Report Card ? first quarter

At the far turn of another baseball season -- the giddy first quarter mark -- at least 24 teams remain in contention. You can already say “Goodbye” to Baltimore and probably Oakland in the American League, Washington, Colorado, Pittsburgh and maybe Houston in the National League. If you can arouse them, pass along the word. Even a heavily mandated and strictly enforced parity has its limits.

There are few surprises unless you found upon arriving at Memorial Day weekend the sight of Toronto, Detroit and Texas leading the three AL divisions a tad shocking. At the other extreme there were the Chicago Cubs’ celebrating their stature as the trendy choice to redeem a full century of folly by engaging in their usual pratfalls. The Confederacy may rise again before the Cubs win another World Series.

The first quarter always features a rabbit or two. Last season the Arizona Diamondbacks were 30-15 on Memorial Day and fading into the sunset on Labor Day. This season, they are already ten games out which is where they belong and therefore a safe bet to spare us their pretensions.

It’s the Dodgers who are running wild this year in the abysmal NL West. But it’s early and not even Joe Torre can blow out a bullpen in only two months. You need to wait until August after we have witnessed the restoration of Mighty Manny, man of the people, to get any kind of fair measure of the Dodgers.

If there is a team in the NL that has a chance to run away and hide it is the Phillies. No team hits the ball harder and they can trot kids out of their bullpen who throw a hundred mile an hour. If stalwart lefty Cole Hamels holds up -- and he appears to have his act back together -- they will be there at the end. It’s the first time in their history that they’ve have had a legitimate chance to repeat which is saying something when you consider they have been around since Benjamin Harrison was President.

As for the Mets, there’s the eerie sense it’s a team ready to implode with Manager Jerry Manuel having been set up smartly to take the fall. If the NYC tabloids are to be believed, palace intrigues abound. People shudder over the volatility of baseball life in the Bronx. But it’s much quirkier in Queens.

The nicest teams in the NL have been the Milwaukee Brewers, with a pitching staff featuring Brandon Looper and Jeff Suppan, and the St. Louis Cardinals, with yet another epic Red Sox failure, Joel Pineiro, as their leading winner. They currently vie for the NL Central lead with the Reds and Cubs in varying degrees of pursuit. While not denying the Brewers and Cards their pluck, might it be more evidence of the dreadful disparity between the two leagues? Ron Villone survives in Washington and Bronson Arroyo is on a pace to win 20 in Cincinnati.

The much better action, as has become customary over the past generation, is to be found in the American League. There’s a decent race forming in the west, inevitably to be won by the Angels. And there will be the usual tong war in the central division with Kansas City, thanks to Zack Greinke, adding to the melodrama.

But it’s the antics in the AL East that are compelling. They are saucier than ever. If the Blue Jays can hang in there -- and if they stay healthy they should -- and if the Orioles for all of their terrible pitching can continue to hit the ball -- and they have kids who can really do that -- the mayhem in the East will be a sight to behold before this thing is over guaranteeing a September to remember. There’s no better division in all of Sport.

The smart money is still on the Red Sox but you begin to wonder if their problems are not deeper than suspected. This shortstop dilemma that continues to agonize them is serious stuff. One suspects the very shrewd wunderkind of a GM appreciates that better than anyone. You don’t win with borderline play at this most vital position (save for pitching) on the ball field, let alone with a butcher like Julio Lugo going through the motions. Does the thoughtful Theo believe waiting for young Jed Lowrie to repair is the answer? Or does he believe he can afford that luxury? You can bet this much; he won’t trifle with this issue. He proved that in the summer of 2004.

The matter of the tail-spinning David Ortiz is a lesser problem and one they can work around once they decide that sentiment has decided limits, which Theo and company are eminently capable of doing. (Why, hello there Pedro Martinez!) The humbling of Ortiz has reached classical levels. As a noted sporting wag, David Markowitz, recently noted: “David Ortiz is tied with Houston pitcher Russ Ortiz for the major league lead in homers by an Ortiz, with one!”

If the Big Papi doesn’t snap out of it, he’ll be shunted aside with less noise (if more tears) than attended the banishment of Nomar Garciaparra. It would never have happened in the Yawkey Era. It may be unkind to call the new regime “heartless”. Let’s just say it’s “more efficient”. Sometimes all that comes at a price which Tom Yawkey and his immediate successors, for better or worse, were unwilling to pay. Moreover, it will be relatively easy to patch over whatever hole in the scheme of things the Ortiz matter creates. Decent DH’s abound. The Yankees have six of them.

