DROPPING OUT OF THE MICHAEL VS. KING JAMES DEBATE
O’S DAVIS COULD THWART CABRERA’S BID FOR UNPRECEDENTED TRIPLE CROWN REPEAT
JOSH HAMILTON CAPTAIN OF BASEBALL’S TOP FLOP TEAM
NFL.COM EXPERTS NOT SO HOT ON THE BILLS
BREAKING DOWN ABBY’S 160 GOALS
ASTROS ARE HOT AND DODGERS ARE NOT
WRITER LEAVES BRUCE SMITH OFF BULLS’ MOUNT RUSHMORE
I’m had enough of the Michael Jordan vs. LeBron James “all-time best NBA player” debate. It’s a waste of time.
I believe most of us consider the dynamic duo to be the two best basketball players ever.
I also believe that those who favor Jordan never will change their minds. They won’t give James the credit he deserves – no matter how much he improves and accomplishes.
LeBron dominated Game 7 of the NBA Finals Thursday night – a hard-fought 95-88 victory over the classy San Antonio Spurs.
There were several other great players on the court, but James was a step above them all – a big step.
Does everyone appreciate that James is only 28 years old? He’s getting better every season. He has lots of games to play.
He was the No. 1 overall pick out of high school. He turned 20 in December of his rookie year. He averaged 20.9 points that first season on raw talent. He wasn’t a good shooter. He has worked to get better.
Here are James’ shooting percentages in the last five seasons (field-goal percentage/3-point field-goal percentage):
2008-09 -- .489/.344
2010-11 -- .510/.330
2011-12 -- .531/.362
2012-13 -- .565/.406.
Critics used to say he passed too much and didn’t always take the big shots. I believe he realized he wasn’t a great shooter and sometimes lacked confidence. But he worked to improve his shooting and now is supremely confident. He should be. He wants the ball at crunch time and delivers far more often than not.
When Jordan was James’ age, he had one championship ring. James now has two. Jordan went on to win five more. I believe LeBron has a very good chance to win at least four more. I won’t be surprised if he wins one more in Miami and the rest somewhere else.
I think even his critics should by now recognize that he knew when to leave Cleveland – and probably will land in at least one other city, where he’d make sure he had the complementary players to help add to his collection of championship rings.
A few other thoughts on the NBA Finals:
Who could have guessed Miami would win Game 7 with ZERO points from Chris Bosh and Ray Allen?
And who could have guessed that the two most effective Miami players iin Game 7 in terms of +/- (point differential while on the court) would be Shane Batter (+12) and Chris Andersen (+11)?
Emerging star: Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio).
Hero-to-goat: Danny Green (San Antonio). After Game 5, he was touted as a possible Finals MVP. Miami adjusted to contain him and he disappeared. In game 7, he was 1x12 and showed he isn’t very good when he has to put the ball on the floor.
Second-guessing great San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich: He was too loyal to Manu Ginobili, who had too many turnovers (12) and played too many minutes in Games 6 and 7.
I can’t see the aging Spurs returning to the Finals next season. Oklahoma City should rule the Western Conference. Miami needs at least one more significant player to top Chicago and possibly Indiana in the East.
CABRERA AND DAVIS IN TWO-MAN TRIPLE CROWN CHASE
Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera last season became the first player since 1967 to win a Triple Crown. He led the American League in batting average, home runs and runs-batted-in.
Incredibly, Cabrera has a very good chance this season to become the first player ever to win consecutive Triple Crowns.
Here’s how Cabrera won his 2012 Triple Crown:
Batting average – .330 (No. 2 Mike Trout .326)
HRs – 44 (No. 2 Josh Hamilton 43)
RBI – 139 (No.2 Josh Hamilton 128).
Baltimore’s Chris Davis appears determined to thwart Cabrera’s quest for an unprecedented Triple Crown repeat. Here were their numbers entering Friday night (rank in the American League in parentheses):
Cabrera – .359 batting average (1st)...19 HRs (tied for 2nd )...71 RBI (1st)
Davis – .337 batting average (2nd)...26 HRs (1st)...66 RBI (2nd).
