My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Please send positive thoughts to Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and Montreal Expos great Rusty Staub who is reportedly in critical condition in a West Palm Beach, Fla., hospital. Bill Madden of the New York Daily News reports that the 73-year-old baseball legend has been “suffering from a staph infection that has led to kidney failure for nearly a month now.” Staub had previously recovered from a heart attack he suffered on a flight from Ireland to New York in October 2015. Nicknamed “Rusty” for his red hair, Staub was affectionately known as “Le Grand Orange” to Expos fans for the same reason. He was the Expos’ sole all-star representative in the club’s first three seasons (1969-71). The left-handed hitting slugger played 518 games for the Expos and owns the highest cumulative on-base percentage (.402) in franchise history. His attempts to learn the French language while in Montreal, as well as his charitable work off the field, endeared him to the French-Canadian fans. His uniform number (10) was first jersey ever retired by the Expos. In all, in parts of 23 major league seasons from 1963 to 1985, Staub registered 2,716 hits. He remains the only player in major league history to chalk up more than 500 hits for four different teams (Houston, Montreal, Detroit, New York Mets).
· In case you missed it, Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Bob Elliott broke the story that Roy Halladay’s son, Braden, will pitch for the Canadian Junior National Team this spring. A spitting image of his father, the 17-year-old right-hander, who was born in Toronto, contacted Scott Crawford at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in December after his father was inducted into the St. Marys, Ont.-based shrine six months earlier to ask how he could reach Greg Hamilton, the director of Canada’s national teams. Crawford was able to connect the two and Braden will toe the rubber for the national team this month.
· As a Canadian baseball fan, I couldn’t help but marvel at the box score of the Toronto Blue Jays’ 9-8 loss to the New York Yankees on Monday. The score was inconsequential, but what excited me was that in that nine-inning game three Canadian pitchers – John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.), Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) and Andrew Case (Saint John, N.B.) – took turns on the mound for the Blue Jays. For good measure, Montreal native Russell Martin clubbed a solo home run in the second inning while Vancouver native and former Blue Jays pitcher Scott Richmond was working in the Blue Jays radio booth.
· The reserve price was not met in the Goldin Auctions sale for Jackie Robinson’s first contract with the Montreal Royals. The Royals contract was to be sold with Robinson’s first Brooklyn Dodgers contract on Tuesday. Goldin Auctions confirmed on Twitter that the reserve price for the two contracts was in excess of $16 million. This was the first time these contracts have been up for public auction. As a Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame supporter, I’d love to see Robinson’s Royals contract displayed in the museum as a centerpiece attraction. Unfortunately, I don’t have anywhere near the $16-plus million that it would take to make this happen.
· Do you want Victoria, B.C., native and promising Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta’s autograph? He’ll trade you for it. Pat Neshek, Pivetta’s teammate, tweeted out last week that Pivetta wanted to start an autograph collection and that the 25-year-old Canadian would sign any fan mail sent to him in exchange for another autograph, preferably from a hockey player.
· Please help spread the word that Hot Stove Stats (@HotStoveStats on Twitter) is formally launching an online campaign to get Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The brain trust behind this account has already dug up and shared some outstanding advanced statistics that show Walker is worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown. Please follow @HotStoveStats and re-tweet the Walker data he shares.
· But how much does Walker himself think about being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame? He was asked this question on Tuesday in the St. Louis Cardinals spring training clubhouse in Jupiter, Fla. Here’s Walker’s response:
· As always, George Farelli has done some great digging for his monthly Canuck baseball transactions column for the Canadian Baseball Network. Among other transactions, he reports that Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.) will serve as a pitching coach for the Texas Rangers’ Arizona Rookie League team and that Dustin Molleken (Regina, Sask.) has re-signed with the independent Atlantic League’s Somerset Patriots.
· Two Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees – Roy Halladay and Pat Gillick – will be added to the Philadelphia Phillies Wall of Fame on August 4. Gillick, the general manager of two World Series-winning squads with the Toronto Blue Jays, was also the architect of the Phillies’ 2008 championship team.
· FanGraphs, a highly respected advanced statistics site, projects the Blue Jays to win 87 games and secure the second American League wild-card spot in 2018. I think most Blue Jay fans would be more than happy with this.
· Ex-Blue Jay Adam Lind signed a minor league deal with the New York Yankees on Friday. The left-handed hitting first baseman will serve as insurance behind the promising, but injury-prone Greg Bird. It was a surprisingly soft market for Lind who enjoyed an excellent 2017 campaign, batting .303 with 14 home runs and 59 RBI in 113 games for the Washington Nationals. 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 in 2017, he went 9-for-29 (.310 batting average) with seven RBI against southpaws. In all, he has played in 12 major league seasons with the Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners and Nats and has hit .272 with 200 home runs.
· This week’s trivia question: Rusty Staub was the first Expos player to represent the club in a major league all-star game. Who was the second Expos player to be chosen to represent the club in an all-star game? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1975 O-Pee-Chee Victory Leaders card (with Fergie Jenkins, Catfish Hunter and Phil Niekro), a 1981 Topps Andre Dawson card, a 1988 Donruss Roberto Alomar rookie and a 1990 Upper Deck Larry Walker rookie.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Brett Lawrie (Langley, B.C.) is one of five players born in Canada to have played third base for the Blue Jays in a regular season game. Can you name two of the four other Canadians who have played third base for the Blue Jays in a regular season major league game?) was any two of Mark Teahen (Canadian citizen), Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.), Corey Koskie (Anola, Man.) and Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.).