The Buck Stops Here: Give me Trout over Harper; Tavares' contract, Hollins on Daulton; Kelly's contract with Bills - The Buffalo News
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The Buck Stops Here: Give me Trout over Harper; Tavares' contract, Hollins on Daulton; Kelly's contract with Bills

On Monday, Bryce Harper became the 14th player in major league history to hit 150 home runs before his 25th birthday. He was 24 years old and 295 days when he reached the milestone, notable only because Mike Trout was the same age, to the day, when he hit No. 150 last season.

A few hours later, Trout smacked a double for his 1,000th career hit and added a solo home run, one-upping Harper while celebrating his 26th birthday in a loss to the Orioles. Sidney Crosby also was born Aug. 7, 1987, which is why he wears No. 87 and makes $8.7 million per season on his 12-year contract.

(Side note: Charlize Theron shares the same birthdate, a fact that prompted me to temporarily lose my concentration while thinking about Charlize Theron.)

Trout, drafted 25th overall in 2009 by the Angels, and Harper, selected first overall a year later by the Nationals, will be linked the way Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were during the 1950s and '60s. Harper arrived with far more fanfare than Trout, but Trout was dominant before Harper.

Both won Rookie of the Year in 2012. Trout was named MVP in the American League in 2014 and 2016. Harper won the award in the National League in 2015. Trout is a six-time All-Star while Harper has been invited five times. Earlier this season, they even traded first-inning home runs in the same game.

Comparisons are unavoidable.

So who is better?

Toss them back into the draft, knowing what we know now, and I'm going with Trout. He's the best all-around ballplayer of his generation, but we hear less about him because he's playing in Anaheim. Baseball fans have been following Harper's exploits since he was a 15-year-old prodigy.

Trout has a career .309 batting average and .979 OPS, to me the best measure of a complete hitter. He's only player in history who had 150 homers, 400 extra-base hits and 150 stolen bases before turning 26. He's averaging 35 homers, 101 RBIs and 29 stolen bases per 162 games over his six-plus seasons.

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Harper has a career .286 average and .906 OPS, led the NL in runs scored (118) in 2015, the only time he scored 100 or more. He's averaging 32 homers and 88 RBIs per 162 games over five-plus seasons. Trout has more than twice as many triples and 96 more stolen bases while playing only 80 more games and is a better outfielder.

Circumstantial evidence points toward Trout being a better teammate, but there is no denying the hard evidence proving he's a better player overall. Both are coming of age in their mid-20s, so check back in a few years. Both are in the good company of each other.

Islanders, Tavares nearing critical stage

John Tavares and the Islanders have said all the right things about wanting to continue their relationship, but the star center could be inching toward the door with each day that passes without a contract extension. If the two sides fail to reach a deal once the season begins, it could signal the end.

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Tavares is entering the final season of his six-year contract worth $33 million, chump change for a franchise player. If he doesn't sign an extension before July 1, 2018, he'll become the hottest free agent in years. Toronto, which could make room on its payroll for the Mississauga native, must be salivating over the possibility.

The Islanders appear willing to pay him $10 million per season, or nearly doubling his salary, but that's likely not enough. The market shifted when Connor McDavid signed his eight-year deal for $100 million with the Oilers. It left the Islanders with less leverage than they had six weeks ago.

Tavares, among the top 10 in goals and points since he was selected first overall in 2009, reportedly is looking for $12 million per season to make up for lost earnings on his current deal. For a mediocre franchise with an unstable arena situation that isn't known for shelling out big money, it's a heavy lift.

The Isles would need to trim payroll, and dump talent, to keep their biggest star and top draw. Tavares also would be forced to decide whether he's willing to compromise winning for maximum money, with no guarantees of winning. As it stands now, the Isles are giving him reasons to play out the contract.

Buffalo should take note. Jack Eichel has four years remaining before he's eligible for unrestricted free agency unless they sign him to an eight-year extension. Therefore, he currently has less leverage than Tavares. However, if the Sabres don't pay him fair-market value now, he'll likely become considerably more expensive down the road.

