It is time for my 2007 baseball picks. In a few short months you will all be awed by my genius, or I will again look stupid. Here they are:
NL East – New York Mets – this division is weaker than last year, but the Mets are about the same. Even without Pedro, they should have what it takes to win this division.
NL Central – Pittsburgh Pirates – It is a wide open division, but with the Cardinals and Astros losing so much pitching, they will not hold on to their top spots. The team with the best pitching will win and that rules out the Cubs and Reds, leaving the Pirates young staff and improved offense to take the day.
NL West – San Diego Padres – This is another weak division, but no one really looks even competitive. The Padres have Jake Peavy and added Greg Maddox. Their offense should be good enough.
Wild Card – This is a little tougher. I do not think the Dodgers will stay healthy enough to make a run, so I am going to go with the Reds. The Brewers are overrated with an outfield that is untested and quarrelling. The Reds will not see the same sort of good pitching from Bonson Arroyo, but probably can hold off the Brewers and the Cubs, whose defense will do them in.
AL East – New York Yankees – Do not be fooled by pitchers from Japan. They start great, but will slow down by the end of the year. The Red Sox are a shell of their former selves, and the Blue Jays let Ted Lilly go, probably costing themselves the title. All that and Roger Clemens will probably end up in the Bronx.
AL Central – Minnesota Twins – The best division in baseball. The Tigers will put up a fight, but the Twins have great depth on the bench and on the mound. They have expendable left handers to trade in mid-season, and they have the most underrated manager in the big leagues. You will see Matt Garza as a starter. Remember last year they started Lirano in the bullpen as well. It is a formula that always works for the Twins.
AL West – LA Angels – I think the A’s are going to fall short and the pitching of LAA will be good. They have a great bullpen and Vlad Guerreo. With a lot of teams to beat up on, this team will look better than they are.
Wild Card – Detroit Tigers – These young arms may not flop like the White Sox staff did, but they will not be the same as last year. Plus, you can count on Kenny Rogers being much worse. The addition of Sheffield is good, but his defense is still suspect. They should take the Wild Card without much problem over teams like Boston and Oakland.
I will go on to predict the National League champions to be the New York Mets. The American League Champions will be the Minnesota Twins, but I think the Tigers and Twins are headed for a showdown. It may come down to who makes the best mid-season moves. I will take the Minnesota Twins as the World Champs.
Enjoy the greatest weekend in sports!!!
Saturday, March 31, 2007
It is time for my 2007 baseball picks. In a few short months you will all be awed by my genius, or I will again look stupid. Here they are:
Friday, March 30, 2007
I just finished reading a wonderful book about Babe Ruth called The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs. Now I should tell you up-front that I think Ty Cobb is the greatest baseball player that ever lived, and this book did not change my mind, but it is still great. The author assumes power is good, and that is why he cannot factor in the greatness of Ty Cobb; however, he did change my mind on where Babe Ruth ranks on the all time greatest athletes. I think I would actually have to say that I might put Babe tied with Jim Thorpe for #1 after reading this book.
The book begins with a short year by year history of Babe’s great career including wonderful coverage of what was then called ‘Barnstorming.’ Major leaguers did not earn the same sort of money back then, so they often traveled around after the season was over and played exhibition games until Oct. 31st to get more money. Babe did this extensively. The author, Bill Jenkinson, draws your specific attention to the big blasts Babe hit during his career.
Next, Mr. Jenkinson begins his analysis of such wondrous feats of hitting, and compares them to the great sluggers of all time. The results cannot be disputed. Babe Ruth was the best. Just take a look at this fact comparison. Mr. Jenkinson declares that homeruns of 450 feet or further are monumental blasts that only power hitters can reach. 500 feet is the sign of greatness. Steroid inhanced Barry Bonds has hit 36 such drives (none of 500 feet) in his career (all but three in the last 6 years of his career). Mark McGwire hit a nice total of 74 (all during a four year span near the end of his career). Babe Ruth hit 198! 198 that went for homeruns and no less than 80 more that did not count as homeruns because 450 feet did not reach the seats in 8 out of 9 American league ball parks during Ruth’s day. Do not forget that the first four years of Babe’ career, he was a full time pitcher. A pitcher that (if he had enough innings to qualify) has a top ten winning percentage and ERA of all time. He had more wins in his first four years than Greg Maddox, Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, and Roger Clemens. There is little doubt that if Babe had remained a pitcher, he would be in the Hall of Fame with well over 300 wins.
