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.
GIVE ME ALEX SMITH OVER FITZ OR VICK
A STATUE FOR SAINT RAY
RED WINGS GUARANTEE: ABOVE .500 THIS SEASON
REMEMBERING THE 1998 YANKEES
The Answer Man checks in before the big storm:
ESPN’s John Clayton claims the Buffalo Bills and Michael Vick might be a good fit and the Bills could be interested. What do you think?
ANSWER: No thank you. I was all for the Bills signing Vick in 2009, when he and advisor Tony Dungy were hoping to come here. But that was when Vick was 28 years old and presumably still close to his prime. He’ll probably be available again, presuming new Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly opts to go in another direction at QB…I’d prefer a fading and injury-prone 32-year-old Vick over Buffalo incumbent starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, but I’d also prefer Alex Smith over both of them.
I don’t think Smith would fill the bill as the “franchise quarterback” the Bills and their fans have been dreaming of since Jim Kelly retired, but I believe he’s good enough to help make Buffalo a genuine threat to make the playoffs this season.
Smith started the first nine games for the 49ers last season before suffering a concussion and losing his job to Colin Kaepernick (obviously no disgrace). He finished the season with a .702 completion percentage, 13 TD passes, 5 INTs and a 104.1 passer rating. Sure, he was operating behind an excellent offensive line, but Buffalo’s OL is pretty good, too.
His best game of the season was against Buffalo in a 45-3 home romp Oct. 7: 18x24 for 303 yards; 3 TD passes; 0 INTs; 156.3 passer rating.
Smith will turn 29 on May 7. San Francisco is ready to trade him. I think he’d be a steal for the Bills for a third-round draft pick.
QUESTION: What you think about the plan to build a statue of Ray Lewis outside Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium?
ANSWER: Not much.
I’ll give the guy credit for being a great football player and probable first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer, for doing a remarkable job of remolding his image and for finding God.
But – I think character should count just a little bit when it comes to choosing people worthy of statues. We’ll probably never know what part he played in a double-murder outside a nightclub in Atlanta 13 years ago. And if everyone fathered six kids by four different women, this country would be even more messed up than it is now.
How do you think the Rochester Red Wings will fare this International League season?
ANSWER: I guarantee they’ll finish above .500. I won’t be surprised if they make the playoffs and even win the Governors’ Cup.
I’m even higher on the Red Wings for 2014 and beyond. I believe Minnesota’s farm system is back on track and I’m not alone.
ESPN’s Keith Law, among baseball’s best evaluators of minor-league talent, recently ranked Minnesota’s farm system No. 2 among the 30 big-league organizations – behind only the St. Louis Cardinals. The rest of the top 10: Tampa Bay, Houston, Cubs, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Texas and the Yankees. Baltimore is 13th.
Minnesota also has the most players on Law’s list of The 100 Top Prospects – seven (and they’re all among the top 65): No. 11 3B Miguel Sano…No. 22 CF Byron Braxton…No. 41 RHP Kyle Gibson…No. 49 CF Aaron Hicks…No. 59 RF Oswaldo Arcia…No. 61 RHP Alex Myer…No. 65 2B/OF Eddie Rosario.
Hicks, Arcia and Gibson likely will start this season with the Red Wings. The others aren’t far away.
QUESTION: Do you think the Rochester Americans are a genuine threat to win this season’s Calder Cup?
It is very difficult to win a championship in any 30-team league. The Amerks were great when they won their first two AHL Calder Cups in 1965 and 1966. But there were only six teams in the league back then.
Reasons to like Rochester’s hopes of winning this season’s Calder Cup include:
Leading the AHL in scoring (156 goals) with a balanced lineup
.602 point percentage (53 of 88 possible points in the standings) tied for 9th
+24 goal differential tied for 4th
Tough at home (18-7-0-1) and very respectable on the road (9-9-2-0)
6th on the power play and 9th in penalty killing
Goalie David Leggio isn’t among the AHL leaders in goals-against average, partly because the Amerks play more offense-minded hockey than many of the other AHL teams. But he’s been Rochester’s MVP and leads AHL goalies in games, saves and victories
If the parent Buffalo Sabres fail to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Amerks figure to get a few quality reinforcements for their quest for the Calder Cup.
QUESTION: What do you think about the Bills decision not to keep wide receiver Donald Jones?
ANSWER: Since Jones was Buffalo’s No. 2 wide receiver, it sort of proves the team’s receiving corps was among the worst in the NFL last season. Below-average QB + below-average receivers = no shot at a playoff berth.
