My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• Believe it or not, after Blue Jays centre fielder Kevin Pillar made an ill-advised dive for a line drive hit by Billy Burns in the eighth inning in Thursday’s game against Oakland that turned what should’ve been a single into a triple, there were people on Twitter suggesting that the Jays should flip-flop Ben Revere and Pillar in the outfield. Have these people been watching Pillar at all this season? This was a minor blip on what should be a Gold Glove Award-winning campaign for the Jays outfielder. Pillar’s 2.3 dWAR (an all-encompassing statistic that takes into account all aspects of a player’s defence to establish the number of defensive wins they are worth above an average big leaguer at their position) is the second-best (to Tampa Bay’s Kevin Kiermaier (3.4 dWAR)) amongst American League centre fielders. In other words, Pillar has been better defensively in centre field this season than Mike Trout, Adam Jones and Lorenzo Cain.
• If you’re thinking about starting a collection of Josh Donaldson baseball cards or autographs, now might not be a good time to start. This 2010 Bowman Chrome autographed rookie card (just five were made) was being offered for $3,000 on eBay two weeks ago. Today, the Thornhill, Ont.-based seller has upped the price to $5,000.
• For a cool $117,855 you could’ve owned Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson’s 1987 National League MVP Award. That’s what the award sold for in a sale by New Jersey-based Goldin Auctions that ended on August 8. The Hawk also sold off several awards he won during his tenure with the Montreal Expos, as well as some of his game-used memorabilia. Among the Expos-related items he parted with were his 1977 Sporting News Rookie of the Year Award (sold for $2,916), his 1982 National League Gold Glove Award ($19,440) and his 220th career home run ball which he hit at Olympic Stadium on August 9, 1986 to set an Expos team record ($1,215). Dawson, who now works as a special assistant to the president for the Miami Marlins, is selling some of his personal items because he’s moving into a smaller home.
• This past Monday, Canadian left-hander Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.) became the first big leaguer to debut as a pitcher, then become a full-time positional player and then return as a pitcher since Johnny Lindell completed this feat in 1953. Loewen entered the game for the Philadelphia Phillies in the sixth inning of the team’s 13-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Even Canadian baseball legend Larry Walker has been impressed with Loewen. “Pretty amazing story what Adam Loewen has done! Awesome journey!” tweeted Walker on August 8. “EVERY sports writer should write about him! Perseverance pays off!!”
• It’s good to see Rance Mulliniks at the Rogers Centre this weekend. He’s in town to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Blue Jays’ first American League East-winning squad. I was a kid when Mulliniks was playing and the only stats they flashed across the TV screen back then were batting average, home runs and RBI. I had no idea what on-base percentage (OBP) or on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) meant, but if I had, I would’ve had a greater appreciation for Mulliniks as a hitter. From 1983 to 1988, his OBPs were .373, .383, .383, .340, .371, and .395 respectively. His OPS in those seasons: .840, .823, .836, .757, .871 and .870.
• From the “He’s still pitching?” file, ex-Blue Jay Brad Mills started for the Oakland A’s on Friday in their game against the Baltimore Orioles. The soft-throwing southpaw allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings and didn’t factor into the decision in the A’s 8-6, 13-inning loss. The 30-year-old lefty had spent the entire season in triple-A, posting a 4.45 ERA in 22 starts before the call-up. Mills had registered a 4.41 ERA in three starts for the A’s in 2014, which is considerably better than the 10.08 ERA he recorded in 16 games with the Blue Jays between 2009 and 2014.
• In my continuing review of the 1977 Toronto Star archives, I discovered that no less than three original Blue Jays – Otto Velez, Alvis Woods and Bob Bailor – topped the American League in batting average at different junctures during the first six weeks of the club’s inaugural season. “When I was leading the league for awhile earlier in the season,” Bailor would later joke in an Associated Press article, “I cut the averages out of the paper because I figured I’d never be ahead of Rod Carew again.” Bailor finished the season with a .310 batting average, which set a new record for highest batting average by a player on an expansion team in the team’s first season. Woods finished 1977 with a .284 batting average, while Velez hit .256.
• This week’s trivia question: Josh Donaldson has 31 home runs this season, but he’s still well short of the Blue Jays’ record for most homers in a season by a third baseman. Who holds this record? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide a correct answer will win 1984 Fleer and 1984 Topps Tom Seaver cards.