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.
6-10 RECORD APPEARS REASONABLE FOR 2013 BILLS
BREAKING DOWN THE NFL SCHEDULE
NLL PLAYOFFS WIDE OPEN...KNIGHTHAWKS GOOD AS ANY
DOES ROLSTON HAVE THREE GAMES LEFT AS COACH OF THE SABRES?
JON JONES BIG FAVORITE OVER CHAEL SONNEN
MIGUEL SANO TEARING UP FLORIDA STATE LEAGUE
The 2013 NFL schedule was released last Thursday. That means it is time for my annual pre-draft analysis of Buffalo’s schedule and my predicted record for the regular season.
I realize that many Bills fans have branded me a traitor for often picking the Bills to finish with a losing record and another season without a trip to the playoffs. I can take it.
Loyal Bills fans might not like it, but the results prove that they tend to be far more hopeful than realistic.
I wish I could project a winning season and a trip to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. But I can’y. I’d like to be proved wrong. It would be fun to talk and write more happy things about the Bills.
Here is Buffalo’s schedule and my projections:
Game 1 September 8 – Home vs. New England...Imagine an upset win at home – with a new coach, a new QB and a genuine reason for optimism...Picture that...The picture just went blank... RECORD: 0-1.
Game 2 Sept. 15 – Home vs. Carolina...The Panthers should be one of the NFL’s most-improved teams are should be focused on avoiding the slow start that cost them a playoff berth last season...Buffalo fans will get to see why Buddy Nix was hoping to select Cam Newton a few drafts ago. He’s an outstanding, durable and charismatic quarterback...RECORD 0-2.
Game 3 Sept. 22 – At New York Jets...The Bills aren’t a good team but the Jets figure to be worse...RECORD 1-2.
Game 4 Sept. 29 – Home vs. Baltimore... The good news is that Bills fans get to see the defending Super Bowl champions. The bad news is that the Bills fans get to see the defending Super Bowl champions. The Ravens have slipped a bit in the offseason. The Bills haven’t improved...RECORD: 1-3.
Game 5 Oct. 3 – At Cleveland...The Browns probably will be favored. The game probably will be dull. Every team must play one Thursday night game per season. The league decided to have two of the worst teams play each other, all but assuring the lowest-rated prime-time game of the season....I’m throwing Bills fans a bone from the Dog Pound here...RECORD: 2-3 (the high-water spot for the season).
Game 6 Oct. 13 -- Home vs. Cincinnati...They’re no longer the Bungles. The Bengals have a legitimate shot to win the AFC North. The Bills have a legitimate chance to finish third in the AFC East...RECORD 2-4.
Game 7 Oct. 20 – At Miami...The Dolphins appear to be clearly the second-best team in the AFC East, largely because Ryan Tannehill is the second-best QB in the division...Miami was far more aggressive than Buffalo in the offseason and widened the talent gap...RECORD 2-5.
Game 8 Oct. 27 –At New Orleans...The Bills could explode for 30 points and still lose handily to the angry and reenergized Saints...RECORD 2-6.
Game 9 Nov. 3 – Home vs. Kansas City...Many of you probably would chalk this up on the win side. I didn’t...The Chiefs badly underachieved (2-14) last season. They had five legit Pro Bowl selections. They have huge upgrades at coach (Andy Reid) and quarterback (Alex Smith). They’ll have the No. 1 pick in Thursday night’s draft...They have a great logo and uniform. What more could you want?...RECORD 2-7.
Game 10 Nov. 10 – At Pittsburgh...The Steelers are 8-1 in the last nine meeting, including 5-0 at home by a combined 126-40...The Steelers have slipped a notch or two, but they’re still considerably better than Buffalo...RECORD 2-8.
Game 11 Nov. 17 – Home vs. New York Jets...Obviously, I believe the Jets will be very bad this season. A win for the Bills...RECORD: 3-8.
Game 12 Dec. 1 – Vs. Atlanta in Toronto...No contest. Playing this “home” game on the road makes the challenge even tougher...RECORD 3-9.
Game 13 Dec. 8 – At Tampa Bay...The Buccaneers probably are a slightly above average NFL team. The Bills still are striving to reach that level...Possible upset win for Buffalo but not likely...RECORD 3-10.
Game 14 Dec. 15 – At Jacksonville...The Jaguars could be the NFL’s worst team...RECORD 4-10.
