Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Rheal Cormier
Rheal Cormier's prayer was not answered
during a relief appearance in San Diego.

Forehead, heart, left shoulder, right shoulder. This is the path that Philadelphia Phillies relief pitcher Rheal Cormier's right hand takes as he stands behind the pitcher's mound before facing his first batter.

The ritual is common among Christian athletes be it on the baseball diamond or on the football gridiron. Many players practice this ritual after an accomplishment, such as hitting a homerun or scoring a touchdown. Faith is important to many athletes, whether they are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or even Buddhist (or if they're Darren Daulton). Many of these athletes thank God in post-game interviews following a win. Ironically, no one has ever blamed God after a loss.

Does this ritual work? Does God really hear the prayers of Cormier and other Christian athletes?

At first glance, he must, as Cormier is second in the National League among relief pitchers with a microscopic 1.59 ERA. After a double-take, Cormier has only stranded 13 of 34 (38%) inherited baserunners, but it is currently his career high. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is the lowest of his career, and his groundball-to-flyball ratio is the lowest it has been since Cormier was converted to a reliever in Montreal in 1996.

So, for Cormier, there is a little bad to go with the good this season, just like prayers, which on the outset, get answered at a 50/50 rate -- yes or no. That being said, Cormier could pray to anyone, or to no one at all, and still enjoy the same rate of success he enjoys after praying: 50%.

Like Pedro Cerrano, who prayed to "Jobu" in the movie Major League, the person or object being prayed to is irreleveant. It is a superstition just like lucky socks and underwear.

Baseball players are considered great if they succeed at getting hits 30% of the time (a .300 average) -- that is 70% of a hitter's prayers gone unanwered. Apparently, someone is asleep at the wheel.

Or maybe praying just doesn't matter.