Signing Bonner underwhelms

BILL LANKHOF

, Last Updated: 12:09 PM ET

The Raptors are re-signing Matt Bonner to a two-year contract.

"Keeping Matt has been a high priority from Day 1," general manager Rob Babcock said.

Of course he was. Right after getting the office carpets cleaned and just as soon as every other Tom, Dick and Duhon told Rob to go and get extinct.

Bonner may be a fan favourite, but when the marquee off-season signing spends more time on the bench than off it, it doesn't say much about your franchise.

At least, not much that can be repeated in a family newspaper.

YANKEE DOODLES

The Jays embarked on a four-game series last night in New York with visions of a wild card dancing in their heads. They are a presumptuous group, that way.

They aren't really in the playoff race as much as they've been hanging around the table like a lovable mutt on a scrap hunt. Staying this close has precipitated rumblings from fans that if only Roy Halladay could return from that fractured tibia for September, the Blue Jays could be a playoff team.

Right. And, the Martians are landing in Mississauga tonight.

Even if Halladay returned he wouldn't be in Cy Young form.

There's no point rushing because this team isn't going to the World Series. Sure, it would be nice to have him back for four or five games, but it will be a whole lot nicer to have him back healthier and stronger for the next couple seasons. By then, this team might actually be good enough to win.

This year's roster already has played beyond expectations.

They've been entertaining, exciting and they've given fans hope. A city can't ask for more than that.

MEMORIES OF MAUCH

Former big-league skipper Gene Mauch, who died last week at the age of 79, once rushed on to the field with some of his Montreal Expos to dispute an umpire's call. Mauch yelled, "The first guy who lays a finger on this blind old man is fined 50 bucks!"

One of Mauch's players with the Phillies in 1966 and '67 was catcher Bob Uecker.

"Gene Mauch was my favourite manager," Uecker said. "He'd say to me, 'Grab a bat and stop this rally.' "

FADE TO DARK

Kenny Rogers lost his third consecutive start since returning from a suspension. He has had trouble with his location. Every time he sees a TV camera he comes in high and tight.

WHAT THEY PLAYIN' AT?

Manchester United's new American owners -- Bryan, Avi and Joel Glazer -- were puzzled by some of the chants of soccer fans so they've hired advisers to sit alongside them during matches to translate and to explain the rules.

Wonder what part of the chant: "Go Home Yankee Imperialist Dog" they don't understand?

Maybe advisers could explain that the fans were just welcoming them back home to the old country and that next to soccer and cricket, Britain's favourite past-time is imperialism. So it's a good thing. Not to mention, the British bulldog is a creature admired throughout the nation.

One source told the London Mirror: "They were bemused when their own team threw the ball to the opposition but were told it was good sportsmanship."

PAPER TIGERS

Bob Finnigan of the Seattle Times. on the drive to catch third-place Texas by the Mariners, who have been in last place 256 of 325 days since the start of the 2004 season.

"For a team in the cellar long enough to grow mushrooms on their bats, third might feel like halfway to the stars."

Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun, on Rafael Palmeiro's dwindling credibility: "Right about now, Raffy could tell us Roger Clemens has a good fastball, Alex Rodriguez can hit for power and the outfield grass is green -- and we'd have to go for a second opinion."

BITS 'N' BITES

Sanity truly has returned to NHL boardrooms: Anders Ericksson remains unsigned ... Good things can happen to good people. John Olerud, baseball's quiet gentleman, has found a new life in baseball, batting .307 for the Red Sox ... Palmeiro has been sidelined by a sprained ankle and is expected to be sidelined until next week. Maybe they could inject him with WD 40. He has tried everything else to keep from breaking down.

SMART 'N' SASSY

Cubs manager Dusty Baker on life in the majors when he was breaking in with Atlanta in the 1960s and '70s: "They'd assume you could hit the fastball, so they'd see if you could hit the curveball. If you could hit the curve, they'd see if you could hit the slider. If you could hit the slider, they'd see if you could hit the changeup. If you could hit the changeup, they'd say, 'Okay, let's see if you can hit on your back.' "


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