Tuesday, December 18, 2007


As my dad and I were walking back to the car after my grandfather's funeral dinner today, he gave me one of those father/son talks.

"You know you're really the man of the house now, right?"
"Yeah, I know."
"You can't say things like 'I'm too young.' or 'I want to stay a kid.' because you'll be a man before you know it."

"I know, dad."
"One day you'll have to make these arrangements for me too you know."

"Yes, dad."
"You'll be a good man."
"I know I will."

I really love my dad a lot more than I thought I would when I was in High School. The patrimony he's given me is so much more valuable that anything Astor's son could be chasing. He taught me what it is to endure and persevere. How many Bible Studies have failed at teaching that? How many children grow up without ever knowing that? But my father, a atheist limo-cab driver, weekend plumber, electrician, carpenter, has taught me that.

He taught me that there are times when costs must be paid. So many people fail that I talk to, so many people that I have considered mentors at one point or another, do not understand that. There are things that I would gladly pay for with health, career, even so much as life. There are things that are so much more important than any of those three and even all of those three together. My father helped me learn what it meant to be like Jesus.

As my discipleship group was talking this Sunday about the future, about becoming husbands and fathers, Dennis, newly-engaged to Cindy as he is, spoke about the worries he had about how his yet-to-be-children would turn out. Would they be Christians? Would they be faithful? Will too much church make them cynical?

Who knows? All we can do is be faithful ourselves. From my father, I see that for the things that truly matter in life, example is the best teacher. I saw how faithful he was to my mother all these years, how he always honored, respected and loved her. He taught me how to treat women well. He taught me how to spot thieves, crooks and scams. 20 years of being harassed for nothing more than being Chinese has given him sharp eyes and a sharp mind. He has given me such unimaginable wealth.

I'm confident that I will raise good kids one day too. But I want to give them even more than my father has given me. I want to teach them how to love Jesus, how to live for Him and if I have the privilege, how to die for Him.

My life is a resource, nothing more. It's not very liquid and it continually depreciates. If I do not use it, I will lose it. I am going to spend it wildly and wisely. I am going to pour all that I am into the work of the Gospel and Kingdom advancement.

In retrospect, I am not a typical Asian man because I did not have typical Asian parents. They told me that they would be fine if I were a pastor (anathema!), a missionary (blasphemy!) or if I never made a lot of money (apostasy!). My father never had an obsession of gadgets or things as so many Asian men are afflicted. He never felt the need to impress other people with fine clothes (not that he knows what fine clothes are) or cars. My father, surprisingly enough, gets along fine with the Mexicans and Pakistanis at the garage unlike I suppose the majority of Asians who cloister themselves in their own homogeneous communities. Looking back, I guess it should be no surprise at all that my closest friends come from the world over. IV-Baruch, I love you guys.

My father may still be living these days but sometimes I feel as if I'm a prodigal son already living out his portion of the inheritance. I am very blessed. I have some big shoes to fill.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Andy Pettitte: Yankee Hero

He came out and admitted to HGH use today.

"Everything else written or said about me knowingly using illegal drugs is nonsense, wrong and hurtful," Pettitte said. "I have the utmost respect for baseball and have always tried to live my life in a way that would be honorable. I wasn't looking for an edge; I was looking to heal.

"If I have let down people that care about me, I am sorry, but I hope that you will listen to me carefully and understand that two days of perhaps bad judgment should not ruin a lifetime of hard work and dedication.

"I have tried to do things the right way my entire life, and, again, ask that you put those two days in the proper context. People that know me will know that what I say is true."

I hate the NY Sports media.

They've painted Andy Pettitte as a cheater, a liar and a hypocrite. What exactly did he lie about? HGH is not a steroid. The effects of the two drugs are worlds apart. The fact that they are often taken in conjunction with one another means little. That's like accusing someone who drinks Red Bull of being an alcoholic. Just because Red Bull and vodka is a popular drink doesn't make Red Bull the same thing as vodka. The NY media does not understand this.

Anabolic steroids are illegal drugs and to move them across states and to sell them for non-medicinal purposes is a federal offense. HGH is not illegal.

Andy Pettitte took HGH in 2002. HGH was banned in MLB in 2005. When did it become OK to retroactively say that someone cheated? The only advantage it can confer is shedding fat and possibly speeding up recovery time, although that has yet to be proven in clinical trials.

I hate the NY sports media.

Andy Pettitte, you'll always be my hero. You'll always be one of my favorite Yankees.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What A Joke.

Not only are the inmates running the asylum. They're doing a pretty crappy job about it.

Bud Selig is a terrible commissioner of baseball. This is a case study in terrible leadership qualities. Hire one of your friends to use tax-payer dollars and baseball revenues to cover up your mistakes, play favorites, push your personal agenda...

What hurts a civilization more? Performance-enhancing drugs or poor character? I'd rather cut off my male organ than be a coward like Selig hiding behind the self-righteous pretense of an independent investigation. May as well have asked Soviet Russia to undertake an independent investigation into the presence of missiles in Cuba during the Cold War or have McDonald's conduct an independent investigation into the health effects of trans fats. Really? A Boston Red Sox director conducting an investigation? Really? What a joke.

