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Joe Sheehan talks about belief in light of Skaggs


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The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Vol. 11, No. 54
July 13, 2019
 
I don’t really believe in anything.
 
I was raised Catholic. I don’t remember faith being a big part of our home life, but I know my being an altar boy at Good Shepherd made Nana happy. I know I got a good, safe education at the school across from that church, and then in four years at Regis. I can just about pinpoint the moment I began to fall away from whatever faith I had, a conversation with a parish priest that didn’t go well when I was...12, maybe 13. From that point on, church was an obligation tacked on to my education. Theology classes in high school didn’t help, reinforcing my belief that this big book of stories was just a big book of stories. 
 
It was, perhaps, this break from religious faith that made it easy for me to adopt a stathead approach to sports. Chemistry? Momentum? Clutch? These were beliefs, and they fell apart when you used facts and data to get at the truth of them. By the time I graduated from USC, I was both an agnostic, in a Pascal’s Wager way, and a fervent devotee to the idea that all answers were found in facts and data. Facts and data were the foundation on which we built Baseball Prospectus. Around that time, I got married in a church, but the ceremony and the location didn’t mean anything to me; it was about the girl in the dress with the smile.
 
My ex-wife liked to say that everything happens for a reason, and I didn’t buy that, either. There’s no grand plan, just individuals acting in their own self-interest, with a healthy dollop of randomness thrown in. She and I didn’t meet because of fate, we met because my friends at a party needed a blender. We didn’t split up because it was meant to be, but because I was a selfish husband. There’s no plan that explains her losing her parents four years apart before she was 35, none that doesn’t force you to conclude that the planner is vicious and mean. Over the past 30 years, most everything I have seen and I have heard has reinforced what that seventh-grader thought as he left his meeting with Fr. Ryan -- this is all B.S.
 
As I approach 50, coming off a wretched few years wholly explained by human frailty, human venality, human fear, human evil, I see no grand plan, no guiding hand. I don’t really believe in anything. I know that which I can prove, and the rest is varying degrees of unknown, all of it determined by us, not some mythological deity or unseen force.
 
So I don’t know what do to with last night in Anaheim.
 
Eleven days after losing their friend and teammate suddenly, shockingly, the Los Angeles Angels played their first home game since his death. They stepped on to the field, every one of them, wearing Tyler Skaggs’ #45 jersey, the one he’d worn for years battling back from injuries, battling his command, battling for them. They watched Skaggs’s mother, Debbie, looking unimaginably young for such an awful task, step to the mound, scratch her son’s initials in the dirt, toe the rubber and deliver the kind of strike her boy should have been hurling. 
 
If the story had ended there, if the next three hours had been filled with the kind of mundane baseball game, some 5-1 contest, that you forget even as the teams are walking off the field, that would have been enough. That would have been, if not closure, certainly catharsis, another step in the process of grieving a friend, a child, a teammate, a fan favorite. 
 
I don’t know how to explain what happened next. There was SKAGGS 45 launching a two-run homer. SKAGGS 45 crossing the plate seven times in the first inning. SKAGGS 45 ranging to his left to make a diving stop, rising and throwing to first for the out. 
 
SKAGGS 45 throwing a no-hitter.
 
After the game, the Angels came on to the field and put SKAGGS 45 on the mound one final time, laying their jerseys on the dirt he’d kicked so many times before. Watching them pay tribute to their friend, I thought about how the Mariners are bad and Mike Trout is good, how no-hitters are random and an 0-for-19 on balls in play is as much bad luck as anything else. I though, angrily, that no justifiable plan for the universe, no deity worth worship, inflicts this kind of pain on this many people, makes a mother bury her son. 
 
It all seemed inadequate as an explanation of what I watched last night. Facts and data, my bedrock, don’t seem like enough right now. What happened last night will happen a handful of times in any baseball season, but that it happened last night, in that place, by those people, in front of that crowd, in the wake of this horrible event...is that coincidence? Is that just human strength, human skill, human passion, human good?
 
I don’t know.
 
I don’t really believe in anything. For the first time in a while, though, I think I understand the people who do.
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If a no-hitter is all it takes to impress the non- believer, then he needs to get out more often. 

I used to be like many others. Bright up in Catholicism, then grew up, went a bunch of places, met a bunch if people, shot a bunch of guns, and got a college education. I could explain it all,  just like any anthropology major thinks they can. 

Then I witnessed a lot of things I couldn't explain. And it reminded me of many experiences I chose to forget, that I also couldn't explain. 

There's a lot out there that people think you're either crazy or stupid to believe, but He's as real as anything. That's both an amazing and terrifying realization. 

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8 minutes ago, RBM said:

 

This is a baseball message board but today, on two separate threads, you have made it about religious beliefs. 

That is not what the first sentence says. Maybe read that, and you'll have a better understanding as to why I called him a "non- believer."

If it still hasn't occurred to you why....well then I think you may have bigger problems than some guy taking about God and baseball on the internet.

Edited by Second Base
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9 minutes ago, RBM said:

 

This is a baseball message board but today, on two separate threads, you have made it about religious beliefs. 

The author of this article made it about religious beliefs. 

Like many people, he failed to grasp the understanding that there is a force for evil in this world, and it’s not God.

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On 7/14/2019 at 11:15 PM, Tank said:

The author of this article made it about religious beliefs. 

Like many people, he failed to grasp the understanding that there is a force for evil in this world, and it’s not God.

You think people don’t understand the concept of the devil ?

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, UndertheHalo said:

You think people don’t understand the concept of the devil ?

when I see people blaming God for the evil things that exist in this life instead of putting the blame on satan/the devil, that suggests pretty clearly they don't understand.

one of the greatest tricks the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn't exist, or that he's harmless.

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