The Los Angeles Chargers’ EPIC playoff collapse 😳

My favorite football team, the Los Angeles Chargers, traveled to Florida to play the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL-AFC wildcard game on Saturday night. Even though the 9-8 Jags were playing at home, the 10-7 Chargers were 1.5 point favorites and were the better team on paper. The vast majority of sports pundits had picked the Chargers to win and I was pretty confident. Speculation turned to absolute certainty with 4-minutes left to play in the second quarter as QB Justin Herbert and the Bolts totally dominated QB Trevor Lawrence and the Jags at that point and led by a seemingly insurmountable score of 27-0. However, the Jags then proceeded to outscore the Bolts the rest of the game, 31 points to 3, to clinch an unbelievable come-from-behind, 31-30 win. The Jags’ victory was subsequently reported to be the third-biggest comeback in the NFL’s 90-year playoff history.

Chargers fans across the country were stunned! The Bolts’ second-year head coach, Brandon Staley, was already on the hot seat going into the game because the team’s underachieving results over his two seasons didn’t correlate with the amount of talent on the roster. After the epic and almost unprecedented playoff collapse, Chargers fans are demanding team ownership immediately fire Staley.

Sports fans are passionate about their favorite team/teams. In some extreme cases, the sports team becomes the most important thing in life, a fan’s “religion.” The reality is professional sports are for-profit entertainment featuring grown men and women playing kids’ games. In the eternal big-picture, sports won’t matter one iota. Sure, have fun. Enjoy your interests, pastimes, and hobbies. God didn’t intend us to be monk-ish ascètes. But keep perspective. It’s all about Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom. More on the topic of secular interests in an upcoming post.

Millions watched in stunned horror after football player collapsed

I usually have my posts queued up a couple of weeks in advance, but I’m publishing this impromptu second post today as an ad hoc response to the unusual circumstances connected to last night’s Monday Night Football game.

I am a bit of a sports fan and do follow my favorite teams in several sports. Last night, I was casually watching the first quarter of the Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals National Football League game with the intention of going to bed at half-time. The Bengals were ahead 7 to 3 and driving downfield when Bills’ safety, 24YO Damar Hamlin, was involved in a tackle. He subsequently stood up and then collapsed on the ground. I initially thought it was a concussion, but the stand-by ambulance was summoned and the Bills, Bengals, and the 65,000 fans at Paycor Stadium watched in horror as EMTs began CPR on Hamlin, who had gone into cardiac arrest. My wife was shaken and asked that we pray for the young man. The ambulance subsequently transported Hamlin to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, but his status wasn’t announced. Both teams opted not to continue the game after the incident. This morning, I checked the news and Hamlin’s condition is categorized as critical.

I’ve been watching football for 53 years and I’ve never seen a situation where a player was injured and on the brink of death and the game was suspended. This puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? When a person is teetering between life and death, a sports game is trivial in comparison. We all face death. It’s inevitable. The Bible says death is the consequence of man’s sinfulness. Not only is there physical death, but there is also eternal separation from God in hell. But “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16. Jesus Christ, God the Son, came into this world to die for our sins on the cross of Calvary. But Jesus didn’t remain dead. He rose from the grave, defeating both sin and death, and offers the free gift of eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who accept Him as Savior by faith alone. Won’t you trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior today?

Last night, death stared Damar Hamlin and millions of viewers in the face. I pray Damar recovers. Has he accepted Jesus Christ? Have you trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone? Death is coming. It’s only a matter of when. Accept Christ.

https://www.gotquestions.org/sinners-prayer.html

San Diego Padres beat Dodgers, advance to NLCS against Phillies

After improbably beating the N.Y. Mets in one of the NL Wild Card Series, the San Diego Padres had to play the NL West champs, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in a best-of-five NLDS Series. Many considered the 111-51 Dodgers to be the best team in MLB. The Blue Bums had mastered their NL West rival Padres this season, winning all six series and 14 of 19 games. Not one single media pundit predicted San Diego would win the series, but the impossible happened. The Padres beat the Dodgers three games to one. Let’s briefly break it down:

