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.
2014 KNIGHTHAWKS COULD MAKE HISTORY
ALBERT PUJOLS: PLAYER OF THE 2000s SHOULD SIT DOWN
COULD WE HAVE A FATTER SPORTS SECTION...PLEASE
PROPOSED MAYWEATHER VS. ALVAREZ A PAY-PER-VIEW BONANZA
HOT AND COLD IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
It is easy to make the National Lacrosse League playoffs. The league had nine teams the past two seasons and eight of them qualified for the playoffs each year. Truthfully, it is tough to NOT advance to the postseason.
But it is difficult to WIN the NLL Playoffs because the league is so evenly balanced.
The Rochester Knighthawks captured the 2013 NLL championship Saturday night with a hard-earned 11-10 victory over the Washington Stealth in the Langley (British Columbia) Events Centre.
Teams now have won back-to-back NLL championships six times since the leaguer began in 1987: Philadelphia Wings 1989-1990...Buffalo Bandits 1992-1193...Philadelphia Wings 1994-1995...Toronto Rock 1999-2000...Toronto Rock 2002-2003...Rochester Knighthawks 2012-2013.
The Knighthawks could make NLL history and become one of the NLL’s great dynasties by becoming the first team in the league to win three straight championships.
It will be interesting to see how Rochester fares in the power ratings entering the 2014 season.
The Knighthawks were a combined 15-17 in the 2012-2013 regular seasons (tied for fourth-best in the league) but 6-0 in the playoffs.
The top strength for next season’ Knighthawks figures to remain goaltender Matt Vinc and the talented group of defenders in front of him.
Give owner/general manager Curt Styres and his stats and defensive-minded coach Mike Hasen major props for putting this team together.
He has traded several popular offensive-minded stars (including John Grant Jr., Shawn Evans and Shawn Williams) while building the NLL’s stingiest defense. The moves weren’t popular when they were made but no one can dispute the results.
He stuck with Joe Walters during the Rochester product’s difficult transition from outdoor to indoor lacrosse. Walters has become an invaluable part of the team.
It’s not like the Knighthawks are void of firepower. Most of the NLL’s best teams have at least two outstanding offensive players. Rochester has two – Cody Jamieson and Dan Dawson – and a potential third in Johnny Powless, who could make the jump to elite scorer this coming season. They’re complemented by an effective mix of young and veteran forwards.
The only apparent flaw in this team appears to be faceoff percentage.
I’ve been told it isn’t a big deal but I’ve always wondered why not. Two straight titles strongly suggests that there are worse things to do poorly.
WHEN SHOULD DAMAGED PUJOLS SIT DOWN? HE’S HURTING THE ANGELS
Albert Pujols, the undisputed Major League Player of the Decade as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals, has become a liability – at least temporarily – to the Los Angeles Angels.
Give Pujols high marks for playing in pain. He has a sore knee coming off surgery and plantar faciitis in his left foot. He can barely run. He has more ground into more double plays (8) than home runs (5).
His batting line for 2013: .234 (33x1241; 5 HRs; 20 RBI; 18 walks; 21 strikeouts; .317 on-base percentage (career 412); .390 slugging percentage (career .604); 0x1 stolen bases (92x128 entering this season; he never was fast but he was a heady base-stealer).
Pujols is – we think – 33 years old. Big wheels look like they’re 43. Will be ever return to top form? Probably not. Some key indicators were down in 2011 and 2012.
The Angels are in a tough spot. They’re off to a lousy start (14-23 record) and he wants to play.
But he’s really not an asset right now. In May, he’s hitting .184 (7x38) with 2 doubles, 1 HR and 3 RBI in 10 days. The Angels at this point must wish they had retained Vernon Wells to play left field and move Mark Trumbo to first base – because right now, Pujols is hurting the team. Even as DH.
(The Angels traded Wells to the Yankees on March 24. In 34 games, the rejuvenated retread is hitting .295 with 9 HRs and 20 RBI. The Angels are paying $13.9 million of the $42 million left on his contract).
