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.
BILLS OVER-UNDER PROJECTED WINS IS 6.5
RED WINGS ARE SORT OF BAD BECAUSE TWINS ARE VERY BAD
COULD MIGUEL SANO SKIP ROCHESTER?
EXPECTING THREE DIFFERENT WINNERS IN TRIPLE CROWN SERIES
SOME INTERESTING STATS AND FACTS
The wizards of odds in Las Vegas have issued their projected over/under win totals for the 2013 NFL season. The Buffalo Bills, after finishing 6-10 last year, are over/under 6.5 wins for this season.
I believe that is a reasonable number. Here are the over/under wins for this season (courtesy of online sports book Bovada.lv), with my comments:
Denver Broncos (13-3 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 11.5 wins – Peyton Manning is on a Super Bowl mission and I like his chances...The Broncos will miss DE Elvis Dumervil but the additions of Wes Welker and rookie RB Montee Ball make the offense even better...My recommendation:OVER
San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 11.5 wins – I’m surprised the 49ers aren’t 12 or 12.5...They’re probably the NFL’s most-talented and deepest team...My very strong recommendation:OVER
New England Patriots (12-4 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 11.5 wins – The Patriots still are the team to beat in the AFC East, but Tom Brady is 35, WR Wes Welker is gone, the running game is suspect and the defense has ranked 25th, 31st and 25th the past three seasons....My recommendation: slightly UNDER
Atlanta Falcons (13-3 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 10.5 wins – Upgrade at RB with Steven Jackson over fading Michael Turner. The Falcons have a dynamite passing attack (Matt Ryan to Julio Jones, Roddy White and un-retired tight end Tony Gonzalez...Coming off coach Mike Smith’s first playoff victory in his five years...The ??? is the secondary...My strong recommendation:OVER
Green Bay Packers (11-5 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 10.5 wins – Aaron Rodgers is the NFL’s best QB...Running game should improve with rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathon Franklin...Offensive line shored up after allowing 51 sacks last season...Kicker Mason Crosby figures to rebound from a horrible 2012 season...My recommendation: OVER
Houston Texans (12-4 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 10.5 wins – Quality additions in rookie WR DeAndre Hopkins (to complement Andre Johnson) and safety Ed Reed...LB Brian Cushing is healthy again...Pass rush suspect after J.J. Watt and I still don’t trust QB Matt Schaub...My recommendation:UNDER
Seattle Seahawks (11-5 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 10.5 wins – The trendy AFC pick to win Super Bowl 48. I’m not aboard yet...Excellent and aggressive young defense (allowed NFL-low 15.3 points per game) adds veteran CB Antoine Winfield...Also added pass rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, and multi-purpose big-play threat Percy Harvin to complement sensational sophomore QB Russell Wilson and RB Marshawn Lynch...Major ??? is team discipline....My recommendation:OVER
New Orleans Saints (7-9 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 9.5 wins – Forget last season. Coach Sean Payton returns from his 2012 suspension. That means the offense should be even better. The new-look 3-4 defensive has to improve over last season’s disaster...Defensive tackles a concern... my recommendation: OVER
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 9.5 wins -- Banking on a healthy QB Ben Roethlisberger and immediate major contributions from rookies RB Le’Veon Bell, WR Markus Wheaton and LB Jarvis Jones... That’s asking a lot...My recommendation:UNDER
New York Giants (9-7 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 9 wins – Tom Coughlin’s Giants have a habit of starting fast and fading down the stretch. The last seven games on the schedule appear to be a difficult assignment...This looks like a fading team to me...My strong recommendation:UNDER
Baltimore Ravens (10-6 record last season and won Super Bowl 47) over/under for 2013 is 8.5 wins – I wonder if any defending Super Bowl champion had an over/under as low as 8.5 wins for the next season...Lots of changes...Used draft to upgrade defense...Will miss spirit of Ray Lewis...I’m not sold on QB Joe Flacco as an elite QB off one excellent postseason...My recommendation: Too close to have a strong opinion
Chicago Bears (10-6 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 8.5 wins – New coach Marc Trestman figures to get the most out of QB Jay Cutler...My recommendation: slightly OVER
Cincinnati Bengals (10-6 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 8.5 wins – How good is QB Andy Dalton. I don’t think he’ll get any better...I don’t think the defense is as good as it looked the second half of last season...My recommendation:UNDER
Dallas Cowboys (8-8 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 8.5 wins – Coach Jason Garrett is 21-19 and there aren’t many reasons to expect this flawed and aging team to be any better than .500 again...My recommendation:slightly UNDER
Indianapolis Colts (11-5 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 8.5 wins – Emotion took this team a long way in 2012...Opponents won’t take the Colts so lightly this season...Porous offensive line and some big changes on defense...My recommendation:UNDER
Washington Redskins (10-6 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 8 wins – It all depends on second-year QB Robert Griffin III’s damaged knee. He might mean more to his team as any other player in the NFL...No over/under recommendation.
