Friday, March 13, 2009

Are the Japanese playing a whole different game?

The Japanese have a different approach to baseball than we do. Maybe its a whole different game. From Baseball Prospectus:

Nippon Prospectus
World Yakyu Classic

by Mike Plugh

For everyone else in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, the sport is baseball. Not so for the group of professionals from Japan, dubbed by their marketing machine as "Samurai Japan." For this group of assorted MLB and NPB players, the sport is yakyu. In English, that translates literally to "field ball," and it highlights the single most important difference between the American sport that we've known and loved all our lives, and the Japanese version grown out of American missionary education in the late-19th century and continued ritualistically through the present day. The tools are the same, the field looks the same, and the rules are essentially the same, but the baseball ideology, to borrow a politically charged term, is radically different.

I direct you to the bottom of the eighth inning of the Pool A title game between Japan and arch-rival Korea. In case you were sleeping during these East Asian opening-round affairs, the Japanese had administered a 14-2 drubbing of the Koreans in their earlier Round Two qualifying contest, only to find themselves in the midst of a terrific pitching duel, down 1-0 in the bottom of the inning.
Ichiro Suzuki, in his inimitable way, slapped a ball through the infield to give the Japanese club a one-out baserunner, and hopes of a game-tying rally at the very least. Up to the plate came the second-slot hitter, Hiroyuki Nakajima, a 26-year-old shortstop for the NPB champion Seibu Lions, who hits for average, understands how to get on base—a rare trait in a Japanese ballplayer—and has some pop in his bat (a .331/.410/.527 line in 2008). He clearly offers a range of skills that a manager, down a single run late in an important ballgame, might put to use.

Giants and "Samurai Japan" manager Tatsunori Hara then made a managerial decision that left me scratching my head: he followed the yakyu way, and had Nakajima lay down a sacrifice bunt with one out already on the board. This left everything up to the outstanding young talent Norichika Aoki, who promptly ended the inning on a weak grounder to the pitcher. The Baseball Prospectus audience already knows the numerous ways in which this tactical decision is wrong, and I don't really need to spell it out, but I'm going to anyway because it will make me feel better. A player with a 40 percent-plus chance of reaching base was asked to sacrifice with one out and Ichiro Suzuki on first. The same Ichiro who stole 65 bases for the Seattle Mariners in 2008 at a 91 percent success rate. The game ended at 1-0; Team Japan was humiliated at the hands of the Korean club.

The morning news covered the WBC game extensively the next day. I flipped from channel to channel to see if anyone dared criticize Hara for his bone-headed managerial move. I knew that they wouldn't, and I heard precisely what I expected to hear, for I've had the conversation a thousand times with a thousand different Japanese fans. They always say the same thing. "This is not baseball. This is yakyu." If you care to read more about this maddening philosophical approach to our national pastime, I suggest you dig into the BP archives and check out my piece on
bunting in Japan. Sure enough, antiquated announcer after over-the-hill announcer almost acknowledged the idiocy of the strategy, proceeding to explain that this was not, in fact, baseball we were talking about, but yakyu. The only indication of annoyance at this wasteful and counterproductive ideology was the fuming exit interview given by a defeated Ichiro Suzuki, who offered a veiled swipe at the decision to bunt, but nothing more.

As we enter the more meaningful rounds of the WBC, you'll undoubtedly watch as the Japanese team employs its yakyu sensibilities in game situations that will seem puzzling and often go against the established science of the sport. Remember that you are not watching baseball. You will be watching yakyu. It's also important to remember that while the Japanese like to boast that yakyu won the inaugural World Baseball Classic, the truth is that the club out-pitched, out-slugged and out-hit each of its opponents, rarely relying on yakyu methods at all. Should we see more of Hara's handiwork in upcoming games, however, it will be interesting to see if "Samurai Japan" will be able to advance beyond its pool.

"New" Calvinism one of the top ideas of the near future

Here is a blog piece by Eugene Cho regarding this TIME article. Mark Driscoll also discusses this here.

Interesting and hopeful, although I hope this doesn't turn out to be just another fad.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Economy and Abortion

This post is a reminder that we who are pro-life need to do what we can to support organizations that women who are led to believe that their only choice is an abortion.