  • Game 1 – Tuesday, October 11 @ Los Angeles – Dodgers 5, Padres 3 – Pitcher Mike Clevinger had a dismal outing, giving up all five of the Dodgers runs in 2.2 innings. Wil Myers’ HR led the Padres’ 3-run fifth inning rally, but it wasn’t enough. Dodgers fans were like, “Told you so.”
  • Game 2 – Wednesday, October 12 @ Los Angeles – Padres 5, Dodgers 3 – Pitcher Yu Darvish didn’t bring his best stuff, but kept it close. Manny Machado turned the series tide with a first-inning home run off of Clayton Kershaw. Dodgers fans were like, “Uh-oh.”
  • Game 3 – Friday, October 14 @ San Diego – Padres 2, Dodgers 1 – After a poor start against the Mets, pitcher Blake Snell brought his A game and shut down the Blue Bums’ bats. Trent Grisham’s fourth-inning solo homer was the difference.
  • Game 4 – Saturday, October 15 @ San Diego – Padres 5, Dodgers 3 – With the Dodgers confidently ahead 3-0, the Padres exploded for 5 runs in the seventh inning.

There’s many accolades to go around, but special mentions go to the clutch hitting of Manny Machado 3B (.296), Jurickson Profar LF (.280), Trent Grisham CF (.381), and Austin Nola C (.381). Except for Clevinger’s poor start in Game 1, Padres’ starting pitching and relief were excellent. Padres fans fueled the frenzy in games three and four at Petco Park.

Above: Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres celebrate after defeating the Dodgers in Game 4 of the National League Division Series at Petco Park in San Diego.

What’s next? The Padres take on the Philadelphia Phillies in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series beginning tomorrow night, 8PM ET. Full schedule below. The last time the Padres were in the NLCS was 1998.

  • Game 1 – Tuesday, Oct. 18, Phillies @ Padres, PETCO Park, San Diego, CA
  • Game 2 – Wednesday, Oct. 19, Phillies @ Padres, PETCO Park, San Diego, CA
  • Game 3 – Friday, Oct. 21, Padres @ Phillies, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA
  • Game 4 – Saturday, Oct. 22, Padres @ Phillies, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA
  • Game 5 – Sunday, Oct. 23, Padres @ Phillies, Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA
  • Game 6 – Monday, Oct. 24, Phillies @ Padres, PETCO Park, San Diego, CA
  • Game 7 – Tuesday, Oct. 25, Phillies @ Padres, PETCO Park, San Diego, CA

Padres vs. Dodgers begins tonight!

Last week, the 89-73 San Diego Padres traveled the 2761 miles to Citi Field in Queens, New York City to play the 101-61 New York Mets in a three-game weekend NL Wild Card Series. To say the Padres were underdogs would have been a ridiculous understatement. No one gave them a chance.

But the Padres improbably beat the Mets Friday and Sunday evenings to clinch the series and will meet the NL Western Division Champs, the Los Angeles Dodgers, in a best-of-five NLDS playoff beginning tonight at Dodgers Stadium (see schedule below).

Watching the Padres-Mets series during the course of my work-weekend was a bit of a challenge, but I did manage to watch big portions of the games as well as some video highlight reels afterwards. A few takeaways:

  • Friday – Padres 7, Mets 1 – Padres pitcher, Yu Darvish, had a good game while Padres hitters unexpectedly roughed up the Mets’ 3X Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer. Josh Bell, Trent Grisham, and Jurickson Profar had big home runs. Mets fans said, “Uh-oh.”
  • Saturday – Mets 7, Padres 3 – After a good post-ASB stretch, Padres pitcher, Blake Snell, looked like a deer in the headlights in this outing. He couldn’t throw a strike to save his life. Grisham had another homer, but the Pads were largely handcuffed by 2X Cy Young winner, Jacob deGrom, and closer, Edwin Diaz.
  • Sunday – Padres 6, Mets 0 – Padres pitcher, Joe Musgrove, was d-o-m-i-n-a-n-t, allowing only one Mets hit in seven innings. In 54 years of following San Diego, I’ve never seen a better performance by a Padres pitcher. Grisham had a catch against the outfield wall in the sixth inning that took any remaining wind out of the Mets’ sails. After previously bad-mouthing Grisham in my Padres-Mets preview, he made me eat crow by earning series MVP.

