THE LEGACY OF KEVIN WARD JR.

 

Kevin Ward Jr.’s funeral was Thursday. He was 20 years old. He crammed a lot of living into his relatively short time on earth. He had so much more to give and enjoy.

 

Kevin was killed last Saturday night in a tragic incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, when he jumped out of his disabled car and stomped onto the track to confront Tony Stewart after contact with the NASCAR superstar knocked him out of the race. Kevin was hit by Stewart’s car.

 

Kevin’s family and legions of fans and friends will remember him for his love of life, and for his victories and trophies. His legacy to NASCAR will be Rule 9-16, announced Friday morning by NASCAR Vice President of Competition and Development Robin Pemberton: “Drivers now are prohibited from exiting their cars after on-track incidents unless extenuating circumstances exist (fire, smoke in cockpits, etc).”

 

Pemberton said the new rule “is on the heels of that (Kevin Ward’s death).”

 

Why did it take so long to adopt (and presumably strictly enforce) such a logical, tragedy-avoiding rule? My guess is that NASCAR realized that angry drivers confronting their peers – in the pits, in the garage or even on the apron and track -- excite the fans and almost always make SportsCenter.

 

Many NASCAR  drivers, including Tony Stewart, have let anger get the best of them and confronted rivals they felt did them wrong on the track. We’ll never know if Kevin Ward Jr.’s anger and decision to confront Stewart were to any degree inspired by actions he saw by his heroes.

 

We’ll also never know how many lives Rule 9-16 will save in the future.

 

DON’T WORRY, JOHNNY MANZIEL WILL BE STARTING SOON

 

Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine announced Thursday that Brian Hoyer will start at quarterback over rookie Johnny Manziel in Monday night’s preseason game at the Washington Redskins.

 

This announcement was a big deal, of course, only because of Manziel’s enormous popularity. For example, leading the NFL in jersey sales before he takes an official snap is sort of ridiculous.

 

Why did Pettine decide to start Hoyer? I believe the Browns owe it to Hoyer to at least make it look like there is an honest competition. Hoyer is from Cleveland and many fans – even Manziel fanatics – don’t want Hoyer lose the starting job without a fight. If Manziel were to start Monday – before a huge live crowd on Monday Night Football – it would’ve been tough to deny him the No. 1 job .

 

I believe it is inevitable that Manziel will be Cleveland’s starting QB – and soon. Hoyer probably is a marginal short-term NFL starter or solid No. 2. He doesn’t appear to have much of an upside. Manziel could be very good. Good or bad, he’s going to excite fans coast-to-coast and have people talking about the Browns.

 

I expect Manziel to be starting for the Browns by Game 3 of the regular season. I hope he’ll still be in one piece when Cleveland visits Buffalo Sunday, Nov. 30. Buy your tickets now.

 

WILL TROY TULOWITZKI’S NEXT GAME BE WITH THE YANKEES?

 

Will you be shocked if Troy Tulowitzki is the 2015 Opening Day shortstop for the New York Yankees?

 

Tulowitzki’s 2014 season with the Colorado Rockies is over. He’s scheduled to have hip surgery Friday.

 

He appeared on his way to earning National League Most Valuable Player honors until he suffered a torn labrum July 18. Through 91 games, he was hitting .340 (107-for-315), with 71 runs, 18 doubles, 1 triple, 21 HRs and 52 RBI. He had a .432 on-base percentage, .603 slugging percentage and 1.035 OPS.

 

Tulowitzki is 29 years old. He’s had leg issues since 2008, when he tore his left quadriceps tendon. When healthy, he’s one of baseball’s best players. But in the last five seasons, he has played in 122, 143, 47, 126 and 91 games.

 

The Yankees desperately need a replacement for the retiring Derek Jeter. There is no shortstop in the farm system remotely ready. Tulowitzki has expressed some frustration in Colorado and wears No. 2 in honor of his idol – Derek Jeter. He’d jump at the chance to play for the Yankees.

 

Tulowitzki is signed through 2020. He’s due to make $118 million from 2015 through 2020. The Yankees would love to take a gamble on his health and take on that contract. The Rockies might be ready to listen if the Yankees call. The biggest drawback to such a deal would be the Yankees coming up with enough young talent to offer in return.

 

The premature end to Tulowitzki’s season opens up the race for National League MVP. Top candidates include (in my current order of preference) Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh), Giancarlo Stanton (Miami), Jonathan Lucroy (Milwaukee) and Ian Desmond (Washington).