On a related note, a friend on a church-related list serve mentioned that helping pro-life counseling centers purchase ultrasound machines is an excellent way to help change minds on abortion.

Making adultery a tort

An interesting post here at the Volokh conspiracy responding to this post at "The Corner" on National Review Online.

The statute clearly is designed to protect marriage. A knee-jerk reaction would be to support this. But ideas have consequences, and Volokh points out some of those consequences. We always need to think of the consequences when trying to change behavior, especially through legal or governmental action.

Dutch Baseball

I saw two articles yesterday about the Dutch baseball team pulling off not one, but two major upsets of the Dominican Republic. I thought some of the (few) who look at this blog might be interested. It's from yesterday--we now know that the Netherlands will face Venezuela in the next round. If they win, they will face the winner of the USA-Puerto Rico match. If they lose, they move to an elimination game against the loser of the USA-Puerto Rico match.

First, from

Dutch treat highlights a Classic night
By Doug Miller /


It's the only word that describes what the baseball team from The Netherlands accomplished Tuesday at the World Baseball Classic, and if you didn't know that it was Dutch for incredible or unbelievable or miraculous, well, you've just learned the second thing about this country that you might not forget anytime soon.

With their beyond-dramatic 2-1 victory comeback in 11 innings over the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, their second win over a prohibitive tournament favorite, the unheralded Dutchmen have advanced to the second round on the heels of two of the biggest upsets in international baseball history.

"It's hard to put into words what just happened," Netherlands manager Rod Delmonico said after watching his team score two runs in the bottom of the 11th to upend the stunned Dominicans on Tuesday.

"Our guys have played with heart the last three days. I've never been a part of a team with as much passion as this team has. I am very, very proud of our players."

The Dutch team, a rag-tag collection of unproven Minor Leaguers and aging former Major Leaguers, twice defeated a team packed with Major League stars including David Ortiz, Jose Reyes, Pedro Martinez, Robinson Cano, Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, Jose Guillen and Carlos Marmol.

Now The Netherlands will take on undefeated Puerto Rico for the Pool D title tonight before moving on to Round 2 in Miami next week.

And oh yeah, there were two other World Baseball Classic games Tuesday, both with results that could go a long way toward deciding who takes the championship trophy out of Dodger Stadium on March 23.

Veneuzela's potent offense came to life against Italy, hitting four home runs in one inning to pull away to a 10-1 victory that knocked the Italians out of the tournament. Venezuela advances to the second round after a rematch today against the 2-0 U.S. team.

"I think that's one big point for us," said catcher Ramon Hernandez, who homered in the fifth along with Bobby Abreu, Miguel Cabrera and Jose Lopez.

"The last (Classic), we (didn't) hit well. So now, at least, all the hitters, it's a good sign (that) they all would come (much) more prepared. And now that we know when we go to Miami we're going to face a pretty good team, or pretty good pitching, so that's a good sign, that everybody is trying to get the best baseball."

And in Mexico City, the Cubans came through to beat a gritty, talented Australian team, by a score of 5-4, punching their ticket to Round 2 at PETCO Park in San Diego while letting Australia and Mexico battle it out in an elimination game today.

"There is no small enemy here, and Australia is definitely an enemy," Cuban manager Higinio Velez said. "In 2004, we both fought for that gold medal in the Olympics. ... Their players are professional. They are very powerful and have improved with the relief pitching and the great pitchers. It's not a surprise."

But there are plenty more surprises in store for the World Baseball Classic over the next two weeks, and as we move forward to what's shaping up to be a wonderful Wednesday, here comes yet another day of international pool-hopping:

POOL B: MEXICO CITY Home team Mexico was routed by Australia in its first matchup at Foro Sol Stadium and came back with a win over South Africa. Now the Mexicans can get the sweetest revenge on the team from Down Under by beating them in the elimination game set for 10 p.m. ET. "The rivalry doesn't matter, and it would be fun to play them again," Mexico's first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, said. "We know we can beat them, but it really doesn't matter."

