THE ANSWER MAN STOPS BY FOR A SUMMER CHAT
Question – What do you think about James Harden being selected NBA Most Valuable Player Monday night?
Answer – I didn’t like it. I believe MVPs in the four North American pro team sports should be decided on performance in the regular season plus the postseason. The old argument was that it would be unfair to players on teams that don’t qualify for the playoffs. That’s a weak excuse because so many teams make the postseason and the chances are remote that a legitimate MVP contender would be on a non-playoff team...My MVPs for the most recently-concluded NBA and NHL seasons (including the playoffs) would’ve been LeBron James and Alex Ovechkin.
Q – Is there the slightest chance that the United States could challenge for the World Cup on home soil in 2026?
Answer – Of course not. As the primary host, the USA will get an automatic bid to participate in the expanded 48-nation field, will be put in a weak group and possibly advance to the knockout round. That probably would be as far as we go...But I’m sure the USA, Mexico and Canada will put on a terrific show.
Q – What do you think about WWE’s “Smackdown” moving from USA Network to Fox on Tuesday nights starting October 4, 2019?
A – A great move for WWE and Fox. WWE will benefit by moving from cable to broadcast TV and having a significantly larger potential viewing audience. The five-year deal will give Fox a proven live event for Tuesday nights. In 2018, “Smackdown” is averaging 2.9 million viewers. The show has run for 20 years – on USA Network since 2016. USA Network will continue to carry “Raw” on Monday nights. It will be interesting to see which show – “Raw” or “Smackdown” – will get the best lineup of talent...I don’t know why you asked this because pro wrestling is not a legitimate sport. I’ve included pro grapplin’ in my notes columns for 30 years because I know it is popular and no one else at the newspaper would give it a mention.
Q – What team is your pick to win the World Series?
A – The defending champion Houston Astros. I give a very slight edge offensively to Boston and the New York Yankees in the American League, but the Astros have a big advantage in starting pitching. The main overall threat to Houston is the National League Washington Senators -- if Stephen Strasburg is completely healthy to team with Max Scherzer as baseball’s best 1-2 starting pitching punch. Relief pitching was a problem in recent past seasons but Kelvin Herrera and Sean Doolittle now are a solid lefty-righty combination at the back end of the bullpen.
Q – San Francisco pitcher Madison Bumgarner is speaking out against speculation that a “universal” designated hitter rule is coming. He says pitchers should be allowed to contribute offensively in the National League.
A – I’ll all in for the DH in the National League – the sooner the better. Bumgarner wants pitchers to bat for themselves because he’s one of the very few who can hit – relatively speaking. His career MLB batting average is .181 (90-for-496), with 16 doubles, 17 HRs, 55 RBI (and 200 strikeouts).
Q – Were you surprised that politicians in Albany failed to approve legalized sports betting before the NFL season begins?
A – Not really. I suspect that there wasn’t enough time on their busy schedules to figure out how to divide the profits. But this probably was beneficial to potential bettors in western New York. Many of them probably would’ve wagered with their hearts instead of their heads and bet too much hard-earned money on the overrated Bills and Sabres.
Q – Do you think the Yankees will break the MLB-record 264 home runs in a single season set by the 1997 Seattle Mariners?
A – No. The Yankees are on pace for 267 HRs. But Gary Sanchez is on the disabled list for three-to-four weeks. He had a lousy batting average (.190) but good power (14 HRs in 231 ABs) for a catcher. I expect rookie second baseman Gleyber Torres’ HRs/AB to drop (1/14.07). First baseman Greg Bird has been a huge disappointment (3 HRs in 88 official at-bats) and Neil Walker (2 HRs in 159 ABs) looks lost. Giancarlo Stanton + Aaron Judge aren’t likely to match last season’s combined 111 HRs. They now have 39. My guess is 246 HRs for the Yankees this regular season – one more than the team-record 245 in 2012.
Q -- How would you solve the Yankees problem at first base?
A – I’d platoon switch-hitter Aaron Hicks and left-handed hitter Greg Bird at first base and make Clint Frazier the permanent center fielder immediately. The Yankees need more speed and could use a sparkplug. I believe Frazier is ready to provide both.
Q – What is your worst-case scenario for the Rochester (?) Knighthawks this coming National Lacrosse League season?
A – We should find out what’s going on soon. The expansion draft for San Diego and Philadelphia is July 16 and it probably is too late to make Halifax or Rochester a third expansion team. Best-case scenario: K-hawks owner Curt Styres reluctantly agrees to stay for a lame-duck 2019 season in Rochester with the promise of an expansion team (minus expansion fee) in Halifax for 2020. Worst-case scenario: NLL allows Styres to take his K-hawks to Halifax immediately and Rochester sits out the 2019 season and returns in 2020 as an expansion team (probably owned by the Pegulas). I wonder if loyal K-hawks fans would respond favorably.
