So some of you might be thinking, "Is this guy on crack? Where the hell is Lou Boudreau, Brad Ausmus, and Mike Lieberthal?!"
Here's the thing: I'm a bit of a stickler when it comes to who qualifies as being Jewish and who doesn't. I'm not orthodox or anything. Just anal, I guess. All of these guys had mixed parents. That doesn't mean an iota to me. Are they religious? Again, doesn't factor into the equation for me. (God knows I'm not!)
But were they raised as Jews? Now that - that does complicate things. Unfortunately, none of the above players were raised as Jews. I can tell you from personal experience what this is like, as I happen to have three cousins with mixed parents. All were raised as Catholics. It's not that I have anything against other religious denominations. Just when it comes to making a list like this, I would prefer to avoid any controversy.
As for Rod Carew, he married a Jewish woman and raised his children accordingly. But he never formerly converted to Judaism. And even if he had, I still would stubbornly leave him off this list. Like I said, I'm a stickler. Same thing applies to Joe Horlen and Steve Yeager. They did convert to Judaism later in life, but you won't find either one of them in here.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this, as I'm not entirely sure I made the right decision... it is somewhat of a touchy issue.
Now, for the nitty-gritty. Some of my picks, like Greenberg and Koufax, don't require an explanation. So I'll gloss over them for now. There will be time enough to talk about their greatness in the future.
Lesser known (but still great) players deserve recognition.
Players like Buddy Myer (1925-1941). 2131 hits, 1174 runs scored, 353 doubles, 130 triples, 850 RBIs, .303 average, .389 OBP. Impressive, no? In 1935 for the Washington Senators, he was the AL batting champ with a ridiculous .349 average and a .440 OBP, racking up 215 hits, 36 doubles, scoring 115 runs, and driving in 100 RBIs. He finished 4th in MVP voting that year, losing to none other than Hammerin' Hank Greenberg. His 460 putouts in 1935 rank 9th all time among second basemen. In 1938, he hit .336 and had a .454 OBP. Stole 156 total bases, 30 of them coming in 1928 when he finished 9th in MVP voting. Scored 90 or more runs 6 times. Scored 100 or more runs 4 times. Something else to chew on: he had more walks than strikeouts in EVERY SEASON HE PLAYED IN. Had 965 BBs versus 428 SOs. Hit 20 or more doubles 9 times. Hit 30 or more doubles 4 times. Hit 10 or more triples 7 times. Hit .300 or above 8 times. Had 160 or more hits in 8 consecutive seasons. This guy was the real deal. Myer was primarily used as a second baseman, but as we're a little short on shortstops his 238 career games at the position will have to suffice. Not in Cooperstown, but a strong case could be made for him being inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Greenberg, Green, Gordon, Rosen... we'll get to these guys. All in good time.
Harry Danning... we'll get to him right now. Danning was a teammate of Sid Gordon's on the New York Giants for awhile. A 4-time all-star, his numbers from 1937-1942 are pretty solid. He hit .300 or above 3 years in a row, socking 16 homers one season. He hit 20 or more doubles 5 years in a row; 34 was his high. In 1940, he had 91 RBIs. The year before, he had 74. This guy could flat out rake. Not the best defensive catcher, but we'll take what we can get.
Ryan Braun and Ian Kinsler are stars on the rise. They're also young. Assuming they can stay healthy, the sky's the limit for these guys. More on them at a later date when I look at 2008: A Year in Review.
As for our bench players, let me just say this. If we played under American League rules and had a DH, I would make Greenberg the DH and put the gold glover Youkilis at first. But if we're going by the National League, at this point in Youkilis' career I cannot in good conscience start him at third over Al Rosen. When it's all said and done, who knows? The only thing working against Youkilis is time. He'll turn 30 next March. So you gotta figure he has another 4 or 5 productive seasons left in him. Maybe more. Maybe less. Either way, Jewkilis has really emerged as one of the best players in the game today. An excellent fielder, he is capable of playing first base, third base, outfield, and has even logged in some time at second. More on him later.
