July 9 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
-The Major League Baseball Draft begins tonight. The top-rated Canuck on the Canadian Baseball Network’s 2023 Draft List is Myles Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.). He is the younger brother of Guardians players Josh and Bo Naylor, who were selected in the first round of the MLB draft in 2015 and 2018 respectively. Like his brothers, Myles honed his skills with the Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team. Unlike his brothers, the 6-foot-2 infielder bats right-handed. Headed into this year’s draft, Baseball America has him ranked as the 66th best prospect while MLB Pipeline has him at No. 64. Some believe, however, that he has a shot at being selected in the first round. If that happens, as Bob Elliott recently pointed out, the Naylor family will become just the second family to have three brothers chosen in the first round. The only other family to accomplish this is the Drews, from Valdosta, Ga.: Tim Drew (Cleveland, 1997), J.D. Drew (St. Louis, 1998) and Stephen Drew (Arizona, 2004).
-So who was the first Canadian ever selected by a Canadian team in the MLB draft? The answer is Calgary native Richard Trembecki (also referred to as Bob Trembecky in some places online) who was taken by the Montreal Expos in the 15th round in June 1968. Trembecki was best known as a hockey player at the University of Denver at the time, but the Expos took him as a centre fielder. The selection was later voided when the club was informed that players born in Canada weren’t eligible for the draft, which was a rule in place at that time.
-Getting back to the Naylor family, Josh Naylor recorded his 200th MLB RBI when he delivered an RBI single in the first inning on Friday for the Cleveland Guardians in their 3-0 win over the Kansas City Royals. Naylor added two more RBIs on Saturday to give him 64 for the season, which is the fourth-most in the American League. The Junior National Team alum continued his torrid hitting this past week with four more multi-hit games to boost his batting average to .306.
-It seems fitting that the first day of the 2023 MLB Draft is taking place on what would be legendary baseball scout and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jim Ridley’s 78th birthday. After two seasons as an outfielder in the Milwaukee Braves organization in 1964 and 1965, the Toronto native returned to Canada where he would have a significant impact on baseball in his home country for the next four decades. While continuing his playing career in the Intercounty Baseball League, Ridley launched his storied coaching and scouting career. He began as a part-time scout with the Detroit Tigers in 1973, before joining the Toronto Blue Jays in 1976 to run the club’s first tryout camp in Utica, N.Y. In his 26 years as a scout with the Blue Jays, Ridley was the driving force behind the club’s decisions to sign Canadians like Paul Spoljaric (Kelowna, B.C.), Rob Butler (East York, Ont.) and David Corrente (Wallaceburg, Ont.). He also served as a coach with the Blue Jays’ Rookie ball affiliate in Medicine Hat from 1978 to 1980. Ridley also coached the Canadian Junior National Team from 1983 to 1988, leading the squad to bronze medals at the World Junior Baseball Championship in 1983 and 1987. In 1988, he coached the Canadian Olympic baseball team and three years later, he was tabbed to manage Canada’s squad at the Pan Am Games. Starting in 2002, Ridley served as a scout with the Minnesota Twins. He passed away on November 28, 2008. Each year, the Canadian Baseball Network presents the Jim Ridley Award to the country’s top scout in his memory.
-On this date 32 years ago, the MLB All-Star Game was held at SkyDome in Toronto for the first and only time. Three Blue Jays – Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter and Jimmy Key – suited up for the American League squad, who defeated a National League team, whose roster featured Montreal Expos Dennis Martinez and Ivan Calderon, 4-1. Fittingly, Key was the winning pitcher, while Martinez took the loss. Former Expo Andre Dawson homered in the fourth inning for the National League.
-It would’ve been wonderful to have seen Dave Stieb pitch in that 1991 Midsummer Classic at SkyDome. He was 4-3 with a 3.17 ERA in nine starts but was injured in his start against the Oakland A’s on May 22 and was sidelined for the rest of the season with shoulder and back woes. “It would’ve been the perfect circumstance to get Stieb in there,” said Len Lumbers, who runs the fabulous Today in Dave Stieb History Twitter account, with his longtime friend Blake Bell. “It would’ve been a home game. It would’ve have a record-setting game. It would’ve been his eighth selection [the most by any AL pitcher ] at that point. It would’ve been just a perfect situation.”
