Peter Ephross, author of Jewish Major Leaguers in Their Own Words, contributed this piece on the near-annual bane of the MOT players’ existence, for the August issue of Hadassah Magazine.
Yom Kippur comes especially early this year and as the Day of Atonement falls on a Friday, the 13th (for an extra superstitious whammy) and Saturday, the 14th, every team will be in action (as opposed to more lightly-scheduled Thursdays or Mondays).
So let’s take a look, just in case the boys feel like taking a page from Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax and being “true to their religion.”
There are basically two situations for JMLs: those whose teams are locked into their spots, either on top of their division or out of contention; and those who are still vying for the post-season. The Boston Red Sox (Ryan Lavarnway, Craig Breslow), Toronto Blue Jays (Kevin Pillar), NY Mets (Josh Satin), and Houston Astros (Josh Zeid) fall into the former category. In the other belong the Tampa Bay Rays (Sam Fuld), Texas Rangers (Ian Kinsler), Baltimore Orioles (Scott Feldman, Danny Valencia), Oakland As (Nate Freiman)
Josh Satin and the Mets host the Miami Marlins (Ike Davis doesn’t have to worry about playing “thanks” to his injury). This is an odd part of the year. The Mets were officially eliminated from contention the other day, so they’re just finishing the string, so manager Terry Collins might offer Satin a pass. But as a young player trying to establish himself, Satin may feel pressure to play and make an impression, especially since he’s not an everyday guy.
Scott Feldman pitched for the Orioles Wednesday, so unless, for some bizarre reason he’s called on to pinch hit (highly doubtful with the expanded roster), he doesn’t have to worry. Third baseman/designated hitter Danny Valencia, on the other hand, may well be needed as the Os battle for a wild card spot.
Like the Mets, the Blue Jays are going nowhere, so rookie Kevin Pillar, who has been the starting left fielder for most of the past month — with little offensive success — may get the holiday off.
The As are leading the AL West but Bunyonesque slugger Nate Freiman — like Satin and Pillar, a newcomer — has not been starting for the most part. It would be ironic if now he was put in the starting lineup. But the As are visiting the second-place team, the Rangers for a crucial series, so how would Freiman respond? Likewise, Rangers veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler. He’s been playing with injuries, so would manager Ron Washington give him an easy out, killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Or are the Rangers desperate enough to play him?
The Rays are also in the hunt for a wild card spot. Defensive standout Sam Fuld seems to get into more games than many his landsman, albeit as a late-inning insertion, but there are plenty of other guys who can be used instead.
Unlike Feldman, who knows in advance when he will be pitching, reliever Craig Breslow has no such indications as an integral part of the Red Sox’s bullpen. The first-place Sox will host — who else — the NY Yankees that weekend. Back-up catcher Ryan Lavarnway can easily be replaced for a game or two
The Astros are mired in last place in the AL West so rookie reliever Josh Zeid could easy get a “pass” when his team hosts the Los Angeles Angels.
Out of the picture: Ryan Braun the suspended outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers; Jason Marquis (San Diego Padres), recovering from arm surgery; and, unless he makes a miraculous recovery and rejoins the NY Yankees, Kevin Youkilis.
And while there are no pro football games to worry about, remember that Friday nights and Saturdays are when the majority of high school and college games are played, creating hard choices for whatever Jews are members of the team. I recall a conversation I had with Josh Miller, then the punter for the New England Patriots, who said there’s a lot more pressure in football — especially for “skill” positions — since you play just one game a week.