My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• On Thursday, Josh Donaldson became the third Toronto Blue Jays player to be named the American League MVP, joining George Bell, who won the honour in 1987 and Carlos Delgado in 2003. Oh wait. Sorry. Delgado finished second in 2003 to Alex Rodriguez in a season in which A-Rod has since admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in. This still doesn’t sit well with me.
• On top of Donaldson, who garnered 23 of the 30 first-place votes (good for 385 points), four other Blue Jays – Jose Bautista (82 points), David Price (62 points), Edwin Encarnacion (38 points) and Russell Martin (2 points) – received American League MVP votes.
• It was also announced on Thursday that Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto finished third in the National League MVP voting. It was actually five years ago today that Votto captured the 2010 MVP honour. On the strength of the Canadian slugger’s .324 batting average, .424 on-base percentage and 113 RBI that season, the Cincinnati Reds advanced to the post-season for the first time since 1995. In securing the award, Votto became the second Canadian winner, following Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) who was the 1997 NL MVP.
• Scott Crawford of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame has assembled a complete list of Canadians who have received MVP votes here. Walker received votes in eight seasons (8) – the most of any Canadian – while pitching legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) garnered MVP votes six times.
• Thirty-eight years ago today, Montreal Expos outfielder Andre Dawson was named the National League Rookie of the Year for the 1977 season. The future National and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer hit .282 and belted 19 homers in his inaugural campaign to edge out San Francisco Giants outfielder Steve Henderson in the voting. Dawson was the second Expo to win the award. Carl Morton was named top rookie in 1970 after he posted 18 wins and a 3.60 ERA in 43 games for the Expos.
• London, Ont., native Jamie Romak has signed with the Nippon Professional Baseball League’s Yokohama BayStars for the 2016 season. The deal will pay the 30-year-old Romak, who played 12 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015, considerably more than he would make either as a big league bench player or in triple-A. “The reality of my situation in the (U.S.) is that I’m looking at a bench job, which is fine, but I want more than that,” Romak told Morris Dalla Costa of the London Free Press. “Over in Japan, they are paying me to go hit fourth and play every day and be a cog in the lineup and be someone they can depend on. When I look at the whole scope of things and the reality that I may wind up in triple-A next year, here I can go over play in front of 40,000 every night and compete in one of the best leagues in the world and have some financial stability. When I look at it, my wife and I, it was way too good to pass up.” Romak spent the bulk of the 2015 season, his 13th in professional baseball, with the D-Backs’ triple-A Reno Aces where he socked 27 home runs and knocked in a career-best 100 runs. For his efforts, he was selected to be a starter in the Pacific Coast League All-Star game and was named the DH on the league’s postseason All-PCL Team.
• Port Dover, Ont., native John Axford was designated for assignment by the Colorado Rockies on Friday. The 6-foot-5 right-hander returned to the closer’s role in 2015 and recorded 25 saves for the Colorado Rockies. This moved him past Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.) into second-place on the all-time Canadian saves list. Montreal native Eric Gagne’s 187 saves rank as the most by a Canadian. Axford has posted a 3.52 ERA in 403 major league games in his seven-year big league career.
• Former big league player and coach Andy Van Slyke made some controversial comments in an interview on St. Louis radio station CBS Sports 920 on Thursday. Van Slyke, who lost his job as a coach with the Seattle Mariners at the end of the season, criticized Robinson Cano and Fernando Rodney, among others, in the interview. He also directed a barb at former Blue Jay and current Houston Astro Colby Rasmus, who after accepting the Astros’ arbitration offer, will make $15.8 million next season. “He’s going to make almost $16 million next year,” Van Slyke said of Rasmus, “and he’s not the sharpest nail in the tool box.”
• Speaking of former Blue Jays outfielders, playing in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) has apparently transformed Eric Thames into Babe Ruth. In 142 games with the KBO’s NC Dinos in 2015, Thames hit .381, belted 47 home runs and drove in 140.
