Matthews: A Great Trade!

A GREAT TRADE (Daniel Murphy)...

A FRESH AL MVP CANDIDATE (Khris Davis)...and

A DORMANT SLUGGER ERUPTS (Kennys Vargas)

The Chicago Cubs have been a slight disappointment much of this season. The Washington Nationals have been baseball’s biggest disappointment all season.

So on Tuesday, the Nationals threw in the towel – waved the white flag of surrender – and traded sweet-swinging, clutch-hitting Daniel Murphy to the Cubs for a Single-A infielder and an unnamed player or cash.

The Cubs have an impressive lineup but some depressing numbers. For example, they’ve scored exactly one run in each of their last five games. They’ve hit a pitiful .147 with runners in scoring position in the month of August.

Murphy is a left-handed hitting machine. He’s a .299 career hitter and his .340 batting average since the All-Star break is 10th-best in the majors.

He was the 2015 NLCS MVP for the Mets: .529 (9-for-17), 4 HRs, 6 RBI in four games.

In the 2016 NLDS with Washington, he hit .438 (7-for-16) with 6 RBI in five games.

In 24 post-season games, he has a .323 batting average (30-for-93), 8 HRs, 19 RBI and a 1.020 OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage).

Don’t be surprised if Murphy helps the Cubs win their second World Series in the last three years.

+++

Maybe the American League Most Valuable Player won’t be a Boston Red Sox – Mookie Betts or J.D. Martinez – after all.

The Oakland A’s – the A could stand for amazing instead of Athletics – have become the best story in baseball and Khris Davis is the heart of this remarkable team.

Davis entered Wednesday tied for the MLB lead in home runs (38) and second in RBI (102). J.D. Martinez has 38 HRs, 106 RBI and more help in his lineup. Davis isn’t a flash-in-the-pan. Since 2015, he leads MLB with 150 HRs, 2 more than Giancarlo Stanton.

(Imagine Khris Davis in a Milwaukee’s current potent lineup. The Brewers traded him to Oakland Feb. 12, 2016) for pitcher Bubba Derby and Jacob Nottingham – he’s a catcher and not a sheriff).

I don’t know if Davis can outpoll Betts or J.DF. Martinez for AL MVP, but I assume he’ll appear in the top five on every ballot.

And if spitting in the direction of jeering home fans and ticking off baseball writer/voters might have cost Ted Williams an MVP or two, perhaps the relatively quiet and good-natured Davis earned some MVP support with his recent act of kindness to 10-year-old cancer survivor Anthony Slocomb. In an incredibly kind pre-game gesture, Khris asked Anthony to sign his Oakland game jersey. Khris said it would be an honor to get Anthony’s autograph. Then Davis went out and hit a home run to cap an evening Anthony Slocomb and many other people won’t soon forget – including, I assume. MVP voters.

+++When the Red Wings had their media credentials day this spring, I mentioned to first-year manager Joel Skinner that I was surprised to see Kennys Vargas starting this season in Rochester. I told him I thought Vargas – a large (listed at 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds) switch-hitter with enormous power and decent numbers in a few stints with the Minnesota Twins (.252 batting average with 35 HRs and 116 RBI in 236 games in portions of the 20-14-15-16-17 seasons) – probably could hit at least .240 with 25-or-so HRs and at least 80 RBI as a full-time designated hitter in the majors if the Twins or another team would give him a chance.

For most of this season, Vargas struggled with Rochester and Skinner must have thought I was daffy. This year’s Red Wings will be remembered for their season-long hitting slump. For most of this season, Vargas symbolized the team’s collective batting woes.

But Mt. Vargas has erupted of late. He was the International League Player of the Week last week and would’ve had a shot as designated hitter on the season-ending IL All-Star Team if the voting deadline hadn’t come before he hot. In his last 7 games, he’s 12-for-26, with 5 HRs and 13 RBI.

I wonder if the Twins will promote him on September 1 and expose him to the Rule 5 draft after this season. If Minnesota finally gives up on big Kennys, if I were running another American League team, I’d sign him and plug him as DH for the entire 2019 season. I still believe he’d hit at least .240 with 25-plus  HRs and 80-plus RBI.

YANKEES CATCH A BREAK IN THE SCHEDULE

The New York Yankees understandably have struggled a bit of late minus injured Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, CC Sabathia and now Didi Gregorius. And now closer Aroldis Chapman has a knee issue.

