MY MLB MOST VALUABLE PLAYER PICKS: MOOKIE BETTS AND CHRISTIAN YELICH
One of my favorite national baseball writers is Keith Law of ESPN. I almost always agree with his takes. But I think he’s 0-for-2 on his Most Valuable Award picks -- for American League Mike Trout and National League Jacob deGrom.
My picks are Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich in a landslide in the NL and Boston’s Mookie Betts by a less decisive margin in the AL.
Milwaukee was one of MLB’s surprise teams this season and Yelich clearly was the outstanding Brewer:
His season: .321 batting average (181-for-563); 34 doubles; 7 triples; 33 HRs; 104 RBI;, 21-of-25 stolen bases; .395 on-base percentage; .583 slugging percentage; .978 OPS. Leads the NL in batting average and OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage)
He had a super July and hasn’t cooled off much since:
July -- .400 (42-for-105), 11 doubles, 2 triples, 4 HRs, 23 RBI
August -- .307 (35-for-114), 6 doubles, 1 t ripple, 4 HRs, 23 RBI
September -- .346 (28-for-81), 6 doubles, 2 triples, 7 HRs, 28 RBI.
Yelich also is an excellent defensive outfielder.
Milwaukee obtained (more accurately “stole”) Yelich from Florida January 25, 2018, in Derek Jeter’s salary dump campaign for Isan Diaz, Monte Harrison, Jordan Yamamoto and Lewis Brinson – honest.
High honorable mention to Javier Baez (Cubs; NL-most 111 RBI and great defense all over the infield).
deGrom had a brilliant season for the New York Mets and should win the NL Cy Young Award – perhaps unanimously. He had a MLB-best 1.70 earned-run average. His won-lost record was a modest 10-9 because he didn’t get much run support.
Boston was the best MLB team this season and Betts was the best all-around Red Sox player. His impressive performance line: .346 (178-for-515); 126 runs; 47 doubles; 5 triples, 32 HRs; 80 RBI; 36 stolen bases; 1.079 OPS. He’s also a Gold Glove in right field.
Honorable mention: to Boston’s J.D. Martinez, Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor and Houston’s underrated Alex Bregman.
Trout probably is MLB’s best player (.313; 99 runs; 38 HRs; 77 RBI; 24-of-26 stolen bases; 121 walks; 1.090 OPS) but his Angels weren’t a serious contender.
BOB’S NFL WEEK 4 “BEST BET”: EAGLES (-4) OVER TENNESSEE
Defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia has a much stronger roster than Tennessee and quarterback Carson Wentz figures to be sharper Sunday in his second star of the season.
The Titans are 2-1 despite being underdogs in all three gamers so far this season. Both wins were by three points. This is their toughest test.
Bob’s “Best Bet”: Philadelphia 24, TENNESSEE (+4) 13.
Sunday’s other games
(home team in CAPS)
GREEN BAY 21 (-9 ½) 21, Buffalo 17 – The Bills have been strong against the run and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has a sore knee that limits his mobility. The spot looks too generous.
NEW ENGLAND (-6 ½) 27, Miami 24 –The Dolphins are 3-0 and quarterback Ryan Tannehill is playing well coming off knee surgery. The Patriots could be slipping (you’ve heard that many times before).
Houston 23, INDIANAPOLIS (-1) 20 – The 0-3 Texans and QB Deshaun Watson are due for a victory. Can Colts QB Andrew Luck stand up to a strong pass rush?
ATLANTA (-5 ½) 31, Cincinnati 24 – The underachieving Falcons are the more-talented team and are due for a top effort.
Detroit 28, DALLAS (-3 ½) 20 – Do the Lions have more firepower than the disappointing Cowpokes?
JACKSONVILLE (-7 ½) 33, New York Jets 15 – The talented Jaguars figure to bounce back from a surprising 9-6 home loss to Tennessee.
Tampa Bay 27, CHICAGO (-3) 17 – I’m assuming Ryan Fitzpatrick will start at quarterback for the Buccaneers. He’s played very well in 11 of his team’s 12 quarters this season. Warning: Tampa Bay is 2-8 straight up(SU) and 3-6-1 against the spread (ATS) in the last 10 road games.
ARIZONA (+3) 17, Seattle 15 – The winless Cardinals probably aren’t 0-16 bad, starting rookie QB Josh Rosen might be a park and Seattle usually plays much better at home than on the road.
OAKLAND (-2 ½) 24, Cleveland 17 – The Browns lead the NFL with 11 takeaways. If the Raiders can protect the football they can earn their first win of the season.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-10) 35, San Francisco 13 – The Chargers lost two games versus offensive juggernauts Kansas City and the Los Angeles Rams. The 49rrs minus QB Jimmy Garoppolo are a far less potent opponent.