Game 15 Dec. 22 – Home vs. Miami...I’m being nice...An early Christmas gift to Buffalo fans...RECORD 5-10.
Game 16 Dec. 29 – At New England...The only hope for the Bills is if the Patriots have clinched home-field advantage for the playoffs and rest a few big-time players, including QB Tom Brady...The visiting Bills gave the Patriots a scare before losing 37-31 last season –but Buffalo is since 0-10 and outscored 297-143 at New England...RECORD 5-11.
Where am I being unfair?
BREAKING DOWN THE 2013 NFL TV SCHEDULE
Of the 32 NFL teams, 26 will make at least one prime-time appearance on Sunday night, Monday night, Week 1 opening night Thursday and/or Thanksgiving night.
Four appearances (10 teams) – Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Green Bay, New England, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Washington: The elite... the teams the NFL and the networks expected to be the best on the field and in the ratings.
Three appearances (5 teams) – Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Seattle: The second-tier teams.
Two appearances (4 teams) – Cincinnati, Miami, Minnesota, San Diego: Expected to be pretty good.
One appearance (7 teams) – Carolina, Detroit, New York Jets, Oakland, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Tampa Bay: The “sleepers”...included just in case they surprise. Al Davis’ ghost probably a plus factor for the Raiders.
Zero appearances (6 teams) – Arizona, Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Tennessee: The not-ready-for-prime-time players.
Note: Thursday nights not included (except Thanksgiving) because each of the 32 teams must appear once.
PARITY RULES IN THE NATIONAL LACROSSE LEAGUE
All of the major team sports in North America talk about parity. The National Lacrosse League lives it.
This season, the only team in the nine-team league to finish more than two games above .500 was the Toronto Rock (10-6). The only team to finish more than two games under .500 was the Buffalo Bandits (6-10 and the only team to miss the playoffs).
Here is how the eight playoff teams measure up:
Most goals scored – Calgary 222...Minnesota 219...Edmonton 203...Toronto 194...Washington 193...Colorado 185...Rochester 179...Philadelphia 170
Fewest goals allowed – Rochester 165...Edmonton 170...Toronto 176...Washington 192...Colorado 202...Minnesota 202...Philadelphia 207...Calgary 211
Goal differential – Edmonton +33...Toronto +18...Minnesota +17...Rochester +14...Calgary +11...Washington +1...Colorado -17...Philadelphia -40
Power play percentage – Calgary 65.9 (56x85)...Toronto 56.4 (53x94)...Colorado 55.6 (50x90)...Minnesota 50.6 (39x77)...Edmonton 49.3 (33x67)...Rochester 49.2 (29x59)...Washington 45.9
(34x74)...Philadelphia 44.7 (38x85)
Penalty killing percentage – Toronto 62.5 (40x64)...Rochester 57.9 (44x76)...Washington 49.3 (37x75)...Colorado 48.2 (41x85)...Philadelphia 48.1 (38x79)...Calgary 44.9 (48x107)...Minnesota 41.3 (31x75)...Edmonton 40.4 (21x52)
Faceoff percentage – Calgary 71.8...Washington 61.1...Minnesota 52.9...Philadelphia 47.2...Edmonton 41.7...Toronto 39.0...Colorado 35.7...Rochester 35.5
Penalty minutes differential – Philadelphia -60 (293/353)...Edmonton -41 (206/247)...Toronto -38 (264/302)...Minnesota -29 (243-272)...Washington -26 (292/318)...Colorado +11 (392/381)...Rochester +68 (301/233)...Calgary +84 (344/260).
Three reasons the Rochester Knighthawks (8-8 record) have a good chance to win the playoffs:
They’re the defending champions (7-9 record in the 2012 regular season) and won’t lack for confidence.
They’re the NLL’s stingiest defensive team and Matt Vinc is the league’s best goaltender (led the NLL in goals-against average at 10.17 and most saves with 662.
They have a balanced scoring attack.
NBA PLAYOFFS: MIAMI VS. OKLAHOMA CITY COULD BE A CLASSIC TITLE MATCHUP
The Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City were the two favorites to win the championship when the 2012-13 NBA season began. Nothing has changed except the odds.
After the opening weekend of the playoffs, there is no reason to think the title matchup will be anything other than Heat vs. Thunder.
