The Washington Nationals

Since I’ve moved out here to the D.C. area I’ve been obeying the baseball anthem that one should “root, root, root for the home team” so I’ve been following the Washington Nationals.  That has been a grim undertaking for the last few years.  But this season they have the best record in baseball!

On the surface, the main difference would appear to be the impact of two young baseball prodigies and #1 draft picks, centerfielder Bryce Harper and, especially, pitcher Stephen Strasburg.  There is, however, much more to it than that, including dramatically improved defense.

Strasburg is a fun pitcher to watch, throwing fastballs approaching 100 mph fastball with pinpoint accuracy, curveballs that are practically unhittable, and confusing changeups that go 87 mph.  But despite his 15-6 record, the Nationals are planning to shut him down on September 12 in the middle of a potential run for the World Series.  They are babying his surgically-reconstructed arm, which he blew out after only a few games when he first came up in 2010.  He had the Tommy John surgery and team officials, following medical advice for someone who has never pitched a full season and wanting to keep him on the roster for a long, long time, decided to limit him to 170 innings.

Those team officials, of course, never dreamed the team would have so much as a shot at the playoffs, so that made sense.  But now, many people are saying, this could be the Nationals’ year.  They may never get this close again.  The kid is still strong.  (In his last start he struck out 10 Cardinals.)  Across the nation on sports talk shows, people are calling the Nationals’ leadership wusses.  This is the time to go all in!  Let Strasburg pitch!

It’s odd that you don’t hear that line of reasoning very much here.  For one thing, Strasburg may not even be the Nationals’ best pitcher.  Gio Gonzalez has more wins (17).  Jordan Zimmerman, through most of the season, has had a lower E.R.A. (under 3).  And the guy who will replace him in the lineup, John Lannan, used to be the Nationals’ number one pitcher, starting on opening day twice.  But the pitching staff is so loaded he had to spend the season up to now in the minor leagues!  Now he’ll be the fifth starter, though once the playoffs begin with their travel days, a four-man rotation is plenty.

I like how the esteemed sportswriter Tom Boswell writes about this:

Sometimes numbers are more eloquent and sadder than words because they are harder to refute. In a weak year among NL powers, the Nats will seldom have a smoother path to a pennant. Look at the pitching hegemony the Nats would have brought to bear in the postseason when all teams use four starters. They’d have four of the top 15 in ERA among all starters in the NL. Only one NL team has more than one such pitcher (the Giants).

Also, the Nats would send out four of the top 15 NL starters in WHIP (walks and hits per inning), as well as four of the top 21 in lowest OPS (on-base-percentage plus slugging).

Finally, the Nats would have an overpowering staff with four of the top nine average-fastball-velocities in the NL. That’s almost insane.

On top of all that, the Nats would finally, if they stay intact, have their best seven hitters at the top of their lineup and their entire seven-deep bullpen all healthy at the same time. All season the Nats have waited for this full complement of top players. All in all, it’s a mighty powerful mixture.

Too bad: After 79 years waiting, we’re left with “might have beens.”

Oh, I’m sorry. I seem to have made a minor mistake in my calculations. The team I have just described is the Nationals without Strasburg.

The four-man rotation, primed for October that I’ve described is Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler.

via Strasburg shutdown? Nats can still be a playoff powerhouse – The Washington Post.

Vocation Day reading

Happy Vocation Day!  It was formerly known as Labor Day, but this blog has crusaded to take over this national holiday–day off work, last day of summer vacation, cook-out customs and all–and add it to the church year as a commemoration of the doctrine of vocation.

That topic is a major theme of this blog.  Vocation is more than just the notion that you can do your work to the glory of God.  It has to do not only with how we make our living–though it includes that–but also with our life in our families, our churches, and our cultures.  The doctrine of vocation is filled with specific details and practical guidance.  It is, in short, the theology of the Christian life.

A good activity for Labor Day would be to read up on the doctrine of vocation.  You could read from my two books on the subject– God at Work and Family Vocation–or, if you are in a hurry to get the car loaded, I’ll post a brief article with a sidebar that I wrote on the subject for  Modern Reformation.  Click “continue” to read it.

[Read more…]

Being on Mars

To get a sense of what it would be like to be on Mars, turning around and taking in the view, check out this 360 degree click-and-drag zoomable panorama from the Mars lander Curiosity.  (For full effect, go to the fullscreen view.)  Click on this link:  MARS Curiosity Rover first Color 360 Panorama – Round the world with panoramas.dk.

Rev. Moon dies

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon died at age 92 in Seoul, Korea.  He founded the Unification Church, a cult that taught that Jesus Christ did not finish his work, due to his unfortunate crucifixion, but that a new Messiah from Korea would, about this time, be raised up–the implication being himself–to complete his mission.  Rev. Moon also established a financial empire, including a number of conservative institutions, such as the Washington Times newspaper.  See Rev. Moon, religious and political leader, dies in South Korea at 92 – CNN.com.

I remember back when I was in college, the so-called “Moonies” would host interesting-sounding seminars on topics like world peace and if you were sitting by yourself they would start conversations with you.  They would then invite you to a camp out in the country for more instruction, which led for many people to an initiation into the religion.  That meant raising money for the cause–selling flowers at intersections was a big fund-raiser–but eventually the Rev. Moon would, if you were blessed, pick out a spouse for you, someone you had never met before but you would be married in a mass wedding with hundreds of other couples.

