2017 RJSL: A
Early Season Predictions
and League Predictions
of Winning Big
Team Magic &
Home Runs &
2017 RJSL Changes & Playoff Observations
I started the 2017 RJSL season with a blog commenting on a new phenomenon within the RJSL: Menschlichkeit Baseball! It was very early in the season but I detected a discernible change in league dynamics whereby extremely competitive teams were playing the game with both honor and as gentlemen. I spoke of the possibility of a “Dream Season” where competitive baseball is achieved within an honorable and amiable sports forum. Well by God, we did it…all of us! This has been, by far, the best and most enjoyable season in which I have ever participated. I must say, that at times early in the season, things were a little shaky and certain relationships with key league individuals were both challenged and tested. But in the end, we worked out our differences and focused on our love and passion for baseball and the camaraderie that the game brought to our lives.
For me, this has been a season of change. My team (Westrock-Refuahs.org) has changed dramatically from previous years. I am now blessed with a great balance of young and wonderfully talented athletes (who simply replaced an older group of wonderfully talented athletes) as well as very seasoned players who collaboratively are very quickly trailblazing a path towards winning competitive play. In fact, we had third-place in our cross-hairs, but it appears that Hashem thought it best that Yitz Wainhaus play for both Merockdim and AER 8 during the playoffs (had Westrock achieved third-place, Merockdim would have faced AER 8 during the first round of the playoffs and Yitz Wainhaus would have been regulated to play exclusively for his primary team, Merockdim, resulting in AER 8 losing their starting star short-stop). I can only imagine the enormous sigh of relief felt by the AER 8 roster after hearing of Westrock’s loss to Bagels D’Lox in our final game (I personally was in remorse for at least two days after that game before I could even begin to discuss everything that had gone wrong). I have invited approximately a half dozen players from my team to live with me at the batting cages until the playoffs…on my dime.
Other changes include the creation of the RJSL Replacement Players list which I manage for the league which is a roster of players from various RJSL teams who are dedicated to shoring up team rosters during the regular season. This has empowered teams to avoid forfeits and to play with a full roster so that games can be played at their most competitive level. This endeavor has been a wonderful success and league captains have been very grateful towards how quickly and efficiently their requests for players were met. Although the creation and management of this replacement list has been a learning experience in identifying fair and equitable distribution of games to replacement players (up until now we have allocated replacement players on a first come first serve basis), we are certainly living and learning from our experiences and look forward to a much more equitable allocation of player placement next season. For your edification, the current members of this list include myself, Eli Gelb and Ushy Schwartz as replacement pitchers (each team is eligible to request a replacement pitcher one time during the regular season), Jeremy Doberman and Yehuda Gilbert who have been instrumental in the success of this venture, as well as Ezzy Katz, Moshe Fuerst, Nathan Reiser, Noam Lazarus, Shloime Nemtzov, Sruly Soloff and Yaakov Katsof. In order to remain eligible to participate on this list, players must be reasonably available to play for a majority of games as they become available. Failure to meet this eligibility requirement results in their removal from the list and the invitation of an alternative RJSL player who better fulfills the requirements. If you are interested in being placed on this list please contact me to discuss your eligibility.
Another change which is on the horizon is a 21st century RJSL website with all the cool tools and mechanisms which will be a boon in reporting games and managing teams and information. Although we have discussed a change of this nature for years, a recent problem with the RJSL website took days to rectify and this brought us to our senses that a material change in technology was required. God willing, by the beginning of next season, the new website will be operational and we will all benefit.