He has eight years left on his 10-year, guaranteed $240-million guaranteed, back-loaded contract: $12 million for 2012...$13 million for 2013...$16 million for 2014...$23 million for 2014...then up $1 million for every year through 2021 (when he’ll be at least 41).
He also has award and performance clauses, most of which he now seems unlikely to attain.
Unfortunately, the most outstanding player of the 2000s could finish above even Alex Rodriguez as the worst baseball contract of the 2010s. From superstar to a ridiculously overpaid albatross. That’s not his fault. Blame Angels owner Arte Moreno.
SUNDAY’S 8-PAGE SPORTS SECTION: NOT ENOUGH OF A GOOD THING
The Democrat & Chronicle sports section had only eight pages on Sunday. That’s sad.
I don’t believe many cities of similar size had a newspaper with such a thin sports section.
Sure, I’m prejudiced. I love sports. And I believe sports drives newspaper sales (single copy and subscriptions) as much or more than any other section.
Greater Rochester is an outstanding sports community. It deserves more pages in the sports section – particularly on Sundays. The Sunday D&C is a bargain now. It would be worth even more with at least two more pages for sports.
The problem isn’t quality. The D&C sports department – my former colleagues – is loaded with talent. The problem is space. They should have more room to operate.
I wonder when there will be more pages for obits than for sports in the Sunday paper. The obits seem to be closing the gap.
What do you think?
A GUARANTEED RECORD MAYWEATHER PAY-PER-VIEW MATCHUP – IF IT HAPPENS
I’ll believe it when I see it, but 36-year-old undefeated welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. is talking about putting his 44-0 (26 KOs) 2-0-1 record on the line Sept. 14 in Las Vegas against unbeaten 22-year-old hot prospect Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs).
This proposed showdown has the potential to boxing’s all-time grossing fight. Mayweather has legions of fans everywhere and the charismatic Alvarez is the new favorite of Mexican fans. It would be the weekend of Mexican Independence Day.
The biggest hitch now is agreeing on a weight. Mayweather is the welterweight king (prefers to fight at 147 pounds) and Alvarez is a junior middleweight (doesn’t want to fight lower than 154 pounds).
Mayweather figures to get his way. He usually does.
HOT AND NOT IN MAJOR-LEAGUE BASEBALL
Cleveland is 15-5 and has not lost any of its last seven series...9-3 in one-run games
Miguel Cabrera (Detroit) leads the AL in batting average (.379) and RBI (40) but is a mere t16th in HRs (7)
Joe Saunders (Seattle) is 9-0, 1.72 ERA in 13career appearances
Cincinnati is 10-5 in one-run games
Nick Markakis (Baltimore) is hitting .519 (27x52) vs. Minnesota since the start of last season
Adrian Beltre (Texas) has 12 of his 23 RBI in the last 10 games
James Loney (Tampa Bay) is hitting .456 in his last 24 games
Tampa Bay has 5 straight wins and is above. 500 (19-18) for the first time since April 5
Tampa Bay’s bullpen has 13 2/3 straight scoreless innings
Arizona has a MLB-fewest 8 errors
Mariano Rivera (Yankees): 17 games...15 saves in 15
opportunities...1.65 ERA...0.98 WHIP...16 1/3 innings...14 hits...2 walks...12 strikeouts
Toronto is 7-13 in its last 20 games and last in the AL East (15-24)
David Ortiz (Boston) is 1x17 since his .414, 4 HRs, 17 RBI in his firat 15 games
Houston is 2-10 in its last 12 games and off to its worst start after 38 games(10-28)
Oakland is 1-6 in its last 7 games and below .500 (18-19) for the first time since Week 1
Milwaukee is 2-10 in its last 12 games against Cincinnati
The Mets were 7x40 with runners in scoring position during a 2-4 homestand
Pittsburgh is 6-13 at Citi Field since 2009
The Cubs lead MLB with 30 errors
Bryce Harper (Washington) is in a 4x35 slump.
AMERKS HOME ATTENDANCE INCREASE THIRD IN AHL
The Rochester Americans had a positive season on and off the ice.
