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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.
HERE COME THE RED SOX – THEY'RE JUST WARMING UP
Don’t overlook the Boston Red Sox.
Hardly anything has gone right for the Red Sox this season, but they’re hanging tough and should be dangerous in the second half of the season.
Boston started 12-19 but is 26-15 in the last 41 games – including 7-1 in the last 8 games. The Red Sox are 38-34 overall and only two games behind Baltimore in the American League wild-card race.
The Red Sox fans gave popular veteran Kevin Youkilis a classy sendoff in his final game with the team Sunday afternoon, but everyone knew it was time for him to leave. He was unhappy about losing his starting job to rookie Will Middlebrooks and didn’t mind being traded to the Chicago White Sox.
The deal should benefit everyone involved – Youkilis, Middlebrooks, the Red Sox and the White Sox.
Youkilis was tutoring Middlebrooks and didn’t want to be a distraction. He figures to help the White Sox playing every day. The Red Sox are a stronger team with Middlebrooks than with Youkilis.
Here are their 2012 numbers:
Youkilis – 42 games; .233 batting average (34x146); 7 doubles; 1 triple; 4 HRs; 14 RBI
Middlebrooks – 41 games; .326 batting average (47x144); 10 doubles; 9 HRs; 34 RBI. … Mike Trout (Angels) might not be a lock for AL Rookie of the Year after all.
Some other reasons to think the Red Sox are very much alive:
Star outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury (shoulder) and Carl Crawford (elbow) are expected to be ready to play by late July.
Two other mainstays – 2B Dustin Pedroia (.268, 5 HRs, 28 RBI) and 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.263, 6 HRs, 38 RBI – are capable of much more.
Designated hitter David Ortiz is enjoying a terrific season: .300 (78x260), 21 doubles, 18 HRs, 49 RBI.
The starting rotation will be decent if the Big Four every get healthy at the same time (Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront).
The bullpen has been surprisingly effective, with a major league-best 1.99 ERA entering last weekend. I don’t expect it to remain stellar, but it should be OK.
Daniel Bard is returning to the bullpen after a failed attempt to convert to a starter. He’s expected to be promoted from Pawtucket soon.
Catcher Jarod Saltalamacchia has provided pop (13 HRs and 34 RBI in 185 at-bats).
Fill-in outfielders s Daniel Nava (.3390 in 38 games) and Ryan Sweeney (.292 in 52 games) have performed well and will depth and punch off the bench when Ellsbury and Crawford return.
I’m no big fan of shortstop Mike Aviles (why do the Red Sox have such a tough time filling this position?), but he does have 18 doubles, 9 HRs and 41 RBI in 71 games.
The chemistry between first-year manager Bobby Valentine seems to be improving. Moving Youkilis should help.
The Red Sox rank 2nd in the American League in batting average, runs, total bases and slugging percentage. They’re 1st in doubles and 3rd in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. They figure to be an even better offensive team in the second half of the season.
Boston probably doesn’t have enough pitching to win the American League pennant but it looks like a playoff team to me – better than Baltimore or Tampa Bay. You read it here first and I expect to be called out if it doesn’t happen.
JAZZ FEST IS HOT…SO WERE OUR TEAMS
The Jazz Fest wasn’t the only hot thing in town Saturday. It was an exceptional night for three of Rochester’s struggling pro sports teams:
The Red Wings, the weakest-hitting team in the International League entering the home game against the Charlotte Knights, had 15 hits in a 12-1 romp before 10,354 fans at Frontier Field. It was an atmosphere that reminds of why Triple-A baseball on a warm summer night is one of our community’s most enjoyable staples.
Two blocks away, at Sahlen’s Stadium, the Major League Lacrosse Rattlers, upset the Hamilton Nationals 17-10.
The Rattlers probably are Rochester’s least-recognized and least-appreciated pro team. One of the problems is that so few Rochester Knighthawks, the defending indoor National Lacrosse League champions, play for the outdoor Rattlers in the summer. Knighthawks owner Curt Styres owns the Hamilton team and his roster includes several prominent Knighthawks – including Irondequoit’s Joe Walters.
The Rattlers were awful last summer in their return to MLL and home crowds – more like gatherings -- consisted largely of family, friends and this community’s relatively small but loud and dedicated core of pro lacrosse lovers.
Saturday night’s impressive showing against Hamilton was accomplished without superstar Ned Crotty, sidelined with an ankle injury. The Rattlers are 3-4 and looking like a team worthy of attention.
A suggestion to Rattlers management: Try to deal for Hamilton’s Walters and fellow Knighthawk Stephen Keough (Styres isn’t going to trade Knighthawks top scorer Cody Jamieson) for any combination of players not including Crotty and RIT product Jordan McIntosh, who scored five goals in Saturday night’s victory.