 

BILLS’ DEFENSE RATED 6TH BEST…BUT OFFENSE ONLY 30TH(C’MON NOW)

 

The defensive unit of the Buffalo Bills received some love this week from ESPN Insider. It was ranked 6th out of the NFL’s 32 teams. I thought that was a bit too high – but not far off.

 

But the offensive unit didn’t fare nearly as well – 30th. That’s ridiculous. We all recognize how much the Bills need second-year quarterback EJ Manuel to play decently this season. But I believe the ESPN Insider crew is grossly underestimating Buffalo’s quality and depth at running back and wide receiver.

 

In the ESPN Insider defensive rankings, teams were rated in four position groups: secondary (Buffalo was ranked 24th), linebackers (11th), edge rushers (19th) and interior linemen (2nd, behind only the New York Jets)…I’d rate the Bills slightly higher in the secondary, much higher in edge rushers and lower for linebackers.

 

The ESPN Insider offensive rankings also were for four position groups: quarterbacks (Buffalo was ranked 31st), running backs (14th), receivers (25th) and offensive line (29th). I’d rate Buffalo’s QBs in the 25 range if Manuel stays reasonably healthy, the offensive line in the top 15, and the running backs and receivers in the top 10 based on quality, depth and potential.

 

SAINTS TOPS ON OFFENSE…SEAHAWKS TOPS ON OFFENSE…DENVER NO. 1 OVERALL

 

According to ESPN Insiders, New Orleans will enter this NFL season with the No. 1 offense and Seattle with the No. 1 defense. But the Denver Broncos come out No. 1 overall.

 

Here are the numbers (offense ranking followed by defense ranking and total – the lower the better):

 

1-Denver 2 + 4 = 6

 

2-Seattle 6 + 1 = 7

 

t3-New Orleans 1 + 9 

 

t3-San Francisco 7 + 3 = 10

 

t3-New England 5 + 5 = 10

 

6-Green Bay 3 + 10 = 13…The top six teams appear logical to me, partly because they all have dynamite QBs. The rest of the teams have significantly lower combined rankings, and—for the most part --  rightfully so.

 

t7-Philadelphia 4 + 17 = 21

 

t7-Detroit 9 + 12 = 21

 

9-Carolina 17 + 7 = 24

 

10-Kansas City 23 + 2 = 25

 

11-Miami 19 + 8 = 27…This number seems too high to me, particularly defense

 

12-Cincinnati 18 + 11 = 29

 

13-Indianapolis 16 + 14 = 30…Andrew Luck ranked 15th at QB is ridiculous.

 

14-Washington 15 + 18 = 33

 

15-Pittsburgh 10 + 24 = 34

 

t16-Buffalo 30th + 6 = 36…The Bills have the potential to rank much higher on offense, but being rated middle-the-league overall is a significant upgrade over recent past years.

 

t16-San Diego 8 + 2 8 = 36

 

18-Baltimore 24 + 13 = 37

 

19-Tampa Bay 22 + 16 = 38

 

20-Atlanta 12 + 27 = 39

 

t21-Minnesota 11 + 29 = 40

 

t21-Tennessee 20 + 20 = 40

 

23-Chicago 13 + 30 = 43

 

24-Cleveland 26 + 19 = 45

 

t25-New York Jets 31 + 25 = 46

 

t25-Dallas 14 + 32 = 46…Offense might be better but defense appears spot on.

 

27-New York Giants 21 + 26 = 47

 

28-St. Louis 27 + 22 = 49

 

t29-Houston 25 + 25 = 50

 

t29-Arizona 29 + 21 = 50

 

31-Oakland 29 + 23 = 51

 

32-Jacksonville 32 + 31 = 63.

 

COULD ROCHESTER SUPPORT AN NBA D-LEAGUE TEAM?

 

The Toronto Raptors reportedly are interested in bringing an NBA D-League team to Rochester, possibly for the 2015-2016 season. Do you think Greater Rochester could support a franchise?

 

Rochester RazorSharks owner Dr. Severko  Hwrynak has the cash and enthusiasm to start up a franchise. But there a few big question marks:

 

Where would the team play? NBA D-League teams must average around 3,000 fans per game to break even. Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial is too large, too expensive and would have too few prime available dates.

 

The NBA D-League plays a 50-game schedule. Is that too many?

 

Are there already too many minor-league teams for the market to support? The NBA D-League would be going up against the AHL Amerks, NLL Knighthawks and possibly the indoor soccer Lancers.

 

MINNESOTA TWINS DESPERATELY NEED BYRON BUXTON

 

In a perfect baseball world for the Minnesota Twins, Byron Buxton would be their Opening Day center fielder next season.

 

Center field has been a dark hole for the last two years.

 

After the 2012 season, the Twins decided to look for hard-throwing young pitchers. They were going to trade for them and draft them.

