November 20, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly Canadian baseball news and notes:
-Who do you think was the best Canadian baseball player in 2022? Was it Toronto Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) who became the first Canuck to record 30 saves in a season for a Canadian major league team? Was it Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) who enjoyed another 30-home run season? Or maybe it was Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) who led the Cleveland Guardians with a career-best 15 wins? The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame would like to hear your opinion as it prepares to hand out its annual Tip O’Neill Award. Fan votes are one of the criteria that will determine the winner. Click here for a full list of candidates. You can email your top three choices to firstname.lastname@example.org by the end of the day on Tuesday.
–Adam Macko is the pitching prospect the Toronto Blue Jays acquired from the Seattle Mariners, along with reliever Erik Swanson, for outfielder Teoscar Hernandez on Wednesday. Born in Slovakia, Macko was raised in Stony Plain, Alta. The young southpaw honed his skills with the Vauxhall Academy Jets. Selected in the seventh round of the 2019 MLB draft by the Mariners, the 6-foot left-hander struck out 60 batters in 38 2/3 innings in High-A in 2022 and was selected to play for the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League. Just 21, he’s likely a few years away from contributing to the Blue Jays’ big league squad, but he owns a devastating curveball and once he hones the rest of his arsenal, he could be an important reliever for the club. You can read more about him in this excellent article by Ian Wilson of Alberta Dugout Stories.
–Jon Paul Morosi, of the MLB Network, reported on Thursday that Ernie Whitt will return to manage the Canadian team in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Whitt, who turned 70 in June, has managed Canada at the previous four World Baseball Classics. From 1977 to 1989, Whitt played in 1,218 games for the Blue Jays. A reliable defensive catcher, the Michigan native was the Blue Jays’ Opening Day catcher nine times and was named an American League All-Star in 1985. In all, in his 12 seasons in Toronto, Whitt collected 888 hits, socked 131 homers and drove in 518 runs. After retiring as a player, he coached and managed in the Blue Jays organization for parts of 12 seasons and has enjoyed a successful tenure as manager with Team Canada. In his first stint as Canada’s field boss at the 1999 Pan Am games in Winnipeg, the Canuck squad earned a bronze medal. He has since managed the national team in over two dozen tournaments and led the squad to their first two international gold medals at the 2011 and 2015 Pan Am Games. He was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.
-Speaking of managers, Philadelphia Phillies bench boss Rob Thomson (Corunna, Ont.) finished fifth in the National League Manager of the Year voting. The Canuck skipper earned two first-place votes, seven second-place votes and five third-place votes. Buck Showalter, who guided the Mets to 101 wins in the regular season, was the winner. In October, Thomson became the first Canadian to manage a team in the World Series in 135 years when he led his Phillies against the Houston Astros. The 2019 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee piloted his underdog Phillies to upset postseason series wins over the St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres. The Phillies were 22-29 on June 2 when Thomson replaced Joe Girardi in the Phillies’ dugout and proceeded to guide the club to a 65-46 record during the regular season. But while it was Thomson’s first trip to the World Series as a manager, he had no shortage of postseason experience. During his close to three decades as a coach in the New York Yankees organization, he earned five World Series rings and was the club’s third base coach on their most recent World Series-winning squad in 2009. He was also a bench coach on the 2015 and 2017 Yankees squads that advanced to the postseason.
-It was 22 years ago today that the Oakland A’s traded slugger Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.) to the Chicago Cubs for pitching prospect Eric Ireland. Stairs had enjoyed the best seasons of his major league career with the A’s. After belting 10 home runs in 61 games with the A’s in 1996, Stairs walloped 27 homers the next campaign. He followed that up with 26 and 38 home runs in 1998 and 1999 respectively and drove in more than 100 runs in both of those seasons to become the first Canadian to register back-to-back 25-home run, 100-RBI campaigns. Stairs would spend just one season with the Cubs, batting .250 with 17 home runs in 128 games before signing with the Milwaukee Brewers as a free agent. Over the next 10 seasons, he suited up for nine different teams, including the Blue Jays in 2007 and 2008 and developed into one of the best pinch-hitters in big league history. For his career, Stairs clubbed a major league record 23 regular season, pinch-hit home runs. In all, the New Brunswick native’s career spanned 19 big league seasons and he hit 265 homers, the third-most by a Canadian.
–Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) and Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) re-upped with the Atlanta Braves and the Cubs respectively on Friday. Both were eligible for salary arbitration but elected to sign. Soroka, who has been shelved since August 3, 2020 after tearing his right Achilles tendon twice, will receive $2.8 million from the Braves in 2023. Wick’s salary for 2023 was not disclosed but the 6-foot-3 right-hander topped all Canadian big-league pitchers with 64 appearances in 2022. He posted a 4.22 ERA and registered nine saves, while striking out 69 in 64 innings.
-I always like to report stadium giveaways that feature Canadian baseball legends. Last year, the Houston Astros gave away a Terry Puhl bobblehead at Minute Maid Park on August 13 to commemorate his induction into the team’s Hall of Fame. In 2023, the Astros’ state rival Texas Rangers will be handing out replica Fergie Jenkins jerseys to fans on May 20. Jenkins enjoyed two tenures (1974-75, 1978 to 1981) with the Rangers during his 19-year big league career. His best season with the Rangers was in 1974 when he registered 25 wins, 29 complete games, 245 strikeouts and a 2.82 ERA and finished second to Catfish Hunter in the American League Cy Young Award voting.
-Ten years ago today, the Toronto Blue Jays hired John Gibbons for his second tenure as the club’s manager. The lovable Texan proceeded to lead the Blue Jays to their first division title in 22 years in 2015 and then another postseason berth in 2016. In all, in the six seasons of his second tenure with the Blue Jays, he led the team to a 488-484 record. Previously, he had managed the club to a 305-305 record in parts of five seasons from 2004 to 2008.
-Four Canadians are on Baseball America’s list of minor league free agents compiled by Geoff Pontes. They are catcher/1B Andy Yerzy (North York, Ont.), Arizona Diamondbacks; right-hander Landon Leach (Pickering, Ont.), Atlanta Braves; catcher Jordan Procyshen (Calgary, Alta.), Texas Rangers and right-hander Curtis Taylor (Port Coquitlam, B.C.), Washington Nationals. There are also several ex-Jays on the list, including Deck McGuire, Sam Gaviglio, Ryan Borucki and Patrick Murphy.
-Congratulations to Brady Williams, the son of former Blue Jays manager Jimy Williams, who has been named the third base coach of the Tampa Bay Rays. After a seven-year playing career that included stints in the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox and Rays organizations, Williams began his coaching career in the Rays’ system in 2006. He has served as a minor league manager in the Rays organization since 2009, including as skipper of the triple-A Durham Bulls since 2019. This will be the 43-year-old’s first big league assignment.
-Regular Canadian Baseball History Conference presenter and diehard Montreal Expos fan Warren Campbell and Gordon Weiske are launching a new venture called the JOIN TV network on January 1, 2023. Campbell, who heads up sales and logistics at True Gravity Productions, possesses more than 25 years experience in the entertainment industry, working with musicians, television producers, athletes, speakers and entertainers and has sold programming world-wide. Baseball games from foreign leagues will likely be part of the new network’s programming, which is to be the latest ad-supported streaming and digital linear network in Canada. Campbell also hopes to air some Canadian baseball content. You can learn more about the new network here.
-This week’s trivia question: Matt Stairs played for both the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays during his major league career. He also played for two Canadian triple-A affiliated minor league teams. Can you name one of them? Please provide your answer in the Comments section below.
– The answer to last week’s trivia question (Two other Canadians have won major league MVP Awards since Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) did so in 1997. Who are they?) was Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) who was the American League MVP in 2006 and Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) who was the National League MVP in 2010.