My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· San Diego Padres slugger Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) has donated his spikes, bat and batting gloves from his major league debut that took place on May 24, 2019 against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont. In all in 2019, the 22-year-old batted .249 with eight home runs and 32 RBIs in 94 big league contests. He also hit .314 with 10 home runs in 54 games for the triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas.
· Speaking of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, Scott Crawford started as an intern out of Durham College with the organization on January 3, 2000 and today he is the Hall’s director of operations. He is a tireless worker, a passionate baseball historian and most importantly, a kind and generous friend. Happy 20th Anniversary, Scott! The Hall is lucky to have you.
· In case you missed it, Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) and James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) have been named the Canadian Baseball Network’s hitter and pitcher of the decade. This duo also headlines CBN’s All-Decade team, which you can read about here.
· Well, the writers’ ballots are in for the National Baseball Hall of Fame voting. Now all we can do is sit and wait and cross our fingers that Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) will be elected. I’m tired of trying to defend the Canadian slugger against those who claim his offensive numbers are a product of Coors Field. But the tweet below from Foolish Baseball offers further evidence that they aren’t. This tweet indicates that even in his final 144 games as a big leaguer with the St. Louis Cardinals, when he was hobbled by injuries as a 37 and 38-year-old, Walker was producing offensive numbers on par with those of current Boston Red Sox superstar Mookie Betts, who’s in the prime of his career.
· It was nine years ago today that Roberto Alomar was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He would become the first inductee to be pictured in a Toronto Blue Jays cap on their plaque. I’m still not sure why it took Alomar until his second year on the ballot to be elected. In his first year of eligibility, he fell eight votes short. Going in with Alomar was Bert Blyleven, who won 287 major league games. Blyleven was born in the Netherlands, but he lived in Canada from the time he was 16 months old until he was five. His family worked on a farm near Melville, Sask., home of Canadian baseball great, Terry Puhl, before they moved to California.
· As Baseball Canada pointed out in a tweet on December 29, it was also nine years ago (the 2011 season) that a record 26 different Canadians appeared in at least one major league game. Among the Canadians that starred in the big leagues that year were 2019 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.) and Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.), as well as Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.), Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) and Votto.
· A belated congratulations to Stephanie Savoie (La Pocatière, Que.) for her induction into the Quebec Baseball Hall of Fame in November. As Kamila Hinkson points out in this CBC article, Savoie became the first female player, outside of the Canadian All-American Girls Professional Baseball League players that were honoured by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998, to be elected to a baseball Hall of Fame, provincially or nationally, in Canada. Here’s hoping Savoie will be the first of many women to be honoured across Canada.
· Some early trivia for you: Who holds the Montreal Expos record for most strikeouts in a season by a left-handed pitcher? (I’m not including Washington Nationals pitchers). The answer is Jeff Fassero who fanned 222 batters in 1996. In that season, Fassero went 15-11 with a 3.30 ERA in 231 2/3 innings in 34 starts. Fassero turns 57 today. Happy Birthday to him!
· If you look for them, there are plenty of inspirational stories throughout the history of major league baseball. And one of the best was Don Larsen. The right-hander went 3-21 for the Baltimore Orioles in 1954 and two years later, he pitched a perfect game in the World Series for the New York Yankees. Larsen passed away on New Year’s Day from esophageal cancer at the age of 90. In parts of 14 major league seasons with eight different big league teams, he posted an 81-91 record and a 3.78 ERA in 412 appearances. He remains the only pitcher to throw a perfect game in the World Series.
· According to Baseball America, the Toronto Blue Jays have drafted well over the past decade. The collective WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of Blue Jays’ picks (95.1) from 2010 to 2019 ranks fourth among big league clubs, behind only the Houston Astros (103.8), Chicago White Sox (101) and Miami Marlins (96.1). The Blue Jays’ best picks from the past decade include Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Kevin Pillar. And that WAR number is bound to be even more impressive with draft picks like Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette just debuting last season.
· This week’s trivia question: Earlier I noted that Jeff Fassero pitched 231 2/3 innings for the Expos in 1996. This is the second-most in a season by an Expos left-hander. What left-hander pitched the most innings (by a left-hander) in a season for the Expos? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1979 Topps Andre Dawson card, a 1982 Donruss Steve Carlton card and a 1987 Fleer George Brett card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Devon White had a 3.9 dWAR as an outfielder with the Blue Jays in 1992. That’s the best dWAR in a season by a Blue Jays outfielder. What Blue Jays outfielder has the second-best single-season dWAR for the club?) was Kevin Pillar who posted a 2.8 dWAR in 2015.