My weekly observations about stories around the baseball world from a Canadian perspective (Please follow me on Twitter: @kevinglewsports):
– I’ve met Canadian catcher Russell Martin three times and each time I found him to be warm, engaging and charismatic. So I was surprised and disappointed by his selfish – by his own admission – decision to withdrawal from the World Baseball Classic because both the Canadian team and his new big league club, the Pittsburgh Pirates, didn’t want him to play shortstop (a position Martin has played exactly one game at at the professional level 11 years ago). However, it was his comments after his withdrawal from the tournament that bothered me even more. “If (Justin) Morneau is pissed he can go catch and I’ll play first base,” Martin told Hall of Fame Toronto Sun columnist Bob Elliott. He also told Bob Elliott, “I might be our best catcher, but I’m our best shortstop too.” I’m not sure why Martin felt compelled to insult his teammates in the aftermath of his decision.
– With that said about Martin, it’s not hard to feel good about the players who have chosen to represent Canada in the World Baseball Classic, slated to begin for the Canadian squad this Friday in Scottsdale, Ariz., against Italy. I had the privilege of interviewing Newmarket, Ont., native Pete Orr, who, despite being in a battle for the Philadelphia Phillies’ utility role, has opted to compete for his country. “When I was talking with the Phillies about signing back with them in the off-season, I told them right away that I wanted to play in the World Baseball Classic,” Orr told me. “I was always 100 per cent on board (with playing in the WBC). At this stage in my career, I’m on board to do whatever they (the Canadian team) want me to do. I’m all in and I’m excited about it.” You can read my entire article about Orr here: http://www.canadianbaseballnetwork.com/articles/orr-would-dodge-sausages-to-play-in-wbc/
– Some World Baseball Classic trivia for you: Name the only three players who have been selected to play in all three World Baseball Classics (2006, 2009, 2013) for Canada? You can find the answer in the final bullet point below.
– When former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Jefferson died of prostate cancer last year, I wrote an obituary on the hard-throwing, soft-spoken right-hander. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to ask longtime Blue Jays catcher, Ernie Whitt, who caught Jefferson in 1977, about the late pitcher. “He was one of the harder throwing pitchers that I ever caught. I caught him very early in my career,” recalled Whitt. “What impressed me most was that he had a great velocity on his fastball and he had a real good curveball. I don’t think ever got the most out of his career that he should have with the stuff that he had, but he threw a lot of innings.”
– As I’ve been monitoring the performance of onetime Montreal Expos reliever Claudio Vargas in the Blue Jays camp this spring, it got me wondering what active former Expo has played the most games for the now defunct Canadian club. The answer is Endy Chavez, who suited up for 317 contests with the Expos from 2002 to 2004. Chavez is bidding to be a backup outfielder with the Kansas City Royals this spring.
– The answer to the Canadian World Baseball Classic trivia question is: Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.), Jesse Crain (Toronto, Ont.) and Pete Orr (Newmarket, Ont.) are the only players to be selected to the Canadian team for all three World Baseball Classics.
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