Back to the diamonds

They're back! Strike up the band! A tattered Nation flickers its starcrossed gaze upon you, Jackie Bradley.

Baseball returns with less pretense and bombast hereabouts than usual, there being less urgency in striving to rise from the cellar. Still, the play's the thing. It's time for another opening, another show.

Here's nine points to mark the moment. Call them issues or scenarios or a foot in the bucket list. For me they are the nine most interesting story lines -- or at least those I'll most intensely follow -- as another long, long, long season of the beloved pastime grinds from the blocks with its customarily glacial rapidity.

Boom or bust, smash or dud, the season will stretch over six full months, 162 days of play. Unlike on Broadway, in Baseball you can't fold your tent when you discover you've got a clinker on your hands. More's the pity! Anyway, here's our lineup.

The Red Sox seek ''Redemption''

Hokey as it may seem, even by this ball club's legendarily turgid standard, that's the season's guiding motif; "the quest for redemption." It's been adopted by the front office as a promotional/sales strategy and accepted by the ever gullible Nation as a matter of Theology. Should they win the home-opener, watch for the band to strike up, "The Impossible Dream."

On the other hand, they do have much to redeem. Last season's 69-93 pratfall was the weakest since 1965 when hopes were being pinned on the likes of Felix Mantilla, Jim Gosger, and Dennis Bennett while experts were strenuously urging they trade Carl Yastrzemski. Two years later, they hit the jackpot. Don't look for history to repeat itself. It's harder to do nowadays.

A busy but oddly unfocused off-season has been followed by a quiet, orderly camp, at least compared with last year's circus featuring Maestro Bobby Valentine. Of the king's ransom they luckily landed by dumping bloated contracts last summer, over $100 million was spent on bit-parts and role-players. But only one of the seven -- Shane Victorino -- is signed more than two years, so perhaps they're learning. With near-half the roster and all the coaching staff having been turned over, it will be different. That alone is certain. But is it enough? The Nation is hardly famed for its patience.

Theo and Tito

There's such irony in the principal architects of New England's renaissance now languishing in what amounts to baseball's Elba and St. Helena, they having been banished to the Cubs and Indians.

In Chicago, Theo Epstein seeks to rebuild around the NL's most mercurial young star, Starlin Castro. In Cleveland, Terry Francona looks to a revived Jason Giambi and reborn Scott Kazmir to reach .500. The Sporting News says achieving that modest goal would make Francona, "Manager of the Year." As for Epstein's wayward Cubs, the Baseball-Bible terms their 2013 prospects, "grisly."

Ouch! In Boston, Theo and Tito's haughty ex-employers could hardly be more amused. This game can be cruel.

How the Blue Jays and Dodgers will blow it

The answer is, "easy." Consider your Red Sox two years ago when their winter-wonders had them proclaimed, "greatest team ever." As this year's undisputed off-season champs, might the Jays and Dodgers have been similarly cursed? We hope so.

Everyone picks them to meet in October yet both have questionable leadership. The giddy Dodgers have displaced the Yankees as baseball's most wanton spend-thrifts, amassing a $240 million payroll with such dubious moves as making Zack Greinke the richest pitcher. That makes their purchase of Josh Beckett look smart. Money is no object but they remain managed by still unproven Don Mattingly. They'd be better off with Bobby Valentine.

In Toronto, the only Canadian franchise fields a virtual Latin-American all-star team and adds to its pitching staff one of sport's most interesting characters, A.J. Dickey. But they entrust all this to John Gibbons, who's already failed them once as manager, because they apparently could find no one else. Why?

The further decline of the Phillies and Angels

Each the most aggressive franchise in their respective leagues of late.

When the Phils added Cliff Lee, then Jonathan Papelbon, to a staff already led by Roy Halladay the rest of the league was urged to surrender. Since then, the Phils have gone backwards.

When the Angels inked Albert Pujols to a monstrous two-year deal, they proceeded to miss the playoffs. So they rushed to add gifted but problematic Josh Hamilton, bringing to roughly $400 million their investment in past-their-prime sluggers in one year.

If they again miss the playoffs, can we all agree there's a message there somewhere?

The further rise of the Nationals and Rays

Washington and Tampa are the trendiest picks to go all the way, by the game's smart set that favors rational thinking in a madcap business. Both teams are young, innovative, fundamentally sound, wisely built and brilliantly managed at reasonable prices. It'd be a triumph for one to make it, a joy for both.

The ups and downs of other contenders and pretenders

There are so many. The Rangers are trying to dump Nolan Ryan proving they're still a dumb franchise. Why aren't the Giants picked to repeat? In Bruce Bochy, they have the best manager. The effects of Houston's switch to the AL could influence pennant races in both leagues. Will the Marlins' meltdown in Miami be allowed to continue? Wither the Tigers; Jim Leyland never repeats. Do the Orioles fade? How much more scandal pours forth from that anti-aging clinic, Biogenesis, in Miami? Questions! Lots of them!

The Pittsburgh Pirates

They seek to smash their own record for having losing seasons 21 straight years? We'll root for them to do so hoping that will change their rotten luck.

The Kansas City Royals

If there's a surprise this year it will be Kansas City, high among America's finest and liveliest towns. They think they have their best ball club since the heyday of Brothers Saberhagen, Quisenberry, Wilson, White and the incomparable Georgie Brett. If you love this town, you dearly hope so.

The last waltz in the Bronx

Over the years, many have lusted to proclaim the end of a Yankee's era while living to rue their impertinence. This year such satisfaction could be unprecedented with no such potential downside.

For the latest Yankees' dynasty -- only the fourth most sensational in this brilliant franchise's storied history -- is indeed dead and gone. One could sooner expect the return of the Dodgers to Brooklyn and Braves to Boston or even the restoration of the Hapsburgs than for the Bombers to slip off the hook of time and fate this time. It ain't going to happen. The only question is how steep will the fall be and how painful the shame. For no team endures failure's shame more acutely than these guys.

You know all about the aging and injuries, the decline of Jeter and fall of Rodriguez, the radical philosophic flip-flop embracing an astonishing austerity more worthy of Third World franchises. That's all combined to speed their demise, although it was the gluttony of those hideous contracts they so long dispensed like jellybeans that most made that demise inevitable. Those who would imitate them ought take notice.

Much as the sight of the almighty Yankees searching baseball's scrapheap for cheap alternatives was the off-season's most shocking story, tracing the dynasty's death throes will be the most fetching of the regular season. Moreover, rebounding will not be so easy for them this time. The game's changed greatly of late.

Many will delight in all this. But not me. The Yankees are to Baseball what Beethoven is to Great Music or Rembrandt to Great Art. You need not love them to acknowledge they've been titanic and impossible to deny. But then, excellence is hard to live with. There are folks who also disdain Beethoven and scorn Rembrandt. I guess.

Nation
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 ...

Nation
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 ...

World
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 ...

Local
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 ...

Local
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 ...

Local
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, ...

Local
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 ...

Local
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 ...

Local
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 ...

Nation
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 ...

Nation
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 ...

Nation
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 ...

World
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 ...

World
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 ...

World
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, ...

Nation
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, ...

Nation
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 ...

World
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 ...

World
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 ...

World
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 ...

World
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 ...

World
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 ...

World
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 ...

Nation
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, ...

Nation
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 ...

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
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 ...

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
Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...