Labor day marker

Bearing down on the Labor Day marker signaling the turn into the stretch run of another baseball season the urgency of the hour is overwhelming. It's been a wacky season. So, with a month to go, in what passes for pennant races nowadays, we have the following phenomena, ranging from the improbable to the downright silly.

Of the teams that have either dominated or perennially contended over the last decade -- the Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, Angels in the AL and the Dodgers, Cardinals, Phillies, Cubs and Mets in the NL -- it's likely no more than two will be around to belly up to the bar come this October. And it's possible there will be no more than one; either the Phillies or Yankees.

On the other hand, those riding high and appearing to be for real include such long term sob sisters as the Padres, Rangers and Reds, all having a firm grip on a playoff spot with a month left. A fourth 21st century outcast -- the Giants -- are but a game out of the NL wild-card, as of the writing. Of the usual suspects (along with the inevitable Yankees) only the Twins and Braves -- neither of them heavy spenders -- top their divisions heading into the stretch, although Atlanta is vulnerable should the Phillies snap out of their season-long sleepwalk.

So, what does it all mean? Seemingly, that the riches are spreading. Even though abuses persist, profit-sharing gimmicks are working. The renewed fierce devotion to development and youth looks wiser than ever. While the premium on free agency and the oafish big-footing with big-bucks looks chancier than ever, although admittedly that may come as news to such as the Yanks and Red Sox.

Bud Selig's so cleverly contrived parity isn't as much a factor this year. This September, only a dozen teams realistically vie for the eight playoff posts whereas in recent years 20 or more has been the norm down the stretch. Concomitantly, the ranks of the sad sack teams are swelling. At least seven are hopelessly adrift and were effectively eliminated by Mother's Day; the Orioles, Royals, Indians and Mariners in the AL; Pirates, Nationals and D'Backs in the NL. Honorary mention in this dreary category goes to the Cubs as a means of congratulating them on their latest ritual sacrifice of a fine manager who deserved much better, Lou Piniella.

If there is to be good old-fashioned pennant race hysteria at the end of the regular season it will have to be in East. In the NL, the Braves will have to scratch to hold off the Phillies who are finally getting healthy. And then there is the AL East where the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays rank as three of the entire game's five best teams and the Blue Jays are the best of the spoilers. Why, even the Orioles under new no-nonsense boss Buck Showalter are no longer patsies. It's essentially a lock that two AL East teams will make the playoffs. Which two and in what order remains the best regular season story yet to be told.

Credit the Red Sox for spunk. Having endured manpower losses totaling almost a thousand games to the disabled list they should be totally tuned out by now. For refusing to allow that to happen Terry Francona should be manager of the year. But if it's not Francona it has to be Joe Maddon, the delightfully urbane and witty sophisticate who pulls the Rays' strings. I remain convinced this Tampa team is not as good as it plays, although their young pitching is dandy. Maddon is the key. He's your veritable breath of fresh air, although he does tend to over-work his bullpen.

Still, it's not so much what these two have done but what the Yankees haven't that shapes this race. Clearly, Brian Cashman outwitted himself in the off-season. He messed needlessly with a nice winning equation somehow failing to understand how vital slick role-players Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Jose Molina and Jerry Hairston Jr. were to the subtle chemistry of a champion. Cashman's major off-season deals for Curtis Granderson and Javy Vazquez, costing him promising young talent, are beginning to look disastrous. He may have scored well on the acquisition of reliever Kerry Wood at the trade deadline but the more notable deadline pick-up of aging slugger Lance Berkman is backfiring big-time.

While they cling to the top they increasingly look to be rescued by the young and unproven likes of Eduardo Nunez and Ivan Nova even as their own share of nicks and bruises mounts. This was not in the Bronx masterplan. They'll get little sympathy from those left to wonder what might have been had the Red Sox not limped into September with five regulars -- including their three most important offensive forces -- on the DL for the duration.

Injuries are the season's wildcard. No team is immune. But as an excuse, few want to hear it, even from a team like Boston that has a legitimate gripe. If Andy Pettitte, A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, and Alfredo Aceves don't get healthy and rebound promptly the Yankees may survive the regular season but won't make it past Columbus Day. And if that happens it's the GM who will get tagged as the ''goat.'' It's the price he'll pay for oddly reckoning he was better off with Nick Johnson and Randy Winn than Messrs. Damon and Matsui.

For those of you lusting for a garrison finish, the September schedule greatly favors the Rays, does little to encourage the Red Sox, and most heavily burdens the Yankees.

The Yankees meet the Rays and Red Sox 13 times but also have six games with those tough cookies, the Jays and Rangers and only six with teams with losing records. The Red Sox have nine with the Yanks and Rays, three with the Jays, and seven with Ozzie Guillen's wild, crazy and still contending White Sox, freshly reinforced by Manny Ramirez. Who needs that? Along with nine dates with Boston and New York the Rays have 16 games with four losers, three of them -- the Royals, Mariners and Orioles -- being doormats. Tampa's schedule advantage is huge.

So, here's betting it will end up with the Rays, Rangers, Twins and wildcard Yankees making the AL playoffs with either the Twins or Rangers going to the Series as the powerful influence of the AL East begins to wane. To make it, the Rangers must get healthy. Presently they have mainstays -- Brothers Kinsler, Cruz, Young and MVP favorite Hamilton -- either down for the count or playing hurt. Remember! It's all about the injuries.

The choice here is the Twins skippered by that old fox, Ron Gardenhire, one of the best. If he steals a crown for his low budget, small-market, heavily traditional, god fearing, and stoically mid-western Twins it would be a terrific story.

One would like to come on strong about the National League contenders. But who ever sees any of these guys in action other than in stray, chopped-up, clips on ESPN. What you mostly hear from the senior circuit has to do with scandal, despair, and chronic futility. Biggest NL stories include the misadventures of the Dodgers' dancing divorcees, the Mets meltdown, the Pirates 18th straight losing season, the Cubs 102 year championship drought, Stephen Strasburg's two-month flirtation with immortality, etc.

Some rise above such clutter. The Braves have been gallant in seeking to send Bobby Cox into retirement on a high note. The Phillies gasp but the Giants, left moribund by Barry Bonds, are revived. The Padres dare try to match the epic stunt of the Red Sox in 1967. Charming but unlikely! The growing rage is the Reds and their Bunyonesque slugging sensation, Mighty Joey Votto. The myth precedes him.

The Twins and Reds in the Series? Why not! The network will love it.

It's Baseball's "September Song" that we're singing and, with apologies to the estimable Kurt Weill, the bottom line in our variation goes; "It's a long, long time from March to November. But the days grow short when you reach September." Indeed!

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

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 ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...