Another wonderful change has been the impact that Whatsapp has had upon the RJSL. Although I am a relatively open book in person, I avoid social media to the best of my ability due to the myriad privacy issues. However, when my grown children and their spouses included me in their family Whatsapp discussions I started to recognize the strength, transparency and immediacy that this vehicle of communication offered. Emails between my team, the league captains and the replacement players were all eliminated and replaced with Whatsapp groups. Now captains request replacement players in a transparent forum so there are never any surprises. This same transparency pervades both my team and the replacement players list via my invitation to participate on a Westrock or other team roster. I have even incorporated this means of communication for my business so that my business “team” is fully aware of the changing landscape, opportunities and dynamics within our daily business affairs. What a game changer… although I have to admit that for both my Westrock team and the League Captains Groups, I seem to be doing most of the talking! I’m sometimes very confused by the lack of interaction or what appears to be a lack of interest on the part of my teammates or my peers (league captains). I recently asked one of my teammates, Ben Friedman, what the deal was with this relative lack of response (with the exception of Yacov Katsof who is great!), and he explained to me that the RJSL is very auxiliary to everyone’s lives who are inundated with family, homework, business, and the like. I do understand this…but sometimes it just feels like I’m talking to myself and I hope that I’m not wasting my time in what I’m attempting to share. Parenthetically, the group chat on the replacement players list is great! They can even talk my ear off!
But the biggest change, by far, is how equally distributed the talent level is within the RJSL this season. As I look at the six teams who have qualified for the playoffs there is no clear indomitable team… and this is to me simply perfect! Every one of these six teams is susceptible to either a good game day or a bad game day and for the first two rounds of the playoffs, that susceptibility will determine who advances and who goes home. In previous years, I have frequently put my foot in my mouth projecting and forecasting which teams would emerge victorious and which would crumble in the playoffs. Last year was probably my most disastrous prediction because who could’ve predicted a Merockdim and Consumers Lighting championship match? That was a match made from Shamayim…and from that point onward everything in the RJSL has been turned on its head. All of a sudden the impossible seems possible. Yitz Greenbaum this season decides to pitch for a last place team and with the help of Yacov Bodner and Yitz Wainhaus brings the team to within a hairs-breath of achieving a first or second round bye (ultimately ending the season in third place). Mordy Kahana took over a team that was literally crumbling at it seams and rallied them to a strong competitive level (despite not qualifying for the playoffs which when viewed from the vantage point of defeating Westrock in their last game of the season, has some of us scratching our heads as to why they didn’t qualify?) Eli Gelb took a group of old-timers and various family members and beat the hell out of all of us at the beginning of the season going undefeated for six or seven games? Go figure!
So, I’m now at the point where I’ll assess the prospects of the six playoff teams. I must admit that I was away for many weeks during the course of this season due to the ongoing expansion of my family. However, I recently availed myself of many replacement player opportunities and was able to capture some insight regarding individual team dynamics. Although I could make certain predictions regarding the pending matchups, I think this season I’m going to sit back and watch all six teams play their hearts out and let the chips fall where they may.
TP fought its way to the top of the standings and kept themselves there for the entire season by sheer determination. There is formidable talent on his team which includes Mendy Halpert, Pinny Kahana, my friend and former pitcher Shmuel Loebenberg, Yosef Rosenberg, Chaim Heinemann, Jeremy Doberman, Ari Weiss, Aron Schwartz, among many others who simply have clicked as a team and pack a very competitive punch. They are managed by a very capable and passionate captain (Yacov Kahana) as well as by brother Pinny Kahana. This team has been due for a while and my question is will 2017 be the year they make it to the championship round? The problem I have frequently found with TP is that they are very dependent on their top 10 players and if any critical talent becomes unavailable during the second round of the playoffs things can become short-circuited very quickly. If TP plays their top 10 then I expect to see them in the championship round. But if there is a weak link in their armor they will have to move over to make room for someone else.
There are no surprises that the Dragons performed well this season. I intimately know the core of this team (Ritterman, Reichmann, Capt. Ushy Schwartz, Dovi Schrieber, David Singer) because they previously played for Westrock and helped us bring home many championship trophies. Combining this core with the pitching genius of Naftoli Salomon with the exceptional talents of Yitzy Berger, Avi Orlansky, Akiva Rotbard, and Elchanan Tenembaum lends itself to a winning recipe. However, like TP, their enormous talent does not extend far beyond their top 10 players. This is a very experienced team of players who are just as susceptible of having either a great day or a dismal day. On a great day where their hitting is consistent and there are few defensive errors, little will keep them out of the championship. However, this is baseball and on any given day anything is possible or go right...or wrong.
