It’s been a banner year for Canadians on the diamond.
Twenty-two Canucks played in the big leagues, while the men’s Senior National Team dominated in a qualifying tournament in September to secure a berth in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Not to be outdone, the Junior National Team captured silver at the World Championships in Seoul, Korea and the women’s squad secured bronze at the World Cup in Edmonton.
But in a year with so many highlights, how do you choose which Canadian stood out the most?
That’s the dilemma the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame faces, and they would like your input to determine Canada’s top performer as they prepare to present their James “Tip” O’Neill award. This honour is given out annually to the player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball’s highest ideals.
The Hall encourages you to vote for the players you think are worthy of this award by midnight ET Friday, November 30. E-mail your top three choices to [email protected] or vote on the Hall’s website at www.baseballhalloffame.ca.
The winner will be announced on December 5.
Here’s a summary of the prime contenders – including big leaguers and national team members – in alphabetical order. (The Hall also welcomes votes for players not on this list):
John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.)
Co-winner of the 2011 Tip O’Neill Award, Axford appeared in a career-high 75 games and struck out 93 batters in 69-1/3 innings for the Milwaukee Brewers this season. He also notched 35 saves, ranking him sixth among National League closers.
Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.)
During the first two months of the season, this six-foot-one southpaw registered an impressive 3.12 ERA for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He finished the campaign with seven wins and 118 strikeouts in 125-2/3 innings.
Jesse Crain (Toronto, Ont.)
The Chicago White Sox reliever limited opponents to a .171 batting average and recorded a 2.44 ERA in 51 games this season. He also struck out 60 hitters in 48 innings.
Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.)
The veteran right-hander finished tied with Scott Diamond for most wins (12) and innings pitched (173) by a Canadian in 2012. Dempster, who started the season with the Chicago Cubs before being dealt to the Texas Rangers on July 31, topped all Canadians with 28 starts and 153 strikeouts, and his 3.38 ERA was the 11th best in the American League.
Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.)
Emerging as the Minnesota Twins’ ace in 2012, this 26-year-old lefty equaled Dempster in wins and innings pitched, while posting a 3.54 ERA (13th in the American League).
Jeff Francis (Vancouver, B.C.)
After starting the season with the Triple-A Louisville Bats in the Cincinnati Reds’ organization, Francis was signed by the Colorado Rockies on June 8 and spent the remainder of the season in their rotation. In 24 starts, the lanky lefty hurled 113 innings and collected six wins.
Jim Henderson (Calgary, Alta.)
This 30-year-old right-hander made his big league debut on July 26 and became a key member of the Brewers’ bullpen during their push for a playoff spot in the season’s final month.Hendersonstuck out 45 batters in just 30-2/3 innings, while compiling a solid 3.52 ERA.
George Kottaras (Scarborough, Ont.)
This left-handed hitting catcher recorded an eye-popping .430 on-base percentage (OBP) in 53 games with the Brewers during the season’s first half, before being dealt to the Oakland A’s on July 28. He finished with a .351 OBP and belted nine home runs in 85 games. He was one of only three Canadians to perform in this year’s postseason.
Brett Lawrie (Langley, B.C.)
In first full big league campaign, the Toronto Blue Jays sparkplug third baseman topped all Canadians in runs scored with 73 and tied with Justin Morneau for most hits (135). Lawrie also rapped out 26 doubles, 11 homers and collected 13 stolen bases, while hitting .273. He was also named the Jays’ Wilson Defensive Player of the Year.
Russell Martin (East York, Ont.)
The New York Yankees catcher led all Canadians with 21 home runs in 2012, and in the process, he broke his own record for most round-trippers in a season (19 in 2007) by a Canadian catcher. In 133 contests, he scored 50 runs and knocked in 53. A Gold Glove award finalist, he also suited up for nine playoff games and moved into second place on the all-time Canadian list for postseason games, at bats and hits.
Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.)
Hampered by injuries for much of 2010 and 2011, the former American League MVP enjoyed a solid comeback season. In 134 games, the Minnesota Twins first baseman led all Canadians with 77 RBIs and tied with Lawrie for most hits (135). He also socked 19 homers and was nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award for his humanitarian efforts.
Michael Saunders (Victoria, B.C.)
This six-foot-four outfielder experienced a breakthrough campaign with the Seattle Mariners in 2012, leading all Canadians in games played (139), at bats (507) and stolen bases (21). He also racked up 31 doubles, a .432 slugging percentage and finished one homer shy of becoming the fourth Canadian to record 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a season.
Stephanie Savoie (Quebec City, Que.)
On the strength of her .520 batting average, .563 OBP and .880 slugging percentage, Savoie was named the catcher on the Women’s 2012 World Cup All-Star team. Her heroics at the plate were a key reason thatCanadawon bronze at the tournament.
Jimmy Van Ostrand (Vancouver, B.C.)
While Van Ostrand hit an impressive .310 and posted a .370 OBP in 80 games with the Washington Nationals’ Double-A Harrisburg Senators, he’ll be best remembered for his contributions to the national team in 2012. In three games at the World Baseball Classic qualifier, he hit .538, bashed four home runs and knocked in 10.
Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.)
The Cincinnati Reds first baseman seemed destined for another National League MVP award when he was sidelined with a knee injury in mid-July. Despite missing seven weeks, Votto still registered more doubles (44) and walks (94) than any other Canadian in 2012. His .474 OBP, .567 slugging percentage and .337 batting average were also the best among Canadians. A Gold Glove finalist, Votto also hit .389 in five playoff games. He also finished 14th in the NL MVP voting.
Canadians Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.),JasonBay(Trail, B.C.), Luke Carlin (Aylmer, Que.), Taylor Green (Comox, B.C.), Shawn Hill (Mississauga, Ont.), Chris Leroux (Montreal, Que.), Mike Nickeas (Vancouver, B.C.), Pete Orr (Toronto, Ont.) and Scott Richmond (Vancouver, B.C.) also appeared in the big leagues this season.
The Hall’s Tip O’Neill award is named afterWoodstock, Ont., native James ‘Tip’ O’Neill, who was one of major league baseball’s first legitimate stars. With the St. Louis Browns in 1887, O’Neill set big league records in hits, doubles, slugging percentage and total bases, while compiling a major league record .492 batting average. Walks were counted as hits in 1887, but if O’Neill’s average was calculated by today’s standards, it would be .435, the second highest in big 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 – Corey Koskie
2001 – Larry Walker
2002 – Eric Gagné
2002 – Larry Walker
2003 – Eric Gagné
2006 – Justin Morneau
2007 – Russell Martin
2008 – Justin Morneau
2010 – Joey Votto
2011 – Joey Votto
2011 – John Axford