In the meantime, Boston’s pitching -- believed by the savants to be the game’s deepest -- should sustain them, especially if the roll of the dice on the illustrious ancient, John Smoltz, a vintage Epstein caper, pays off. On the other hand, what do we make of brash Jonathan Papelbon’s sudden hint of vulnerability? By gar but the next four months are going to be awfully interesting.

A year ago this Memorial Day, the uppity Tampa Bay Rays were 12 games above .500 and already the talk of baseball and well on the way to a quixotic World Series date that would fall just a soupcon short. It was, pound for pound, as nice a little Cinderella baseball tale as has been concocted since the Red Sox “Impossible Dream” in 1967.

This season at the first checkpoint the Rays are 23-23. B.J. Upton is hitting .195. Troy Percival may be all done. Aki Iwamura has just ravaged his knee, ending his season. Stylish lefty Scott Kazmir, a stopper last year, has a 6.97 ERA this year. Andy Sonnanstine’s is 7.36. If Carlos Pena still occasionally strikes with the long ball his average is down to .244. Does it not begin to look like a season comparable to what the Red Sox had in 1968?

Don’t bet the ranch on it. They have developed in Evan Longoria maybe the best young player in the game and have lately had the wisdom to re-sign for three more years maybe the best manager in the game, Joe Maddon. Come September, the Rays will be present and accounted for.

And then there are the Yankees. They have never had more to prove. Derided as old, lumbering, and injury-prone. Sneered upon for having resorted -- as usual -- to their fat wallet to repair their woes. Even their fancy and breathtakingly exotic new multi-billion dollar ballpark has been made to seem something of a joke. While their resident avatar, Alex Rodriguez, has been made to appear baseball’s answer to Hester Prynne.

Such teams are dangerous!

So it is at another season’s first checkpoint. The second report card will be distributed at the all-star break. Enjoy!

World
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Nation
Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Nation
Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Nation
Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Nation
Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Nation
Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

World
Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

World
Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

World
Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Nation
Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

World
Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Nation
Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

World
Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

World
What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

World
Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Nation
Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Nation
Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Local
Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

World
Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

World
Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

Nation
'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Local
Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Local
Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

Local
CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Local
Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Nation
Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Nation
Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...

Nation
Book tells about behind-the-scenes search for St. Peter's bones

HOUSTON (CNS) -- Two Houston men shared a journey through centuries of history and a decades-long archaeological dig under the Vatican to unveil a story ...

World
Update way priests are chosen, accompanied, pope tells new bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The best way to help the Catholic Church, Pope Francis told new bishops, is not by pointing fingers and creating scapegoats, but ...

World
Vatican confirms ongoing Sistine Chapel Choir finance inquiry

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican confirmed an ongoing investigation into financial irregularities involving the directors of the Sistine Chapel Choir. ...

World
After meeting pope, cardinal says he's hopeful about addressing crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston struck a determinedly hopeful tone after his long-awaited meeting with Pope Francis ...

Nation
DA clears Indiana bishop of misconduct, says claim has harmed prelate

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend welcomed findings by a Pennsylvania district attorney that cleared Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ...

World
Cardinal DiNardo calls meeting with pope lengthy, fruitful

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo has called a Sept. 13 meeting between Pope Francis and leaders from the Church in United ...

Nation
What do Church abuse policies mean by 'vulnerable adult?'

Denver, Colo., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- A Vatican summit this February will gather the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world. While ...

World
'Elitist, clericalist' church allows abuse to thrive, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sexual and physical abuse by priests and religious and the scandal of its cover-up by church authorities thrive in countries where ...

World
Cardinal Wuerl to ask pope to accept his resignation

Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- An archdiocesan spokesman has confirmed that Cardinal Donald Wuerl will soon ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation ...

Nation
Pope accepts resignation of West Virginia bishop as inquiry into abuse claims launched

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Pope Francis Thursday accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield from the pastoral government ...

World
Leaked German report shows 3,700 cases of abuse of minors in 68 years

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A 350-page document leaked to German media and published Sept. 12 documents nearly 3,700 cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors by ...

World
Pope accepts resignation of Brazilian bishop arrested for embezzlement

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignation of a Brazilian bishop who was arrested and charged with embezzling thousands of dollars in ...

World
Love breaks chains of slavery to sin, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Only true love for God and neighbor can destroy the chains of greed, lust, anger and envy that enslave humankind, Pope Francis said. ...

Nation
Washington cardinal to meet with pope to discuss resignation

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington has told the priests of the archdiocese that he will meet soon with Pope Francis to request ...

World
Pope to convene world meeting on abuse prevention with bishops' leaders

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis is calling the presidents of every Catholic bishops' conference in the world to Rome Feb. 21-24 to discuss the prevention ...

Nation
Supreme Court petition next step in effort to stop natural gas pipeline

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Pennsylvania religious congregation planned to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether their religious freedom rights ...