With money to spend in free agency, maybe the Bills will sign a veteran WR to team with Stevie Johnson for a respectable 1-2 punch. Among those likely to be available: Dwayne Bowe, Greg Jennings and Mike Wallace – and maybe Wes Welker.
YANKEES BEST TEAM EVER – BUT WHICH YANKEES TEAM?
The New York Yankees are the all-time best baseball team.
At least that’s what ESPN.com baseball guru Buster Olney – a man who definitely knows his stuff -- thought when he recently selected his all-time 10-best Major League Baseball teams.
Picking the Yankees was no surprise. After all, they have won 27 World Series.
The mild surprise to me was THE Yankees team he put at the very top.
Three of his top-four teams were Yankees – the 1927 Yanks ranked 4th, 1939 2nd and 1998 1st.
Maybe the 1998 Yankees were so relatively modern era that I – and maybe some of you – didn’t fully appreciate them.
Manager Joe Torre’s 1998 Yankees were 114-48 (.704) and outscored opponents by 309 runs (965-656), the greatest run differential in the majors since the end of World War II.
The 1939 Yankees were 106-45 (.702) in the regular season and outscored opponents by 411 runs (967-556).
Olney gives the 1998 Yankees extra credit (justifiably so) for going 11-2 with a 62-34 run differential in the expanded postseason (including a 4-0 sweep of the outclassed San Diego Padres in the World Series). The 1939 Yankees had no AL playoffs before sweeping Cincinnati 4-0 (20-8 run differential) in the World Series.
Here is how the two Yankee powerhouses compared against the rest of the American League (eight total teams):
1939 Yankees -- .287 batting average; 987 runs; 3.31 earned run average; .978 fielding percentage)
1939 American League averages -- .279 batting average; 801 runs; 4.62 ERA; .969 fielding percentage).
1998 Yankees -- .288 batting average; 965 runs; 3.82 ERA; .984 fielding percentage)
1998 American League averages -- .271 batting average; 812 runs; 4.65 ERA; .981 fielding percentage).
Let’s compare the rosters of the two teams (1939 and 1998):
1B -- 1939 Babe Dahlgren .235, 15 HRs, 89 RBI…1998 Tino Martinez .281, 28 HRs, 123 RBI. Dahlgren replaced Lou Gehrig after 9 games (Gehrig had to retire due to illness)
2B – 1939 Joe Gordon .284, 28 HRs, 111 RBI…1998 Chuck Knoblauch .265, 117 runs, 17 HRs, 64 RBI, 31 stolen bases.
SS – 1939 Frankie Crosetti .233, 109 runs, 10 HRS, 56 RBI…1998 Derek Jeter .324, 127 runs, 19 HRs, 84 RBI, 30 stolen bases
3B – 1939 Red Rolfe .329, 139 runs, 14 HRs, 80 RBI…1998 Scott Brosius .300, 19 HRs, 98 RBI
OF – 1939 Joe DiMaggio .381, 108 runs, 30 HRs, 126 RBI…1998 Chad Curtis .243, 10 HGRs, 56 RBI, 21 stolen bases
OF – 1939 Charlie Keller .334, 11 HRs, 83 RBI…1998 Bernie Williams .339, 26 HRs, 97 RBI
OF -- 1939 George “Twinkletoes” Selkirk .306, 21 HRs, 101 RBI…1998 Paul O’Neill .317, 24 HRs, 116 RBI
C – Bill Dickey .302, 24 HRs, 105 RBI…Jorge Posada .268, 17 HRS, 63 RBI
Top reserves – 1939 OF Tommy Henrich, C Buddy Rosar …1998 OF-DH Darryl Strawberry. OF Tim Raines, C Joe Girardi, DH Chili Davis, OF Shane Spencer (.373; 25x67; 10 HRs, 27 RBI).
Starting Rotation – 1939 Red Ruffing (21-7, 2.93 ERA), Lefty Gomez 12-8 (3.41), Bump Hadley (12-6, 2.98), Atley Donald (13-3, 3.71), Monte Pearson (12-5, 4.49 ERA), Oral Hildebrand (10-4, 3.06)…1998 David Cone (20-7, 3.55), David Wells (18-4, 3.49), Andy Pettitte (16-11, 4.24), Hideki Irabu (13-9, 4.06), Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez (12-4, 3.13)
Bullpen – 1939 closer Johnny Murphy (3-6, 4.40, 19 saves; a poor season by his standards), Steve Sundra, Marius Russo…1998 closer Mariano Rivera (3-0, 1.91 ERA, 36 saves), Ramiro Mendoza, Mike Stanton, Graeme Lloyd, Jeff Nelson.