RIP Darren Daulton

Orchard Park native Dave Hollins had nothing but high praise Tuesday for ex-Phillies teammate Darren Daulton, who died Monday at age 55 after a four-year battle with brain cancer. The catcher was instrumental in helping Hollins after he became an everyday third baseman in 1993.

Three games into the '93 season, Hollins was hitless in five at-bats and struck out four times in a 6-3 victory to complete a sweep in Houston. Hollins brooded over his performance on the charter back to Philadelphia, and Daulton was waiting for him in the Phillies' clubhouse the next morning.

"I hadn't struck out three times in the big leagues. That was my first hat trick," Hollins said Tuesday by telephone. "He always waited for me with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek on the plane. I didn't give him the same response I normally do. He knew something was wrong.

"I sensed when we got off the plane that he was (angry), and he was in that locker room early the next day. He was basically staring through me. He let me know. He said, 'I was dreaming about fighting you all night.' I said, 'Man, I screwed up. I was selfish.' He taught me a lesson that I carried for the rest of my career."

Hollins told how Phillies outfielder Pete Incaviglia would stare down pitchers and mouth off after getting beaned, causing both benches to empty. Daulton pulled him aside. "Either go get the guy or go to first base," Daulton told Incaviglia. Daulton embraced his role as the Phillies' leader and always had the pulse of the team.

"He was special for a lot of reasons," Hollins said. "I never met a guy like that on any team I ever played for. He was the best leader. And then you get a catcher who can drive in runs, handle pitchers the way he did and throw the way he did, you had a special player when he was healthy."

Daulton was married to former Playboy playmate and original Hooter's model Lynne Austin. After they divorced in 1995, he hit a home run during spring training that struck a billboard of her image.

"That was classic," Hollins said. "The guy looked like a movie star. He had the charisma. He had the IT factor, on top of being one tough ballplayer."

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Daulton, who retired in 1997 after a 15-year career with the Phillies and Marlins, was married three times, had legal problems and struggled with addiction.

"I need you to make this clear," Daulton told Philadelphia magazine in 2010. "Anything I did in my past is my fault. Not my ex-wife's fault, not any of my kids' faults, not baseball, not the media – me, my fault. I did the damage. Will you make sure that comes through? Will you do that for me?"

Hollins remembered a fun-loving player, hard-working, team-first player, consummate professional and dear friend. Daulton's health deteriorated last winter when Hollins reunited with him at a fantasy camp in Florida. It was the last time Hollins saw him.

"He was special," Hollins said. "He got out of the hospital the day before. Me and Krukie (John Kruk) think he came to say goodbye to us in his special way. He could barely walk. His memory was going, and his vision. A lot of us are glad he's not suffering anymore. I hope he's up there smiling down on us."

Quotable

"You've got to understand the source. He played, I think, college … maybe? He averaged 2.2 points per game. Really?" – Michael Jordan after hearing LaVar Ball say he could beat the all-time NBA great in a game of one-on-one in his prime.

Stats Inc.

8 – Touchdown catches last season for Anquan Boldin, who had twice as many TDs as Bills' leaders Charles Clay and Justin Hunter had in 2016.

267 – Times Don Baylor, who died Monday after a 14-year battle with multiple myeloma, was hit by a pitch in his 19-year career in the big leagues.

17 – Quarterbacks who have started a game for the Dolphins since Dan Marino retired in 2000, second-highest total in the AFC during that stretch behind the Browns.

Extra Points

• Dave Hollins' son, Dave "Bubba" Hollins, signed with the Miami Marlins last week and began his professional career with Batavia of the New York-Penn League. The former Orchard Park High star and The Buffalo News 2014 Player of the Year spent two years at a Florida JUCO and played last season for St. Bonaventure.

• Pray to the golf gods that the PGA Championship is tied Sunday going into the finishing stretch known as the "Green Mile." The 16th is a 506-yard par 4 dogleg with water on the left. No. 17 is a 223-yard par 3 with water guarding the green. No 18 a 494-yard par 4 with trouble on each side protecting a tight fairway.

• Jim Kelly made $1.6 million per season after signing his first contract with the Bills in 1986. Adjusted for inflation, it's the equivalent of him making $3.54 million in 2017. Jay Cutler signed a one-year deal for $10 million with the Dolphins.

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