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Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a lifelong Dodgers fan, it is happy news when they clinch the pennant.  And for the second year in a row, they have emerged atop the National League West division.  It is even happier news when they clinch it while playing against the Giants.  Clayton Kershaw, the winningest pitcher in the Major Leagues this year despite missing 5 weeks of the season with an injury, fittingly pitched and won the clincher, with an easy 9-1 drubbing.  To help his cause, he knocked in the first run with a triple and showed some dazzling fielding as well.

It is known which five teams will advance to the NL playoffs.  But there could be some reshuffling of the matchups before the season ends on Sunday.  If the Dodgers pass Washington for the best record in the league, they will play the winner of the Wild Card play-in game.  Otherwise, they will play the winner of the NL Central Division, either St. Louis or Pittsburgh.  Either way, the Dodgers will enjoy home field advantage in the first round.  Since the Dodgers have the best record on the road in the Major Leagues this year, better even than they played at home, that advantage won’t be as meaningful as it would be for some teams.

In the American League, Baltimore and the Angels have clinched their respective divisions and Detroit has clinched a spot in the playoffs.  Four teams (Kansas City, Oakland, Seattle and Cleveland) are battling for the final two spots this weekend.

I wish I could be more optimistic about the Dodgers chances in post-season play.  They played poorly against Washington and Pittsburgh this year, and while they had a winning record against St. Louis this year, the Cardinals were the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year.  And should they play the Giants at some point, the Dodgers eked out a 10-9 record against them and with their rivalry, the Giants would be a tough opponent.

Other concerns I have about the Dodgers include their dismal record in extra-inning games, 5-12; only twice have they come from behind to win this season when trailing in the late innings; they have hit poorly with runners in scoring position, especially with the bases loaded (an anemic .206); their relief pitchers are deep in the bottom half of the league in earned run average.

But after all, the Dodgers have won over 90 games this year.  So they have been doing many things right.  In addition to Kershaw’s dominant season, Zack Greinke is another former Cy Young Award winner who is racking up victories.  The team is also hopeful that solid number three starter, Hyun-Jin Ryu, will recover from some problems with inflammation in his pitching shoulder and be able to pitch in the playoffs.

On offense, Matt Kemp has regained his power stroke in the second half of the season, Adrian Gonzalez has been steady all year, Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez are swinging the bat well, as are Juan Uribe and Justin Turner.  Yasiel Puig is the x-factor, as he can win the game with his hitting, base running, throwing arm, and his ability to make great catches.  But he is still somewhat prone to committing the odd gaffe on the field that can cost a ball game.  Dee Gordon leads the majors in stolen bases, and Crawford’s stolen base totals have increased significantly this year as he bounced back from injury concerns in recent seasons.

September 25, 2014 also saw Derek Jeter play his last major league game at Yankee Stadium.  In typical clutch fashion, he won the game with a walk-off single.  A testimony to how Jeter helped the Yankees be a top team throughout his career, it was the only time he played a home game with the Yankees already eliminated from advancing to post-season play.

It is not customary for Dodgers fans to heap praise on a Yankee player, but Jeter has been a rare talent with both his athletic skills and his baseball instincts.  In the 1940’s and 50’s, Brooklyn fans recognized the baseball prowess and stellar conduct of Stan Musial.  I could picture them doing the same for Jeter.

Turning the attention to me, medical visits have been a significant theme since May.  Having medical coverage for the first time in over 20 years, plus the fact that I am now at an age when health issues are more likely to pop up, I have been undergoing a series of routine medical exams, following a visit to my new doctor at the end of May.  This has included blood tests, a mammogram, a sonogram to reveal the places where the mammogram was not clear because I have dense breasts (I am now imploring them to spread out!), and a bone density test.  I also underwent two versions of a colonoscopy, the virtual one and the conventional one.  The reason was for both was that I originally opted for the virtual but was unable to complete the test.  While I would prefer to avoid anesthesia, I doubt that I will ever opt for the virtual method again, unless that method sees significant improvements.

One of the things that I realized as these tests were being done is that the doctors assumed certain things about me that were not true, and I am not talking about gender.  Rather it is because I have been blessed with such marvelous health over the years by the Lord.  So there are many things that I had not previously experienced that most people 61 years of age would have had a long time ago.

