2014 Books: 3Q

Books read from July through September. Next reading list viewable by clicking here. Running yearly count: 30.

  • The Bondage of the Will – Martin Luther (1525); Print // I honestly put this one down less than halfway through. Between Luther not being the most gifted writer and this being a verbose response to an Erasmus work I have no interest in reading, I just didn’t want to waste the time and effort it would take for this.
  • Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food – Wendell Berry (2009); Print // Many of these essays were over my head because of technical descriptions of farming processes, but interspersed were reflections on the philosophy of farming and agricultural principles applicable to all of life. Great to also read an essay centering on the Lapp farm in Lancaster, PA.
  • The Closer: My Story – Mariano Rivera (2014); Library // Very glad I read this autobiography of the greatest closers ever, who built an incredible career off of one accidental pitch. A faithful Christian, Mo is incredibly humble throughout, though I also enjoyed his more candid discussions of A-rod and other problems in his career.
  • The Faithful Parent: A Biblical Guide to Raising a Family – Martha Peace & Stuart Scott (2010); Print // Not bad, though there are much better and less baptistic child rearing books out there (Tripp, Wilson). Impoverished view of covenant children left much to be desired.
  • The Last Gentleman: A Novel – Walker Percy (1966); Print // A typical Percy discovery/existential novel, though still packed with his typical wit, philosophical insight, and twists. Not my favorite Percy work, namely because of an odd but jarring change in protagonist two-thirds through the book.
  • Perelandra – C.S. Lewis (1943); Print // A re-read, and a favorite of mine; the gem of Lewis’ unheralded but very enjoyable Space Trilogy. Takes place at the creation of Venus and its creation’s subsequent temptation.
  • True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia – Jerry Bridges (2012); Kindle // Bridges challenges the Christianese buzzwords of “fellowship” and “community” as more than merely baptized terms for hanging out. He examines their true meanings in Scripture: sharing (especially possessions), partnering, co-laboring, serving, and even suffering together. Well done.
  • Picadilly Jim – P.G. Wodehouse (1918); Kindle // A rollicking good story of mistaken identity. A little more heady and reflective than the typical Wodehouse.
  • The Cost of Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1937); Audio // Better than expected. Bonhoeffer’s impassioned plea to the church to stop peddling cheap grace and truly die to self.
  • Letting Go of Legacy Services: Library Case Studies – M. Evangelist & K. Furlong (eds., 2014); Library // Very helpful treatment of the prevalent problem of “legacy” practices in libraries: practices frequently clung to from a bygone era.
  • The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage – Paul Elie (2004); Library // Biography/light criticism of 20th century Catholic writers Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Walker Percy, and Flannery O’Connor. Less than halfway through I ended up skipping the sections on Day and Merton. Not bad, but verbose and betrays a haloed perspective of 20th century American Catholicism.

2010 MLB Predictions

First, two quick links for your viewing pleasure. The first is to a video of one of the best defensive plays I’ve seen in baseball, and it happened on opening day this year: Mark Buehrle’s gem. Second is especially for those who love to hate the Yankees and their capitalistic ways: Jeter, Posada, and Rivera set the record for most consecutive seasons played together (plus, the Yanks have 15 homegrown players on their opening day roster, nothing to sneeze at). Now that that’s out of the way, here are my predictions.

AL East:
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox (Wild Card)
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays

AL Central:
1. Chicago White Sox
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Cleveland Indians

AL West:
1. Seattle Mariners
2. Los Angeles Angels
3. Texas Rangers
4. Oakland A’s

NL East:
1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Atlanta Braves
3. New York Mets
4. Florida Marlins
5. Washington Nationals

NL Central:
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Milwaukee Brewers (Wild Card)
3. Chicago Cubs
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Houston Astros

NL West:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Fransisco Giants
3. Colorado Rockies
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. San Diego Padres

AL Champion: New York Yankees
NL Champion: St. Louis Cardinals
World Series Champion: New York Yankees

AL MVP: Evan Longoria (Tampa Bay)
NL MVP: Prince Fielder (Milwaukee)
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez (Seattle)
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay (Philadelphia)
AL Manager of the Year: Ozzie Guillen (Chicago)
NL Manager of the Year: Bobby Cox (Atlanta)

Two Quick Sports Links

Two significant/interesting sports milestones happened in the last week from my corner of the world (or at least from my favorite teams).

First, Derek Jeter tied Lou Gehrig for the most hits all time as a Yankee (2,721). An amazing feat, considering Gehrig was one of the best ever. Also amazing that Lou Gehrig had as few hits as he did, though understandable since he had an injury-shortened career. He was one of the best ever, and to have Jeter pass him is also an astounding feat. One of the Yankee beat writers had a great piece on Gehrig and Jeter. Check it out here.