JOSH HAMILTON CAPTAINS 2013 FIRST-HALF TOP-FLOP TEAM
Josh Hamilton’s power stats for the 2012 Texas Rangers (44 HRs and 128 RBI) weren’t quite good enough to foil Miguel Cabrera’s bid for the AL Triple Crown, but they were impressive enough to earn him an enormous free-agent contract from the Los Angeles Angels.
Texas decided not to make a serious effort to retain Hamilton. He was 0x13 with 1 RBI in three straight losses to Oakland to end the regular season and blow the AL West title. He then was 0x4 in the do-or-die wild-card playoff game vs. Baltimore. At this point, the Rangers are looking very good for letting him go.
Hamilton has been terrible this season. The Angels dropped him to No. 7 in the lineup this week. He looks completely lost at the plate and outwardly doesn’t seem to care all that much. On Tuesday night, he hit into three 4-6-3 double plays and struck out twice.
Hamilton’s 2013 stats: .210 (57x271); 13 doubles; 2 triples; 10 HRs; 24 RBI; 19 walks; 75 strikeouts; .266 on-base percentage; .394 slugging percentage; .650 OPS (on-base percentage+slugging percentage).
His 2012 stats with Texas: .285 batting average (160x562); 31 doubles; 2 triples; 43 HRs; 128 RBI; 67 walks; 162 strikeouts; .354 on-base percentage; .577 slugging percentage; .930 OPS.
Hamilton is only 32. Hard to believe he had 130 RBI for Texas in 2008 and won the AL batting title (.359) and AL MVP Award in 2010.
Considering his five-year, $133-million contact, Hamilton gets my nod for captain for Major League Baseball’s All-Flop Team so far this season.
The rest of the Top Flop Team (injured Yankees don’t count; stats through Wednesday):
1B – Adam Dunn (White Sox): .182 batting average (43x236); 18 HRs; 29 walks; 85 strikeouts
2B – Dan Uggla (Atlanta): .194 batting average (44x227); 3 doubles; 13 HRs; 27 RBI; 92 strikeouts
SS – Starlin Castro (Cubs): .235 batting average (69x294); 3 HRs; 24 RBI; 11 walks; 55 strikeouts; 10 errors
3B – Mike Moustakas (Kansas City): .195 batting average (40x205); 4 HRs; 12 RBI
LF – Josh Willingham (Minnesota): .217 batting average(47x217); 10 HRs; 32 RBI; 69 strikeouts
CF – B.J. Upton (Atlanta): .173 batting average (37x214); 8 HRs; 17 RBI; 75 strikeouts
RF – Josh Hamilton (Angels)
C – Miguel Montero (Arizona): .222 batting average (51x230); 4 HRs; 22 RBI
DH – Victor Martinez (Detroit): .229 batting average (59x258); 5 HRs; 33 RBI
Joe Blanton (Angels): 1-10 record; 5.52 ERA
Cole Hamels (Philadelphia): 2-10 record; 4.40 ERA
R.A. Dickey (Toronto): 6-8 record; 4.90 ERA
Dan Haren (Washington): 4-8 record; 5.72 ERA
Tim Lincecum (San Francisco): 4-7 record; 4.57 ERA
Fernando Rodney (Tampa Bay): 5 blown saves; 5.16 ERA
Brandon League (Dodgers): 4 blown saves; 5.33 ERA.
NFL.COM TALENT EVALUATORS NOT HIGH ON BILLS
NFL.com staffers recently rated the league’s players position-by-position. As usual, the Buffalo Bills were shortchanged.
