St. Marys – The 26 Canadians that donned major league uniforms in 2011 was the largest number in more than a century, and that means the voting for the Tip O’Neill Award is going to be as challenging as ever. The annual recognition stems from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum and is given to the player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball’s highest ideals.
The Ball Hall is seeking input prior to the decision being announced on December 14th. Please send your top three choices in order by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or you can vote on our website at www.baseballhalloffame.ca (there is a poll on the bottom right hand corner)
Larry Walker is the all-time leader in “Tip” awards with nine. Jason Bay sits second with three, while Justin Morneau and Eric Gagné, with two each, are the only others to win more than once. 2010 recipient Joey Votto has a chance to join the club of multiple winners after another stellar season, but he is up against some strong competition from the likes of John Axford, Erik Bedard, Jesse Crain, Russ Martin and Brett Lawrie.
The following is an alphabetic summary, from Axford to Votto, of the Canucks who played in “The Show” in 2011, along with a pair of candidates from Team Canada’s men’s and women’s teams:
John Axford (Port Dover, ON) – Led the Milwaukee Brewers to the playoffs with a National League leading 46 saves, won the NL Rolaids Relief Man award and finished ninth in Cy Young voting. The 6’5”, 195-pounder’s single season save total ranks third in Canadian history, trailing only Eric Gagné, who chalked up seasons of 55 and 52 saves. The moustachioed right-hander compiled a 1.95 ERA with 86 strikeouts, 25 walks, and 59 hits over 73 innings. Beginning April 24th, he converted 43 consecutive saves, and overall converted 46 saves in 48 save opportunities. His ERA after the All-Star Break was 0.84. In six playoff appearances, Axford had a win, three saves, struck out nine in seven innings, and landed a 1.29 ERA.
Jason Bay (Trail, BC) – After a late start due to injury, the 2009 Tip winner smacked a dozen homers, 109 hits, 19 doubles, 57 RBI and a Canadian-leading 11 stolen bases for the New York Mets. Won NL Player of the Week on September 12th. OBP - .329, SLG – .374, BA – .245.
Erik Bedard (Navan, ON) – Won five games in 24 starts with the Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox. Struck out 125 hitters in 129 innings pitched, ERA – 3.62.
Megean Cornellsen (Grand Prairie, AB) – Team Canada outfielder was named MVP in the USA Baseball Women's International Friendship Series, with six hits in six games, seven RBI and four stolen bases. OBP – .421, SLG – .353, BA – 353.
Jesse Crain (Toronto, ON) – Appeared in 67 games for the Chicago White Sox, collected eight wins, 2.62 ERA, struck out 70 and allowed 50 hits in 65 innings.
Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, BC) – The Chicago Cubs opening day starter amassed 10 wins, threw 202 innings, striking out 191, and had a 4.80 ERA in his Canadian-best 34 starts. Nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award.
Scott Diamond (Guelph, ON) – Had seven starts for the Minnesota Twins, winning one, striking out 19 over 39 innings, and had an ERA of 5.08.
Jeff Francis (Vancouver, BC) – After injuries limited him to just 19 starts in 2010, the tall left-hander rebounded to start 31 games for the Kansas City Royals, winning six, pitching 183 innings, striking out 91, and amassing a 4.82 ERA.
Taylor Green (Comox, BC)– Milwaukee Brewers third baseman appeared in 20 games as a September call-up, batted .270. Was Pacific Coast League All-Star and Baseball America 2nd-Team Minor League All-Star. At Triple-A, 120 games, 141 hits, 22 HR, 36 doubles, 88 RBI, BA – .336, SLG – .583, OBP – .413.
Rich Harden (Victoria, BC) – Limited service with Oakland A’s due to injury, 15 starts, four wins, 91 strikeouts in 82 innings, 5.12 ERA.
Blake Hawksworth (North Vancouver, BC) – Relieved for the LA Dodgers, hip problems limited him to 49 games, two wins, 43 strikeouts in 53 innings, 4.08 ERA.
George Kottaras (Toronto, ON) – Back-up catcher with Milwaukee played 49 games, batted .252, five HR, SLG – .459, OBP – .311. Hit for the cycle in Houston on September 3rd, the first major leaguer to do it in 2011, and the first Canadian to hit for the cycle since (who else?) Tip O’Neill did it twice in 1887. 2011 CBHFM inductee George Wood (Pownal, PEI) also hit for the cycle in 1885.
Brett Lawrie (Langley, BC) - Charlie Hustle attitude brought electric atmosphere when the third baseman was called up to the Toronto Blue Jays, playing 43 games, batting .293, with 44 hits, nine HR, 8 doubles, 25 RBI, seven stolen bases, SLG – .580, OBP – .373, and a memorable extra-inning walk-off HR against the Boston Red Sox. The right-handed slugger was just named to the Topp’s 2011 All-Rookie Team. At Triple-A, played 69 games, 103 hits, 18 HR, 61 RBI, 13 SB, BA – 353, SLG – .661, OBP – .415. Was Pacific Coast League’s Player of the Month in May, named Baseball America 1st Team Minor League All-Star, and Baseball America Triple-A All-Star.
Chris Leroux (Montreal, QC) – The 6’6”, 225 lb right-hander appeared in 23 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates, winning one, striking out 24 batters in 25 innings, and compiling a 2.88 ERA.
Adam Loewen (Vancouver, BC) – Completed the remarkable transition from major league pitcher to major league position player due to arm injury. Called up to the Blue Jays in September, played 14 games, six hits, one HR. At Triple-A, in 134 games, smacked 159 hits, 17 HR, 46 doubles, stole 11 bases, BA – .306, SLG – .508, OBP – .377. Recently signed with the New York Mets.