Rochester had a 12.9 percent increase in total home attendance and attendance per game, second-best in the 30-team AHL (stat courtesy of Smith & Street’s Sports Business JOURNAL):
1—Toronto Marlies – 21.9 percent (5,480 to 6,681; 253,868 total)
2—Rochester Americans – 12.9 percent (5,595 to 6,314 per game; 239,914 total).
Total league attendance was up 1.3 percent (5,710 per game) over 2011-12 (5,638).
THE YEAR OF THE TIGER...AGAIN
Tiger Woods’ victory Sunday in The Players Championship was his fourth PGA Tour win of 2013. The next-most wins is ONE (by 16 players).
Tiger leads in official earnings ($5,849,600 in 7 events; No. 2 Brandt Snedeker has $3,388,064 in 10 events.
He also leads in scoring average (68.516). No. 2 Sergio Garcia is 69.582.
Woods is tied for 2nd with 5 top-10 finishes (in 7 events). No. 1 Brandt Snedeker has 6 top-10 finishes in 10 events.
Tiger is 1st in strokes-gained-putting and 28th in average driving distance (294.0).
Sergio Garcia’s silly feud with Tiger Woods didn’t work so well for him Sunday in The Players Championship. He made Tiger the good guy for a change. Not sure Woods needed any added incentive, but he kicked Garcia’s butt (70 to 76) and won his fourth PGA stop of the year. Tiger clearly is great again. Maybe approaching his peak form. Garcia is trying to become great for the first time and running out of time.
Sad sign of the horse racing times: Hollywood Park in California, site of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup in 1984, will close after the current 75th anniversary live thoroughbred racing season. It will be torn down to make room for other things.
Entering Monday, 10 horses are scheduled to run in Saturday’s 138th Preakness Stakes: Kentucky Derby winner Orb, fellow Derby runners Oxbow, Will Take Charge, Golden cents, Mylute, Itsdmyluckyday and Vyjack, plus Departing, Governor Charlie and Titletown Five...A full field of 14 is expected.
The Cedar Rapids Kernals, Minnesota’s team in the Single-A Midwest League, scored 16 runs but lost Sunday – 23-16 to Beloit. Kernals centerfielder Byron Buxton, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 entry draft, was 4x7 (including a 2B and a 3B) to raise his batting average to .352.
I’ll be rooting for the Toronto Maple Leafs against the host Boston Bruins in Monday night’s Game 7 of their Stanley Cup conference semifinal series. Toronto hockey fans are the most loyal in North American pro sports. They sell out year-after-year. Some people think that helps account for the team’s long stretch of futility. There are no empty seats, so why spend big to put the best and most expensive product on the ice? The Maple Leafs last year became the first NHL franchise valued at $1 billion. They lead the NHL in profit margin.
They’ve won 13 Stanley Cups – that’s good. But the last of those Cups was won in 1967 – that’s very sad.
BASEBALL IN LOS ANGELES: FROM HIGH HOPES TO THE PITS
FAN FAVORITE LISA’S BOOBYTRAP RETURNS TO FINGER LAKES
HOW ABOUT MATT HARVEY AS NL ALL-STAR GAME STARTER?
OSWALDO ARCIA RIPPING THE BALL FOR TWINS
HOME FLOOR COULD BE THE DIFFERENCE IN NLL TITLE SHOWDOWN
CITO CULVER NO LONGER A SWITCH-HITTER
BUD WAS A DUD IN CONTROVERSIAL NON-RULING
When this Major League Baseball season began, two of the highest-rated teams were the American League Angels and the National League Dodgers.
It was entirely reasonable to project an All-Los Angeles World Series.
We’re only two weeks into May and the Angels and Dodgers are in deep trouble. They’re loaded with high-priced, high-profile players, but too many of them have more impressive bank accounts than performance lines. Injuries are a major factor, but both teams appear to have too many fat-cat players. Some of them could be coasting. They lack financial incentive because they’re making so much guaranteed money for so many more years.