Mr. Jenkinson then dispels all myths that baseball is tougher today than it was during Babe Ruth’s time. I can only cover a few of the examples he gives. He includes that the all day game schedule while wearing wool uniforms, modern medicine, modern hydration, air conditioning, first class travel, hollow bats, lighter bats (Babe Ruth used a 54 oz. Bat), the higher pitching mound, the batter’s eye that is now in every major league ball park (it was non-existent in Babe’s day), watered down pitching, and several others. All favor modern hitters. A few deserve special attention.
It is not uncommon to hear the complain made that Babe Ruth did not play against African American athletes, and thus cannot be measured against modern day talent. This statement is simply untrue for several reasons. One, the addition of black athletes has seen many power statistics go up, but it has not done anything to change ERA stats. For whatever reason, one cannot prove the addition of black athletes has improved pitching. Two, Babe Ruth played against Negro League Ball Clubs a lot. Mr. Jenkinson has documented (verified of course) 55 at bats Babe Ruth had against Negro League clubs. Ruth actually had a higher batting average (.400) with 12 home runs. This is a small sample, but most White papers would not report his games against Black teams, and black papers would usually not report it unless Babe did poorly. He also lets us know about many more tales from Negro League players themselves, but did not include them in the stats because no newspaper verified the account. The Late Buck O’Neill told a story of Ruth hitting a long centerfield homerun off of Satchel Paige in Paige’s prime, but it could not be verified.
A second thing that must be noted is Babe Ruth played in a time when the rules and ballparks were against power hitters. The center field fence in Yankee Stadium was 490 feet away. No one in today’s game has to try and reach bleachers that are that far away. Babe Ruth also spent most of his career trying to hit spitballs, which were legal. He also rarely got a clean, white ball. Today the ball is removed after any contact with dirt. More importantly, homeruns were judged differently near the foul line. Today if the ball crosses the fence in fair territory it is ruled a homerun. In Babe Ruth’s time if the ball crossed the fence in fair territory, but landed in foul territory, it was a foul ball. Ruth lost several homeruns a season that way. Ruth also lost multiple homeruns to the lack of standard rules. In Philadelphia Ruth hit a homerun that bounced off a loud speaker on a pole 400 feet away and 20 feet in the air. The ball bounced off the speaker and returned to field of play. It was not ruled a homerun, but rather only a double. This actually happened twice in one year. Today that would have been ruled a homerun.
This all leads to the conclusion and point of his book. Jenkinson projects totals of homeruns if Ruth played in modern ballparks with modern rules. This is done to put to rest any idea that Barry Bonds is a better hitter than Babe Ruth. The results are quite frightening. The 1927 season where Babe Ruth hit 60 homeruns translates into 91 homeruns today. However more impressively was the 1921 season where Babe hit 59 homeruns. Jenkinson walks us through the process. First, Jenkinson deducts a few homeruns from Ruth’s total because Yankee Stadium’s notoriously short right field porch was actually a few feet shorter in Ruth’s years. So those that landed only a few feet over the fence were removed. Then those that would have crossed the fence in fair territory, but were ruled foul are added in. Actually he adds in less than half to be conservative. That returns the total to 58. Then there are at least 10 confirmed base hits by Ruth that bounced high off the then 12 foot high fence in right field. Jenkinson credits Babe with only 2 to raise the total to 60. Then at least 40 balls were confirmed to have landed between 440 and 475 feet between the right and left center. Because of the size of old stadiums, these were not homeruns, but would have all easily cleared the fences of modern stadiums. This gets the Bambino to an even 100 homeruns. Then four more are added because of the 162 game schedule (as opposed to 154). This ends with a total of 104 homeruns. And this is a very conservative estimate. How many times did a sports writer not bother to record a 415 foot pop out? Those blasts would have left any modern yard, but would have been directly at a Ruth-era center fielder. Ruth does not get credit for any of those. For more convincing proof, go read the book.
