My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· There will be a strong debate about who should win the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award, which is presented annually to the top Canadian player. Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) has captured the honour in seven of the past eight years, but he has had a down season in 2018 by his lofty standards. Heading into Sunday’s action, Votto is batting .283 with 10 home runs in 128 games, but it should be noted that he still leads the National League with a .421 on-base percentage. But he will have competition from Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton, who is 11-6 with a 3.83 ERA and has struck out 194 batters in 150 1/3 innings for the Seattle Mariners this season. A valid case could also be made for Montreal-born, Toronto Blue Jays top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who hit a combined .381 with 20 home runs in 95 games between double-A and triple-A and was named Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year on Friday.
· Speaking of Votto, one lucky Cincinnati Reds fan had a memorable moment with the Canadian slugger on Monday. The fan was wearing a t-shirt that read “Votto for President” which Votto spotted and told the fan he would exchange a signed jersey for the shirt. After the transaction was completed, the fan noticed that Votto, who is a Canadian citizen and not eligible to run for U.S. president, signed the back of the jersey and added the inscription. “More like Prime Minister!”
· So just how terrible has the Blue Jays starting pitching been in 2018? According to Baseball Reference, the Blue Jays pitcher with the highest WAR (1.5) this season is Seunghwan Oh – a relief pitcher that was traded to the Colorado Rockies 45 days ago.
· Congratulations to Cambridge, Ont., native Scott Thorman who has managed the Kansas City Royals’ class-A South Atlantic League’s Lexington Legends to a Southern division championship. His team will now play the Philadelphia Phillies’ class-A Lakewood Blue Claws for the league championship which begins on Monday. This is Thorman’s fourth season as a manager in the Royals’ system and second in Lexington. The 36-year-old Canadian, who played parts of two major league seasons with the Atlanta Braves in 2006 and 2007, previously managed the Burlington Royals of the Short-Season Rookie-ball Appalachian League.
· This tweet (click below) provides more evidence that Maple Ridge, B.C., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Larry Walker is worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown.
· Speaking of Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, it was 109 years ago today that George Gibson (London, Ont.) set a major league record for catching his 112th consecutive game. The durable backstop eventually caught 140 straight games. His record was later broken by Frankie Hayes who would be behind the dish for 346 consecutive games during a stretch between 1943 and 1946.
· If Blue Jays rookie Jonathan Davis is feeling bad about striking out in his first three big league at bats in his debut on Wednesday, he shouldn’t worry much. After all, 20 years ago today, Blue Jays shortstop Alex Gonzalez struck out six times in the Blue Jays’ 13-inning loss to the Cleveland Indians. This is still the franchise record.
· They’re not Canadian players, but as a kid living in Southwestern Ontario in the 1980s, it sure seemed like Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker were. I grew up watching almost as many Detroit Tigers games on TV as I did Blue Jays games. And it was 41 years ago today that Trammell and Whitaker made their big league debut in the same game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Playing second base and batting second, Whitaker went 3-for-5 with a double, while Trammell, who started at shortstop, batted ninth and was 2-for-3. The starting pitcher for the Red Sox that day was Swift Current, Sask., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Cleveland. He allowed three runs in 2 1/3 innings before being lifted. Fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.) allowed two runs in three innings in relief for the Tigers. The Red Sox won 8-6. This was the first of 1,918 games that Trammell and Whitaker would play together.
· If you’re a Canadian baseball history buff (like me), mark November 3rd and 4th on your calendar. Crackerjack Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame volunteer and longtime SABR member Andrew North has announced that the third annual Canadian Baseball History Conference will take place in London, Ont., on those dates. This year’s event, which will again be organized by Andrew, with plenty of help from his wife, Elena, will include a tour of Labatt Park, the oldest continuously used baseball grounds in the world, as well as presentations about the Chatham Coloured All-Stars, the formation of the Toronto Blue Jays, Baseball in the Canadian Armed Forces during the Second World War, American Association triple-crown winner and Woodstock, Ont., native Tip O’Neill and the Montreal Royals. For more information and for a complete list of the presentations, you can click on this link. The registration fee is $70. To register, please email Andrew North at firstname.lastname@example.org.
· This week’s trivia question: What pitcher appeared in the most games for the Montreal Expos? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1981 Donruss Montreal Expos team set.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (What pitcher holds the record for most strikeouts in a major league season by a Canadian left-hander?) was Navan, Ont., native Erik Bedard who registered 221 strikeouts for the Baltimore Orioles in 2007.