Beisbol first marker

If the baseball season were a horse race, Memorial Day weekend would be the far turn; that point at which the bloody thing just begins to come dimly into focus. In the 2008 sweepstakes we get all kinds of signals at this first major marker, most of them mixed.

With a little less than a third of the regular season over here’s some handicapping updates for those of you still paying more attention to basketball and hockey while anxiously fretting over “Spygate”. The envelopes please!

Best teams: (and those most likely to make it to the post-season)



Your Red Sox in the American League. Everyone’s Cubs in the National. This is the October match-up half of America yearns for but I don’t want to go there until it actually happens. Watch for too much to be said about it in the meantime. The Angels also make the cut, as do the utterly anonymous Diamondbacks who must be doing it with mirrors.

Best players: (and MVP’s thus far)

Chipper Jones of the Braves in the NL. At the holiday, he is hitting .417 and that’s late to be messing with such numbers. It’s the most serious flirtation with the gold standard of baseball achievements since Georgie Brett and Rod Carew mounted serious threats some 30 years ago. But Jones has a history of being streaky mainly because he has a habit of getting hurt. It will happen again. Tigers don’t change their stripes. He’ll be lucky to finish as high as .330. In the meantime, the Astros’ Lance Berkman may be the true MVP. He’s leading in both homers and ribbies while hitting a mere .387. Albert Pujols is also tearing up the league again.

In the AL, it’s Josh Hamilton of the Rangers in a story equally inspiring and bizarre. He’s leading the league in hits, homers, ribbies, and is second in batting average. Two years ago his personal demons had him on the verge of being banned from baseball. In the long run, the Tigers’ Magglio Ordonez is probably a better bet.

Surprise teams: (exceeding expectations)

1) Tampa Bay Rays. They are for real and could they be the ’67 Red Sox revisited?

2) Florida Marlins. They probably are not for real but how can you be in first place on Memorial Day when you are paying your entire team a million dollars less this season than the Yankees are paying Jason Giambi?

3) Oakland A’s. They were supposed to be the AL’s worst team but they have league’s 4th best record.

4) Houston Astros. Only a game behind the Cubs, they’re baseball’s best kept secret.



Most disappointing teams: (Going south fast)

In the AL, there are many contenders led by the Tigers. Off-season moves had pundits conceding them the championship. They hit the marker with the league’s 2nd worst record. The Indians are only marginally better and less likely to turn it around. The Mariners, a trendy pre-season pick to win the AL West, have baseball’s worst record. And yes, the Yankees. Though around .500 and getting hot at the marker, a team with a $209 million payroll can never descend into last place and escape rebuke.

In the NL, the Mets are looking more and more dispirited. It’s their manager who is melting down this season. Ignore the votes of confidence, Willie Randolph will be unemployed by the All Star break. The Colorado Rockies are back where they belong, 12 games under .500. They’d be in last place were it not for the inscrutable Padres. How did this alleged contender become so bad so fast?

Early Cy Young Choices: (can change any minute)

In the AL, the Angels’ Joe Saunders, the Indians’ Cliff Lee, and local hero Daisuke Matsuzaka all project to at least 25 wins at their present pace, although the Twins’ Livian Hernandez, who any team could have signed for peanuts two months ago, may win the most in the end. Relievers are contenders too. The Yank’s Mariano Rivera, who has never won a “Cy”, may be having his best season and the Angels’ Francisco Rodriguez has been even better. Lee has the early edge in what shapes up as a great race.

In the NL, the Cubs Carlos Zambrano has good numbers and Reds phenom Edinson Volquez even better. But the Diamondbacks Brandon Webb owns this bauble. At the marker, he projects to a 30-win season. Highly unlikely, of course, in that it’s been accomplished only once in the last 75 seasons. But if anyone in modern baseball annals has a chance it’s this rubber-armed, power sinker-baller from the desert.

Top Rookie: (Tentative possibilities only)

Keep in mind that Joba Chamberlain, who debuted last year, qualifies this year. The same goes for local hotshot, Jacoby Ellsbury. The Twins Carlos Gomez, key piece in their Johan Santana caper, gets better by the week. The Orioles have two nice looking kid-outfielders, Masters Scott and Jones and a stylish lefty in Garrett Olson. But my money is on the Rays’ stylish, 22-year old 3rd sacker, Evan Langoria. He started slow but had six RBI in a game the other day then produced a game winning walk-off double the next day. He has regal bearing, rather like the Mets’ David Wright.

In the NL, the Reds’ aforementioned Edinson Volquez is an early runaway. He’s 7-1 with a 1.34 ERA for a plodding, last place team. The Cubs high-priced import from Japan, Kosuke Fukudome, is actually exceeding lofty expectations. But if Hideki Matsui was not eligible for rookie honors because he was not deemed a ‘true rookie’, than why is this guy eligible? The same double standard was at play last year in the case of Matsuzaka. “Double-standards” are an abomination.

The Anti-Cy Young: (and LVP ...i.e. ‘least valuable players’)



Always a heavily contested distinction, this year’s race looks torrid. For the Anti-Cy in the AL, nominees include the Indians’ C.C. Sabathia who is having a hellish walk-year, the Yanks’ Phil Hughes, which is unfair because he’s only a kid, and the Tigers’ entire starting rotation, led by prized acquisition Dontrelle Willis. In the NL, it’s no contest as long as we have Barry Zito to kick around. For 150 million, the Giants got eight straight losses from Zito and an ERA just under 6.00.

The AL chase for the LVP is equally spirited. The Tigers’ Gary Sheffield has less to say these days because he’s hitting .202. The Indians Travis Haffner is at .217. The Mariners Richie Sexson is at .199. In the NL, the Phils’ Ryan Howard, all-world two years ago, is hitting .202 . But the pacesetter is Andruw Jones. The Dodgers paid him almost $20 million to patrol centerfield. He was hitting .165, some 65 pounds less than his weight, when knee problems leveled him. Joe Torre discovers you don’t dump such problems when you depart the Bronx. Live and learn, Joe.

“Rising” Hall of fame Stock (or “falling”, as the case may be)



Every time Greg Maddux, Tommy Glavine, or Mariano Rivera add a win or a save, they become more of a lock. The same can be said of Derek Jeter, A-Rod, Manny Ramirez and Frank Thomas when they add to their stats with their bats. Chipper Jones’ banner year boosts him considerably. Randy Johnson’s revival in Arizona only solidifies his case. On the other hand, Gary Sheffield’s last act isn’t going well and he’s borderline, while health issues are intruding on the cause of John Smoltz, who may not need to worry. If David Ortiz is to make a run, he can’t afford an off year.

Most intriguing are the cases of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who remain in some sort of self-appointed twilight zone from which they may never emerge. The de facto banishment of the foremost pitcher and hitter of their times is the story of the season, at least in historical terms.

It should amuse Mike Piazza, who has just retired after belatedly concluding there's no more demand for his aging services. Piazza will debut on the Hall of Fame ballot with Bonds and Clemens five years from now and he alone will make it. Amazing!

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 ...