My weekly observations about stories around the baseball world from a Canadian perspective (Please follow me on Twitter: @kevinglewsports):
- After initially sporting No. 36 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, New Westminster, B.C., native Justin Morneau has settled on No. 66. Morneau’s trademark No. 33 – which he donned as a tribute to both Patrick Roy and Larry Walker – was previously worn by Honus Wagner in Pittsburgh and has been retired by the club. With his new number, Morneau becomes the second-most famous Canadian to wear No. 66 for a Pittsburgh professional sports team. Mario Lemieux, of course, is the most famous, wearing that number for the Penguins for his entire 17-year NHL career. Morneau also becomes the second Canadian to sport No. 66 in the big leagues. The first was Lachine, Que., native Derek Aucoin who pitched for the Expos in 1996.
- The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame reported that Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) set a new record for most walks in a season when he received his 110th free pass of 2013 on Thursday. Votto broke his own record (109) that he set in 2011.
- Stephen Harding, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s hard-working, “relief” curator this September, called on Friday to let me know that original Montreal Expo Gary Waslewski had visited the museum. Waslewski posted a tidy 3.29 ERA in 30 appearances – including 14 starts – for the Expos in their inaugural 1969 season. The 6-foot-4 right-hander returned to pitch in six games for the Expos in 1970, before being dealt to the Yankees. Prior to his tenure with the Expos, Waslewski also pitched for the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs from 1965 to 1967. In all, Waslewski toed the rubber for parts of six seasons in the majors, also appearing in games for the Red Sox, Cardinals and A’s.
- It still bothers me the way Russell Martin (East York, Ont.) handled things heading into this year’s World Baseball Classic. The all-star catcher said he would only suit up for the Canadian squad if they allowed him to play shortstop, a position he hadn’t manned at a competitive level for several years. But to Martin’s credit, he has put together an excellent season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His WAR – Wins Above Replacement – an all encompassing statistic that measures how many wins a player is worth above what a Triple-A replacement at his position would contribute – is 4.2 – the second-best of his career. He has also contributed 13 home runs and thrown out a National League-leading 44 per cent of baserunners attempting to steal off of him.
- The 1981 Montreal Expos – the only Expos club to make the post-season – has produced some excellent big league coaches. Four of them – Tim Wallach (third base coach, Dodgers), Chris Speier (bench coach, Reds), Terry Francona (manager, Indians) and Brad Mills (third base coach, Indians) – have legitimate shots at coaching playoff teams this season.
- With the addition of Morneau, the Pirates will likely head into the playoffs with two Canadians (Morneau and Martin) and three ex-Toronto Blue Jays (Travis Snider, A..J. Burnett and John Buck) on their roster. For good measure, the Pirates’ third base coach is Nick Leyva – a staple of Cito Gaston’s coaching staffs in Toronto.
- If you’re an Expos fan, one of the most anticipated books of 2014 will be Montreal native Jonah Keri’s extensive tome on the franchise. It will be available in stores on March 11, 2014, but you can pre-order it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.ca/Up-Away-Business-Ill-fated-Unforgettable/dp/0307361357. One of the most respected baseball scribes in the business, Keri is a regular contributor to ESPN and Grantland and also penned an excellent 2011 book about the Tampa Bay Rays’ success called “The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First.”
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