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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.
SOARING RED WINGS TURNING THINGS AROUND AT FRONTIER FIELD
After the hometown Red Wings played mostly miserable baseball the past two seasons, you might not be paying much attention to the significant improvement by the current team.
After a wild 8-7 home victory over Toledo Sunday, the Red Wings are within one game of .500: 47-48. They’re 6 games behind first-place Lehigh Valley in the International League North Division. They’re still a long shot to make the playoffs but don’t count them out.
Since the team’s low-water mark at 20-30 on May 28, the Red Wings are 27-18 (.600). They’re 10-3 in July – best in the IL.
Reaching .500 was a worthy goal a few weeks ago. Now making the playoffs is the goal to shoot for.
This is a nice change from the past two seasons, when Rochester was the laughing stock of Triple-A baseball, with the worst record among the 30 teams in the IL and Pacific Coast League both years. It isn’t easy to be that bad.
Here’s how the Red Wings fared the past two seasons (the worst record among the 30 Triple-A teams both years):
2010 – 49-95 (.340)…outscored by 188 runs (780-592)…outhomered by 55 (157-102)… 4.93 earned-run average (14th in the 14-team IL).
2011 – 53-91 (.368)…outscored by 141 runs (728-587)…outhomered by 42 (145-103)…4.76 ERA (14th in the IL).
The 2012 Red Wings have a better record than 12 of the other 29 Triple-A teams this season.
The current Red Wings have a solid Triple-A lineup with a decent bench, but they haven’t hit to their potential. Here’s where Rochester ranked in the 14-team IL entering Monday:
11th in batting average (.248)…Rochester hit .252 in 2010 and .257 in 2011.
T11th in doubles (149) and home runs.
13th in home runs (56) and on-base percentage.
14th in runs (336…No. 13 Lehigh Valley has 372 runs), total bases, slugging percentage and OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage).
The two biggest differences this season have been pitching and managing.
Rochester’s 3.86 ERA ranks 7th in the IL and WHIP -- hits + walks per inning—also ranks 7th at 1.36. The Wings have used 25 pitchers (and counting) this season.
Resourceful manager Gene Glynn has done a very good as his Wings have overcome a slow start and a parade of players (47 different players, including 20 who’ve played for both Rochester and the Minnesota Twins). They’re also one-game under .500 despite being outscored by 65 runs (401-336).
All things considered, Glynn deserves support for IL Manager of the Year if the Wings finish above .500.
For the record, here are Rochester’s former IL managers of the year (since 1968): Joe Altobelli 1971 and 1976…John Hart 1986…Johnny Oates 1988…Greg Biagini 1990…Marv Foley 1997).
The Red Wings start an eight-game trip Monday to Norfolk and Durham. They also face the probability of pitching aces Liam Hendriks and Nick Blackburn being promoted to Minnesota soon. Chances are this resilient bunch won’t collapse in the face of adversity. They’ve restored some pride in Red Wings baseball after two seasons to forget.
BILLS RATED MOST LIKELY TO CHALLENGE PATS IN AFC EAST
James Walker of ESPN.com rates the Buffalo Bills as the team most likely to upset the New England Patriots in the AFC East: “The Bills had arguably the best offseason in the NFL…Buffalo is well-stocked and has the talent to compete with the Patriots. The biggest question is experience. Many players in the locker room have never made the postseason. The growing preseason hype only adds to the pressure…At their best, the Bills can play with anyone…Buffalo was the only AFC East team to split with the Patriots in 2011, which should get New England’s attention…With a two-headed rushing attack, a versatile offensive line and a defense that could finish in the top 10, Buffalo has provided a lot of reasons for the Patriots and the rest of the AFC East to be concerned this season.”
TROUT, CANO AND McCUTCHEN PUT ON A SHOW
The three Major League Baseball MVP frontrunners showed off their talents over the weekend.
Mike Trout (Los Angeles Angels) and Robinson Cano (New York Yankees), the two top American League MVP candidates, squared off at Yankee Stadium Friday through Sunday:
Trout – 7-for-14 (.500), 3 runs, 4 doubles, 1 RBI, 4 stolen bases
Cano – 5-for-11 (.455), 2 runs, 1 HR, 3 RBI
McCutchen (Pittsburgh) – 7-for-12 (.583, 3 runs, 3 HRs, 4 RBI; he opened up more ground in the NL MVP race. Loyal Pirates fans more than deserve an honest effort by management to deal for some hitting help for McCutchen for the stretch run.
BEST NAMES IN MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
Rochester Red Wing Brian Dinkelman is among the 64 nominees in the sixth annual Minors Moniker Madness, currently being contested via fan vote on MiLB.com.
