KAEPERNICK VS.L FLACCO AN UNLIKELY SUPER BOWL QB MATCHUP
MUSIAL AND WEAVER WERE LEFT THEIR MARKS WITH THE RED WINGS
NOT SURE REGIER CONTRACT EXTENSION IS A GOOD THING
THUMBS UP TO ORANGE FOR ROAD WIN OVER LOUISVILLE
The San Francisco 49ers are the early 4-point favorite over the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII Feb. 3 in New Orleans. The over/under (combined points by both teams) is 48.5.
The early Super hype is focusing on the brothers Harbaugh as the opposing head coaches: Jim with San Francisco and John with Baltimore.
But think the starting quarterbacks are more interesting and at least as significant.
Who could have guessed entering Nov. 11 that Colin Kaepernick would be the starting QB for the 49ers in Super Bowl XXLVII in New Orleans Feb. 3? He was glued to the bench behind veteran Alex Smith. San Francisco was 6-2 and Smith was enjoying his finest season (including a 104.0 passer rating).
And who could have guessed after Baltimore dropped to 9-5 with a third straight loss Dec. 16 (34-17 at Denver) that strong-armed but inconsistent Joe Flacco would lead the Ravens to the league championship game?
When the 2012 NFL season began, Baltimore was 18x1 to win Super Bowl XLVII and San Francisco was 12x1.
Drew Brees (New Orleans) didn’t make the playoffs (mainly because of Bountygate sanctions by Commissioner Roger Goodell; it could be an uncomfortable Super Bowl week for him in New Orleans). Three other future Pro Football Hall of Famers -- Peyton Manning (Denver), Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay) and Tom Brady (New England) have lost in these playoffs.
And the survivors are Kaepernick and Flacco.
This is no fluke. They rank 1-2 in passer rating in the playoffs:
Flacco – 114.7 rating…3 games…51x93 (.548) for 853 yards passing…9.17 yards per attempt (outstanding)…8 TD passes…0 interceptions.
Kaepernick – 105.9 rating…games…33x52 (.635) for 496 yards passing…9.54 yards per attempt (even more impressive)…3 TD passes…1 interception…18 carries for 202 yards and 2 TDs rushing.
Flacco silenced many of his critics by engineering drives of 87- and 90 yards in Sunday’ 28-13 upset road victory over New England. He outplayed Brady by a wide margin. His strong arm was a huge asset on a very windy day.
Kaepernick got his chance to play when Alex Smith suffered a concussion in a 24-24 home tie against St. Louis Nov. 11. He was so impressive that Jim Harbaugh decided to keep him as the starter even when Smith was ready to play. It was a gutsy move by Harbaugh but clearly the right move.
In the 2011 NFL college draft, the 49ers traded three picks (No. 45, No. 108 and No. 141) to Denver in return for the No. 36 pick. That’s how much Harbaugh wanted Kaepernick. After Buffalo picked CB Aaron Williams No. 34 and Cincinnati selected QB Andy Dalton No. 35, Harbaugh had his man.
Interesting note: The No. 45 pick Denver received in the deal was used to select Rahim Moore. He was the safety burned by Flacco-to-Jacoby Jones on a 70-yard desperation TD pass to tie the game 35-35 with 31 seconds remaining in regulation in an AFC divisional playoff game. The Ravens went on to win 38-35 in double overtime.
STAN MUSIAL: THE GREATEST EVER TO WEAR A RED WINGS UNIFORM
The greatest player ever to wear a Rochester Red Wings uniform – Stan Musial – and one of the team’s all-time best and most popular managers – Earl Weaver – died Saturday.
In my opinion, the five all-time best Red Wings (based on performance in the major leagues) were (in order) Musial, Cal Ripken Jr., Bob Gibson , Johnny Mize and Eddie Murray.
Musial was 20 years old when he was promoted to Rochester from Class A Springfield (Western Association) in the summer of 1941. It was his first pro season as a full-time outfielder. He had been a promising pitcher before hurting his arm.
After playing 87 games for Springfield, Musial played in 57 games with the Red Wings: .326 batting average (72x221) with 43 runs, 10 doubles, 4 triples, 3 HRs, 21 RBI. When Rochester’s season ended, he was promoted to the St. Louis Cardinals – for good. In 12 games, he hit .426 (20x47) with 4 doubles, 1 HR and 7 RBI.
Musial enjoyed his brief stay here and often recalled how friendly Red Wing Stadium was for left-handed hitters. He frequently returned to Rochester for promotions at the ballpark and always drove past the home he lived in for his brief stop en route to superstardom.
There isn’t a bigger Musial fan in town than Les Buck. Through the years, we differed on “the greatest living baseball player.” His choice was Musial. I had Musial No. 2, behind Willie Mays.
