Forget Bonds, check out Mr. Home Run, Ryan Howard

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

After all the tainted records, along comes Ryan Howard and outside of Philadelphia not enough people have noticed.

Howard is approaching a 60-home-run season in this, the first baseball era that includes meaningful, if not flawed, drug testing.

Mark McGwire won't even talk about his supposedly historic seasons. Barry Bonds continues his assault on Henry Aaron's mark and almost no one seems to care, the numbers sullied by questions of performing-enhancing drugs. The same attitude applies to the totals of Sammy Sosa, he, too, of bulked-up size and bulked-up statistics.

But here is Howard, the Philadelphia Phillies kid, on the verge of 60, nearing Roger Maris for the first time without questions of how he got there. In a way, and let's assume that Howard is clean, this is more important than anything McGwire and Sosa managed, any number Bonds may end up with.

And people should recognize it that way.

Maris has the record with an apparent asterisk. Should Howard hit 60 or more homers, it's time for another asterisk.

This one more fair and less prejudicial than the last.

THIS AND THAT

Two absolute certainties when you hire Mike Keenan as general manager: One, it always ends badly; Two, Keenan will receive an expensive settlement ... Mats Sundin is putting on a happy face about the state of the Leafs as training camp approaches. Funny, he didn't have such a happy face when he put his house up for sale, ordered his real estate agent to say nothing and then dodged a Toronto reporter sent to Sweden to check out his intentions. Other than that, all is well ... The Maple Leafs keep telling people they have enough offence. This is, of course, absurd. They scored a league-high 107 power-play goals last year but didn't re-sign the painfully slow and still unemployed Jason Allison, who was in on 36% of those man-advantage scores. And with Allison and Eric Lindros in the lineup, the Leafs were still 27th in the league scoring at even strength. So where are all the goals coming from this season? ... One hockey insider suggests the Nashville Predators made the worst free-agent signing of the summer. "You watch," the insider said, "Jason Arnott will end up destroying that team."

HERE AND THERE

J.P. Ricciardi claims the Blue Jays need more money to compete with the Yankees and the Red Sox. But if that's the case, how come the Jays have a better record against the American League East (.557) than they do against the supposedly inferior Central and West Divisions (.487)? ... Ricciardi, by the way, left Oakland to become general manager of the Jays. While his first draft pick in Toronto, Russ Adams, struggles to find a home in the majors two Oakland picks, taken two and 10 picks respectively after Adams was selected, have turned into 30-home-run hitter Nick Swisher and 15-game winner (as of yesterday) Joe Blanton .... Whispers abound that Lou Piniella, if asked, would be interested in managing the Blue Jays, should that post become available. But it shouldn't become available ... Was it just me, or was the final out of Florida Marlins pitcher Anibal Sanchez's emotional no-hitter actually safe at first? ... Joe Cullen, the suddenly exposed Detroit Lions assistant, never did work with the Edmonton Eskimos when their favourite play was the naked bootleg.

SCENE AND HEARD

Every CFL team should have a full-time scout at Cal State Fullerton, the little-known football program that produced Damon Allen, Mike Pringle and Allen Pitts ... Also from Cal State Fullerton: Pape Sow ... A Phil Roof moment this wasn't: Jim Brennan signs with Toronto FC, who should have been Toronto FS, as in folding shortly ... The Cy Young Award is now Johan Santana's to lose ... The most fun in this CFL season: Calgary's special teams. On a fake punt Friday, a linebacker completed a pass to the punter for a first down ... Another reason to hate the sporting world in which we live: The Burger King commercial with football agent Drew Rosenhaus has been so successful its run is being extended ... There are four legitimate MVP candidates in the American League: Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, Canadian Justin Morneau and Jermaine Dye. If I had a ballot, I don't know which order I'd place them in ... The ex-Raptor, Popeye Jones, is about to join the coaching staff of the Dallas Mavericks.

AND ANOTHER THING

This doesn't happen often: Nick Kypreos is being paid more to broadcast now than he earned in nine of his 11 seasons of pro hockey ... The Maple Leafs signed goalie Andrew Raycroft for almost twice what Anaheim paid playoff hero Ilya Bryzgalov. Both are 26 years old, each has had one strong NHL season ... Nick Saban was a high school quarterback and a shortstop in college but his inability to throw the challenge flag Thursday night might have cost his Miami Dolphins a touchdown ... Yesterday was a good news, bad news day for Canadians in the NFL: Long snapper J.P. Darche was named a team captain in Seattle while St. Mike's grad, O.J. Santiago was bought out from the injured list of the Oakland Raiders ... Yes, the Vancouver Canucks have Roberto Luongo. But no, they don't have Ed Jovanovski, Todd Bertuzzi, Anson Carter or Marc Crawford. Does that make them better or worse? ... A waste of huge money: Roger Clemens getting a ransom to do nothing for the Houston Astros ... All those Willie Parker fantasy football owners -- and I'm one of them -- have to be concerned after the Pittsburgh Steelers signed short-yardage back Najeh Davenport after the season opener ... Was it just me, or does something look wrong with Daunte Culpepper's throwing motion? ... And hey, whatever became of Al Bruno?


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