My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Atlanta Braves right-hander Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year award voting to New York Mets slugger Pete Alonso. The 6-foot-5 right-hander went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts for the Atlanta Braves during the regular season. He received one first-place vote, 25 second-place votes and two third-place votes from baseball writers. Soroka also finished sixth in the National League Cy Young Award voting. Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom won that award for the second consecutive year. According to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (Click on the tweet below), Soroka was the eighth Canuck pitcher to receive Cy Young votes, joining Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.), John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.), Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.), Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.), Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.), Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) and John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.).
· Speaking of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, they would like your input on who you think should win their Tip O’Neill Award, which is handed out annually to the top Canadian baseball player. Soroka and James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) are two of the prime contenders. Fan votes will be one of the criteria used to determine the winner. You can email the Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org with your vote (They encourage you to rank your top three) or you can vote on their website at baseballhalloffame.ca
· On Friday, MLB Pipeline published an article that named the most athletic prospect in each major league organization. Canadian outfielder Dasan Brown (Oakville, Ont.) was the prospect they chose for the Toronto Blue Jays. In the article they write that Brown, who was selected in the third round (88th overall) by the Blue Jays in this year’s draft, “was viewed as perhaps the best overall athlete in the 2019 MLB Draft.” The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum is also praised for his “top-of-the-scale speed that makes him a threat on the basepaths as well as in center field.” With “proper time and development,” they write that he could become a “legitimate five-tool talent.”
· It was 44 years ago today that the Texas Rangers dealt Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) to the Boston Red Sox for outfielder Juan Beniquez and two players to be named later (who turned out to be pitchers Steve Barr and Craig Skok). Jenkins proceeded to go 22-21 with a 3.47 ERA and toss 23 complete games in 58 appearances with the Red Sox over the next two seasons before being dealt back to the Rangers on December 14, 1977.
· Crackerjack Canadian baseball researcher David Matchett gave a fascinating presentation last Sunday at the Canadian Baseball History Conference in London, Ont. Among the many great nuggets of information he shared was that Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.) is the only Canuck to have hit a home run in an interleague regular season game between the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays. While playing for the Expos on June 15, 2001, Ducey socked a two-run home run off Blue Jays right-hander Chris Carpenter with one out in the fifth inning at Olympic Stadium.
· Fourteen years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jason Bay signed a four-year, $18.25 contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bay had two solid major league seasons under his belt at the time. In 2004, he batted .282 with 26 home runs in 120 games to become the first Canadian to win the National League Rookie of the Year award. He followed that up with an even stronger sophomore campaign, hitting .302 with 32 home runs, 101 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. For his efforts, he was selected to his first All-Star Game.
· Let’s continue the campaign to get Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This is the Canadian slugger’s 10th and final year on the writers’ ballot. Last season, his name was checked on 54.6% of baseball writers’ ballots. He requires 75% support to be elected. Let’s compare his slash line outside of Coors Field to the career slash line of some the legends that are already in the Hall of Fame (courtesy of Jeremy Frank, click on the tweet below).
· Thirty-two years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee George Bell became the first Blue Jays player to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award. The Blue Jays left fielder edged out Detroit Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell for the honour. In 1987, Bell batted .308 and belted 47 home runs and topped the American League in RBIs (134) and total bases (369).
· Happy 60th Birthday to former Blue Jays catcher Brian Milner! Every time I see his stat line, I wonder why he didn’t get more of a shot with the Blue Jays. He was called up to the big leagues as an 18-year-old in 1978 and went 4-for-9 with a triple in two games. But he never played another major league game (though he played for three more seasons in the Blue Jays’ minors). So he finished his big league career with a .444 batting average.
· Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger won the National League MVP Award on Thursday. He batted .305 with 47 home runs and 115 RBIs in 156 games this season. With everything he has done at the big league level, you would think that Bellinger would’ve been a first-round pick. But that’s not true. He was selected in the fourth round, 124th overall by the Dodgers in 2013. Among the players selected before him in that draft: Reese McGuire, Billy McKinney and Canadians Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton, Alta.) and Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.).
· This week’s trivia question: Aside from George Bell, who is the only other Blue Jays player to win the American League MVP Award? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1979 Topps Johnny Bench card, a 1983 Fleer Ozzie Smith card and a 1984 Fleer Wade Boggs card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Shawn Green was the first Blue Jays player to record 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a big league season. Who is the only other Blue Jays player to achieve this?) was Jose Cruz Jr. who had 34 home runs and 32 stolen bases in 2001.