Matthews: Aaaron Hernandez Was Blessed And Cursed


Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez committed suicide Wednesday morning in his prison cell in Leominster, Mass.

Hernandez was blessed with extraordinary athletic ability and cursed by a hot temper.

On the football field, he had few peers. In nightclubs, he could be a demon.

He was frequently in trouble with the law, as a college player at Florida and as an NFL star for three years with the Patriots.

He had Pro Football Hall of Fame talent and had signed a five-year contract with New England Aug. 27, 2012. The deal included a $12.5 million signing bonus and worth $40 million total.

In June 2013, Hernandez was arrested for the murder of “friend” Odin Lloyd, who had angered him by speaking with several people Hernandez didn’t like in a nightclub.

The Patriots released Hernandez immediately and his football career was over. He was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life without parole.

This past Monday, Hernandez was found not guilty of a double murder in 2012. The incident was sparked by one of the two victims accidentally spilling a drink on Hernandez. Both men were gunned down at a stop light. The jury felt there was insufficient evidence that Hernandez pulled the trigger.

Hernandez was an impulsive person with a violent temper. He hurt other people and ultimately killed himself. The sharp lawyer who defended him in the 2012 murder trial and got the not guilty verdict on Monday, thought he could win an appeal of Hernandez’s conviction in the 2014 murder of Odin Lloyd.

Did Hernandez not believe his lawyer? Was Hernandez tired of the legal fights? Was he so depressed by life in prison that he decided to end his life? No suicide letter was found so we’ll never know.

Hernandez’s temper and penchant for violence ruined what could’ve been a sad life.

I am sad for Hernandez, who obviously had severe emotional problems. He didn’t get the help he probably needed. Was he in denial and are the football coaches along the way who looked the other way partly responsible for his demise?

I feel more sorry for the victims of Hernandez’s temper and violent actions.

Most of all, I feel sorry for his young daughter. Avielle Janelle will turn five years old on November 6. Her late father was born November 6, 1989.


At Florida, quarterback Tim Tebow was asked to help keep Hernandez under control. He tried.

As a junior with the Gators, Hernandez won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end. He was first-team All-American. He had 68 catches for 850 yards and 5 TDs.

He left college after his junior season.

He was the 113th pick in the 2010 NFL draft (by the Patriots).  He was a first-round talent but most teams steered clear of him based on his reputation.

His career stats for three seasons in the NFL: 38 games; 175 catches for 1,956 yards and 18 TD catches.

How he did against Buffalo Bills:


Sept. 26 home win 38-30 – 6 catches for 65 yards and 0 TDs...1 carry for 13 yards.


Jan. 1, 2012 home win 49-21 – 7 catches for 138 yards and 1 TD...2 carries for 26 yards.

Those were his only two games against the Bills. He was injured and missed the four other games against Buffalo from 2010 through 2012.


The New England Patriots are up to their old tricks and the joke could be on the Buffalo Bills – again.

The Patriots have offered a contract to talented Buffalo restricted free-agent running back Mike Gillislie.

The Bills have five days to match New England’s two-year $6.4 million contract offer in order to retain Gillislee.

The big question is whether the Bills can afford to keep him. If Buffalo doesn’t match the offer sheet, it would get a fifth-round draft pick from New England. Big deal. We’d prefer Gillislee.

Obviously, the loss of Gillislee would be a cruel blow to Buffalo’s top-ranked rushing attack.

Check out Gillislee’s combined stats as LeSean McCoy’s primary backup for the 2015 and 2016 seasons:

148 carries for 844 yards (5.7-yard average) and 11 touchdowns; 15 catches for 79 yards and 1 TD.

The Patriots “stole” wide receiver Chris Hogan from under similar circumstances last year. He wound up enjoying his best season and was a post-season hero.

The Patriots reportedly would part ways with veteran running back LaGarrette Blount if they land Gillislee. Does anyone doubt that Gillislee would turn into a high-profile star with New England?

The Super Bowl 51-champion Patriots could open this season with 3 of their 22 starting players recent Bills – first Hogan, then cornerback Stephon Gilmore and now – maybe – Gillislle.

If the Patriots wind up with Gillislee, it would yet another example of why New England is so consistently good while the Bills are so consistently frustrating to root for.  It would be the latest example of how Buffalo can’t compete with New England on or off the field.


Are the Golden State Warriors one of the all-time great NBA teams over a three-year span? I think so.

