My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• After the Toronto Blue Jays traded third baseman Brett Lawrie (Langley, B.C.) to the Oakland A’s as part of the package for Josh Donaldson on November 28, almost every Jays fan I encountered said that they wished the club hadn’t traded Lawrie. My standard response to them was, “Wait, until you see Josh Donaldson.” Well, Donaldson hasn’t disappointed. He has been the Blue Jays’ best offensive player and has outperformed Lawrie in almost every statistical category – both offensively and defensively – this season.
• Here’s one of the statistical anomalies of 2015 so far: North Delta, B.C., native Jeff Francis, whose fastball generally registers in the 85-mph range, has 14 strikeouts in 11-2/3 innings for the Blue Jays – that’s an average of 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings or almost double his career rate (6.1 strikeouts per nine innings).
• Right-hander Aaron Sanchez reminds me of ex-Jays hurler Jim Clancy circa 1980. That season, Clancy was a hard-throwing, 24-year-old right-hander who walked an American League-leading 128 batters. But he also won 13 games and posted a 3.30 ERA – a performance that I’m sure the Blue Jays would gladly take from Sanchez this season.
• So how much would you expect to pay for an authentic 1992 or 1993 Toronto Blue Jays World Series ring? How about a cool $18,840 each. That’s what former Blue Jays bench coach Gene Tenace’s World Series rings commanded in a sale by SCP Auctions in Laguna Niguel, Calif., that ended on April 26. Tenace parted with much of the memorabilia that he had accumulated from his playing and coaching careers in the sale. To see the auction results, follow this link.
• I’m continuing to review the 1977 Toronto Star archives and I found an article in the March 8 edition that discussed what food the Blue Jays would be selling at their games at Exhibition Stadium in their inaugural season. The article states the Jays planned to charge 50 cents for a bag of peanuts – the highest price for peanuts at any major league stadium at the time. For the record, a small hot dog was to be 60 cents and a foot-long 90 cents.
• Some interesting trivia can be found on the backs of baseball cards. For example, this week I was reading the back of outfielder Heinie Manush’s 1934 Goudey card and I learned that he honed his skills in Edmonton in the Western Canada League in 1921 before embarking on his Hall of Fame big league career. Manush hit .321 and walloped nine homers in 83 games for the Edmonton Eskimos before he was signed by the Detroit Tigers. In his 17-year big league career with the Tigers, St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators, Boston Red Sox, Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates, Manush batted .330 and accumulated 2,524 hits. He split the 1938 and 1939 seasons between the Pirates and the Triple-A Toronto Maple Leafs. For his efforts, Manush was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964.
• There are many reasons to cheer for outfielder/first baseman Chris Colabello, who was recently called up by the Blue Jays. His story is a classic underdog tale of a player who wasn’t drafted and slogged through seven seasons in the independent ranks before finally getting his big league shot with the Minnesota Twins in 2014. But the reason I cheer for him was that when I visited the Blue Jays minor league complex with my 16-year-old nephew, Kalin, who has cerebral palsy, this spring, Colabello actually walked over to me at the end of the team workouts and said he wanted to meet Kalin. Generally, in these types of scenarios, most players will sign an autograph and say a few words and move on – which is more than enough – but Colabello spent five or 10 minutes talking to Kalin. I was touched by how kind-hearted and down-to-earth he was. My nephew is now his biggest fan.
• On Friday, Major League Baseball upheld Blue Jays hitting coach Brook Jacoby’s 14-game suspension for his conduct towards an umpire after the game in Boston on April 29. Jacoby, who had appealed the suspension, issued the following statement in response to the decision. “Unfortunately, there was a verbal altercation with the umpiring crew following a tough loss in Boston,” said Jacoby. “Frustrations escalated, leading to an altercation in which I was wrongly accused of contacting an umpire in the runway following our game, I’m in no way going to apologize for what happened and feel that the penalties were very biased, harsh, and unfair. I feel vindicated by the fact that everyone very near to the incident corroborated my actions when interviewed. This is all I am going to say about this issue and I will not answer any questions concerning this incident from this point forward. The game we play isn’t about the coaches or umpires, but about the players that play it.” I don’t know about you, but this statement just doesn’t sit right with me. Even if there was no physical contact, shouldn’t Jacoby, a coach and mentor to his players, accept some responsibility for what happened? And the angry and unrepentant tone of his statement won’t win the Blue Jays any favors with umpiring crews in the future.
• This week’s trivia question: In the spirit of Mother’s Day, can you name the former Montreal Expos player whose mother played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League? This made him and his mother the only mother and son combo ever to play professional baseball. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first to provide the correct answer will win a signed 1987 Donruss Tim Wallach baseball card.