Fall Baseball War on Labor Day, 2014

There is something disquieting about Labor Day.  It is the end of Summer, leaves turn color and die, the frost will finish off what’s left, even the daylight diminishes, and sun will be setting later until it is the shortest day and it is Winter.  Baseball is born in the spring when all teams have hope, flourishes in the Summer as teams figure out how good or bad they are,  then it is Fall and we race against the sun to see who wins it all before the game hibernates for the Winter. At this point, the teams know how good they are and how bad. The good ones now focus on the last 28 games and the ultimate, short course, pennant race. It is a no holds barred, free for all to see who will prevail.

Today we know who is really good, just good, could be good and bad. The really good are Kansas City and Detroit, Baltimore, Angels and A’s in the AL and Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh,  Washington, LA Dodgers and SF in the National.
 
The good team is Cleveland that just misses. The “could (will) be good” teams are Miami and Seattle, maybe next year, especially for Miami. The rest of them have serious work to do and only a few show any inclination to do it wisely. (By wisely, I mean.doing smart stuff,  not just stuff to appease the fans mid-winter like signing a bad pitcher, now 5-10, 5.96, to a multiyear contract that simply shows why they are bad.)
 
Kansas CIty leads Detroit by 1/2 game in the AL Central, with Cleveland 3 behind. In the AL East, Baltimore leads by 9. In the AL west, the Angels just crushed the A’s four straigth to lead by 5. The only drama is in the Central.

In the National League, Milwaukee and St. Louis are tied and Pittsburgh is two behind. Definte drama here. Washington leads Atlanta by six so its really over.  and LA.  leads SF by 2 1/2. But LA is going to win there.

The only drama is the race for the second wild-card. (DId I really say that?) In the AL, Seattle has a chance and Atlanta and Pittsburgh have a chance in the NL.We’ll see.

What does the lack of drama mean? It means that the playoffs will supply the drama the season fails to provide. More on that in a few weeks, but I’m betting on a Baltimore-Washington World Series. Both of these teams can hit, field, throw, hit with power and pitch!  See you in Baltimore in October. 

ISIS versus ISIL, There Is A Difference And It Is Critical

I noted over the last several weeks that various politicians and commentators have been using the terms ISIS and ISIL in what seemed to be an interchangeable way. An investigation of the origins and meaning of the two terms, however,  proved to be enlightening as there is a considerable difference as  ISIL involves anti-Israeli sentiments.

When the Islamic State first emerged, in say, 2012, it was in Iraq and when it expanded later into Syria, it added the letters to reflect that it was the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS, if you will. The organzation’s military operations remain in Iraq and Syria today, but its aspirations are much broader.
The thought that this organization, noted for its cruelty and genocidal tendencies that include murdering Christians and Shiite Muslims, beheading enemies and having children watch the beheadings, the mass murder of Syrian soldiers, and killing those suspected of being non-Sunni or resisting forced conversion to Islam, has a broader view is frightening.

This world view is the creation of the Caliphate, or region controlled by Sharia law, over Iraq, Syria, and the Levant. This leads to the term ISIL. The Levant, a term Churchill used, refers to the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, and includes Cyprus, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel, and by implication the Saudi Peninsula.

We must be careful when we use ISIS or ISIL as the distinction is clear between ISIS, or the limited, current view of the Caliphate, or of ISIL, which refers to the  geographically and politically expansive Islamist view of the Levant. The definition of Levant I gave earlier is the modern, European, post 1948, version. The ISIL version omits Israel for Palestine. That is something to think about.  

Fall Baseball is War; It Begins Again.

Last year I noted that Fall Baseball is War (see it here.) Now it has started again with the stunning walkoff win by the Kansas City Royals at home versus the Minnesota Twins. The Twins, currently in last place in the AL Central, were leading the Royals, the leader in the AL Central, 1-0 after a magnificent pitching performance by Ricky Nolasco for the Twins and an almost equally superb job by Royal pticher Danny Duffy. This game was 0-0 in the seventh when Joe Maurer doubled home Brian Dozier for a 1-0 Twins lead. It was that way in the bottom of the ninth. Glen Perkins, the Twins star closer with 32 f 37 saves so far. He was looking for his 33rd. On his second pitch of the ninth, Alcides Escobar blooped a single in front of the center fielder. That center fielder was playing a little deeper that usual so he could keep the ball in front of him and cut off gappers to hold the batter to a single and keep the tying run at first. However the ball fell just in front of him. That brought up Alex Gordon and on the second pitch to Gordon, the ball was hit just over the right field wall. Four pitches, two hits, one just short of the center fielder and one just over the fence and the game ended abruptly, but, like walkoffs at home, finally.
The Twins are in last place at 58-73 and the first place Royals are 73-58.  Perfect baseball symmetry. Twelve games out of 131 seperate the two teams, just over two games a month since April. Not much, but in baseball, a season apart.
This fact points out the close competition in baseball, closer than any other sport. it comes down to winning what I call the “Fifth Game” of which, last night’s game was a perfect example.    Look here for “Fifth Game Theory.”

Reflections on James Foley’s Execution

My personal involvement with Islam started with the opening of a Mosque in Washington when I was a young fellow, new to the world. I recall driving down Connecticut Avenue and hearing the call for prayer. It was a moment to remember. A few years later, I was on board the USS Greenwich Bay, a small seaplane tender as it transited the Suez Canal on its way to become Flagship for the US Middle East Force on Bahrain Island in the Persian Gulf. I was working on deck when I noticed a fellow running along the bank, yelling in Arabic and throwing rocks at us. I had never experienced such overt anit-American behavior in my life. It was terrifying as it was my first encounter with hatred.

