BOB MATTHEWS SPORTS TALK
Weeknights 6:00PM - 8:00PM
on WHAM 1180
Email Bob here.
For over 25 years, Bob Matthews has held the title of Rochester's most popular sports writer/commentator. For over 20 years, Bob has hosted WHAM's nightly sports talk program...consistently ranked at the top of his time slot!
From 1978 to 2012, Bob Matthews was a sports columnist for the Times-Union and Democrat and Chronicle and a regular "As the Sports World Turns" contributor to the Gannett News Service. He is the only person to be selected Press-Radio Club Sportswriter of the Year (five times) and Sportscaster of the Year, and was a pioneer inductee into the Frontier Field Walk of Fame.
A Rochester native, Bob graduated from Brighton High School where he played varsity baseball, basketball and served as student council V-P. Bob is also a veteran, serving his country in Vietnam.
Always opinionated and outspoken, Bob's proudest accomplishment is advocating for Frontier Field. His all-time favorite athlete...former Red Wing Luke Easter. One of his sports regrets……not being around for the glory year of the Rochester Royals.
IF RELIABLE RAZORSHARKS CARRY WINNING SPORTS BANNER FOR ROCHESTER
BIGGEST LOSER IN THE PREAKNESS STAKES WAS THE BELMONT STAKES
THE AMAZING MIGUEL CABRERA
Thank goodness for the Rochester RazorSharks.
For those of you who haven’t noticed, several of our pro teams aren’t doing so well heading into this summer.
The Red Wings have an 18-26 record after Sunday’s 11-0 romp at Lehigh Valley. That’s no surprise, considering that the expected three starting outfielders (Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia and Wilkin Ramirez) and two possible infielders (Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar) all are currently playing for the Minnesota Twins and about half of Rochester’s preferred Opening Day pitching staff began the season on the disabled list.
The pitching has the potential to improve, particularly if the deep starting rotation consisting of Kyle Gibson, P.J.Walters, Samuel Deduno, Andrew Albers, Liam Hendriks and Cole De Vries remains intact and healthy. The bullpen is less likely to improve.
There are two very promising starting pitchers at Double-A New Britain (Trevor May and Alex Meyer) but they aren’t dominating the Eastern League and barring injuries to Rochester’s starters, it is unlikely they’ll be rushed to Triple-A to bolster the bullpen.
Rochester’s 4.65 ERA ranks 10th in the 14-team International League and the Wings have been outscored by 43 runs in 44 games. With 100 games remaining on the schedule, it is difficult to project the prolonged stretch of winning baseball that would be needed to become a playoff contender.
There hasn’t been enough hitting to offset the below-average pitching. The exception has been first baseman Chris Colabello. The seven-year veteran of independent league baseball has been the story of the young season for Rochester – if not the entire IL. In his second pro season at age 29, here’s how Colabello ranked in the IL entering Monday:
.361 batting average (3rd)
61 hits (1st)
111 total bases (1st)
11 HRs (t1st)
.657 slugging percentage (2nd)
17 doubles (2nd)
34 RBI (3rd).
The last Red Wing to hit at least 30 HRs and drive in more than 100 runs in one season was legendary slugger Jim Fuller in 1973 – 40 years ago. He had 39 HRs and 108 RBI. He was the IL MVP despite batting only .247 and striking out a team-record 197 times. At his current pace, Colabello would hit 36 HRs and drive in 111 runs.
I hope for Colabello’s sake that his pursuit of those numbers is curtailed by a well-deserved promotion to Minnesota . There is a good chance that Twins veteran first baseman Justin Morneau will be traded before the deadline. He’s in the last year of his contract and could help a contending team as a DH-first baseman. Colabello would be the reasonable man to replace him on Minnesota’s roster.
The Rhinos, touted as a high-scoring team entering this USL Pro season, have a 1-6 -1 record and have been outscored by a ridiculous 17-4 margin. I have no idea what sort of attendance the team is drawing at Sahlen’s Stadium, but I fear they’ll be closer to “gatherings” than “crowds” if the team’s level of play doesn’t significantly improve – quickly.
Replacing frustrated coach Jesse Myers with tried-and-true Pat Ercoli Sunday was a move waiting to happen and certainly can’t hurt. Too bad Pat couldn’t turn back the clock to bring back a half-dozen or so of his former Rhinos in their primes.
The Rattlers are 1-3 in Major League Lacrosse. The team has lots of talent – this is the best outdoor lacrosse league in the world – but most of the league’s other teams appear to have more.
