Breaking down Galatians 5:16-26 | Part 3: How they work together

Galatians 5:16-26: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar.“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Against these things there is no law.”


Now that we’ve covered the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit, it’s time to analyze how they balance each other out. It’s the most fascinating element of this portion of literature- though not in order, we can apply each part of the fruit of spirit to “cancel out” the works of the flesh. At the risk of creating a complicated web, I subdivided and broke down how each element, or group of elements, works with one another.

  • Hatreds, Strife, Selfish ambitions -> LoveLove is the ultimate equalizer. The ultimate catalyst. True heart change comes with true love. When our human nature consumes our heart, and when we find ourselves led to hatred, strife and selfishness, it’s up to us as Christians to take a step back (or in some cases, motivate others to step back) and approach the situation with an angle of true love. This sounds vague, but next time you’re angry with someone, ask yourself: “Am I showing them love like Jesus?”
  • Jealousy -> PeaceGod tells us through his words that he will meet our every need. It’s up to us to discipline ourselves and accept the peace he offers us through Christ Jesus. When we’re trained on the peace that the resurrection offers, we notice the lust, desire, and jealousy for things, or things that others have, disappears.
  • Outbursts of Anger -> JoyJesus was great at turning the other cheek. We are not. It takes practice, but if we’re in tune with the spirit and drawing close to God through his word, we should be motivated to control our anger and approach stressful situations with a lens of joy. This is something that takes time to learn, but we definitely need to give it time and effort to improve our management of anger.
  • Envy -> PatienceTying back into jealousy, James 4:2 warns against desiring what others have. Attempting to approach missed opportunities and unanswered prayers with the acknowledgement of God’s superior will in mind is something extremely difficult to do, but it’s a life-changing perspective if we can achieve it. Instead of forcing the timing of something you want in this life, evaluate it from all perspectives, and realize that God’s timing ultimately prevails.
  • Moral impurity -> Kindness, GoodnessWe can live a morally superior life by making an active effort to be kind and good by making a positive impact on the lives of others. We should be charged by the example to see the good in other people, and ask ourselves in tough spots: “What would Jesus do?”
  • Sexual Immorality, promiscuity, sorcery -> Faith
    • We must fight these things by remaining close to God in active and consistent prayer time and actively seeking to read and apply his word. Instead of involving ourselves in the ways of the world, we must actively strive to be better. We should strive to be loyal in our relationships, and value the institution of marriage, while paying close attention to the Bible’s commands regarding sexual sin.
  • Dissensions, Factions -> GentlenessWe should be gentle and inclusive to all people on this Earth, just like Jesus was. Even in this era of acceptance of all ways of live, Jesus wouldn’t further the rift between us. That means opening our arms and striving to make a Christ-like impact on the lives of others who disagree with our decision to follow Christ and the life that comes with it.
  • Drunkenness, Carousing -> Self-ControlWe must practice self-control daily in our life. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the great, wholesome things of this life, like the book of Eccelesiastes identifies, such as friendship, a good meal, or a beautiful sunset, but never let the desire for earthly pursuits overrun our desire for Jesus.

Each one of these is an everyday pursuit that is difficult to grasp and pursue. I am terrible at it. We are all terrible at it; we fail each day. However, realizing the significance and importance of this chapter will help us strive closer to Jesus daily.

Advertisements

Breaking down Galatians 5:16-26 | Part two: Fruit of the Spirit

Last week, I published the first article in a series about one of the most consequential portions of the New Testament- Galatians 5:16-26. The initial post covered Galatians 5:16-21- the works of the flesh– that draw us away from the spirit.

This week, we’ll dive into something a little more uplifting: the fruit of the Spirit. It’s interesting to not the singularity of the word “fruit,” even though nine different adjectives make up the section.

Like the last post, I’ll define each word, and provide commentary on each one and its impact on our relationship with Jesus. Next week, I’ll compare each word side-by-side, and how pursuit of the fruit of the Spirit counteracts the works of the flesh.


Verses 22-23 (HCSB) say: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Against these things there is no law.”

