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 ANSWER MAN ON MAYWEATHER, AN EMBARRASING NBA MVP VOTER, ETC.
Question: Were you surprised at how easily world welterweight Floyd Mayweather Jr. handled challenger Robert Guerrero (a lopsided unanimous decision to boost his record to 44-0) Saturday night in Las Vega)?
Answer: Of course not. At age 36, Mayweather still is king of the ring.
“Money” also is boxing’s sharpest promoter – of himself. He handpicks opponents and determines the purse distribution. He has for a long time.
Mayweather hadn’t fought in a year but he totally outclassed his younger opponent. He piled up points (the three judges scored the fight 117-110) and opened up a nasty cut above Guerrero’s left eye in the eighth round.
After the victory, Mayweather said he plans to retire after the five fights left on his contract with Showtime. He made a guaranteed $32 million against Guerrero (could top $40 million with pay-per-view sales) and isn’t likely to accept anything less hereafter.
I believe Mayweather deserves consideration for Male Athlete of the Year one these years. It’s impossible to be better than perfect. Of course, he’d have a better case if he fought more often and took on better competition. But it isn’t easy finding opponents capable of making a great fight. He’s too good.
What’s next? Look for Mayweather to next fight in December or early next year. He hurt his right hand in the Guerrero fight. That’s a good excuse to enjoy another long layoff.
When “Money” returns, he figures to take on another outclassed opponent. The Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fervor has cooled off.
That phantom scenario no longer is a huge deal or the fight most of the remaining boxing fans most want to see.
The next dream fight for Mayweather may be against 22-year-old sensation Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (42-0-1, 31 KOs). He’s loaded with skill and charisma.
It could be Mayweather’s grand finale and he’ll do everything he can to make it the all-time highest grossing pay-per-view .
Question: Did LeBron James deserve to be this season’s unanimous NBA Most Valuable Player?
Answer: Certainly. The only people who can stop James this season are few lame voters for league awards (Defensive Player of the Year and MVP).
James received 120 of 121 first-place votes in the MVP balloting. One ridiculous voter opted for Carmelo Anthony. In a column Monday morning, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe took the credit – or accepted the blame – for picking Anthony over James. I give him points for stepping up. He didn’t have to. The NBA votes are anonymous and the voters aren’t required to supply explanations.
Washburn stood up to face the music. His pro-Carmelo reasoning was extremely weak, but he at least tried.
Before Washburn’s disclosure, Dan Le Batard of Miami cleverly took advantage of the situation to admit he was the lone voter who picked Anthony over James. He immediately received nationwide attention.
That had to boost interest on his really awful afternoon show on ESPN.
If you’ve never seen it, consider yourself fortunate.
Le Batard’s hoax was blown up when people who should know hit the social network to reveal that Le Bartard did not have a vote for MVP.
James had one of the all-time great all-around seasons. Nobody was close.
Here’s how James and Anthony measured up this season:
Points per game – Melo 28.7...LeBron 26.8
Games played – LeBron 76...Melo 67
Minutes per game – LeBron 37.9...Melo 37.0
Field-goal percentage – LeBron .565...Melo .449
3-point field-goal percentage – LeBron .406...Melo .379
Free-throw percentage – Melo .830...LeBron .753
Rebounds per game – LeBron 8.0...Melo 6.9
Assists per game – LeBron 7.3...Melo 2.6
Blocks per game – LeBron 0.9...Melo 0.5
Steals per game – LeBron 1.7...Melo 0.8.
James clearly was a better all-around offensive player than Anthony this season.
LeBron also was vastly better than Anthony on defense. I think James deserved to be voted Outstanding Defensive Player hands down (he finished second to Marc Gasol). James is assigned to guard the best player on Miami’s opponent nearly every game.
Another clue that Washburn was off base in depriving James of the NBA’s first unanimous MVP distinction: Kevin Durant received 93 of the 121 No. 2 votes for MVP. That means those voters rated Durant above Anthony for MVP.
Question: Should rookie quarterback EJ Manuel start this season for the Buffalo Bills?
Answer: Why not? Most analysts think he isn’t ready to start. If the Bills were a genuine playoff contender, I’d agree. But they probably won’t be, so what’s to lose by giving Manuel on-the-job training as quickly as possible.
Question: Should Ron Rolston coach the Buffalo Sabres next season.
Answer: He deserves to. But that doesn’t mean he will.
It will be general manager Darcy Regier’s call. That should be a plus for Rolston. A new GM would’ve been inclined to select his own man as coach.