I wish Babe Ruth would rise up out of the grave, walk up to Bud and demand that he step down from his position on national television.

Bud Selig, you are more of a disgrace to this game of baseball than the steroid era that you're fighting against.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Beautiful

On my Mac's dashboard I have the Astronomy Pic of the Day widget and that picture above is today's pic. Its description is as follows:

Explanation: The dust sculptures of the Eagle Nebula are evaporating. As powerful starlight whittles away these cool cosmic mountains, the statuesque pillars that remain might be imagined as mythical beasts. Pictured above is one of several striking dust pillars of the Eagle Nebula that might be described as a gigantic alien fairy. This fairy, however, is ten light years tall and spews radiation much hotter than common fire. The greater Eagle Nebula, M16, is actually a giant evaporating shell of gas and dust inside of which is a growing cavity filled with a spectacular stellar nursery currently forming an open cluster of stars. The above image in scientifically re-assigned colors was released as part of the fifteenth anniversary celebration of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope.

I've wondered for awhile whether there is such a thing as the "religion gene" or a "religious instinct." What is it that caused men to feel reverence and awe and then create a wood or stone object to encapsulate that feeling of humble smallness? When I think about those sublime moments that have seized me in wonder and admiration, speckles of cosmic light against a purple-black sky, the sun as it sets, the sun as it rises, wisps of frozen crimson clouds awash in the rays of a fading day, I imagine that's the most religious feeling a person can get.

I don't have the same emotions as others do during a loud and noisy service. It is my personal preference to avoid services that are advertised as "fiery," "energetic," "charismatic," etc.

I sense that the divine is nearest when things are quietest, least expected, stillest. It passes briefly but its impression is unforgettable, the lingering warmth of a meaning-rich embrace.

How, I wonder, is it possible to go from that sentiment of reverence to idolatry, I'm not sure. When the sublime, the Beautiful is near, the last thing on my mind are hawk-headed men or feathered serpents. I don't understand how visual portmanteau's of cows and goats, lions and men can express that feeling. In fact, if a priest or shaman unveiled even the best made figure of such I would only be able to feel a deep and bitter sense of anti-climax. What a buzz-kill.

The Romantics viewed art as the memory of beauty-long past, felt in an instant, composed in the future. I suppose that helps me understand a little better but those images are what they felt in that moment? Is it I that lack the religious instinct or they?

How could one image inspire such vastly different effects? I suppose that my positivist, hyper-rational, modernist sensibilities agree with my Judeo-Christian ideology. Don't mummify it. The more real, the more tangible, touch-able, a thing is the further it is from true beauty. Pictures are perhaps good but 3x5's rarely inspire heart-rending beauty. Words are better. Silence and awe is best, when beauty dwells in the camera obscura behind a lidded eye.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Taking out the trash.

The above is my opinion of most sports journalism.

This is why.
Problem: This entire article is speculation. The whole piece is devoid of confirmed facts. It's completely predicated on hearsay.

This is another reason.
Problem: This is yellow journalism. Derek Jeter donated $2 million, less than 1% of his contract and an infinitesimally small sliver of his total net worth to his own foundation (which are for the most part, tax exemption schemes and goodwill events) but A-Rod gets reamed for $30,000? Derek Jeter commits tax fraud and it's swept under the rug but A-Rod is a slum lord and gets crucified. Populism and pedagogy.

An idiocracy in Sports News.
Problem: To write for ESPN you must 1- Hate objectivity, 2- produce an article a week even if there's nothing to report, 3- use terrible metaphors and tropes, 4- be as large a hypocrite as possible.

The worst offender of all. NoMaas nailed it with their 12/5/07 post.
Problem: Peter Gammons is the worst "homer" in all of sports journalism. He has always railed on the Yankees for their free-spending and economic bullying of the rest of baseball. The Red Sox added nearly $80m in payroll committments for 2007 to win the World Series. The Red Sox have the distinction of being the highest paid and second highest paid teams to win the World Series. Not a single mention of that fact. Not a single mention. After the aneurysm he had, I'm pretty sure he can barely pronounce the word "objective" anymore.

Ugh, what happens when the only well to draw water from is the sewer?


And now this!

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Joba Chamberlain will be at the Circuit City in Midtown (43rd street and something) signing baseballs at 7:00pm. He's going to be on the cover of ESPN Magazine.

Great story, here.
Unbelievable track record, here.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Cost of Greatness

I want this guy so bad that I'm actually in an emotionally disturbed state right now.

Why is that? Because to get him, I might have to lose this guy.

Johan Santana may be the greatest pitcher of our generation. Phil Hughes may be the greatest pitcher of this coming generation. I want both on my team. I can't bear to be without either one. Phil Hughes represents to me, a new day in the Yankee Universe. He is the face of a new age in Yankee baseball, where we have dominant pitching for pennies. Johan Santana represents to me what is great about the Yankees. The need to have greatness no matter the cost. I wish I can have both. I want so badly to have both...


I feel so ashamed I could feel this intensely about a stupid game...

