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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.
BASEBALL’S SPOTLIGHT ON WASHINGTON, D.C. – SERIOUSLY
Washington, D.C.: First in war, first in peace, and … gasp … first in the National League East!
Washington, long a Major League Baseball doormat, will host the mighty New York Yankees this weekend in a three-game series even haters of interleague play have to like.
The potent bats of the Yankees vs. Washington’s stingy pitching will be a terrific matchup. The Yankees lead the majors in home runs (96) and are 2nd in slugging percentage. The Nationals have baseball’s best ERA (2.94) and are holding opponents to a .219 batting average.
Exciting 19-year-old Washington outfielder Bryce Harper gives this showdown added appeal. Unfortunately, Washington ace Stephen Strasburg -- 8-1 record, 2.45 ERA -- won’t be facing the Yankees. He’ll next pitch Wednesday against Tampa Bay.
Washington has the second-best record in the majors (38-23, behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 40-24). The Yankees have the best record in the American League and third-best in the majors (37-25).
The Nationals and Yankees both are 7-2 in interleague play.
This could be a World Series preview.
Tale of the Tape:
Batting average (MLB rank in parentheses) -- Yankees .283 (8th)…Nationals .244 (23rd)
Runs – Yankees 293 (8th)…Nationals 240 (24th)
Run differential – Yankees +45 (4th)…Nationals +42 (5th)
Home runs – Yankees 96 (1st)…Nationals 62 (t13th)
On-base percentage – Yankees .336 (4th)…Nationals .311 (25th)
Slugging percentage – Yankees .455 (2nd)…Nationals .401 (15th)
Earned-run average – Yankees 3.75 (10th)…Nationals 2.94
Batting average against – Yankees .258 (23rd)…Nationals .219 (1st)
Fewest errors – Yankees 25 (1st)…Nationals 34 (t8th).
ON TEOFILO STVENSON, WBO GRANDSTAND PLAY, HOT ANGELS, etc.
Cuba’s Teofilo Stevenson, who died Monday in Havana of a heart attack at age 60, was one of the most underrated great athletes of the last 50 years.
He was a three-time Olympic heavyweight boxing champion (1972-76-80) and had the opportunity to become fabulously wealthy by becoming a professional fighter and taking on Muhammad Ali. But dictator Fidel Castro banned Cuban athletes from competing professionally and Stevenson refused to defect. He said remaining a hero in his native country meant much more to him than riches.
I respected Stevenson’s awesome boxing ability and will always wonder how he’d have fared against Ali and the other great professional heavyweight fighters of his time. He appeared to be the complete boxing package, with a powerful 6-foot-5, 220-pound chiseled physique and an awesome right hand . I also admired his dedication to his country and to even to its dictator – no matter how misplaced that devotion was.
… THE WBO’s announcement Wednesday that it will review Manny Pacquiao’s controversial loss to Timothy Bradley last Saturday night in Las Vegas was a feeble attempt to look good and protect the image of pro boxing – if that is possible.
Bob Arum’s criticism of the split decision also smacked of an attempt by him to shift focus from the fact that he promotes both fighters and stood to benefit from a rematch if the 3-0to-1 underdog Bradley won.
I didn’t see the fight but I haven’t heard anyone except the two judges who scored the fight for Bradley say Pacquiao didn’t get robbed. You can check out the replay Saturday, 10 p.m., on HBO. Keep score round-by-round and see for yourself.
… I PICKED the Los Angeles Angels to win the 2012 World Series and they shocked me by starting the season 6-14. But circle the date April 28. That’s when 20-year-old Mike Trout was promoted from Triple-A Salt Lake City and roughly when Albert Pujols started to hit. I’m glad I didn’t jump off the bandwagon and still believe the Angels – at full strength – are baseball’s best team and have the best chance to win the World Series.
Since April 29, the Angels have the best record in the majors: 27-15, followed by Washington (24-15) and the Yankees(25-16).
… THE POWER OF ESPN is boosting the popularity of soccer in the United States. The more top-shelf international games are shown (by ESPN and other networks), the more American sports fans will appreciate how beautiful the sport can be when played at the highest level and for the highest stakes.
… SOME HOCKEY talking heads wonder aloud if the Los Angeles Kings winning their first Stanley Cup will increase the popularity of the sport in the United States. I doubt it. I don’t think hockey is a great TV sport. There are too many other things for Americans to watch on TV. I believe hockey will remain a niche sport in this country -- popular among a significant number of fans in cities that have teams but of scant interest to most sports fans in cities without teams.
NO ORDINARY ROOKIES
Bryce Harper (Washington) and Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels) are not your typical major league baseball rookies. They’re not only by far the best rookies in the majors this season. They’re the youngest players in the majors (Harper is 19 and Trout is 20).
Here are their performance lines:
Harper – 41 games; .309 batting average (47x152); 30 runs; 9 doubles; 4 triples; 7 HRs; 19 RBI; 20 walks; 29 strikeouts; 4x7 stolen bases; .391 on-base percentage; .559 slugging percentage; .950 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage).
Trout – 42 games; .341 batting average (58x170); 35 runs; 10 doubles; 3 triples; 6 HRs; 26 RBI; 17 walks; 37 strikeouts; 16x19 stolen bases; .401 on-base percentage; .541 slugging percentage; .942 OPS.
The awesome talent and outgoing personalities of Harper and Trout have made them team leaders already. They’re not shy and lead by example.
Harper has impressed teammates, opponents and fans throughout the National League with his aggressive, hustling style. He’s a Pete Rose with power.
Trout might already be one of the 20-best (at least) all-around players in the game.