Rolston was Regier’s choice when Lindy Ruff was fired Feb. 20. The Sabres were 6-10-1 (13 of 34 possible points in the standings) under Ruff and 15-11-5 (35 of 62 points in the standings) under Rolston.
Buffalo missed the playoffs but played honest hockey to the bitter end. The majority of Buffalo’s fans and media seemed to appreciate the job Rolston did in difficult circumstances.
Another plus for Rolston is Regier’s mandate to embark on a full-scale rebuilding program. Rolston is a very good teacher, particularly of younger players. His credits include head coach of the U.S. National Team Development Program from 2004 through 2011.
All things considered – Rolston’s amateur background and proven success in Rochester and Buffalo as a pro coach -- I don’t know how Regier could fire him and provide a reasonable explanation.
KEEPING TABS ON THE FORT MYERS MIRACLE AND MIGUEL SANO
The Fort Myers Miracle, Minnesota’s affiliate in the Single-A Advanced Florida State League (two rungs below the Rochester Red Wings), lost Saturday and Sunday to drop to 23-6 this season.
Third baseman Miguel Sano, the team’s 20-year-old power-hitting prospect, hit his 10th home run of the season on Sunday. Through 29 games, he leads the league in batting average (.385...42x109), runs (25), HRs (10). RBI (30), total bases (83) and slugging percentage (.761).
The Twins must be wondering what to do with Sano. He’s obviously too good for the Florida State League, but is he ready for Double-A New Britain (Eastern League)? The longer he hits like this, the more likely the first sighting of Sano at Frontier Field could be sometime next season.
HICKS MIGHT NEED ROCHESTER...AND THE RED WINGS COULD USE HIM
Center fielder Aaron Hicks, who was ticketed to start this season in Rochester but earned a starting job in center field with Minnesota on the strength of a hot spring, continues to struggle in his big-league debut. He was 0-x4 with 2 strikeouts in Sunday’s 4-2 win over Cleveland.
Hicks is hitting .118 (10x85), with 12 runs, 1 double, 1 triple, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 13 walks, 31 strikeouts and 3x4 stolen bases. He has fielded well but how much longer can Minnesota (a respectable 13-14 record entering Monday) play him regularly?
QUARTERBACKS TO WATCH IN THE 2014 NFL DRAFT
Some of us wonder why the Buffalo Bills were so eager to attempt to solve their “franchise quarterback” situation in a draft with so few really promising QBs.
ESPN.com’s Brock Huard last week offered his “top five QB prospects for the 2014 NFL draft”: Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)...Tajh Boyd (Clemson)...Aaron Murray (Georgia)...Marcus Mariota (Oregon)...Braxton Miller (Ohio State)...Five more to watch: AJ McCarron (Alabama)...Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)...Stephen Morris (Miami)...Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech)...Derek Carr (Fresno State).
The Bills figure to have a very high first-round pick again in the 2014 draft. It will be interesting to find out how many – if any -- QBs in next year’s rookie class will be better prospects than EJ Manuel was this year.
WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO WINS AGAIN...YAWN
The Klitschko brothers appear destined to go down in boxing history as the most underrated, least-appreciated heavyweight champions – mainly because they refuse to fight each other.
Wladimir Klitschko boosted his record to 60-3 (52 KOs) with a sixth-round KO of previously undefeated Francesco Pianeta (now 28-8-1) Saturday in Germany. As always, older brother Vitali was in his corner. Together they hold every legitimate heavyweight title.
Wladimir is expected to next fight Alexander Povetkin of Russia.
Povetkin is the mandatory challenger. He holds the WBA title only because Wladimir has been handed the WBA “super champion” tag.
Wladimir vs. Vitali in a unification bout would be a very big deal. It isn’t going to happen. They promised their mother they’d never fight each other.
This would be a great time for a young, charismatic American heavyweight challenger to emerge. Unfortunately, there isn’t one in sight.
Where is Mike Tyson when you need him? Tyson in his prime might have defeated Vitali and Wladimir on consecutive Saturday nights. Sadly, we’ll never know.
Oklahoma City Thunder without injured Russell Westbrook: Can’t possibly beat San Antonio or Miami. Had Westbrook missed the regular season, teammate Kevin Durant would’ve easily won the NBA scoring title.
P.J. Carlesimo got a raw deal with the Brooklyn Nets. He was 35-19 as interim coach after replacing the fired Avery Johnson but was doomed when the Nets were beaten by the injury- and illness-depleted Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs...I believe the Nets are a flawed team. They have too many slow big men...Phil Jackson or Jeff Van Gundy probably could take the Nets deep into the playoffs with one or two roster moves. How about Dwight Howard?
