Matthews: Spraying Baseball Hits To All Fields


The New York Yankees are giving gigantic slugger Adam Judge a big push: “He’s a must-see player. You don’t want to miss his next tape-measure shot.”  I get it. He is fun to watch. Assuming he is chosen for this summer’s Home Run Derby, I’m pretty sure he’ll boost the TV ratings for the popular gimmick the night before the All-Star Game. Maybe ESPN’s Chris Berman was lucky to be relieved of his Home Run Derby duties. He might have had to add a few back-back-backs to his over-the-wall call. But aren’t the Yankees putting a lot of pressure on him to hit loooong home runs?

I don’t pretend to know for sure what the Minnesota Twins should do with Bryon Buxton. He has too much talent to write off as a bust. But I’m pretty sure sending him to Rochester to boost his confidence would help more than masking him a spare part in Minnesota. Sure, he’s a great defensive specialist and pinch-runner, but those roles aren’t going to make him a hitter.

The more I see of Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, the more I believe he is as valuable to his team as any player in the league – with the possible exception of Mike Trout.

Altuve isn’t all I like about the Astros. If they win the 2017 World Series I wouldn’t be shocked. The lineup is solids top-to-bottom, with a mix of power and speed. Dallas Keuchel is the ace starting pitcher every championship team needs. The rest of the starting rotation is ordinary, but the bullpen is very deep. Chris Devenski has emerged as an overpowering short man for tight spots.

At the top of my list of underappreciated really good hitters is San Diego’s Wil Myers. It sure is easy to be overlooked by the nation’s fans and media when you’re trying to carry the otherwise faceless Padres. I give him credit for signing a long-term deal (six years for $83 million). He must really love the weather in San Diego.

Albert Pujols still can produce in clutch spots, but I wonder how many young baseball fans don’t appreciate how great he was with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Is there an active player more certain to be a future manager of his current team than St. Louis catcher Javier Molina? Maybe he’ll retain Mie Matheny as bench coach.

What can Minnesota do with Joe Mauer? He was a great player for a long time – a solid catcher who could really hit. He won three AL batting titles in his first five full seasons and was AL MVP in 2009. But he appears to be an old 34. He’s a part-time first baseman/DH now and has lost st least 70 points off his batting average and much of his power He signed a guaranteed eight-year contract worth $184 million in 2011. It looked good then. But not now. He’s still a hometown hero and the Twins probably couldn’t find a buyer if they wanted to trade him.

Entering Sunday night’s Washington at Mets game, the American League had a .239 batting average and a 3.80 earned-run average. The National League, with pitchers batting instead of designated hitters, had a .243 batting average and a 3.95 ERA. Isn’t that backwards?

Do the Boston Red Sox miss David Ortiz more than they thought they would? Through 18 games, the Red Sox have a MLB-fewest 8 HRs.

One reason the Colorado Rockies are a NL-best 13-6 is their 7-0 record in one-run games. They were 12-20 in one-run games last season.

Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout, probably baseball’s best player, ranks only 10th among licensed replica jersey sales in the American League. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez ranks ninth. That’s one reason I believe Trout will be wearing pinstripes someday.


The super-competitive first round of the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs wrapped up with two games Sunday. Appropriately, the two visiting teams won in overtime: Ottawa 3-2 over Boston and Washington 2-1 over Toronto.

The best-of-seven conference semifinals begin Wednesday (Nashville at St. Louis and Edmonton at Anaheim) and Thursday (New York Rangers at Ottawa and Pittsburgh at Washington).

Here’s the breakdown of the 42 games played in the first round:

Home teams were 19-23. So much for the home-ice advantage.

A first-round record 18 games were decided in overtime.

Marins of victory: 1 goal 28 games...2 goals 9 games...3 goals 3 games...five goals 1 game...7 goals 1 game.

There were 7 shutouts.

There were 199 goals in the 42 games (4.74 per game).

There were two 4-0 sweeps.  Two series were 4-1 and four series were 4-2. No series went the fill seven games (a surprise considering the competitive nature of play.