New Orleans ( -3 ½) 30, New York Giants 21 – With decent weather, I much prefer Drew Brees over Eli Manning. Since 2012, the Saints are 13-6-1 ATS coming off a win and the Giants are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 home games in September.
Baltimore 28, PITTSBURGH (-3) 20 – The Steelers still are dangerous minus AWOL star running back Le’Veon Bell but the defense is far from a Steel Curtain.
Monday night’s game
KANSAS CITY (-4 ½) 35, Denver 20 – The Broncos would need to step up offensively to hang tough against the Chiefs, who’ve scored 38, 42 and 38 points in three victories.
Last week’s results: 6-10 picking winning teams straight up (24-22-2 this season0...4-12 picking winners against the point spread (20-28 this season)...the “Best Bet” is 2-1 after the Houston Texans, favored by 6 points and picked to beat the New York Giants 28-15, lost 27-22.
A CHANCE TO CHECK OUT THE BROCKPORT GOLDEN EAGLES
Area football fans can check out one of nation’s best Division III teams in the Courage Bowl, Saturday, 6 p.m., when the Brockport Golden Eagles host St. John Fisher in Courage Bowl 2018 at Bob Boozer Field at the College at Brockport.
The Golden Eagles reached the Division III national semifinals last season and have another dynamite team. They’re 3-0 by a combined 134-26 (56-7 over Hobart, 12-7 over Ithaca College and 65-12 over St. Lawrence University.
St. John Fisher is 0-2 this season. Brockport leads the series 15-8.
Brockport ranks fourth in the nation, behind familiar names Mount Union, Mary Hardin-Baylor and St. Thomas. The Golden Eagles have won a school-record 15 straight regular-season games.
Brockport leads Division III in completion percentage (.750; 75-for-100). Coach Jason Mangone’s Golden Eagles are third in total defense (146.3 yards allowed per game) and 13th in total offense (520.7 yards per game). They’ve allowed only 30 net yards rushing in three games. They’ve outsacked opponents by a 10-2 margin.
Brockport’s star-studded roster includes quarterback Joe Germinerio (65-for-87; .747 completion percentage; 809 yards passing; 6 TD passes), running back Joe Benedict (17 carries for 168 yards and 2 TDs), wide receivers Tyree Brown, Joseph Ortiz, Eamon Gillespie and Daquan Hubbard Jr., and a bunch of stingy defensive players who enjoy stuffing opposing runners and sacking quarterbacks.
The Courage Bowl benefits Camp Good Day and Special Times.
SPRAYING BASBALL HITS TO ALL FIELDS
The New York Yankees hit four home runs in Thursday afternoon’s 12-1 win at Tampa Bay. The Yankees have 260 HRs in 159 games and need five HRs in the remaining three games to break the MLB-record 262 HRs by the 1997 Seattle Mariners.
Houston is the first reigning World Series champion to win 100+ games in a season since the 1990 Oakland A’s won 103. The Astros also are the first team with 100+ wins in consecutive seasons since the 2004-05 St. Louis Cardinals.
The National League has ended the American League’s 14-year winning streak in inter-league play, with a 155-142 record against the American League entering Friday. Pittsburgh led the way at 15-5. It would’ve been worse if not for Boston. The Red Sox were 16-4 versus the NL.
Rochester Red Wings Hall of Famer Ozzie Virgil Sr., 86 years old, was an honorary New York Mets coach and exchanged line up cards before the New York Mets game Wednesday night. Virgil was the first Dominican players in the majors with the New York Giants in 1956. He currently is a special catching instructor for the Mets teams in the Dominican Summer League.
Rochester Red Wings 2018 MVP and Most Popular Player Willians Astudillo continues to shine with the Minnesota Twins. He had first 4-RBI game Thursday night. In his last six games, he’s 12-for-25 (.480), with 3 doubles and 10 RBI. In 26 games for the Twins this season, he has a .,357 batting average (.30-for-84), with 3 doubles, 1 triple, 3 HRs, 19 RBI, 1 walk and 3 strikeouts. He’ll turn 27 on October 14 and I don’t see how Minnesota could not include him on the 40-man major-league roster this offseason.
The Chattanooga Lookouts, the Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins from 2015 through 2018, has signed a two-year affiliation with the Cincinnati Reds. Minnesota’s new Double-A affiliate is expected to be Amarillo, Tex., or Pensacola, Fla.
REMEMBERING LES HULET
My list of the all-time five-best jockeys at Finger Lakers Race Track: Jose Olivares, Kevin Whitley, John Grabowski, John Davila Jr., and Leslie Hulet, the affable Mormon who died last week in his native Utah at age 69 after a short battle with brain cancer.
Hulet arrived at Finger Lakes from the bush tracks of Utah in 1972 and stayed for 28 years. He won 3,818 of his 25,286 races and was a five-time jockey champion at the track. He finished in the money (win, place or show) on 42 percent of his mounts.
