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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.
YANKEES NO LOCK TO MAKE PLAYOFFS…RANKING ROOKIE QBs AHEAD OF FITZ
The Answer Man returns from vacation and is eager to tell it like he thinks it is:
Are the New York Yankees in danger of missing the playoffs?
Slightly, I suppose, but they’re more likely to qualify by holding on to win the American League East. If any division rival beats them out, it probably would be Tampa Bay – not Baltimore. But I wouldn’t call the battered Yankees a lock. They had a 52-33 record at the All-Star Game break and they’re 23-22 since, and now they’re counting on the likes of rusty Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain to bail them out. I believe the Yankees have just enough healthy classy veterans to get the job done. If Derek Jeter has a big September and the Yankees make the playoffs, he could earn his first league MVP award at age 38.
How can you or anyone else justify ranking rookies Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) and Robert Griffin III (Washington) ahead of Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick on a list of NFL starting quarterbacks? They’ve yet to throw a pass in a real NFL game.
Answer: My rankings are based on how I expect the QBs to perform during the 2012 NFL season. Luck and Griffin both have stronger arms than Fitzpatrick and also have significantly more mobility. I’m also down on Buffalo’s receivers. I believe as a group they rank in the bottom-third of the NFL. In a passing league, that’s not a good combination.
What did you think about the Los Angeles Dodgers trading with Boston for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett?
Answer: Great move by both teams. The Red Sox got all kinds of salary relief to rebuild immediately via free agency. Look for Boston to make a few bold signings this offseason. The clubhouse figures to be a friendlier place with a fresh cast of major players…There now is no excuse for the new-look Dodgers not to beat out San Francisco for the NL West pennant and a playoff berth. The Dodgers could afford to pick up the fat contracts because they’ll be putting their cable TV contract up for bids. The more impressive the roster, the more money they’ll get from TV rights in a competitive market. … My only knock on the Dodgers is thinking Josh Beckett will be a big help down the stretch. I think he’s washed up.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick insists he isn’t injury prone. Is he serious?
Answer: I believe he’s serious. That’s a big part of the problem and why the Eagles can’t count on him to stay healthy for a full season. Most great quarterbacks know how to avoid unnecessary contact. Vick seems to relish it. He has courage, but if he hasn’t figured out when to avoid big hits yet, he probably never will.
When are you going to admit that you’ve sold the 2012 Baltimore Orioles short?
Answer: The day they clinch a playoff berth, which I don’t think will happen. They’ve been extremely fortunate in close games this season. I’ll give them credit for that. But I expect their luck to run out in September. If it doesn’t, I’ll have Oriole egg of my face and I’ll salute the team’s fans for having far more faith in this resourceful bunch than I do.
Is Buck Showalter (Baltimore) a cinch for American League Manager of the Year?
ANSWER: He’s done an amazing job, but so has Oakland’s Bob Melvin. I make it a two-man race. If one makes the playoffs, he’d deserve the nod. If they both do, I’d flip a coin.
What do you think about Syracuse playing USC in East Rutherford next Saturday?
Answer: Too bad for the Orange that they’ll be playing the Trojans in football and not in basketball. It should be a great tune-up for the following Saturday’s home game against Stony Brook.
Abby Wambach led the U.S. women’s gold-medal soccer team in goals in the Olympics. Do you think she can repeat as Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year?
Answer: No. If any soccer player wins, it figures to be goalie Hope Solo. She was great in the gold-medal game and then got added attention with the publication of her life’s story immediately after the Olympics.