I’m ready to run up the white flag on my picks as the American League’s two best teams: Toronto Blue Jays and California Angels.
Toronto’s starting pitcher has underachieved and injured shortstop Jose Reyes has been hurt...The Angels really miss departed Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols has been playing hurt.
Orb easily won last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Trainer Shug McGauhey says Orb will run in the Preakness May 18 and in the Belmont Stakes June 8. The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978. Orb’s impressive performance in the Derby has scared off the connections of most of the horses in the Derby. Golden Soul (2nd), Revolutionary (3rd) and Normandy Invasion (4th) already are out of the Preakness Stakes. Golden Soul and Revolutionary are being rested for the Belmont Stakes.
Normandy Invasion will be primed for the Travers Stakes in Saratoga this summer. There don’t seem to be any super horses that skipped the Derby and figure to sneak up on Orb in two weeks in Baltimore.
BEST HOPE FOR A TRIPLE CROWN – FEW GREAT HORSES THIS YEAR
MAYWEATHER, WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO PUT TITLES ON LINE...HO-HUM
MINNESOTA’S TWO CLASS-A TEAMS ARE PILING UP THE WINS
AMERKS PLAYOFF FUTILITY CONTINUES...NEED MORE FROM REGIER
The starting gate for Saturday’s 139th Kentucky Derby will spring open at 6:24 p.m.
There hasn’t been a Triple Crown champion (winner of the Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes) since Affirmed in 1978. That streak could end this year, mainly because there doesn’t appear to be a deep well of impressive three-year-olds. It wouldn’t take a lot for one the thoroughbreds to step up and dominate.
A full-field of 20 horses will participate in Saturday’s “Run for the Roses.” Many of them would be better suited for a “Run for the Dandelions.”
Here is my annual worst-to-first Derby forecast:
20th – Giant Finish (post position 7)...Don’t count on it...Trainer Tony Dutrow planned to run this colt in an allowance race at Belmont Park this month, but the owner pleaded to enter the Derby, presumably for the thrill of seeing his name in the program and silks in the starting gate. Dutrow wasn’t going to bother saddling the colt but wisely changed his mind.
19th – Falling Sky (p.p. 13)...He’ll give his backers an early thrill but classier speedsters figure to burn him out early...Has never raced two turns...Capable of wiring a field going one mile at Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack...Only winning scenario Saturday would be setting a pedestrian slow pace and holding on in the slowest Derby in history.
18th – Black Onyx (p.p. 1)...He isn’t fast enough and hasn’t faced top-quality opposition. His future probably is on the grass. Drew the dreaded No. 1 post position, where horses often get squeezed back in a bulky field as the outside horses drop in to save ground. Only two Derby winners from the No. 1 post in the last 50 years...Hasn’t run since winning the Spiral Stakes March 23...This is Saratoga Joe’s pick. His pick last year hasn’t begun to run yet.
17th -- Golden Soul (p.p. 4)...He rallied wide to finish fourth in the Louisiana Derby. He can handle the 1 ¼ mile distance but probably isn’t fast enough to win this race.
16th – Frac Daddy (p.p. 18)...Has run OK at Churchill Downs before but probably doesn’t belong in this spot. Finished second, beaten 4+ lengths, in a slowly-run Arkansas Derby.
15th – Oxbow (p.p. 2)...Finished fifth in the Arkansas Derby on April 13...Good breeding and top-notch Hall of Fame trainer/rider combination in D. Wayne Lukas and Gary Stevens, who retired with aching knees in 2005 to pursue an acting career and is making a comeback at age 50.
14th – Lines Of Battle (p.p 11)...Won the 1 3/16 UAD Derby in Dubai over a synthetic surface. The distance won’t be a problem. Running on dirt instead of grass could be.
13th – Will Take Charge (p.p. 17)...Hasn’t raced since winning the Rebel Stakes March 16. He’s game but probably not fast enough.
12th –Charming Kitten (p.p. 15)...He rallied for third in the Blue Grass Stakes but his speed figures don’t measure up in this spot...Has never raced on dirt.
11th – Palace Malice (p.p. 10)...He has one win in six career starts....Second in the Blue Grass...Wears blinkers for the first time...Jockey Mike Smith has record 17 Breeders’ Cup wins.
10th -- Mylute. (p.p. 6)...Second on a big effort in the Louisiana Derby March 30...Jockey Rosie Napravnik is a plus...Might not like the distance.
