GOLDEN KNIGHTS AND CAVALIERS ARE IN VERY DEEP HOLES
Which team has the better chance to win this month’s NHL and NBA Finals – the Vegas Golden Knights or the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Answer: History says they’re very similar long-shots – verrrrry long long-shots.
The Golden Knights trail the Washington Capitals 3 games to 1, with Game 5 Thursday night in Las Vegas.
Since the NHL went to a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals in 1939, teams trailing 3-1 in the Finals are 1-32, including the last 31 times in a row. The only exception was Toronto in 1942. Those Maple Leafs rallied from a 3-0 deficit:
Game 1 – Detroit won 3-2
Game 2 – Detroit won 4-2
Game 3 – Detroit won 5-2
Game 4 – Toronto won 4-3
Game 5 – Toronto won 9-3
Game 6 – Toronto won 3-0
Game 7 – Toronto won 3-1 at home before the first 16,000-plus crowd (16,218) for a hockey game in Canada. The fire warden must have been looking the other way that night.
Encouraging note for the Golden Knights, who could really use one: Teams leading best-of-seven series by a 3 games to 1 margin in the NHL playoffs (a la the current Washington Caps) have gone on to win the series 276 out of 304 times. But Washington is a mere 7-5. The other teams are a combined 269-23.
The Cleveland Cavaliers trail the Golden State Warriors 2-0 in the NBA Finals, with Game 3 Wednesday night in Cleveland.
NBA teams down 2-0 in best-of-seven playoff series have lost the series 282 out of 302 times. The last team to rally from down 0-2 and win a series was Cleveland versus Boston in this season’s Eastern Conference finals.
Encouraging note for the Cavaliers: Four teams rallied to win the championship after losing the first two games of the series: Boston over the Los Angeles Lakers in 1969...Portland over Philadelphia in 1977...Miami over Dallas in 2006...Cleveland over Golden State in 2016.
The Cavaliers now are +1350 to win these Finals: bet $100 to win $1,350. I’m sure some loyal Cleveland fans are ready to wager a little to win a lot. I would not recommend it.
THE AMAZING MAX SCHERZER
Washington’s Max Scherzer has emerged as baseball’s best pitcher. He probably would be even if Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw were healthy.
Scherzer on Tuesday night in a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay struck out the side on nine pitches in the sixth inning. That’s called an “immaculate inning” and – according to ESPN Stats & Information – Scherzer joined what this short of list of pitchers with multiple “immaculate innings” – Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. They’re all Hall of Famers and Scherzer might also be on the road to Cooperstown.
Scherzer this season – 10-1 record; 1.95 ERA; 0.83 WHIP; .171 batting average against; 87 2/3 innings; 54 hits allowed; 19 walks; 133 strikeouts.
Scherzer’s career – 150-76 record (.664); 3.19 ERA; 1.08 WHIP; 1,976 2/3 inning; 1,638 hits allowed; 550 walks; 2,269 strikeouts.
Cy Young Award finishes the past five seasons: 1st, 5th, 5th, 1st and 1st. He could he headed for his fourth career Cy Young this season. He’s 33 years old and still going very strong.
A TOUGH ASSIGNMENT FOR JUSTIFY
Justify on Saturday will attempt to become the 13th Triple Crown winner in thoroughbred racing history.
The 12 Triple Crown champions all faced smaller fields in the Belmont Stakes than the nine horses that will challenge Justify.
Sir Barton (1919) – Faced only two horses, the entry of Sweep On and Natural Bridge (2-top1). Sir Barton won easily by 5 lengths.
Gallant Fox (1930) – Faced three horses, including Whichone, who went off the 4-to-5 favorite. Gallant Fox was the first of the two Triple Crown champions who were not favored in the Belmont Stakes. Gallant Fox won by 3 lengths at odds of 8-to-5.
Omaha (1935) – He faced four horses and was the 4-to-5 favorite. He rallied from a slow start to win by 1 ½ lengths going away.
War Admiral (1937) -- He faced six horses as the 4-to-5 favorite and was never threatened in a wire-to-wire 3-length victory.
Whirlaway (1941) – He faced three horses and won easily by 2 ½ lengths at odds of .25-to-1.
Count Fleet (1943) – After wire-to-wire wins by a total of 11 lengths in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, he was the .05-to-1 favorite against two brave challengers in the Belmont Stakes. He won by 25 lengths and returned $2.10 for a $2 win bet.
Assault (1946) – He was the second-favorite (1.40-to-1) against six horses, including Lord Boswell, the 1.35-to-1 favorite who was a fast-closing second to finish a neck behind a fading Assault in the Preakness. Assault stumbled at the start of the Belmont Stakes but rallied to win driving by 3 lengths and returned $4.80 for a $2 win bet. Lord Boswell never threatened and finished fifth.
