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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.
IF RELIABLE RAZORSHARKS CARRY WINNING SPORTS BANNER FOR ROCHESTER
BIGGEST LOSER IN THE PREAKNESS STAKES WAS THE BELMONT STAKES
THE AMAZING MIGUEL CABRERA
Thank goodness for the Rochester RazorSharks.
For those of you who haven’t noticed, several of our pro teams aren’t doing so well heading into this summer.
The Red Wings have an 18-26 record after Sunday’s 11-0 romp at Lehigh Valley. That’s no surprise, considering that the expected three starting outfielders (Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia and Wilkin Ramirez) and two possible infielders (Pedro Florimon and Eduardo Escobar) all are currently playing for the Minnesota Twins and about half of Rochester’s preferred Opening Day pitching staff began the season on the disabled list.
The pitching has the potential to improve, particularly if the deep starting rotation consisting of Kyle Gibson, P.J.Walters, Samuel Deduno, Andrew Albers, Liam Hendriks and Cole De Vries remains intact and healthy. The bullpen is less likely to improve.
There are two very promising starting pitchers at Double-A New Britain (Trevor May and Alex Meyer) but they aren’t dominating the Eastern League and barring injuries to Rochester’s starters, it is unlikely they’ll be rushed to Triple-A to bolster the bullpen.
Rochester’s 4.65 ERA ranks 10th in the 14-team International League and the Wings have been outscored by 43 runs in 44 games. With 100 games remaining on the schedule, it is difficult to project the prolonged stretch of winning baseball that would be needed to become a playoff contender.
There hasn’t been enough hitting to offset the below-average pitching. The exception has been first baseman Chris Colabello. The seven-year veteran of independent league baseball has been the story of the young season for Rochester – if not the entire IL. In his second pro season at age 29, here’s how Colabello ranked in the IL entering Monday:
.361 batting average (3rd)
61 hits (1st)
111 total bases (1st)
11 HRs (t1st)
.657 slugging percentage (2nd)
17 doubles (2nd)
34 RBI (3rd).
The last Red Wing to hit at least 30 HRs and drive in more than 100 runs in one season was legendary slugger Jim Fuller in 1973 – 40 years ago. He had 39 HRs and 108 RBI. He was the IL MVP despite batting only .247 and striking out a team-record 197 times. At his current pace, Colabello would hit 36 HRs and drive in 111 runs.
I hope for Colabello’s sake that his pursuit of those numbers is curtailed by a well-deserved promotion to Minnesota . There is a good chance that Twins veteran first baseman Justin Morneau will be traded before the deadline. He’s in the last year of his contract and could help a contending team as a DH-first baseman. Colabello would be the reasonable man to replace him on Minnesota’s roster.
The Rhinos, touted as a high-scoring team entering this USL Pro season, have a 1-6 -1 record and have been outscored by a ridiculous 17-4 margin. I have no idea what sort of attendance the team is drawing at Sahlen’s Stadium, but I fear they’ll be closer to “gatherings” than “crowds” if the team’s level of play doesn’t significantly improve – quickly.
Replacing frustrated coach Jesse Myers with tried-and-true Pat Ercoli Sunday was a move waiting to happen and certainly can’t hurt. Too bad Pat couldn’t turn back the clock to bring back a half-dozen or so of his former Rhinos in their primes.
The Rattlers are 1-3 in Major League Lacrosse. The team has lots of talent – this is the best outdoor lacrosse league in the world – but most of the league’s other teams appear to have more.
The Rattlers never have drawn decent crowds in Rochester – not even when they were MLL’s best team. It didn’t help this year when there was virtually no publicity in the preseason and the schedule included two “home” games in two other states.
The state of the Rattlers appears shaky at best.
The RazorSharks are 12-1 in the IBA-PBL and outscoring opponents by 16.8 points per game. The only problem (besides some apparent Rochester-biased officiating in one notorious title series) that I’ve had with the well-managed team through the years is trying to figure out exactly how good or bad the competition has been. The front office has the winning formula and has dominated with superior coaching and players. But how does the overall talent level in the Ieague measure up with the NBA D-League and the other basketball minor leagues. I have no idea. Does anyone?