Carolina Panthers (7-9 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 7.5 wins – 5-1 finish last year inspired high hopes for this season...My recommendation:slightly UNDER
Detroit Lions (4-12 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 7.5 wins – Underachieved last season and likely will be better this year – but not four games better...My recommendation:slightly UNDER
Kansas City Chiefs (2-14 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 7.5 wins – Underachieved last season...New coach Andy Reid should be worth at least two more wins himself...Other assets include new QB Alex Smith and No. 1 overall draft pick DT Eric Fisher...My recommendation: slightly OVER
Miami Dolphins (7-9 record last season, including five losses by 7 points or less) over-under for 2013 is 7.5 wins – Busy offseason probably a plus overall...Expect second-year QB Ryan Tannehill to improve...likely to go at least 3-1 vs. AL East rivals Buffalo and Jets...My strong recommendation:OVER
Minnesota Vikings (10-6 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 7.5 wins –RB Adrian Peterson’s goal is 2,500 yards rushing this season. The team would be better off with a more-balanced attack but I’m not sure QB Christian Ponder can hold up his end...My recommendation:slightly UNDER
Philadelphia Eagles (4-12 record last season) over/under is 7.5 wins this season – Should at least finish .500 with innovative new coach Chip Kelly...My recommendation:solidly OVER
St. Louis Rams (7-8-1 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 7.5 wins–Second-year coach Jeff Fisher is making bold moves and most of them look good...Time for QB Sam Bradford to step up...WR Tavon Austin and LB Alec Ogletree should be instant impact rookies...My recommendation:OVER
San Diego Chargers (7-9 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 7.5 wins – New coach Mike McCoy must wish he had the talent lode departed Norv Turner messed up for all those years....My recommendation:UNDER
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 7.5 wins -- Closed 1-5 last season and QB Josh Freeman regressed...My recommendation: UNDER
Buffalo Bills (6-10 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 6.5 wins – If rookie QB EJ Manuel is the real deal and ready to play right away, the Bills would have one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL. The defense could be at least average...My recommendation:slightly OVER
Cleveland Browns (5-11 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 6.5 wins – New coordinator Norv Turner might give the offense a boost but this team still needs more playmakers on both sides of the ball...My recommendation:slightly UNDER
Tennessee Titans (6-10 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 6.5 wins – There is no reason to expect dramatic improvement from this team...Needs RB Chris Johnson to be more consistent and QB Jake Locker to play much better...My recommendation:UNDER
Arizona Cardinals (5-11 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 5.5 wins – A full-scale makeover under new GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians figures to pay dividends but not immediately...QB Carson Palmer has seen better days but he’s smart enough to throw more often to Larry Fitzgerald...My recommendation:slightly UNDER
(Oakland Raiders (4-12 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 5.5 wins – A team in transition...New QB Matt Flynn isn’t likely to take the NFL by storm...Defense could have up to nine new starters...My recommendation:UNDER
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14 record last season) over/under for 2013 is 5 wins – RB Maurice Jones-Drew can’t carry this feeble team even when he’s healthy...My recommendation:UNDER.
TWINS WOES SPILL OVER TO ROCHESTER
The Rochester Red Wings are 21-30 and hardly resemble a playoff contender in the International League. The weather is the main reason Rochester ranks 12th in the 14-team league in average home attendance (4,001 per 24 openings). That’s above only Syracuse (3,664) and Charlotte (3,474).
But maybe some fans are tuning out on the Red Wings because of three-plus seasons of far-below average baseball by the good guys.
I’m sure the parent Minnesota Twins (21-28 record) aren’t happy about another losing team in Rochester. They must know that many fans and (I assume) at least some Red Wings officials are becoming increasingly frustrated by the chances for another losing season.