Please, Brian Cashman, find a way to have both Santana and Hughes pitch for the Yankees in 2008.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Good Sports Reporting? Too much to hope for?

Can it be? Is it possible? An article from Sports Illustrated that I find intelligent, insightful and worthy of reading? I did not think I would see such a thing in my generation.

Read here.

But I was wondering recently. Why are baseball writers so terrified of new statistics? Second question, why are so many of them morbidly obese?

Writers who vote for the Hall of Fame typically use three statistics for hitters: hits, home runs and RBI's.

I think they've forgotten what the statistics are meant to indicate. Baseball's a team sport and these statistics are meant to evaluate how much an individual player contributes to the team's ability to win. I can understand in a simpler, more primitive age, why they chose statistics like RBI's, Wins and such. But there are patently superior statistics to these: VORP, WARP, Batting Runs, EqA, OPS+, SB%, OBP+, etc. that tell you much more clearly what each individual player is doing to help the team.

"Baseball statistics are like a girl in a bikini. They show a lot, but not everything." -Toby Harrah, 1983

I want to amend that and say that the new baseball statistics are conceptual bikinis. For those who understand, you can't help but stare at the shapely, numerical beauty in each decimal place. The old statistics? Conceptual burkas that gave us a general shape, a rough, hazy idea but they obscured and misled as much as they showed.

Statistics aren't everything. I know that. There's so much more, the human element. Some things can only be expressed with words and human warmth. Courage. That is foremost among them.

The statistics tell me that Andy Pettitte, my favorite player probably, is a pretty decent pitcher. He's not great and probably shouldn't deserve the Hall of Fame. I can't argue with that. But don't for a second doubt his greatness as a man, a man of courage and tenacity.

Baseball should not mix the Human and the Objective. This has been acknowledged over and over. What continually puzzles me is why the hegemonistic baseball media refuse to use superior metrics, the things that would make them better at their job.

I have only one explanation.

They suck at math and they're insecure about it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hillsongs Out Of Tune?

Justin Moffatt just posted an excellent entry.

Read here.

Grand Slam

"I don't know, it's weird. I used to be so formal with God. Now I feel like I can talk to him as a friend."
-- something a friend told me on Monday

Prayer hits a Grand Slam to Center Field.
Patience scores. Perseverance scores. Hope scores. Prayer Scores.

Good guys lead 4-0.

Monday, November 26, 2007

No Crumbling Crown, Part III

The future, in its manifest details, is by and large uncertain. We really can't know what to expect. Baseball is projectable. Replacement Level Yankees put up projections for the 2007 line-up a few weeks ago. There are probability charts and scatter plots. That's scientifically verifiable.

Personally, I think like a sabermetrician. I have an extreme adversion to mystical language and vague, ambiguous "prophecies" as "prophecies" go today. I believe movies and novels like Left Behind have probably set the advance of the Kingdom back a few hundred years in how primitive and ridiculous they are.

I don't know what the future holds.

But I do know that yesterday happened to turn out pretty well.

My main concern in Part I was that orthodoxy was eroding. The Economist article said this:

From a classical liberal point of view, this multiplicity of sects is a good thing. Freedom of conscience is an axiom of liberal thought. If man is a theotropic beast, inclined to believe in a hereafter, it is surely better that he chooses his faith, rather than follows the one his government orders.

Am I worried? Should I be worried?

In the 4th century when the Council of Nicaea met to regulate what was Christian and what was not, the bishops overwhelmingly annihilated the Arian heresy. As I recall, in a gathering of over 300 bishops from Spain to Asia Minor, the number of votes for Arianism did not reach the double digits. The canon was established and uniform. It was what had already been in place. None of the Gnostic texts were seriously considered. God had preserved his Church through a critical moment of history.

The next moments of history will be critical as well. The rate at which the world is changing is accelerating. New issues will continue to sprout up that would not have been prepared for, could not have been imagined. And you know what? I believe it's all going to be OK.

When I use the term "Roman Empire" even I tend to believe of Italians with Roman curls and tunics. In fact, it was as diverse enough to have Spaniard, Greek, Egyptian, Jew, Arab. How could all these people have had the same beliefs without any organization from above? It was the act of a Sovereign God keeping fast his church.

That's what has brought the Kingdom thus far and I believe that's what's going to bring this all home.

There will be no crumbling crown.

By the way, if anyone is curious about where I got the title from, it's actually from an anime I've been watching. The phrasing was really catchy.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

No Crumbling Crown, Part II

My last post was something of a thought experiment, a foray into what might be in the next 50 years. That was a very short hop away from this Church Relevance article. It was an interesting thought experiment but I wonder if there really is any projectability (that's baseball talk) in this world.

This world is not baseball. There aren't really the same tidy rules and contexts that there are in baseball.

Who knows if there isn't a Hitler in a Minneapolis school dreaming of hate crimes on an unprecedented scale? Or what if there's a St. Francis or Mother Teresa in Lebanon or Bangkok? These things can't be planned for or anticipated. In a very general sense, someone like that will arise but who knows where or when and to what impact?

Does it really matter?

We may not have a steady-fixed set of rules with a large sample size that consists of similar events but that's not to say we don't have any kind of history at all. From the Reformed tradition, we do have a very tangible teleology in redemptive history.