2015-15 season – 65-17 regular-season record, 11 games better than second-best Houston/Los Angeles Clippers...39-2 home and 28-13 road...NBA-best 110.0 points per game and +10.1 point differential. Next-best Clippers +6.8)...won championship with a 16-5 record in the postseason.

2015-16 season – 73-9 regular-season record (NBA-best for an 82-game season), 6 games better than second-beat San Antonio...39-2 home and 34-7 road...NBA-best 114.9 points per game and +10.38 point differential (second-best San Antonio 10.28)...Lost 4-3 in the Finals to Cleveland. The Warriors led the Finals 3-1 when Draymond Green was suspended for the pivotal Game 5.

2016-17 season – 67-15 regular-season record, 6 games better than second-best San Antonio...36-5 home and 31-10 road...NBA-best 115.9 points per game and +11.6 point differential (second-best San Antonio +7.2).

Totals – 207-39 (.841) regular-season record, including 114-9 (.927) at home and 93-30(.756) on the road.

Of course, winning the Finals in June would seal the “one of the best teams ever” deal.


The most surprising slugger in Major League Baseball this season is Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Eric Thames. He entered Tuesday leading the majors with seven home runs, including one in each of his last five games.

His 2017 batting line was: 12 games; .405 batting average (17-for-42); 7 HRs; 12 RBI; .479 on-base percentage; 1.000 slugging percentage; 1.479 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage).

Where did Thames come from? He was a journeyman marginal major-leaguer with Toronto and Seattle before leaving for Korea’s major league after the 2013 season.

The left-handed slugger took South Korea by storm. His three-year batting line with the NC Dinos:

2014 – 125 games; .343 batting average; 37 HRs; 121 RBI

2015 – 142 games; .381 batting average; 47 HRs; 140 RBI

2016 – 123 games; .368 batting average; 40 HRs; 121 RBI.

Thames was a hero in South Korea. His nickname was “God” and he was treated like a rock star. A private person, Thames was not completely comfortable with his celebrity status. For example, he revealed to USA Today that he was kissing a date in a restaurant when an overzealous fan tapped him on the shoulder.

The success of Thames this season with Milwaukee, must be giving Minnesota renewed hope that Byung Ho Park will have similar success with the Twins.

Park’s batting lines in his final three seasons in his native Korea with the Nexen Heroes :

2013 – 128 games; .318; 37 HRs; 117 RBI

2014 – 128 games; .303 batting average; 52 HRs; 124 RBI

2015 – 140 games; .343 batting average; 53 HRs; 146 RBIs.

After the 2015 season, Park decided to give Major League Baseball a try. Minnesota paid $12.85 million for rights to negotiate with him and he signed a four-year deal with the Twins worth $12 million ($2.75 million in 2016 and 2017, $3 million in 2018 and 2019, plus a $500,000 club option buyout for 2020.

After a decent start with Minnesota last season, he slumped badly and was hitting .191 with 12 HRs, 24 RBI and 80 strikeouts in 215 official at-bats in 62 games when he was demoted to Rochester. In 31 games with the Red Wings, he batted .224 with 10 HRs (including three in one game) in 116 at-bats before suffering a season-ending injury.

Park had a productive spring training with Minnesota this year but was a surprise late cut and assigned to Rochester. He currently is sidelined with a hamstring problem.

Park and Thames both are 30 years old. Both were super sluggers in Korea. Thames figures to cool off soon, but his recent power surge has to be inspiring Minnesota officials and fans that Park has plenty of pop left in him. He figures to make another trip to Rochester en route back to the Twins.


Major League Baseball began the Rookie of the Year award in 1947. For the first two years, one player was selected for both league combined.

Jackie Robinson of the National League Brooklyn Dodgers was Rookie of the Year in 1947 and Alvin Dark of the NL Boston Braves won in 1948.

Jackie Robinson also was the NL Most Valuable Player in 1949.

Jackie Robinson had a spectacular 1946 season when he broke the International League’s color barrier with the Montreal Royals. In 124 games, he led the IL in batting average (.349) and on-base percentage (.468). He also scored 113 runs and had 40 stolen bases in 55 attempts.

He had problems in some IL cities – particularly Baltimore and Syracuse – but he was revered in Montreal as the best player on the IL’s best team. The Royals had a 100-54 record and scored 1,019 runs – 217 more runs than any other team in the league. They won the pennant by 18 ½ games, won the IL playoffs and the Junior World Series over Louisville, where Jackie couldn’t stay in the same hotel as his teammates.

