David Price and Schizophrenic apologies

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On Saturday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Rays took on the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division play-offs. So far they have completely under-performed against a well rested-but certainly not rusted-baseball team in the Sox. And of course the Sox deserve all the credit in the world.

After the game, Rays pitcher David Price took to twitter to express his frustrations after the game. I happen to follow Price on twitter, but didn’t see all that he had posted.

Part of his “beef” was with “Big Papi” David Ortiz, as he admired the 2nd of his two home runs as it curved over and around the pesky Pensky pole. I found it a bit busch-league of Ortiz to simply stand and watch. It’s the kind of thing that the Red Sox pitchers would hit a batter for doing (if it weren’t the play-offs).

But the Rays don’t play baseball like that, preferring instead to take the high road and get “pay-back” by winning. The problem with this sense of delayed justice, if you don’t buy in, is that you find some way to find some semblance of satisfying your sense of justice: using words to inflict harm.

Big stars words can hurt others, even other big stars.

Whatever Price had to say, and how he framed his criticism of Ortiz’s home run ball admiration, he and Ortiz have since talked. Whether they actually “face-talked,” (you know, where two people actually converse using words and look at each other) or tweeted or texted, the two have since “cleared the air.” No word on whether Ortiz thought what he did was actually busch-league.

In addition, Price also blasted the Dirk Hayhurst, aka the Garfoose and Keith Oberman. He tweeted, “SAVE IT NERDS.”

As usual with such statements comes the concomitant twitter apology which Oberman declared a “non-apology apology.” Something like Ryan Braun’s steroid apology, which ranks up there with the top 10 of non-apology apologies.

“if I offended you I am very sorry for doing so..#thatsnotme”

I don’t claim to be a twitter apologizer, nor a twitter apologist. But let me offer a critique of this twitter non-apology apology that might be helpful should you rant and need to recant. Or simply if you should need to apologize, since you probably will some time today or tomorrow. Likewise with myself.

If you end an apology with “that wasn’t me,” then who are you exactly¬† apologizing for, an alter-ego? David Price isn’t schizophrenic, but his apology sure seems so. It wasn’t him. It was him after a frustrating loss.

But that really is him. And that would be me too. It really is us, the us who are calm all day until something happens when we lose our temper. That is us. It’s not the situation, it is us. It is in us all the time (James 4:1-6).

And again, I’m really not blasting Price. I like the guy. We’ve all apologized like that. That wasn’t me, that was “tired me,” “stressed me,” “frustrated me,” “medicated me,” “drunk me.” You get the point.

In Romans, Paul describes his struggle with sin as doing exactly what he doesn’t want to do (Romans 7). It’s his battle against his own sinful flesh. When he wants to do good he can’t. At least not all the time. But he probably wouldn’t have tweeted

#thatsnotmethatwasPaulsfleshtalking.

The first part of repentance is to recognize that it was you. As George from Seinfeld’s famous break up line reminds us, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

When we apologize, let it be an apology, not a schizophrenic apology where we are actually apologizing for someone else not named us.

If you believe the gospel, you can admit that yes, you are that bad. But Jesus forgave you that much, and even more so.

In the odd chance that you, David Price are reading this, I want you to know that I’m still a big fan of yours. And I’ve made a zillion apologies like this. I want to stop, so hopefully, you’ll have played a part.

Go Rays.

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A-Roid, Vigilante Justice, and the need for a Judge

The other day Alex Rodriguez aka A-Rod or A-Roid, faced Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster. After several clear inside pitches designed to hit A-Roid, one finally hit the mark. Immediately benches were warned, but Dempster stayed in the game. Afterwards, Red Sox manager belied ignorance of any seeming intent on behalf of his less than star pitcher. 

As an avid Rays fan, I’m partial to both the Sox and the Yankees, always hoping against hope that both can lose. But since baseball is not soccer, that’s just not really an option. Regardless of the fact that hit batter fueled a Yankees rally which proved the difference in their victory, the real discussion afterwards lay in the ethics of such a pitch, not in pragmatics (how un-American of us to push the pragmatic to the side).

Who was right? 

