BWDIK: Axford, Dawson, Donaldson, Romak Thames, Van Slyke, Votto
But What Do I Know? … Josh Donaldson, Joey Votto, Andre Dawson
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
_ On Thursday, Josh Donaldson became the third Toronto Blue Jays player to be named the American League MVP, joining George Bell, who won the honour in 1987 and Carlos Delgado in 2003. Oh wait. Sorry. Delgado finished second in 2003 to Alex Rodriguez in a season in which A-Rod has since admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in. This still doesn’t sit well with me.
_ On top of Donaldson, who garnered 23 of the 30 first-place votes (good for 385 points), four other Blue Jays – Jose Bautista (82 points), David Price (62 points), Edwin Encarnacion (38 points) and Russell Martin (2 points) – received MVP votes.
_ Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto finished third in the National League MVP voting. It was actually five years ago today that Votto captured the 2010 MVP honour. On the strength of the Canadian slugger’s .324 batting average, .424 on-base percentage and 113 RBIs that season, the Cincinnati Reds advanced to the post-season for the first time since 1995. In securing the award, Votto became the second Canadian winner, following Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, BC) who was the 1997 NL MVP.
_ Scott Crawford of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame has assembled a complete list of Canadians who have received MVP votes. Walker received votes in eight seasons (8) – the most of any Canadian – while pitching legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) garnered MVP votes six times.
_ Thirty-eight years ago today, Montreal Expos outfielder Andre Dawson was named the National League Rookie of the Year for the 1977 season. The future National and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer hit .282 and belted 19 homers in his inaugural campaign to edge out San Francisco Giants outfielder Steve Henderson in the voting. Dawson was the second Expo to win the award. Carl Morton was named top rookie in 1970 after he posted 18 wins and a 3.60 ERA in 43 games for the Expos.
_ London, Ont., native Jamie Romak has signed with the Nippon Professional Baseball League’s Yokohama BayStars for the 2016 season. The deal will pay the 30-year-old Romak, who played 12 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015, considerably more than he would make either as a big league bench player or in triple-A. “The reality of my situation in the (U.S.) is that I’m looking at a bench job, which is fine, but I want more than that,” Romak told Morris Dalla Costa of the London Free Press. “Over in Japan, they are paying me to go hit fourth and play every day and be a cog in the lineup and be someone they can depend on. When I look at the whole scope of things and the reality that I may wind up in triple-A next year, here I can go over play in front of 40,000 every night and compete in one of the best leagues in the world and have some financial stability. When I look at it, my wife and I, it was way too good to pass up.” Romak spent the bulk of the 2015 season, his 13th in professional baseball, with the D-Backs’ triple-A Reno Aces where he socked 27 home runs and knocked in a career-best 100 runs. For his efforts, he was selected to be a starter in the Pacific Coast League All-Star game and was named the DH on the league’s postseason All-PCL Team.
_ Port Dover, Ont., native John Axford was designated for assignment by the Colorado Rockies on Friday. The 6-foot-5 right-hander returned to the closer’s role in 2015 and recorded 25 saves for the Colorado Rockies. This moved him past Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.) into second-place on the all-time Canadian saves list. Axford has posted a 3.52 ERA in 403 major league games in his seven-year big league career.
_ Former big league player and coach Andy Van Slyke made some controversial comments in an interview on St. Louis radio station CBS Sports 920 on Thursday. Van Slyke, who lost his job as a coach with the Seattle Mariners at the end of the season, criticized Robinson Cano and Fernando Rodney, among others, in the interview. He also directed a barb at former Blue Jay and current Houston Astro Colby Rasmus, who after accepting the Astros’ arbitration offer, will make $15.8 million next season. “He’s going to make almost $16 million next year,” Van Slyke said of Rasmus, “and he’s not the sharpest nail in the tool box.”
_ Speaking of former Blue Jays outfielders, playing in the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) has apparently transformed Eric Thames into Babe Ruth. In 142 games with the KBO’s NC Dinos in 2015, Thames hit .381, belted 47 home runs and drove in 140.