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.