POOL C: TORONTO The beast in the Venezuelan bats was finally unleashed, and it can't really be that surprising when a lineup features big leaguers Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Abreu, Carlos Guillen, Lopez and Hernandez. Today, the Venezuelans will get their rematch against the American team at Rogers Centre at 6:30 p.m. ET to see who wins the pool. "They beat us last time," Carlos Guillen said of the U.S. "We'll try to play a hard nine innings [today]. You never know what's going to happen in baseball."

POOL D: SAN JUAN That has certainly been true in this pool, the site of the remarkable double-Dutch feat and astonishingly quick Dominican exit. Today at 5:30 p.m. ET, the Netherlands will meet Puerto Rico to determine the winner of the pool, but as Delmonico said while basking in the glow of Tuesday's monumental win, maybe the result of that game won't be the most important thing on the Dutch team's mind heading into Round 2. "I know for me it's going to be hard to go to sleep just from the excitement of all of this," Delmonico said. "We'll get up in the morning and tee it up tomorrow and see what we can do. We've got our hands full, but the good thing about it is we're both going to Miami."

Sixteen teams will officially be down to eight by the end of Wednesday as the stakes get higher and the baseball gets more intense.

And that's what makes the World Baseball Classic one ongelofelijk event.

Doug Miller is reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Next, from

Who are these guys? Meet the Dutch
World getting familiar with players from The Netherlands
By Doug Miller /

Astute baseball fans remember Randall Simon, they've heard of Sidney Ponson, and they might even know about Gene Kingsale's seven-year stint in the Major Leagues that ended in 2003.

But even the most serious ball geeks have to shake their seamheads at the rest of the roster of The Netherlands team that has turned this World Baseball Classic on its head by eliminating the star-studded Dominican Republic team.

Just who are these guys?

Well, they're managed by Rod Delmonico, a longtime American college coach, and their pitching coach is Bert Blyleven, the Dutch-born curveball and clubhouse-prank artist who won 287 Major League games over a 22-year career and now serves as a popular TV broadcaster for the Minnesota Twins.

But in poring over the profiles of the players who have stunned the world over the past three days, one realizes that the Dutch team features an intriguing mixture of young, unproven talent currently toiling in the Minor Leagues or in Europe plus a salty core of veterans who know a thing or two about baseball's long road of hard knocks.

"What you've got to understand is these guys have played together in Curacao and Holland for a long time," Delmonico said.

"We've got guys who have played together for 10 years. They care about each other and pull for one another. They actually love one another."

Here's a brief Who's Who of some of the key cogs of this surprising Netherlands second-round team:

Ponson, P: The burly 32-year-old Aruba native, who won 17 Major League games in 2003, is a free agent looking for a big-league job for 2009. He might have a better chance at employment after showing new-found maturity while being a leader of this club.

Simon, 1B: He hasn't played in the Majors since 2006, but the Curacao native played in the bigs for parts of eight seasons and had a career year for the Detroit Tigers in 2002, when he batted .301 with 19 home runs and 82 RBIs.

Kingsale, OF: Another Aruban, Kingsale played for four Major League teams from 1996-2003, mostly as a reserve outfielder. He logged a career-high 219 at-bats in 2002 with the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners and batted .283 overall with nine stolen bases.

Dennis Neuman, P: He's 19 years old and spent part of last summer as a reliever on Boston's Single-A Lowell club. Neuman, who is from Curacao, was signed as an undrafted free agent in October 2006 and appeared in eight games for Lowell last year, going 2-0 with a 7.20 ERA and striking out 12 men in 15 innings.

Rob Cordemans, P: Dutch native Cordemans pitched in four straight Olympic Games for The Netherlands (1996, 2000, 2004, 2008) and has been the best pitcher in Hoofdklasse, the Dutch professional league, for years. Cordemans also pitched for his home country in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006. The right-hander is 34 years old.

Leon Boyd, P: Boyd, the 25-year-old closer, is a starter in Hoofdklasse for the Neptunus club. He was born in Canada but has Dutch heritage from his mother, Wilma, who met his father, Sean, when Sean was playing hockey in Holland in the 1970s.

Tom Stuifbergen, P: Holland-born Stuifbergen, 20, was signed by the Minnesota Twins as an undrafted free agent in August 2006 and made his professional debut last year for the Twins' Gulf Coast League rookie team. He appeared in seven games as a reliever and struck out nine batters in 12 1/3 innings, limiting hitters to a .140 batting average and compiling a 2.19 ERA.

