What Happened To The Mets?

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NEW YORK — The New York Mets were three outs away from sending the World Series back to Kansas City when Terry Collins, weathered baseball lifer, did something that weathered baseball lifers are not supposed to do: He surrendered to his human instinct. He locked eyes with his pitcher, Matt Harvey, and listened as the kid spoke passionately from the heart.

“No way. No way. I’m not coming out,” the Fox camera caught Harvey saying. “I want this game. I want it bad. You’ve got to leave me in. … I want this game in the worst way,” was how Collins said he heard it.

It was the right call at the right time, no matter what Collins said in his news conference after this soul-crushing 12-inning defeat was complete. Sometimes, good managing and good coaching mean listening to your very best players. At the time Harvey dramatically raced from the dugout to the mound, inspiring an eruption in the stands, how many witnesses truly thought this was a bad idea?

“I let my heart get in the way of my gut. I love my players. And I trust them. … And it didn’t work. It was my fault.” Said Mets manager Terry Collins on his decision to let Matt Harvey start the ninth inning. http://espn.go.com/mlb/playoffs2015/story/_/page/playoffs15_OConnorCollins/terry-collins-made-right-call-matt-harvey

What happened to the Mets? The same thing that happens to all of us and the rest of us: there are times when we make the right move at the wrong time or the wrong move at the right time. Because all of our decisions are not the best ones. And even if we make what we thought was the correct decision at the time, unfortunately, things don’t always work out the way we want. 

What happened to the Mets? It’s like the children scolding the parents, or worse yet, the inmates running the asylum. Yes managers and coaches and skippers need to listen to their players just like teachers need to listen to their students and supervisors need to listen to their employees. But parents need to be parents and coaches need to be coaches. And even if Harvey should have been allowed to back to the mound in the ninth inning, after he surrendered that lead-off walk, he should have been yanked. End of discussion.

And so the lesson is this: if you’re a player worth your salt, you want the ball in your hands with the game on the line. And Harvey is to be commended for that. On the other hand, managers are paid to MANAGE the game and their players, and somebody needs to make the hard decisions and the tough calls and stick by them, popular or not. And hopefully, just hopefully, the right call is made at the right time.

Coming Through in the Clutch

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David Wright came through. He came through in the clutch. With his team, the only professional team he’s ever known, down 2-0 in games and 1-0 in the first inning of Game Three, David Wright launched and smacked and whacked a 400 foot, two-run homer out of the park to give his beloved Mets a 2-1 lead and a much needed boost just when they needed it most.

Clutch is defined as “exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.” Wow. That pretty much sums it up and says it all. But we can go further. As a noun, in life and in sports, clutch means “the crucial moment that comes between winning and losing.” And as an adjective, it means” being able to perform under extreme pressure.” Clutch, the verb, means simply this: “getting it done.” That’s it and that’s all. And David Wright got it done last night.

And Wright’s home run in the first was just the beginning; he wasn’t finished. He stood in the box with bases loaded in the sixth and jumped all over a fast ball and produced a 2 RBI single to put the icing on the cake. Mets – 8; Royals – 3. Game over. Now, all the Mets need to do is to win the rest of their home games at CitiField and go back to KC to pull off yet another Mets miracle to win another World Series.

Clutch players thrive on clutch moments. And clutch moments don’t come around every day. Wright missed most of 2015 because of a back injury, somehow got healthy again, and after 1,546 games in his regular season career, he finally appeared in a World Series. And in his first at-bat in front of the home town crowd in a championship game, he sent an 0-1, 96 mph fastball from Yordano Ventura over the wall in left-center for a two-run home run. Don’t you love the way baseball works sometimes?

It was a great moment for Wright, who has played the second-most games in Mets history, a great moment for the fans, and an important moment for the 2015 Mets. After the Royals scraped across a run in the top of the first with the help of a little infield trickler — here we go again — Wright’s blast erased the lead and set the tone for an offense that would attack Ventura in his short stint.

Wright came through. Wright came through in the clutch. And clutch players are our heroes. Spiritually speaking, we call “clutch” coming through “just in the nick of time.” Our God is clutch. He comes through and comes in and comes by and comes back for us just when we need Him most. And, don’t forget that we are the arms and legs and feet and hands of God. That means we are the ones that God uses to come through for others just like He comes through for us.

Naturally and spiritually, we all need our heroes to come through for us in the clutch. Just remember, sometimes that hero is you.

Living With A Royal Flush

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The Kansas City Royals are on the verge of flushing the Mets right out of the World Series. That’s right. You heard it (or read it) first right here at http://www.Godandsports.net. The Mets put their best pitchers up against the red hot Royals, and the Royals rolled and the Mets were mauled in KC like it was nobody’s business. Because this year, it seems like a win for the Royals is in the cards.

The Houston Astros couldn’t stop the Royals. The Toronto Blue Jays couldn’t oust the Royals. Then the Mets sent Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom out to squash them in the first two games of this World Series. And what did they learn? This is a team you just can’t squash. Apparently.