What to expect in this upcoming NLDS? If the Pads were underdogs against the Mets, they’re HUGE underdogs against the 111-51 Dodgers. The Blue Bums mastered their NL West rival Padres this season, winning all six series and 14 of 19 games. Manny Machado and the guys need to bring their A+ game. Starting pitcher, Mike Clevinger, takes the ball for the Padres tonight.

Yup, Christian bloggers, the Holy Spirit uses even baseball: 31YO Wil Myers (1B, 3B, OF) is the longest tenured Padre, joining the club in 2015. He is outspoken in his Gospel Christian faith and uses his platform to point others to Jesus Christ (see here). Wil becomes a free agent this winter and the current scuttlebut is the Padres likely won’t offer him a new contract.

GameDateLocationTime (ET)TV
1Tue, Oct 11Dodger Stadium9:37 p.m.FS1
2Wed, Oct 12Dodger Stadium8:37 p.m.FS1
3Fri, Oct 14Petco ParkTBDFS1
4*Sat, Oct 15Petco ParkTBDFS1
5*Sun, Oct 16Dodger StadiumTBDFS1
* If needed

San Diego Padres @ N.Y. Mets!

Hooray! The San Diego Padres enter the MLB postseason as a wild card and will be the (dis)honored guests of the New York Mets in a three-game series this weekend at Citi Field in Queens. See dates and times below.

The Padres were 52-42 at the All Star Break and I was only mildly optimistic that they could clinch a wild card. NL MVP candidate, Manny Machado 3B, was carrying the team on his back. However, on August 2nd, the Padres traded for highly-regarded young slugger, Juan Soto RF, and solid first-baseman, Josh Bell. Wow! With the return of phenom SS Fernando Tatis Jr. from the IL looming, the Padres definitely looked to be in the driver’s seat for a wild card slot. However, trouble was ahead.

On August 12, MLB announced Tatis was suspended 80 games after testing positive for a PED. Both Soto and Bell underachieved and were disappointments. Make that MAJOR disappointments. Soto had a .236 BA while Bell compiled a measly .192 BA. Give us back Eric Hosmer. Machado continued to carry the team with some decent help from Wil Meyers 1B, Ha-Seong Kim SS, and Jurickson Profar LF. Jake Cronenworth 2B also had some moments, but Trent Grisham CF was a liability at the plate batting only .184. GM A.J. Preller should be shopping for a new CF in the offseason.

Manager Bob Melvin and the Padres limped into the #5 wild card slot, winning just 8 of their last 15 games for a final record of 89-73. Winning a three game series against the 101-61 Mets at their house will be extremely tough. Starting pitchers Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove will give the Padres a fighting chance, but will the team’s hitters rise to the occasion? The Mets were #2 in hitting in the NL post-ASB, while the Padres were in the middle-of-the-pack at #9. The winner of this series faces the nearly-unbeatable 111-51 Dodgers. Enough said.

This is only the seventh time in the Padres’ 54-year history that the club has gone to the playoffs (not to mention only their 16th winning season), so let’s just enjoy the moment and allow the chips…er…make that the balls…to fall where they may. Batter up!

Padres vs. Mets Wild Card Schedule – EST

  • Game 1: Padres at Mets, 8:07 p.m. Friday, ESPN
  • Game 2: Padres at Mets, 7:37 p.m. Saturday, ESPN
  • Game 3 (if necessary): Padres at Mets, 7:37 p.m. Sunday, ESPN

Postscript: My other sports teams are busy. The Los Angeles Chargers are off to a 2-2 start. It’s early, but it looks like they’re still not ready to compete with the Chiefs. The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Tigers (men’s hockey) began their season with a loss at Union College last Saturday. The N.Y. Knicks open their season October 19th @Memphis. Nobody’s predicting much from this group of youngsters, but new point guard, Jalen Brunson, will make things more interesting.

