Ladner, B.C. native James Paxton has been named the winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2018 Tip O’Neill Award.
Canada’s baseball shrine presents this honour annually to the Canadian player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball’s highest ideals.
To determine the winner, the Hall takes into account a number of criteria, including each candidate’s on-the-field performance, contributions to their team, community and charitable endeavors and support in fan voting. Starting on November 15, the Hall had encouraged fans to vote for their top three candidates and they responded by casting their votes via e-mail and on the Hall’s website.
Paxton, who was traded by the Seattle Mariners to the New York Yankees on November 19, is a first-time winner of the award. He staved off strong competition from Cincinnati Reds slugger and seven-time winner Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.), Toronto Blue Jays super prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) and St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) to secure the honour.
“James Paxton had an outstanding season in 2018,” said Scott Crawford, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s director of operations. “Not only did he make history when he became the first Canadian to throw a major league no-hitter on Canadian soil, but he also struck out batters at a near-record rate over the course of the season. He’s definitely a worthy recipient of the award.”
Nicknamed “Big Maple” by Mariners fans, the 6-foot-4 southpaw became the first Canadian pitcher to throw a major league no-hitter on Canadian soil when he held the Toronto Blue Jays hitless on May 8 at Rogers Centre. That performance came just six days after he had set a Canadian record by striking out 16 batters on May 2 in a start against the Oakland A’s.
In all, the 30-year-old Paxton had eight starts in which he struck out at least 10 batters and went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and fanned 208 batters in 160 1/3 innings. His 208 strikeouts are the second-most by a Canadian left-hander in a major league season and he became one of only two pitchers in big league history to notch 200 strikeouts in a season in 161 or fewer innings.
Among American League pitchers with at least 160 innings pitched, Paxton finished third in strikeouts per nine innings (11.68), fourth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.95), seventh in WHIP (1.10) and ninth in opponents’ batting average against (.224).
On top of his strong on-the-field performance, Paxton has also been active in charitable and community endeavors in the greater Vancouver area. He has donated signed memorabilia and game tickets to various charities and has volunteered to provide pitching lessons to youth in the region.
“I am extremely honored to have been named the Tip O’Neill award winner for 2018. I am proud to be representing Canada in Major League Baseball and try to do so to the best of my ability. I will continue to give everything I have to be the best baseball player and person I can be. Thank you so much to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum for recognizing my efforts.” says James.
Details about the presentation of the 2018 Tip O’Neill Award will be announced in the coming months.
The Hall’s Tip O’Neill Award is named after Woodstock, Ont., native James “Tip” O’Neill, who was one of Major League Baseball’s first legitimate stars. With the American Association’s 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 who hit .440 in 1894.