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.

Was there a bigger disappointment in MLB 2021 than the San Diego Padres?

Apologies to my subscribers. I don’t normally publish two posts in one day, but some issues can’t wait.

This past Spring, I was really looking forward to the start of the MLB season. My San Diego Padres had had an excellent COVID-shortened 2020 season, going 37-23 (.617) and winning the NL Wild Card Series against the Cardinals, only to fizzle against the Dodgers in the NLDS due to pitching woes. In the offseason, the Pads picked up pitching aces, Matt Snell and Yu Darvish, to shore up the staff.

The Padres started this season extremely well. Their 34-19 (.642) record at the May 29th mark was the best in the entire MLB. Let that sink in. With one-third of the season under their belt, the Padres were king of the MLB hill. At the All-Star break, the Padres had slipped a bit to 53-40 (.570), but no one was hitting the panic button.

However, after the All-Star break, the Padres descended into a death spiral of draconian proportions, winning only 25 of their last 68 games. Things were especially bleak the last 28 games played in September-October with the Padres winning just 7 of those contests. Here’s a sobering stat: after August 10th, not one of the other 29 MLB teams compiled more losses than the 13-34 Friars. Not the Orioles. Not the Diamondbacks. Nobody. Such a catastrophic collapse points to one thing: although they would deny it, the players collectively gave up. The Padres finished with a final record of 79-83 (.488), third in the NL West. No one, and I mean not one soul on the planet had figured the Padres would finish below .500 at the start of the season.

Much of the Padres’ troubles were due to pitching, with both injuries and ineffectiveness plaguing the staff. Team ERA for the overall season was 4.10 (#8 NL), but post-ASG was 5.04 (#11 NL). Joe Musgrove (3.18) was the only starter with an ERA under 4.0. Snell and Darvish were both disappointing.

Good managers find a way to win. When a roster this talented completely self-destructs, as the Padres did, a good portion of the blame must go to the skipper, Jayce Tingler. There’s a very good chance he will be fired shortly after this is published. But what about GM A.J. Preller? Doesn’t he share some of the blame for selecting a wide-eyed guy to fill the manager role who had zero managerial experience.

There’s a good chance 22YO Fernando Tatis Jr. will win NL MVP, a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season. The Padres have a good foundation for 2022. Let’s hope they hire a manager who has the wherewithal to lead the talented roster to the postseason.

Assessing the 2021 San Diego Padres at the All-Star Break

Last night was the 2021 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, so it’s the perfect time to indulge in some sports frivolity and check in with the San Diego Padres at the half-way point of the baseball season.

Well, the Friars are off to a “decent” start. Their 53-40 (.570) record puts them ahead of 22 of the other 29 teams in MLB, BUT with the surprising 57-32 San Francisco Giants and 56-35 World Champion L.A. Dodgers sharing the NL West, the Padres’ playoff hopes are definitely not secure.

The Padres’ infield of Eric Hosmer (1B), Jake Cronenworth (2B), Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS) and Manny Machado (3B) continues as arguably one of the overall best in the entire MLB. Victor Caratini (C) does a decent job behind the plate. The outfield of Tommy Pham (LF), Trent Grisham (CF), and Wil Meyers (RF) is better than average, but there’s not much depth. Subs Jurickson Profar’s and Ha-Seong Kim’s bats have been anemic. The Padres rank in the top 6 in the NL in AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS. Padres’ pitching is #3 in the NL with a team ERA of 3.41, trailing only behind, you guessed it, the Dodgers (3.14) and Giants (3.26). But the three-month team ERA stat is deceptive. Padres pitching has definitely gone soft the last 30 days (4.58 team ERA). Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove have anchored the starting rotation. Free agent pickup ace, Blake Snell, has been disappointing (4.99 ERA) and former team ace, Dinelson Lamet, continues to battle injuries. Once-promising Chris Paddack (5.38 ERA) can’t find his way out of his two-year funk. When the season started, there was a question on who the Padres’ closer would be, but Mark Melancon has answered the call and then some with an MLB-leading 27 saves at the break.

