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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.
MANUEL WAS A BOLD PICK ...BUT ASKING FANS TO BE PATIENT IS ASKING A LOT
MacINTYRE SEEKS REDEMPTION AGAINST AMERKS
S.O.S. TO MINNESOTA: RED WINGS NEED HELP
TWO EX-RED WINGS HEELS IN “42”
Buffalo Bills general manager Buddy Nix proved again Thursday night that he is a man of his word. After promising months ago to the team’s long-suffering fans that he would select a “franchise quarterback” in the 2013 NFL college draft, he attempted to deliver Thursday night.
The big question: Is E.J. Manuel a genuine future “franchise quarterback”?
Manuel drips with raw talent. He has the arm, mobility, smarts, size and charisma to become a productive QB for a long time. But he isn’t ready to play. He may never be a star. Hell be watching Kevin Kolb and maybe Tarvaris Jackson play QB this season and maybe the 2014 season.
The Bills are asking their fans to be patient – again. That’s asking a lot when management hasn’t provided a playoff berth in 13 years and counting.
I was excited by two hot draft rumors Thursday morning:
1-- The Bills were more interested in USC quarterback Matt Barkley than Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib...I thought Nassib would’ve been an outrageous reach with the No. 8 pick. I wouldn’t have taken him after the Bills traded down to No. 16. I was hoping another team would take Nassib before Buffalo was tempted with the No. 41 overall pick...I give Nassib credit for improving in each of his four years at SU, but nothing he did made me think he would be the QB Buffalo has been lacking for so long.
2--West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin – the most exciting player in this draft – was climbing up the charts and some analysts were projecting him as the No. 8 overall pick to Buffalo...I was envisioning a Buffalo offense with Austin and C.J. Spiller – two dynamic offensive players. The Bills probably are headed for a 14th straight season without a playoff berth. But with Spiller and Austin, they had a chance – immediately -- to be one of the NFL’s most entertaining teams ...Sadly, the Bills traded down to No. 16 with St. Louis...Adding insult to injury, the Rams used the No. 8 pick obtained in the deal to select Austin. Thumbs up to St. Louis.
Austin wouldn’t have helped Buffalo’s defense. But Manuel won’t either.
Manuel isn’t likely to do anything to help the Bills end their embarrassing playoff drought. Austin likely will be an impact player immediately.
The trade with the Rams gave Buffalo the No. 46 pick and a seventh-round pick. They also swapped third-round picks (Buffalo went from 71 to 78). The Bills certainly needed more picks. Thumbs up for that.
The problem is that they had only six to begin with. Non-playoff teams generally stockpile picks.
ESPN’s draft guru Todd McShay stunned by Buffalo’s pick. He rated Manuel a mid-third round pick. I haven’t heard a single draft guru endorse Manuel going No. 16 to the Bills. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right and Nix is wrong – but what do you think?
We can only hope Nix turns out to be as right about E.J. Manuel as he was wrong about Russell Wilson last year.
AMERKS SOLID BETWEEN THE PIPES...SO ARE THE MARLIES WITH MacINTYRE
The Rochester Americans open the Calder Cup playoffs Saturday afternoon at the Toronto Marlies. The Amerks aren’t expected to win the best-of-five series, mainly because Toronto won 9 of the 10 meetings in the regular season. Another cause for concern: Rochester was an AHL-best 10-1 in shootouts in the regular season and there are no shootouts in the playoffs.
Rochester will enter the playoffs with arguably the best 1-2 punch in goal in the 16-team field: David Leggio and Matt Hackett. But Toronto isn’t exactly hurting between the pipes. Drew MacIntyre has been red hot and has the element of revenge in his favor. He has something to prove to the Buffalo Sabres organization.
MacIntryre was expected to be Rochester’s No. 1 goalie last season but struggled early and eventually lost his starting job to Leggio. The two-time AHL all-star finished 8-12-2 with a career-worst 3.19 goals-against average and a modest .899 save percentage.
MacIntyre began this season with Prague of the Kontinental Hockey League. He suffered an ankle injury and was released in mid-November. The AHL season was well underway and he had a difficult time finding a team to play for. When the Reading Royals of the ECHL contacted him in late December, he swallowed his pride and signed. According to an interview with Kyle Cicerella, MacIntyre, his wife and their two pre-school young daughters shared one motel room for three months in Reading.
