June 2, 2012
Bautista must lead by example
By Steve Simmons, QMI Agency
TORONTO - So many of Jose Bautista’s numbers remain the same one third into this Major League season.
He is on pace for just about 40 home runs, just about 100 RBI, just about what was accomplished individually last season. But something has changed that needs to be corrected.
Bautista needs to alter his body language at the plate, stop his perpetual umpire pouting, temper his frustration if he is going to be the leader the suddenly last-place Blue Jays require him to be. While he remains the most indispensible Jay, and clearly their best player, the message he conveys as veteran performer needs to be upgraded.
He is hitting almost 80 points lower than he batted a year ago, and has watched his OPS drop from an impossible 1.056 to the number of .773 as of Saturday afternoon. Those numbers will improve in the second half — but don’t expect them to match last year’s stats. What Bautista must do is project a better image for the young Jays to learn and grow from. This is a team of young talent trying to figure things out. It was the players who had the highest expectation for this season, not management or ownership. They say they can compete in the American League East.
But they need more from Bautista, not with power numbers, just with the kind of calm maturity he is capable of delivering.
THIS AND THAT
Of the many amazing Nicklas Lidstrom statistics, two amaze me more than any other. 1) Lidstrom missed 44 games in 20 seasons playing huge minutes for the Red Wings. The least number of games he played in any full length season, 70, came in his final year; 2) In his 20 seasons in Detroit, not only did the Red Wings never miss the playoffs but they accumulated 16 100-point seasons as a group. That means he has played for more 100-point seasons personally than 26 entire NHL franchises have in their history. The Maple Leafs, for the record, have had three 100- point years. If you add the Leafs, Jets, Ducks, Wild, Hurricanes, Flames, Blue Jackets, Panthers, Kings, Coyotes and Lightning together and combine them as franchises, they have had fewer 100-point seasons than Lidstrom has experienced in his two decades as a Red Wing. That, folks, is crazy ... By the way, that was nice of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to invite Lidstrom on stage to take a bow at their Detroit concert Friday night.
HEAR AND THERE
The best reason for Ryan Suter to sign as a free agent in Detroit — Lidstrom isn’t there anymore. The worst reason to sign in Detroit, you can’t win trying to replace Lidstrom. Reminds me of the year Gilles Lupien tried to replace Serge Savard and was quoted as saying, “I have big shoes to wear.” ... There’s not a single centre of consequence available in free agency in July — the leading point getters at the position being Olli Jokinen, Kyle Wellwood, Chris Kelly and Jason Arnott. In other words, the Mikhail Grabovski contract looks better with each passing day ... I don’t care how many games they win but I want to watch an Edmonton Oilers team that has Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Sam Gagner in its lineup. Even losing will be fun with that bunch ... You’ve gotta love John Tortorella. Or not. The man hangs Marion Gaborik out to dry for his playoff performance and fails to mention — must have slipped his mind — that Gaborik was playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder. Or did he want to keep that in the room? ... One of the real treasures we don’t talk about enough: Rob Scuderi of the Los Angeles Kings. Pittsburgh hasn’t been the same since he left ... The University of Wisconsin defence in 2009-10: Ryan McDonagh, Gardiner, Brendan Smith of the Red Wings; soon to be chased free-agent Justin Schultz and Rob Ramage’s son, John. You could win the NHL with that defence.
SCENE AND HEARD
John Farrell’s Blue Jays managed to finish as a .500 ball club last season, 81-81, even with Adam Lind at first, Aaron Hill at second base, sometimes Jayson Nix, sometimes Edwin Encarnacion at third base (think defence not offence), Corey Patterson or Juan Rivera at times in the starting outfield, and a JoJo Reyes or a Carlos Villaneuva in the starting rotation at times. Right now the Jays are 27-26, last place in the American League East, as they complete the first third of the season today. Did Farrell do more with less last year or has this Jays team underachieved to date? ... Would have more respect for what Dustin Penner has done in the playoffs if this wasn’t a contract year. For most of the time on this large three-year ticket, the big fellow has done nothing for the Kings and before that, the Oilers ... Never mind that he was taken in the Andrea Bargnani draft but is there a more watchable athlete in pro sports today than Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics? He’s brilliant one night, blowing up the next. But you can’t take your eyes off him ... Oh joy, Mike Gillis, who didn’t acquire the Sedins, Roberto Luongo, Ryan Kesler or just about anyone of significance in Vancouver, has signed on for five more years as GM of the Canucks. But the team is sleeping better since he got there .... Heading into Game 2
of the Stanley Cup fInal, the Los Angeles Kings had yet to lose a game on the road. Which would be impossible in the NBA, where even great teams like Miami and San Antonio get kicked every once in a while on the road ... The number was 8,019: The number of games the New York Mets played before Johan Santana finally pitched a no-hitter for the franchise. Now only one team in baseball, the San Diego Padres, don’t have a no-hitter in their history ... Congrats to Beth Waldman, promoted to the position of vice-president of marketing and communications for the Argos ... I’m a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives addict on the Food Network, but the Canadian knockoff of the show is lame, by comparison ... His name is Derek Sanderson Jeter, but neat as it sounds, the Yankees star wasn’t named after Derek Sanderson. His father’s first name is Sanderson ... Condolences to the family and friends of local boxing promoter and trainer, Pat Conn, who passed away this week.
