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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.
AARON HICKS MAKING STRONG EARLY BID TO SKIP ROCHESTER
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS MY “SLEEPER” TEAM – AGAIN!
BERNARD HOPKINS STILL IS A LIVE LONG SHOT AT AGE 48
FIRST 10 SEASONS WITH TWINS NOT SO HOT FOR THE RED WINGS
NUGGETS ARE THE NBA’S BIGGEST “HOMERS” BY FAR
Top prospects seldom bypass Rochester on the development road to the Minnesota Twins.
Catcher Joe Mauer was the most glaring exception.
Center fielder Aaron Hicks is making a strong bid to be next.
In Minnesota’s 10-6 split-squad spring training victory Thursday over the Phillies, the multi-talented center-fielder had three home runs and six RBIs.
After Thursday’s explosion, Hicks is hitting .407 (11x27) with 4 HRs and 12 RBI in 7 games for Minnesota this spring.
Hicks was the No. 14 overall pick in baseball’s 2008 first-year playoff draft. The 23-year-old switch-hitting center fielder has long been touted as a “five-tool player,” meaning he can hit for average, hit for power, throw, field and run.
Hicks was a bit disappointing in his first four pro seasons but began putting things together last season at Double-A New Britain. In 129 games, he hit .286, with 21 doubles, 11 triples, 13 HRs and 32 stolen bases.
Minnesota surprisingly traded BOTH Denard Span and Ben Revere this offseason, leaving a huge void in center field.
Speedy journeyman Darin Mastroianni, 27, has been touted as Minnesota’s likely starter in center field on Opening Day. The other two in-house candidates are Hicks and Joe Benson. Benson, once rated a future big-league star, couldn’t stick with the Red Wings last season and hasn’t showed much so far this spring with the Twins.
Most people expect the Twins to finish last in the AL Central this season. They’ve retooled the pitching staff, have a pitiful middle infield and appear to be a few years away from playoff contention.
I’m sure the Twins would like to show off Hicks to their fans before this season ends. Rochester fans can only cross their fingers and hope that Minnesota will resist the temptation to rush Hicks before he is ready.
CHIEFS MY PICK TO POP AGAIN
Just before the 2012 NFL season began, I touted Kansas City as my “sleeper” team.
Bad idea. I didn’t mean the Chiefs would put their fans to sleep.
Kansas City finished 2-14 – tied with Jacksonville for worst in the league. The Chiefs were outscored by an NFL-most 214 points. They even got blown out by Buffalo – 35-17 on the road Week 2.
My “sleeper” pick for the 2013 season is – the Kansas City Chiefs.
Here are some reasons why:
They traded with San Francisco for quarterback Alex Smith, a huge upgrade over Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn…Smith isn’t an elite QB, but he’s above average. I rank him in the 13-to-15 range among projected starting QBs this season. A team with decent overall talent and an above average QB should be a playoff contender.
They have the No. 1 overall pick in April’s NFL college draft. They can use it to fill a hole with an instant starter at another position or trade down for multiple picks.
Andy Reid is considerably better head coach (140-102-1) than departed Romeo Crennel (28-55).
Five Pro Bowl selections last season.
Retained their top free agents: offensive left tackle Branden Albert (franchise player) and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (five-year contract).
Excellent running back in Jamaal Charles.
Arrowhead Stadium used to be one of the toughest venues for opponents to win in (221-103 record before 2010) and could be again.
Very good kicking game with kicker Ryan Succop and punter Dustin Colquitt.
Tied for last in the NFL in turnover differential last season (-24) and aren’t likely to that putrid this season.
Get to play Jacksonville (2-14) twice.
I expect the 2013 Chiefs to win at least 8 games and contend for a playoff berth.
WHEN WILL HOPKINS CALL IT QUITS?
On May 31, 1990, Bernard Hopkins boosted his pro boxing record to 4-1 with a second-round TKO of outclassed Jouvin Mercado at the War Memorial in Rochester.
Mercado lost his next fight and promptly quit boxing with a 1-3 career record.
But almost 23 years later, Hopkins still is fighting. He’s an age-defying 48 and will take on 31-year-old champion Tavoris Cloud for the IBF light-heavyweight title Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn (9:30 p.m. on HBO).
Cloud is 24-0 (19 KOs) and Hopkins is 52-6-2 (32 KOs).
Hopkins will try to break his own record as the oldest fighter to ever win a legitimate world boxing title.