  1. Love
    • What is Love? A question asked by so many, to the point that it’s nearly a joke in our society. Love, as defined by Google, is defined as an intense feeling of deep affection. In this context, applied to feelings towards other people.
    • New testament scripture puts an incredible emphasis on love in this life- in John 13:34, Jesus commands us to love one another. In Galatians 5:14, Jesus summarizes the whole law in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus lived this to the extreme. He engaged in the supreme act of love. It’s no wonder why this is listed as the first part of the fruit of the spirit- a life with Jesus, encapsulated through scripture and the life he lived- is defined by love.
  2. Peace
    • Peace is perhaps something that our modern society struggles to find the most. Google has a great definition for peace- especially in this context-
      freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.
    • Jesus tells us in John 16:33 that he has conquered the world. This assurance should provide us great peace. His love and power is bigger than any issue found in this world. He should be our peace. When we feel like we lose control and/or his touch, it’s often times because we look for peace in what we have, and what we understand. The only way to true peace is humility in this regard- and truly trusting Jesus by seeking him only through his word and its application to our lives.
  3. Joy
    • Joy is a true feeling of happiness rooted inside ourselves, unstimulated by anything exterior. When one truly knows Jesus, and relies on him for their peace, often times this comes very easily.
    • Joy is incredibly important in pursuing a Christian life. A relationship with Jesus should make us happy! Christ died for us so that we could live- what a tremendous victory. How can we expect to bring anyone to Christ if we walk through this life sad and unsatisfied?
  4. Patience
    • Patience is perhaps the most difficult pursuit for many on this list. It directly ties back into peace- it’s an increased reliance on God- but especially trusting his timing.
    • God tells us in his word that he not only seeks out good will for those who love him, but also if we uphold his commandments and love him only, that we can expect a long, happy life. In a long life, sometimes it’s tough to trust his timing. We want control over when things happen in our lives, but if we wait on his timing, often times it proves supreme and meets us right when and where we need it.
  5. Kindness, 6. Goodness
    • Kindness and Goodness both tie directly back into love, but is more directed toward personal service. Kindness is a true willingness to serve others without expecting anything in return.
    • In John 13, Jesus shows true kindness to his disciples by washing their feet, something degrading to other church or societal leader of the time period. As his followers, we ought to heed this example. True kindness shatters expectations, and parallel’s Jesus’ love in this life. It’s how we distinguish ourselves as Christ-followers in this self-serving world. Furthermore, our intentions must be true and good- we must serve with good hearts and desire for Jesus.
  6. Goodness (see above)
  7. Faith
    • Faith is belief and trust of God’s plan through Jesus, even though often times we fail, or simply cannot, understand it.
    • This is perhaps the most significant deterrent to a relationship with Christ in our world today. We live in an instant gratification, “prove-it” society. Because we can’t see God nor Jesus in the flesh, many refuse to believe. But upon pursuit, one will find that this is the most rewarding aspect. We cannot base our belief on the sight of Jesus, but the work of his kingdom around us. A relationship with Christ is not an easy pursuit; if it were, it wouldn’t require faith.
  8. Gentleness
    • Gentleness is an elevated understanding and consideration of the feelings of other people, and ties right back into patience.
    • 1 Peter 3:4 tells us that a quiet and gentle spirit is “precious” to God. We must go about leading people extremely delicately, Just like Jesus and his disciples did throughout the old testament. If we pursue this recklessly, like so often happens, people misunderstand who Jesus is. As Christ followers, we represent Jesus to those who don’t know him, and when we approach conversion with anger, self-righteousness, and false prophecy, we turn many off to Christ.
  9. Self-Control
    • Self-control is the ability to manage one’s emotions under duress, especially against societal alignment or human desire.
    • This is so important in a relationship with Jesus. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a difficult pursuit, but being in control of our thoughts and emotions helps us to align ourselves with Jesus’ love for us and God’s plan for our lives. Being better than the norm and different than most is how we elevate ourselves and align with the example of Christ.

It’s interesting to note that the author notes that, then and now, there is no law against these things. We can pursue each element no matter where we are in life. If we understand and pursue these, we can draw closer to Christ daily.

Breaking Down Galatians 5:16-26: The Fruits of the Spirit | Part One: Works of Flesh

In my church experience, Galatians 5:16-26, better known as the “Fruits of the Spirit,” was one of the most significant and recurrent teaching points in the New Testament. The scripture offers us tangible, definitive adjectives to grasp and chart on our life paths.

The text appears in parallel structure by first listing the “works of the flesh.” In verses 22, the author retorts by listing the “Fruits of the Spirit.” In this entry, I plan to break down each listed adjective and analyze how the author uses them to illustrate a central point: living for the flesh and living for the spirit are two completely opposite pursuits.

This will be the first entry in a three-part series. The first piece will analyze the works of the flesh, the second with analyze the fruits of the spirit, and the third will analyze the verses side-by side.

—————————————————————————————————————————

Verse 19 (HCSB) says: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar.”

That’s a lot to take in. So, I’ve broken each “work of the flesh” down by its definition, and added a sentence in on how it’d strain our relationship with Jesus.

  • 1. Sexual Immorality
    • Definition: “Sexual immorality is the “selling off” of sexual purity and involves any type of sexual expression outside the boundaries of a biblically defined marriage relationship (Matthew 19:4–5 offers more context).” (gotquestions.com definition)
    • Analysis: I don’t think it’s any mistake that this is the first work of the flesh listed. Sexual urges and desires dominate our life, and often time seem to be what captivates our minds the most. Allowing this to take over our desire for Jesus is an obvious, and perhaps the most dangerous work of the flesh.
  • 2. Moral Impurity
    • “When we respond to guilt by justifying our actions, rationalizing our decisions, or trying to compensate for our sin by doing “good” things, we do not resolve the guilt. Eventually the mind and conscience will alleviate the pressure of guilt by justifying moral impurity.” (ILPB.org definition)
    • We do this every day. For every sin, there’s some kind of justification in our heads. This flimsy moral tight rope walk leads us away from the spirit is an obvious work of the flesh.
  • 3. Promiscuity
    • Google offers two definitions for the word Promiscuous; the first: having or characterized by many transient sexual relationships. The second: demonstrating or implying an undiscriminating or un-selective approach; indiscriminate or casual.
    • Though promiscuity in the traditional sense, that being the first definition, is used throughout the Bible, given the context, I believe the latter was the definition the author intended. The text doesn’t warn against sexual promiscuity exclusively; but also promiscuity of the heart. Our flesh’s desires over God are a direct path to this promiscuity.
  • 4. Sorcery, 5. Idolatry
    • I grouped these two together because they’re in a similar vane. Meriam-Webster defines sorcery in a Biblical context as the use of power gained from the assistance or control of evil spirits especially for divining. Church-goers and/or Bible-readers hear the word “idolatry” a lot; but just in case you don’t know what it means: idolatry according to Google is extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.Both of these have something in common: They’re issues that plagued the society of the author at the time of writing.
    • Obviously, sorcery and worship of physical idols is something most of us probably don’t struggle with in 2018. However, they’re important reminders for a modern reader. We must avoid sorcery by making sure we worship in ways that satisfy God. Idolatry is extremely pertinent in this life. We may not find ourself worshiping physical idols, but especially in America, many find themselves idolizing fame, money, sex or stature. That’s a blog post for another day- but it’s clear this is an obvious work of the flesh that has damaged the relationship between God and his people for thousands of years.
  • 6. Hatred, 7. Strife, 8. Jealousy/13. Envy
    • These four are also in a similar vane. At the risk of being confusing, I went out of order in the text to group these together because jealousy and envy are so similar.
    • According to Google: Hatred- intense dislike or ill will, Strife- angry or bitter disagreement over fundamental issues; conflict, Jealousy-feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages.
    • You could dive into each one of these as a fundamental human corruption in each of their own right. It’s clear in The Bible that sin is a choice of man rooted from our very beginning, and each one of these is a fundamental selfish human desire. Furthermore, each one of these relates to each other in that they each are something every person deals with in this life. It’s human nature to feel these sharp emotions towards our fellow man. Rooted deep in our flesh, they drive us apart from one another, and even further from our God.
  • 9. Outbursts of anger
    • This one is fairly self-explanatory. Anger is our default when we meet conflict (or strife) in this life. It’s so much easier to give into our flesh’s desire than it is to choose the peace and understanding illustrated by Jesus.
  • 10. Selfish ambitions
    • Also self-explanatory. Alike anger is as our default human response, selfishness is similar. Jesus; even in this chapter (see: Galatians 5:14) teaches that love for others is paramount in this life. Our selfish desires of the flesh cloud this mindset and separate us from the Christ-like selflessness that Jesus outlines, and is a fundamental separation from where we need to be.
  • 11. Dissesions, 12. factions
    • I didn’t know what neither dissensions nor factions meant on my first read-through of this chapter. Google defines dissension as disagreement that leads to discord. The Google definition for factions even uses the word dissension; a small, organized, dissenting group within a larger one, especially in politics.
    • These two are related in their forceful division of both people and God. When we aid to dissension, we not only root ourselves in conflict, but we also anchor ourselves away from God. This leads to factions, which chips away at the fabric of selfless love for one another.
  •  14. Drunkenness, 15. Carousing
    • It’s important to distinguish that the word is not saying that alcohol is inherently bad. It is saying that too much alcohol is definitely a bad thing; and furthermore, too much of any substance, especially when it impairs our relationship with God, is a very bad thing. Carousing is a synonym for drunkenness, but is more applicable in a social context.
  • 16. …Or anything similar
    • This is an important qualifier. This list in Galatians 5:19-21 is not exclusive. There are more works of the flesh than are mentioned here; but this section oft the book is a great start to analyze and better ourselves.