The biggest problem for the Twins is the lack of talent at the major-league, Triple-A and Double-A levels. Minnesota has one star in his prime (Joe Mauer), a slugger who appears to have lost his power (Justin Morneau) and a couple of other useful players, but too many of the guys on the 25-man roster would be on the bench of most other MLB teams or playing in Triple-A.
The Wings would have an impressive lineup with struggling Aaron Hicks and/or Chris Parmalee, but they’re currently in the majors only because Minnesota has no better options.
I’m sure Twins GM Terry Ryan would prefer to have his top hitting prospects get at least 500 at-bats at the Triple-A level. Case in point, 23-year-old Hicks.
Hicks is hitting a mere .161 (25x155) for the Twins, with 5 doubles, 1 triple, 5 HRs, 17 RBI, 17 walks, 47 strikeouts and 4 stolen bases. He’s playing solid defense. Give him that. But he’s still starting because he’s the only genuine center fielder on the roster. Darin Mastroianni has been bothered by ankle chips, had surgery last week and probably won’t be ready until after the All-Star Game break.
Oswaldo Arcia, after a hot start with Rochester, was promoted and played 30 games for the Twins (.255, 4 HRs, 14 RBI) before being returned to the Red Wings days ago.
Joe Mauer went directly from Double-A to Minnesota – skipping a stint in Rochester in the process.
I’m starting to worry that the same thing might happen to top prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Braxton.
Sano continues to tear up the Single-Advanced Florida State League for the Fort Myers Miracle (35-14 record). He leads the league in home runs, total bases, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
After hitting a homer in both games of a doubleheader last week, the 20-year-old third baseman said he hoped to be playing with Minnesota by September – or at least by Opening Day next season.
Center fielder Byron Braxton, the No. 2 pick in the 2012 entry draft, is the top player on the Single-A Cedar Rapids Kernels (30-19 record). In 48 games, he’s hitting .324, with 50 runs, 11 doubles, 5 triples, 7 HRs, 38 RBI and 23x31 stolen bases.
In a strong organization – with an abundance of talent at every level – Sano and Braxton wouldn’t be rushed. They’d spend at least one season at Triple-A to polish their skills and gain more confidence. It worked for Bobby Grich and Don Baylor on the great Red Wings team in 1971.
But can the Twins afford that luxury? For the sake of Red Wings fans, I hope so. But after seeing what’s happening with Aaron Hicks in Minnesota, I’m far from certain.
I’LL TAKE THE FIELD OVER ORB AND OXCBOW IN THE BELMONT STAKES
A few weeks ago, thoroughbred racing was dreaming of the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed on 1978. Orb was coming off a very impressive victory in the Kentucky Derby and went off as the 3-to-5 favorite in the Preakness Stakes two weeks later.
But Orb fell victim to a slower pace, traffic congestion and a dry track at Pimlico. He finished a non-threatening fourth. Oxbow won in a very slow time.
The Belmont Stakes – the third jewel in the Triple Crown – will be run June 8 at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Instead of a small field against potential Triple Crown winner Orb, there figure to be at least 12 horses in the starting gate. Orb and Oxbow have not scared away the opposition.
Some prominent handicappers already are touting Revolutionary to win the Belmont Stakes. He finished third in the Kentucky Derby and then skipped the Preakness in favor of resting up for the Belmont.
Itsmyluckyday and Mylute, second and third in the Preakness, won’t be entered in the Belmont.
But Belmont starters could include four colts that ran in the Derby and then skipped the Preakness – Golden Soul (2nd in the Derby), Giant Finish (10th), Overanalyze (11th) and Palace Malice (12th after setting a blistering pace).
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas might start filly Unlimited Budget. Only three fillies have won the Belmont Stakes: Ruthless in 1867, Tanya in 1905 and Rags to Riches in 2007.
Rosie Napravnik would ride long shot Code West Bob. She’d be out to join Julie Krone as the only women jockeys to win a Triple Crown race. Krone won the 1993 Belmont Stakes with 13-to-1 Colonial Affair.
Disappointing Will Take Charge – 8th in the Derby and 7th in the Preakness – is expected to get a chance for redemption.
One thing we probably won’t see is this year’s Belmont winner crack the all-time top three victory margins in the Belmont Stakes: 31 lengths by Secretariat in 1973; 25 lengths by Count Fleet in 1943; and 20 lengths by Man o’ War in 1920. Those were great, great horses. None of the starters in this year’s Belmont Stakes are nearly that good.