Angels: They have the seventh-highest payroll in baseball and were expected to have an awesome batting attack with newcomer Josh Hamilton to complement Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendick. So far, no good...Hamilton appears smaller (hint hint?) and lost at the plate. Pujols is playing with a painful foot injury and has no speed in the field or on the bases. Trout has been OK but not great.
He and Trumbo figure to step up, but would it be too late?...Pitching has been disappointing. (4.66 ERA ranks 13th in the 15-team AL). Ace Jered Weaver has been sidelined since suffering a left elbow injury in his second start. Joe Blanton is 0-6. The bullpen has been spotty...The team expected to overpower opponents has been outscored 176-142 and outhomered 42-38. The Angels lead the AL with 27 errors...Manager Mike Scioscia is feeling the heat despite a long-term contract...The team is playing with no confidence and pressing in the tough AL West (Texas is 21-13; the Angels are 12-22)...I’m not giving up yet on this team but I’m already worried.
Dodgers: The second-highest-paid team in baseball (behind only the Yankees) enter Friday on a seven-game losing streak and have a 13-20 record. They rank 11th in the 15-team NL in runs, slugging percentage and total bases. Lack of clutch hitting has been the biggest disappointment...Star outfielders Matt Kemp (.272) and Andre Ethier (.243) have combined for only 4 HRs and 24 RBI...Shortstop Hanley Ramirez has missed all but four games because of injuries...The hottest hitter has been second baseman Nick Punto. That won’t last...Third baseman Luiz Cruz was hitting .090 (6x67) when he lost his starting job...Pitching ace Clayton Kershaw (3-2 record; 1.62 ERA) has received very little hitting support, Expensive free-agent import Zack Greinke suffered a broken collarbone during his second start of the season. He will return soon...I still believe the Dodgers can make the playoffs. A lineup including Kemp, Ethier, Carl Crawford and healthy Adrian Gonzalez and Henley Ramirez would be imposing. No team has a better RH-LF starting duo than Greinke and Kershaw...But the NL West is a very tough division (San Francisco, Arizona, Colorado and improving San Diego). It will be a tough climb.
LISA’S BOOBYTRAP IS BACK AND SHE LOOKS SHARP
Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack fan favorite Lisa’s Boobytrap returned to the races on Tuesday and won for the first time since Nov. 7, 2011.
The six-year-old mare attracted national attention three summers ago with an improbable rags-to-riches story after she was purchased in Florida by struggling trainer Tim Snyder for $4,500 ($2,000 down plus the balance to be paid if and when won anything on the track). She was unraced, had a club foot and was blind in one eye, but Snyder believed she had potential as a runner.
Tim thought the filly was somehow connected to his late wife, Lisa, who had died of cancer after telling him that she’d like to be reincarnated as a racehorse. He named the filly after Lisa a strip club near a track in Florida.
Snyder solved Lisa’s Boobytrap’s ailments and she suddenly became a racing sensation. She rolled up a string of lopsided victories at Finger Lakes and then won a minor stakes race at Saratoga. Snyder turned down big-money offers and vowed to never sell her.
Lisa’s Boobytrap had some problems in 2012 and raced only three times. She had two seconds and one third.
She was quietly entered in a $20,600 allowance raceTuesday afternoon at Finger Lakes. She went off at even money in a tough field of five, including Nicole’s Miss El (second in last year’s Susan B. Anthony Stakes) and hard-knocking gelding Too Tough Pete. She took the lead at the break and won in wire-to-wire fashion. Her time (59:39 seconds) was the quickest five-furlong time for the young season.
Thumbs up to Tim Snyder for his patient handling to get his bread-winning pet back in gear and to the races. Her career line: 17 races...10 wins...2 seconds...3 thirds...career earning $180,000-plus.
Not a bad return on his $4,500 investment.
