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Posts Tagged ‘Gabe Kapler’

 

Things getting serious for Israel's WBC team?

Posted on: May 22nd, 2012 by Ron Kaplan

If The Sporting News takes note, it must mean something.

“World Baseball Classic: Israel squad could be dangerous with stars Ryan Braun, Ian Kinsler available,” reads the headline for an article on the TSN website. But I guess the thing is if, Kinsler and Braun are available. The Rangers are a favorite to make it into the post-season; the Brewers, not so much. The “Israeli” team plays its qualifying round in Florida in November, so if Kinsler’s Rangers make it back to the World Series for a third straight year, that would make him one tired doggie.

You don’t have to be Jewish to qualify for the team, just a “citizen.” Anyone who has at least one Jewish grandparent qualifies as an Israeli citizen, so that would take care of those matralineal descent issues, like Braun, whose father is Jewish, but not his mother.

According to TSN, “Israel can tap into the formidable pool of Jewish-American baseball talent that includes about 15 major leaguers” (this includes several athletes like the injured Sam Fuld (Tampa Bay Rays) and minor leaguers like Ryan Lavarnway, Michael Schwimer, and Danny Valencia, who made their ML debuts but are currently in the minors and recently retired players like Shawn Green, Gabe Kapler, and Ausmus.)

Guest column: Jews, Israel, and Baseball: A shidduch?

Posted on: November 23rd, 2011 by Ron Kaplan

Editor’s note: This article was written by Andrew Wolfenson, who writes at open.salon.com/blog/andywolf.

* * *

Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers has been named the winner of the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player award. He is the first Jewish player to be showered with shouts of “mazel tov”  for capturing the MVP award since 1963. This comes at a time when published reports indicate that three former Jewish major leaguers have thrown their support behind Israel’s bid to host the 2013 World Baseball Classic. The concept of a Jew being named MVP for the first time in almost half a century and the Jewish homeland being selected to host a world baseball tournament is staggering. While it is unlikely that the Classic will be awarded to the always-volatile country, the mere fact that it is being considered, along with the successes being achieved by Braun and other current Jewish ballplayers, signals the beginning of a new era in Jewish baseball.

Up until this point, one would have been hard-pressed to term baseball a “Jewish” sport. Only three Jewish-born players are enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and only five Jews, including Braun, have won Most Valuable Player awards. The 1930s through 1950s — a time when most Jews lived in the country’s major cities and their abilities to purchase athletic equipment was limited — created an era of Jewish basketball all-stars and boxing champions, but few baseballers. Now, a trio of current superstars — Braun, Boston’s Kevin Youkilis, and Texas’ Ian Kinsler — have established this as the most prolific generation of major league baseball ballplayers.

"Hank Greenberg," by Dave Choate

Hank Greenberg was the first Jewish superstar in the Major Leagues, and the man known as “Hammerin’ Hank” (prior to future home run king Hank Aaron) paved the way for future Jewish players much like Jackie Robinson later did for African-American ballplayers. I wrote about Greenberg on my blog last New Year’s Day, which would have been his 100th birthday. Despite enduring rampant anti-Semitism and missing four years while serving in World War II, Greenberg, a hulking first baseman, compiled a .313 lifetime batting average to complement his 331 home runs and 1,276 RBIs. He won the American League’s Most Valuable Player award twice, in 1935 and 1940, and set major league records for both home runs (58) and RBIs (183) by a right-hand hitter. Also, although he played first base at the same time as Yankee legend Lou Gehrig, he was still selected to play in five All-Star games. Following his retirement, he held ownership interests and front-office positions with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1956, the first Jew so enshrined.

Most importantly, however, Greenberg, a true mensch, as he withstood the vitriolic comments and insults being hurled at him by anti-Semitic opponents and fans. As his former teammate, Birdie Tebbets, said, “There was nobody in the history of the league who took more abuse than Greenberg, unless it was Jackie Robinson.… I was with Hank when it was happening and I heard it. However, Hank was not only equal to it, he was superior to most of the people who were yelling at him.… Hank consistently took more abuse than anyone I have ever known.… Nobody else could have withstood the foul invectives that were directed toward Greenberg …” (The Story of My Life, by Greenberg with Ira Berkow).

