Daily Archives: December 21, 2011

“The Baseball Talmud” by Howard Megdal: MLB Book Review

Wednesday December 21, 2011

“THE BASEBALL TALMUD”:  BY HOWARD MEGDAL

(Harper:  2009)

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Happy Hanukkah to one and all!  With today being the first day of Hanukkah, I thought that it would be very appropriate to include some Jewish baseball on MLB reports.  Luckily, I just completed a Jewish-centric baseball book and will be reviewing said book for you today.  One of our favorite baseball authors (are there any other kind), Howard Megdal, prepared one of the preeminent Jewish baseball books on the market today.  Howard’s first baseball book is titled:  “The Baseball Talmud”.

You will recall Megdal’s work from our review of his 2nd effort, “Taking the Field:  A Fan’s Quest to Run the Team He Loves.”  While “Taking the Field” was centered on Howard’s efforts to campaign to run and fix the New York Mets, “The Baseball Talmud” comes from a very different perspective.  “The Baseball Talmud” is essentially a baseball history piece.  While some players’ names would be familiar to the readers (depending on your age and baseball knowledge), reading “The Baseball Talmud” will prove to be an educational experience for most baseball fans who pick up to read this book.  The Talmud (in case you are not familiar with the term) is a collection of ancient rabbinic writings on Jewish law and tradition.  Commentary and interpretations are the key components of the Talmud.  Thus it is fitting that Megdal labelled his book “The Baseball Talmud”, as the book is an authoritative interpretation of Jewish baseball with commentary.  It is first and foremost a baseball history book- but from a Jewish perspective.

I ended up reading Megdal’s books out of order, as “Taking the Field” was released after “The Baseball Talmud”.  I was actually pleased about this result, as I came into “The Baseball Talmud” with a more intimate feeling and knowledge about Howard Megdal having completed “Taking the Field”.  Even without reading “The Baseball Talmud”, I knew that Megdal had a strong feeling and passion for Judaism and baseball.  It was evident from “Taking the Field”, as well as reading his articles and interviewing him in the past.  Megdal is very proud of being Jewish.  Thus his passion and knowledge of Judaism and baseball made him a perfect authority to write “The Baseball Talmud”.  Knowing Megdal’s background, experience and personality, made me appreciate reading “The Baseball Talmud” that much more.

In my estimation, Megdal pulled off one of the biggest literary miracles in “The Baseball Talmud” (again appropriate given the Hanukkah season).  While most baseball fans enjoy talking about the history of the game to great lengths, most would not at first glance be terribly excited to read a “baseball history” book.  Baseball books can range in different categories, from autobiographies, instructional, statistical and historical.  “The Baseball Talmud” fits mostly into the historical category, with a pinch of statistics spread throughout.  Make no mistake, there are many modern players included.  From Ryan Braun, Ian Kinsler, Kevin Youkilis, Steve Stone, etc., all the “big” name Jewish players that you know and love are discussed and analyzed.  But this book is far from a tribute to Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg.  While two of the biggest Jewish baseball players of all time, Megdal recaps most (if not all) Jewish players that have ever played the game.  Names like Conrad Cardinal, Ed Wineapple, Happy Foreman, Erskine Mayer, Mose Solomon and Jake Pitler are all part of the book.  Not only did I learn about how the many Jews who played the game of baseball, I learned a great deal about the history of the game of baseball as a whole.  The success of this book though is in Megdal’s writing.  “The Baseball Talmud” is very well written with a great deal of history and statistics.  But it is done in a very fun and light manner, with excellent analysis.  Howard Megdal is a storyteller.  One of the best baseball ones that I have ever read.  So if you are jumping into “The Baseball Talmud” expecting a straight history and statistics text, think again.  This book is built upon the baseball stories and commentary within it.

