The year in Jewish sports was notable not so much for athletic accomplishments as by the amazing rate at with which players moved from one team to another.
Kevin Youkilis made two of the biggest moves during the year. The first was joining the Rakuten Golden Eagles in the Japanese Baseball League. Unfortunately, his stay there was derailed by an ankle injury after just 21 games. The second big move came when he announced his retirement at the end of October.
The only “JML” to enjoy a solid season was Ian Kinsler, who had been traded by the Texas Rangers to the Detroit Tigers in November 2013. Kinsler hit 17 home runs, scored 100, drove in 92, stole 15 bases, batted .275, and played solid defense to help his team — led by Jewish rookie manager Brad Ausmus — to an American League Central division title.
Sam Fuld, the superb defensive outfielder, began 2014 with the Oakland As. He was put on waivers in April and claimed by the Minnesota Twins. On July 31, he was traded back to the As where he finished out the season. All told, Fuld appeared in 113 games, often as a late-inning defensive replacement, with one home run, 17 RBI, and a .274 batting average.
Ike Davis struggled with the NY Mets early on, but before he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 18, he hit a grand slam. He hit another one shortly after joining his new ball club, becoming the first player to hit grand slams with two teams in April. Davis was purchased by the As on Nov. 23.
Danny Valencia began his season with the Kansas City Royals before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on July 28. He batted a combined .258 with four home runs and 30 RBI in 86 games.
Several other Jewish Major leaguers saw their season marred by injury, including:
• Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers, thumb surgery. Trying to make amends following his 65-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy, he batted a career low .266 but still managed to hit 19 home runs and drive in 83.
• Josh Zeid, Houston Astros, arm injury. He appeared in 23 games and was traded to the Detroit Tigers after the season, where he rejoins Ausmus, manager of the Israeli national baseball team at the World Baseball Classic qualifier in 2012.
• Scott Feldman, Astros, arm injury. Feldman also suffered the loss of his father during the season. He was 8-12 as a starting pitcher with a 3.74 earned run average in 180.1 innings.
• Ryan Lavarnway, Boston Red Sox, broken hand. He sustained the injury while making his Major League debut at first base. Lavarnway was selected off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this month.
• Craig Breslow, Red Sox, arm injury. Breslow started the season on the disabled list but still managed to appear in 60 games. He is currently a free agent.
• Aaron Poreda, arm injury. Poreda returned to the big leagues after a five-year absence. He appeared in 26 games for the Texas Rangers, starting off strong before faltering and being demoted to the minors. The new season will see him picking up where Youkilis left off: playing in Japan for the Yomiuri Giants.
• Jason Marquis began 2014 still recovering from arm surgery. He signed a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies but sustained an abdominal injury and was subsequently released.
Other Jews who appeared in the Majors in 2014 include Nate Freiman, As; Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers; Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays; Josh Satin, Mets (released and signed to a minor league deal by the Cincinnati Reds); and Ryan Kalish, Chicago Cubs (free agent).
Next month, Bud Selig will step down after 22 years as MLB commissioner.
Geoff Schwartz signed a four-year deal with the NY Giants but sustained a toe injury in an exhibition game that put him out of action until Nov. 23. After one game, he suffered an ankle injury that required surgery and brought to an end an already frustrating inaugural season.
Gabe Carimi was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in February. He signed with the Atlanta Falcons later that month.
Other Jews in the NFL include Taylor Mays, Cincinnati Bengals; Nate Ebner, New England Patriots; Eric Lorig, New Orleans Saints; and Mitchell Schwartz (Geoff’s brother), Cleveland Browns.
After spending 2013 with the Chicago Bears, Adam Podlesh signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unfortunately, he never got a chance to play for them. He chose to give up football to tend to his wife following a difficult pregnancy.
Donald Sterling was forced to divest himself as owner of the Los Angeles Clippers after racist comments attributed to him came to light, causing a rift with the league’s African-American players and other personnel. It was one of the first tests for Adam Silver, who took over as NBA commissioner following the resignation of David Stern.
Omri Casspi, the first Israeli in the NBA, returned to the Sacramento Kings, where he began his career in 2009. Last year, Casspi played for the Houston Rockets. He was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans on July 15, 2014, but was waived a week later and picked up by the Kings.
Jordan Farmar signed with the Los Angeles Clippers after spending 2013 with the rival Lakers.
Gal Mekel, another Israeli import, played his rookie campaign with the Dallas Mavericks before an injury ended his rookie year. He was released by the Mavericks early this season and signed with the Pelicans.
David Blatt, who had great success with the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball club, was named head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Michael Cammalleri, the all-time leader in goals by a Jewish player with 247, signed with the New Jersey Devils for 2014. He spent the previous year with the Calgary Flames.
Jason Demers began 2014 with the San Jose Sharks before being traded to the Dallas Stars in November.
Other Jews in the NHL include Jason Zucker, Minn. Wild; Eric Nystrom, Nashville Predators; and Mike Brown, Sharks. Jeff Halpern, a 14-year veteran, did not sign a contract for the current season.
Lest we forget: deaths of notable Jewish sports figures in 2014:
Sy Berger, creator of Topps sports card, 91
Sid Dorfman, dean of New Jersey sports writing, 94
Malcolm Glazer, former owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Manchester United of the English Premiere League, 85
Norman Gordon, legendary South African cricket player, 103
Lewis Katz, former owner of the New Jersey Nets, New Jersey Devils, and long-time minority owner of the NY Yankees, 72.
Bruce Seid, Milwaukee Brewers director of scouting, 53