What's bugging Bautista?

Blue Jays runner Jose Bautista falls to the ground after sliding awkwardly into third base and...

Blue Jays runner Jose Bautista falls to the ground after sliding awkwardly into third base and injuring his ankle against the Yankees in Toronto, Ont., July 14, 2011. (FRED THORNHILL/QMI Agency)

STEVE SIMMONS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:36 AM ET

TORONTO - For the first time since he began on this incredible journey, there is reason to wonder where Jose Bautista goes from here.

Not reason to think about signs from the stands helping him hit home runs. Not reason to consider the questions of artificial help. But reasons about where he is as a ball player since injuring his ankle in mid-July and subsequently being beaned by the Baltimore Orioles.

The Bautista who went to the all-star game as the home run leader in all of baseball, remains in the lead. Just barely. He didn’t dress for the Blue Jays on Saturday. He played poorly in the field on Friday. He’s basically stopped hitting with power since sliding into third base and badly twisting his ankle against the New York Yankees.

Since then, Bautista is batting just .189, with more walks than hits, and just two home runs in 74 at-bats. This is the first physical test for him in this miraculous time.

When he hit 54 home runs a year ago, there was doubt he would ever do that again. But then he had 31 by break and 50 seemed almost inevitable.

The new Blue Jays, with Brett Lawrie at third base and Colby Rasmus in centre field, have done fine through this Bautista difficulty. They’ve won 13 of 23 games in that time. Now, another challenge from Bautista: Six weeks to find his power stroke again.

Six weeks to determine who he is again, and where he might be going.

This and that

If you look at the Hall of Fame plaque at Cooperstown, you will see the name Roberto Alomar Velasquez. If that confuses you, as it did me, you’re not alone. So I asked. Velasquez happens to be his mother’s maiden name ... Lawrie’s big league career is all of eight games old: Isn’t it just a little premature for the Jays to be running half-page ads featuring him to sell tickets? ... Somebody in the Jays’ marketing department should book a pre-game concert with the Five Man Electrical Man. Just so they can play: “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign ... Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” ... You know the Rogers Cup is having a bad week in Toronto when Venus Williams pulls out, Kim Clijsters gets hurt, Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki lose early and then the legend, John McEnroe, pulls a hamstring in the old guys game. If you ask me, it’s tennis karma for putting the two tournaments together the same week.

Hear and there

Saw a mindless comparison between Tiger Woods and Roger Federer in print the other day. Except all that Tiger has lost is his game, his friends, his sponsors, his reputation, his life and his wife. Federer remains one of the best tennis players in the world, just not the dominant player he was. He hasn’t lost anything but a step — and that happens early in tennis years. But believe it, Federer will be classy right to the end ... Who said Luke Schenn’s slap shot couldn’t break glass? Word is Schenn inadvertently shot one off a kid’s helmet at the national minor midget camp last weekend, giving the young fellow a concussion ... Say this about the new Hall of Famer, Deion Sanders: He may have been impossible to catch on a football field but he was out at second base in the 1992 World Series. The Blue Jays were robbed of a triple play ... I hate when this happens: Bill Parcells absolutely ignores media members and treats them with disdain when he works in football. But the minute he’s out of a job, guess what he does? He becomes a media guy ... Now that the United Football League is back in business, sort of, the great Bart Andrus has a job again. He’s the offensive co-ordinator of the Omaha franchise, working for owner Joe Moglia, who doubles as the head coach ... If I were a pro golfer and my caddie gave interviews, he wouldn’t be my caddie any longer ... I believe there’s a buyer waiting for the Phoenix Coyotes because Dickie Dunn says so. If Dickie says it, it’s gotta be true ... Has anyone ever hit 600 home runs in a quieter manner than Jim Thome? ... Department of Confused Management: The Buffalo Bills paid wide receiver Lee Evans his $1-million US bonus for reporting to training camp, then traded him away a few days later for next to nothing ... My favourite Serena was always the sinister sister on Bewitched.

