Monday, November 2, 2015

Monday's Musings on Sports - The Epilogue to a Season and an Inspirational Story

Just like the rest of the world, I did not see this coming. I would guess that even the most optimistic Mets fan would not have predicted that they would have gone to the World Series this year. The playoffs - a possibility. Maybe they would make the wildcard play-in game. But the World Series was never a thought.

The season started like many Mets seasons, a mixture of promise and frustrating defeats. The team's outfield in June was comprised of power hitters who could not find their stroke and minor leaguers who may never find one. The pitching staff still included Dillon Gee, who I watched give up eight runs in less than three innings, but still not take the loss because the Mets would improbably score ten runs of their own. Maybe that should have been a hint that the season would have some promise, but I missed it at the time.

Then came the end of July and the infamous non-trade of Wilmer Flores for my post on the saga, click here This was followed with the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes and shortly thereafter, Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson. And for some reason the Mets power hitters who had not been hitting came alive when these players showed up. Meanwhile the Nationals got cold and could not buy a win. By mid-September the Mets were being lauded as the class of the National League. But still, the World Series seemed to be at least a year away.

I am not going to recount the playoffs so as not to torture Mrs KB and her family (its just not fair to point out that the Cubbies haven't won since before her grandfather was born), but suddenly the Mets WERE IN THE WORLD SERIES. It was a strange reality for a team unlike my beloved Rangers who I always see as possible Stanley Cup finalists and my Jets who may never win a Super Bowl in my lifetime.

Much has been made of the fielding errors and the lack of timely hitting, or more appropriately the Royals timely hitting. But since the last cut is the cruelest (sounds like a lyric from a 1980s song), I would like to spend a moment on the managing error which doomed the Mets in Game 5. Matt Harvey (aka the Dark Knight), one year removed from Tommy John surgery and one month removed from the controversy surrounding his innings limit, was on the mound. At times he was dominant and at times he appeared shaky. He carried the team on his back for eight innings, while the bats were mostly dormant. So when the manager told him that the closer was coming in to pitch the 9th, he did not want to give up the ball. Manager Terry Collins could not argue with him and let him start the 9th. The rest is history as he allowed a walk and a double and then once Familia entered the game he was undone by poor fielding which allowed the tying run to score.

Can one be too loyal to his players? Of course. But there is also an expression in sports - you dance with the one who brung you. And so Terry Collins stayed with Harvey for a few too many batters. But that was hardly the sole cause for the Royals win. And who is to say that a series of fielding errors would not have doomed Familia to another blown save anyway? It was really just a question of how and not when.

I heard a great story in Rabbi Frand's Thursday Night shiur which I would like to tie to the end of the post. I can't say that it is directly connected, but maybe it will give some comfort to those who have seen their recent World Series dreams crushed.

R' Frand related that a charity collector came from Israel to a Toronto synagogue. He was greeted by a man who asked if he could host him for breakfast.  After he agreed and came for breakfast, the host said to him - please stay over this evening. The collector declined, saying that he needed to be in a different city the following day. The host pressed him - stay and I will write you a check for more than you will collect there. The collector agreed and true to his word, the host wrote him a nice check.

A number of months later the host called the collector and told him - I get a Mazal Tov! The host and his wife had just had a baby boy and he wanted the collector to come for the bris. But there was more, they wanted him to be the sandak. The collector resisted, but they offered to fly him in from Israel and he finally agreed.

After the bris the collector was approached by the host who explained the reason for the events. The host and his wife had been trying unsuccessfully for years to have a child. They finally went to R' Paam ztl for advice and he said that there is a segulah to have a child if the family performed true hachnasas orchim (welcoming in guests) on the night that the wife was going to mikvah. The day that the collector was in shul was the morning before the wife was scheduled to go and the host was desperate for a guest. When he saw the collector he knew that the opportunity was there and he took it. Where did R' Paam learn this? From Avraham who despite being weak from the bris took it upon himself to properly host the angels who did not even need to be hosted. And one year later, in the zechus of giving them water (recorded in the annual prayer for rain on Shemini Atzeres) he had Yitzchak. All in the right time and all based on His plan.

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