So the Royals are now two wins away from their first parade in three decades. They put a 7-1 shellacking on deGrom and the Mets and whaddaya know, they’re now up, 2 games to zip, and it’s not lookin’ good for the “other” New York baseball team from Queens.
Last year, the Royals took Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants to 7 Games before falling to the eventual Series MVP. Last year, “Madbum” https://godandsports.net/2014/10/30/you-too-can-be-a-rock-star-just-ask-madison-bumgarner/ ravaged the Royals and pitched Game 7 on 2 days’ rest. So, you could say that had not Madbum stood in the way, the Royals would be on their way to back-to-back World Championships, with maybe many more to come.

The Royals are proving how good they are. And the Royals are doing what Christians should be doing: proving the world wrong. Actually, we should be proving our God right and proving how good our God is. If our God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Moses and Miriam and David and Deborah and Esther and Elijah and Peter and Paul, then we have nothing to worry about when it comes to defeating our enemies and foiling our foes.

It doesn’t matter what other players have in their hand; we have a royal flush. That means we’ve got the best Supreme Being there is to have. If our God, the God of the Bible, is truly the True and Living God, then we are “playing” and living with a royal flush.

You Too Can Be A Rock Star: Just Ask Madison Bumgarner

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Madison Kyle Bumgarner is no Bum. In fact, he’s a Rock Star. He’s a first rate, first class, fearless ace and future All Star pitcher who’s achieved rock star status. Bumgarner practically won the 2014 World Series all by himself. He carried his teammates on his back as his San Francisco Giants won the Fall Classic by rolling right by the Kansas City Royals in seven games. The series went the distance but it really wasn’t that close, at least when you factor in Bumgarner.

Madison Bumgarner, after dominating the Royals in Game 1 and throwing a shutout in Game 5, finished the Royals off in Game 7 with five shutout innings, allowing only two hits while striking out four and allowing no walks. He earned a save for his efforts and won the MVP for his heroics.

Burgarner, for the series as a whole, was 2-0 with a Game 7 save. He allowed only nine hits, one run and one walk in 21 innings of work while striking out 17. He had an ERA of 0.43 and a WHIP of 0.48 with a K:BB ratio of 17:1.

In an era of hyperbole and overreaction, Bumgarner’s performance in this series needs no beautification. It truly was one of the greatest World Series pitching performances, ever. He’s 25 years old and he pitched his team to victory with two wins and one huge, 5 plus inning save. And so the difference between Bumgarner and any other pitcher begins and ends with how he sees himself. Madison Bumgarner, is nicknamed “MadBum;” mad meaning crazy and bum meaning he’s a scrum. But he doesn’t see himself that way.

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Some time ago, a reader asked me to write more about a blog I wrote some time ago, entitled, “Perish in the Past, or Flourish in the Future.” We all tend to live in the past. We all tend to relish the past, to relive the past, and reminisce on, you got it, the past. That’s called history. It’s past us, it’s gone and it’s not coming back. Bumgarner, by his heroics and Houdini like, legendary and historic performance, taught us again how to dwell on the here and now.

We need to learn to live in the moment. We need to learn how to see ourselves; not losing or limping or lacking, but winning, and warring and walloping all that is evil and vile, all that is crooked and corrupted, and all that is jagged and twisted. We should be setting spiritual records; not chasing them, but shattering them, just because we can.

So you too can come to rock star status. Just like David. Once a back-woods shepherd of his father’s sheep, David achieved rock star status after his date with destiny when he galloped Goliath. His poise perched him much higher and much further than he ever dreamed, and this is the same destiny and doctrine that we should expect and exemplify ourselves.

“. . . He that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them.”
Zechariah 12:8, KJV

If You’re Going To Play It Safe, You Gotta Take A Chance, a.k.a., Can The Royals Be Beat?

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If you’re going to play it safe, you gotta take a chance. Is this an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory proposition? Yes, but it’s true in sports and in life, nonetheless. And just like “killing them with kindness,” it can be done. Life is full of oxymorons, hyperboles and exaggerations, and this is one of them.

If you’re going to bet on a winner, put your money on The Kansas City Royals. Why? These Royals have only done what has never been done before in Major League Baseball History. (CORRECTION: The 1976 Cincinnati Reds went 7 – 0 under the old format.) They’re undefeated in the playoffs. An also ran, wanna-be, woulda-coulda-shoulda-be team for 29 years, and all of a sudden, out of the Royal Blue, here they come. To go undefeated in the playoffs is UNHEARD OF in Baseball. It’s improbable. It just doesn’t happen. And yet these same Kansas City Come-Out-Of-No-Where whiz kids are headed to the Fall Classic with eight victories and zero defeats.

