My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• Don’t get me wrong, Jose Bautista is a great player and the Blue Jays are lucky to have him, but the slugger was rightfully criticized by some members of the media after his initial less-than-enthusiastic assessment of the trade that sent his good friend Jose Reyes to the Colorado Rockies as part of a package for Troy Tulowitzki on Tuesday (You can listen to Bautista’s comments here). Yes, I understand that Bautista will miss his friend, but when he makes comments like Reyes was the “centrepiece” of the team’s chemistry, you understand why the Blue Jays needed to bring in gritty, win-at-any-cost competitors like Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin in the off-season. What “chemistry” was Bautista worried about preserving, the chemistry that, with the newly acquired Reyes, led the Jays to 74-88 record in 2013? The “chemistry” that guided the team to a middling 83-79 record in 2014? Or the “chemistry” that helped the Jays’ post a 50-50 record prior to trading Reyes this year?
• For what it’s worth, the Blue Jays’ record since Tulowitzki arrived in town is 3-1. The Colorado Rockies’ record since landing Reyes is 1-3.
• An interesting result of all of the Blue Jays transactions over the past 10 days is that they now own five of the first 48 players selected in the 2007 MLB amateur draft. After signing Gatineau, Que., native Phillippe Aumont (selected 11th overall in 2007) to a minor league deal on July 24, Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos acquired 2007 first rounders David Price (taken 1st overall by the Tampa Bay Rays) and Ben Revere (28th overall, Minnesota Twins) on Thursday and Friday. They joined a roster that already boasts 2007 draftees Brett Cecil (38th overall) and Josh Donaldson (48th overall, Chicago Cubs). For the record, the Blue Jays’ first pick in that draft was third baseman Kevin Ahrens (16th overall), who never played a big league game for the club and is now toiling in double-A in the Atlanta Braves organization. The Blue Jays also selected J.P. Arencibia with the 21st overall pick.
• Speaking of Arencibia, he’s still the same ole J.P. Arencibia. Now suiting up for the Tampa Bay Rays’ triple-A Durham Bulls, he has an impressive 20 home runs and an unequally unimpressive .255 on-base percentage in 83 games this season.
• The good news about Blue Jays’ new left fielder Ben Revere is that he led the National League in hits last season with 184, has excellent speed and is a natural outfielder that’s capable of making more than just the routine plays. The bad news is that his throwing arm makes Shannon Stewart look like Jesse Barfield. He has a grand total of 24 outfield assists in six major league seasons. Barfield had 22 assists in 1985 alone.
• One performance in Blue Jays history that’s not talked about enough is outfielder/DH Otto Velez’s torrid hitting in April 1977 – the first month in the club’s history. In my continuing review of the Toronto Star archives, I discovered that Velez hit an American League-leading .442 in 17 games that month. That’s the second highest batting average in a single month for a Blue Jays player (John Olerud hit .450 in April 1993). Velez also had five home runs and his .865 slugging percentage that month is still a Blue Jays record. For his efforts, Velez, whom the Blue Jays selected from the New York Yankees with their 27th choice in the 1976 expansion draft, was named the American League Player of the Month. Velez finished the 1977 season with a .256 batting average, .366 on-base percentage and 16 home runs.
• Happy 44th birthday to Victoria, B.C., native Steve Sinclair, who was the 10th Canadian – and fifth Canuck pitcher – to suit up for the Blue Jays. Selected in the 28th round of the 1991 MLB amateur draft, the 6-foot-2 left-hander rose through the Blue Jays’ minor league ranks to make 27 appearances for the big league club in 1998 and 1999, before he was dealt to the Seattle Mariners with right-hander Tom Davey for David Segui. He posted a 3.95 ERA in 18 major league appearances with the Mariners in 1999, prior to returning to the minors for the ensuing four seasons. He finished his professional career with minor league stints in the White Sox and Cubs organizations. According to his LinkedIn profile, Sinclair now works as the general manager of Oak Bay Marina and Complex in Victoria, B.C. He will be elected to the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame this fall.
• This week’s trivia question: By my count, there have been six Canadian left-handers who have pitched for the Blue Jays. Aside from Sinclair, can you name three other Canadian southpaws who have pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” below. The first person to provide a correct answer will win 1984 Fleer and 1984 Topps Phil Niekro cards.