The IL did not begin the Rookie of the Year award until 1950. Jackie Robinson would’ve won in a landslide in 1946.

A Robinson was voted IL Most Valuable Player in 1946, but it wasn’t Jackie. He was edged out by Baltimore first baseman Eddie Robinson (.318, 34 HRs and an IL-most 123 RBI). I won’t say Jackie lost because of discrimination. I wasn’t around then. But I am suspicious.


Jackie Robinson was Major League Baseball’s first Rookie of the Year in 1947.

The Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers lead MLB with Rookie of the Year awards (17):

1947 – Jackie Robinson...1949 – Don Newcombe...1952 – Joe Black...1953 – Jim Gilliam...1960 – Frank Howard...1965 – Jim Lefebvre...1969 – Ted Sizemore...1979 – Rick Sutcliffe...1980 – Steve Howe...1981 – Fernando Valenzuela...1982 – Steve Sax...1992 – Eric Karros...1993 – Mike Piazza...1994 – Raul Mondesi...1995 – Hideo Nomo...1992 – Todd Hollandsworth...2016 – Corey Seager.

The International League began the Rookie of the Year award in 1950. The Rochester Red Wings have by far the most winners – 17 (the exact same as the Dodgers). Next-most in the IL is 7 for Syracuse.

Here are Rochester’s 17 IL Rookie of the Year winners:

1952 – Ray Jablonski...1955—Jackie Brandt...1959 – Charlie James...1986 – Mike Epstein...1967 -- Curt Motton....1968 – Merv Rettenmund...1970 – Roger Freed...1972—Al Bumbry...1976—Rich Dauer...1980—Bobby Bonner...1981—Cal Ripken Jr. ...1988—Steve Finley...1991—Luis Mercedes...2004—Jason Kubel...2005—Francisco Liriano...2008—Randy Ruiz...2013—Chris Colabello.


The Rochester Red Wings entered Tuesday night leading the 14-team International League in batting average (.285), home runs (15), on-base percentage (.361) and slugging percentage (.478). They have a legitimate strong lineup at this early stage of the season.

But the Red Wings aren’t likely to lead the IL in HRs or runs for the entire season. The main reason is Frontier Field. It is not a hitter-friendly ballpark. The vast expanses of left-center field are the main reason.

In the previous 20 years the Wings began playing home games at Frontier Field (starting in 1997), here is how Rochester ranked in HRs and runs (in chronological order):

Home runs – 14th-19th-14th-13th-13th-13th-6th-6th-8th-11th-13th-4th-8th-14th-12th-11th-t5th-11th-t4th-t1st.

Runs – 4th-9th-12th-13th-12th-12th-9th-5th-8th-5th-10th-3rd-6th-12th-11th-12th-2nd-t8th-3rd-6th.


If the Buffalo Bills lose Mike Gillislee to the New England Patriots, would you object to Buffalo selecting running back Leonard Fournette No. 10 overall and then pick the best available cornerback and/or wide receiver with picks No. 44 and No. 75?

ESPN’s John “Professor” Clayton listed the “12 NFL teams that most need to draft a quarterback.” Surprisingly, Buffalo did not make the list: Cleveland, Houston, Arizona, Chicago, Jacksonville, New York Jets, San Francisco, Washington, New Orleans, Los Angeles Chargers, Pittsburgh and Seattle.

Tim Tebow with the Single-A Columbia Fireflies of the South-Atlantic League: 11 games; .171 batting average (7-for-41); 5 runs; 0 doubles; 0 triples; 2 HRs; 9 RBI; 3 walks; 10 strikeouts.


Wednesday, April 19 – Patrick Laine (19)...Kelly Olynyk (26)...Troy Polamalu (36)...Maria Sharapova (30)...Candace Parker (31)...Joe Mauer (34)...Martin Havlat (36)...Willis Ontanez, the last Red Wing to have a 100-RBI season (44)...Keith McCants (49)...Al Unser Jr. (55)...Frank Viola (57)...John Schweitz (57)...Randy Carlyle (61). Ashley Judd (49) is invited to the birthday party.

Thursday, April 20 – Luke Kuechly (26)...Brandon Belt (29)...Brent Seabrook (32)...Anthony Fasano (33)...Danny Granger (34)...Jason Avant (34)...Don Mattingly (56)...Viacheslav Fetisov (59). Jessica Lange (68) is invited to the birthday party (if she doesn’t bring King Kong).


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