The Rattlers never have drawn decent crowds in Rochester – not even when they were MLL’s best team. It didn’t help this year when there was virtually no publicity in the preseason and the schedule included two “home” games in two other states.
The state of the Rattlers appears shaky at best.
The RazorSharks are 12-1 in the IBA-PBL and outscoring opponents by 16.8 points per game. The only problem (besides some apparent Rochester-biased officiating in one notorious title series) that I’ve had with the well-managed team through the years is trying to figure out exactly how good or bad the competition has been. The front office has the winning formula and has dominated with superior coaching and players. But how does the overall talent level in the Ieague measure up with the NBA D-League and the other basketball minor leagues. I have no idea. Does anyone?
And – does it matter? Everyone loves a winner. The RazorSharks usually pad their home live attendance (just like every other pro team in town) but have developed a fair-sized fan base and loyal following. As long as the team continues to beat up on inferior competition, it figures to continue to do well at the turnstiles and at the box office – no matter where it plays.
BELMONT STAKES NO BIG DEAL AS TRIPLE CROWN DROUGHT HITS 36 YEARS
Oxbow’s upset win in the Preakness Stakes was a big victory for jockey Gary Stevens and trainer D. Wayne Lukas but a huge loss for horse racing in general and the Belmont Stakes in particular.
Orb’s powerful performance in the Kentucky Derby made him the 3-to-5 favorite in the Preakness last Saturday. There wasn’t a trainer in the nine-horse race that didn’t say Orb was the class of the field.
So why did Orb lose?
Everything that right went right for Orb and jockey Joel Rosario in the Kentucky Derby went wrong in the Preakness – the weather, the pace of the race and racing luck.
Before the Derby, no one knew how Orb would fare on a sloppy track.
He wound up liking the muddy surface more than any horse in the 19-horse field. Rain was in the forecast for Baltimore last Saturday afternoon but the track was dry and fast for the big race.
Orb took advantage of a blistering early pace in the Derby. 24-to-1 pacesetter Palace Malice’s fractions were 22:57 (1/4 mile), 45:33 (1/2 mile) and 1:09.80(3/4 mile). Palace Malice was finished when the serious running began. The horses trying to keep up with him early also ran out of gas. The race set up for the closers and Orb closed fastest of all. He circled the field on the final turn and won going away by 2 ½ lengths.
Orb had no such pace luck in the Preakness.
Oxbow, a 15-to-1 long shot, under heady veteran jockey Gary Stevens, cruised to the early lead and was able to set comfortable fractions (23:94; 48:60; 1:13:28). The other speed horses were content to stalk rather than fight for the lead.
Oxbow had plenty left in the tank and stole the race by a misleading 1 ¾ lengths. It wasn’t that close. Oxbow’s 1:57.54 was the slowest winning Preakness time since 1961 but no one in the Oxbow camp was apologizing.
Orb prefers to race wide to avoid traffic and get a clear run through the stretch. But he drew the dreaded No. 1 post for the Preakness. He was boxed in for most of the race and couldn’t get to the outside to make his customary late run. He finished a disappointing fourth.
The only way thoroughbred racing gets major national attention is the pursuit of the Triple Crown – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Unfortunately, the annual Breeders’ Cup usually pales in comparison.
But Orb went from stud to dud. From awesome Kentucky Derby champ to 3x5–favored chump in the Preakness. The Triple Crown drought now is 36 years.
I’m sure Belmont Park will try to sell an Orb vs. Oxbow showdown for the June 8 Belmont Stakes. But for the sporting public at large, it figures to be just another horse race.
Assuming Orb and Oxbow both are entered , they aren’t likely to scare off any fresh challengers in the Belmont Stakes. I believe it is more likely that we’ll see three different winners in this year’s Triple Crown races than Orb or Oxbow double up.
MIGUEL CABRERA PICKING UP THE TRIPLE CROWN SLACK
No thoroughbred horse has won a Triple Crown since 1978.
Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera has a big shot to become the first baseball player EVER to win consecutive Triple Crowns (lead his league in hitting, home runs and runs-batted-in).
If you watched Cabera’s hitting performance Sunday night, you probably wouldn’t bet against him He was 4x4 with 3 HRs and 5 RBI in an 11-8 road loss to Texas.