Two of the five Canada-based teams advanced – Edmonton and Ottawa. Calgary, Montreal and Toronto were eliminated. The Maple Leafs gave regular-season champion the Washington Capitals all they could handle and were stamped an up-and-coming young team.

Pittsburgh led the eight survivors in goals-er-game (4.20), followed by Anaheim (3.50), Nashville (3.25), Washington (3.0), Ottawa (2.50), New York Rangers 2.33, St. Louis 2.20 and Edmonton 2.00 (Connor McDavid had only 2 goals and 2 assists in 6 games).

Pittsburgh had the best power play (5-for-15), followed by Washington (5-for-17), Ottawa (5-for-23),  Anaheim (3-for-13), Edmonton (2-for-16), Nashville (1-for-8), and the New York Rangers (1-for-15) and St. Louis (1-for-15).


The Gwinnett Braves will play the Red Wings at Frontier Field Tuesday (6:35 p.m.), Wednesday (1:35 p.m.) and Thursday (11:05 a.m.).

It could be a very rare opportunity to watch a former Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player in game action against the Wings at home.

Ryan Howard, the National League MVP in 2005, is expected to play for Gwinnett as he plays himself into playing shape to join the Atlanta Braves.

Howard, 37, played 1,572 games with the Philadelphia Phillies. He had 382 HRs and 1,194 RBI.

He enjoyed a spectacular four-year run with the Phillies:

2006 -- .313 batting average; 58 HRs; 149 RBI; National League MVP

2007 -- .268; 47 HRs; 136 RBI; 5th in NBL MVP balloting

2008 -- .251; 48 HRs; 148 RBI; 2nd in NL MVP balloting

2009 -- .279; 45 HRs; b141 RBI; 3rd in NL MVP balloting.

He struggled last season with the Phillies and was not offered a new contract for this season. Atlanta signed after spring training this year, partly as a drawing card for a young team in a new stadium.

Howard began his pro career at Batavia of the New York-Penn League in 2001: 48 games; .272 (46-for-169); 7 doubles; 3 triples; 6 HRs; 35 RBI.

He tore up the International League early in the 2005 season for Scranton/Wilkes Barre to earn his ticket to the Phillies: 61 games; .371 batting average (78-for-210); 19 doubles; 16 HRs; 54 RBI). Twelve years later, he could be ready to rip the Wings on the way back to the bigs.


The Buffalo Bills are a popular punching bag for NFL pundits far and near. I plead guilty to pointing things that shout incompetence.

For example, how can the team with the NFL-longest 17-year playoff drought (and counting) have the least salary cap room in the league entering this offseason? How can New England be in better financial shape to steal restricted free agent Mike Gillislee from Buffalo than the Bills apparently are to keep him?

And with the NFL college draft kicking off Thursday night, how frustrating is that two teams are tied for the fewest picks – six. One of them (Atlanta has picks 31, 63, 95, 136, 174 and 249) lost Super Bowl 51. The other is Buffalo (picks 10, 44, 75, 156, 171 and 195).

The most picks: Cleveland and Cincinnati (11 each). The Browns need all the picks they can get. So do the Bills. Of course, Cleveland has more money under the cap to spend.


Give the Rochester Knighthawks credit for a clutch 15-13 home victory over the New England Black Wolves to give their fans – and themselves – the faintest of hopes to make the National Lacrosse League playoffs.

All the K-hawks need to do in the final weekend of the regular season  is sweep the Georgia Swarm Friday at Blue Dross Arena and Saturday night at Georgia to finish with an 8-10 record and hope New England loses at home to Vancouver Saturday night.

Is that scenario possible? Yes. Is it probable? No.

Georgia is the best team in the nine-team National Lacrosse League. The Swarm have the league’s best record (12-4), by far the most goals (245 to runner-up Saskatchewan’s 214) and best goal-differential (+51) in the league.

The Swarm are 7-1 at home, including a 15-9 win over Rochester Feb. 19. They’ve scored 79 goals in their last four games. Rochester has scored a league-low 156 goals through 16 games this season.

