My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• Rule No. 1 of Canadian baseball blogging is don’t criticize Jose Bautista unless you’re prepared for an onslaught of vitriol from his online supporters. I’ve learned this the hard way over the years. So on Thursday, when Goose Gossage called Bautista “a disgrace to the game” for his bat flip after his three-run homer in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the American League Division Series, Blue Jays fans predictably erupted. I don’t agree with Gossage, but I do admire him for owning his comments and being brave enough to be interviewed on Toronto radio and TV stations after he made them. You can listen to his entertaining and candid interview with Sportsnet’s Tim & Sid here. I’ll also say this, I’ve been fortunate to talk to a lot of former big leaguers for my blog and my guess is that 90 per cent of them would agree with Gossage.
• Even our prime minster wants the Expos back in Montreal. At a press conference prior to his state dinner with U.S. president Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday, Trudeau took to the podium and said, “We’ve made tremendous progress on many issues. Unfortunately, I will leave town with my beloved Expos still here in Washington. You can’t have everything.” Watch the video of his comments here.
• The San Diego Padres have collected former Toronto Blue Jays right-handers this off-season. While Brandon Morrow is battling for the final spot in the Pads’ starting rotation, Carlos Villanueva and Casey Janssen are vying for positions in the club’s bullpen. There are also three other players with Blue Jays ties in Padres’ camp: first baseman Brett Wallace, catcher Erik Kratz and longtime Jays farmhand Ryan Schimpf.
• Speaking of former Blue Jays right-handers, Jesse Litsch will serve as the pitching coach for the independent Atlantic League’s Bridgeport Bluefish this season. A 13-game winner for the Blue Jays in 2008, the now 31-year-old Litsch announced his retirement in 2014 due to recurring shoulder issues. Last year, Litsch worked in one of Major League Baseball’s development centres in China and in February, he acted as the pitching coach for the Philippines squad at the World Baseball Classic qualifier in Sydney, Australia.
• Fun Canadian Baseball Fact: In his Cy Young Award-winning, 1996 season, soon-to-be Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Pat Hentgen led the American League with 265-2/3 innings pitched. The only American League pitcher to throw more innings in a season since then is Roy Halladay, who tossed 266 innings for the Blue Jays in 2003. For his efforts, Halladay, who was mentored by Hentgen, was also recognized with the American League Cy Young Award.
• Here’s something I didn’t know: when the Blue Jays selected Adam Lind in the third round (83rd overall) of the 2004 MLB amateur draft, they were actually using the compensation pick they received from the Los Angeles Angels who had signed free agent right-hander Kelvim Escobar. With their true third round pick that year, the Blue Jays chose Danny Hill, a right-hander out of the University of Missouri who made it as high as double-A in three seasons in the club’s system. It’s interesting to note that just five picks after Hill, the Philadelphia Phillies took left-hander J.A. Happ.
• We all knew Ken Griffey, Jr. was going to be a first-ballot National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee; the question was whether he’d be the first player to be named on 100 per cent of baseball writers’ ballots. He came in just shy of that at 99.3 per cent, but that was a record for the highest percentage of support. But let me ask you this, do you think Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre should be a unanimous, first-ballot Hall of Famer? Probably not, right? Well, what if I told you that Beltre has been a more valuable all-around player than Griffey Jr. If you compare their career WARs (Wins Above Replacement – an all-encompassing statistic that measures the numbers of wins a player, taking into account their offensive and defensive contributions, adds to their team above a triple-A player), that argument could be made. Griffey finished with an 83.6 WAR in 22 seasons, while Beltre’s WAR is 83.8 in 18 seasons.
• This week’s trivia question: I noted earlier that the Blue Jays selected right-hander Danny Hill in the third round of the 2004 MLB amateur draft. Hill never pitched in the big leagues for the Blue Jays, but of the club’s 50 selections in that year’s draft four of them would pitch at the big league level for the Blue Jays. Can you name three of them? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win 1993 Flair and 1993 Bowman Mike Piazza cards.