By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:
-Right-hander Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) seems to be the favourite to begin the season as the Seattle Mariners’ No. 5 starter. The 6-foot-1 righty pitched two scoreless innings in his first start this spring and went a combined 6-4 with a 2.31 ERA in 20 appearances (19 starts) between High-A and double-A in the Mariners’ organization last season. He also struck out 142 in 97 1/3 innings. There has been a lot of buzz about his slider this spring. Sam Dykstra, of MLB Pipeline, tweeted out on Monday that Brash had “thrown a slider with 3,158 rpm today. That’s the highest spin rate on a slider in games measured by Statcast this spring.” Brash told me in an interview last November that he learned how to throw his slider from a teammate in his last season at Niagara University. In 2021, Brash topped all Canadians in the affiliated minor league ranks in strikeouts and finished second in ERA and innings pitched. For his efforts, he was called up by the Mariners on September 28 during their push for a Wild Card spot, but he didn’t get into a game. A fourth-round pick of the San Diego Padres in 2019, Brash, now 23, was named the Canadian Baseball Network’s 2021 Wayne Norton Award winner, as the top Canuck pitcher in the affiliated minor league ranks. He was also named the Mariners’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
-Over the past couple of weeks, the MLB Network has been unveiling their list of the Top 10 Players Right Now at each position. They determine these rankings by using what they call the “the shredder.” The shredder employs a formula based on past player performance and several offensive and defensive metrics, including advanced data and more traditional stats. It also incorporates input by MLB Network researchers. Their list of the Top 10 first basemen includes three players with Canadian connections: No. 1 is Freddie Freeman (both his parents were born in Canada), No. 2 is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (born in Montreal, Que.) and No. 9 is Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.).
-Other Canadians on the MLB Network’s Top 10 Players Right Now lists are Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) who is No. 7 among left fielders and Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) who sits ninth on the list of relievers.
-Speaking of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., it was four years ago today that he walked to the plate for the Toronto Blue Jays with two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the game tied 0-0 in a pre-season exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, where his father had starred with the Expos for so many years. Guerrero Jr. promptly belted a walk-off home run and got a curtain call from the Montreal fans. Watch it here.
-The wonderful Derek Aucoin (Lachine, Que.) was at that game when Guerrero Jr. homered, no doubt lifting the spirits of anyone he bumped into. Derek would’ve turned 52 today. The former Montreal Expo was a talented pitcher, an inspiring speaker and coach and, most importantly, a loving husband and father. He passed away from brain cancer at the age of 50 on Boxing Day in 2020. It still breaks my heart that he’s gone. Derek was a trailblazer in many ways. Not only was he the first Quebec-born player to be signed and brought up through the Expos’ system to play with the big league club, he later became the first Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame board member from Quebec. I’m sending my love to his wife, Isabelle, and son, Dawson, today.
-Now this should be fun: Joey Votto has joined social media and his first Instagram message didn’t disappoint. Listen to it here.
-I was sad to learn that former Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame board chair Mike King passed away on March 12 at the age of 87. She was a generous supporter of the Hall of Fame and whenever I ran into her, she was kind and encouraging. King Field, one of the fields on the Hall’s grounds, is named after her. She will be deeply missed. My condolences to her family. You can read her obituary here.
-On Wednesday, former Montreal baseball writer Jonah Keri was sentenced to 21 months in jail for assault, death threats and criminal harassment against his ex-wife and children. Julie DiCaro, of Deadspin, has provided award-worthy coverage of the criminal proceedings against Keri. You should read her latest article here. The 21-month sentence is apparently longer than the prosecution requested for Keri, but after you read what he did to his wife and child, it doesn’t seem anywhere close to long enough.
-According to the oddsmakers at BetOnline, the Blue Jays have an 80 per cent chance of making the postseason in 2022. They’re tied with the Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros and New York Yankees for the second highest odds of advancing to the playoffs. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the only team above them. Also, according to BetOnline, Guerrero Jr. is the odds-on favourite to be the MLB home run leader in 2022.
-This week’s trivia question: Who holds the Toronto Blue Jays’ record for most triples in a season? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (The record for most triples in a season by a Montreal Expos player is 13. Three different Expos players had 13 triples in a season. Name two of them.) was any two of Rodney Scott (1980), Tim Raines (1985) and Mitch Webster (1986).