Greenberg’s heroics blazed a difficult trail to follow, but two members of the 1940s-50s Cleveland Indians attempted to take the mantel from him. During a fifteen-year career, Lou Boudreau won the 1944 batting championship and, while a player-manager for the Indians, captured the 1948 American League Most Valuable Player award. He also served as the radio voice for the Chicago Cubs for several decades, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970. His teammate, Al Rosen, was one of the standouts on the 1954 championship-winning Indians, a four-time All-Star, and won the 1953 MVP award. Rosen later served in front-office positions with the Indians and the New York Yankees, his stint with the Yankees taking place during the team’s “Bronx Zoo” successes of the late 1970’s.

The greatest of all Jewish players, however, was Sandy Koufax. Arguably the best left-hander ever to pitch in the majors and on everyone’s short list for best pitchers of all-time, the Brooklyn-born Koufax simply dominated the National League from 1961 through 1966. In the four seasons from 1963 through his retirement in 1966, he posted three seasons of sub-2.00 ERA, leading the National League in each season, and led the National League in wins three times. In fact, in 1963, 1965, and 1966, he led the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts, capturing pitching’s equivalent of the “Triple Crown.” (as a side note, his totals in each of those years would have led the American League as well, further evidencing his dominance during that period).

"Sandy Koufax," by Leon Jimenez

Koufax pitched four no-hitters, including a perfect game, was selected as the Cy Young Award winner (there was only one for both leagues) in 1963, 1965, and 1966, and captured the NL MVP award in 1963, the last Jew to do so. Retiring at age 30 after only twelve seasons (ten full) due to recurring arm troubles, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972.

Koufax also made the legendary decision not to pitch Game One of the 1965 World Series because it fell on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. The Dodgers’ other superstar pitcher, Don Drysdale, took the mound for Los Angeles that day and did not pitch well, giving up seven runs in less than three innings. When manager Walt Alston came to the mound to replace him during the game, Drysdale remarked “I bet right now you wish I was Jewish, too.” In 1934, it should be noted, Greenberg also refused to play on Yom Kippur. He did, however, play on Rosh Hashana, receiving a rabbi’s blessing to play and slamming two home runs.

Those four players formed the veritable “Mount Rushmore” of Jewish ballplayers until the current era. There were other successes: Ken Holtzman was a key member of the 1970’s Oakland A’s champions (along with fellow Jew Mike Epstein) and threw two no-hitters during his career. Orioles’ pitcher Steve Stone captured the AL Cy Young Award in 1980. Other Jews were notable for various reasons, such as World War II spy Moe Berg and Ron Blomberg, who famously served as the first designated hitter in Major League history and later managed a team in the sole season of the Israeli Baseball League, winning a championship.

History is also replete with Jewish owners and front-office leaders, including current commissioner and former Brewer owner Bud Selig and a quarter of machers who currently serve as their team’s general managers Ruben Amaro, Jr. (Philadelphia), Jon Daniels (Texas), Theo Epstein (Chicago Cubs), and Andrew Friedman (Tampa Bay).

The three former players who are now supporting Israel’s bid for the World Baseball Classic are Brad Ausmus, Gabe Kapler, and Shawn Green.  A catcher who spent the majority of his career with Houston, Ausmus won three gold glove awards, was selected to the All-Star game in 1999, and stroked over 1,500 hits over his 18 big-league seasons. Kapler, who was once considered to be one of baseball’s best prospects and was nicknamed the “Hebrew Hammer,” toiled for six teams over a twelve-year career. Sporting various tattoos, including a Star of David tattoo on his left calf and a Holocaust-inspired tattoo on his right, his career was unfortunate example of unfulfilled potential. He did, however, enjoy some naches and celebrated as a member of the 2004 Red Sox championship team.

From left: Shawn Green, Gabe Kapler, Brad Ausmus

The best of these three is unquestionably Green. Over a fourteen-year career spent primarily with the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers, Green slammed 328 home runs, hit 445 doubles, and knocked in 1,070 runs. His 49 home runs in 2001 are the most ever by a Dodgers’ player, and he exceeded 40 homers in a season three times. A two-time All-Star, he also won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in 1999.

The current crop of major leaguers, including the three All-Stars noted above, are the best group ever to be playing at one time. In his five seasons, Braun has already stroked 161 home runs and amassed 531 RBI’s to go along with his .312 batting average. Widely recognized as one of baseball’s premier players, he has been selected to the All-Star game and has been awarded baseball’s Silver Slugger award, given annually to the best hitters at each position.  Youkilis was a key member of the Red Sox 2007 championship team, has been a three-time All-Star, and a 2007 Gold Glove winner. Kinsler, along with fellow Jew Scott Feldman, has been a key member of the Rangers’ team that has advanced to the World Series in each of the past two years, and was selected to the All-Star game in 2008 and 2010. Both he and Braun were members of the “30/30 Club” (home runs and stolen bases).

Ian Kinsler and Kevin Youkilis (kicking up some schmutz)

And there are other notable Jewish players: Mets’ first baseman Ike Davis (his mother is Jewish) and Tampa Bay outfielder Sam Fuld are stars in the making, and Arizona pitcher Jason Marquis has won over 100 major league games.

Israel is one of 16 teams which has been invited to play in next year’s World Baseball Classic qualifying round, and the top four teams from that competition will advance to the 2013 WBC tournament. According to Israeli baseball officials, the Israeli team, if it were to qualify for the WBC, would seek to recruit Jewish professionals to play for the team. Green has also indicated his desire to again put on a uniform and play if asked, meaning that the Israeli team could possibly be set up as follows:

1B        Ike Davis
2B        Ian Kinsler
SS        Danny Valencia (the Twins’ third baseman would move to SS)
3B        Kevin Youkilis
OF       Ryan Braun
OF       Sam Fuld
OF       Shawn Green
C         Brad Ausmus (he is 42 and retired since 2009, but still the best option)
P          Jason Marquis/Scott Feldman

With the exception of the aged Ausmus, this would be a pretty formidable line-up. This minyan could contend with the Latin powerhouse teams of Venezuela and the Dominican Republic and, with a little bit of mazel, could unseat the two-time defending champs, Japan. If nothing else, a good showing by the team will allow Jews over the world to kvell over its accomplishments, and could go a long way toward erasing the stigma against Jews’ inability to excel in sports, as was so memorably stated in the movie Airplane. The heroics of the current crop of Jewish all-stars, I would urge, is certainly sufficient to fill much more than a light-reading leaflet.

Wolfenson with Hall of Famer Rod Carew (Photo by Mike Weiss)

 

JMLs in the WBC would be "Classic"

Posted on: November 11th, 2011 by Ron Kaplan

The AP published this story about the support of three former JMLs for the Israeli national team that will participate in the World Baseball Classic qualifier in 2013.

In the article, carried by ESPN and other sources, Shawn Green, Gabe Kapler, and Brad Ausmus have all the right things to say as the Israeli Baseball Association hopes to use them as a carrot to attract current JMLs, including Kevin Youkilis, Ian Kinsler, and Ryan Braun, to participate. Now let’s see if it’s more than lip service.

One of the members of the Jewish Sports Collectors group came up with this possible roster for the Israeli team. Not sure about the rules, but I think a certain number of players have to actually be from the country they represent, so some of these guys would have to go. Start with jason Kipnis, since he’s evidently not Jewish anyway.

 

JML update: Time begins again

Posted on: March 31st, 2011 by Ron Kaplan

As in Thomas Boswell’s collection of columns, Why Time Begins on Opening Day (The Penquin sports library).

So, believe it or not, the new baseball season is finally here. Ryan Braun walked twice and scored a run to help the Brewers take a 4-1 lead over the host Cinn. Reds in the top of the fourth. Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez homered back-to-back in the first; what a way to start.

That’s one of just six games taking place today. Jason Marquis did not get the OD start for the Washington Nationals. And in some potentially sad news, the LA Dodgers cut Gabe Kapler yesterday.

From ESPNlosangeles.com:

“We just ran out of 40-man roster spots,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said, indicating Kapler was a player the club wanted to keep.

[Field manager Don] Mattingly echoed that sentiment.

“It was tough with Kap,” Mattingly said. “He is such a guy you would love to have on a club. We looked at some different scenarios with Gabe as a part of this club and talked about some different things happening. The only thing that made it any easier was that we have been up front with Gabe from the very beginning. As we said we wanted to do, we tried to keep him informed of things that were happening.”

The 35-year-old Kapler, who spent last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, will take some time to decide whether to accept a minor league assignment, try to find a spot as a free agent — difficult at this point — or retire.