All these have a similar point: these inward desires as a result of humanity’s choice of sin are problematic towards our relationship with Jesus. In the next verses, the author offers counteracting fruits of the spirit to embolden our pursuit of Christ and help us combat these desires of the flesh, as I’ll analyze in part two.

Old Testament Analysis, Part 1: Genesis

This post will be the first in a series regarding my analysis of select books of the Old Testament that I completed as part of my Old Testament class this past semester at the University of Missouri. Please note that these were written from a historical perspective, not a confessional point of view.

According to the Tanakh, when God created heaven and the earth, it was “unformed and void, with darkness over the deep and a wind from God (1.3).” To be frank, almost nothing was around when God created the universe. The entity of God brought everything mentioned in Genesis 1 into existence by his own power, and it is implied from the text that absolutely nothing was around prior.

The translation according to footnote “a” is much for familiar translation in traditional, English Biblical texts. In this version of the Tanakh, Genesis 1, verse 1 is translated as “When God began to create heaven and earth…” (1.1). In that translation, the wording implies picks up the creation story in present tense, where the more familiar translation picks up the creation story in present tense. This distinction is extremely important, because the tense not only sets the tone for the whole passage, but serves as an introduction to how the entity of God conducts his impact and work on the world. The context serves to guide the reader throughout the creation of the world and also understand the God of the world. The tense is very important to both of those.

In the rest of the chapter, God is talking directly to the reader. Given the context, tense and tone of the chapter, it almost provides a sense of a wise man telling a story to his grandson. As the story progresses, God explains his process of creation piece by piece, building on each part in logical order. It’s as if each part of the story is a building block; for example, God creates the seas of the Earth, (1.10), before creating sea monsters (1.20).

A significant shift occurs in verse 26, when God begins uses the pronoun’s “us” and “our” for the first time. His reasoning behind this lays in the verse itself, when he creates the first humans in his image. Tying back to the storytelling narrative, the inclusion of these pronouns creates a much more personal feel. It acknowledges a “level playing field;” that humans are really made in God’s image, and that God acknowledges that sees it that way as well when he says this.

If the word “human” or “humanity” were to replace man, the only affect I can infer is the implication of the word in a modern translation. Today, with social justice initiatives and constant evaluation of gender roles in society, “human” or “humanity” could be taken as a less abrasive wording, in that certain women might read the text thinking that God is speaking only to men. It changed the way I personally read the text, but didn’t change the way that I interpreted the meaning of the text.

If men and women are made in God’s image, the passage doesn’t imply much about man’s appearances. All that it implies it that humans were made alike God, but the chapter doesn’t clarify much about how even God lives.

I found the parallel structure of the chapter to be interesting. Many of the verses start out with “God said,” or “And God said.” Also, throughout the seven days of the creation process, the text mentions that each day begins with daylight, and ends with night.

The importance that God rested on the seventh day was extremely noteworthy. It provides context and structure into the mind of the entity of God, and how he conducts life. It provides insight and foreshadows the possibility of human impact on his Earth

2018 MLB Preseason Predictions

Opening Day is tomorrow. It’s a relief to baseball fans that have been tortured through a long, arduous winter. This one was weird- marquee free agents held off to sign until March, an international free agent captivated us all, and we saw rebuilding like we haven’t seen it before in the MLB.

At the end of it all, sportswriters and baseball aficionados alike scrounge up their hottest takes and somehow try to make sense of it all in their preseason predictions. Almost always we’re all wrong. Nonetheless, here are mine, broken down by division with a little on each team in between.