First of all, I had never taken a laxative in my life.  Usually, all I need is a little orange juice or tomato sauce and I am fine.  So I was totally unprepared for how my body reacted the first time I took it for the colonoscopy.  (Another benefit of the conventional colonoscopy is that its associated laxative regimen is not as severe.  It was more like the way I had expected it to be the first time.)

Also, I had never had anesthesia before.  (In fact, I have never needed to spend overnight in the hospital since mommy and daddy brought me home in a blue blanket.)  It is an interesting experience in the sense that you have very little experience at all.  The anesthesiologist put a shunt in me to receive the anesthesia, there were people around me doing things, and the next thing I knew, I was all alone wondering what went wrong because I was still awake.  It took the nurse checking on me and telling me that it was all over to realize that I was looking at a different wall.  I was a bit annoyed at the fact that the doctor reviewed the results with me while I was technically awake, but still deep in la-la land.  Fortunately, I have no polyps or anything to be concerned about there.  But for the rest of the day, I could see why they don’t want you to drive afterward.

The blood test was a different concern.  Historically, I have not done well with needles.  People have told me, “Oh, you’re just anxious.”  No, that wasn’t it, not initially anyway.  When I was growing up, my dad gave blood on a regular basis at work.  Every so often, we would see a flesh-colored cloth bandage on Dad’s left arm and we knew he gave blood that day.  So I grew up with the idea as commonplace and nothing to be worried about.

The first time I gave blood, I was 28 years old.  It was April 1981.  New York State still required a blood test before they would issue a marriage license.  So my fiancé and I went to a medical lab.  When it was my turn, they took the blood, and then gave me orange juice and a cookie.  Then we were on our way to the car, chatting about the next thing on the agenda.  Next thing I knew, I was back inside, feeling weak and clammy and a little nauseous.  I had passed out on the sidewalk.

Ever since, every time I have given blood (and one time when I received an injection with a long needle), I have either passed out or was very woozy and incoherent.  So when I had the blood work done this time, I made sure I gave full warning to the lab tech who drew the samples.  And yet this time, before the test, I was able to joke with her.  Maybe it was her hair dyed in three different colors, or the drawing of a vampire on the door of her room.  Or maybe I am a new person, fully comfortable in my skin, growing less and less uptight by the day.  Whatever, the reason, as she reviewed the orders for the different tests to be done and was taking vial after empty vial and placing it in her rack to receive my blood samples, I asked her in a playful voice, if she was going to leave any blood in me!  I am learning that most medical personnel respond positively to appropriate humor from a patient.  Better that than to deal with someone who is filled with anxiety.

Of course, she took the precaution of having me lie down while she drew the blood samples.  And when she was finished, she brought me some orange juice and a snack pack of graham crackers.  And I was fine.

After the first time I passed out, I had read somewhere that young adult males are the ones who are most likely to pass out as a result of giving blood.  I remember being very upset at learning that.  It was one more way my maleness had failed me.  But now, more and more, my body is becoming that of a middle-aged woman.  And it seems to suit me.

Of course it was the first time I ever had a mammogram, or a sonogram for that matter (on my breasts or anywhere else).  I have had a number of women tell me that they have needed a sonogram as a follow up to their mammogram.  I am told that the reason for having the mammogram first is that it is cheaper.  But if that many extra tests are required, I find it hard to believe it is cheaper in the long run than just doing the sonogram first and being done with it.  The mammogram is painful for most women, while the sonogram is pleasant, especially since my hospital warms the gel that they spread on your skin before doing the exam.  I have to wonder how long mammograms would be done first if most men had to have them as part of their routine physical care.

I have not received the results of the bone density test yet, but everything else came out very well.  My triglycerides were high, but they were high twenty years ago, and it could be due to the stress I felt giving blood.  The best part was that my estrogen levels came out within the normal range (if on the lower end), but my testosterone levels are below the normal range for adult women, and are nowhere near normal for an adult male.  No wonder I feel so much better!

The only medical concern I have right now is a cyst on my eyeball that is taking longer than expected to go away.  But my optometrist tells me that I have nothing to be concerned about, as it is soft, fluid filled, and hasn’t changed color.

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. – Proverbs 17:22

God bless,