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Bob Matthews' Column

Bills' Record Book Beckons Sammy Watkins

 

 

BILLS’ RECORD BOOK BECKONS SAMMY WATKINS

 

It doesn’t take long to recognize the superior talent of Buffalo Bills rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Speed, moves, hands, competitiveness, great attitude: the whole package.

 

For the record, the Bills have had a total of 19 1,000-yard receiving seasons by 9 different players. If Watkins stays healthy this season, he’ll likely be added to the list:

 

Eric Moulds 1368 yards in 1998

 

Eric Moulds 1326 in 2000

 

Andre Reed 1312 in 1989

 

Andre Reed 1303 in 1994

 

Eric Moulds 1292 in 2002

 

Lee Evans 1292 in 2006

 

Peerless Price 1252 in 2002

 

Frank Lewis 1244 in 1981

 

Elbert Dubenion 1139 in 1964

 

Andre Reed 1113 in 1991

 

Frank Lewis  1082 in 1979

 

Steve Johnson 1073 in 2010

 

James Lofton 1072 in 1991

 

Steve Johnson 1046 in 2012

 

Eric Moulds 1043 in 2004

 

Andre Reed 1036 in 1996

 

Marlin Briscoe 1036 in 1970

 

Lee Evans 1017 in 2008

 

Steve Johnson 1004 in 2011.

 

The team record for most catchers in a season is 100, by Eric Moulds in 2002. Considering Buffalo’s apparent plan to use a fast-paced offense – featuring the run and short passes – it won’t be a huge surprise if Watkins tops 100 catches.

 

For the record, the NFL rookie record for catches is 101 by Anquan Boldin in 2003. The rookie record for yards receiving is 1,473 by Bill Groman of the Houston Oilers (AFC) in 1960. When the AFL and NFL merged, records set in the AFC were included in the NFL record book. I don’t know why.

 

ALL-TIME BEST HITTER? TY COBB GETS THIS VOTE

 

The death of super hitter Tony Gwynn has sparked a debate: Who was baseball’s all-time best hitter?

 

My top three are Ty Cobb, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth – in that order.

 

I saw a few votes for Pete Rose recently, presumably because he had the most hits (4,256 to Cobb’s 4,189). But he also had the most at-bats – by a lot. His career batting average was a relatively modest .303 and he didn’t have much power. He struck out 1,143 times in 14,053 official at-bats. Cobb struck out 681 times in 11,434 official at-bats

 

Cobb’s career batting average was .3664. The next-best is Rogers Hornsby at .3585. Cobb won 11 or 12 American League batting titles (the 1910 batting title in disputed: Nap Lajoie or Cobb).

 

Cobb’s 11 undisputed batting crowns were by the following margins over the second-best AL hitters for average: 27 points,  13, 30, 12, 14, 17, 24, 37, 30, 30 and 29. In those years (including 1910), he topped the AL average by 103, 85, 133, 140, 147, 144, 125, 120, 119, 135, 128 and 116 points. That’s impressive stuff.

 

Cobb can’t compare to Ruth or Williams for power, but he played most of his career in the dead-ball era. He had “only” 117 HRs, but he also had 724 doubles and 295 triples. He led the AL with 9 HRs in 1909.

 

Williams gets extra credit for his .344 career batting average, 521 HRs and missing the equivalent of four full prime seasons due to military service.

 

Ruth gets extra credit for his awesome power, .342 career batting average and 1,852 walks

 

Worth noting are the strikeout/walks ratios for my top three: Cobb 681 Ks, 1249 W…Ruth 1222 K, 1852 W…Williams 709 Ks, 2001 W.

 

A fair point is that Cobb played in the all-white majors. But so did Ruth – and Williams for much of his career. The black leagues probably had more great hitters than pitchers. Cobb’s average had the majors been integrated probably wouldn’t have suffered much, but he probably wouldn’t have won as many batting titles or by such wide margins.

