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.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST RACE IS JUST WHAT BASEBALL NEEDS
INBEE PARK IS MAKING A MAJOR IMPACT
YADIER MOLINA, MIGUEL CABRERA ARE BOB’S MID-SEASON MVPS
CHRIS COLABELLO PILING UP THE NUMBERS
Three months down and three months to go in Major League Baseball’s 2013 regular season.
Our former National Pastime (take a bow, NFL) could use a boost.
Too much Biogenesis. Too many absurdly long games. Too many Fans streaming out of stadiums after six or seven innings to get home at a reasonable hour. Too many two hour-plus rain delays (eat your tickets, suckers, should’ve stuck around and bought our overpriced food).
Welcome to just we needed: A good old-fashioned pennant race. Presenting the American League East. Five flawed but interesting teams battling for the division title and a wild-card:
The standings entering Monday, July 1:
Tampa Bay 43-39
Here’s how the five participants measure up and my projected order of finish and records:
The Orioles had 14 straight losing seasons before soaring to 93-69 last year (helped by an amazing 29-9 record in one-run games and a 16-2 mark in extra innings). They appear set up for a healthy string of winning seasons.
Strengths – Good-hitting team in a good hitters’ home stadium...Solid core of players approaching or at their primes, featuring slugger Chris Davis and Manny Machado...Set-up men and closer Jim Johnson...Defense.
Major weakness – A suspect starting rotation in a good hitters’ home stadium.
Questions marks – Can Dan Duquette land at least one and preferably two proven veteran starting pitchers for the stretch run?...Can veteran second baseman Brian Roberts bounce back from injuries and be a productive leadoff hitter?
Projected record: 91-71
The Red Sox are making departed manager Bobby Valentine look bad. They’ve already won 50 games . They won 69 all of last season. Having a much healthier roster, a solid batch of free agents, two big surprises (Mike Carp and Jose Inglesias) and a more workmanlike clubhouse certainly have helped successor John Farrell.
Strengths – Solid top-to-bottom lineup...Deep roster.
Major weakness – Lack a reliable closer (Joel Hanrahan lost for the season).
Question marks – Clay Buccholz’s neck problem... Jon Lester’s inc onsistency.
Projected record: 90-72
After a hugely disappointing start despite an upgraded roster, a recent 11-game winning streak lifted the Blue Jays into playoff contention. They have the bats to stay there. Do they have enough starting pitching?
Strengths – Powerful lineup, with a big lift from Adam Lind and the return of shortstop Jose Reyes...Surprisingly solid bullpen lately.
Major weakness – Ordinary starting rotation.
Question mark – Will a suspect weak rotation overtax the bullpen?
Projected record: 86-76
Sold pitching and fundamentals. Never count them out.
Strengths – Confidence. They have a habit of closing fast...Top three starting pitchers David Price, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore when healthy...Offense better than expected with Matt Joyce, James Loney and maybe rookie Wil Myers to complement Evan Longoria.
Major weaknesses – Some soft spots in the lineup...Not much depth...Team speed.
Question marks – Can closer Fernando Rodney regain his superb 2012 from...Longoria’s ailing foot.
Projected record: 84-78
Give them credit for playing above their heads despite an incredible number of injuries. The warts are starting to show. But the Yankees always are interesting – even when they’re bad. They are now and probably will be until the next run on big-time free agents this offseason.
Strengths – Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner at top of lineup...Durable starters CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda...Back end of bullpen.
Major weaknesses – Rest of the lineup...Rest of the starting rotation .
Question marks – Will the bullpen have enough leads to protect to flirt with .500 the rest of the season?...Is it reasonable to think 39-year-old Derek Jeter and 38-year-old Alex Rodriguez coming off injuries can lead a comeback even if they get the green light to play?
Projected record: 75-87.
How the AL East teams measure up (entering Monday; AL rank in parentheses):
Run differential – Red Sox +60 (1)...O’s +28 (t5)...Rays +18 (7)...Blue Jays 0 (10)...Yankees -16 (11)
Runs – Red Sox 431 (1)...O’s 410 (2)...Rays 378 (7)...Blue Jays 373 (6)...Yankees 310 (t12)
Home runs – O’s 115 (1)...Blue Jays 105 (2)...Rays 93 (t5)...Red Sox 86 (t7)...Yankees 81 (11)
Total bases – O’s 1315 (1)...Red Sox 1286 (2)...Blue Jays 1170 (7)...Rays 1162 (8)...Yankees 1027 (13)
Batting average – Red Sox .276 (2)...O’s .272 (3)...Rays .258 (8)...Blue Jays .250 (9)...Yankees .239 (13)
Stolen bases – Red Sox 63 (1)..Blue Jays 56 (4)...O’s 54 (t5)...Yankees 54 (t5)...Rays 37 (12).
