Larry Walker and Ferguson Jenkins are almost guaranteed to have some Canadian company in baseball’s Hall of Fame a few years from now.
Toronto’s Joey Votto nearly guaranteed election to the fabled Hall by surpassing the 2,000-hit mark in a mid-August game for the Cincinnati Reds, and showing no signs of slowing down.
Next stop: 3,000 hits?
Anyone who amasses 3,000 hits is a shoo-in for Cooperstown but even if the 38-year-old Votto falls short of 3,000, he has the credentials in other categories — particularly the important on-base percentage, in which he was the NL leader seven years in a 10-year span — to one day share space in the hallowed Hall with baseball’s all-time greats.
(A story in The Athletic says the only other major leaguers to lead their league in OBP seven times or more are Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Barry Bonds and Ty Cobb … not too shabby a list to join.)
Votto, who will turn 38 in September, needs only about 150 more hits to surpass Walker as the most prolific Canadian hitter in Major League Baseball history.
That should be no problem, considering the Reds’ first baseman discovered something in his approach to hitting earlier this year that should bode well for two or three more years of stardom for the Reds.
The 2021 season has been one of Votto’s best, at a time when it appeared his skills were diminishing and his career might be winding down.
With 28 home runs in mid-August (17 in his first 33 games after the all-star break), Votto was on pace to surpass his career high for dingers — 37 in 2010.
He smacked 36 homers in 2017, but then slipped to 12, 15 and 11 over the next three seasons.
Votto was struggling in similar fashion late last year until he completely revamped his approach to hitting, and the results were almost immediately apparent.
A Sports Illustrated story says Votto’s average was an anemic .191 last August when he “did not just tweak his setup and approach at the plate. He overhauled it.”
Since then, his numbers have been sensational. His slugging stats trail only four of the game’s best young stars — Fernando Tatis Jr., Shohei Ohtani, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — and earlier this year he belted a homer in seven straight games, one shy of the MLB record.
The Reds were wise to sign Votto to a 10-year contract seven years ago, meaning he’s tied up for 2022, 2023 and 2024.
By then, not only will he have sailed past Walker to be the all-time No. 1 Canadian hit leader, but he’ll have an unobstructed path to Cooperstown, N.Y.
• Pre-round trash talk from golfer Phil Mickelson, prior to a practice round with journeymen Harry Higgs and Keith Mitchell, saying he’d be using a ball with a logo of himself on it: “It’s from when I won the Masters. What are you guys using?”
• Jay Hart of Yahoo.com, on what former Detroit Lion QB Matthew Stafford is out to prove now that he’s a member of the Los Angeles Rams: “That he’s a Tier 1 QB when given the keys to something with a little more pizzaz than a Ford Taurus.”
• Bob Molinaro of pilotonline.com (Hampton, Va.): “So after three hours of tailgating in the Las Vegas sun, alcohol-fueled Raiders fans will be asked to show proof of COVID vaccination before entering the stadium. What could go wrong with that?”
• Columnist Norman Chad, on Twitter: “I love the Field of Dreams concept, I love the Field of Dreams buildup, I love the Field of Dreams setting, but then…. It’s just another MLB game that takes forever to get from a 1-0 count to a 2-2 count.”
• Phil Mushnick of the New York Post: “How I know I’ve recovered from a head injury: 1) short-term memory has returned, 2) long-term memory has returned, 3) short-term memory has returned.”
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “The Jacksonville Jaguars cut Tim Tebow after his comeback attempt as a tight end. It turns out as a tight end, Tebow was a tremendous baseball player.”
• Kaseberg again: “A tissue that a tearful Lionel Messi wiped his nose with in his press conference to announce he is leaving Barcelona, sold at auction for $ 1 million. This brings new meaning to blowing your money.”
• Scott Ostler of San Francisco Chronicle, in a pre-game tweet to allay concerns to fans about the 49ers’ rookie quarterback: “Trey Lance playing catch pre-game. He’s 14-for-14!”
• RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “My sister-in-law’s terrier will bark when it sees baseball on TV. Honest. Except when the Orioles are on; then it rolls over and plays dead.”
• Headline at fark.com after tennis starts shuts down his eason due to foot surgery: “Rafael Nadal ends his 2021 season due to foot fault.”
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by Bruce Penton