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.
SYRACUSE 5 ½-POINT DOG VS. INDIANA...LOUISVILLE 3x1 FAVORITE
IMPROVING SABRES MAKING THINGS COMPLICATED
RED WINGS SHOULD BE GOOD – ON AND OFF THE FIELD
PIRATES LIKELY TO END 20-YEAR LOSING STREAK
AMERKS HANGING TOUGH: GOALIES RED HOT
The Syracuse Orange have reached the NCAA men’s basketball Sweet 16 – just as most of us expected. Now comes the heavy lifting. SU is a 5 ½-point underdog to Indiana Thursday night (9:45 p.m. ) in Washington, D.C. If SU advances, the Elite 8 opponent would be Miami or Marquette on Saturday.
Other Sweet 16 odds:
Thursday – Miami 5 ½ vs. Marquette…Ohio State -4 vs. Arizona…
Wichita State 3 ½ vs. LaSalle
Friday – Louisville -10 vs. Oregon…Kansas -2 vs. Michigan…Duke -1 ½ vs. Michigan State…Florida -12 ½ vs. Florida Gulf Coast.
Revised odds to win the NCAA tournament: Louisville 3x1…Indiana 4x1…
Duke 6x1…Kansas 6x1…Ohio State 7x1…Florida 8x1…Miami 9x1…
Michigan 10x1…Michigan State 12x1…Arizona 15x1…Syracuse 15x1…
Marquette 20x1…Wichita State 25x1…Oregon 30x1…LaSalle 45x1…
Florida Gulf Coast 50x1.
NCAA tournament by the numbers:
Sweet 16 seeds:
2—Duke… Miami…Ohio State
15—Florida Gulf Coast (the first No. 15 seed ever to get this far).
Higher seeds outright are 34-14 outright and 24-24 against the Las Vegas point spread.
Las Vegas favorites are 37-15 outright and 27-25 against the point spread Inmcluding the four first-round games).
Margins of victory:
1-to-4 points – 11 games
5-to-10 points – 11 games
11-to-15 points – 12 games
16-to-20 points – 7 games
20-to-30 points – 9 games
30+ points – 4 games.
There have been 0 overtime games.
Thoughts on the tournament so far:
My MVP pick so far is Miami sophomore point guard Shane Larkin. He’s only 5-11 and not particularly strong or fast. He might never be an NBA star and he might not ever play in the NBA. Who cares? He’s a perfect fit for the Hurricanes right now.
Like Duke or hate Duke, it has a very impressive basketball team – a bargain at 6x1 to go all the way.
The Big East led the nation with 8 teams in the 68-team NCAA field… Louisville, Marquette and Syracuse are left…Cincinnati, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Villanova all were done-in-one…Big East overall record: 6-5.
The state of Florida’s three teams (Florida, Miami and Florida Gulf Coast) are a combined 6-0.
When I fill out my brackets, rule of thumb says never go with a school you’ve never heard of. Bravo to Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles aren’t going to win the championship but most of the nation will be rooting for them against Florida Friday night.
SABRES COULD SAVE JOBS OF REGIER AND ROLSTON
It seemed so simple just a few weeks ago for the Buffalo Sabres.
They’d soon be out of reasonable contention for a playoff berth, general manager Darcy Regier would finally get the boot and Ron Rolston’s coaching prefix would change from “interim” to “former.”
The new GM would have the freedom to name his own coach and the roster overhaul would begin.
Not so fast.
The Sabres still don’t have the look of a genuine Stanley Cup contender, but they’re doing just well enough to give the team’s fans and owner Terry Pegula hopes that a playoff berth is within grasp.
Lindy Ruff was fired on Feb. 20 and Regier named Rochester Amerks coach Rolston to replace him.
Sabres through Feb. 20: 6-10-1 record (17 games), 13 of 34 possible points in the standings…Outscored by opponents 56-50.
Sabres since Feb. 20: 7-5-3 record (15 games), 17 of 30 possible points in the standings…Outscored by opponents 44-36.
