BALTIMORE (JTA) — In the biblical tradition of lingering in the desert en route to the Promised Land, Major League Baseball teams are packing up and embarking on their exodus from Arizona (and Florida) spring training sites to begin the new season.
Rosters won’t be finalized until this weekend, but 10 Jewish players are likely to make the journey, led by Moses and Aaron – er, Ian Kinsler and Ryan Braun. A Jewish perennial, Kevin Youkilis, late of the New York Yankees, signed with Japan’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles for this season.
Filling out the Jewish roster are mostly middle-of-the-road role players without any up-and-comers at the major league level. The World Series champion Boston Red Sox and the expected also-ran New York Mets each feature two Jewish players, and the Detroit Tigers have one player (and maybe a second later in the season) along with new manager Brad Ausmus, who guided the Israeli team’s World Baseball Classic entry in 2012.
“At the risk of seeming too sunny, it’s a terrific group,” Howard Megdal, author of “The Baseball Talmud” and a writer for MLB.com’s “Sports on Earth,” told JTA, though the subsequent demotion of three players who had played in the majors in 2013 darkened his rosy outlook.
While no one besides Kinsler and Braun, who returns to the field after sitting out the last 65 games of last season for violating MLB’s drug program, projects as an all-star, the group is impressive academically, at least.
Ryan Lavarnway and Craig Breslow of the Red Sox attended Yale; Sam Fuld of the Oakland Athletics, Stanford; and the Mets’ Josh Satin, California, Berkeley. (The tribe’s GPA dropped when Athletics first baseman Nate Freiman, a Duke alumnus, and Houston Astros pitcher Josh Zeid, from Vanderbilt and Tulane, were optioned to the minors on Monday. Two days earlier, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar went south, too.)
Then there’s Ausmus, a Dartmouth graduate who is making his managerial debut with one of several teams he played for during a distinguished catching career.
The reinforcements are promising. After bringing Joc Pederson to Australia, where they swept the Arizona Diamondbacks last weekend in two season-opening games, the Los Angeles Dodgers sent the outfielder to AAA Albuquerque (the desert again); he is considered a future star. Left-handed pitcher Max Fried, the seventh overall draft pick two years ago, is moving up the San Diego Padres system, while another southpaw, Rob Kaminsky, was the St. Louis Cardinals’ first-round selection last year.
If the trio can summit baseball’s Mount Sinai, they would join the current Chosen Ones there:
Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers, second base, ninth season. The offseason saw a blockbuster trade sending Kinsler to Motown from the Texas Rangers for slugging first baseman Prince Fielder. Over the past six seasons, Kinsler has averaged 150 hits, 20 home runs and 23 stolen bases. He has played in three All-Star Games and …read more