The Padres led all of MLB with a very impressive 34-19 (.642) record at the May 29th mark, but have been playing mediocre, 19-21 (.475) baseball since then. The Friars’ pitching staff will need to right the ship for the team to have any chance of overtaking the Giants and Dodgers.


  • The Padres were the only MLB franchise without a no-hitter in team history, until Joe Musgrove no-noed the Texas Rangers on April 9th.
  • The Padres are a big draw at Petco Park and on the road with baseball’s most exciting young star in Fernando Tatis Jr. At the break, “El Niño” is #1 in the NL home run derby with 28 dingers and #1 in stolen bases with 20.
  • The rapid development of 2nd baseman, Jake Cronenworth, is noteworthy.
  • Tatis, Cronenworth, and Machado (late addition) were selected as 2021 All-Stars along with pitching staff ace, Yu Darvish, and closer Mark Melancon. The last year the Padres had five All-Stars was 1992.

Play ball! The San Diego Padres open the 2021 season today

Snow and a high of only 36F are predicted for today here Western New York, but 2670 miles away, in San Diego, California, they’re expecting mostly sunny skies and a high of 84F. Great weather for a ballgame.


The San Diego Padres finished the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season with a remarkable 37-23 record. After defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Wild Card Series, the Padres hit a brick wall when they faced the dastardly Dodger$ in the NLDS. The Padres’ pitching staff was already outmatched by the Blue Bums even before starters Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger went on the disabled list. The Padres’ #1 goal in the offseason was to pick up quality pitching and they did exactly that by signing not one, but two legitimate aces in Blake Snell and Yu Darvish.

The Padres open their 2021 season today at 1PM PT at Petco Park with the first game of a three-game homestand against NL Western Division rivals, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Let’s take a look at the Padres’ projected starters:

Catcher: Austin Nola fractured a finger in Spring Training so newcomer Victor Caratini will get the nod on Opening Day. Promising young blue chipper, Luis Campusano, will also see action during the season.

Infield: The infield is set, to put it mildly, with Eric Hosmer (1B), Jake Cronenworth (2B), Fernando Tatis Jr. (SS), and Manny Machado (3B). Tatis and Machado are easily the best SS/3B tandem in MLB and Tatis is still developing. Cronenworth came close to earning NL Rookie of the Year last season and Hos is a solid vet. Jurickson Profar and newly-acquired Ha-Seong Kim from South Korea will battle for infield playing time and both could start for many ballclubs.

Outfield: Tommy Pham (LF), Trent Grisham (CF), and Wil Myers (RF) will start, but Profar will get significant time at the corners. It was great to see Myers relaunch his once-promising career in 2020 under new skipper, Jayce Tingler. Update: Grisham is on the IL so I expect Profar to man the CF spot in the interim.

Pitching: Aces Snell and Darvish are excellent additions. Dinelson Lamet pitched in one the Padres’ last Spring Training games after rehabilitating his elbow for six months, however, Mike Clevinger won’t be available in 2021 after having offseason Tommy John surgery. Newcomer Joe Musgrove is a very solid #4. As for the #5 spot, young Chris Paddack’s regression remains a mystery after being projected as the franchise’s future ace two years ago. The bullpen has some question marks especially with the vacancy left by closer Kirby Yates. Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagán, and Mark Melancon will all vie for the closer spot.

The Padres are VERY sold from top to bottom, although the closer position is a question mark. Most baseball prognosticators are taking the easy route and picking the Dodger$ to take the NL West again, however, they acknowledge that the Padres could easily upset.

Above photo, from left to right: Myers, Machado, Darvish, Snell, Tatis Jr., and Hosmer.

“Stay out of my way. Don’t get in my way.”