To the rescue – the schedule.

The Yankees began a six-game trip with a win in Miami Tuesday night – they’ll play one more game in Miami and then three games at Baltimore – and then a seven-game homestand versus the White Sox (3) and Detroit (4).

Then they might be healthier for a nine-game trip to Oakland (3), Seattle (3) and Minnesota (3).

SPRAYING BASEBALL HITS TO ALL FIELDS

Look for Houston to get on a roll soon with the return of sparkplug second baseman Jose Altuve. He last played July 25 when a sore knee put him on the disabled list. The Astros were 67-37 when he left the lineup and went 8-13 without him entering Tuesday night.

Update on Baltimore’s Chris Davis, who hopes to avoid posting the worst batting average by a regular player since 1920: .179 by Rob Deer in 1991 and Dan Uggla in 2013. Davis was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in Tuesday night’s 8-2 loss in Toronto. He’s hitting .163 (63-for-386) with 158 strikeouts in 106 games.

FEW GREAT NFL RUNNING BACKS QUIT ON TOP

Adrian Peterson signed Tuesday with the Washington Redskins. He looked washed up the past two seasons but the player and his new team are hoping he can somehow return to the form of his glory years.

A check of the NFL’s 25 top career rushers reveals that only two quit on top:

Barry Sanders (No. 3; 15,269 career yards rushing) – He was 30 with Detroit in 1998 when he had 343 carries for 1,491 yards (4.4-yard average) and 37 catches for 289 yards in 16 games. He retired rather than return to the Lions.

Jim Brown (No. 10; 12,312 career yards rushing) – He was only 239 in the 1965 season with Cleveland. He had 289 carries for 1,544 yards (5.3-yard average) and 17 TDs plus 34 catches for 328 yards in 14 games. When he was shooting a movie that summer, the Browns wouldn’t allow him to report late and he called it quits.

Here are a few who hung on for too long:

Jerome Bettis (No. 7; 13,662 career rushing yards) – He averaged 3.3 yards per carry and ran for 368 yards and caught 4 passes for 40 yards in 12 games for Pittsburgh at age 33.

Edgerrin James (No. 13; 12,246 career rushing yards) – He was 31 when he averaged 2.7 yards on 125 carries in seven games for Seattle in 209.

Franco Harris (No. 15; 12,120 career rushing yards) – He averaged 2.5 yards in 170 carries and caught 3 passes for 3 yards in 8 games for the 1984 Steelers at age 34.

Thurman Thomas (No. 16; 12.074 career rushing yards) – He was 34 for Miami in 2000 when he averaged 4.9 yards on 28 carries and caught 16 passes for 117 yards in 9 games.

Steven Jackson (No. 18; 11,438 career rushing) – In 2 games with New England in 2015, he had 21 carries in 50 carries at age 32.

O.J. Simpson (No. 21; 11,236 career rushing yards) – He was 32 when he averaged 3.8 yards on 460 carries for San Francisco in 1979.

DOC EDWARDS WAS A BASEBALL LIFER

Howard Rodney “Doc” Edwards died Monday at age 81. He was aptly recalled as a “baseball lifer” and Rochester was one of his many stops.

Doc succeeded Frank Robinson as Rochester’s manager after the 1978 season. He was 196-221 in his three seasons.

He was an easy guy to like and popular with the fan base. Unfortunately, his first team was awful and he didn’t have universal support in the front office at that time. He wanted to return for a fourth season but took another job when he received no guarantees that he still was wanted here.

When he left, he said he enjoyed his time in Rochester and planned to live here when he retired. He didn’t but he obviously was a fan of our area.

The lowlight of his time in Rochester was the 1979 season. The outclassed team was 53-86 and drew only 200,013 fans, the lowest attendance since the Wings became community owned in 1957.

The highlight of his stint in Rochester was managing in the epic 33-inning 3-2 loss to Pawtucket in 1981, the longest game in pro baseball history.

He went on to become manager of the Cleveland Indians for portions of three seasons (1987 through 1989) and posted a 173-207 record.

Edwards, who was nicknamed Doc because he was a medic in the Navy, was born in Red Jacket, West Virginia. The son of a coal miner, he signed with the Cleveland Indians.