So the next time you hear someone talk about what a great power hitter Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire or anyone is, just remember he needs to hit 104 homeruns to catch the Babe.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Andrew Sandlin has a thought provoking piece written by David Bashen about the Paleo Conservative and Neo Conservative split. Interestingly both men side with the Neo Conservatives over the Paleo Conservatives. Sandlin writes:
In a post-9-11 world, I simply cannot endorse the paleo-con option, as much as I can respect those who hold it. As the threats change, our manner of dealing with must change, too.
And Mr. Bashen argues:
That the GOP has been repugnantly guilty of growing the government is not for dispute, and I am as sickened by “No Child Left Behind” and the Prescription Drug Bill as I have ever been. However, Mr. Novak is clearly linking the two together in a way I find very disturbing (presuming that pro-war Republicans are also pro-big spending Republicans). There is room for intelligent debate on the paleo vs. neocon differences, but one need not be a pro-entitlement, “Teddy Roosevelt” Republican, just because they supported the Iraq war, and just because they take a post-9/11 view of foreign policy.
But actually there is reason to link them. Both the ‘post-9/11 foreign policy’ and increased domestic spending are founded upon the idea that government is the best agency or instrument to accomplish a better world. Big domestic spending is a fundamental point of Neo-Conservatism. Paleo Conservative belief focuses on the individual, but the Neo Conservative view prefers the group to the individual (although it does not go so far as preferring the collective like Communism). George W. Bush himself has declared the role of government when he called for the ‘repsonsibility era’ to replace the ‘era of dependency’. He goes on to say, ‘Government can be a part of helping usher in the responsibility era’(Bush, A Charge to Keep pg. 229. I took it from 8 Ways to Run the Country) This translates into Federal standards of education and the No Child Left Behind Act. It translates into Prescription Drugs on Medicare. It translates in funding Faith Based Programs. It is no longer the ‘maternal welfare state’ but rather a new ‘paternal welfare state’ (according to Irving Kristol) or a ‘welfare society’ (according to Michael Novak) not just a state. Plus the Neo Cons would never dream of limiting government in the ways Paleo Cons desire such as returning to the Gold Standard, balancing the budget, or removing the Department of Education (traditional goals of conservatives). Big government at home always translates to an aggressive big government foreign policy. This is what we see in the Neo-Conservative movement.
Sandlin and Bashen are failing to see the anti-communism, pro-military stance of the Paleo Cons is not the same as the ardent nationalism, pro-war stance of the Neo Cons. Anti-communism, pro military spent large sums of money on defense and always rushed to the aid of an ally in trouble, especially against communism. The ardent nationalism, pro-war group needs not wait for trouble. Pre-emptive wars are the order of the day, and that idea is founded upon a completely different set or presuppositions. Pre-emptive wars are founded upon the idea that Government intervention is good. And if that is true, then it must be true at home as well as abroad.
I am saddened to see that Sandlin and Bashen are neo-conservative converts. Everyone wants to see peace and order in the Middle East. I just disagree that the American government is the best engine to accomplish those goals.
Monday, March 26, 2007
I have not been keeping up with my book reviews very well. I did finish a nice Presidential biography of John Tyler. John Tyler: The Accidental President by Edward Crapol. Tyler is best known as the first Vice President to take over the Presidency (upon the death of William Henry Harrison), but is also known as ‘America’s Only Traitor President’ because he died serving in the Confederate Congress at Richmond. He was usually referred to as ‘His Accidency’ by the Whigs who hated him because he abandoned the Whig Platform. Thus, the title of the book.
The biography is a very good one, but it only covers his early life and time as President. The book would have been better served to cover his entire political career, especially his time in the Senate. The book would then be able to deal with or resolve some of the internal tensions in the career of President Tyler. Tyler as a Senator waged open war against President Jackson and his extensive use of executive power, but as President he seemed to wage open war on the Congress. Tyler even went so far as to use the ‘executive privilege’ to withhold documents from Congress that we hear so much about today.
Tyler was probably not a unique Southern man, but he is clearly not what I was taught the model Southerner was like. Tyler was an ardent expansionist in his policies, which is inherently nationalistic. It is Tyler who opened the door of trade with the Orient and recognized Hawaii as a republic. He extended the Monroe Doctrine to the Pacific. Tyler took in Texas by a majority vote of both Houses as opposed to the 2/3rds method used for treaty ratification. Hardly the action of a strict constructionist, the position of most Southern men. Tyler was in favor of ending slavery and the slave trade within the District of Columbia, something other Southerners saw as a breach of the Constitution. Tyler thought slavery should be allowed in all the territories (which Southerners did hold), but not for the propagation of slavery rather for its end. He held to the theory that if the Southerners took their slaves to the territories, they would leave the South. Then the territories would outlaw slavery and enter as Free States, and soon the South would have a paucity of slavery and that would allow them to outlaw slavery as well. A theory that I did not realize existed. Tyler also is the only person to vote against the Force Act that allowed Jackson to use force to end the Nullification crisis in South Carolina. The rest of the Southerners just walked out and refused to vote. Tyler also quit the Senate rather than vote to repeal a censure on President. The Virginia State Legislature asked the Virginia Senators to vote to repeal. He did not think he could go against his legislature, but could not in good conscious vote to repeal. So he quit. Tyler also was pro-bank as long as the bank respected the states. He was an interesting man, and sadly this book does not deal with every subject I listed. Instead it focuses on Tyler as the real founder of Manifest Destiny.
I did learn many things I did not know. It was Tyler who single handedly created the way a Vice President ascended to the Presidency. He took the oath, had an inauguration, and re-did the whole works. This was because at that time there was legitimate disagreement about the line of succession. Many thought the Vice President was to serve as President in a ‘place holder’ fashion until another election could be held. Yet, Tyler’s actions created the ‘Tyler precedent’ that was followed by Fillmore, Johnson, Arthur, Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, and Johnson (LBJ) as if it were in the Constitution itself. The Tyler precedent was finally put in the Constitution in 25th Amendment. It was also Mrs. Tyler who began the tradition of having the band play ‘Hail to the Chief” for the President.
In the long run, this book is good because President Tyler deserves another look.
I should start off this post by saying that I am sorry that Mrs. Edwards breast cancer is back and has spread. I do pray for her health. However, being sick does not give one permission to be immoral. The media has given her a free ride because of her illness, but I cannot ignore her inciting murder. I do not really have a problem with her decision to campaign (I have a slight problem at the insinuation that those who do stop normal life to fight cancer are doing something wrong), but I do have a problem with her first speech since the announcement.
Mrs. Edwards does use one interesting argument. The "its inevitable, so let us be the first to do it" argument. She basically tells all of us religious nuts who think children are important that we cannot stop embryos from being murdered so why bother stopping federal dollars from doing the killing. After all how would we feel if Communist China beat us in the whole sale slaughter of our own people for scientific advances or worse yet, what if we lose to France? She misses the point that this is not a race to the moon, but rather a matter of murder. Not to mention the fundamental principle that the government should not raise my taxes or take money from me to murder someone else. That idea is despicable.
Mrs. Edwards main argument appears to be that these are not children because they are unwanted. Thus, to her they are "clumps of cells". This is a ridiculous opinion. The very same argument could be made for any unwanted child of any age and every child who is ever abandoned. All human being are "clumps of cells" and if being wanted is the only thing that makes one a person then why not just pick up homeless guys and do experiments on them? No where has Mrs. Edwards even fairly addressed the concern that life begins at conception regardless of what happens after that point. Instead she appeals to pragmatism. Hundreds of babies are going to be throw out, so let us use them to help the rest of society by killing them for science. That is her argument. No trying to defend the defenseless, no appeal to higher moral law, just a plain old self-centered appeal to get what she needs no matter what the cost.