For the record, in the years all three Triple Crown races were run, here are the number of different winners in the three races:
One horse won all three – 11 times (the Triple Crown champions)
One horse won two of the three races – 51 times
Three different horses won one race – 71 times (soon to be 72 times, in my opinion).
If San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker wasn’t a likely Pro Basketball Hall of Famer before Monday night, he probably is now. He’s been underrated for far too long.
All-time best NBA power forward: Karl Malone or Tim Duncan?
One of the main reasons the New York Rangers were knocked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs: 4x44 (9.1 percent) on the power play.
I’m amazed that the Atlanta Braves are 30-20 and leading the NL East despite incredibly poor hitting by two-thirds of the starting outfield: B.J. Upton .148 (23x155), 4 HRs, 8 RBI, 16 walks, 60 whiffs, 3 stolen bases...Jason Heyward .163 (15x92), 2 HRs, 8 RBI, 14 walks, 19 whiffs, 1 stolen base.
Major League Baseball’s .252 cumulative batting average is the lowest since 1972. The American League adopted the designated hitter in 1973. Is it time for the National League to give it a try?
Jose Canseco has more than 500,000 Twitter followers. Why?
According to nfl.com, the six NFL teams with the oldest projected starters this season are Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Washington, Denver and New England. The three youngest: Cleveland, Kansas City and Buffalo.
nbadraft.net ‘s 2013 NBA mock draft has former Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams going No. 10 overall to Portland and former SU teammate James Southerland going No. 43 to Milwaukee.
Worst team in MLB: Miami Marlins (13-38 record; outscored by 84 runs) over the Houston Astros (15-36 record; outscored by 90 runs)...Miami is last in MLB in batting average (.222), runs (138) and HRs (26).
MLB leaders in run differential: St. Louis +69...Detroit +67...Cincinnati +64...The Cardinals also have MLB’s best record (33-17) and road record (19-9).
Miguel Cabrera (Detroit) American League Triple Crown Chase update: .377 batting average is No. 1...57 RBI are No. 1...14 HRs tied for 2nd (leader Chris Davis has 16 HRs).
Chris Davis (Baltimore) has been overshadowed by Cabrera but is enjoying a great season.He leads the AL in HRs (16), is second in the AL in RBI (46) and tied for 2nd in batting average (.341). He also leads MLB in slugging percentage (.716).
Sorry, but I can’t get excited about Brittney Griner tying the WNBA all-time record for career dunks during games (2 by Candace Parker in 119 games) in her league debut Monday night for the Phoenix Mercury. But I know the 10,200 home fans for her WNBA debut loved it.
The Syracuse Crunch continue to impress in pursuit of their first Calder Cup. They’re 8-1 and have outscored opponents 35-21. They’re tied with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 1-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals.
SMERLAS AND BOB WARMING UP TO BILLS
BEST BASEBALL PLAYER: GIVE ME TROUT OVER CABRERA
COT DEAL DID IT ALL FOR THE RED WINGS
NCAA LACROSSE CHAMPIONSHIPS SHOW OFF NYS TEAMS
The Answer Man makes another spring visit:
QUESTION: Fred Smerlas and you were talking up the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday night’s show. Was I hearing things?
ANSWER: No, you heard right. Fred and I both think the Bills will be an improved team this season.
I’m not ready to jump on the playoff bandwagon. By “improved,” I mean in the 7-9 or 8-8 range.
Fred and I both are impressed with Buffalo’s offensive potential. Quite a few things have to pan out, but I’m going out on a limb by projecting the Bills to finish in the top 10 in total offense.
What’s to like about the offense?
Doug Marrone is an offensive-minded head coach. He won’t be as conservative on Sundays as Chan Gailey tended to be. He probably realizes that his team currently has a better chance to win slugfests than defensive duels.
Rookie EJ Manuel has the physical tools to be Buffalo’s first “franchise quarterback” since Jim Kelly. Five rookie QBs started Week 1 last season. Why not Manuel this season?
I don’t believe Buffalo is a legitimate threat to end its 13-year playoff drought this season – no matter which QB starts. So why not give Manuel on-the-job-training. The more snaps he takes this season, the more prepared he’ll be next season.
The Bills last season arguably had the NFL’s weakest collection of wide receivers. Three speedy rookies – Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and Da’Rick Rogers have the potential to spread the field and connect on many more long passes with Manuel than last year’s less-gifted WRs had with Ryan Fltzpatrick. Opponents won’t be able to focus on stopping Stevie Johnson.’
