Source: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (www.baseballhalloffame.ca)
St. Marys – Joey Votto’s National League Most Valuable Player Award gives him the edge but not a guarantee to win his first Tip O’Neill Award, presented annually by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame to the player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball’s highest ideals.
Past winners Ryan Dempster (2000) and Justin Morneau (2006, 2008) had seasons worthy of consideration, as well as Jesse Crain and rookie sleeper John Axford. Also in the running are another pair of 2010 MVPs, Team Canada’s Jamie Romak, who was named MVP of the World Cup/Pan Am qualifying tournament in Puerto Rico, and Kate Psota, who just snagged her second consecutive MVP honour for Team Canada’s Women’s national team.
The Ball Hall is welcoming e-input from fans until December 9, as the final decision will be made and announced the following day, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting the website: www.baseballhalloffame.ca, or by signing in on Facebook and then clicking on the “POLLS” tab at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Canadian-Baseball-Hall-of-Fame-and-Museum/135326447763?v=app_20678178440&ref=ts
“Our Committee reads each of the opinions that are sent in,” assured president & CEO Tom Valcke.
“Often times, good cases are presented, backed up with statistics and other relevant information from baseball aficionados across Canada and even the USA. We have a good handle on Canada’s baseball heritage that continues through the present, but we don’t pretend to know it all.”
Beginning with our top seven candidates, alphabetically, and followed by other Canadian notables:
Simcoe-born John Axford, in his rookie season, won the closer’s role for the Milwaukee Brewers, and finished the season with eight wins, 24 saves, and an earned run average (ERA) of 2.38, and 76 strikeouts in 58 innings that spanned 50 appearances.
Toronto’s Jesse Crain anchored a strong bullpen staff for the playoff-bound Minnesota Twins, appearing in 71 games, a total of 68 innings, notching one win and achieving a 3.04 ERA.
2000 Tip winner Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, BC) won 15 games for the Chicago Cubs, ninth best in the National League. His 34 starts were second best, while his 208 strikeouts in 215.1 innings pitched were seventh in the league. The Gibsons, B.C., native chalked up an ERA of 3.85.
New Westminster, B.C.’s , Justin Morneau who won the Tip in 2006 and 2008, was voted an All-Star starter, and had an amazing season curtailed just after the mid-point by a head injury that prevented him from participating in the post-season as well. The Minnesota Twins slugger batted .345 with a .437 on-base percentage (OBP), a .618 slugging percentage (SLG), and had 102 hits including 18 home runs and 25 doubles in just 81 games. Morneau had knocked in 56 runs, while scoring 53 times.
Kate Psota has represented Canada on the Women’s National Team every year since the team’s inception in 2004. She led all first-basemen with a .500 batting average at this past summer’s World Cup in Venezuela, her average was fourth best in the tournament overall. The Burlington, Ont., native registered a .577 OBP and a .545 SLG. The team MVP also starred on the mound with an 0.88 ERA over the eight innings she pitched in Venezuala.
London, Ont., native Jamie Romak, who plays in the Kansas City Royals organization, batted .448 and bagged a remarkable 1.103 SLG with his five home runs at the World Cup / Pan Am Qualifying Tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico to earn the MVP. Between stints in Single-A and Double-A with the Royals, he collected 128 hits, including 13 home runs and 29 doubles, with 64 RBI and 64 runs scored over 127 games, tallying a .296 batting average, a .388 OBP and .458 SLG.
In addition to Joey Votto’s NL MVP award, he was also named the Hank Aaron Award winner, and was an NL All-Star. He had a major league-best .424 OBP, his .600 SLG and 1.024 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) were tops in the National League. The Etobicoke, Ont., native’s .324 batting average placed him second in his league, his 37 home runs and 113 RBI were third best, his 106 runs, 91 walks and 75 extra-base hits were fourth, and his 177 hits were sixth best. Votto played in 150 games.
Defending and three-time Tip O’Neill winner Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.), in just 95 games of duty for the New York Mets due to injury, amassed 90 hits including six home runs and 20 doubles, 47 RBI, and scored 48 runs, while compiling a .259 batting average, a .347 OBP and a .402 SLG.
Vancouver’s Jeff Francis won four games and struck out 66 over 102.1 innings pitched. The lefty started 19 games and finished with a 4.93 ERA.
Often injured Rich Harden, who can be lights out when healthy, started 18 games and relieved twice for the Texas Rangers, nailing five wins and striking out 75 over 92 innings. The Victoria, B.C., native finished the season on the disabled list.
