Star duo facing unknown

Twins star Justin Morneau's (right) lengthy recovery from a concussion should have Penguins captain...

Twins star Justin Morneau's (right) lengthy recovery from a concussion should have Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (left) concerned. (File photos)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:17 AM ET

TORONTO - It must bother Sidney Crosby to see what has become of Justin Morneau this baseball season.

Bother him — and worry him.

Morneau was as productive a hitter as the American League had prior to his head colliding with John McDonald’s knee last July. He had hit 136 home runs in the past 4 1/2 seasons. Before his concussion troubles, he won an MVP award, finished second another year, and was annually in the discussion for Canada’s athlete of the year.

This season, while suffering from some migraine issues related to post-concussion syndrome, Morneau was hitting a soft .225 with the Minnesota Twins, with few home runs, and on pace for an RBI season less than half his normal totals. And he has had other physical difficulties — a pinched nerve in his neck, wrist problems — that will keep him out of the lineup for weeks to come.

Crosby, making his return from head trauma, has hockey numbers similar to those from Morneau’s best seasons. But two of Canada’s best face the great unknown now, one having been stalled in his comeback attempt, the other uncertain what October will bring.

This and that

If this is what happens when the NFL has a lockout — all these signings and player movements — I’m recommending one every year ... Maybe in some kind of tribute to Kris Draper’s retirement, the Atlanta Braves bought minor-league catcher Wil Nieves from the Milwaukee Brewers for the price of $1. For the record, the Red Wings got 17 great seasons out of Draper after then-assistant GM Doug MacLean plucked him from the Winnipeg Jets for a buck ... The latest deadline on the future of the New York Islanders on Long Island comes Monday. And this time, they mean it ... Mike Richards didn’t react well when this column suggested a while back that he needed to “grow up.” But didn’t the Flyers, and all the latest evidence on his time in Philly, suggest exactly the same? ... So, what’s your lead story if you’re editing a Philadelphia sports section? The Eagles trading for quarterback Vince Young, the signing of the great Nnamdi Asomugha, the dealing away of QB Kevin Kolb, the first-place Phillies trading for Hunter Pence (the fourth straight deadline deal of significance going back to the Pat Gillick years) or the Flyers’ Dry Island story featuring Richards and Jeff Carter?

Here and there

When you consider that the Blue Jays traded away Roy Halladay and Shaun Marcum away — combined record of 44-17 since leaving Toronto — and have no one yet in their big league lineup to show for it, they’re doing more than all right hanging around .500 ... For those keeping track, Jose Bautista has not hit a home run since July 9. Concern about him losing his home run swagger after the Home Run Derby, the all-star game, an ankle injury and a beaning by Baltimore has to be in the minds of Jays management ... Bautista, by the way, still leads the AL in home runs, also leads in slugging, on-base percentage, walks, OPS, and is fourth in batting ... An outfield of Bautista, Colby Rasmus and either Travis Snider or Eric Thames should hold the Jays in good form for the next several years. Up next — and really, who saw this coming — finding someone to play second base ... Andy Fantuz and about 10 other receivers are in camp with the Chicago Bears, including the once-heralded Roy Williams, competing for about five jobs ... This year at the Rogers Centre: The Buffalo Bills versus the Washington Redskins. The Bills are 150-1 to win the Super Bowl; the Redskins only 100-1.

Scene and heard

What was Jim Barker thinking? There were 24 seconds to play. He had a choice: Run a play or three and get more yards, or attempt a 57-yard field goal to try and win the game against Edmonton. He chose field goal. The Argos lost. Can the CFL fine him for that? ... As if it isn’t already hard for the Argos, up next is Montreal coming off two straight losses ... I always thought Marc Rzepczynski would be a good big-league pitcher. He’ll get an even better opportunity to be that in the National League ... The lovely woman who runs the elevator at the Rogers Centre cried on Wednesday after saying goodbye to Jason Frasor’s wife and young son. “Such nice people,” she said. In the Blue Jays’ clubhouse, Frasor held back tears, himself ... The team Mike Danton has signed on with in Sweden plays in the third division. Which isn’t much of an upgrade, if any, from CIS hockey ... We don’t often see the family side of sport: When the young son of Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider learned that Matt Hasselbeck had left the team to sign in Tennessee, he reacted badly, punching his father then running away crying. Hasselbeck was his favourite player.

