My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• The ERAs of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Drew Hutchison and Aaron Sanchez, who have been in the Toronto Blue Jays’ starting rotation for the entire season, are 5.76, 5.54, 6.17 and 4.26 respectively. The ERAs of the top four starters – Randy Wolf, Scott Copeland, Andrew Albers and Chad Jenkins – in triple-A Buffalo are 1.10, 2.43, 2.34 and 2.59.
• Poor Colby Rasmus. He has got to stop playing for these managers and coaches that want him to realize his full potential. How dare Tony La Russa, John Gibbons and Kevin Seitzer – who saw in Rasmus natural skills that they, themselves, could’ve only dreamed of possessing – try to push Rasmus to be the best player he can be? They have some nerve. Glad to hear that Rasmus is “more comfortable” in the Houston Astros clubhouse than he was with last year’s Blue Jays, though I expect he’ll be saying the same thing with his new team next year once Astros manager A.J. Hinch asks a little more of him this season.
• For the first time since 2010, former Blue Jay Willie Upshaw is not managing the independent Atlantic League’s Bridgeport Bluefish. The longtime Jays first baseman had served eight seasons as the Bluefish manager in two separate tenures, but he was let go after the club suffered a franchise-worst 93 losses in 2014. In all, Upshaw amassed 571 wins as the dugout boss for the Bluefish and guided the club to a league title in 1999 and to the championship series three times (1998, 1999 and 2010). Upshaw, who played parts of 10 big league campaigns with the Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians, has also served as a major league hitting coach for the Blue Jays and Texas Rangers.
• Blue Jays outfielder Ezequiel Carrera had 43 stolen bases for the triple-A Toledo Mud Hens last season. Despite owning an on-base percentage of .389 with the Blue Jays this season, he has a grand total of one steal attempt. Why isn’t he running more?
• Earl Averill Jr., who played the final 16 games of his professional baseball career with the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs, passed away on Wednesday in Tacoma, Wash., at the age of 83. The son of the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame outfielder with the same name, Averill Jr. didn’t match the success of his father at the big league level. After he was signed as an amateur free agent by the Indians in 1952, he played parts of six seasons in the majors with the Indians, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels and Philadelphia Phillies. His best season came with the Angels in 1961 when he socked 21 homers in 115 games. Following his baseball career, he worked as a computer programmer and salesman and he later operated an upholstery business out of his Auburn, Wash., home. He’s survived by his wife, Pat, four children and 12 grandchildren.
• Former Houston Astros manager Hal Lanier will manage the Ottawa Champions, the city’s new Can-Am League squad which begins play on Friday in the nation’s capital. Lanier, who turns 73 in July, managed the independent Northern League’s Winnipeg Goldeyes from 1996 to 2005. The baseball lifer also enjoyed a 10-year big league playing career with the San Francisco Giants and New York Yankees from 1964 to 1973. Don Campbell of the Ottawa Citizen has an excellent article about Lanier’s lengthy baseball odyssey here.
• Blue Jays’ 2008 first-round pick David Cooper signed a minor league deal with the New York Mets on Thursday and has reported to their double-A affiliate in Binghamton. The 28-year-old first baseman had been suiting up for the independent Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers this season. Cooper was batting .300 in 45 games with the Blue Jays in 2012 before he was sidelined by a back injury. When his back was slow to heal, the Blue Jays released him and he landed with the Cleveland Indians, but he’d play just 53 games in the minors over two seasons in the Tribe’s organization before being let go.
• This week’s trivia question: When Felipe Alou is inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on June 12, he’ll become the second former Montreal Expos field manager to be enshrined (joining Jim Fanning)? Can you name the two former Toronto Blue Jays field managers who have been inducted into the Canadian ball shrine? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first to provide the correct answer will win 1989 Upper Deck rookie cards of Craig Biggio and John Smoltz.