By: Kevin Glew
Canadian Baseball Network
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• Everyone from Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Frank Thomas to former Montreal Expos teammates Warren Cromartie, Vladimir Guerrero, Cliff Floyd and Tim Burke to current Blue Jays like Kevin Pillar offered their congratulations to Tim Raines via Twitter after he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
Even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chimed in. “Congratulations Tim Raines on your election to the Baseball Hall of Fame,” Trudeau tweeted. “I’ve been a fan since ’87 and then some #nosamours.” Trudeau’s tweet was accompanied by a photo of him and his father at an Expos game at Olympic Stadium.
• The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame noted on Thursday that Raines will become the ninth player, manager or executive to be inducted into both the American and Canadian baseball shrines. The other eight are Fergie Jenkins, Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Pat Gillick, Tommy Lasorda, Sparky Anderson, Jackie Robinson and Roberto Alomar.
• As happy as I am that Raines was finally elected, I was almost equally disappointed to learn that not one of ESPN’s 17 baseball writers voted for Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker. Unfortunately, the ESPN scribes were not the only ones to snub the Canadian slugger. Walker was named on just 23.9% of ballots. The good news is Walker’s vote totals increased by 6.4% from 2016. The bad news is that’s still a far cry from the 75% required for election.
• As a Walker Hall of Fame supporter, I take some solace in the fact that 64 years ago yesterday, the great Joe DiMaggio failed to garner enough Hall of Fame votes in his first year of eligibility. The Yankee Clipper was named on only 44.3% of writers’ ballots and finished a distant eighth in the voting. DiMaggio was eventually elected in his third year of eligibility. For the record, according to Baseball Reference, the batter most statistically similar to DiMaggio is Larry Walker.
• The Detroit Tigers’ acquisition of outfielder Mike Mahtook from the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday had implications for two former Toronto Blue Jays centre fielders. To make room for Mahtook on their roster, the Tigers designated Anthony Gose for assignment.
Meanwhile, the Rays’ decision to part with Mahtook likely frees up a roster spot for Colby Rasmus, who reportedly inked a one-year, $5-million deal (with additional bonus incentives) with the club on January 10. The Rays’ deal with Rasmus has yet to be formally announced.
• In other former Blue Jays news, catcher J.P. Arencibia and pitcher Josh Johnson announced their retirements this week. Arencibia, who played four seasons with the Blue Jays from 2010 to 2013, announced his retirement on Twitter on Wednesday. “I really never could take a walk in my career but this walk will be my biggest yet,” tweeted Arencibia. “I’m walking away from baseball.”
Sportsnet’s Mike Cormack conducted an insightful interview with Arencibia after the announcement in which the ex-Jay discusses his battle with anxiety, as well as a potential future career in the media.
Johnson, who is a two-time National League All-Star and is coming off his third Tommy John surgery, had signed a minor-league deal with the San Francisco Giants earlier this off-season. The 32-year-old right-hander had last pitched in the big leagues with the Blue Jays in 2013 when he posted a 6.20 ERA in 16 starts.
• It was 48 years ago today that the Expos traded first baseman Donn Clendenon and outfielder Jesus Alou to the Houston Astros for Rusty Staub. The deal was nearly kiboshed when Clendenon refused to report to the Astros. It wasn’t until April 8, 1969 that the trade was finally completed. Clendenon stayed with the Expos and the club instead shipped pitchers Jack Billingham and Skip Guinn to the Astros.
Staub would evolve into the Expos first superstar. “Le Grand Orange” was an all-star three seasons with the Expos (1969 to 1971) and he still holds the club mark for highest on-base percentage (.402). His uniform number (10) was the first jersey ever retired by the Expos and he was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.
• The Blue Jays announced their minor league coaching appointments on Thursday. Of note, legendary centre fielder Devon White will serve as the batting coach for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons, while Halifax, N.S., native Vince Horsman will return as pitching coach for the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats for a second season.