-I had a great discussion with Bell and Lumbers about Stieb’s Toronto Blue Jays’ franchise record seven All-Star Game appearances on Wednesday. Just how good was Stieb in those seven Midsummer Classic appearances? According to stats provided by Lumbers, Stieb’s 0.77 ERA in 11 2/3 All-Star innings is second best to Randy Johnson (0.75) among All-Star pitchers since 1969. The only two American League pitchers to have made more All-Star Game appearances than Stieb since 1969 are Mariano Rivera (9) and Roger Clemens (8). And the only two American League pitchers that have tossed more innings in the All-Star Game since 1969 are Clemens (13) and Jim Palmer (12 2/3).
-Cincinnati Reds slugger Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) belted his 349th major league home run on Saturday. It was a three-run home run off Brewers right-hander Colin Rea in the fourth inning of the Reds’ 8-5 win at American Family Field. With that homer, Votto moved past former Reds great George Foster on the all-time home run list and now has the 99th most homers in major league history. Votto also had a double and a home run in Friday’s game against the Brewers, and with his six total bases in that contest, he moved past Johnny Bench into second place in Reds’ franchise history with 3,645 total bases (See graphic below).
-The Cleveland Guardians/Atlanta Braves game on Wednesday featured the most recent showdown of two Canadian starting pitchers. Junior National Team grad Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) started for the Guardians against Junior National Team grad Michael Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) of the Braves. Both pitchers tossed 99 pitches, but neither made it to the fifth inning. Soroka, however, fared better than Quantrill. He didn’t allow a run on five hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings for the Braves. Meanwhile Quantrill, permitted five runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings and was saddled with the loss for the Guardians in the Braves’ 7-1 victory.
–Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.) homered in consecutive games for the Minnesota Twins on Monday and Wednesday. That gave the Junior National Team grad six home runs in his first 40 major league games. His home run output inspired this interesting graphic from TSN Stats (below).
-Seattle Mariners reliever Matt Brash (Kingston, Ont.) has allowed just one earned run in his last 12 appearances, and since the beginning of June, his ERA has dropped from 4.50 to 3.60. Brash is tied for second in the American League in pitching appearances with 42 and has struck out 61 batters in 35 innings. That’s good for an astounding 15.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
-Thanks to Canadian baseball historian Barry Naymark for pointing out that Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) and James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) were the winning pitchers for the Boston Red Sox in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday against the Oakland A’s. Pivetta picked up the win in Friday’s contest when he entered the game in the third inning and allowed just two earned runs, while striking out eight, in five innings, in the Sox 7-3 win. Paxton then started on Saturday and permitted just two runs in six innings in the Red Sox 10-3 victory. By my research (and please correct me if I’m wrong), the last two Canadians to register wins in back-to-back games for the Red Sox were Reggie Cleveland (Swift Current, Sask.) and Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) on June 18 and June 19, 1977. Cleveland earned the win in a Sox 10-4 victory over the Yankees on June 18 and Jenkins got the victory in the Sox 11-1 drubbing of the Bronx Bombers the following day.
-Watching veteran Chicago White Sox right-hander Lance Lynn dominate the Blue Jays on Thursday, allowing just one hit, while striking out 11, in seven scoreless innings in the first game of a doubleheader reminded me of how good Lynn can be. It also reminded Bob Elliott and I that Canadian Jared Young (Prince George, B.C.), who turns 28 today, belted a home run off Lynn in Canada’s 12-1 loss to the U.S. in the second game of the World Baseball Classic in March. Young is now playing with the Chicago Cubs. He made four starts at first base for the Cubs this week and is 5-for-26 (.192 batting average) in nine big league games this season.
-This week’s trivia question: Who was the first Toronto Blue Jays pitcher selected to the MLB All-Star Game? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Aside from Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) and Votto, four other Canadians have played at least 1,500 MLB games. Name two of them.) was any two of Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.), Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.), Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) or Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.).