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Bob Matthews' Column

Team USA Should Win This World Cup

 

 

TEAM USA SHOULD WIN THIS WORLD CUP

 

Americans who were disappointed that Team USA failed to win soccer’s World Cup in Brazil figure to be very happy at the conclusion of the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain Aug. 30 through Sept. 14.

 

Brazil was the big favorite to win soccer’s World Cup but lost to eventual champion Germany in the semifinals. Team USA will be an even bigger favorite to win the championship in the 24-country basketball World Cup.

 

Germany won’t be pulling off a soccer/basketball World Cup winning parlay because failed to advance out of group play in the EuroBasket qualifying in 2013.

 

Here are 19 the players – all NBA stars -- invited to attend Team USA’s training camp in Las Vegas later this month: Bradley Beal, DeMarcus Cousins, Stephen Curry,  Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, Kevin Durant, Kenneth Faried, Paul George,  Blake Griffin, James Harden, Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Korver, Damian Lillard, Kevin Love, Chandler Parsons, Derrick Rose and Klay Thompson.

 

Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski and his staff will trim 7 players from that list to reach the mandated 12-man roster for the tournament. Who would you pick?

 

My 12-man roster: Curry, Davis, DeRozan, Durant, George, Griffin, Harden, Irving, Lillard, Love, Parsons, Rose.

 

Apologies to Beal, Drummond, Faried. Hayward, Korver and Thompson, who’d be starters and featured players for any of the other 23 countries in the field (Angola, Argentina, Australia, Brazil,  Croatia, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Finland, France, Greece, Iran, Lithuania, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Serbia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine).

 

The missing Americans include LeBron James, Carmelo Antony and Chris Paul (not invited because they made it known they weren’t interested; could return to Team USA for the 2016 Summer Olympics), plus Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Russell Westbrook (declined invitations).

 

They’ll be missed by what are sure to be huge TV audiences on ESPN – but they probably won’t be needed to get the job done with relative ease.

 

A MAJOR IMPROVEMENT FOR U.S. WOMEN IN LPGA MAJORS

 

For the first time since 1999, Americans have won the first three majors on the LPGA Tour: Lexi Thompson the Kraft Nabisco, Michelle Wie the U.S. Women’s Open, and Mo Martin last week’s Women’s British Open.

 

When the Wegmans LPGA Championship is played Aug. 14-17 at Monroe Golf Club, Americans could sweep the first four majors for the first time since 1992.

 

There are five LPGA Tour majors now. The Evian Championship was added in 2013 and will be played Sept. 11-14.

 

Wins in LPGA majors by American players since the sweep in 1992: 1993—3, 1994—3, 1995—2, 1996—1, 1997—3, 1998—2, 1999—3, 2000—2, 2001—0, 2002—1, 2003-1, 2004—1, 2005—0, 2006—1,l 2007—2, 2008—0, 2009—1, 2010—2, 2011—1, 2012—0, 2013—1 of 5.

 

A’S ARE THE BEST TEAM IN BASEBALL….BUT…

 

At baseball’s All-Star Game break, the Oakland Athletics have earned the tag “best team in the majors.”

 

The A’s have the best record (59-36 and by far the best run differential (+145 compared to+89 for the second-best Los Angeles Angels. They scored the second-most runs and tied for the fewest runs allowed. They’re second in ERA (3.09 to Washington’s 3.08) and have the second-lowest batting average against (.231 to Seattle’s .226).

 

Oakland has arguably the deepest 25-man roster, a deep bullpen and recently traded for two solid veteran pitchers to boost the rotation.

 

So what’s not to like?

 

The A’s are built for the long haul of the regular season. But they might lack the starpower to prevail in the postseason, where depth is considerably less of an issue and front-line talent often prevails.

 

All due respect to Oakland, but right now, I’d pick the Angels, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Detroit and even the Baltimore Orioles to beat the A’s in a postseason series.

 

JEFF SLUMAN IS ON A SERIOUS ROLL

 

Rochester native Jeff Sluman turns 57 on Sept. 11, and he obviously has plenty of solid golf left in him.

 

In his last four Champions Tour events, Sluman has won $646,388. In 14 events this year, he has won $1,012,113. In 26 events last year, he won $1,016,621.

 

Sluman’s most lucrative year on the Champions Tour was 2008. It was his first year on the senior circuit. He won $1,728,443 in 26 events.

 

Sluman ranks 32nd on the Champions Tour career money list ($8,580,892) and 15th on the PGA Tour career money list ($18,165,266). His combined total earnings rank 13th ($26,746,158).

 

And he’s still counting.

 

RED KLOTZ, PROFESSIONAL LOSER FOR PAY, DEAD AT 93

 

Louis “Red” Klotz, the long-time player, coach and owner of the Washington Generals and other teams that almost always lost to the Harlem Globetrotters, died last week at age 93.

 

Klotz began his work with the Globetrotters in 1952 and put together the series of “stooge” teams that toured with the Globetrotters, coming across as dummies during the skits and almost always losing.

 

Klotz’s teams lost approximately 15,000 games to the Globetrotters. They won one. On Jan. 5, 1971, in Martin, Tenn., Klotz tossed up a shot at the buzzer to upset the Globetrotters 100-99. The crowd, and undoubtedly the Globetrotters, did not take kindly to Klotz’s “heroics.”  Klotz didn’t apologize and claimed hit teams always tried to win.

