Matthews: It Was A Wonderful Day For Sports Fans

IT WAS WONDERFUL DAY FOR SPORTS FANS (except New York Jets fans)...


It was a glorious Thursday for most pro sports fans – particularly in Cleveland.

Welcome to the NFL, Baker Mayfield and welcome back to the UFC, Conor McGregor.

Thursday night marked a rare national prime-time appearance for the Cleveland Browns.  And – also a rarity – the Browns, winless since December 11, 2016 – were favored (by 3 points over the New York Jets).

For most of the first half, the crowd was disappointed. Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor was horrible (4-of-14 passing for 19 yards and sacked three times) and he was setting the tone for the entire team.

The Jets were ahead 14-3 late in the second quarter when Taylor left the game with a concussion. It was the turning point of the evening.

Rookie No. 1 overall draft pick Baker Mayfield completed his first pass – a bullet downfield – and the suddenly-hopeful crowd went wild.

Mayfield and the rejuvenated Browns dominated the second half, outscoring the Jets 18-3 for a 21-17 victory. He was 17-of-23 for 201 yards in his NFL debut and even caught a pass for a two-point conversion.

Mayfield is Cleveland’s new starting quarterback, probably permanently barring injury. Tough break for Taylor, but Mayfield obviously is the much better quarterback and a more-spirited leader on the field.

The Browns are a much-improved team. They’re 1-1-1 and could be 3-0 with a better kicker.

With the Indians a genuine threat to win the World Series and the Browns  no longer the laughing stock of the NFL, happy days are here for Cleveland sports fans – even though LeBron James fled to Los Angeles.

Conor McGregor’s return to the UFC was announced Thursday. He last fought in the UFC in November 2016, a second-round KO over Eddie Alvarez. He then took off to become super rich in a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. He lost but it was a competitive and entertaining event.

With Jon Jones out of the picture – again – and Ronda Rousey departed in favor of making bad movies and acting in WWE -- McGregor is by far the UFC’s feature attraction.

His new six-fight contract will kick off at UFC 229 on October 6 with a world light-heavyweight fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov. They genuinely dislike each other. UFC president Dana White is projecting pay-per-view buys in the 2.5 million range.


The New York Yankees smashed the team’s record for home runs in a season Thursday night as Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit hit HRs in an 11-6 home loss to the Boston Red Sox.

The Yankees nave 247 HRs with 10 games remaining this regular season. The former team record was 245 HRs in 2012.

Hitting 247 HRs this season is quite a feat considering that sluggers (35) and Aaron Judge (26) have combined for “only” 61 HRs (Roger Maris did that all by himself in 1961). Stanton has been in a power slump and Judge missed considerable time due to a broken wrist.

Here’s the HR breakdown for the 2018 Yankees: Stanton 35...Judge 26...Didi Gregorius 26...Miguel Andjuar 25...Aaron Hicks 24...Gleyber Torres 23...Gary Sanchez 16 (in 81 games)...Brett Gardner 12...Greg Bird 11...Neil Walker 10...Austin Romine 10...Luke Voit 10 9 (in 30 games and 97 officvial at-bats)...Tyler Austin 8...Andrew McCutchen 4...Kyle Higashioka 3...Brandon Drury 1...Adeiny Hechavarria 1...Shane Robinson 1...Tyler Wade 1.

The 2012 Yankees hit 245 HRs: Curtis Granderson 43...Robinson Cano 33...Mark Teixeria 24...Nick Swisher 24...Russell Martin 21...Paul Ibanez 19...Alex Rodriguez 18...Eric Chavez 16...Derek Jeter 15...Andruw Jones 14...Ichiro Suzuki 5...Jayson Nix 4...DeWayne Wade 3...Chris Dickerson 2...Casey McGehee 1...Eduardo Nunez 1...Steve Pearce 1...Chris Stewart 1.

The 2012 Yankees were 95-67 (.586), outscored opponents 804-668 (+136), outhomered opponents 245-190 (+55) and lost the ALCS 4-0 to Detroit. They struck out 1,176 times and had 565 walks in the 162 games.

The 2018 Yankees are 93-59 (.612), have outscored opponents 782-620 (+162) and have outhomered opponents 247-164 (+83). They’ve struck out 1,322 times and have 585 walks in 152 games.

The Yankees are on pace to hit 263.25 HRs this season. The MLB record is 264 by the 1997 Seattle Mariners.