Earned-run average – Yankees 3.87 (5)...Red Sox 3.91 (6)...Blue Jays 4.13 (8)...Rays 4.16 (10)...O’s 4.43 (14)
Opposing batting average – Rays .242 (1)...Red Sox .250 (6)...Toronto .257 (1))...Yankees .258 (11)...O’s .259 (13)
Fewest errors – O’s 26 (1)...Yankees (31)...Rays 35 (t3)...Red Sox 45 (9)...Blue Jays 50 (12).
INBEE PARK IS RIDICULOUSLY GOOD
I guess nobody informed Inbee Park that tennis ace Serena Williams is a lock for 2013 Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year.
Park won the U.S. Women’s Open Sunday by four strokes. It wasn’t that close.
There have been three LPGA majors so far this year, including the Wegmans LPGA Championship, and she has won them all!
No LPGA player has won four majors in one year. She could win FIVE!
In an effort to attract more sponsors, the LPGA is going with five majors this year and beyond. The two remaining majors this season: the Women’s British Open (Aug. 1-4 on the Ole Course at St. Andrews) and The Evian Championship (Sept. 12-15 in France).
Park has won 6 of her 13 LPGA tournaments this year. Her official earnings are $2,106,827. I.K. Kim is second at $877,764.
MID-SEASON MVPS: MOLINA IN A LANDSLIDE...CABRERA EDGES DAVIS
St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is my runaway pick for Mid-Season National League MVP. He’s been baseball’s best defensive catcher for a long time and handles the pitching staff masterfully. He has become a very good hitter: NL-best .345 (100x286) batting average; 26 doubles; 6 HRs; 44 RBI.
Pittsburgh was the first team in MLB to reach 50 victories this season but the Pirates have spread the MVP wealth: Andrew McCutchen or Pedro Alvarez or Jason Grilli?
Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera edges Baltimore 1B-DH Chris Davis as my Mid-Season American League MVP. Flip as coin on their offensive stats: Cabrera .373; 25 HRs; 82 RBI; 1.141 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging per5centage)...Davis .332; 31 HRs; 80 RBI; 1.135 OPS.
I gave the edge to Cabrerea because he plays a respectable third base to make rook at first base for teammate Price Fielder. Davis is a defensively liability when he plays first base.
My other mid-season awards:
Cy Young – AL Max Scherzer (Detroit)...NL Matt Harvey (Mets)
Top Manager – AL John Farrell(Boston)...NL Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh)
Top Flop – NL Starlin Castro (Cubs)...AL Josh Hamilton (Angels)
CHRIS COLABELLO’S AMAZING HALF-SEASON
29-year-old Triple-A rookie sensation Chris Colabello is putting together one of the greatest individual batting seasons in the history of the Rochester Red Wings.
No one ever will top Rip Collins’ season with the loaded 1930 Red Wings: .376, 40 HRs, 180 RBI. But Colabello is on pace for a prominent spot in the team’s record book.
There have been only eleven 30-or-more HR seasons in Wings history:
42 by Russ Derry in 1949
40 by Rip Collins in 1930
39 by Jim Fuller in 1973
38 by Rip Collins in 1929
34 by Steve Bilko in 1949
32 by Boog Powell in 1961
32 by Bobby Grich in 1971
31 by Curt Blefary in 1964
31 by Jeff Manto in 1994
30 by Russ Derry 30 in 1950
30 by Terry Crowley in 1977.
Eight of those nine sluggers are in the Red Wings Hall of Fame – all except for Crowley, and he will be.
Since World War II, Rochester players have posted only twelve 100-or-more RBI seasons:
Eddie Joost 101 in 1946
Steve Bilko 125 and Russ Derry 122 in 1949
Russ Derry 102 in 1950
Ray Jablonski 103 in 1952
Chuck Kress 121 in 1953
Mike Epstein 102 in 1966
Roger Freed 130, Don Baylor 107 and Elijah Johnson 104 in 1970
Jim Fuller 108 in 1973
Jeff Manto 100 in 1994 (Manto had 17 RBI in 37 games with Norfolk and 83 RBI in 94 games after being dealt to the Red Wings)
Willis Otanez 100 RBI in 1998.
