My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
Note from Kevin: It’s best to click on the link and read this through the website that way you will see all the graphics and tweets that I refer to.
· Happy 53rd Birthday to Canadian baseball legend Larry Walker, who I hope will soon have a plaque in Cooperstown. I’ve written ad nauseam about the Maple Ridge, B.C., native and his baseball accomplishments on this blog over the years, but if you still need visual evidence as to how good he was, I present the two-minute highlight package below.
· Let’s also continue the campaign to get Walker 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. One steady criticism against the Colorado Rockies slugger’s Cooperstown case is that he benefited from playing his home games at the hitter-friendly Coors Field. And as the following tweet from Adam Darowski illustrates (click on it to read it), Walker, did, indeed, have great numbers at Coors Field, but his statistics were also substantially better at Coors than the combined numbers of all of the already elected Hall of Famers when they played there. Thanks to Tom Valcke for sharing this tweet.
· Canadian slugger Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) has been named the fifth best player of the decade (2010 to 2019) by MLB.com. In a list compiled by veteran scribe, Will Leitch, Votto is ranked as the second-best position player of the past 10 seasons behind only Mike Trout. “Votto, better than anyone this whole decade, did the one thing that makes you most valuable to your team as a hitter: He did not make outs,” writes Leitch. “His .428 OBP for the decade is far and away the best in baseball. That decade-long figure is better than Ken Griffey Jr. had in any single season.” Votto was also named to six all-star teams in the 2010s. ““We should be debating Votto’s Hall of Fame case much more than we are,” concludes Leitch. You can read Leitch’s full article here.
· According to Foolish Baseball on Twitter, Canadian Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.), pitched more innings (33 1/3) than any other reliever in MLB this season without allowing a home run. The 6-foot-3 right-hander, who developed into a go-to reliever for the Chicago Cubs in 2019, made 31 big league appearances this season and recorded a 2.43 ERA and struck out 35 batters. Wick, a Junior National National Team alum and converted catcher, made his big league debut with the San Diego Padres in 2018, posting a 6.48 ERA in 10 appearances before being dealt to the Cubs on November 20, 2018. He recently donated a Cubs jersey that he wore during the 2019 season to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont.
· Speaking of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, they will announce their Tip O’Neill Award winner on Wednesday at 9 a.m. This award is handed out annually to the Canadian player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball’s highest ideals. Walker has won the honour nine times, while Votto has been the recipient seven times. For a complete list of previous winners, you can follow this link.
· St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) has donated a jersey (photo below) and a bat from the 2019 to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for its collection. The muscular 24-year-old split the season between the Cardinals and their triple-A and double-A affiliates. In 60 big league contests, he batted .262 and clubbed five home runs, while his combined minor league numbers (between double-A and triple-A) included 13 home runs and a .509 slugging percentage in 47 games.
· Congratulations to long-time Philadelphia Phillies area scout Alex Agostino (St-Bruno, Que.) who has been promoted to the position of cross checker covering from Canada all the way south to North Carolina. Canadian Baseball Network editor-in-chief Bob Elliott reported the promotion on Friday. A highly respected talent evaluator across North America, Agostino has uncovered future Canadian big leaguers like Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.), Shawn Hill (Georgetown, Ont.), Pierre-Luc LaForest (Hull, Que.) and Jesen Therrien (Montreal, Que.) as a scout. He has also worked tirelessly to promote the game in his home province of Quebec. For his efforts, he was named the Canadian Baseball Network’s Scout of the Year in 2006 and the New York Hot Stove Association’s Scout of the Year in 2018.
· Hall of Fame manager Walter Alston was born 108 years ago today. Before guiding the Dodgers to four World Series titles and seven National League pennants, he honed his managerial skills with the Montreal Royals. After four seasons as a player/manager in the Dodgers chain, Alston became manager of the St. Paul Saints, the Dodgers’ triple-A, American Association affiliate in 1948, following another season in St. Paul, Alston and Montreal Royals dugout boss Clay Hopper switched managerial posts in the Dodgers system. In his four seasons with the Royals from 1950 to 1953, Alston’s teams won two pennants, two Governor’s Cups, one Junior World Series and would never finish a season worse than 19 games over .500. In 1953, Alston’s final season with the Royals, he managed a team that consisted of future big league managers – Tommy Lasorda, Dick Williams and Roy Hartsfield – to a Junior World Series title. His success in Montreal earned him the manager’s job with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1954. After managing Brooklyn to their only World Series title in 1955, he led the Dodgers to three more championships (1959, 1963, 1965) in Los Angeles. In all, he piloted the Dodgers for 23 seasons, on 23 one-year contracts. When he retired after the 1976 campaign, he had recorded 2,040 wins, which now ranks him ninth on the all-time list. For his efforts, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983. Alston passed away on October 1 the following year.
· Happy 63rd and 49th Birthdays to ex-Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Tom Filer and former Montreal Expos left-hander Kirk Rueter respectively. Interestingly, these two hurlers who share a birthday went undefeated with their respective Canadian big league clubs in their rookie seasons. Filer was 7-0 with 3.88 ERA in 11 games – including nine starts – with the American League East-winning Blue Jays in 1985, while eight years later, Rueter would go 8-0 with a 2.73 ERA in 14 starts for the Expos in 1993.
· Happy 65th Birthday to former Expos left-hander Dan Schatzeder! Most remember him for his strong pitching efforts in Montreal that saw him post a 3.09 ERA in 241 appearances (75 starts) over parts of eight seasons. But he was also one of the best hitting pitchers in the club’s history. In 1986, Schatzeder went 9-for-21 (.429 batting average) with a home run and five runs. He also batted .314 (11-for-35) with two doubles and a triple in 1984.
· This week’s trivia question: I mentioned that Schatzeder hit a home run for the Expos during the 1986 season. That was one of five home runs he would hit for the Expos. Two Blue Jays pitchers have hit home runs in regular season games over the years. Who are they? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1981 Topps Rod Carew card, a 1983 Fleer Ozzie Smith card and a 1986 Fleer George Brett card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (During Tim Johnson’s sole season (1998) as Blue Jays’ manager, the club had three players that hit 30 or more home runs. Can you name them?) was Jose Canseco (46), Carlos Delgado (38) and Shawn Green (35).