Savannah, Georgia recently announced plans for a new $140-million, 9,000-seat downtown arena. It will be replacing the “very, very old” Savannah Civic Center (featuring the 7,200-seat Martin Luther King Jr. Arena). It opened in 1974 – 19 years after Rochester’s War Memorial.

Savannah has a metro population of around 380,000. Greater Rochester’s population is around 1 million.

Savannah currently has no major tenant for the proposed new arena but hopes to lure a few pro teams. The city had brief flings with a CBA basketball franchise (the Spirits in from 1986 through 1988), an indoor soccer team (the Rug Ratz in 1997-78), and two indoor football teams (the Steam in 2016 and the Coastal Outlaws in 2017).

The new arena is expected to accommodate concerts, entertainment shows, sports tournaments, corporate outings and community events.

Savannah currently has no pro baseball team. The Sand Gnats played in the South Atlanta League for 22 years and folded after the 2015 season.

Savannah is thinking big. We’re thinking band-aids and facelifst – again.  Hey, $18 million in upgrades will be improvement. Maybe one of these decades we’ll be in a better position to get a state-of-the-art arena to make spectators more comfortable, maybe attract more events and maybe make some people more inclined to move here.


Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson has a huge advantage over immobile New York Giants QB Eli Manning.

Houston’s strong pass rush should overpower New York’s suspect offensive line and make for a frustrating Sunday afternoon for Manning.

This week’s “Best Bet”: HOUSTON (-6) 28, New York Giants 15.

Sunday’s other games

(home team in CAPS)

MINNESOTA (-16 ½) 30, Buffalo 10 – Most underdogs getting a 16 ½-point spot are dangerous, but the Vikings at home figure to toy with the punchless Bills.

ATLANTA (-3) 28, New Orleans 20 – Falcons QB Mike Ryan figures to have enough time to throw to outduel Drew Brees.

Green Bay 24, WASHONGTON (+3) 17 – I have more faith in Packers future Hall of Fame QB Aaron Rodgers with a sore knee than Redskins future Hall of Fame RB at age 33.

PHILADELPHIA (-6 ½) 35, Indianapolis 17 – The Eagles aren’t likely to lose two games in a row. They usually play their best at home and QB Carson Wentz is back.

Oakland 24, MIAMI (-3) 20 – The 0-2 Raiders are due for a top effort and I’m not sold on the 2-0 Dolphins.

Denver 21, BALTIMORE (-5) 17 – The Broncos are off to surprising 2-0 start and In prefer QB Case Keenum over Joe Flacco at this stage of their careers.

Cincinnati 27, CAROLINA (-3) 21 – Bengals QB Andy Dalton is in rare form and I’m sticking with him for a mild upset victory.

JACKSONVILLE (-6 1.2) 28, Tennessee 15 – As long as QB Blake Bortles plays well – and he’s been sharp so far this season – the talented Jaguars will be very tough to beat.

KANSAS CITY (-6 ½) 41, San Francisco 20 – The explosive and speedy Chiefs have way too much firepower for the 49ers.

LOS ANGELES RAMS (-7) 37, Los Angeles Chargers 24 – The Rams take a step up in competition but have the offense to demolish any opponent.

SEATTLE (+1 ½) 24, Dallas 20 – The Seahawks are struggling but they still have QB Russell Wilson and usually are tough to beat at home.

Chicago 28, ARIZONA (-6) 10 – The Bears are one of the NFL’s most-improved teams and the Cardinals might be the worst.

New England 35, DETROIT (+7) 20 – The 0-2 Lions have been outscored 78-44 by two teams (the Jets and 49ers) worse than the Patriots.

Monday night’s game

TAMPA BAY (+1 ½) 33, Pittsburgh 30 –  Buccaneers QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has never been better and the Steelers have serious issues. The spot is a bonus.

Last week’s results: 8-7-1 picking winning teams straight up (18-12-2 this season)...8-8 picking winners against the point spread (16-16 this season)...the “Best Bet” is 2-0 after the Los Angeles Chargers beat the 7 ½-point underdog Buffalo Bills 31-20.


Mike Trout won’t be the American League’s Most Valuable Player this season, mainly because his Los Angeles Angels have a losing record: 75-78. But he baseball’s BP (best player).

Trout’s batting line tells only part of the story: In 133 games, .317 batting average (142-for-448); 96 runs; 24 doubles; 4 triples; 36 HRs; 72 RBI; 282 total bases; 115 walks; 117 strikeouts; MLB-bests in on-base percentage (.463) and OPS (1.092); second in slugging percentage (.629).

In 116 games in the outfield, he has zero errors. He’s 24-for-26 stealing bases.

