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.
The Washington Nationals posted a Major League Baseball-best 98-64 record n the 2012 regular season but fell victim to a monumental blunder by general manager Mike Rizzo, who shut down pitching ace Stephen Strasburg at 160 innings – when Strasburg was perfectly healthy.
Rizzo’s explanation was that Strasburg was coming off arm surgery and needed a pitch limit to protect him for the future. A more prudent plan would’ve been to ration out Strasburg’s pitches in the final two months of regular season and have him available for the postseason. The Nationals wound up losing a heartbreaker to St. Louis in Game 5 of the NLDS.
Fortunately for Rizzo, 2012 probably wasn’t a one-shot opportunity for Washington. This appears to be the best-balanced and deepest roster in baseball. The young Nationals are the team to beat in 2013 and built to contend for a long time.
Here is Bob’s National League Preview
1—Washington Nationals (predicted record 103-59). This young and deep team is brimming with confidence and has no apparent flaws…Strasburg and outfielder Bryce Harper are can’t miss future superstars. They’re loaded with talent and love to play…Denard Span is the genuine centerfielder and leadoff hitter the team had lacked…The starting lineup is loaded: Span, Harper, 3B Ryan Zimmerman, 1B Adam LaRoche, RF Jayson Werth, SS Ian Desmond, 2B Danny Espinosa, C Wilson Ramos…Most of them are in their primes or getting there…Solid bench, including catcher Kurt Suzuki, infielder Steve Lombardozzi and outfielders Roger Bernadina and Tyler Moore…Outstanding RH-LH top two starting pitchers in Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, backed up by Jordan Zimmerman, Ross Detwiler and Dan Haren…Loaded bullpen, featuring closer Rafael Soriano (the Yankees will regret letting him get away), Drew Storen, Craig Stammen and Tyler Clippard…Baseball’s best defensive outfield and arguably the deepest pitching staff (3.33 ERA was second in majors, behind only Tampa Bay’s 3.19)…Davey Johnson’s .564 winning percentage is tops among active managers.
2-Atlanta Braves (92-70 record). They’d be a pennant contender in any other division…Watch out for the outfield: Jason Heyward and brothers B.J. Upton and Justin Upton could be spectacular. They all can hit, hit for power, play defense and run…1B Freddie Freeman is on the upgrade…SS Andrelton Simmons has star potential…2B Dan Uggla looks to rebound after his five-year streak of 30-plus HRs ended last season (.220, 19 HRs, 78 RBI). He’s better than that…Hoping catcher Brian McCann can bounce back from shoulder woes. He’s still only 29…Chipper Jones retired and will be missed. Juan Francisco/Chris Johnson will try to fill the void at 3B…Deep starting rotation: Kris Medlen, spring-sensation Julio Teheran, Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm, Mike Minor, Randall Delgado…Top-notch bullpen, including overpowering closer Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty, Jordan Walden…64-37 vs. right-handed starters and 25-13 in one-run games last season…Good chance to end streak of 11 years without winning a playoff series.
3—Philadelphia Phillies (78-84 record). No longer the NL East team to beat due to age and injuries….Most analysts still like this team more than I do. I see an old and brittle team on the verge of falling apart…Counting on big years from 1B Ryan Howard, 2B Chase Utley, SS Jimmy Rollins and 3B Michael Young. They’ve all seen better days…The outfield is overrated: John Mayberry Jr., new centerfielder Ben Revere (low on-base percentage and a terrible arm), eternal prospect Dominic Brown and vagabond Delmon Young (starts season on DL with ankle problem)…Catcher Carlos Ruiz starts the season on a 25-game suspension…Big Three starting pitchers are awesome on paper: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. But Lee was a hard-luck 6-9 last season and Halladay has been lousy this spring, with an alarming three-year drop in velocity… The bottom of the rotation scares no one (Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan)…Not much in the bullpen to help closer Jonathan Papelbon and new set-up man Mike Adams…In a tough spot with Washington and Atlanta in the division…Won the NL East five straight times with record improving every year (89-92-93-97-102) before slipping to 81-81 last season. A backwards trend appears probable.
4—New York Mets (62-100 record). Manager Terry Collins did well to squeeze a 74-88 record out of last year’s Mets. They look much worse entering this season…Loyal trooper 3B David Wright signed an 8-year, $138 million extension in November, pretty much assuring that he’ll be watching the NL playoffs on TV for a long time…The few other bright spots include starting pitchers Jon Niese and Matt Harvey and the power potential of Ike Davis and Lucas Duda…Most of the rest of lineup resembles a really good Triple-A team…Johan Santana’s days as a staff ace probably are history…Catcher Travis D’Arnaud and pitcher Zack Wheeler are legit top prospects and they figure to get their shots soon…Big-market team with a mid-market budget…The Mets figure to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their last 100-loss season (93-103 in 1993) by losing at least 100 games this year.
5—Miami Marlins (59-103 record). One year ago today, Marlins fans (what few of them there are) were looking forward to watching a supposedly loaded team in a pretty new ballpark. What a flop…Expensive imports Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle ($191 million spent to sign them) fell way short of expectations (they had lots of company) and the team finished 69-93…Pro-Castro comments by manager Ozzie Guillen set the stage for the brutal season… Of the 11 MLB stadiums built since 2001, Marlins Park drew the fewest fans in the first season…Owner Jeffrey Loria ordered a massive housecleaning, including Guillen. Reyes, Bell and Buehrle are gone. They only led the parade. The player payroll has plunged from a team-record $112 million to around $35 million…The only solid returnees are slugger Giancarlo Stanton (.290, 37 HRs), pitcher Ricky Nolasco (12-13, 4.48 ERA) and Justin Ruggiano (.313, 13 HRs in 91 games). After the latest salary dump, Stanton and Nolasco asked to be traded. Sooner or later, they will be…Marlins fans now can look forward to watching SS fielding whiz Adeiny Hechavarria, ancient Juan Pierre extend his interesting career and opponents pitch around Stanton.