The book is divided into a clean and easy-to-read format.  After reviewing the top Jewish baseball players of all time, Megdal then proceeds to list his top Jewish players at each position.  The lists are very specific, including all three outfield positions and breaking down right-handed and left-handed starting pitchers and relievers.  My favorite section is the all-time Jewish baseball team assembled by Megdal at the end of the book and how his Jewish team would compare to other teams from different eras.  On a personal note, I did take a great deal away from this book given my Jewish heritage and background.  But regardless of my own religion and culture, I would recommend this book to any baseball fan.  Young or old.  Novice or expert.  To really appreciate the game, it is important to know about the different leagues and teams throughout the years.  Players had careers interrupted and shortened due to wars.  Before the age of free agency, player movement was very limited and outstanding players were blocked and often left in the minors or on the bench rather than being given an opportunity elsewhere.  Such key components of baseball are discussed in Megdal’s book.  But again, having Megdal use his superior storytelling abilities in describing the players and their circumstances makes the book a winner.  This was a fun read, that had me laughing out loud many times and thinking throughout.

For the baseball fan in your life that has everything, I strongly recommend running out to your local bookstore or jumping onto a site like amazon.com and purchasing “The Baseball Talmud”.  I can think of many past Hanukkah seasons that I would have enjoyed receiving this book as a gift. It would also make a great stocking stuffer for any baseball fan of any denomination.  While it may seem humorous to receive “The Baseball Talmud” on Christmas morning under a tree or in a stocking, it would be well appreciated by all devotees of the game.  Baseball fans are always looking for more information and “something different”.  Well folks, “The Baseball Talmud” is as about as unique as it gets in the baseball world.  I enjoyed reading several of the chapters to my own 6-year old son.  If we are going to teach our kids as parents about the game of baseball early, it is important to use the right materials!  So Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and an overall Happy Holidays to everyone.  I look forward to hearing from everyone after you had a chance to read “The Baseball Talmud” to debate the rankings of the all-time best Jewish players.  Creating a forum for baseball discussion and analysis is what a good baseball book will do and makes “The Baseball Talmud” a clear winner.

***We highly encourage you to keep an eye out for our interview with Howard Megdal coming soon to MLB reports, as we discuss “The Baseball Talmud” and Howard’s newly released book “The Wilpon’s Folly:  The Story of a Man, His Fortune and the New York Mets”, available now for purchase.  We look forward to reading and reviewing “The Wilpon’s Folly” for you as well in the coming weeks.  Also check out “Taking the Field” and learn about Howard’s experiences in campaigning to become the GM of the New York Mets.  If you enjoy a good baseball read, you can never go wrong with a Howard Megdal book.***

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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Interview with Toronto Blue Jays Prospect: George Carroll

Wednesday December 21, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen:  We are pleased to welcome to MLB reports:  Toronto Blue Jays Prospect, George Carroll.  Coming off his first professional season, George played in the Gulf Coast and Appalachian leagues in 2011.  The 23-year old New York native looks to rise in the Blue Jays system and make his name in the big leagues one day soon.  As a 6’2″ catcher, George has the physical tools.  We look forward to his development as he approaches his first full season in baseball.  

Featured on MLB reports, I proudly present my interview with George Carroll – Catching Prospect for the Blue Jays:

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MLB reports:  Welcome to the Reports! First question- Who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after? 

George Carroll:  My two favorite players growing up were Jorge Posada and Craig Biggio.  Both guys were great players, and hard-working guys.

 

MLB reports: Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?  

George Carroll:  I don’t admire just one guy. I enjoy watching guys like Joe Mauer, Derek Jeter, Josh Hamilton and Posada.  These are hard-working players that had the attitude to “put up or shut up”.  I am a big fan of guys that go about their business the right way.

 

MLB reports: What are your proudest accomplishments in baseball? 

George Carroll:  I had three goals. Play Division I College baseball; Play in the Cape league; and play pro ball.  All three dreams have come true and now I just have to work harder to stay here.  I also got to play College baseball with my best friend from High School, Effrey Valdez.

 

MLB reports: What are your goals going into the 2012 season?  

George Carroll:  My biggest goal is to work hard and make a full season club.  I just want an opportunity to prove myself as a ball player at this level.

 

MLB reports: What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)? 

George Carroll:  My greatest skill is my ability to play defense, not just behind the plate but at all positions.  I feel this elevates my game for the positive.

 
MLB reports: What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?  