After learning of Musial’s death at age 92, Les messaged me: “I am ready to concede that Willie Mays is the all-time greatest baseball player alive today.” He also noted, “R.I.P. Stan “The Man” Musial:
starting today in left field for St. Peter’s all-star team.”…I’d give Musial the starting nod in his first game in and then alternate him with Ted Williams for eternity (sorry, Barry Bonds, I’d put you in Cooperstown but not in the starting lineup ahead of Musial or Williams.
For the record, here’s how three-time National League MVP Musial ranks in assorted big-league categories:
2nd in total bases (6134; Hank Aaron had 6856)
3rd in doubles (725)
3rd in extra-base hits (1377; behind only Hank Aaron 1477 and Barry Bonds 1440)
4th in hits (3,630)..he had 1815 hits at home and 1815 on the road
6th in RBI (1951)
T6th in games (3026)
9th in runs (1949)
13th in walks (1599)
19th in slugging percentage (.5591)
T19th in triples (177)
T28th in home runs (475; Albert Pujols also has 475)
30th in career batting average (.3308).
His numbers would be even more impressive had he not sat out the entire 1945 season (World War II).
Only Carl Yastrzemski played more games with his only big-league team (3308 with the Boston Red Sox). Musial played all 3,026 of his games with the Cardinals. That’s one reason was revered in St. Louis.
TWO SEASONS WITH RED WINGS SET UP EARL WEAVER FOR SUCCESS IN BALTIMORE
The Baltimore Orioles promoted career light-hitting infielder Earl Weaver from manager of the Elmira Pioneers (1962 through 1965) to manager of Rochester in 1966.
The 1966 team had arguably the greatest infield in Red Wings history:
1B Mike Epstein…2B Mickey McGuire…SS Mark Belanger…3B Steve Demeter. They finished 83-64 and won the International League pennant by one game over Toronto and Columbus.
Rochester fans hadn’t seen a manager as animated and fiery as Weaver
– and they probably never will again. They saw him kick dirt on the shoes of umpires, wiggle his index finger in their faces and turn his cap around so he could scream in their faces at the closest range possible. He was polishing his act for 91 ejections in the majors.
After Rochester posted an 80-61 record in 1967 (finished in second place, 1 game behind Richmond), Weaver was promoted to Baltimore as first-base coach. During the 1968 season, he replaced the fired Hank Bauer as manager.
Baltimore’s farm system was loaded and many terrific players followed Weaver’s path from Rochester to the Orioles. He managed in Baltimore from 1968 through 1982, and 1985 (he replaced the fired Joe Altobelli, who led the Orioles to their last world championship in 1983; the 1985 Orioles were 29-26 in 1985 when Altobelli was fired and 53-52 under Weaver the rest of the way. The O’s plunged to 73-89 in Weaver’s final season as the team’s manager. He was 1553-1123 (.580), won four AL pennants (1969, 1970, 1971 and 1979) and won one World Series (1970 in five games over Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine.
Weaver was elected to the Red Wings Hall of Fame in 1995 and baseball’s Hall of Fame in 1996.
The only blemish on Weaver’s managerial record was a relative lack of success in championships. His 1966 Red Wings lost in the first round to Richmond (3-1) and the 1967 Wings lost in the first round to Columbus (3-1). His Orioles won only one World Series in four tries.
IS EXTENSION FOR DARCY REGIER GOOD OR BAD?
Buffalo Sabres general manager Darcy Regier was given a contract extension over the weekend by owner Terry Pegula.
That’s good for Regier. I’m not sure it’s good for Buffalo Sabres fans.
In a sport that has as much turnover in the ranks of general managers and coaches as the NHL, it is worth noting that Regier and Lindy Ruff are by far the longest GM/coach combination.
Since Regier became Buffalo’s GM in the summer of 1997, the Sabres are 439-334-130 after Sunday’s 5-2 victory in their belated season- and home opener. That’s sixth-best record in the NHL over that span. Very impressive,
But the Sabres haven’t won a Stanley Cup in the Regier-Ruff Era. They reached the Finals in 1998-99, losing in six games to the Dallas Stars.
They reached the Eastern Conference finals three other times.
But – what have you done for us lately? – the Sabres missed the playoffs in three of the past five seasons.
Many coaches and GMs have won Stanley Cups and been replaced since Regier and Ruff teamed up in Buffalo.
Under previous frugal ownership, Regier didn’t always have the financial freedom to make all of the moves I’m sure he wanted to make. With Pegula’s burning desire to win a Stanley Cup and pledging the money to do it, there can be no excuses.