Trystan Magnuson (Vancouver, BC) – Pitched in nine games with the Oakland A’s, striking out 11 in 14 innings, 6.14 ERA.
Jonathan Malo (Joliette, QC) - Shortstop led Team Canada to bronze medal at World Cup and gold at Pan Am Games. Named to World Cup All-Star Team (quite a rarity for a Canadian middle infielder), batted .382, collected 13 hits and played exceptional defence while starting every game for Canada. Batted .316 at Pan Ams. Team Canada improved to 6th in world ranking. Batted 226 at Double-A and Triple-A in NY Mets system.
Russell Martin (East York, ON) – New York Yankees everyday catcher was an American League All-Star, finished first in assists, and in 125 games had 99 hits, 18 HR, 17 doubles, eight stolen bases, BA – .237, SLG – .408, OBP – .324.
Scott Mathieson (Vancouver, BC) – Limited action attempting comeback following third elbow surgery, including two Tommy John elbow ligament replacements. Pitched in four games, five innings, struck out five, 0.00 ERA.
Justin Morneau (New Westminster, BC) – Former AL MVP with Larry Walker career-like potential still feeling effects of concussion, playing only 69 games, with 60 hits, four HR, 16 doubles, 30 RBI, BA – .227, SLG – .333, OBP – .285.
Mike Nickeas (Vancouver, BC) – Back-up catcher for the New York Mets saw action in 21 games, 10 hits, .194 BA.
Pete Orr (Toronto, ON) – Utility infielder for Philadelphia Phillies played in 46 games, 21 hits, three doubles, three stolen bases, .219 BA.
Scott Richmond (Vancouver, BC) – Hampered by injury, only had one outing with the Toronto Blue Jays. Closed out the Pan Am Games gold medal game with three innings of sparkling relief against the USA to hold Canada’s 2-1 lead, and striking out the game’s final hitter to give Canada its first ever gold medal at the Senior level.
Mike Saunders (Victoria, BC) – Seattle Mariners outfielder played 58 games, 24 hits, five doubles, six stolen bases, .149 BA.
Matt Stairs (St. John, NB) – Ended incredible MLB career having played for a record 13 teams. The power hitting outfielder who hold the major league record with 23 pinch-hit homeruns. Saw limited action, mainly pinch-hit, in 56 games with Washington Nationals, totalled 10 hits and a .154 BA. Ironically, despite the left-handed slugger’s sure-fire future Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame career numbers, Stairs did not win a Tip O’Neill Award in any of his 19 seasons. Arguably could have won or shared the Tip in his best season, 1999, with 38 HR and 102 RBI, but Larry Walker knocked 37 HR and 115 RBI in 20 fewer games, and won the batting title with a .379 clip, and a superb OPS of 1.168, while Stairs batted .258 and had an .899 OPS.
Mark Teahen (Canadian Citizen, father born in St. Marys, ON) – Third baseman traded from the Chicago White Sox to the Toronto Blue Jays, played in 78 games, 32 hits, four doubles, 14 RBI, and a .200 BA.
Rene Tosoni (Toronto, ON) – Minnesota Twins outfielder played in 60 games, chalking up 32 hits, five HR, seven doubles, 22 RBI, and a .203 BA.
Joey Votto - (Etobicoke, ON) – NL All-Star and Gold Glove winner finished sixth in MVP voting. The 2010 NL MVP batted .309 including 29 HR, 72 extra base hits, and a Canadian record 110 bases on balls. The Cincinnati Reds marquee player led the NL in BA on the road (.334) and BA with runners in scoring position (.383), and led all MLB first basemen in games (160) and innings played, total chances, putouts, assists and was second in double plays. Had 185 hits including NL-leading 40 doubles, 103 RBI, scored 101 runs, and stole eight bases. SLG – .531, OBP – .416, OPS – .947 (9th in NL).
The award is named after Woodstock, Ontario native James 'Tip' O'Neill, who was one of Major League baseball's first legitimate stars. With the St. Louis Browns in 1887, the outfielder set major league records in hits, doubles, slugging percentage, and total bases that season while compiling his astounding major league record .492 batting average, and SLG-691, H-225, D-52, T-19, HR-14, TB-357, R-167, RBI-123. Bases on balls were included as hits in 1887, but if O'Neill's average was calculated by today's standard, it was .435, the second highest in major league history to Hugh Duffy (.438).
Past winners of the James "Tip" O'Neill Award:
1984 TERRY PUHL
1985 DAVE SHIPANOFF
1986 ROB DUCEY
1987 LARRY WALKER
1988 KEVIN REIMER
1989 STEVE WILSON
1990 LARRY WALKER
1991 DANIEL BRABANT
1992 LARRY WALKER
1993 ROB BUTLER
1994 LARRY WALKER
1995 LARRY WALKER
1996 JASON DICKSON
1997 LARRY WALKER
1998 LARRY WALKER
1999 JEFF ZIMMERMAN
2000 RYAN DEMPSTER
2001 LARRY WALKER (tie)
2001 COREY KOSKIE (tie)
2002 LARRY WALKER (tie)
2002 ERIC GAGNÉ (tie)
2003 ERIC GAGNÉ
2004 JASON BAY
2005 JASON BAY
2006 JUSTIN MORNEAU
2007 RUSSELL MARTIN
2008 JUSTIN MORNEAU
2009 JASON BAY
2010 JOEY VOTTO
On a personal level, my write in ballot looked like this:
1. Brett Lawrie
2. Brett Lawrie
3. Brett Lawrie
After some heated debate, it was accepted. Exercise your right and vote now!
The winner will be announced tomorrow.