Scene and heard

Looks like former Raptors assistant P.J. Carlesimo might be joining Sam Mitchell on Avery Johnson’s coaching staff with the New Jersey Nets ... With today’s technology, if the Blue Jays really want to steal signs, they would plant someone with a telescope at the Rogers Centre hotel and supply all their players with ear pieces. It’s easily done ... Novak Djokovic may well be the best tennis player in the world, but he’s not necessarily the most appealing. His reign is beginning to remind me of that of Ivan Lendl’s. Everyone wanted someone else winning ... True story: Alex Anthopoulos made a serious off-season attempt to acquire the streaking Dan Uggla, who was off to a terrible start before he began getting a hit a day.

And another thing

On the league-run website, nhl.com, there is a 1,300 word profile on the Los Angeles Kings being poised for success, with not a single mention of their most indispensible player, Drew Doughty, or his confusing contractual status ... Game-changing players are impossible to replace, as the Edmonton Eskimos are discovering with wide receiver Fred Stamps being out. When Cameron Wake played for B.C., the Lions had a 25-10-1 won-lost record. Since he left for Miami, the Lions are 17-25 ... In a very strong pitching year, it’s Justin Verlander’s Cy Young Award to lose ... This is so Dennis Rodman. In his Hall of Fame speech, he thanked Howard Stern but not David Stern ... And if you haven’t heard Shannon Sharpe’s Hall of Fame speech, go to YouTube and find it. It’s worth listening to ... How long before NHL and Blue Jays players demand to be paid in Canadian dollars? ... Should Matthew Lombardi be able to come back from his concussion woes, the Maple Leafs centres should be: 1. Tim Connolly; 2. Mikael Grabovski; 3. Lombardi; 4. Tyler Bozak. It’s better than it has been but not exactly Bryan Trottier, Brent Sutter, Butch Goring and Wayne Merrick ... Alert to Bill Murray: The next big event at the Uniprix Stadium in Montreal, after the tennis tournament, is a visit from the Dalai Lama ... Happy birthday to Earl Weaver (81), Magic Johnson (52), Bob Backlund (62), Shea Weber (26), Tim Tebow (24) and Steve Martin (66) ... And hey, whatever became of Billy Irwin?

Wells feeling the weight?

How much did the weight of Vernon Wells’ $126-million US contract factor in his decline as a big-league ball player?

There is no way of quantifying what part the contract played in him going from great to good. But it’s clear that Wells was never the same player after signing the deal that he was when he committed long-term to playing with the Blue Jays.

His personality didn’t seem to change at any time. He was quiet and laid-back before he signed the record-breaking deal in 2007 and he was quiet and laid-back afterwards. He was professional and dignified before the deal; the same afterwards.

But what you can never know is how much pressure those numbers placed on him to do more than he was capable of.

The four years before he signed, he was a 29-home run, 97-RBI kind of player. Since then, in four years, he’s become a 21-home run, 78-RBI player. A very well-paid player, mind you.

The fall of Aaron Hill

When Alex Anthopoulos took over as general manager of the Blue Jays, one of the players he didn’t think he had to worry about was Aaron Hill. He was one of the few sure things he could depend on.

But watching this season unfold, after last season’s difficulty, has been uncomfortable for everyone around the Blue Jays. Especially for those who like and appreciate Hill.

The second baseman hit .242 in April and May, .235 in June, .213 in July and, when he was taken out of the lineup Saturday, he was batting a lifeless .156 in August.

The decline in Hill’s game, offensively and defensively, is tangible, but not easily explained or understood. Almost certainly, this will be his last year as a Blue Jay.

Finding a second baseman should be high on Anthopoulos’ off-season shopping list.

Woods, Stricker trading places

In late August, 1996, I was assigned to cover the Greater Milwaukee Open to chronicle the first professional tournament of this hot-shot kid named Tiger Woods.

Two things I remember vividly from that weekend: One, Woods didn’t have much a tournament despite hitting some monster shots, but garnered almost all the attention from the media, both local and international.

Two, the hometown favourite, Steve Stricker of Edgerton, Wisc., didn’t seem to care much for the fact that Woods was upstaging his return home.

That was then. What struck me this week was how life has a way of evening out.

At the end of the first day of the PGA Tournament, everyone was talking about how Woods had failed and Stricker was in the lead.

Fifteen years later, it’s funny how things have come full circle.


Videos

Photos