North Vancouver’s Blake Hawksworth appeared in 45 games for the St. Louis Cardinals, including eight starts, and struck out 61 in 90.1 innings, while winning four and registering a 4.98 ERA.
Shawn Hill, from Mississagua, Ont., in stints for the Toronto Blue Jays at Single-A, Double-A, Triple-A and the majors, won seven games with an ERA of 1.88, chalking up 15 starts, 76.2 innings and striking out 53.
Catcher George Kottaras (Scarborough, Ont.) saw action in 67 games for the Milwaukee Brewers, collecting 43 hits including nine homers and 12 doubles, 26 RBI, scoring 24 runs, while recording a .203 batting average, .305 OBP and .396 SLG.
2007 Tip recipient Russell Martin, from East York, ON, caught 97 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers, assembling 82 hits including five home runs and 13 doubles, 26 RBI and scored 45 times. Martin finished with a .248 batting average, a .347 OBP and a .332 SLG.
The Philadelphia Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Year was Vancouver’s Scott Mathieson, who won three games, saved 26, and compiled a 2.80 ERA over 54 appearances, with 83 strikeouts in 64.1 innings pitched.
Mike Saunders notched 61 hits including 10 homers and 11 doubles, with 33 RBI and 29 runs scored in 100 games for the Seattle Mariners. The Victoria, B.C., native batted .211 with a .295 OBP and a .367 SLG.
Veteran Matt Stairs, who has played for an MLB-record 12 different teams, and who is a sure-fire eventual Hall-of-Famer, ironically has never won a Tip O’Neill Award. Unfortunately, the St. John, N.B. product’s best seasons occurred in the shadow of nine-time Tip winner Larry Walker. Stairs set the MLB pinch-hit home run record on August 21st with his 21st. The 2010 San Diego Padre hit six homers in his 78 game appearances, with a .232 batting average and a .475 SLG.
London’s Adam Stern, who played in Triple-A for the Milwaukee Brewers, had 93 hits including five home runs and 18 doubles, 29 RBI and 48 runs scored, with a .325 batting average, .399 OBP and .462 SLG in 86 games.
Mark Teahen, a Canadian citizen whose roots are traced back to St. Marys, Ont., the home of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, gathered 60 hits, including four home runs and 13 doubles, along with 25 RBI and 31 runs scored. The Chicago White Sox third baseman batted .258 and had a .327 OBP and .382 SLG.
Four other Canadians who had brief appearances in the Major Leagues in 2010 were Montreal’s Chris Leroux, a reliever with the Florida Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates, Quebec City’s Max St. Pierre, a catcher with the Detroit Tigers, Vancouver’s Mike Nickeas, a catcher with the New York Mets, and Canadian citizen Luke Carlin, a catcher with Cleveland whose roots are in Quebec.
Past winners of the James “Tip” O’Neill Award:
1984 – Terry Puhl
1985 – Dave Shipanoff
1986 – Rob Ducey
1987 – Larry Walker
1988 – Kevin Reimer
1989 – Steve Wilson
1990 – Larry Walker
1991 – Daniel Brabant
1992 – Larry Walker
1993 – Rob Butler
1994 – Larry Walker
1995 – Larry Walker
1996 – Jason Dickson
1997 – Larry Walker
1998 – Larry Walker
1999 – Jeff Zimmerman
2000 – Ryan Dempster
2001 – Corey Koskie & Larry Walker
2002 – Eric Gagné & Larry Walker
2003 – Eric Gagné
2004 – Jason Bay
2005 – Jason Bay
2006 – Justin Morneau
2007 – Russell Martin
2008 – Justin Morneau
2009 – Jason Bay
2010 – TBA December 10, 2010
Note: James “Tip” O’Neill was one of Major League Baseball’s first legitimate stars. With the St. Louis Browns in 1887, O’Neill batted .492, SLG-.691, Hits-225, Doubles-52, Triples-19, Homeruns-14, Total Bases-357, Runs-167 (4th all-time for a single season), RBI-123. The outfielder from Woodstock, Ontario set major league records in hits, doubles, slugging percentage, and total bases that season while compiling an astounding .492 batting average (walks were included as hits in 1887, but if his average was calculated by today’s standard, it was .435, the second highest in major league history to Hugh Duffy, .438). The former U.S. Speaker of the House was named after the Canadian baseball icon.