 

With that in mind, the Twins traded the two players who had proved they could play center field – former Rochester Red Wings favorites Denard Span and Ben Revere – within eight days:

 

Span to Washington Nov. 29, 2012 for pitcher Alex Meyer

 

Revere to Philadelphia Dec. 6, 2012 for pitchers Trevor May and Vance Worley.

 

Span and Revere aren’t all-star caliber players, but they’re much better than anyone Minnesota has used in center field the last two seasons – for example current Red Wing Aaron Hicks (.194 batting average in 129 games), journeyman Sam Fuld and Danny Santana, who was slated to be Rochester’s shortstop this season).

 

The Twins rushed Hicks to the majors in 2013. He had a hot spring and started in CF on Opening Day. Minnesota is known for patience with top prospects. Hicks was an exception and the gamble didn’t pay off, at least not yet. The Twins still like him.

 

Revere (.309, 33-for-37 stolen bases) and Span(.299, 23-for-26 stolen bases) entered Friday ranked 5th and 11th, respectively, among National League batting leaders. Revere has no power, a lousy arm and a low on-base percentage (.326).  Span has more pop, a better arm and as better OBP (.402). They’d both look very good in CF for the Twins right now.

 

Trevor May and Alex Meyer are enjoying solid seasons in Rochester and could be in Minnesota’s starting rotation next season.

 

Buxton, touted as baseball’s top prospect, plagued by wrist injuries this season, had a concussion scare after an outfield  collision this week in his first game for AA New Britain. If all goes well, he’ll be a Red Wing in 2015 and Minnesota’s starting CF in 2016.

 

ROCHESTER RED WINGS NO-HITTER PRIMER

 

The combined no-hitter by Trevor May (three innings) and Logan Darnell (six innings) in a 3-0 victory over the Durham Bulls at Frontier Field was the 22nd no-hitter thrown by pitchers for Rochester since 1888.

 

Eleven of Rochester’s no-hitters were nine innings and 11 were seven innings

 

The first no-hitter by a Rochester pitcher was by George Hay, July 6, 1888, in a nine-inning 6-0 victory over  London.

 

The May-Darnell gem was the second multi-pitcher no-hitter for Rochester. Four Red Wings (Jeff Manship, Jake Stevens, Kyle Waldrop and Jim Hoey), July 6, 2011) combined for a 7-0 victory over Lehigh Valley, June 6, 2011.

 

The other  nine-inning solo no-hitters for Rochester were tossed by George McConnell (1910), William Moore (1924), Tex Carleton (1929), Blix Donnelly (1943), Jack Collum (1952), Duke Markell (1955), Dave Vineyard (1966) and Wayne Garland (1974).

 

The seven-inning no-hitters by Rochester were by Sandy Banister (1908), Frank Karpp (1924), Matt Surkont6 (1941), Art Quirk (1961), Tom Phoebus (1966), Marcelino Lopez (1969), Greg Arnold (1971), Gary Robson (Rochester’s only perfect game; 2-0 over Charleston, Aug. 16, 1974) and Dan Boone (1990).

 

Dave Vineyard pitched a seven-inning no-hitter for the Red Wings (1-0 over Toledo, July 28, 1966) and a nine-inning no-hitter against the Red Wings (2-1 for Toronto, May 23, 1967).

 

There have been 16 no-hitters pitched against Rochester since 1885. Urban Shocker pitched an 11-inning no-hitter in a 1-0 victory for Toronto vs. Rochester, July 22, 1916.

 

The most recent no-hitter vs. Rochester was by Jeremy Cummings, Sept. 3, 2006 (nine innings in a 5-0 victory, Sept. 3, 2006).

 

The most famous pitcher to throw a no-hitter vs. Rochester was Mariano Rivera (five innings; in a 3-0 victory for Columbus, June 26, 1995.

 

Pete Smith pitched a seven-inning perfect game against the Red Wings in a 1-0 victory for Richmond, May 3, 1992.

 

SHORT SHOTS

 

The 2014 Dallas Cowboys have a chance to make history: no NFL team ever has finished .500 in four consecutive seasons. The Cowboys were 8-8 in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Football Outsiders Almanac projects 6.9 wins for this season’s Cowboys, with playoff odds of 19.5 percent.

 

Rochester boxer Darnell Jiles will help launch Big Knockout Boxing Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Jiles will take on Javier Garcia, of Oknard, Calif., for the welterweight championship. KNB is billed as “a more action-oriented, intensive form of boxing.” Four title fights and three other bouts will be available on pay-per-view DIRECTV and inDEMAND for $29.95.