C.J. Spiller probably is among the NFL’s five-best running backs and should thrive in Marrone’s big-play offense.
Some analysts believe seventh-round draft pick tight end Chris Gragg could be a steal. Catching passes is his strength.
The offensive line figures to be average – a significant improvement over most of the past 13 years.
Buffalo’s offense could be even more dangerous if strong-legged rookie kicker Dustin Hopkins can beat out veteran Rian Lindell.
Buffalo’s defense also has the potential to improve, but I won’t be sold until the linebackers prove they can be an upgrade.
At the very least, if all goes reasonably well, the Bills should be one of the NFL’s most exciting teams to watch. It’s been a long time since we could envision that.
QUESTION: Who is the best baseball player today?
ANSWER:Mike Trout. No doubt in my mind.
Miguel Cabrera even more obviously is the best hitter in baseball. Entering the last week in May, it will be an upset if he DOESN’T win his second straight Triple Crown (lead the American League in batting average, home runs and runs-batted-in).
Here’s how Cabera ranks in the American League in the three Triple Crown categories entering Friday night:
.391 batting average (1st)...No. 2 James Loney .350
14 home runs (2nd)...No. 1 Chris Davis 15
55 RBIs (1st)...No. 2 Chris Davis 44.
I’ve always given Cabrera props for moving from first base to third base last before last season to make room for free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder. Cabrera never will win a Gold Glove for defense at third, but he’s at least adequate.
Trout is the total package. I know this is saying a lot and premature, but I believe he can be a healthy Mickey Mantle.
Trout started slowly this season, but any worries about a sophomore jinx have vanished with a strong May:
April -- .261 batting average (29x111), 9 doubles, 2 triples, 2 HRs, 16 RBI, 4x5 stolen bases
May 1 through May 24 -- .359 (28x78), 4 doubles, 3 triples, 8 HRs, 19 RBI, 6x8 stolen bases.
He also is a Gold Gold-caliber outfielder and the defending AL stolen-base champion.
COT DEAL, RED WINGS HALL OF FAQMER, DIES AT 90
Ellis “Cot” Deal, the first manager of the Rochester Community Baseball Red Wings, died Tuesday in his native Oklahoma has died. He was 90.
In 1957, after more than 8,000 shareholders purchased the Red Wings franchise from the St, Louis Cardinals, Deal was named manager the community-owned team.
Part of the deal between St. Louis and Rochester was for the Cardinals to stock the Red Wings. St. Louis had two Triple-A affiliates at the time – Rochester and Omaha. The Cardinals owned Omaha and assigned most of their high-end veteran Triple-A players there. Deal’s Wings got most of the leftovers. Rochester was 74-80 in 1957 and 77-75 in 1958.
As far as I know, Deal was the oldest living Red Wing when he passed away this week. He was lucky he lived beyond 36.
On July 7 26, 1959, during a game in Havana shortly after the Cuban Revolution, Deal gave umpire Frank Guzzetta the choke sign after a poor call. Guzzetta supposedly told Deal during the argument that he feared making a close call against the Sugar Kings because many fans and soldiers in the capacity fired-up crowd had machetes and guns.
Before leaving the field, Deal designated infielder Frank Verdi to take over the third-base coaching duties. The game was called when a stray bullet struck Verdi’s helmet liner. The bullet bloodied Verdi’s ear and landed on his shoulder. Deal didn’t wear a helmet liner. Who knows what could have happened if he had been protected? Deal did not wear a helmet liner. He might have been seriously wounded or worse.
The Wings were in a 5-20 slump Aug. 1, 1959, when Deal reigned.
Deal was one of the most popular and versatile Red Wing players. He spent portions of seven seasons with Rochester. He was steady right-handed starting pitcher, a switch-hitting part-time outfielder . He even caught in a pinch.
Here were his best years:
1952 – 14-9 record; 3.56 ERA... .277 batting average; 5 HRs; 22 RBI
1953 – 16-9 record; 3.72 ERA... .279 batting average; 2 HRs; 30 RBI
1956 – 15-7 record; 4.39 ERA... .311 batting average; 7 HRs; 2 RBI.
Deal hurt his arm in spring training 1948 and never fulfilled his potential.
In brief stints with the Boston Red Sox and Cardinals, he was 3-4 with a 6.55 ERA. He later was the pitching coach for six major-league teams.
