My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- So far so good for Montreal Expos legend Tim Raines in the National Baseball Hall of Fame voting. Thanks to the hard-working Ryan Thibodaux, who documents baseball writers’ ballots that have been made public, we know that Raines has been named on 50 of 56 writers’ ballots to this point – that’s 89 per cent of ballots. In his first year of eligibility, fellow Expos great Vladimir Guerrero’s name has been checked on 71 per cent of ballots, while Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker has received support on 23 per cent. A candidate needs to be named on 75 per cent of ballots to be inducted. Thibodaux has calculated that 435 total writers’ ballots will be cast.
- Most of us agree that Raines, now his in 10th year on the Hall of Fame ballot, should’ve been inducted years ago, but at least he has garnered enough support to remain on the ballot for 10 years. The same can’t be said for fellow speedster Kenny Lofton, who dropped off the ballot in 2013 in his first year of eligibility. Cleveland writer Zack Meisel published a piece on Tuesday that compared Lofton to Raines. It’s clear from this article that Lofton was only slightly inferior to Raines and he definitely should’ve received more support in the Hall of Fame voting.
- Twenty-five years ago today, the Toronto Blue Jays signed pitcher Jack Morris to a two-year, $10.85-million contract. The ace right-hander was coming off his storied 10-inning, complete game win in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series for the Minnesota Twins. In 1992, the intense hurler would become the first pitcher in Blue Jays history to record 20 wins in a season and he was a key reason the Blue Jays captured their first World Series title. This represented Morris’s third World Series ring with his third different team. He was also the ace of the Detroit Tigers championship team in 1984.
- Speaking of former Blue Jays right-handers, today is Jim Clancy’s 61st birthday. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound hurler, who toed the rubber with the Blue Jays from 1977 to 1988, is the most underrated starting pitcher in the club’s history. If you examine the Blue Jays all-time pitching records, Clancy ranks near the top in most categories, including second in starts (345), innings pitched (2,204-2/3) and complete games (73) and third in wins (128), strikeouts (1,237) and shutouts (11). He was an all-star in 1982 when he led the American League with 40 starts.
- The Canadian Baseball Network’s Alexis Brudnicki shared on Twitter on Thursday that Newmarket, Ont., native Pete Orr has been added to the Milwaukee Brewers pro scouting staff. The 37-year-old former infielder played parts of eight seasons in the big leagues with the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies between 2005 and 2013. He played his final two professional seasons in triple-A in the Brewers organization in 2014 and 2015. Orr is also a veteran of Canadian national team and his daring dash for home plate in the bottom of the 10th inning for Canada in the gold medal contest versus the United States at the 2015 Pan Am Games accounted for the winning run and will go down as one of the most unforgettable moments in Canadian baseball history.
- A former Blue Jays reliever has finally signed a contract that I would consider to be reasonable. Right-hander Dustin McGowan emerged as a reliable middle reliever for the Miami Marlins in 2016, posting a 2.82 ERA in 55 appearances. On Wednesday, he agreed to a one-year, $1.75-million contract to return to the Marlins. This comes on the heels of several exorbitant deals signed by former Blue Jays relievers, including Brett Cecil (four-year, $30.5-million with the St. Louis Cardinals), Jesse Chavez (one-year, $5.75-million with the Los Angeles Angels), Marc Rzepczynski (two-year, $11-million with the Seattle Mariners) and Joaquin Benoit (one-year, $7.5-million with the Philadelphia Phillies).
- Happy 63rd Birthday to Roy Howell, who was the first Blue Jay to record nine RBI in a major league game. Howell’s record-setting performance came in an unlikely Blue Jays’ 19-3 romp over the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on September 10, 1977. In that contest, Howell, who would suit up for the Blue Jays from 1977 to 1980, registered five hits, including two home runs, two doubles and a single. According to a Toronto Star report, the 19 runs the Blue Jays scored were the most an opponent had registered at Yankee Stadium since the Detroit Tigers tallied 19 on June 17, 1925. Edwin Encarnacion is only other Blue Jay to record nine RBI in a game. He did so in the Blue Jays’ 15-1 win over the Detroit Tigers at the Rogers Centre on August 29, 2015.
- Today is Ty Cobb’s 130th birthday. In honour of the fiery baseball legend’s birthday, I wanted to share my favourite exchange between Cobb and a reporter: In 1959, well after Cobb’s career had ended, a reporter asked him what he would hit against current pitching. “.300,” Cobb replied. “Why only .300?” the reporter responded. “You’ve got to remember I’m 73,” replied Cobb.
- This week’s trivia question: When Edwin Encarnacion registered 127 RBI for the Blue Jays in 2016, he became the seventh Blue Jay to record 120 or more RBI in a season. Can you name four of the other Blue Jays to notch 120 or more RBI in a season? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win 1975 Topps mini cards of Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson.
- The answer to last week’s trivia question (Name one of the three relief pitchers to record a save for both the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays) was one of Dale Murray, Graeme Lloyd and Miguel Batista.