9th -- Revolutionary (p.p. 3)... Won the Louisiana Derby March 30...Won’t mind the No. 3 post position because jockey Calvin Borel specializes in saving ground on the rail and is a master weaving through big fields...Trounced handily by Orb in a maiden race last November and hasn’t faced the best competition since.
8th – Vyjack (p.p. 20)...Third in the Wood Memorial April 6 and then treated for a lung infection...Looks OK now...Jockey Joel Rosario took off to ride Orb in Derby...Only gelding in the field.
7th – Java’s War (p.p. 19)....No early speed. Runs best late...1 1/4 mile no problem. Speed might be...Won Blue Grass Stakes April 13 with huge last-to-first move.
6th – Itsmyluckyday (p.p. 12)...Could be at a price...Five wins in 10 starts...Second to Orb in the Florida Derby... Excellent bloodlines but might not want to go 1 ¼ mile...Chance at a price.
5th – Overanalyze (p.p. 9)...Versatile colt...Won the Arkansas Derby April 13 in a slow time.
4th – Normandy Invasion. (p.p. 5)...My long shot special...Strong late kick. Decent No. 5 post. Solid rider in Javier Castellano...Strong second in the Wood Memorial April 6...Only one win in five career starts.
SHOW – Goldencents (p.p. 8)...Rick Pitino has been on a role lately and he owns 5 percent of this Santa Anita Derby winner...Never runs a poor race...Tactical speed and third race off a layoff...Kevin Krigger would be first African-American jockey to win the Derby since Jimmy Winkfield in 1902.
PLACE – Verrazano (p. p. 14)...The only undefeated horse in the field (4x4 -- including the Wood Memorial April 6 – by a total of 28 lengths). Tough to fault...Could be a great horse. We’ll find out Saturday...Trying to become the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Derby despite not racing as a two-year-old...Speed figures have dropped as his races grew longer – but he wasn’t tested to the max...Jockey John Velazquez had his choice and decided to ride t6his colt in the Derby. Riders have been wrong before but they know more than we do.
WIN – Orb (p.p. 16)...The Derby oddsmaker, Mike Watchmaker, made this colt the morning line favorite over Verrazano because the “buzz on the backstretch” early this week overwhelmingly preferred Orb. That’s good enough for me...Bred to relish the Derby distance...Won the Florida Derby in a relatively slow time...Popular trainer Shug McGaughey goes for his first Derby win...Jockey Joel Rosario currently leads the nation in wins and purse earnings this year.
TWO FIGHTS RAY-RAY WOULD’VE LOVED...HOW ABOUT YOU?
One of our most faithful and entertaining listeners, “Ray Ray” passed away last week. Pro boxing lost a passionate fan and advocate.
Ray Ray talked much more about boxers of the past than the current crop. That was appropriate because the sport used to be far more mainstream than it is now.
There will be two championship bouts on Saturday. Don’t expect upsets.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. will put his undefeated record (43-0; 43 KOs) and WBC welterweight title on the line against Robert Guerrero in Las Vegas.
Guerrero is 31-1-1 (18 KOs) but don’t be fooled by that gaudy record. Mayweather has hand-picked his opponents for a long time and he isn’t likely to take on anyone he believes can beat him. He has a new six-fight deal with Showtime and intends to tap that ring gold for as long as possible.
At age 36, Mayweather might have slipped a bit. But until he loses, the “best boxer pound-for-pound” tag fits him better than anyone else.
Here are the odds (courtesy of Bovada) for the pay-per-view (suggested retail price $69.56...it costs a lot to be a big-time boxing fan these days – not a great way to boost the sport’s sagging popularity):
Mayweather bet $700 to win...Guerrero bet $100 to win $450.
Fight to go the distance. Bet $210 to win $100...Won’t go the distance bet $100 to win $200
Mayweather by KO, TKO of DQ bet $100 to win $260
Mayweather by decision bet $200 to win $100
Guerrero by KO, TKO or DQ bet $100 to win $700
Guerrero by decision bet $100 to win $800
Draw bet $100 to win $2,800.
You might not know that there will be a world heavyweight title fight Saturday in Germany.
Wladimir Klitschko almost certainly will successfully defend his IBF, WBO, WBA and Ring titles against unbeaten but outclassed Francisco Pianeta.
Remember when world heavyweight fights were can’t-miss viewing?
This fight won’t even he shown in the United States.
Klitschko is 59-3 with an impressive 80.65 knockout percentage.
