My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- The National Baseball Hall of Fame will announce its class of 2017 on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET and it’s looking as though Montreal Expos legend Tim Raines will finally be elected. 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 184 of 201 writers’ ballots to this point – that’s 91.5 per cent of ballots. In his first year of eligibility, fellow Expos great Vladimir Guerrero’s name has been checked on 74.1 per cent of ballots, while Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker has received support on 23.9 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.
- The best thing about Raines’ probable election is that he’s likely to become the first former Montreal Expo to truly embrace being pictured in an Expos cap on their plaque. Yes, most of still love Gary Carter and Andre Dawson, but let’s not forget that they told reporters they preferred to be pictured with the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs respectively. The Hall of Fame determines the team cap on the plaque after examining the totality of the player’s career and then consulting with the player.
- The most surprising news to emerge from yesterday’s annual Baseball Canada banquet, which was held at the Renaissance Toronto Hotel at Rogers Centre, was that right-handers Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) and Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.) will pitch for Canada in the World Baseball Classic in March. The 41-year-old Gagne hasn’t thrown a big league pitch since 2008, while Dempster, 39, last toed the big league rubber in 2013.
- As we know, the Cleveland Indians finalized a three-year, $65-million contract with former Toronto Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion last week. On Tuesday, the Indians released pitcher Edwin Escobar. My guess is that this decision came down to EEconomics.
- Happy 61st Birthday to former Blue Jay Rance Mulliniks! I was a kid when Mulliniks was playing and the only stats they flashed across the TV screen back then were batting average, home runs and RBI. I had no idea what on-base percentage (OBP) or on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) meant, but if I had, I would’ve had a greater appreciation for Mulliniks as a hitter. From 1983 to 1988, his OBPs were .373, .383, .383, .340, .371, and .395 respectively. His OPS in those seasons: .840, .823, .836, .757, .871 and .870.
- I was sad to learn that former Montreal Expos pitcher Jackie Brown passed away after a long illness last Sunday at the age of 73 in Holdenville, Okla. In his final big league season, Brown posted a 9-12 record and a 4.51 ERA in 42 appearances – including 25 starts – with the Expos in 1977. He had previously pitched parts of six seasons for the Washington Senators, Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians. Following his playing career, Brown served as a pitching coach for the Rangers (1979 to 1982), Chicago White Sox (1992 to 1995) and Tampa Bay Rays (2002).
- Happy 48th Birthday to former Expos second baseman Delino DeShields! In four seasons with the Expos from 1990 to 1993, he posted a .367 on-base percentage and swiped 187 bases before he was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers for right-hander Pedro Martinez. After being traded by the Expos, DeShields suited up for nine more major league seasons with the Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles and Chicago Cubs and finished his career with 463 stolen bases, which ranks 50th all-time.
- Speaking of Pedro Martinez, he became the only Expos pitcher to win a Cy Young Award when he captured the honour in 1997, but what many Expos fans have forgotten is that reliever Mike Marshall, who turns 74 today, finished second to Hall of Famer Tom Seaver in the National League Cy Young Award voting in 1973. That year, the rubber-armed righty recorded 14 wins and 31 saves in 179 innings in relief. This was Marshall’s last of four seasons with the Expos before he was swapped to the Dodgers for outfielder Willie Davis. Marshall did win the National League Cy Young Award the following campaign when he made a major league record 106 relief appearances and pitched 208 innings for the Dodgers.
- This week’s trivia question: Pedro Martinez is the only Expo to win the National League Cy Young Award and reliever Mike Marshall finished second in voting in 1973. Two other Expos pitchers have finished second in the National League Cy Young Award voting? Who are they? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1991 Ultra Update Ivan Rodriguez rookie card, a 1991 Topps Traded Jeff Bagwell rookie card and a 1983 O-Pee-Chee Tim Raines card.
- The answer to last week’s trivia question (North Delta, B.C., native Jeff Francis recorded 72 wins during his big league career which is the second-most by a Canadian left-hander. Which Canadian southpaw has the registered the most wins in the major leagues?) was Toronto native John Hiller who won 87 games for the Detroit Tigers between 1965 and 1980.