Thursday, March 28, 2019

The beauty of baseball

Happy Opening Day 2019 everyone! May you thoroughly enjoy this season, just if the Chicago Cubs come out on top!

The off-season moved at a glacial pace, as big-name free agents Bryce Harper & Manny Machado signed their respective megadeals late in the off-season. Yet many other free agents, such as Dallas Keuchel & Craig Kimbrel, remain unsigned. Baseball is beautiful because it never stops. When there are no games, there are conversations about the future, regarding teams, players, rules, etc.

Major League Baseball (MLB) bid farewell to other players who retired. Adrian Beltre retired, & he is destined for induction into the MLB Hall of Fame. Joe Mauer retired, & although his resume is debatable for the Hall of Fame voters, he was the face of the Minnesota Twins. Jason Hammel retired, but he will not be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He concluded a solid career, highlighted with a World Series ring from playing on the 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs. Baseball is beautiful for its countless number of players, so whom played only a game in the big leagues, & others who became the greatest ballplayers in MLB.

2019 will also welcome four players into the MLB Hall of Fame. As a 27-year-old fan, I had the pleasure of watching these inductees play the game. Congratulations to Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, & Edgar Martinez. All four players had tremendous careers, & they will forever be remembered in the annals of MLB. Baseball is beautiful for its history.

Like your pet which welcomes you home, there are baseball games from today, March 29, through the World Series Game 7 on October 30. There are seven months of almost daily baseball games. There is a legitimate case that the season is too long. Admittedly, I would probably agree with you about that gripe. Nonetheless, baseball is beautiful for its reliability.

The highlight reels will be filled of monstrous home runs, jaw-dropping defensive plays, crazy occurrences both on & off the field, embarrassingly funny mistakes, & moments which will define each team's season. Baseball is beautiful for its highlights, both good & bad.

For fans, baseball games are a time to gather round the TV to watch the game, listen to it as we drive to & from different locations, conversation pieces in a world where much of the news brings arguing, & hope as we imitate our favorite batter's stance or toss the ball around in a game of catch. Baseball is beautiful because it brings out our inner childhood love of the game.

Baseball holds many traditions for us. We wear our favorite player's jersey when we go to the games, we wear our team's clothing on some days such as Opening Day, we wear the ballcaps as we enjoy the nice weather from spring-fall, & we delight in the camaraderie of cheering on our favorite team. Baseball is beautiful because it has become a part of our lives in some capacity.

The games themselves boast time-honored traditions. The singing of The National Anthem, the bellow of "Play Ball," the first pitch, which I will recall as being thrown by my beloved friend Sr. Mary Jo Sobieck, the scribbling down the information on your scorecard, the cheering at the important parts of the game, & the indulging in a hot dog & beverage as you watch the game. Stadiums vary on their value of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, but we all enjoy getting up & singing. Three strikes & you're out! The traditions of baseball games make it beautiful.

Twenty-seven outs & we all head home. If we win, we're in a celebratory mood. If we lose, we move on. It's just a game we tell ourselves, but we adore it so much more. We'll get 'em tomorrow; there's 162 games in a season. At its core, baseball is a game. We all played in our lives in some capacity, even if it was a game of whiffle ball in our backyard. No matter the score, there are two guarantees at every baseball game. First, there is a winner. Second, there is a loser. Whether your team wins 19-0, 5-3, 1-0, or some other score, the game is reflected in the standings by one number. Either you add 1 to the win column, or you add 1 to the loss column. Baseball is beautiful for its simplicity.

So, go on, enjoy this season. Millions of Americans will join you. Watch the game with your family & friends, turn on the radio as you drive around, enjoy America's pastime. It is beautiful.

My 2019 MLB predictions

The 2019 Major League Baseball (MLB) season is upon us, play ball! It is time for my MLB predictions. Over the course of the season, there will be injuries, call-ups, transactions, & managerial firings. Obviously, I cannot predict to whom those will occur, so these rankings are based on current information. As such, I will briefly explain my predictions.

AL East
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees (AL wild card #1)
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Baltimore Orioles
This divisional race will be very close between the Red Sox & the Yankees. On the strength of a more experienced lineup & stronger rotation, the Red Sox will barely win, but this race could go down to the last few days of the regular season.

AL Central
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Minnesota Twins (AL wild card #2)
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Detroit Tigers
The Indians will clinch this one not because they're good, but because the other four, especially the bottom three, aren't very good. The Twins quietly improved their team over the offseason, & they will surprise people when they win the second wild card spot.