A-Roid is facing more than a 200 game suspension for his alleged involvement in steroids, which he admitted to using before. MLB has somewhat of smoking gun, so after his appeal is heard, A-Roid will be A-Bored for a season and a half. On top of that, A-Rod might be the most unlike-able baseball player on one of the more polarizing teams. Despite his individual and team success, he plays himself up to be the victim. Some of these players have been lying their whole lives, that they actually believe the lies they tell. Perhaps that, or an extreme narcissism, or both is at the root to why A-Roid won’t simply admit he did wrong? 

So pitchers have every “reason” to hate A-Rod. The rest of the 10+ players suspended by MLB have taken their suspensions, but not A-Rod. That’s why Dempster beaned him, even though it took him 4 pitches to do so. 

So who is right? 

Should pitchers be able to hit the “cheater” (allegedly)? Or is A-Rod right, for according to the letter of the law, he has the right to appeal-which will allow him to play the rest of the season? In that case, he shouldn’t be “targeted” (again, allegedly because no one admits to hitting someone) by pitchers.

Who’s side should one take?

It’s probably important to look at something more than the arm that through the baseball. What’s really being said by that pitch? You cheat, we don’t, and we will punish you the best way we can for cheating. It’s the position of the legalist. The one who says I follow the law, you don’t, so I will punish you the best way I can. Perhaps shunning, running or gunning. Many folks fall into this category even though they would never admit to this. You judge, we don’t judge, so we will judge you for judging. We will do something about it, and not leave it to the legal process.  

You don’t have to be a Westboro Baptist member to fall into this line of work. You don’t have to vote Republican. Behind the pitch, there is an unrealized self-righteousness which produces anger. Whether it comes out in a subtle form as with labels, racism, or blatant insults and violence, the heart behind it is the same. Self-righteousness always pops its ugly head.

Is it possible to take another route? Is it possible to believe that A-Rod shouldn’t be allowed to play yet not personally take matters into your own hands? Can you disagree with someone’s behavior, believe it a sin, and yet not judge them? Can you not make someone pay by shunning, gunning, or running, but instead leave it to another Judge?

That is the position the Rays will take when A-Roid and his company play the Tampa Bay Rays in a week.

“You know what, vigilante justice and unilateral decisions, I’m not into that stuff,” Maddon said. “There’s rules in place. There’s a board  assigned to make those kind of decisions. I believe in players’ controlling the game itself in regards to what’s happening in that game, and we always talk about policing that. But  that is totally separate from the unwritten rules of baseball. So I do not agree with that at all. And, again, I don’t believe in rogue unilateral decisions or players meting out discipline, whereas this is something entirely different.”

Asked if the Rays pitchers would act similarly, Maddon said: “There’s no reason to. There’s absolutely zero reason to do that for me. That’s what I believe. I believe let the mechanism in place work and everybody do their jobs. … Don’t attempt to be judge and jury and just let everybody do their jobs.”

MLB, led by Bud Selig is probably not much more than a joke. The man who promoted the Roided out long-ball era now wants to be known by cleaning it up? Yet there is another judge to whom we can leave things. 

Without a Judge, on whom you can never pull a fast one, we are forced to take matters into our own hands. Without such a Judge, we only have the options of retaliating or overlooking. We only have the options of becoming an angry self-righteous legalist or driven by indifference at what we know to be wrong. A legalist or one with license to do whatever fulfills us at the moment. 

The irony behind removing God’s wrath or judgment from our picture of Him is that we become more wrathful and judgmental. Or we become a completely self absorbed relativist caring about self before family and community. Neither seem all that good to me.  


Method to his Maddonness

My previous post considered the danger of having a “sales-report” type mentality when it comes to your relationship with God. Now I want to consider another fairly unique management style.

If know anything about the Tampa Bay Rays, you’ll know that they have to be one of the loosest teams in baseball. When they travel, they have themes: they all dress in some sort of themed attire. All of this flows from laid back manager Joe Maddon. After one of their losses against a struggling Toronto Blue Jays team, when the Rays almost came from behind to win, Maddon irritated a local sports talk by posing the question, “Aren’t you just so proud of our guys today?” They lost. “Aren’t you proud?” Really?

Yes, that is Joe Maddon, often known for his calm demeanor as “Merlow Joe.”

Joe’s relaxed ways haven’t been without results. In fact, after mired in myriad losing seasons, Joe’s Rays teams have been to the world series once and playoffs two other times, just missing out last year by a game or two. 

