Archive for the ‘Jews and baseball’ Category


JML Update, February 26, 2019

Posted on: February 26th, 2019 by Ron Kaplan

Every year I tell myself I’m really going to study up on my baseball. I get all the magazines, more out of habit than anything else since the information is somewhat repetitive between them and often outdated by the time the season starts. One year, when I was on jury duty, I memorized the projected starting lineups for all the teams. That lasted about a month. When I was a kid, there were ten teams and you really could memorize everyone on the 25-man roster. There wasn’t the huge turnover we have nowadays. (Tell us more, grandpa.)


Most of the JMLers are back this year. A couple have changed teams, a few will no doubt start 2019 in the minors. So here’s what we have so far.

Alex Bregman, Houston Astros, has been the busiest of all the MOTs, between his Youtube channel, dropping in at weddings, and recovering from elbow surgery. Here are a few stories featuring the Astros infielder:

Joc Pederson, LA Dodgers, homered in their spring training opener. Nice. But will he be a Dodger for much longer?

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers, is a “senior statesman” at the age of 35. What kind of season will he have as he gets set to perhaps wrest the crown from Hank Greenberg as the all-time Jewish home run king? When you get to be that age (I’ve got socks older than Braun), you have to make adjustments.

Image result for ian kinsler padresIan Kinsler, who will be 37 on June 22 (sharing a birthday with the NBA’s Omri Casspi), begins 2019 with a new team in a new league, having signed as a free agent by the San Diego Padres. How will that work out? Maybe the addition of mega-FA Manny Machado will propel the previously poor Pods towards pennant possibilities.

Kevin Pillar, Toronto Blue Jays, might also be on a new team by the time spring training ends. Of course, they’ve been saying that for a couple of years now. He is the longest-tenured of all the current Jays.

Will first baseman Rowdy Tellez, Pillar’s teammate who burst on the scene last year in a big way, start the season with the big club?

Image result for rowdy tellez hot start

Will this be the year Atlanta Braves pitcher Max Fried sticks? What about Ryan Sherriff, who appeared in five games for the St. Louis Cardinals before going down with an injury? Sherriff was released and has since signed with the Tampa Bay Rays. Or Zach Weiss, who managed just one appearance for the Cincinnati Reds, giving up two walks and two home runs without retiring a batter? Weiss signed a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins in the off-season Or Richard Bleier, one of the few bright spots among Baltimore Orioles pitchers before suffering a season-ending injury? So far, he seems to be off to a good start as he gears up towards opening day. Robert Stock of the Padres also made a good first impression in his debut last season.

Not on anyone’s roster so far? Danny Valencia, the power-hitting utilityman who last played with the Orioles. He’s just four homers shy of the century mark. Hope he gets them someplace, but he has a reputation as a problem child in the clubhouse and has played for seven teams over his nine major league seasons. (Then again, as of this posting Bryce Harper hasn’t been signed either.)

And last but not least, our two MOT managers, Gabe Kapler of the Philadelphia Phillies and Brad Ausmus for thee LA Angels.

The Chicago Cubs have hired two former JML pitchers — Craig Breslow and Josh Zeid — to work in their front office. Breslow, dubbed “the smartest man in baseball” during his 12-year career, will have the title “director of strategic initiatives for baseball operations,” while Zeid, who appeared in 12 games for the Astros in 2013-14, will be a pitching analyst in the player development department.

According to JewishBaseballNews, there are a few more MOTs in spring training, including non-roster invitees such as Jeremy Bleich (Phillies), Rob Kaminsky (Cleveland Indians), Dean Kremer (Orioles), Ryan Lavarnway (NY Yankees), and RC Orlan (Indians). Garrett Stubbs, who is listed on the Astros’ 40-man roster, is also in ST.  Bleich made his ML debut with the Oakland A’s last year, appearing in two games,


Talking about Hank Greenberg at SABR Day

Posted on: January 29th, 2019 by Ron Kaplan

Posted this to my blog about baseball books, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I’m simply offering the link for the event which featured fellow MOT authors Howard Megdal (The Baseball Talmud) and Lincoln Mitchell discussing their work.

