Matthews: Red Sox Will Be Favored To Repeat

RED SOX WILL BE FAVORED TO END THE REPEAT WORLD SERIES DROUGHT

The 2018 Boston Red Sox will be recalled as one of the elite single-season World Series champions.

They win 108 games in the regular season and then went 11-3 in the postseason. They outscored opponents 960 to0 698 (+262).

They outclassed the Los Angeles Dodgers 4 games to 1 in the Wotld Series. They failed to sweep only because second baseman Ian Kinsler made an error on a potential game-winning throw to first base in the 13th inning of an epic 18-inning 3-2 loss.

The Red Sox can further pad their credentials by becoming the first team since the 1999-2000 New York Yankees to repeat as world champs.

The Red Sox obviously will be the 2019 Opening Day favorite to win it all again. Tis was no fluke.

Boston is relatively young and deep in talent. I suppose they’ll retain free agent Nathan Eovaldi to join fellow right-hander Rick Porcello and left-handers Chris Sale and David Price as a rock-solid four-man starting  rotation.  No. 5 starter Eduardo Rodriguez would be at least a No. 3  for most other teams.

The bullpen is deep enough and Craig Kimbrel is the closer every really good team needs.

The starting lineup should be even better next season. Boston has baseball’s best all-around young outfield—the “B-Men”: Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mookie Betts. Shortstop Xander Boegarts is a star and third baseman Rafael Devers could be on the verge of stardom. First base is in good hands with a platoon of World Series MVP Steve Pearce {assuming the free agent returns) and Mitch Moreland. J.D. Martinez is a top-shelf designated hitter. Chris Holt could handle second base in case veteran Dustin Pedroia can’t bounce back from knee surgery.

Alex Cora did a brilliant job as a rookie manager. He pushed all the right buttons and had a masterful World Series. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a nightmarish World Series. He overplayed the analytics card and was burned repeatedly.

The Red Sox were MLB’s best-hitting team in 2018, ranking first in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, extra-base hits and total bases. They were third in stolen bases and had the eighth-best team ERA despite playing home games in hitter-friendly Fenway Park. They were seventh in defense and had the fourth-fewest strikeouts.

What’s not to like?

The Red Sox of course are no lock to repeat. The New York Yankees certainly will try to get stronger in the offseason. That’s what they do. And the AL East overall should be baseball’s best division. The Houston Astros and the Cleveland Indians would be formidable opponents in the AL playoffs.

Good luck to all of the 2018 runner-ups. They’ll need some.

YOU MIGHT HAVE SEEN STEVE PEARCE HERE IN 2012

If you’re a Red Wings fan, you might have seen2018 World Series Most Valuable Player Steve Pearce (Boston Red Sox) during his portions of eight International League seasons, including 53 games for the 2012 Empire State Yankees, who called Frontier Field home while the stadium in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre was being overhauled.

In 311 games with Indianapolis, Scranton/Wilkes Barre and Buffalo, he hit .279 (331-for-1,185) with 49 HRs and 186 RBI. Before winning World Series MVP Sunday night, his main claim to MLB fame might have been playing for all five American League East teams.

GUESS WHO LEADS THE NFL IN PASSER RATING? FITZMAGIC

Old friend Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took over from struggling former No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Jameis Winston to start the fourth quarter Sunday. The Buccaneers trailed Cincinnati 34-16 when Fitz entered the game, tied the score at 34-34 and lost on a last-play field goal.

Fitzpatrick began this season with a record three-straight 400-yard passing games before he was replaced by Winston, who had been suspended for the first three games. Now many fans and media are pushing Fitz to start again. Their passing lines this season:

Fitzpatrick – 98-of-144 (.681) for 1,550 yards passing; 13 TD passes; 5 interceptions; sacked 8 times; NFL-best 119.3 passer rating

Winston – 96-of-148 (.649) for 1,181 yards passing; 6 TD passes; 10 interceptions; sacked 13 times; 74.7 passer rating.