Entering Monday, Colabello was hitting .359 (1st in the 14-team International League), with 20 HRs (t2nd), 65 RBI (1st), 178 total bases (2nd), .429 on-base percentage (2nd), .659 slugging percentage (1st) and 1.089 OPS: on-base % + slugging % (1st).
I doubt that Colabello will get a chance to pad his stats to the max because I believe he’ll be spending more time with Minnesota before Rochester’s regular season ends. I believe Justin Morneau will be moved to a contender before the trade deadline and that Colabello will replace him on the Twins’ roster. He certainly would have earned it.
RED WINGS SPARKPLUG ROHLFING WILL BE BACK
The Red Wings began playing really good baseball roughly when Dan Rohlfing was recalled from New Britain of the Double-A Eastern League.
He played a variety of positions and produced several timely hits. He quickly became a fan favorite for his hustle and clutch play. In 26 games, he was hitting .314 (27x86), with 2 doubles, 1 triple, 2 HRs and 12 RBI.
His reward: He was assigned back to New Britain over the weekend.
Why? Because he earned a more prominent role in Minnesota’s plans. He’ll play every game for New Britain and play more at catcher behind hitting propect Josmil Pinto: .313 (88x281), 18 doubles, 1 triple, 11 HRs, 54 RBI in 78 games.
This is another positive sign for Minnesota’s rapidly improving farm system. Catching would be in very good hands at Rochester next season with a cast including Pinto and Rohlfing.
Believe it or not, after the blockbuster Brooklyn-Boston NBA trade, the odds on the Nets winning the 2014 championship plunged from 40x1 to 10x1 and the Celtics soared from 30x1 to 75x1...I ‘m 99 percent sure that Brooklyn won’t win the 2014 title with fading former imported superstars Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but the Nets definitely will be more entertaining. People will pay more for more tickets, cable TV ratings will soar, and the Nets will get a bigger slice of the coverage in their battle for the spotlight and newsprint with the Knicks.
Can a player earn Rookie of the Year honors despite playing only a half season? Have you seen Cuban Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers yet? Granted, one month is a small sample, but Puig is the most exciting come-from-out-of-nowhere baseball rookie I’ve ever seen. American athletes with his combination of strength and speed usually bypass baseball. In Cuba, it’s the No. 1 thing for a young athlete to pursue. The No. 2 thing for those players is to get out of the country.
I assume the “record-breaking total attendance of 195,000” for the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival is more accurate than the attendance reported every home game by several of our pro sports teams.
Minnesota slugging prospect Miguel Sano had his first game for New Britain Friday night: 2 HRs and 5 RBI. In a stretch of 5 games he was 8x19 with 2 doubles, 4 HRs and 8 RBI. His batting line for the Rock Cats: .237 (14x59), 2 doubles, 2 triples, 6 HRs, 16 RBI in 18 games. Maybe Rochester fans will get a peak at him late this season.
Finger Lakes Racetrack has offered eight-race cards several recent Saturdays. I can’t knock the track for trying to maximize profits. But Saturdays and Sundays once were the big days for live attendance. Now the money raked in on weekday simulcasts to other tracks is the top priority. First it was no live racing on Sundays. Then no live racing on Saturdays and Sundays after the first week of November. Now – when most tracks offer more races on Saturdays – FL offers fewer. Not exactly encouraging fans in Greater Rochester to support live racing. It is a sign of the times. I fear thoroughbred racing is dying a slow death. We’re only slightly ahead of the curve.
The Tour de France is underway. How many people do you know who care?...Nice of the disgraced Lance Armstrong to remind us last week that no one could’ve won all those races without doping. Geez, that’s w3hat people were saying years ago – and he defamed them. Yet many people still consider him a hero.
Rochester Knighthawks star Cody Jamieson had 6 goals and 4 assists as Six Nations beat host Peterborough 16-11 last Thursday to solidify first place (8-1-1 record) in Ontario’s Major Series Lacrosse. John Grant Jr. had 4 goals and 3 assists for Peterborough (8-4-0 record).
STATS AND FACTS
Here are the AL East head-to-head schedules for the rest of this season:
Baltimore – at Yankees July 5,6,7...host Toronto July 12,13.14...host Boston July 26,27,28...host Tampa Bay Aug. 19,20,21...at Boston Aug 27,28,29...at Yankees Aug. 30,31,Sept. 1...host Yankees Sept. 9,10,11...at Toronto Sept. 13,14,15...at Boston Sept. 17,18,19...at Tampa Bay Sept. 20,21,22,23...host Toronto Sept. 24,25,26...Host Boston Sept. 27-28-29.
