THE BEST AND MOST-OVERRATED MLB TEAMS ENTERING SPRING TRAINING

Major League Baseball spring training opened this week and here are a few early projections for the 2017 season:

Best teams:

1-Boston Red Sox – Lost David Ortiz to retirement and still have a formidable lineup…No team has three better starting pitchers than Chris Sale, Rich Porcello and David Price…Tyler Thornburg bolsters a bullpen featuring Craig Kimbrel.

2-Chicago Cubs – The defending champions are young and talented. I’m not sold on the bullpen minus Aroldis Chapman.

2-Los Angeles Dodgers – You sometimes get what you pay for in pro sports and the Dodgers still have the highest payroll in MLB.

3-Cleveland Indians – Solid in every department. Adding slugger Edwin Encarnacion was a surprising boost to a productive lineup.

Most overrated teams:

1-New York Mets – A popular pick to win the NL East. The starting is young and has been injury-prone. The lineup still has a few weak spots. I think the Washington Nationals are significantly better. We’ll see.

2-New York Yankees – They’re going to be very good pretty soon, but much of the top young talent is a year or two away. Suspect starting rotation. Will bullpen aces Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman have enough leads to protect? Are they counting too much on Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge?

3-Batimore Orioles – The starting rotation was average last season and hasn’t improved in the offseason.  Mark Trumbo isn’t likely to approach his career year (MLB-most 47 HRs).

Most likely to surprise:

 1-Colorado Rockies – This lineup would be potent in any home stadium.

2—Pittsburgh Pirates – Better than last year’s disappointing78-83 record.

3-Seattle Mainers – Maybe this is the season they won’t underachieve.

As always, file for future reference.

MAYBE THE 2016 BILLS WEREN’T ALL THAT GOOD

Did Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula and general manager Doug Whaley overrate their team in 2016? Was Rex Ryan a scapegoat? Was the team’s 7-9 record worse than it should have been?

Pro Football Focus produced “The 101 Top NFL Players From the 2016 Season” and if the list is an accurate reflection of the relative talent on the rosters of the 32 teams, the Bills weren’t all that hot. The rankings were the product of extensive tape analysis of every player on every play of every game.

Here are the 101 players grouped by teams, from the most to the least selections:

Seattle 8 – Bobby Wagner (11th)…Kam Chancellor (34th)…Russell Wilson (42nd)…Doug Baldwin (63rd)…Michael Bennett (70th)…K.J. Wright (81st)…Richard Sherman (91st)…Jimmy Graham (92nd).

Dallas 6 – Travis Frederick (13th)…Ezekiel Elliott (22nd)…Zack Martin (35th)…Sean Lee (53rd)…Dak Prescott (88th)…Tyron Smith (101st).

Green Bay 6 – Aaron Rodgers (3rd)…David Bakhtiari (20th)…Mike Daniels (68th)…Jordy Nelson (74th)…Bryan Bulaga (77th)…T.J. Lang (94th).

New York Giants 6 – Landon Collins (8th)…Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (30th)…Janoris Jenkins (40th)…Damon Harrison (44th)…Odell Beckham Jr. (51st)…Oliver Vernon (71st).

Arizona 5 – David Johnson (23rd)…Calais Campbell (24th)…Chandler Jones (62nd)…Tony Jefferson (84th)…Larry Fitzgerald (89th).

New England 5 – Tom Brady (1st)…Malcolm Butler (25th)…Devin McCourty (29th)…Nate Solder (59th)…Marcus Cannon (61st).

Oakland 5 – Khalil Mack (4th)… Kelechi Osemele (46th)…Derek Carr (50th)…Rodney Hudson (69th)…Donald Penn (86th).

Philadelphia 5 – Brandon Graham (9th)…Fletcher Cox (55th)…Jason Peters (78th)…Brandon Brooks (85th)…Jordan Hicks (95th).

Pittsburgh 5 – Antonio Brown (21st)…Le’Veon Bell (27th)…Ramon Foster (36th)…James Harrison (67th)…David DeCastro (80th).

Atlanta 4 – Matt Ryan (5th)…Julio Jones (6t h)…Alex Mack (16th)…Ryan Schraeder (90th).

Denver 4 – Von Miller (14th)…Aqib Talib (18th)…Chris Harris (19th)…Matt Paradis (28th).