BASEBALL FACTS, STATS AND OPINIONS
Is it too early to suggest that Matt Harvey start the All-Star Game for the National League? In his seven starts this season, he has a 4-0 record and 1.28 ERA. His WHIP (hits + walks per inning) is a craszy 0.69. In 49 1/3 innings, he has allowed only 22 hits, with 12 walks and 58 strikeouts. Opponents have a .133 batting average...Some folks already are comparing him to Tom Seaver. That’s premature. Mets fans and media once said that about Dwight Gooden and look what happened to him. Hopefully, Harvey will take his job more seriously than Doc did.
--Adam Dunn (White Sox) is one of the toughest players to judge in baseball history. He has awesome power walks a lot and hits plenty of home runs (412 and counting – slowly). But he doesn’t hit enough singles, whiffs far too much, can’t field and is ridiculously slow afoot (his nickname is Big Donkey).
He was AL Comeback Player of the Year for 2012. He deserved it. Check out his numbers for 2011, 2012 and so far this season:
2011 -- .159 batting average (66x415)...11 HRs...42 RBI...75 walks...177 strikeouts
2012 -- .204 batting average (110x539)...41 HRs...96 RBI...105 walks...222 strikeouts
2013 -- .145 batting average (16x110)...6 HRs...12 RBI...12 walks...41 strikeouts.
--Update on How the projected Rochester Red Wings starting outfield is doing with the parent MinnesotaTwins):
LF Wilken Ramirez – 14 games... .346 batting average (9x26)...2 doubles...5 RBI
CF Aaron Hicks – 29 games... .133 batting average (13x98)...13 runs...2 doubles...1 triple...1 HR...13 RBI...14 walks...34 strikeouts...3 stolen bases
RF Oswaldo Arcia – 18 games... .313 batting average (20x64)...4 doubles...3 HRs...11 RBI.
--I thought the Yankees made a mistake in counting too much on closer Mariano Rivera and failing to retain Rafael Soriano as an expensive set-up man and closer insurance. They’re both doing very well this season:
Rivera – 15 games...13 saves...1.88 ERA...0.98 WHIP...14 1/3 innings...12 hits...2 walks...12 Ks
Soriano (Washington) – 16 games...12 saves...2.25 ERA...0.88 WHIP...16 innings...11 hits...3 walks...13 Ks.
--Mets and Twins reject Carlos Gomez (Milwaukee) leads the National League with a .386 batting average (44x144; 9 doubles; 3 triples; 6 HRs; 14 RBI; NL-best .675 slugging percentage and 1.106 OPS)...He is one of MLB’s biggest surprises so far this season. He always had the raw talent and finally has learned how to use it – at least for now).
KNIGHTHAWKS VS. STEALTH AN EVEN MATCH
The Rochester Knighthawks will attempt to defend their 2012 National Lacrosse League championship Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, against the Washington Stealth in Langley, B.C.
By all measures, these are two evenly-matched teams:
Regular-season records – Stealth 9-7...Knighthawks 8-8
Goal differential – Knighthawks +14 (179-165)...Stealth +1 (193-192)
Power play percentage – Knighthawks 49.2 (29x58)...Stealth 45.9 (34x74)
Shots on goal – Stealth 787...Knighthawks 739
Turnovers – Knighthawks 426...Stealth 462
Faceoff percentage – Stealth 61.9...Knighthawks 35.5
Washington appears to be the better offensive team, but Rochester is the better defensive team by a wider margin.
The Stealth have three big-time scoring threats: Rhys Duch (first-team NLL All-Pro), Lewis Ratcliff and former league MVP Athan Iannucci.
They combined for 98 goals and 112 assists this season.
Washington’s Mike Grimes was NLL second-team All-Pro defenseman this season.
Rochester has a significant advantage in goal with three-time All-Pro first team pick Matt Vinc over Tyler Richards.
The teams opened the season Jan. 5 in Washington. Attendance was 7,023. The Stealth won 13-12 in a game the Knighthawks did not get the better of the calls. That happens sometimes to road teams in the NLL.
Rochester won the rematch 7-6 at home Feb. 2 before 7,914 fans.