And – does it matter? Everyone loves a winner. The RazorSharks usually pad their home live attendance (just like every other pro team in town) but have developed a fair-sized fan base and loyal following. As long as the team continues to beat up on inferior competition, it figures to continue to do well at the turnstiles and at the box office – no matter where it plays.
BELMONT STAKES NO BIG DEAL AS TRIPLE CROWN DROUGHT HITS 36 YEARS
Oxbow’s upset win in the Preakness Stakes was a big victory for jockey Gary Stevens and trainer D. Wayne Lukas but a huge loss for horse racing in general and the Belmont Stakes in particular.
Orb’s powerful performance in the Kentucky Derby made him the 3-to-5 favorite in the Preakness last Saturday. There wasn’t a trainer in the nine-horse race that didn’t say Orb was the class of the field.
So why did Orb lose?
Everything that right went right for Orb and jockey Joel Rosario in the Kentucky Derby went wrong in the Preakness – the weather, the pace of the race and racing luck.
Before the Derby, no one knew how Orb would fare on a sloppy track.
He wound up liking the muddy surface more than any horse in the 19-horse field. Rain was in the forecast for Baltimore last Saturday afternoon but the track was dry and fast for the big race.
Orb took advantage of a blistering early pace in the Derby. 24-to-1 pacesetter Palace Malice’s fractions were 22:57 (1/4 mile), 45:33 (1/2 mile) and 1:09.80(3/4 mile). Palace Malice was finished when the serious running began. The horses trying to keep up with him early also ran out of gas. The race set up for the closers and Orb closed fastest of all. He circled the field on the final turn and won going away by 2 ½ lengths.
Orb had no such pace luck in the Preakness.
Oxbow, a 15-to-1 long shot, under heady veteran jockey Gary Stevens, cruised to the early lead and was able to set comfortable fractions (23:94; 48:60; 1:13:28). The other speed horses were content to stalk rather than fight for the lead.
Oxbow had plenty left in the tank and stole the race by a misleading 1 ¾ lengths. It wasn’t that close. Oxbow’s 1:57.54 was the slowest winning Preakness time since 1961 but no one in the Oxbow camp was apologizing.
Orb prefers to race wide to avoid traffic and get a clear run through the stretch. But he drew the dreaded No. 1 post for the Preakness. He was boxed in for most of the race and couldn’t get to the outside to make his customary late run. He finished a disappointing fourth.
The only way thoroughbred racing gets major national attention is the pursuit of the Triple Crown – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Unfortunately, the annual Breeders’ Cup usually pales in comparison.
But Orb went from stud to dud. From awesome Kentucky Derby champ to 3x5–favored chump in the Preakness. The Triple Crown drought now is 36 years.
I’m sure Belmont Park will try to sell an Orb vs. Oxbow showdown for the June 8 Belmont Stakes. But for the sporting public at large, it figures to be just another horse race.
Assuming Orb and Oxbow both are entered , they aren’t likely to scare off any fresh challengers in the Belmont Stakes. I believe it is more likely that we’ll see three different winners in this year’s Triple Crown races than Orb or Oxbow double up.
MIGUEL CABRERA PICKING UP THE TRIPLE CROWN SLACK
No thoroughbred horse has won a Triple Crown since 1978.
Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera has a big shot to become the first baseball player EVER to win consecutive Triple Crowns (lead his league in hitting, home runs and runs-batted-in).
If you watched Cabera’s hitting performance Sunday night, you probably wouldn’t bet against him He was 4x4 with 3 HRs and 5 RBI in an 11-8 road loss to Texas.
Here’s how Cabrera measures up in the three Triple Crown categories in the American League (entering Monday):
.387 batting average (1st......No. 2 James Loney is hitting .356)
11 home runs (t2nd....one behind Mark Reynolds, Robinson Cano, Chris Davis and Edwin Encarnacion)
47 RBI (1st...No. 2 Chris Davis has 40).
Cabrera is one of the relatively few sluggers earning his mammoth long-term contract (8 years for $152.3 million...through 2015). And baseball’s best hitter seldom misses a game.
