Matthews: Blake Snell Yes....Bryce Harper No...



Left-handed pitcher Blake Snell and left-handed batter Bruce Harper both started Monday on teams with 45-44 records.

Two big differences:

1--Snell’s Tampa Bay Rays are overachieving in the rugged American League East and he’s the main reason.

Harper’s Washington Nationals are arguably MLB’s most disappointing team and he’s been the team’s top flop.

2—Snell is the biggest snub among the players not selected to participate in the All-Star Game July 17 and Harper doesn’t deserve to make this year’s NL squad – let alone be in the starting lineup.

It was easy to overlook Snell in his first two MLB seasons – 6-8 record, 3.54 ERA and 1.62 WHIP in 2016; 5-7, 4.04, 1.33 in 2017. But he’s been terrific in this his breakthrough season at age 25: 12-4 record, AL-best 2.09 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 116 innings, 75 hits allowed, 44 walks, 132 strikeouts.

The four obvious best AL starting pitchers this season have been Luis Severino, Chris Sale, Justin Verlander – who all were selected for the All-Star Game – and Snell, who was not.

This snub is so outrageous that I’m pretty sure Snell will be added to the AL roster when another pitcher bails out due to injury or is scratched for playing the Sunday before the All-Star Game.

Harper leads NL outfielders with 21 HRs but ranks 30th among NL outfielders in batting average (.218; 66-for-303), fourth in strikeouts (91) and tied for 51st in WAR (wins above replacement).

The fans did a great job picking the stating position players for next week’s All-Star Game. I think they batted .941 (16-for-17). Their only miss was Harper over Lorenzo Cain, Odubel Herrera, Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson, Christian Yelich, David Peralta, Rhys Hoskins, Albert Almora, etc.

I realize that the All-Star Game will be played in Washington and that the home fans are glad that Harper will be in the NL starting lineup. Even if he doesn’t deserve to be


I’d definitely watch Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson play a round of serious golf for $10 million winner-take-all. What a terrific idea.

Among the assorted other possible spinoffs I’ve heard lately was a one-on-one half-court basketball showdown between Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant (best-of-three series, games to 15 points, must win by at least 2 points).

No thank you. The age gap is too wide (isn’t it?) to think Jordan would have a chance. Jordan is 55 and Kobe will turn 39 on August 23.

I’d be far more interested in seeing Bryant come out of retirement to team up with LeBron James on the Lakers. How much do you think a ticket would cost to a Lakers home game with one of the three-best  (James) and top 10 (Kobe) players of all-time ?


28 teams down. Four teams left in the 21st FIFA World.

England (1966) and France (1998) have each won one World Cup, both as host countries...Belgium and Croatia are seeking their first World Cup.

Win probabilities in the semifinals (by FiveThirtyEight’s ELO computer): Tuesday, France 52 percent, Belgium 48 percent...Wednesday, England 57 percent, Croatia 43 percent.

Odds to win the World Cup (from BOVADA: France 2-to-1...England 2.50-to-1...Belgium 2.75-to-1...Croatia 4-to-1.

There have been 157 goals in 60 games...2.62 goals per game.

England’s Harry Kane has scored 6 goals, tops in the tournament.

3.5 yellow cards per game...4 total red cards.

The average crowd: 45,889.

Results so far for the four semifinalists:

France – W 2-1 Australia...W 1-0 Peru...D 0-0 Denmark...W 4-3 Argentina...W 2-0 Uruguay...9 goals for, 4 goals allowed, +5

England – W 2-1 Tunisia...W 6-1 Panama...L 0-1 Belgium...W 1-1 Colombia...W 2-0 Sweden...11 goals for, 4 goals allowed, +7

Belgium – W 3-0 Panama...W 5-2 Tunisia...W 1-0 England...W 3-2 Japan...W 2-1 Brazil...14 goals for, 5 goals against, +9

Croatia – W 2-0 Nigeria...W 3-0 Argentina...W 2-1 Iceland...W 1-1 Denmark...W 2-2 Russia...10 goals for, 4 goals allowed, +6.

Amazing factoid:

The three most-populous countries in the world did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup: China (1.3 billion), India (1.1 million) and USA (330 million). Total population around 2.73 billion.

The four semifinalists in the 2018 World Cup have a total population of around 148.5 million: France 67 million, England 66 million, Belgium 11.4 million and Croatia 4.1 million (about the same as Detroit).


Four more young soccer players were rescued Monday from a flooded cave network in Thailand. A total of eight members of the Wild Boars, a team of boys ages 11 to 16, have been recovered. Four other boys and their coach remain trapped.

Wouldn’t it be great if the entire team were rescued and strong enough to be saluted at the World Cup championship game Sunday in Moscow? That would be a happy ending to their ordeal and the capper for what has been a memorable World Cup.


We know which uniform LeBron James will be wearing in the 2018-19 NBA season -- the Los Angeles Lakers. Leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers means King James won’t be getting his annual gift pass to the Eastern Conference playoffs.

But even if Kawhi Leonard graces the Lakers with his presence, they probably couldn’t win the Western Conference this season with a temporary one-season supporting cast including Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and JaValle McGee (presumably hand-pickerd by LeBron; so far he has resisted bringing in JR Smith) and Lonzo Ball. I hope the Lakers don’t trade point guard Ball to make room for Rondo. I’m looking forward to the first time Lonzo’s big-mouth dad – LaVar – tries to tell LeBron how to play.