Parents used to hire people to kidnap their children from the Unification Church to “deprogram” them out of the cult.  Now, it seems like it has become more socially acceptable.

Did any of you get sucked into any of this?

Luther’s “wise Turk” quote that he didn’t say

Now that a Mormon is running for president and tends to be favored by Christian conservatives over his Christian liberal opponent, we are hearing more and more that famous quotation from Martin Luther:  “I’d rather be ruled by a wise Turk than by a foolish Christian.”  The problem is, no one has been able to find that famous quotation in any of the voluminous works of Luther.  It appears that the quotation is apocryphal.  I suspect it may have originated as an attempt to explain the implications of Luther’s doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, as in, “Luther would have rather been ruled by a wise Turk. . .” which then was recalled as “Luther said he would rather have been. . . .”  At any rate, I would love to identify the earliest occurrence of that quotation in print.  (If any of you could help with that, I would be very grateful.)

Anyway, despite his reputation as a political fatalist, Luther had quite a bit to say about foolish Christian rulers (just ask Henry VIII).  And he had a lot to say about the threat of being ruled by Turks, wise or otherwise, as the Ottoman Empire was then engaged in a major invasion of Europe, an Islamic jihad of conquest that had taken over much of Europe and that was finally turned back at the gates of Viennain 1529.

Anyway, the frequent commenter on this blog with the nom de plume of Carl Vehse has researched these issues.  Back in 2007 I posted what he put together on this blog, which, unfortunately, was when it was a sub-blog with World Magazine and so is no longer accessible.  So I think it’s time to post it again.  Carl has updated and tweaked the original article, which I post with his permission:

The Wise Turk quote

An August 26, 2012, updated version of an article located at http://web.archive.org/web/20071231154836/http://cranach.worldmagblog.com/cranach/archives/2007/02/draftthe_wise_t.html

In his January, 1997 editorial in First Things, “Under the Shadow,” Richard Neuhaus pointed out that despite the efforts he and others have made to show that Martin Luther never said, “I would rather be ruled by a wise Turk than by a foolish Christian” or anything like it (even in German), the alleged quote seems to crop up in articles, sermons, blogs, interviews, and even in testimony before a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The year 2012 is an election year and there are non-Christians on the presidential ballot. Thus political editorials in Christian magazines and websites, as well as the fifth-column media, are bound to repeatedly trot out this hackneyed phrase, misattributed to Martin Luther. Let’s be clear. The “wise Turk” quote is an urban legend, an old wives’ tale, just like the oft-repeated fairy tales that Luther threw an inkwell at the devil (or vice versa), or invented the Christmas tree, or that Billy Graham referred to Lutherans (or the Lutheran Church, or the Missouri Synod) as “a sleeping giant.”

This article is yet another Sisyphean attempt to drive a spike through this urban legend non-quote, and specifically to address the erroneous claim that the alleged quote is a loose paraphrase of the following excerpt from Martin Luther’s “An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation“:

“It is said that there is no better temporal rule anywhere than among the Turks, who have neither spiritual nor temporal law, but only their Koran; and we must confess that there is no more shameful rule than among us, with our spiritual and temporal law, so that there is no estate which lives according to the light of nature, still less according to Holy Scripture.”

As will be shown below the urban legend quote has absolutely nothing to do with this quoted excerpt from “An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility” and any such claimed paraphrase is quite unlikely to have been even loosely uttered (in German or Latin) by Dr. Luther elsewhere. The key points, as they should be for all phrases bandied about as being uttered by (or paraphrased from) Luther, are context, context, context. [Read more…]

From citizens to clients

George Will sums up Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic by Jay Cost, who argues “that the party has succumbed to ‘clientelism,’ the process of purchasing cohorts of voters with federal favors.”

Before Franklin Roosevelt, “liberal” described policies emphasizing liberty and individual rights. He, however, pioneered the politics of collective rights — of group entitlements. And his liberalism systematically developed policies not just to buy the allegiance of existing groups but to create groups that henceforth would be dependent on government.

Under FDR, liberalism became the politics of creating an electoral majority from a mosaic of client groups. Labor unions got special legal standing, farmers got crop supports, business people got tariff protection and other subsidies, the elderly got pensions, and so on and on.

Government no longer existed to protect natural rights but to confer special rights on favored cohorts. As Irving Kristol said, the New Deal preached not equal rights for all but equal privileges for all — for all, that is, who banded together to become wards of the government.

In the 1960s, public-employee unions were expanded to feast from quantitative liberalism (favors measured in quantities of money). And qualitative liberalism was born as environmentalists, feminists and others got government to regulate behavior in the service of social “diversity,” “meaningful” work, etc. Cost notes that with the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act, a few government-approved minorities were given an entitlement to public offices: About 40 “majority-minority” congressional districts would henceforth be guaranteed to elect minority members.

Walter Mondale, conceding to Ronald Reagan after the 1984 election, listed the groups he thought government should assist: “the poor, the unemployed, the elderly, the handicapped, the helpless and the sad.” Yes, the sad.

Republicans also practice clientelism, but with a (sometimes) uneasy conscience. Both parties have narrowed their appeals as they have broadened their search for clients to cosset.

via George Will: An election to call voters’ bluff – The Washington Post.


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