Second, my graduate alma mater (is that the right description?), Old Dominion University, played their first football game in 69 years last week. ODU football (and their ladies-man coach, Bobby Wilder) has been hyped and hyped again the past couple years in Hampton Roads, and the season is finally here. ODU won their first game in storybook fashion, beating Chowan 36-21 in front of nearly 20,000 fans. Check out the Virginian-Pilot’s coverage here.

O Captain, My Captain

I’ve been struck lately by how much of a class act Derek Jeter, the Yankee Captain, is. In an era of selfish athletes, performance enhancing drugs, and lucrative free agency, Jeter is a model of consistency, professionalism, and team loyalty. He’s been with the Yankees since 1995, won four world championships, never even been remotely connected with steroids, is quick to praise his teammates, and dislikes talking about himself. He is truly a great Yankee, and second to Lou Gehrig for my favourite Yankee of all time.

Jeter is often the recipient of criticism for being overrated both offensively and defensively. I am definitely biased, but I don’t think these criticisms are very well founded. He has won three Gold Glove Awards, and based on several detailed statistical analyses, he has above average range. Offensively, his numbers speak for themselves. He has more hits than Pete Rose did in the same amount of games. While Jeter probably won’t play long enough to break Rose’s hit record, that is still a phenomenal feat.

I was struck by a recent article by one of the Yankees’ beat writers, focusing on where Jeter ranks among all-time Yankee greats. When one thinks of Yankee greats, Gehrig, Ruth, Mantle, and DiMaggio easily come to mind. Jeter is right up there with them. Consider where he currently ranks:

2nd in hits (to Gehrig)
2nd in stolen bases
4th in games played
4th in runs
4th in doubles
5th in batting average
7th in walks
10th in homeruns

Perhaps something I like the most about Jeter is the respect he commands. He is one of the few Yankee players (maybe with Mariano Rivera) that Yankee haters can’t really hate. Most Yankee haters I know have a healthy respect for Jeter. How can you not? When he retires, he will retire as one of the greatest shortstops and Yankees of all time, and the game of baseball will truly miss him.

Trade Deadline Comes and Goes Without a Bang

The MLB trade deadline came and went yesterday at 4 p.m., and the Yankees did not make any deals I was expecting or hoping for. All we got was utility man Jerry Hairston, Jr. from the Reds to bolster our injury plagued outfield. I was at least hoping for a better outfielder, a solid reliever, or a late-rotation starter. The Padres’ closer Heath Bell would have been perfect, which would have beefed up the Yankees bullpen while allowing Phil Hughes to return to the rotation. But alas, we only got a utility man batting .254 in exchange for a minor league catcher.

Sure, getting a guy who has played six positions this season isn’t a bad thing. But since the defending champion Phillies and the wild card chasing White Sox got Cy Young pitchers (Cliff Lee and Jake Peavy, respectively), the hated Red Sox got an all star catcher/first baseman/designated hitter (Victor Martinez), and what seemed like every team over .500 made a deal, I was hoping the Yankees would do something bigger. Since Bell wasn’t traded at all, hopefully they can pick him up in a waiver trade later in the season.

At least we brought one of my favorite Yankees up from the minors. Welcome back, Shelley Duncan.

Yankee Stadium as Coors Field East?

There has been much written this season about the homeruns that are flying out of New Yankee Stadium – at a clip of 1.96 per game compared to 1.13 last year (stats courtesy of the fantastic LoHud Yankees Blog). Theories abound, from different wind currents thanks to the more open design of the stadium to the old stadium’s wind influence next door.

I think I have the “solution” to the “problem.” People claim that the dimensions are exactly the same as the old stadium – which they indeed are in the corners, power alleys, and center field where the dimensions are painted on the walls. But thanks to this graphic, it is obvious that in between those measurements the wall is closer in some key areas in the new stadium – particularly right field. Plus, the walls in New Yankee Stadium are shorter than the walls in the old stadium. Compare the famous Jeffrey Maier homerun in 1998 to Jorge Posada’s controversial homerun in 2009:

[photo courtesies: yankees.com and Birmingham News]

Result? More homeruns to right field that would have been doubles or outs in the old stadium. Check out the HitTracker for homers this year and note the cluster of homeruns close to the wall in right field.

I’m not saying the bevy of homeruns are a bad thing, but if the Yankees wanted to fix the issue this offseason and return the homerun rate closer to average, make the wall the original height and restore the curve in the wall.