Matthews: Yankees Thriving


One of the biggest surprises – make that two biggest surprises – regarding the impressive 11-7 start of the New York Yankees is that only one of the three “Baby Bombers” who tore up spring training has been a major contributor so far in the regular season.

Aaron Judge has contributed his share -- .279 (17-for-61), 2 doubles, 1 triple, 6 HRs, 13 RBI, 6 walks and 17 strikeouts.

Gary Sanchez suffered a biceps injury and wasn’t doing much before he was sidelined: 5 games; .150 batting average (3-for-20); 1 HR; 2 RBI; 1 walk and 4 strikeouts.

Greg Bird has been a huge disappointment: .104 batting average (5-for-48); 3 doubles; 1 triple; 2 RBI; 5 walks and 17 strikeouts.

The best reasons to think that the Yankees can remain a threat of make the playoffs is the probability of significantly more production from Sanchez and Bird.


The NHL Stanley Cup conference semifinals begin Wednesday night.

There are no sure things in this hockey tournament – but a lot more tight games are a virtual certainty.

Of the 42 games in the first round, 28 (two-thirds) were decided by one goal, including a record 18 in overtime.

The updated odds to win the Stanley Cup:

Washington Capitals 11-to-4 (bet $4 to win $11)

Pittsburgh Penguins 17-to-4 (bet $4 to win $17)

Anaheim Ducks 11-to-2 (bet $2 to win $11)

Nashville Predators 13-to-2 (bet $2 to win $13)

Edmonton Oilers 7-to-1

New York Rangers 7-to-1

St. Louis Blues 17-to-2 (bet $2 to win $17)

Ottawa 14-to-1.

(Odds courtesy of


The New Orleans Saints and Adrian Peterson have agreed to a two-year contract.

With Mark Ingram coming off his finest NFL season in his six years with New Orleans – 205 carries for 1,043 yards (5.1-yard average) and 6 TDs – I’m wondering how the pass-happy Saints can keep Ingram and Peterson happy.

Interestingly, Peterson might have been the victim of the biggest snub in Heisman Trophy history in 2004, and Ingram won the tightest balloting in Heisman Trophy history in 2009.

In 2004, Peterson had a spectacular freshman season at Oklahoma: 339 carries for 1,925 yards.

He finished second in Heisman balloting:

1—Matt Leinart USC QB – 267 first-place votes, 211 second-place votes, 102 third-place votes...1,325 points

2--Peterson – 154 first-place votes, 180 second-place votes, 75 first-place votes...997 points.

Oklahoma senior quarterback Jason White finished third, undoubtedly taking votes from teammate Peterson. But the biggest reason Peterson didn’t win the Heisman was that he was a freshman. Voters figured he would win the award in the future. Of course, he did not.

For the record, Utah QB Alex Smith finished 4th, USC RB Reggie Bush was 5th and California QB Aaron Rodgers was 9th.

In 2009, Ingram (Alabama) edged RB Toby Gerhart (Stanford) and QB Colt McCoy (Texas):

1--Ingram – 227 first-place votes, 236 second-place votes, 151 third-place votes...1,304 points

2--Gerhart – 222 first-place votes, 236 second-place votes, 160 third-place votes...1,276 points

3—McCoy – 203 first-place votes, 188 second-place votes, 160 third-place votes...1,145 points.


To the surprise of virtually no one who follows the NBA, the only two teams to record four-game sweeps in the first round of the playoffs were the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Finals are scheduled to begin June 1. That means the Warriors and Cavs figure to breeze through their conference semifinals and finals and will make staying completely healthy for the championship series a high priority.

The same two teams never have played in three straight NBA Finals. It would a major upset if the Warriors and Cavaliers do not become the first teams to do it this year.

Golden State continues to roll. Resting key players including Kevin Durant? No sweat. Coach Steve Kerr out of commission? No problem.

I believe that the Warriors at full strength could give any team in NBA history a battle for the championship. The only reason I can’t guarantee that Golden State will win this season’s title is LeBron James. He’s healthy and in top form. Beating his team in a best-of-seven series is a high hurdle – even for the Warriors.


For many years, hometown hero Joe Mayer was the face of the Minnesota Twins.

