The Fox camera kept returning to Jon Daniels, the Texas Rangers’ Jewish General Manager, during Game Two of the World Series last Thursday. Texas’s bullpen was collapsing in spectacular fashion for the second time this postseason, and Daniels was struggling to stay expressionless. Struggling, but you could see him suffering the frustration that comes from having your worldview confirmed.
Like many GMs, Daniels is known for using sabermetrics, a data-driven approach to baseball. Sabermetricians believe that reserving the team’s best reliever for the ninth inning is ludicrous. Yes, the game technically ends in the ninth, but more often the crucial moment comes with runners on and few outs in the seventh, or eighth; the team should use its best reliever then to shut the opposing team down instead of waiting until the game is essentially decided. These two Rangers’ postseason games could easily be exhibits A and B in the case against the closer.
Jews have always been interested in baseball, playing it and aestheticizing it through literature. But what’s different about the work of GMs like Daniels, Theo Epstein of the Red Sox, and Cleveland Indians President Mark Shapiro is that their approach to the sport is driven by a vibrant intellectualism that emphasizes debate and developing new methodologies.