Astro Pitcher Garrit Cole finished the 2019 season with a 20–5 record, 2.50 ERA, 326 strikeouts (leading the major leagues), the best strikeout percentage in the major leagues.
On September 18, 2019, Cole became the 18th pitcher in major league history to strike out at least 300 batters in a season
Those are impressive statistics, and would have justified the manager to put Cole in during the seventh inning, of the final and deciding game after the Nats homered and cut the Astros lead to one run. But the manager decided differently, and at the end, the Astros lost all four home games in the 2019 World Series.
That is a record that will never be broken because in a best of seven series, there are only a maximum of 4 home games for either side, depending on who has the home field advantage.
Therefore, the 2019 World Series established a record that will never be broken; each team lost all of its home games. That makes this series the exact opposite of the 1987 and 1991 World Series which featured the Minnesota Twins in both. In those two series, home teams won all games played.
As I mentioned in my previous Blog, the facts and figures through five games suggested that this series would finish in dramatic fashion, which indeed it did. But looking more deeply into these statistics and facts gives us some powerful messages which I would like to share with you.
The Washington DC, Twin Cities Connection
The Washington DC and Twin Cities connection goes all the way back to the early 1960’s when the Washington Senators moved to the Twin Cities. Three ex-Twins played in this World Series.
But there was another pitcher who never played for Minnesota, and brings back memories of the Twins home, named Target Field. His initials are DH, which at first you might think of as Designated Hitter, which is another crazy rule that does not make sense, since it has been in force for many years in the American League, but not in the National League. That’s a discussion for another time,
But here I refer to Nationals pitcher Daniel Hudson who came into the game in the 9th inning to preserve the victory. His initials DH happened to be the ticker symbol of Target’s founding company when it was first listed on the New York Stock Exchange named Dayton-Hudson.
And his middle name Claiborne means his full initials are D(C)H the best hint yet that he certainly suggests a subtle connection to the Twins when they were based in DC. And the decision to use Hudson was interesting since many other pitchers could have been used instead.
Going back to Gerrit Cole, he can file for free agency and is going to get one of the biggest contracts in baseball history. According to spotrac.com, Cole’s market value is $197.9 million for six seasons, an average annual salary of $32.96 million, a record for a pitcher. With Justin Verlander and Greinke both getting more than $30 million a year from the Astros and owner Jim Crane hoping to avoid the luxury tax, Cole is unlikely to return. That seems a certainty since after the World Series was over, Cole was wearing his agent’s cap, not that of the Houston Astros.
But there was no doubt about it; Cole really was in control of the 5th game of the World Series in Washington DC just like Koufax dominated the 5th game in Los Angeles. And that was the key since if Cole was successful in DC, then he most likely would have done well in relief of Greinke. And that decision could have resulted in a 2-1 Astros victory making the Houston Astros 2019 World Series champions.
Alex Bregman was no doubt a major factor in the Astros success during the season. And it seemed he would have a good World Series to help his team win the championship, but it was not to be. In baseball, it’s the pitcher who controls the game. So Bregman did produce his share of home runs, especially the grand slam he hit in the fourth game played in DC, which helped the Astros tie up the Series at two games apiece.
But Koufax is a pitcher just like Cole, while Bregman is a fielder, and in baseball they are two different jobs. The fielder usually plays every day, while the pitcher needs to give his arm a rest, and normally is called upon to pitch every three or four days.
So as I said in my last Blog, I compared Cole’s performance with Koufax, and felt Cole would have been the best candidate to pitch in that seventh game. But reading between the lines, the manager seemed to favor using other pitchers over Cole. And it seems money might have been the issue, therefore Cole was left out in the bullpen while the other pitchers gave the game away to the Nationals in the last three innings.
Looking at Cole after the game during interviews, you could plainly see he was not happy the way the game went, and has decided to use free agency to find a new team. The Astros just can’t afford to pay Cole his market value, and so money became an issue.
In Bergman’s case, money isn’t the issue regarding his performance. It may have been something totally different that he might not have thought about. I’m referring to the MVP award that was easily within his grasp the whole Series, but to the best of my knowledge, he never qualified for.
When I use the letters MVP, I am not talking about Most Valuable Player, but rather Most Valuable Prayer. The way the World Series is set up, the first game came out on the night after the last day of Sukkot. The Friday game was played on Friday night, or Shabbat.
Perhaps if Bregman would have looked at the numbers he produced, he may have considered asking the manager to take time off to go to Shul and prayed for a successful World Series. Looking at those numbers, Bregman did homer, but his home runs were not followed up by any of his team mates, and that was crucial if Houston was to get back into the game.
If we look closely at those first 13 at bats, which only produced one hit, a home run, his batting average is 0.77, if we turn those numbers around we arrive at 770 or the address on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn where Chabad has its headquarters.
Rabbi Moshe Feller delivered tefillin to Koufax which Koufax gladly accepted. Rabbi Feller also shared the story with the Anglo Jewish paper in his community and it created a lot of good feeling and Jewish pride. “When I saw how many kids loved the story and how thrilled they were that baseball was associated with yiddishkeit, I knew we had a mission and we started to go to the games and seek out the Jewish players. We’ve put tefillin on Mike Epstein of the Oakland Athletics and Ken Holtzman of the New York Yankees.”