MacIntyre got his break on Feb. 13, when the AHL Marlies needed a goalie in a manpower pinch. MacIntyre was signed on a tryout basis and was an immediate hit. In 21 games, he earned the team’s No. 1 goalie spot. In 21 games, he had a 13-5-3 record, with a 1.83 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. He has earned a new two-way NHL-AHL contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
RED WINGS CAN’T BE WORST IN TRIPLE-A AGAIN...COULD THEY?
The Rochester Red Wings beat the host Syracuse Chiefs twice Thursday night to at least temporarily stop the bleeding and boost their record to 7-14. But it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to defend the Minnesota Twins as the major-league parent club of the Rochester Red Wings.
By all accounts, Minnesota has lots on talent in the lower minors. I believe much of that talent will be ready for Triple-A by 2015. I know many Rochester fans don’t want to hear that or wait that long. I understand completely. Early returns for this season suggest that the Red Wings are in danger of wrapping up one of the worst four-year runs in Rochester’s long pro baseball history:
2010 – 49-95 record (.340)...worst record in Triple-A...outscored by 188 runs (780-592)
2011 – 53-91 record (.368)...worst record in Triple-A...outscored by 141 runs (728-587)
2012 – 72-72 (.500)...high-water mark...outscored by 70 runs (638 -568)
2013 – Have started 7-14 (.333)...outscored by 39 runs (125-86).
I think the Red Wings have enough offensive potential to be at least a .500 team this season. It sure would help if outfielders Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks were playing here instead of being overmatched in Minnesota. But pitching is what terrifies me. The Wings have by far the worst pitching numbers in the International League...The encouraging note is that 10 pitchers – with a long list of ailments – are on the disabled list and trying to round to form (including Nick Blackburn, Samuel Deduno, Rich Harden, Kyle Davies, Deolis Guerra, Lester Olivares and Bryan Augustein)...The discouraging thought is that several of those pitchers might never be ready.
FORMER RED WINGS FRITZ OSTERMUELLER AND DIXIE WALKER HEELS OF “42”
I highly recommend the movie “42”, the story of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. It is an entertaining history lesson for baseball fans and non-baseball fans of all ages.
Sad to report that two of the worst characters in the movie are former Rochester Red Wings – pitcher Fritz Ostermueller and manager Dixie Walker.
Ostermueller was a left-handed pitcher (he throws righthanded in the movie, one of the few inaccuracies in the flick). He was 2-2 with the Red Wings in 1930 and 16-7 with a 2.44 ERA in 1933. He went to post a record from within the movie. Ostermueller , while pitching for Pittsburgh in 1947, shouted on the mound to Robinson in the batter’s box that he didn’t belong in the major leagues – then or ever.
Ostermuellar then beaned Robinson, presumably on purpose. Jackie got his revenge with a game-winning HR off Ostermueller in a crucial late-season Brooklyn victory.
Ostermueller retired after the 1948 after the 1948 season. His career record was 114-115 (3.99 ERA).
Walker was portrayed as the Brooklyn teammate most opposed to Robinson as a teammate. The Georgia native was a prime mover on a petition from the players asking management not to have Jackie on the team. Walker, a very popular Dodger for nine years, nicknamed The Peoples Cherce”), was traded to Pittsburgh after the 1947 season. He retired after the 1949 season. He was a .306 hitters with 105 HRs and 1,023 RBI.
Walker managed the Red Wings in 1955 (after brother Harry “The Hat” was promoted as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals) and 1956.
Rochester won the Governors’ Cup playoffs both seasons.
FINGER LAKES RACING HAS TO GET BETTER BECAUSE IT CAN’T GET WORSE
If you haven’t been to Finger Lakes Casino and Racetrack for live racing this season, you haven’t missed much.
The theme so far: Small fields, small payoffs and large margins of victory.
There simply aren’t enough horses on the grounds in legitimate racing form. Some trainers appear to be using the afternoon races as workouts. I don’t blame them. The purse money is very good. Why not run in the afternoon for an also-ran share of the purse rather than have a workout in the morning for nothing?
Tuesday’s program was a good example of the inferior racing product at the Thumb so far this young season:
Race 1 – winner paid $3.30...5-horse field...margin of victory 6 lengths
Race 2 -- $3.70...6...1 ¼ lengths
Race 3 -- $5.70...6...9 ¼ lengths
Race 4 -- $2.20...8...1 ½ lengths
Race 5 -- $4.20...10...neck
Race 6 -- $3.60...6...1 ¾ lengths
Race 7 -- $3.30...5...neck
Race 8 -- $2.70...4...7 ½ lengths
Race 9 -- $3.10...8...5 lengths.
