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.