July 31st, 2017
Another photo finish in Canoe Marathon;
disappointment at trade deadline for Tigers?
By KEITH GAVE
GRAYLING – In a lifetime of playing, following and writing about sports, nothing comes remotely close to the wild and exhilarating start of the Au Sable River Canoe Marathon.
Nothing. Remotely. Close.
But the ending to that greatest of all canoe races – 120 miles and more than 14 hours away at the mouth of the river at Lake Huron in Oscoda – can be awfully compelling, too. Just ask Christophe Proulx.
For the second year in a row, and with a different partner, Proulx powered to the finish line a half a boat length and barely a second ahead of the second-place team. On a stunningly perfect July Sunday morning, Proulx and teammate Samuel Frigon crossed the finish line in 14:18:45. Nine-time champion Steve Lajoie and Guillaume Blais finished second. All four men are from Quebec.
Those were the first two boats in the water at the chaotic, LeMans-style start in front of the Old Au Sable Fly Shop, bumping and jostling for position from beginning to end.
Last year, Proulx and Grayling’s Ryan Halstead finished one second ahead of 10-time champion Andrew Triebold and Jacob DuBois, of Quebec. The winning time last year, when the water level was lower and the current not quite as strong, was 14:29:27.
If you’re noticing a French-Canadian connection to this race, you’re onto something. The Quebecois have dominated this race for three decades. Only three times in the last 31 years has the winning team not featured a paddler from French-Canada.
Serge Corbin, the Babe Ruth of the sport, from St. Boniface, Quebec, won the race 16 times from 1985-2005 – with three different partners. Then Lajoie partnered up with Triebold and the pair won it nine times from 2004-15. Lajoie didn’t race in 2007, so Triebold took Grayling’s Matt Rimer to the victory stand instead.
Now Proulx, a two-time champion at 22, seems poised to put together his own long streak as well.
As for Triebold, 41, also of Grayling, he partnered up with Mary Schlimmer, 26, of Cortland, New York, racing in her third marathon, and the results were predictable. The pair finished fourth overall with a time of 14:37:45, shattering a 30-year-old mixed-pair record – by 26 minutes.
The 80 boats in this race represented four nations, including Canada (18 paddlers from Quebec and two from Saskatchewan), Australia and Belize, and 15 states, including Alaska, Arizona, Texas, Washington and 20 competitors from New York. With 81 paddlers, Michigan was represented by just over half the field. Of those, 17 call Grayling home, with seven from Roscommon and six from Oscoda.
Only seven boats failed to finish the race compared to 15 of the record 95 canoes in last year’s race.
But the 2017 race belonged to the province of Quebec, in yet another spine-tingling finish.
A swing and a miss?
Tigers GM Al Avila is being taken to school in the trade market as he flails away trying to rebuild his awful baseball club. Rival GMs are plucking out his eyes and replacing them with grapes.
With a few hours remaining before the 4 p.m. deadline, Avila has little to show for two deals involving three important players. Gone are closer Justin Wilson, catcher Alex Avila and outfielder J.D. Martinez. In return, the Tigers get five prospects – all of whom play the left side of the infield.
In a deal consummated late Sunday and confirmed this morning, Detroit sent Alex Avila and Wilson to the Chicago Cubs for switch-hitting corner infielder Jeimer Candelario and 18-year-old shortstop Isaac Paredes and either a player to be named later, or cash. Two weeks ago, the Tigers dealt impending free-agent J.D. Martinez to Arizona for three shortstops just beginning their careers in the low minors.
Candelario, 23, holds the distinction of being the Cubs’ top prospect – but only after they traded outfield Eloy Jimenez to the Chicago White Sox in the blockbuster deal to acquire pitcher Jose Quintana.
A natural third baseman who can play first. With Triple-A Iowa this season, Candelario is hitting .266/.361/.507 with 12 home runs. Expect to see Candelario in Detroit soon, at least by September, when MLB rosters expand. He’s considered an average defensive third baseman, which would be a huge upgrade from the bumbling Nick Castellanos. If Castellanos has a future in Detroit, it’ll be as a right-handed designated hitter.
Parades may be the more intriguing player of the two. Scouts view him as a player with a much higher upside than Candelario, but like most teen-agers, he remains years away from major league baseball.
To make room for the departed Wilson and Avila, the Tigers recalled reliever Joe Jimenez and catcher John Hicks from Toledo.
So the overhaul is under way, and whatever happens – or doesn’t – in the hours remaining before the deadline, it’s now up to the Ilitch family ownership to determine whether Avila keeps his job long enough to pare salary from one of the highest payrolls in baseball. This trade with the Cubs did little in that regard. Alex Avila was working on a salary of $2 million this season; Wilson was being paid $2.7 million for the season.
The view from here suggests that Avila is more than likely to join manager Brad Ausmus on the unemployment line.
Regardless of whatever took place prior to today’s trade deadline, any serious rebuild of this team starts with a new manager.