BOB’S MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL WEEKLY RANKINGS
I am looking for a few reasons why Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula should retain general manager Darcy Regier. This would not happen with any other team in the NHL. Why have Regier try to rebuild a roster he put together a few times before? Inexplicable to me.
I figured the Western New York Flash would draw around 7,500 with nice weather for their home opener Saturday night at Sahlen’s Stadium. But with Abby Wambach sidelined as she recovers from a head injury, I believe 5,000 turnstile would be a solid number.
Is there any reason other than greed that the first round of the NBA is best-of-seven instead of best-of-five?
6-10 RECORD APPEARS REASONABLE FOR 2013 BILLS
BREAKING DOWN THE NFL SCHEDULE
NLL PLAYOFFS WIDE OPEN...KNIGHTHAWKS GOOD AS ANY
DOES ROLSTON HAVE THREE GAMES LEFT AS COACH OF THE SABRES?
JON JONES BIG FAVORITE OVER CHAEL SONNEN
MIGUEL SANO TEARING UP FLORIDA STATE LEAGUE
The 2013 NFL schedule was released last Thursday. That means it is time for my annual pre-draft analysis of Buffalo’s schedule and my predicted record for the regular season.
I realize that many Bills fans have branded me a traitor for often picking the Bills to finish with a losing record and another season without a trip to the playoffs. I can take it.
Loyal Bills fans might not like it, but the results prove that they tend to be far more hopeful than realistic.
I wish I could project a winning season and a trip to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. But I can’y. I’d like to be proved wrong. It would be fun to talk and write more happy things about the Bills.
Here is Buffalo’s schedule and my projections:
Game 1 September 8 – Home vs. New England...Imagine an upset win at home – with a new coach, a new QB and a genuine reason for optimism...Picture that...The picture just went blank... RECORD: 0-1.
Game 2 Sept. 15 – Home vs. Carolina...The Panthers should be one of the NFL’s most-improved teams are should be focused on avoiding the slow start that cost them a playoff berth last season...Buffalo fans will get to see why Buddy Nix was hoping to select Cam Newton a few drafts ago. He’s an outstanding, durable and charismatic quarterback...RECORD 0-2.
Game 3 Sept. 22 – At New York Jets...The Bills aren’t a good team but the Jets figure to be worse...RECORD 1-2.
Game 4 Sept. 29 – Home vs. Baltimore... The good news is that Bills fans get to see the defending Super Bowl champions. The bad news is that the Bills fans get to see the defending Super Bowl champions. The Ravens have slipped a bit in the offseason. The Bills haven’t improved...RECORD: 1-3.
Game 5 Oct. 3 – At Cleveland...The Browns probably will be favored. The game probably will be dull. Every team must play one Thursday night game per season. The league decided to have two of the worst teams play each other, all but assuring the lowest-rated prime-time game of the season....I’m throwing Bills fans a bone from the Dog Pound here...RECORD: 2-3 (the high-water spot for the season).
Game 6 Oct. 13 -- Home vs. Cincinnati...They’re no longer the Bungles. The Bengals have a legitimate shot to win the AFC North. The Bills have a legitimate chance to finish third in the AFC East...RECORD 2-4.
Game 7 Oct. 20 – At Miami...The Dolphins appear to be clearly the second-best team in the AFC East, largely because Ryan Tannehill is the second-best QB in the division...Miami was far more aggressive than Buffalo in the offseason and widened the talent gap...RECORD 2-5.
Game 8 Oct. 27 –At New Orleans...The Bills could explode for 30 points and still lose handily to the angry and reenergized Saints...RECORD 2-6.
Game 9 Nov. 3 – Home vs. Kansas City...Many of you probably would chalk this up on the win side. I didn’t...The Chiefs badly underachieved (2-14) last season. They had five legit Pro Bowl selections. They have huge upgrades at coach (Andy Reid) and quarterback (Alex Smith). They’ll have the No. 1 pick in Thursday night’s draft...They have a great logo and uniform. What more could you want?...RECORD 2-7.
Game 10 Nov. 10 – At Pittsburgh...The Steelers are 8-1 in the last nine meeting, including 5-0 at home by a combined 126-40...The Steelers have slipped a notch or two, but they’re still considerably better than Buffalo...RECORD 2-8.