The Rochester Rhinos, struggling mightily since a hot start this USL PRO League season, ended a frustrating seven-game winless streak with an impressive 3-2 victory at the Richmond Kickers.
The Rhinos boosted their league record to a more than respectable 7-3-4 and scoring three goals was especially encouraging.
There still is a relatively large fan base for pro soccer in Rochester. Dropping a classification has a hurt the credibility and drawing power of the Rhinos, but the fans will march back if the team can dominate at this level and average more than a goal per game in the process.
SOME FUN READING FOR BUFFALO BILLS FANS
The flood of NFL 2012 preview magazines have hit the newsstands and – for a change – the early returns are pleasurable rewarding for Bills fans in western New York.
Here are the predicted AFC East standings:
Athlon Sports – New England , Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins … Picked the Bills No. 2 among teams most likely to improve, behind only Kansas City, and ahead of Seattle and Dallas.
Pro Football Weekly – New England (12-4), Buffalo (8-8), Jets (7-9), Miami 4-12)
USA Today – New England, Buffalo, Miami, Jets.
What they said about the Bills:
Athlon Sports: “In this era of unrestricted free agency and advancements in scouting college players, NFL teams almost have to try to miss the postseason 12 straight years. But Buffalo has only one winning season since 1999. Is this the year the drought finally ends? … After three off-seasons of work, GM Buddy Nix says it’s time for the Bills to become “relevant” again. And he means for an entire season, not two months.”
Pro Football Weekly: “We are not at the point to say this Bills team can return to the glory years of the early 1990, but for the first time in more than a decade, the Bills appear to finally have the talent to match their AFC East foes. …The Bills spent the draft loading up on defense, and with an effective leader in Ryan Fitzpatrick, a dynamic RB duo and strength in the trenches, the Bills are putting together a formula to fit today’s NFL – a high-powered offense with an aggressive defense.”
USA Today: “Best case:The Bills put together a quick start and a solid finish, giving themselves a chance at the rarified air of the playoffs for the first time since 1999. They’ll count on that defense and the newcomers. Worst case: The defense improves, but the offense stalls the way it did in 2011 when the Bills scored 26 points in the first three games of a seven-game losing streak.”
NBA TITLE JUSTIFIES LeBRON JAMES’ DECISION TO LEAVE CAVS FOR HEAT
I wonder how many LeBron James haters are left after he carried the Miami Heat to the 2012 NBA championship.
While I agree with everyone – including LeBron James – that his “The Decision” TV show announcing his jump from the Cleveland Cavaliers to Miami was perhaps the worst public relations blunders in sports history , I never understood why so many people outside of Cleveland vilified him for making the move.
He had enormous fame in fortune as a Cavalier, but he didn’t have a championship ring and there were no signs that team owner Dan Gilbert and his front office had the basketball acumen to help him realize his main goal.
James was roasted ridiculed by many when the Heat lost the 2010-11 Eastern Conference finals to underdog Boston, but what’s wrong with winning the championship in his SECOND season with Miami?
Why didn’t the Cavs win it all with Cleveland?
Check out his supporting cast with the 2010-11 Cavaliers: starters J.J. Hickson, Anthony Paker, Mo Williams, a fading Antawn Jamison and a more-fading Shaquille O’Neal, plus key reserves Daniel Gibson, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jamario Moon, Anderson Varejao and Jawad Williams. Where was King James going with that crew of mostly court jesters?
Under the circumstances, why was it so baffling to so many critics that James opted for Miami as a free agent when he had every right to make the jump.
Hopefully, James shut up most of his detractors with one of the awesome individual playoff runs in history. If you still are a hater, be prepared for more misery – because the Heat will be tough to beat for the next two of three years, at least.
TIGER WOODS VERY MUCH ALIVE FOR PGA PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Tiger Woods might never again be the player he was, but he still is more than good enough to be PGA Player of the Year for the 11th time.
With two majors down and two to go, I have a seven-man list for PGA Player of the Year. I’d make Jason Duffner the one to catch, with Tiger close behind.
Only three players have two PGA Tour victories this season: Duffner, Woods and Hunter Mahan
Bubba Watson (Masters) and Webb Simpson (Webb Simpson) get extra credit for winning the two majors this year.
Woods leads the Tour in scoring average and also is first in total driving (32 in distance and 22nd in accuracy).