Mike "Superjew" Epstein, Ron "Boomer" Blomberg, and Art Shamsky give this team some much needed left-handed power off the bench. Epstein hit 130 career HRs when he played from 1966-1974. He had a career-best 30 HRs (9th in AL) and 85 RBIs in 1969. His OBP was .414 (3rd in AL) and his SLG was .551 (6th in AL). He also hit 3 HRs in 1 game that season. Finished 25th in MVP voting. The following season he had 8 RBIs in 1 game. In 1972, he had a .376 OBP (6th in AL), a .490 SLG (5th in AL), and hit 26 HRs (3rd in AL). Finished 16th in MVP voting. Something you may not know: Ted Williams was his manager for a few years on the Washington Senators. So he learned from the best. Wasn't a contact hitter, but despite a pedestrian .244 career average, his OBP was .358. Partly because he got hit by a lot of pitches. Mostly because he had a good eye.
Blomberg was baseball's first designated hitter (which is perhaps a dubious honor). His career, which once seemed so promising, was mired in injuries. Still, when he did play he was rather productive. Had he stayed healthy, he might have had some monster seasons. As it is though in 1333 total ABs, his average stands at .293. In 1973, he hit .329 with 12 HRs in 301 ABs. The following year he hit .311 with 10 HRs in 264 ABs. He hit 14 HRs and 22 doubles in 1972 in only 299 ABs. What might have been...
Art Shamsky, part of that 'Mazin' Mets squad from '69, brings a lot to the table with his live bat. In 1966, he hit a whopping 21 home runs in just 234 ABs. That's absurd. At that pace with 600 ABs, he would have hit around 60 that year. 60! In 1969, he hit .300 in 303 ABs. And in 1970, he hit .293 in 403 ABs. One other thing that gives him an edge over some other guys was his performance in the postseason in '69. In 6 ABs in the World Series, he laid a goose egg. However, in the NLCS he was 7 for 13. Overall: .368 in 6 games.
Gabe Kapler is someone I'm sure you're familiar with. His career started off well enough, going yard 49 times in his first 3 seasons. In 2000 for the Rangers, he hit .302 with 14 HRs, 32 doubles, and had 66 RBIs. He also had a 28-game hitting streak, which is a record for the Rangers. The following year he hit 17 HRs, 29 doubles, and had 72 RBIs. Also swiped 23 bags. Since 2001, Kapler has had a major power outage and has been relegated to a role player. But a valuable role player nonetheless. He and Youkilis were part of that great Red Sox team in '04 that gave Boston its first World Series in 86 years. But Kapler isn't in the past tense yet. '08 was by far his best season since 2001. In only 229 ABs, Kapler hit .301, 8 HRs, and 17 two-baggers. His slugging percentage was a robust .498. To put it in perspective: Kapler wasn't even playing a year ago! Personally, I think this 33-year old veteran still has some gas left in the tank and fire in his belly...
Whew, this is taking longer than I thought it would. I suppose this interrupts the momentum I had. Oh well, the flow must go on!
In 1945, Goody Rosen hit an astounding .325 in 606 ABs, finishing 10th in MVP voting. He also hit 24 doubles, 11 triples, 12 home runs, and had 75 RBIs. He scored 126 runs and racked up 197 hits. In 1938, he led the NL in assists from the outfield with 19. And in 1940 in only 65 games he had 12 assists from the outfield. The rest of his war-shortened career is more ho-hum, but for one magical season Goody Rosen was in a league of his own.
Morrie Arnovich, another player whose career suffered because of WWII. Still, from 1937-1939 this guy was in the zone. He had 25 or more doubles and 60 or more RBIs in all three of those seasons. In 1938, he had 18 assists from the outfield. In 1939, he hit .324 in 491 ABs and finished 18th in MVP voting.
Enough with the hitting already! Let's get to the pitching. I'll skip Koufax and Holtzman and save them for a rainy day.
Steve Stone, AKA the last Jewish pitcher to win Cy Young. He won the prestigious award in 1980 with the Baltimore Orioles. He was 25-7 in 250 innings of work with a 3.23 ERA and 149 strikeouts. In 1972, his ERA was 2.98 for the Giants in 123 innings of work. In 1979, he was 11-7 with a 3.77 ERA in 186 innings. Overall, he was 107-93 with a 3.97 ERA in 1788 innings. Solid. The best righty starter we have. Period.