Do they have a chance to be the best pair of Rookie of the Year winners since the award began in 1947 (one per league starting in 1949)? Here are the most impressive so far:
1956 – Frank Robinson (NL) and Luis Aparicio (AL)
1964 – Dick Allen (NL) and Tony Oliva (AL)
1967 – Tom Seaver (NL) and Rod Carew (AL)
1977 – Andre Dawson (NL) and Eddie Murray (AL)
2001 – Albert Pujols (NL) and Ichiro Suzuki (AL)
2006 – Hanley Ramirez (NL) and Justin Verlander (AL).
IS THIS THE SEASON the Pittsburgh Pirates will end their 19-year losing streak?
62 games down. So far, so good (32-30 record). But 100 games to go. And some cause for concern.
The Pirates have surprised so far on the strength of their pitching: 3.52 earned-run average (4th-best in the majors).
But despite that surprisingly strong pitching, Pittsburgh has been outscored by 31 runs. They’re in contention for “worst-hitting team in the majors” dishonors.
The Pirates rank 30th (last) in the majors in runs, total bases, on-base percentage, and OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage). They’re 29th in batting average and slugging percentage, 27th in doubles and tied for 22nd in home runs.
The National League Central is weak overall this season and one team HAS to win it. It probably won’t Pittsburgh.
IS KEVIN DURANT on the verge of being recognized as the NBA’s best player. If he leads Oklahoma City to the NBA championship, it could be time to give him the edge over LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Some NBA observers already are wondering if Durant is destined to top Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time scorer:
Abdul-Jabbar – 38,387 points in 1,560 games … 24.6 points per game
Durant – 9,978 points in 380 games … 26.3 points per game.
Durant is only 23 and already is a three-time NBA scoring champion.
FRIDAY IS THE 26TH BIRTHDAY of former Rochester Red Wing fixture (2008 through 2011) Trevor Plouffe. He finally appears to be finding his niche with Minnesota. He’s starting at third base for the Twins and also can play in the outfield, first base, second base and shortstop (in a pinch). He has the versatility to be a valuable player in the field, but his best position is batter. He’s flashing the power he displayed in Rochester the first half of last season: .313 with 15 HRs (in 192 official at-bats) and 33 RBI in 51 games when he was promoted.
Plouffe struggled with the Twins the rest of last season and for the first two months this season: April .121 batting average (3x33) with 1 HR and 2 RBI; May .185 batting average (12x65) with 4 HRs and RBI.
But he is enjoying a terrific June: .386 batting average (17x44), 4 doubles, 7 HRs, 14 RBI. He looks like a keeper for the first time in his Twins career. In the last seven days, he hit .458 (11x24), with 3 doubles, 5 HRs and 10 RBI.
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A FEW UNDERDOGS TO ROOT FOR THIS WEEKEND:
Stony Brook is a member of the eight-team field in baseball’s College World Series starting Friday in Omaha. The Seawolves are the first team in the CWS from New York state since 1980 (St. John’s).
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be trying to end his 143-race winless streak on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit in the Quicken Loans 400 on Sunday.
First-round leader Michael Thompson will try to hang on in the U.S. Open. He’ll make the cut, but would you be surprised if he drops out of the top 25 by the end of the tournament?
HOCKEY FANS IN SYRACUSE couldn’t be happier. The American Hockey League Crunch are the new affiliate of the NHL Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay had been affiliated with the Norfolk Admirals, who just posted one of the greatest seasons in AHL history.
The Admirals finished the regular season with 28 consecutive victories and outscored opponents by 93 goals (273-180). In the playoffs they were 15-3 – including a sweep of the Toronto Marlies in the Finals. Overall, Norfolk was 70-21-1-2 and outscored opponents 332-219 (+113).
The Crunch have not won the Calder Cup in their 18-year history (affiliated with Columbus, Vancouver and Anaheim) but they’re the early favorite for the 2012-13 season.
WORTH NOTING: Rob Ray has replaced Harry Neale as the lead color analyst for Buffalo Sabres broadcasts. … Former Syracuse University and Rochester RazorSharks star Lazarus Sims has left the SU coaching staff to become assistant coach at Binghamton University. He figures to be a future big-time college head coach.
BASEBALL STATS AND FACTS:
Entering Friday, the American League has a 38-32 lead over the National League in interleague play.
The Yankees lead the majors in home runs (96) but Texas undoubtedly is baseball’s best-hitting team. The Rangers lead the majors in batting average (.281), runs (335), total bases (1,025), on-base percentage (.340), slugging percentage (.459) and OPS (.799).
San Diego Padres infielder Andy Parrino, Greater Rochester’s only current major leaguer, has been sidelined since May 30 with a hand injury (strained ligament). He is expected to soon begin a rehab stint at Triple-A Tucson. In 39 games with the Padres this season, he’s hitting .176 (16x91), with 7 runs, 4 doubles, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 11 walks, 29 strikeouts and 1 stolen base.
Manny Ramirez is heating up for Sacramento (AAA Pacific Coast League). In his last 10 games. He’s hitting .342 (13x38), with 3 doubles and 12 RBI. He’s up to .302 (19x63) for the season, with 3 doubles and 14 RBI. He has yet to hit a home run. That’s probably the main reason the power-strapped Oakland A’s haven’t recalled him.
Former Red Wing R.A. Dickey (Mets), now 10-1 with a 2,20 ERA, not only deserves to make the National League’s All-Star Game pitching staff, he at this point deserves to start the game.
49-year-old Jamie Moyer is scheduled to make his second start for the Norfolk Tides Friday night at home against Toledo.
There have been five perfect games in the last 3 ½ Major League Baseball seasons. There were no perfect games in the majors from April 30, 1922 (Charlie Robertson) to Oct. 8, 1956 (Don Larsen in the World Series) – a span of 34+ years.