Rick VandenHurk, P: Born in The Netherlands, the 6-foot-5 right-hander is still considered a Florida Marlins prospect. He made 17 starts for the Marlins in 2007 after making the jump from Double-A and got the win in the 2007 All-Star Futures Game. He made four big-league starts in 2008.

Juan Carlos Sulbaran, P: Sulbaran, a Curacao native, turned 19 last November, a few months after being selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 30th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. The right-hander received a $500,000 signing bonus, a record for a 30th-round draftee. Sulbaran played high school baseball in Florida and went 11-0 with a 1.40 ERA for a state championship team in 2007.

Kenley Jansen, C: The 21-year-old catcher from Curacao played in 2008 for the Single-A Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League, an affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who signed Jansen as an undrafted free agent in 2004. Jansen batted .227 in 2008 but hit nine homers and drove in 27 runs in 247 at-bats over 79 games.

Yurendell de Caster, IF: The man who won Tuesday night's game over the Dominican Republic with an RBI single in the 11th inning has been a Minor League utility man since signing with Tampa Bay in 1996. Now 29, Curacao native de Caster signed a Minor League deal with the Detroit Tigers in February. He played for the Washington Nationals' Double-A and Triple-A clubs in 2008.

Gregory Halman, OF: Netherlands native Halman, 21, was named the Seattle Mariners' Minor League Player of the Year in 2008 after hitting .272 with 95 runs scored, 29 doubles, five triples, 29 home runs, 83 RBIs and 31 stolen bases in 128 games combined between Single-A High Desert and Double-A West Tennessee. Halman, who was signed by Seattle as an undrafted free agent in June 2004, was rated the No. 13 prospect in the California League by Baseball America.

Doug Miller is reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Why Do They Hate US?

This is definitely worth a read. A clip:

"Whether it’s our entertainment-saturated “worship” services, our celebrity cults or our mad obsession with worldly success, we love for others to see what “God is doing in our lives.” Of course, Jesus had plenty to say about this, and the essence of it is that when your piety is public, then there is almost certainly a lack of serious, life-transforming, private obedience and discipleship."

Campolo on how Darwinism is dangerous, but not for the reasons you might think

An excellent piece here from Tony Campolo. The best paragraph:

"Those creationists who fear Darwin because his theories contradict their literal Biblical belief that creation occurred in six 24-hour days, do not get at the real dangers of Darwinism. They do not realise that an explanation of the development of biological organisms over eons of time really does not pose the great threat to the dignity of our humanity that they suppose. Instead, they, along with the rest of us, should really fear the ethical implications of Darwinism."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Soccer is Not Ruining America

Immediately following is a letter I sent in response to this post in First Things by Professor Stephen H. Webb of Wabash College. I have reprinted the post in its entirety below. He says he is serious, so I took him seriously (or at least as seriously as I could!)



From: Chuck Adams
Date: Thu, Mar 5, 2009 at 9:43 AM
Subject: How Soccer is Ruining America: A Jeremiad
To: First Things

Prof. Webb may be an expert on religion an philosophy, but he clearly is ignorant when it comes to soccer.

In the interest of establishing some common ground, though, one "bridge-building" comment." I agree that the sport Prof. Webb sees has some deficiencies. Suburban parents and wimpy soccer league commissioners have done the sport serious damage by trying to turn it into a safe non-contact sport where every player gets equal time.

But the sport Prof. Webb is seeing and decrying is not soccer. It bears as much resemblance to real soccer as "two-hand touch" does to American football (what I call "throwball," to prevent confusion with the real football.)

Perhaps Prof. Webb should spend some time in the stands in Toronto during an MLS match, or at the next US-Mexico World Cup qualifier, or just about any game in Latin America, or even
watching one of the "grind-em-out" grudge matches played by my local Christian high school against one of their much larger rivals, and he will see that soccer is not safe, undemanding, or European.

Yes, it (like baseball) is much more about teamwork than football or basketball, where one star can carry the team on his back. But I submit that encouraging a team-oriented sport like soccer can help us regain the social capital we've lost in this country. Is it any surprise that the decline of baseball and the rise of throwball has come at the same time as the decline of American civic engagement?

