By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-The Toronto Blue Jays must beat the Baltimore Orioles in their final game of the season today and one of (or both) the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees must lose for the Blue Jays to play in a tiebreaker game for the final Wild-Card position. Given that the Seattle Mariners also won last night and are tied with the Blue Jays in the standings, there are several scenarios that could play out after today’s games, which start at 3 p.m. E.T., and ESPN’s Jeff Passan outlines them here. But the bottom line is the Blue Jays must win and the Yankees or Red Sox must lose for the Blue Jays to have a shot at playing in the postseason.
-Perhaps this is a good omen for the Blue Jays. It was 29 years ago today that the Blue Jays clinched their fourth American League East title with a 3-1 win over the Detroit Tigers at SkyDome. Joe Carter hit a two-run home run in the first inning, while Juan Guzman started and allowed just one hit in eight scoreless innings. The Blue Jays went on to win their first World Series that year.
-Jordan Romano wasn’t even born when the Blue Jays won their first World Series. He was born in Markham, Ont., the following spring. The hard-throwing Canuck has been the Blue Jays’ best reliever this season. He is now 7-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 62 appearances and has struck out 85 batters in 63 innings. He recorded his 23rd save of the season when he was called upon to get the final five outs in the Blue Jays’ 6-4 win over the Orioles in front of close to 30,000 boisterous fans at the Rogers Centre on Friday. That save tied the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum with Claude Raymond (St. Jean, Que.) for most saves in a season by a Canadian for a Canadian major league team. Raymond had 23 saves for the Montreal Expos in 1970.
– Remember last week when I mentioned that this was the first season in which three Canadians have belted 30 home runs in the major leagues? Well, how about this being the first season that three Canucks have clubbed 35 home runs in a season? St. Louis Cardinals slugger Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) belted his 33rd and 34th home runs on Friday and if he hits one today, he’ll join Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) who has 47 home runs for the Blue Jays and Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.), who has 35 for the Cincinnati Reds, in the 35-home run club.
-O’Neill has been red-hot for the Cardinals. In 31 games since September 1, the Langley Blaze and Junior National Team grad is batting .325 with 13 home runs and 30 RBIs. Earlier in the year, Votto’s name had been mentioned as a National League MVP candidate. I expect that O’Neill will also garner some votes. According to Baseball Reference, his WAR (Wins Above Replacement) this season is 6.3, which ranks fourth among National League position players. That’s better than that of Philadelphia Phillies slugger Bryce Harper (5.8), who has been widely trumpeted as a MVP candidate. Baseball card collectors also starting to take notice of O’Neill’s performance, as highlighted in this Sports Collectors Daily article (Thanks to Bob Elliott for sharing this link).
-Speaking of Votto, he played his 1,896th major league game on Monday to move past Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.) for the second-most games played by a Canadian. Thank you to Scott Crawford at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for keeping track of these statistics. In that contest, Votto celebrated by belting two home runs to give him 35 on the year. This has been a year of significant milestones for the rejuvenated Reds first baseman. In 2021, Votto has recorded his 2,000th career hit and 300th home run to become just the second Canuck (to Hall of Famer Larry Walker, Maple Ridge, B.C.) to reach those numbers.
– Cleveland right-hander Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) closed out the season on a high note on Tuesday with yet another quality start. He allowed three runs in six innings to the Kansas City Royals and picked up his eighth win of the campaign in Cleveland’s 8-3 victory. He finishes the season with a tidy 2.89 ERA. Even more impressive, since the All-Star break, the Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team alum went 7-1 with a 1.94 ERA in 88 innings with 78 strikeouts in 14 starts. Quantrill began the season in Cleveland’s bullpen, but he has become the team’s top starter in the second half.
-It was 40 years ago today that the Montreal Expos clinched their first and only postseason berth with a 5-4 win over the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. The Expos were trailing 3-2 in the seventh inning when pinch-hitter Wallace Johnson came through with a two-run triple off reliever Neil Allen. Closer Jeff Reardon pitched the final three innings for the Expos to record the save. Gary Carter also homered in the sixth inning. You can watch the highlights here:
– Happy 46th Birthday to former big league pitcher, national team alum and current owner of the 5 Tool Fieldhouse, Mike Johnson! Selected in the 17th round of the 1993 MLB draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, the 6-foot-2 right-hander would pitch parts of four minor league seasons in the Blue Jays’ organization before he was chosen in the Rule 5 draft in 1996 by the San Francisco Giants then sold to the Baltimore Orioles. He made his big league debut with the O’s in 1997 before being dealt to the Expos at the trade deadline. He proceeded to pitch parts of five seasons with the Expos. He continued to toe the rubber in the professional ranks until 2010. His best season came with the La New Bears of the Chinese Professional Baseball League in 2008 when he went 20-2 with a 2.45 ERA in 27 appearances (26 starts) spanning 183 2/3 innings. Johnson was also a member of the Canadian national team that won gold at the 2011 Pan Am Games.
– He should still be here. Those are the first words that come to mind when I think of John Cerutti. He should be providing analysis on today’s Blue Jays win-or-go-home game. The former Blue Jays left-hander was a fit, active, athletic 44-year-old husband, father and broadcaster when he died suddenly of a heart arrhythmia in his hotel room at SkyDome 17 years ago today. His passing, which came on the last day of the Blue Jays’ 2004 season, was sad and shocking. Following his death, members of the Toronto chapter of baseball writers voted him the winner of the club’s “Good Guy” award and then promptly renamed the award after him. Of course, prior to excelling as a broadcaster, Cerutti was a left-handed pitcher for the Blue Jays for parts of six seasons. Selected in the first round of the 1981 MLB draft, the 6-foot-2 southpaw made his MLB debut with the Blue Jays on September 1, 1985 in the heat of the pennant race with the club en route to securing its first American League East title. Over the next three seasons, he was employed as a reliever and spot starter, before becoming a fixture in the club’s rotation in 1989, going 11-11 with a 3.07 ERA in 205 1/3 innings in 33 appearances, including 31 starts. He’d make 23 more starts for the Blue Jays in 1990 before signing with the Detroit Tigers as a free agent and making his final 38 big league appearances in 1991. In all, in 229 major league games, Cerutti finished with a 49-43 record and a 3.94 ERA.
– My trivia question for this week: Left-hander Steven Matz has 14 wins for the Blue Jays this season. Who was the first left-hander to record 10 wins in a season for the Blue Jays? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who was the first Canadian pitcher to record a save for the Blue Jays?) was Paul Spoljaric (Kelowna, B.C.) on September 20, 1996 against the Orioles.