By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– Calgary native Mike Soroka may not have a win in his first two starts with the Atlanta Braves this season, but the young right-hander, who will turn 23 on Tuesday, is off to an excellent start. He owns a 1.59 ERA and has struck out eight in 11-1/3 innings. This strong showing follows up his impressive rookie campaign that saw him go 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts. As some of you might know, I also write extensively about baseball cards, and Soroka cards are starting to catch fire among collectors. His first significant card with a certified autograph on it was released in the 2015 Bowman Chrome Draft Autographs issue. In August 2018, one of these cards could be purchased in top grade for around $30. Recently one graded PSA GEM-MT 10 (gem mint condition) sold for almost $170.
– Right-hander Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) has been the most effective pitcher out of the Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen this season. In fact, it would be hard to name a big league reliever that has been more dominant. With his fastball now regularly clocking in the high 90s, Romano has incorporated a devastating slider into his mix and in four innings in four appearances this season, he has not allowed a hit or a run and has struck out six. Don’t be surprised if the former Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team hurler is the Blue Jays’ closer in the near future.
– There has been good news and bad news to Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto’s start to the 2020 season. The good news is the soon-to-be 37-year-old homered in his first two games and is striking out far less than he did in 2019. In fact, the Cincinnati Reds first baseman has struck out just once in seven games. The bad news, according to MLB.com’s Mike Petriello, is that though Votto is making more contact, he’s not consistently making strong contact. In an article published on Friday, after Votto’s first six games, Petriello points out that the exit velocity of balls off Votto’s bat had dropped from an average of 88.8 mph in 2019 to 79.8 mph this season. And his hard hit rate had dropped from 38.2% in 2019 to 18.2% this season. Petriello admits it’s still early, but these are numbers to monitor. You can read his full article here.
– Happy 49th Birthday to former Blue Jays reliever Steve Sinclair! Born in Victoria, B.C, Sinclair was selected in the 28th round of the 1991 MLB draft by the Blue Jays. He spent the bulk of his first three seasons in the Blue Jays’ organization with their Rookie ball affiliate in Medicine Hat as a starter. He eventually rose through the club’s ranks to make his big league debut on April 25, 1998. In 24 appearances for the Blue Jays that season, he posted a 3.60 ERA. After just three games with the Blue Jays in 1999, he was dealt to the Seattle Mariners along with right-hander Tom Davey for first baseman David Segui just prior to the trade deadline. Sinclair closed out his big league career by registering a 3.95 ERA in 18 appearances for the Mariners in 1999. Since hanging up his playing spikes, Sinclair has returned to his home province to serve as the director of operations of the Victoria International Marina.
– If you catch a Colorado Rockies home game on TV, you might notice that there’s a cutout of the club’s former slugger and Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker, in his Hall of Fame jersey, in the team’s bullpen. Per the tweet below, the Rockies have created cutouts of more than 80 former players that were to be placed in seats behind home plate starting on Friday. The alumni cutouts will be auctioned off after the season with proceeds going to the Rockies Foundation.
– Here’s my favourite Fergie Jenkins fact of the week, courtesy of baseball statistician Max Goldstein on Twitter (see below). Just four pitchers in MLB history have recorded 4,500+ innings pitched, 250 or more complete games and more than 3,000 strikeouts. They are Jenkins, Walter Johnson, Gaylord Perry and Steve Carlton.
– I recently had the opportunity to interview Larry Landreth, the Stratford, Ont., native who was the first Canadian signed and developed by the Montreal Expos in their system to play with them in the major leagues. I published my article about him on Thursday. I couldn’t find room in my article for this great anecdote that Landreth shared with me about Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. While Landreth was pitching for the class-A West Palm Beach Expos, he can recall facing Murray, who was playing in the same circuit for the Baltimore Orioles’ affiliate in Miami. “He took me deep one night in Miami and let me tell you it was a poke,” said Landreth. But the next time Murray came to the plate, the then-18-year-old slugger took his time making himself comfortable in the batter’s box, which irked Landreth. “He gets up there and he calls time and starts digging in and digging in and I yelled in to him, ‘OK, are you done?’” recalled Landreth. He felt that Murray was trying to show him up, so he drilled Murray in the ribs with his first pitch. And the story doesn’t end there. “Later Eddie played for the same team I played for in the Dominican in winter ball and he always had a bat in his hand. So one day, he’s kind of dinking around with the bat and I’m in the dugout and all of a sudden whack, he hits me right across the shins,” recalled Landreth. “I was like, ‘What the …?’ And he goes, ‘That hurt, when you hit me.’ And that was like three years or four years after I had hit him. But he told me, ‘I’ve never shown another pitcher up again.’”
– Dr. David Avrom Perry, one of my very knowledgeable readers, shared some great research on Wednesday that showed that Jim Clancy, with his 128 wins with the Blue Jays, has the most wins of any pitcher with a single team after that club selected them in a MLB expansion draft. Here’s what Dr. Perry wrote in the “Comments” section of my “Tuesday Trivia” post this week: “My research was quicker than I thought. Jim Clancy indeed holds the record for the most wins for the expansion team that chose him in the expansion draft at 128 wins for the Blue Jays. Second place is not even close. It was Dean Chance, chosen in the 1960 expansion draft by the L.A. Angels. He won 74 games with the Angels with the caveat that he won a Cy Young Award in 1964 when the award was only given to one pitcher in the “Majors” not as now [where there are] two winners, one each for the American and National Leagues.” Thank you again for sharing this, Dr. Perry.
– Ten years ago today, the Blue Jays tied a major league record when they clubbed six doubles in one inning. They accomplished this in the fifth inning against the New York Yankees in their 8-6 win at Yankee Stadium. Travis Snider had two of the doubles for the Blue Jays. The other Blue Jays to double in the inning were Fred Lewis, Jose Bautista, Vernon Wells and Aaron Hill.
– This week’s trivia question: Two Toronto Blue Jays players have had more than 50 doubles in a single-season for the club. Name one of them. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. Please note: I’m going to hold off awarding prizes until after the COVID-19 pandemic. Hope you understand.
– The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who has the most major league home runs by a player BORN in the province of Quebec? ) was Pete Ward (Montreal, Que.) who hit 98 big league homers.