TORONTO - Exactly when will the Blue Jays see any kind of return on the Roy Halladay trade?
While Alex Anthopoulos was widely applauded for making the difficult deal, the reality almost two years later is this: Halladay has won 33 games for the Philadelphia Phillies in a season and a half, counting playoffs, and is heading to the post-season for the second straight year. The total major-league return to date for the Jays: Four wins from Kyle Drabek, now trying to find himself at triple-A Las Vegas.
Maybe Drabek will be a big-league winner. But at this stage, thereís no way of knowing. He has no wins and an 8.44 earned run average in three starts since returning to the minors to get his head and his arm together.
Anthopoulos also acquired Brett Wallace in the Halladay trade and moved him rather quickly to Houston for outfield prospect Anthony Gose. Wallace is a light-hitting first baseman in Houston, high batting average and almost no power, while Gose remains a fascinating project at double-A, with all kinds of stolen bases but other holes in his game. Travis DíArnaud, the third player acquired for Halladay is a catcher with some promise.
So to recap: With Halladay leading the Phillies to the playoffs for a second consecutive season, the Jays have no big-league return on him at all. Maybe Drabek will factor one day. Maybe Gose will start in centre field, with DíArnaud behind the plate. Maybe.
Like everything Blue Jays, itís never about this year. Itís always about the future.
This and that
Tim Connolly reminds me of gift openings on holidays. You always expect great and then you open the package and remove the wrapping and itís a pair of pajamas. He is a career underachiever. He is everything Brian Burke has talked about not wanting. But when he was all that was left ó and having exhausted the trade market and taking a run at Brad Richards, the Leafs figured they had no choice. If you build your team around Connolly, which Buffalo attempted at times, you will end up terribly disappointed ... The top five picks in the 1999 entry draft; 1. Patrik Stefan; 2. Daniel Sedin; 2. Henrik Sedin; 4. Pavel Brendl; 5. Connolly ... Two reasons to wonder about what level of star Richards is, after all thatís gone on. 1. Ten years in the NHL, five years out of the playoffs; 2. His career plus-minus is minus-79 ... For the record, the Leafs offered more money for Richards than he wound up accepting from the New York Rangers. But while at the Super Bowl in Dallas, Richards told a Tampa reporter his first choice in free agency was Tampa, his second choice was New York and he had no real interest in Toronto. He kept to that on Saturday ... The other Leafs problem of the past 48 hours: Buffalo and the Rangers improved significantly and so did Carolina and Winnipeg, by osmosis alone, will be better. Being the eighth place team in the East just got a whole lot more difficult.
Hear and there
Why canít people debate issues anymore? You take your side, Iíll take mine. Online name-calling has somehow replaced what used to be a good old-fashioned argument ... Most of the analysis of overpaying for NHL players is nonsense. Begin with this premise: Everyone in the NHL is overpaid. The second fact: If the league mandates that teams spend to the floor of the salary cap, you have to spend the money. It meant Dale Tallon in Florida was acting like an outlet mall shopper with gift certifcates throwing money at everybody who said yes, and a whole lot of new Panthers said yes. And for the record, the Panthers play their games beside a giant outlet mall ... Letís see if we have this straight. Tomas Vokoun was available without compensation and Semyon Varmlamov cost the Colorado Avalanche a first- and second-round draft pick (and quite possibly a lottery pick this coming season). And the Avs, under general manager Greg Sherman, chose Varlamov ... The Chris Bosh bachelor party was going on all week in Las Vegas. Apparently, my invitation was lost in the mail strike.
Scene and heart
Donít know if it was the return of Halladay or the holiday weekend or the combination of both, but whatever it was, the Rogers Centre was a great place to watch baseball Friday and Saturday afternoon. And how often have we been able to say that since the pre-strike days of 1994? ... Thought Halladay should have tipped his cap to those giving him a long standing ovation, though. It would have been the right way to respond to one of the best hands in Blue Jays history ... What a time this could be for the NHL. There is every possibility that the NBA wonít be playing at all next season and who knows when the NFL comes back? If the hockey people play this right, they may have some time alone on the big stage ... Word is, Kris Versteeg is considering changing his name to Gary (Suitcase) Smith ... Looking back, how much of a steal was the Dion Phaneuf trade? Well, if you actually remove Phaneuf from the deal, the Keith Aulie for Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White, itís still a win of sorts for the Leafs ... Cleo Lemon got the ĎWí Friday night but too often he still looked like last yearís Cleo Lemon. The Argos are convinced heís a new quarterback this year ... Is leading off the last hope for Aaron Hill as a Blue Jay?