Golden State, winner of three of the last four NBA titles, figures to be even better with the additions of DeMarcus Cousins and Jonas Jerebko, plus the departures of take-up-space center Zaza Pachulia and inconsistent gunner “Swaggy P” Nick Young.

My question – which team has the widest overall talent gap in the NBA – Golden State in the West or the Boston Celtics in the East? James leaving Cleveland makes the East even weaker. The Celtics will be at least 10 deep in quality players.

Boston and Golden State should both win at least 60 games. I won’t be surprised it the Celtics win a few more games than the Warriors because the competition in the East figures to be so lousy.


Cheers to Nick Markakis (Atlanta), who’ll set a record by appearing in his first All-Star Game after playing 1,928 regular-season games.

The Boston Red Sox won 7-4 Sunday in Kansas City, have won six straight games and are a MLB-best 62-29. They haven’t won 100 games in a season since 1946.

The Oakland A’s are 16-4 in their last 20 games.

Jesus Aguilar (Milwaukee) has the most HRs in MLB (17) since May 18.

Mark Reynolds (Washington), who was 5-for-5 with 2 HRs and 10 RBI Saturday night, started this season with the Syracuse Chiefs. In 10 games, he batted .231 (9-for-39) with 1 HR, 4 RBI and 13 strikeouts. His best MLB season was with 2009 with Arizona (.239, 44 HRs, 102 RBI, 223 strikeouts).

Baltimore lost 10-1 in Minnesota Sunday and is 1-12 in the last 13 games and a brutal 24-65 overall.

The Mets are 3-17 in their last 20 home games and 10-30 in their last 40 games overall.

Tampa Bay is 11-4 in its last 15 games.


The 2016 National League co-home run champions with 41 each were Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies) and Chris Carter (Milwaukee Brewers).

Arenado on Sunday night was announced as starting third baseman for the NL in Tuesday night’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Carter is looking for a job.

Carter was released by the Minnesota Twins last week after a disappointing 36-game stint with the Rochester Red Wings: .187 batting average (23-for-123), 8 doubles, 7 HRs, 15 RBI, 19 walks, 43 strikeouts, .721 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage).

The Twins acquired the 31-year-old Carter from the Los Angeles Angels May 23 and assigned him to Rochester, hoping he’d show enough to earn a promotion for the American League stretch run. But he wasn’t much help to the Red Wings.

He started this season with Salt Lake (Pacific Coast League) and put decent numbers in 38 games: .255 batting average (37-for-145); 13 HRs; 43 RBI; 16 walks; 49 strikeouts; .933 OPS) but his production dropped with Rochester.

The Angels and Twins both viewed Carter as an asset in their playoff hopes as a DH/pinch hitter. His power stats were decent but lack of contact did him in.


Rochester’s pro lacrosse gift to Dallas – the Rattlers – on Sunday became the first Major League Lacrosse team to clinch a playoff berth this season with a 14-9 victory over the visiting Charlotte Hounds at Ford Center at the Star (the practice facility of the NFL Cowboys). The Rattlers are 9-2 overall, including 5-0 at home.

Due to injuries and suspensions, some super UFC attractions don’t happen. But who isn’t looking forward to the Daniel Cormier versus Brock Lesner heavyweight title fight in November (supposedly)?  Underdog Cormier scored a first-round knockout over Stipe Miocic last Saturday night and Lesner entered the Octagon to deliver a post-fight WWE-style shove to the new champion.

A popular two-way split contract this season for marginal NHL/AHL players seems to be $650,000 (NHL)/$100,000 (AHL).


Monday, July 9

Kelly Holcomb (45)...Trent Green (48)...Keith McKeller (54)...Willie Wilson (63)...O.J. Simpson (71). Courtney Love (54), Kevin Nash (59) and Tom Hanks (62) are invited to the birthday party...Former East High and Niagara basketball star Al Butler was born on this date 80 years ago (1938) and died in 2000 at age 62.

Tuesday, July 10

Antonio Brown (30)...Jared Dudley (33)...Adam Foote (47)...Urban Meyer (54)...Darryl Talley (58)...NFL Roger Craig (58)...Andre Dawson (64)...Bob Bailor (67)...Virginia Wade (73).


July 9

141 years ago (1877), the first-ever Wimbledon Tennis championships began; the first official lawn tennis tournament was for men’s singles only...86 years ago (1932), the Washington Redskins – then the Boston Braves – were formed...52 years ago (1966), Jack Nicklaus won the 95th British Open to become only the fourth golfer to win all four majors...1997 (21 years ago), the Triple-A American Association, formed in 1902, was disbanded...16 years ago (2002), the 73rd All-Star Game ended in a 7-7 tie when both teams ran out of pitchers.

July 10

104 years ago (1914), the Boston Red Sox purchased pitcher Babe Ruth from the Baltimore Orioles of the International League...92 years ago (1926), Bobby Jones won the 30th U.S. Open...41 years ago (1977), Pat Bradley won the LPGA Bankers Trust Classic at Locust Hill...26 years ago (1992), the US Major Soccer League folded after 14 seasons...16 years ago (2002), Tiger Woods and Venus Williams won athlete of the year honors at the 10th ESPY Awards.

Bob Matthews' Column

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