Tribute to some of Canada’s greatest baseball players
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Yesterday in Cincinnati, Joey Votto played his 1,989th Major League Baseball game, surpassing Larry Walker for most ever by a Canada player. In honor of this achievement (and also, quite frankly, because it’s the August heat wave), why don’t we remember some Canadian baseball players today? Here’s a slightly (OK, pretty) cheesy rundown of some of this country’s best products, starting with the big three and moving on to a few honorable mentions:
Joey Votto: Now in his 16th major league season, all with the Reds, the 38-year-old Torontonian is arguably the best clean hitter to ever come out of Canada. Although he never won a batting title, Votto led the National League in on-base percentage seven times, including three years when he topped every major. He also showed plenty of pop, hitting 24 or more homers nine times and at least 36 three times. Votto’s best year was 2010, when he won his only NL MVP award after leading the league in field goal and slugging percentage while hitting 37 home runs, making 113 runs and adding 16 stolen bases. Votto has walked 425 times more than any other Canadian and is also the nation’s career leader in OBP and OPS+ (meaning most slugging on-base percentage, adjusted for league and stadium). As measured by Baseball Reference, he ranks 143rd all-time in wins over substitution with 64.6, just ahead of Hall of Famer Willie McCovey.
Larry Walker: The only Canadian batter in the Baseball Hall of Fame is the nation’s all-time leader in home runs (383), batting average (.313), RBIs and stolen bases. Walker, who played 17 seasons, also won a Canadian record seven Golden Gloves, making him a rare “five-tool” talent and the best all-around ball player Canada has ever produced. Like Votto, Walker captured an MVP — for a monster 1997 with the Rockies in which he racked up 49 homers, 130 RBIs and 33 steals (all career highs), led the NL in on-base and slugging percentage as well than Total Bases, and won a Gold Glove for his nimble, cannon-armed work in right field. Walker won his three batting titles over the next four years. Yes, many of his offensive numbers were inflated by the thin Colorado air. But Walker was a star with the Montreal Expos before coming to Denver and, unlike many other sluggers of his day, the Maple Ridge, BC native was never tied to steroids. Walker ranks 90th all-time in Baseball Reference’s WAR — four spots ahead of Derek Jeter.
WATCH | Larry Walker of Canada inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame:
Fergie Jenkins: In his 19 major league seasons, the greatest pitcher in Canadian history has racked up 284 wins and 267 complete games, more than double the totals of any other Canadian in those categories. Jenkins’ 3,192 strikeouts is also a Canadian record, over 1,100. The Chatham, Ont., right-hander had his best run with the Chicago Cubs, winning at least 20 games in six consecutive years from 1967 in 1972 (when wins meant a lot) and in 1971, becoming the first Canadian to win a Cy Young award. Jenkins also had a great year with Texas in 1973, leading the majors with 29 wins and 25 complete games (no throws counted at the time) and finishing second in AL Cy Young voting. In 1991, Jenkins became the first Canadian inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His 84.1 career war puts him 55th all-time, ahead of Pedro Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Nolan Ryan. Learn more about Jenkins here.
Honorable Mentions: New Westminster, BC Justin Morneau is a great “what if” case. He won the AL MVP with Minnesota in 2006 and averaged nearly 30 home runs and 118 RBIs over four straight seasons before concussion issues derailed his career in 2010. Matt Stairs Saint John ranks third in home runs by a Canadian (behind Walker and Votto) and has played 19 seasons in the big leagues. Trail, British Columbia Jason Bay won the 2004 NL Rookie of the Year with Pittsburgh before averaging 31 homers and 103 RBIs over the next five seasons with the Pirates and Red Sox. Born in Toronto, raised in Montreal Russell Martin was one of baseball’s top catchers for several years and spent four years with the Blue Jays at the end of his career. On the mound, ryan dempster of Gibsons, BC, had some great years with the Cubs in the early 2000s (17-6 in 2008) and ranks second to Jenkins in career wins and Ks by a Canadian. Montrealers with glasses Eric Gagne was one of the most dominant players of the turn of the century, racking up 52, 55 and 45 stoppage seasons for the Dodgers before an elbow injury sidelined him and he was named a user of steroids in the Mitchell report.
And if you want to be cute: What would you say Vladimir Guerrero Jr.? Although he identifies as Dominican and was raised in the Dominican Republic, he was born in Montreal during his father’s Hall of Fame tenure with the Expos. Plus, Guerrero won the 2021 Tip O’Neill Canadian Baseball Player of the Year award, so clearly some of us are trying to claim it. With 95 homers at just 23, Vladdy is already 11th in the all-time Canadian-born player rankings.