Would Mrs. Edwards be happy if a cure for her cancer were found in the Nazi concentration camps? If Hitler had dissected the Jews instead of putting them in gas chambers and came up with a cure for cancer, would Mrs. Edwards laud him as a hero, ask for government funding, and use the treatments from such butchery? According to her arguments, I think so.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
In the last year I have seen several licensure and ordination exams, and the one area where I am always disappointed is philosophy. Philosophy gets a bad rap in most places, but I am convinced that it important, especially for a minister. Don’t get me wrong, I am not the world’s greatest philosopher nor even an average thinker. But, I do believe that knowledge of philosophy (and how it fits with Scripture) aids not only in the engaging culture, but also in the many controversies that consistently arise within the church itself.
Recently I have been thinking about how the Federal Vision controversy and theology could very well be impacted by the fundamental philosophical debate about Universals and Particulars. I am not sure I agree with every thing on this site, but it is a good place to go to get a brush up on the terms as well as some opinions on how the Realism, Moderate Realism, and Nominalism philosophies affect the theories of the Lord’s Supper.
Take for example this statement of Doug Wilson about the Church:
For example, the Protestant terminology can make us think there are really two churches, one invisible in heaven and the other visible here on earth. (Federal Vision, pg. 266)
When you have two churches existing at the same time, with the membership lists not identical, this creates a problem. We know there is only one Church, so which one is the real one? . . . For example, if we are told there are two Peter Smiths, one heavenly and one earthly, we might confused about which one is the real Peter. But confronted with Peter Smith on Monday and again on Tuesday, we do not have any such problem. (Reformed is Not Enough, pg. 70-71)
Rev. Wilson here is saying something about universals and particulars. He is making a highly philosophical statement. In fact he is saying that the ‘universal’ can only be found in the ‘particular’. The two cannot exist at the same time with differences; thus, we must only turn to the one here on earth. He has taken sides in a debate that goes back to Plato vs. Aristotle. And if I am not mistaken in my amateur philosophy, he has taken Aristotle’s side. He has shown himself to be a moderate-realist.
I also think that the Moderate Realist position on the Lord’s Supper is a decent representation of the Federal Vision position. The particular of bread does not become the ‘universal’ of the body of Christ, but it is connected in such a way that the particular (bread) conveys the grace of the universal (body of Christ).
It would be interesting to hear what others think on this. Is there a link between Aristotle’s metaphysics and the Federal Vision theology?
Saturday, March 17, 2007
A little while ago I bought and read The Battle for Middle Earth by Fleming Rutledge. The book examines themes as they come up taking you through the story as it unfolds. This makes for an interesting read, and I think this book would be a nice companion that could be used as you read through the LoTR series itself. However, I personally think the LoTR is such a deep series that one book can hardly do it justice. Rutledge focuses in on the theme of divine providence and human responsibility and does it well. But Rutledge misses one of the points that I think is important in the books and absent from the movies (which is why I think the movies are not faithful to the books). Singing.
I believe that singing is the way in which Illvutar (the almighty creator god in the LoTR) breaks into the story and guides his servants. Singing is not just something that is done but plays the role of Scripture because it is the chief means of grace. At the very least singing is sacramental for Tolkien in his series. Just take a look at the characters. The older characters and races that are unaffected by evil are always singing like Treebeard and Tom Bombadil. The Elves are full of song as are the hobbits. The men less so, but the good characters sing, and the orcs never sing. Also the act of singing often brings about a change in attitude or outlook as if grace had been bestowed. Singing was used by Illvutar to create the world in the Simirillion, and is thus to be thought of as connected to the divine. If you still do not think that singing had grace-like effects listen to a few easily over read quotes from the books.
Sam on his first encounter with elves when they were given an elven feast (and hobbits love food):
Sam could never describe in words, nor picture clearly to himself, what he felt or thought that night, though it remained in his memory as one of the chief events of his life. The nearest he ever got was to say: ‘Well, sir, if I could grow apples like that, I would call myself a gardener. But it was the singing that went to my heart, if you know what I mean.’ (Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 92)
The music goes to Sam’s heart, and it is the music, not the food, he remembers of the elves.
