Matthews: Congrats to Browns For "Hard Knocks" Gig

posted by Bob Matthews - 

CONGRATS TO THE BROWNS FOR “HARD KNOCKS” GIG

The Cleveland Browns had nothing but hard knocks last season so it is appropriate that they’re the 2018 team for the popular “Hard Knocks” HBO series that provides fans with an inside look at an NFL training camp.

Many teams want nothing to do with hosting “Hard Knocks”. But what do the Browns have to lose? They were 1-15 in 2016 and 0-16 last season.

The five-part weekly series starts August 7. A 30-person crew from NFL Films will shoot more than 2,000 hours of footage at Cleveland’s training camp in Berea, Ohio.

The most popular theme figures to be the battle for starting quarterback between veteran Tyrod Taylor and No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield. Troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon probably will be a popular subject. And how about coach Hue Jackson and his job security?

First-year general manager John Dorsey recently said he was opposed to hosting “Hard Knocks” but bowed to the wishes of owner Jimmy Haslam, who is eager to show off a team on the rise simply because it has to get better.

The owners of the Buffalo Bills – Terry and Kim Pegula -- to this point haven’t expressed any interest in hosting “Hard Knocks”. The Bills were excused from consideration the last two seasons: in 2017 because they had a new head coach and in 2018 because they’re coming off a rare playoff season.

I’ve long advocated the Bills joining the list of “Hard Knocks” teams. I think it would be great exposure for the franchise’s brand, St. John Fisher and Greater Rochester. I also think the players would like the exposure considering their “not ready for prime-time” status.

Maybe next year – assuming the Bills don’t have the excuse of making the playoffs again.

For the record, here were the previous “Hard Knocks” teams (11 different ones) and their record that season:

2001 – Baltimore Ravens 10-6 (they were the defending Super Bowl champions)

2002 – Dallas Cowboys 5-11 (for the third straight season)

2003 through 2006 – took a few years off.

2007 – Kansas City 4-12

2008 – Dallas 9-7 (Jerry Jones loves to show off his team)

2009 – Cincinnati 10-6

2010 – New York Jets 11-5 (coach Rex Ryan stole the show)

2011 – no show due to labor uncertainty

2012 – Miami 7-9

2013 – Cincinnati 11-5

2014 – Atlanta 6-10

2015 – Houston 9-7

2016 – Los Angeles Rams 4-12

2017 – Tampa Bay 5-11.

CAN’T JUSTIFY NOT PICKING JUSTIFY TO WIN THE PREAKNESS STAKES

There is no sure thing in racing. But some horses are too good to pick against.

For example, Justify in the 1 3/16th-mile 143rd Preakness Stakes Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore (post time 6:20 p.m., on NBC).

Justify was my pick to win the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago and I glad to see him win easily over a sloppy track and delighted that he returned $7.80 for a $2 win bet.

Saturday’s assignment looks easier than the Derby. Only four of the 19 horses he dusted two weeks ago will be back for more. A few of them probably will be rested to prepare for the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes June 9

Here are my worst-to-first Preakness picks:

8th – Tenfold. Morning line odds 20-to-1. No. 6 post position. 3 career starts – 2 wins, 0 seconds, 0 thirds; career earnings $124,200. Trainer Steve Asmussen; jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. Did not race as a two-year-old. Won his first two races against much softer competition and then ran fifth in the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby. A class test here and he doesn’t figure to pass with flying colors.

7th – Diamond King. ML 30-to-1. No. 4 post position. 6—4-0-1; $222,600. Trainer John Servis; jockey Javier Castellano. Won the minor stakes Federico Tesio “win and you’re in” as the 2.30-to-1 favorite at Laurel April 21. Based at Parx, a top minor-league track outside Philadelphia. That’s where he should be running on Saturday.

6th – Sporting Chance. ML 30-to-1. No. 3 post position. 7—2-1-1; $409,790. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas; jockey Luis Contreras. Lacked the necessary points to start in the Kentucky Derby and finished a troubled fourth in the Pat Day Mile on the Churchill Downs undercard that afternoon.  Winless in four starts this year. Ambitious spot to try to return to the win column.

5th – Lone Sailor. ML 15-to-1. No. 2 post position. 9—1-3-1; $334,237. Trainer Tom Amoss; jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. Only win was an 11-length romp in a maiden race at Saratoga last September. An encouraging second in the Grade 1 Louisiana Derby and then a troubled eighth at 24.50-to-1 in the Kentucky Derby. Some late foot and a top rider. May better rating.