UPSET IN LOUISVILLE ONE OF BOEHEIM’S FINEST MOMENTS
Syracuse University Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Boeheim hasn’t had many regular-season victories as sweet as last Saturday’s 70-68 road win over top-ranked Louisville and old friend-turned-rival Rick Pitino.
I thought the Orange would be in over their heads, particularly without suspended super-sub James Southerland.
It was Louisville’s first home loss since 2009 and the first home loss by a No.1-ranked team since 2009.
Saturday’s game was sloppy at times but that was mainly because both teams were working so hard on defense. Louisville didn’t play poorly. SU simply was better when it counted.
Senior guard Brandon Triche has the best first half his career – 7x7 from the field and 18 points – to spark the Orange to a 38-38 tie at halftime.
Sophomore Michael Carter-Williams, after a brutal first half, finished strong. He scored 11 of SU’s last 13 points and had the steal and dunk for the lead and the steal to preserve the victory. He still plays out of control at times and sometimes tries to do too much, but he has rare talent and SU fans can only hope he’ll return for one more season.
Depth is lacking in SU’s backcourt, but Triche and Carter-Williams have to be among the two or three starting guard duos in the college ranks.
C.J. Fair, my favorite SU player, had a typical effort. He played all 40 minutes and had 10 points and 8 rebounds. He was 4x4 from the foul line and never seems to miss in a really important spot.
Freshman Jeremi Grant stepped up in Southerland’s absence and scored 10 points in 35 high-energy minutes.
SU outrebounded Louisville 35-31, was 24x49 from the field against a very good defensive opponent and even made 15 of 20 free throws.
No excuses from Pitino. This wasn’t a fluke. SU was so impressive that Boeheim – who seldom gives his players full credit during the regular season – said, “I’m real proud of this team.”
The Orange didn’t have much time to celebrate. They host a very good Cincinnati team Monday afternoon.
Former Rochester Knighthawks superstars John Grant (Denver) and Shawn Evans (Calgary) put on a show Saturday night in the Mammoth 1National Lacrosse League 13-12 overtime road victory. Grant had 6 goals (on 20 shots) and 2 assists and Evans had 4 goals and 3 assists.
The NLL defending champion Rochester Knighthawks are facing an important early-season test Saturday night at home against the Toronto Rock. The K-hawks are 0-2 after two tough one-goal losses and will close the 16-game regular season with four straight road games.
Listener Peter Kiley suggests a new slogan for Lance Armstrong:
Listener Charlie Calzonetti offers a five player team to challenge my All-Time NBA Team (Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, LeBron James and Magic Johnson: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Larry Bird, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. He notes, “Might be a close game, you think?”…I’d sure like to see it.
Who could have guessed as the NBA approaches the midpoint of the season that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers both would have losing records and possibly miss the playoffs?
Ramon Dominguez, winner of the Eclipse Ward as North America’s outstanding jockey the past three years, is sidelined indefinitely with a slightly displaced skull fracture. The 36-year-old suffered the injury in a spill at Aqueduct last Friday afternoon.
Middleweight Vitor Belfort, 35, defeated Michael Bisping via a knockout in the second round in the main event of Saturday night’s UFC on FX card in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It was the 15th knockout win for Belfort (22-10 record). After the victory, Belfort called out light heavyweight champion Jon Jones for a rematch.
Jones defeated Belfort via submission last September in a fight Belfort accepted on short notice. Jones is scheduled to fight Chael Sonnen in UFC 159, April 27, in Newark, NJ.
Longtime Miami Hurricanes baseball coach Ron Fraser died Sunday morning. He was 79. He guided Miami to two national titles (1982 and 1985) and was known as “the wizard of college baseball.” He retired in 1992 with 1,271 wins and didn’t have a losing season in his three decades on the job.
The 2013 LPGA Tour will have 28 tournaments with prize money approaching $50 million. The season will end with the richest purse in LPGA history -- $700,000 – in the LPGA Titleholders. The season opens Feb. 14 with the Women’s Australian Open…The Wegmans LPGA Championship will be June 6-9 at Locust Hill.
Quarterback Michael Vick told ESPN he has no desire to play for the New York Jets and new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. The Jets supposedly are interested in Tarvaris Jackson. He’d have to get a better shot with the Jets than he did with the 2012 Buffalo Bills. He’ll certainly be well-rested.
The Oklahoma City Barons (AHL) have signed Jonathan Cheechoo. In the 2005-06 NHL season, he led the league with 56 goals for the San Jose Sharks. He led the Peoria Rivermen (AHL) with 25 goals last season. He’s 32 years old.
According to the American Hockey League, 626 AHL graduates were on NHL 2013 opening-day rosters. Of those 626 players, 126 appeared in AHL games during the recent lockout.