And another thing

Jurgen Klinsmann is the new coach of the U.S. national soccer team. His previous job was consulting Toronto FC. How’d that work out? ... Before accepting the head coaching job in New Jersey, Peter DeBoer turned down the opportunity to be an assistant with the Red Wings ... Now that his playing career is over, Darcy Tucker is now certified as an NHL player agent. Funny, when he played, a lot of people thought he was certifiable. Tucker, by the way, is still getting paid $1 million US a year by the Leafs ... The multi-dimensional Brad Smith has left the New York Jets for the Buffalo Bills. Had to be a money thing ... Department Of Impressive I: The Hamilton Tiger-Cats secondary ... Department Of Impressive II: Claude Wroten’s play on the defensive line for the Argos ... The Maple Leafs signed draft pick David Broll on Thursday. Broll, a sixth-round pick, was thought by many to be second- or third-round material a year ago. Then he let his weight get away from him. If he can control his weight, the Leafs might have a late-round keeper here ... The word was that, in order to settle the lockout, the NFL players had to sell out their rookies. Well, Cam Newton just signed for $22 million over four years, all of it guaranteed. If anyone wants to sell me out that way, consider it done... Happy birthday to Kevin Martin (45), Dale Hunter (51), Mark Cuban (53), Evonne Goolagong (60) and Tom McCarthy (51) ... And, hey, whatever became of Swede Knox?

Tough love, CFL style

David Braley’s love of the Canadian Football League is taking a hammering this summer.

His B.C. Lions have the worst record in the West. His Toronto Argonauts have the worst record in the East. That makes Braley, owner of 25% of the league’s franchises, a horrible 1-9 in the won-lost department thus far, with prospects hardly encouraging for the rest of the campaign.

Those who know Braley best say he detests losing — don’t all owners? — and has been particularly quiet through this challenging time.

The one thing in Braley’s favour: He happens to own the next two Grey Cups, this year in Vancouver, next year in Toronto.

As a previous Argos owner once told me, the only money you make in the CFL is when you have the Grey Cup.

So, typically, Braley will do fine financially while his teams search for better days.

Hey dad, zip it!

I coached a kid in hockey one year who skated toward our bench, looked up in the stands, and told his father, rather loudly, to “shut the f--- up.”

As coaches, we weren’t supposed to laugh, but inside we understood the sentiment.

It’s probably what I’d be thinking right now if my name were Colby Rasmus. It’s: ‘Hey dad, can you please shut it.’

Being the newest Blue Jays hope, it’s hard enough to change teams, leagues, face new expectations, without turning on the radio or opening up a newspaper and hearing or seeing your dad quoted.

At this point, the best thing Tony Rasmus could do for his son is stop answering the telephone. It’s not his career, it’s Colby’s.

And one other thing daddy Rasmus should consider as he continues to bad-mouth Tony LaRussa: Colby’s younger brother, Jordan Rasmus, is playing for Batavia of the New York-Penn league. If you didn’t know, that happens to be a Cardinals farm team.

One helluva guy

I never met Richard Harris and, really, I hardly knew the name before this past week. Then after the assistant coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers died suddenly, I started asking a few questions, asking people about him, reading tributes, watching various media reports.

What became crystal clear was that Harris was an exceptional man, a coach in the truest sense, a leader of men, a teacher of athletes. The special kind of man who doesn’t come along often. The special kind of man who makes a team, a league, a city, a little richer for having him.

More than one CFL executive referred to him the best person in the league. And in a CFL full of all kinds of good people, that is an incredible tribute for a man gone too soon.


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