But of course, it is the players who ultimately have to perform. And when they get to Tampa Bay (or rather St. Pete to be precise), perform they do. In fact, player after player comes to Tampa after previously under-preforming with other teams-which is actually why the Rays can afford them. And then something clicks.

Previous let-downs become All Stars. Fernando Rodney, who bounced around with several teams, had the best season ever for a closer last year. This has happened with relief pitchers on a yearly basis, but the same rings true for position players like James Loney. This 1st baseman should have been an all star and is now batting .318 after only posting a .230 mark last year. This happens over and over. It is not coincidence.

There is something to Maddon’s madness.

He told Loney, “Don’t worry about hitting home runs.” In other words, relax and just hit it where you hit it. Just be yourself out there. So Loney hits it wherever the pitch dictates.

This year Fernando Rodney started off very poorly. He gave up runs. He blew saves. He blew opportunities when he was up by several several runs, several different times. I was done with him. Maddon wasn’t, and much to many fan’s frustration.

Luke Scott, who under-performed last year as well, was again under-performing this year. I was done with him. Maddon wasn’t, much to the dismay of many media. 

Now the two are playing fantastic and making a huge difference. They actually are performing. 

But they had the freedom to fail. They had the freedom to not be obsessed with how they were performing. They weren’t afraid to get benched, sent down to the minors, or released. And it has made a huge difference. It does every year. 

Maddon shows patience with struggling players, and it shows. They blow it sometimes. But they don’t fear losing their position on the team.

It drives me nuts sometimes as a fan, but Maddon gets more out of these players than anyone else does. In fact, when they go elsewhere to make more money, they usually once again, under-perform.

Now I’m not going to argue that God is laid back and loose with sin. He is Holy, Holy, Holy. But because He has paid the punishment of sin HIMSELF,  we can now approach him and no longer fear about “under-performing” for Him. When that fear is taken away, what happens? We do end up “performing.” We do end up changing, loving, pursuing holiness. What happens when God is patient with us? We love him more and don’t use our freedom for selfish gain but instead to serve others (Gal 5:13). His kindness moves us to repentance (Romans 2:4). If it doesn’t, then you probably don’t understand His kindness.

Don’t think these Rays players don’t want to perform. But Joe knows in order for that to happen, they have to know that even if they don’t, they’re not going anywhere. 

I think such is the case with our sanctification. As Steve Brown put it once, “The only ones who really get any ‘better’ are the ones who know if they never do, God will love them just as much.”

Zorilla, Suffering, and the Sober mind-ammended



The bible study presently known as the West Bradenton Project core group (we’ll get a better name before the summer is out), is going through the book of I Peter. I’ve really enjoyed going through the book personally in my devotional time as well as in community. 

God speaks through his apostle Peter reminding us about the need to be “sober minded.” I love it. This is the same guy who chopped off a servant’s ear (the dude wasn’t even the ones with hands on Jesus) when Jesus was absconded from the garden (John 18:10). We don’t have any proof that Peter was for sure a zealot (the party of Jews that believed the Kingdom of God would come by military force), but he was probably influenced by them. Many were.

And even before this happened, he told Jesus that he was wrong (not a good idea) when Jesus said that Peter would betray him thrice. 

I don’t associate those things with sober-mindedness. And Peter himself wouldn’t have as well. 

But I think that’s what makes the call to sober-mindedness that much more powerful. It comes from a dude who his not naturally sober-minded. In other words, we’re not talking about someone who is naturally laid back, from California, telling people to “chill” in the face of suffering. This doesn’t come naturally to Peter. It doesn’t come naturally to me either. It only comes supernaturally. 

Cue the gospel. Some of us are more laid back than others. I’m not. But in the end, none of us can’t rest in our personalities when it comes to being sober minded in all situations. We have to rest in what Jesus has done for us, instead of simply his example before us, if we want to see our lives slowly conformed to that example.

We discussed sober-mindedness in the face of suffering, and how that becomes even harder. But it becomes even more important when starting a new church. We have to be willing to suffer, and not knee-jerk react, demanding our rights, demanding our voice be the first to be heard. Later in the book of Peter, he reminds us that this kind of attitude will eventually lead to many gospel opportunities. I think if you look at the first few centuries of the church growth you’ll see he’s right. 

