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.
LEBRON AND PLAYING IN MIAMI SHOULD BE TOO MUCH FOR PACERS
ANOTHER POSITIVE SPIN ON THE BILLS
RENAME FINGER LAKES “ENGLEHART DOWNS”?
BASEBALL: WHO IS HOT AND WHO IS COLD?
It might not entirely be fair, but Monday night‘s Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals will be a defining game in LeBron James’ career.
I’m in the camp of those who believe that LeBron is the all-time most-physically-gifted basketball player and arguably the all-time best all-around player.
I don’t think there has been a basketball player who can do so many things so well. Not even Michael Jordan.
I’ve been arguing that no team in the current NBA is capable of beating James and his Miami Heat in a best-of-seven series. The Indiana Pacers have a fair chance to do it Monday night.
The best things the Heat have going for them are LeBron James and the home-court advantage.
Two things Miami apparently doesn’t have going for it are slumping Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Both are playing far below their capabilities. Wade at least has an excuse. He’s obviously hurting. Bosh has been just plain lousy in this series. Pacers center Roy Hibbert is taking him to school.
In hindsight, Bosh should’ve stayed in Toronto, where he might have been a future National Basketball Hall of Famer. A big fish in a small pond would’ve been better than a minnow in Miami.
The Big Three now is the Big 2 – James 1 + Wade ½ + Bosh ½. Wade says he and Bosh need to be more assertive and get more touches Monday night. The way they’ve performed of late, I don’t know if that would be good or bad.
The Pacers have been able to focus on stopping James because Wade and Bosh haven’t been effective. Miami’s complementary players – solid until this series – haven’t stepped up.
Miami is favored by a surprisingly generous 7 ½ points Monday night. Here are a few reasons I believe Miami will win and advance to the NBA Finals against San Antonio:
The Heat played probably their worst game of the season in Saturday night’s 91-77 loss at Indiana. They have to be better Monday night.
Wade and Bosh have a lot to prove and the talent to give James the support he needs.
I never thought I’d be writing this, but the return of forward Chris “Birdman” Andersen from a one-game suspension is a huge plus. He relishes playing the hard-nosed style the Pacers are thriving on. At the very least, he’s six fouls to give in what figures to be a rough game.
Miami’s players have more experience in huge games like this one.
The home-court advantage is huge. Miami is 43-6 at home this season (including 6-2 in the playoffs) and Indiana is 22-27 on the road (including 3-6 in the playoffs).
I’m not suggesting that the zebras will be influenced by the Miami crowd or the league office (San Antonio vs. Indiana in the Finals probably would be a ratings disaster) but...I don’t envy the zebras in this game. It is an extremely difficult assignment.
Miami’s Big Three has the added incentive of knowing this could be their last chance to win the championship. They’ll all be eligible for free agency after next season. James returning to Cleveland is looking more and more logical. He’s be the returning regional hero and he’d have one of the NBA’s best young backcourts (Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters) on his side.
No matter what happens, the Pacers could be favored over Miami to win the conference title next season. The emergence of Hibbert and Paul George, coupled with the expected return of scoring machine Danny Granger (missed all but five games this season with a bad knee), would make Indiana the team of the near future.
My pick for Monday night: Miami 85, Indiana 81.
ANOTHER POSITIVE SPIN ON THE 2013 BUFFALO BILLS
This one from Sports Illustrated.cnn.com.: “Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but so much of the Bills’ hopes are tied up in not getting beat by their own quarterback. If rookie EJ Manuel can follow the trend set by most other first-round passers since 2008, delivering more than expected early, Buffalo has the skill-position talent and potential on defense to be a surprise wild-card contender in the AFC.
“But if Manuel isn’t ready and Kevin Kolb resembles an injury-prone version of Ryan Fitzpatrick, it’ll probably be more of the same misery and mediocrity that Buffalo fans have known since Doug Flutie took his cereal box and went home. The Bills have been an early season tease more than once recently, but with three home games in September, there’s fodder for another fast start and maybe some mojo-building under new head coach Doug Marrone.”
Gary Myers of the Daily News wasn’t as kind Sunday on Buffalo in his list of teams with unstable quarterback situations: “They dumped Ryan Fitzpatrick and signed Kevin Kolb, which is just about an even exchange talent-wise. Kolb is always hurt. And when he’s not, he stinks. The Bills traded down for EJ Manuel as the first QB off the board in this year’s draft, the 16th overall pick. He’s running third team in the OTAs behind Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson, but that means little right now. It won’t be long before Manuel starts.”
ENGLEHART AND DAVILA DOMINANT AT FINGER LAKES
If trainer Chris Englehart and jockey John Davila Jr.,continue to dominate at Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack this thoroughbred racing season, maybe the track should be renamed Englehart/Davila Downs.
Englehart has won 12 trainer titles at Finger Lakes – including the last 10 in a row. Davila is a 12-time jockey champion at The Thumb.
They’ve never been more dominant than they’ve been so far this season.
Englehart is a hard-working trainer and does a great job spotting his horses in races they can win. Of course, it helps to have a loaded stable. Englehart has connections with trainers on the NYRA circuit (Belmont, Aqueduct and Saratoga). When horses on that major circuit are hurting or need a confidence boost, many of their trainers turn to Englehart to saddle their horses at Finger Lakes.
More often than not, Englehart’s horses outclass the opposition. Few of his horses change hands in claiming races because other trainers at Finger Lakes don’t want to risk claiming horses that might be less than 100 percent sound. There also aren’t many other trainers that have the funds to regularly claim Englehart’s horses.