Chuck Adams
Soccer fan
Sheboygan, WI


How Soccer is Ruining America: A Jeremiad
By Stephen H. Webb

Thursday, March 5, 2009, 12:00 AM
Soccer is running America into the ground, and there is very little anyone can do about it. Social critics have long observed that we live in a therapeutic society that treats young people as if they can do no wrong. Every kid is a winner, and nobody is ever left behind, no matter how many times they watch the ball going the other way. Whether the dumbing down of America or soccer came first is hard to say, but soccer is clearly an important means by which American energy, drive, and competitiveness is being undermined to the point of no return.

What other game, to put it bluntly, is so boring to watch? (Bowling and golf come to mind, but the sound of crashing pins and the sight of the well-attired strolling on perfectly kept greens are at least inherently pleasurable activities.) The linear, two-dimensional action of soccer is like the rocking of a boat but without any storm and while the boat has not even left the dock. Think of two posses pursuing their prey in opposite directions without any bullets in their guns. Soccer is the fluoridation of the American sporting scene.

For those who think I jest, let me put forth four points, which is more points than most fans will see in a week of games—and more points than most soccer players have scored since their pee-wee days.

1) Any sport that limits you to using your feet, with the occasional bang of the head, has something very wrong with it. Indeed, soccer is a liberal’s dream of tragedy: It creates an egalitarian playing field by rigorously enforcing a uniform disability. Anthropologists commonly define man according to his use of hands. We have the thumb, an opposable digit that God gave us to distinguish us from animals that walk on all fours. The thumb lets us do things like throw baseballs and fold our hands in prayer. We can even talk with our hands. Have you ever seen a deaf person trying to talk with their feet? When you are really angry and acting like an animal, you kick out with your feet. Only fools punch a wall with their hands. The Iraqi who threw his shoes at President Bush was following his primordial instincts. Showing someone your feet, or sticking your shoes in someone’s face, is the ultimate sign of disrespect. Do kids ever say, “Trick or Treat, smell my hands”? Did Jesus wash his disciples’ hands at the Last Supper? No, hands are divine (they are one of the body parts most frequently attributed to God), while feet are in need of redemption. In all the portraits of God’s wrath, never once is he pictured as wanting to step on us or kick us; he does not stoop that low.

2) Sporting should be about breaking kids down before you start building them up. Take baseball, for example. When I was a kid, baseball was the most popular sport precisely because it was so demanding. Even its language was intimidating, with bases, bats, strikes, and outs. Striding up to the plate gave each of us a chance to act like we were starring in a Western movie, and tapping the bat to the plate gave us our first experience with inventing self-indulgent personal rituals. The boy chosen to be the pitcher was inevitably the first kid on the team to reach puberty, and he threw a hard ball right at you.

Thus, you had to face the fear of disfigurement as well as the statistical probability of striking out. The spectacle of your failure was so public that it was like having all of your friends invited to your home to watch your dad forcing you to eat your vegetables. We also spent a lot of time in the outfield chanting, “Hey batter batter!” as if we were Buddhist monks on steroids. Our chanting was compensatory behavior, a way of making the time go by, which is surely why at soccer games today it is the parents who do all of the yelling.

3) Everyone knows that soccer is a foreign invasion, but few people know exactly what is wrong with that. More than having to do with its origin, soccer is a European sport because it is all about death and despair. Americans would never invent a sport where the better you get the less you score. Even the way most games end, in sudden death, suggests something of an old-fashioned duel. How could anyone enjoy a game where so much energy results in so little advantage, and which typically ends with a penalty kick out, as if it is the audience that needs to be put out of its misery. Shootouts are such an anticlimax to the game and are so unpredictable that the teams might as well flip a coin to see who wins—indeed, they might as well flip the coin before the game, and not play at all.

4) And then there is the question of gender. I know my daughter will kick me when she reads this, but soccer is a game for girls. Girls are too smart to waste an entire day playing baseball, and they do not have the bloodlust for football. Soccer penalizes shoving and burns countless calories, and the margins of victory are almost always too narrow to afford any gloating. As a display of nearly death-defying stamina, soccer mimics the paradigmatic feminine experience of childbirth more than the masculine business of destroying your opponent with insurmountable power.