 

Klotz was a high school and college star in the Philadelphia area and was a 5-foot-7 reserve point guard on the 1948 NBA champion Baltimore Bullets. His obituary said he was the oldest surviving member of an NBA championship team. That was incorrect. Long-time Rochesterian Bobby Wanzer, still very much alive, was a star guard for the 1951 NBA champion Rochester Royals. Wanzer was born June 4, 1921. Klotz was born Oct. 21, 1921.

 

Klotz played his final game against the Globetrotters at age 68. His number was retired by the Globetrotters. The other five numbers retired by the organization belonged to players for the Globetrotters.

 

BASEBALL’S WORST AT THE ALL-STAR BREAK

 

Worst record – Texas 38-57

 

Worst run differential – Texas minus-108 (second-worst Houston minus-88)

 

Worst extra-innings record – LA Dodgers and Washington, each 3-8

 

Worst record in one-run games – Kansas City 10-18

 

Worst record in interleague play – Philadelphia 1-8

 

Worst ERA – Colorado 5.07

 

Highest opposing batting average – Texas .285

 

Fewest runs scored – San Diego 279 (second-fewest 360 by St. Louis)

 

Lowest batting average – San Diego .214 (second-fewest .237 by Cubs)

 

Lowest batting average (player) – .199 by Chris Davis (Baltimore)

 

Most strikeouts (batter) – 116 by B.J. Upton (Atlanta)

 

Most caught stealing – 15 by Billy Hamilton 15 (Cincinnati). He’s 38-for-53; Dee Gordon is 43-for-52; and Jose Altuve is 41-for-44)

 

Most errors – 20 by Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez 20 (a shortstop usually leads this negative category)

 

Most blown saves –6 by Luke Gregorson (Oakland)

 

Worst ERA (minimum 100 innings) – 5.90 by Ricky Nolasco (Minnesota)

 

Highest WHIP (walks + hits per inning) – 1.65 by Justin Masterson (Cleveland).

 

TWINS STRIKING OUT ON TWO OF THREE FREE-AGENT STARTING PITCHERS

 

The pitching for the Minnesota Twins in the past three seasons was terrible: 4.48 ERA in 2011 (29th in MLB); 4.77 in 2012 (28th in MLB); 4.55 ERA (29th in MLB).

 

The starting rotation was particularly woeful.

 

The Twins had to shake things up and signed three expensive veteran pitchers in the last two offseasons. Two have not delivered. One is doing well.

 

Kevin Correia, 33 years old, is in the second season of a two-year, $10 million contract. He was 9-13 with a 4.18 ERA in 2013 and is 5-11 with a 4.61 ERA this season. In the last two seasons, he has allowed 347 hits in 294 2/3 innings.

 

Ricky Nolasco, 31 years old, is in the first season of a four-year, $49 million contract. He is 5-7 with a 5.90 ERA and has allowed 140 hits in 103 2/3 innings.

 

Phil Hughes, 28, is in the first season of a three-year, $24 million contract. He is 10-5 with a 3.92 ERA. In 121 2/3 innings, he has allowed 136 hits but only 11 walks.

 

Hughes appears to be an effective starter for Minnesota through 2017. Correia doesn’t figure to return. I don’t know what the Twins can do with Nolasco.

 

Give credit to the Twins for shelling out big bucks to the trio of veteran starting pitchers in order to avoid the temptation of rushing top prospects such as Trevor May, Alex Meyer and Jose Berrios. That strategy has helped the Rochester Red Wings this season and figures to pay off in Minnesota in future seasons.

 

SHORT SHOTS

 

Babe Ruth’s 1918 contract with the Boston Red Sox (for $500) sold for $1.02 million at a sports auction in Baltimore last weekend. A Babe Ruth bat from early in his career sold for $215,000. A mid-1960s baseball glove worn by Mickey Mantle went for $180,000. The bullpen phone used at Yankee Stadium in 2013 (Mariano Rivera’s final season) sold for $5,000.

 

The Cleveland Browns will have a live dog mascot this NFL season. A bull mastiff named Swagger will lead the players onto the field this season….So how about a bison named Billy leading the Buffalo Bills onto the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium this season? That would be fun and imposing. It can be done. The University of Colorado Buffaloes have a bison do it and the University of Texas uses a longhorn steer.

 

Doug Marrone of the Buffalo Bills ranks 27th in NFL.com’s NFL Head Coach Power Rankings, by NFL media analyst Elliot Harrison: “If there is one dark-horse team in the NFL that no one is talking about, it has to be the Bills. Marrone’s biggest task is getting EJ Manuel up to snuff, as Buffalo’s defensive personnel is about as solid as any group in the AFC. Marrone honed his offensive prowess during a stint with the Saints under Sean Payton before heading to Syracuse to revitalize his alma mater. Working with a number of young players on offense, Marrone’s viability as an NFL head coach will be tested in Year 2.”…Harrison’s top 5 head coaches: 5th—Tom Coughlin (Giants), 4th – John Harbaugh (Baltimore), 3rd – Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco), 2nd – Sean Payton (New Orleans), 1st—Bill Belechick (New England): “ Still an easy choice as the top head coach in the NFL.”

 

For the record: A total of 7 former players and managers for the Rochester Red Wings combined to hit 14 home runs in Major League Baseball All-Star Games: Stan Musial 6 (1948, 1949, 1951, 1955. 1056, 1960), Ken Boyer 2 (1960, 1964), Cal Ripken Jr. 2 (1991, 2001), Johnny Mize (1947), Red Schoendienst (1950), Frank Robinson (1959), Leon Wagner (1962).

 

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