My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· The Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies and likely the New York Mets will be looking for new managers this off-season, and Windsor, Ont., native Stubby Clapp, fresh off winning the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year Award for leading the St. Louis Cardinals’ triple-A Memphis Redbirds to a franchise record in wins, is likely to land some interviews. That is, if the Cardinals, whose own dugout boss, Mike Matheny, has been under fire, allow other teams to speak with Clapp. A lot of Cardinals fans on social media and online forums would like to see Clapp replace Matheny in the Cards dugout. For the record, George Gibson (London, Ont.) was the last Canadian to serve as a full-time big league manager, performing bench boss duties for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1935.
· Corunna, Ont., native Rob Thomson, whom I’ve always thought would make an excellent big league manager, is heading to the post-season again as a coach for the New York Yankees. He has been with the Bombers organization for 28 seasons and has been the team’s bench coach since 2013. CBC Sports recently caught up with Thomson to talk with him about his successful coaching career and what it’s like to have a close-up view of Aaron Judge every game. You can read the article here.
· With three shutout innings in relief for the Seattle Mariners last Monday, North Battleford, Sask., native Andrew Albers notched his first major league save. He followed that up by allowing three runs in 4 1/3 innings in a start on Saturday. The 6-foot-1 lefty has been the feel-good Canadian baseball story of the year and is making a strong bid for a major league contract in 2018. In nine games (including six starts) with the M’s, he is 5-1 with a 3.51 ERA and has 37 strikeouts in 41 innings.
· Speaking of Canadian lefties, Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton will start the Mariners’ final game of the season today. The 6-foot-4 southpaw, who has had two tenures on the disabled list this season, was given the option of shutting it down or making the start and he chose to pitch. Paxton, who was recently named Mariners Pitcher of the Year, has allowed eight earned runs in 10 1/3 innings in three starts since returning from a left pectoral muscle strain that kept him out for more than a month. Paxton carries a 12-5 record with a 3.12 ERA in 23 starts and 147 strikeouts in 130 innings into today’s start.
· After 12 seasons and 1,344 regular season games, former Toronto Blue Jays first baseman/DH/outfielder Adam Lind will get his first taste of postseason action this fall. The left-handed hitting slugger has had an excellent season for the Washington Nationals, batting .306 with 14 home runs and 59 RBI in 115 games. His on-base percentage is a solid .365 and his slugging percentage is .517. The knock against Lind – and his career numbers bear it out – has been that he can’t hit lefties, but in a small sample size this season, he is 9-for-29 (.310 batting) with seven RBI against lefties.
· Another ex-Blue Jay that will figure prominently in the postseason is right-hander Brandon Morrow, who has been dominant out of the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen. After signing a minor league deal with the club in January, he began the season in triple-A before being recalled at the end of May. With a fastball that’s averaging 97.7 mph, the hard-throwing righty is 6-0 with a 2.06 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings in 45 big league appearances in 2017. His WHIP (Walks/Hits per Innings Pitched) is an outstanding 0.92. Morrow will be a free agent this off-season.
· Forty-two years ago today, the Montreal Expos fired their first manager Gene Mauch and replaced him with Karl Kuehl. The Little General posted a 499-627 record in seven seasons with the expansion Expos. His best campaign with the club was in 1973 when the Expos remained in the thick of the race for the National League East title until the season’s final few weeks, finishing 79-83, just three-and-a-half games back of the New York Mets. Mauch went on to manage the Minnesota Twins and California Angels for 10 more seasons after being let go by the Expos.
· After leading the Minnesota Twins from a 100-loss season in 2016 to a berth in this year’s American League wild-card game, you would have to think that ex-Blue Jay Paul Molitor is a leading contender for the American League Manager of the Year. If he does win it, he will be only the second Hall of Fame player to receive the top manager honours. Frank Robinson was the first. He was named the AL’s top manager in 1989 when he led the Baltimore Orioles to an 87-75 record after the O’s had lost 101 contests the previous season.
· 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
· This week’s trivia question: I mentioned earlier that the Montreal Expos fired their first manager Gene Mauch 42 years ago today and replaced him with Karl Kuehl. In all, the Expos had 11 different managers in their 36-season existence. Two of those managers have been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Can you name them? The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1983 Topps Baltimore Orioles Team Leaders card (with Eddie Murray and Jim Palmer), a 1984 O-Pee-Chee Joe Morgan card and a 1986 Fleer Ryne Sandberg card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Joey Votto now has five 100-run seasons on his resume – tying Tip O’Neill’s Canadian record. There are two other Canadians that have four, 100-run major league seasons. Can you name them?) was Jason Bay and Larry Walker.