My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) finished his 19-year big league career with 284 wins pitching for non-playoff teams (Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox). I’ve often wondered how many more wins he could’ve accumulated if he had pitched for better clubs. This week I stumbled upon a tweet from CSN Chicago’s Christopher Kamka that made me think about this again. On July 3, Kamka tweeted that Jenkins made 40 starts in 1968, and in 10 of those starts, the Cubs didn’t score a single run. That’s the most starts by a pitcher in a season in which their team has failed to score since 1913. For the record, Jenkins still managed to win 20 games that season.
· I’ve written a lot about Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto’s walk totals, perennially high on-base percentage and league-leading on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS), but I should be devoting more space to his home run output this season. The Cincinnati Reds first baseman is leading the National League with 26 home runs and is on pace to surpass the career-best 37 home runs that he clubbed in his MVP 2010 season. If Votto keeps belting homers at this pace, he’ll challenge Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker’s single-season mark for most home runs by a Canadian. Walker walloped 49 home runs in 1997.
· In case you missed it, Gatineau, Que., native Phillippe Aumont tossed a no-hitter for the Can Am League’s Ottawa Champions on June 28 to lead his club to a 7-0 win over the Dominican Republic. Aumont had 11 strikeouts and walked just one batter in the contest. It was the first no-hitter in Champions history and it earned Aumont Can Am League Pitcher of the Week honours. The 6-foot-7 right-hander, who has pitched parts of four big league seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies, is attempting a comeback after walking away from baseball last spring.
· Think it’s easy to be a professional athlete? Maybe my skin isn’t thick enough, but I can’t imagine having to endure some of the vitriol spewed at them via social media. Port Dover, Ont., native John Axford has struggled to a 6.30 ERA in 20 appearances for the Oakland A’s this season. He knows he hasn’t pitched well and wants to do better, but here’s a sample of one of the tweets that was directed at him by A’s fans: @JohnAxford will you please retire?!?! you are flat out awful…just go ahead and stay on a permanent all-star break….”
· After a rough June that saw him post a 7.20 ERA in five starts, Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton has found his form again in July. On Friday, he allowed just two runs and struck out nine in six innings to lead the Seattle Mariners to a 4-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. In three starts this month, the Canadian lefty is 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA and has allowed just nine hits in 19-1/3 innings. For the season, he now owns an 8-3 record with a 3.19 ERA and has 100 strikeouts in 87-1/3 innings in 15 starts.
· Ex-Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Henderson Alvarez has reportedly signed with the independent Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks. The once hard-throwing hurler, who began his career with the Blue Jays in 2011 before being dealt to the Miami Marlins, has been sidelined by shoulder injuries for the past two seasons. Alvarez posted a 6.45 ERA in four starts for the Marlins in 2015 in his last taste of big league action. The season prior to that, however, Alvarez was a National League all-star, when he won 12 games and recorded a 2.65 ERA in 187 innings for the Marlins.
· There’s hot and then there’s scorching hot. Toronto Blue Jays prospect Ryan Noda has been the latter for the Rookie Short-Season Bluefield Blue Jays since joining the club. In 22 games, the 2017, 15th-rounder is 35-for-77 (.455 batting average) with seven doubles, two triples and four home runs. His on-base percentage is .548 and his slugging percentage is .753. That makes his OPS a whopping 1.302. The 21-year-old is a 6-foot-3, 217-pound, left-handed hitting first baseman that was drafted out of the University of Cincinnati.
· Proving that even uniform manufacturers can make typos, this photo (below) showcases the jersey that outfielder and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Carter took to the field wearing for the Blue Jays 24 years ago this past Friday.
· This week’s trivia question: Joey Votto is on pace to challenge Larry Walker’s record for most home runs in a season by a Canadian (49). Aside from Votto and Walker, there have been two other Canadians that have clubbed 35 or more home runs in a major league season. Can you name them? The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1976 Topps Steve Carlton card and a 1982 O-Pee-Chee Carl Yastrzemski card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Joey Votto recently became the third Canadian (Walker and Justin Morneau are the others) to record 1,500 major league hits. There have also been five other Canadians that have recorded between 1,300 and 1,500 major league hits. Can you name three of them?) was any three of George Wood, Jeff Heath, Tip O’Neill, Matt Stairs and Terry Puhl.