Here are my favorite names on the list (all are currently in the minors): Boomer Potts…Socrates Brito…Atahualpa Severino…Montreal Robinson…Arismendy Alcantara…Duke von Schamann…Goose Kallunki…Rock Shoulders…Gift Ngoepe…Scooter Gennett…Rougned Odor…Zelous Wheeler…Taiwan Easterling…Forrest Snow…Michael Goodnight…Jae-Hoon Ha… and my name to beat – Caleb Bushyhead.
JON “BONES” JONES BIG FAVORITE IN NEXT FIGHT
Rochester product Jon “Bones” Jones will defend his UFC light-heavyweight title Sept. 1 in Las Vegas. He’s favored to beat challenger Dan Henderson: BOVADA odds: Jones bet $650 to win $100, Henderson bet $100 to win $425…PINNACLE odds: Jones bet $596 to win $100, Henderson bet $100 to win $495…SPORTSBOOK odds: Jones bet $714 to win $100, Henderson bet $100 to win $450.
BATAVIA MUCKDOGS ARE PLAYING WELL BUT NOT SO HOT AT TURNSTILES
The Batavia Muckdogs have played well so far this New York-Penn League season (17-10 record) but drawing fans continues to be a problem. Batavia is last in the 14-team league in average home attendance: 909. Jamestown is 13th (1,291) and Auburn is 12th (1,615). The two best home draws are Brooklyn (6,118) and Aberdeen (6,027).
Batavia has finished last in NY-P average home attendance six of the past seven years:
2005 – 1,127
2006 – 1,150
2007 – 1,230
2008 – 1,199
2009 – 963…Oneonta averaged 692 in its final year in the league
2010 – 1,017
2011 – 1,058.
IS JAWORSKI UNDERRATING RYAN FITZPATRICK?
No NFL quarterback will be under more pressure than Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick season. Nearly everyone believes the Bills have improved enough to make the playoffs if they get decent production at QB. ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski isn’t expecting Fitz to perform miracles.
Jaworski’s ratings of the NFL QBs entering this season are complete. He claimed he watched every snap by every NFL QB last season to prepare for his assignment. I believe him but hope he underrated Fitzpatrick, who was 24th of the 30 QBs in the ratings. 2012 rookies Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) and Robert Griffin III (Washington) weren’t included in the rankings, but if they had been, I suspect Fitzpatrick would’ve been No. 26 out of 32.
For the record, Jaworski’s worst-to-best ratings: Tim Tebow…Blaine Gabbert…Christian Ponder…Matt Flynn…Matt Moore…Kevin Kolb …24th-Ryan Fitzpatrick…Mark Sanchez ( don’t believe he’s better than Fitz)…Matt Cassel…Carson Palmer…Sam Bradford…Andy Dalton…Matt Hasselbeck…Josh Freeman…Alex Smith…Can Newton…14th-Matthew Stafford (underrated?)…Matt Schaub…Michael Vick…Matt Ryan…Tony Romo…Joe Flacco (Jaworski rates his arm #1)…Jay Cutler…Philip Rivers…Ben Roethlisberger…Eli Manning…Peyton Manning…Tom Brady…Drew Brees…Aaron Rodgers.
The Minnesota Twins have 3 of the top 39 “baseball prospects still in the minor leagues,” according to Keith Law, ESPN.com’s expert on young baseball talent: OF Byron Buxton No. 18, 3B Miguel Sano No. 26, 2B Eddie Rosario No. 39. They’re all at least two seasons away from playing for Rochester, and probably longer.
Another reason to think this season’s Pittsburgh Pirates will end their record 19-year losing streak: 13 games against the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, two very poor teams that could get worse before the trade deadline.
What might have been: The Los Angeles Angels selected outfielder Mike Trout No. 25 overall in baseball’s 2009 amateur draft. The Minnesota Twins had the No. 24 pick and selected University of Missouri pitcher Kyle Gibson.
Tom Nieto, who managed the Rochester Red Wings in 2010 and 2011, is enjoying more success with the GCL Yankees. They’re 17-7 in the rookie Gulf Coast League. Joba Chamberlain is on rehab assignment with Nieto’s team. In two games, he has pitched three hitless innings with 0 walks and 4 strikeouts.
Interesting notes from Pro Football Weekly: If the NFL’s 40 last-place teams from 2007 through 2011, 29 improved their records the next season, only 8 had worse records and 2 had the same win total as the prior season. Nine of those 40 teams made the playoffs. Nineteen finished at least 8-8.
Jabari Parker, touted by Sports Illustrated as the best prep basketball talent since LeBron James, last week released the 10 colleges he is considering, and Syracuse isn’t among them: BYU (he is a black Mormon), DePaul (he’s from Chicago), Duke, Florida, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, North Carolina and Stanford. Educated guess on the winner: Kentucky. I assume he’ll be one-and-done if he does go to college and Kentucky has established itself as the hoops factory most likely to make that instant NCAA championship dream come true.