What is redemptive history? Redemptive history is quite simply, a belief in God being the principle actor throughout history and guiding it towards a specific end, that of ultimate redemption. To make it easier to understand, this is what appears to be a MS-Paint image that I found on Google image search.

I wonder if Christianity in its post-modern trendiness has begun to trend away from its teleological perspectives. American tent-revival Christianity ostensibly adheres to a sort of redemptive futurity in its religion/belief as life raft and escape themes. God is the savior of the world and you better get on his good side while the getting is good.

Recent trends in Christianity seem to move in another direction. I'm not sure if I can even come up with a witty line to encapsulate it at all. It defies encapsulation and reduction. (I'm such a good post-modern aren't I?) With such an emphasis on missions of mercy, diversity, reconciliation I wonder if there is some unspoken belief in God not coming back in the future. Of course, I also believe that a good deal of this emphasis stems from an accepting of social responsibility (and possibly Western hubris?) but I legitimately wonder if there is an eschatological aspect to this focus. Are we the new saviors of the world? I wonder what extent we are instruments and to what extent actors? More importantly, to what extent should we consider ourselves as such...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Torii Hunter? He's with stupid.

“It isn't the high price of stars that's expensive, it's the high price of mediocrity.”
--Bill Veeck

News: Torii Hunter signs with the Angels for 5 years/$90m

First, let me say this. Taking both offense and defense into consideration, Torii Hunter is less valuable to a team than David Ortiz, Jorge Posada, Albert Pujols, Grady Sizemore and Miguel Cabrera. In simpler, schoolyard terms, Torii Hunter is not as good as they are. Yet, Torii Hunter will make more than all of them and significantly more than some of them.

Just what in the world were the Angels thinking? They remind me of Yankee teams past where they would penny-pinch on superior talents like Carlos Beltran but overspend on mediocre players like Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright. Two mediocre players have less value than one great player.

I thought that signing Johnny Damon was only going to be a good deal in the first two years and an absolute migraine to contend with the last two years. Torii Hunter changes all of that. Suddenly in light of market value, Johnny Damon looks like a fantastic bargain. Every member of the New York Yankees is an incredible bargain if a decidedly mediocre (and overrated) player like Torii Hunter commands $18 million a year.

What effect does this have? Suddenly teams in need of an outfielder are going to be much more open to trades. Any team in need of a center fielder or lead-off man will be interested in Johnny Damon. Teams looking for more power are going to inquire about Hideki Matsui or Bobby Abreu. Many teams have already inquired about Melky Cabrera. This puts the Yankees in the driver's seat in the off-season as they are going to have a resource that many other teams would be interested in.

This is a very poor deal but as a Yankee fan, I love it.

($90m would make me smile like this too.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


"Rodriguez is the MVP - and the highest-paid player in baseball - for a reason: no player provides his team with a bigger head start toward winning a World Championship."


To Infinity and Beyond Two Dimensions

Love me. I'm a geek.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

No Crumbling Crown, Part I

An Examination Of The Problem

When Rome finally legalized this new off-shoot of Judaism the Emperor Constantine called together bishops from all across the empire to codify Christian belief. The great heresy that was addressed in the council was that of Arianism, a belief regarding the fundamental nature of Jesus' existence.

These past two weeks, I've been wondering if the world, in the next 50 years or so, may be in need of another Council of Nicaea. To give you some background on my thought processes, last week, my church brought Adam Benner, missionary to the Hmong people of Southeast Asia .This week we invited a speaker from the FECAT, a graduate-level seminary servicing the Francophone nations of Sub-Saharan Africa.

After speaking with each of them it was interesting to see that the needs in Laos are similar to the needs of nations like Angola, Mali, Gabon. Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to just point at nations with histories of political and socio-economic strife. Let me include industrialized, modern nations like the China's on both sides of the strait for starters.

The need that they were expressing wasn't a need for evangelism. The problem seemed to be a lack of leadership and teaching at all levels. The typical pastor in Francophone Sub-Saharan Africa pastors 5 churches. The typical church in America (I don't have stats, but I enjoy the parallelism) employs about 5 pastors.

Globalization and the exposure to popular Western Christian media, here I'm referring to Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn and their ilk, has probably worsened the need for teachers and leadership by introducing historically bad theology and teaching into the church. I'll firmly hold the line to my daying day that the health & wealth gospel that they're teaching, what they are exporting to the rest of the world is a calamity and disaster that we will be judged for in Heaven. The crusades that these guys held are probably doing about as much ostensible damage to the Kingdom that the crusades of the Middle Ages did for Christian reputation among Muslims.

I personally wonder how many untrained teachers there are rising up around this world teaching a syncretic Christianity? That's how Candomble, Hudu and Santeria started. Christianity is rapidly spreading to every corner of the world. It's not a Christianity that we're used to. In 100 years, China may be the largest Christian nation in the world. It may also surpass Indonesia as the largest Muslim nation in the world. Sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest growing region of Christian advancement in the world. What happens when that region surpasses China? What if India surpasses Africa? What will it mean to be a Christian in 2050?