Fernando Tatis Jr. and ignominy?

I don’t normally post photos of myself (see above), but I thought some might enjoy reading about my current dilemma. But first, a little background.

San Diego Padres shortstop, Fernando Tatis Jr., has been in the sports news quite a bit lately. The Padres picked up 17YO Fernando Tatis Jr. in a trade with the Chicago White Sox back in 2016. After three years of rapid development in the Padres’ minor leagues farm system, Fernando was promoted to the big league roster in March 2019 at the tender age of 20. El Niño was so impressive in his first two seasons and widely acknowledged as a “generational talent” that the Padres gave him a 14-year, $340 million contract extension prior to the 2021 campaign.

Above: Fernando “El Niño” Tatis Jr.

Giving a young man a lot of recognition and money is usually a recipe for disaster. Tatis was involved in multiple motorcycle accidents in the 2021-2022 offseason. He reported to Spring Training with an untreated fracture of the scaphoid bone in his left wrist. That was really dumb. Surgery was performed on Tatis’ wrist on March 16 and after nearly five months of rehab, he was close to rejoining the team. However, on August 12, MLB announced that Tatis was suspended for 80 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing anabolic steroid. Tatis accepted the suspension, but alleged, “I inadvertently took a medication to treat ringworm (supposedly contracted from a haircut) that contained Clostebol.” Many doubt the veracity of Tatis’ alibi. The bottom line is the Padres’ $24M/year young and reckless superstar won’t be returning to baseball until May 2023.

Okay, now what about the old guy in the top photos decked out in a Tatis t-shirt? Our oldest son gave me that shirt as a gift a year ago. Clothes hounds say no sensible man should wear a sports jersey/t-shirt past the age of 29. Ach. I never did conform to fashion. But now I feel kind of foolish wearing the t-shirt of a cheater in public. What a dilemma!

Back in the day, when a person got caught in some type of nefarious public scandal, they became social outcasts/pariah for the rest of their lives. Hester Prynne had to wear a scarlett “A.” Oops! She was fictional. What about the 1919 Chicago White Sox who blew the World Series on purpose and became known as the Black Sox? What about the Milli Vanilli guys who went into hiding after being exposed for not actually singing on their albums? I remember a young Kodak Elmgrove HR hiring manager back in the 1980s, John B—-, who extorted from $500 to $1000 from job applicants, but got found out when people were subsequently laid off and demanded their money back. It’s certain B—- never held a job in the corporate world again. But things are loosening up a bit in this degenerating society. These days a person can be elected president of the United States even after having multiple adulterous affairs. Experts in “crisis PR” are kept very busy coaching scandal-tainted celebrities on how to rehabilitate their careers. Fernando Tatis Jr. will serve out his suspension and be back on the field in nine months, but many baseball fans will always think of El Niño as a cheater.

I’m so grateful for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, because He didn’t turn away the social outcasts and pariahs. He actually hung out with them and preached the Good News! to them. We all have done or thought sinful things that we’re ashamed of, whether we got caught or not. Jesus knows all and will forgive all if we repent and trust in Him as Savior by faith alone. There’s no ignominy in Christ Jesus.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” – Romans 8:1

San Diego Padres’ blockbuster trade!

Huh? Two posts in one day? Some things can’t wait.

Yup, I certainly was pessimistic about the San Diego Padres’ situation back on July 20th during the MLB All-Star Game break. The Friars had a respectable 52-42 record, but they entered the break in the midst of a 7-14 slump and trailed the Dodgers by 10 games. They just didn’t have enough hitting to compete with “dem bums.” As the trade deadline approached, GM A.J. Preller swapped struggling closer, Taylor Rogers, for the Brewer’s closer, Josh Hader. Preller also extended pitching staff ace, Joe Musgrove’s contract another five years. Both were positive moves, but nothing to get too excited about. Then the news broke at yesterday’s deadline. Big news. The Padres traded Eric Hosmer 1B and a bunch of young prospects to the Washington Nationals for Juan Soto OF and Josh Bell 1B. Hosmer was able to block his trade to the Nationals, so the Padres substituted Luke Voit DH and dealt Hosmer to the Red Sox.