4th – Bravazo. ML 20-to-1. No. 8 post position. 9—3-1-1; $436,528. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas; jockey Luis Saez. Lukas has 14 Triple Crown victories but isn’t likely to pad that count Saturday. Won the Grade 2 Risen Star at odds of 21-to-1 but then finished a disappointing eighth at 2.90-to-1 odds in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. Finished a decent sixth in the Kentucky Derby at odds of 66.90-to-1. Did he like the slop that day or is he a legit live long shot at a big price?

SHOW – Quip. ML 12-to-1. No. 1 post position. 5—3-1-0; $482,800; $482,800. Trainer Rodolphe Briset; jockey Florent Geroux. Won the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby at odds of 19.10 to-1 and second at 6:30-to-12 in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. Connections skipped the Kentucky Derby to bring this fresh colt to the Preakness. Probably can’t beat Justify but a logical choice to pad the exotic payoffs.

PLACE – Good Magic. ML 3-to-1. No. 5 post position. 6—2-3-1; $2,255,000. Trainer Chad Brown; jockey Jose Ortiz. The two-year-old champion took a game run at Justify in the Kentucky Derby stretch but had to settle for second. Has obvious talent and always tries. He’s the top money-earner in this field but has two more races than Justify. The best reason to think he might win Saturday is that Justify liked the slop better than he did in the Derby.  I imagine a lot of bettors will be boxing 5-7 in the exacta and hoping it comes in that way.

WIN – Justify. ML 1-to-2. No. 7 post position. 4—4-0-0; $2,098,000. Trainer Bob Baffert; jockey Mike Smith. What’s not to like? Undefeated in four career starts by a combined 21 ½ lengths. Baffert has trained five Derby winners and the previous four all won the Preakness. Easily the best speed figures. The only knock on Justify is that he’s never been asked to run on only two weeks’ rest. But if he wasn’t primed to run his best, Baffert wouldn’t have entered him in this race. The brief scare over a slightly bruised heel shortly after the Derby victory apparently no longer is a concern. He has the speed to wire this field but figures to stalk slightly off the pace if it is ridiculously fast and draw off when Smith says go. If he wins this race convincingly, he could face a very short field in his pursuit of the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.

Batavia Downs live racing manager Todd Haight and I will do our traditional worst-to-first Preakness rundown on Friday, 6:35 to 7 p.m., on Bob Matthews On Sports on News Radio WHAM 1180. Todd will have some tips on how to make some money even if Justify wins.

THREE THINGS THE NHL HAS OVER THE NBA IN THE PLAYOFFS

The National Hockey League and National Basketball Association are deep in to their respective conference championships.

I believe the NHL hasfor at least three big things over the NBA:

1—A fresher major story line. The NHL expansion Vegas Golden Knights need only six more wins to bring the Stanley Cup to Sin City. When this season started, they were 300-to-1 odds in their own town to go all the way. Why not? No expansion team in one of the four major North American team sports had posted a winning record in the past 60-plus years. And Winnipeg still has a chance to become the first Canadian-based team to win the Cup since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens. And Alex Ovechkin and the rest of the underachieving Washington Capitals are still alive. Of the four finalists, only Tampa Bay has won the Stanley Cup (in 2004).

Meanwhile, in the NBA, Golden State still is the favorite to reach the Finals for the fourth straight season, and possibly meet Cleveland in the Finals for the fourth straight time.

2—Competitiveness. Through 74 games in the NHL playoffs, visiting teams are 40-34, including 33-18 in the last 51 games. There have been 10 overtime games. 21 games have been decided by one goal and 21 games by two goals.

Through 59 games in the NBA playoffs, home teams have a commanding 47-22 advantage. The four teams in the conference finals are a combined 26-3 at home 10-12 on the road. There have been more lopsided games than close games.

3—Scheduling. The NHL is like clockwork. In the conference finals, one game every night. That’s a great way to spark and maintain interest.

The NBA will have no games Thursday or Friday nights. Nothing like killing momentum. Why do the Finals have to end so deep into the summer? Game 7 would be June 17. Reminder: The Rochester Royals beat the visiting New York Knicks 79-75 in Game 7 of the 1951 Finals on April 21.

HEAVIER ON THE PLATES, LIGHTER ON THE RED WINGS

When Buffalo and Rochester resume their International League Thruway rivalry with four games at Buffalo June 14, 15, 17 and 17, and three games at Frontier Field August 28, 29 and 30, Buffalo will be the Wings – honest, in a salute to chicken wings – and Rochester will be the Plates (in honor of garbage plates).

The teams will be cashing in on the rebranding strategy that is sweeping the minor leagues. New or temporary team nicknames equal fresh items for sale at the team stores and maybe even more media coverage.

Call me an old fuddy-duddy traditionalist, but I never thought I’d see Buffalo wearing Wings on their uniform chests against the Rochester Plates.    