Italicized- playoff team

*Win-Loss totals are arbitrary*

AL WEST

Standings

  1. Houston, 100-62
  2. LA Angels, 85-77
  3. Seattle, 81-81
  4. Texas, 72-90
  5. Oakland, 70-92

Houston returns just about everyone back from the 2017 World Championship Roster. With marginal improvements and another year together, there’s little reason to doubt an easy run to a division title. I’m predicting Jose Altuve to reclaim his AL MVP trophy, and I think that Justin Verlander will be the strongest arm on this staff.

Los Angeles is much improved offensively, but certainly has question marks about the pitching staff. If Garret Richards has a breakout season, I think it’s this one. I also think Shohei Ohtani will have a long adjustment period to the MLB and will get sent down to AAA at some point, but he’ll contribute towards the end of the season.

Seattle is still searching for the group to finally bring it to the playoffs. I don’t think it’s going to happen this year. Felix Hernandez leads an average pitching staff, and offensively, I think Dee Gordon will thrive playing center field and batting at the top of the order for the Mariners.

Texas‘ lineup is solid, but each player got a year older. That’s good for young bats like Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor, but will definitely hurt older ones like Adrian Beltré and Shin Soo-Choo. Even at its best, the offense can’t carry a subpar pitching staff (aside from only Cole Hamels, Matt Bush and Alex Claudio). I say that as a fan of the team- what a disappointing offseason.

I really like Oakland‘s lineup. In a few years, I think it’s core group of young guys could make things interesting in the West. Unfortunately, they just seem to be in a perpetual state of rebuilding, exhibited by the Sonny Gray move at the deadline last year. I think they’ll be battling with Texas for fourth place in the division all season long.

AL EAST

  1. NY Yankees, 95-67
  2. Boston, 93-69
  3. Baltimore, 82-80
  4. Toronto, 75-85
  5. Tampa Bay, 70-92

New York has all the pieces there. They might not win the World Series year one in the Aaron Judge-Giancarlo Stanton era, but I think they will within three years. I’m curious to see if Judge is able to avoid the Sophomore slump, especially batting leadoff (at least, to start the year). This has to be one of the best teams ever assembled for a first-time manager like Aaron Boone is.

Boston is right behind them, and honestly, it’s kind of a coin-flip between those two. I love the Red Sox lineup, accentuated by the J.D. Martinez pickup. I think David Price will have a bounce-back year to steady the pitching staff.

I like Baltimore’s lineup when it’s at its best. Unfortunately, that thing is chalked full of streaky hitters. Not to mention, the rotation is five guys entering the year with a “prove-it” mindset. Andrew Cashner is a very underrated pickup, and I’ll be curious to see how Trey Mancini follows up a strong rookie season.

I think this will be a weird year for Toronto. The era of the Bautista, Donaldson, and Encarnacion reign of terror is over, and what’s left behind is an uneven group of guys filling out the lineup card. What was once an up-and-coming pitching staff now looks like a host of veterans running out of time and unproven young arms.

There’s not a lot going on in Tampa Bay, and I’m surprised Chris Archer made it through the offseason on this rebuilding roster. It’s going to be strange seeing this team in the post-Evan Longoria era, but not only did they lose him, they also lost legitimate All-Star caliber talent in Corey Dickerson and Logan Morrison. Blake Snell could have a big year on the mound.

AL Central

  1. Cleveland, 95-67
  2. Minnesota, 87-75
  3. Chicago White Sox, 75-87
  4. Detroit, 67-95
  5. Kansas City, 65-97

This is Cleveland‘s division to lose. The Indians have established themselves as the best the AL Central has to offer since the Royals won the World Series out of the division in 2015. I look for a Cy Young-caliber season out of Corey Kluber after a strong Spring, and Francisco Lindor to emerge as an MVP candidate.

The rebuild in Minnesota is ahead of schedule. The Twins took a team that came within a win of appearing in the World Series (NY Yankees) down to the wire in the Wild Card game. Paul Molitor is a heck of a manager, and it looks like Minnesota’s young guys are already beginning to pan out.

Since they dedicated to a firm rebuild at the end of 2016, the Chicago White Sox have made strides towards improvement. Yoan Moncada is my pick for AL Rookie of the Year, and young arms Carson Fulmer or Lucas Giolito could certainly enter that mix, depending on how much MLB ball they play this summer.

Detroit‘s decline has been anything but gracious. The team finally decided to commit to a rebuild after a lackluster start to the season. I’ll be curious to see how veteran legends Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera mix with the team’s new wave of young talent, and if any contender is willing to take on their hefty contracts for experience at the deadline.

Kansas City has had a face plant from grace since the team’s 2015 World Series run. Judgement day came; it was finally time to pay its core- which the team couldn’t afford to do. All and all, bringing back Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas (who’s coming off a career year) isn’t bad by any means, but the pitching staff is paper thin, and I think the team will miss its heart and soul, Eric Hosmer, who signed with San Diego in free agency. Salvador Perez missing the first few weeks of the season won’t help anything, either.

NL WEST

  1. LA Dodgers, 100-62
  2. Arizona, 90-72
  3. Colorado, 82-80
  4. San Francisco, 75-87
  5. San Diego, 70-92

I think the National League pennant is Los Angeles‘ to lose. The Dodgers finally exorcised 21st-century playoff demons with a run to the Fall Classic in 2017. The team didn’t lose significant talent from last season, and I think that Matt Kemp’s return is one of the most interesting storylines heading into the season.

Suddenly, Arizona has established one of the strongest starting rotations in the National League. If Robbie Ray can maintain his All-Star form, when paired with a healthy Patrick Corbin and bona fide star Zack Greinke, that’s a scary trio to face in the National League West. I’m excited to see what a healthy AJ Pollock can do, and please, let’s appreciate the greatness of Paul Goldschmidt this season.