23 YO Juan Soto is considered to be one of the best young players in the MLB and Josh Bell (29) is a better-than-average, slugging first basemen. Teaming those two with soon-to-return Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS-RF) and Manny Machado (3B) in the lineup is a nightmare for any opposing team. Jurickson Profar (LF) and Jake Cronenworth (2B) are hitting well. Wil Myers (RF-1B), Ha-seong Kim (SS), and Nomar Mazara (RF) will have to platoon. There’s talk of making slugging #2 catcher, Jorge Alfaro, the DH. Trent Grisham (CF) is finally starting to hit. When Tatis returns, the Padres lineup will be as good as any lineup in MLB. Hosmer was having a “decent” season, but the 32YO never lived up to his Kansas City Royals World Series pedigree after the Pads picked him up as a free agent in 2018. Luke Voit hit only .225 as the Padres’ DH.

Wow! Picking up Soto and Bell would appear to put the Padres in the driver’s seat for the NL wildcard. Stay tuned.

San Diego Padres at the All-Star Break

Above from L to R: Manny Machado (3B), Jake Cronenworth (2B), and Joe Musgrove (P) represented the San Diego Padres in the MLB 2022 All-Star Game. Cronenworth had a slow start this year, but a recent hitting surge meant a last-minute call-up to the All-Star Game as a replacement player.

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Yesterday was the MLB All-Star Game, so how are the San Diego Padres doing at the break?

The Padres’ season started out on a low note with 23YO phenom, Fernando Tatis Jr., on the long-term injured list due to breaking his left wrist in the off-season. But Manny Machado carried the Padres to a very impressive 45-28 record at the June 24 mark. However, since then the Padres’ bats have gone cold and they’ve lost 14 of their last 21 games for a 52-42 record, 10 games behind the Dodgers. This disappointing stretch brings to mind the Padres’ complete collapse last year after the 2021 All-Star Game.

In past All-Star break reports, I’ve posted a lot of detail about the starters, but I haven’t been paying as much attention this year. Suffice to say the Padres have a .689 team OPS which ranks them at #11 in the NL. That’s pathetic. There’s a lot of blame to go around, but Luke Voit (DH), and Trent Grisham (CF) have been particularly ineffective at the plate. Some of the few bright spots besides Machado and a surging Cronenworth are journeyman outfielder, Nomar Mazara, signed by the Pads to a minor league contract in the offseason and promoted on June 2nd, and new #2 catcher, Jorge Alfaro. The Padres’ team ERA 3.77 ranks them at #6 in the NL, meaning the pitching has been decent, but not outstanding (aside from Musgrove that is).

There’s still a lot of baseball left to play, including the long-awaited return of Tatis, but it’s becoming evident that this current high-priced roster assembled by GM A.J. Preller is incapable of delivering an NL West pennant to San Diego. Preller’s had 8 seasons at the helm to figure this out. How much longer do the owners give him?

Play Ball! The San Diego Padres open the 2022 season

Today is Opening Day for the San Diego Padres as the Friars begin a four-game series with the Diamondbacks at Chase Field in Phoenix. The 2021 Padres (79-83) were one of MLB’s biggest disappointments with their total collapse after the All-Star break. Manager Jayce Tingler was fired and experienced and respected skipper, Bob Melvin, was brought aboard. This season started off on a sour note before the first pitch was even thrown when shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. fractured his wrist in an offseason motorcycle accident. El Niño is not expected to return until late June. The big story out of the Padres Spring Training camp was the outstanding play of young shortstop C.J. Abrams. The Pads definitely need a SS with Tatis out. Will GM A.J. Preller gamble on 21YO Abrams who has only Double-A experience or will he let Abrams develop in Triple-A and go with the unspectacular Ha-Seong Kim until Tatis returns?* The other big Spring Training story was the Padres’ acquisition of Yankee slugger Luke Voit for the DH spot.