PREVIOUS MVPs TO PLAY AGAINST THE RED WINGS

Boston Red Sox star second baseman Dustin Pedroia is expected to play for Pawtucket this weekend on a rehab assignment against the Red Wings at Frontier Field.

Pedroia is coming off knee surgery last October and hasn’t play in the majors this season.

Pedroia would join the short list of players who played against the Red Wings after being selected a Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player.

According to my research (if you have more info, let me know), the only such players in recent memory were 2002 American League MVP Miguel Tejada (with Norfolk in 2012) and 2006 National League MVP Ryan Howard (with Gwinnett last season).

Other remote possibilities: 1950 NL MVP Jim Konstanty (with Richmond briefly in 1955) and 1983 AL MVP Willie Hernandez (32 combined relief appearances with Toledo 1987, Columbus 1995 and Syracuse 1997).

Hall of Famer George Sisler, the 1922 American League MVP, finished his playing career with the 1931 Red Wings. Two MVPs were Rochester managers – 1964 NL MVP Ken Boyer (1977-78) and 1961 NL and 1966 AL MVP Frank Robinson (1978).

RIT TIGERS ARE TWO WINS AWAY FROM THE DIVISION III LACROSSE CHAMPIONSHIP

The RIT Tigers, 21-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation, are two victories shy of their first NCAA Division III lacrosse championship.

The Tigers host the Wesleyan University (CT) Cardinals Saturday 1 pm., in the semifinals. The Tigers beat Wesleyan 22-9 in last year’s semis. In the other semifinal game, Gettysburg College (Pa.) will host defending champion Salisbury. The Bullets upset the Sea Gulls 11-10 in two overtimes February 24.

Salisbury beat RIT 15-7 last year for its 12th NCAA Division III title. The Tigers and Gettysburg are seeking their first NCAA lacrosse titles. Gettysburg lost in the championship game three times (2001, 2002 and 2009) and RIT lost in the championship game twice (2013 and 2017).

MOOKIE BETTS ON PACE TO END 30-30 CLUB DROUGHT

Membership in Baseball’s 30-30 Club is reserved for players with enough power to hit at least 30 home runs and enough speed to steal at least 30 bases in the same season.

The 30-30 Club has only 38 players, including 13 who did it more than once – led by the father-son duo of Bobby Bonds and Barry Bonds (five times each -- how’s that for baseball genes?) and Alfonso Soriano (four times).

The last player to join the 30-30 Club was Mike Trout in 2012 (30 HRs and 49 SBs with the Los Angeles Angels).

The only active members are Ian Kinsler and Ryan Braun (each twice) and Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury (well, he’s sort of active).

With the 2018 season around 25 percent complete, Boston’s Mookie Wilson is the first player to reach double-figure HRs (13) and SBs (11). He’s on pace for around 50 HRs and 45 SBs. He’s pretty good.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Friday – Clint Capela (24)...Vince Young (35)...Donyell Marshall (45)...Marty McSorley (55)...Jarri Kurri (58)...Yannink Noah (58)...Will Wolford (58)...Reggie Jackson (72)...Brooks Robinson (81). Tina Fey (47) and George Strait (66) are invited to the birthday party.

Saturday – Mario Chalmers (32)...Mercedes Lewis (34)...Brandon Inge (41)...Kevin Garnett (42)...London Fletcher (43)...Ken Gerhart (57)...Bill Laimbeer (61)...former Amerks defenseman Bob Hess (63)...Ed Whitson (63)...Rick Cerrone (64)...Archie Manning (69). Malcom X was born on this date 93 years ago (1925) and died in 1965 at age 39. Syracuse National great Dolph Schayes was born on this date 90 years ago (1928) and died in 2015 at age 87. Andre The Giants was born on this date 72 years ago (1946) and died in 1993 at age 46.

Sunday – Enes Kanter (26)...Jayson Werth (39)...Tony Stewart (47)...Lawyer Tillan (52)...Lisolette Neumann (52)...David Wells (55)...Bill Willoughby (61)...Yevon Lambert (68)...Stan Mikita (78)...Bud Grant (91). Busta Rhymes (46) and Cher (72) are invited to the birthday party. Actor James Stewart was born on this date 110 years ago (1908) and died in 1997 at age 89.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

May 18

85 years ago (1933), Major League Baseball announced plans for the first All-Star Game July 6 in Chicago...76 years ago (1942), New York City ended night baseball games for the duration of World War II...50 years ago (1968), Al Kaline’s 307th home run topped the team record of Hank Greenberg...33 years ago (1985), Tank’s Prospect won the 110th Preakness Stakes.

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