Pianeta, the heavyweight champion of Italy, is 28-0-1. He has a 51.72 knockout percentage. Pianeta probably lacks the power to KO the Klitschko, who has never lost a decision.
The odds: Klitschko bet $3,500 to win $100...Pianeta bet $100 to win $1,500.
FORT MYERS AND CEDAR RAPIDS ARE PILING UP THE WINS
After a horrendous 2-11 start, the 2013 Rochester Red Wings are a solid 9-5 since.
That’s not bad, considering that a dozen or so disabled pitchers were in Florida trying to get ready to help somewhere in the organization and the preferred starting outfield for Rochester (Wilkin Ramirez, Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia) was playing for the parent Minnesota Twins.
Collectively, Minnesota’s four full-season farm teams are performing very well. As advertised, the majority of the organizations top prospects are at the Single-A level. That’s reflected in the following numbers entering Friday night:
Rochester (AAA International League) – 11-16 record...outscored by opponents 141-101 (-40)
New Britain Rock Cats (AA Eastern League) – 14-13 record...outscored opponents 142-119 (+23)
Fort Myers Miracle (Advanced A Florida State League) – 22-4 record (that’s no typo)...outscored opponents 148-18 (+40)
Cedar Rapids Kernals (A Midwest League) – 18-7...outscored opponents 143-97 (+46).
Overall – 65-40 record (.619)...outscored opponents by 74 runs.
The two Single-A teams are 40-11 (.784) and outscored opponents by 91 runs (304-213).
NOT EVERYONE IMPRESSED BY BUFFALO BILLS DRAFT
USA Today Sports Weekly has Buffalo quarterback EJ Manuel on the cover of this week’s draft issue and had some nice things to say about him: “Former Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s biggest shortcoming was an average arm that allowed cornerbacks to jump his sideline passes. That’s not a worry with Manuel, who has a cannon arm and the size and mobility to run the read-option.”
But the publication wasn’t as kind to the Bills draft in total, issuing a grade of “D”: “Overall, this was a very shaky draft for the Bills. They rolled the dice in the first three rounds with QB EJ Manuel, LB Kiko Alonso and WR Marquise Goodwin. They probably could have gotten Manuel even lower than they did. If two of the three hit, then general manger Buddy Nix and coach Doug Marrone will deserve some applause.”
I don’t agree. Buffalo deserved a higher grade than “D” – maybe a “B”...at least a “C”. And if only the right one (Manuel) of the first three picks “hit” (Manuel), the grade should be revised to at least “A-“.
Eric Bourgeois of letsgoamerks.com reminds us of the recent playoff history of the Rochester Amerks. He calls it “And the Banners Weep”:
No playoff wins in three seasons...no playoff series wins in 8 seasons...no Calder Cup appearance in 13 seasons...no Cup in 17 years...Darcy Regier’s playoff line for Rochester is as bad as fruitless as his recent work with the Buffalo Sabres.
Which crowd was more disappointing Wednesday night? 2,127 for the WNY Flash and Abby Wambach’s home debut...or, 4,565 for the final home game of the season for the Amerks.
Bill Polian, writing for ESPN Insider, this week tabbed the New York Giants picking Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) is “favorite selection” in last week’s NFL draft: “The Giants landed a tremendous asset by taking (Nassib).” He pointed out that Nassib won’t need to be rushed, will learn from Eli Manning, and could be Manning’s successor.” Nassib also could be future trade bait.
Quarterbacks chosen in last week’s NFL draft: EJ Manuel (Florida State) No. 16 overall by Buffalo...Geno Smith (West Virginia) No. 39 by New York Jets...Mike Glennon (North Carolina State) No. 73 by Tampa Bay...Matt Barkley (USC) No. 98 by Philadelphia...Ryan Nassib (Syracuse) No. 110 by New York Giants...Tyler Wilson (Arkansas) No. 112 by Oakland...Landry Jones (Oklahoma) No. 115 by Pittsburgh...Zac Dysert (Miami Ohio) No. 234 by Denver...Sean Renfree (Duke) No. 249 by Atlanta.
The Rochester Knighthawks got even better this week with the signings of veteran guard Jerice Crouch and newcomer forward Mac Koshwal. In his five prior seasons with the Rochester, the, the popular Crouch averaged 13.7 points and 4.1 assists per game. Koshwal, a native of Sudan, made the Big East All-Freshman first team in 2008 and opted for the NBA draft after his junior season. The 6-foot-9, 255-pound forward, a three-year captain at DePaul, has played in the NBA D-League and Summer League and overseas.