 

The best active hitter probably is Miguel Cabrera. He’s great but I can’t put him in the company of Cobb, Ruth or Williams – or Hornsby among right-handed hitters.

 

YANKEES HAVE BEST 8-9 PITCHING PUNCH

 

The New York Yankees have so many veteran players at various stages of being over the hill that it is at least somewhat surprising that they’re hanging tough in the battle for the American League East pennant and a spot in the postseason.

 

The biggest plus for the Yankees is the back end of their bullpen.

 

 Dellin Betances and David Robertson both were touched for runs in Sunday’s loss to Toronto, but they’ve been spectacular this seasonr. When the Yankees lead after seven innings, they almost always win.

 

Entering Sunday, set-up man deluxe Betances and closer Robertson had combined for exactly 100 innings this season. Here was their pitching line: 82 appearances; 5-2 record; 27 saves; 15 holds; 100 innings; 53 hits allowed; 44 walks; 159 strikeouts; 0.78 WHIP (hits + walks per inning); 1.80 earned-run average.

 

Imagine if Mariano Rivera had not retired after last season. The team’s bullpen might have been nearly invincible in the SEVENTH-eighth- and ninth innings.

 

RATTLERS ARE THE TEAM TO BEAT

 

The Rochester Rattlers have established themselves as the fasvorite to win the Major League Lacrosse championship game, Saturday, Aug. 23, at Kenesaw State University, outside Atlanta, Ga.

 

The Rattlers clinched a spot in the four-team semifinals (Saturday, Aug. 16) with a 13-9 victory over the Charlotte Hounds last Saturday at Sahlen’s Stadium. The season-best home crowd of 1,710 was a clue that Rochester’s sports fans are warming up to a really good thing.

 

Rochester has a league-best 9-3 record with two games remaining in the regular season – host the Ohio Machine this Saturday and at the Boston Cannons Saturday, Aug. 9, at Harvard Stadium.

 

The Rattlers still have a lot to play for – a chance to host their game in the semifinals. Rochester is 6-0 at Sahlen’s Stadium.

 

The national lacrosse media continues to be impressed by the Rattlers. Here are a few comments from Justin Lafleur of inlacrossewetrust.com: “The Rattlers appear primed to do something special…Look up and down the lineup, and it is not loaded with big names. There is plenty of talent, don’t get me wrong, but among the leading scorers are Justin Turri, Jordan MacIntosh, Kevin Leveille and Dave Lawson. They are super talented players, however they aren’t the big, ‘sexy’ names in the sport...

 

“The Rattlers are a perfect example of team. They aren’t an All-Star team and they don’t receive all the hoopla, but they produce and they win. … The Rattlers are the San Antonio Spurs of Major League Lacrosse. Will they be able to end the season as MLL champions?”

 

While it was nice of Lafleur to compare the Rattlers to the NBA Spurs, he is missing the boat on Rochester’s lack of ‘sexy’ or ‘flashy’ players. Coach Tim Soudan did a terrific job assembling this roster and has his players performing at a highly efficient level, but the roster is loaded with excellent players all over the field. For example, there isn’t a more exciting or productive player in MLL than Jordan Wolf, who had five goals in the victory over Charlotte. In 5 games with the Rattlers, he has 17 goals and 9 assists.

 

It’s not too late to hop on the bandwagon. Circle this Saturday’s game against the Ohio Machine, 7 p.m., at Sahlen’s Stadium, on your things-to-do list.

 

IT IS TIME FOR THE BUFFALO BILLS TO JOIN THIS LIST

 

We all know the Buffalo Bills haven’t made the NFL playoffs since the 1999 season.