George Carroll:  Biggest thing I have to improve upon is my consistency with the bat.

 

MLB reports: How do strikeouts and walks figure into your game?  Do you see any of these items changing over time and to what degree?

George Carroll:  Walk more and strike out less.  I have to better discipline myself as a hitter.

 

MLB reports: Long term do you see yourself as a catcher, first baseman or at another position? How do you view your role in the organization? 

George Carroll:  Mostly as a catcher.  But if I have to switch positions, I’m just going to have to make that adjustment.

 

MLB reports: If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there? 

George Carroll:  I pray I get the opportunity to get to that point, but it is something I can’t focus on.  I just have to work on my game and focusing on what is in my control.

 

MLB reports: Has pro ball been everything you expected it to be thus far? 

George Carroll:  It has been everything and more.  This is the greatest job in the world.

 

MLB reports: What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?

George Carroll:  I enjoy just hanging out with my buddies and my family.  My fun is when I am playing baseball!

 
 

MLB reports: Do you have a favorite pre-game meal?

George Carroll:  Peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches, with a glass of milk.

 

MLB reports: Final Thoughts?  

George Carroll:  I just got to work hard, believe in my abilities and get to the next level.  

 



Thank you again to George Carroll for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for George.  You can also  find George Carroll on Twitter (@GeorgeCarroll20)

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Who is the Padres First Baseman of the Future?

Wednesday December 21st, 2011

Sam Evans:On Saturday, the Padres pulled off a blockbuster deal with the Cincinnati Reds for Padres pitcher Mat Latos. One of the players the Padres received was first baseman Yonder Alonso. Prior to the trade, the Padres were heading into the season with Anthony Rizzo as their projected first baseman. Now, the Padres have some big decisions to make that will affect the outcome of their franchise for years to come.

San Diego acquired Anthony Rizzo in the Adrian Gonzalez trade a couple of years ago. In 2011, I watched Rizzo play once in Triple-A, and again in the majors. Rizzo came into the season as a top-fifty prospect, and solidified his stature with a strong start to the season. With the Tucson Padres in 2011, Rizzo batted .331 with a 149 wRC+. Rizzo made his debut on June 9 against the Nationals, and hit his first Major League homer two days later.

Unfortunately, that would be Rizzo’s only homer in the big leagues all year. Despite his dominance of the lower levels, Rizzo batted .141 for the big league team over forty-nine games. Rizzo plays with extreme intensity, and I would not be surprised (given that he is a young player), if he was down on himself after his poor performance in San Diego.

Rizzo struggled in the majors with making solid contact and squaring up the ball. He has a very long swing, which he might consider changing this offseason. If everything works out perfectly for Rizzo, he would project to be a .280/.350/.500 hitter.

Yonder Alonso is a very intriguing prospect. First of all, he is 240 pounds and two years older than Rizzo. He is not as athletic as Rizzo, and not a strong defender. In 2011, Alonso played shaky outfield defense because he was blocked by Votto at first base. From what I have heard, the majority of people think that Alonso can’t stick in the outfield. He lacks speed, and experience at the corner outfield positions.

Offensively, Alonso is an outstanding hitter. A great comparison for Alonso is a right-handed Carlos Lee. In his 69 games with the Reds over the last two years, Alonso has hit .299 with a .354 OBP and .479 SLG. If you add a couple more homers to those numbers, that would give you a good idea of what Alonso is capable of doing.

The San Diego Padres have a problem on their hands. However, some people are forgetting that this is a great issue to have. San Diego has the choice to either trade one of the above named players, or try to find a new position for one of them. If San Diego keeps both players, Rizzo will probably end up moving to the outfield. With his athleticism, he would probably do just fine. The Padres could also trade Rizzo, and they would probably get some decent to excellent players in return.

It will be interesting to see what the Padres do with this situation. They have several different options available to them. Personally, I would move Rizzo to the outfield and keep Alonso at first base. Nevertheless, I am still worried about Rizzo’s ability to hit Major League pitchers given his current swing. There is no doubt that this decision has a strong potential to change the course of the Padres franchise for years to come.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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