The entry includes the nearly one-hour video of the panel.

JML Update, Jan. 18, 2019

Posted on: January 18th, 2019 by Ron Kaplan

Can you believe it? Less than a month until those three little words — pitchers and catchers — warm the hearts of baseball fans everywhere. (What, you thought I was talking about the classic song by Ruby and Kalmar? By the way, Harry Ruby was a crazy baseball fan. Check out the movie version with Red Skelton  — also a fan in real life — in that role).

Image result for red skelton baseball

But I digress…

Craig Breslow, considered one of the smartest guys in baseball (degrees in molecular biophysics and biochemistry), was hired by the Chicago Cubs earlier this week with the title of “director of strategic initiatives for baseball operations,” whatever that entails. The New Haven-born reliever, who last appeared in the Majors in 2017 — put in an appearance in Red Sox Nation at Temple Aliyah’s annual Men’s Club dinner back in November.

Temple Aliyah welcomes Craig Breslow

Several MOTs participated in a California Strong Celebrity Softball Game last week to raise money for those who were impacted by the wildfires in California, as well as the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks. Milwaukee Brewers’ star Ryan Braun was one of the event’s organizers. Joc Pederson of the LA Dodgers and Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros took the field in the fund-raiser. Pederson avoided arbitration with the Dodgers, signing a one-year deal.

Bregman has been a very busy fella in the off-season, including elbow surgery, which he shared on his YouTube channel.

All due respect — and this is probably a generational thing, or maybe just a social media thing — what is it with a segment of society that feels to the need to be so sharing? Well, at least it’s not pictures of what he had for lunch. Just a thought.

Barring any unforeseen events, Braun will pass Hank Greenberg as the all-time Jewish home run king. The original Hebrew Hammer hit 331 in his 13-year career, severely curtailed by his service during World War II; the current iteration has 322 in 12 seasons. Not everyone is happy about the prospect, including Scott Barancik, founder of the Jewish Baseball News site.

What does the future hold for Kevin Pillar, the longest-tenured member of the Toronto Blue Jays? In the meantime, he agreed to a one-year, $5.8 million contract with the Jays last Friday, avoiding arbitration,

How will Philadelphia Phillies fans feel if manager Gabe Kapler can snag free agent Bryce Harper?

Zack Weiss — who failed to record an out in his major league debut for the Cincinnati Reds last April (his only appearance in the bigs, by the way), was signed to a minor league deal by the Minnesota Twins.

Perennial favorite Cody Decker has re-signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks and assigned to its Reno affiliate.

Image result for cody decker mensch on a bench

And in case you missed it:

Ian Kinsler signed with the Padres.

Brad Ausmus has a new gig as manager of the LA Angels.

Where has the time gone: Kevin Youkilis

Posted on: December 27th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

I don’t know what I’m having a harder time wrapping my head around: that Kevin Youkilis has been retired for five years or that his name appears on this year’s Hall of Fame Ballot?

Here’s his capsule bio from the HoF Ballot page:


1st year on the ballot…Played 10 seasons with Red Sox, White Sox and Yankees…Three-time All-Star (2008-09, 2011) and 2007 Gold Glove Award winner at first base who twice finished in Top 10 of the American League MVP voting (2008: 3rd; 2009: 6th)…Hit better than .300 in three seasons (2008-2010) and recorded an on-base percentage of .400 or better in two seasons (2009-10)…Topped 20-home run mark twice (2008-09) and reached the 100-RBI mark once (2008)…Led AL in sacrifice flys in 2006 with 11…Played in seven Postseason series over four seasons, hitting .306 with 22 runs scored and 17 RBI in 29 games…Member of Red Sox World Series championship teams in 2004 and 2007.