Other MOTS on big league rosters include:

  • Ike Davis, Mets
  • Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox; Ryan Kalish was sent to Pawtucket last week.
  • Sam Fuld, Tampa Bay Rays
  • Danny Valencia, Twins
  • Craig Breslow, A’s
  • Ian Kinsler, Rangers; Scott Feldman is out indefinitely as he recovers from knee surgery
  • John Grabow, Cubs

 

JML update: Games of Aug. 31

Posted on: August 31st, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

Remember the 1989 movie Major League? It was the saga of the Cleveland Indians, designed on purpose by the owner to be so lousy that they’d finish dead last, thereby allowing her to move the franchise to Florida. Sure enough, the team — the cinematic cliche of rag tag has-beens and never-weres who eventually bond and come together “against all odds” to in, if not on the field, in the greater game of life  — starts off poorly, playing to an opening day home crowd of about 20, including a trio of hearty fans in center field, decked out in Native American headdress and drums. No matter how badly the team plays, they remain optimistic.

Yeah, well this is the real world. Any Mets fans who thought they would suck it up, pull it together, rally round the flag, etc., as they took on the Atlanta Braves got a slap in the face last night.

The Mets marched into Georgia for a four-game series 10 games behind the division-leading Braves and the consensus was they pretty much had to sweep to remain in contention (they began the night in fourth place at 65-65). Trailing 5-2 in the fifth, the Mets had first-and-third with one out with their No. three and four hitters coming up. So David Wright pops out and Ike Davis fans. End of threat. Davis had a double in five at bats and struck out three times.

An inning later, the Mets’ lead-off batter singles and the next batter triples to drive him home. Braves 5, Mets 3, runner on third, no one out. The next batter walks, runners on first and third, no one out. Carlos Beltran comes up as a pinch-hitter and hits into a fielder’s choice at the plate, but the runners advance to second and third, so that’s not so bad: two in scoring position, one out.

The next batter strikes out — looking (Swing the bat, man!) –and you get the feeling you’ve been here before…many times. The next batter walks to load the bases, but sure as shootin’ the inning ends on a ground out and no further runs score.

The Braves go on to score four more runs, (they went 4-10 with runners in scoring position. The Mets? 1-14) including a home run on the second pitch tossed by malcontent extraordinaire Oliver Perez, who made his first appearance since the first day of the month. He also walked two batters in his one inning of work. Now here’s a guy who’s all about the team: after being put on the disabled list (which I still think was just a way to get him out of the manager’s hair for a couple of weeks), Perez, who’s making about $12 million this year, refused to be sent down to the minors, effectively giving the Mets a handicap of playing with 24 on their roster. The inmates are running the asylum.

New Yorkers have a perception of having a sense of entitlement. As the biggest, they should be the best. But the Mets, with their combined salary among the tops in the Majors, have shown that arrogance doesn’t get the job done. The Braves visit NY for a three-game set beginning Sept. 17. At this point, I just hope the Mets can keep out of the basement.

And now, having vented my spleen, here’s the rest of the JML report:

  • Ryan Braun (Brewers) was 2-5 with an RBI in a 10-inning, 5-4 loss to the Reds.
  • Craig Breslow (A’s) did not appear in Oakland’s 11-5 loss to the Yankees; Brad Ausmus (Dodgers) did not play in LA’s 3-0 shutout over the Phillies. Danny Valencia and the Twins had the day off.
  • John Grabow (Cubs), Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox), Scott Feldman and Ian Kinsler (Rangers) remain on the DL. The Dallas Morning News reported “Kinsler finally saw game action this weekend after missing more than a month with groin inflammation, though the results weren’t particularly inspiring. Kinsler followed an 0-3 Saturday with a single and an RBI in three at bats Sunday. Frisco’s roster also including big leaguers Nelson Cruz and Cristian Guzman this weekend, meaning the Rangers could a number of reinforcements in the near future.”
  • And finally, even though he, too, is on the DL, a Happy Birthday to Gabe Kapler of the Rays, who turns 35 today.

Ouchies.

Posted on: July 28th, 2010 by Ron Kaplan

So here’s a list of unusual injuries sustained by players this season, courtesy of SI.com’s Hot Clicks blog:

— Feb. 12: Brad Bergesen, Orioles: Strained his shoulder filming a TV commercial for the team.

— May 29: Kendry Morales, Angels: Broke his leg celebrating a walk-off home run at home plate.

— June 30: Luke Scott, Orioles: Pulled his hamstring during a home-run trot.

— July 1: Geoff Blum, Astros: Injured his elbow while putting on his shirt.

— July 14: Russell Branyan, Mariners: Injured his toe when a hotel room table fell on it.