Finally, we considered what it might look like to be sober-minded. The best example which came to my mind was Ben Zobrist, aka “Zorilla,” the Tampa Bay Rays (2nd baseman/outfielder). He was unjustly hit in the hands by a fastball, which was clearly an intentional payback from the night before when the Rays reliever brushed back the present day “Barry Bonds” of baseball Miguel Cabrera. 

Ben was hit intentionally, and nothing happened. Nothing. A simple warning to both sides? Ben smiled at the pitcher, and walked to the base. He didn’t charge the mound or, say things he would regret. He told the umpire that he should do something about it and let things fall out as they would. Instead of becoming a judge himself, Zobrist “entrusted himself to him who judges justly (I Peter 2:23).” 

As of yesterday afternoon-after I originally wrote this-M.L.B. has officially suspended the pitcher who thew the ball at Zobrist for 6 games. Some semblance of justice I guess…

Regardless, of what justice happens in this life, we see an example of what a sober-mind looks like.Not a knee-jerk reaction or retaliation, but a calm explanation and willingness to press on independent of fairness or lack thereof. He, and the Rays, just kept playing ball.

If a local church is going to make an impact in its community, it has to be sober-minded and willing to suffer. It has to take one “in on the hands,” get up, and walk to first base. It can’t only be concerned about what is fair (to itself).

I’m not a fan of what’s happening at a government level. But when Peter wrote this, people had far fewer rights than we do now, and the church flourished. 

Take heart. I do think the church as a whole and individual Christians have some great opportunities ahead of us for evangelism if we would embrace a sober-mind in the face of suffering. Remember Peter, remember Ben, but thank Jesus who is the ultimate sober-minded one on our behalf.

Arizona Diamondbacks and a gospel-centered draft pick

All drafts, whether military or athletic, are about “what you bring to the team.” Now a military draft, as far as I understand, is somewhat arbitrary-but you are still expecting to find quality soldiers to help your cause. Of course the same thing occurs with the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB drafts. You pick a player not because of what you can do for them but because of what they can do for you. That’s fairly obvious. 

Of course the other day, the Arizona Diamondbacks decided to draft someone would you never bring the tangibles of good hitting, pitching, or fielding to their ball club. He’s paralyzed. Check out the story here.


Now this was the 34th round. This was not a high pick. How many 34th rounders really make a huge impact in the majors? I’m sure some do, but I’m not about to research it. Yet still, to see a team pick someone not because of what the player could do for them, but because of what they could do for the player is pretty unique. 

There was a cost, albeit arguably a marginal price. You may remember the Bucs signed free agent Eric Legrand, a paralyzed player out of Rutgers, but they didn’t have to spend a coveted draft pick on him. 

While this was a unique display of love from the Arizona Diamondbacks, it is not one completely without precedent. All good stories, or at least ones which really connect with people, have some sort of connection to the overall story of the gospel. You might be able to say the same applies to such memorable draft picks.

God “drafts” not according to ability but because of our disability. The reason this story is so touching is because it simply borrows from the story of the gospel: God saving people not because they have something to offer Him but giving Himself to those who have nothing offer. What is love, you, or Haddaway might ask? That is. 
One could make the case that Arizona went in a “gospel-centered direction with their 34th round pick.”

Greenberg and Acting like Marlins

Every now and then you just come across a cool story in sports. In 2005, Adam Greenberg stepped up to the plate for the first time, and took the first pitch. Right to the back of the head. The first pitch was his last pitch, as he never earned his way back to the big leagues. Until last night. Check out the story here. Seriously, do yourself a favor and check this one out.

It would have been magical for him to have hit a home run off 20 game winner R.A. Dickey. But instead he struck out on three straight 80 mph knuckleballs. Like most of the Tampa Bay Rays he faced this summer.

But the ovation from the fans left him feeling as part of the ball club. So did the Marlins, from manager to the stars, from top to bottom. Several Marlins players invited him to come watch football during the week. He was part of the club. At least for a day.

The Jim Rome interview today shed a little more light on the story. Some big-wig and his wife were watching Field of Dreams (first time for the wife). “Moonlight Graham has nothing on Adam Greenberg,” said the husband. And thus the dream to get Adam Greenberg back up for one more plate appearance was born. Last night was the fruition of lots of hard work. 