This writer thinks the mistakenly nicknamed “Greek God of Walks” should be inducted just because of his unique batting stance, but let’s be real here: Most likely Youkilis — who appears on the ballot with 34 other former major leaguers — will not get enough votes to return for the 2020 voting.

Youk ranks seventh all-time among JMLs in home runs (150); seventh in RBIs (618); seventh in runs scored (653); and ninth in hits (1,053). None of those numbers are Hall-worthy.

The Baseball Writers Association of America will announce the results on Jan. 22. Any electees will be inducted on Sunday, July 21, at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown.

If he can make it there (Ryan Lavarnway)

Posted on: November 9th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

Welcome to the Big Apple, Ryan Lavarnway.

The 31-year-old catcher signed with the NY Yankees today. He is expected to serve as “insurance” for Gary Sanchez, who underwent surgery on his non-throwing arm yesterday.

Lavarnway made his debut with the Boston Red Sox in 2011 (Kevin Youkilis was a teammate). He has also played for the Baltimore Orioles, Atlanta Braves, Oakland A’s, and the Pittsburgh Pirates where he went 4-for-6 with a double. On Sept. 18, Lavarnway drove in the winning run with a pinch-hit single in the 11th inning, giving Pittsburgh a 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Over seven years, Lavarnway has a .208 batting average with seven home runs and 43 runs batted in. He was a member of the Israel National Team at the 2017 World Baseball Classic where he was named the Pool MVP for the group that included Israel, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and the Netherlands.

Image result for ryan lavarnway Israel

Sanchez is expected to be all right for opening day 2019, so don’t get all excited about Lavarnway getting the starting assignment.

JML Update, World Series Edition: That was quick.

Posted on: October 29th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

Mazel tov to the Boston Red Sox, who took the Fall Classic, four games to one.

I must admit, my early work hours made it impractical to watch any game in its entirety. Even on my day off, I did not watch the 18-inning marathon. (Major props to my daughter, Rachel, however, who did.)

Sadly, neither of our boys had much to do with their team’s results. In fact, Ian Kinsler was the goat on Friday. He entered the game as a pinch-runner in the 10th and had a tough time of it, almost getting picked off at first base then oversliding third on a hit and just getting back in time before finally being thrown out at home trying to score on a fly ball. Then after the Red Sox had taken a 2-1 lead in the top of the 13th, he made a bad throw to first, allowing the host LA Dodgers to tie the game again. Looking at the replay, you could understand the cause of the errant toss as his footing gave way as he field the ball to his right. Still, it was an error and the Dodgers won in the record-setting 18th on a walk-off home run.

By the way, Joc Pederson homered in the third inning to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. It was his only hit in seven at-bats in the game.

Not only did Kinsler not start either of the final two games, he didn’t even appear in the final two games, won by the Sox 9-6 on Saturday and 5-1 yesterday. It kind of reminded me of the 1973 World Series when Mike Andrews — also a second baseman — made two errors for the Oakland A’s in a loss to the NY Mets. A’s owner Charley Finley tried to force Andrews to sign a document stating he was injured so he could be replaced on the roster. Andrews’ teammates threatened to boycott the next game and Finley changed his mind, Andrews became a folk hero, even earning a standing ovation from Mets fans. For a moment I took that attitude towards the Red Sox’s treatment of the veteran Kinsler. But, to be honest, he hadn’t done much the whole post-season. In the Series, he was just 1-for-10 with one RBI.

Ove on the other side, Pederson’s homer was his only hit in 12 trips to the plate.

So that’s all she wrote for baseball in 2018, chaverim. What do you think, Alex Bregman for MVP?

I’ll be working on a recap of the whole JML season over the next few days; stay tuned.



JML Update, World Series Edition: Game Two

Posted on: October 25th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

Ian Kinsler‘s two-out RBI single in the second inning put the Boston Red Sox on the board first en route to a 4-2 win over the visiting LA Dodgers, giving them a 2-0 lead in the Fall Classic.