Here’s how Cabrera measures up in the three Triple Crown categories in the American League (entering Monday):
.387 batting average (1st......No. 2 James Loney is hitting .356)
11 home runs (t2nd....one behind Mark Reynolds, Robinson Cano, Chris Davis and Edwin Encarnacion)
47 RBI (1st...No. 2 Chris Davis has 40).
Cabrera is one of the relatively few sluggers earning his mammoth long-term contract (8 years for $152.3 million...through 2015). And baseball’s best hitter seldom misses a game.
GRADING THE BASEBALL TEAMS AT THE ONE-QUARTER MARK
Here are Bob’s grades for the 32 Major League Baseball teams one-quarter into this season. The grades reflect overall performance and performance compared to preseason expectations:
American League: Yankees A+...Cleveland A+...Boston A-...Texas A...Kansas City B-...Baltimore C+...Minnesota C+...Oakland C...Seattle C...Tampa Bay C...White Sox C...Detroit C-....Houston D...Angels D-...Toronto D-
National League: Atlanta A-...Arizona B+...Pittsburgh B+...Colorado B+...Cincinnati B...St. Louis B...San Diego C+...Cubs C...Mets C...Philadelphia C...San Francisco C...Washington C-...Miami C-...Milwaukee D+...Dodgers D.
One of the many reasons the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. The Chicago Blackhawks would be an intriguing Stanley Cup Finals matchup:
Pittsburgh’s playoff-best power play (10x31; 32.3 percent) vs. Chicago’s playoff-best penalty killing (24x24; 1.000 percent).
I don’t think the left-field fence at Frontier Field should be moved in as much as it was for last Saturday night’s Legends Game, but I can’t say the same for the left-centerfield wall. With the end of the Steroid Era, several major-league teams reduced their outfield dimensions for this season. I think it would be appropriate to do the same at Frontier.
Shorter fences would mean fewer long flyouts, more doubles and home runs and more fun for most fans who prefer crooked numbers over OOOOOOs on the scoreboard.
The Wegmans LPGA Championship next month will be a huge success. It always is. But honestly, can you name five winners on the LPGA Tour this year?
You have to like Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. In an out-of-town radio interview last week, he said Buffalo’s offensive system is less complicated and more suited to his football talents than the one at Florida State. He said he’s having fun and doing well. If he’s the best QB in training camp, should he start Week 1? I don’t see why not.
Couldn’t Dwight Freeney have helped Buffalo’s pass rush?
The Syracuse Crunch are doing pretty well in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs: 7-0 record; outs coring opponents 30-15.
Yankees TV ratings and attendance are down despite the team’s surprising record. The weather hasn’t helped, but have the injured big-name stars been missed more at the gate than in the standings? Starpower sells.
I know there was a full-page ad and almost a full page devoted to local golf listings, but it was good to see the 12-page sports section in Sunday’s Democrat and Chronicle.
Fort Myers Miracle/Cedar Rapids Kernels update: Minnesota’s two Single-A teams are a combined 60-24 and outscoring opponents by a combined 131 runs.
Only in the New York Post Department: In an article by Joel Sherman analyzing the job being done by New York Mets manager Terry Collins, the headline and drophead read: That’s a Bunch of Junk: Roster of rubbish makes it impossible to evaluate Collins.
For the record: The four Buffalo Bills drafts overseen by Buddy Nix: 2010 C.J. Spiller, Torrell Troup, Alex Carrington, Marcus Easley, Ed Wang, Arthur Moats, Danny Batten, Lervi Brown, Kyle Calloway...2011 Marcell Dareus, Aaron Williams, Kelvin Sheppard, Da’Norris Searcy, Chris Hairston, Johnny White, Chris White, Snow White (just seeing if you’re paying attention), Justoin Rogers, bit Michael Jasper...2012 Stephon Gilmore, Cordy Glenn, T.J. Graham, Nigel Bradham, Ron Brooks, Zebrie Sanders, Tank Carder, Mark Asper...2013 EJU Manuel, Robert Woods, Kiko Alonso, Marquise Goodwin, Duke Williams, Jonathon Meeks, Dustin Hopkins, Chris Gragg.
The Baltimore Orioles, 29-9 in one-run games last season, are 6-6 in one-run games this season. The Cleveland Indians are 11-3 and the Yankees are 8-3.
AWESOME COLLECTION OF TALENT FOR LEGENDS GAME INCLUDES 2,957 CAREER HOME RUNS
ORB SHOULD WIN PREAKNESS BUT BEST BET LOOKS LIKE EXACTAS
MINNESOTA’S TWO SINGLE-A FARM TEAMS CONTINUE TO ROLL
WORTH NOTING IN BASEBALL
Many decades ago – when even many top-notch Major League Baseball players supplemented their incomes with post-season barnstorming tours -- fans in cities such as Rochester got to see star-studded lineups at Red Wing/Silver Stadium. The 2013 Red Wings yearbook highlights such a game played Oct. 12, 1959. The rosters included Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Rocky Colavito, Willie McCovey, Elston Howard, Hoyt Wilhelm, Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Junior Gilliam and hometown hero Johnny Antonelli.
