January 22, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
-Montreal-born Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will not be suiting up for Canada at this year’s World Baseball Classic. The Toronto Blue Jays slugger told the media on Friday during the Blue Jays Winter Tour that he plans to play for the Dominican Republic. Guerrero Jr., who recently signed a one-year, $14.5-million contract with the Blue Jays, also said there have been no discussions about a long-term deal with the club.
-MLB Network reporter Jon Morosi shared on Twitter on January 14 that Abraham Toro (Longueuil, Que.) will play for Canada at the World Baseball Classic. Toro was dealt by the Seattle Mariners to the Milwaukee Brewers, along with Jesse Winker, on December 2 in exchange for Kolten Wong and cash. In 2022, Toro reached double-digits in home runs for the second time in his career, belting 10 in 109 games for the Mariners. The versatile Canuck also added 36 runs, 60 hits, 13 doubles and 22 walks. The switch-hitting Canadian, who was on the Mariners’ postseason roster, was also one of the club’s top pinch-hitters, going 4-for-12 (.333 batting average) during the regular season. Originally selected in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Houston Astros, the ABC Academy alum made his big league debut on August 22, 2019. He’d play parts of three seasons with the Astros before being traded to the Mariners.
–Last Sunday, I wrote about veteran pitchers John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) and Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.) training to make comebacks to play for Canada at the World Baseball Classic. I neglected to mention that left-hander Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) is doing the same. After not playing in 2022, the 37-year-old Albers has been training (when not supply teaching) in his home province of Saskatchewan. In his 13-season professional career that has included big league stops with the Minnesota Twins, Blue Jays and Mariners, as well as a successful tenure with the Orix Buffaloes of the Japan Pacific League, the veteran lefty owns a 3.70 ERA in 327 appearances, including 174 starts, spanning 1,462 2/3 innings. He has also made eight appearances for the Canadian national team and was a member of both Pan Am Games gold medal-winning teams in 2011 and 2015. He pitched the first seven innings of a combined no-hitter for Canada against Colombia in the Americas Olympic Qualifier on May 31, 2021.
-At the Baseball Canada National Teams Awards press conference on January 14, I spoke with former big league pitcher and current Baseball Canada CEO Jason Dickson (Miramichi, N.B.). He played parts of 10 professional seasons – including four in the big leagues with the Angels. Dickson competed alongside Jim Edmonds, Tim Salmon and Rickey Henderson and on the 1997 American League All-Star team with Cal Ripken Jr., Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. But when I asked him who the best athlete was that he ever played with, he surprised me with his answer. It was Deion Sanders. Dickson played with the two-sport star for the triple-A Syracuse SkyChiefs in 2001.
-It was four years ago today that Roy Halladay was posthumously elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. A first-round pick of the Blue Jays in the 1995 MLB draft, the 6-foot-6 right-hander became a mainstay in the Blue Jays’ starting rotation beginning in July 2001 and he established himself as the team’s ace the following year when he won 19 games and led American League hurlers in innings pitched (239 1/3) and WAR (7.4) and was selected to his first All-Star team. Halladay would top that the ensuing campaign when he led the league in wins (22), innings pitched (266), complete games (9) and WAR (8.1). For his efforts, he became the third Blue Jay to capture the American League Cy Young Award. Over his next six seasons with the Blue Jays, Halladay was arguably the league’s best starter. With 20 wins in 2008, the intense righty became the second Blue Jay to record 20 wins in a season twice (Roger Clemens was the other). In all, in parts of 12 seasons with the Blue Jays, Halladay made a team-record seven Opening Day starts, led the American League in complete games five times, innings pitched three times and was a six-time All-Star. He finished his Blue Jays career with a 148-76 won/loss record – good for a .661 winning percentage, which is the best in franchise history. He also ranks second all-time amongst Blue Jays pitchers in wins (148), shutouts (15), strikeouts (1,495) and WAR (48.5). After being dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies in December 2009, Halladay continued his dominance in the National League, recording 21 wins and leading the circuit in innings pitched (250 2/3), complete games (9) and WAR (8.3) in 2010 to earn his second Cy Young Award. On May 29 of that season, he tossed the 20th perfect game in major league history and just over four months later, on October 6, he became the first National League pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the playoffs when he blanked the Cincinnati Reds in the opening game of the National League Division Series. In total, in his 16-year major league career, Halladay was selected to eight All-Star games, collected 203 wins and posted a .659 winning percentage, which ranks 19th all-time. He passed away on November 7, 2017.
