By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– MLB agent Scott Boras told reporters on Tuesday that free agent left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) is almost completely healthy after an injury-shortened 2020 season. “He’s far into bullpen [sessions] and is throwing bullpens for select teams,” Boras told MLB.com. “Obviously, he was not completely rehabilitated when he made an attempt to help his club and come back [during the 2020 season]. Now, he’s certainly got his back strength back to 100 percent and he’s back throwing off the mound and doing well.” Paxton, who underwent back surgery in February, made just five starts for the New York Yankees in 2020, going 1-1 with a 6.64 ERA before he was sidelined with a flexor strain in his throwing arm on August 20. In all, the 32-year-old southpaw has pitched in parts of eight major league campaigns and had a career-best 15 wins with the Yankees in 2019.
– As Atlanta Braves ace and 2019 Tip O’Neill Award winner Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) continues to recover from his Achilles injury, he got some good news earlier this week. According to Ken Rosenthal, of Fox Sports, Soroka has been deemed a “Super 2” player which means he’ll receive an extra year of arbitration and have the opportunity to make more money in 2021. Every MLB player is eligible for arbitration after they accumulate three full seasons of service time. But the Collective Bargaining Agreement also dictates that the top 22 percent of players who have amassed between two and three seasons of time qualify for “Super Two” status and they become eligible for arbitration heading into their third season. This means that Soroka, who made his MLB debut on May 1, 2018, will be in line for a significant raise, despite only making three starts for the Braves in 2020. The 23-year-old right-hander tore his right Achilles tendon on August 3 and underwent surgery four days later. Experts say it generally takes nine-to-12 months to recover from this type of injury. In his rookie campaign in 2019, Soroka went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 29 starts and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. MLB Trade Rumors projects that Soroka will make around $2 million in 2021. He made $583,500 last season.
–Happy 40th Birthday to Aylmer, Que., native Luke Carlin! The Canadian catcher played 14 professional seasons in eight different major league organizations and spent the bulk of his career in the triple-A ranks. Carlin also played parts of four seasons in the big leagues with the San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians and suited up for the Canadian national team on several occasions.
– It was 24 years ago today that the Toronto Blue Jays dealt first baseman and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee John Olerud to the New York Mets for right-hander Robert Person. After winning a batting title and knocking in 107 runs in 1993, Olerud’s production had tailed off in the ensuing three seasons, but the sweet-swinging first baseman would jumpstart his career in the Big Apple, batting .294 with a .400 on-base percentage, while belting 22 home runs and driving in 102 in 154 games in 1997. Meanwhile, Person was never consistently effective for the Blue Jays. He was 5-10 with a 5.61 ERA in 23 games in 1997 and his ERA ballooned to 7.04 in 1998, before he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies for Canadian Paul Spoljaric (Kelowna, B.C.) the following May. To make this deal even worse for the Blue Jays, they reportedly paid $5 million of Olerud’s $6.5-million salary with the Mets in 1997.
– I’m very aware of where Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto stands among Canadians in most all-time major league statistical categories, but I have to admit I haven’t paid much attention to where he stands on the Cincinnati Reds’ all-time lists. Fortunately author and longtime SABR contributor Lyle Spatz has been keeping track. Thank you to Scott Crawford at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for sharing with me some of Spatz’s excellent research that indicates that Votto ranks No. 1 in Reds’ history in intentional walks (141), extra-base hits by a left-handed batter (727), RBIs by a left-handed batter (966), home runs by a left-handed batter (295) and hits by a left-handed batter (1,908).
– It was 18 years ago today that Danny Klassen, who was born in Leamington, Ont., signed a minor league contract with the Detroit Tigers. Klassen would be called up by the Tigers on August 13, 2003 and he proceeded to bat .247 with a home run and seven RBIs in 22 games. Prior to that he had played parts of four seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Selected in the second round of the 1993 MLB draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, the 6-foot infielder suited up for parts of 15 professional seasons in total and hit .273 and recorded 1,230 hits.
– Thirty-seven years ago today, Blue Jays centre fielder and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Lloyd Moseby signed a five-year contract with the club. Terms of the deal were not disclosed at the time. Moseby inked the deal after an outstanding 1983 season in which batted .315 (sixth in the American League) and became the first Blue Jay to score 100 runs in a season (He finished with 104). He also belted 18 home runs, had 31 doubles, seven triples and stole 27 bases. To give you a ballpark of how much Moseby’s contract was worth, Baseball Reference lists his 1985 salary as $587,500, his 1986 salary as $732,500 and his 1987 salary as $807,500.
– Finally, I’ve long felt that it can’t be a coincidence that Cecil Cooper and Oscar Gamble, who had two of the most memorable batting stances of the 1970s and 1980s (see photos below), were born on this date in 1949. Both were outstanding left-handed hitters who had 200 or more MLB home runs. Sadly, Gamble passed away on January 31, 2018 at the age of 68.
– This week’s trivia question: Lloyd Moseby wore No. 15 with the Blue Jays and was selected to participate in the 1986 All-Star Game. Two other Blue Jays outfielders who wore No. 15 were also selected to represent the club in the MLB All-Star Game. 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 (Roger Clemens won the AL Cy Young Award with the Blue Jays in 1997 and 1998. Who are the other two Blue Jays pitchers to have won the Cy Young Award?) was Pat Hentgen (1996) and Roy Halladay (2003).