AL West
1. Houston Astros
2. Los Angeles Angels
3. Oakland A's
4. Texas Rangers
5. Seattle Mariners
While the Astros will win this one going away & thereby end up with the best record in the AL, the Angels & A's will both battle the Twins for the second wild card. If the Angels stay healthy & perhaps pick a back end of the rotation player, they could snag that spot. Currently, the Twins are slightly better.

NL East
1. Atlanta Braves
2. Philadelphia Phillies (NL wild card #2)
3. Washington Nationals
4. New York Mets
5. Miami Marlins
Those poor Marlins. The top four teams are very close, & they all will beat up on the Marlins. Atlanta lacks a true ace, but all their pitchers are good. If they sign a true ace like Dallas Keuchel, they gain an advantage over everyone else. The Phillies improved their club the best this offseason, but are they ready to take that jump into contenders? I predict they'll settle for the second wild card spot simply because of the depth of this division. The Nationals lost Bryce Harper but their rotation has Scherzer & Strasburg, they have young hitters, & Brian Dozier will nicely fit on the team. The Mets have arguably the best pitching staff, but their whole season is dependent on health. If they stay healthy & their lineup comes through, they could conceivably jump up higher in the final standings.

NL Central
1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. Chicago Cubs (NL wild card #1)
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
Milwaukee smartly added Yasmani Grandal, St. Louis picked up Paul Goldschmidt, & the Reds acquired two outfielders. The Cubs stood pat, but they're banking on their team staying healthy. The rotation can be dominant if they all stay healthy. Because their margin for error is razor-thin, the Cubs will miss out on the divisional crown & win the wild card. At this point, the Pirates ought to overhaul. Trade Gregory Polanco, trade any impending free agents, admit defeat. Cause it's going to be a long season.

NL West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Colorado Rockies
3. San Diego Padres
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. San Francisco Giants
The Dodgers can lose players to injury & still win the division. They're that good. The Rockies lost Carlos Gonzalez, but they added Daniel Murphy, & David Dahl will be a force to be reckoned with this season. Their rotation is solid, but the Rockies could really use Craig Kimbrel. Their bullpen is their glaring weakness. At Coors Field, poor pitching late in games will cost them wins. The Padres signed Manny Machado & definitely have an improved lineup. Their pitching staff is so unproven. When all the starters grow together, when the team endures a losing streak, who will stop the bleeding? As for the Diamondbacks, losing Steven Souza Jr. hurt them. It's now an even weaker lineup with a shaky pitching staff. They'll be right alongside the Giants, who are full of fading veterans. If there's a team with a bevy of trade pieces, it's the Giants. Sell, sell, sell!

Wild Card games
AL: New York Yankees defeat the Minnesota Twins
The Yankees will have improved, they'll host this game, & in a one-game matchup, the Yankees bullpen will end the Twins season.
NL: Chicago Cubs beat the Philadelphia Phillies in a low scoring affair
Who will start for the Phillies, Aaron Nola or Jake Arrieta? The Cubs will start either Jon Lester or Kyle Hendricks. This game will be the first team to score three runs wins.

Divisional Series
AL: Houston Astros over the New York Yankees in 5 & Boston Red Sox pound the Cleveland Indians in 3
The Astros will outhit the Yankees merely because they won't strike out as often. More hits equal more runs. The Red Sox will win because they're better in every facet of the game. If the Indians want to win, Terry Francona will have to outmanage Alex Cora. Good luck with that.
NL: Los Angeles Dodgers over the Chicago Cubs in 4 & Milwaukee Brewers emerge in a hard-fought 5 game matchup over the Atlanta Braves
The Dodgers will best the Cubs because of they are a better overall team. Any of their starters could be an ace on a bad team. Can the Cubs say the same? As for the Brewers, I predict they will pick up a big impact player, probably a pitcher, who will significantly upgrade this team. The Braves will battle, but they'll fall in the end.

Championship Series
AL: Boston Red Sox over the Houston Astros in 6
The Red Sox will find a way. Their rotation will give them the lead late in games, & their bullpen issues will be resolved. J.D. Martinez will step up when needed, & they will return to the World Series
NL: Milwaukee Brewers over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 7
Wait, what? Yes, the Brewers will win the pennant. Christian Yelich will go off, Ryan Braun will find power once again, & the Brewers will rely heavily on their bullpen. Josh Hader & Corey Knebel will take care of business, & the Dodgers will leave Kenley Jansen in the bullpen as they cannot rally in Game 7.