Here Pippin talk of the Ents as they marched to Isengard.
There was very much more. A great deal of the song had no words, and was like a music of horns and drums. It was very exciting. But I thought it was only marching music and no more, just a song – until I got there. I know better now. (Two Towers, pg. 186)
Pippin thought the song was just a marching song, but after seeing what the Ents did, he knows better. He no knows that song was not just singing, but something altogether more powerful.
Sam provides one more example as he sits defeated while Frodo is hostage of the Orcs.
At last, weary and feeling finally defeated, he sat on a step below the level of the passage-floor and bowed his head into his hands. It was quiet. The torch, that was already burning low when he arrived, sputtered and went out; and he felt the darkness cover him like a tide. And the softly, to his own surprise, there at the vain end of his long journey and his grief, moved by what thought in his heart he could not tell, Sam began to sing. . . . And then suddenly new strength rose in him, and his voice rang out, while words of his own came unbidden to fit the simple tune. (Return of the King, pg. 194-195)
The song is moved in his heart by something other than himself. The song removes his grief and sorrow. The song stirs him to action as well as gives him strength. Grace through song.
One could recount this all day long. Other lesser examples abound as well such as hearing the song of waterfalls (creation itself), or characters wanting to do the ‘deeds of song’, or even the times when singing was hindered and the people became depressed. In my opinion Tolkien created a world where singing is the primary means of knowing the divine and the primary means of grace. Thus, a movie that omits all songs, omits the very substance of the hope that is within the characters. But, perhaps I am wrong. Go read the books and you tell me.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
We have been trying to label all the posts and completely take advantage of the blogger upgrades here at the Two-Edged Sword. And by 'we', I mean my wife. She is the computer guru. I basically just answer a question from time to time. But, she is still trying to shake all the bugs out, so please be patient and let us know if you run into any problems.
Speaking of my wife, it is time for our annual competition by filling out our March Madness brackets. So far my wife has beaten me every year excpet one in our seven years of marriage. She never watches a game all year, but spends hours researching after the brackets are announced and usually gets her way. This year she found a site she enjoyed. MSNBC has an interactive bracket that gives stats and opinions on each team when your mouse rolls over them. You click on a team and the computer fills in the bracket for you. Then you get head to head comparisons for every game. It is a nice way to avoid the pencil work and have a nice, neat bracket.
Just for the record, this year I have Wisconsin, Kansas, Georgetown, and Ohio State with Georgetown beating Kansas for the national title.
Monday, March 12, 2007
It amazes me every year how awful the Selection Committee for the NCAA Basketball tournament turns out to be. The only thing that bothers me more is the pandering done by ESPN “analysts” like Jay Bilas. ESPN always spends hours arguing the Selection Committee, but never for the right reasons.
Every year the Selection Committee loads the field of 65 teams with teams from the 6 power conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big Twelve, SEC, PAC 10). For example, last year the Big East sent 8 teams. That is half of the teams in the Big East, and the teams made 1/8th of field of 64 (and you really only should count 64). This year the power conferences counted for 34 teams(7 ACC, 4 Big 12, 6 Big East, 6 Big 10, 6 Pac 10, 5 SEC), which comes out to over half of the field no matter how you count them. 25 other conferences fielded a total of 31 teams. Yes, 6 teams made the tournament from non-power conferences without winning their conference. The answer should be obvious to all. The tournament is not about crowning a national champion; it is about money. The big conferences are where the well-known teams are, so they all get in no matter what. They draw more viewers. How else do you explain Texas Tech getting in over Kansas State, who finished higher in the conference and beat Texas Tech in the Conference Tournament, except that Bobby Knight is a house hold name? It is a perversion of justice.
Appalachian State beat Virginia, co-champs of the ACC, Vanderbilt, a tournament team from the SEC, and VCU, champs of their conference, as well as Witchita State for an overall record of 25-7. Don’t forget they lost in the Southern Conference tournament in the semi-finals to the team hosting the tournament, so it should count as a road loss.
