My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• On Monday, when reporters asked Jose Bautista what it will take for the Toronto Blue Jays to re-sign him after his contract expires at the end of the season, the slugger said that he had a dollar amount in mind (rumored to be at least $150 million over five years) and that he wasn’t prepared to negotiate. One of the things that Bautista said was, “I’m not going to sit here and try and bargain for a couple of dollars.” Whether the Blue Jays are able to re-sign Bautista or not, I wish my definition of “a couple of dollars” equated with his.
• Victoria, B.C., native Michael Saunders could become the fifth Canadian to start a game as the lead-off hitter for the Blue Jays. Manager John Gibbons confirmed to reporters on Friday that Saunders and Kevin Pillar are the prime contenders to bat leadoff on Opening Day. The other Canadians to be starting leadoff hitters for the Blue Jays are Rob Butler (Toronto, Ont.), Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.), Brett Lawrie (Langley, B.C.) and Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.).
• From the “This could get confusing” file: former Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow is battling it out with Brandon Maurer for the fifth and final spot in the San Diego Padres starting rotation. Complicating matters further is that both are 6-foot-4 right-handers that started their careers with the Seattle Mariners.
• FanGraphs, a well respected, advanced baseball statistics site, says that a player who records a WAR (Wins Above Replacement: an all encompassing statistic that measures how many wins a player is worth above what a triple-A replacement at his position would contribute) above 6.0 in a season has enjoyed an MVP-caliber season. Montreal Expos legend and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Tim Raines had five consecutive seasons (1983 to 1987) in which he recorded a WAR of 6.0 or better.
• If the major league coaching staffs ever challenged each other to series of games, I’m putting my money on the Miami Marlins staff. Barry Bonds is their hitting coach, Don Mattingly is their manager and 2014 Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Tim Wallach is their bench coach. The Marlins also employ 2004 Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson and former Montreal Expo Tony Perez as special assistants to the president. Those five former players combined belted 2,061 major league home runs.
• Please take a moment today to remember former Blue Jays reliever Ken Robinson. It was seventeen years ago today that the popular reliever was killed in a car accident in Tuscon, Ariz. The diminutive right-hander, who was generously listed as 5-foot-9, overcame long odds to pitch parts of three seasons in the majors. Selected by the Blue Jays in the 10th round of the 1991 MLB amateur draft out of Florida College in Jacksonville, Robinson spent parts of five seasons in the club’s organization before he made his big league debut on July 20, 1995. He proceeded to post a 3.69 ERA in 21 games for the Blue Jays that year, before spending parts of the next two seasons with the Kansas City Royals. He had been signed to a minor league deal by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998 after recovering from a shoulder injury and was in spring training with the D-Backs when the accident occurred. Robinson was killed when a Ford Explorer driven by John Rosengren, a minor league left-hander in the D-Backs camp, overturned not far from the apartment complex where Robinson was living. Rosengren, who had been drinking, was charged with second-degree murder. Robinson left behind his wife, Lorrie, and his 22-month-old son Chase.
• I thought I knew pretty much everything there was to know about Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Jeff Heath. But in reading his SABR bio this week, I was surprised to learn that the Fort William, Ont., native was the first American League player ever to record 20 doubles, 20 triples and 20 home runs in the same season. George Brett (1979) and Curtis Granderson (2007) are the only other American Leaguers to have duplicated this feat.
• This week’s trivia question: Earlier I mentioned how many home runs that members of the Miami Marlins coaching staff have hit. Which member of the Blue Jays coaching staff has hit the most career home runs? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win Aaron Sanchez and Brett Cecil rookie cards.