The Base­ball Tal­mud: A Defin­i­tive Posi­tion-By-Posi­tion Rank­ing of Base­bal­l’s Cho­sen Players

Howard Meg­dal
  • Review
By – September 9, 2011

The Base­ball Tal­mud is a book for Jew­ish base­ball sta­tis­tic geeks. That said, it should be added that the book, like the Tal­mud, is sprin­kled with live­ly anec­dotes and wry obser­va­tions wor­thy of a stand-up comic. 

Howard Meg­dal, base­ball writer for the New York Observ­er and sev­er­al base­ball pub­li­ca­tions, uses sophis­ti­cat­ed saber­met­rics and oth­er research to iden­ti­fy and rank all 160 Jew­ish major lea­guers, less than 1 per­cent of 16,696 play­ers who have made it to the bigs. Megdal’s def­i­n­i­tion of Jew­ish is, to use his word, expan­sive, but his stan­dards are exact­ing and based on such mea­sures as Base­ball Prospec­tus’ WARP3 (wins above replace­ment play­er) and for­mu­las that adjust for dif­fer­ences between base­ball parks and eras. 

After select­ing the great­est Jew­ish base­ball play­er — Hank Green­berg or Sandy Koufax?— Meg­dal ranks the remain­ing top ten and fear­less­ly pre­dicts the top ten years out. He then ranks all the Jew­ish play­ers by posi­tion, not­ing a lack of good sec­ond base­men. And for the finale Meg­dal names the all-time Jew­ish team and class­es it, adjust­ed for parks and eras, unbeatable. 

All in all The Base­ball Tal­mud will make for end­less argu­ments on off-sea­son Shab­bos after­noons. Although Meg­dal is seri­ous about his stats, he has a light touch with lan­guage, and his asides and anec­dotes pro­vide a neat bal­ance to his pur­suit of sta­tis­ti­cal affir­ma­tion. Glos­sary, illus­tra­tions, index

Maron L. Wax­man, retired edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor, spe­cial projects, at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry, was also an edi­to­r­i­al direc­tor at Harper­Collins and Book-of-the-Month Club.

Discussion Questions