Will we need a new Nicaea to sort things out?

In the first one the bishops voted overwhelmingly to defeat Arianism, prohibited self-castration and created a uniform date to celebrate the Resurrection that was separate from the Jewish passover. What would happen if a new one was held in 2050?
  • Pentecostalism is the fastest growing denomination in Christianity.
  • America is increasingly in favor of women pastors.
  • There is an increasing trend away from evangelism and towards discipleship oriented programs.
  • Many Christians are increasingly concerned about social justice.
  • Fewer Christians today believe in Hell than 50 years ago.
  • Many Christians believe that "belief in Jesus" is not required for "salvation."
  • Several denominations have changed their stance on homosexuality.
  • A huge number of Christians do not hold the Bible as actually having come from God.
What would happen at a new Nicaea?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Why I prefer Joe Girardi, Reason #325

"Yankees manager Joe Girardi is down in the Dominican Republic this week. He had dinner with Yankees senior Latin staff and visited the coaches on Tuesday. This morning (Wednesday) at the Yankees Latin Beisbol Academy, he gave a speech to the Latin coaches and staff followed by an interactive talk with 55 Latin players and eight players from the ‘06 and ‘07 draft. He then watched a Dominican Instructional League game against Toronto and viewed tryouts."

Please, if you will, contrast that with the following.
"Joe Torre never spent hours poring over statistics or videotape like a lot of young managers do these days. He wasn't a workaholic type who obsessed about getting to work earlier than his peers. He would have a nice lunch, and then he would shave cleanly after games -- wins or losses -- as he prepared for a late dinner at a restaurant.

It has never been his style to simmer in the aftermath of success or failure, after all. In an era when managers seem to put in more hours than first-year lawyers or hospital residents, Torre might've put in the fewest office hours of any manager in the game."

At this point last year, I believe Joe Torre was in Hawaii filming Subway commercials. As I explained to Diana Mao when she interviewed me, the Yankee organizational philosophy is shifting. They are not going to be a development exclusive club like the Oakland A's and they aren't emptying their vaults the same way the Dodgers are. The Yankees are committed to one thing: World Series Championship #27 to be followed by #28, #29 and #30, etc. They realize that with their resources they have far more leverage and capacity to do things than any other club.

I believe that they only began to truly realize that in 2003 when they let Andy Pettitte leave for Houston. That draft pick turned into one very special Philip Hughes. They let Tom Gordon leave for Philadelphia. Tom Gordon was a type A free agent and netted two players, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain. You may have heard of them. In this year's draft they exclusively "swung for the fences" in selecting only for talent regardless of signability or health concerns. As an organization the Yankees have the most ability to withstand draft choices that are injury risks or have college commitments. Andrew Brackman, Austin Romine, Brad Suttle and Carmen Angelini all say hello. But they still flex their financial muscle in signing Roger Clemens and trading for Bobby Abreu, the move that knocked Boston out of playoff contention in 2006.

Joe Torre didn't see that the organizational winds are changing. Joe Girardi understands what's going on and he wants to be a part of it. The season is still about half a year away but by getting rid of Joe Torre, this organization has already seen massive improvement.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Baseball and Phenomenology

Insert "Relationship With Crazy Psycho Girlfriend Joke" here. (I mean seriously people, no one can think of new material?)

News Item: A-Rod back to the Yankees?
Commentary: Yes, do it. Do it now. A-Rod is worth at least 5 Wins Above Replacement Player by any projection method. His bat is irreplacable. Miguel Cabrera will cost the future. A-Rod costs only greenbacks. Do it.


Murray Chass awhile ago wrote that:
""I suppose that if stats mongers want to sit at their computers and play with these things all day long, that’s their prerogative. But their attempt to introduce these new-age statistics into the game threatens to undermine most fans’ enjoyment of baseball and the human factor therein.

People play baseball. Numbers don’t."
First of all, I believe the average sports fan is not a mathematically inclined person. I believe most of them watch professional wrestling, eats pork rinds and is intimidated by the word "algorithm."

Second of all, I believe they are afraid of change. "My daddy believed in RBI's and WINS so I believe in RBI's too! I'm never EVAH gonna change! Nuh uh!"

Third of all, I believe that there is a lot more going on here than even the average sports fan, in all his deep-seated wisdom understands.

The enjoyment of sports lies in the human factor. It lies in having waited a week to see A-Rod hit #500. It's in the incredible heart-pounding tension that we feel when we see Mariano battle against David Ortiz in a 14-pitch at-bat that ends up in a fly ball caught on the right-field warning track. That is the human element. That is where sports writers excel. They excel in commemorating the past, celebrating heroes, honoring them with the immortality of words. That is the realm of phenomenological living.

Sabermetric baseball analysis does not attempt to go there. Objective, rational, scientific analysis does not tell you to join "Grady's Ladies" and squeal everytime Grady Sizemore comes up to bat. I sat next to a girl from Cleveland who did this once and that is totally her perogative. The sports writers are good at that, at the human element.

Where they are so god-awful terrible is that they have no concept of how the game "works" as far as what factors contribute to victory is concerned. Baseball writers and a good number of fans are obsessed with National League Baseball. If they enjoy that, so be it. Different strokes for different folks.

