Category: baseball

Incomplete Thoughts on Baseball, Empirical Pagan Me, and Nature

Incomplete Thoughts – 07102021

Incomplete Thoughts is a semi-regular feature. This features smaller written pieces that I just cannot find any way to end them, thus the incomplete part. Plus, it can provide some insight into the way I view other things outside of my Spiritual practice.

Major League Baseball

The coming trade deadline and the first-year amateur draft process is about to begin. For Major League Baseball, this is the latest that the first-year player draft has occurred, and the closest that it has been to the trade deadline, which will make things hectic in any major league team’s front office. There are a lot of teams that are deemed to be “sellers” at this year’s deadline, and the most intriguing element is that of the Chicago Cubs. Somehow, their front office has managed to have a few of their major stars on expiring contracts at the end of this year. Most major league teams will stagger the end of the contracts of major league stars to lower the impact potential departures have on the team. However, the Cubs have managed to make that major misstep. Or is it? The Cubs have one of the most knowledgeable front office teams in major league baseball (and it pains me as a Cincinnati Reds fan to make that statement). I wonder if this coming trade deadline was a self-imposed thing by the front office, looking for a way to clear the path of some minor league players, while utilizing high-impact players to help re-stock some of the upper levels of their minors system. Regardless of the strategy, the Cubs will prove to be one of the teams to watch carefully during the deadline.

Empirical Pagan Me

Occasionally, I get asked why I don’t speak for Pagan practice everywhere. Why do I couch nearly every statement that I make about my Spirituality as what I do, and that others may be completely different? Most of the time, all I can do is shrug my shoulders, and move on. But the reasoning is simple. I’m one Pagan. I am not THE Pagan. The way I approach my Spirituality works for me. As an individual, I’m always cognizant of the perspective that I don’t always do things the way others do. That’s a part of being an individual, in my mind. When I was futzing around in Christianity, back in my early twenties, every single Christian congregation that I visited and spent time with did things differently than the others. Even within the same Christian Path. However, instead of embracing their differences as a unique perspective that worked for them, many adherents would claim that it was “the only way to worship God.” To my twenty year-ish self, the suggestion that there was only one way to approach Divinity just didn’t jibe with what I saw in the world around me. So, it was easy to reject their perspective and continue to move on to find my own – which eventually was Paganism, where I have wandered for thirty-plus years. Druidry works for me, and the framework utilized by the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids comes closest to what I feel comes “naturally” to me. I have no desire to slap down someone else’s approach to their aspect of Divinity – whether that be Monotheistic, Polytheistic (where I am), or whatever else you might have. So long as you do not harm others in the name of your beliefs, I see no issues. Harm others? Well, I’ll be standing up against that. Everyone has a right to live…and live the way that they choose. We can all be different without being violent. We only have to choose that.

Herbs, Plant Magick and the Such

Probably not a popular opinion in Pagan or even Druid circles, but I don’t do much in the area of working with herbs or doing so-called “Plant Magick” (I tend to refer to it as “gardening with intent” but that’s a slight slide from the conversation). I guess most Pagans would be shocked that a Druid doesn’t do much in this. However, its just not for me. My idea of being within Nature is just being alive. I like to take walks through the woods and am prone to picking up trash that I see, so it can be disposed of properly later one. Believe me, here in the States, there is trash literally EVERYWHERE. Seemingly, things just fall out of our hands as we walk through nature or magically fly out of our car windows on the highways and interstates that we travel. I saw trash in Europe, but not on the scale we see here. My idea of working with Nature falls more along the lines of being a caretaker of sorts. I am not here to trim back the verge, as it were. But I will pick up the trash of others, so that the natural growth of the world continues. After all, we’re all a big part of the cycle of living. If we do our part, maybe things around the world will get better in terms of climate and pollution. What if our efforts are for naught, and we did all this stuff anyways? Well, then we did our best to be stewards of our planet and tried our best to provide a better planet for the generations that come after us.

Well, thanks for reading another installment of incomplete thoughts. Hopefully, you enjoyed what you read. Maybe some of it even made you think. Even if it was just a single thought: “That Tommy dude is WEIRD.” 😊

–Tommy

Photo by Alvaro Espinosa on Pexels.com

How Fantasy Sports Ruined the 2014 Season For Me And What I did About It

I write a lot about my beliefs, politics, and the extraordinary beauty and awe of the world around me. Here on Super Bowl Sunday, I thought I would tackle a slightly different subject. Sports. Or to put it in a little deeper perspective, why I do not play Fantasy Sports anymore.

060Yes, I used to play Fantasy Baseball, and Fantasy Football nearly every year. Being a super Baseball nerd, it seemed like the appropriate thing to do. And not knowing much at all about American football, that certainly seemed to be a fun way to embarrass myself during the winter while waiting for the restart of Baseball. I started playing in 2000, where Yahoo had an open Fantasy league system. I would draft my team, and then leave it alone for nearly half the season. That’s right, I would draft the team, set things up, and leave it alone.