If you’re going to be on the safe side, you must live on wild side. And so it is in sports and in life. Sports is so much like life and life is so much like sports it makes my head spin. Sometimes you bet on a sure thing, only to come up with no thing. And other times you bet the farm on a longshot, and you come up with a game winner. The lesson from the 2014 MLB playoffs is clear: in order to be like these Royals, you need to put your hopes on hold for what seems like an eternity, put together a Johnny-come-lately, nobody gives you a chance, it-aint-supposed-to-happen-this-way team, and then just go for it. It’s so spiritual it’s almost scary.

If you’re going to win big you must first die-hard. That’s the formula. Nothing, absolutely nothing worth anything comes without rejection and repudiation, sacrifice and suffering, and submission and surrender. So while we’re all giddy and glad and aglow for the Royals, just remember what they’ve been through in order to get to where they’re going to. For 29 years the laughingstock of Baseball; now, they’ve set an all-time record for winning and set a winning percentage that may never be matched. They’re batting 1.000, for Pete’s sake!

If you’re going to be on top, you have to know more than a little about being on the bottom. Twenty-nine years of futility is pretty awful, and eight up and none down, IN OCTOBER, is pretty special. And so sometimes you don’t start out as the favorite, you just end up one.  And these same bottom feeders are on their way to the World Series for the first time in a forever.

If you’re going to hit home runs, you’re going to have to endure strike outs. The favored and fair-haired, preferred and privileged, choice and chosen players and people and persons don’t always end up in first place or win the trophy or get the ring. It’s the ones who persevere over time and persist through trials and tribulations. These are the underdogs. We love them because we are them.

The underdogs of the Bible and in sports give us muster and metal, bravery and buoyancy, and the spirit and sparkle to endure the years of struggle and the fears we juggle as we fight through to our seasons of destiny.

So go Royals! I say they win the whole dag ‘gum thing. And it would be extra special if they go all the way AND go undefeated and unbeaten and unblemished in post-season play. It would be the icing on the cake and the cherry on top of the miracle in the making we’re watching right before our very eyes.

When You’re Hot, You’re Hot; And When You’re Not, You’re Not

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The Kansas City Royals are red-hot. How hot are they? They’re now 6-0 – undefeated in the 2014 Postseason, they’re won 4 of five games in extra innings, and they’re hitting home runs like IHOP heaps out hotcakes. These Royals swept the Angel’s in the ALDS and before that they won a one game playoff against the A’s. The Royal Blue Bombers now have the Baltimore Orioles in their sights and it doesn’t look good for the orange and black.  The Royal Blues have the Orioles feeling blue as they have won back to back games ON THE ROAD in the ALCS against the best team in the AL East.  Good gracious! Talk about catching fire and getting hot at the right time.

Clearly, the Royals are proving that they’re the hottest team in baseball, because they are showing up and showing out just when it counts.  These Royals are the hottest team in the coolest month.  On the other side of the ledger, the poor Baltimore Orioles look like a deer staring into a pair of high-beams; clearly, the O’s are not a Johnny-come-lately team, but now they look like they don’t know what just hit ’em.

The Kansas City Royals are playing the kind of white-hot ball every fan wishes their team was playing this time of year. They are playing loose, light, and lively. They have nothing to lose, seeing as they haven’t been to the playoffs since 1985; that’s 29 years. Talk about no pressure. And yet they’re playing with a reckless abandon that is fun to watch but fearful to play against.

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Baseball in October is as special as eating your favorite ice cream and cake on your birthday. And on your birthday, you think you can do and be and say anything and get away with it. On your birthday you’re “hot;” you’re Da’ Man (or Da’ woman, as the case may be), and everybody exalts and extols you and expects and assumes and presumes that you can and could and may and might do the improbable. And so it is with baseball in October.

October is the occasion and opportunity for the best of baseball and baseball at its best. This time of year, you don’t necessarily need to be good, even though being good doesn’t hurt and it certainly does help. On the cool and cold nights of October, it’s better to be hot and hungry than to be good and gruffy.

October is the month you want to be hot, especially if you’re a baseball team.   And the Royals are just that. They’ve got confidence, charisma, and chutzpah, with the ability to get hits seemingly at whim and the ability to score runs seemingly at will. And as we all know, being hot is the uncanny combination of talent and tenacity and flair and fortuity.

And so what about you? Can you get hot at the right time and be at the right place and dot a base hit in just the right spot? And can you do all of this on demand, when the pressure is on and the bets are off?

Spiritually speaking, Believers are supposed to be “hot.”  In order to win, we need to get hot, and in order to get hot we need the fire of God. Being hot comes from spending time with the God who is a consuming fire. It takes praying hot prayers and shedding a lot of tears living a glowing life. And it takes following the leading of the Lord. We can’t possibly know and be and do everything the right way all of the time, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, the Wind of God, the Divine Comforter and Keeper, we can be hot with the fire of God just when we need to be.

So stop relying on your own muscle and your own might. Instead, desire and determine to depend on the leading of the Lord. It’s the only sure way to get and stay hot.