My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• Just when I wake up feeling everything is right in the sports world, I find out that Tie Domi has a best-selling book and Colby Rasmus will make $15.8 million in 2016.
• Kevin Pillar’s Gold Glove snub makes me think that it’s time for Major League Baseball to return to handing out these defensive honours to the top three outfielders in each league regardless of their outfield position. This was the practice until 2011. Tampa Bay Rays centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier is certainly worthy of his Gold Glove, but Pillar is a much better defender than Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun or Tigers/Mets left fielder Yoenis Cespedes who were named Gold Glove winners on Tuesday. According to Baseball Reference, Pillar’s 2015 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) was 2.8, while Calhoun’s was 0.0 and Cespedes’s was 0.7.
• And speaking of Blue Jays defensive standouts, I’ve been watching baseball intensely for 30 years and I’ve never seen a better catching performance than Russell Martin’s for the Blue Jays in 2015. Martin was a Gold Glove finalist but he lost out to Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez. Martin threw out more baserunners (32) than any other American League catcher and had the highest caught stealing percentage (44%), but his case was hurt by having to catch knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, which led to 19 passed balls.
• The National Baseball Hall of Fame unveiled its 2016 ballot on Monday and Ken Griffey Jr. is the only first timer that’s a shoo-in for election. One of my favorite baseball cards of Griffey Jr., who belted 630 home runs in 22 big league seasons, is his 1991 Upper Deck Final Edition card that pictures him taking batting practice prior to the 1991 All-Star Game at SkyDome (above). Griffey batted seventh in that game and had two hits in three at bats. In 117 games versus the Blue Jays during his career, Griffey batted .301 and had 35 home runs. On May 8, 1989, he was 1-for-4 in his only game at Exhibition Stadium and in 50 career contests at SkyDome, he batted .284 with 15 home runs.
• Among those making their first appearance on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot are former Montreal Expo Mark Grudzielanek and ex-Blue Jay Troy Glaus. Tim Raines, Roger Clemens, Lee Smith, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff and Larry Walker are the other ex-Expos and Blue Jays returning to the ballot.
• Fred Besana, who pitched parts of four minor league seasons with the Vancouver Mounties, passed away of a heart complication on November 7 at age 84. Born in Lincoln, Calif., in 1931, the 6-foot-3 southpaw was signed by the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent and played parts of four (1956, 1957, 1959, 1961) minor league seasons in Vancouver. His best professional season came with the Mounties in 1959 when he posted a 2.77 ERA in 32 games. He also pitched seven games in the big leagues with the Orioles in 1956.
• When Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog was managing a hapless Texas Rangers squad in 1973, a reporter asked him what the club needed to improve its fortunes. “We need just two players to be a contender – Babe Ruth and Sandy Koufax,” said Herzog.
• This week’s trivia question: Who was the last Toronto Blue Jay to win a Gold Glove Award? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a signed Ernie Whitt card.