As I sat down to write today’s newsletter, I couldn’t help but think of the title of an episode of The West Wing, “On the Day Before.” Today, of course, is the day before the World Series, so I naturally wanted to make “On the Day Before” the title and subject line of this newsletter. The idea was also to find a thread to tie together the plot of the episode and our anticipation for the baseball ahead. Yet, as I remembered the episode, it became clear there was nothing in common between that and the World Series, other than the whole day before thing.
In the episode, President Bartlet (Martin Sheen) and his staff learn about a suicide bombing at a cafe in Jerusalem that killed 10 people, including two brothers, who were targeted because they were Jews from the United States. The title is pulled from a line of dialogue Bartlet says in a conversation with his senior staff toward the end of the episode. “This guy at the dinner, he told me something I didn’t know,” he says. “On Yom Kippur, you ask forgiveness for sins against God, but on the day before, you ask forgiveness for sins against people.”
He turns to Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), the communications director, who is Jewish, and asks, “Did you know that?”
Toby: “Yeah. It’s called, uh … I can’t remember …”
Deputy chief of staff Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford), who is also Jewish, helps him out: “It’s … Erev.”
Toby then remembers it: “Erev Yom Kippur.”
Bartlet nods and says, “You can’t ask forgiveness of God until you’ve asked forgiveness of people on the day before.”
I rewatched this scene again a little while ago and thought about the resurgence of antisemitism across the world. Ye, the rapper and celebrity formerly known as Kanye West, has given this hatred a more prominent platform in recent days. I am not going to repeat any of the awful things Ye has said, because doing so would amplify them. But we cannot ignore antisemitism, either.
It’s true that this is a baseball newsletter, and we mostly stick to sports here, because that’s what you all subscribe to read. When we discuss nonsport topics, we do so because they relate to baseball. (See: our promotion of Stephanie Apstein’s important Daily Cover story about the racism of the tomahawk chop.) That said, we do not need a connection to sports to denounce antisemitism.
I am currently reading Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil by Hannah Arendt, about the trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann. At one point in the chapter, “The Wannsee Conference, or Pontius Pilate,” Arendt recalls the testimony of Propst Heinrich Grüber, a German Protestant minister who had always opposed Hitler and had negotiated with Eichmann “several times” after the Nuremberg Laws were passed but before the official implementation of the Final Solution. While Grüber was on the stand in the Eichmann trial, the defense asked him, “Did you try to influence [Eichmann]? Did you, as a clergyman, try to appeal to his feelings, preach to him, and tell him that his conduct was contrary to morality?” Grüber said he did not, washing his hands clean because “deeds are more effective than words,” and “words would have been useless.” Arendt writes, “He spoke in clichés that had nothing to do with the reality of the situation, where ‘mere words’ would have been deeds, and where it had perhaps been the duty of a clergyman to test ‘the uselessness of words.’”
Everyone, everywhere, must denounce antisemitism. This is our moral duty as human beings. We don’t need to wait for a professional connection to antisemitism before we call it out. We have an obligation to make sure our objections to hate are louder than hate itself.
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1. THE OPENER
“John Hankins had a request for MLB playoff teams this October:
“Please be willing to cut holes in your hats.
“Hankins is one of the inventors and founders of PitchCom—the device that clubs started using this year so catchers can transmit calls to pitchers instead of visually giving signs. The setup is fairly straightforward. The catcher presses buttons on his wristband to communicate pitch type and location, which the pitcher will hear through a receiver tucked into his hat, and the same goes for any relevant fielders. (The shortstop and second baseman will typically also be wearing receivers.) While not every team started out the year with PitchCom, more hopped on board as the season wore on, and by September, the device had become so common it was almost unremarkable.
“But October presented a new challenge for PitchCom: The playoffs are loud. They’re really loud. In an environment where teams are desperate for every possible competitive advantage, no one wanted to go back to ordinary, visual signs that would be at risk of getting stolen. But if they were sticking with PitchCom in front of tens of thousands of noisy, championship-hungry fans … how were they going to hear?”