Padres’ ace Yu Darvish will be on the mound today. The Opening Day starting line-up looks to be as follows:

  1. Trent Grisham (CF)
  2. Manny Machado (3B)
  3. Jake Cronenworth (2B)
  4. Luke Voit (DH)
  5. Eric Hosmer (1B)
  6. Wil Myers (RF)
  7. Austin Nola (C)
  8. Jurickson Profar (LF)
  9. Ha-Seong Kim (SS)

I’ll check back with you at the All-Star break for a mid-season assessment. Go Padres!

My other sports interests: The Los Angeles Chargers finished the 2021 season with a 9-8 record, missing a wild-card playoff spot by a hair. Sophomore QB phenom, Justin Herbert, developed into one of the NFL’s premier passers, but the Bolts need to bolster their D to compete in the AFC West. The Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers finished fourth in the Atlantic Hockey Conference with a conference record of 12-10-4. The Tigers lost a 4-3 decision to Air Force in the semifinals of the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. The New York Knicks are a disappointing 35-45 with two games left to play in the season. Everyone expected much more from the hapless Knicks. Coach Tom Thibodeau is on the hot seat, but will probably return next season. The bright spot is the continuing development of young Knicks, R.J. Barrett, Immanuel Quickly, and Obi Toppin.

*Update: The Padres announced today that C.J. Abrams did make the Opening Day roster

The 90s Knicks: Enter the paint at your own risk

Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks
By Chris Herring
Atria Books, 2022, 349 pp.

5 Stars

I became a New York Knicks fan in 1968 at the age of twelve, just in time to experience those great Knicks championships in 1970 and 1973. Well, it’s been slim pickin’s since then, although the blue and orange had some nice runs in the Patrick Ewing era (1985-2000).

In this book, Chris Herring, takes us back to the 1990s when the Knicks were the scourge of the NBA. Knicks management brought Pat Riley to New York City in 1991 after he had coached the Los Angeles Lakers to four championships. The Lakers had won with finesse, but the Knicks didn’t have that kind of offensive talent, so Riley had the Knicks focus on defense. No opponent looked forward to dribbling into the paint with Ewing, Charles Oakley, and Anthony Mason swinging their elbows beneath the basket. Besides being a good defender, Ewing had also turned himself into a scoring threat, but he didn’t have much help on offense besides an erratic John Starks. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls constantly stood in the way of the Knicks’ championship aspirations, although the blue and orange did go to the Finals in 1994, losing to the Rockets, because Jordan had opted to play baseball that year.

Riley had enough after the 1994-1995 season and took the coaching job down in Miami. Assistant Jeff Van Gundy eventually got the Knicks head coaching spot and did a very decent job leading the team from 1996 until 2001. The Knicks made it to the Finals again in 1998, losing to the San Antonio Spurs. The Ewing era ended after the team traded the big man following the 1999-2000 season.

The Knicks advanced to the playoffs only five times after Van Gundy’s departure, making it past the 1st round only one time (2013). Over the span of 2001 to 2022, few professional sports teams have displayed the kind of mismanagement, ineptitude, and futility we have seen from the hapless Knicks.

I enjoyed reading this book and recalling the Riley-Van Gundy years. The Knicks had some real “characters” in that span. Ewing needed one, just one, All-Star caliber player to complement his Hall-of-Fame game so that he could lead the Knicks to an NBA championship, like Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen, but for some strange reason, Knicks management wasn’t able to deliver.

Postscript: Charlie Ward was a two-sport athlete at Florida State University and won the Heisman Trophy as quarterback of the Seminoles in 1993. Ward was drafted by the Knicks in 1994 and played nine years for the team. Charlie was a born-again Christian and was a faithful witness of Jesus Christ and the Gospel in his tenure as a Knick. After each game, he joined with other believers on both teams for an on-court prayer.