The Washington Nationals, still praying

GOD AND BASEBALLYou all remember that spat involving the Washington Nationals and religion in the fall of 2005 when the team's chapel leader seemed to agree that Jewish people are headed to hell because they do not believe in Jesus Christ as their savior? The controversy ignited after comments from team Chaplain Jon Moeller were published in a rather excellent Washington Post feature on the Bible in baseball. But let's put that aside the controversy for a moment. The point of the piece was that baseball players are starting to embrace religion, and some were discussing whether praying to God would benefit players' performance and even the team's chances of winning games:

Once derided as a sign of weakness by managers and trainers, Christian prayers are now accepted and even encouraged before baseball games. In lockers, you'll find Bibles next to the Ambien and Skoal. Participants say the stress to perform, the uncertainty of injuries, and the lack of control over being traded or cut are lightened by their bond with God.

"It's about guys needing Christ," Moeller said. "It could be the security guard, or it could be [first baseman] Nick Johnson. RFK becomes a church on Sundays."

Even the team doctor, Bruce Thomas, supports weekend prayers and Wednesday Bible study. "If a player has total wellness -- their mind, body and their spiritual side -- they perform better," he said.

Now keep those thoughts in mind and check out the Post's Nationals Report in Tuesday's edition:

Reliever Jesus Colome remained in a hospital yesterday with an infection on his right buttock, though GM Jim Bowden said he would get out today. The Nationals don't know when Colome, 4-0 with a 2.76 ERA in 40 appearances, will be able to pitch. "It's a serious situation," Bowden said. "We pray for his buttocks and his family."

Bowden, the Cincinnati Reds' general manager from 1992 to 2003, has been with the club since November 2004. The Post's profile quotes him as asking the chaplain to pray and saying he wants to "build a real chapel, 'with stained glass.'"

I mention this because it's good background to have in understanding what could be taken as a flippant comment from a baseball GM to a reporter. But as best I can tell, Bowden is genuinely planning to pray for Colome's buttocks. Maybe it's time to do an update on the "praying Nationals" story?

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