Matthews: These ESPY's Should Be Worth Watching


I wouldn’t ordinarily refer to the ESPYs (Excellence in Sports Yearly) as can’t-miss entertainment, but I do recommend Wednesday night’s 26th annual show (8 p.m. on ABC). A few reasons why:

Buffalo Bills great Jim Kelly will receive the Jimmy V Perseverance Award for his courage while battling oral cancer. He revealed this week that he had a recent possible setback and will return to New York City for a checkup early next month.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman will accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for the athletes who spoke out against sexual abuse in women’s gymnastics.

I’m pretty sure that LeBron James will receive the Best NBA Player Award (over James Harden, Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The show is in Los Angeles and the new Laker would be a popular winner. I assume he’ll be there and wearing a flashy outfit.

The Best Coach Award will go to Scott Biegel, Aaron Feis and Chris Hixon, the three teacher-coaches who were killed while protecting students in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in February.

Retired NASCAR driver Danica Patrick will be first female host of the ESPYs.  She reportedly has a great sense of humor and figures to fire a few barbs at her boyfriend, Aaron Rodgers.


I generally refrain from touting players on losing baseball teams as serious contenders for Most Valuable Player and the Cy Young Award.

I would give the nod to such players only if they had vastly superior statistics over top candidates from pennant-contending teams.

The players on the losing clubs are under less pressure than the players on contending teams. They can pile up impressive numbers in relatively meaningless games.

Entering the stretch run of the 2018 MLB season, Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets has pitched extremely well for an awful team and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels has played extremely well for the disappointing Los Angeles Angels.

deGrom – 1.68 ERA (best in the majors)...0.97 WHIP (walks + hits allowed per inning)...6.0 WAR (wins above replacement) is best among NL pitchers...batting average against .202...123 1/3 innings pitched...90 hits allowed...30 walks...149 strikeouts. He has a mere 5-4 record but the rest of the Mets are a combined 34-51...He enters every game knowing he’s likely to get less than three runs of support – and he never complains.

Other top contenders:

Aaron Nola (Philadelphia) – 12-3 record; 2.30 ERA; 5.9 WAR (2nd among NL pitchers); 0.98 WHIP; .199 BAA; 129 innings pitched; 91 hits allowed; 35 walks; 131 strikeouts.

Max Scherzer (Washington) – 12-5 record; 2.41 ERA; 5.0 WAR; 0.90 WHIP; .180 BAA (best in NL); 134 2/3 innings pitched; 87 hits allowed; 34 walks; 182 strikeouts.

Jon Lester (Cubs) – 12-2 record; 2.58 ERA; 2.7 WAR; 1.19 WHIP; .224 BAA; 111 2/3 innings; 92 hits allowed; 41 walks; 88 strikeouts.

As of this moment, my ballot would be 1-Nola, 2-Scherzer, 3-deGrom.

Trout is generally regarded as baseball’s best all-around player. He has impressive stays and very seldom makes a mistake on the field.

Trout’s numbers this season for the 49-48 Angels: .310 batting average (104-for-335); 71 runs; 18 doubles; 3 triples; 25 HRs; 50 R BI; 15-for-16 stealing bases; MLB-best 6.8 WAR; 84 walks; 83 strikeouts; .454 on-base percentage; .606 slugging percentage; 1.060 OPS.

Other top contenders:

Mookie Betts (Boston) -- .359 (108-for-301); 79 runs; 23 HRs; 51 RBI; 18-for-20 stealing bases; 46 walks; 42 strikeouts; .448 on-base percentage; .691 slugging percentage; 1.139 OPS; likely Gold Glove in right fielder.

J.D. Martinez (Boston) -- .328 (116-for-354); 72 runs; 29 HRs; 80 RBI; 1.037 OPS; 4.4 WAR.

Jose Ramirez (Cleveland) -- .302 (108-for-358); 68 runs; 29 HRs; 70 RBI; 20-for-23 stealing bases; 57 walks; 48 strikeouts; 1.029 OPS; 6.6 WAR.

