1) Like most Blue Jay fans, I’m disappointed but not really surprised that David Price isn’t coming back to the team. I don’t know whether the Jays made Price an offer, but I’m sure no offer would have swayed him. This die was cast just over two months ago. I’m convinced that Price decided he wasn’t coming back to Toronto when he was badly mishandled by manager John Gibbons at the end of last season and in the playoffs. Gibbons sitting him for the last week and a half of the season probably cost Price the American League Cy Young award. Then effectively relegating him to the number two spot behind Marcus Stroman in the playoffs was rubbing salt in the wound. I was surprised, though, that Price signed with the Red Sox. There were two reasons why I was pretty sure he was headed to the Chicago Cubs. First, he would be reunited with his former Tampa manager, Joe Maddon; and, secondly, the National League, with its silly and antiquated notion that pitchers should bat, is a much easier league in which to pitch. But, unlike many Blue Jay fans who seem to be upset by the hiring of former Cleveland front office guy Ross Atkins as the team’s new general manager, I’m neither surprised nor disappointed. It’s been abundantly clear since Mark Shapiro took over from Paul Beeston that he is going to call all the shots, regardless of who has the title of general manager.
2) While on the subject of baseball, during lunch a while back, one of the guys asked how many ways a runner can score from third with less than two out. Another former umpire and I came up with fourteen. They are: single, double, triple, homer, balk, wild pitch, passed ball, error, sacrifice fly, sacrifice bunt, fielder’s choice, steal home, defensive indifference (unlikely, but possible), and a ball lodged in the catcher’s equipment. If the bases are loaded, the number goes up to fifteen because sacrifice fly and sacrifice bunt are eliminated, but a walk, hit batter, and catcher interference are added. The conversation then got around to the number of ways to get on first base. Most baseball fans will easily come up with seven: hit, walk, hit by pitch, a missed third strike, catcher interference, error, and fielder’s choice. But we came up with nine. The two most often missed are: entering the game as a pinch runner; and, a runner being called out because of being hit by a batted ball. In this latter case, whether the batter is credited with a hit is up to the official scorer, but the batter is always awarded first base.
3) That he plummeted back to earth in his second game notwithstanding, Garret Sparks getting a shutout in his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs this week, and then shedding tears in his post-game interview, was a welcome feel-good story. I was somewhat surprised to learn that he was the first Maple Leaf goalie to ever get a debut shutout, so I did some digging. Sparks was the twenty-third goalie to achieve the feat. Montreal and Boston each have had three. (No other team has had more than one, and thirteen of the current NHL teams have had none.) For Boston: Tiny Thompson in 1928; Claude Pronovost in 1956; and, Andre Gill in 1967. For Montreal: Bob Perrault in 1955; Wayne Thomas in 1973; and, Yann Denis in 2005. Of these six goalies, Claude Pronovost and Andre Gill had very limited NHL careers. Pronovost played only one more full game and gave up seven goals. Andre Gill played a total of five games, and although he had a respectable 2.59 goals against average, never managed to garner a full-time NHL job. The Claude Pronovost story is an interesting one. As I recall it, when the Bruins arrived in Montreal for a Saturday night game, their goalie, Long John Henderson, discovered he didn’t have his skates. A frantic search of every sporting goods store in the Montreal area failed to turn up any size-fourteen goalie skates (he wasn’t called Long John for nothing). So the Canadiens loaned Pronovost, a twenty-one year old goalie who was playing in the Quebec Hockey League, to the Bruins. Back to Sparks for another interesting tidbit: he’s from Elmhurst, a suburb of Chicago. You may be wondering what’s so interesting about that. Well, Elmhurst is where both superstar goalies Glenn Hall and Tony Esposito lived when they were playing with the Black Hawks.