The 2015 Major League Baseball playoffs are officially underway, with Toronto setting the stage for the first game of the playoff season as the Blue Jays, playing their first post-season game since they won the World Series 22 years ago, take on the Texas Rangers.
As the city’s Jewish members are well aware of, the Blue Jays’ own outfielder Kevin Pillar is a member of the tribe, who showed off his pride by wearing his ‘SuperJew’ undershirt when the Jays clinched the AL East division title.
But aside from Pillar, there are several other Jewish athletes and spokespeople actively looking to win the 2015 World Series championship, including a distinguished cadre of owners, players, general managers and presidents of baseball operations.
While we pay homage to them with this list, we must also acknowledge that there are far too many Jews in the MLB to mention them all, from batting and pitching coaches to communications directors. As only one team will prove triumphant, there is no doubt that there will be a very tough road ahead for all of you. Allow us to offer these words of encouragement, as spoken by the world’s most interesting man:
For the thousands of baseball fans who look forward to this time of year more than anything else in the world, enjoy the wonderment that is the MLB playoffs.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers
Outfielder, Toronto Blue Jays
Pillar, who made his major league debut with the Jays in 2013, has had arguably his strongest year, bringing his A-game for the last month of the regular season, hitting .333 with 12 runs scored, 12 RBIs and eight stolen bases. In his final two weeks, he hit .538 with five stolen bases. Yesterday, Sportsnet crowned him as making the top Blue Jays play of 2015 with his “life-changing” catch on Apr. 15 vs. the Tampa Bay Rays.
General manager, Texas Rangers
When hired at the age of 28, Jon Daniels became the youngest general manager in major league baseball history. While 2014 was a particularly horrendous year for the Rangers, with the third-worst record in the American League, Daniels has been able to rebuild the team this year, earning them the title of “the single biggest surprise” in baseball, winning the AL West division. While they do have their work cut out for them against the Blue Jays, it’s definitely a big improvement.
Houston Astros vs. Kansas City Royals
Starting pitcher, Houston Astros
While it was certainly a heartbreaker for Houston fans when they learned that starting pitcher Scott Feldman would miss out on the the last month of MLB action, and consequently the playoffs, due to a shoulder injury, Feldman certainly did have a hand (no pun intended) in bringing his team here. Feldman started 18 games with the Astros this season, had an ERA of 3.90 and 61 strikeouts in 108.1 innings. We’re sure he’ll be rooting for the Astros from the sidelines.
Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals
General manager, Chicago Cubs
Hoyer, who joined the Cubs in 2011, is proud of his team’s achievements. “It really has been as good of a clubhouse environment as I’ve ever been around,” he said in a recent interview. “Joe (Maddon) and his staff do a great job. Our veterans, led by David Ross, do a great job. And so, it’s a wonderful vibe on the team. It has been all year.” Despite the fact that Chicago was the last team to earn a playoff spot, Bleacher Report predicts they will go on to win the World Series against Toronto in seven.
President of baseball operations, Chicago Cubs
Theo Epstein has had a storied career in major league baseball. As GM of the Boston Red Sox, the team won two World Series championships, in 2004, their first in 86 years, and again in 2007. In a column published in yesterday’s Bleacher Report, he was referred to as “baseball’s miracle worker.” San Diego Padres president Mike Dee said it best, "It would be pretty cool if he did it [winning the World Series]. To be able to be the architect of both the Cubs and the Red Sox ending long droughts? It would be hard to believe one guy would be involved in ending both of those."
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Mets
President & CEO, Los Angeles Dodgers
Former president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals, Stan Kasten became the Los Angeles Dodgers president on April 30, 2012, after Guggenheim Baseball Management, a consortium which consists of Kasten, former Los Angeles Laker Magic Johnson, Guggenheim controlling partner Mark Walter, and others, paid US$2.15 billion for the team. Kasten, a graduate of Yeshiva University High School for Boys and Ner Israel Rabbinical College, has also gotten the team involved in the world of high-tech, with the Dodgers becoming the first professional sports team to fund a tech incubator. "We thought we had an opportunity here to get beyond just the business of baseball at Dodger Stadium," he said.
President of baseball operations, Los Angeles Dodgers
When Andrew Friedman left the Rays to become president of baseball operations for the L.A. Dodgers, he became the highest-paid front-office executive in baseball, with a reported five-year contract of US$35 million. According to a recent exposé by the New York Times, Friedman was hired for his “grasp of analytics,” which he displayed successfully in his first off-season with the team, adding key players such as Yasmani Grandal, Howie Kendrick, and Brett Anderson.
Centre fielder, Los Angeles Dodgers
Joc Pederson, the third-youngest player in the National League, began his career in the major leagues in September, 2014 with the Dodgers. At that point, manager Don Mattingly called him “the best centre fielder in our organization.” While he certainly played better throughout the first half of his rookie season, hitting .230 with 20 home runs and an OPS+ of 139, he’s still managing to make headlines with his new “Live like a Champ” hat that will benefit people with disabilities. Pederson was also selected to the NL team in the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and was chosen to start in left field.
Fred Wilpon & Saul Katz
Co-owners, New York Mets
After an ugly controversy that embroiled the Mets co-owners into financial disarray—due to their involvement in Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme—brothers-in-law Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz have been quietly but surely rebuilding the New York Mets franchise (see here for a list of ten key moves that brought the team back to the playoffs). In August, they refinanced US$700 million of the Mets’ debt, and have played their owning of the team like true businessmen. After hiring Sandy Alderson to rebuild the team under a modest budget, attendance at Citi Field diminished, and the Mets finished below .500 for four seasons. Yet, they were able to generate income, and business eventually started booming again for the Mets, so much in fact that they’re now in the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
Newsday might have said it best about Fred Wilpon: he’s a survivor. Mets fans may not have been happy that he and Katz were able to stick around, but attendance is reportedly up by 2,000 fans a game since last season, and the team finished the season in first place in the NL East division. Even Forbes’ own Mike Ozanian had to admit that he was wrong about Wilpon, and that the 78-year-old knew what he was doing to bring the team back to glory. It just took him a while to get here, that’s all.