What can I tell you…this team seemed to make the impossible possible! I don’t care how good Yitz Greenbaum is as a pitcher…this was not supposed to happen! This shouldn’t have happened! But it did and due to the synergistic talent of Yitz Greenbaum, Yakov Bodner and Yitz Wainhaus, this team was a world-class contender for the entire season. Add to the mix incredibly talented players such as Yehuda Gilbert and Sruli Chaimovitz, among many others, (I wish I knew the names of more of the players so that I could give them the honor they are due) and the passionate and committed management of Captain Yehuda Laufer, and I contend that this team is capable of virtually anything this season. If they made it to the championship round it would “not” surprise me. On the right day, they could easily edge out TP or the Dragons (although Yacov Bodner is hurt and he is sorely missed in the outfield…I sometimes felt that Bodner was personally responsible for stopping Westrock from winning a number of championships by making some of his incredible catches). Anyway, Yashor Koach AER 8…I tip my cap to you guys and if you go all the way…I will be there to celebrate with you.
In terms of talent, I believe that Westrock has one of the deepest rosters in the league. In fact, this season superstar players such as Jeremy Nussbaum, Sammy Eisner, Naftoli Mark, Yosse Minz, and Levy Rosenberg rarely had the opportunity to play this season due to other pressing commitments. Mike Chasen, Vic Fein, Ben Friedman, Tzviki Gottesman, Stephen Gruenebaum, Yaakov Katsof, Yehuda Litke, Aaron Nachman, Chaim and Eli Raice and Binyomin and Ric Weinstein committed their time and energies to make things happen this season. There is no question that this is a “new” team of winners with enormous talent who are learning to jell together into a formidable defensive unit. Consistent hitting continues to be a problem but in time (God willing sooner rather than later) that issue will be conquered also. It appears that virtually everyone, with few exceptions, is available for the first round of the playoffs, which makes Westrock’s playoff chances potentially strong. One material change from previous playoff scenarios is that Captain Steve Romer intends to play “everyone” on the team who is available during the playoffs since it was a “team” effort to get us this far.
There are two things that make this team potentially very dangerous: 1) the pitching prowess of Rabbi Mordechai Rudman and 2) the genetically enhanced family members of Rabbi Rudman! There is no question that Shragi Lazarus, Yitzy Wainhaus, Aaron Warum, and many others bring enormous talent to the playing field. However, when Rabbi Rudman is in his groove and if his family members show up anything is possible! Last season, this team unexpectedly eliminated two of the top contenders in the league! A couple weeks ago, Merockdim destroyed AER 8 due to the Rudman Phenomenon which has me somewhat concerned when Westrock faces Merockdim for the first round of the playoffs. In fact,Yehuda Gilbert, from AER 8, was kind enough to provide me the entire videotape of that game which has been distributed to my team so that they can study both Rabbi Rudman’s pitching delivery and the unnatural (supernatural?) athletic capabilities of this children/grandchildren. It is my hope and prayer that between Westrock’s extensive batting practice before the playoffs and our pursuit to uncover any weakness in Rabbi Rudman’s delivery, Westrock can give Merockdim a real run for their money.
Last year’s league champions have again found themselves in 6th place but this year they face AER 8 who they have lost to three times this season. However, I have no doubt that Consumers is going to leave it all out on the field when they confront AER 8 to defend their title. I predict that passions will run very high during this game and that some “fireworks” may be on display. However, I suggest that Consumer emotions be placed in check because Greenbaum thrives under these circumstances and he is not easily unnerved. If Captain Moshe Nussen can take advantage of his tight defense with players such as Josh Flaks, Avi Philipson, David Samet, Ali Steinmetz, Shlomie Nemtzov and get his team to consistently hit against Greenbaum then they will stand a strong chance. But if Greenbaum gets the better of Consumers…which he has three times this season…Consumers will take the long walk home. This game will be anything other than boring and I look forward to being there.I wish everyone good luck in the playoffs and in the meantime…LETS PLAY BALL!