I understand why former NBA star and current Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson was happy when a committee of NBA owners this week recommended that the Kings stay in his city rather than move to Seattle, but hailing Sacramento fans as “the best fans in the NBA” was a stretch. Sacramento was 29th in the 30-team league in average home attendance this season (13,749).
When Rochester Knighthawks owner/general manager Curt Styres traded superstar John Grant to the Rochester Mammoth, local lacrosse fans were shocked and disappointed. How could Styres get fair value for one of Rohester’s all-time most popular and most productive pro athletes? Well, it looks like he did. Matt Vinc of the Knighthawks on Thursday became the first three-time National Lacrosse League Goaltender of the Year.
A DECENT DRAFT FOR THE BILLS COULD TURN OUT TO BE EXCELLENT
YANKEES SHOWING THEIR CLASS – AT LEAST SO FAR
NO DOUBT ABOUT IT – SABRES NEED A LOT OF HELP
PENGUINS 7x2 FAVORITE TO WIN THE STANLEY CUP
Okay, I’m fairly impressed with the 20123 draft for the Buffalo Bills. In a year or two, I might be REALLY impressed. It’s up to EJ Manuel.
Maybe GM Buddy Nix struck gold with Manuel by trading down from No. 8 No. 16 and getting the team’s “franchise quarterback” But you can’t convince me that Maunel wouldn’t have been available with the 41st pick.
I still believe super-speedy West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin would’ve been an instant hit. I also think Buffalo will have a high pick in next year’s draft and that there will be better QBs available than there were last week.
But if Manuel proves to be as nearly good as Nix thinks, this could become an “A” draft.
We can only hope Nix will be as right about Manuel as he was wrong about Russell Wilson last year.
Here are some of the things I liked about Buffalo’s draft :
Manuel’s potential. I don’t think he’s ready to start. I don’t think he has a realistic shot to be this season’s version of last year’s Russell Wilson.
But when the rest of this rebuilding team is a legitimate threat to make the playoffs – and maybe even win a playoff game – he could be the QB to take them there. I’m pretty sure Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson won’t be.
I’m buying Manuel’s “upside.” I’m glad Buffalo picked him instead of Ryan Nassib or Matt Barkley. I believe they’ll both be decent NFL players – but never Pro Bowl-type QBs. With polishing, Manuel has a chance. For now, I believe Nix projected too high for Manuel.
Selecting the “quarterback of the future” this year means the Bills can use their first-round pick next year on one of the premier defensive players.
The Bills added to its team speed.
Buffalo no longer has the most-suspect group of wide receivers in the NFL. Stevie Johnson should have more help. I really liked the selection of Robert Woods No. 41 and hope lightning-quick Marquise Goodwin (No. 78 overall pick) can deliver more immediately than T.J. Graham did as a rookie last season... Free agent Da’rick Rogers is a sleeper. He led Tennessee and the SEC in receptions and receiving yards in 2011 but off-field issues resulted in a move to Tennessee Tech for last season. USA Today Sports rated him No. 74 overall among all players eligible for the draft. Goodwin was No.98.
Buffalo will be young and inexperienced at wide receiver, but I wouldn’t bet against Woods, C.J. Spiller, Graham and Goodwin in an NFL sprint relay contest. If all goes well, the Bills could lead the NFL in YAC (yards after catch) this season.
The Bills selected versatile Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso No. 46 overall; one of the extra picks obtained from St. Louis in the Manuel deal). That probably was another reach, but cheers to the Bills for giving him a pass on off-field red flags. He could contribute immediately at the team’s weakest defensive position. I hope drafting Alonso doesn’t mean Buffalo no longer is interested in veteran free-agent linebacker Karlos Dansby.
Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg was a reasonable gamble with pick No. 222. It is a need position and Gregg is significantly faster than Scott Chandler (even with a good knee). He was projected as a much higher NFL pick before a knee injury limited him to five games as a senior.
A few potential negatives:
Depth in the secondary always is a plus, but I hope selecting two safeties (Nevada’s Duke Wiiliams No.105) and Clemson’s Jonathan Meeks (No. 143) were not clues that Buffalo isn’t sold on retaining Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd beyond this season.
No offensive guard was picked. That was a bigger need than TWO safties.
For a team that has been negligent in stockpiling draft picks, it is sort of sad that Buffalo has selected two kickers in the last two drafts (John Potter was a bust on kickoffs after being picked in the seventh round last year and Dustin Hopkins was a sixth-round pick on Saturday). Hopkins also has a very strong leg on kickoffs and is the NCAA all-time scorer among kickers, but his FG percentage at Florida State wasn’t great (.785; 88x112) by NFL standards.