I want to predict more wins for Colorado. I really do. It was a great story to see the Rockies break the playoff threshold last season. But, with San Francisco and San Diego both improving,  the losses in the NL West have to come from somewhere. I think they’ll come from here at certain points in the season- the pitching staff just isn’t deep enough.

I really like what San Francisco did to improve its lineup this offseason. Adding Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria will go a long way to helping an offense that looked dazed and confused last season improve drastically. That being said, I think the lack of depth in the starting rotation could be a major issue. Ty Blach has shown promise, but Johnny Cueto is the only reliable starter. In this tough division, I think it’s too much to overcome.

San Diego has finally taken legitimate strides to competing after years of perplexing moves and seemingly no direction from the front office. I also think it’s great that former All-Stars with the team Chase Headley and Tyson Ross return. Even in a pitcher-friendly park, I think the team’s newest signee Eric Hosmer could have a big year. However, I don’t think they’re ready to compete yet, and like Colorado and San Francisco, the losses have to come from somewhere.

NL EAST

  1. Washington, 95-67
  2. New York, 81-81
  3. Atlanta, 77-85
  4. Philadelphia, 75-87
  5. Miami, 60-102

Washington is the clear frontrunner in the least competitive division in baseball. No one questions the potency of that lineup, especially with Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton returning from injury-plagued campaigns, and we already know that the rotation is one of the deepest in the NL. The question lays in the bullpen: did the team improve its most outstanding flaw?

New York had a very strange, injury plagued season in 2017. I like the re-acquisition of Jay Bruce. The team has a clear direction, and could compete with its host of veteran talent paired with young stars Brandon Nimmo, and Ahmed Roasario. Matt Harvey’s performance is one of the biggest storylines in this division.

Atlanta’s young core is starting to gain its footing at the Major League level. I predict that Ender Inciarte will be an All-Star, Dansby Swanson will have a breakout year, and Julio Teheran will significantly improve. It’ll be great to see Freddie Freeman back and healthy to start the season.

Philadelphia is my sleeper team in the NL East. Jake Arrieta is an outstanding acquisition, but the pickup of Carlos Santana- a veteran bat gets on base at the top of the lineup- was something that this team needed to buoy its young talent. Trust the process- even on the baseball diamond.

After a full-fledged fire sale, Miami will essentially be fielding a AAA team. There’s almost nothing there in the lineup. Starlin Castro and Justin Bour are solid pieces, but anything this team had going for it was traded away in the offseason. The Marlins are the team furthest away from contention, not just in the NL East or NL, but the MLB.

NL CENTRAL

  1. Chicago Cubs, 95-67
  2. Milwaukee, 90-72
  3. Louis, 87-75
  4. Cincinnati, 75-87
  5. Pittsburgh, 70-92

Chicago improved over the offseason after regressing last year. Another year of inexperience will bode well for team’s young core. Yu Darvish’s performance is another huge wild card in the NL- he faded down the stretch, but had flashes of brilliance last season. I think the team’s depth will be enough to win a tight division race.

That was a quick rebuild for Milwaukee. After acquiring outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich over the offseason, the team looks primed to contend. Funny how the face of the franchise for the past decade- Ryan Braun- is the odd man out as a result. I wouldn’t be surprised if an American League pursues trading for him as a DH. The starting rotation is very young, which is concerning, but young guns Chase Anderson and Zach Davies are poised for big years.

I had a hard time picking between the Brewers and St. Louis for second place. Part of me really likes the Cardinals’ lineup, especially with power bat Marcell Ozuna, but the starting rotation could prove to be an issue- especially if Adam Wainwright isn’t healthy. A weaker bullpen is what really sets the Birds back- which was the main struggle for the team in 2017.

Cincinnati is amid a very confusing rebuild. I feel like they’ve fielded the same team for three years now, without any signs of improvement or development of top prospects. Joey Votto is an ageless wonder, and I’m excited to see how young bats Eugenio Suarez, fresh off a big contract extension, and Scooter Gennett, fresh off a career year, perform. The pitching is going to be a significant issue for the team, however.

The rebuild, officially speaking, begins for Pittsburgh. Some could argue it started in 2016. The pirates will be in search of an identity after trading away franchise figurehead Andrew McCutchen and ace Gerrit Cole. I’ll be excited to see how Josh Bell follows up a strong sophomore season, and if Jameson Taillon emerges as the face of the pitching staff.

Brad Pitt/Billy Beane said it best in Moneyball: “It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball.”

It’s good to have it back. Take everything I said with a grain of salt; at the end of the day, nobody can predict any of this.

I looking forward to seeing how wrong these predictions are come October.

Ranking the NASCAR cup series’s active drivers based on merit

The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series has lost multiple superstars and consistent contributors over the last two seasons to retirement (Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, soon to be Dale Earnhardt Jr.). This has led to a necessity for fans to re-evaluate the sport’s top talent.

Cup racing is a revolving door. Drivers are constantly switching teams, taking breaks from the sport or retiring, while new talent waves enter in every year.

I created a system to evaluate and rank the 2017 full-time cup series drivers based on overall career merit through a points system. Points were award as follows:

Each driver received 10 points for each Championship won.

5 points for each race won.

3 points for each top-ten finish.

1 point for every Pole award won.

Points were tallied and then ranked, as the following list details.

 

Notable Exclusions: Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson.

10. Joey Logano- 546 pts. 
No. 22 Team Penske Ford | 0 Championships, 18 wins, 146 top ten’s, 18 poles.

Logano has impressed since his inaugural run in the cup series as a mere 20 year-old. He’s established himself as a consistent threat to win, and at just 27 years old, is an integral piece of NASCAR’s cup racing future.

