My weekly observations about stories around the baseball world from a Canadian perspective:
– I’m reading Danny Gallagher and Bill Young’s excellent new book, Ecstasy to Agony: The 1994 Montreal Expos. I’ll post a review of the book in the coming weeks, but I can tell you it’s chock full of interesting revelations about members of the dominant 1994 squad. One of the fascinating tidbits I learned was that when Expos GM Jim Beattie was shopping Pedro Martinez after his Cy Young Award-winning season in 1997, he approached the Cleveland Indians. “We wanted to trade him so that we wouldn’t lose him to free agency,” Beattie told the authors about Martinez. “We were looking for good, young pitchers not yet arbitration eligible. We tried to get Jaret Wright in a package with Cleveland for Pedro but they wouldn’t even talk to us.” The Expos, of course, eventually dealt Martinez to the Boston Red Sox for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. on November 18, 1997. After rebuffing Beattie, the Indians still finished atop the American League Central in 1998, but lost to the New York Yankees in six games in the American League Championship Series. Would the addition of Martinez have propelled the Indians to the World Series that season? We’ll never know, but it certainly seems likely. And for the record, Wright pitched in parts of five more seasons with the Tribe and his ERA was never lower than 4.70.
-Speaking of the Indians, I was saddened to hear about the passing of long-time Tribe broadcaster Mike Hegan from heart failure at the age of 71 on December 24. When I was growing up in Dorchester, Ont., I always looked forward to listening to Hegan offer his analysis on Indians games on WUAB (Channel 43). It was the only Cleveland channel in my parents’ cable package. Hegan spent 23 years in the Indians’ TV and radio booths. Prior to his broadcasting career, he played in the big leagues for 12 seasons, serving as a first baseman/outfielder with the New York Yankees, Seattle Pilots, Milwaukee Brewers and Oakland A’s.
-Getting back to the 1994 Montreal Expos, Jeff Fassero, a key member of the club’s rotation that season, turns 50 today. The crafty southpaw posted eight wins and a 2.99 ERA in 21 games in 1994, one of six seasons in which he suited up for the Expos. In all, Fassero, currently a pitching coach for the Chicago Cubs’ Double-A Tennessee Smokies, pitched for 16 big league seasons and also had stops in Seattle, Texas, Boston, Chicago (Cubs), St. Louis, Colorado, Arizona and San Francisco.
– In last week’s “But What Do I Know?” column, I reported that just three former Montreal Expos (Maicer Izturis, Bartolo Colon and Scott Downs) had secured major league contracts for the coming season. Well, it appears that right-handed reliever Luis Ayala, who toed the rubber for the Expos in 2003 and 2004, will soon sign with a big league club. MLB Trade Rumors reports that he has drawn interest from the Tigers, Indians and Orioles.
– After an exhaustive search, an autograph collector I know has finally uncovered a single-signed Willie Canate baseball card. When people talk about the Toronto Blue Jays’ 1993 World Series-winning squad, they tend to wax nostalgic about players like Joe Carter, Roberto Alomar, Paul Molitor, John Olerud and Devon White, but collectors will tell you that Canate’s autograph (on a single-signed item) is the most difficult to track down from that team. The 6-foot, 170-pound Venezuelan hit .213 in 38 games that season after the Jays purchased him from the Cincinnati Reds on April 13. That turned out to be Canate’s only season in the big leagues. Baseball Reference shows that he played in the minors in the Jays’ organization in 1994 and 1995, in the Mexican League in 1997 and in the Italian Baseball League from 2002 to 2006. He has since seemingly disappeared. He was not located for the reunion of the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays teams that was organized by Joe Carter in August 2009 and an advanced Google search produced no information on his whereabouts. Although it was exciting to find the Canate autograph, the collector points out that it was on a minor league card (pictured above). Canate’s signature would be more desirable on a card that pictures him with the Blue Jays. The collector has been monitoring eBay and other online sources for a signed Canate Blue Jay card for several years and none have surfaced for sale.
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