Jose Altuve (Houston) -- .332 (129-for-389); 63 runs; 9 HRs; 44 RBI; 14-for-16 stealing bases; 39 walks; 53 strikeouts; .865 OPS; 4.4 WAR.

As of this moment, my ballot would be 1-Betts, 2-Trout and 3-Ramriez (playing third base gives him the edge over DH Martinez.

What do you think?


NBA superstar Kawhi Leonard was traded Wednesday with Danny Green by San Antonio to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a first-round draft pick.

Leonard had soured on San Antonio and wanted to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, but the Spurs weren’t about to do him any favors.

The prevailing opinion is that Leonard will play the 2018-19 season with Toronto and then become a free agent to sign a long-term deal with the Lakers starting in 2019-20.

I’m not so sure about that. I believe Leonard is going to thrive in Toronto – on and off the court. The Raptors figure to be the main threat to Boston for Eastern Conference title and a trip to the NBA Finals. He’ll be the main man. I’m not sure he’d be content playing second fiddle to LeBron James on the Lakers. I also think he might really enjoy living in Toronto. He seems to be a laid-back sort of guy and Toronto might be closer to his wants and needs than the hustle-bustle of LA. Just a hunch. We’ll see.


Monday night’s Home Run Derby and Tuesday night’s All-Star Game both were entertaining shows and – of course – the long ball was the main reason.

The American League’s 8-6 victory in 10 innings featured 10 home runs. It was an All-Star Game record: by a lot. The old record was six HRs:

HRs in the 2018 All-Star Game(10) – Alex Bregman, Willson Contreras, Scooter Gennett, Aaron Judge, Jean Segura, George Springer, Trevor Story, Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, Joey Votto.

HRs in 1971 All-Star Game (6) – Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Roberto Clemente, Reggie Jackson, Jarmon Killebrew, Frank Robinson (they’re all Hall of Famers)

HRs in 1954 All-Star Game – Al Rosen (2), Gus Bell, Ray Boone, Larry Doby, Ted Kluszewski.

HRs in 1951 All-Star Game – Bob Elliott, Gil Hodges, George Kell, Raph Kiner, Stan Musial, Vic Wertz.


Seattle has a 58-39 record despite being outscored by two runs (412-414). How is that possible? The Mariners have been great in the clutch: 25-12 in one-run games and 8-0 in extra innings.

The National League has a 102-85 (+17) record versus the American League in inter-league play this season. The AL has won the inter-league competition each of the past 14 years.

Tim Tebow could be earning a semi-legitimate promotion to the New York Mets – September 1 or maybe even sooner. In 81 games as the left fielder for the Double-A (Eastern League) Binghamton Rumble Ponies, his batting average is up to .275 (72-for-262), with 13 doubles, 1 triple, 6 HRs, 36 RBI, 21 walks, 99 strikeouts and 1-for-1 stealing bases.

Former Red Wing Byung Ho Park is enjoying his return to South Korea. In 63 games this season in the Korea Baseball Organization , he’s hitting .332 (71-for-214), with 19 HRs and 58 RBI. He took a pay cut in a buyout from the Minnesota Twins to return to his old team, the Nexen Heroes.

The Baltimore Orioles could somewhat make up for the impending departure via trade of star shortstop Manny Machado (.315, 24 HRs, 65 RBI) by sending Chris Davis home for the rest of this season. He’s hitting .158 (45-for-292), with 9 HRs, 28 RBI, 116 strikeouts, .232 on-base percentage and .274 slugging percentage.

Byron Buxton is on the disabled list again. Can he ever stay healthy? In portions of the last four seasons with the Red Wings, he has played in 83 games. He has a .310 batting average (101-for-326), with 63 runs, 18 doubles, 4 triples, 16 HRs, 41 RBI, 25 walks, 96 strikeouts, and a .901 OPS.