Doc was a solid defensive catcher and a student of the game, but he wasn’t much of a hitter and a very slow runner. In 319 career big-league games in portions of five seasons with the Indians, Kansas City, the Yankees and the Phillies, he batted .238, with 15 HRs and 87 RBI.

He was involved in pro baseball for 57 years as a player, coach, manager and scout. He helped assemble the original roster of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998.

His final job in pro baseball was manager of the independent San Angelo Colts for seven years. He finally retired after the 2014 season at age 77. Connie Mack would’ve been proud. His overall managing record at all levels was 1,885-1,955 (.491).

SHORT SHOTS

Two high-profile sports celebrities were in Rochester Wednesday: Former LPGA superstar Nancy Lopez was at Monroe Golf Club for a charity fund raiser and former WWE superstar Mick Foley will be at Frontier Field for a Salute to Pro Wrestling Night.

More positive reviews on Bills rookie QB Josh Allen: National “The Herd” sports talk show host Colin Cowherd said Allen has been “the shock of the five first-round quarterback draft picks He’s been shockingly good. I think he will start in Week 1.”...Former NFL quarterback Chris Simms joined Cowherd in praising the Bills coaching staff for “cleaning up” Allen’s footwork.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Wednesday, August 22

LaMelo Ball (17)...Randall Cobb (28)...Mohamed Sanu (29)...WWE’s Den/Jey Uso (33)...Jim Weaver (42)...Mats Wilander (54)...John Kidd (57)...Wes Chandler (62)...Diana Nyad (69)...Bill Parcells (77)...Carl Yastrzemski (79)...Paul Maguire (80).

Thursday, August 23

Seth Curry (28)...Jeremy Lin (30)...Rex Grossman (38)...Nicole Bobeck (41)...Jeremy Schaap (49)...Cortez Kennedy (50)...Rik Smits (52)...Kyle Clifton (56)...Julio Franco (60)...the first DH Ron Blomberg (70)...Sonny Jurgensen (84). Rick Springfield (69) and Barbara Eden (87) are invited to the birthday party.

Friday, August 24

Arian Foster (32)...Brett Gardner (35)...Michael Redd (39)...Rafael Furcal (40)...Tim Salmon (50)...Benoit Brunet (50)...Reggie Miller (53)...Cal Ripken Jr. (58)...Mike Shanahan (66)...Vince McMahon (73).

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

August 22

71 years ago (1947), the College All-Stars beat the Chicago Bears 16-0 before 105,840 fans in the 14th NFL Chicago All-Star Game...67 years ago (1951), the Harlem Globetotters drew 75,052 at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin...61 years ago (1957), Floyd Patterson KOd Pete Rademacher in the 6th round for the heavyweight boxing title...53 years ago (1965), San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal hit Los Angeles Dodgers catcher John Roseboro on the head with a baseball bat...29 years ago (1989), Rickey Henderson was Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th strikeout.

August 23

76 years ago (1942), Walter Johnson pitched to Babe Ruth in a pre-game attraction before a Yankees-Senators game; 69,000-plus fans attended and $80,000 was raised for Army-Navy relief...54 years ago (1964), the St. Louis Cardinals, 11 games behind, went on to win the World Series...48 years ago (1970), Pittsburgh’s Roberto Clemente had his second consecutive five-hit game...36 years ago (1982), Seattle’s Gaylord Perry was ejected for throwing a spitball...24 years ago (1994), DNA testing linked O.J. Simpson to the murders of his wife and Ron Goldman...10 years ago (2008), led by Lisa Leslie, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, the USA women’s basketball team beat Australia 92-65 for the goal medal at the Beijing Olympics...8 years ago (2010), Elin Nordegren divorced golfer Tiger Woods after six years of marriage...11 years ago (2007), the Texas Rangers crushed the Baltimore Orioles 30-3.

August 24

99 years ago (1919), Cleveland pitcher Ray Caldwell was felled by a lightning bolt...55 years ago (1963), John Pennel became the first person to pole vault 17 feet...46 years ago (1972), Gordie Howe and Jean Beliveau were inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame...29 years ago (1989), Pete Rose was banned for life from baseball for betting on games...10 years ago (2008), the Summer Olympics in Beijing became the most-watched event ever on TV: an estimated five billion, 70 percent of the world’s population.

Bob Matthews' Column

Bob Matthews' Column

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