.L. with what became widely regarded by the end of his career as the best curveball ever thrown in the long history of the sport. He used that curveball to help two different clubs, the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates and the 1987 Minnesota Twins, win the World Series. He was the 1989 A.L. Comeback Player of the Year, a 2-time All-Star, and pitched a no-hitter in 1977.

Blyleven completed more than a third of his 685 career starts over 23 seasons, winning 287 games and registering 60 shutouts. He also used that curve to strikeout 3,701 batters which leaves him fourth on the all-time list behind only a quartet of living legends: Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, and Roger Clemens.

On Wednesday afternoon, a long injustice was finally, mercifully righted when Bert Blyleven was voted permanent enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His election came in his 14th year of eligibility, leading to the obvious question: what took the voters so long?

The facts show that at the time he was first eligible in 1998, Blyleven was the best eligible pitcher not in the Hall of Fame at that point. Now that, of course, does not in itself mean he should have been enshrined. However, with his statistical achievements over a storied career, the man known as "the Dutchman" do to his having been born in Holland should certainly have been enshrined early in his eligibility.

Instead of early enshrinement, Blyleven found himself being named on only 17.55% of the necessary 75% of the voters ballots that first year. By the 2nd year of his eligibility, Ryan was elected to the Hall, and Blyleven had dropped to just 14.1% of the voters support.

Voters then seemed to begin slowly evaluating Blyleven's stats and his worthiness. He had climbed to over 35% of the voters by 2004, and by 2006 he had received 53.3% of the voters ballots. No one who has ever received more than 50% has failed to eventually become enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and Blyleven's support continued to rise as more and more voters began to realize the injustice of his having been passed over for so long.

The ridiculousness of what is running through the minds of some voters is a topic for another, lengthier article. Suffice it to say that during the period in which Blyleven was being passed over for enshrinement, votes were being cast for players who had no business receiving the support from any voter who knows what they are doing.

Good but obviously unworthy players such as Walt Weiss, Rick Dempsey, John Candelaria, and Steve Sax received votes for the Hall of Fame. Phillies fans will be happy to know that some voter in consecutive years cast ballots for John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra, and Darren Daulton. Nice players all. Hall of Famers, none. Ludicrous.

Finally the voters have gotten it right, although it says here that Bert Blyleven, who has gone on to a colorful 2nd career in the game as a broadcaster for his beloved Twins, should still have received even more than the 79.7% of the vote that he did eventually receive. He will enter the Hall of Fame officially in ceremonies this coming summer that will also honor 2nd baseman Roberto Alomar and former Phils GM Pat Gillick.

Now the question will turn to the next Blyleven, candidates who are worthy of selection but who have not yet gained admittance to baseball's most exclusive club where less than 1% of those who have ever played the professional game have managed to enter. The Hall of Fame voters take up the cases next year of players such as Barry Larkin, Alan Trammell and Lee Smith, all of whom would have joined both Alomar and Blyleven on my own personal ballot this past year.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Better Way Forward

Earlier today while you were busy at work or taking care of yourself or your family at home, a sea change occurred in Washington, D.C. that will affect your life in a very positive way for years to come. Today, the Republican Party took control of the U.S. House of Representatives officially, and the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner, was elected.

Not only will Boehner's self-effacing, emotional, heart-on-his-sleeves style be in stark contrast to the blathering and blustering that American has suffered through over the past four years with Nancy Pelosi in the Speaker's post, but the concrete results that the country will begin to see over time will  be even more profound.

Back in November, the American voting public sent a clear message to lawmakers that the controlling Democratic Party led by Pelosi and President Barack Obama had grossly overstepped their bounds in beginning to lead the country down a path towards Socialism. No longer would irresponsible bailouts to big business, massive increases in government control of our daily lives, and repressive taxation be permitted to continue.

In taking the gavel of Congressional power today, Boehner promised to return government to the people with a renewed focus on the Constitution and the principles of transparency, honesty and accountability. Of course in actuality it was we, the people, who had returned government to ourselves