THE SAD TALE OF PLAYOFF FUTILITY FOR THE BUFFALO BILLS
Since the Buffalo Bills last made the NFL playoffs in 1999, here is how many times the league 32 teams have reached the postseason:
Arizona (3) – 2004-2008-2009
Atlanta (4) – 2002-2008-2010-2011
Baltimore (8) – 2000-2001-2003-2006-2008-2009-2010-2011
Carolina (3) – 2003-2005-2008
Chicago (4) – 2001-2005-2006-2010
Cincinnati (3) – 2005-2009-2011
Cleveland (1) – 2002
Dallas (4) – 2003-2006-2007-2009
Denver (4) – 2000-2003-2005-2011
Detroit (2) – 2004-2011
Green Bay (8) – 2001-2002-2003-2004-2007-2009-2010-2011
Houston (1) – 2011
Indianapolis (10) – 2000-2002-2003-2004-2005-2006-2007-2008-2009-2010
Jacksonville (2) – 2005-2007
Kansas City (3) – 2003-2006-2010
Miami (3) – 2000-2001-2008
Minnesota (4) – 2004-2004-2008-2009
New England (9) – 2001-2003-2004-2005-2006-2007-2009-2010-2011
New Orleans (5) – 2000-2006-2009-2010-2011
New York Giants (7) – 2000-2002-2005-2006-2007-2009-2011
New York Jets (6) – 2001-2002-2004-2006-2009-2010
Oakland (3) – 2000-2001-2002
Philadelphia (9) – 200-2001-2002-2003-2004-2006-2008-2009-2010
Pittsburgh (8) – 2001-2002-2004-2005-2007-2008-2010-2011
St. Louis (4) – 2000-2001-2003-2004
San Diego (5) – 2000-2001-2003-2004
San Francisco (3) – 2001-2002-2011
Seattle (6) – 2003-2004-2005-2006-2007-2010
Tampa Bay (5) – 2000-2001-2002-2005-2007
Tennessee (5) – 2000-2002-2003-2007-2008
Washington (2) – 2005-2007.
NFL PLAYOFF REPEATERS AND NEW TEAMS YEAR-BY-YEAR SINCE 2000
2000 – 6 repeaters…6 new teams
2001 – 5 repeaters…7 new teams
2002 – 7 repeaters…5 new teams
2003 – 4 repeaters…8 new teams
2004 – 7 repeaters…5 new teams
2005 – 5 repeaters…7 new teams
2006 – 5 repeaters…7 new teams
2007 – 6 repeaters…6 new teams
2008 – 5 repeaters…7 new teams
2009 – 6 repeaters…6 new teams
2010 – 6 repeaters…6 new teams
2011 – 6 repeaters…6 new teams.
Of the 144 playoff teams since 2000 (12 teamsx12 seasons), there were 68 repeaters from the previous year (5.66 per year) and 76 different teams from the previous year (6.33).
The most new teams in a division for one season were 5 (NFC 2005 and NFC 2008).
The bottom line: When making predictions for final team records for an NFL season, most analysts (including this one) tend to overly favor playoff teams from the previous year. It is tougher for most of us to project fresh teams earning playoff spots coming off poor seasons.
For the record, 2011’s playoff teams were New England, Baltimore, Houston, Denver, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in the AFC; Green Bay, San Francisco, New Orleans, New York Giants, Atlanta and Detroit in the NFC. … History strongly advises that slightly more than half of last year’s playoff slots will be filled by teams that failed to make it last season. Maybe Buffalo will be one of them. The Bills sure are overdue.
BILLS SAVING BEST STUFF FOR REGULAR SEASON?
Does it matter what a team’s record is in the preseason. Next to nothing. But it must mean a little bit. After all, the greedy owners charge full price to see the practice games.
Personally, I’d rather have my team go 4-0 (only Seattle and Philadelphia did) than 0-4 (only three teams did – all in the AFC East: Buffalo, Miami and the Jets; New England was 1-3 for an overall record of 1-15).
If success in the preseason means anything to a team, the Bills players must be a little bit demorazlied. I know some fans are. We know the starters didn’t play much – probably not enough. But Buffalo was outscored by an NFL-most 60 points. Could that be a small clue that the team’s depth isn’t as improved as some observers believe?
TWO MORE PROPS FOR THE BILLS
The popular “Madden NFL 13” simulation game projects Buffalo finishing 10-6 and making the playoffs.