Georgia has clinched the East Division title but will be fired up in the two games versus Rochester with Kyle Thompson vying for league MVP honors and the NLL scoring crown. The 24-year-old former Albany Great Danes superstar has a slim lead (108 points) over Mark Matthews (107 points for Saskatchewan), Corey Small (104 for Vancouver) and Curtis Dickson (102 for Calgary).


The transplanted NC Courage – the defending National Women’s Soccer League champions (as the Western New York Flash), are 2-0 after a 1-0 victory Saturday over the Portland Thorns. New midfielder Debinha scored her first MWSL goal in the 81 minute.

The Courage drew 6,298 fans for their home debut at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. They;; host the Orlando Pride and five-time FIFA Player of the Year Marta this Saturday. Marta, who played weith the WNY Flash in 2011, arrived in Orlando to great fanfare last week. She was a sub in her NWSL debut Saturday and shot just wide in stoppage time in a 1-1 draw.


TIME magazine’s annual “The 100 Most Influential People” issue always if fun: Who got in and who did not? There always is plenty to debate.

I always wonder how many sports people made the list. This year’s list includes seven people with ties to sports: Simone Biles, Tom Brady, Theo Epstein, Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James, Conor McGregor and Neymar.

I was afraid that TIME would omit Donald Trump – just to see his reaction. But The Trumpster made it.

Others on the list include Ivanka Trump. Jared Kushner, John Legend, Emma Stone, Alicia Keys, Margot Robbie,  Pope Francis, Sandra Day O’Connor, Reince Priebus, Elizabeth Warren, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Chuck Schumer, Julian Assange, Stephen Bannon, General James Mattis, James Comey and Rupaul.

I’m surprised Triple H and John Cena and Charlotte Flair didn’t make the cut.


The disappointing Buffalo Bandits are 6-11 won’t make the NLL playoffs but give their fans credit for not giving up. The Bandits were eliminated from the race for a playoff berth with a 20-7 loss to Georgia last Saturday night at KeyBank Center before a banner crowd of 16,833 (the Knighthawks drew 5,816 for their home win over New England). The Pegulas own the Bandits and now even their indoor lacrosse team will miss the postseason.

The attendance for Saturday’s home games were mildly disappointing for the NLL Knighthawks (5.816) in a must-win game with the New England Black Wolves and for the USL Rhinos (3,451) for their home opener against the defending USL champion New York Red Bulls II.

Midfielder Tony Wells, captain of the 2015 USL champion Rhinos and a First Team USL selection, signed last week with Saint Louis FC (USL). Another former Rhino star, Christian Valesky, has three goals for Saint Louis this season.

Have you seen the video of Central New York bowler Ben Ketola bowling a 300 gamer in 86.9 sedconds? Impressive, but if you don’t pause for a beer of two along the way, what fun is it?

The two teams with the worst power plays in the NHL playoffs both advanced to the conference semifinals. The New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues both were 1-for-15 (0.67).

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov reportedly told Russian media that he is selling 49 percent of his NBA team. That makes me think he is 51 percent not very smart.


Monday, April 24 – Lydia Ko (20)...Tyler Toffoli (24)...Tyler Naquin (26)...Steven Sousa (28)...Lance Thomas (29)...Kris Letang (30)..Carlos Beltran (40)...Sachin Tendulkar (44)...Eric Snow (44)...Chipper Jones (45)...Omar Vizuel (50)...Ernie Grunfeld (62)...Vince Ferragamo (63). Barbra Streisand (75) and Shorley MacLaine (83) are invited to the birthday party.

Tuesday, April 25 – Jordan Poyer (26)...Danny Espinosa (30)..DeAngelo Williams (34)...Tim Duncan (41)...Jacque Jones (42)....Joe Buck (48)...Darren Woodson (48)...Travis Fryman (48)...Adam Silver (55)...Chis Johnson PPGA (57)...Art Schlicter (57)...Tony Phillips (58)...Randy Cross (63)...Vlazdislav Tretiak (65) Renee Zellweger (48), Taslia Shire (71) and Al Pacino (77) are invited to the birthday party.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content