Winters here in Western New York are definitely challenging. Due to our unique position in relation to the Great Lakes, we can boast of having more snow and less sunshine than any other region in the continental United States. One of the hopeful signs of warmer temps ahead is the commencement of Major League Baseball’s Spring Training in Florida and Arizona. My favorite team, the San Diego Padres, had an excellent 2020 season and are poised for another good run in 2021.

I began following the Padres in 1970 when I was fourteen years old. Over the past fifty years, there’s been A LOT more “thin” than “thick,” but the Pads did make it all the way to the World Series in 1984 and 1998.

I was so thrilled when the Padres finally made it to the World Series in 1984. Sure, they ended up tanking against the Detroit Tigers, winning only one game, but that was anti-climactic after the Pads shocked the nation by improbably beating the heavily-favored Chicago Cubbies in the NLCS.

When the 1985 season rolled around, I was still pumped up and I resolved to see the Padres play in-person for the first time. In those days, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together after paying the bills and couldn’t afford vacations, but SOMEHOW I was able to scrape the funds together for my wife, our two sons (ages 10 and 7 at the time), and I to drive to Montreal (six hours away) to see my beloved Pads play the Expos.

That was all happening in the middle of the baseball card craze. A strange hysteria overtook baseball fans and even non-fans. People got it into their heads that baseball cards were a great investment and began buying them up. Card manufacturers quadrupled their production as baseball card shops, yes, baseball card shops, began popping up in cities along with baseball card shows at hotels and convention centers. Our sons and I got caught up in the frenzy and I began my collection of Topps-brand Padres team sets and Tony Gwynn cards. Tony was the Padres’ most popular player. He was called up to the Padres from the minors in 1982 and would go on to play 20 seasons, compiling an incredible 3141 hits and a jaw-dropping .338 lifetime batting average.

While in Montreal, I was determined to get Tony’s autograph. At the stadium, I overheard some savvy fans say that Tony liked to use a particular exit after contests with the Expos, the one leading to Pie-IX station of the Montreal Metro. So immediately after the end of the 9th inning, I frantically dragged my family through the crowd to the exit as if we were going to see Jesus Christ. About 30 other fans had the same plan, and when Tony finally appeared we all thronged around him. Tony’s public persona was that of a smiling and very friendly guy, but that wasn’t the case in this situation. He said very firmly and unsmilingly, “I will sign your items, but don’t get in my way.” So we all walked along with Tony as he reluctantly signed our cards, photos, and baseballs while repeating his warning again and again, “Stay out of my way. Don’t get in my way.” I was put-off by Gwynn’s very unfriendly attitude, but I also understood that it was the result of being constantly harassed by autograph hounds. My wife was a bit befuddled as to why her twenty-nine-year-old husband was jostling with a crowd of other adults for an autograph of a baseball player, like some sixteen-year-old bobby-soxer waiting outside of a New York City dinner club at a Frank Sinatra show in 1947. It’s embarrassing to think about now.

Thirty-six years later, I don’t know what happened to that Tony Gwynn autograph. I don’t desire any celebrity’s autograph at this point. What’s it for? What do you do with it? Tony Gwynn died in 2014 at the age of 54. He succumbed to complications from a 17-year struggle with mouth cancer caused by his regular use of dipping tobacco during his playing days. I don’t know if Tony was a Christian or not. He didn’t discuss his religious beliefs, if any, in public. The bottom dropped out of the baseball card frenzy a long time ago, but there are still a few stores here in the ROC area that cater to sports collectors. News sources report that card collecting is actually making a small comeback among nostalgic, middle-aged males with an excess of time on their hands during this pandemic.

“Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” – Isaiah 2:22

Frivolity: Checking in with my sports teams

I haven’t posted any information regarding my sports teams since the San Diego Padres were disappointingly swept by the evil Los Angeles Dodger$ in the NLDS this past October, so let’s do a quick status check:

Los Angeles Chargers (fan since 1969)

The Chargers finished their season this past Sunday, ending up with a disappointing 7-9 record. The highlight was the play of rookie quarterback, Justin Herbert (photo, first from left). After the 2019 season, the Chargers turned the page on aging, 16-year veteran QB, Philip Rivers, and drafted Herbert with the sixth pick in the first round. The former Oregon Duck got the nod in game #2 and never looked back, shattering multiple NFL all-time rookie QB records. The other most notable thing about the Chargers this season was the glaring ineptness of head coach, Anthony Lynn. There were many examples of bewildering play selection and clock mismanagement. Special teams play was once again beyond atrocious. As expected, Chargers owner Dean Spanos and GM Tom Telesco mercifully fired Lynn this past Monday morning. Being the head coach of an NFL team is an incredibly difficult job and few are cut out for it. Another notable thing about this season is that the Chargers moved into their new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, but because of the C-19 lockdown, they were spared the embarrassment of empty seats due to the lack of a fan base.

New York Knicks (fan since 1968)

After two decades of appalling mismanagement and roster missteps, the Knicks now have a some pep in their step and appear to be legit. The team hired no-nonsense head coach, Tom Thibodeau, and drafted talented Obi Toppin (PF) and Immanuel Quickley (PG, photo, second from left) in the first round. Julius Randle (PF) has stepped it up and accepted the leadership role as the young core – R.J. Barrett (SF), Mitch Robinson (C), Kevin Knox (SF), Toppin, and Quickley – continues to gel. The Knicks have started the season 4-3 and I really like what I see.

RIT Tigers (fan since 2009)

The Rochester Institute of Technology had initially called off its 2020-21 hockey season due to C-19, but then reconsidered. The pandemic continues to play havoc within the Atlantic Conference and schedules are constantly in flux, but Coach Wayne Wilson and the Tigers are currently 4-4-2.

San Diego Padres (fan since 1970)

I was happy that the Padres finished 37-23 and advanced past St. Louis in their NLWC series, but was disappointed after they were swept by the Dodger$ in the NLDS. General Manager, A.J. Preller, made some bold moves in the off-season by trading for pitching aces, Blake Snell, from Tampa and Yu Darvish from the Cubbies. Preller also signed Korean star infielder, Ha-Seong Kim. The upcoming 2021 season looks very bright for Fernando Tatis Jr. (photo, fourth from left) and the Padres.

Postscript: Following professional and/or college sports is a consuming passion for a vast number of Americans. Many Christian athletes use their platform to bring glory to God, and that’s a good thing. There are also excellent life lessons to be culled regarding teamwork, dedication, self-discipline, and perseverance. Apostle Paul used the analogy of athletes in his first epistle to the Corinthians. But the bottom line is that professional and college sports are dollar-driven, entertainment industries. Secular pastimes and interests are not necessarily evil in and of themselves, but they become so when we prioritize them above the Lord and His Kingdom.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Padres advance, face Dodger$

The San Diego Padres hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2006, so I was really pleased that they posted a remarkable 37-23 record in the C-19 shortened season and earned a spot against the St. Louis Cardinals in a NL Wildcard, best-of-three series. The Padres lost their two pitching aces, Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger, to injury immediately prior to the competition, a HUGE blow! But the Padres improbably won the series and advanced to the NL Division Series, to face the Los Angeles Dodger$ in a best-of-five series beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, October 6. Unfortunately, the game starts at 9:38 PM ET. Let’s briefly recap the games against the Cardinals and preview the matchup with the Dodger$

San Diego Padres vs. St. Louis Cardinals, NL Wildcard Series @ Petco Park, San Diego

Game 1 – Wednesday, September 30

With pitching aces, Lamet and Clevinger on the bench, Chris Paddack got the nod for the Padres. The young pitcher had control problems all season long and his troubles continued into this game, giving up 6 runs in 2 1/3 innings. The Padres’ big bats never got going. The futility of the evening was exemplified by rookie Jake Cronenworth’s blockhead base-running mistake. Only 8 hits for the Pads.
Final score: Cardinals 7, Padres 4

