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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I can’t wait for the WBC this weekend. Kevin, I look very forward to your writing about the WBC.
Keep up the great work.
Thanks for the kind words, Scott.
They will never confuse Russell Martin with Stubby Clapp when it comes to being Canadian
Thanks for the comment, Terry. Yes, that definitely will never be the case.
Just as an update, the answer to my World Baseball Classic trivia question is no longer valid. Jesse Crain has withdrawn from this year’s WBC with a shoulder injury.
I have never met nor know Russell Martin but I don’t think we should be taken in by the Toronto sports media and its all-sided condemnation of him as being “selfish”. One may regard his aim to play infield — the weakest part of Team Canada — “bizarre” but it is not that he did not want to play for Canada. One thus cannot accuse him of nihilism or lack of patriotism. He played in 2009 and was kept out in 2006 by the Los Angeles Dodgers, which can be documented. It is the Pittsburgh Pirates who were against it, and it is they — not Team Canada — who own his contract. Martin made his aim clear as long ago as last November in a New York Times story so, if it was such a problem, why wasn’t it sorted out months ago? What is self-serving is that the rules of the World Baseball Classic permit each MLB franchise to keep as many as seven players from participating. As I have written in 2009, “The real selfishness of a U.S. sports empire, which owns the contracts of the athletes and makes the decision as to their participation, is rendered obscure.” [World Baseball Classic II: How Major League Baseball manipulates national team rosters http://amateursport.wordpress.com/2009/03/15/world-baseball-classic-ii-how-major-league-baseball-manipulates-national-team-rosters/
Finally, lets ask that same media, which is so upset about Martin not playing for Canada, how many articles did they write that the Toronto Blue Jays should have signed him when he became a free agent after the Dodgers? Or how many articles have they written that Rogers should allocate its considerable financial resources to sign Canadians as a priority, so that our athletes become known in our own own country?
All the best with your website.