Les was a fan favorite. He was always smiling and friendly with all horsemen and fans. He was known as “Hug the Rail Hulet” for his trademark style of riding. He loved to save ground on the rail and close fast to win many race in the final strides.
He was the head of the Jockeys Guild and taught Sunday school in Canandaigua. After he retired from riding, he thought about becoming a steward (racing official) at Finger Lakes but opted to return home.
The Finger Lakes Hall of Famer and Frontier Field Walk of Famer was the regular rider of Finger Lakes super horses Lordofthemountain and Fio Rito.
Fio Rito was a fluke. He had modest breeding. Owner Raymond LaCesse bought a broodmare for a mere $2,300. She was carrying Fio Rito. As a stallion after his racing days ended, Fio Rito sired very few profitable runners.
But “Big Gray” was something to see on a race track. He had 28 wins in 60 starts, mostly at Finger Lakes. He was a three-time New York State Horse of the Year.
His greatest race was the 1981 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga Race Course. He wired the field at odds of 11-to-1 and became the first New York Stat-bred horse to win a Grade I race. Les was in the saddle and rode a terrific race. The pair made the Finger Lakes Race Track world proud that afternoon.
When Fio Rito died he was buried at the finish line at Finger Lakes.
Suggested viewing: The 1981 Whitney Handicap on You-Tube. It was the greatest racing moment for the team of Fio Rito-Les Hulet. I think you’d enjoy watching it.
Finger Lakes will run a race in Hulet’s honor on Saturday’s card. He’ll be buried Saturday morning in Paragonah, Utah. His family suggested, instead of flowers, “that you honor Les by doing a kind act for another.”
Only six NFL teams in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) started 0-3 and made the playoffs: 1970 Oakland, 1981 New York Jets, 1982 Tampa Bay, 1992 Chicago, 1995 Detroit and 1998 Buffalo.
The Baltimore Ravens are the first team in NFL history to score TDs in its first 12 red-zone trips in a season.
Entering Week 4, there have been 28 NFL 300-yard passing performers this season. Those passers had a 10-16-2 record in those games...There have been 13 100-yard rushing performances and those runners are 10-2-1 this season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers lead the NFL in penalties (37) and yards penalized (361) by wide margins.
Syracuse is a 24-point underdog Saturday at Clemson. The greatest strength for the Tigers could be the defensive line – possibly the best in college football.
The University of Buffalo Bulls hosts Army Saturday. Don’t expect many sacks. UB is the only major-college football team to have allowed zero sacks through four games this season. Army is among the four teams to allow one sack.
The first four picks by the Rochester Knighthawks in Tuesday night’s National Lacrosse League entry draft were three defenders and a goalie. No surprise. The Hawks are solid and relatively young up front, but the back line was growing long of tooth.
The Atlantic Hockey Tournament will move to Buffalo’s Harbor Center in March after 12 years in Rochester.
The WWE will stage a live show in Buffalo Sunday, December 30, at CityBank Center. With New Year’s Eve December 31, it figures to be a top-shelf card and a big crowd.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...
Friday, September 28
Juan Hernangomez 23...Tyler Lockett 26...Eddie Rosario 27...Ryan Zimmerman 34...Anderson Varejao 36...Emeka Okafor 36...Jose Calderon 37...Se Ri Pak 41...Marcus Spears 47...Jake Reed 51...Johnny Dawkins 55...Grant Fuhr 56...Irving Fryar 56....Don Edwards 63...Doug Gibson (the only Amerks two-time AHL MVP) 65...Steve Largent 64...Anthony Davis 66...Mel Gray 70. Hillary Duff 31, Ranbir Kapoor 36, Naomi Watts 50 and Brigitte Bardot 84 are invited to the birthday party.
Saturday, September 29
Cardale Jones 26...Austin Seferian-Jenkins 26...Kervin Durant 30...Marsall Newhouse 30...Calvin Johnson 33...Jake Westbrook 41...Eric Barton 41...Ray Buchanan 47...Kelly Robbins 49...Hersey Hawkins 52...Dave Andeychuk 55...Rob Deer 58....Sebastian Coe 62...Vicki Fergon 63...Warren Cromartie 65...Bryant Gumbel 70...Walt Tkaczuk...Mike McCormick 80. Andrew Dice Clay 61 and Jerry Lee Lewis 83 are invited to the birthday party.
Sunday, September 30
Wayne Selden 24...Cal O’Reilly 32...Adam Jones 35....Dominique Moceanu 37...Martina Hingis 38...Justin Smith 39...Calvin Pickering 42...Carlos Guillen 43...Jamal Anderson 46...Brentson Buckner 47...Dave Magadan 56...Ricky Sanders 58...John Drew 64.