THE WORST CONTRACT IN BASEBALL TODAY
Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis probably is having the worst 2018 season of any Major League Baseball player.
He was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in a home loss Monday night. He was 0-for-3 Tuesday night in another home loss. Total: 0-for-6 with 6 Ks.
In 62 games this season, Davis is “hitting” .147 (33-for-225), with 5 doubles, 5 HRs, 20 RBI, 21 walks and 96 strikeouts. His on-base percentage is .227. His slugging percentage is .236. His OPS is a pitiful .463.
Davis used to be a productive power hitter. Playing home games in cozy Camden Yards certainly helped but he was a legit big bopper. In 2013, he hit .286, with 53 HRs, 138 RBI and 199 strikeouts. In 2015, he hit .262, with 47 HRs, 117 RBI and 208 strikeouts.
It’s been a steady decline since:
2016 -- .221; 38 HRs; 84 RBI; 219 strikeouts
2017 -- .215; 26 HRs; 61 RBI; 195 strikeouts
2018 -- .147; 5 HRs; 20 RBI; 96 strikeouts in 225 official at-bats.
He recently sat for eight games in an attempt to clear his head and start over. It hasn’t helped. In his first five games back in the lineup, he was 2-for-18, with 1 HR, 5 RBI, 3 walks and 10 strikeouts.
To make matters worse, he has four seasons left on a seven-year, $161 million contract worth $23 million per season. It isn’t his fault that he’s grossly overpaid. He’s only 32 years old and must be wondering how he lost it so quickly.
A FEW QUICK THOUGHTS IN THE HOCKEY HALL OF FAME CLASSS OF 2018
East picks: Martin Brodeur, Martin St. Louis and Soviet star Alexander Kakushev.
Jayna Hefford is a legendary player in Canada. Starred on four Olympic gold medal teams. The CWHL MVP award is named for her.
Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner since 1993, was elected. Makes me wonder if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
What took so long to elect Willie O’Ree? “Hockey’s Jackie Robinson” broke the NHL color barrier with the 1960-61 Boston Bruins (4 goals and 10 assists in 45 games). He went on to become a long-time scoring star in the WHL with the Los Angeles Blades and San Diego Gulls. He’s 82 and I’m glad he was selected in time to enjoy it.
Two former 2018 Rochester Red Wings have found new baseball summer homes in the independent Atlantic League. Brock Stassi signed with the New Britain Bees (7-for-14 with 3 doubles, 1 triple and 7 RBI in his first four games) and Jermaine Curtis (master of the hidden ball move) signed with the Somerset Patriots.
I’m a fan of FOX Sports broadcaster Colin Cowherd but I was surprised to see that his new four-year re-up with the network will be worth $6 million per year. He reportedly was making $2 million per year when he left ESPN.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...
Wednesday, June 27
Bobby Wagner (28)...Bacarri Rambo (28)...Julius Thomas (30)...Jim Edmonds (48)...Jeff Conine (52)...Chuck Person (54)...Rico Petrocelli (75). Khloe Kardashian (34) and Tobey Maguire (43) are invited to the birthday party.
Thursday, June 28
Bradley Beal (25)...Brandon Phillips (37)...Bobby Hurley (47)...Greg Keagle (47)...Mark Grace (54)...eff Malone (57)...Jay Schroeder (57)...John Elway (58)...Chris Speier (68)...Raymond Chester (70)...Al Downing (77). John Cusack (52) and Mel Brooks (92) are invited to the birthday party...Red Wings Hall of Famer Don Baylor was born on this date 69 years ago (1949) and died in 2017 at age 68.
ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...
128 years ago (1890), bantamweight George Dixon became the first black boxing champion...36 years ago (1982), Sandra Haynie won the LPGA Rochester International...30 years ago (1988), Mike Tyson KOd Michael Spinks in 91 seconds in Atlantic City...25 years ago (1993), Mets pitcher Anthony Young lost his 24th straight game.
47 years ago (1971), the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to overturn the draft evasion conviction of Muhammad Ali...45 years ago (1973), the Black Sports Hall of Fame formed, with pioneer inductees Paul Robeson, Jesse Owens, Joe Louis, Elgin Baylor, Jim Brown, Althea Gibson and Wilma Rudolph...37 years ago (1981), Nancy Lopez won the LPGA Sarah Coventry in Rochester.