Drexel finished their season with a 23-8 record and in the top four of their conference. They beat Syracuse, the Big East favorite of Jay Bilas, and Villanova, a tournament bound team from the Big East, as well as Creighton, a team that made the tournament from their conference. Five of Drexel’s eight losses came against teams headed to the tournament.
Air Force also finished 23-8, and maybe the biggest snub of all. Air Force beat Standford, tournament bound from the Pac 10, Colorado of the Big 12, Texas Tech, a tournament bound Big 12 team, Wake Forest from the ACC, as well as Long Beach St, which is going to the tournament. They also won games against BYU and UNLV, which are both going to the tournament out Air Force’s conference.
Marist won the regular season title of the MAAC. They finished the season with a record of 24-8 with wins over their conferences eventual representative, Niagra, as well as tournament bound Old Dominion, and a victory over Big 10 team Minnesota, at Minnesota. Yet, they were left out of the tournament.
We are supposed to believe that these teams are so bad that they could not pull at 6th place 10-8 record in the PAC 10 (18-12 overall), which got Standford into the tournament. Or an 7th place 8-8 record in the Big 10 (22-11 overall), which got Michigan State into the tournament. Or even a 5th place 9-7 finish in the Big 12 (21-12 overall), which was enough to get Texas Tech into the tournament. Or worse yet an 8th place finish 9-7 in the Big East (22-10 overall), which bought Villanova a place in the Madness. Of course we cannot forget the committee saying that these schools could not break even in the ACC 8-8 for a 6th place finish. That along with a 22-10 record overall got Duke into the tournament.
What is worse is that ESPN and Jay Bilas spent time arguing that 6 at large bids split between 25 conferences is too many. Jay Bilas actually tried to make an argument that Syracuse deserved to be in rather than Xavier. Mr. Bilas examined the stats and revealed that Xavier was 3-2 against teams ranked in the top 50 RPI while Syracuse was 3-7. In Jay Bilas twisted version of reality Syracuse had the same number of wins, and thus should have gotten the bid. So we are to believe that a 30% winning percentage with most of those games played at home is as good as a 60% winning percentage with most of the games on the road. No one in their right mind actually thinks that way. Jay Bilas is out to make sure that no team outside of the 6 power conferences plays in March. In fact, I bet Jay Bilas would be happy if the rest of the conferences just went away.
The solution to this problem is really simple. It just takes a dash of common sense. First, no conference deserves more than four teams. Period. If you are not at or near the top of your conference then you are not an elite team that deserves a shot to play for the national championship. I do not care how good Syracuse is supposed to be when you finish 12th out of 16 in your own league, you do not deserve to make the tournament. This still gives the power conferences 24 teams total. The other 25 leagues will get the remaining 40 bids.
Second, if you must have 65 teams rather than 64 make the play-in game among the power conference teams, not the small conferences. It is always a shame to watch two league champions face off in a play-in game, effectively canceling out one of the automatic bids for the small conferences. Rather make this game a play-in game for the power conferences. For example make Arkansas face off against Illinois. The winner gets an 8 seed, and the loser goes home.
Third, if you must, give the power conferences the high seeds and the small conferences the low seeds. That way the bigger-badder conferences are still rewarded for their ‘tough conference’ and you still have the principle of the best teams meeting late in the tournament.
The benefits of this are enormous and the drawbacks are non-existent. It restores competitive balance throughout college basketball. It makes the regular season more important and conferences tournaments for the big conferences relevant again. Right now a team like UCLA can lose in the first round and still get a number 2 seed. It gives them extra rest before the big tournament, and it might even get their conference another team in the Madness by removing themselves from the tournament.