Marc Sessler’s top 25 quarterbacks (rookies not included)—1 Aaron Rodgers...2Peyton Manning...3Tom Brady...29 Kevin Kolb (Buffalo)...32 Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Dan Hanzus’ top 30 running backs – 1 Adrian Peterson...2 Marshawn Lynch...3 LeSean McCoy...4 Arian Foster....5 Doug Martin..14 C.J. Spiller (Buffalo -- ridiculously low)...19 Fred Jackson.
Chris Wesseling’s top 40 wide receivers – 1 Calvin Johnson...2 Larry Fitzgerald...3 A.J. Green...4 Julio Jones...5 Dez Bryant...6 Brendon Marshall...7 Demaryius Thomas...28 Stevie Johnson (Buffalo – with the notation, “Has been stretched as the Bills’ No. 1 receiver”.
Greg Rosenthal’s top 38 edge rushers – 1 Von Miller...2 Clay Matthews...3 Cameron Wake...4 Terrell Suggs...5 DeMarcus Ware...6 Aldon Smith...7 Jean Pierre-Paul ...11 Mario Williams (Buffalo).
WRITERS OMITS BRUUUUUCE FROM BILLS’ MOUNT RUSHMORE
Mike Florio of profootballtalk.nbcsports.com caused a bit of a stir this week among Buffalo Bills fans.
Picking Mount Rushmore’s for anything is a great way to stir controversy, and when the subject is NFL teams, you’re going to get a significant response.
Florio’s picks for Buffalo’s NFL Mount Rushmore (four most significant people in team history) were Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, O.J. Simpson and Andre Reed.
Left off – to the shock of many Buffalo fans – was Bruce Smith.
The feedback included support for Marv Levy and Ralph Wilson. Some people didn’t want double-murder suspect Simpson representing Buffalo on even a mythical Mount Rushmore.
But the biggest beef was leaving off Bruce Smith, one of the top five pass rushers in NFL history. Most of the people suggested that Smith replace Reed or Thomas. Their main argument – and a good one – was that Bruce was better at his position (edge pass rusher) than Reed (WR) or Thomas (RB) were at their positions.
For the record, my Bills Mount Rushmore would be Wilson, Kelly, Smith and (sorry) Simpson.
ABBY BY THE NUMBERS
Abby Wambach scored four goals Thursday night in a U.S. women’s national soccer team’s 5-0 victory over South Korea. She now is the all-time women’s soccer world leader with 160 goals, breaking Mia Hamm’s former mark of 158. Here are some numbers provided by ussoccer.com:
Abby has scored goals against 30 different countries: Mexico 19...Norway 12...Canada 10...Japan 10...Sweden 10...Ireland 9...China PR 9...South Korea 8...Germany 7...Costa Rica 7...Australia 6...Brazil 6...Iceland 6...Denmark 5...Scotland 4...New Zealand 4...Guatemala 4...Haiti 4....C. Taipei 3...France 3...Jamaica 2...Dominican Republic 2...Italy 2...Finland 2...England 1...Panama 1...T&T 1...Colombia 1...Nigeria 1...Greece 1.
She has scored 87 goals in the United States (in 23 different states), including 12 in California and 7 in New York.
She has scored 73 goals outside the United States, including 19 in Portugal and 11 in Mexico.
She has 9 goals in the Olympics and 13 in the Women’s World Cup.
She has 72 one-goal games; 32 two-goal games; 5 three-goal games; 1 four-goal game; and 1 five-goal game.
She has scored in 111 of 207 games (53.6 percent).
Goals with her head: 69 (43.1%)...goals with her feet 85 (including 13 penalty kicks)...goals with other parts on her body (chest, hip, shoulder, leg, knee) 6.
PADRES ARE HOT AND DODGERS ARE NOT
The San Diego Padres are 8-2 in their last 10 games and above .500 (37-36) for the second time this season.
Houston beat Milwaukee 7-4 Thursday night to finish a homestand 5-2. The Astros are 18-16 since May 15.