That’s how Emma Baccellieri begins her excellent feature on PitchCom in the postseason. It’s a fun, informative story about technology in baseball, and how everyone is adapting to it.
The Trials and Tribulations of Changing How Pitchers and Catchers Communicate by Emma Baccellieri
PitchCom has revolutionized how players relay pitch signals. But instituting it this season was a mighty undertaking that met some resistance around the sport.
We previewed the two World Series teams before tomorrow’s Game 1.
Yesterday, Will Laws wrote about how the Phillies can fulfill their prophecy as the team of destiny.
How the Phillies Can Upset the Astros and Win the World Series by Will Laws
Then, today, Nick Selbe wrote about the Astros as they push to become the first team to go undefeated in the playoffs.
Here’s What Makes the Postseason Astros So Dominant by Nick Selbe
And now, of course, it’s time for predictions!
World Series Predictions: Expert Picks for Astros vs. Phillies by SI MLB Staff
Also, here are the updated predictions standings:
Playoff Predictions Standings
Matt Martell: 6–3
Will Laws: 5–4
Nick Selbe: 5–4
Emma Baccellieri: 4–5
Stephanie Apstein: 4–5
Tom Verducci: 4–5
Claire Kuwana: 3–6
Tiebreaker goes to the person with more correct picks for both series winner and series length.
Lastly, in non–World Series news … a stunner in Milwaukee:
Brewers President of Baseball Operations Steps Down by Joseph Salvador
3. WORTH NOTING from Matt Martell
When Justin Verlander takes the mound in tomorrow’s Game 1, he will become just the second pitcher in MLB history to start a World Series game in three different decades. The other is Roger Clemens, who started for the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series, for the Yankees in ’99, 2000, ’01 and ’03, and for the Astros in ’05, back when they were in the National League. Clemens finished his career with a 3–0 record and a 2.37 ERA in eight World Series starts. Verlander, on the other hand, is 0–6 in his seven World Series starts with a 5.68 ERA. He pitched for the Tigers in the ’06 and ’12 World Series and for the Astros in ’17 and ’19. Houston went back to the World Series last year, but Verlander was recovering from Tommy John surgery and didn’t pitch.
4. W2W4 from Will Laws
The Phillies and Astros actually played each other in the final series of the regular season, and I’d be willing to bet that’s the first time such a rematch will have happened in World Series history. Both Game 1 starters pitched during that series, and if their performances then are any indication, we are in for a pitchers duel tomorrow.
In the first game of that series, with Philadelphia looking to clinch its playoff spot, Aaron Nola took the mound in Houston and more than did his part by retiring the first 20 Astros before allowing a couple of hits and exiting with nine strikeouts. That was enough to earn the win and set off a celebration in the visitors clubhouse. While it’s worth noting Houston had the American League’s No. 1 seed wrapped up at this point, the Astros did play their best hitters—for at least a couple of times through the order—and only Yordan Alvarez and backup infielder David Hensley reached base against Nola. The 29-year-old righthander interestingly threw his knuckle-curve more often than his fastball in that game, perhaps a nod to the Astros’ ranking as the third-best hitting team against heaters during the regular season, per FanGraphs.
The next night, Justin Verlander looked just as dominant in his postseason tuneup, racking up 10 strikeouts while allowing only a walk to Brandon Marsh in five no-hit innings. That Phillies lineup, however, was severely diminished as most starters rode the pine with what I assume were gnarly hangovers from celebrating Philadelphia’s first playoff berth in 11 years. The stakes will be slightly higher this time around.
First pitch will commence at 8:03 p.m. ET on Fox (as it will for every game this Series). Should be fun.
5. THE CLOSER from Matt Martell
The Phillies have won each of their three series openers this postseason. The Astros have won all seven of their playoff games. One of these two streaks will end tomorrow night at Minute Maid Park in Houston. No matter what happens in Game 1, it should be a blast.
That’s all from us today. We’ll be back in your inbox tomorrow. In the meantime, share this newsletter with your friends and family, and tell them to sign up at SI.com/newsletters. If you have any questions or comments, shoot us an email at email@example.com.