— July 14: Mike Pelfrey, Mets: Missed a start as a result of stiff neck from a plane ride after the All-Star break.

— July 15: Mat Latos, Padres: Strains his left side while trying to hold back a sneeze.

— July 26: Chris Coghlan, Marlins: Tears meniscus in his left knee while shoving a shaving cream pie in the face of a teammate.

Now can you imagine if the Cardinals had to add their future Hall of Famer to the list because of this stunt on the Letterman show? (And, yes, that’s Dennis Leary on the “mound.” Wouldn’t it have been great if he could have been pitching to Kevin Youkilis?)

UPDATE: In the Mets game last nightt, Pujols was noticeably ailing from what appeared to be a sore left side. Coincidence? Hmmm.

Rays say, "Welcome back, Kapler"

Posted on: October 28th, 2009 by Ron Kaplan

Gabe Kapler, who served most credibly on the Tampa Bay bench, will be back in 2010.

In 2009, Kapler hit .239 with eight homers and 32 RBI in 99 games. All but one of the homers came with the Rays either tied or trailing.

Kapler told a reporter for MLB.com

I feel like I have a much better season in me [than 2009]. Last year some things went well, while others did not. Some stats I was OK with. Others I’m going to make a conscious effort to improve on. I’m going to work really hard [during the offseason], and I expect to put up good numbers [in 2010]. And I expect to really be a factor in helping the team win.

Kapler signed for $1,000,018 last season; next season he’ll get a reported $1.05 mil, but I wonder if there’s not another $18 in there at the end.

JML Update: Games of June 16

Posted on: June 17th, 2009 by Ron Kaplan

Interleague play continues.

On the ups: Gabe Kapler (Rays) had another good night. In Tampa’s 12-4 win over the Rockies, he went 3-4 with a triple and homer — his third in his last three games — and four RBI. Over those three games, Kapler is 6-7 and reached base eight times in nine plate appearances. Ian Kinsler (Rangers) hit two more homers, giving him 17 for the season, as Texas beat the Astros 6-1.

On the downs: Craig Breslow (Athlteics) walked the only batter he faced as Oakland lost to L.A. 5-4 in 10 innings.

Pareve: Ryan Braun (Brewers) and Kevin Youkilis (Red Sox) were each 1-4 with a walk and a run scored as their teams won their games over the Indians (7-5) and Marlins (8-2), respectively.

DNP: Aaron Poreda (White Sox, postponed by rain); John Grabow (Pirates); Scott Feldman (Rangers); Brad Ausums (Dodgers); Josh Whitesell and Scott Schoeneweis (Diamondbacks); Jason Marquis (Rockies)

Nu, where else should he have signed?

Posted on: January 12th, 2009 by Ron Kaplan

Word from our friend Howard Megdal at BaseballTalmud.com is that Gabe Kapler has signed a million-dollar deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Megdal writes

I am hopeful that there will be a fan group created at Tampa games called either “Kapler’s Knishes”, who will all dress up as enormous potato products, or “Kapler’s Kvetchers”, who will all dress up as my grandmother.

In an e-mail to the Korner, Kapler wrote

I am excited to earn the respect of the guys in the clubhouse. I am fortunate to continue my career on a winning team in a great city. 2009 is going to be an amazing year!

(Million) Dollar sign on the muscle

(Million) Dollar sign on the muscle

Hot stove: Kapler update

Posted on: January 10th, 2009 by Ron Kaplan

Add the Philadelphia Phillies to the list of teams that have shown an interest in Gabe Kapler. MLB.com reported:

The Phillies are looking for a right-handed hitter to come off the bench, according to FOXSports.com.

In 55 games this past season, [Nomar] Garciaparra hit .264 with eight home runs and 28 RBIs for the Dodgers. He can play shortstop, third and first base.

Kapler was arguably the Brewers’ best reserve last year, hitting .301 with eight home runs and 38 RBIs. He can play all three outfield positions.

But Philly.com, while noting Kapler’s value, added, “The Phillies also have shown interest …, but it appears he will sign elsewhere.” Hmm, where would that be, one wonders? Why not the Mets? Moises Alou has done well for them in his brief time with the team (well over .300 but in only 102 games over two seasons), but he’s already 41 and shown to be injury prone, and not likely to provide much on defense. Kapler, on the other hand, filled in admirably last season when the Brewers were without the services of Mike Cameron for a bunch of games early on.

   
 

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