Game 2 – Thursday, October 1

Pitcher Zach Davies started for the Padres, but was ineffectual and only lasted two innings. In the bottom of the 6th, with the Cards leading 6-2, Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a three-run dinger followed by a solo shot by Manny Machado. Tie score! The onslaught continued with Tatis hitting another HR and Wil Myers adding two more. Fifteen hits for the Pads!
Final score: Padres 11, Cardinals 9

Game 3 – Friday, October 2

The Cardinals saved their ace pitcher, Jack Flaherty, for the decisive rubber game. Meanwhile, the Padres started reliever, Craig Stammen, and would follow with 8 other relievers. Eric Hosmer finally got to Flaherty in the 5th with a double that scored Tatis. The Padres pieced together a couple of runs with clutch hitting, good base-running, and a walked-in run. Cronenworth then redeemed his bonehead base-running error in Game 1 with a solo HR. Eight hits for the Padres. A masterful shutout performance by the relief committee.
Final score: Padres 4, Cardinals 0

In the series, Tommy Pham (6 hits), Cronenworth (5), Tatis Jr. (5), Myers (4), and Jurikson Profar (4) all came to play. Hosmer (2 hits), Machado (2), Trent Grisham (0), and Austin Nola (0) disappointed.

San Diego Padres vs. Los Angeles Dodger$, NL Division Series, Game 1, Tuesday, October 6 @ Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas

We don’t know if either Lamet or Clevinger will be available for this series against arguably the best team in MLB. It’s next to impossible to expect Paddack, Davies, and the relief committee to compete with the Dodger$ exceptional staff (MLB-leading 3.02 team ERA). The Dodger$ also know how to score runs (MLB-leading 349), but the Padres aren’t far behind (325). For the Padres to have a chance, ALL the hitters need to bring their A game. Hosmer, Machado, Grisham, and Nola need to WAKE UP!

In the article below, baseball writer, Mark Feinsand, compares the two clubs by position and the Dodger$ definitely do have an advantage on paper.

Padres-Dodgers position-by-position analysis

Go Padres! NL Wild Card Series begins tonight

Yup, the COVID-19 pandemic has played absolute havoc here in America and around the world. The nation began to hunker down in mid-March as the virus spread. Quarantine restrictions were imposed inconsistently as government officials in the various regions of the country weighed the public health risk versus economic health. Businesses have cut back or closed altogether and millions of people have been laid off or terminated. The death toll continues to rise despite those who imprudently call the pandemic a hoax: 206,000 deaths have been attributed to C-19 in the U.S.A. to date. If the pandemic wasn’t bad enough, we also had the BLM protests accompanied by looting and destruction in many cities.

Amidst those kinds of significant and challenging circumstances, professional sports were/are hardly a priority, but many hoped the pro leagues could put together some type of package, if only to bring a little “normalcy” back to the very chaotic situation.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association hammered out a plan for a shortened, 60-game season and play began back on July 24th in empty stadiums.

I was optimistic for my San Diego Padres. Free agent pickup, Manny Machado, definitely didn’t live up to his hype in 2019, but Padres fans were hopeful he would return to form as one of MLB’s premier players. Fernando Tatis Jr. was on his way to the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year, until an injury felled him in August. And I was once again hopeful that previous free agent pickups, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers, would finally get their heads on straight.

