Saturday, March 31, 2007

Why Ed Kranepool Hasn't Shown Up At Temple Lately

With the start of the baseball season less than 48 hours away, a few items related to America's pasttime:

1. I visited this thread on the Mets-related blog Amazin' Avenue yesterday and was amused and distracted by the query, "By the way, can anyone tell me when a team has had 3 Jewish players on their team at the same time[?]" The question garnered two less-than-serious responses ("The Marx Brothers" and "The Three Stooges"), and then this semi-serious response: "Art Shamsky, Al Weis and Jerry Grote on the Championship 1969 Mets team. (OK, I'm lying about Grote, but still . . .)." To which I responded, over-enthusiastically, "Hey, you forgot Ed Kranepool! He was on the 69 Mets and I'm pretty sure he was Jewish. Anyway he was born in the Bronx and that should count for something.")

Having shot from the hip, I later decided to check the facts on one of several websites that list Jewish ballplayers and was chagrined to discover that not only is Ed Kranepool not Jewish but apparently neither is Al Weis! Which suggests the possibility of a new baseball trivia category: Major league players who are not Jewish but who could pass for Jewish. My Mets candidates, in addition to Weis and Kranepool, would include Al Leiter, Don Zimmer, and of course pitcher David Cohen (oops, Cone).

This may seem like an odd topic but there is a kind of precedent: In one of his Baseball Abstracts Bill James riffs on the large number of members of 1986 Mets who had Latino names without actually being from Latino families, including Keith Hernandez, Rafael Santana, Jesse Orosco, Sid Fernandez, and Bobby Ojeda. ("Maybe they're trying to qualify for some kind of affirmative action grant," he speculated.)

2. I got another reason to dislike Chris Matthews this week when he concluded one of his shows by donning a Philadelphia Phillies cap and predicting a "big season" for his team. Maybe the fact that he grew up a Phillies fan helps to explain some of the content-free, deeply unserious snarkiness of Matthews' show Hardball. These are the fans who spent a decade mercilessly booing the greatest third baseman of all time, Mike Schmidt, for reasons that no one has ever adequately explained.

3. King Kaufman at Salon is one of the better sports commentators around. So I was mildly appalled to find that his National League preview column predicts that my Mets will finish no higher than third in the Eastern Division, behind the Phillies and the Braves. Third place!--for the team that led the entire National League in victories last season!? He calls them "an aging team" with "a rickety starting rotation." Vicious, vicious slander--every single player on the team, even Julio Franco, is younger than I am. Since I am psychologically still in my twenties, that makes them spring chickens in my book.

Let's go Mets.

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