And another thing
Had Burke been on vacation this weekend, he would have been vilified for not taking part in the free agent frenzy. Because he is visiting troops in Afghanistan, which everyone admires, thatís okay. The question isnít where he was ó or even why ó itís what are his responsibilities as general manager of a team that hasnít been in the playoffs since 2004? And as much as I am impressed with anyone giving of their time to visiting Canadian troops on Canada Day, I maintain the timing of this, under current circumstances, was inappropriate ... The 2012 Hockey Hall of Fame class includes a sure-thing in Joe Sakic and two excellent candidates in Mats Sundin and Brendan Shanahan, which means Pavel Bure may again be left at the altar, which would upset the easily upsettable Vancouver fans and his tweeting brother, Valeri Bure, the fine figure skater ... Have to believe Paul Maurice played a role in the Carolina signing of Alexei Ponikarovsky. Ponikarovsky had basically hit rock bottom in Los Angeles but Maurice was a supporter when he played for the Leafs ... Congrats to Hailey Wickenheiser for being named an Order of Canada. Wickenheiser, hockey aside, has grown into an interesting athlete of many cares and causes .... Born this date: Cesar Tovar, who once played all nine positions in a major-league game. And a happy birthday to Teemu Selanne (41), Moises Alou (45), Frank Tanana (58), Wade Belak (35) and Hakan Loob (51) ... And hey, whatever became of Sandy McCarthy?
Fans first for Barker
Jim Barker does something absolutely foreign to Toronto sports: He just finds a way to win. It doesnít always look good. It just gets done, as an impressive opening-game win against the stacked Calgary Stampeders showed.
But what Barker wants more than anything, in his words, is for Toronto to get excited about the Argos and the Canadian Football League.
ďTo me, the biggest thing in this job is getting the people of Toronto talking about the Argos, excited about the CFL,Ē he says. ďThe Canadian Football League is the epitomy of Canada. Everything the CFL is about is fan-friendly, not in it for the money. You bust your ass to put a great product on the field, the players bust their asses, but theyíre not getting rich. All the things Canadians talk about being important to them yet, they gravitate towards the other side (NFL).
ďFor me, getting Toronto back into being a CFL town is the important part of my job.Ē
Bautista is a monster
While the home runs have slowed down slightly, Jose Bautista remains one of the remarkable stories in baseball. While so much of the game is searching for offence, Bautista just continues on.
Itís one thing to put up his kind of numbers when everybodyís hitting. But in a year in which 19 big league teams are hitting below .260 and contenders such as Philadelphia and Atlanta are batting .245 and .237, respectively ó and offence has gone missing in so many places ó the Bautista numbers seem all the more impressive.
His whopping 1.147 on-base slugging percentage (OPS), is monstrous by any standard, leading all of baseball. Should it continue, the 1.147 number is greater than any season in the superb career of Albert Pujols.
What Toronto fans have witnessed last season and this season from Bautista ranks with the best baseball seasons in history.
Time to get ruthless, Leafs
Is hockey too polite a business for someone to take an honest run at restricted free agents Steven Stamkos or Drew Doughty or does the truculence Burke likes to talk about extend to any front offices?
Why wouldnít an NHL team ó any team, really ó take a serious high-priced run at two of the best players, never mind young, in the game today?
In a way, itís a no-lose proposition, other than the draft choices involved. If you get the player, your team is instantly improved. If you donít get the player, you seriously injure the payroll flexibility of the matching team.
Itís billiards on ice. Itís not what shot you take, itís what shot you leave for your opponent.
Strikes me that teams with money ó including the Maple Leafs ó should be seriously considering going this route.