-Happy 37th Birthday to Baseball Canada alum and former Milwaukee Brewers prospect Brock Kjeldgaard! The Edmonton, Alta., native was selected in the 34th round of the 2005 MLB draft by the Brewers. The right-handed hitting outfielder/first baseman would belt 112 home runs in nine seasons in the Brewers’ organization. That’s an outstanding home run output when you consider he began his pro career as a pitcher, making 33 appearances at the Rookie Ball level in 2006 and 2007. Kjeldgaard has suited up for Canada at several international competitions, including for both Pan Am Games gold medal winning squads in 2011 and 2015. He is now the field and strength coordinator and 17U manager for the Great Lake Canadians in Dorchester, Ont.
-On this date 54 years ago, the Montreal Expos acquired Rusty Staub from the Houston Astros for Jesus Alou and Donn Clendenon. The deal was complicated when Clendenon refused to report to the Astros, but eventually was completed when the Expos shipped Jack Billingham, Skip Guinn and $100,000 to the Astros in place of Clendenon. Nicknamed “Rusty” for his red hair, Staub was affectionately known as “Le Grande Orange” to Expos fans for the same reason. He was the Expos’ sole All-Star representative in the club’s first three seasons (1969 to 1971). The left-handed hitting slugger played 518 games for the Expos and owns the highest cumulative on-base percentage (.402) in franchise history. His attempts to learn the French language while in Montreal, as well as his charitable work off the field, endeared him to the French-Canadian fans and his uniform number (10) was first jersey ever retired by the Expos. He is considered the Expos first superstar. In all, in parts of 23 major league seasons from 1963 to 1985, Staub registered 2,716 hits. He remains the only player in major league history to chalk up more than 500 hits for four different teams (Astros, Expos, Detroit Tigers, New York Mets).
-On this date 46 years ago, the Blue Jays began selling tickets to their first spring training games in Dunedin, Fla. So how much did it cost to go to the Blue Jays spring training games in 1977? Well, according to a Tampa Bay Times article published on January 11, 1977, $25 would get you free parking and a ticket to all 14 home games. Single game tickets were $2 each.
-Longtime Oakland A’s and Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Sal Bando passed away on Friday at the age of 78 after a five-year battle with cancer. Bando batted .254 with a .352 on-base percentage (OBP) and recorded 1,790 hits and 1,031 walks during his 16-season big league career. Along the way, he earned three World Series rings, was a four-time All-Star and finished in the top five in MVP voting three times. Prior to his major league career, he played for the triple-A Vancouver Mounties in 1967, batting .291 with a .392 OBP with nine home runs in 116 games. Bando’s family released the following statement on Saturday: “It is with a heavy heart, the Bando family is sad to announce the passing of its beloved husband and father, Sal, who last night lost his battle with cancer that began over five years ago. Sandy, Sal’s wife of 54 years, and sons Sal Jr., Sonny and Stef, send their love to family, friends and fans who mourn the loss of a humble and faithful man.”
We remember, Mr. Aaron. We will always remember.
-This week’s trivia question: Over the years, Henry Aaron had three Canadian teammates with the Milwaukee Braves. Name one of them. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Two position players have played for Canada a record 13 different times in international competitions. Name one of them.) was either Stubby Clapp (Windsor, Ont.) or Chris Robinson (Dorchester, Ont.).