I hope one day these changes will be made or at least advocated on a supposed Sports News Channel, but don’t hold your breath. There is a better chance of Fox News endorsing Hillary Clinton than ESPN actually using its brain.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
It is a strange oddity that the meaning of Philemon is so contested. The main question appears to be, does Paul ask Philemon to liberate his returned-run-away slave, Onesimus. The main answer, historically, seems to have been no Paul does not ask for emancipation. However, I am convinced that he does indeed ask Philemon to release Onesimus, and what is more, I find the evidence fairly overwhelming. I freely admit that I do not own a large quantity of commentaries on Philemon, but John Calvin, Markus Barth, R.L. Dabney, William Henderson, and William Barclay all favor the idea that Philemon is just to forgive Onesimus for running away or give him some kind of cushy-slave job.
Some commentators do appear to favor the idea that Onesiums was to be freed, and slavery as a whole condemned. J.B. Lightfoot seems to hold this view and more recently the always controversial John Robbins. Despite Robbins’s reputation, I believe he is right.
Commentators like Markus Barth get bogged down in minute details, and miss the flow of the argument over all, including the high occurrence of slave related terms.
It seems to me Paul starts out calling Philemon a ‘fellow-laborer’ to bring to mind the idea of a slave immediately. More than that, he applies to both himself, Timothy and Philemon, while in verse two only calling Archippus a ‘fellow-soldier’. Paul goes on to speak of Philemon’s ‘love and faith’, which is an unusual word order placing emphasis on love. It is Philemon’s love toward Jesus and all the saints that is about to be put to the test in how he treats Onesimus, who is a fellow saint. Paul is building up to his point about correct treatment of Onesiums.
In verse 8 Paul says he could command him as an apostle, but would rather appeal to the love toward the saints, and especially toward Jesus, which had just been commended. Of course Paul tops that off with another slave reference. He mentions that he is in bonds for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. He repeats the bonds in verse 10, the first mention of Onesimus. Paul continues to ramp up the argument by saying Onesiums should be received as Paul would be received because Paul would have liked to keep him to minister to him while he is in the bonds of the gospel, another reference to slavery applied to Paul.
Verse 14, the beginning of the height of the argument, Paul explains why he did not command Philemon because this good deed should be done not out of necessity, but voluntarily. Commentators like Barth spend many pages discussing the difference between coercion and free-will decisions, but seem to neglect the fact that this is another slave-reference. Paul does not want Philemon to be coerced like a slave, but make a decision like a free man does. This leads to the famous verse 16 where Paul exhorts Philemon to make Onesimus ‘more than a slave, a brother beloved’. Remember the love of the saints is what Philemon is known for the most. But he is also to make him more than a slave because Onesimus is a beloved brother ‘both in the flesh and in the Lord’. It seems probable to me that ‘the flesh’ here simply means he is a man, a human. Thus, Paul, Philemon, and Onesimus are all brothers because they are all believers in Christ (in the Lord), and because they are all human (in the flesh). Paul is saying Onesimus must be more than a slave because he is a man just like Philemon and Paul.
In the end, I do think Paul is asking for Philemon to release Onesimus from slavery. Too many commentators make a big deal that he never says ‘Emancipate Onesimus’ that they torture the words to make Onesimus being ‘more than a slave’ mean still a slave. I think it is time that we let go of odd bias and see Paul’s argument for what it is, an argument for emancipation.
A few interesting extrabiblical notes, archaeologists have found an inscription on a tomb in Laodicea. The tomb was inscribed by a former slave to the master who freed him. The dead master’s name is Marcus Sestius Philemon. Also we see an Onesimus in the letter of Ignatius to Ephesus. That Onesimus is a man of inexpressable love who is also the bishop of Ephesus. Could that be our Onesimus? It would have made sense that a free Onesimus would have served the church, as he had already served Paul.
Monday, March 05, 2007
I am off to The Northern Plains Classis meeting. So, I will not be posting until at least Wednesday. I still have a reply to Xon on to finish writing, so do not lose heart if you are waiting on that reply.
Also before I continue discussing the Federal Vision, I will post some thoughts about Philemon commentaries, which I hope will make Green Baggins respond.
Until I get back, feel free to examine the greatness of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the bright future for the Pirates. I will probably also have to rant about March Madness, as I have the fever already.