Beast hunting in the east

As June ends, so does the first half of the season. In Baseball, time flies even when you're not having so much fun. Hereabouts, one question emerges above all. Where have the "Beasts of the American League East" gone?

We're accustomed to being among the class acts in the high rent district. It had become axiomatic that the East was where the real action was and all the best entertainment, too. To dominate the AL East was to be featured weekly on the Networks, fawned over lavishly by the pundits, feared the most by other teams, favored invariably in the postseason

But no more! Much of the East's zest has dissipated and it's little noted that the sitting champ still happens to reside there. No titanic five-team race is about to thrill us to our collectively core this year nor are any of the five deemed ''the team to beat,'' once annually the case. It just ain't the same, Pal.

Here's how it looks as we arrive at the season's mid-point.

Toronto

Threatened to run away with it for about five minutes. A notoriously erratic franchise the last two decades, the Jays had a splendid May but are clearly reverting to form as June gets serious. Their tailspin quickens as injuries mount. They do feature fine offense; no small consideration with offensive might in baseball in rarely shorter supply. But their lineup is green, lacking in pennant-race experience. Pitching is mediocre, unproven, not deep. So is the Manager. The Jays can survive only if the rest of the division's rampant mediocrity persists. It's a hard bunch to believe in, even when they're mashing the ball and staying healthy. But, hey; stranger things have happened.

Baltimore

Maybe the candidate with the best chance to break loose. Manager is a huge plus. Front office will take chances. Wacky owner has at long last shut up. Lineup is stacked with significant power quite equal to Toronto's. Pitching has the potential to be adequate although shakiness in the once formidable bullpen has been evident. Did Nelson Cruz make a pact with the baseball devil?

Maybe this ought to have been Baltimore's year. But a pair of crushing blows may have doomed them. A brilliant prospect only a year ago Manny Machado -- at age 21 -- is struggling to stay in the lineup, let alone regain his form, having been seriously sidetracked nine months ago by a complex leg injury necessitating tendon transplants. Superb defensively with middle of the lineup power at the height of his powers, Matt Wieters faces Tommy John surgery which is rather bizarre given that he's not a pitcher but a catcher. Can the O's win without meaningful contributions from two of their three most complete players? Unlikely! But they'll remain the team you don't want to play when all the chips are on the table.

Tampa Bay

One can imagine the Rays stunningly turning it around with the highly estimable Joe Maddon -- favorite skipper of the savants -- working his familiar legerdemain with greater brilliance than ever. But then you take a closer look at that lineup with those once mighty prospects, Messrs. Jennings and Longoria, swatting anemic .248 and .261 respectively, and Red Sox reject James Loney as their principal source of power, and erstwhile mega-rookie Wil Myers facing banishment to the minors once he gets off the disability list, and their much touted pitching in an injury ravaged shambles. Reluctantly, you concede the Rays are cooked.

It's a shame, actually. They were an attractive and popular underdog, although that shtick was getting old. Maddon, among others down there, probably deserved better. Sadly, it's a bitter turn of events that likely condemns the game in the Gulf Coast where it could and should have prospered, if only local government hadn't been so backward and bush-league.

On the eve of mid-season, the Rays had baseball's lousiest record; worse than the bloody Cubs, worse than the preposterous Padres, worse than the abominable Astros. The situation has the look of something terminal.

New York

Hardest of the bunch to figure as they cling along with the Orioles precariously to second place, while more often looking more like a candidate for the cellar. When this year's Yankees' edition is good -- which mainly means when Maestro Tanaka is on the mound -- they can be very, very good, and when they aren't (and he isn't) they are horrid.

These days they regularly feature up to five very expensive characters in the middle of their lineup hitting in the .220's, sans power. We are not accustomed to this from the once upon a time Bronx Bombers. When you combine this calamity with the fact three fifths of their pitching rotation has been wiped out it boggles the mind to consider some people actually think Joe Girardi is not a good manager.

Brian Cashman has only one trick in his GM repertoire; when in doubt, spend. Even in their current extended mood of austerity the Yankees will manage to outspend the pack. One can imagine the Yanks conjuring some ludicrous caper like liberating the Phillies (should they decide to surrender) of the obscene contracts of worn-down Cliff Lee (now on the disabled list) and aging Chase Utley (just off it) at the further price of their very few decent prospects. Such nuttiness might keep them remotely in contention another three months.

George might have done that but Hal is a different Steinbrenner. It's more likely they'll choose to muddle along while continuing to fall apart physically. Whereupon they can devote themselves fully to the endless Derek Jeter victory lap soon to arrive smashingly at your local ballpark. Methinks Derek would have preferred it otherwise.

Boston

Even as his kiddies were getting their clocks cleaned in Oakland, Manager Farrell was brashly asserting confidence his team -- essentially as now constituted -- will yet prevail. Give the bloke credit; he hardly lacks for moxie. And he may even be right; at least partially.

As bad as they've been (third worst AL mark as of the writing) these Red Sox may have fewer problems and sturdier prospects than their division foes as they veer into the second half. More to the point there's the thinness of the other pretenders, as noted. It says a lot about the state of the AL East that Boston is but a hot streak removed from contention, though if they have one they'd be well advised not to follow it with another meltdown, as has been their bent. Strange team; but even as they were romping a year ago they were hard to figure.

There are caveats! Have they been overrating their allegedly vaunted farm system? You might call it "Jackie Bradley Junior syndrome"; the inclination to nominate their child prodigies for Cooperstown enshrinement before they've survived their first road trip. Latest nominee is a certain Mookie Betts. Never thought they'd ever countenance a player named, "Mookie". Interestingly, such newbies as Brock Holt and Rubby De La Rosa -- products of other systems -- seem every bit the equal of the Bradleys, Bogaerts, Dubronts, Middlebrooks, etc.

Some of their precious youth needs to be peddled for veteran reinforcements in the forthcoming midsummer trading festival. The Manager is not entirely right. As essentially now constituted they don't win; too many characters who surprisingly excelled last year having reverted to form. If Farrell's cheeky prophecy is to be realized, they need another bat and another arm and they might further notice that Uber-closer Uehara suddenly no longer looks invincible.

Clearly, management is reluctant to take on more salary, although they don't appear anxious to talk about that. They may have no choice. Last year's laurels no longer sustain. Moves like trading for a Herrera or signing a Mujica won't suffice.

So, that's the state of things -- as we see it -- limping into the season's second half. Out of this morass, there emerges one question, above all; can anyone win this division?

This much is clear. Beasts no longer roam the American League East.

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 ...