My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– How different would Derek Jeter’s career have been if the Montreal Expos had selected him in the 1992 MLB amateur draft? The Expos had the opportunity to choose Jeter with the third pick overall that year but instead opted for left-handed pitching prospect B.J. Wallace, who never made it above Double-A. The Expos decision not to take Jeter is written about in Ecstasy to Agony: The 1994 Montreal Expos, an excellent book by Danny Gallagher and Bill Young. The authors tracked down former scouting director (and later general manager) Kevin Malone to find out why the club passed on Jeter. “There’s no question Jeter was available to us that year, but we had [Wil] Cordero at shortstop and thought the world of him,” Malone told the authors. “We felt we were great at that position so we decided on B.J. Wallace, a left-handed pitcher with a wicked fastball instead.” Malone further reveals that when he went to evaluate Jeter in person prior to the draft, it was raining and Jeter had a badly sprained ankle. The tenacious authors even tracked down Jeter, who confirmed that he would’ve signed with the Expos had they drafted him.
– Earlier this week, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Milwaukee Brewers (under the guidance of Canadian general manager Doug Melvin) made a waiver claim to try to acquire New Westminster, B.C., native Justin Morneau from the Colorado Rockies. However, the two teams were unable to come to a trade agreement. After spending parts of 11 seasons with the Minnesota Twins and two months in 2013 with Pittsburgh Pirates, Morneau signed with the Rockies in the off-season and is currently leading the National League with a .311 batting average. The Brewers have used a platoon of veterans Lyle Overbay and Mark Reynolds at first base this season.
– Speaking of Morneau, if he does hold on to win the National League batting crown, it will be the fourth time that a Canadian player with the Colorado Rockies wearing the No. 33 will have won that title in the past 17 seasons. Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker won it three times (1998, 1999 and 2001) during his 10 seasons with the Rockies.
– This legendary right-hander pitched professionally for a Montreal team and died in Montreal, but he never pitched for the Expos. Can you name him? You can respond with your guesses in the “Comments” section below. I will monitor your responses. If no one guesses correctly, I will provide the answer in next week’s column.
– Remember last season when Steve Delabar was an all-star and there was talk of him being the club’s future closer. Well, a lot has changed since then. The 6-foot-5 right-hander struggled to start this season, registering a 4.91 ERA in 30 games with the Blue Jays before being demoted to Triple-A. But in his 23 games since being sent down, he has struck out 36 batters in 27-1/3 innings and he owns a 2.96 ERA with the Buffalo Bisons. With Casey Janssen’s struggles, as well as his impending free agency, and the Jays well back in the wild-card race, wouldn’t it be worth calling up Delabar and running him out there in the closer’s role a few times this September?
– Former Montreal Royals shortstop Earl Robinson passed away on July 4 in Fountain Valley, Calif., at the age of 77. Robinson played 21 games for the Royals in 1958 as part of his seven-year minor league career. He also played the outfield and third base and batted .268 in 170 big league games with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Baltimore Orioles between 1958 and 1964.