AND ANOTHER THING
I like Dallas Eakins a lot. I didn’t like the fact he had Colton Orr and Jay Rosehill on the ice in the final minute of his Game 1 defeat in the Calder Cup series. That won’t get him an NHL job ... Keep hearing that Marc Crawford and Michel Therrien are co-favourites to be the next head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, which isn’t necessarily encouraging. Therrien last wore out his welcome in Pittsburgh while Crawford’s last two gigs, in Dallas and Los Angeles, didn’t end well ... Surveyed 20 different NHL mock drafts, 11 of which had the Maple Leafs taking Sarnia centre Alex Galchenyuk with their first pick, fifth overall, in the NHL draft. Next popular choice for the Leafs was Swedish winger, Filip Forsberg ... Can’t believe the New Jersey politicians haven’t made more of a deal about the NHL setting up shop in New York hotels for the Stanley Cup finals. The league is shuttling people from Manhattan to Newark. So much for teams bringing economic impact to their area ... Once again, Brett Lawrie has enthusiastically run the Blue Jays out of a ballgame ... I must admit I haven’t taken the time to understand the advanced statistics associated with basketball, but apparently they’re not kind to Raptor DeMar DeRozan ... Happy birthday to Rafael Nadal (26), Billy Cunningham (69), Lex Luger (54), Barry Beck (55), Kevin Bieksa (31), Leather Tuscadero (62) and Nelson Liriano (38) ... And hey, whatever became of Randy McKay?
Tim Thomas didn’t accompany the Boston Bruins to the White House and has been an separated goaltender, for the most part, ever since. But now, in what may be the ultimate selfish gesture, the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner has put the Boston Bruins in a most difficult position. If he doesn’t play, they can suspend him, but his $3 million salary would still count against the salary cap as a $5-million cap hit. Thomas told the Bruins he wants to take a year off for personal reasons. The Bruins, however, are caught in a bind. They can’t trade Thomas, who how has no value now. They can’t walk from his contract, although that’s a flaw in the collective bargaining agreement. If a player doesn’t choose to fulfil his contract, the team should not necessarily be held responsible under these conditions. But it also affects the contractual situation of backup Tuukka Rask, who is a restricted free agent. With Thomas playing the waiting game, Rask has suddenly increased his bargaining power. Whatever happens, for a competitor like Thomas who was once all about team, he sure doesn’t seem to be about that at all anymore.
It has become rather pathetic to listen to Bryan Colangelo try and spin positive after another year of losing out in the NBA Lottery. Colangelo put on his happy face post-lottery and said he liked where the Raptors were picking (8th) and was pleased that the first picks in the draft went to Western Conference teams rather the East. Then he did his usual dance and talked about salary flexibility, the possibility of trades, free agency, and all that jazz. I undertstand it’s his job to make positive of whatever situation the Raptors find themselves in. But after a while, if you care about this franchise, if you truly want to see competitive basketball in Toronto, the biggest hope most seasons comes from a ping-pong ball. And when that drops the wrong way, you almost feel like crying. Toronto could have used an Anthony Davis, a superstar in waiting. A face for the franchise. Instead, we hope for a Jeremy Lamb or a Dion Waiters or maybe one of these trades Colangelo talks about. But it all sounds like more of the same and really we’ve already had too much of that.
Inspired by all the talk of where Nicklas Lidstrom (pictured) fits in, career wise, I give you my purely personal Top 10 list of the best of NHL defenceman, keeping in mind I never saw Eddie Shore play and saw Doug Harvey only in his final days in St. Louis. While no two lists would be the same, here’s mine (and prepare yourself for a Sunday argument): 1. Bobby Orr. And then a big drop to everyone else. 2. Lidstrom; 3. Harvey; 4. Denis Potvin; 5. Ray Bourque; (And I keep changing my mind between Potvin and Bourque.) 6. Shore; 7. Larry Robinson; 8. Chris Pronger; 9. Scott Niedermayer; 10. Brian Leetch. Just behind the Top 10 in no particular order: Pierre Pilote, Brad Park, Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens, Paul Coffey, Chris Chelios, Zdeno Chara, Borje Salming, Red Kelly, Mark Howe. Apologies to those — Serge Savard maybe, Tim Horton possibly — who have been left off.