Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bishop's Baseball Prophecy Tragically Wrong

Emory Carlyle, Senior Sports & Religion Writer

Among those mourning the sudden firing of Dodger General Manager Paul DePodesta, perhaps none is more surprising than southern California United Methodist Bishop Melba McGowan. McGowan, who commented back in the June '05 issue of the denomination’s regional publication, Way Out West, “I don’t know much about baseball,” had become quite a fan. Back then she praised the revolutionary and radical revision of the Dodger organization under DePodesta’s leadership. Of course, at the time the team was leading the National League’s West Division, with a remarkable 12 win, 2 loss record.

Back in June McGowan noted “DePodesta took his talent with numbers and figured out new ways to interpret baseball’s abundant statistics, and then use[d] those statistics to build a winning team.” With the Dodgers on top of their game, it seemed like an obvious illustration of the value of change. What could possibly go wrong? The remaining 148 games in the season – that’s what. When they finished the season with the second worst record in team history, 91 losses and 71 wins, it was a disaster.

Even before the annual meeting some felt that the bishop’s words were a transparent and flagrant misuse of sports for religious purposes. “She was basically ‘proof-texting,’” said one observer. “It seemed obvious that Conference leaders were planning to abuse and befuddle attendees with their own ‘abundant statistics,’ and were simply using the Dodgers out of context.” But then, as the season went into a tailspin, a sports-metaphor hush fell over the conference office. “When the Dodgers were going like gangbusters, she wanted us to see the value of radical change. When they crashed and burned, we didn’t hear so much about the brilliance of Paul DePodesta.”

The bishop’s office refused comment on DePodesta's firing, and would not speculate on the likelihood of future sports commentary by McGowan. Bicycling enthusiasts remain hopeful that the new episcopal silence will soon include their sport as well.

Los Angeles District Superintendent Dr. Raymond Ho maintained that the bishop’s effort was widely misunderstood. “I think these people are making a chasm out of a ravine – heh heh.” As former conference staffer Conrad Tolbert pointed out, “While the bishop makes the case that we are in the change business, the Dodgers help us to see that some changes are more equal than others.”

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