I’m reproducing a portion of Bregman’s Bar Mitzvah speech from my previous Blog – : “I want to be a professional athlete who plays for the love of the game, never quits trying to give my best, and is a good role model for all of the kids who look up to baseball players”. I don’t know if Bregman meant to say this, but from my point of view, when Koufax refused to pitch during Yom Kippur, he immediately became my role model. And it would naturally follow, that had Bregman decided to ask to be used as a pinch hitter during that first game, that the Astros eventually lost, and gone to Shul to dance with the Torah, then arrive at the ballpark still in time to enter the lineup, my feeling is that things might have turned out different for the Astros. And Bregman would have been chosen as MVP or Most Valuable Prayer, for this World Series.
Kurt Suzuki was in the lineup during the early games, and it was his homer in the second game which “opened the floodgates” as one reporter put it. So why didn’t the same thing happen when Bregman hit his? And this is where the concept of a being part of a team comes in.
In baseball, a team consists of 40 players, of which 9 are on the field at any one time, while, Jewish men are also on a team known as a minyan when they go to Shul, which consists of ten men. There are at least nine men praying around the tenth man who is leading the davening. That is the same concept as in baseball, all the men in the field, and the pitcher is on the mound.
One phrase I used in my opening portion of this Blog was (Nat King) Cole. However, in this case, the way Garrit Cole was overpowering the Nationals players, he really was ruling over the Nationals like a King and hence the phrase “(Nat King) Cole’, which is also the name of a famous singer who lived from 1919 – 1965 when he passed away at age 45.
Cole’s singing and TV show appearances made him famous, but what I recently discovered is that he was an avid baseball fan and Hank Aaron was his favorite player. Emphasizing his opposition to racial segregation “in any form”, he agreed to join other entertainers in boycotting segregated venues. He paid $500 to become a lifetime member of the Detroit branch of the NAACP. Until his death in 1965, Cole was an active and visible participant in the civil rights movement, playing an important role in planning the March on Washington in 1963.
Cole sang at the 1956 Republican National Convention to show support for President Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was also present at the Democratic National Convention in 1960 to support Senator John F. Kennedy. He was among the dozens of entertainers recruited by Frank Sinatra to perform at the Kennedy Inaugural gala in 1961. Cole consulted with President Kennedy and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, on civil rights.
Cole lived during the infancy of the Civil rights movement, and no doubt worked together with Hubert Humphrey, who played a major role in the process to help shape the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
So now the World Series is over, we must look at the strong message the World Series gives us. This connects Washington DC, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, with Houston and our current Parsha of Noah.
Washington DC was originally home to the Washington Senators baseball team who then moved to the Twin Cities and became known as the Minnesota Twins. At that time, player unions did not exist and the players were loyal to their teams, and salaries were modest compared to today.
Players played for the love of the game, but now it seems with skyrocketing salaries, baseball owners need to spend millions upon millions of dollar just to keep their players happy. And owners have to recover these expenses somehow.
I mentioned the DH previously as standing for Daniel Hudson and Designated Hitter, but it also stands for Double Header. Gone are those days when MLB would schedule doubleheaders before the season opened, and you could buy a ticket which would cover the cost of both games. Now doubleheaders only come about when there is a postponement and then if a doubleheader is scheduled, it usually is a day / night affair, which I understand requires you to pay two separate admission fees. All in an effort to earn extra money to pay those players and other added expenses that did not exist many years ago.
The Parsha we read in the Torah this week is Noah, who was a righteous man in his generation. And because the people on earth had become corrupt and practiced larceny which is usually translated into robbery, G-d decided to cause rain to fall that would flood the whole world and wipe out all living creations on earth with the exception of Noah and his family.
So G-d commanded Noah to build an ark, out of Gopher Wood…
Let’s repeat that word again, Gopher Wood. Did anyone see a Gopher tree lately, and living in Israel, I have not seen even an animal known as the Gopher. But living in Minnesota, they do exist, and I have seen them. And, in fact, that’s the nickname of Minnesota, the Gopher State.
So relating that to the World Series, Washington National catcher, and former Twin, Kurt Suzuki hits a homer in the second game, and that “opens the floodgates” against the Houston Astros in Houston. And I know for a fact, that there is a far greater chance of flooding in Houston than Washington DC, as we have seen in the past.
Suzuki was grateful to be part of the Nationals World Series Championship Team. And that hit helped propel them to a win in the second game.
But what does all of the above mean?
It seems to me that G-d is sending us a strong message that no matter what chaos we see on this earth, G-d intended us to follow laws which were established and enforced when the world was created. Those are laws which give everyone the right to exist peacefully and are enforced by police officers and judges that sit within a functioning Judicial System.
Looking at what is taking place on the streets of our cities, and in the very same halls of Congress where the Civil Rights Bill was signed into law; we are being taught a valuable lesson by the flood sent to rescue Noah.
The lesson is contained in the word Gopher, which zeros in on those who have been responsible for creating such an environment of chaos and hatred toward Israel, Jews and America to name a few of their favorite verbal targets. One such so called Congresswoman who falsely claims to represent the Gopher State is included in this group.
־גֹ֔פֶר is its Hebrew spelling but from those three root letters we derive the Hebrew word meaning “sulfur”. Sulfur was one of the two components along with fire that fell during the flood as well as on the city of Sodom to cause its destruction.
It seems that G-d is giving all of us a guarantee that whoever and whatever is responsible for creating this chaos in the first place, will be neutralized just like those people who were wiped out during the flood.
It may take longer than we expect, but it no doubt will happen and bring Congress back to normality once again. And that will eliminate violence and terrorism on our City streets.
It’s all in G-d’s plan.