GRADING THE BASEBALL TEAMS AT THE ONE-QUARTER MARK
Here are Bob’s grades for the 32 Major League Baseball teams one-quarter into this season. The grades reflect overall performance and performance compared to preseason expectations:
American League: Yankees A+...Cleveland A+...Boston A-...Texas A...Kansas City B-...Baltimore C+...Minnesota C+...Oakland C...Seattle C...Tampa Bay C...White Sox C...Detroit C-....Houston D...Angels D-...Toronto D-
National League: Atlanta A-...Arizona B+...Pittsburgh B+...Colorado B+...Cincinnati B...St. Louis B...San Diego C+...Cubs C...Mets C...Philadelphia C...San Francisco C...Washington C-...Miami C-...Milwaukee D+...Dodgers D.
One of the many reasons the Pittsburgh Penguins vs. The Chicago Blackhawks would be an intriguing Stanley Cup Finals matchup:
Pittsburgh’s playoff-best power play (10x31; 32.3 percent) vs. Chicago’s playoff-best penalty killing (24x24; 1.000 percent).
I don’t think the left-field fence at Frontier Field should be moved in as much as it was for last Saturday night’s Legends Game, but I can’t say the same for the left-centerfield wall. With the end of the Steroid Era, several major-league teams reduced their outfield dimensions for this season. I think it would be appropriate to do the same at Frontier.
Shorter fences would mean fewer long flyouts, more doubles and home runs and more fun for most fans who prefer crooked numbers over OOOOOOs on the scoreboard.
The Wegmans LPGA Championship next month will be a huge success. It always is. But honestly, can you name five winners on the LPGA Tour this year?
You have to like Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel. In an out-of-town radio interview last week, he said Buffalo’s offensive system is less complicated and more suited to his football talents than the one at Florida State. He said he’s having fun and doing well. If he’s the best QB in training camp, should he start Week 1? I don’t see why not.
Couldn’t Dwight Freeney have helped Buffalo’s pass rush?
The Syracuse Crunch are doing pretty well in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs: 7-0 record; outs coring opponents 30-15.
Yankees TV ratings and attendance are down despite the team’s surprising record. The weather hasn’t helped, but have the injured big-name stars been missed more at the gate than in the standings? Starpower sells.
I know there was a full-page ad and almost a full page devoted to local golf listings, but it was good to see the 12-page sports section in Sunday’s Democrat and Chronicle.
Fort Myers Miracle/Cedar Rapids Kernels update: Minnesota’s two Single-A teams are a combined 60-24 and outscoring opponents by a combined 131 runs.
Only in the New York Post Department: In an article by Joel Sherman analyzing the job being done by New York Mets manager Terry Collins, the headline and drophead read: That’s a Bunch of Junk: Roster of rubbish makes it impossible to evaluate Collins.
For the record: The four Buffalo Bills drafts overseen by Buddy Nix: 2010 C.J. Spiller, Torrell Troup, Alex Carrington, Marcus Easley, Ed Wang, Arthur Moats, Danny Batten, Lervi Brown, Kyle Calloway...2011 Marcell Dareus, Aaron Williams, Kelvin Sheppard, Da’Norris Searcy, Chris Hairston, Johnny White, Chris White, Snow White (just seeing if you’re paying attention), Justoin Rogers, bit Michael Jasper...2012 Stephon Gilmore, Cordy Glenn, T.J. Graham, Nigel Bradham, Ron Brooks, Zebrie Sanders, Tank Carder, Mark Asper...2013 EJU Manuel, Robert Woods, Kiko Alonso, Marquise Goodwin, Duke Williams, Jonathon Meeks, Dustin Hopkins, Chris Gragg.
The Baltimore Orioles, 29-9 in one-run games last season, are 6-6 in one-run games this season. The Cleveland Indians are 11-3 and the Yankees are 8-3.