October 12, 2012
While I am speaking, the Orioles and Yankees are playing their fifth Division Championship game at Yankee Stadium. Who could have possibly imagined this at the beginning of April? This season the Orioles, a low budget team composed of a few position players, young pitchers, and cast offs, have played the mighty Yankees to a draw. Each team has won 11 games with the 23rd game to be decided in the next couple of hours. One team will triumph. The other will go home disappointed. Is it possible to even contemplate a Baltimore Orioles-Washington Nationals World Series? What a mechaye that would be!
There is a direct connection between our Torah portion this week, Bereshit, and the Orioles. Am I serious about this? Yes I am. Just listen for a few minutes. There is a misconception that God created the universe ex nihilo, out of nothing. God, according to the Torah, turns to the “primordial building blocks and from these materials crafts a world and all it contains. In fact, God’s essential act over the six days of Creation involved separation, boundaries, and ordering.” God brought order from the tohu u’vohu, from the chaos of the primordial material which made up the universe. Is this not similar to what Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter have done to build this year’s Orioles?
Look at last night’s starting line up. Nate “The Great” McLouth, a former All Star, was a cast off floundering in the minors until he got another chance with the Orioles. He has been playing great baseball since the Orioles acquired him and hit a home run in last night’s game. Mark Reynolds started the season as perhaps the league’s worst third baseman but has emerged as a Golden Glove first baseman. Ryan Flaherty, who played second base last night, was in Triple A for a good part of the season. Manny Machado, at twenty the youngest Oriole, never played above Double A until being brought up to the majors in August. He has been just short of spectacular. Chris Davis in right field was brought here in a trade. Jim Thome, at 42 the oldest player on the field, has brought experience and stability to the designated hitter spot. Last night’s starter, Joe Saunders, was a veteran cast-off no one wanted. He pitched tremendously against Texas in the wildcard game and again with a great effort last night. Who ever heard of Miguel Gonzales before this season? He has been one of the Oriole’s most effective and reliable starters along with Wei-Yin Chen of Taiwan, who is completing his first year in the majors after playing the last four in Japan. The bullpen has been superlative, perhaps the best in all baseball. This combination of pitchers, some of whom are failed starters like Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter, have made a huge contribution to this winning season.
The Orioles have brought up more players from the minors this year than any team in major league history. The team’s roster has been like musical chairs. When one player is injured or is not playing to his potential, another simply takes his place. The Orioles gave Dan Duquette, the new general manager who was not able to land a major league job for ten years, another chance. He has proven to be a magician. Buck Showalter’s leadership is by now legendary. It almost seems that God brought together this gritty, determined, and inspired team out of tohu v’vohu, out of the chaos of baseball material, to create a winning team that so reflects the city that loves it.
Early this morning, I was standing in the locker room of the gym with several other men, watching the highlights of last night’s game. We were cheering, laughing, and talking to each other. I would probably never have made a connection with them if it was not for the Orioles. We have practically nothing in common. Yet the Orioles helped us bridge a huge gap between disparate people. All of Baltimore is now one in support of this remarkable team that reminds us of the “Oriole Way” of the past. This team shows us that excellent leadership, hard work, determination, and an indomitable spirit can overcome adversity and a huge payroll.
Whatever happens tonight, we will be proud of this team and the City of Baltimore that supports it. We have waited fifteen long years for this moment. Let us enjoy it!
Amen and Shabbat shalom
 JTS Torah Commentary, October 11, 2012