What makes them hate sabermetric analysis though is the fact that it has proven time and time again that "small-ball" is by and large the absolute dumbest way to play the game. Bunt for a hit. Steal a base. Sacrifice bunt to move the runner to third. Sacrifice fly to right field for the run. This is the least efficient way to play the game, the way that scores the least amount of runs. It is a recipe for losing teams. Old-time baseball fans fight this revelation as much as they can.

What the typical fan of the National League ballpark goes for is to watch a circus. They want to see lots of jumping, lots of diving and dirty uniforms and lots of meaningless running. If that is what they want to see then by all means, they can go there.

I am glad that the Yankees don't play a small ball kind of game. Small ball, bunting, sacrifices, stealing bases is the exclusive realm of players who are just not very good. Players like Scott Podsednik, Chone Figgins, Juan Pierre, and so on. Yes, even Phil Rizzuto. Phil Rizzuto, based on accomplishments alone, should not be in the Hall of Fame.

Sabermetric analysis reveals the truth of the game. It is an invaluable tool for understanding what is actually happening, what has happened and what will happen. The way that the fans react to it is more of an indication about what kind of fan that person is rather than what these numbers are and mean.

Personally, I'm a fan who wants victory. I want to see Jorge Posada run out to Mariano Rivera at about this time next year, hoisting him up crying tears of joy for bringing the 27th championship back to the Bronx. This past summer, as I took my little sis out to the Stadium, I sat next to this old African-American gentleman. He was a great fan to sit next to. He told me about the sound of the ball in air as George Brett hit that home run in the pine tar game. He described the whizzing sound it made right before it caromed off the Stadium facade. It was like I was sitting next to history itself. But then A-Rod came up to bat.

"Boy, look at all that space there. He could easily drag bunt for a hit right there."
"But he's A-ROD. The guy's on pace for 65 home runs! Don't you want this team to win?"
"Son, I've been around this game long enough. I've seen them hoist plenty trophies. I came tonight for a show."
"I'm not there yet, old man, I want to see them hoist the Commisioner's cup."
"Hahaha, give it time kid."

And then A-Rod hit a go-ahead double to rescue Moose out of a jam. I smirked at the old man and he just kind of shrugged. To each his own, I suppose. As it is, I love the Yankees for what they represent: the unending thirst for improvement, for progress, for victory. It's the only organizational philosophy that befits a city like New York. There is no success outside of the World Series. We are not the Mets, we are not the Red Sox, Dodgers, Rockies or Brewers. No pennnant means no success. This is why I love the Yankees. This is why I'm a fan.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Conversation Recalled

This month has been "Missions Month" at my church. To date, all of the speakers and the workshops that they've led have been excellent. There was this one particular conversation that I had with Adam Benner, missionary to the Hmong that got me thinking.

I forgot where I read this, (Diana's blog? Economist article? Something else she linked over to me?) but a singular line stood out to me which was something to the effect of: "American Revivalist Christianity has always seen life as something to be escaped from, something to be rescued from." Well, I'm pretty sure that was me just talking out of my butt there but the sentiment remains the same.

American Revivalist Christianity
Premise 1: This world sucks.
Premise 2: If you believe in Jesus, this world will still suck but there's heaven after you die.

It's debatable what degree of correctness there are in those statements, but the fact that these premises undergird the majority of American Christianity is undeniable. Even the traditional Western form of evangelism popularized by Billy Graham but used by everyone from Jehovah's Witnesses to the Pentecostal church down the street: "If you were to die tonight, do you know where you'd end up?"

Look at typical informational sessions that short-term missionaries present to the average American church: "We went to such and such a poor, impoverished, dirty people, we gave them the Gospel, 500 people accepted Christ into their hearts and now we're back! Let's go get some tacos."

Now when I was speaking with the missionary this past Sunday he leaned in close and told me:

"Now actually, the tough part is not "people coming to Christ." That's relatively easy. You give them some Western medicine and you tell them about Jesus and *boom* they believe in Jesus. The real trouble is when things get tough again, they go back to sacrificing to the old gods, the idols."

Now from a Western standpoint we may legitimately ask the question: "What just happened?" Depending on your particular theology (I'm a 5-point Calvinist myself) you could say that they lost their salvation when they went back to the idols or that they were never really Christians in the first place or some other way to fit that event into a ready-made worldview.

I think both explanations suck.

The truth of the matter is that the categories are stupid and insufficient for going through this life. American Revivalist Christianity has conditioned us to see salvation as a black and white issue. We may give concessions and say that "Yeah, you could be saved over a period of years...." but by and large that is not what is really believed. ARC works off of the punctiliar moment, the prayer of faith (Dear Jesus, I know I'm a sinner...), the altar call, the laying on of hands, the weeping, the decision card that's been filled out, etc. Even Christian movies (poorly made as most of them are) condition the audience to think this way with the rising leitmotifs, the glow, the change in expression on a person's face, etc.

So if this conception of "salvation" is poor, then where can we go from here?
Maybe that'll be my next entry.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Posada re-signs, 4 years $52.4m

The Yankees had 2 critical needs this off-season.

