By Neil Munro
Canadian Baseball Network
I think that this may be the year that Joey Votto gets unseated as the perennial Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Tip O’Neill Award recipient as Canada’s best player for the year.
This season Votto's power seems to have deserted him, although he is still managing to get on base more than almost everyone else. Votto trails only Freddie Freeman and Mike Trout in reaching base most often. As usual, his on-base percentage is also among the very best performances of all major league batters. His .433 OBP trails only Mookie Betts (.437 to .433). Of course the Bosox Betts is currently on the DL.
To put his OBP accomplishment into perspective, this season’s “off-year” effort is better than the best OBP posted in any season for Hank Aaron, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Reggie Jackson, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, Eddie Murray, Fred McGriff, Willie Stargell, Dave Winfield, Vladimir Guerrero, Cal Ripken, Al Kaline, or Roberto Clemente (among many other Hall of Famers).
However, I think that 2018 may turn out to be the year that James Paxton ascends to the Tip O’Neill throne.
Besides his no-hitter (on Canadian soil against the Blue Jays), he already has five games with 10 or more strikeouts in a little more than a third of the way through the current season. Ferguson Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) holds the Canadian best season garnering 10 or more strikeouts (accomplishing the feat nine times in 1970).
Jenkins had three seasons with seven games of 10 or more strikeouts and Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.) managed one year (2007) with seven starts with 10 or more whiffs. Paxton is among the AL leaders in ERA, strikeouts and winning percentage, while leading the American League in shutouts and complete games. Paxton had a 16 strikeout game May 2nd against Oakland..
Paxton's accomplishments are all the more impressive as he is the ace of the Mariners’ staff in their resurgence in unseating the World Series Houston Astros atop the AL West standings.
It is quite likely that the bald eagle selected Paxton had a legitimate reason for a alighting on Paxton’s shoulder earlier this year. It might well be because Paxton will become the top Canadian of 2018 in the American national pastime.