He was by far baseball’s best-hitting catcher, winning three American League batting titles in his first five full seasons. He was the AL Most Valuable Player in 2009 and looked like a lock for the Hall of Famer.

In 2011, he signed an eight-year contract worth $184 million (all guaranteed).

That deal isn’t looking so good for the Twins now and he no longer is a cinch for Cooperstown.

What happened? Injuries hastened his move from catcher to first base. His batting skills began to erode.

From 2006 through 2013, his batting averages were .347, .328, .365, .327, .319 and .342.

From 2014 through 2016, his batting averages were .277, .265 and .261.

His batting line this season (entering Tuesday night): 18 games; .224 batting average (15-for-67); 2 doubles; 0 triples; 0 HRs; 6 RBI; 4 walks; 5 strikeouts.

He still has a terrific batting eye but he no longer is a great hitter. Most of his power is gone. The sad truth: The player who one of the all-time best-hitting catchers now is arguably the least productive first basemen.

What can Minnesota do with him? He turned 34 last week. He’ll make a guaranteed $23 million in each of the 2017 and 2018 seasons. The Twins aren’t going to make the postseason with or without him in the near future.

A playoff-contending team might be interested in adding Mauer as at least a pinch-hitter but Minnesota probably would need to eat a huge chunk of his remaining contract in the transaction.

Mauer always will be a hero to Minnesota fans. The Twins probably would prefer to give his playing time at first base and more of his at-bats to younger and more powerful players such as Miguel Sano or Kennys Vargas or even to a healthy ByungHo Park.

I believe Minnesota will keep Mauer on the roster in a limited role through 2018 and that he’ll then retire as a Twin.

Is he a future Hall of Famer? His numbers: 14 seasons; .308 batting average (1,841-for-5,986); 367 doubles; 28 triples; 130 HRs; 810 RBI; .390 on-base percentage; .443 slugging percentage; .834 OPS). His offense plus three Gold Gloves as a catcher are plusses.

Right now, assuming he’ll never again be a heavy-duty catcher, I make him 60-40 to be elected to Cooperstown. His batting numbers figure to erode the longer he hangs on.


The Rochester Rattlers, a powerhouse on paper, will open their 2017 Major Lacrosse League season Saturday, 7 p.m., at the Florida Launch.

Coach Tm Soudan’s team will be trying to avoid the slow start that cost it a playoff berth last year. That was unfortunate because when the regular-season ended, Rochester probably was the best team in MLL.

When relatively healthy and with everyone available, the Rattlers don’t have a weakness – gifted scorers, deep midfield and defense, and the league’s best goalie.

The MLL’s eight other teams all played last weekend. All four games were decided by one goal, including two in overtime. The visiting team won all four games: Boston Cannons 18, Florida Launch 17 (OT)...New York Lizards 15, Chesapeake Bayhawks 14 (OT). Joe Walters scored the game-tying goal to make it 13-13 in his Lizards debut...Denver Outlaws 13, Charlotte Hounds 12...Ohio Machine 10, Atlanta Blaze 9.

Rochester will play Saturday, May 6, at the Ohio Machine (minus recently-retired John Grant Jr.). The home opener for the Rattlers will be Thursday, May 11, 7:30 p.m., at Capelli Sport Stadiu8m versus the Charlotte Hounds.


Oklahoma City Thunder triple-double machine Russell Westbrook is the monthly Hickok Belt winner for March.

I still believe Houston Rockets star James Harden – who has similar stats while shooting the ball far less than Westbrook – has had the better season and deserves to beat out Westbrook for league MVP honors (I’m pretty sure Westbrook will win by more than he should).


Wednesday, April 26 – Aaron Judge (25)...Tom Savage (27)...Cole Beasley (28)...John Isner (32)...Vaclav Varada (41)...Kane WWF (50)...Robb Riddick (60)...Mosi Tatupu (62). Channing Tarum (37), Melania Trump (47) and Carol Burtnett (84) are invited to the birthday party.

Thursday, April 27 – Corey Seager (23)...Keenan Allen (25)...Alfred Blue (26)...Jason Whitlock (50)...Mike Krushelnyski (57)...Herman Edwards (63)...George Gervin (65)...Keith Magnuson (70)...Chuck Knox (85).

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