July 23, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Some Canadian baseball news and notes from the past week:
-Congratulations to Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) who belted his 350th major league home run on Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants. It was a two-run shot in the eighth inning off Giants’ right-hander Jakob Junis. With that, Votto became just the second Canadian to club 350 major league home runs, joining Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) who hit 383. The Reds also pointed out on Twitter that with that homer, Votto became just the 16th player in major league history to have at least 350 home runs, 2,000 hits and a .400 on-base percentage (OBP).
-Minnesota Twins second baseman Edouard Julien (Quebec City, Que.) is one of the hottest hitters in the major leagues. In his past 10 games, he is 17-for-33 (.515 batting average) with three home runs. During that stretch, the Junior National Team alum’s batting average has risen from .264 to .310, his OBP has increased from .345 to .390 and his on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) has gone from .817 to .941. His name is now also being mentioned in American League Rookie of the Year conversations.
-Speaking of red hot, almost no one has been more sweltering at the plate since June 1 than Cleveland Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor. Since June 1, he has batted .376 with seven home runs and 36 RBIs in 38 games. His .312 batting average this season ranks third in the American League, while his 76 RBIs are tied for the second most (with Shohei Ohtani). And after he belted two home runs and had six RBIs against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday, Sportsnet shared this graphic on Twitter:
–Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) was released by the Chicago Cubs last Saturday. After parts of four seasons as an effective reliever with the Cubs, Wick failed to crack the big league team’s roster out of spring training in March and struggled to an 8.60 ERA in 23 appearances with triple-A Iowa. In 2022, the 30-year-old right-hander enjoyed his first full major league campaign with the Cubs after overcoming a serious oblique injury that sidelined him for the majority of 2021. Last season, Wick topped all Canadian big-league pitchers with 64 appearances and posted a 4.22 ERA, while striking out 69 in 64 innings. The Cubs signed the Junior National Team alum to a one-year, $1.55-million contract prior to this season.
-Congratulations to former Blue Jays Fred McGriff and Scott Rolen who will be officially inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in a ceremony in Cooperstown today. I’ve written plenty about each of them on this blog, but just to recap: McGriff belted the first 125 of his 493 major league home runs in five seasons with the Blue Jays from 1987 to 1990. Rolen suited up for parts of two campaigns with the Blue Jays in 2008 and 2009 and in 203 games, he batted .288 with 19 home runs, while posting a .810 OPS.
–Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) was reinstated from the injured list by the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday and promptly went 1-for-2 with a double and two RBIs to help lead his club to a 7-2 win over the Cubs. He added another hit in each of the Cards’ losses to the Cubs on Friday and Saturday. The Langley Blaze and Junior National Team alum had been sidelined with a lower back strain since May 5. In 29 games this season before the injury, the Canuck slugger batted .228 with two home runs and six RBIs.
–James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) earned his sixth win of the season for the Boston Red Sox on Saturday when he allowed just two earned runs, while striking out seven, in six innings in the Sox 8-6 win over the New York Mets at Fenway Park. The 34-year-old southpaw is now 6-2 with a 3.46 ERA and has 75 strikeouts in 65 innings in 12 starts this season. Overall, the Junior National Team grad has been one of the Red Sox best starting pitchers over the past two months. He was named the American League’s Pitcher of the Month for June after he went 3-0 with a 1.74 ERA, with 34 strikeouts in 31 innings, in five starts. Paxton’s 12 starts with the Red Sox this season are his first in the regular season since April 6, 2021 with the Seattle Mariners. Since that time, Paxton has endured his second Tommy John surgery, a grade 2 lat tear and, most recently, a hamstring injury.
–Michael Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) started and earned his second win of the season for the Atlanta Braves on Friday night when he allowed four runs in six innings in the Braves’ 6-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. This start came five days after he made the first relief appearance of his big league career last Sunday. In that contest, he tossed three innings in the Braves’ 8-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. In total, in six big league appearances (five starts) this year, Soroka is 2-1 with a 5.51 ERA and has 23 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings. After initially tearing his right Achilles tendon on August 3, 2020, the Junior National Team alum then re-tore it the ensuing June. Following two years of recovery and rehabilitation, Soroka returned to game action in August last year and posted a 5.40 ERA in six late-season starts between class-A and triple-A before being shut down with elbow inflammation.
-On this date 58 years ago, three Canadians pitched for the same major league team in the same game for the first time in history. Right-hander Claude Raymond (St. Jean, Que.) started the game for the Houston Astros and allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings to the Cincinnati Reds at the Astrodome. He was then relieved by right-hander Ron Taylor (Toronto, Ont.) who permitted three runs in his inning of work. Taylor was then replaced by Ken MacKenzie (Gore Bay, Ont.) who allowed three hits and a run without recording an out. The Astros eventually lost 9-1, but Canadian baseball history had been made.
-It was 23 years ago today that legendary manager Sparky Anderson was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953, Anderson advanced to the triple-A Montreal Royals in 1956. After toiling with the Pacific Coast League’s Los Angeles Angels for one season, the fiery second baseman returned to help lead the Royals to a league title in 1958. His sole big league season came with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1959, before he came back to Canada to man second base for the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs for four seasons. In all, the heady infielder played six of his 10 minor league seasons north of the border. In 1964, Anderson accepted his first professional managerial post with the Maple Leafs. After compiling an 80-72 record for the Leafs, he made his way up the managerial ladder to become one of the most successful skippers in big league history. After Anderson was named field boss of the Cincinnati Reds in 1970, the Big Red Machine won National League pennants in 1970, 1972 and 1973 and World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. He would join the Detroit Tigers in 1979 and lead the club to a Fall Classic title in 1984, becoming the first manager to win a World Series in both the National and American Leagues. The four-time manager of the year was also the first skipper to win more than 800 games with two major league teams. Anderson was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. He passed away on November 4, 2010.
-This week’s trivia question: Sparky Anderson managed the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs in 1964. What future National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee managed the Leafs in 1965? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below.
-The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who was the first Montreal Expos pitcher selected to the MLB All-Star Game? ) was Bill Stoneman in 1972.