Peter King in the Sports Illustrated NFL Preview issue projects the Bills to make the playoffs with a 9-7 record and lose to Kansas City 23-20 in the wild card round. … His Super Bowl XLVII pick is Green Bay 33, Denver 30. He picks Peyton Manning (Denver) to be league MVP and Comeback Player of the Year.
IF ONLY CHRIS PARMELEE HAD BEEN WITH THE RED WINGS ALL THIS SEASON
If first baseman Chris Parmelee had spent the entire 2012 season with Rochester, the Red Wings probably would’ve made the playoffs , he probably would’ve been International League Most Valuable Player and he might have won the Triple Crown (led the league in batting average, HRs and RBI).
Parmelee was promoted to Minnesota after Tuesday night’s win In Buffalo. Here is his final 2012 batting line with the Red Wings: 64 games; .338 batting average (77x228); 45runs; 17 doubles; 1 triple; 17 HRs; 49 RBI; 147 total bases; .457 on-base percentage; .645 slugging percentage; 1.102 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage);51 walks; 52 strikeouts.
Pawtucket’s Mauro Gomez was named IL Most Valuable Player this week. His final stats: 100 games; .310 batting average; 34 doubles; 1 triple; 24 HRs; 74 RBI; 228 total bases; .371 on-base percentage; .589 slugging percentage; .960 POPS.
The current IL leaders include batting average (enough plate appearances to qualify) Jose Costanza, Gwinnett .317; HRS 28 by Dan Johnson, Charlotte, in 135 games, RBI 92 by Ernesto Mejia, Gwinnett, in 127 games; on-base percentage .400 by Jack Cust, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre; slugging percentage .589 by Mauro Gomez, Pawtucket; OPS .960 by Gomez.
GARRETT JONES UNSUNG HERO FOR THE PIRATES
The most popular Rochester Red Wing of the Minnesota era arguably has been first baseman Garrett Jones, who never got much of a shot with the Twins but wound up with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was a consistent hitter for four seasons with the Red Wings and has been a steady hitter in his four seasons with Pittsburgh:
As a Red Wing:
2005 – 133 games; .246 batting average; 22 doubles; 2 triples; 24 HRs; 72 RBI
2006 – 140 games; .238; 32 doubles; 3 triples; 21 HRs; 92 RBI
2007 – 107 games; .280; 32 doubles; 3 triples; 13 HRs; 70 RBI
2008 – 138; .279; 33 doubles; 3 triples; 23 HRs; 92 RBI
As a Pirate:
2009 – 82 games; .293; 21 doubles; 1 triple; 21 HRs; 44 RBI
2010 – 158 games; .247; 34 doubles; 1 triple; 21 HRs; 86 RBI
2011 – 148 games; .243; 30 doubles; 1 triple; 16 HRs; 58 RBI
2012 – 115 games; .281; 24 doubles; 3 triples; 21 HRs; 71 RBI.
In 518 games with Rochester, he batted .260 with 81 HRs.
In 503 games with Pittsburgh, he has batted .262 with 79 HRs.
A HEAPING HELPING OF STATS AND FACTS
The New England Patriots have locked up tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez through 2019 and 2018 respectively. Some observers believe Hernandez will be more productive this season than Gronkowski because he was under the radar (relatively speaking) in 2011: Gronkowski 90 catches for 1,3427 yards and 17 touchdowns; Hernandez 79 catches for 910 yards and 7 TDs. Gronkowski figures to get more attention from opposing defenses this season – at least early – and Hernandez appears to be the more dangerous all-around threat because he showed he can get big yards rushing.
In the BCS era, the Big East has the best overall bowl record (43-27) among the FBS conferences. That won’t be easy to maintain with a diluted league.
Through the first three weeks of the NFL preseason, the AFC East was a combined 1-11. Only 3 of the league’s 32 teams were 0-3 and they all were in the AFC East: Buffalo, Miami and the New York Jets.
