But What Do I Know? . . . Stubby Clapp, John Axford, James Paxton, Rich Harden

Photo Credit: Pacific Coast League

My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:

·         Congratulations to Windsor, Ont., native Stubby Clapp for leading the triple-A Memphis Redbirds to a Pacific Coast League championship for a second consecutive  season. The Redbirds defeated the Fresno Grizzlies on September 16 to capture the title. Clapp then led the Redbirds to 14-4 win over the International League’s Durham Bulls in the triple-A National Championship Game on Tuesday. These championships topped off a very successful month for the 45-year-old Canadian. Earlier in September, he was named the Pacific Coast League’s Manager of the Year for the second consecutive season. Before coaching, Clapp enjoyed an 11-year professional playing career that included four seasons with Memphis (1999-2002) and 23 games with the big league Cardinals in 2001. He is now in his 12th season in the professional coaching ranks. This fall, he will manage the Arizona Fall League’s Surprise Saguaros, a club that will consist of top prospects from the Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays organizations. It’s no wonder then that USA Today’s Bob Nightengale (Tweet below) is reporting that Clapp is “attracting strong interest” from big league teams looking for a manager in 2019. If Clapp were to be named a major league manager, he would be the first full-time Canadian skipper since Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer George Gibson (London, Ont.) managed the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1934.

·         The Los Angeles Dodgers activated Canuck reliever John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) off the disabled list on Monday and he pitched 1/3 of an inning in the Dodgers’ 8-2 win that same day. The 6-foot-5 right-hander had been out of action since August 12 when Colorado Rockies outfielder Gerardo Parra’s hard-hit grounder ricocheted off his right leg in the eighth inning, leaving him with a fracture in the tip of his fibula. He was making just his third appearance with the Dodgers after being acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline when the injury happened. Axford had posted a 3-1 record and a 4.41 ERA in 45 appearances with the Blue Jays prior to being swapped to the Dodgers. He is in his 10th major league campaign and he had previous stints with the Milwaukee Brewers, Cardinals, Cleveland Indians, Pirates, Rockies and Oakland A’s.

·         When I wrote in August that Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton just can’t seem to catch a break, I wasn’t joking. After he returned from his second stint on the disabled list this season on September 1 (this DL stint occurred after he took a line drive off his left forearm), Paxton made just two starts before being sidelined with what’s been diagnosed as a combination of pneumonia and influenza. Rather than shut it down for the season, however, Paxton, even with the Mariners all but eliminated from the AL wild-card race, wants to return. “I’m really hoping to get two starts in and get the opportunity to get to the 160-inning mark,” Paxton told Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times. “That would set me up well to go 200-plus innings next year. If I do make two starts, they’ll probably both be at home in that last week. It would be great to get those starts at home and try to win some games for our fans and show our appreciation for their support all season.” The Canuck southpaw has posted an 11-6 record with a 3.83 ERA and has struck out 194 batters in 150-1/3 innings in 26 starts this season.

·         Long-time Toronto Blue Jays scout Don Welke passed away on Thursday at the age of 75, just two days shy of his 76th birthday. Welke was a highly respected talent evaluator under Pat Gillick’s regime with the Blue Jays from 1977 to 1995. Among the players Welke scouted and advised were Pat Hentgen, Willie Blair and Dave Stieb. He also served as the advance scout for the Blue Jays during their World Series years. In his close to 50 years in the professional baseball ranks, Welke also scouted for the Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, Texas Rangers and San Diego Padres. If you haven’t read Canadian Baseball Network editor-in-chief Bob Elliott’s moving article about Welke, please take the time to read it here.

·         Congratulations to Victoria, B.C., native and former big league pitcher Rich Harden who will be inducted into the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame on October 27. Selected by the A’s in the 17th round of the 2000 MLB draft, Harden pitched parts of three seasons in the minors before making his big league debut on July 21, 2003. He toed the rubber with Oakland for parts of six seasons prior to being dealt to the Cubs. His 2008 campaign was his best in the majors. In a combined 25 starts between the A’s and Cubs, he posted a 10-2 record, a 2.07 ERA and struck out 181 batters in 148 innings. The 6-foot-1 right-hander was on the mound again for the Cubs in 2009 before spending injury-shortened seasons with the Texas Rangers (2010) and the A’s (2011). In all, in nine big league seasons, he posted a 59-38 record and a 3.76 ERA.

·         How tough is the American League East division? The Tampa Bay Rays are 86-68 this season. That record would put them in first place in the AL Central (tie) and NL West divisions. In the AL East, they are third, 18.5 games back of Boston and nine games back of the Yankees.

