Monday, December 23, 2019

19 for 2019: No. 5 and 6 Profiles from MLB

In the days to come, the Gospel will remind us that Christ Jesus was born in precarious times. Born during the reign of Herod, Matthew's Gospel proclaims
When the magi had departed, behold,the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,"Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him."Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by nightand departed for Egypt.He stayed there until the death of Herod,that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,Out of Egypt I called my son.
The reign of Herod extended over Judea from 37 BCE to 4 CE. And though it's not a fair to compare a despotic ruler to a leader in the world of sport, I do think San Francisco Giants fan will understand it when I say: The reign of Farhan has begun.Giants fans believe these to be precarious times as well. 
Farhan Zaidi is President of Baseball Operations and has cleaned house since he was hired in November 2018. He made it clear that the future Hall of Fame manager, Bruce Bochy would serve as the Giants skipper for one last time in 2019. When we said fare thee well to Will Smith, Kevin Pillar and deep wound—Madison Baumgarner—it became crystal clear that the reign of Farhan is characterized by one thing: analytics. As former GM of the Dodgers, the emphasis on analytics was of no surprise. The warning rests in the fact that this approach has yet to yield was it seeks to produce: the final W....the World Series ring, trophy and title. 

Speaking of which, followers of this blog will not be surprised to see the Washington Nationals are included in the 19 for 2019 Sports and Spirituality profiles. Like many baseball fans, I delighted in this team and their run for the Commissioner's trophy and the road they took to get there is remarkable. Scott Boeck of USA Today writes
The Washington Nationals didn't win their division. 
They didn't win 100 games during the regular season. 
They were the eighth-best team in the majors, ranked by wins. 
They were 12 games under .500, 19-31, on May 24. 
To say the least, the Nationals' path to the World Series championship was an unconventional one as a wild-card team. 
They stunned the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the World Series and became the seventh wild-card team to win the championship.
The road wasn't easy. They survived five elimination games. They beat Brewers closer Josh Hader, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, Cardinals phenom Jack Flaherty and Astros co-aces Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander.
They also beat a 106-win Dodgers team and a 107-win Astros club.
"People thought we wouldn't have been there in the first place and we just happened to come out on top," third baseman Anthony Rendon said after the game.
Analytics is a factor in this equation, but numbers and empirical data will never capture what good culture and chemistry can do.
There's a freedom to watching a World Series, when your own team is in abstentia. While I wish the San Francisco Giants were the team I am profiling in this 19 for 2019, my hat and my heart go to the Nationals of Washington, DC—our nation's capital.

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