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Lawrie among finalists for O'Neill Award

Lawrie among finalists for O'Neill Award

Lawrie among finalists for O'Neill Award

TORONTO -- The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame released a list of finalists for the annual James "Tip" O'Neill Award on Wednesday afternoon and is seeking some help from the public to choose an overall winner.

Fans have until midnight ET on Friday to pick their top three choices from a group that includes Brett Lawrie, Russell Martin, Michael Saunders, Joey Votto and Justin Morneau.

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Votes can be emailed to baseball@baseballhalloffame.ca or submitted via the Hall's website (www.baseballhalloffame.ca). Fans are requested to rank their three picks, and the results will be part of the criteria the Hall takes into account when selecting a winner.

Fans also are allowed to submit write-in votes for players not listed on the ballot.

The Tip O'Neill Award is handed out every year to the Canadian player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball's highest ideals. Votto has won the top honor in each of the past three seasons; reliever John Axford shared the award in 2011.

O'Neill was one of Major League Baseball's first stars. The native of Woodstock, Ontario, set big league records in hits, doubles, slugging percentage and total bases while playing for the St. Louis Browns in 1887.

The process to pick a winner will be a little more difficult than usual this year, as four Canadians made their Major League debuts, two were named to the All-Star team and another won a World Series title for the first time.

Following is a closer look at the candidates as provided in a release from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum:

Andrew Albers, LHP, Twins (North Battleford, Sask.): Albers, 28, made his big league debut in 2013 and tossed 17 1/3 shutout innings in his first two starts. He finished with a 4.05 ERA and walked just seven batters in 60 innings. Prior to his August callup, he recorded a 2.86 ERA in Triple-A and was named the Twins' Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Axford, RHP, Cardinals (Port Dover, Ont.): Co-winner of the 2011 Tip O'Neill Award, Axford tied a career high by appearing in a combined 75 games with Milwaukee and St. Louis in 2013. After being dealt to the Cardinals on Aug. 30, he posted a 1.74 ERA in 13 games and helped the Redbirds to a National League pennant.

Erik Bedard, LHP, Astros (Navan, Ont.): The 6-foot-1 Bedard pitched 151 innings and struck out 138 batters in 2013, his highest totals in those categories since 2007. His best three-month stretch came from May through July, a span in which he recorded a combined 3.67 ERA.

Jesse Crain, RHP, Rays (Toronto): Before being sidelined by a shoulder injury, the reliable Crain was enjoying one of the best seasons ever by a Canadian reliever. In 38 games with the White Sox, he posted a minuscule 0.74 ERA and fanned 46 batters in 36 2/3 innings. After being selected to the All-Star Game for the first time, he was dealt to the Rays on July 29, but he never pitched for his new club due to his injury.

Ryan Dempster, RHP, Red Sox (Gibsons, B.C.): After signing with the Red Sox in the offseason, Dempster made 29 starts and posted a 4.57 ERA. He was moved to the bullpen for his club's postseason run, during which he allowed one run in three innings in relief. He became the first Canadian to hoist the World Series trophy since Matt Stairs (Saint John, New Brunswick) did so with the Phillies in 2008. In January he became the fifth member of Baseball Canada's Wall of Excellence.

Jim Henderson, RHP, Brewers (Calgary, Alta.): Henderson, 31, inherited closing duties from Axford in April and proceeded to register 28 saves, which tied for 11th best in the NL. He struck out 75 batters in 60 innings and compiled a solid 2.70 ERA. He also was named the reliever on Topps' 2013 Rookie All-Star team.

Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays (Langley, B.C.): Lawrie recorded 102 hits and 11 home runs in 2013 despite missing more than 50 games because of injuries. He also had 18 doubles and nine stolen bases, and provided sparkling defense. He found his stroke after the All-Star break, hitting .283 and recording a .346 on-base percentage.

Jordan Lennerton, 1B, Tigers (Langley, B.C.): Lennerton recorded a .382 on-base percentage for the Tigers' Triple-A affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens, in 2013 and was selected to play in the Futures Game. In 139 games in Triple-A this season, he had 17 homers, 84 walks, a .430 slugging percentage and a .278 batting average. He also won a Minor League Gold Glove Award for his fielding prowess.

Martin, C, Pirates (East York, Ont.): After signing a two-year deal with Pittsburgh prior to the 2013 season, Martin proceeded to toss out a Major League-leading 36 runners and lead NL catchers in fielding percentage (.998) and assists (103). He was named the Pirates' Wilson Defensive Player of the Year and also hit 15 homers and 21 doubles.

Morneau, 1B, Pirates (New Westminster, B.C.): Morneau hit .636 for Canada in the World Baseball Classic before going on to hit 17 homers and drive in a Canadian-best 77 runs in 2013. Heavily involved in community and humanitarian efforts, Morneau was nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award and was named the Bob Allison Award winner for the Twins, his former club. The award is given to a player who exemplifies determination, hustle, tenacity, competitive spirit and leadership on and off the field.

James Paxton, RHP, Mariners (Richmond, B.C.): Paxton posted a respectable 4.45 ERA in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League before holding the Rays to one earned run in six innings to earn a win in his big league debut. He was similarly effective in three ensuing starts, finishing the season with three wins and a 1.50 ERA.

Saunders, OF, Mariners (Victoria, B.C.): Saunders was named to the World Baseball Classic All-Star team after hitting .727 for the Canadian squad. He followed that by slugging 12 homers and swiping 13 bases -- the most by a Canadian -- in 131 games for Seattle. He also racked up 23 doubles, 54 walks and a .400 slugging percentage.

Stéphanie Savoie (Québec City): On the strength of her tournament-leading .529 batting average during the Canada-Japan International Series in Granby, Que., in July, catcher Savoie was named MVP of the Canadian national women's team for a second consecutive year. In five games at the Granby event, she rapped out three doubles and a triple and knocked in six runs -- the second most of the tournament.

Votto, 1B, Reds (Etobicoke, Ont.): Votto was named to his fourth consecutive All-Star Game and set Canadian records for walks in a season (135) and times on base (316). He also led the NL in both of those categories, as well as in on-base percentage (.435), games played at first base (161), plate appearances (726) and assists by a first baseman (154). The left-handed-hitting slugger topped Canadians in every offensive category except for doubles, RBIs and stolen bases and finished sixth in NL MVP voting.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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