Deal was elected to the Red Wings Hall of Fame in the Class of 1994.
NEW YORK STATE LACROSSE ON DISPLAY IN NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
Four of the eight teams in this weekend’s NCAA men’s lacrosse championships are from New York State – Cornell and Duke in Division I, LeMoyne in Division II and RIT in Division III. That’s not bad.
Here’s the schedule for the games at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia:
Saturday – Division I semifinals...Cornell vs. Duke 2:30 p.m. ... top-seed Syracuse vs. Denver 5 p.m.
Sunday – Division II national championship game: LeMoyne vs. Mercyhurst 1 p.m. ... Division III national championship game: RIT Tigers vs. Stevenson 4 p.m.
Monday – Division I championship game – Cornell or Duke vs. Syracuse or Denver 1 p.m.
The coaches of all three champions could be Section V products: Cornell’s Ben DeLuca (McQuaid), Mercyhurst’s Chris Ryan (Irondequoit) and Stevenson’s Paul Cantebene (Irondequoit)...RIT coach Jake Coon was a goalie for Nazareth and the Tigers have six Section V players...Ryan has 18 Section V products on his team.
IF RELIABLE RAZORSHARKS CARRY WINNING SPORTS BANNER FOR ROCHESTER
BIGGEST LOSER IN THE PREAKNESS STAKES WAS THE BELMONT STAKES
THE AMAZING MIGUEL CABRERA
Thank goodness for the Rochester RazorSharks.
For those of you who haven’t noticed, several of our pro teams aren’t doing so well heading into this summer.
The Red Wings have an 18-26 record after Sunday’s 11-0 romp at Lehigh Valley. That’s no surprise, considering that the expected three starting outfielders (Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia and Wilkin Ramirez) and two possible infielders (Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar) all are currently playing for the Minnesota Twins and about half of Rochester’s preferred Opening Day pitching staff began the season on the disabled list.
The pitching has the potential to improve, particularly if the deep starting rotation consisting of Kyle Gibson, P.J.Walters, Samuel Deduno, Andrew Albers, Liam Hendriks and Cole De Vries remains intact and healthy. The bullpen is less likely to improve.
There are two very promising starting pitchers at Double-A New Britain (Trevor May and Alex Meyer) but they aren’t dominating the Eastern League and barring injuries to Rochester’s starters, it is unlikely they’ll be rushed to Triple-A to bolster the bullpen.
Rochester’s 4.65 ERA ranks 10th in the 14-team International League and the Wings have been outscored by 43 runs in 44 games. With 100 games remaining on the schedule, it is difficult to project the prolonged stretch of winning baseball that would be needed to become a playoff contender.
There hasn’t been enough hitting to offset the below-average pitching. The exception has been first baseman Chris Colabello. The seven-year veteran of independent league baseball has been the story of the young season for Rochester – if not the entire IL. In his second pro season at age 29, here’s how Colabello ranked in the IL entering Monday:
.361 batting average (3rd)
61 hits (1st)
111 total bases (1st)
11 HRs (t1st)
.657 slugging percentage (2nd)
17 doubles (2nd)
34 RBI (3rd).
The last Red Wing to hit at least 30 HRs and drive in more than 100 runs in one season was legendary slugger Jim Fuller in 1973 – 40 years ago. He had 39 HRs and 108 RBI. He was the IL MVP despite batting only .247 and striking out a team-record 197 times. At his current pace, Colabello would hit 36 HRs and drive in 111 runs.
I hope for Colabello’s sake that his pursuit of those numbers is curtailed by a well-deserved promotion to Minnesota . There is a good chance that Twins veteran first baseman Justin Morneau will be traded before the deadline. He’s in the last year of his contract and could help a contending team as a DH-first baseman. Colabello would be the reasonable man to replace him on Minnesota’s roster.
The Rhinos, touted as a high-scoring team entering this USL Pro season, have a 1-6 -1 record and have been outscored by a ridiculous 17-4 margin. I have no idea what sort of attendance the team is drawing at Sahlen’s Stadium, but I fear they’ll be closer to “gatherings” than “crowds” if the team’s level of play doesn’t significantly improve – quickly.
Replacing frustrated coach Jesse Myers with tried-and-true Pat Ercoli Sunday was a move waiting to happen and certainly can’t hurt. Too bad Pat couldn’t turn back the clock to bring back a half-dozen or so of his former Rhinos in their primes.