Game 11 Nov. 17 – Home vs. New York Jets...Obviously, I believe the Jets will be very bad this season. A win for the Bills...RECORD: 3-8.
Game 12 Dec. 1 – Vs. Atlanta in Toronto...No contest. Playing this “home” game on the road makes the challenge even tougher...RECORD 3-9.
Game 13 Dec. 8 – At Tampa Bay...The Buccaneers probably are a slightly above average NFL team. The Bills still are striving to reach that level...Possible upset win for Buffalo but not likely...RECORD 3-10.
Game 14 Dec. 15 – At Jacksonville...The Jaguars could be the NFL’s worst team...RECORD 4-10.
Game 15 Dec. 22 – Home vs. Miami...I’m being nice...An early Christmas gift to Buffalo fans...RECORD 5-10.
Game 16 Dec. 29 – At New England...The only hope for the Bills is if the Patriots have clinched home-field advantage for the playoffs and rest a few big-time players, including QB Tom Brady...The visiting Bills gave the Patriots a scare before losing 37-31 last season –but Buffalo is since 0-10 and outscored 297-143 at New England...RECORD 5-11.
Where am I being unfair?
BREAKING DOWN THE 2013 NFL TV SCHEDULE
Of the 32 NFL teams, 26 will make at least one prime-time appearance on Sunday night, Monday night, Week 1 opening night Thursday and/or Thanksgiving night.
Four appearances (10 teams) – Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Denver, Green Bay, New England, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Washington: The elite... the teams the NFL and the networks expected to be the best on the field and in the ratings.
Three appearances (5 teams) – Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Seattle: The second-tier teams.
Two appearances (4 teams) – Cincinnati, Miami, Minnesota, San Diego: Expected to be pretty good.
One appearance (7 teams) – Carolina, Detroit, New York Jets, Oakland, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Tampa Bay: The “sleepers”...included just in case they surprise. Al Davis’ ghost probably a plus factor for the Raiders.
Zero appearances (6 teams) – Arizona, Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Tennessee: The not-ready-for-prime-time players.
Note: Thursday nights not included (except Thanksgiving) because each of the 32 teams must appear once.
PARITY RULES IN THE NATIONAL LACROSSE LEAGUE
All of the major team sports in North America talk about parity. The National Lacrosse League lives it.
This season, the only team in the nine-team league to finish more than two games above .500 was the Toronto Rock (10-6). The only team to finish more than two games under .500 was the Buffalo Bandits (6-10 and the only team to miss the playoffs).
Here is how the eight playoff teams measure up:
Most goals scored – Calgary 222...Minnesota 219...Edmonton 203...Toronto 194...Washington 193...Colorado 185...Rochester 179...Philadelphia 170
Fewest goals allowed – Rochester 165...Edmonton 170...Toronto 176...Washington 192...Colorado 202...Minnesota 202...Philadelphia 207...Calgary 211
Goal differential – Edmonton +33...Toronto +18...Minnesota +17...Rochester +14...Calgary +11...Washington +1...Colorado -17...Philadelphia -40
Power play percentage – Calgary 65.9 (56x85)...Toronto 56.4 (53x94)...Colorado 55.6 (50x90)...Minnesota 50.6 (39x77)...Edmonton 49.3 (33x67)...Rochester 49.2 (29x59)...Washington 45.9
(34x74)...Philadelphia 44.7 (38x85)
Penalty killing percentage – Toronto 62.5 (40x64)...Rochester 57.9 (44x76)...Washington 49.3 (37x75)...Colorado 48.2 (41x85)...Philadelphia 48.1 (38x79)...Calgary 44.9 (48x107)...Minnesota 41.3 (31x75)...Edmonton 40.4 (21x52)
Faceoff percentage – Calgary 71.8...Washington 61.1...Minnesota 52.9...Philadelphia 47.2...Edmonton 41.7...Toronto 39.0...Colorado 35.7...Rochester 35.5
Penalty minutes differential – Philadelphia -60 (293/353)...Edmonton -41 (206/247)...Toronto -38 (264/302)...Minnesota -29 (243-272)...Washington -26 (292/318)...Colorado +11 (392/381)...Rochester +68 (301/233)...Calgary +84 (344/260).
Three reasons the Rochester Knighthawks (8-8 record) have a good chance to win the playoffs:
They’re the defending champions (7-9 record in the 2012 regular season) and won’t lack for confidence.
