Matthews: Don't Panic Yankees Fans, It's Early


One of the best things about being a New York Yankees fan is having 27 world championships to brag about. That’s the most in North American pro sports.

But no fans can push the panic button quite like Yankees fans. When their team started 2-2 this season, some demoralized fans were saying rookie manager Aaron Boone was in over his head and should be replaced.

The Yankees were demolished 14-1 in Boston Tuesday night to drop to 5-6, 4 ½ games behind AL East rival Boston...with only 151 games left to play this season (the Red Sox have 150 left).

Why Yankees fans should relax:

Giancarlo Stanton is on pace to strike out 324 times. That’s not going to happen. He’ll be fine.

Gary Sanchez isn’t going to hit .056 (2-for-36) forever.

The bullpen has been spotty but figures to be very good over the long haul. I’m assuming Dellin Betances will figure things out fairly soon.

The starting rotation – except maybe for CC Sabathia, I’d worry about him – should be among the best in the majors.

If the Yankees are struggling in June, GM Brian Cashman always has the resources to make moves to bolster the roster.

The Red Sox aren’t this good.

It’s very early. The Yankees could even take this series with wins Wednesday and Thursday nights.

History is on the side of the Yankees. Boston scored nine runs in the sixth inning Tuesday night. It was the biggest inning for the Red Sox against the Yankees since May 31, 1998, The Yankees won 114 games and the World Series that season.

There will be five more Yankees-Red Sox series this season -- lots of time for the Yankees to close ground:

In New York May 8-9-10

In Boston June 29-30, July 1

In Boston August 2-3-4-5

In Boston September 18-19-20

In New York to close the regular season September 28-29-30. There’s a decent chance those three games will be very meaningful.


I realize that the NFL is a business – but I didn’t like the Buffalo Bills asking star offensive left guard Richie Incognito to take a pay cut in order to return for the final year of a three-year contract.

Of course, Incognito was more upset than I was.

Incognito announced his retirement Tuesday because of medical issues. He said his liver and kidneys were shutting down. He said the stress “is killing me.”

I suspect the Bills asking him to take a cut in pay was the last straw. I couldn’t blame him.

Incognito was one of the team’s best players. He started all 49 games in his three seasons with Buffalo. Considering his contributions, I’d say the Bills got their money’s worth out of him. He was scheduled to earn $4.75 million this season.

Some people seem to think no offensive left guard is worth that kind of money. When a team’s depth chart at any position is completely blank, I’d say the guy leaving will be tough to replace.

Buffalo’s offensive line was average at best last season and now has lost left tackle Cordy Glenn (traded to Cincinnati), center Eric Woods and now – apparently – Incognito. And the left side was considered by far the stronger side.

Will the unexpected (?) departure (?) of Incognito inspire the Bills to change their strategy for the NFL draft April 26 through 28?  With so many holes to fill – for example, offensive line, linebackers and wide receivers – can Buffalo afford to package a boatload of picks in a bombshell trade for a “franchise quarterback”?

The way things look right now, it probably is a good idea that AJ McCarron is penciled in as starting “bridge quarterback” for this season. He won’t have the second coming of the Great Wall of China trying to protect him and open holes for LeSean McCoy.

Some people seem to think the departure of Incognito somehow is a plus for the Bills – if not immediately, at least in near-future years.

I’m just being honest – but I hope those folks aren’t anticipating a repeat trip to the playoffs in 2018. This roster has more holes than a golf course.

At least Incognito won’t be resurfacing for the New England Patriots.


Entering the final week of this American Hockey League regular season, the Rochester Americans were one of only 4 teams in the 30-team league without a single player with at least 20 goals. The team’s leading scorer is a defenseman.

But the Amerks are far from a feeble team on the attack. They rank 9th in the AHL with 224 goals.

Balanced scoring is one reason Rochester is a live long shot to win the seventh Calder Cup on franchise history.

Rochester’s leading goal scorers:

18 – Sahir Gill (in 72 games)

17 – C.J. Smith (54 games)

16 – Red-hot Colin Blackwell (58 games), captain Kevin Porter (64 games)

15 – Defenseman Zach Redmond (team-high 46 points), Seth Griffith (in 44 games), Kyle Criscuolo (51 games)

12 – Danny O’Regan (in 46 games with San Jose/Rochester)

11 – Hudson Fasching (66 games), Sean Malone (70 games)

9 – Eric Cornel (58 games)

8 – Defenseman Brendan Guhle (47 games)

7 – Defenseman Stuart Percy (66 games), Alexander Nylander (48 games), Justin Bailey (34 games), Nicholas Baptise (36 games). Bailey and Baptise spent considerable time with Buffalo this season and have the ability to be productive goal scorers in the Calder Cup playoffs.

Justin Danforth has 2 goals and 3 assists in limited duty in 15 games with Rochester but he tore up the ECHL at Cincinnati before his promotion February 13. In 44 games with the Cyclones, he had 28 goals and 31 assists for 59 points. He was selected ECHL Rookie of the Year and Second-Team All-ECHL.

The bottom line: Firepower should not be a problem for Rochester in the playoffs. They are a more dangerous offensive team than they look on paper. Rochester coach Chris Taylor should have at least three dangerous lines and several offensive-minded defensemen available for every game.


The biggest surprise this National Hockey League season was the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.  They had the fifth-best record in the 31-team league.

The most disappointing team was the Buffalo Sabres, who often played like they were tanking even though the players weren’t tanking. NHL careers were on the line for many of them.

Here’s how Vegas and Buffalo compared (rank in the 31-team NHL in parentheses):

Records – Vegas 51-24-7, 109 points (5th)...Buffalo 25-42-12, 62 points (31st)

Goals per game – Vegas 3.27 (5th)...Buffalo 2.41 (31st)

Fewest goals allowed per game – Vegas 2.74 (8th)...Buffalo 3.39 (29th)

Goal differential per game – Vegas +0.52 (5th)...Buffalo -0.98 (31st)

Most shots per game – Vegas 32.8 (11th)...Buffalo 31.2 (21st)

Fewest shots allowed per game – Vegas 30.7 (7th)...Buffalo 32.7 (22nd)

Save percentage – Vegas .911 (t11th)...Buffalo .896 (29th)

Power-play percentage – Vegas 21.4 (11th)...Buffalo 19.1 (20th)

Penalty killing – Vegas 81.4 (10th)...Buffalo 77.9 (22nd).

Average home/away ATT – Vegas 18,042 (17th)/17,873 (t4th)...Buffalo 18,563 (11th)/17,385 (17th).


Syracuse University basketball fans were due for some good news and Oshae Brissett delivered.

Brissett announced Sunday that he’ll return for at least his sophomore season.

Had he opted to enter the 2018 NBA draft, he probably would’ve been selected – possible in the first round.

Brissett’s decision obviously will help SU. He’ll be a candidate for All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors next season. Here’s hoping his performance for the Orange will boost his stock in future NBA drafts.

I already believe that Brissett will have a better NBA career than Tyler Lydon, the SU forward who opted for the NBA after a less than spectacular sophomore season. He sure could’ve helped the Orange in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

For the record, here’s how Lydon’s two seasons at SU compared to Brissett’s freshman season:

Lydon 2016-16 freshman season – 37 games...0 games started...30.3 minutes per game...10.1 points per game...6.3 rebounds per game... .479 field-goal percentage... .405 three-point field-goal percentage... .774 free-throw percentage...47 turnovers...42 steals...67 blocked shots.

Lydon 2016-17 sophomore season – 34 games...34 games started...36.1 minutes per game...13.2 points per game...8.6 rebounds per game... .433 field-goal percentage... .395 three-point field-goal percentage... .836 free-throw percentage...59 turnovers...35 steals...49 blocked shots.

Brissett 2017-18 freshman season – 37 games...37 games started...38.1 minutes per game...9.8 rebounds per game... .399 field-goal percentage... .322 three-point field-goal percentage... .839 free-throw percentage...69 turnovers...43 steals...29 blocked shots.

The bottom line – Lydon was more than one inch taller but Brissett is at least his equal as a rebounder...Lydon was the more accurate shooter. Brissett is more athletic and has more moves. Lydon had more assists, partly because he had more teammates worth passing the ball to.


Mauro Panaggio died Wednesday in Palm Beach, Florida. He was 90. His wife, Rita, died last month at age 87.

Mauro was one of my all-time favorite Rochester sports personalities. He was charismatic, colorful, outspoken, sometimes controversial and – most of all -- a terrific basketball coach. His Section V, SUNY Brockport and Continental Basketball Association teams won 83 percent of their games.

Mauro was a star basketball player athlete at Madison (Class of 1946) and Brockport.

In 13 years of Section V coaching at Franklin, East and Rush-Henrietta, his record was 220-48. He won the Section V Class AA title with East in 1966.

He was 148-66 at SUNY Brockport from 1967 through 1977 and went to two NCAA College Division Final Fours.

He helped to form the Rochester Zeniths and led the team to two Continental Basketball Association championships. His 1989-81 team had a 34-6 regular-season record and won the title. His star players included Andre McCarter, Glenn Hagan, Larry Fogle, Larry McNeill, Larry Spriggs and Lee Johnson.

After the Zeniths folded in 1983, Mauro continued to coach several other CBA teams as is that league’s all-time winningest coach.

Two of Mauro’s frequent CBA coaching rivals were Phil Jackson and George Karl. Mauro was every bit the coach they were. They went on have great success in the NBA. Mauro didn’t get the call. I could never figure that out. He wrote a few books on basketball coaching and was much respected by his peers at every level.

Sons Mike and Danny were excellent basketball players in high school and college.


National Lacrosse League Week 19 Power Rankings (from Brian Shanahan at 1-Sakatchewan...2-Colorado...3-Rochester...4-Georgia...5-Buffalo...6-Toronto...7-New England...8-Calgary...9-Vancouver. Sadly, 8th-ranked Calgary has clinched a playoff berth out of the weak Western Division and two better Eastern Division teams will not make the playoffs.

The Syracuse University spring football scrimmage will be Friday, 7 p.m., at the Carrier Dome. Gates open at 5 p.m. Admission and parking are free. Otto the Orange and the cheerleading team will be available for autographs and a photo session.

The Alliance of American Football pro league will have no kickoffs. What about onside kicks? A team will be able to try to keep the ball after a score by running one offensive play – fourth-and-10 from its own 35-yard line. Make the first down and you keep the ball. Fail and the other team gets the ball.





Brian Gionta with the Boston Bruins this season: 20 games...2 goals...5 assists...7 points...2 penalty minutes...13:04 ice time per game.

Another old horse racing track will be no more. Hazel Park, north of Detroit, is being sold and will be demolished. It opened in 1949 and was Michigan’s last remaining thoroughbred track. It was scheduled to run a meet this season but horsemen were surprised to learn April 5 that the track is permanently closed.

Tim Tebow update with the AA (Eastern League) Binghamton Rumble Ponies: 4 games; .133 batting average (2-for-15); 1 run; 1 HR; 3 RBI; 0 walks; 8 strikeouts.

Phil Coyne, believed to be Major League Baseball’s oldest usher, is calling it quits shortly before his 100th birthday. He’d been an usher for the Pittsburgh Pirates since 1936.


April 11, 111 years ago (1907), Roger Bresnahan of the New York Giants became the first Major League Baseball catcher to wear shinguards (was he smarter than the rest or were the other catchers really stubborn?)...101 years ago (1917), Babe Ruth pitched the Boston Red Sox to a 10-3 win over the New York Yankees...57 years ago (1961), the Boston Celtics won their third of eight straight NBA championships 4-1 over the St. Louis Hawks...56 years ago (1962), the New York Mets lost in their debut...35 years ago (1983), Seve Ballesteros won the 47th Masters.

April 12, 65 years ago (1953), Ben Hogan won the 17th Masters...1961 (57 years ago), retired General Douglas MacArthur turned down as offer to become Commissioner of Baseball...38 years ago (1980), Terry Fox began his “Marathon of Hope” run in Newfoundland...26 years ago (1992), Fred Couples won the 56th Masters.

April 13, 92 years ago (1926), at age 41, Walter Johnson pitched his seventh Opening Day shutout...64 years ago (1954), Hank Aaron made his debut with the Milwaukee Braves...38 years ago (1980), the United States announced a boycott of the Summer Olympics in Moscow...21 years ago (1997), Tiger Woods at age 21 won the 61st Masters.


Wednesday, April 11

Telvin Smith (27)...Kenta Maeda (30)...Mark Teixeira (38)...Kelvim Escobar (42)...Trt Nixon (44)...Trevor Lindon (46)...Jason Veritek (46)...WWE’s Goldust (49)...Bret Saberhagen (54)...Michael Ray Richardson (63)...John Gould (69).

Thursday, April 12

Nate Solder (30)...Ted Ginn (33)...Hisashi Iwakuma (37)...Brad Miller (42)...Roman Hamrlik (44)...Paul Lo Duca (46)...Adam Graves (50)...Lorenzo White (52)...Elaine Zayak (53)...Ron Fischer (59)...Reuben Gant (66)...Mike Garrett (74)...Johnny Antonelli (88). Saorise Ronan (24), Andy Garcia (62) and David Letterman (71) are invited to the birthday party.

Friday, April 13

Melvin Gordon (25)...Josh Gordon (27)...Lorenzo Caine (32)...Hunter Pence (35)...Steve Pence (35)...Quentin Richardson (36)...Baron Davis (39)...Patrik Elias (42)...Sergei Gonchar (44)...Ted Washington (50)...Dana Barros (51)...Quinn Early (53)...Jose Rijo (54)...Mark Leiter (55).


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