Boston – host Yankees July 19,20,21...host Tampa Bay July 22,23,24,25...at Baltimore July 26,27,28...at Toronto Aug. 13,14,15...host Yankees Aug. 16,17,18...host Baltimore Aug. 27,28,29...at Yankees Sept. 5,6,7,8...at Tampa Bay Sept6. 10,11,12...host Yankees Sept. 13,14,15...host Baltimore Sept. 17,18,19...host Toronto Sept. 20,21,22...at Baltimore Sept. 27,28,29.
Yankees – host Baltimore July 5,6.7...at Boston July 19,20,21...host Tampa Bay Sept. 26,27,28...at Boston Aug. 16,17,18...host Toronto Aug. 20 (DH), 21,22...at Tampa Bay Aug. 23,24,25...at Toronto Aug. 26,27,28...host Baltimore Aug. 30,31,Sept. 1...host Boston Sept. 5,6,7,8...at Baltimore Sept. 9,10,11,12...at Boston Sept. 13,14,15...at Toronto Sept. 17,18,19...host Tampa Bay Sept. 24,25,26
Tampa Bay – at Toronto July 19,20,21...at Boston July 22,23,24,25...at Yankees July 26,27,28...host Toronto Aug. 16,17,18...at Baltimore Aug. 19,20,21...host Yankees Aug. 23,24,25...host Boston Sept. 10,11,`12...host Baltimore Sept. 20,21,22,23...at Yankees Sept. 24,25,26...at Toronto Sept. 27,28,29
Toronto – at Baltimore July 12,13,14...host Tampa Bay July 19,20,21...host Boston Aug. 13,14,15...at Tampa Bay Aug. 16,17,18...at Yankees Aug. 20 (DH),21,22...host Yankees Aug. 26,27,28...host Baltimore Sept. 13,14,15...host Yankees Sept. 17,18,19,20...at Boston Sept. 20,21,22...at Baltimore Sept. 24,25,26...host Tampa Bay Sept. 27,28,29.
--If Justin Morneau is trade bait, he’s giving Minnesota fans something more to remember him by. In his last 25 home games, he’s hitting .354, with 11 doubles, 3 HRs and 24 RBI.
--The Los Angeles Angels aren’t dead yet. They’ve won six straight games and Josh Hamilton has 11 RBI in his last 16 games (after 10 RBI in previous 50 games).
--Oakland, the team hardly anyone notices, is 16-3 in its last 19 home games and the A’s have their best record after 83 games (48-35) since 1992.
--The Dodgers are 8-1 in their last 9 games. Rookie sensation Yasiel Puig was 4x5 Sunday, with a double, triple and two stolen bases. He had 44 hits in June. That’s the second-best ever by a rookie in his first calendar month. Joe DiMaggio had 48 hits in May 1936.
--Arizona has gone 22 games without a victory from a starting pitcher.
--Toronto is 2-5 since its 11-game winning streak.
--The White Sox are 8-23 in their last 31 games and a season-high 15 games under .500...Chris Sale was 0-5 in June with a 3.19 ERA.
HOP ON THIS PIRATE SHIP
After 20 consecutive losing seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates enter July 1 with Major League Baseball’s best record – v51-30 (.630).
Last Saturday night, Francisco Liriano pitched the victory and and Garrett Jones hit a home run.
Liriano is 7-3 with a 2.23 ERA for Pittsburgh this season. Jones is hitting .260 with 7 HRs and 32 RBI.
Liriano and Jones arguably have been the two most popular Red Wings of the Minnesota era. They’re both likely future Red Wings Hall of Famers and two extra reasons to root for the Buccos.
In four seasons with Rochester (2005 through 2008), Jones had 81 HRs and 326 RBI in 518 games. Liriano was a combined 19-4 in 2005 and 2008, with 158 hits allowed and 225 strikeouts in 209 innings. He was the 2005 IL Rookie of the Year in only 14 starts.
THIS IS MY ONLY COLUMN THIS HOLIDAY WEEK...MY NEXT COLUMN WILL BE FOR MONDAY, JULY 8...HAPPY 4TH TO ALL AND THANK YOU FOR READING AND LISTENING.