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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.
Move over football – just a little bit.
Not quite yet basketball.
Baseball is back! At least for a few weeks.
TV ratings were up significantly for the division round of the playoffs and that trend should continue.
Even without the New York Yankees.
The matchups and action on the field have been so absorbing that we haven’t seen or heard a word about the misunderstood and persecuted Alex Rodriguez in like almost a whole week.
And things are only warming up.
How about these League Championship showdowns:
Boston Red Sox vs. Detroit Tigers.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers.
How’s that for tradition, class organizations, national followings and century-old parades of great players.
Things are going so well for the grand old game of baseball that it might even make the cover of Sports Illustrated once or twice in the next few weeks.
My World Series pick is the Los Angeles Dodgers -- but all four finalists have a legitimate shot.
Why the Dodgers should win the World Series: They have the best 1-2 starting pitching punch in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. That’s huge. Rookie Hyun Jin Ryu is a solid No. 3. That could be enough...OK bullpen, featuring g overpowering closer Kenley Jensen, assuming he’s ready to handle the pressure ...Solid top two-thirds of the lineup, especially when streak-hitters Carl Crawford and Juan Uribe are hot. I don’t trust Uribe but he’s been clutch lately...The hustle and enthusiasm of Yasmiel Puig...Professional hitters Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez.
Why the Dodgers might not win: Could be short on left-handed pitching in the bullpen unless Paco Rodriguez returns to top form...Suspect starting pitching depth in long series...Star outfielder Matt Kemp is through for the season and Andre Ethier is hurting (left ankle)...Pressure on CF Skip Schumaker if he has to start. In CF He’s a nice sub a low-impact guy...Not a strong bench...Don Mattingly is OK but not at the top of my list of the managers in this field...Don’t have the home-field advantage in the NLCS and wouldn’t have in the World Series.
Why the Boston Red Sox should win the American League pennant: Solid lineup top-to-bottom...Tremendous home-field advantage at Fenway Park...Dynamite 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup in Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino...Gamer Dustin Predroia, as good as they come in the clutch...Power of David Ortiz and Mike Napoli in the heart of the lineup...Underrated OF Daniel Nava...Near-automatic closer Koji Uehara.
Why the Red Sox might not win: Not the greatest starting rotation in the field (Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, John Lackey)...A few soft spots in the lineup...Not much team speed...Bullpen set-up guys nothing special.
Why the St. Louis Cardinals could go all the way: They know how to win and have for a very long time...Solid and versatile lineup, including Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter, money hitter Carlos Beltran and David Freese...Super catcher Yadier Molina...Ace starter Adam Wainwright...Decent bullpen.
Why the Cardinals might not win: Can they continue their remarkable hitting in the clutch (.330 with runners-in-scoring position in the regular season; dipped to .192 in the NLDS)?...Allen Craig’s foot injury. He’s sidelined for now after leading the majors in batting average with runners in scoring position in the regular season...Talented but inexperienced starting pitchers behind Wainwright..Not much team speed...Relatively weak bench.
Why the Detroit Tigers might win: Deep starting rotation, headed by Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. On their best, they’re up there with Krenshaw and Greinke...Potent lineup...Solid bench.
Why the Tigers probably won’t beat the Red Sox: Slugger Miguel Cabrera isn’t close to 100 percent due to assorted leg injuries. He’s a liability in the field and on the bases and his power is significantly diminished. But he had the big HR Thursday night and obviously is much too good to sit...Not a strong team defensively, though shortstop Jose Iglesias has shored up the middle infield...Leadoff man Austin Jackson strikes out way too much...Relatively weak bullpen....If they reach the World Series, would greatly miss DH Victor Martinez in games in the NL city.
CHIEFS OVER RAIDERS AS THIS WEEK’S NFL “BEST BET”
The Kansas City Chiefs are 5-0 and figure to keep rolling Sunday at home against Oakland as this week’s NFL “Best Bet.”
The host Raiders beat the uninspired San Diego Chargers 27-17 last week as erratic quarterback Terrelle Pryor played surprisingly well. He figures to have a much tougher time against the hungry Chiefs: KANSAS CITY 28 (-9) , Oakland 13.
Sunday’s other games
(home TEAM in CAPS)
Cincinnati 20, BUFFALO (+7 ½) 7 – The conservative nature of Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is the best hope for the Bills, who probably need a low-scoring game to be competitive in this spot.
Pittsburgh 27, NEW YORK JETS (-2 ½) 17 – The winless Steelers will be playing for pride and figure to take advantage of turnover-prone Jets rookie QB Geno Smith.
MINNESOTA (-2 ½) 24, Carolina 17 – I’m taking the team coming off a bye, playing at home and with Adrian Peterson’s legs. I’ve given up trying to gauge the Panthers.
Philadelphia 27, TAMPA BAY (+ 1 ½) 20 – I’d prefer battered Michael Vick over Nick Foles as starting QB for the Eagles, and I’d take them both over Buccaneers rookie Mike Glennon.