They’re the NLL’s stingiest defensive team and Matt Vinc is the league’s best goaltender (led the NLL in goals-against average at 10.17 and most saves with 662.
They have a balanced scoring attack.
NBA PLAYOFFS: MIAMI VS. OKLAHOMA CITY COULD BE A CLASSIC TITLE MATCHUP
The Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City were the two favorites to win the championship when the 2012-13 NBA season began. Nothing has changed except the odds.
After the opening weekend of the playoffs, there is no reason to think the title matchup will be anything other than Heat vs. Thunder.
Here were the title odds for the 16 playoff participants when this season began (in parentheses) and the odds entering the playoffs:
Miami (5-to-2) EVEN...Oklahoma City (7x2) 3x1...San Antonio (3x1) 7x1...New York Knicks (50x1) 15x1...Los Angeles Clippers (20x1) 15x1...Indiana (22x1) 15x1...Denver (40x1) 20x1...Memphis (40x1) 30x1...Chicago 5x1 (35x1)...Los Angeles Lakers 10x1 (50x1)...Brooklyn Nets (125x1) 50x1...Boston (25x1) 60x1...Atlanta (50x1) 100x1...Houston (100x1) 125x1...Golden State (100x1) 125x1...Milwaukee (80x1) 300x1.
ROLSTON HAS DONE A FINE JOB BUT MIGHT NOT REMAIN COACH OF SABRES
Considering the talent on the roster of the Buffalo Sabres, Ron Rolston has done a solid job since becoming the team’s interim coach on Feb. 20:
Under Lindy Ruff this season: Sabres were 6-10-1; 13 points in 17 games (.764 points per game).
Under Rolston: Sabres are 13-10-5; 31 points in 28 games (1.107 points per game).
If GM Darcy Regier is retained – presumably to rebuild the roster he already has rebuilt a time or two before –Rolston deserves to stay. But if owner Terry Pegula finally pulls the plug on Regier, the new GM probably would want to start with a coach of his choosing.
JON JONES BIG FAVORITE OVER MOTOR MOUTH CHAEL SONNEN
Rochester product Jon “Bones” Jones turned up the heat last week for Saturday night’s UFC light heavyweight title defense against Chael Sonnen in Newark, N.J.
Sonnen ‘s main claim to fame is being’s the UFC’s loudest smack talker. Jones is letting Sonnen’s mouth hype the fight. He says that’s what Sonnen does best. He also said Sonnen “has done steroids throughout his whole career.”
The odds (courtesy of Bovada.lv): Jones bet $800 to win
$100...Sonnen bet $100 to win $500.
MIGUEL SANO: DELIVERY TO ROCHESTER AS EARLY AS 2014?
Minnesota Twins top prospect Miguel Sano is tearing up the Class A Advanced Florida State League and could be wearing a Rochester Red Wings uniform by the second half of next season.
Sano, who won’t turn 20 until May 11, is playing for the Fort Myers Miracle. He leads the league in batting average (.375; 24x64), HRs (6), total bases (47) and slugging percentage (.734). He’s second in RBI (16).
Sunday at Palm Beach, with two outs in the fifth inning, Palm Beach Cardinals pitcher Brandon Creath’s first pitch to Sano was a high fastball behind his head. Sano responded by smashing a 3-1 pitch for a home run beyond the left-field fence. Sano then reportedly pumped his fists and shouted at the Palm Beach dugout. Plate umpire Fernando Rodriguez ejected Sano as he rounded the bases.
Miracle manager Doug Mientkiewicz wasn’t happy. He told reporter Ashley Marshall, “Basically, they threw at Miguel Sano for being good because they couldn’t get him out. They threw at him and missed him and he hit a home run.”
MOST OF THE NUMBERS FOR THE AMERKS ARE IMPRESSIVE
The AHL regular season is over and most of the numbers for the Rochester Americans were impressive:
43-29-4 record...90 of 152 possible points in the standings (.592 tied for 10th in the 30-team league).
22-15-1 home and 21-14-4 on the road...45 of 76 possible points in the standings (.592) both home and away. That’s impressive.
+25 goal differential (6th-most 234 goals for and 209 goals against) ranked 8th.
Penalty killing ranked 2nd (87.0; 267x307; 13 short-handed goals for).
Power play ranked 4th (20.3; 65x320; 11 short-handed goals allowed).
Average home attendance (6,314) ranked 10th...AHL average was 5,710.
Easily won the New York state attendance derby: Rochester 6314 (10th)...Syracuse 5399 (16th)...Adirondack 3988 (25th)...Albany 3860 (27th)...Binghamton 3559 (29th).
WHERE DID LEGGIO FINISH IN AHL MVP VOTING?
I have no gripes about Tyler Johnson of the Syracuse Crunch being voted AHL Most Valuable Player (Les Cunningham Award). He led the league in goals (37 in 62 games) and was one of the few players to score more than a point per game (37 goals and 28 assists for 65 points). He had a plus-minus of +26.
But I’d like to know how Amerks goalie David Leggio fared in the voting. Wouldn’t you?
The AHL’s players, coaches and media select the MVP. Years ago, the AHL office provided a detailed breakdown on the voting for all of the major awards. That’s no longer the case.
I wonder what the big secret is.
BASEBALL: WHO’S HOT AND NOT
Rookie right-handed pitcher Matt Harvey (4 starts; 4-0 record; 0.93 ERA; 29 innings; 10 hits; 9 walks; 32 strikeouts; .108 batting average against) already is being compared to a young Tom Seaver.
Shin-Soo Choo (Cincinnati), obtained from Cleveland to fill the weak spot as leadoff hitter, leades MLB with a .523 on-base percentage.
Reds teammate Joey Votto leads MLB with 25 walks (next-most is 15) and is second in MLB in one-base percentage (.522).
Journeyman catcher John Buck (Mets) leads MLB in RBI (22). He’s hitting .290 with 7 HRs.
No sophomore jinx so far for Bryce Harper (Washington): .369 (24x65), 7 HRs, 14 RBI.
Two imports doing well for the Yankees: Travis Hafner .319 (15x47) with 5 HRs, 10 RBI...Vernon Wells .317 (20x63) 5 HRs, 8 RBI...Kevin Youkilis .295 (18x61) 2 HRs, 9 RBI.
Atlanta leads MLB in home runs (29) and ERA (2.25).
Colorado leads MLB in runs (100) and is 2nd in batting average (.284).
Miami has the lowest team batting average (.206) and the fewest HRs (5)...Slugger Giancarlo , who asked to be to be traded after the team’s off-season roster purge because he figured opponents would pitch around him, is hitting .188 with 0 HRs and1 RBI.
Rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks (Minnesota) is hitting .059 (3 singles in 51 at-bats), with 7 runs, 4 RBI, 9 walks and 21 strikeouts. The Red Wings sure could use him.
Has 39-year-old Ichiro Suzuki (Yankees) had it or is he in a slump? He’s hitting .200 (11x55) with 1 HR, 3 RBI and 0 stolen bases.
Josh Hamilton (Angeles) is batting .176 (12x68) with 2 HRs, 8 RBI and 23 strikeouts.
Adam Dunn (White Sox) is batting .108 (7x65) with 3 HRs, 6 RBI, 3 walks and 26 strikeouts.
Two-thirds of Atlanta’s talented starting outfield continues to struggle: Jason Heyward .121 (7x58), 2 HRs, 5 RBI...B.J. Upton .167 (11x66), 2 HRs, 3 RBI.
Three struggling star pitchers (they aren’t alone): Ubaldo Jimenez (Cleveland) 0-2 record, 10.06 ERA...Matt Cain (San Francisco) 0-2 record, 7.15 ERA...David Price (Tampa Bay) 0-1 record, 6.26 ERA.
TWO POPULAR EX-WINGS COULD BE TEAMMATES WITH PIRATES
Arguably the two most popular Rochester Red Wings of the Minnesota Twins era – left-handed pitcher Francisco Liriano and first baseman Garrett Jones – could soon be teammates on the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Jones is hitting .300 (15x50) for the Pirates, with 3 doubles, 1 HR and 9 RBI.
Liriano is on rehab assignment while recovering from a broken right arm. In his first start for the Altoona Curve (Double-A Eastern League) last Saturday night, he lasted 2 2/3 innings and allowed 4 hits and 4 earned runs, with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts.
All eight NBA playoff openers were won by the home team (8-0).
In response to the Boston Marathon bombings, security will be amped up for the Kentuck Derby May 4. The list of banned items has been increased to include backpacks, coolers, video equipment and cans of all sizes. All patrons will be subject to an electronic wand search at admission gates.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a big favorite (bet $880 to win $100) over challenger Robert Guerrero (bet $100 to win $500) in their WBC welterweight title fight May 4 in Las Vegas.
The Rochester Red Wings had seven starting players hitting below .200 in the starting lineup for Saturday’s 5-4 home win over Pawtucket.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ interest in Phil Jackson as coach is sort of a joke. He has always coached loaded teams in the NBA and isn’t likely to take over a far below-average team now.
AFC East draft picks: Buffalo (6) 8, 41, 71, 105, 143, 177...Miami (11) 12, 42, 54, 77, 82, 111, 146, 166, 217, 224, 250...New York Jets (8) 9, 13, 39, 72, 106, 141, 178, 216...New England (5) 29, 59, 91, 226, 235).
THE ODDS ON RYAN NASSIB TO THE BILLS
IS RYAN MILLER HISTORY WITH THE SABRES?
KNICKS PROVE THEY’RE THE REAL DEAL
KOBE BRYANT A CREDIT TO THE NBA
GRINER, TAURASI A SUPER 1-2 PUNCH
WHY ATLANTA’S 11-1 START IS SO IMPRESSIVE
The Answer Man makes a visit as he celebrates the arrival of spring – we hope:
QUESTION: Do you think former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib will be drafted by the Buffalo Bills?
ANSWER: I make the odds slightly about 60-40. His draft stock has been rising in recent weeks. Many of the talent gurus rank him as a first-round pick. One rates him the No. 1 QB prospect. A few have him in the top 5. A few others believe he’s a second rounder. A very few think he is overrated.
I don’t believe Nassib is Buffalo’s “quarterback of the future,” but coach Doug Marrone and GM-for-now Buddy Nix might think so – and they’re the ones who count.
My dream scenario for the Bills, assuming they’re sold on Nassib: Trade down in the first round to add an early pick in the second round and give Buffalo 3 of the top 41 picks...Nassib would still be on the board for the Bills to select him in the No. 20 to No. 32 range...Buffalo’s two picks in the second round (from No. 33 through No. 41) would be used on immediate starters at linebacker and a wide receiver or a second linebacker.
Unfortunately, Buffalo enters the draft with only six picks (8, 41, 71, 105, 143 and 177). That means the Bills really couldn’t afford to take a flyer on a second QB after Nassib. If Buffalo’s interest in Nassib is a ruse. or if the Bills trade down and hope to get him later in the first round but another team beats them to the punch, I’d use the first three picks on – in order of preference – a pass-rushing linebacker, a wide receiver and another linebacker or quarterback or tight end or offensive guard.
How does that sound?
QUESTION: Will goalie Ryan Miller be traded by the Buffalo Sabres this offseason?
ANSWER: Probably. Here are several reasons why...Miller would be an unrestricted free agent after next season. The rebuilding Sabres could get something decent in return this offseason from a Stanley Cup contender as they continue to stockpile draft picks...Miller could use a change of scenery. He’s been a warrior but his frustration appears obvious...He’s 32 years old. I still rate him among the top- dozen-or-so goalies in the NHL but he probably won’t be by the time Buffalo is a genuine Stanley Cup threat. ..It is significant that Sabres coach Ron Rolston used backup goalie Jhonas Enroth in the last two games as the team continues to battle for an improbable playoff berth. .The recent trade for 23-year-old prospect Matt Hackett is another strong clue that Miller will be leaving. Enroth, Hackett and David Leggio would be left to battle for the two goaltending spots in Buffalo.
QUESTION: Can the New York Knicks win the NBA championship this season?
No way, mainly because they rely too much on three-point shooting to upset the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals – if the Knicks get that far.
But the Knicks are much better than I thought they could be. I figured they were too old and Carmelo Anthony wasn’t a team player.
After storming out of the starting gate with a 19-6 record on Dec. 19, the Knicks went into a 19-20 funk. Anthony’s critics were making themselves heard. Amar’e Stoudemire and Anthony had no court chemistry. Some of the oldtimers were running out of steam.
Then Stoudemire was lost to injury. J.R. Smith supplied instant offense and became the NBA’s best sixth man. The team worked harder on defense. Anthony began playing like a league MVP.
The Knicks were 38-26 on March 17. They’re 15-1 since.
The Knicks are a hot ticket at Madison Square Garden again. They’re more fun than the circus.
The Knicks vs. Boston would be a super first-round series. I think the Knicks would win a maximum of six games over the savvy Celtics. I know most observers disagree.
