day 7: pudge

Today is seven days, which is one week of the omer: malchut she’b’hesed.

Not Mantle (no more Yankees for a while), and not Biggio (I have to point out when I take a pass on an Astro).

Today’s pick is catcher Iván Rodríguez — and not just because I had a friend in high school, of whom I have fond memories, with his same nickname. (Also, I didn’t totally take a pass on an Astro with this pick because apparently I forgot that for one year Pudge was indeed in Houston.) But he’s also a catcher, a notoriously grueling position, and Pudge was one of the best ever. He won 13 Golden Gloves at the position, was AL MVP in 1999, and won two WS titles — all while batting a lifetime .296, topping .300 for eight straight years.

But first, a note about that nickname. It’s fat-shaming, there’s no way around that. And it was his weight loss in 2005, combined with an accusation by Jose Canseco, that has led some to believe that Rodríguez used performance-enhancing drugs. He’s always denied it. (Here’s one analysis of the PED rumors.)

photo: Ronald Martinez /Allsport

It will likely come up again, so this is as good a time as any to also talk about the PED issue: There’s no doubt in my mind that MLB’s integrity — and that of the game itself — has been damaged by its refusal to face drug use by its players, which has been going on probably as long as the league itself. MLB made a milquetoast objection to the practice in 1991 but didn’t get serious with testing and consequences until 2005. The achievements of players who have admitted to or have been credibly accused of using PEDs during their careers are regarded with suspicion, and those players may always have an asterisk — even if figurative — next to their names. I think both are deserved, even if players weren’t technically breaking any rules at the time. (Later on in this project I’ll highlight a player who admitted to using PEDs and handled it well, for which I admire him.)

source: Hadar Cohen on Sefaria

But now, back to Pudge and today’s sefirah. This is the last day of the first week, the week of hesed. The day is associated with malchut: leadership or nobility (literally “kingship”). For the connection of malchut with Pudge, I invite you to look at the way in which the sefirot are traditionally mapped, based on the ways in which they emanate from the godhead. If the circles represent players, what else but malchut (bottom of the diagram) would indicate the catcher?

A stretch, you say? In The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism, Danny Matt indeed notes of the sefirot: “The kabbalists insist that these figures of speech should not be taken literally; they are organic symbols of a spiritual reality beyond normal comprehension.” But in the literature a multitude of imagery abounds: In this map alone, the sefirot are associated with body parts, celestial bodies, and colors. Later on we’ll also look at associations with Biblical figures. I submit that baseball positions are not so far off. Matt continues: “Malkhut is the location of the world of creation, which is the location of the world of formation . . .” So, too, is home plate where runs come to be.

Finally, this highlight reel of Pudge catching baserunners attempting to steal pretty well demonstrates the ultimate power malchut has in regard to the other sefirot: Matt notes, “Each sefirah acts only along with all the others, with their consent, through Malkhut.”

This last day of week one, we observe the nobility of malchut by counting day 7 in honor of the kid from Puerto Rico who, when he debuted at age 19, was the youngest player in the MLB for two years in a row. The little prince became the king.

featured image: PAUL K. BUCK/AFP/Getty Images


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