This proved a good strategy for a few years, particularly during baseball season. I purchase MLB’s Baseball tv access, which allows me to see my beloved Cincinnati Reds for about one-hundred and fifty games during the one-hundred sixty-two game season. Back when Houston was in the National League, I would always get blacked out of the games because I was considered to be “in the market” of the Houston team. So, during those years, I usually lost out on about fifteen games each season.

And I do watch my team nearly every night or afternoon that I can. I keep a spreadsheet and track the statistics for the team, and utilize mathematical formulas to rank players against one another. I have even kept a baseball stats database that goes back to 1871 for all of major league baseball. And yes, I utilize the same statistical formulas to rank all major league players against one another. What can I say? I am a stats nerd.

About two years ago, I joined into a Yahoo Sports league for Fantasy baseball with a group of my coworkers. It was extremely competitive amongst the other folks. So much that I actually got caught up in the idea of trying to win the league. 2014 was the first major league season that I did not enjoy watching.

This had nothing to do with how my beloved Reds were doing. Cincinnati was on a stretch of a downturn that has continued into the 2016, and likely 2017, season. It is a cyclical part of a team’s ability to produce major-league talent and compete. Cincinnati’s competitive seasons are behind it, and the team must focus on gathering new talent in, growing that talent, and developing a mostly well-rounded roster that could theoretically compete. Being a small- to mid-range market team, this means judging exactly when to spend monies for veteran pieces to complete a young roster towards competing for the playoffs. It also means that the Reds cannot afford roster mistakes, such as players who suddenly do not produce. Big market teams such as the Yankees, Dodgers, and Rangers (to name a few) can definitely use their monetary resource pools to cover up any roster mistakes that they might make. But this is a tangent from the point…and I never move on to tangent (HA!).

No, the reason 2014 was a miserable season for me, was brought about by my focus on individual players that were on my Fantasy team. During Reds’ games, I found myself rooting for players that were on the opposing team, rather than rooting on my team. I had been caught up in the whirlpool of the manner in which Fantasy Sports removes the aspect of rooting for your team, and replacing it with rooting individual players on in their individual accomplishments.

Halfway through the 2014 season, I announced to the rest of the Fantasy league I was a part of, that I was not going to compete any longer. I was leading the league at the time. Many of these folks know that I maintain a baseball database, and are aware that my job includes working with stats and working formulas. Some of them thought that I was leaving because I didn’t feel there was enough competition. Only one of them ever asked me why.

My explanation was simple. The focus on individual accomplishments of players that were not necessarily on my beloved Reds had killed my enthusiasm for watching the game. Instead of watching every pitch of every at-bat, as I typically do, I was watching only the at-bats or pitching performances of the players on my Fantasy team. I was prone to changing channels in the middle of the game to another game – just to see how my Fantasy players were doing. Rather than examining the box score of the game I had watched the day before, I was combing the other box scores to see how my fantasy players had done. In short, I was obsessing over players that I normally would never have paid attention to, and not paying attention to the team that I have loved since I was fourteen years old.

When I stopped playing the Fantasy version of the sport, I just could not gather up the enthusiasm that I had in the 2013 season for my Reds. I could feel my excitement for the play of the baseball game slipping away. When the start of the 2015 season came around, I was invited to play again in the Fantasy league. Without hesitation, I turned it down. I even noted that I didn’t enjoy playing because it “changed the way” I looked at my beloved game. The individual who invited me was scornful, telling me that I was being childish about my perspective. Nope. Not being childish at all. I was going back to watching the game as I always had. Back to what made the game great for me.

It took some time to get back into the way that I watched the game. The 2015 season was one of mediocre hopes for the Reds. There was a chance that the team could compete, but things had to fall the right way for that to happen. It never did, and the Reds began to move veteran players off to other teams for young prospects. Some of these veterans I remember seeing their big league debuts years before with the Reds. And I was sad to see the changes happen.

The younger players began arriving to the roster more and more often. More debuts, more extremely young faces with names I had never heard of. But their enthusiasm for playing the game began to win me back by the end of the season. And with a full season separating me from the idiocy of Fantasy Baseball, 2016 was a season of watching players grow. The Reds never competed that year, and fell just short of losing one-hundred games. They were a young, inexperienced team for the most part. And even in defeat, I could see the proud attitude that these players had – being part of an elite group of players that reach the major-leagues.

2017 is just around the corner. In less than two weeks, the most beautiful words ever spoken will come about:  Pitchers and catchers report. The annual start of a new season. Every single team has the same chance to compete at this point. All thirty teams have the same chance to get to the World Series and play for a championship. Certainly, when viewed on paper, some teams seem to be in a better position to do so than others. But then, anything can happen. That’s why every team plays their entire one-hundred and sixty-two game schedule. Because anything can happen.

And none of that is conveyed within the Fantasy Sports model. Instead, its a focus on individual effort. No concept of a group that did it together. No concept of how certain players fulfill certain roles because their team needs it. The players who can hit home runs, but lay down a sacrifice bunt to advance a runner so that the chance of scoring a single run increases for the players directly behind him in the lineup. None of that shows in a Fantasy Sports model. Only individualism. And honestly, I would take a team player over an individualist any day of the week. In a one-hundred and sixty-two game season, it truly does take a team to make it through.