The Sabres are 12th in the NHL’s Eastern Conference but only 3 points behind the New York Rangers for the eighth and final playoff berth. Buffalo has 16 games left in the regular season – 10 at home and 6 on the road. The Sabres are due to improve at home (6-6-2 record) and continue to perform decently on the road (7-9-2 record).
Will the improved play of the Sabres inspire Regier to abandon any thoughts of dealing veteran mainstays Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and Ryan Miller for younger players before the trade deadline (April 3, 3 p.m.)?
Would making the playoffs satisfy Pegula enough to save the jobs of Regier (hope not a sure thing) and Rolston (hope so}?
Would a playoff berth inspire Regier and Pegula to maintain the roster status quo?
And the biggest question of all: Would standing pat and making the playoffs be a short-term plus but a long-term minus in terms of player development?
RED WINGS SEASON STARTS IN 11 DAYS – REALLY
The Rochester Red Wings open the 2013 International League season in Buffalo Thursday, April 4, 2 p.m. The home opener will be Saturday, April 6, 1:05 p.m., at Frontier Field.
Rochester Community Baseball was patient with the parent Minnesota Twins after the Wings were the worst team in Triple-A baseball in 2011 and 2012 and the fans figure to reap the benefits soon.
The Twins have recommitted to building from within and the farm system is on the upgrade in a big way. Various publications this spring have ranked Minnesota’s crop of prospects in the top five.
The farm system is particularly deep in strong-armed pitchers (the Twins have decided to emphasize power over finesse) and hard-hitting outfielders. Most of them are a year or more away from Frontier Field and there no longer is a need to rush them.
It is difficult to make projections before a Triple-A season begins because we don’t know how the rosters of the 13 other IL teams measure up, but Rochester played .500 baseball last season and this year’s team – on paper – appears stronger.
No one knows for sure how much the quality of the Red Wings on the field and in the standings means at the turnstiles. There aren’t many better ways to spend a summer evening with the family than at Frontier Field. The variety of food and steady diet of promotions are the staples and make a day or night with the home team a fun experience – win or lose.
The front office does a splendid job lining up autograph appearances. This season will be no exception. Get out the autograph books and cameras:
Ferguson Jenkins Wednesday, June 19
Thurman Thomas, Friday, July 19
Rod Carew Wednesday, July 24
Dwight Gooden, Sunday, July 28
Gaylord Perry Monday, July 29
Andre Reed Sunday, August 4
Lee Smith, Sunday, August 24.
Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, Saturday, August 24.
Jenkins, Carew and Perry all were 1991 inductees to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Thomas is in the Pro Football Hall if Fame and Reed is a decent bet to join him next year. Snuka is in the WWE Hall of Fame.
The outrageously funny Zooperstars (featuring Harry Canary, Derek Cheetah and Cow Ripken Jr.) will make two appearances (June 8 and August 17). A new act – Cowboy Monkey Rodeo – will visit for the first time July 27. The troupe could’ve played for the miserable Red Wings in 2010 and 2011. Now they’ll be merely bit players during the games start.
AARON HICKS SKIPS ROCHESTER – AT LEAST FOR NOW
Former first-round draft pick Aaron Hicks figured to be one of the International League’s best players this season for the Rochester Red Wings.
Hicks will be starting in center field on Opening Day Thursday, April 4 – but not for Rochester in Buffalo. Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire announced Sunday that Hicks will be with the Twins at home against the Detroit Tigers.
The plan was to have the 23-year-old five-tool prospect start this season with Rochester, but he earned his spot in Minnesota . The only other Minnesota hot prospect to skip Triple-A Rochester en route to the Twins was catcher Joe Mauer in 2004.
When spring training began, Darin Mastroianni and rookies Joe Benson and Hicks were battling to open this season as Minnesota’s starting center fielder. Mastroianni was the big favorite. He’s had a solid spring but Hicks has clearly been better:
Mastroianni – 16 games… .353 batting average (12x34)…5 runs…6 doubles…3 RBI…3 walks…6 strikeouts…7x8 stolen bases.
Hicks – He was 4x4 in Sunday’s 14-5 win over Toronto…He’s hitting .350 (21x60) in 18 games, with 6 doubles, 4 HRs, 16 runs, 16 RBI, 6 walks, 15 strikeouts…3x3 stolen bases.