He’s the near-perfect player and should be among the top five names on every AL MVP ballot.


According to ESPN Stats/Info, only six NFL teams in the Super Bowel era have started 0-3 and made the playoffs.  Encouraging note: the last team to do it was the 1998 Buffalo Bills, with head  coach Wade Phillips and quarterback Doug Flutie. That team finished the regular season with a 10-6 record and lost 24-17 at Miami in an AFC wild-card game.

I believe the 2020 expansion Rochester Knighthawks would be in good shape with Jody Gage as general manager and Tim Soudan as coach.


Friday, September 21

Al-Farouq Aminu (28)...Manny Harris (29)...Doug Baldwin (30)...Reggie Nelson (35)...Jeff Backus (41)....Jon Kitna (46)...Cecil Fielder (55)...Grant Fuhr (56)...Rick Mahorn (60)...Sidney Moncrief (61)...Jack Givens (62)...Bruce Arena (67)...Artis Gilmore (69). Luke Wilson (47), Faith Hill (51), Bill Murray (68) and Stephen King (71) are invited to the birthday party.

Saturday, September 22

Carlos Correa (24)...Thiago Silva (34)...Zack Strief (35)...Gary Tent (44)...Christian Fauria (47)...Mike Matheny (48)...Mike Richter (52)...Vince Coleman (57)...Jeffrey Leonard (63)...Harold Carmichael (69)...David Stern (76)...Lute Olson (84)...Tommy Lasorda (91). Scott Baio (58) and Joan Jett (60) are invited to the birthday party.

Sunday, September 23

Brandon Jennings (29)...Chris Johnson (33)...Joba Chamberlain (33)...Brian Brohm (33)...Matt Kemp (34)...Ricky Davis (39)...Bryant McKinnie (39)...Matt Hardy (44)...Eric Montross (47)..Jeff Cirillo (49)...Pete Harnisch (52)...Marvin Lewis (60)...Marty Schottenheimer (75).  Bruce Springsteen (69) and Julio Iglesias (75) are invited to the birthday party.


September 21

63 years ago (1955), Rocky Marciano KO’d Archie Moore in 9 for the heavyweight boxing title...48 years ago (1970), Oakland’s Vida Blue no-hit the Minnesota Twins, 6-0...47 years ago (1971), the American League approved the Washington Senators move to Arlington, Texas...45 years ago (1973), Nate Archibald signed a seven-year, $450,000 contract with the NBA Kansas City Kings...36 years ago (1982), NFL players began a 57-day strike...33 years ago (1985), Michael Spinks beat Larry Holmes in 15 to become the heavyweight boxing champion...32 years ago (1986), Miami’s Dan Marino threw six TD passes in a 51-45 loss to the New York Jets...18 years ago (1990), Commissioner Fay Vincent rejcted the Chicago White Sox bid to activate 68-year-old Minnie Minoso...27 years ago (1991), USA Basketball announced the “Dream Team”...190 years ago (2008), the Yankees played their final home game at the original Yankee Stadium.

September 22

107 years ago (1911), Cy Young posted his 531st and final MLB victory...98 years ago (1920), a Chicago grand jury convened to investigate charges that eight players on the White Sox conspired to fix the 1919 World Series...91 years ago (1927), Gene Tunney beat Jack Dempsey in the “Long Count” heavyweight title fight...49 years ago (1969), Willie Mays became the second MLB player to hit 600 career home runs...45 years ago (1973), the U.S. won the 29th Ryder Cup 19-13 at Muirfield, Scotland...31 years ago (1987), NFL players went on strike for 24 days...27 years ago (1991), Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula posted his 300th NFL victory...14 years ago (2004), Barry Bonds was intentionally walked four times in a nine-inning game.

September 23

110 years ago (1908), future Rochester baseball Hall of Famer Fred “Bonehead” Merkle of the New York Giants failed to touch second base, causing the third out in the ninth inning and disallowing the winning run. The game ended tied and the Cubs won the replay for the NL pennant...92 years ago (1926), Gene Tunney beat Jack Dempsey in 10 for the heavyweight boxing title...66 years ago (1952), Rocky Marciano KO’d Jersey Joe Wolcott in 13 for the heavyweight boxing title...34 years ago (1984), Sparky Anderson became the first manager to win 1,000 games in both leagues...30 years ago (1988), Jose Canseco became baseball’s first player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in one season...21 years ago (1997), the Seattle Mariners broke the MLB record for home runs in a season – 258 on the way to 264.

Bob Matthews' Column

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