9. Brad Keslowski- 565 pts.
No. 2 Team Penske Ford| 1 championship, 138 top ten’s, 13 poles

Aside Logano, Keselowski has turned Team Penske into one of NASCAR’s most consistent teams. Keselowski started his career off with a bang, winning his first race at Talladega in memorable fashion in 2009, and winning a championship three seasons later. He consitently runs at the front of the pack and figures to win even more down the stretch.

8. Denny Hamlin- 789 pts.
No. 11 Joe Gibbs Toyota|0 championships, 30 wins, 205 top ten’s, 24 poles

Hamlin has been a revolution in NASCAR for the past decade, starting with his Rookie of the Year award in 2006. He has been a consistent force for Joe Gibbs Racing, and I wouldn’t bet against him winning a championship in the near future.

7. Ryan Newman- 831 pts.
No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet | 0 championships, 18 wins, 230 top ten’s, 51 poles

Today, Newman is often the subject of criticism because of ‘average performance,’ but after evaluating his stats, personally I believe he’s pretty underrated. ‘Rocket man’ is the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series active leaders in pole awards with 51, which is fourteen more than any other competitor. At age 39, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever win a championship, but he does have a win this season to add on to an impressive career resumé.

6. Kyle Busch- 909 pts.
No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota| 1 championship, 38 wins, 229 top ten’s, 21 poles

Given his dominance from 2013-16, I found it hard to believe that Kyle Busch was even this low on the list. They 32-year-old Busch has already racked up an impressive 38 wins, tied for second-most among active drivers, and has been the most dominant driver on the track at times. Despite zero race wins in 2017, Busch’s career culminated with his 2015 title, and by the looks of it, that might not be the last one.

5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.- 912 pts.
No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet| 0 championships, 26 wins, 256 top ten’s, 14 poles

NASCAR’s most popular driver gets a bad rap for what some state as ‘undeserved fame,’ but his career resumé refutes that claim. Despite never winning a championship, Junior has been a successful driver overall and a great ambassador for the sport. In March, Earnhardt Jr. announced the 2017 season would be his last. It would be poetic to see him go out with a championship, but if that doesn’t happen, Junior can undoubtedly be content with his cup career.

4. Kurt Busch- 922 pts.
No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet| 1 championship, 29 wins, 252 top ten’s, 21 poles

Kurt’s career has been a series of extremes, marked by a championship early in his career with Roush Racing, a pitfall of mediocrity and a personal battle with anger that led to unemployment in the middle of his career, and flourishing while driving for Tony Stewart in the later stages of his career. A Daytona 500 victory this season showed that he’s still got what it takes to contribute, and is certainly in contention for a championship this season.

3. Kevin Harvick- 1095 pts.
No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet| 1 championship, 36 wins, 295 top ten’s, 20 poles

‘The Closer’ has been one of NASCAR’s premier winners since joining the series full time in 2001. Harvick is known for his consistency, and after several successful years at Richard Chldress Racing, won a championship in his first season driving for Tony Stewart in 2014. He’s a guy who always figures into the championship picture one way or another, and this year is no different.

2. Matt Kenseth- 1167 pts.
No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota| 1 championship, 38 wins, 316 top ten’s, 19 poles

Despite a weak 2017 season, Kenseth has had one of the most impressive overall careers in NASCAR cup series racing ever. He has consistently found himself contending, no matter who he’s driving for. With the announcement that prodigy Erik Jones will be behind the wheel of the 20 car next season, Kenseth’s future is uncertain, but he can without a doubt hang his hat on an elite racing career.

1. Jimmie Johnson- 1531 pts.
No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet| 7 championships, 83 wins, 337 top ten’s, 35 poles

Was there even a doubt? Jimmie Johnson has been the picture of dominance since entering the cup series full-time in 2003. He leads all active drivers in championships with seven (tied with Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for most all time), wins with 83 (sixth all-time), and top ten’s with 337. Johnson’s performance hasn’t just been transcendent for NASCAR, but for sports in general. His dominance has been opposed by some, but true NASCAR fans can appreciate how special what we’re seeing is.

Already recording three wins in 2017, he continues to establish himself as a championship force, and will more than likely win another championship. I wouldn’t bet against him passing Richard Petty’s 100 win mark, either.

junior and jimmie

(Detailed Table with Driver stats

Driver              Championships x10       Wins x5           Top 10’s x3      Poles x1           TOTAL

48 Johnson      7 (70)                                      83 (415)          337 (1,011)     35                    1531

20 Kenseth      1 (10)                                      38 (190)          316 (948)        19                    1167

4 Harvick         1 (10)                                     36 (180)          295 (885)        20                    1095

41 Ku. Busch   1 (10)                                     29 (145)          252 (756)        21                    922

88 Dale Jr.       0                                              26 (130)          256 (768)        14                    912

18Ky. Busch     1 (10)                                     38 (190)          229 (687)        22                    909

31 Newman    0                                              18 (90)            230 (690)        51                    831

11 Hamlin       0                                              30 (150)          205 (615)        24                    789

2 Keselowski   1 (10)                                     23 (115)          138 (414)        13                    565

22 Logano       0                                              18 (90)            146 (438)        18                    546

Rangers Rundown: It might be time to sell.

Date: July 20, 2017
Next Game: 94/162, at Baltimore Orioles

Team Record: 45-49, 4th AL West
Personal Power Ranking: 20th

Since my last publication three weeks ago, the Rangers have played at a 6-10 pace. They’d been playing even ball until their four-game losing streak. In their current series against the Baltimore Orioles, they have been outscored 25-4.

It might just be a rough series, but with the trade deadline eleven days away, it’s looking less likely that the Rangers will be in a position to buy at the deadline. So, if things are as they stand now, GM Jon Daniels and the Rangers staff will more than likely more inclined to offer their assets to contenders.

It’s tough as a fanbase to see your team raise the white flag, especially a team that just a year ago won a Division pennant in a 95-win campaign. But for the Rangers, selling might not be the worst thing.