My prediction: The Stealth over the Knighthawks 14-12...Washington is due. This is the third trip to the title game in the last four years for Washington. And the home-field advantage is a big plus in the NLL...I won’t be surprised if Rochester wins and Dan Dawson is game MVP in pursuit of his first NLL title.
REMEMBER JOSE MESA?
The list of the all-time 133 pitchers who have at least 100 saves in Major League Baseball includes seven former Rochester Red Wings:
Jose Mesa – 321 MLB (14th on the list)
Joe Nathan – 306 (20th)
Armando Benitez – 289 (29th)
Danny Graves – 182 (56th)
Darold Knowles – 143 (t81st)
Joe Borowski – 131 (92nd)
B.J. Ryan – 117 (t106th).
Nathan appeared in three games on rehab for the Red Wings in 2011...Knowles has the distinction of being the only pitcher to appear in every game of a seven-game World Series.
UPDATING MINNESOTA’S FARM TEAMS
Since the Rochester Red Wings began the season 2-11, they were 12-9 entering Friday night.
Minnesota’s three other full-season affiliates started strong and haven’t cooled off:
New Britain Rock Cats (AA Eastern League) – 18-15 record...outscoring opponents by 31 runs (177-146)...4.04 ERA (7th of 12 teams)
Fort Myers Miracle (Advanced A Florida State League) – 26-7 record...outscoring opponents by 56 runs (189-133)...3.55 ERA (4th of 12 teams)
Cedar Rapids Kernals (Class A Midwest League) – 21-9
record...outscoring opponents by 51 runs (183-132)...3.65 ERA (5th of 16 teams).
New Britain, Fort Myers and Cedar Rapids all are leading their leagues in runs scored.
Rochester’s Cito Culver, the first-round draft pick of the New York Yankees, has yet to blossom as Derek Jeter’s potential successor at shortstop. He recently became a strictly right-handed batter. The former switch-hitter is hitting .221 (27x122) for the Charleston Riverdogs (Single-A South Atlantic League), with 5 doubles, 1 triple, 3 HRs, 11 RBI, 2x4 stolen bases, 16 walks and 38 strikeouts...Last season, he hit .215 with 2 HRs and 40 RBI for the Riverdogs...Cito is only 20 so he has plenty of time to improve.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig blew it Thursday. He should have ordered Wednesday night’s controversial “double” by Oakland’s Adam Rosales a home run to tie the score 4-4 in the top of the ninth inning and resumed play at that point on Thursday before the regularly scheduled game in Cleveland in order to determine the legitimate winner.
NBA playoff trends entering Friday night: Home teams are 30-23...26 of the 53 games were decided by 11-or-more points.
NHL playoff trends entering Friday night: Home teams are 21-12...17 of the 33 games were decided by one goal...11 of the 33 games went into overtime.
Sadly, it probably is only a matter of time before a baseball pitcher is killed by a line drive to the head. That being said, I don’t think it is realistic to come up with effective protective headgear that would not be too cumbersome.
NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal this week ranked the NFL’s eight divisions entering the 2013 season: NFC West...NFC North...AFC North...NFC South...NFL East...AFC South...ALC East...AFC West...No arguments here with the four voters (NFC West was unanimously best and AFC West was unanimously worst), but I give the AFC East a chance to improve a notch. Miami appears to be much improved, and Buffalo might also surprise (6-10 to maybe 8-8 tops).
The 95th PGA Championship History exhibit opens May 24 at the Rochester Museum and Science Center. The display of rare artifacts and memorabilia will run through Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2. The items include Jim Barnes’ driver used to win the inaugural PGA Championship in 1916, a walking stick used legendary Rochester product Walter Hagen; and the wedge used by Phil Mickelson to clinch his 2005 victory...The 95th PGA Championship will be played Aug. 5-11 at Oak Hill Country Club.
In thoroughbred horse racing, owners need permission from famous people in order to names horses after them. I guess New York Yankees star shortstop Derek Jeter passed on the opportunity. Tuesday at Finger Lakes, Jerek Deter, a New York state-bred, was a badly-beaten fourth in his first career start.
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.