By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– If there was an American League Cy Young Award presented for the second half of the season, Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) would definitely be a contender. The 6-foot-3 right-hander continued his dominant run on Wednesday in a start against the Minnesota Twins when he didn’t allow an earned run in 6 2/3 innings to lead Cleveland to a 12-3 win. This performance lowered his season ERA to 2.89. Even more impressive, since July 1, the Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team alum is 6-1 with a 2.18 ERA in 86 2/3 innings with 71 strikeouts in 14 starts. Quantrill started the season in Cleveland’s bullpen, but with Shane Bieber sidelined with a strained right shoulder, the Canuck righty has taken over as the team’s top starter.
– Speaking of standout Canadian right-handers, Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) has been excellent in the Seattle Mariners’ minor league ranks this season after he was acquired from the San Diego Padres last September. A fourth-round pick of the Pads in 2019, Brash is a combined 6-4 with a 2.31 ERA in 20 appearances (19 starts) between High A and double-A this season. Most impressive, however, is his 142 strikeouts in 97 1/3 innings. As a reward, the Niagara College alum has cracked Baseball America’s Top 100 MLB prospects list for the first time (He’s No. 100) and has put himself firmly in the Mariners’ future pitching plans.
-Slugger Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) has had another outstanding week for the St. Louis Cardinals. In six games since last Sunday’s column, he has gone 9-for-24 (.375 batting average) and has belted two clutch eighth-inning home runs that led the Cards to crucial wins in their chase for a wild-card spot. He now has 28 homers on the season. The Langley Blaze and Junior Team National alum, who’s also Gold Glove left fielder, has very quietly been one of the best all-around position players in the National League. According to Baseball Reference, his WAR (Wins Above Replacement) this season is 5.3 which ranks ninth among National League position players. It’s interesting to note that Bryce Harper, who’s being trumpeted as a NL MVP candidate, boasts only a slightly better WAR (5.4).
– I highly recommend that you subscribe to Molly Knight’s Substack newsletter, “The Long Game.” She is an excellent Los Angeles-based baseball author and reporter. This week she wrote an article about who she thinks are the top 10 most underpaid players in the majors. There are two Canadians on her list: the aforementioned O’Neill is No. 8. He is making $594,000 this season, while Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is No. 2 on the list. He is racking up Triple Crown-like numbers for the Toronto Blue Jays, while being paid $605,000.
-Congratulations to right-hander Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) who made his 100th career major league start last Sunday when he allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings for the Boston Red Sox in their 2-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Scott Crawford, of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, pointed out in a social media post on Tuesday that Pivetta is the 13th Canadian to make 100 major league starts. For a complete list, see Scott’s post below:
-Congratulations to Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) who has been named the Cincinnati Reds’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. The award is presented each year “to the player who best represents the game of Baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.” Each major league team selects a player who they feel is worthy of the honour. Fans can then vote for the winner. You can vote for Votto and read more about his philanthropic efforts here.
–On this date in 1980, Paul Hodgson (Marysville, N.B.) belted his first major league home run. Hodgson, who was the second Canadian to play for the Blue Jays (after Vancouver native Dave McKay), smacked the home run off Baltimore Orioles right-hander Dennis Martinez in the top of the sixth inning of a game at Memorial Stadium. It was a solo shot that tied the game 5-5. “It was Martinez’s big curve that he was known for, but he hung it out over the plate,” Hodgson told me about the homer several years ago. “I was using a black Louisville Slugger P72 at the time, 34-1/2 inches, 32 ounces. I thought the ball landed out near the bullpen, but I wasn’t sure, and I sure as heck wasn’t watching it. When I came into the locker room after the game, the ball was sitting on my chair. Jack Kucek, one of our relievers, had scaled the wall into the Orioles bullpen and found the ball for me. It had gone over their bullpen and into an open area. Jack was a great guy and I was thrilled he had done that. The clubbie had written the particulars on it.” That ball (photo below) now resides in the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame’s collection.
-Twenty-five years ago today, Vladimir Guerrero made his major league debut with the Montreal Expos. Batting sixth and playing right field, he went 1-for-5 in the Expos’ 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves at Fulton County Stadium. His first major league hit was a single off Braves lefty Steve Avery in the top of the fourth inning.
-Canadian comedian Norm Macdonald (Quebec City, Que.) passed away on Tuesday after a private battle with leukemia. He was just 61. It was well-known that he was a sports fan and a Montreal Canadiens supporter. But until gifted musician, songwriter and Expos anthem maker extraordinaire Annakin Slayd shared the following text message exchange on his Facebook account, I didn’t know that Macdonald was an Expos fan. Rest in peace, Norm. The world is a lot less funny without you.
-On this date 48 years ago, Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.) was signed as an amateur free agent by the Houston Astros and their scout Wayne Morgan. The Astros offered Puhl a contract after he led his hometown midget squad from Melville, Sask., to a Canadian championship in 1973. It proved to be an astute signing for the Astros. After making his major league debut in 1977, Puhl was a steady contributor for the Astros for more than a decade, before he played his final season with the Kansas City Royals in 1991. He finished his 15-season big league career with a .280 batting average, 1,361 hits and 217 stolen bases and was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., in 1995.
– My trivia question for this week: Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.) was the first Canadian to hit a home run for the Toronto Blue Jays in a regular season game and, as noted earlier, Paul Hodgson (Marysville, N.B.) was the second. Who was the third Canuck to go deep for the Blue Jays in a regular season game? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (Name the only Canadian to post 10 or more wins as a relief pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays.) was Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) who had 11 wins in relief for the Blue Jays in 2001.