Last year’s ‘all-in’ acquisitions Carlos Beltran and Jonathan Lucroy have left what was once considered a strong Texas farm system rather barren. It remains to be seen how New York’s Dillon Tate and Milwaukee’s Lewis Brinson turn out, but nonetheless, those trades have put the Rangers in a worse position for the future than they would be without the trade.

Beltran has moved on to the American League favorite Houston Astros, while Lucroy seems like he might be on his was out the door. A free agent at the end of the season, the Rangers could possibly receive calls on Lucroy from contenders in need of catching. The return might not be spectacular, with Lucroy’s value very low given his .254/.298/.658 slash line, low total of 4 home runs, and 0.2 batter WAR.

The two definitive assets for the Rangers are starting pitchers Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. Darvish, a free agent at the end of the season, was selected to the American League All-Star team, and despite recent struggles, boasts a 3.45 ERA that ranks 9th in the American League. A trade for him would yield a very impressive prospect package.

As for Hamels, his trade value has never been higher. Despite missing time due to injury this season, he currently holds a 20 1/3 scoreless inning streak and looks like he could certainly contribute to an American League contender. Under team control in 2018 with a $23.5 million salary, a contender with cap space might be willing to take on his contract for a run at a championship.

It’s hard to say whether the Rangers will even sell; the 2015 AL West Champion Rangers sat at 43-49 on July 20 and went on a 44-26 run to close the season and contend in the playoffs. A turnaround is not impossible, but Tampa Bay has picked up its play, taking a tighter grip on the second Wild Card spot.

It would certainly be tough to see these two fan-favorites go, but it might be necessary. Reloading the farm system could leave the Rangers in a prime position to contend, maybe even sooner than later. Jon Daniels will certainly have a tough decision to make July 31.

 

 

Predictions for the second half of the MLB season

Aaron Judge levels out

This is not a knock on Aaron Judge. It’s simply an acknowledgement of the effect that a 162 game season has on a young player. MLB.com Fantasy Projections foresee Judge hitting .259 with 14 home runs and 40 RBI down the stretch. I think that’s fairly accurate. If it were to come true, Judge would end up batting .299 with 44 homers and 106 RBIs, which is definitely an AL Rookie of the Year campaign, and leave him in serious contention for AL MVP.

The Red Sox pull away

The Sox entered the All-Star break having won 10 of 15 games. Aside from multiple matchups against New York and Cleveland, Boston has a fairly favorable schedule, and almost surely will add pitching depth at the trade deadline to secure their spot atop the AL East.

The Cubs come around

The defending champions currently trail Milwaukee by 4.5 games in the National League Central. Given their experience, leadership, return to health, and a very favorable schedule Chicago will more than likely bridge the gap. There are only two matchups between now and the end of the regular season that pit Chicago against playoff teams (August home and road series against Arizona, home series against Washington).

The Brewers snag an NL Wild Card spot

Though the Cubs will likely take the NL central, a nice consolation for the Brewers would be an previously unexpected berth in the NL Wild Card Game, where they’d more than likely face whoever emerges from the Rockies-Diamondbacks dogfight for second in the NL West. It’d be huge for player development in Milwaukee, and is a testament to true parity in the MLB.

Predicted Final Standings

AL West                         Central                             East

1 Houston 105-57         1 Cleveland 93-69      1 Boston 92-70
2 Texas 83-79                2 Kansas City 82-80     2 NY Yankees 90-72
3 Seattle 76-86               3 Minnesota 81-81       3 Tampa Bay 82-80
4 LA Angels 74-87         4 Detroit 73-89             4 Baltimore 76-86
5 Oakland 63-99            5 Chicago Sox 72-90    5 Toronto 75-87

NL West                                Central                                     East

1 LA Dodgers 109-53         1 Chicago Cubs 86-76          1 Washington 94-68
2 Colorado 86-76                2. Milwaukee 84-78             2 Miami 77-85
3 Arizona 83-79                   3. St. Louis 81-81                   3 Atlanta 76-86
4 San Diego 70-92               4. Pittsburgh 76-86                4 New York 73-89
5 San Francisco 68-94        5. Cinicinnati 67-95              5 Philadelphia 59-103

 

 

 

 

The MLB All-Star game is a facade; but a fascinating marketing strategy at that

The passion, novelty and history of the MLB All-Star Game has opened up many avenues for MLB to make huge profits from corporate sponsorships, TV deals, and ticket/event revenue.

Garrett Jones

MIAMI, FL– The MLB All-Star Game has long been one of my personal favorite sporting events of the year. Its star power and pomp marks the middle of the summer; and perfect timing at that- school’s out, everyone’s traveling, the weather’s great, and Major League Baseball’s biggest and boldest stars shine brighter than the blazing sun.

The game is chalked full of storylines. Comeback stories, rising stars, reclamation projects, top prospects- you name it. Combine this with a even playing field of high talent, and the games make great entertainment.

Nonetheless, in 2017, the All-Star Game has changed significantly. It fees different for a couple of reasons. First off, the MLB hierarchy ruled that the result of the game would no longer determine the recipient of home-field advantage in the World Series; instead, the team with the best record headed into the Fall Classic will host four games.

Playing for Home-field advantage made the games exciting and competitive. It offered insight into what we could expect of October baseball, and nourished the appeal of the league as whole and out-of-market players to many fans.

Now, the leagues will compete for cash. Not only does each victor on the winning team receive $20,000, but contract incentives could also play a huge part. Often, agents will work to include performance incentives, notably including as All-Star Game selection bonuses, into players deals.

