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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.
FROM THE BOREIOLES TO THE BIRDERERS’ ROW
MORE ACCOLADES FOR LEBRON JAMES
HOW THE FOUR NHL SEMIFINALSTS MEASURE UP
BILLS 50x1 TO WIN AFC
The Best-hitting team in baseball is...
The Detroit Tigers?
The St. Louis Cardinals?
The Boston Red Sox?
Nope. Nope. Nope.
The Baltimore Orioles are my choice as baseball’s best-hitting team. I’m even going to give their lineup a nickname – The Birderers’ Row (a takeoff on the New York Yankees “Murderers’ Row in the late 1920s).
No team has had worse luck and more disappointments in terms of promising pitchers in recent years than Baltimore. At least a half-dozen “can’t miss” arms were damaged – mostly before they reached the majors. The latest cause for concern is 20-year-old Dylan Bundy, who has an elbow problem and has yet to pitch this season.
If Baltimore’s young pitching prospects had all delivered, the Orioles probably would be one of the very-best teams in baseball today.
There certainly is nothing wrong with the offense. Check out this lineup:
1-Nate McLouth LF -- .304, 4 HRs, 11 RBI, 17 stolen bases
2-Manny Machado 3B -- .336, 25 doubles (honest), 2 triples, 5 HRs, 30 RBI
3-Nick Markakis RF -- .307, 12 doubles, 6 triples, 6 HRs, 32 RBI
4-Adam Jones CF -- .311, 17 doubles, 10 HRs, 35 RBI, 8 stolen bases
5-Chris Davis 1B -- .353, 18 doubles, 19 HRs, 50 RBI
6-Matt Wieters C -- .249, 13 doubles, 7 HRs, 31 RBI...he’s a better hitter than those numbers suggest
7-Steve Pearce DH -- .219, 3 HRs, 9 RBI...I’m sure the O’s wish they had better...Nolan Reimold (on the DL) could be the long-term solution
7--J.J. Hardy SS -- .242, 10 HRs, 32 RBI
8—Ryan Flaherty/Alexi Casilla 2B...The weak link...The O’s are hoping Brian Roberts (hamstring) will ber back soon. He’s 35 and injury-prone, but he still can hit and get on base.
Entering Friday night, the 30-24 Orioles ranked 1st in the majors in home runs (75), slugging percentage (.464), OPS (.795) on-base percentage+slugging percentage, doubles (122) and total bases (879).
They ranked 2nd in runs to Boston (274 to 273) but had played one fewer game than the Red Sox.
If Baltimore doesn’t have the best and most versatile 2-3-4-5 stretch of hitters in a lineup in the majors today, I’m taking nominations for another one.
Two more plusses for Baltimore’s offense: The key players are young and should only improve (Machada is 20, Jones and Davis are 27, and Markakis is 29. Wieters is 29 and Hardy is 30; and Oriole Partk at Camden Yards is one of most hitter-friendly stadiums in baseball.
Unfortunately, Baltimore’s hitting isn’t nearly as impressive as the team’s hitting. The Orioles entered Friday with a 4.44 ERA, 12th in the 15-team American League. The starting rotation (Jason Hammel, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yen Chen (currently on DL) and – for now – Freddy Garcia and Kevin Gausman scares no one (except maybe O’s fans). Jim Johnson has put up good numbers in the past but is not the overpowering closer most teams prefer.
Baltimore also can field. The Orioles have only 19 errors this season, tied with St. Louis for the fewest in the majors.
Another reason it took me until now to respect the Orioles as a legitimate playoff contender is their record in one-run games (8-7) and extra-innings (4-3) so far this season. I thought last season’s 93-69 overall record was a bit of a fluke because of their unworldly marks in one-run (29-9) and extra-inning (16-2) games.
Those things tend to even out the following season – and they have – but Baltimore still has a so0lid record.
The bottom line: I believe the Orioles a 30 percent chance to win the AL East and a 60 percent chance to make the playoffs.
LEBRON JAMES THE RIGHT PICK FOR THE 2012 HICKOK BELT
Miami Hear superstar LeBron James on Thursday was announced as the overall winner of the 2012 Hickok Belt. The revived award goes to the best pro athlete as determined by as panel from the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
James was the obvious choice. He’s been easily the best overall player in the wildly popular NBA for the last few years. His performance in the third quarter of Thursday night’s game at Indiana was typical. The Heat trailed 46-40 shortly after halftime in the pivotal Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Then James took over – as he so often does in his man-against-boys world. Miami outscored Indiana 30-010 in the next 11 minutes, with LeBron either scoring or setting up 25 of those points.