WATCH OUT FOR THE SAINTS AND DREW BREES

The New Orleans Saints are looking like one of the NFL’s top teams and 39-year-old quarterback Drew Brees is a sleeper for his first NFL Most Valuable Player award.

The Saints lost their opening game this season, 48-40 at home to Tampa Bay, but have since won six straight games. They have one of the league’s most-balanced offenses and a much-improved defense.

The Saints host the Los Angeles Rams (8-0) Sunday in what will be the NFL’s top matchup so far this season. Early odds out of Las Vegas make it a pick game.

Brees isn’t throwing as deep or as often as in his prime seasons, but he has an NFL-best .774 completion percentage, 14 TD passes and only 1 interception. His 118.2 passer rating trails only Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 119.3.

BILLS BLEW IT ON PATRICK MAHOMES AND DESHAUN WATSON

More and more, it’s looking like Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott will have a difficult time making up for bypassing both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in the 2017 NFL college draft.

The Bills desperately needed a quarterback. Beane and McDermott obviously had little faith in incumbent QB Tyrod Taylor.  Buffalo had the No. 10 overall pick. They traded down to No. 27 and selected cornerback Tre’Davious White. Good pick. But Mahomes or Watson would;ve been great picks.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio’s in last Friday’s PFT Live had an interesting article regarding how many NFL teams liked Mahomes and Watson – and why most teams preferred Mahomes over Watson.

Florio said Mahomes was regarded by many scouts as a “once-in-20-years prospect.” His big advantages over Watson were accuracy and velocity on deep throws and supposedly football instincts.

Kansas City coach Andy Reid and New Orleans coach Sean Payton were particularly high on Mahomes. The Chiefs traded up with Buffalo for the No. 10 pick and happily selected the young QB he knew would replace veteran Alex Smith as his franchise quarterback in 2018.

Florio said rating Mahomes over Watson was a “no-brainer.”

Midway through his second pro season, Mahomes is the frontrunner for NFL Most Valuable Player. Many observers would rank Watson (Houston Texans) among the top 10 QBs in the NFL today.

I believe Buffalo passing on both Mahomes and Watson was a no-brainer. As in, no brains.

Of course, Josh Allen could take Beane and McDermott off the hook.  If and when that might happen, who knows?

HOCKEY-HOCKEY-HOCKEY IS BACK IN WESTERN NEW YORK

We have a long way to go this pro hockey season in Western New York...but so far, so good for the NHL Buffalo Sabres and the AHL Rochester Americans.

The Sabres, the NHL’s worst team last season, are 6-4-1 through 11 games this season and the improvement is no fluke. Buffalo has an entertaining blend of veterans and young players who are genuine prospects. Most of the dead wood has been discarded. There is decent depth for a change up front, on the blue line and in goal.

The Sabres last Saturday night had a chance for their first four-game winning streak since December 9 through 12, 2014. They settled for a 5-4 overtime loss at Columbus and stretched their point streak to five games.

Buffalo hosts the Calgary Flames Tuesday, plays at Ottawa Thursday, hosts Ottawa Saturday afternoon and plays at the New York Rangers Sunday night.

The Amerks had a productive weekend on home ice: 4-0 over the Utica Comets Friday and 3-2 Saturday over Laval, outscoring the Rocket 3-0 in the third period.

Since losing their first two games at home to the Charlotte Checkers, the Amerks are on a 6-2-1-0 roll. They’ve outscored opponents 39-30 this season and are clicking in every department.

The Amerks will host the Hershey Bears Friday, 7:05 p.m., and will play at Hershey Saturday night. Maybe the traditional rivalry will spark an overdue boost in attendance. The announced crowds were 2,441 Friday and 3,696 Saturday. Rochester’s players are off to a hotter start than the team’s long-frustrated fans.

If you’re an Amerks fan, the top four names on the AHL scoring list are looking good:

1—Victor Olofsson (ROCH) 9 games; 5 goals; 10 assists; 15 points

2—Zach Redmond (ROCH) 10 games; 6 goals; 8 assists; 14 points

t3—Phil Varone (Lehigh Valley) 8 games; 3 goals; 10 assists; 13 points

t3—Lawrence Pilot (ROCH) 8 games; 2 goals; 11 assists; 13 points.