Critical Need #1- Don't let Alex Rodriguez leave.
Critical Need #2- Don't let Jorge Posada leave.

We weren't able to keep Alex but we did keep Jorge. (Shown here with his smoking hot wife, Laura Posada.)

Any other move was nice but not fully necessary. If Pettitte retired, if Mo went to the Phillies (what a horrible thought), if they didn't bring over Kosuke Fukudome from Japan, if they didn't resurrect the cold, still bones of Lou Gehrig to play first base, it would be OK. It would not be OK if A-Rod left or if Jorge Posada left.

I'm not going to talk about heart, grit or intangibles here even though Posada's grit+ was off the charts, second only to Dustin Pedroia's in 2007. But the Beantown Napoleon is about 3 feet tall so there was no competition anyways. Anyways, when it comes to baseball my true colors show. I'm a positivist and a believer in material causality.

We don't put winning teams on the field by getting 25 good "clubhouse guys" who "know how to win" and "play the game the right way." I actually have nothing but contempt for those phrases. We win because at the end of the day we outscored the other team, whether our clubhouse was full of selfish, obnoxious Nazi's or saints and martyrs.

To understand why a commitment of 4 years and $52m to a player in his decline is still a great idea, it would be helpful to look at Bill James' spectrum of defensive difficulty and importance.

1B, RF, LF, 3B, CF/2B, SS, C

To break it down, the right-side is hard to play and hard to find players who excel at offense while the converse is true of the left-side. There are a lot of ways to look at this hierarchy. It's also how involved in the game each position is. The catcher has the most work to do and his work is the most difficult. First base has the least to do and his defense affects the team the least. Boston fans and Bill Buckner disagree, but then again they probably would, the whiny slime that they are.

Yahoo sports, incidentally, allows you to compare any player with the typical production of other players in the same league, which is about exactly what statistics like VORP and WARP3 do, but the pictures make it easier for most sports fans to understand.

The reason the Yankees were so good during their dynasty years was that they were unbelievably blessed with talent at those positions. Posada/Girardi at catcher, Jeter at shortstop and Bernie Williams manning center field during each of their peak years. It was not "clutch hitting," it was VORP.

And given the absolute lack of other options available at catcher, the Yankees had no leverage in this situation. Who else was available? Clubhouse cancer, Michael Barrett with his sparkling .322 career OBP? Posada's career average is about even with Barrett's career best. Everything after Barrett is atrocious.

So ultimately, this is a deal the Yankees had to make, all $52.4m of it. The $13.1m is a lot less than I was expecting (I was expecting 3 years at $15 or $16m in Average Annual Value) but I'm not complaining. He'll play first or DH in the final year of his contract and then walk into the Hall of Fame as a life-long Yankee and have his number hanging in Monument Park the following year.

This is good. Hip Hip Jorge!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Manhood and Mysticism, Part 2: Retractions

OK, so my typical modus operandi is as follows:

Phase 1: Make broad, sweeping statements of such forcefulness and cocksure-ty.
Phase 2: Think better of it and start apologizing and making retractions.

So with that said, onto Phase 2.

Is it mysticism that I have a beef with? Probably not. It just happens to be part of the collateral damage.

What is it that I have a beef with?
1- The exclusive portrayal of God in his soft, likable form.
Is it politically incorrect to say that God is angry? That he is pretty damn pissed off and that his anger results in sending people to Hell? It may be crudely expressed in such terms but it is Biblical to express it this way. Mystical writings like the one quoted in my previous entry almost always present God as friend, as lover, and so on and so forth. It's correct, don't get me wrong, but it is incomplete. What is lacking is the portrayal of God as Judge, as Executioner, as King, as the Sovereign Lawgiver. What does the word "majesty" mean? "Awesome"? What do those words really mean? Where is God's grandeur? God

2- Mysticism is not for the tough.
Mystical writings all too often leave me with the sense that there is little grit or toughness, little meat to the soul of a mystic. I get the sense of a soul that's been fed with cookies, fruit tarts and ice cream. So much of mysticism is "God, I wuv you lots and lots and lots. Aww, you wuv me too?" That strain of thought does appear in the Bible but in particular places and portions, a few Psalms, an allegorical reading of the Song of Songs, and a few more. But the kind of religion, the kind of faith that I want is Pauline, Jesus-ist. I want a gritty, hard-nosed, dirty faith. I want a Rocky Balboa, "It ain't about how hard you can hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep on going." kind of faith.

I see that kind of faith in Paul. "I've fought the good fight. I've run the race." I see that faith in Jesus. "Father, not my will but thy will be done." I see that faith in missionaries like Jim Elliot.

What mystic tells me that? I have no interest in a soft, contemplative life.

Reading Ayn Rand completely overturned my idea of the heroic. Even before I started this blog, I've been planning for awhile to write about "heroes." I don't have a single hero who is considered a literary figure, even though I'm a lit major. I find nothing worthy of emulation in them. What is heroic? I agree with Rand, the capitalist, the corporate tyrant, the entrepreneur, the inventor, the pioneer, that is heroic. Personally, the athlete is heroic in his endurance of pain, of strife, of his ability to work on days he doesn't feel like it, to rise to the occasion and perform when others would crumple and fail. Those are on my list. And to me nothing is more heroic among men than the figure of the father, the patriarch and provider, the one who is willing to endure and tough out any situation for his family.

