There’s good news and bad news coming out of the elimination of the Toronto Blue Jays from the 2016 MLB playoffs. Good news: The current belt-holders of “Most Annoying Fans in Baseball” have been banished back to downing Molsons and cheering for the Maple Leafs (or whatever they do up there). Bad news: Jewish Blue Jays Kevin Pillar and Scott Feldman have left with them. But fear not! Joc Pederson, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Jewish-enough wunderkind outfielder, masher of baseballs, is still left to carry the torch.
Pederson, just 24, is the starting center fielder for Da Bums, who are currently locked in mortal combat with the suddenly lively Chicago Cubs. Tied 2-2 in the NLCS with a pivotal Game 5 at home tonight, the Dodgers badly need Pederson’s bat to come alive. After a Division Series where Pederson slashed .333/.444/.600 and hit his first postseason home run in a five-game squeaker over the Washington Nationals, he’s cooled off a bit against the Cubs’ legion of arms, managing a putrid .200/.250/.267. If the Dodgers harbor any dreams of a World Series trip, they’ll need Pederson to get out the rake.
Which he’s done before.
In the first half of his rookie season, the Palo Alto High School product hit the most home runs in Dodgers rookie history (surpassing fellow Heeb Shawn Green, among others), as well as becoming just the third rookie to ever hit 20+ bombs before the All-Star break (the others were Wally Berger and Albert Pujols). Speaking of the All-Star break, the power-hitting Pederson was also the first Dodger rookie selected to the All-Star game since Hideo Nomo in 1995. During the same weekend in 2015, Pederson also put on a show in the Home Run Derby, narrowly losing to Todd Frazier in the final (but walking away with the longest dinger of the night).
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the fact that Pederson and other fellow members of the tribe hit the most home runs combined in a season this past year. (Kudos to Jewishbaseballnews.com editor Scott Barancik for this somewhat incredible tidbit.) We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention his piss-poor second half in 2015, but he rebounded nicely this season, upping his slash numbers and improving as a fielder. With Kenta Maeda on the mound for the boys in blue on Thursday, Pederson’s got to start hitting if he wants to lead his team to the Promised Land. Plus, if the Jews did 400 years in Egypt, the Cubs can wait a little longer, right?