Ex-Rochester Red Wing Jesse Crain (White Sox) on Thursday night set a team record with his 28th consecutive scoreless relief appearance. He has 37 Ks in 28 innings during the streak and has allowed only two runs all season.
Another former Red Wing, Brian Dozier (Minnesota), hit his third HR in the last four games. The Twins completed a 6-3 homestand with an 8-4 win over the White Sox Thursday.
The New York Mets bullpen has a 1.55 ERA in the last 9 games.
The Angels are 6-2 in their last 8 games. They rallied from down 8-1 to Seattle ace Felix Hernandez to win 10-9 Thursday night.
Yadier Molina (St. Louis) was 8x13 in a three-game sweep of the Cubs to boost his NL-best batting average to .366.
St. Louis starting pitchers lead MLB with 41 victories this season.
Yasiel Puig (Dodgers) has 28 hits in his first 16 MLB games, tied for 4th in baseball history. Only Irv Waldron (31), Joe DiMaggio (30) and Bo Hart (29) had more. The Dodgers are hoping he goes on to have a more productive career than Waldron or Hart.
The Miami Marlins have won 8 straight games in San Francisco (since July 28, 2010). That’s crazy.
The White Sox are 1-7 in their last 8 games, an AL-worst 13-28 on the road, and 12 games under .500 (29-41) for the first time since the last day of the 2007 season.
Texas finished 4-7 on their season-longest 11-game homestand.
Colorado has lost four straight games and dropped to .500 (37-37) for the first time since April.
The Cubs are 9-24 vs. NL Central rivals but 20-18 vs. the rest of the NL.
Starlin Castro (Cubs) is in an 11x85 slump and his batting average is down to .232.
The Dodgers are 3-8 in their last 11 games and have been in last place in the NL West since May 6.
MLB.com guru Peter Gammons this week described Minnesota Twins prospect Byron Buxton as “the best player in minor league ball.”...Buxton, only 19 years old, was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 June entry draft...This season, with the Single-A Cedar Rapids Kernels (Midwest League), the right-handed hitter is batting .344 (87x253), second in the league, with 65 runs, 15 doubles, 8 triples, 8 HRs, 52 RBI, 40 walks, 51 strikeouts and 29 stolen bases in 64 games.
Minnesota slugging prospect Miguel Sano, 20, hit his first Double-A home run for the New Britain Rock Cats (Eastern League) Wednesday night.
Did you know: Elgin Baylor holds the NBA Finals records for the most points in game (61) and most consecutive games with at least 30 points (13)...Former Minnesota Twins flop Carlos Gomez (Milwaukee) leads all major-league outfielders with a .317 batting average.
Tickets are now on sale for the Buffalo Bills game against the Atlanta Falcons on Dec. 1 at Rogers Centre in Toronto. Prices start at $48 for Level 500 seating up to a maximum of $225 for Field Level VIP seating. 58 percent of tickets are less than $100 and 88 percent are less than $150....The cost of giving up home-field advantage to a stronger team: priceless.
BuffaloBills.com this week noted that the Bills will play “disadvantaged” an NFL-most six times this season. “Disadvantaged” means games in which opponents are coming off extra rest (a Thursday night game or a bye week). Atlanta is second with four such games. Seven other teams have three apiece. I describe the Bills as “crybabies” if the situation weren’t so unfair. The Bills need all the help they can get – not more hills to climb.
Last week, Rochester sports historian Doug Brei informed us that from 1976 through the present, Syracuse has one pro sports championship or Cup (by the low-level Syracuse Blazers hockey team) to Rochester’s 25 titles or Cup by 10 different teams...Now Doug adds that Buffalo, over that span (1976 through the present), has a total of 8 titles by four different teams: Stampede (1994 Roller Hockey International), Bandits (1992, 1993, 1996, 2008 National Lacrosse League)), Bisons (1998, 2004 International League), and Flash (W-League soccer 2010).
Memo to the Buffalo Bills: Please don’t trade for New England tight end Aaron Hernandez.