WINNIPEG — Besides sharing a Jewish heritage, what did Texas Rangers’ second baseman Ian Kinsler and pitcher Scott Feldman, Boston Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, Washington Nationals starter Jason Marquis, and Chicago Cubs’ relief hurler John Grabow have in common during the 2010 baseball season?
Well, anyone of them could have auditioned to appear in the celebrated TV series MASH – if it was still running – due to medical problems that caused them to go under the knife.
In case you didn’t know, many characters in the seventh season of the show’s 11-year run were named after players on the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers.
For example, the injury-prone Kinsler, 28, didn’t make the season-opener in 2010 due to a severe ankle sprain suffered in spring training. In August, he developed a slow-healing groin injury that led to his missing a total of 59 games during the regular season. The six-foot, 200-pound infielder who can hit for average and also drive the long ball had only 391 at bats. His final numbers were .286 with nine taters and 45 RBI to go along with 15 stolen bases. Not up to par for the intense, athletic two-time all-star who hit 31 home runs and added 32 doubles in 2009.
His teammate Scott Feldman, 28, a versatile right-hander who can both start and relieve, did not deliver the goods after signing a two-year contract extension with the Rangers. In 2009 he put up a 17-8 won-lost record with an ERA of 4.08 and he won 12 consecutive games on the road. He was voted team pitcher of the year. In 2010, however, a badly bruised knee limited him to only 22 starts that saw him finish at 7-11 with a bloated ERA of 5.48 in 140 innings. The end result is that the six-foot-six, 230-pound Hawaii-born right-hander has been relegated this season from the number two starter to fifth in the rotation.
Last year Kevin Youkilis, 32, was on his way to his usually stellar season when he was derailed by a serious thumb injury that required surgery, along with a groin problem that saw him make only 362 plate appearances. Despite missing the final 56 games of the regular campaign, Youkilis boasted a BA of .307 and added 19 homers and 62 RBI. The Red Sox, with a wealth of riches in the roster department, acquired San Diego Padres star Adrian Gonzalez in the off-season, resulting in Youkilis being shifted from first to third base. It’s ironic because the slick-fielding Jewish infielder holds the Major League record of 238 straight games at first without an error. At the plate he is extremely patient and draws a lot of walks to go along with his power and an impressive career batting average of .294 in close to 3,000 at bats.
Right-hander Jason Marquis, 32, not unlike Feldman, failed to perform for the Nationals after being rewarded by Washington with a fat-cat contract. That came after an outstanding 2009 season with the Colorado Rockies, in which he posted a 15-13 record and an ERA of 4.04 in 216 innings. The former Atlanta Braves 1996 first-round pick missed 97 games last year and ended up with a 2-9 record and 6.60 ERA in only 13 starts due to a right-elbow injury. When healthy, he is known as an innings-eater, but at the same time he is always having to pitch out of jams, causing no end of stress for his manager. Marquis is listed as a third starter with a weak ball club, and 2011 will be a crossroads year for him since he is in the final year of a two-year contract.
The injury bug also took a big-time bite out of the Cubs’ left-handed reliever John Grabow in 2010 after he was acquired from Pittsburgh at the July 31 trading deadline in 2009. The six-foot-two, 250-pound veteran was grossly underpaid by the Pirates and finally hit the jackpot in Chicago. Much to the dismay of his new club, the 32-year-old missed his team’s last 86 games with a sprained left knee and ended up with zero saves, a 1-3 record and an embarrassing ERA of 7.36 in 28 games in which he was mashed for 35 hits in just 25 innings.
On a more positive note, left-handed relief pitcher Craig Breslow is back in Oakland after giving the Athletics good value for their buck. He appeared in 75 games, registering a 4-4 won-lost record and an ERA of 3.01. In 75 innings the 30-year-old stopper fanned 71 and had five saves.
Easily one of the top-10 hitters in the National League, Brewers’ left-fielder Ryan Braun, 27, was an all-star last season and won the Silver Slugger award. While his power fell off with only 25 home runs due to nagging injuries to his wrist and elbow, he still managed to hit 45 doubles, score 101 runs, record a BA of .304 and drive in 103 in 619 at bats.
Leave it to the Minnesota Twins with their limited budget to always come up with a gem. In the 19th round of the baseball draft in 2006, they grabbed a Jewish third-sacker from Boca Raton, Fla., named Danny Valencia and brought him up last June 3 for a look-see. He was never returned to the minors as he appeared in 85 games. In 299 at-bats, the six-foot-two, 210-pound infielder hit .311, whacked seven homers, 18 doubles and drove in 40 runs. He played airtight defence and showed he can hit both the fastball and breaking ball, and finished third in the league in American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Also back for his sophomore season in the majors is Ike (Isaac) Benjamin Davis, a first-round Mets draftee in 2008. He is the son of former Major League relief pitcher Ron Davis and a Jewish mother, Millie, from Lithuania. The Edina, Minn., six-foot-four, 215-pound left-handed hitting slugger held down the first-base position for New York as soon as he arrived last May. In 523 at bats in 147 games, he hit .264, had 19 home runs, 33 doubles and drove in 71.
Also watch for veteran outfielder Gabe Kapler, now 35, who has signed a minor league contract and hopes to win a bench job with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Utility outfielder Sam Fuld, 29, with limited major league experience is now in the Tampa Bay Rays chain following several years with Cubs’ farm teams. He was an All-American player with Stanford and is the son of Amanda Merrill, a New Hampshire state senator and Ken Fuld, a dean and professor of psychology at the University of New Hampshire.
Former first-round White Sox pick Aaron Poreda, 24, who is six-foot-six and weighs 240 pounds, was obtained in the summer of 2009 by San Diego from Chicago and is hoping to catch on as a reliever or mid-rotation starter with the Padres this season.
Larry Rothschild is a pitching coach with the Yankees, following several years with the Cubs. Scott Radinsky holds a similar position with the Indians in Cleveland.
My wish for all of the above this season? Zei gezunt.