Kansas City 4 – Travis Kelce (37th)…Eric Berry (57th)…Marcus Peters (96th)…Tyeek Hill (100th).

Baltimore 3 – Marshall Yando (7th)…Eric Waddle (10th)…Justin Tucker (97th).

Carolina 3 – Luke Kuechly (48th)…Kawaan Short (49th)…Greg Olsen (58th).

Cincinnati 3 – Andrew Whitworth (26th)…Geno Atkins (65th)…Kevin Zeitler (82nd).

Miami 3 –Jay Ajayi (31st)…Cameron Wake (45th)…Ndamukong Suh (52nd).

Houston 3 – A.J. Bouye (41st)…Whitney Mercilus (56th)…Jadeveon Clowney (60th).

New Orleans 3 – Cameron Jordan (15th)…Drew Brees (83rd)…Michael Thomas (93rd).

San Diego 3 – Joey Bosa (32nd)…Casey Hayward (39th)…Melvin Ingram (47th).

Tampa Bay 3 – Mike Evans (12th)…Brent Grimes (43rd)…Gerald McCoy (73rd).

Tennessee 3 – Taylor Lewan (64th)…Jack Conklin (66th)…Jurrell Casey (72nd).

Indianapolis 2 – Andrew Luck (33rd)…T.Y. Hilton (54th).

Los Angeles Rams 1 – Aaron Donald (2nd).

Buffalo 1 – Richie Incognito (98th)…Shady McCoy just missed and was not happy about it.

Cleveland 1 – Joe Thomas (38th).

Detroit 1 – Matt Stafford (99th).

Jacksonville 1 – Paul Posluszny (87th).

Minnesota 1  – Terence Newman (76th).

New York Jets 1 – Leonard Williams (79th).

Washington 1 – Trent Williams (17th).

Chicago 0.

San Francisco 0.

MORE BAD NEWS BILLS STUFF

Western New York media critics aren’t the only NFL analysts picking on the Buffalo Bills.

ESPN’s Mike Sando this week ranked the 32 NFL franchises based on continuity. He ranked Buffalo 31st, above only Cleveland.

Sando noted, “The Bills have had nine offensive and defensive coordinators since 2012, most in the league. They’ve had four head coaches, tied with the Browns and the 49ers for the most. Buffalo’s number of primary quarterbacks will jump three to four if Tyrod Taylor does not return.”

Danny Kelly of The Ringer posted The NFL Stability Index. He ranked Buffalo 31st, above only the San Francisco 49ers.

Kelly noted, “The first item on (new head coach) Sean McDermott’s agenda is to figure out whether Tyrod Taylor is their quarterback – but even if McDermott wants him, he may not get his wish, as GM Doug Whaley still has control of the 53-man roster, a situation that will almost certainly lead to friction sooner rather than later. Major turbulence should be expected in Buffalo this season.”

Being ranked 31st – behind the Browns or the 49ers – in anything is not good.

GEORGIA TECH COULD BURN SU’S NCAA HOPES

Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange are on the bubble for an invitation to this season’s NCAA Tournament. SU is 16-11 with four games remaining in the regular season. Two of them will be difficult assignments – home against Duke Wednesday February 22 and at Louisville February 26.

The other two games are against Georgia Tech – not a pushover but a team SU could sweep – on the road Sunday afternoon and March 4 at the Carrier Dome.

Here’s the tale to the tape:

Records – SU 16-11 (8-6 in the ACC)…GT 15-11 (6-7 in the ACC)

Home and road records – SU 14-3/2-8…GT 13-3/2-8

Scoring – SU 76.5 PPG…GT 67.8 PPB

Scoring margin per game – SU +6.2…GT +1.1

Field-goal percentage – SU .460…GT .436

3-point FG percentage – SU .384…GT .348

3-point FG made per game – SU 8.9…GT 4.7

Free-throw percentage/FT made per game – SU .717/14.5…GT .689/14.3

Rebounds per game – SU 35.4…GT 36.7

Assists per game – SU 16.2…GT 15.5

Turnovers per game – SU 12.1…GT 14.0

Blocks per game – SU 5.0…GT 6.2

Home attendance per game – SU 21,776…GT 5,705.