World Series: Boston Red Sox repeat as World Series champions & celebrate at Fenway Park when they win in 5 games
The last repeat World Series champion was the New York Yankees who won three-straight from 1998-2000. These Red Sox are that good. Even with the loss of Craig Kimbrel, they're a World Series favorite. Their rotation & bullpen are deep. They have an excellent mix of veterans & young players. Even their young players like Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, & Mookie Betts are accustomed to playing on a big stage. The Brewers will put up a valiant effort, but the Boston Red Sox will be too much to handle.

The Boston Red Sox will repeat as the 2019 World Series champions.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

2018 Mark Kristl college football bowl pick 'em contest results

Congratulations to Coach Dabo Swinney & Clemson Tigers for winning the college football national championship. Furthermore, a job well done to Coach Nick Saban & Alabama Crimson Tide for  reaching the college football national championship game. Also, a tip of the cap to Coach Brian Kelly & Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Coach Lincoln Riley & Oklahoma Sooners on making the college football playoffs. While Clemson won the title, those four teams were undoubtedly the best teams in college football this season.

Thank you to all the participants in the 2018 Mark Kristl college football bowl pick 'em contest. This year saw the highest number of participants. With 32 participants, I paid 1st-3rd place, & last place received their money back. I found the best balance for additional points for the college football playoff games & the national championship game. I thank everyone who participated & sincerely hope you play next year.

Here are the final standings. Obviously, for those people who are tied with points, the tiebreaker of total points in the national championship game served its purpose. Surprisingly, there were still ties. Two people tied for 5th place. Two people tied for 12th place. Remarkably, five people tied for 14th place. Those tied are noted with 'T'.
1. Carl Ruf 31 points
2. Hagen 27 points
3. Rob Ostrowski 26 points
4. Mark Kristl 25 points
T-5. Chuck Barrett 25 points
T-5. Matt Nommensen 25 points
7. Papa & Stephanie 25 points
8. Papa 25 points
9. Stephanie & Jackson 24 points
10. Dan Anderson 24 points
11. Joseph Wooley 23 points
T-12. David Devlin 23 points
T-12. Matt Anderson 23 points
T-14. Anthony McKee 23 points
T-14. Ceth Christensen 23 points
T-14. Dan Danis 23 points
T-14. Jay 23 points
T-14. Mike Kristl 23 points
19. Ian Chladek 23 points
20. RJ 22 points
21. Jordan Keeley 22 points
22. Amy Nommensen 21 points
23. Jackson 21 points
24. Sr. Mary Jo & Sr. Jean 21 points
25. Papa & Mark 21 points
26. Syron Distor 21 points
27. Adam Jones 21 points
28. Jonesy 20 points
29. Dan Nawrocki 20 points
30. R.A.N. 20 points
31. Christine 19 points
32. Jim McKee 18 points

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

My final college football Top 25 of the 2018 season

Congratulations to the Clemson Tigers on winning the college football national championship. I tweeted my weekly college football Top 25 with #wisdomofmark, but here is my final Top 25 from this season. Disagree with me? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments. Better yet? Post your own Top 25. 
Final college football Top 25 from the 2018 season.
1. Clemson
2. Alabama
3. Notre Dame
4. Oklahoma
5. Ohio St.
6. UCF
7. Fresno St.
8. Appalachian St.
9. Utah St.
10. Cincinnati
11. Army
12. Washington St.
13. Georgia
14. UAB
15. Michigan
16. Florida
17. Boise St.
18. Kentucky
19. Syracuse
20. LSU
21. Georgia Southern
22. Troy
23. Washington
24. Iowa
25. Penn St.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I'm not a change guy

I’m not a change kind of guy. Today at the airport, I needed to empty my pockets. I asked the TSA official if I needed to empty my pocket of change. He asked how much & I responded by showing at least a handful. He told me to put in a bin. When I emptied my pocket, he looked in shock. He asked how long I had been accumulating my change. I answered Thanksgiving & then said when I came home for Thanksgiving, I had about $20 of change in my pocket. He laughed, handed me my bin, & we went our separate ways. Oddly enough, I did not empty my change-filled pocket when I came home for Thanksgiving.