I’m not sure the 1998 Yankees were better than the 1939 Yankees, but they’re too close to quibble.
Olney’s complete top-10 all-time baseball teams: 1998 Yankees…1939 Yankees…1970 Baltimore Orioles (Earl Weaver’s only world champions; a team had to win World Series to qualify for Olney’s top-10)…1927 Yankees…1975 Cincinnati Reds…1929 Philadelphia Athletics…1984 Detroit Tigers…1907 Chicago Cubs…1986 New York Mets…1993 Toronto Blue Jays….High honorable mention: 1967 St. Louis Cardinals, 1995 Atlanta Braves, 2005 Chicago White Sox, 1911 Philadelphia Athletics, 1948 Cleveland Indians, 1989 Oakland Athletics.
BILLS ALREADY BEING SHORTCHANGED FOR 2013 SEASON
The Buffalo Bills haven’t made the NFL playoffs for the past 13 years, the longest futility streak in the league. But that doesn’t mean the Bills should be rated one of the three-worst teams in the NFL.
Here’s the early-bird line for winning Super Bowl 48 (courtesy of Bodog):
Denver and San Francisco each 7-to-1
New England 15x2
Green Bay 10x1
Baltimore and Seattle each 12x1
Atlanta, New Orleans 18x1 and Pittsburgh 18x1
Chicago and New York Giants each 20x1
Cincinnati, Detroit, Minnesota, Philadelphia and San Diego each 35x1
New York Jets 40x1
Carolina, Kansas City, Miami, St. Louis and Tampa Bay each 50x1
Arizona, Cleveland and Tennessee each 66x1
Buffalo and Oakland each 100x1
Jacksonville 150 -x1.
I wouldn’t wager $10 for the Bills to win Super Bowl 48 at odds of 1,000-to-1, but I believe Buffalo is a better team right now than Arizona, Cleveland, Tennessee, Kansas City, St. Louis, and on a par with Indianapolis and Detroit. If Buffalo gets lucky and finds an upgrade at quarterback, I think it would be better than a few other teams entering the 2013 season. Do you agree?
I don’t know if ironman Rochester Amerks goalie David Leggio has what it takes to be a full-time NHL goalie, but I do know he deserves at least a look-see from Buffalo. Jonas Enroth is 1-12-4 in his last 17 starts for the Sabres as Ryan Miller’s backup. He might benefit from a stint in Rochester to work on his game and get build his confidence.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have a new logo – a more realistic and fierce-looking jaguar head. That should send shivers down the spines of opponents. The Jaguars also this week unveiled plans for the largest videoboards in the NFL – estimated cost $50 million. They’ll be ready for the 2014 season, several years before the team figures to be a legitimate playoff contender again.
Manti Teo has taken an indefinite leave of absence from the social media scene. Better late than never, I guess.
The main reason I believe Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun is clean baseball’s latest performance-enhancing drugs investigation (featuring Anthony Bosch) is that he couldn’t be stupid enough to be messing with PEDs so soon after being cleared of cheating on a technicality after a positive test after his 2011 MVP season.
I believe the New Orleans Saints are going to be very tough to beat this NFL season and that new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will be a great fit. The team’s sideline will be full of fire on Sunday afternoons with Ryan alongside returning head coach Sean Payton.
The injury to Pau Gasol probably was the final blow for the Los Angeles Lakers in terms of making the playoffs. The team’s only hope is the return of Dwight Howard in peak shape both physically and mentally. That doesn’t seem likely.
Lavonne “Pepper” Paire-Davis, a star of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1940s, died last weekend in Los Angeles at age 88. She was a catcher and an inspiration for the central character (Dottie played by Geena Davis) in the 1992 hit movie A League of Their Own.” I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen the movie about 50 times and still enjoy it.
Amerks home attendance on the rise: 2009-10 season 4,236 average (17th in 30-team AHL)…2010-11 season 3872 (25th)…2011-12 5595 (13th)…so far in 2012-13 5587 (9th).
Babe Ruth was born 118 years ago Wednesday (1895) – around 65 years too early to play in the Steroid Era and – if he chose the wrong path – to hit 100+ home runs in a season and 1,000-plus for his career.