My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame announced its 2017 induction class on Thursday. Longtime Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay and former Montreal Expos slugger Vladimir Guerrero will be inducted in a ceremony in St. Marys, Ont., on June 24, alongside long-serving Baseball Canada president Ray Carter and trailblazing B.C. umpire Doug Hudlin (who will be honoured posthumously). The Senior National Team that captured gold at the 2015 Pan Am Games will be also be enshrined. During the inductee conference call on Thursday, Halladay was asked what it was like to pitch against Guerrero. “Vladimir was scary to face,” said Halladay. “We always used to talk about him in hitters meetings. They said, ‘If you bounce it, he’ll hit it. If it’s two feet inside or off the plate away, he’ll hit it.’ He didn’t need the strike zone. Sometimes, your best shot is to throw it right down the middle. He might swing and miss.’” For the record, Guerrero was 10-for-38 (.263 batting average) against Halladay. His only home run off of Halladay was a two-run shot in the fourth inning in the Blue Jays’ 7-5 win over the Angels at Anaheim Stadium on July 5, 2008.
- It’s Super Bowl Sunday and former Montreal Expos draft pick Tom Brady will once again quarterback the AFC champion New England Patriots in the contest. For those of you who don’t know, Brady once had the option of becoming a quarterback at the University of Michigan or a catcher in the Montreal Expos organization. He, of course, chose the former, but the Expos selected the 6-foot-3 multi-sport star in the 18th round of the 1995 MLB amateur draft out of Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif. John Hughes, the Expos scout who evaluated Brady, told Joe Frisaro in this MLB.com article that he believed that Brady had the tools to be a big leaguer. “He had all the intangibles. He could throw, left-handed power,” Hughes told Frisaro. “There is no reason to think this guy couldn’t have been a big league catcher.”
- Former Montreal Expos star Tim Raines is learning that being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame can also help him in the pocketbook. His first autograph show appearance since his election will be in Houston next Sunday. The price for his autograph starts at $79, which is approximately double the fee for his autograph before the election. To be clear, Raines does not set the autograph pricing. He has an exclusive autograph contract with MAB Celebrity Services. That company likely charges a fee to the Houston show promoter, TriStar Productions, who then sets the fee.
- It’s hard to believe it, but today is Roberto Alomar’s 49th birthday. Alomar was an all-star and Gold Glove Award winner in each of his five seasons with the Blue Jays from 1991 to 1995. In all, in his 17-year major league career, he recorded a .300 batting average, 2,724 hits, 474 stolen bases and 504 doubles. Along the way, he was selected to 12 All-Star games, won 10 Gold Gloves and collected two World Series rings. For his efforts, he was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010 and to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011. He’s the first – and still only – Cooperstown inductee to be pictured in a Blue Jays cap on their plaque. He’s also the only Blue Jay to have their number (12) officially retired by the club.
- For everyone criticizing Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins for their lack of activity this off-season, I offer this: the Blue Jays have reportedly signed left-handed reliever J.P. Howell to a one-year, $3-million deal. Earlier in the off-season, they allowed Brett Cecil, their key southpaw reliever for the past four seasons, to sign a four-year, $30.5-million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. If you compare the performances of these two left-handers over the past four seasons, it appears the Blue Jays got a slightly better pitcher for $27.5 million cheaper.
|Year||Howell ERA||Cecil ERA||Howell WAR||Cecil WAR|
- Happy 83rd Birthday to baseball legend Hank Aaron! The Braves slugger walloped 13 of his 755 major league home runs against the Montreal Expos. In 30 games at Jarry Park, Aaron hit .265 with five home runs and 15 RBI. Aaron was also 19-for-70 (.271 batting average) with two home runs against Canadian great Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.). Jenkins also struck out Aaron 15 times.
- I was sad to learn that former Toronto Maple Leafs infielder Bob Sadowski passed away on January 6 in High Ridge, Mo., just nine days shy of his 80th birthday. The St. Louis native batted .222 in 184 games in parts of four big league seasons from 1960 to 1963 with the St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox and California Angels. His longest tenure with any professional club, however, was with the Maple Leafs from 1964 to 1966. During that stretch, he had the opportunity to play for future Hall of Fame skippers Sparky Anderson (1964) and Dick Williams (1965) in their first seasons as professional managers. Sadowski is survived by his son Paul, daughter Laurie and three grandchildren.
- This week’s trivia question: Roy Halladay will become the fifth right-hander to have pitched for the Blue Jays to be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Who are the other four? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1978 O-Pee-Chee George Brett card and a 1983 Topps Wade Boggs rookie card.
- The answer to last week’s trivia question (Jimmy Key has the most wins by a left-hander in Blue Jays history. What southpaws have the second- and third-most wins as a Blue Jay?) was David Wells (84) and Ricky Romero (51).