Living in Philadelphia, I toured the US Mint. Very educational, although seeing the actual minting process was a letdown. One interesting fact is they only produce coins, not dollar bills, there. To explore Philadelphia, I use the Market-Frankford Line, commonly known as the EL. While I use tokens for Mass & other ministry & job-related travels, I use my own money for recreational purposes. Each time costs $2.25, & as the SEPTA officers will so kindly inform you, exact change only. Therefore, I have kept my change on my nightstand, & when I go on adventures into the city, I grab my quarters. The other denominations are left behind. Rarely do I ever use change elsewhere. Sure, it would be helpful. Sure, I would not use those green bills. I’m just not a change guy.

Unfortunately, today required me to make an exception. While eating at Subway, I needed a refill. I asked for a refill, only to be told it cost 54 cents! I groaned in disgust. I bought their food, am looking for something to quench my thirst when enjoying their food, & they are going to charge me more for that? BS! Sadly, my thirst overcame my displeasure. Luckily, I had change. I handed the cashier the change unhappily, snatched my drink from him, & stormed away. When I was home over Thanksgiving Break, I cashed in my change. Finally putting all the denominations to good use. I used that money for Christmas presents. Yes, I will continue to use quarters in my exploration of Philadelphia & the surrounding area. The change will accumulate on my nightstand though. What can I say? I’m not a change guy

Saturday, March 31, 2018

My 2018 MLB Predictions

With the 2018 baseball season underway, I give you my predictions for this season. Naturally, this cannot predict injuries, trades, or other extenuating circumstances, so keep that in mind. Here we go with Mark Kristl's 2018 MLB predictions.

AL East
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox-wild card
3. Toronto Blue Jays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Tampa Bay Rays

AL Central
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Minnesota Twins-wild card
3. Detroit Tigers
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Chicago White Sox

AL West
1. Houston Astros
2. Los Angeles Angels
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Texas Rangers
5. Oakland A's

NL East
1. Washington Nationals
2. New York Mets
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. Atlanta Braves
5. Miami Marlins

NL Central
1. Chicago Cubs
2. St. Louis Cardinals-wild card
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Pittsburgh Pirates

NL West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Colorado Rockies-wild card
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. San Francisco Giants
5. San Diego Padres

AL Wild Card: Boston over Minnesota
NL Wild Card: St. Louis over Colorado

ALDS: Houston over Boston & New York over Cleveland
NLDS: Los Angeles over St. Louis & Washington over Chicago

ALCS: Houston over New York
NLCS: Washington over Los Angeles

World Series: Houston Astros win back-to-back World Series championships by defeating the Washington Nationals

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Jeb Burton & #26 BK Racing Team

In The Hunger Games series, there is a repeated line. “May the odds be ever in your favor.” While that line is proclaimed in regards to the tributes that fight to the death within The Hunger Games, it applies to young NASCAR driver Jeb Burton. Whom the odds repeatedly fall in his favor. There are many similarities between Jeb Burton & Parker Kligerman. Of course, having read, “Hang With ‘Em Parker Kligerman, Hang with ‘Em,” you know Kligerman’s story. Allow me then the opportunity to share the similarities between Kligerman & Jeb Burton.

Both began their careers in the NASCAR Truck Series. Both won a race. Both race Toyotas in the NASCAR Cup Series. Each has driven for a team no longer in business. Both race for one of the lower-tier NASCAR Cup Series teams. Here is the main difference. Burton so far has found himself in a driver’s seat continuously throughout his career.

In 2013, he drove for Turner Scott Motorsports & finished the season 5th in points with a victory at Texas. Unfortunately, shortly before the 2014 season began, his primary sponsor, Arrowhead Cigarettes, defaulted on its payments & Turner Scott Motorsports folded #4 team due to the lack of sponsorship. Burton landed on his feet. He signed a one-race deal with ThorSport Racing, & his sponsor Estes Express Lines upgraded Burton to a full schedule. He finished the season 8th in points but bad luck again beset him in early 2015. Estes Express Lines announced they were unable to reach a deal & subsequently Burton again was out of a job. Recently, BK Racing added Burton to its driver lineup & he is running for the 2015 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year Award.

A young talent, stable sponsorship with BK Racing’s relationship with Burger King, Jeb Burton appears to have landed on his feet & be able to stand up straight. Moreover, he can drive without fear of his sponsor costing him his job at the end of the season. It is an opportunity for Burton to grow & become the leader of BK Racing. At the minimum in this economy, it is a job. Go get ‘em Jeb Burton, you deserve this. After all, you have landed on your feet once again. It is a new season; clean track ready for rubber from both teams with consistent lineups & new teams ready to prove their worth. Lastly, teams changed personnel in hopes of a good season. An example? Jeb Burton & #26 BK Racing team