My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• For a major league team to make the postseason these days, they require their stars to be stars, but they also need to have one or two outstanding performers that come out of nowhere. The Toronto Blue Jays have five such players. Twenty year-old Roberto Osuna has emerged as a dominant closer (1.98 ERA, 14 saves). Chris Colabello, a long shot to even play in the big leagues this season, is batting .330 with 12 home runs in 78 games. Marco Estrada, thought to be an inning-eating long man out of the bullpen out of spring training, has posted 11 wins and a 3.27 ERA, predominantly as a starter. And nobody would’ve predicted that right-handers Liam Hendriks (2.26 ERA in 42 games) and Bo Schultz (2.75 ERA in 24 games) would be go-to middle relievers.
• How hobbled Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) is right now will likely factor into the club’s decision on whether to exercise their $12-million option on R.A. Dickey for next season. Aside from his last start, the knuckleballer has had an excellent second half, but his overall numbers this season (7-10, 4.14 ERA) are underwhelming. And the toll catching the knuckler has taken on Martin, whom the Jays have committed $82.5 million to over five years, is unmistakable. When healthy, Martin is one of baseball’s best all-around backstops, but right now Martin’s production is being hampered by a sore left hamstring, a bruised thumb on his catching hand and various other nicks and bruises. He has hit just .176 over the past month.
• The National Baseball Hall of Fame will unveil a list of eligible 2016 Ford C. Frick Award candidates in September. The next honoree will be from the “Broadcasting Dawn Era” which encompasses those who could be heard on the airwaves during the early days of baseball to the 1950s. Author Barbara Gregorich is hoping that Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Jack Graney (St. Thomas, Ont.) will be on that list. Gregorich, who wrote Jack and Larry – a children’s book about Graney and his loveable dog, recently made a case for Graney on her website. After manning the outfield for parts of 14 seasons with the Cleveland Indians between 1908 and 1922, Graney became the first ex-player to make the transition to the broadcast booth, performing radio play-by-play for the Indians from 1932 to 1953. After the list of eligible candidates is revealed next month, fans will have an opportunity to vote on the Hall’s Facebook page. The top three vote-getters will be part of a 10-name final ballot (The other seven finalists will be determined by a Hall of Fame research committee). The 2016 winner will ultimately be decided when the Frick Award’s official 20-member committee – which consists of the 16 living former recipients and four historians – votes in November. The winner will be announced at the Baseball Winter Meetings in December.
• On this day, 26 years ago, Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Rick Dempsey homered in the top half of the 22nd inning at Olympic Stadium to give his club a 1-0 victory over the Montreal Expos. Aside from its marathon length, the game was notable for a couple of other reasons. The Expos pitching staff set a record for most innings in a single game without allowing a walk. Also, in the 11th inning, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda complained to the umpires about Expos mascot Youppi being atop the visitors’ dugout. The umpires ejected the mascot, but Youppi returned two innings later wearing pajamas and holding a pillow. He then formed a make-shift bed atop the Expos dugout.
• Brett Lawrie (Langley, B.C.) has donated a pair of his game-worn spikes and a game-used bat from this season to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. The sparkplug infielder is in his first year with the Oakland A’s after he was acquired as part of a package for Josh Donaldson on November 28. The Hall also has a game-used bat from Lawrie’s tenure with the Blue Jays on display.
• A fascinating feature article in the August 17 issue of Sports Illustrated discusses the unlikely evolution of Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt into a five-tool player. Perhaps the most surprising statistic for Goldschmidt this season has been his 20 stolen bases (He had just nine in 2014). The article indicates that Goldschmidt’s newfound base-stealing prowess is largely due to his extra work with Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.), who’s the D-Backs baserunning coach.
• With five Canadians on their roster, the Toronto Blue Jays triple-A Buffalo Bisons are the most Canadian team in affiliated professional baseball. Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.) and George Kottaras (Scarborough, Ont.) recently joined Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.), Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) and Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) on the club.
• We know Tom Henke as “The Terminator” but apparently at some point during his career, people started calling him the “Canadian Goose.” I didn’t know this until I discovered this inscription on a baseball autographed by him. Presumably this nickname was dreamed up because he was a fireball closer like Goose Gossage that was pitching north of the border. It’s actually pretty creative, but I still prefer “The Terminator.”
• This week’s trivia question: Josh Donaldson recorded his 100th RBI of the season last night. Who was the first Toronto Blue Jays player to record 100 RBI in a season? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide a correct answer will win 1984 Fleer and 1984 Topps Dennis Eckersley cards.