But it was hard work on someone else’s part. Greenberg admitted that he didn’t do anything to promote or get back onto the field. All he did was say, “Yes, I’d love to get at least one more at bat.” He received it. 

The warm reception surprises me a bit. In a good way. A bunch of people who worked hard to get there, received this newbie like he was one of their own. They showed him grace and welcomed him as part of their community. 

When it comes to the church community, we don’t have to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes so much. We don’t have to pretend. The church comprises a bunch of “Greenbergs,” who have benefited from someone else working hard behind the scenes on its behalf. As long as we remember we’re really a bunch of Greenberg’s, we’ll act like Marlins.

While I would have loved a home-run for Greenberg, he is thankful for the gracious opportunity to strike out. An obviously Jewish name (he also played for Israel’s national team), maybe this won’t be his last taste of grace? Maybe the veil will be lifted some day (II Cor 3:14-16)?

That nuerotic parent just might be you

Just like every August for the last, well 20 years or so, the Little League World Series, has come and gone. With it another crop of kids thankful to play at such a high level, and others wishing they had just played one more game. Aside from the missed family vacations, the LLWS probably does more good than bad.

But one group which stuck out in my 15 minutes (total) of watching the LLWS was the parents. Numbers of parents had photograph face cut-outs on popsicle sticks of their kids. No doubt their kids names and numbers were on their mini vans as well. Neither activity is necessarily bad, but possibly more often than not, inform the world what these parents live for: their children’s sports success.

Parents can be really neurotic about their children’s success, and sometimes its very easy to diagnose that neurosis it others. And consequently it’s very easy to be disgusted when you see it. My wife couldn’t stomach the LLWS after seeing those popsicle sticks. I get disgusted when parents when parents will stop at nothing to make their kid front and center. 

But today I reflected upon my similarity to that neurosis I hate so much in others but often fail to see in myself. I had told someone recently that Connar was the best kid on his Tee ball team at the first practice. But on Tuesday he was hitting the tee, and actually throwing the ball “like a baby” (that’s the most apropos comparison I could muster). On one occasion, instead of throwing to first base, he simply rolled it! Another kid, a 5 year old, hit better, threw farther and fielded better.  Connar wasn’t the best anymore and I couldn’t take it.

So what did I do? I went out and bought a soft Teeball the next day. When Connar hit the stitches off the ball, I went out and bought a bag of balls. At what point do I want him to be the best, and “try his best to honor God,” for my sake, and for my glory. I was no different than those parents that made me sick: I need him to be front and center. I had already become (actually a while ago) the parent I had so quickly critiqued.

Here are some things I learned and may prove helpful

1.) Remember what is good about our kids performances. It is good to practice. After all we develop our spiritual gifts by practicing as well. Performances, whether in school, sports, plays, teach discipline and give us opportunities to do all things for the glory of God (I Cor 10:31). Praying, reading the bible, and telling people about Jesus are not the only “spiritual” things we do.

2.) Repent regularly. I think as parents we cross back and forth over the lines of my glory/kids glory/God’s glory all the time. Therefore we need to reflect, repent, and rest in Christ often. Very often.

3.) Listen to ourselves talk. One way to examine our motives is not to look at other people’s mini-vans, but to listen to our own words. Do we talk an inordinate amount of time about our kids interests or about Jesus? We talk about what we cherish (channeling my inner John Piper now). And we teach our kids by talking about what we cherish. 

4.) What REALLY is my primary goal?  Is it a scholarship for my kid? That would be great, but I’m not planning on that happening. As long as my son wants to practice hitting and fielding every day in our front yard, I’ll keep pitching fastballs to him. Yet my primary goal is for him to walk with Jesus and connect to a church when he leaves the house. If that really is my goal, it will be reflected in my conversation, prayers, time spent, and even my dreams. I don’t think it hurts to regularly remember and recast that vision to yourself and your spouse time and time again.

When these things are in place, I can get back to coaching, practicing, and simply enjoying and delighting in my child as the great gift from God he is. Regardless of his performance. That’s how God looks at His children, so I figure that’s probably a good model.

I can have a cut-out (though I doubt I ever will), I can put his name, number, and sport on my minivan (though I know I never will), when I remember who God is and who my child is not.