After spending the Summer in Bahrain, mostly on board the GB, where I had limited connection with the Bahranian people, except for my exploration of the island by cab. This exploration took me to the mounds of Ancient Dilmun and to a Portguese fort from, I think, the 15th Century.  My main involvement came one night when a call from a local hospital to the ship asked for blood donors for a young Bahranian who had suffered blood loss in an accident. I voluntered immediately. Medical records, that is my dog tags, were checked and I had the right blood type.

The launch took me to the Jaffair Jetty and a car driven by a Bahranian took me to a clinic, where I rolled up my sleeve and gave a pint of blood. The clinic was sparse, the doctor competent, and when I met the fellow who got my blood,  I was happy to help him. He was unconscious at the time.
The trip back to the ship was quick and I went on board sometime after midnight. My kind boss,  later a friend, James Little, BM1, told me I could take the morning off. Such kindness. I learned the young man survived and wonder, even now, how my blood was doing. So, in a moment of need, the Muslim doctor reached out to American sailors for help.

The cruise continued and the ship visited, Karachi, where a goup of us met with a class in a local college who asked us about America, our government, culture and we also asked them about Pakistan. It was very cordial. Then off to Sri Lanka,  Diego Garcia, Mombasa then up the coast to Port Sudan, Massawa, Aden, Jeddah and finally back through the canal to the Med and home.

At this time, as I reflect on that experience,  I think of James Foley’s horrible death by decapitation by knife. Decapitations have occured in Europe, think of how Henry VIII ordered a swordsman to decapitate Anne Boleyn, and the French invented the Guillotine to perform the act quickly.  The Muslims use a knife and saw though the living, for a while, neck of the victim. I have a visceral reaction to this particularly barbaric act. Barbaric is the right word, by the way. This is by the same culture that called the Greenwich Bay to see if one of the sailors would donate blood to an injured Muslim. They didn’t object to having a Presbyterian American’s blood tranfused into the Muslim patient. Our blood is interchangeable:  I did it gladly and would do it again.

What strikes me in James Foley’s case is that he would have done the same thing I did. It is the humanitarian thing to do. He was killed because he was an American and the killing is an act of aggression against our entire nation.  We must take action as our inclination to help people of all religions and races is no protection against radical Islam. This is a dangerous time and we need to protect ourselves and our friends.

Al Gore’s Climate Change CO2 Claims Are Erroneous

I was in a debate yesterday over Climate Change, or Global Warming, or whatever the idea that atmospheric CO2 causes temperatures to rise is called today. I say “atmospheric” because CO2 is present in the oceans in huge amounts.  My argument was based on Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” book and movie that showed graphs showing the results of the Vostok Ice Core analysis that, he said, proved his case, when, in fact, it destroyed his claim.
A link to this analysis is here http://www.sciencebits.com/IceCoreTruth.
It shows that temperature, the “effect” says Gore, precedes CO2 increases, the “cause” sometimes by a century or so.  Of course, that can’t be the case. There is a simple answer to why temperature increases from solar activity increases CO2 in the atmosphere. It is due to the process of “out-gassing.”   When a liquid is heated, its capacity to hold gases is reduced and gases are released into the atmosphere. When liquids cool, the process is reversed and gases are absorbed again.  The simplest explanation is often the best, so there you have it. Look at the article for more on this subject.
The folks I was debating with took offense to this argument and attacked me from several angles. None scored by the way. I was wondering why they would react in this way and have concluded that where I am talking about the science of climate change, they were talking about their religion. What can I say?
By the way, Gore had a very hard time with this fact of “out-gassing” and attacked the Ice Cores themselves and then admitted that the relationship between temperature and CO2 was complicated. His own evidence disproves his theory, and it’s not complicated. .
You may not read about this in the media, but you have it here.  

MLB Rule 7.13 Needs To Be Clarified

MLB Rule 7.13 is designed to reduce if not eliminate “catastrophic collisions at home plate.” The rule mandates that the catcher who has yet to catch the throw must provide the runner with a clear path to the plate. No more “blocking the plate.”  This has resulted in runs being allowed for blocking the plate and games lost because of it. In a recent game between the Reds and Marlins,  a Reds player was called out at home. Upon review, the run was allowed, the inning continued and the Marlins lost a 3-1 game. I then saw a video that showed the pitcher covering home with his entire body blocking the runner and there was no infraction found.
From what I’ve seen, the catcher is not supposed to put his leg across the foul line to allow the runner access to the plate. How long does this apply? Can the catcher catch the ball and then block the plate. Who knows? I just think this rules needs to be tweeked. A leg does not block access, the catcher must have room to move to catch the ball and then be in position to make the tag on a runner sliding to avoid that tag. 
The interpretation of the rule should be that a catcher that fully blocks the plate without the ball, and not anticipating the imminent arrival of the ball, is in violation, but a catcher should be allowed to take a position in front of the plate to make the play. Here’s what I said about the catcher/runner encounter in “Baseball’s Timeless Appeal.” (Read the entire article Here “The runner is bound to stay on the straight and narrow base path while his enemies plot his end.  He, like Odysseus, only wants to get home safely, and to do so, he must take risks, and be crafty, careful, and fleet of foot, and he usually needs a little help from his friends. Like Odysseus, the runner often finds home blocked by the catcher, armored like a Greek warrior in mask, breast plate, and greaves, who is the last barrier to success.” 
The catcher must be allowed to do his job!