Here were the title odds for the 16 playoff participants when this season began (in parentheses) and the odds entering the playoffs:
Miami (5-to-2) EVEN...Oklahoma City (7x2) 3x1...San Antonio (3x1) 7x1...New York Knicks (50x1) 15x1...Los Angeles Clippers (20x1) 15x1...Indiana (22x1) 15x1...Denver (40x1) 20x1...Memphis (40x1) 30x1...Chicago 5x1 (35x1)...Los Angeles Lakers 10x1 (50x1)...Brooklyn Nets (125x1) 50x1...Boston (25x1) 60x1...Atlanta (50x1) 100x1...Houston (100x1) 125x1...Golden State (100x1) 125x1...Milwaukee (80x1) 300x1.
ROLSTON HAS DONE A FINE JOB BUT MIGHT NOT REMAIN COACH OF SABRES
Considering the talent on the roster of the Buffalo Sabres, Ron Rolston has done a solid job since becoming the team’s interim coach on Feb. 20:
Under Lindy Ruff this season: Sabres were 6-10-1; 13 points in 17 games (.764 points per game).
Under Rolston: Sabres are 13-10-5; 31 points in 28 games (1.107 points per game).
If GM Darcy Regier is retained – presumably to rebuild the roster he already has rebuilt a time or two before –Rolston deserves to stay. But if owner Terry Pegula finally pulls the plug on Regier, the new GM probably would want to start with a coach of his choosing.
JON JONES BIG FAVORITE OVER MOTOR MOUTH CHAEL SONNEN
Rochester product Jon “Bones” Jones turned up the heat last week for Saturday night’s UFC light heavyweight title defense against Chael Sonnen in Newark, N.J.
Sonnen ‘s main claim to fame is being’s the UFC’s loudest smack talker. Jones is letting Sonnen’s mouth hype the fight. He says that’s what Sonnen does best. He also said Sonnen “has done steroids throughout his whole career.”
The odds (courtesy of Bovada.lv): Jones bet $800 to win
$100...Sonnen bet $100 to win $500.
MIGUEL SANO: DELIVERY TO ROCHESTER AS EARLY AS 2014?
Minnesota Twins top prospect Miguel Sano is tearing up the Class A Advanced Florida State League and could be wearing a Rochester Red Wings uniform by the second half of next season.
Sano, who won’t turn 20 until May 11, is playing for the Fort Myers Miracle. He leads the league in batting average (.375; 24x64), HRs (6), total bases (47) and slugging percentage (.734). He’s second in RBI (16).
Sunday at Palm Beach, with two outs in the fifth inning, Palm Beach Cardinals pitcher Brandon Creath’s first pitch to Sano was a high fastball behind his head. Sano responded by smashing a 3-1 pitch for a home run beyond the left-field fence. Sano then reportedly pumped his fists and shouted at the Palm Beach dugout. Plate umpire Fernando Rodriguez ejected Sano as he rounded the bases.
Miracle manager Doug Mientkiewicz wasn’t happy. He told reporter Ashley Marshall, “Basically, they threw at Miguel Sano for being good because they couldn’t get him out. They threw at him and missed him and he hit a home run.”
MOST OF THE NUMBERS FOR THE AMERKS ARE IMPRESSIVE
The AHL regular season is over and most of the numbers for the Rochester Americans were impressive:
43-29-4 record...90 of 152 possible points in the standings (.592 tied for 10th in the 30-team league).
22-15-1 home and 21-14-4 on the road...45 of 76 possible points in the standings (.592) both home and away. That’s impressive.
+25 goal differential (6th-most 234 goals for and 209 goals against) ranked 8th.
Penalty killing ranked 2nd (87.0; 267x307; 13 short-handed goals for).
Power play ranked 4th (20.3; 65x320; 11 short-handed goals allowed).
Average home attendance (6,314) ranked 10th...AHL average was 5,710.
Easily won the New York state attendance derby: Rochester 6314 (10th)...Syracuse 5399 (16th)...Adirondack 3988 (25th)...Albany 3860 (27th)...Binghamton 3559 (29th).
WHERE DID LEGGIO FINISH IN AHL MVP VOTING?
I have no gripes about Tyler Johnson of the Syracuse Crunch being voted AHL Most Valuable Player (Les Cunningham Award). He led the league in goals (37 in 62 games) and was one of the few players to score more than a point per game (37 goals and 28 assists for 65 points). He had a plus-minus of +26.
But I’d like to know how Amerks goalie David Leggio fared in the voting. Wouldn’t you?