Citation (1948) – He faced seven ambitious horses as the .20-to-1 favorite and wired the field by 8 lengths, returning $2.40 for a $2 win bet.
Secretariat (1973) – He faced four horses, including Sham, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Secretariat was the .10-to-1 favorite in the Belmont Stakes and won by an awesome 31 lengths in track-record time. Sham (5.10-to-1 odds) tried to run with him early and wound up finishing last, beaten by more than 50 lengths.
Seattle Slew (1977) – After beating big fields by modest margins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, he was the .40-to-1 favorite against 7 horses in the Belmont Stakes. He won wire-to-wire by 4 lengths as jockey Jean Cruguet shocked trainer Billy Turner by standing up in the stirrups and waving his whip in triumph 20 yards from the wire.
Affirmed (1978) – He faced four horses, including Alydar, the game challenger who had finished second by 1 ½ lengths in the Kentucky Derby and by a neck in the Preakness. Affirmed was the .60-to-1 favorite in the Belmont Stakes and second-choice Alydar was 1.10-to-1. Affirmed won by a neck over Alydar in a classic stretch duel.
American Pharoah (2015) – He ended the 37-year Triple Crown as the 3-to-4 favorite against 7 horses. He won by 5 ½ lengths over 4-to-1 Frosted. He was the second wire-to-wire winner of the Belmont Stakes in 30 years and had the second-fastest Belmont Stakes winning time among the 12 Triple Crown finishers (Secretariat was more than two seconds faster).
The Seattle Mariners were 23-17 when star second baseman Robinson Cano was hit with an 80-game suspension for flunking a drug test. They’re 15-5 since. It helps that Dee Gordon shifted from center field to second base. He’s hitting .295, leads MLB with 19 stolen bases and runs out the ground balls he hit to the right side of the infield.
Believe It Or Not, 14 of the 30 MLB teams have better records on the road than at home this season: Colorado 11-16 home/20-13 road...Washington 14-14/21-11...Atlanta 16-12/20-13...Houston 18-14/19-11...LA Angels 16-18/18-10...Cubs 15-12/18-12...LA Dodgers 14-17/16-13...Mets 12-18/15-13...Toronto 12-18/14-16...Oakland 15-15/16-15...Texas 12-19/14-18...Tampa Bay 11-13/17-18...Cincinnati 9-20/12-20...Kansas City 10-21/11-19.
The Rochester Red Wings lost 5-0 at home Tuesday night to Indianapolis to drop to 10-16 at Frontier Field this season. Fortunately, they’ve been by far the best road team in the 14-team International League at 18-9. The only two other teams with winning away marks are Toledo (17-11) and Norfolk (13-12).
Yankees slugger Aaron Judge struck out a MLB-record eight times during Monday’s doubleheader split in Detroit. He ranks second in MLB with 83 strikeouts (Joey Gallo has 85) and third with 44 walks (behind Mike Trout’s 51 and Bryce Harper’s 47). So does Judge have a good batting eye or a bad batting eye?
JIM KELLY IS IN COURAGEOUS COMPANY
Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly will join an impressive list of Jimmy V. Perseverance Award winners at the ESPYs July 18 in Los Angeles:
2007 – Kay Yow – North Carolina state women’s basketball coach...battled breast cancer for many years while coaching...died in 2009 at age 65.
2008 – Kevin Everett – Buffalo Bills tight end...suffered a life-threatening spine injury in a game Sept. 9, 2007...survived and learned to walk again.
2009 – Don Meyer – 923-324 as a college basketball coach in three divisions...leg amputated after a car crash and cancer was discovered during the operation...returned to coaching...died of cancer in 2014 at age 69.
2010 – George Karl – 1,175-824 as an NBA coach...overcame prostate cancer in 2005 and neck and throat cancer in 2010...strong supporter of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
2011 – Anthony Robles – NCAA wrestling champion at 125 pounds despite being born with only one leg...author of From Underdog to Undefeated: How I Became a Champion.
2012 – Eric LeGrand – Rutgers defensive tackle paralyzed making a tackle October 16, 2010...his number 52 was retired in 2013. He said the number should be unretired after he is able to walk again and given to a player who could help the team.
2013 – Team Hoyt – Rick was born with cerebral palsy...he participated in hundreds of marathons and triathlons with his father Dick Hoyt Sr., pushing him...when asked what Rick would like to do for his dad, he said he’d like to help his dad for a change.
2014 – Stuart Scott – ESPN anchor...trailblazer for black sports journalists...worked for years despite cancer...died Jan. 4, 2015, at age 49.
2015 – Leah and Devon Still – Devon was an NFL player who heartwarmingly shared his 5-year-old daughter Leah’s battle against stage 4 neuroblastoma...the public responded with donations and Leah has survived.
2016 – Craig Segar – The ESPN sidelines reporter with the trademark gaudy sports coats continued to work despite acute myeloid leukemia...he died December 15, 2016 at age 65.
