GTJ’s Guide to Playoff Baseball

It’s October in DC and, in the past, that meant two things: DC wouldn’t have a team in the baseball playoffs and, late in the month, our own Stephen Richer would be sprinting down 17th Street in heels.  This year is different. For the first time since 1933, DC has a baseball team in the postseason! Currently, the Nats are 1-1 against the Cardinals in the playoffs, with their next game scheduled for Oct. 10.

Here is what you should know in order to be better equipped to cheer for the Nats in the playoffs:

Jewish Players?

The first thing any Jewish sports fan usually does is look at the roster and play “Jewish or not Jewish.” After all, knowing about Jewish athletes is always great for stuff like Sixth & I‘s Trivia Night (which, by the way, is Oct. 24 at 7 PM). Scanning the DC roster, fans might notice not one but two Zimmermans (Ryan and Jordan). Sadly, neither of them are actually Jewish. However, they are both very important to the team. Ryan Zimmerman plays third base and was the Nationals’ first draft pick ever.  Of all the starters on the Nationals, he has been on the team the longest.  He also has the nickname “Mr. Walkoff,” because of his ability to hit game-winning hits. Meanwhile, Jordan Zimmerman, is one of the Nats’ best starting pitchers and the team will need a strong performance from him for a successful postseason.

No, seriously. It’s a solid beard.

In the same category of “almost Jewish,” honorary mention goes to Jayson Werth’s Beard. Not only would it make any Lubavitch proud, it also has a funny twitter account you might want to follow (@JWerthsBeard).

Meanwhile, the Nats’ star rookie may not have Jewish roots or even impressive facial hair, but the 19-year-old phenom did wish members of the tribe a happy Rosh Hashanah this year. A few months before that, in a play that ESPN said was one of the top 10 of the year in baseball, he stole home after one of the Phillies pitchers intentionally hit him with a pitch. Nats fans should definitely hope that Harper keeps living up to the hype.

Teddy Roosevelt, the Grizzled Mascot

The old joke about the Washington Senators , the previous version of baseball in DC, was: “First in war, First in Peace, and last in the American League.”  No one represented that idea of a loveable loser like Teddy Roosevelt.  In the middle of the fourth inning of every home game the Nats have had, there is a presidents race between four former leaders (or, at least, their mascot versions). Teddy hadn’t won a single one of these races, losing over 500 in a row!

John McCain said “This is a vast left-wing conspiracy being organized by pinko commie liberals within the Beltway,” while Barack Obama White House said the losing streak was an “Outrage.” Then, on the last game of the regular season, Teddy finally won a race.  [Editor’s Note: Author Jon Halperin was instrumental in leading the ‘Let Teddy Win‘ movement that made this victory possible.] Teddy represents the turn around that has finally happened in DC. The team is no longer a loveable loser, but a serious contender to win the World Series.

Ted Lerner, Owner

Unlike the Nats players and mascot, the team’s owner actually is Jewish. Not only is Ted Lerner the man who brought baseball back to DC, he, along with his wife, Annette Lerner, are great examples of philanthropic leaders. The list of organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, that they have assisted is too long to mention here but includes the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington.

For more information on the Nationals’ postseason, I recommend reading Adam Kilgore’s coverage in Washington Post and Dan Steinberg Sports Blog often has stories which focus on the fan (and he is funny).

Enjoy the postseason. Hopefully, it’s the first of many.