Davila rides first call for Englehart. He’s closing in on 50 years old but he’s in terrific shape and has made a good living riding full-time at Finger Lakes – mainly for Englehart.
The Englehart/Davila connection isn’t the best thing for racing fans at Finger Lakes. Englehart’s horses usually go off the favorites and win at a remarkable rate – with very low payoffs.
Englehart’s son, Jeremiah, is following in his dad’s horseshoes. Entering Monday, father/son Englehart were 1-2 in the trainer standings:
Chris Englehart – 93 starters...35 wins...29 seconds...16 thirds...earnings $433,643
Jeremiah Englehart – 58 starters...21 wins...9 seconds...8 thirds...earnings $246,260.
Davila’s numbers are even more awesome. He entered Monday with 88 starts: 30 wins, 27 seconds and 19 thirds. He’s won 34.1 percent of his rides and finished in the money (first, second and third) an unheard of 86.4 percent of the time.
UNLIMITED BUDGET+NAPRAVNIK COULD MAKE BELMONT HISTORY
The filly Unlimited Budget is expected to run in Saturday’s 145th Belmont Stakes. Her rider would be Rosie Napravvnik. A lot of female fans would support that combination at the mutual windows.
Only three fillies have won the Belmont Stakes: Ruthless in 1867 (the first Belmont Stakes), Tanya in 1905 and Rags to Riches in 2007.
How tough is the three-race Triple Crown grind on 3-year-old horses?
As it looks now, only three horses will run in this year’s Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes – Derby winner Orb, Preakness-winner Oxbow and Will Take Charge (8th in the Derby and 7th in the Preakness). Over the past 20 years, only 39 horses ran in all three Triple Crown races. None won the Triple Crown...In the past seven years (2006 through 2012), three different horses won the three Triple Crown races five times. I believe Saturday will make it three different winners six of the last eight years.
BASEBALL: WHO’S HOT AND WHO’S NOT
Former Rochester Red Wings had productive games on Sunday:
Garrett Jones (Pittsburgh) joined Daryle Ward (2002) as the only Pirates to hit a home run into the Allegheny River on the fly. It was measured at 463 feet.
Grant Balfour (Oakland) has converted 31 straight save opportunities over the last two seasons.
Michael Cuddyer (Colorado) hit a home run and is batting .346.
Chris Herrman (Minnesota), just recalled by the Twins from Rochester, was 2x3 with his first MLB home run.
Baltimore pinch-hitters were 1x18 this season before Danny Valencia’s RBI-single.
Other hot and cold teams and players:
Tampa Bay is 7-1 in its last 8 games...Minnesota is 7-2 since a 10-game losing streak...Top prospect infielder Jurickson Profar (Texas) is hitting .324 with 2 HRs in his first 10 games...Houston has won a season-high five straight games...Oakland has won 8 straight home games and is 9-2 in its last 11 games...Pittsburgh’s bullpen has a MLB-best 2.67 ERA...Atlanta is 15-6 vs. the NL East (including 7-3 vs. Washington)...Patrick Corbin (Arizona) is the first MLB pitcher to reach 9 victories this season and the Diamondbacks are 11-0 in his starts...Dominic Brown (Philadelphia) had an interesting batting line for May: .303 batting average (33x109), 12 HRs, 25 RBI, 0 walks, 21 strikeouts...Chris Davis (Baltimore) since May 17: .453 batting average (29x64), 9 HRs, 15 RBI.
Drew Stubbs (Cleveland) is in a 0x16 slump...The Angels are 3-6 vs. Houston this season...The White Sox have a season-worst six-game losing streak and are 6 games under .500 (24-30) for the first time this season...The Mets were swept in a three-game series (outscored 24-8) at Miami...Washington is 28-29 and below .500 for the first time since 13-14 on April 30...Jason Hayward (Atlanta) had three strikeouts in three at-bats Sunday and his batting average is down to .142.
Rochester’s Ryan Callahan more than earned his “C” as captain of the New York Rangers this season. It was revealed last week that Callahan played with a torn labrum in his left shoulder since late January. He also led NHL forwards with 66 blocked shots. That’s called setting an example for his teammates. He had 16 goals and 15 assists.
Maybe Rochester sports historians will recall 2013 as a blip on the soccer screen for the struggling Rhinos. Or maybe it will be the finish of this city’s longest pro soccer run. What do you think? I do know we no longer deserve the tag Soccer City USA.
Entering this week’s Wegmans LPGA Championship, four countries have supplied the winners of the 10 LPGA Tour events this year: South Korea 5 (Inbee Park 4, Jiyai Shin 1, Ilhee Lee 1...USA 4 (Stacy Lewis 2, Cristie Kerr 1, Jennifer Johnson 1...Australia 1 (Karrie Webb 1)...Norway 1 (Suzann Pettersen 1)...Spain ( Beatriz Recari 1).
I got a kick out of the local sportscaster who described the Rochester RazorSharks as the best minor-league basketball team. How does he know? The Sharks have a classy organization and have dominated inferior competition since the franchise began. However, the best current minor-league basketball league by far is the NBA Development League and the Rochester’s best minor-league basketball team was Mauro Panaggio’s Zeniths of the Continental Basketball Association.
They were nearly as dominant as the Sharks in a much tougher league...I’d love to see the Sharks play a top-10 Division I college team. I don’t think they’d be embarrassed.