Not surprisingly, that exhibition game drew an announced crowd of 7,002 fans. The game grossed $14,144. Each player received $750 and a new belt from the Hickok Company.
American League umpire Ken Kaiser’s annual winter baseball banquets consistently featured some of top stars in the game. Frequent head table guests included Nolan Ryan, Don Mattingly, George Brett, Kirby Puckett, Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs.
But Saturday’s Pepsi Field of Dreams Legends Game at Frontier Field (gates open 4 p.m.; game time 6 p.m.) will feature the greatest collection of baseball legends on one field in Rochester’s history. The 10 former big-league superstars scheduled to appear: Johnny Bench, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Trevor Hoffman, Reggie Jackson, Pedro Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mike Schmidt Ozzie Smith and Frank Thomas.
That group combined for:
2,954 home runs: Jackson 563 (13th-all time)... Schmidt 548 (15th)...Frank Thomas 521 (t18th)...McGriff 493 (t26th)...Bench 389 (57th)...Henderson 297 (138th)...Boggs 118...Smith 28...Hoffman 0...Martinez 0.
9 Most Valuable Player Awards...Schmidt 3...Bench 2...Thomas 2...Henderson 1...Jackson 1.
37 Gold Gloves...Smith 13...Bench 10...Schmidt 10...Boggs 2...Henderson 1...Jackson 1
6 Hall of Fame plaques...Bench...Boggs...Henderson...Jackson...Schmidt...Smith.
3 future Hall of Fame plaques...Hoffman...Thomas...Martinez.
6 batting titles...Boggs 5...Thomas 1.
14 home-run titles...Schmidt 8...Jackson 4...Bench 1...McGriff 1.
A fortune in career salaries, led by Martinez $146,259,585 and Thomas $104,734,000.
Best seasons by the 10 participants (in my opinion):
Johnny Bench (1970) .293; led NL with 45 HRs and 148 RBI; Gold Glove.
Wade Boggs (1985) .368; 240 hits; 107 runs; 78 RBI.
Rickey Henderson (1990) .325; 119 runs; 189 HRs; 61 RBI; 65x75 stolen bases; .439 on-base percentage...AL MVP.
Trevor Hoffman (1998) 4-2 record; 1.48 ERA; 53 saves;0.849 WHIP(walks+hits/inning).
Reggie Jackson (1973) .293; 32 HRs; 117 RBI...led AL in HRs and RBI...unanimous AL MVP.
Fred McGriff (1993) .271; 37 HRs; 101 RBI...4th in NL MVP voting.
Pedro Martinez (1999: 23-4 record...2.07 ERA...37 walks...313 strikeouts...Cy Young Award.
Mike Schmidt (1980) .286; led NFL with 48 HRs and 121 RBI...Gold Glove...unanimous NL MVP.
Ozzie Smith (1987) .303; 75 RBI; 43x52 stolen bases...Gold Glove...2nd in NL MVP voting.
Frank Thomas (2000) .328; 115 runs; 43 HRs; 143 RBI; 112 walks.
Times Flies Department (ages of the Legends) Jackson 66...Bench 65...Schmidt 63...Smith 58...Boggs 54...Henderson 54...McGriff 49...Hoffman 45...Thomas 45...Martinez 41.
I’M PASSING ON ORB WIN BET IN FAVOR OF EXACTAS
Kentucky Derby champion Orb deserves to be the big favorite to win Saturday’s 138th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, but he figures to return less than $4 for a $2 win bet.
I’m going to pass on Orb to win in an attempt to cash in on exactas (first two finishers in order).
The Preakness is 1 3/16th miles (1/16th shorter than the Derby).
Here’s how I see the nine-horse race from last-to-first:
9th – Titletown Five (30x1 morning-line odds)...Outclassed...0x3 this year...Son of two-time Breeders’ Classic champion Tiznow, but apparently did not inherit much of his daddy’s talent...Only victory in seven career starts was in a maiden race last October...Has won only $87,398...Pressed pace in the Louisiana Derby before fading to finish ninth...Fourth in Grade 3 Derby Trial...Decent half-mile workout (:47 3/5) inspired trainer D. Wayne Lukas to start him in the Preakness...Owners include former Green Bay Packers stars Paul Hornung and Willis Davis.