Here’s how the seven PGA Player of the Year candidates rate in assorted categories (stats entering the Travelers Championship):
WINS – Duffner 23, Mahan 2, Woods 2, Matt Kuchar 1, Rory McIlroy 1, Webb Simpson 1, Bubba Watson 1
SCORING AVERAGE – Woods 1st 69.28…Kuchar 2nd 69.29…Duffner 4th 69.46…McIlroy 5th69.49…Watson 13th 69.99…Mahan t24th 70.27…Simpson t24th 70.27
MONEY LEADERS – Duffner 1st $4,077.013…Mahan 2nd $3,255,212…Watson 3rd $3,204,778…McIlroy 4th $3,164,700…Kuchar 5th $3,151,352…Woods 7th $3,050,398…Simpson 9th $2,235,197
TOP 10 FINISHES – Duffner 6 (in 15 events)…Kuchar 5 in 13…McIlroy 5 in 9…Watson 4 in 11…Simpson 3 in 6…Woods 3 in 6…Mahan 3 in 8
TOP 25 FINISHES – Duffner 10 in 15…Watson 9 in 11…Kuchar 9 in 13…Mahan 8 in 13…Woods 6 in 10…Simpson 6 in 14…McIlroy 5 in 9.
For the record: There are two PGA Player of the Year awards. The PGA of America’s choice is determined by statistics and the PGA Tour’s selection is by vote of the players.
To Jim Aquilano – The veteran trainer at Finger Lakes Race Track had another big week and now has 37 wins, 14 places and 7 shows out of 73 starters. He trails only Chris Englehart in victories. Englehart has 44 wins, 29 places and 9 shows in 104 starters.
To Josesito Lopez – The unheralded welterweight shocked star Victor Ortiz Saturday night in Los Angeles. Ortiz’s corner threw in the towel before the 10th round because he couldn’t close his mouth with an apparent broken jaw.
To Jim Thome – The Phillies slugger hit his 13th career game-winning in Saturday night’s 7-6 home win over Tampa Bay. He tied Sammy Sosa with his 609th career home run. Funny how Thome is a lock for the Hall of Fame and Sosa probably never be elected.
To the jury in the Jerry Sandusky trial – Thank you. Just when some of us were beginning to lose faith in sports-related courtroom decisions. … And this might not sound nice, but at this point in time, I’d much rather be Joe Paterno than Sandusky.
To Shenise Johnson – The former Rush-Henrietta star, the No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 WNBA draft, is off to a promising start for the San Antonio Silver Stars She’s averaging 5.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 156 assists and 19.8 minutes per game through 10 games (including 1 start). She had 4 points and 7 rebounds in 16 minutes Sunday night as the Silver Stars (5-5 record) upset the host Los Angeles Sparks 91-71. It was the first home loss of the season for LA.
To Mike Miller and Shane Battier – Miami Heat teammate LeBron James’ all-around performance in NBA Finals overshadowed their contributions, but their unexpected hot 3-point shooting helped immensely. Battier was 15x26 from long range in the Game 5 championship victory and Miller was 7X8 in the Game 5 championship victory.
To Rich “Ace” Franklin – He won a unanimous decision over Wanderlei Silva in Saturday’s main event of UFC 147 in Brazil. Silva at least won the nickname battle (“The Axe Murderer”). How could a fighter beat that?
To Trevor Plouffe – He hit his 15th HR of the season for Minnesota on Sunday. He didn’t give up in portions of four season with the Rochester Red Wings and patience paid off for Plouffe and the Twins. Here are his performance lines for this season with Minnesota:
April -- .121 batting average (4x33), 1 HR, 2 RBI
May -- .185 batting average (12x65), 4 HRs, 6 RBI
June -- .356 batting average (26x73), 9 HRs, 17 RBI.
To Michael-Carter Williams – The Syracuse U. basketball player showed remarkable patience last season as a freshman and appears ready to shine on center stage. According to Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.go.com, Carter-Williams is one college basketball’s 10 most probable breakout players this season: “How deep were the 2012 Syracuse Orangemen? Carter-Williams, a McDonald’s All-American ranked No. 4 at the shooting guard position in the Class of 2012 (behind only Duke’s Austin Rivers, Florida’s Bradley Beal and UNC’s P.J. Hairston) played just 18.1 percent of his team’s available minutes and couldn’t register even a minut of floor time in SU’s four NCAA tournament games. The departures of Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters will make way for Carter-Williams to shine, and shine he will.”
To Josh Outman – My choice for the best-named pitcher in baseball history hardly lived up his name Saturday night. His Colorado Rockies gave him an 11-1 lead in Texas, but the Rangers shelled him out of the game with a six-run bottom of the fifth inning and he didn’t get credit for his team’s 11-7 victory.
To fans of the Kansas City Royals – When the St. Louis won 8-2 Saturday, the majority of the fans were wearing red and rooting for the Cardinals. Not much of a home-field advantage.
