The baseball playoffs have officially begun, and Tablet’s staffers are all rooting for our favorite teams to win it all. But Tablet the magazine is officially rooting for the Tampa Bay Rays, for one simple reason: gefilte fish.
Let me explain.
This past April, I profiled Chaim Bloom, the Rays’ vice president for baseball operations, who co-runs the club with general manager Erik Neander. Together, they’ve managed to turn the lowest-spending team in baseball into one of its most successful. I went to Florida and shadowed Bloom during Spring Training to find out how they’ve done this—but soon discovered something equally remarkable when I stepped into Bloom’s office. As I wrote then:
When you walk into the office of Chaim Bloom, the senior vice president of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the first things that stands out is a large jar of gefilte fish.
It has been there for over a decade, a testament to one of the most unusual—and certainly one of the most Jewish—bets in baseball history. As Bloom explains, the fish is a holdover from Passover circa 2006-2007. Thanks to the holiday’s dietary restrictions, Bloom subsists throughout on jars of store-bought gefilte fish that he brings to the office. That year, one of the team’s longtime employees was passing through and asked about the stuff.
Did Bloom like it? The man inquired dubiously. “I said, ‘No, I actually think it’s sort of gross, but it’s just kind of what you do,’” Bloom recalled, “Which I do—I think it’s sort of gross.” Bloom promptly offered his interlocutor a taste, who declined. “He said, ‘No way, that sounds terrible.’” Then, however, came the challenge: “He said, ‘I’ll tell you what, if we win the World Series, I’ll eat that jar of gefilte fish.’”
“So now we’re still waiting 10-plus years later, but I have not gotten rid of the jar,” said Bloom. “I don’t know if it’s actually still edible. But we’re gonna find out.”
Now, endorsing a baseball team during the postseason is even more contentious than endorsing a contender in Israel’s elections. But in this case, the choice is simple: we are officially #TeamGefilteFish. After all, this may be the first time in history that anyone is genuinely looking forward to eating the stuff.
Of course, if the Rays are going to prevail in the World Series, they have their work cut out for them. Today, they begin a best-of-five series against the best team in baseball, the Houston Astros. When Fangraphs, the premier baseball analytics site, asked its staff to predict the outcome of the series, 30 picked the Astros, and just 1 picked the Rays. What, I ask you, could be more Jewish than overcoming those odds and sticking it to the behemoth of baseball?
Will the Rays upset the expectations yet again? Will Bloom and company livestream their gefilte fish party should they secure the championship? We’ll keep you posted on this developing story.