The AHL’s players, coaches and media select the MVP. Years ago, the AHL office provided a detailed breakdown on the voting for all of the major awards. That’s no longer the case.
I wonder what the big secret is.
BASEBALL: WHO’S HOT AND NOT
Rookie right-handed pitcher Matt Harvey (4 starts; 4-0 record; 0.93 ERA; 29 innings; 10 hits; 9 walks; 32 strikeouts; .108 batting average against) already is being compared to a young Tom Seaver.
Shin-Soo Choo (Cincinnati), obtained from Cleveland to fill the weak spot as leadoff hitter, leades MLB with a .523 on-base percentage.
Reds teammate Joey Votto leads MLB with 25 walks (next-most is 15) and is second in MLB in one-base percentage (.522).
Journeyman catcher John Buck (Mets) leads MLB in RBI (22). He’s hitting .290 with 7 HRs.
No sophomore jinx so far for Bryce Harper (Washington): .369 (24x65), 7 HRs, 14 RBI.
Two imports doing well for the Yankees: Travis Hafner .319 (15x47) with 5 HRs, 10 RBI...Vernon Wells .317 (20x63) 5 HRs, 8 RBI...Kevin Youkilis .295 (18x61) 2 HRs, 9 RBI.
Atlanta leads MLB in home runs (29) and ERA (2.25).
Colorado leads MLB in runs (100) and is 2nd in batting average (.284).
Miami has the lowest team batting average (.206) and the fewest HRs (5)...Slugger Giancarlo , who asked to be to be traded after the team’s off-season roster purge because he figured opponents would pitch around him, is hitting .188 with 0 HRs and1 RBI.
Rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks (Minnesota) is hitting .059 (3 singles in 51 at-bats), with 7 runs, 4 RBI, 9 walks and 21 strikeouts. The Red Wings sure could use him.
Has 39-year-old Ichiro Suzuki (Yankees) had it or is he in a slump? He’s hitting .200 (11x55) with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 0 stolen bases.
Josh Hamilton (Angeles) is batting .176 (12x68) with 2 HRs, 8 RBI and 23 strikeouts.
Adam Dunn (White Sox) is batting .108 (7x65) with 3 HRs, 6 RBI, 3 walks and 26 strikeouts.
Two-thirds of Atlanta’s talented starting outfield continues to struggle: Jason Heyward .121 (7x58), 2 HRs, 5 RBI...B.J. Upton .167 (11x66), 2 HRs, 3 RBI.
Three struggling star pitchers (they aren’t alone): Ubaldo Jimenez (Cleveland) 0-2 record, 10.06 ERA...Matt Cain (San Francisco) 0-2 record, 7.15 ERA...David Price (Tampa Bay) 0-1 record, 6.26 ERA.
TWO POPULAR EX-WINGS COULD BE TEAMMATES WITH PIRATES
Arguably the two most popular Rochester Red Wings of the Minnesota Twins era – left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano and first baseman Garrett Jones – could soon be teammates on the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Jones is hitting .300 (15x50) for the Pirates, with 3 doubles, 1 HR and 9 RBI.
Liriano is on rehab assignment while recovering from a broken right arm. In his first start for the Altoona Curve (Double-A Eastern League) last Saturday night, he lasted 2 2/3 innings and allowed 4 hits and 4 earned runs, with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts.
All eight NBA playoff openers were won by the home team (8-0).
In response to the Boston Marathon bombings, security will be amped up for the Kentuck Derby May 4. The list of banned items has been increased to include backpacks, coolers, video equipment and cans of all sizes. All patrons will be subject to an electronic wand search at admission gates.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a big favorite (bet $880 to win $100) over challenger Robert Guerrero (bet $100 to win $500) in their WBC welterweight title fight May 4 in Las Vegas.
The Rochester Red Wings had seven starting players hitting below .200 in the starting lineup for Saturday’s 5-4 home win over Pawtucket.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ interest in Phil Jackson as coach is sort of a joke. He has always coached loaded teams in the NBA and isn’t likely to take over a far below-average team now.
AFC East draft picks: Buffalo (6) 8, 41, 71, 105, 143, 177...Miami (11) 12, 42, 54, 77, 82, 111, 146, 166, 217, 224, 250...New York Jets (8) 9, 13, 39, 72, 106, 141, 178, 216...New England (5) 29, 59, 91, 226, 235).