8th – Govenor Charlie (12x1)...Only three career starts, all this year...Has improved in every race but this is a very tall order...Son of 2007 sprint champion Midnight Lite...Pressed a hot pace to win the Sunland Derby by five4 lengths March 24 but hasn’t raced since...Declared out of the Derby with on bone bruise...Trying to match Bernardini: won the 2006 Preakness in his fourth career start, all as a 3-year-old.
7th – Itsmyluckyday (10x1)...It probably won’t be if you bet on him to finish in the top our...Favored in the Florida Derby and finished second to Orb...In the middle of the pack in the Kentucky Derby but finished a disappointing 15th...Consistent sort: 11 career starts, 5 wins, 2 seconds, 1 third...Won’t be a shock if he wins but it would be a surprise.
6th – Departing (6x1)...Can’t ignore...Three wins in four starts this year...Won the Illinois Derby...Trainer Al Stall believes skipping the Kentucky Derby makes this bay gelding a legit contender in this spot.
5th – Mylute (5x1)...Rosie Napravnik began her career at Pimlico and has dreamed of becoming the first female jockey to win the Preakness...Steadied early in the Kentucky Derby. Rallied late to finish fifth, less than four lengths behind winner Orb...Will be closing late on Saturday...Only victories in 10 starts were his maiden win at Arlington Park and a 10 ¾-length romp in an optional claiming/allowance race at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
4th – Oxbow (15x1)...Chance at a price...Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens...Post 6 has produced the most Preakness winners (15 since 1908, most recently 1999)...Calumet Farm has had a record seven Preakness winners, but none since 1968...Had an interesting trip in the Kentucky Derby. He was the only horse close to the fast pace set by Palace Malice that had anything left in the stretch. He was second to Normandy Invasion with ¼ mile to run, briefly poked his nose in front at the top of the stretch, ran into traffic at the 3/16th pole and faded to sixth.
SHOW -- Goldencents (8x1)...The Santa Anita Derby winner was a disappointing 17th in the Derby. He got caught is a blistering speed duel with Palace Malice (half mile in 45:33 and three-quarters in 1:09.80) and backed up around the far turn. Was all but eased in deep stretch...Hated the sloppy track. Candidate for huge improvement Saturday...Looms a big threat if jockey Kevin Krigger can set a moderate front-running pace or sit slightly off a suicide pace set by Governor Charlie and/or Titletown Five and then take the lead and hold off the closers for the stretch run.
PLACE -- Will Take Charge (12x1)...My long-shot special...This huge, long-striding colt ran in mid-pack in the Derby until making a strong five-wide move with ¼ mile to run. He ran into traffic at the 3/16th pole, lost all momentum and wound up eighth...Could be dangerous with a clean trip.
WIN – Orb (1x1)...Was very impressive in coming from way behind to win Kentucky Derby by 2 ½ comfortable lengths fort his fifth consecutive victory. But there are questions. How much did he like the rain and slop and how much did the conditions hurt his rivals? Can he overcome the dreaded No. 1 post position? The last Preakness winner from the inside post was Tabasco Cat in 1994. Orb has started from the rail three times and appeared uncomfortable in his first two career starts..8 career races, with 5 wins, 1 third and $2,335,850 in earnings...Can save ground on the rail and should have ample time to pass the rest of the field before the wire.
I believe Orb will win at odds of 1x1 or less. But I’m greedy and can’t settle for a small return. I’ll spend $50...$10 dollar exactas on Orb and Goldencents and Orb and Will Take Charge; $5 exacta box on Orb/Goldencents/Will Take Charge.
Preakness notes: Six of the nine starters ran in the Kentucky Derby:
Orb (won), Mylute (5th), Oxbow (6th), Will Take Charge (8th) and Itsmyluckyday (15th)...D. Wayne Lukas, who has saddled 5 Preakness winners among his 13 Triple Crown victories, will start Oxbow, Will Take Charge and Titletown Five in Saturday’s race...Over the last 25 years, there were only two wire-to-wire Preakness winners (Louis Quatorze in 1996 after flopping in the Derby) and Rachel Alexandra (2009)...Over the last 25 years, 10 post-time favorites won and 9 finished second...Of the last 25 Preakness winners, 22 ran in the Kentucky Derby. Derby horses also had 17 seconds and 17 thirds...Since pari-mutuel betting on the Preakness began in 1911, 67 post-time favorites won. Of those, 27 favorites went off at less than even odds. 17 of those horses won....The Preakness record time is 1:53 by Secretariat in 1973. It won’t be broken Saturday.
