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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.
A DECENT DRAFT FOR THE BILLS COULD TURN OUT TO BE EXCELLENT
YANKEES SHOWING THEIR CLASS – AT LEAST SO FAR
NO DOUBT ABOUT IT – SABRES NEED A LOT OF HELP
PENGUINS 7x2 FAVORITE TO WIN THE STANLEY CUP
Okay, I’m fairly impressed with the 20123 draft for the Buffalo Bills. In a year or two, I might be REALLY impressed. It’s up to EJ Manuel.
Maybe GM Buddy Nix struck gold with Manuel by trading down from No. 8 No. 16 and getting the team’s “franchise quarterback” But you can’t convince me that Maunel wouldn’t have been available with the 41st pick.
I still believe super-speedy West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin would’ve been an instant hit. I also think Buffalo will have a high pick in next year’s draft and that there will be better QBs available than there were last week.
But if Manuel proves to be as nearly good as Nix thinks, this could become an “A” draft.
We can only hope Nix will be as right about Manuel as he was wrong about Russell Wilson last year.
Here are some of the things I liked about Buffalo’s draft :
Manuel’s potential. I don’t think he’s ready to start. I don’t think he has a realistic shot to be this season’s version of last year’s Russell Wilson.
But when the rest of this rebuilding team is a legitimate threat to make the playoffs – and maybe even win a playoff game – he could be the QB to take them there. I’m pretty sure Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson won’t be.
I’m buying Manuel’s “upside.” I’m glad Buffalo picked him instead of Ryan Nassib or Matt Barkley. I believe they’ll both be decent NFL players – but never Pro Bowl-type QBs. With polishing, Manuel has a chance. For now, I believe Nix projected too high for Manuel.
Selecting the “quarterback of the future” this year means the Bills can use their first-round pick next year on one of the premier defensive players.
The Bills added to its team speed.
Buffalo no longer has the most-suspect group of wide receivers in the NFL. Stevie Johnson should have more help. I really liked the selection of Robert Woods No. 41 and hope lightning-quick Marquise Goodwin (No. 78 overall pick) can deliver more immediately than T.J. Graham did as a rookie last season... Free agent Da’rick Rogers is a sleeper. He led Tennessee and the SEC in receptions and receiving yards in 2011 but off-field issues resulted in a move to Tennessee Tech for last season. USA Today Sports rated him No. 74 overall among all players eligible for the draft. Goodwin was No.98.
Buffalo will be young and inexperienced at wide receiver, but I wouldn’t bet against Woods, C.J. Spiller, Graham and Goodwin in an NFL sprint relay contest. If all goes well, the Bills could lead the NFL in YAC (yards after catch) this season.
The Bills selected versatile Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso No. 46 overall; one of the extra picks obtained from St. Louis in the Manuel deal). That probably was another reach, but cheers to the Bills for giving him a pass on off-field red flags. He could contribute immediately at the team’s weakest defensive position. I hope drafting Alonso doesn’t mean Buffalo no longer is interested in veteran free-agent linebacker Karlos Dansby.
Arkansas tight end Chris Gragg was a reasonable gamble with pick No. 222. It is a need position and Gregg is significantly faster than Scott Chandler (even with a good knee). He was projected as a much higher NFL pick before a knee injury limited him to five games as a senior.
A few potential negatives:
Depth in the secondary always is a plus, but I hope selecting two safeties (Nevada’s Duke Wiiliams No.105) and Clemson’s Jonathan Meeks (No. 143) were not clues that Buffalo isn’t sold on retaining Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd beyond this season.
No offensive guard was picked. That was a bigger need than TWO safties.
For a team that has been negligent in stockpiling draft picks, it is sort of sad that Buffalo has selected two kickers in the last two drafts (John Potter was a bust on kickoffs after being picked in the seventh round last year and Dustin Hopkins was a sixth-round pick on Saturday). Hopkins also has a very strong leg on kickoffs and is the NCAA all-time scorer among kickers, but his FG percentage at Florida State wasn’t great (.785; 88x112) by NFL standards.
My overall grade: “B” (with “A” potential if Manuel pans out within a year or two).
THUMBS UP TO THE RESOURCEFUL NEW-LOOK YANKEES FOR IMPRESSIVE START
I predicted the injury-plagued New York Yankees would finish below .500 and that the Toronto Blue Jays would win the AL East this season.
