May 15, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:
-What Canadian do I think will have the best offensive season in the majors? If you had asked me this at the beginning of April, I would’ve said Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.), Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) or Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.). But while one of them might still have the best season, the top hitting Canadian right now is Cleveland Guardians slugger Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.). The Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum, who began the season on the injured list after sustaining multiple leg fractures in an on-field collision with a teammate last June, has been red hot at the plate. After belting two home runs and equaling a Canadian big league record with eight RBIs in a game on Monday, he homered again and went 2-for-4 on Tuesday. Unfortunately on Friday, he was placed on the COVID-19 list after an outbreak on the Guardians. MLB rules dictate that Naylor can return 10 days from the day he first reported symptoms or after testing negative twice. Naylor is batting a lofty .347 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 20 games for the Guardians this season.
-Unfortunately, St. Louis Cardinals slugger Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) has had a rough start to his season. Fresh off a breakout campaign in which he hit . 286 and belted 34 home runs in 138 games, he is batting just .193 with two home runs through 30 games in 2022. It also wasn’t a great week for O’Neill off the field. He lost his arbitration case with the Cardinals on Wednesday and will be paid $3.4 million this season, instead of the $4.15 million he had filed for. Now 26, the Langley Blaze and Junior National Team alum has played parts of five big league seasons.
-Left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) suffered a setback in his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery last weekend and has been shut down from throwing, according to Christopher Smith, of Mass Live. The Canuck southpaw is experiencing posterior elbow soreness. He had been throwing bullpen session at the Red Sox spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla. Chaim Bloom, the Red Sox chief baseball officer, is not overly concerned, calling the setback a “little bump in the road.” Paxton, however, had said that he hoped to be pitching for the Red Sox before the All-Star break, but that now seems unlikely. Signed by the Red Sox in December, Paxton threw just 24 pitches in one start for the Seattle Mariners last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery. It was the second Tommy John procedure of his career. A North Delta Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum, the 33-year-old southpaw has pitched in parts of nine major league campaigns and owns a 57-33 record and a 3.59 ERA in 137 starts.
-A statue of Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) will be unveiled in a ceremony outside of Wrigley Field on Friday. Jenkins is the first Canadian to be honoured with a statue outside a major league park. The durable right-hander pitched 10 seasons with the Cubs and holds franchise pitching records in WAR (53.1), starts (347) and strikeouts (2,038). While with the Cubs from 1967 to 1972, Jenkins registered six consecutive 20-win seasons and never tossed less than 20 complete games in any of those campaigns.
-Happy 41st Birthday to 2020 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Justin Morneau! Born in New Westminster, B.C., he honed his skills with the North Delta Blue Jays and the Junior National Team before being selected by the Minnesota Twins in the third round of the 1999 MLB draft. The left-handed hitting Canuck began his minor league career as a catcher but was converted into a first baseman in 2000. He was called up to make his major league debut with the Twins on June 10, 2003 and would spend the next decade with the Twins, evolving into one of the American League’s most feared sluggers. Between 2003 and 2013, he was a four-time all-star, won two Silver Slugger awards, had four 100-RBI seasons and became the first – and still only – Canadian to be named American League MVP (2006). After a short tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013, Morneau signed with the Colorado Rockies and proceeded to bat .319 and win the National League batting title to become just the second Canadian (along with Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.)) to accomplish that feat. Morneau suited up for part of one more season with the Rockies before playing his final big league campaign with the Chicago White Sox in 2016. In all, Morneau played in parts of 14 big league seasons and he ranks in the top five among Canadian major leaguers in many all-time offensive statistical categories, including third in hits (1,603), RBIs (985), doubles (349) and total bases (2,739) and fourth in home runs (247). Throughout his career, Morneau also consistently answered the call for the Canadian national team. His name was added to Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence in 2010.
-It was 33 years ago today that the Toronto Blue Jays fired manager Jimy Williams after the club got off to a 12-24 start in the 1989 season. He was replaced on an interim basis by hitting coach Cito Gaston. That interim tag was lifted after Gaston managed the Blue Jays to a 77-49 record down the stretch and to their second American League East title. Gaston, of course, went on to manage the Blue Jays to three more division titles and two World Series championships in 1992 and 1993.
-Please also take a moment to remember the other Jimmy Williams today (two m’s in his name) who was born on this date in 1926. As a teen, this Jimmy Williams was a multi-sport star at Toronto’s De La Salle College School, excelling in hockey, football, lacrosse and baseball. He was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers and played in their minor league system for 18 seasons from 1947 to 1964. Though he never received a big league call-up, Williams was a highly-regarded minor league hitter. In his first season in the Dodgers’ organization, the Canadian outfielder suited up for three different teams and recorded a .367 batting average and knocked in 121 runs. In all, Williams hit .288 and clubbed 126 home runs during his minor league career. When his playing days were over, Williams managed in the minors for 17 seasons for the Dodgers, A’s, Astros and Orioles. He also coached in the majors with Houston in 1975 and with Baltimore from 1981 to 1987, where he was the first base coach on the 1983 World Series-winning squad. For his efforts, he was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. He passed away in 2016.
-Right-hander Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) continues to excel out of the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen. In 12 appearances this season, he is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA and has 17 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings. He picked up a rare two-inning save in the Cubs’ 7-5 win over the San Diego Padres on Wednesday and another save against the Diamondbacks yesterday. Wick was sidelined for much of 2021 by an oblique injury. After he was activated last season, the Vancouver Cannons and Junior National Team alum posted a 4.30 ERA in 22 relief appearances. He struck out 29 batters in 23 innings and picked up five saves. Selected in the ninth round of the 2012 MLB draft by the Cardinals, Wick was a catcher when he entered the minor league ranks before being converted into a pitcher. He made his major league debut with the Padres in 2018.
-It was 41 years ago today that Cleveland right-hander Len Barker tossed a perfect game against the Blue Jays at Cleveland Stadium. Unfortunately, there were just 7,290 fans on hand in the cavernous ballpark to watch him make history. Barker had 11 strikeouts – including fanning Lloyd Moseby, George Bell, John Mayberry and Damaso Garcia twice each. He got Ernie Whitt to fly out to centre field for the final out (Watch it below). Cleveland won the game 3-0.
-The Cincinnati Reds announced on Saturday that Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) has been sent to the triple-A Louisville Bats on a rehab assignment. Votto has been on the COVID-19 list since May 3. Much like the 9-25 Reds, Votto has slumped to begin the season, batting just .122 with no home runs in 22 games.
-Boston Red Sox right-hander Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) registered his first win of the season on Friday when he allowed just one run on three hits in seven innings to propel the Sox to a 7-1 win over the Texas Rangers. That performance marked his second consecutive excellent start. On May 7, he tossed six scoreless innings and struck out eight against the Chicago White Sox in a game the Red Sox eventually lost 3-1. The 29-year-old Victoria Eagles and Junior National Team alum began the month with a 7.84 ERA. It now sits at 5.08.
-This week’s trivia question: Jimy Williams would manage two other major league teams after he was fired by the Blue Jays. Name one of them. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who owns the Montreal Expos record for most saves in a season? ) was John Wetteland with 43 saves in 1993.