MIRACLE AND KERNELS A COMBINED 56-22
The Red Wings (16-25 record) and Double-A (Eastern League) New Britain Rock Cats (20-20) don’t yet appear to be playoff contenders, but Minnesota’s two Single-A full season teams – the Fort Myers Miracle (Florida State League) and Cedar Rapids Kernels (Midwest League) continue to roll.
Fort Myers won 2-0 over Dunedin Thursday night and is 29-10. Cedar Rapids won 7-6 over Burlington and is 27-12.
Star watch: Third baseman Miguel Sano (Fort Myers) leads the FSL in batting average (.368), home runs (10), slugging percentage (.677) and OPS (1.142: on-base percentage + slugging percentage)...Center fielder Byron Buxton hit a walk-off grand slam HR to win Thursday night’s game. He’s hitting .341 with 41 runs, 10 doubles, 4 triples, 5 HRs, 28 RBI and 15 stolen bases.
MARIANO RIVERA CONTINUES TO AMAZE...HARVEY HOT, MARLINS NOT
Mariano Rivera (Yankees) figures to blow a save one of these days – maybe. His 2013 pitching line: 18 games...16 saves...17 1/3 innings...14 hits allowed...1.56 ERA...2 walks...13 strikeouts...0.92 WHIP (walks+hits per inning)...Someone has suggested that it would be an appropriate honor for Rivera to start the All-Star Game for the American League. Why? He’s the all-time relief pitcher. Have him pitch the final inning of the game – not the first inning.
As of Friday morning, May 17, the hitters leading the two major leagues in batting were retreads James Loney (AL Tampa Bay) .367 and Carlos Gomez (NL Milwaukee) .355. Gomez could be the most-improved players in MLB.
The Detroit Tigers lead MLB in batting average (.282) and runs (206). The feeble Miami Marlins are last in MLB in batting average (.223), HRs (23) and runs (113).
Baltimore and Arizona each have a MLB-fewest 12 errors. Washington leads the majors with 32 errors.
Vernon Wells: 2012 Angels 77 games; .230 batting average (56x243); 11 HRs; 29 RBI...2013 Yankees 39 games; .295 batting average (43x146); 10 HRs; 23 RBI.
Matt Harvey (Mets) pitching line: 8 starts...4-0...1.44 ERA...56 1/3 innings...27 hits...14 walks...62 strikeouts...0.73 WHIP...batting average against .143.
2014 KNIGHTHAWKS COULD MAKE HISTORY
ALBERT PUJOLS: PLAYER OF THE 2000s SHOULD SIT DOWN
COULD WE HAVE A FATTER SPORTS SECTION...PLEASE
PROPOSED MAYWEATHER VS. ALVAREZ A PAY-PER-VIEW BONANZA
HOT AND COLD IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
It is easy to make the National Lacrosse League playoffs. The league had nine teams the past two seasons and eight of them qualified for the playoffs each year. Truthfully, it is tough to NOT advance to the postseason.
But it is difficult to WIN the NLL Playoffs because the league is so evenly balanced.
The Rochester Knighthawks captured the 2013 NLL championship Saturday night with a hard-earned 11-10 victory over the Washington Stealth in the Langley (British Columbia) Events Centre.
Teams now have won back-to-back NLL championships six times since the leaguer began in 1987: Philadelphia Wings 1989-1990...Buffalo Bandits 1992-1193...Philadelphia Wings 1994-1995...Toronto Rock 1999-2000...Toronto Rock 2002-2003...Rochester Knighthawks 2012-2013.
The Knighthawks could make NLL history and become one of the NLL’s great dynasties by becoming the first team in the league to win three straight championships.
It will be interesting to see how Rochester fares in the power ratings entering the 2014 season.
The Knighthawks were a combined 15-17 in the 2012-2013 regular seasons (tied for fourth-best in the league) but 6-0 in the playoffs.
The top strength for next season’ Knighthawks figures to remain goaltender Matt Vinc and the talented group of defenders in front of him.
Give owner/general manager Curt Styres and his stats and defensive-minded coach Mike Hasen major props for putting this team together.
He has traded several popular offensive-minded stars (including John Grant Jr., Shawn Evans and Shawn Williams) while building the NLL’s stingiest defense. The moves weren’t popular when they were made but no one can dispute the results.
