Baltimore Orioles’ playoff slate has a religious twist, but they’ll manage


Baltimore Orioles manager

Buck Showalter

meets with the press during workouts the day before game one of the 2014 ALDS at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Photo: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Delving into the topic of scheduling playoff games on the Jewish Day of Atonement presented a hint of hyprocrisy coming from me, I guess one could say.

The Baltimore Orioles ticket office assigned a great many season ticket holders, myself included, Game 2 of the American League Divisional Series Friday at Camden Yards. Not by a long shot was I the only member of the Jewish faith affected by this … dilemma.

The issue is that for a lot of more strictly observant Jews, there was no dilemma; they planned to attend services Friday evening, and could only use their game tickets if it were a day game at least beginning, if not necessarily ending, before sundown, the beginning of the Yom Kippur observance.

Friday’s game is now a 12:07 p.m. start, with the Giants having beaten the Pirates, 8-0, in the Wild Card game tonight. If it had been the latter of the two planned times, 3:07, Jewish fans would, if they so chose, have needed to come to the game but leave in the middle, so as to get home before sundown. One of the rules of the holiday – which most people adhere to with varying degrees of seriousness – holds that one is not to operate a motor vehicle after sundown.

To be clear, the Sabbath runs from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday every week. That Yom Kippur falls on those days this year adds to the quandary. It doesn’t always. In 2016, it will occur Oct. 11-12, which would probably also be during the playoffs. The most talked about and oft-told case perhaps in sports history took place in 1965, when the Day of Atonement fell on the Saturday the World Series opened, and Sandy Koufax couldn’t pitch for the Dodgers against the Minnesota Twins.

As most baseball fans are well aware, it was a national story, making Koufax, already on the way to mythic status for his pitching, a revered figure to this day, both in and outside of the Jewish faith.

But I have also had discussions with friends and family who are not guided by those dictates and intended to use their tickets even if it were to be a night game. If one, such as myself and plenty of others, was not from a stringent upbringing and has seldom been to services, it would be somewhere between hypocritical and farcical to suddenly do it now, and this would be subject to question just as much as anything else.

The effect of MLB’s wait to announce game times is not just felt on Baltimore

The effect of Major League Baseball’s teeth-pulling wait to give out the game times is not just felt on Baltimore and not just on Jews. It goes without saying there are Jewish fans in every Major League city, not just the towns that are hosting a game Friday. A firm observance of Yom Kippur would mean not watching TV, either. No use of electronics is allowed.

Ted Lerner, the managing principle partner of the Washington Nationals, is Jewish and told some broadcast outlets he won’t watch or attend Nationals’ games during the holiday. He is an 88-year-old billionaire and could pretty much do as he pleased, regardless. Doing this is to his credit. We should live so long.

There are 14 Jewish big leaguers, one still in the playoffs, Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who host the St. Louis Cardinals Friday at 3:30 Pacific Time. Game 2 of that series is Saturday at 6:30 Pacific Time, when the Holy Day will be coming to a close.

Ike Davis of Pittsburgh would still have been playing the Nationals Friday if the Pirates had gotten by the Giants tonight. Nate Freiman and Sam Fuld of Oakland were eliminated from the playoffs in Tuesday’s thrilling Wild Card loss to Kansas City. The only other game in the playoffs Saturday is San Francisco at Washington, a 5:30 p.m. Eastern start, again affecting fans and employees.

The Orioles have no Jewish players, the most recent one being Scott Feldman, who left for the Houston Astros last offseason. Missed it by that much. A Jewish employee in the Oriole ticket office told me she would neither come to work nor attend the game Friday.

But I’m sure there will be Oriole prayers and discussion in Synagogues across Maryland this weekend. The Day of Atonement lasts until Saturday evening, and Saturday is a travel day in the Orioles’ divisional series against Detroit. Clear consciences.

You may have noticed a baseball commentary was missing from this article. Briefly, here’s how the Orioles-Tigers series shapes up.

Pitching usually wins a short series. The Tigers have the edge in the star power of the starting rotation. The first three pitchers they will throw at the Orioles, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and David Price, happen to be the Cy Young Award winners of the past three years. The Orioles have the edge in the bullpen. The Tigers have feared hitters; the Orioles led the Major Leagues with 211 home runs. The Orioles have home field advantage but also play well on the road, so that’s probably a wash.

The Tigers took five of six games from the Orioles in the first two months of the season, but the teams haven’t met since May, and considering how improved the Orioles are since then, past performance may also be a wash. The Tigers have won the last four consecutive Central Division titles and the 2012 AL pennant. By no stretch of the imagination are they not a tough team. I see no realistic way to pick a winner, except by citing the quality of the Orioles’ bullpen and the edge I give the team in the managing department.

This is Brad Ausmus‘ first year as a big league manager. There’s no more prepared manager in the game today than Buck Showalter.