Benson, Minnesota’s former hot-shot “five-star” outfield prospect is running out of time at age 25. In 18 games this spring, he’s hitting .151 (8x53), with 2 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 10 runs, 3 RBI, 9 walks and 15 strikeouts.
At least for now, Hicks is a Twin and Mastroianni and/or Benson figure to be Red Wings soon.
MARK IT DOWN: PIRATES WILL END 20-YEAR LOSING STREAK
The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992. Their 20-season losing streak is the all-time worst in North America’s four major team sports. I can’t imagine a longer futility streak by any team in any sport in any country.
All bad things must end and the Buccos should finally post more wins than losses this season.
Here are several reasons why:
The Pirates finally have a superstar – center fielder Andrew McCutchen.
Slugging third baseman Wilson Alvarez is on the verge of stardom. Left fielder Sterling Marte might be.
Second baseman Neil Walker is one of baseball’s most underrated player when he is healthy. He is now.
Russell Martin is a huge upgrade at catcher. The Yankees wish they still had him.
Ex-Red Wing favorite first baseman Garrett Jones devours right-handed pitching.
A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez are a very good RH-LH starting duo. The team’s 3.86 ERA was the first time since 1998 the staff’s ERA was under 4.00. The Pirates had a team-record 1,192 strikeouts.
The team should benefit from maturity and better handle adversity. The Pirates led the NL Central for much of the past two seasons but were a combined 38-77 after July 31.
It’s fun to play in front of decent crowds. The Pirates topped 2 million fans at home for the first time since 2001.
They get to play the awful NL Central rival Chicago Cubs 19 times.
The Pirates are far from a flawless team. They don’t have much speed. They have a weak bench. They traded closer Joel Hanrahan to Boston in an austerity move and are counting on journeyman Jason Grilli to fill the void (he probably won’t). They’re counting on unreliable Francisco Liriano to be their reliable No. 3 starter (not likely).
The Pirates won’t be great but they'll won’t be above average. That’s an improvement and long overdue.
AMERKS SHOW TRUE GRIT
The Rochester Americans are coming off an impressive three-game weekend in Texas: lost 2 -1 to Texas Friday; won 3-2 at Houston Saturday; won 3-0 at San Antonio Sunday. They’re now 35-25-4 with 12 games remaining in the regular season. Special kudos to goalies David Leggio (Friday and Saturday) and Nathan Lieuwen for combining for 117 saves on 120 shots.
Rochester continues to shine on special teams: 1st in the 30-team AHL in penalty killing (87.4 percent; 228x261) and 3rd on the power play (20.9 percent; 58x278).
The next two games are at home: Wednesday vs. Syracuse and Friday vs. Toronto.
Add Vernon Wells to the list of 2013 New York Yankees who would’ve made for an awesome team if many of the players were in their primes.
Ten years ago, Wells was a 24-year-old Toronto Blue Jay and one of baseball’s best players: .317 batting average; 118 runs; 49 doubles; 5 triples; 33 HRs; 117 RBI; 373 total bases. He also had speed and was a very good outfielder…Positive note for Yankees fans: Wells has enjoyed a good spring for the Los Angeles Angels: .361 (13x30), with 4 HRs and 11 RBI.
According to Fortune magazine, the top two money earners on the NASCAR circuit last year were Dale Earnhardt ($25.9 million, including $12.9 million in salary and winning + $13 million in endorsements) and Jimmie Johnson ($23 million, including $6.3 million in endorsements)…Danica Patrick ranked 17th ($12.9 million total).
In National Lacrosse League action last Saturday night, two former Rochester Knighthawks scoring aces clashed in Calgary. Shawn Evans had 3 goals and 7 assists in Calgary’s 12-11 overtime victory.
Colorado’s John Grant Jr. had 3 goals and 3 assists and new teammate Casey Powell had 4 assists (1 goals and 9 assists in his first two games with the Mammoth after being acquired from Rochester in a mind-numbing move…) If it comes down to Rochester and Colorado for the eighth and final playoff spot in the nine-team NLL, I’d sure like to have Grant and Powell in my lineup.