My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· I think I jinxed Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton with all of my Cy Young talk about him last week. The Seattle Mariners lefty exited his start in the seventh inning on Thursday with a left pectoral muscle strain. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list the following day and will reportedly miss about three weeks. After going 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA in July, Paxton was named the American League Pitcher of the Month. With a 12-3 record and a 2.78 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 119 2/3 innings in 20 starts overall, Paxton had put himself in the conversation for the American League Cy Young Award. This marks the 6-foot-4 southpaw’s second stint on the DL this season. He was previously sidelined from May 5 to May 31 with a left forearm strain.
· On the same day that the Mariners placed Paxton on the DL, they added another Canadian lefty when they acquired North Battleford, Sask., native Andrew Albers from the Atlanta Braves for cash considerations. Albers has posted a 6-0 record and a 0.98 ERA in his last eight starts with the triple-A Gwinnett Braves. For the season, the 31-year-old southpaw is 12-3 with a 2.61 ERA and has fanned 115 batters in 120-2/3 innings in triple-A. Albers, who registered a 4.41 ERA in 17 big league contests in parts of three seasons with the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays between 2013 and 2016, was assigned to the Mariners’ triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, but he’ll likely be called up before the end of the season.
· I can’t tell you how sick I am of hearing the Coors Field argument against Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker’s National Baseball Hall of Fame candidacy. Plenty of Hall of Famers have benefitted from their hitter-friendly home parks. To illustrate, let’s look at Boston Red Sox great and first ballot Hall of Famer Wade Boggs’s slash lines at Fenway Park versus every other major league ballpark he played in combined: at Fenway: 3,176 at bats, .369/.454/.527; at all other ballparks: 6,004 at bats, .305/.391/.398. In other words, Boggs’s batting average was 64 points higher and his slugging percentage was 129 points higher at Fenway. But when was the last time you heard someone say that Boggs shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame because he played so many games at Fenway?
· Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto is red-hot again. During his current 17-game hitting streak, he is 24-for-52 (.462 batting average) with five home runs and 14 RBI and 21 walks. For the season, he now owns a .316 batting average and 31 home runs (third in the National League) and he leads the NL with a .446 on-base percentage and 93 walks.
· It was 24 years ago today that Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Rickey Henderson paid teammate Turner Ward $25,000 for jersey No. 24 with his new club. The Hall of Fame leadoff hitter wore No. 14 for the first nine games of his tenure with the Blue Jays, but didn’t feel with comfortable with that number. At the time, $25,000 would’ve been a substantial amount of money for Ward who was making $160,000 that season. Ward switched to No. 16 after the transaction.
· Happy 53rd Birthday to former Calgary Cannon Jay Buhner! The former Seattle Mariners slugger, who socked 310 major league home runs, spent parts of two seasons with the triple-A Cannons in 1989 and 1990 after being dealt to the M’s by the New York Yankees for Ken Phelps. In 56 games with the Cannons in 1989, Buhner batted .311 with 11 homers and 45 RBI. He briefly returned to Alberta the following year and went 7-for-34 (.206) with the Cannons, before becoming a fixture in right field for the Seattle Mariners for the next decade.
· Here’s an interesting fact that I learned this week, when Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Emslie, who was born in Guelph, Ont., but lived for many years in St. Thomas, Ont., umpired his first National League game on August 19, 1891 in Cincinnati, the starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians that contest was none other than Cy Young. Tony Mullane, who won 284 major league games himself, started for the Reds. The Indians beat the Reds 4-3.
· If you’re a Canadian baseball history buff (like me), mark November 18th and 19th on your calendar. Crackerjack Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame volunteer and longtime SABR member Andrew North has announced that the second annual Canadian Baseball History Symposium will take place at the St. Marys Golf & Country Club in St. Marys, Ont., on those dates. This year’s event, which will again be organized by North, will include presentations about 19th-century player Bob Addy and manager William Watkins, baseball and Canadian soldiers in World War I and the Chatham Coloured All-Stars. There will also be a pictorial history quiz based on images and a panel discussion of what defines being Canadian, and the consequences of that definition for baseball research. The registration fee is $60. To register, please email Andrew North at email@example.com.
· This week’s trivia question: Earlier I mentioned that Rickey Henderson purchased the jersey No. 24 from Turner Ward when he played with the Toronto Blue Jays on this date 24 years ago. After Henderson departed, two Canadians later wore No. 24 for the Blue Jays. Can you name them? Please provide your answer in the Comments section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1981 Donruss Paul Molitor card, a 1985 Donruss Leaf Dave Winfield and a 1990 Bowman Larry Walker rookie card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Steve Nicosia is one of eight catchers who have played for both the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays. Can you name two other catchers that have played for the Expos and Blue Jays?) was any two of Darrin Fletcher, Randy Knorr, Charlie O’Brien, Raul Chavez, Michael Barrett, Rick Cerone or Sal Butera.