21-year-old Cincinnati prospect Billy Hamilton is my pick for Minor League Baseball Player of the Year. He could be starting at shortstop for the Reds by Opening Day 2014 – at the latest. Here are his key numbers for this season:
Bakersfield (Single-A) – 82 games; .323 batting average; 79 runs; 30 RBI; 104 stolen bases; 21 caught stealing
Pensacola (Double-A) – 46 games; .300 batting average; 31 runs; 15 RBI; 50 stolen bases; 15 caught stealing
Totals: 128 games; .316 batting average( 157x4927; 110 runs; 21 doubles; 14 triples; 2 HRs; 45 RBI; 54 stolen bases in 190 attempts.
CHEERS AND JEERS:
--Cheers to 84-year-old Vin Scully for agreeing to return for a record 64th season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013. He is an inspiration to senior citizens everywhere. He is the longest-tenured broadcaster with any team. He works all Dodgers home and away games in California and Arizona. He calls all nine innings of the team’s TV broadcasts (the first three innings and simulcast on radio).
--Cheers to Arizona Diamondback s manager for saying what many of us are thinking about baseball’s performance-enhancing drugs cheaters: A minimum of one full season for a first positive test and lifetime banishment thereafter.
-- Jeers to those who have sympathy for PED cheats from the Dominican because playing pro baseball is “their only way to escape poverty – some quit school as early as sixth grade to pursue their dreams and concentrate on baseball.” … Baloney. Stay in school and you might have a future. Only a very small percentage of “dreamers” make it in pro baseball. Using PEDs give the “dreamers” an unfair advantage over the young people who stay clean.
--Jeers to Baltimore Orioles fans for lack of support for their playoff-contending team. The four-game home series against the Chicago White Sox drew “crowds” of 10,955; 12,841; 13,098; and 10,141. Of course, the city’s fans have suffered through 14 consecutive losing seasons.
ODDS TO MAKE THE NFL PLAYOFFS
Courtesy of betvega.com
AFC East: New England will make the playoffs bet $900 to win $100; won’t make the playoffs bet $100 to win $550…Buffalo will make the playoffs bet $100 to win $155; won’t make the playoffs bet $190 to win $100…New York Jets will make the playoffs bet $100 to win $155; won’t make the playoffs bet $100 to win $155…Miami Dolphins will make the playoffs bet $100 to win $350; won’t make the playoffs bet $500 to win $100.
AFC North: Baltimore -175/+145…Pittsburgh -180/+150…Cincinnati +200/-260…Cleveland +1000/-160
AFC South: Houston -600/+400…Tennessee +275/-350…Jacksonville +750/-1500…Indianapolis +750/-1500
AFC West: San Diego -125/-105…Denver +100/-140…Kansas City +195/-250…Oakland +300/-400
NFC East: Philadelphia -165/+135…New York Giants +100/-140…Dallas +130/-160…Washington +450/-650
NFC North: Green Bay -600/+400…Chicago -130/EVEN…Detroit +110/-140…Minnesota +800/-1600
NFC South: Atlanta -1250/+120…New Orleans -150/+120..Carolina +300/-400…Tampa Bay +500/-800
NFC West: San Francisco -230/+190…Seattle +300/-400…Arizona +350/-500…St. Louis +600/-1000.
NFL WEEK 1 ODDS (courtesy of JustBetsportsbook.com)
Wednesday – Dallas at New York Giants -3 ½
Sunday – Indianapolis at Chicago -9
Philadelphia at Cleveland +6
Buffalo Bills at New York Jets -5
Washington at New Orleans -9
New England at Tennessee +6
Jacksonville at Minnesota -3 ½
Miami at Houston -6
St. Louis at Detroit -8 ½
Atlanta at Kansas City pick
San Francisco at Green Bay -5 ½
Carolina at Tampa Bay +2
Seattle at Arizona -2
Sunday night – Pittsburgh at Denver -1 ½
Monday night – Cincinnati at Baltimore -6 ½
San Diego at Oakland +1 ½.
NOTE: The next issue of this column will be for Tuesday, Sept. 4…As always, comments, reactions and suggestions are welcome..my e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. …or leave a message at 279-5254. … NFL “Best Bets” will resume in this column Mondays (for the Thursday night games) and Fridays (all the other games).