The result is less enthusiasm from the players and fans as well as less diversity in roster selection. 32 players were selected from both leagues, but many teams, including the defending champion Chicago Cubs, received only a single representatives

The first MLB All-Star Game was played at Chicago’s Comiskey Park in 1933, an idea birthed of Chicago Tribune sports editor Arch Ward to boost morale of Chicagoans during the Great Depression. No home field advantage or player incentives were contingent on the event; it was simply born as an act of novelty.

Flash forward 88 years, and the All-Star game has turned into a streamlined, monetized publicity machine that stimulates the MLB’s revenue stream in the middle of its calendar.

Almost every event has a title sponsor. ‘T-Mobile Home Run Derby,’ ‘Chevrolet Red Carpet and All-Star Game MVP,’ ‘Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot.’

The real genius is in that balloting. Fans can vote up to 35 times on one account, through a sponsored website that generates millions of hits for companies interested in advertising. And when that’s over, Esurance also sponsors the Final Vote ballot, which appoints one more All-Star, keeping the fans interested, which garners more hits for sponsorship metrics.

This sends a shockwave reaction throughout the fanbase that leaves many upset when their favorite players aren’t elected. ‘Robbed,’ their guy was. ‘Preposterous,’ they exclaim over Twitter reacting to their favorite players not receiving the distinction.

I was one of these people. One of my favorite players, Elvis Andrus, was denied his third All-Star appearance despite a .302/.350/.825 slash line, career-best 11 HR, 49 RBI (second among MLB shortstops), and 2.6 WAR. The media darling and younger, more popular Francisco Lindor (.248 average, 1.4 WAR) was selected instead.

I had to take a step back and realize that, despite the league not having a direct say (the player vote determines All-Star reserves), Lindor is simply a more marketable star for the All-Star game- one of the MLB’s biggest revenue sources.

I was exactly where the MLB wanted me in their spectrum. Polarization is a good thing for the league; neutrality doesn’t turn the TV on and in turn make the MLB money. My interest and passion played right into the MLB’s hand and fufilled their main goal- making money. I made the league money by logging on and turning my passion into 35 votes for Elvis Andrus.

This sense of passion over a game that’s now largely irrelevant reveals the genius of the MLB All-Star game.

Fans have been lured through this facade and their passion for their favorite players and teams has been tapped into by this clever marketing technique. The passion, novelty and history of the MLB All-Star Game has opened up many avenues for MLB to make huge profits from corporate sponsorships, TV deals, and ticket/event revenue.

Don’t get me wrong, i’m not knocking the MLB at all. It’s a wildly popular league that’s making money and stakes claim to the term ‘America’s national pastime.’ Rather, I admire the MLB for their marketing tactics and am fascinated as to why it took me so long to notice.

Ranger Rundown: June 30, 2017

Date: June 30, 2017
Next game: 78/162, Cleveland Indians

Team Record: 39-39, 3rd AL West
Personal Power Ranking: 15

Since the last publication almost four weeks ago, the Rangers have played at 13-8 pace to find themselves hovering around .500. It’s was hard to imagine Texas returning to this form a that time, but here they are.

LAST WEEK

The Rangers haven’t lost a series since being blasted by Houston at home in the first week of the season. Series victories over Washington, Houston, Seattle, NY Yankees, and splits with NY Mets and Toronto have the Rangers on the right track during the month of June.

Last time I wrote, the big question was- ‘Can this team return to playing .500 baseball?’ Texas answered in a big way, with huge series at Washington and Houston. Since then, things have leveled out.

THE BULLPEN

The bullpen has been questionable all season, and de facto Closer Matt Bush’s decline (0-3, 7.00 ERA, 2 BS) is a testament to that. However, relievers Alex Claudio, Jose Leclerc, Keon Kela and Dario Alvarez have an impressive combined 2.73 ERA have established them as integral bullpen pieces moving forward.

When Jake Deikman and Jeremy Jeffress return, it might be time to move on from RHP Tony Barnette. His 7.23 ERA is tough to look at, and Diekman’s left-handed arm will warrant much more value for Texas as the team looks to contend.

Sam Dyson’s departure has left the bullpen in better shape, and once completely healthy, could see the Rangers bullpen emerge as one of the best in baseball.

THIS WEEK

The Rangers finish the series with Cleveland on Thursday. A win insures a series split, which would mean only the Houston series was a loss on the Month. The team then heads to Chicago for a weekend tilt with the White Sox, and hosts Boston for a three-game set starting on Independence Day.

MOVING FORWARD

As the all star break approaches, one big question emerges- who will represent the Rangers in Miami? Each team is guaranteed at least one representative. With no Ranger anywhere near contention for the starting lineup, I predict that two Rangers will represent the American League as reserves- Elvis Andrus and Yu Darvish, Andrus has developed into one of the best All-around shortstops in the American League, recording a .301/.348/.471 and a career-best 10 home runs already. Darvish’s record of 6-6 is unimpressive, but a 3.11 ERA is among the best in the American League. Run support has been Darvish’s main issue, but his unempircal ‘stuff’ has been sharp as ever, Adrian Beltre has played like an All-Star since his return, but likely will not have a large enough work sample to garner an All-Star nod.

The Rangers are finally getting healthy. When Martin Perez returns next year, the Rangers will finally feature the rotation they envisioned in the offseason- Hamels, Darvish, Ross, Cashner, and Perez. AJ Griffin will likely move to the bullpen, with Nick Martinez and Austin Bibens-Dirkx likely heading down to AAA to make room. Reliever Jake Diekman also will return following the All-Star break, a move that could buouy the bullpen.

Completely healthy, the Rangers staff will be a force to be reckoned with moving down the stretch. The offense is certainly not concerning; the team is averaging 4.2 runs per game down the stretch in June.

With the calendar turning to July, trade talks are heating up. If the Rangers find themselves at or above .500, they should certainly look to buy at the deadline. A big bat who could buoy the lineup would be nice, but a reliable reliever is much more necessary.