2017 – Jarrius (J.J.) Robertson – The 15-year-old “New Orleans Saints Super Fan” has survived two liver transplants and 13 surgeries...his upbeat and hilarious sense of humor have made him a very popular young man.
2018 – Jim Kelly – His ongoing battle against oral cancer has surprised no one who respects and admires him for his toughness.
AMERICANS DOMINATE FORBES LIST OF HIGHEST-PAID ATHLETES
Americans occupy 66 of the spots on Forbes magazine’s annual list of the world’s 100 highest-paid athletes (salaries + bonuses + endorsements).
The top 10 – 1--Floyd Mayweather Jr. (for the fourth time in the last seven years) $285 million...2—Lionel Messi $111 million...3—Cristiano Ronaldo (No. 1 the previous two years) $109 million...4—Conor McGregor $99 million...5—Neymar $90 million...6—LeBron James $85.5 million, including $52 million in endorsements...7—Roger Federer $77.5 million, including $65 million in endorsements...8—Stephen Curry $68 million, including $42 million in endorsements...9—Matt Ryan $67.3 million...10—Matthew Stafford $59.5 million.
A few significant others: 16—Tigers Woods $43.3 million, including $42 million in endorsements...37—Clayton Kershaw, top baseball player, $34.5 million...45—Usain Bolt $31 million, including $30 million in endorsements...72--Gennady Golovkin $25 million.
The list includes 40 NBA players, 18 NFL players, 13 baseball players, 9 soccer players, 5 golfers and 4 tennis players. 11 sports and 21 countries are represented.
Men 100x100...women 0-100 (Serena Williams dropped out...she had a daughter).
Dustin Johnson at 11-to-1 and Rory McIlroy at 12-to-1 are the early-line favorites to win the U.S. Open (June 14-17). Tiger Woods is 20-to-1 and I believe defending champion Brooks Koepka at 25-to-1 and even Phil Mickelson at 33-to-1 are better bets at the odds.
The Dallas (formerly the Rochester) Rattlers are 5-2 and tied for first place in Major League Lacrosse. They’re first in average home attendance (5,974 through two games). MLL attendance so far this season is not impressive. Through 29 games, the average reported crowd is 2,442. Charlotte is averaging 991 and Florida is averaging 1,060.
Horse racing handicapper Todd Haight and I will do our Belmont Stakes worst-to-first countdown Thursday, 6:235 p.m., on Bob Matthews On Sports on WHAM 1180. Baseball historian and former Presidential speechwriter Curt Smith will be my guest Friday, 6 to 8 p.m. We’ll be talking a lot of baseball and I’m pretty sure a little bit of politics.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...
Wednesday, June 6
DeAndre Hopkins (26)...Anthony Rendon (28)...Josh Sitton (32)...Chris Henry (33)...Matt Belisle (38)...Niklas Sundstrom (43)...Olindo Mare (45)...Cam Neely (53)...Bill Bates (57)...Wayne Babych (60)...Bjorn Borg (62)...Bob “Battleship” Kelly (72)...Merv Rettenmund (75). Paul Giamatti (51) and Sandra Bernhard (63) are invited to the birthday party.
Thursday, June 7
Jordan Clarkson (26)...Mark Lowe (35)...Anna Kournikova (37)...Odalis Perez (41)...Allen Iverson (43)...Napoleon Kaufman (45)...Jeff Burris (46)...Terrell Buckley (47)...Mike Modano (48)...Mick Foley (53)...Terry O’Reilly (67)...Cazzie Russell (74). Mike Pence (59), Liam Neeson (66) and Tom Jones (78) are invited to the birthday party...Prince (Rogers Nelson) was born on this date 60 years ago (1958) and died in 2016 at age 57.
ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...
74 years ago (1944), Major League Baseball called off all games to honor the D-Day invasion...72 years ago (1946), 11 Basketball Association of America teams met to schedule their first season...52 years ago (1966), the NFL and the AFL merged...52 years ago (1976), the Boston Celtics beat the Phoenix Suns 4 games to 2 to win the 30th NBA Championship...28 years ago (1990), Stump Merrill replaced Bucky Dent as manager of the Yankees...26 years ago (1992), Eddie Murray set the RBI record by a switch hitter...3 years ago (2015), American Pharoah won the Belmont Stakes and became the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 37 years.
88 years ago (1930), Gallant Fox won the 62nd Belmont Stakes and became the second horse to win the Triple Crown...77 years ago (1941), Whirlaway won the 73rd Belmont Stakes and became the fifth Triple Crown winner...48 years ago (1970), jockey Bill Shoemaker passed Johnny Longden with his 6,033rd win...37 years ago (1981), Bjorn Borg beat Ivan Lendl in the men’s French Open...29 years ago (1989), Wayne Gretzky won his ninth Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) in 10 years.