Letters of Intent
By Bob Elliott
Who better to evaluate Your 2015 Toronto Blue Jays than the Three Wise Men.
They were asked to take a look at the changes general manager Alex Anthopoulos has made:
Josh Donaldson takes over at third base for Brett Lawrie; Russell Martin becomes the every day catcher and Michael Saunders is the new left fielder replacing Melky Cabrera. The bullpen remains unfinished business.
“I don’t know if the Rogers Centre is a better hitting park than Pittsburgh, but Russell will do well here,” said Walker, who won his MVP award in 1997. “Russell is going to have to learn a whole new staff, but he has shown it hasn’t been a problem in the past. He moves from one to another, learning his pitchers quickly and helping them improve.”
Martin broke in with the Los Angeles Dodgers, moved to the New York Yankees and then on to the Pittsburgh Pirates before joining the after signing the largest free-agent contract in club history.
“Donaldson is a heck of a player, not to knock Brett Lawrie but he has the Larry Walker syndrome — too many injuries,” said Walker. “A change of scenery will help MichaelSaunders. He can be a scary hitter when he puts it together.”
Walker flew in from West Palm Beach fresh off a perfect game in 10-pin bowling at Verdes Tropicana Bowling Lanes.
Votto, Morneau and Walker were on hand to see Martin honoured as the seventh player with his name on Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence. Besides the three MVP winners the others are Jason Bay, Ryan Dempster and manager Ernie Whitt.
Morneau said all three Jays newcomers are “good character guys.”
“People think that chemistry is overrated, I think it’s important,” said Morneau, an MVP winner in 2006, “if it wasn’t important wouldn’t the team with the highest payroll win every year? Instead the best team wins.”
The reigning National League batting champ sees Donaldson as a typical third baseman (“a power guy”) and predicts Donaldson will have a better year at the Rogers Centre than hitting at spacious Oakland where it is difficult to hit homers … and worse than that after the sun sets.
“People will be most impressed about his defence,” Morneau said of Donaldson. “Playing on the coast I don’t think he gets the credit or respect he deserves.”
Votto, an MVP winner in 2010, said that the Jays changed the “character of the clubhouse” with their moves.
“Not that I thought that was the problem — they were a little short on talent and pitching,” said Votto. “Russell is a huge improvement. So is Donaldson.
“Brett will be missed in his own way. The new players should give them a big boost.”
Stephen Brooks, vice president of the Blue Jays, gave Baseball Canada president Ray Carter a cheque for $25,000 and the Royal Bank forked over $20,000. Major League Baseball was back with its annual gift of $50,000.
“Not too often to Canadians get to see Canadians playing for their teams,” said Morneau. “It’s good that Canadians kids gets get the chance to see Canadians play. They can see guys from the same Little League or Canadian Junior National Team programs that they played in now in the big leagues.”
It will be Canada Day 81 home dates a season.
Now, if the Jays could solve their bullpen problem by signing free agent John Axford of Ancaster …
Awards: The usual minor-league career is six years … if a player is going to make it.
After that you’re likely not getting promoted.
Jamie Romak was the top high school Canadian drafted in 2003. Of the 48 Canucks drafted that year only Milwaukee Brewers James Henderson, Dustin Molleken, who pitched at triple-A with the Brewers in 2014, and Romak remain active.
Romak made his debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers May 28 appearing in 15 games. The London Badgers grad, who played for coach Mike Lumley was presented a special achievement award, by the Major League Baseball Players Association Saturday.
The Junior National Team MVP, presented by ESPN Wide World of Sports went to Seattle Mariners signee Gareth Morgan and Josh Naylor of the Ontario Blue Jays won the Futures Award from the Toronto Chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Receiving a special recognition award for his efforts assisting with Baseball Canada’s National Teams was Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar.