Argentina is the new favorite to win the 2014 World Cup on Sunday.


Argentina will take on long shot The Netherlands in Wednesday’s semifinals. Brazil will be missing arguably its two most important players for its semifinal showdown Tuesday against Germany.


Odds from Bovada to win the World Cup:  Argentina 12-to-5 (bet $5 to win $12)…Brazil 5-to-2 (bet $2 to win $5)…Germany 5-to-2 (bet $2 to win $5)…Netherlands 7-to-2 (bet $2 to win $7).


 Host Brazil was the pre-competition favorite to win the World Cup but has lost its best offensive player (Neymar for the duration due to a broken vertebra suffered in the victory over Colombia in the quarterfinals) and top defender (captain Thiago Silva due to suspension).


Brazil still benefits from being the host country but Germany appears super confident and will be at full strength. Ladbrokes odds: Brazil 9-to-5 (bet $5 to win $9)…Germany 9-to-5 (bet $5 to win $9)…Draw before penalties 21-to-10 (bet $10 to win $21).


Argentina (featuring Lionel Messi) appears to have a firepower advantage over the Netherlands in Wednesday’s semifinal match. Ladbrokes odds: Argentina 7-to-5 (bet $5 to win $7)…Netherlands 23-to-10 (bet $10 to win $23)…Draw before penalties 21-to-10 (bet $10 to win $21).


All odds above are subject to change before kickoff time.


The oddsmakers did a good job setting the pre-tournament odds. Bovada’s three favorites all reached the semfinals: Brazil 3-to-1…Argentina 9-to-2…Germany 11-to-2. The Netherlands was was tied for 9th at 25-to-1.




The American League mid-season Most Valuable Player is a tough call. My pick is Seattle second baseman Robinson Cano.


My reasoning: The young Mariners are the top surprise team in the league and Cano is the team’s best and most valuable player. The struggles of the New York Yankees without Cano are more proof of his MVP worthiness.


Entering Monday, Seattle had a 48-40 record in the AL West, trailing Oakland by7 games and the Los Angeles Angels by 3 ½ games. But they’d be tied for the lead in the AL East.


Cano was hitting .320 (104-for-325), with 20 doubles, 1 triple, 6 HRs and 51 RBI. He’s also slick as ever defensively. He’s a proven winner and has undoubtedly instilled confidence in his teammates.


The rest of Bob’s top-10 AL mid-season MVPs (in order of preference): Mike Trout (Angels; he’s probably a more popular choice, partly because he finished second or AL MVP the past two seasons)…Edwin Encarnacion (Toronto)…Miguel Cabrera (Detroit)…Jose Abreu (White Sox)…Jose Altuve (Houston)…Nelson Cruz (Baltimore)…Brandon Moss or Josh Donaldson  (Oakland)…Michael Brantley (Cleveland)…Adam Jones (Baltimore). It seems strange not to have a member of the New York Yankees in the top 10, but no one is close except pitcher Masahiroi Tanaka.


My National League MVP is a much easier decision: Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.


I’m generally against pitchers for MVP (for example,  Tanaka). They have their own award and the Cy Young Award has become as prestigious as MVP. Batters can’t win the Cy Young Award, so why should pitchers be considered for MVP?


But Kershaw is an exception. In his 13 starts, he hasn’t been very good or great this season -- he has been spectacular.


The Dodgers got off to a sluggish start this season but now lead the NL West. Kershaw is the main reason.


Check out this pitching line: 10-2 record… 1.85 earned-run average…87 1/3 innings…64 hits allowed…12 walks…115 strikeouts…11.8 strikeouts/9 innings…0.87 WHIP (walks + hits per inning).


The rest of Bob’s top-10 NL mid-season MVPs (in order of preference):  Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado; the Rockies have been a disappointment, largely due to injuries; his numbers at Coors Stadium are incredible -- .439, 11 HRs, 30 RBI – but his road production is nothing special -- .265, 7 HRs, 17 RBI)…Giancarlo Stanton (Miami)…Andrew McCuthen (Pittsburgh; the defending NL MVP is threatening to repeat)…Carlos Gomez (Milwaukee)…Yasiel Puig or Dee Gordon (Dodgers)….Paul Goldschmidt (Arizona)…Justin Morneau (Colorado)…Jonathan Lucroy (Milwaukee)…Yadier Molina (St. Louis).




Sports entertainment tip: the Rochester Rattlers.


The underappreciated Rattlers scored a huge 15-13 victory at the Charlotte Hounds on national TV last Saturday night to boost their record to 7-3 (5-1 in the last 6 games) and tie the Denver Outlaws for first place in Major League Lacrosse.


Denver lost 17-13 at home to the Boston Cannons July 4th before a crowd of 29,718.


Coach Tim Soudan’s Rattlers are taking the outdoor lacrosse world by storm with a combination of stellar goaltending (John Galloway), solid defense, a versatile midfield(including Justin Turri, Jordan MacIntosh, Dave Lawson and John Ranagan)  and a potent offense sparked by late additions super-shifty Jordan Wolf, Mark Cockerton and Miles Thompson.


Unfortunately, most of Rochester’s vast number of outstanding high school, college and amateur league coaches and young players (male and female) have been missing out on a great show.  Check out the eight-team leagues top two teams with four games remaining in the regular season:


Rochester 7-3 record…outscoring opponents 133-121…5-0 home record…average home attendance is a league-low 1,169 for five games at Sahlen’s Stadium.


Denver 7-3 record…outscoring opponents 125-117…5-1 home record…average home attendance is a league-best 10,925 for six games.


The Outlaws are not a better team than the Rattlers and the Denver area does not have nearly as much lacrosse tradition as Greater Rochester – not yet at least. But the Outlaws sure do draw more fans.


Here are the four remaining games this regular season for the Rattlers, who have a very good chance to join the 2014 National Lacrosse League Knighthawks to give Rochester an indoor-outdoor pro lacrosse championship parlay: at Chesapeake Bayhawks Thursday, July 17…host Charlotte Hounds Saturday, July 26…host Ohio Machine Saturday, Aug. 2, and at Boston Cannons Saturday, Aug. 9.




The countdown of the NFL’s “Top 100 Players is down to numbers 10-to-1. It is a safe guess that those players to be announced Wednesday night on the NFL Network will include quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees.


These rankings are interesting because the players themselves are polled.


They’ve already made one controversial selection. Green Bay QB Aaron Rogers is only No. 11 among all players in this year’s rankings.  He was No. 6 last year. Many people (including me) believe Rodgers is the NFL’s best QB.


For the record, here are the other QBs already selected: Russell Wilson (Seattle) No. 20…Cam Newton (Carolina) No. 24…Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) No. 30 – Newton six spots ahead of Luck is sort of silly, isn’t it?...Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) No. 31…Philip Rivers (San Diego) No. 34 – he didn’t make the top 100 last year…Joe Flacco (Baltimore) No. 58…Nick Foles (Philadelphia) No. 70…Tony Romo (Dallas) No. 71…Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco) No. 80…Matthew Stafford (Detroit) No. 100.


A few other interesting player rankings: Marshawn Lynch No. 14…Josh Gordon No. 16…Aldon Smith No. 33…Darrelle Revis No. 37…Ndamukong Suh No. 40…Rob Gronkowski No. 41…Jason Peters No. 67…Wes Welker No. 73…Clay Matthews No. 77…Jason Whitten No. 98.


Four Buffalo Bills made the list: Mario Williams No. 29…Kyle Williams No. 32…Marcell Dareus No. 62…Kiko Alonso No. 84.


If all goes well for Buffalo, QB EJ Manuel, RB C.J. Spiller and WR Sammy Watkins will make next year’s top-100 list.




The Rochester Red Wings swept the visiting Buffalo Bisons Sunday to boost their record to 52-39, second-best in the 14-team International League and two games behind Syracuse in the IL North). The Red Wings don’t have exceptional top-to-bottom power and sometimes struggle on defense, but they’re a spirited and well-balanced team.


The Red Wings have outscored opponents by 80 runs (417 to 337) and leading the 14-team IL in batting average (.273) and earned-run average (3.25 ERA).


How rare is that?


Since the IL began regularly posting team ERAs in 1964, the same team led the league in batting average and ERA only four times – Rochester in 1974 (.261 and 3.06; outscored opponents 650-486) and Tidewater in 1986 (.273 and 3.60; outscored opponents 594-484), 1987 (.282 and 3.72; outscored opponents 725-574) and 1988 (.256 and 3.14; outscored opponents 540-496). The IL had only eight teams in those seasons, so it was considerably easier to lead the league in both categories than it is now.




Is New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia through and is he a possible future Hall of Famer? He might need microfracture surgery on his ailing right knee and that could be it for his career. Even if he does return, his days as a top-notch starter probably are over. He’ll turn 34 on July 21 but has worked a lot of innings (2,821) and never was in great shape. His best stat for Cooperstown is his 208-119 career record, with a decent 3.63 ERA. Only Tim Hudson has more victories (212) among active pitchers. But Sabathia was 14-14 with ERAs of 4.78 and 5.28 the last two seasons.  I don’t think he’ll make the Hall of Fame but he’ll be paid like a Hall of Famer for a few more years no matter what: $23 million in 2015, $25 million in 2016 and a possible $5 million buyout in 2017.


Byron Buxton, still touted as baseball’s best prospect, finally returned to action on Sunday for the Fort Myers Miracle (Advance Class A Florida State League). The 20-year-old center fielder had been sidelined since May 8 with a wrist injury and had played on only five games this season. He was 0-for-2 Sunday and is 3-for-22 with the Miracle this season. When he begins to dominate the FSL, he’ll be promoted to New Britain (Class AA Eastern League). Next stop – we hope – Rochester in 2015.


Minnesota’s top three farm teams are a combined 145-116: Rochester 52-39, New Britain 42-43, Fort Myers 51-34.


I feel much more sorry for long-frustrated fans of the Cleveland Browns than I do for troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon, who apparently loves marijuana more than his career.


I don’t envision Carmelo Anthony as the final piece of an NBA championship team. He shoots too much and doesn’t  play enough defense. But I’ll never call him a “loser” because he won the 1993 NCAA championship with Syracuse. Maybe that’s one reason why he still loves SU so much.


The Rochester Rhinos are 6-6-6 and have scored 15 goals and allowed 15 goals. That’s about as average as a team could be. But they’re not your typical USL PRO league team. They’re much better than average on defense and considerably worse than average on offense. Goal scorers at this level of pro soccer in this country are few and far between.


Cheers to Pat Neshek, the popular former Red Wings relief pitcher, for being selected to the National League squad for the All-Star Game. He has been brilliant for the St. Louis Cardinals this season: 40 games; 2-0 record; 2 saves; 13 holds; 0.77 earned-run average; 35 innings; 16 hits allowed; 4 walks; 35 strikeouts; 0.57 WHIP (walks + hits per inning); .134 opposing batting average.