Green Bay 30, BALTIMORE (+3) 23 – The Packers are due for a big road win after losses at San Francisco and Cincinnati.
Detroit 28, CLEVELAND (+3) 20 – Losing QB Brian Hoyer to a season-ending knee injury was a cruel blow to the Browns, who are no match for the Lions offensively.
HOUSTON (-7) 28, St. Louis 20 – No player in the NFL needs a victory more than beleaguered Houston QB Matt Schaub and the underachieving Texans are due for a top effort after consecutive losses to Baltimore, Seattle and San Francisco.
DENVER (-27 ½) 35, Jacksonville 10 – It isn’t to cover huge numbers in the NFL, particularly when the heavy favorite has no incentive to roll up the score.
SEATTLE (-13 ½) 28, Tennessee 13 – The Seahawks are super tough at home and they’ll be zeroing in on Ryan Fitzpatrick, who might miss the Bills more on Sunday than they’ll miss him.
SAN FRANCISCO (-10 ½) 23, Arizona 17 – The Cardinals aren’t likely to win but they play enough defense to stick reasonably close.
DALLAS (-5 ½) 35, Washington 24 – I like the chances of Tony Romo bouncing back from an untimely interception than Robert Griffin III suddenly bouncing back from a bad knee injury.
Monday night’s game
Indiananapolis 33. SAN DIEGO (+1 ½) 24 – I’m never surprised when Chargers QB Philip Rivers has a super game, but I’m tired of counting on him. Andrew Luck shows up every week.
Thursday night’s pick was CHICAGO (-7 1/2) 27, New York Giants 17. The ball-hungry Bears figured to feast on the butter-fingered Giants.
Last week’s “Best Bet’ results: 9-5 picking winners straight up (51-26 this season) and 7-7 against the point spread (40-34-3 this season)...The “Best Bet’ is 3-2 straight up and 1-4 against the point spread after Denver, favored by 8 ½ points over Dallas, won by 3 points (51-48).
REMEMBERING BOBBY PERREAULT
Former Rochester Americans goalie Bobby Perreault was selected to the American Hockey League Hall of Fame on Thursday. It was a nice honor for one of the most popular and colorful players in franchise history.
Back when the Rochester Americans franchise was young and the NHL had only six teams, the AHL was dominated by talented veteran players who came back year-after-year. The key word for the AHL then was WINNING, not DEVELOPMENT.
There was a bond between the returning veteran players and the fans. They were OUR guys. Not suspect prospects just passing through. The rivalries were more hotly-contested back then. It was more fun to be a fan.
Younger players – a good percentage disguised as relatively low-paid “prospects” – now dominate AHL rosters. There no longer is room for the slower-skating, savvy, crowd-pleasing veterans of the past.
Perrault was a classic example of the old-fashioned AHL veteran. During his prime, there were only six NHL teams and the goalies were iron men. Some wore no masks and most of them rarely missed a game. They probably feared losing their permanent spots to a hot emergency replacement.
Perreault and others of his ilk were trapped in the AHL for most of their carrers. The NHL numbers game was their misfortune but a blessing to hockey fans in outposts such as Rochester, Buffalo, Providence, Cleveland, Springfield and Hershey. What a fun league that was – for sure to watch and I suspect to play in.
Perreault played a total of 31 games in the NHL. He deserved better. His only decent shot was when the Boston Bruins were terrible and it didn’t last long.
When the NHL expanded, many of the well-known veterans “graduated” and immediately became productive players. It was too late for many of them – including Bobby Perreault.
When Rochester joined the AHL in 1956, the relatively unsung young Perreault shared time in goal (16-7-0 record) with established veteran Charlie Hodge (17-18-5 record). He went on to star with the Hershey Hears before returning to Rochester a decade later to become the No. 1 goalie on two Calder Cup champions.
He was maybe 5-foot-8, pudgy and balding. He looked more like a bartender or a steady patron than a pro athlete. But he had cat-like reflexes. One of nicknames was “Bobby The Cat.”
Unlike many goalies, who stayed to themselves, the fun-loving, wise-cracking Perreault was the most popular player on most of the teams he played for. The fans loved him for his competitiveness and showmanship. He had a habit of taking off his catching glove to kiss his ring after a tough save in the clutch.
Joe Crozier brought some great teams to Rochester and Perreault fit in perfectly on that roster of amazing players in the mid-1960s: Gamble, Horvath, Ehman, Smrke, Pappin, Boyer, Duff, Armstrong, Arbour, Cherry, Sly, Hillman, Rupp , plus Cheevers, Litzeneberger, Walton and all the rest. What teams they were. What a time that was for hockey in Rochester.
Three Calder Cups in a four-year span. With Perreault – in his mid- to- late 30’s -- the No. 1 man in 1965-66 and 1967-68. He was among the eight charter members of the Rochester Americans Hall of Fame in 1986 (fellow goalie Gerry Cheevers was elected the following year).
Bobby Perreault died in a car crash in his native Quebec in 1980. He was 49. It is nice to know that the AHL hasn’t forgotten him.