QUESTION: Do you think Kobe Bryant can return after tearing his Achilles tendon last Friday night?
ANSWER: I hope so – but I doubt it. No star in NBA history has played through more painful injuries than he has. No pro team athlete has a more burning desire to win.
He has carried the flawed Los Angeles Lakers all season. The goal: to make the playoffs -- and probably lose in the first round to Oklahoma City or San Antonio.
I believe Kobe is too proud to return at much less than 100 percent. Considering his age (34) and the severity of the injury, that seems unlikely. Even for him.
If he has played his final game, where does he rank among the all-time NBA players? Not quite in my top five but in my top 8 for sure.
If every superstar in every sport gave as much of himself as Bryant has for his teammates, his fans and the franchise and city he represents, pro sports would be better off.
What do you think?
QUESTION: Will Brittney Griner be the No. 1 pick in Monday night’s WNBA college draft?
ANSWER: Of course, unless the league changes the height of the basket to 11 feet before 8 p.m. Monday. ..Griner (Baylor) is 6-foot-8, That’s sort of like 7-foot-2 in the NBA. She’ll be a WNBA star immediately. Who’s needs experience when you’re by far the tallest player on the court and highly skilled besides. She’s not exceptionally strong but she doesn’t need to be.
The Phoenix Mercury have the first pick. They say they’ll pick Griner or Delaware 6-foot-5 forward Elena Delle Donne or Notre Dame guard Skylar Diggins (could be the biggest draw among the rookies). After posting a 7-27 record in 2012, there is no way Phoenix will pass on Griner. The Mercury will be rising with a 1-2 punch of Griner and Diana Taurasi.
QUESTION: Should Tiger Woods have been disqualified from the Masters? Should he have withdrawn?
ANSWER: I believe Woods should have been disqualified for his improper ball drop and subsequent inaccurate scorecard. I believe most of the other players in the field – maybe all of them – would’ve been disqualified. But Tiger was by far the golfer the spectators at Augusta and coast-to-coast TV viewers coast-to-coast and all the ships at sea most wanted to watch play over the weekend.
Woods would’ve gained much respect had he withdrawn after his errant drop was detected and the penalty issued. But once Woods was cleared to play, I was rooting for him to overcome the two-stroke penalty and win his 15th major. I think most of you were, too.
Finally, I have no respect for TV snitchers in golf or any other sport.
QUESTION: Jackie Robinson obviously deserves to be a baseball Hall of Fame as a contributor. But does he merit his plaque based strictly on performance as a Major League Baseball player?
ANSWER: Most definitely. He was a .311 career batter (1,578x4,877), with 947 runs, 273 doubles, 54 triples, 137 HRs, 734 RBI and 197 stolen bases. He energized the Brooklyn Dodgers with his speed, daring and work ethic. He was National League Rookie of the Year in 1947 and league MVP in 1949.
Robinson played 10 seasons in Major League Baseball, the bare minimum to qualify for the Hall of Fame. Of course that wasn’t his fault.
Segregation kept him out of Major League Baseball until he was 28 years old. Had he not been robbed of several prime years, he would’ve ranked in the upper echelon of MLB second basemen.
QUESTION: Are the Atlanta Braves – off to an 11-1 start – the team to beat in the National League East?
ANSWER: The Braves swept a three-game series in Washington and outscored the Nationals 10-5 in the process, but I still believe Washington (7-5 record) is the National League’s best team, but Atlanta is very good and should be in the race for the NL West title all the way.
The Braves lead the NL in pitching (1.82 ERA) and the offense is getting by on the long ball (outhomering opponents 20-6) until three slumping sluggers wake up: Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton and Jason Hayward are batting a combined .146 (18x123) with 4 HRs and 9 RBI.
QUESTION: Are you worried about the International League-worst 2-8 record of the Rochester Red Wings.
ANSWER: In terms of making the playoffs, not yet. I like the team’s offensive potential. It will be even better when Minnesota sees the light and assigns overmatched rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks to Rochester. He’s batting .047 (2x43 with no extras-base hits, no stolen bases and 20 strikeouts) with the Twins.
But the pitching Is a major concern. Rochester’s 6.39 ERA ranks 13th in the 14-team IL. With 10 pitchers on the disabled list and currently on rehab in Florida,, that’s no surprise. The return of Liam Hendricks will be an immediate boost.