 

Here are the teams that made the playoffs after failing to make the playoffs the previous season:

 

2000 – Baltimore, Indianapolis, New York Giants,  New Orleans, Oakland, Philadelphia (6 new teams)

 

2001 – Chicago, Green Bay, New England, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Francisco (6 new teams)

 

2002 – Atlanta, Cleveland, Indianapolis, New York Giants, Oakland, Tennessee (6 new teams)

 

2003 –Baltimore, Carolina, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New England, St. Louis, Seattle (8 new teams)

 

2004 – Atlanta, Minnesota, New York Jets, Pittsburgh, San Diego (5 new teams)

 

2005 – Carolina, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Washington (8 new teams)

 

2006 – Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York Jets, Philadelphia, San Diego (7 new teams)

 

2007 – Green Bay, Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington (6 new teams)

 

2008 – Arizona, Atlanta, Baltimore, Carolina, Miami, Minnesota, Philadelphia (7 new teams)

 

2009 – Cincinnati, Dallas, Green Bay, New England, New Orleans, New York Jets (6 new teams)

 

2010 – Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Seattle (6 new teams)

 

2011 – Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Houston, New York Giants, San Francisco (6 new teams)

 

2012 – Indianapolis, Minnesota, Seattle, Washington (4 new teams)

 

2013 –Carolina, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Diego (5 new teams).

 

Last season’s seven other playoff teams were Cincinnati, Denver, Green Bay, Indianapolis,  New England, San Francisco and Seattle.

 

The 2014 Bills have at least two things going for them in their frustrating pursuit of a playoff berth – they appear to be a better team and the law of averages is on their side.

 

SEAVER TOUTS JETER FOR UNANIMOUS HALL OF FAME…WHAT ABOUT MARIANO

 

Tom Seaver last week said Derek Jeter deserves to be the first unanimous selection to baseball’s Hall of Fame.

 

Seaver, the Hall of Famer who came closest to be selected unanimously (98.84 percent; 425 of 430 possible votes in 1992), cited Jeter’s performance, longevity and character.

 

Obviously, Seaver’s recommendation should carry a lot of weight. Unfortunately, there always are a few writer-voters who try to be different. Some say , “If Babe Ruth wasn’t selected unanimously, nobody should be.” There is speculation that at least one voter has vowed never to vote for any player from the Steroid Era. How stupid is that?

 

The only minor gripe I have about Seaver’s endorsement of Jeter as “the first unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame” is that Mariano Rivera deserves the same distinction and will be eligible one year before Jeter.

 

SHORT SHOTS

 

The super filly Untapable was defeated in Sunday’s Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. She went off the 7-to-5 favorite in the field of nine and finished fifth before a banner crowd of 35,983. Bayern, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Martin Garcia, won the race wire-to-wire by 7 ¼ lengths.

 

The Minnesota Twins could deal catcher Kurt Suzuki before Thursday’s trade deadline. That probably would mean a promotion for Josmil Pinto from Rochester to the Twins. The Red Wings already probably lack the offense to win the Governors’ Cup playoff (if they get there).

 

 Scott Diamond, the veteran Rochester  Red Wings  left-handed pitcher released this month by Minnesota, was quickly picked up by the Cincinnati Reds. In his first two starts for the Louisville Bats, he has no decision and a 2.70 ERA. In 13 1/3 innings, he allowed 10 hits, with 1 walk and 4 strikeouts. If he pitches as well in his next few starts, he could wind up pitching for the Reds before the season ends.

 

I don’t think much of the current baseball Hall of Famers who don’t want certain players from the Steroid Era in the Hall of Fame. Toshe Hall of Famers weren’t faced with the temptation of using performance-enhancing drugs. It is ludicrous to believe that they all would’ve stayed clean “for the good of the game.”

 

Forbes.com writer Tom Van Riper reports that of the 225 Major League Baseball players making at least $5 million this season, 44 of them are below par in WAR ratings. WAR crunches offensive, defensive and pitching metrics to determine the number of wins a player contributes to his team over and above a minimum-salaried replacement...His conclusion:  Past performance is not a guarantee of future results, particularly with an over-30 player.

 

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