Ooops. The Yankees beat Toronto 3-2 Sunday afternoon to complete a four-game sweep.
Since their 1-5 start, the Yankees are on a 14-5 roll. They’re putting the heat on first-place Boston (18-7) and 7 games ahead of the sputtering Blue Jays.
New York’s three runs Sunday came via a solo home run by Brian Boesch and a two-run HR by Lyle Overbay. Why not? They’re not the only recycled veterans who’ve been rejuvenated wearing the pinstripes.
Vernon Wells and Kevin Youkilis also have contributed big hits.
Starting pitching has held up so far and old reliable closer Mariano Rivera hasn’t lost his magic yet: 10 games, 9 saves (career total 617), 1.80 ERA, 9 hits, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts.
The Yankees are 15-9 and the feeble Houston Astros are coming to the Big Apple for a three-game series starting Monday night.
Maybe the only thing that could derail this Yankees Express would be a quick return by Alex Rodriguez.
DISAPPOINTING SEASON BY SABRES WAS NO FLUKE
The Buffalo Sabres won’t be participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the fourth time in the last six seasons. A quick look at how the Sabres measured up against the NHL’s other 29 teams strongly suggests that Buffalo needs a lot of help (league ranking in parentheses):
Wins – 21 (t21st)
Points – 48 (t21)
Point percentage -- .500 (t21)
Goals per game – 2.46 (t21st)
Goals allowed per game – 2.90 (t22)
Five-on-five GF/GA ratio – 0.90 (t21)
Power play percentage – 154.1 (29)
Penalty killing percentage – 79.2 (26)
Shots per game – 27.9 (22)
Fewest shots allowed per game – 33.5 (30)
Winning percentage when score first -- .667 (19)
Winning percentage when trail first -- .208 (25)
Winning percentage when lead after first period -- .600 (30)
Winning percentage when lead after second period -- .692 (28)
Winning percentage when outshoot opponents -- .333 (67)
Winning percentage when outshot -- .500 (12)
Faceoff win percentage – 46.2 (29)
Fewest penalty minutes per game – 13.1 (26)
Most shootout wins – 7 (2)...7-4 record in shootouts
Average home attendance – 18,970 (9).
MOST DOMINANT IN SPORTS TODAY: HOW ABOUT LEBRON OR JON JONES?
If soon-to-be four-time NBA Most Valuable Player (possibly the league’s first unanimous MVP?) LeBron James isn’t the most-dominant pro athlete today, maybe Rochester product Jon “Bones” Jones is.
Jones defended his UFC light-heavyweight championship last Saturday night in Newark, N.J. He demolished outclassed challenger Chael Sonnen via first-round TKO.
Jones wants to next fight Alexander Gustafsson. Most UFC fans would much prefer to see him fight fellow legend Anderson Silva.
The 25-year-old Jones won’t be fighting anyone soon. He suffered a broken left big toe while beating up Sonnen.
When he returns to action, Jones needs to fight the best possible competition in order to gain mainstream recognition and the respect he deserves.
He also deserves to fight at Madiison Square Garden. Sooner or later, the spoil-sport powers-to-be in Albany will have to allow it.
TAKING A STAB AT STANLEY CUP FIRST ROUND
The NHL has the most competitive playoffs in pro sports. No sport has nearly as many first-round upsets. No sport has as many low-seed teams advance deep into the tournament. The home-field (or home-ice) advantage often means less than in the other sports.
For the record, here are my first-round picks:
Pittsburgh Penguins over New York Islanders in 5 – The loaded Penguins probably could win two series without Sidney Crosby (broken jaw), and he is expected to return soon.
Washington over New Rangers in 6...The Capitals are 15-2-2 in their last 19 games and Alex Ovechkin had 19 goals over that span.
Montreal Canadiens over Ottawa Senators in 6 – Ex-Amerks goaltender Craig Anderson’s is Ottawa’s top hope for an upset. He led NHL in goals-against average and save percentage.
Boston Bruins over Toronto Maple Leafs in 6 – The difference should be Boston’s depth up front. This will be the 14th time these two Original Six teams met in the playoffs, but the first time since 1974.