Dave Roberts, the guy who steals bases? No, not that guy. This ace pitched mostly in the '70s and just might be the most underappreciated player on this list. Had 103 wins against 125 losses. But don't let the win-loss record fool you. Dave Roberts never, ever got run support with his 3.78 ERA over the course of the 2099 innings he pitched in his Major League career. His best years came in 1971 and 1973 with the Padres and the Astros. In '71, he was filthy with a 2.10 ERA in 269 innings of work. And yet inexplicably he had a losing record of 14-17, and as a result finished 6th in Cy Young voting. Lame. In '73, he was 17-11 with a 2.85 ERA in 249 innings. Didn't even finish in the top 10 for Cy Young voting. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. By my count, Roberts had another 5 very respectable seasons. The ONLY reason I have Steve Stone ahead of him in the rotation is because Roberts was a lefty, and we already have two lefties (Koufax and Holtzman) on the bump before him. And get this: the man could really rake. In 531 ABs, he amassed 103 hits with a .194 average, 7 HRs, 4 triples, 15 doubles, 28 runs scored, and 46 RBIs. Looks like Jason Marquis has some competition.
You'll also notice it's a four-man rotation. I did this deliberately, as most MLB teams use this formula in the playoffs.
Onto the bullpen. I've got to start with Larry Sherry. Namely because he was the 1959 World Series MVP for the Dodgers. And because he was a helluva relief pitcher. He was a model of consistency in his 11-year career, with an ERA of 3.67 in 799 innings of work. Had a 53-44 record with 82 saves. Big time. Could also swing the bat a little, too. He hit .169 with 3 homers in 148 ABs.
Scott Radinsky, the dreaded lefty specialist. Statistically, he is arguably the best Jewish reliever in the mix. Career ERA of 3.44 in 481 innings of work. 42-25 record with 52 saves. That's a winning percentage of .627 FYI. Didn't give up the long ball very much either. Only 33 were hit off him. Had 5 seasons with an ERA under 3.00. One season was nearly under 2.00. Need I say more?
Al Levine, 3.96 ERA in 575 innings of work. 2 seasons with an ERA under 4.00, 2 additional seasons with an ERA under 3.00.
Barry Latman, solid as a rock with a 3.91 ERA in 1219 innings of work. Another pitcher with anemic run support. He was mostly a starter in his career, but for our purposes we'll stick him in the bullpen. In 1952, his ERA was 0.76 in 47 innings. Thought that might interest you.
Saul Rogovin, 4.06 ERA in 883 innings of work. He was also predominantly a starter. His best season came in 1951 where he was 12-8 with a 2.78 ERA in 216 innings. In 1952, he was 14-9 with a 3.85 ERA in 231 innings. And finally in 1955, he was 6-11 with a 3.81 ERA in 144 innings. Poor run support is becoming a theme here... on a happier note though, he was another pitcher who could swing the bat pretty well. In 300 ABs, he hit .180 with 3 HRs, 10 doubles, scored 29 runs, and had 24 RBIs. Not too shabby.
Last but not least, we have Harry Eisenstat, the one-time teammate of Hank Greenberg and Goody Rosen. This one was a tossup between him, Harry Feldman, and Jason Marquis. Eisenstat's ERA is 3.84 in 478 innings of work. Feldman's is 3.80 in 666 innings of work. Ultimately, I picked Eisenstat over Feldman because by my count Eisenstat had 6 good seasons while Feldman had 4.5 and Marquis has had 3. Coincidentally, all of these guys can hit, too. Eisenstat hit .211 in 123 ABs with an OBP of .271. Feldman hit .172, 2 HRs, scored 27 runs, and drove in 20 in 220 ABs. And we know Marquis can hit. In 441 ABs, his average is .206. He has 5 HRs, 25 doubles, 2 triples, 50 runs scored, and has driven in 40.
So who else got cut, other than Marquis and Feldman? As far as pitchers go, it was Mike Koplove (not enough innings) and Scott Schoeneweis (not enough consistency). Although it should be noted that Schoeneweis is having a great season this year. So is Craig Breslow on the Twins and John Grabow on the Pirates. But more on them later.
As far as hitters go, the notables include Phil Weintraub, Richie Scheinblum, Norm Sherry, Mo Berg, and Cal Abrams. Weintraub and Abrams were the hardest the cut.
That's all for now. I'm bushed.