My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Congratulations to Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) who has been named the first baseman on The Sporting News MLB All-Decade Team. He joins Robinson Cano (second base), Francisco Lindor (shortstop), Adrian Beltre (third base) and Buster Posey (catcher) to form the infield for the squad. Not surprisingly, Mike Trout was named Player of the Decade. Writer Ryan Fagan indicates that Votto edged Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera at the first base position. “Votto opened the decade by winning the NL MVP award and posted an on-base percentage below .416 only twice in the decade’s 10 seasons,” writes Fagan. “He finished in the top seven of the NL MVP voting five other times, including a narrow miss in 2017, when he finished two points (302 to 300) behind Giancarlo Stanton. Votto’s .428 on-base percentage for the decade is easily the best in baseball; Mike Trout (.419) is the only other player over .400.” You can read Fagan’s full article here.
· And if you need another reminder of Votto’s greatness, click MLB.com writer David Adler’s tweet below. The Canadian slugger topped the National League in on-base percentage seven times in the past decade. Just two other big league players have done that in a decade: Ted Williams in the 1940s and Rogers Hornsby in the 1920s.
· 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. For more on why Walker is worthy, I’d suggest you click on Connor Looker’s (@HotStove Stats) tweet below. His tweet reveals that Walker owns the eighth-best WAR among right fielders in major league history. Every right fielder ahead of him on that list has a plaque in Cooperstown, as do Harry Heilmann and Tony Gwynn who rank ninth and 10th respectively.
· Happy 75th Birthday to four-time National League Cy Young Award winner and National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Steve Carlton! The dominant lefty was a 10-time all-star, who won 20 games in a season six times and owns the fourth most strikeouts in major league history (4,136). But did you know that after the Miami native was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1964 he played part of his first professional season in Winnipeg? Yes, Carlton made 12 starts for the class-A Northern League’s Winnipeg Goldeyes and posted a 4-4 record and a 3.36 ERA. He would make his big league debut with the Cardinals the next season.
· Congratulations to the class-A Short-Season Vancouver Canadians who were named the 10th most successful minor league team of the past decade by Baseball America in their December 2019 issue. The highly respected publication noted that the franchise has won four league championships in the past 10 years. The Canadians began the decade affiliated with the Oakland A’s, but they struck an agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011 that continues today.
· Former Blue Jays pitcher Jim Gott visited the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., on Monday with 2019 inductee Rob Thomson (Corunna, Ont.). The two work together on the Philadelphia Phillies staff. Thompson is the bench coach, while Gott, who posted a 4.45 ERA in 99 appearances in three seasons with the Blue Jays from 1982 to 1984, is the Phillies bullpen coach. Another interesting fact about Gott is that his first major league win came in a 6-0 Blue Jays’ victory over the Baltimore Orioles at Memorial Stadium on May 30, 1982. This game was also the first in Cal Ripken’s 2,632-consecutive game streak. Gott had saved a ball from the game, but later gave it to Ripken as part of the ceremony when the O’s Iron Man played his 2,131st consecutive game to break Lou Gehrig’s record on September 6, 1995.
· Three years ago today, Edwin Encarnacion left the Blue Jays to sign a three-year, $60-million deal with the Cleveland Indians. In parts of eight seasons with the Blue Jays, Encarnacion belted 239 home runs and socked 34 or more in a season five times. Now Jon Heyman, of the MLB Network, reports that the Blue Jays have made a contract offer to Encarnacion to return to the club. Heyman tweets that the Blue Jays have a “decent shot” at signing the veteran slugger.
· Happy 65th Birthday to former big league pitcher Sheldon Burnside! He was born in South Bend, Ind., but his family moved to the Toronto area when he was 10 and he honed his skills as a teenager in Etobicoke. He was signed as a free agent by the Detroit Tigers in 1974 and the left-hander eventually appeared in 12 games for the Tigers in 1978 and 1979 before posting a 1.93 ERA in seven relief appearances for the Cincinnati Reds in 1980. In parts of three big league seasons, Burnside had the opportunity to play alongside Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Johnny Bench and Tom Seaver. He now resides in Montgomery, Alabama.
· Please take a moment to remember former Blue Jays Doug Ault and Ryan Freel who passed away 15 years and seven years ago respectively. Both battled depression. You can read about Ault, who died when he was 54, here and about Freel, who was just 36, here.
· This week’s trivia question: I mentioned earlier that Hall of Famer Steve Carlton pitched in Winnipeg during his first professional season. There’s one major league pitcher that has been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame who spent his entire first professional season with a Winnipeg club. Who is he? Hint: He pitched there in 1971. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1981 Donruss Rod Carew card, a 1982 Topps Bert Blyleven card, a 1987 Fleer Wade Boggs card and a 1987 Fleer Andre Dawson card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Tom Henke holds the Blue Jays’ record for most total saves (217) with the club. What reliever recorded the most career saves for the Montreal Expos?) was Jeff Reardon (152 saves).