College basketball fans already are looking forward to Nov. 13, when ESPN will offer a dozen bac k-to-back games, highlighted by Duke vs. Kentucky and Michigan State vs. Kansas. The marathon will tip off with West Virginia vs. Gonzaga at 12:01 a.m.
The San Antonio Stars are the WNBA’s hottest team entering the month-long break for the Olympics. They crushed visiting Atlanta 91-70 Friday night for their ninth straight victory. Rookie Shenise Johnson (Rush-Henrietta), the No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 WNBA draft, scored a career-high 12 points in the game. She’s averaging 5.8 points and 4.20 rebounds through 18 games (including one start).
Updated British Open odds (courtesy of BOVADA): Tiger Woods 6x1…Lee Westwood 12x1…Rory McIlroy 14x1…Luke Donald 16x1…Padraig Harrington 16x1…Justin Rose 25x1…Sergio Garcia 25-x1…others include Phil Mickelson 33x1…Ernie Els 40x1…Jason Dufner 40x1…Jim Furyk 40x1…Tom Watson 250x1.
The NHL’s first collective bargaining offer to the NHL Players’ Association is a far cry from what the final CBA will look like, but it includes a two concepts I really like: limit contracts to five years and 10 seasons required before a player can become an unrestricted free agent.
The National Lacrosse League’s Board of Governors have opted out of the current collective bargaining agreement. The 2012 season (the Rochester Knighthawks won the championship) was the fifth year of a seven-year agreement that was agreed to prior to the 2008 season. Either party (the league or the players) had the right to opt out of the final two years of the deal (2013 and 2014 seasons).
STATS AND FACTS:
New York Yankees Home-Run Meter: entered Monday with 142 HRs in 88 games…on pace for 261 HRs this season…the team record is 244 HRs in 2009 and the major-league record is 264 HRs by the 1997 Seattle Mariners.
Major League Soccer’s average attendance this season is up to 18,728. I don’t believe Rochester ever could have matched that. But the top two MLS teams in average this season are long-time Rhinos rivals Seattle (39,469) and Montreal (25,283).
Rory McIlroy’s last four finishes on the PGA Tour: missed cut, missed cut, t7th, missed cut. His major finishes since winning the 2010 U.S. Open: t64th (2011 PGA Championship), 40th (2011 Masters), missed cut (2011 U.S. Open).
Cito Culver (Irondequoit; New York Yankees 1st-round pick in 2010 amateur draft) had a 4-for-9 weekend for the Charleston RiverDogs (South Atlantic League) to boost his batting average to .214 (65x304) through 79 games. He has 7 doubles, 4 triples, 2 HRs and 28 RBI with 48 walks, 73 strikeouts, 16x22 stolen bases and 16 errors at shortstop.
Here’s how Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen’s spectacular 2012 season thus far compares to the two best seasons of former Pirates star Roberto Clemente:
CLEMENTE 1966 (32 years old) -- .317, 105 runs, 31 doubles, 11 triples, 29 HRs, 119 RBI, 7x12 stolen bases; won his only NL MVP award
CLEMENTE 1967 (33 years old) -- .357, 103 runs, 26 doubles, 10 triples, 23 HRs, 110 RBI, 9x10 stolen bases; finished 3rd for NL MVP
McCUTCHEN 2012 (25 years old) -- .371, 61 runs, 17 doubles, 5 triples, 21 HRs, 64 RBI, 14x18 stolen bases in 84 games.
WHERE OUR PRO TEAMS WILL PLAY THIS WEEK:
Rochester Red Wings (International League) – at the Norfolk Tides Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7:15 p.m., and Thursday 12:15 p.m.; at the Durham Bulls Friday and Saturday, 7:05 p.m., Sunday 5:05 p.m., and Monday, July 23, 7:05 p.m. … The Wings return to Frontier Field Tuesday, July 24, to start a four-game series against the Syracuse Chiefs.
Rochester Rhinos (USDL-PRO League) – host the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Saturday, 7:05 p.m., at Sahlen’s Stadium; host the Los Angeles Blues Friday, July 27, 7:35 p.m.
Rochester Rattlers (Major League Lacrosse) – host the Charlotte Hounds Friday, 7 p.m., at Sahlen’s Stadium; host the Ohio Machine Saturday, July 28, 7 p.m.
The Western New York Flash (WPSL Elite League) – host the Boston Breakers Sunday, 4 p.m., at Sahlen’s Stadium.
The Batavia Muckdogs (New York-Penn League) – at the Aberdeen IronBirds Monday, 7:05 p.m.; host the Jamestown Jammers Tuesday, 7:05 p.m., at Dwyer Stadium; at Jamestown Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.; at the Auburn Doubledays Thursday, 7:05 p.m.; host Auburn Friday and Saturday, 7:05 p.m.; at Auburn Sunday, 6:05 p.m.