Teammates Dwyane Wade (10) and Chris Bosh (7) combined for 17 points. James had 30 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. If these guys are the BIG THREE, James is 2, Wade is 2/3and Bosh is 1/3.
HOW THE FOUR STANLEY CUP SEMIFINALISTS MEASURE UP
I’m hoping for a Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup Finals matchup. A few reasons why:
They’ve been the NHL’s two-best teams all of this season
The Blackhawks have my favorite uniform in the NFL (tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for No. 1 overall)
It would be a classic showdown between Pittsburgh’s power play (28.3 percent in the playoffs) vs. Chicago’s penalty killing (97.6 percent, 40x41) in the playoffs.
It’s always good to see the best current hockey player – Sidney Crosby.
Here’s how the four survivors in the Stanley Cup tournament measure up in the playoffs entering Saturday’s semifinal openers (LA Kings at Chicago and Boston at Pittsburgh):
Goals per game – Pittsburgh 4.27...Boston 3.17...Chicago 2.75...Los Angeles 2.00
Fewest goals allowed per game – Los Angeles 1.54...Chicago 1.83...Boston 2.33...Pittsburgh 2.55
Goal differential per game – Pittsburgh +1.73...Chicago +0.92...Boston +0.83...Los Angeles +0.46
Power play percentage – Pittsburgh 28.3 (13x46)...Boston 21.9 (7x32)...Los Angeles 20.0 (7x35)...Chicago 16.2 (6x37)
Penalty-killing percentage – Chicago 97.6 (40x41)...Pittsburgh 89.7 (35x37)...Los Angeles 86.0 (37x43)...Boston 81.1 (30x37).
COLABELLO TOP CANDIDATE FOR IL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
With two months in the books, Rochester Red Wings slugging first baseman Chris Colabello is among the frontrunners for International League’s 2013 Rookie of the Year.
Since the IL Rookie of the Year award began in 1950, Rochester has had by far the most winners: Red Wings 16, Columbus, Richmond and Syracuse 6 each; Tidewater/Norfolk 4.
Here’s the parade of Rochester’s IL Rookies of the Year: Ray Jablonski (1952), Jackie Brandt (1955), Charlie James (1959), Mike Epstein (1966), Curt Motton (1967), Merv Rettenmund (1958), Roger Freed (1970), Al Bumbry (1972), Rich Dauer (1976), Bobby Bonner (1980), Cal Ripken Jr. (1981), Steve Finley (1988), Luis Mercedes (1991), Jason Kubel (2004), Francisco Liriano (2005), Randy Ruiz (2008).
BILLS 50x1 TO REPRESENT AFC IN SUPER BOWL 48
Here are the latest odds on winning the 2013 NFC and AFC titles (courtesy of Bovada.lv):
NFC – 49ers 15-to-4 (bet $4 to win $15)...Seahawks 9x2...Packers
13x2...Falcons 15x2...Saints 10x1...Giants 12x1...Bears 16x1...Cowboys
16x1...Eagles 18x1...Redskins 18x1...Vikings 20x1...Lions
28x1...Buccaneers 28x12...Rams 30x1...Panthers 33x1...Cardinals 66x1
AFC – Broncos 11x4 (bet $4 to win $11)...Patriots 3x1...Texans
6x1...Ravens 10x1...Steelers 11x1...Bengals 15x1...Colts
18x1...Dolphins 18x1...Chargers 20x1...Chiefs 25x1...Browns 40x1...Jets 40x1...Bills 50x1 (shouldn’t be rated behind Jets and/or Browns, should they?)...Titans 50x1...Raiders 66x1...Jaguars 75x1.
THUMBS DOWN TO RHINOS
I thought the Rochester Rhinos made a bush-league move Tuesday night by not starting No. 1 goalie Kristian Nicht in the U .S. Open Cup game against the New England Revolution. Coach Pat Ercoli explained after the game that he didn’t want to risk embarrassing Nicht with such an injured-riddled team in front of him. Ercoli also said it was more important to save players for the rest of the regular season than go all out in against the Revs.
OK, I’ll cut Ercoli some slack on both counts. I see his point. But he should have told the media what he was going to do BEFORE the match. That way the team’s loyal followers would have been prepared to see the team make a U.S. Open Cup match No. 2 on the priority scale and not have been surprised when Nicht didn’t start.
Can things get any lower for this once-proud franchise?