My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Bodog, an online gambling site, is listing Corunna, Ont., native Rob Thomson as the favourite to be the new manager of the New York Yankees in wake of Joe Girardi’s surprising dismissal on Thursday. Thomson, who has been with the Bronx Bombers organization for 28 seasons and has served as the team’s bench coach since 2013, would seem a logical replacement for Girardi. The knock against Girardi was that he lacked a human touch with his players. As bench coach, Thomson, by many reports, has an outstanding rapport with the players, general manager Brian Cashman and with ownership. And given the success of the young Yankees squad this season, you wouldn’t think they would want to completely change the vibe in the clubhouse. If Thomson is named Yankees manager, he’ll become the first full-time Canadian big league skipper since George Gibson with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1935.
· Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported on Friday that Fredericton, N.B., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Matt Stairs is leaving the Philadelphia Phillies to be the hitting coach of the San Diego Padres. Stairs earned rave reviews as the Phillies hitting coach in 2017, but with the Phillies reassigning manager Pete Mackanin after the season, Stairs’ future with the club was up in the air. This season represented the Maritmer’s first as a big league hitting coach following a 19-year major league playing career that saw him sock 265 home runs. Stairs returns to San Diego where he served as a pinch hitter during the 2010 campaign.
· It’s good to see New Westminster, B.C., native Justin Morneau working as an analyst, alongside Gregg Zaun, on Sportsnet’s World Series broadcasts. Morneau, who didn’t play this past season, is not officially retired, but he has said that it’s unlikely he’ll play again. In an interview with Sportsnet, Morneau revealed that he had discussed a one-year contract with the Toronto Blue Jays prior to the 2014 season, but he opted to sign with the Colorado Rockies when the Rockies offered him a two-year pact.
· Happy 58th Birthday to former Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jesse Barfield, who, in my opinion, is the most underrated star in Blue Jays history. Barfield’s WAR in 1,032 games with the Blue Jays was 29.5 which is superior to every other Blue Jays outfielder – including Joe Carter, George Bell and Vernon Wells – except for Jose Bautista in franchise history. Barfield also posted two of the top five single-season WARs by a Blue Jays outfielder (7.6 in 1986 and 6.8 in 1985) and not only was he a consistent power threat at the plate (he won the American League home run title in 1986), he was one of the best defensive outfielders of the 1980s who possessed, far and away, the strongest throwing arm in team history.
· If the hitting heroics of Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) this season aren’t enough to make him a bona fide National League MVP candidate (and they should be!), the Cincinnati Reds slugger was also named a Gold Glove finalist among National League first basemen on Thursday. He’s up against the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt and Chicago Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo for the award. The winner will be announced on November 10. If you recall this past spring, Votto declined to suit up for Canada in the World Baseball Classic because he felt he needed to improve himself as a player. His primary focus was likely his defence. In 2016, he posted a minus 2.4 dWAR at first base. He improved that statistic dramatically to 0.2 this season.
· According to a list of Baseball America’s minor league transactions, former Toronto Blue Jays Drew Hutchison and Chris Colabello have elected to become free agents. Once a promising young starter with the Blue Jays, Hutchison was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates as part of the deal for Francisco Liriano on August 1, 2016. After recording a 5.56 ERA in six appearances for the Pirates in 2016, he spent 2017 in triple-A. He was designated for assignment in September. Colabello began 2017 with the Cleveland Indians’ triple-A Columbus Clippers and batted .225 with six home runs in 72 contests before being released in early July and signing with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he proceeded to bat .301 with six homers in 44 games for their triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs.
· The game of musical chairs continues for big league coaches. Ex-Blue Jays third baseman Eric Hinske, who had served as an assistant hitting coach with the Chicago Cubs for the past three seasons, was named the Los Angeles Angels’ new batting coach on Monday. Meanwhile former Blue Jays coach Brian Butterfield, who had been employed as a third base coach with the Boston Red Sox for the past five seasons, was named the new third base coach of the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.
· 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 we mentioned that Joey Votto was a Gold Glove Award finalist. Votto also won the award in 2011. Who is the only other Canadian to win a National League Gold Glove Award? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1979 Topps Dennis Eckersley card, a 1980 O-Pee-Chee Goose Gossage card and a 1984 O-Pee-Chee Rod Carew card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Aside from Bob Emslie, who is the only other Canadian major league umpire that has been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame?) was Jim McKean (Montreal, Que.).