My overall grade: “B” (with “A” potential if Manuel pans out within a year or two).
THUMBS UP TO THE RESOURCEFUL NEW-LOOK YANKEES FOR IMPRESSIVE START
I predicted the injury-plagued New York Yankees would finish below .500 and that the Toronto Blue Jays would win the AL East this season.
Ooops. The Yankees beat Toronto 3-2 Sunday afternoon to complete a four-game sweep.
Since their 1-5 start, the Yankees are on a 14-5 roll. They’re putting the heat on first-place Boston (18-7) and 7 games ahead of the sputtering Blue Jays.
New York’s three runs Sunday came via a solo home run by Brian Boesch and a two-run HR by Lyle Overbay. Why not? They’re not the only recycled veterans who’ve been rejuvenated wearing the pinstripes.
Vernon Wells and Kevin Youkilis also have contributed big hits.
Starting pitching has held up so far and old reliable closer Mariano Rivera hasn’t lost his magic yet: 10 games, 9 saves (career total 617), 1.80 ERA, 9 hits, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts.
The Yankees are 15-9 and the feeble Houston Astros are coming to the Big Apple for a three-game series starting Monday night.
Maybe the only thing that could derail this Yankees Express would be a quick return by Alex Rodriguez.
DISAPPOINTING SEASON BY SABRES WAS NO FLUKE
The Buffalo Sabres won’t be participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the fourth time in the last six seasons. A quick look at how the Sabres measured up against the NHL’s other 29 teams strongly suggests that Buffalo needs a lot of help (league ranking in parentheses):
Wins – 21 (t21st)
Points – 48 (t21)
Point percentage -- .500 (t21)
Goals per game – 2.46 (t21st)
Goals allowed per game – 2.90 (t22)
Five-on-five GF/GA ratio – 0.90 (t21)
Power play percentage – 154.1 (29)
Penalty killing percentage – 79.2 (26)
Shots per game – 27.9 (22)
Fewest shots allowed per game – 33.5 (30)
Winning percentage when score first -- .667 (19)
Winning percentage when trail first -- .208 (25)
Winning percentage when lead after first period -- .600 (30)
Winning percentage when lead after second period -- .692 (28)
Winning percentage when outshoot opponents -- .333 (67)
Winning percentage when outshot -- .500 (12)
Faceoff win percentage – 46.2 (29)
Fewest penalty minutes per game – 13.1 (26)
Most shootout wins – 7 (2)...7-4 record in shootouts
Average home attendance – 18,970 (9).
MOST DOMINANT IN SPORTS TODAY: HOW ABOUT LEBRON OR JON JONES?
If soon-to-be four-time NBA Most Valuable Player (possibly the league’s first unanimous MVP?) LeBron James isn’t the most-dominant pro athlete today, maybe Rochester product Jon “Bones” Jones is.
Jones defended his UFC light-heavyweight championship last Saturday night in Newark, N.J. He demolished outclassed challenger Chael Sonnen via first-round TKO.
Jones wants to next fight Alexander Gustafsson. Most UFC fans would much prefer to see him fight fellow legend Anderson Silva.
The 25-year-old Jones won’t be fighting anyone soon. He suffered a broken left big toe while beating up Sonnen.
When he returns to action, Jones needs to fight the best possible competition in order to gain mainstream recognition and the respect he deserves.
He also deserves to fight at Madiison Square Garden. Sooner or later, the spoil-sport powers-to-be in Albany will have to allow it.
TAKING A STAB AT STANLEY CUP FIRST ROUND
The NHL has the most competitive playoffs in pro sports. No sport has nearly as many first-round upsets. No sport has as many low-seed teams advance deep into the tournament. The home-field (or home-ice) advantage often means less than in the other sports.
For the record, here are my first-round picks:
Pittsburgh Penguins over New York Islanders in 5 – The loaded Penguins probably could win two series without Sidney Crosby (broken jaw), and he is expected to return soon.
Washington over New Rangers in 6...The Capitals are 15-2-2 in their last 19 games and Alex Ovechkin had 19 goals over that span.
Montreal Canadiens over Ottawa Senators in 6 – Ex-Amerks goaltender Craig Anderson’s is Ottawa’s top hope for an upset. He led NHL in goals-against average and save percentage.
Boston Bruins over Toronto Maple Leafs in 6 – The difference should be Boston’s depth up front. This will be the 14th time these two Original Six teams met in the playoffs, but the first time since 1974.
