Elliott on baseball

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

We remember Carlos Tosca telling us not once, but twice.

Tosca, fired two years ago this month as the Blue Jays manager, had to make his choices in the American League's most valuable player voting.

The only condition -- for all managers -- was that he could not vote for any of his own players.

Both years -- in 2003 and '04 -- Tosca tabbed Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek as his MVP.

Chances are Varitek might still be deserving of a lot of votes. He injured his knee in a July 31 game and the Red Sox have gone 4-7 -- including a five-game losing streak -- without him. They added Javy Lopez, but the veteran had a horrible time trying to catch Josh Beckett the other night. Beckett was charged with three wild pitches, Lopez with one passed ball.

The Bosox have used six catchers this season: Josh Bard, Ken Huckaby, Corky Miller, Doug Mirabelli, Varitek and Lopez. It is the most they have used in a season since 1951 (Les Moss, Buddy Rosar, Aaron Robinson, Mike Guerra, Matt Batts, Al Evans and Sammy White).

How do you judge someone's value to a team? When they aren't in the lineup.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

Do the White Sox have the the Detroit Tigers' number? Chicago has won eight of 11 meetings ... Can you guess who is the new iron man in Oakland? Frank Thomas, who has not missed a game since June 30 ... The Red Sox lost twice to Tampa Bay and were swept by Kansas City this week. Has anyone heard general manager Theo Epstein call out his team? ... Could Jeffrey Loria's ump baiting lead and the ensuing argument with Joe Girardi lead to the manager's dismissal?

LONGEST HOMER I'VE EVER SEEN

"I was called up by the Tigers from minor-league camp for a game in spring training at Fort Myers in 1987. Sparky Anderson called for a curve ball and Bo Jackson hit it -- it was a hanging curve -- three-quarters of the way up the left-field light tower. I forget the name of pitcher. He was an extra guy they brought in to fight for the fifth spot in the rotation." -- Rob Thomson, of Corunna, Ont., the New York Yankees' special assignment coach.

SIGNING

Righty John Axford signed a free-agent contract with the Yankees yesterday after attending workouts in Staten Island and Tampa.

Axford was 3-8 with a 5.01 earned run average in 14 starts for the Canisus Griffins. He walked 75 and struck out 75 in 70 innings. He pitched this summer for the Melville Millionaires in the Western league and, in one seven-inning game, fanned 19. He struck out 17 in another.

With the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in 2003, he started the season 9-0 with a 2.21 ERA. He missed 2004 due to Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in December of 2003.

As a freshman at Notre Dame, Axford was 5-2 with a 3.95 ERA, with 64 strikeouts in 70 2/3 innings. Axford was tutored by pitching coach Doug King before going on to pitch for Team Ontario and the Canadian national junior team.

NORTHERN LIGHTS

Our Canadian minor league players of the week are: Mississauga outfielder Jonathan Baksh and Regina righty Greg Mullens.

Baksh hit .474 (9-for-19) with five RBIs for class-A Auburn (Jays). Mullens won two games for rookie-league, Kingsport (Mets) as he pitched six innings, giving up two runs in a 3-2 win over Bluefield and 5 2/3 scoreless in a 7-0 win over Princeton.

Runner-ups include Reed Eastley of Brandon, Man., who hit .368 (7-for-19) with eight RBIs for class-A Inland Empire (Mariners); Ivan Naccarata of Longueuil, Que., .333 (6-for-18) for class-A Brooklyn (Mets) and Jared Schweitzer of Sherwood Park, Alta., who hit .333 (4-for-12).

ELLISON A WINNER

Mississauga righty Joey Ellison pitched a complete-game five-hitter as the Ontario Blue Jays beat the Florida Pokers 5-1 at the Mickey Mantle World Series in McKinney, Tex. Ellison struck out six. Bolton's Marco DiRoma led off the fourth with a single and Newmarket's Daniel Telford singled, as well. Florida could not handle speedy Ben Chan's bunt. Markham's James Kottaras singled and Mississauga's Kyle Morton hit a fly ball. Marcus Knecht homered later in the game.

The Jays lost the opener to the eventual winner, Dallas D-Bat 8-4, and were eliminated 3-0 by the California Rockies as Toronto's Nick DaSilva took the loss.

OBA CHAMPIONS

Chris Piccini came on for the save as the Mississauga Southwest Twins edged the Newmarket Hawks 6-5 to win the 18-team midget eliminations at Burlington. The Twins, under coach David Huctwith, head to the nationals in Summerside, P.E.I.

With the tying run on third and one out, Twins' Stephan Kulchyk made a running grab in centre and shortstop Curtis Kinden fielded a ball up the middle for the final out.

The Twins upset the favoured Toronto Mets and Leslie Williams, in his second outing, 10-6 in the semi-final. Billy Martin and Eric Ventura combined for the mound win.

Matt Piccini and James Macklem blanked Cambridge 11-0 as twin brother Chris Piccini hit a grand slam. Chris then pitched a 2-0 win over the Guelph Royals and Matt shut out the London Badgers 4-0.

The Twins then lost 6-1 to the mighty Mets. Martin pitched a complete game 5-2 win over Newmarket in the opener.

JUNIOR CHAMPS

Lefty Craig Bate pitched the St. Thomas Tom Cats to the junior Ontario title beating the Oshawa Legionnaires 3-0 in Oshawa. St. Thomas won the 19-team elimination to earn the Howie Birnie Trophy and the nationals at Guelph.

Oshawa beat St. Thomas 11-2 to force the final.

Rusty Hoekstra of the Tom Cats was awarded top hitter honours, while Oshawa's catcher Steve Budai was named best catcher. The MVP of the tournament was Oshawa's Mike Dahiroc.

SENIOR CHAMPS

Lefty Mike Czerwienic pitched the Windsor Stars to a 4-0 win over the East York Bulldogs for the senior title in Windsor. The Stars go to the nationals in Brandon.

Bulldogs starter James Gardiner took the loss.

East York was unbeaten after six games and Windsor needed back-to-back wins in order to defend its title. Steve Carter tossed a two-hitter over East York and Dave Mastrodicasa singled home Adam Ellwood in the sixth inning for the game's only run.

After losing 1-0 to St. Clair, Windsor beat Martingrove 10-1, St. Catharines 5-0, Thornhill 9-1, Oshawa 6-3 and Etobicoke 5-4 before meeting East York.

PEEWEE CHAMPIONS

Three Mississauga North Tigers combined on a four-hitter to beat the Etobicoke Titans 6-0 for the peewee provincial crown at Whitby. Orion Katayama, Brad Drury and Matthew Gregoris pitched coach George Spezza's Tigers to the Canadian tourney in Victoria, B.C.

The Tigers had to beat Etobicoke 9-4 to force the final. David Broll and Drury each had doubles, with Michael Spezza and Katayama combining for the win.

The Tigers, with Spezza on the mound, beat Pickering 7-3, Broll beat North York 2-1, then lost 6-3 to Etobicoke and beat the Hamilton Cobras 9-4 with Broll getting the win.

Most valuable catcher award went to Tigers' Adam Godo. The Gold Glove award was presented to Etobicoke's Aaron Palmer.

BANTAM CHAMPIONS

Hamilton East Mountain Cobras defeated Mississauga Majors twice to win the bantam title 14-10 in Windsor.


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