·         Thirty-four years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Sparky Anderson led the eventual World Series champion Detroit Tigers to their 100th win of the 1984 season. With that victory, he became the first major league manager to guide teams in two different leagues to 100-win seasons. He had previously led the Cincinnati Reds to 100-win campaigns in 1970, 1975 and 1976. Prior to his big league success, Anderson had his first professional managerial gig with the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs in 1964. Anderson also played for parts of two seasons with the triple-A Montreal Royals in 1956 and 1958 and parts of four campaigns with the Leafs from 1960 to 1963.

·         Happy 66th Birthday to former Toronto Blue Jays reliever Dennis Lamp! As I’ve stated before, the 1985 Blue Jays were the team that made me fall in love with baseball, and Lamp was sensational for that club, going 11-0 with a 3.32 ERA in 53 appearances (one start). In all, Lamp pitched three of his 16 major league campaigns with the Blue Jays. He also toed the rubber for the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s, Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates between 1977 and 1992. The last time I read about Lamp was in this 2011 Los Angeles Times article that reported that Lamp was happily working the seafood counter at a Bristol Farms grocery store in Newport Beach, Calif.

·         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 mavrix@rogers.com.

·         This week’s trivia question: Who holds the Blue Jays record for most wins in a season by a relief pitcher? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1985 O-Pee-Chee Montreal Expos team set.

·         The answer to last week’s trivia question (When Bud Black joined the Blue Jays in September 1990, he became the sixth left-hander to start a game for the Blue Jays that season. Name three of the other southpaws to start a game for the Blue Jays in 1990.) was any three of Jimmy Key, David Wells, John Cerutti, Mike Flanagan or John Candelaria.

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10 thoughts on “But What Do I Know? . . . Stubby Clapp, John Axford, James Paxton, Rich Harden

  1. Love to see the Jays hire Clapp as Gibbons replacement. Fits the bill in so many ways. The fact that he’s a Canadian would be a bonus.
    Great read again Kevin.

  2. A pair of the many scouting tips that both Pat Gillick and Don Welke passed on to me are not to go back hoping to see something you didn’t, and that if you see it once, it’s there. I was guilty of going back to see Stubby Clapp as a high schooler, wanting to like him – and when I say “like him,” I mean getting myself to the point where I could sign my name on MLB Scouting Bureau Free Agent report that would wind up in the hands of 30 GMs and 30 Scouting Directors saying that this kid was going to play in the Show. Now, both of us being Windsorites, it wasn’t like I had to board a plane to watch him, and I not only watched him play baseball, but hockey as well. I don’t remember Stubby ever coming out of a corner without the puck, even it mean leaving a tooth or two behind! Did I hope my son would grow up like Stubby? Absolutely. Did I hope my daughters would someday marrying guys like Stubby? True.

    But despite the omni-grinder he was, and the magic dust that seemed to be sprinkled on him from his teens to helping Canada win its ONLY World Junior Championship in 1991, landing a spot in the Double-A All-Star game in 1998 (Little Rock) because a named All-Star was called up to the bigs on the day of the game and the host knew the fans would appreciate seeing Stubby play (he proceeded to homer in the game and win the MVP), and getting the walk-off hit to beat the USA in the Pan Ams in ’99, batting second and playing 2B in Arizona in 2006 when Canada won the biggest game, in my opinion, in our history. Stubby tripled (off monster starter LHP Dontrelle Willis in his prime!) and scored (while Adam Stern had the game of a lifetime) as Canada upset the mighty USA 8-6! Why do I call it an upset? Would you have picked Adam Loewen (God love him!) over Willis? Would you think that we could be a starting line-up that included (GULP!!): Michael Young, Derek Jeter, Chase Utley, Griffey Jr., Derek Lee, A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, Vernon Wells and Jason Varitek? How much money would you a have bet on Canada that day? Oh, back to Stubby, would it be surprising if I reminded you who was in the third base coaching box in Toronto waving in Peter Orr scored the winning run against the USA in the 2015 Pan Ams? The only other player I was as happy to be wrong about whether or not he would make it to the big leagues was Jeff Zimmerman.

    The bottom-line here is that, as much as Stubby is the grinder of grinders, the text book definition of scratch & claw, he is also that much a winner. That is something you just can’t teach. So, I’m not knocking Ernie Whitt out of the box whatsoever, as the most Canadian non-Canadian I have ever met has proven himself as a winner, but just to bleed maple syrup a little bit, how fun is it to think about the combination of Stubby, Rob Thomson, Dave McKay and Larry Walker parachuting in to coach the Blue Jays? Are you listening, Cleveland 2.0?

    Always a pleasant Sunday when I have your post to read Kevin!

  3. u would think Stubby will receive offers this off season from MLB teams.
    Great to see the Ax-man back.
    Let’s hope Paxton pitches 11.2 more innings this year so he gets in his 162 to qualify for ERA.
    Imagine if Harden had been healthy. Wow what a career.

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