Friday, December 10, 2004
8 Days of Jewish Baseball
Number 21; Pitcher
St. Louis Cardinals
Jason Marquis is considered one of the top arms in the National league. He's not putting up '99 Pedro numbers yet, but he's also only 26, so he has enormous potential. He can throw hard and can mix his fastball with a slider and a changeup (although the fastball is his favored pitch by far), but most of his problems so far have come from the fact that he tends to think too much about his mechanics when pitching. This seemingly hurts his control.
On his first major league win as a starter (in 2001, for the Braves) he was so excited about pitching in New York (against the Mets... he grew up in Staten Island) that the pitching coach had to come out and calm him down after only two pitches. One would assume, however, that these are things that can be ironed out as he gets older and more experienced, so he could definitely still become a powerhouse pitcher.
Of course, Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and Trot Nixon (swinging on a 3-0 pitch with the bases loaded!) made him into mincemeat in the BEST WORLD SERIES FOURTH GAME IN THE HISTORY OF EVER, but one has to recall that the entire Cardinals team failed to show up for that series. The Sox only got 3 runs that day. If the Cards' hitters had managed to live up to their reputation, Marquis' performance would have looked, well, tolerable at least.
He was invited to the MLB/Japan series in Japan that followed the World Series (Ortiz and Manny went), and although the MLB lost the game he relief-pitched in, the young Marquis didn't seem to care. "Going to the World Series was a dream. Just to top it all off, coming to Japan was definitely an honor. The phone call I got at the end of July asking if I was interested in coming was something I didn't expect. You read about these trips and it's great to have been a big part of it."
Marquis was raised in a Conservative household and attends synagogue on the High Holy days. In 2002, when he was with the Braves and a game fell on Yom Kippur, he created a bit of a stir by announcing that he would go to temple and would fast, but would be available to pitch in the game, which started a few hours before the end of the fast. He said that he had observed every fast since he was 13 and was capable of pitching while fasting.
Of course baseball fans jumped all over him for possibly threatening his pitching ability by fasting, and rabbis jumped all over him for saying that he would be available to pitch at all. But Marquis refused to compromise any further for either side, saying, "If they want to bash me, bash me, and if they want to praise me, praise me. I'm happy with my decision."
Tomorrow's Jewish Baseball Player of the Day is number 39. Take a guess or wait and see.