Joc Pederson flied out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. He remained in the game as the left-fielder and did not have another turn at bat.

The teams take a break tonight before resuming action tomorrow in Los Angeles.

JML Update, World Series, Game 1

Posted on: October 24th, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

Unless you’re a Red Sox fan, this one was pretty ho-hum. Boston beat the visiting LA Dodgers, 8-4. Neither of our boys were involved in the highlights.

Ian Kinsler started for the home team and went 0-for-4.

Joc Pederson entered the game for the Dodgers as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, leading off that inning by grounding out sharply to second, although not Kinsler, since the Sox were in a shift. He remained in the game and again grounded out to second to lead off the ninth, this time to his co-religionist.

In an ESPN ranking of both teams by Sam Miller, Pederson was listed at #28:

We really can’t stress enough how incredible the Dodgers’ platoon system is this year — with two guys at almost every position who would start on the vast majority of teams — but here it is again: Pederson is a pretty good defensive center fielder who slots in between Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Votto on the 2018 OPS+ leaderboard, and he is going to end up starting fewer than half the Dodgers’ postseason games. Fun fact: When I was drawing up the list of 50 players in this World Series, he was the last name I recalled, after Dylan Floro and Blake Swihart, because you actually can forget that Joc Pederson, near star, is even on this team.

Kinsler was ranked #33:

This might be overly optimistic, considering the man just had easily his worst offensive season and some extremely humbling at-bats against Gerrit Cole in the American League Championship Series. But Kinsler’s defense is still fantastic, he still usually puts the ball in play, he’s got great awareness and I’ve just got a weird hunch he’s worth watching in this series.

Game Two starts tonight at 8:09.

JML Update, World Series Edition: Pre-Game One

Posted on: October 23rd, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

One’s in, one’s not.

Ian Kinsler is projected as the starting second baseman for the host Boston Red Sox, while Joc Pederson is not among the opening nine for the LA Dodgers.

This marks the second straight year that two MOTs have opposed each other in baseball’s final showcase. You may recall that Pederson created quite a story in the 2017 Fall Classic, belting three home runs and a couple of doubles in a losing cause against the Houston Astros. Alex Bregman had a couple of long balls himself in that one for the ‘Stros.

Kinsler has appeared in two World Series, 2010 and 2011 while with the Texas Rangers, in which he batted .293 (12-for-41) with no home runs and two RBIs.

Image result for ian kinsler, world series



Welcome back, Brad

Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by Ron Kaplan

Image result for brad ausmusBrad Ausmus returns to the ranks of field generals in baseball. He was named as skipper of the LA Angels, replacing long-time manager Mike Soscia who had ben with the team since 2000.

Ausmus, 49, led the Detroit Tigers for four seasons (2014-17). He took the team to the post-season in his rookie year, but was eliminated in the LDS series. Some say that his initial campaign was a success (90-72) because he inherited a good squad from his predecessor, Jim Leland. Ausmus finished under .500 in two of the next three years. He served in the front office of the Angels as a special assistant to the general manager.

As a player, Ausmus — primarily a catcher — enjoyed an 18-year career with the Houston Astros, LA Dodgers, Tigers, and San Diego Padres. He appeared in a JML-leading 1,971 games and finished with marks of .251 batting average, 80 home runs, and 607 runs batted in.

Ausmus was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. In a 2009 article published by the Jewish Journal  of Greater Los Angeles, Ausmus — who also managed the Israeli National Team in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in 2013 — said, “I have had quite a few young Jewish boys who will tell me that I am their favorite player, or they love watching me play or they feel like baseball is a good fit for them because it worked for me, or it worked for Shawn Green or other Jewish players at the Major League level. It has been a sense of pride. If you can have a positive impact on a kid, I’m all for it.”

Image result for brad ausmus israel


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