He stuck with Joe Walters during the Rochester product’s difficult transition from outdoor to indoor lacrosse. Walters has become an invaluable part of the team.
It’s not like the Knighthawks are void of firepower. Most of the NLL’s best teams have at least two outstanding offensive players. Rochester has two – Cody Jamieson and Dan Dawson – and a potential third in Johnny Powless, who could make the jump to elite scorer this coming season. They’re complemented by an effective mix of young and veteran forwards.
The only apparent flaw in this team appears to be faceoff percentage.
I’ve been told it isn’t a big deal but I’ve always wondered why not. Two straight titles strongly suggests that there are worse things to do poorly.
WHEN SHOULD DAMAGED PUJOLS SIT DOWN? HE’S HURTING THE ANGELS
Albert Pujols, the undisputed Major League Player of the Decade as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, has become a liability – at least temporarily – to the Los Angeles Angels.
Give Pujols high marks for playing in pain. He has a sore knee coming off surgery and plantar faciitis in his left foot. He can barely run. He has more ground into more double plays (8) than home runs (5).
His batting line for 2013: .234 (33x1241; 5 HRs; 20 RBI; 18 walks; 21 strikeouts; .317 on-base percentage (career 412); .390 slugging percentage (career .604); 0x1 stolen bases (92x128 entering this season; he never was fast but he was a heady base-stealer).
Pujols is – we think – 33 years old. Big wheels look like they’re 43. Will be ever return to top form? Probably not. Some key indicators were down in 2011 and 2012.
The Angels are in a tough spot. They’re off to a lousy start (14-23 record) and he wants to play.
But he’s really not an asset right now. In May, he’s hitting .184 (7x38) with 2 doubles, 1 HR and 3 RBI in 10 days. The Angels at this point must wish they had retained Vernon Wells to play left field and move Mark Trumbo to first base – because right now, Pujols is hurting the team. Even as DH.
(The Angels traded Wells to the Yankees on March 24. In 34 games, the rejuvenated retread is hitting .295 with 9 HRs and 20 RBI. The Angels are paying $13.9 million of the $42 million left on his contract).
He has eight years left on his 10-year, guaranteed $240-million guaranteed, back-loaded contract: $12 million for 2012...$13 million for 2013...$16 million for 2014...$23 million for 2014...then up $1 million for every year through 2021 (when he’ll be at least 41).
He also has award and performance clauses, most of which he now seems unlikely to attain.
Unfortunately, the most outstanding player of the 2000s could finish above even Alex Rodriguez as the worst baseball contract of the 2010s. From superstar to a ridiculously overpaid albatross. That’s not his fault. Blame Angels owner Arte Moreno.
SUNDAY’S 8-PAGE SPORTS SECTION: NOT ENOUGH OF A GOOD THING
The Democrat & Chronicle sports section had only eight pages on Sunday. That’s sad.
I don’t believe many cities of similar size had a newspaper with such a thin sports section.
Sure, I’m prejudiced. I love sports. And I believe sports drives newspaper sales (single copy and subscriptions) as much or more than any other section.
Greater Rochester is an outstanding sports community. It deserves more pages in the sports section – particularly on Sundays. The Sunday D&C is a bargain now. It would be worth even more with at least two more pages for sports.
The problem isn’t quality. The D&C sports department – my former colleagues – is loaded with talent. The problem is space. They should have more room to operate.
I wonder when there will be more pages for obits than for sports in the Sunday paper. The obits seem to be closing the gap.
What do you think?
A GUARANTEED RECORD MAYWEATHER PAY-PER-VIEW MATCHUP – IF IT HAPPENS
I’ll believe it when I see it, but 36-year-old undefeated welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. is talking about putting his 44-0 (26 KOs) 2-0-1 record on the line Sept. 14 in Las Vegas against unbeaten 22-year-old hot prospect Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs).
This proposed showdown has the potential to boxing’s all-time grossing fight. Mayweather has legions of fans everywhere and the charismatic Alvarez is the new favorite of Mexican fans. It would be the weekend of Mexican Independence Day.
The biggest hitch now is agreeing on a weight. Mayweather is the welterweight king (prefers to fight at 147 pounds) and Alvarez is a junior middleweight (doesn’t want to fight lower than 154 pounds).
Mayweather figures to get his way. He usually does.