The Rattlers are 1-3 in Major League Lacrosse. The team has lots of talent – this is the best outdoor lacrosse league in the world – but most of the league’s other teams appear to have more.
The Rattlers never have drawn decent crowds in Rochester – not even when they were MLL’s best team. It didn’t help this year when there was virtually no publicity in the preseason and the schedule included two “home” games in two other states.
The state of the Rattlers appears shaky at best.
The RazorSharks are 12-1 in the IBA-PBL and outscoring opponents by 16.8 points per game. The only problem (besides some apparent Rochester-biased officiating in one notorious title series) that I’ve had with the well-managed team through the years is trying to figure out exactly how good or bad the competition has been. The front office has the winning formula and has dominated with superior coaching and players. But how does the overall talent level in the Ieague measure up with the NBA D-League and the other basketball minor leagues. I have no idea. Does anyone?
And – does it matter? Everyone loves a winner. The RazorSharks usually pad their home live attendance (just like every other pro team in town) but have developed a fair-sized fan base and loyal following. As long as the team continues to beat up on inferior competition, it figures to continue to do well at the turnstiles and at the box office – no matter where it plays.
BELMONT STAKES NO BIG DEAL AS TRIPLE CROWN DROUGHT HITS 36 YEARS
Oxbow’s upset win in the Preakness Stakes was a big victory for jockey Gary Stevens and trainer D. Wayne Lukas but a huge loss for horse racing in general and the Belmont Stakes in particular.
Orb’s powerful performance in the Kentucky Derby made him the 3-to-5 favorite in the Preakness last Saturday. There wasn’t a trainer in the nine-horse race that didn’t say Orb was the class of the field.
So why did Orb lose?
Everything that right went right for Orb and jockey Joel Rosario in the Kentucky Derby went wrong in the Preakness – the weather, the pace of the race and racing luck.
Before the Derby, no one knew how Orb would fare on a sloppy track.
He wound up liking the muddy surface more than any horse in the 19-horse field. Rain was in the forecast for Baltimore last Saturday afternoon but the track was dry and fast for the big race.
Orb took advantage of a blistering early pace in the Derby. 24-to-1 pacesetter Palace Malice’s fractions were 22:57 (1/4 mile), 45:33 (1/2 mile) and 1:09.80(3/4 mile). Palace Malice was finished when the serious running began. The horses trying to keep up with him early also ran out of gas. The race set up for the closers and Orb closed fastest of all. He circled the field on the final turn and won going away by 2 ½ lengths.
Orb had no such pace luck in the Preakness.
Oxbow, a 15-to-1 long shot, under heady veteran jockey Gary Stevens, cruised to the early lead and was able to set comfortable fractions (23:94; 48:60; 1:13:28). The other speed horses were content to stalk rather than fight for the lead.
Oxbow had plenty left in the tank and stole the race by a misleading 1 ¾ lengths. It wasn’t that close. Oxbow’s 1:57.54 was the slowest winning Preakness time since 1961 but no one in the Oxbow camp was apologizing.
Orb prefers to race wide to avoid traffic and get a clear run through the stretch. But he drew the dreaded No. 1 post for the Preakness. He was boxed in for most of the race and couldn’t get to the outside to make his customary late run. He finished a disappointing fourth.
The only way thoroughbred racing gets major national attention is the pursuit of the Triple Crown – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Unfortunately, the annual Breeders’ Cup usually pales in comparison.
But Orb went from stud to dud. From awesome Kentucky Derby champ to 3x5–favored chump in the Preakness. The Triple Crown drought now is 36 years.
I’m sure Belmont Park will try to sell an Orb vs. Oxbow showdown for the June 8 Belmont Stakes. But for the sporting public at large, it figures to be just another horse race.
Assuming Orb and Oxbow both are entered , they aren’t likely to scare off any fresh challengers in the Belmont Stakes. I believe it is more likely that we’ll see three different winners in this year’s Triple Crown races than Orb or Oxbow double up.
MIGUEL CABRERA PICKING UP THE TRIPLE CROWN SLACK
No thoroughbred horse has won a Triple Crown since 1978.
Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera has a big shot to become the first baseball player EVER to win consecutive Triple Crowns (lead his league in hitting, home runs and runs-batted-in).
If you watched Cabera’s hitting performance Sunday night, you probably wouldn’t bet against him He was 4x4 with 3 HRs and 5 RBI in an 11-8 road loss to Texas.
