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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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?