Georgia Tech’s mainstays are freshman guard Josh Okogie (15.4-point average), junior center Ben Lammers (14.7-point average), junior guard Tadric Jackson (11.1-point average) and senior forward Quinton Stephens (10.0-point average). The bench is not deep.

Georgia Tech has four impressive home wins (75-63 over North Carolina; 75-63 over Clemson; 78-56 over Florida State; and 62-20 over Notre Dame. The Ramblin Wreck have three lopsided road losses: 60-43 at Georgia; 81-58 at Tennessee; and 110-57 at Duke.

NBA D-LEAGUE WILL BECOME THE NBA G-LEAGUE

The NBA Development League will become the NBA Gatorade League and expand add three teams for the 2017-18 season. There will be a record 25 teams, all singly affiliated with NBA teams.

Erie, Pa., will have a team for the next two seasons. That franchise, affiliated with the Atlanta Hawks, will move to College Park, Ga., for the 2019-20 season.

How about Rochester as a future team in the G-League? Highly unlikely.

A few years, Rochester RazorSharks owner Dr. Sev Hrywnak thought about bringing a G-League team to our city. It would’ve been affiliated with the Toronto Raptors. The franchise fee was too rich for his blood ($6 million) and I don’t blame him for backing off.

Rochester lost the Royals after the 1956-57 NBA season for lack of support and the Rochester Zeniths of the CBA suffered the same fate after the 1982-83 season. The Zeniths were a consistently strong team for six seasons but couldn’t catch on at the box office at the Dome Arena or at the War Memorial.

The AHL Rochester Americans and NLL Knighthawks would have preference in prime dates at Blue Cross Arena over a Rochester team in the G-League. I don’t believe sports fans in Greater Rochester would adequately support a team playing 25 home games in the regular season under any circumstances.

KNIGHTHAWKS TRADE KEOGH TO COLORADO MAMMOTH

The rebuilding Rochester Knighthawks on Thursday traded popular 30-year-old veteran forward Stephen Keogh to the Colorado Mammoth for a first-round pick in the National Lacrosse League 2018 Entry Draft and a second-round pick in the 2019 draft.

Keogh, the second overall pick in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft out of Syracuse U., had 120 goals and 123 assists in 77 games for Rochester. He is tough and gritty and will be missed by a young and rebuilding team already short on firepower. He was a major contributor to Rochester’s unprecedented three straight NLL championships in 2012-13-14.

On a brighter note, former NLL MVP Cody Jamieson had successful surgery Wednesday in Rochester on his torn ACL.

SHORT SHOTS

Yes, I would’ve voted for Terrell Owens for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015 and 2016. I think anyone who did not vote for Owens should have been required to explain why they passed on him.

The Miami Dolphins cut Mario Williams Wednesday, one year after Buffalo decided he no longer could play. Good call by the Bills.

Good to see Carmelo Anthony picked to replace injured Kevin Love in Sunday night’s NBA All-Star Game. Scoring is his strong suit and he nobody else will be playing defense either.

State Sen. James Seward has proposed that baseball be New York’s official sport.  I’d have been more inclined to endorse that idea 50 years ago – when baseball still was THE major team sport. Now  I’d prefer football and basketball, and maybe hockey, lacrosse, skiing or ice fishing.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO…

Friday, February 17 – Marcin Gortat (33)…Josh Willingham (38)…Cathy Freeman (44)…Tommy Moe (47)…Bryan Cox (49)…Luc Robitaille (51)…Michael Jordan (54)…Lindy Ruff (57)…Danny Ainge (58)…Jim Brown (81). Paris Hilton (36) and Denise Richards (46) are invited to the birthday party.

Saturday, February 18 – Le’Veon Bell (25)…Didi Gregorius (27)…Andrei Kirilenko (36)…Alex Rios (36)…Alex Mogilny (48)…Igor Larionov (48)…Fly Williams (64)…Judy Rankin (72)…Manny Mota (79). Molly Ringwald (49),  Matt Dillon (53), Vanna White (60), John Travolta (63) and Yoko Ono (84) are invited to the birthday party.

Sunday, February 19 – Nikoa Jokic (22)…Josh Reddick (30)…Marta (31)…Mike Miller (37), Gary Leeman (53), Hana Mandikova (55), Roger Goodell (58)…Dave Stewart (60)…Rochester Americans Hall of Famer Joe Crozier (88).