HOT AND NOT IN MAJOR-LEAGUE BASEBALL
Cleveland is 15-5 and has not lost any of its last seven series...9-3 in one-run games
Miguel Cabrera (Detroit) leads the AL in batting average (.379) and RBI (40) but is a mere t16th in HRs (7)
Joe Saunders (Seattle) is 9-0, 1.72 ERA in 13career appearances
Cincinnati is 10-5 in one-run games
Nick Markakis (Baltimore) is hitting .519 (27x52) vs. Minnesota since the start of last season
Adrian Beltre (Texas) has 12 of his 23 RBI in the last 10 games
James Loney (Tampa Bay) is hitting .456 in his last 24 games
Tampa Bay has 5 straight wins and is above. 500 (19-18) for the first time since April 5
Tampa Bay’s bullpen has 13 2/3 straight scoreless innings
Arizona has a MLB-fewest 8 errors
Mariano Rivera (Yankees): 17 games...15 saves in 15
opportunities...1.65 ERA...0.98 WHIP...16 1/3 innings...14 hits...2 walks...12 strikeouts
Toronto is 7-13 in its last 20 games and last in the AL East (15-24)
David Ortiz (Boston) is 1x17 since his .414, 4 HRs, 17 RBI in his firat 15 games
Houston is 2-10 in its last 12 games and off to its worst start after 38 games(10-28)
Oakland is 1-6 in its last 7 games and below .500 (18-19) for the first time since Week 1
Milwaukee is 2-10 in its last 12 games against Cincinnati
The Mets were 7x40 with runners in scoring position during a 2-4 homestand
Pittsburgh is 6-13 at Citi Field since 2009
The Cubs lead MLB with 30 errors
Bryce Harper (Washington) is in a 4x35 slump.
AMERKS HOME ATTENDANCE INCREASE THIRD IN AHL
The Rochester Americans had a positive season on and off the ice.
Rochester had a 12.9 percent increase in total home attendance and attendance per game, second-best in the 30-team AHL (stat courtesy of Smith & Street’s Sports Business JOURNAL):
1—Toronto Marlies – 21.9 percent (5,480 to 6,681; 253,868 total)
2—Rochester Americans – 12.9 percent (5,595 to 6,314 per game; 239,914 total).
Total league attendance was up 1.3 percent (5,710 per game) over 2011-12 (5,638).
THE YEAR OF THE TIGER...AGAIN
Tiger Woods’ victory Sunday in The Players Championship was his fourth PGA Tour win of 2013. The next-most wins is ONE (by 16 players).
Tiger leads in official earnings ($5,849,600 in 7 events; No. 2 Brandt Snedeker has $3,388,064 in 10 events.
He also leads in scoring average (68.516). No. 2 Sergio Garcia is 69.582.
Woods is tied for 2nd with 5 top-10 finishes (in 7 events). No. 1 Brandt Snedeker has 6 top-10 finishes in 10 events.
Tiger is 1st in strokes-gained-putting and 28th in average driving distance (294.0).
Sergio Garcia’s silly feud with Tiger Woods didn’t work so well for him Sunday in The Players Championship. He made Tiger the good guy for a change. Not sure Woods needed any added incentive, but he kicked Garcia’s butt (70 to 76) and won his fourth PGA stop of the year. Tiger clearly is great again. Maybe approaching his peak form. Garcia is trying to become great for the first time and running out of time.
Sad sign of the horse racing times: Hollywood Park in California, site of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup in 1984, will close after the current 75th anniversary live thoroughbred racing season. It will be torn down to make room for other things.
Entering Monday, 10 horses are scheduled to run in Saturday’s 138th Preakness Stakes: Kentucky Derby winner Orb, fellow Derby runners Oxbow, Will Take Charge, Golden cents, Mylute, Itsdmyluckyday and Vyjack, plus Departing, Governor Charlie and Titletown Five...A full field of 14 is expected.
The Cedar Rapids Kernals, Minnesota’s team in the Single-A Midwest League, scored 16 runs but lost Sunday – 23-16 to Beloit. Kernals centerfielder Byron Buxton, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 entry draft, was 4x7 (including a 2B and a 3B) to raise his batting average to .352.
I’ll be rooting for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the host Boston Bruins in Monday night’s Game 7 of their Stanley Cup conference semifinal series. Toronto hockey fans are the most loyal in North American pro sports. They sell out year-after-year. Some people think that helps account for the team’s long stretch of futility. There are no empty seats, so why spend big to put the best and most expensive product on the ice? The Maple Leafs last year became the first NHL franchise valued at $1 billion. They lead the NHL in profit margin.
They’ve won 13 Stanley Cups – that’s good. But the last of those Cups was won in 1967 – that’s very sad.