Chicago Blackhawks over Minnesota Wild in 4 – Tough to project a win for the Wild. The Blackhawks started 20-0-3 and were 10-3-2 in April...One hurdle for Chicago is the Presidents’ Trophy hex. Since the trophy began in 1986, the team with the best record in the regular season went on to win the Stanley Cup only seven times.
Anaheim Ducks over Detroit Red Wings in 6 – The Red Wings extended their streak to 22 straight playoff appearances but they don’t figure to last long this time.
Vancouver Canucks over San Jose Sharks in 7 – The home-ice advantage could be the difference. The Sharks had only eight road wins this season.
Los Angeles Kings over St, Louis Blues in 6 – The Kings won the season series 3-0 (including 2-0 in St. Louis) and swept the Blues in last year’s playoffs.
My Stanley Cup Finals pick: Pittsburgh over Chicago in 6...I realize how often at least one of the two pre-tournament favorites reaches the championship series. But the Penguins and Blackhawks were the class of the league all season and are healthy entering the playoffs.
ODDS TO WIN THE STANLEY CUP (courtesy of Bodog.lv): Pittsburgh 7x2...Chicago 4x1...Boston 8x1...Anaheim 10x1...Montreal 10x1...San Jose 12x1...Vancouver 14x1...Washington 14x1...Los Angeles 15x1...St. Louis 15x1...Minnesota 18x1...New York Rangers 20x1...Toronto 25x1...Detroit 30-x1...New York Islanders 30x1...Ottawa 30x1.
Sleeper at the odds: Rangers.
Many analysts credit the Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens with the best performances in the 2013 NFL Draft.
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. wasn’t among the many analysts impressed by Buffalo’s draft. He rated the Bills last in the NFL. Maybe the fact that he rated EJ Manuel No. 6 among quarterbacks had a lot to do with that.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com included Buffalo among the seven teams that “nailed it” in the draft. His six others were Minnesota, Cincinnati, Detroit, Pittsburgh, San Diego and St. Louis.
--Listener/reader Chris Ottenot passes along this interesting note: “A friend of Les Harrison’s (team owner) had a stash of Rochester Royals films squirreled away. The NBA is paying Kodak to transfer them to digital.”...Bob recently saw a reel and was impressed by the footage of a Royals vs. Minneapolis Lakers game at the Edgerton Park Sports Arena.: “It was amazingly clear after almost 70 years.”
--Lacrosse great Mark Millon is making a comeback with the Rochester Rattlers. The National Lacrosse Hall of Famer was the Major League Lacrosse Offensive player of the Year in 2002 and 2003 and the Most Valuable Player is 2005. He’ll turn 42 next month and last played in MLL in 2007.
--A sports memorabilia auction in Laguna Niguel, Calif., over the weekend resulted in more than 1,000 items being sold for more than $5.1 million. Some of the most interesting items and what they sold for:
1927 Yankees team-signed photograph $275,706
A Babe Ruth game-used bat -- $171,190
Ray Nitschke’s 1967 Green Bay Super Bowl championship ring $91,151
Gus Williams’ 1979 Seattle SuperSonics championship ring $91,000
John Havlicek’s 1963 Boston Celtics championship ring $68.481.60
Steve Garvey’s 1974 National League MVP award -- $68,482
A pair of LeBron James game-worn sneakers to benefit victims of the Newtown, Ct., tragedy $27,584.
--Larry Brooks of the New York Post ripped the Buffalo Sabres for raising season-ticket prices for the 2013-14 season and using the new collective bargaining agreement as the excuse. The new deal raised the owners’ take from 43 percent to 50 percent of revenues.
--Sidney Crosby (Pittsburg Penguins) is my pick for the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) despite missing the last 12 games with a broken jaw. He was third in the NHL scoring race and was the main reason the Penguins opened up a big lead in the Eastern Conference.
--The Los Angeles Lakers worked hard to squeeze into the NBA playoffs but would’ve been better off had they not qualified. Injuries took a huge toll and center Dwight Howard was a disgrace. Being ejected with two technicals in Sunday’s final game of the year was the last straw. I can’t think of a worse current teammate in any sport. Maybe he’ll grow up and lead another team to a championship. But I wouldn’t count on it.
--Condolences to “Ray Ray,” one of our radio show’s most faithful and enthusiastic listeners, who passed away last week. He loved all sports, but particularly the NFL (circa 1960s through 1970s) and pro boxing. Ten bells, Ray Ray.