BASEBALL -- WHO ‘S HOT AND WHO’S NOT:
The New York Yankees continue to blast away. They now lead the majors with 112 RBIs, followed by Toronto (104), Baltimore (93) and Texas (92). The Yankees are on pace for 255 HRs. The team record is 244 HRs in 2009.
But the Yankees remain frigid in the clutch. Here are some averages entering Sunday night’s 6-5 victory over the New York Mets and knuckleball sensation R.A. Dickey.
In order, these are batting averages for a few of the team’s big boppers with no one on base, runners on, and runners in scoring position:
Alex Rodriguez (.265 batting average overall) - .302; .220; .212
Robinson Cano (.295) -- .317; .271; .141
Curtis Granderson (.248) -- .256; .236; 217
Mark Teixeira (.256) -- .246; .267; .224
Raul Ibanez –(.235) - .261; .211; 220
Nick Swisher (.268) -- .268; .267; .273
Derek Jeter (.310) -- .299; .333; .268.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are 12-5 in their last 17 games and went over the .500 mark Saturday bfor the first time since May 4.
ODDS AND ENDS:
Wimbledon began Monday. Here were the odds on the favorites courtesy of Bovada:
Men – Novak Djokovic 3x2…Rafael Nada 21x10…Roger Federer 9x2…Andy Murray 11x1
Women – Maria Sharapova 5x2…Serena Williams 11x4…Petra Kvitova 5x1…Victoria Azavenka 7x1
Odds on a Djokovic vs. Nadal men’s final matchup – Yes +150 (bet $100 to win $150)…No -200 (bet $200 to win $100)
Odds on a Sharapova vs. Serena Williams women’s final matchup – Yes +350 (bet $100 to win $350)…No -550 (bet $550 to win $100).
xxxUFC 148 has a terrific main event Saturday, July 7, at MGM Grand in in Las Vegas: the middleweight championship match between Anderson Silva (bet $285 to win $100) and Chael Sonnen (bet $100 to win $225).
xxxHere are the early-bird odds to win the 2013 NBA championship (courtesy of Sportsbooks.com, GamingToday.com. They support my contention that the worst thing about the NBA is the slim number of teams that enter every season with a legitimate shot to go all the way.
Miami and Oklahoma City each 5-to-2…Chicago 5x1…San Antonio 7x1…Los Angeles Lakers 12x1…Dallas 15x1…Boston and Indiana each 20x1…Denver, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis and Orlando each 30x1…Atlanta, New York Knicks and Philadelphia each 60x1. … The other 15 teams are listed at 100x1 each and might as well be 1-million-to-1.
xxxESPN.com’s SportsNation had an interesting reader poll question: Will either the Miami Heat or the Oklahoma City Thunder get back to the NBA Finals next year? The results (361,514 votes): Heat 30 percent…Thunder 24 percent…Both 34 percent…Neither 12 percent.
xxxThe Boston Celtics have the No. 21 and No. 22 picks in the NBA draft, and more than one mock draft has the Celtics taking both Fab Melo (Syracuse) and Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure). Boston desperately needs young big men, and the best of Melo and Nicholson would equal one decent prospect.
INTERLEAGUE PLAY OVER – AMERICAN LEAGUE CLEANED UP AGAIN
The American League clobbered the National League 11-4 in the final batch of interleague games for the 2012 regular season.
That was appropriate. The AL won the season series for the 9th straight year, this time 142-110 (+32).
This season’s best interleague records: Texas 14-4…Yankees 13-5…Angels 12-6
This season’s worst interleague records: Colorado 2-13…Miami 5-13…Philadelphia 5-10…Cubs 5-10
The Yankees remain the kings of interleague play with a 164-112 record (.594) since interleague play began in 1997.
Home-field advantage in the World Series would be much more fair using the overall interleague records of the two leagues than handing it to the winner of the All-Star Get-Everybody-In-the Game exhibition.
WHERE OUR PRO TEAMS WILL BE PLAYING THIS WEEK:
RED WINGS – Host the Charlotte Knights Monday, 7:05 p.m., at Frontier Field…at Lehigh Valley Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, all games at 7:05 p.m. … home against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (sorry, I can’t call them the Empire State Yankees – it was a clever ploy but most local fans didn’t buy it) Saturday, 7:05 p.m., and Sunday, 6:05 p.m.
RHINOS – Host the Harrisburg City Islanders Saturday, 7:05 p.m., at Sahlen’s Stadium.
RATTLERS – The Major Lacrosse League All-Star Game will be Saturday in Boca Raton, Fla. … The next game for the Rattlers is Friday, July 6, against the Long Island Lizards at Sahlen’s Stadium
FLASH – They next play Sunday, July 8, 4 p.m., against the Chesapeake Charge at Sahlen’s Stadium.