Let me conclude on a note of despair appropriate to my topic. There is no way to run away from soccer, if only because it is a sport all about running. It is as relentless as it is easy, and it is as tiring to play as it is tedious to watch. The real tragedy is that soccer is a foreign invasion, but it is not a plot to overthrow America. For those inclined toward paranoia, it would be easy to blame soccer’s success on the political left, which, after all, worked for years to bring European decadence and despair to America. The left tried to make existentialism, Marxism, post-structuralism, and deconstructionism fashionable in order to weaken the clarity, pragmatism, and drive of American culture. What the left could not accomplish through these intellectual fads, one might suspect, they are trying to accomplish through sport.

Yet this suspicion would be mistaken. Soccer is of foreign origin, that is certainly true, but its promotion and implementation are thoroughly domestic. Soccer is a self-inflicted wound. Americans have nobody to blame but themselves. Conservative suburban families, the backbone of America, have turned to soccer in droves. Baseball is too intimidating, football too brutal, and basketball takes too much time to develop the required skills. American parents in the past several decades are overworked and exhausted, but their children are overweight and neglected. Soccer is the perfect antidote to television and video games. It forces kids to run and run, and everyone can play their role, no matter how minor or irrelevant to the game. Soccer and relevision [sic] are the peanut butter and jelly of parenting.

I should know. I am an overworked teacher, with books to read and books to write, and before I put in a video for the kids to watch while I work in the evenings, they need to have spent some of their energy. Otherwise, they want to play with me! Last year all three of my kids were on three different soccer teams at the same time. My daughter is on a traveling team, and she is quite good. I had to sign a form that said, among other things, I would not do anything embarrassing to her or the team during the game. I told the coach I could not sign it. She was perplexed and worried. “Why not,” she asked? “Are you one of those parents who yells at their kids? “Not at all,” I replied, “I read books on the sidelines during the game, and this embarrasses my daughter to no end.” That is my one way of protesting the rise of this pitiful sport. Nonetheless, I must say that my kids and I come home from a soccer game a very happy family.

Stephen H. Webb is a professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash
College. His recent books include American Providence and Taking
Religion to School.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sports and the law intersect

This post from SCOTUS Blog is interesting on a number of grounds:  First, just the issue of whether to treat a sports league with franchises as a single entity. (By the way, soccer is not involved because MLS has a different structure than the NFL, MLB, or the NBA.) Second, it reminds us of the special legal status of major league baseball in the US.  Third, the writers included soccer as a major U.S. sport.  (As well they should--MLS, even with their mistakes, is as major as the NHL.)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Why we don't all speak Dutch: Language extinction and language survival

Those of you who are Dutch or who live in Dutch areas may find this link very interesting. It was linked to here, where there is some interesting discussion.

By the way, I have lived not only in Dutch areas like Sioux County, Iowa, but when I was a kid I lived near the area where the "Jackson whites" (many of them don't like that terminology, by the way) live.

The Monday Evening Club: Why we don't all speak Dutch: Language extinction and language survival

Judges--elected or appointed

At my church we have an adult education hour two Wednesday nights each month. Occasionally we have been using the series "Ethics in America." The series is not explicitly Christian, but it gets at issues that Christians ought to think about, and the leader encourages participants to apply their Christian worldview to the issues raised there.

One issue raised in that series, an issue I have thought about without coming to any definite conclusions, is whether it is better to elect or appoint judges. Here, the SCOTUSblog deals with a pending Supreme Court case where such issues play a role.

Politics play a role with either method of choosing judges. The best candidate is not guaranteed to become a judge under either method, and recent higher court elections in Wisconsin have clearly degenerated into political battles funded by monied interests with much at stake. Yet, the Blagojevich fiasco shows that there are problems with appointments as well.

I have not used this space (yet) for posting much in the way of my opinions; choosing rather to post links to interesting articles that may or may not shape the way I think on certain things. I have some ideas for reforming the method we use for appointing judges, but I want to think it through even more before going "on the record." Any thoughts?