My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• The photo above (courtesy of Taylor Whitt) provides the answer to the question: What’s the perfect Christmas gift for Ernie Whitt? Whitt, who was a fan favorite and all-star catcher for the Blue Jays for parts of 12 seasons, will once again manage the Canadian team in this year’s World Baseball Classic, which will begin for Canada on Thursday against the Dominican Republic in Miami. Whitt was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009.
• Anyone out there still angry that the Toronto Blue Jays didn’t sign David Price to a long-term deal? The all-star lefty, who inked a seven-year, $217-million contract with the Boston Red Sox following a superb two-month stint with the Blue Jays in 2015, is experiencing left elbow and forearm soreness. He was checked out by Tommy John surgery specialist Dr. James Andrews this week and it was ruled that he does not require surgery. The 31-year-old southpaw was told to rest his arm for seven-to-10 days, but Price said it could be longer than that when he starts throwing again.
• Fun Canadian Baseball Fact (courtesy of MLB Stat of the Day on Twitter): Since 1893, only two major league pitchers have had four consecutive seasons of 250 or more strikeouts: former Montreal Expos pitcher Pedro Martinez (1997 to 2000) and Chatham, Ont., native Fergie Jenkins (1968 to 1971). And no, Nolan Ryan never accomplished this.
• Fun Canadian Baseball Fact #2 (courtesy of High Heat Stats on Twitter): Fergie Jenkins has the second-most complete games (267) of any living active or retired major league pitcher. Only Hall of Fame contemporary Gaylord Perry (303) has more. Below Jenkins on this list are Cooperstowners Bob Gibson (255), Steve Carlton (254) and Phil Niekro (245).
• Happy 38th Birthday to Navan, Ont., native Erik Bedard, who retired in June 2015 after pitching parts of 11 major league seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays. His finest big league campaign came with the Orioles in 2007 when he registered 13 wins, struck out 221 batters and posted a 3.16 ERA in 28 starts. For his efforts, he finished fifth in the American League Cy Young Award voting that season.
• One of the most disappointing developments this spring for the Blue Jays has to be that 2017 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Roy Halladay will reportedly join the Philadelphia Phillies organization as an instructor. On his Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame media conference call on Feb. 2, it sounded as though Halladay might join the Blue Jays organization in some capacity. I can’t imagine anyone more qualified to teach young pitchers about the mental and physical preparation it takes to excel as a major league pitcher. It’s a shame the Blue Jays couldn’t make this happen.
• In a surprising move, the Chicago White Sox placed Langley, B.C., native and former Toronto Blue Jay Brett Lawrie on waivers on Friday. The sparkplug infielder had inked a one-year, $3.5-million contract with the White Sox in the first week of December. White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Lawrie was released in order to give players like Matt Davidson, Tyler Saladino and Yolmer Sanchez more playing time on the rebuilding club.
The 27-year-old Lawrie batted .248 with 12 homers in an injury-plagued 2016 season in which he exclusively played second base. He suited up parts of four seasons with the Blue Jays before he was dealt to the Oakland A’s prior to the 2015 campaign in the package for Josh Donaldson. If Lawrie is not claimed on waivers, the White Sox will only be on the hook for $573,770 in termination pay. If I was a betting man (which I’m not), I’d bet that Lawrie ends up with the Tampa Bay Rays, who need a second baseman, on a minor league deal after he clears waivers.
• Who was the first player ever acquired by the Toronto Blue Jays? The answer is catcher Phil Roof, who turns 76 today. The Blue Jays landed Roof in a trade with the White Sox on October 21, 1976 for a player to be named later (pitcher Larry Anderson). This transaction took place two weeks prior to the expansion draft. Roof was 0-for-5 in three games for the Blue Jays in 1977 before he ended his 15-year major league career.
• If you’re looking for a good way to start your day, how about watching this video of Vin Scully calling a grand slam home run hit by Montreal Expos outfielder Andre Dawson off of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher John Tudor on September 21, 1985. You’ll notice that 2017 Cooperstowner Tim Raines is on second base: