It wasn’t exactly a shock. On the spectrum of possible events, the prospect of the Washington Nationals trading Jason Marquis, their one Jewish player, fell somewhere between “unavoidable” and “most likely.” And so when word came down on Saturday, just hours before Jason was scheduled to pitch against the New York Mets, that he had been dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a minor leaguer, no one was terribly surprised. After all, he’s a 33-year-old pitcher going into free agency, who is going to want one last big payout that the Nats were unlikely to offer given their bumper crop of young pitching coming-up from the minors. Baseball 101 demanded that you trade this guy and get some possible value for him while he’s still worth something — in this case, a Single “A” infielder you’re unlikely to see down at Nationals Park anytime soon.
Still, as a Nationals fan, I applaud the move.
As a Jew, I wonder: They had to trade him on Shabbos? Right before this kid from Staten Island was going to pitch against the New York Mets? Couldn’t they wait so his mother could shep some naches? Never mind the subtle hint of sending an aging Jew in the twilight of his career to Arizona. Any time your local team happens to have on its roster a Jewish athlete, there is a tribal feeling of pride at the accomplishment — it’s an anachronistic but widespread reaction. And while it is more in-line with the current American Jewish ethos to want your child to become a member of Congress rather than a member of the starting rotation, there’s no denying that Jason Marquis leaves Washington’s Jewish pride in better shape than Anthony Weiner did at his exit.
I enjoyed watching Jason pitch. He was no Sandy Koufax, but he was ours. And now he’s theirs.
Thankfully, G-d never closes one door without opening another. As if in anticipation of Jason’s departure (and hockey season), the Washington Capitals signed free-agent and local-boy-done-good Jeff Halpern to a one-year contract at the beginning of July. So, the region isn’t without a major Jewish athlete — (we’ll see if Jeff opts not to play on Yom Kippur again this year — the press always loves a good Hank Greenberg/Sandy Koufax Day of Atonement Dilemma).
But let me take this last opportunity to wish Jason Marquis “shalom and lehitra’ot.” He’s a good pitcher, and a mensch.