Here’s how Cabrera measures up in the three Triple Crown categories in the American League (entering Monday):
.387 batting average (1st......No. 2 James Loney is hitting .356)
11 home runs (t2nd....one behind Mark Reynolds, Robinson Cano, Chris Davis and Edwin Encarnacion)
47 RBI (1st...No. 2 Chris Davis has 40).
Cabrera is one of the relatively few sluggers earning his mammoth long-term contract (8 years for $152.3 million...through 2015). And baseball’s best hitter seldom misses a game.
GRADING THE BASEBALL TEAMS AT THE ONE-QUARTER MARK
Here are Bob’s grades for the 32 Major League Baseball teams one-quarter into this season. The grades reflect overall performance and performance compared to preseason expectations:
American League: Yankees A+...Cleveland A+...Boston A-...Texas A...Kansas City B-...Baltimore C+...Minnesota C+...Oakland C...Seattle C...Tampa Bay C...White Sox C...Detroit C-....Houston D...Angels D-...Toronto D-
National League: Atlanta A-...Arizona B+...Pittsburgh B+...Colorado B+...Cincinnati B...St. Louis B...San Diego C+...Cubs C...Mets C...Philadelphia C...San Francisco C...Washington C-...Miami C-...Milwaukee D+...Dodgers D.
One of the many reasons the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. The Chicago Blackhawks would be an intriguing Stanley Cup Finals matchup:
Pittsburgh’s playoff-best power play (10x31; 32.3 percent) vs. Chicago’s playoff-best penalty killing (24x24; 1.000 percent).
I don’t think the left-field fence at Frontier Field should be moved in as much as it was for last Saturday night’s Legends Game, but I can’t say the same for the left-centerfield wall. With the end of the Steroid Era, several major-league teams reduced their outfield dimensions for this season. I think it would be appropriate to do the same at Frontier.
Shorter fences would mean fewer long flyouts, more doubles and home runs and more fun for most fans who prefer crooked numbers over OOOOOOs on the scoreboard.
The Wegmans LPGA Championship next month will be a huge success. It always is. But honestly, can you name five winners on the LPGA Tour this year?
You have to like Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. In an out-of-town radio interview last week, he said Buffalo’s offensive system is less complicated and more suited to his football talents than the one at Florida State. He said he’s having fun and doing well. If he’s the best QB in training camp, should he start Week 1? I don’t see why not.
Couldn’t Dwight Freeney have helped Buffalo’s pass rush?
The Syracuse Crunch are doing pretty well in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs: 7-0 record; outs coring opponents 30-15.
Yankees TV ratings and attendance are down despite the team’s surprising record. The weather hasn’t helped, but have the injured big-name stars been missed more at the gate than in the standings? Starpower sells.
I know there was a full-page ad and almost a full page devoted to local golf listings, but it was good to see the 12-page sports section in Sunday’s Democrat and Chronicle.
Fort Myers Miracle/Cedar Rapids Kernels update: Minnesota’s two Single-A teams are a combined 60-24 and outscoring opponents by a combined 131 runs.
Only in the New York Post Department: In an article by Joel Sherman analyzing the job being done by New York Mets manager Terry Collins, the headline and drophead read: That’s a Bunch of Junk: Roster of rubbish makes it impossible to evaluate Collins.
For the record: The four Buffalo Bills drafts overseen by Buddy Nix: 2010 C.J. Spiller, Torrell Troup, Alex Carrington, Marcus Easley, Ed Wang, Arthur Moats, Danny Batten, Lervi Brown, Kyle Calloway...2011 Marcell Dareus, Aaron Williams, Kelvin Sheppard, Da’Norris Searcy, Chris Hairston, Johnny White, Chris White, Snow White (just seeing if you’re paying attention), Justoin Rogers, bit Michael Jasper...2012 Stephon Gilmore, Cordy Glenn, T.J. Graham, Nigel Bradham, Ron Brooks, Zebrie Sanders, Tank Carder, Mark Asper...2013 EJU Manuel, Robert Woods, Kiko Alonso, Marquise Goodwin, Duke Williams, Jonathon Meeks, Dustin Hopkins, Chris Gragg.
The Baltimore Orioles, 29-9 in one-run games last season, are 6-6 in one-run games this season. The Cleveland Indians are 11-3 and the Yankees are 8-3.