The abbreviated season and expanded playoff format meant just about every team had a shot if they could sustain a few hot streaks. Well my friends, the Padres put together quite a season and finished 37-23, the third-best record in MLB behind only the L.A. Dodger$ and the Tampa Bay Rays. Tatis SS was a shoe-in for NL MVP until he slowed down in August. However, Machado 3B stepped it up with a back-end NL MVP performance. Hosmer 1B played very well and many fans are thinking about Myers RF for Comeback Player of the Year for his excellent season. Rookie Jake Cronenworth 2B was a delightful surprise for the first 30 games, although he cooled off. After a slow start, Jurickson Profar LF settled in and finished the season as the hottest hitter on the roster. Young Trent Grisham did a nice job at CF. Big bat, Mitch Moreland 1B, was a late-season acquisition for the DH slot, but hasn’t lived up to expectations.

Starting pitchers, Dinelson Lamet and Zach Davies had excellent seasons, although Garrett Richards and especially projected-ace, Chris Paddack, disappointed. The Padres acquired Cleveland Indians ace, Mike Clevinger, in late August to shore up the rotation.

With their impressive 37-23 record and their 2nd-place finish behind the Dodger$ in the NL West, the Padres earned the 4th seed in the playoffs and will face the 5th seed St. Louis Cardinals in a best-of-three series beginning tonight, 5 p.m. ET.

The last time the Padres were in the playoffs was…hold onto your hats…2006. The biggest concern for the Padres going into the series will be the recent nagging injuries to Lamet (biceps) and Clevinger (elbow).

If Lamet and/or Clevinger can’t pitch, the Padres would need a huge break. Can the big bats (Machado, Tatis, Myers, Hosmer) and the relief staff rise to the occasion?

Be like Mike?

Outside of limited trips to the neighborhood grocery store, most of us have largely been stuck at home during the past eight weeks due to the pandemic lockdown. I’m a reader, so to keep myself occupied, I downloaded six ebooks and bought two hard-copy, used books from Amazon third-party sellers. Many people have whiled away the surplus hours by binge-watching movies and series on Netflix, Amazon, or other streaming services. In the midst of this high demand for home entertainment, somebody at ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network) timed it perfectly with the release of “The Last Dance,” a ten-part documentary, which focuses on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls basketball team during their heyday in the 1990s. The first two episodes premiered on April 19th followed by the release of two additional episodes each of the next four Sunday nights.

Sports-starved American males (and undoubtedly some females) are captivated by this series. ESPN previously had good success with its “30 for 30” series about interesting sports stories, but “The Last Dance” documentary has to be shattering all kinds of audience records.

Michael Jordan played for the Bulls from 1984 to 1993 and 1995 to 1998, leading the team to six NBA championships in that span, and is arguably one of the top-three sports icons of modern times. That very short short-list also includes Babe Ruth and Muhammad Ali. What made Jordan so good? Not only was he blessed with extraordinary athletic ability, he was also driven to be the very best.

In his push to win championships, Jordan took no prisoners. He even savagely bullied his own teammates. This series provides many unflinching and sometimes even painfully revealing insights into Jordan’s and the Bull’s rise to the top of the National Basketball Association.

A massive advertising campaign once encouraged all of us to “Be like Mike.” The man still enjoys worldwide fame and adulation to a degree that few others have known.

After having watched the latest episodes of “The Last Dance” this past Sunday night, I was doing my morning walk through the neighborhood and listening via earbuds to a sermon from John MacArthur regarding the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Argh! It struck me how VASTLY different the teachings and example of Jesus Christ are compared to the values of this world as exemplified by the adulation accorded to Michael Jordan. I’m not privy to Jordan’s spiritual beliefs. The man has kept his religious views, if any, so private despite thirty-six years of media scrutiny that they frustrate any and every google search. However, it doesn’t appear from the many interviews and behind-the-scenes segments in this series that Michael knows and loves the Lord.

I don’t want to be like Mike, I want to be like Jesus Christ.

Postscript: Featured in one of the episodes is a quip from Larry Bird in a press interview immediately after 23-year-old, Michael Jordan, scored 63 points in a playoff loss to Bird’s Boston Celtics on April 20, 1986. “It’s just God disguised as Michael Jordan,” said the exasperated Bird. Ach. That’s going WAY too far, Larry!