By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
-Marty Healy would’ve turned 44 on Monday. He was a wonderful guy with an encyclopedic knowledge of Canadian baseball players and the co-author (with Richard Armstrong) of an excellent book about London, Ont., born big leaguer George Gibson. He passed away on September 11, 2020 after a long battle with congestive heart failure. In honour of his 44th birthday, his family made the trek to St. Marys, Ont., on Monday to donate his extensive collection of jerseys worn by Canadian major leaguers to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. There were 93 jerseys in total, including vintage jerseys worn by Terry Puhl, Claude Raymond, Pete Ward and John Hiller. The family also donated Marty’s extensive collection of rookie cards of Canuck big leaguers. Marty was a special guy and I’ll cherish the many conversations I had with him. I can’t help but feel that his collection is now exactly where it should be.
-The Silver Slugger Award winners were announced on Thursday, Not surprisingly, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) was named the winner for American League first basemen. At 22, he became the youngest first baseman to capture the award and the youngest Blue Jays player to take home the honour. Two other Blue Jays – Marcus Semien (second base) and Teoscar Hernandez (outfield) – were also named winners. Atlanta Braves slugger Freddie Freeman, whose parents were born in Canada, was the National League’s winner among first basemen. He defeated Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) at that position. St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) was also a finalist.
– It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that Votto, who has now played parts of 15 major league seasons, has never won a Silver Slugger Award. I’m not saying he should’ve won this season (although as Canadian baseball statistician Neil Munro pointed out to me in an email message, Votto had more home runs, a better slugging percentage and a better on-base plus slugging percentage than Freeman in 2021), but surely in one of his previous all-star seasons, he had to be the National League’s best offensive first baseman. The tweet below illustrates my point. It emphasizes how good offensively Votto has been through the Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) stat. Here’s the definition of Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) from MLB.com: “wRC+ takes the statistic Runs Created and adjusts that number to account for important external factors — like ballpark or era. It’s adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average and 150 would be 50 percent above league average. For example, a player who plays his home games at hitter-friendly Coors Field will have a lower wRC+ than a player who posts identical stats at pitcher-friendly Oakland Coliseum.”
– It was 37 years ago today that the Montreal Expos signed Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) as an amateur free agent. His signing bonus was $1,500. It was Expos scout Bob Rogers that ultimately signed him. The Expos’ interest in Walker piqued after Rogers and then Expos scouting director Jim Fanning saw Walker play at the 1984 World Youth Baseball Championships in Kindersley, Sask. Danny Gallagher’s 2021 book, Never Forgotten: Tales of Ron LeFlore, Ron Hunt and other Expos yarns from 1969-2004, has an excellent chapter that offers extensive details on how the Expos signed Walker.
– With the Rule 5 draft approaching, I can’t help but think about how fortunate the Blue Jays were in 2018. That year, they didn’t protect right-hander Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) in the Rule 5 draft and he was selected by the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox promptly sold him to the Texas Rangers. Romano went to spring training with the Rangers in 2019 and they auditioned him as a reliever but they informed him near the end of March that he was not going to make the team. As the Rule 5 draft rules indicate, Romano had to be on the Rangers’ big league roster for the 2019 season or be offered back to the Blue Jays for $50,000. Fortunately, the Blue Jays were able to get him back and the rest, as they say, is history. On Wednesday, Romano was announced as one of the American League relievers nominated for the All-MLB team.
– So how much does a gem-mint (PSA 10) Fergie Jenkins rookie card sell for these days? The answer is $29,999.99. Here is the evidence from a November 7 eBay auction:
-Don’t forget to register to watch the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2021 virtual induction ceremony on Tuesday at 7 p.m. E.T. Registration is free and you can register through this link. The Hall’s 2021 class was selected by a panel of Canadian baseball historians and consists of 16 individuals and one team. It includes trailblazing players, executives, an umpire and an international championship winning team. The last two Tip O’Neill Award winners (Mike Soroka (2019) and Jamie Romak (2020)), as well as the last two Jack Graney Award winners (Ken Fidlin (2019) and Dan Shulman (2020)) will also be honoured. Bios of this year’s inductees can be found here.
–It was 53 years ago today that the Montreal Expos held their groundbreaking ceremony at Jarry Park to begin renovations on what would become the club’s first home stadium. Expos president John McHale and general manager Jim Fanning were on hand for the event which took place on snow covered ground. The Montreal Gazette reported that the price tag to convert Jarry Park, which was essentially a youth baseball field at the time, into a big league facility was going to be between $3 and $4 million.
– I was reading a tweet by Marcus Stroman on Thursday in which he criticized the National League Relief Pitcher nominees for the All-MLB team. Stroman couldn’t believe that former Blue Jays left-hander and 2021 Mets teammate Aaron Loup had been snubbed. Stroman encouraged his followers to check out Loup’s 2021 numbers. I did and Stroman is right. I had no idea that Loup had gone 6-0 with a 0.95 ERA in 65 relief appearances for the Mets in 2021. Loup, who made 369 appearances for the Blue Jays between 2012 and 2018, is a free agent.
– My trivia question for this week: Who was the first major league player to walk to the plate in a major league game at Montreal’s Jarry Park? Hint: He is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section.
–The answer to last week’s trivia question (The Montreal Expos took Toronto native Dave Wainhouse in the first round of the 1988 MLB draft. But the Expos’ third round selection that year would go on to win three Gold Gloves and record more than 2,000 MLB hits. Who was he?) was Marquis Grissom.