LeSean McCoy is 50-to-1 to lead the NFL in rushing this season, according to Ted Brauneck of the National Football Post.

The favorites are Ezekiel Elliott (Dallas) 9-to-2, Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh) 11-to-2, Todd Gurley (Los Angeles Rams) 6-to-1, David Johnson (Arizona) 13-to-2 and Leonard Fournette (Jacksonville) 15-to-2. Rookie Saquon Barkley (NY Giants) is 10-to-1.

Fourteen players have lower odds than McCoy.

McCoy ranked fourth in NFL rushing last season with 1,138 yards, behind only Kareem Hunt (Kansas City) 1,327, Gurley 1,305 and Bell (1,291).

Perhaps the National Football Post factored in the possibility of McCoy being suspended, but if Shady can play and stays healthy, 50-to-1 are tempting odds. Considering Buffalo’s apparent lack of talent and depth at quarterback, receivers and running back, he figures to get plenty of opportunities to roll up yardage.


The Los Angeles Dodgers probably locked up the currently contentious National League West with the trade for slugging shortstop Manny Machado. He’ll add another potent bat to a dangerous vlineup top-to-bottom and pitching ace Clayton Kershaw appears to be returning to top form. Hyun-Jin Ryu could return to the rotation soon. The only weak spot for the Dodgers is middle relief to get to closer Kenley Jansen.

Could there be a strike looming in the WNBA? The league’s current collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2019 season. The players don’t expect to receive anything close NBA-style salaries, but they wonder why NBA players receive 50 percent of their league’s revenue while WNBA players receive less than 25 percent of their league’s revenue. Fair question. WNBA salaries are capped at about $115,000 and the typical NBA referee makes $150,000. The minimum salary for an NBA player is $582,180.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred at the All-Star Game revealed that MLB is considering expanding by 2 teams to 32. Buffalo was not among the cities he mentioned.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is on the cover of the Madden 19 video game. He follows Richard Sherman (2015), Odell Beckham Jr., Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady.


Wednesday, July 18

Bam Adebayo (21)...Jamie Benn (29)...Brandon Nolan (35)...Deion Branch (39)...Torii Hunter (43)...Preston Wilson (44)...Penny Hardaway (46)...Jeff Lageman (51)...Mike Greenwell (55)...Nick Faldo (61)...Jerome Barkum (68). Vin Diesel (51) and Wendy Williams (54) are invited to the birthday party.

Thursday, July 19

Patrick Corbin (29)...Trent Williams (30)...Jon Jones (31)...Yan Gomes (31)...Jinder Mahal (32)...LaMarcus Aldridge (33)...Rick Ankiel (39)...Steve Shields (46)...Leroy Butler (50)...Craig Muni (56)...LPGA Cathy Reynolds (61)...Jayson Stark 67...Ilie Nastase (72).


July 18

91 years ago (1927), Ty Cobb’s 4,000th MLB hit...67 years ago (1951), 37-year-old Jersey Joe Wolcott became the oldest-to-that-date heavyweight boxing champion...58 years ago (1960), the National League voted to add Houston and the New York Mets franchises...49 years ago (1969), Joe Namath agreed to sell his interest in the Bachelors 3 night club to stay in the NFL...52 years ago (1976), Nadia Comaneci became the first Olympic gymnast to score a perfect 10...36 years ago (1982), Tom Watson won the 111th British Open...19 years ago (1999), David Cone of the Yankees pitched MLB’s 15th complete game.

July 19

115 years ago (1903), French cyclist Maurice Garin won the first Tour de France...108 years ago (1910), Cleveland Indians pitcher Cy Young won his 500th game...38 years ago (1980), the 22nd Summer Olympics opened in Moscow; the United States was among the boycotting nations...29 years ago (1989), NFL owners unanimously agreed to form the World League of American Football in Europe; it operated from 1991 through 2007.

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