Chicago Blackhawks over Minnesota Wild in 4 – Tough to project a win for the Wild. The Blackhawks started 20-0-3 and were 10-3-2 in April...One hurdle for Chicago is the Presidents’ Trophy hex. Since the trophy began in 1986, the team with the best record in the regular season went on to win the Stanley Cup only seven times.
Anaheim Ducks over Detroit Red Wings in 6 – The Red Wings extended their streak to 22 straight playoff appearances but they don’t figure to last long this time.
Vancouver Canucks over San Jose Sharks in 7 – The home-ice advantage could be the difference. The Sharks had only eight road wins this season.
Los Angeles Kings over St, Louis Blues in 6 – The Kings won the season series 3-0 (including 2-0 in St. Louis) and swept the Blues in last year’s playoffs.
My Stanley Cup Finals pick: Pittsburgh over Chicago in 6...I realize how often at least one of the two pre-tournament favorites reaches the championship series. But the Penguins and Blackhawks were the class of the league all season and are healthy entering the playoffs.
ODDS TO WIN THE STANLEY CUP (courtesy of Bodog.lv): Pittsburgh 7x2...Chicago 4x1...Boston 8x1...Anaheim 10x1...Montreal 10x1...San Jose 12x1...Vancouver 14x1...Washington 14x1...Los Angeles 15x1...St. Louis 15x1...Minnesota 18x1...New York Rangers 20x1...Toronto 25x1...Detroit 30-x1...New York Islanders 30x1...Ottawa 30x1.
Sleeper at the odds: Rangers.
Many analysts credit the Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens with the best performances in the 2013 NFL Draft.
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. wasn’t among the many analysts impressed by Buffalo’s draft. He rated the Bills last in the NFL. Maybe the fact that he rated EJ Manuel No. 6 among quarterbacks had a lot to do with that.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com included Buffalo among the seven teams that “nailed it” in the draft. His six others were Minnesota, Cincinnati, Detroit, Pittsburgh, San Diego and St. Louis.
--Listener/reader Chris Ottenot passes along this interesting note: “A friend of Les Harrison’s (team owner) had a stash of Rochester Royals films squirreled away. The NBA is paying Kodak to transfer them to digital.”...Bob recently saw a reel and was impressed by the footage of a Royals vs. Minneapolis Lakers game at the Edgerton Park Sports Arena.: “It was amazingly clear after almost 70 years.”
--Lacrosse great Mark Millon is making a comeback with the Rochester Rattlers. The National Lacrosse Hall of Famer was the Major League Lacrosse Offensive player of the Year in 2002 and 2003 and the Most Valuable Player is 2005. He’ll turn 42 next month and last played in MLL in 2007.
--A sports memorabilia auction in Laguna Niguel, Calif., over the weekend resulted in more than 1,000 items being sold for more than $5.1 million. Some of the most interesting items and what they sold for:
1927 Yankees team-signed photograph $275,706
A Babe Ruth game-used bat -- $171,190
Ray Nitschke’s 1967 Green Bay Super Bowl championship ring $91,151
Gus Williams’ 1979 Seattle SuperSonics championship ring $91,000
John Havlicek’s 1963 Boston Celtics championship ring $68.481.60
Steve Garvey’s 1974 National League MVP award -- $68,482
A pair of LeBron James game-worn sneakers to benefit victims of the Newtown, Ct., tragedy $27,584.
--Larry Brooks of the New York Post ripped the Buffalo Sabres for raising season-ticket prices for the 2013-14 season and using the new collective bargaining agreement as the excuse. The new deal raised the owners’ take from 43 percent to 50 percent of revenues.
--Sidney Crosby (Pittsburg Penguins) is my pick for the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) despite missing the last 12 games with a broken jaw. He was third in the NHL scoring race and was the main reason the Penguins opened up a big lead in the Eastern Conference.
--The Los Angeles Lakers worked hard to squeeze into the NBA playoffs but would’ve been better off had they not qualified. Injuries took a huge toll and center Dwight Howard was a disgrace. Being ejected with two technicals in Sunday’s final game of the year was the last straw. I can’t think of a worse current teammate in any sport. Maybe he’ll grow up and lead another team to a championship. But I wouldn’t count on it.
--Condolences to “Ray Ray,” one of our radio show’s most faithful and enthusiastic listeners, who passed away last week. He loved all sports, but particularly the NFL (circa 1960s through 1970s) and pro boxing. Ten bells, Ray Ray.