Cloud is the favorite in this power vs. guile showdown: Bet $155 to win $100…Hopkins is $100 to win $125.
The over/under for the 12-round fight is 9 ½ rounds.
FIRST 10 YEARS WITH TWINS WEREN’T ALLO THAT HOT FOR THE RED WINGS
This will be the 11th season of the Minnesota Twins-Rochester Red Wings affiliation.
From 1993 through 1997 (the first year the Red Wings played at Frontier Field), Rochester was 369-337 (.527) and there was no talk of dumping Baltimore.
The next five seasons were ugly for the Red Wings.
Rochester Community Baseball opted to split from Baltimore after the 2002 season, the last of five consecutive losing records (311-409; .432 winning percentage) and deteriorating relations with the Orioles hierarchy. Baltimore also had one of baseball’s worst overall farm systems.
Most frustrated Red Wings fans accepted the switch from Baltimore to Minnesota without complaint but not every fan was happy. After all, it was a major move and a tradition buster. Rochester had only two parent clubs in 75 years (St. Louis Cardinals 1928 through 1960) and Baltimore (1961 through 2002).
The first decade of the Minnesota-Rochester affiliation didn’t produce great success for the Red Wings on the field, but Baltimore didn’t do much better in Ottawa (2003 through 2006) and Norfolk (2007 through 2013):
The Red Wings were a disappointing 68-75 in 2003 but then posted five straight winning records (37 games over .500 from 2004 through 2008). They were 70-74 in 2009. The disastrous 2010 and 2011 seasons followed (cumulative 102-186 record; 84 games under .500)…Rebounded to 72-72 in 2013…2003 through 2012 record 690-748 (58 games under .500).
The Ottawa Lynx and Norfolk Tides had only three winning seasons in 10 years…There were five straight losing seasons (2007 through 2011)…Total record 689-744 record (55 games under .500).
The 2013 Orioles are rated considerably stronger than the Twins at the major-league level. I expect Baltimore to be around .500 this season. I won’t be surprised if the Twins are the second-worst team in the American League (Houston will be extremely bad)…Most analysts rate Minnesota’s farm system above Baltimore’s farm system at this time.
DENVER NUGGETS: THE NBA’S ULTIMATE “HOMERS”
The Denver Broncos hammed the visiting Los Angeles Clippers 107-92 Thursday night. No surprise.
The Nuggets are 27-3 at Denver’s Pepsi Center – tied with the Miami Heat for the best home record in the NBA.
Miami is favored to win the NBA championship.
Denver could be an underdog in the first round of the playoffs.
Why? Because the Nuggets are 14-19 on the road.
27-3 home. 14-19 away. That’s ridiculous.
Coach George Karl’s Nuggets are a high-scoring team that specializes in dunks and fast-break layups. On most nights in high-altitude Denver, opponents have trouble keeping up with the home team’s athletic nine-man rotation (Ty Lawson – the closest to a “star” on the roster, Danilo Gallinari, Andre Iguodala, Kenneth Faried, Corey Brewer, Wilson Chandler, JaVale McGee, Andre Miller and Kosta Koufois..
Denver is a different team on the road, away from their boisterous fans.
Only 8 of the NBA’s 30 teams have winning road records. Denver isn’t one of them. The Nuggets aren’t close.
Entering Friday night, Denver is in fifth place in the Western Conference, one game behind fourth-place Memphis.
The top four teams in the season-ending Western Conference playoffs will earn home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. No team needs that advantage more than the Denver Nuggets.
Two thing to like about Syracuse’s 78-57 home victory over DePaul Wednesday night: C.J. Fair (7x16) attempted more shots than Michael Carter Williams and Brandon Triche combined (7x15) and James Southerland was in the starting lineup for the first time this season. I hope those trends continue.
Last season, the New York Yankees became the first team in major-league baseball history to post 20 straight winning seasons and the Pittsburgh Pirates became the first team in MLB history to post 20 straight losing streaks. I believe the Pirates have a slightly better chance to extend their negative streak than the Yankees have to see their positive streak snapped.
NFLO.com Mike Mayock has juggled his quarterback rankings entering the NFL college draft: 1-Geno Smith (West Virginia)…2-E.J. Manuel (Florida State)…3—Matt Barkley (USC)…4-Mike Glennon (North Carolina State)…5 (tie) Ryan Nassib (Syracuse) and Landry Jones (Oklahoma).