I don't find that in mysticism. I find softness. I find a lot of navel-gazing and crying. There's no crying in baseball.

Now, I wonder how much of my distaste for the mystical is influenced by my gender. Do I believe that sentiment and feeling are the realm of the feminine and that the realm of action and doing is masculine? No, I don't particularly feel that way though observation may hint at that, I don't think it is anything intrinsic but rather cultural and learned.

I do believe in male responsibility though. I believe men have a responsibility to rise up and lead by example and by word and that it is biblically mandated. Men, I believe, will be held responsible for their actions or inactions in fulfilling their duties come judgment. Adam was punished for Eve's deception because that was his jurisdiction. He was to guard her and protect her from that. He had no one to blame but himself.

How does mysticism fit into all that?

Well, I don't believe I've ever read a mystic talk about responsibility. And if I believe that men are defined primarily by responsibility, well I guess then that makes mysticism at best, non-masculine and at worst, emasculating.

Man up!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Manhood and Mysticism Part 1

This past Wednesday our campus bible study group had a time of "centering prayer." The next morning when I check my e-mail at work, I find a couple excerpts from a book called "Practicing the Presence of God." Here's an excerpt:

"… Since that time, I have been serving God simply, in humility and faith. Out of love, I try not to say, do, or think anything that might offend Him. My only request is that He does whatever He pleases with me.

I feel unable to express what is going on inside me right now. I'm not anxious about my purpose in life because I only want to do God's will. I wouldn't even lift a straw from the ground against His order or for any other motive than love for Him. Pure love of Him is all that keeps me going.

I have given up all but my intercessory prayers to focus my attention on remaining in His Holy presence. I keep my attention on God in a simple, loving way. This is my soul's secret experience of the actual, unceasing presence of God. It gives me such contentment and joy that I sometimes feel compelled to do rather childish things to control it."

Wow. My first thought? "It sounds like a eunuch wrote that."

No joke.

I'm thankful to God for a lot of things. I thank God for my salvation, that I may be found in Christ, that he has redeemed a sinner and adopted him as a son. Beyond that there is an endless list of other things I'm grateful for. Baseball is one of them.

Baseball has been my salvation from the hell of mystical thinking. I abhor mysticism and "soft" philosophies. I hate their language use which includes but is not limited to images and various types of metaphors. I detest vague and ambiguous language. There is no phrase that will send me into a rage like "...putting God in a box." It is a statement without a referent, an absurd arrangement of grammatical symbols. I refuse to use metaphors in serious situations. Metaphors are toys. With the things that are important to me, with love, with faith, with life, I do not use toys. I do not use metaphors.

I don't have the work in front of me but I remember that Nietzsche called Thomas a Kempis' "Imitation of Christ" as possibly the most effeminate and decadent work that he had ever read. Amen, brother man. Amen. I refuse to be emasculated.

I do not like monks. I do not like cloisters. I do like their beer though. I tried trappist ale and it was pretty good.

But I really like Jesus. He strikes me as the anti-mystic. He had his times of solitude and prayer, but was the anti-recluse. He went to the people. Forgive my metaphorical language here but He assaulted the gates of Hell with a bloody, splintered, urine and feces stained cross where criminals hung to die. And he battered down those gates and drew out a host of captives. He was a person who did not just feel things, but he went and did things. He gave of himself. He gave of himself to people that were too stupid and blind to understand the greatness of his person. In his distress he was able to say "Father, not my will but your will be done."

Hero. That is a real man.

Jesus would've made a great center-fielder.

Baseball has taught me a lot. It gave me the categories that I needed to think in and approach pain. Mystical writings drip with sentiment and feeling. "Oh God! Oh God! Waaa Waaa Waaa! God, heal me! God, my life is a barren abyss of swirling darkness! God, you are my light! Waa! Waa! Waa!" I'm not advocating playing through all injuries and hurts. Carlos Beltran playing with a sore quadriceps muscle this year probably cost the Mets the division. (Actually there's a lot that cost them the division race, but a healthy Beltran might've made the difference.) I find no grit, no toughness, no endurance in mysticism. I find that in baseball. And I find that Scripture has called for endurance in my soul.

So God? Thank you for baseball.

In Part 2, I hope I can tackle some of the following:
* Why I believe mysticism emasculates a man.
* Gender differences and the practices of faith?
* Retractions

Thursday, November 8, 2007

First dilemma of the blog: What should I write about? The Economist article that Diana sent to me earlier this week or the A-Rod opt out situation?

Well, if I chose to write about the Economist article then at least I might've had the more interesting option of titling this blog: "Home runs and Holy Wars." ... Actually, that idea's not half bad.


"There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971"

This is my blog. It's about faith. It's about baseball. Sometimes it's about both. And it's because Diana said I should start up a blog again.

Thanks for reading!