• This week’s trivia question: David Price finished second in the American League Cy Young Award voting? Can you name the three Blue Jays pitchers who have won the award over the years? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a Roberto Osuna rookie card and a Brett Cecil rookie card.
Cy Young awards by Blue Jays: Pat Henken, Roger Clemens, Doc Holliday
Hi David. You are correct. Thank you for participating. I think I might have your mailing address on file, but can you drop me an email at email@example.com to confirm? Thank you!
Great season by Thames. Wow.
Good luck to Romak. Sorry to see him go, but I understand for sure.
Sorry about 2003 Kevin.
Axford will be a great pickup for some team. He had 25 saves on a bad team. A good team and he’ll get 35-40 saves.
Thanks for the comment and your insight, Scott!
Good stuff Kevin,Re: Arod, it is what it is. It will always be a part of the game. How many players were on uppers in the 60s and 70s? Just something all fans and players have to deal with. People were on enhancers back in the day and they still are nowâ.
Thanks for the comment, Devon.
That’s a crkreacjack answer to an interesting question
Wow, two of these in three days – what a treat! Not trying to be picky in the least (I could not do what you do), but Morneau won the MVP in 2006, so Votto was the third Canuck to win one.
Also, I chuckled because my biggest beef has always been managers bunting with men on first and second (I would call Scott whenever I saw it about to happen, and most of the time, I would be proven correct), and Scott’s is when a TV or radio guy would say that someone is a guy is in the top three, but doesn’t mention the ones on top of him. You and I know Gagne has the most saves as a Canuck, but all of your readers may not know that is who Axford remains behind.
If you care to recant, you can add this morsel about Joey Votto, the high school opportunist –one of my favourite anecdotes in my career:
I was invited by Mel Oswald to speak at a fundraiser for the Canadian Thunderbirds in Hamilton, and they asked me to bring along Hall-of-Famer Tommy Burgess. I addressed the gathering as the pre-dinner guy, while Tommy did the post-dinner gig. A high school-aged player stuck around and approached me after the dinner and asked about hitting with a plan, and hitting in pitcher’s counts versus hitter’s counts. It was impressive. I gave him 10 minutes or so of my take on his excellent question., but told him that Tommy hit a couple of hundred homers as a pro, and that he was the better guy to ask. The kid waited patiently for Burgess to sign the last of his autographs, and engaged him. Tommy was sharp until his passing, and loved kids who wanted to learn. When the two of then finished chatting, the banquet room was literally empty, including the dishes being cleaned off the tables. This respectful young man was not going to let two resources out the door without tapping into what he could get out of them. It reminded me of why Orel Hershiser said he got so good at such a young age – he said that he kept hearing people around Dodgertown saying “If only I knew then what I know now … so Hershiser decided to try to find out what they know now! Anyway, as we walked out together, I asked this young knowledge-seeking opportunist his name, and he replied “Joey Votto.” I learned throughout my scouting career that people don’t change much, and Votto has continued to capitalize on every situation throughout his career – no surprise given what we witnessed on a wintery night in Hamilton when Joey Votto was far from a household name.
Tom Valcke Field Manager/GM iCASE Baseball Academy International Canadian Academy of Sports Excellence http://icasebaseball.com Personal Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 519.703.4088
Thanks for your comments and for sharing that great Votto story, Tom. I was referring specifically to the National League MVP Award when I mentioned that only Votto and Walker had won it. Morneau, of course, won the AL MVP Award, but I should’ve mentioned Morneau. I also should’ve mentioned that Gagne was the all-time saves leader. I will add that in. Thanks again.
Thanks for the great info Kevin.
Thanks for the kind words.
Nice write up this week Kevin, I wish Rome all the best in Japan.
Thanks for the kind words, Brent.
I take it spelling didn’t count? 😈
Clearly 🙂 Thanks, David.