JOHN DAVILA JR. CLOSES IN ON 4.000TH WIN

Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack jockey John R. Davila Jr., enters this week needing two wins to reach 4,000 for his thoroughbred riding career.

Davila was 26 and had only 37 career wins when he arrived at Finger Lakes from his native Puerto Rico in 1991 He has since won 14 riding titles at the Farmington track, including 11 in a row from 2001 through 2011.

At age 54, he’s still going strong. He won two races Saturday for Chris Englehart. They’re one of the all-time best jockey/trainer combinations at FLRT.  Davila has 109 wins (in 342 mounts) this season, behind only Jaime Rodriguez’s 142 wins (in 595 rides).

Davila’s career performance line: 17,620 races; 3,998 wins (fewer than 100 at tracks other than Finger Lakes; 2,917 seconds; 2,525 thirds; career purse money: $38,579,336.

JAPAN SERIES HAS A BETTER IDEA

I’m not a fan of World Series games ending after midnight – or sometimes at 3:30 a.m.

Japan has a better idea.

Game 1 of this season’s Japan Series between the Hiroshima Carp and the Fukuoka Soft Bank Hawks ended in a 2-2, 12-inning draw on Sunday. And not because of rain or a typhoon. It’s a rule.

In the Japan Series, tie games are officially called draws after 12 innings.

If the best-of-seven series is tied after seven games, a Game 8 is played and games continue untikl one team has won four games.

SHORT SHOTS

Boston Red Sox journeyman Steve Pearce was voted World Series MVP. In five games, he batted .333 (4-for-12), with 5 runs, 1 double, 3 HRs and 8 RBI. But my vote would’ve gone to pitcher David Price: 2-0 record, 1.98 ERA, 13 1/3 innings, 7 hits allowed, 0 walks, 10 strikeouts. He even made a relief appearance. With ace Chris sale (shoulder) less than 100 percent, Price more than picked up the slack.

NFL reporter Alex Marvez came up with this amazing factoid: 33-year-old Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson had a 64-yard TD run against the New York Giants (and it wasn’t Eli Manning chasing him). It was the longest TD run by an NFL running back 30 years or older since Jim Thorpe – who played 100 years ago.

There are some labor problems in pro lacrosse. The National Lacrosse League players rejected a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the start of the season could be in jeopardy. A new summer outdoor league has been launched and will challenge Major League Lacrosse. It looks like growing pains for a sport that doesn’t need them. But maybe they’re signs that the sport is becoming more relevant on the national scene.

Former Rochester Rhinos coach Bob Lilley’s No. 3 East seed Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC were eliminated from the USL playoffs by the visiting No. 6 East seed Bethlehem Steel FC, 2-2 (8-7 penalties) October 20 before a team-record 5,189 fans at Highmark Stadium...The No. 1 East seed FC Cincinnati entered Saturday’s game versus No. 4 East seed New York Red Bulls II and suffered a shocking 1-0 loss. Cincinnati entered the game with a 24-match unbeaten streak. The crowd at Nippert Stadium was a disappointing 16,617. Cincinnati will be a Major League Soccer expansion team next season.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Monday, October 29

Cardale Jones 26...Ender Inciarte 28...Andy Dalton 31...Wayne Ellington 31...Eric Staal 34...Maurice Clarett 35...Travis Henry 40...R.A. Dickey 44...Mike Gartner 59...Jesse Barfield 59...Denis Potvin 65. Gabrielle Union 46 and Winona Ryder 47 are invited to the birthday party.

Tuesday, October 30

Tage Thompson 21...Devin Booker 22...Marcus Mariota 25...Artemi Panarin 27...Joe Panik 28...Trent Edwards 35...Chris Clemons 3...Jason Bartlett 39...Ty Detmer 51...Danny Tartabull 56...Diego Maradona 58...Phil Chenier 68.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

October 29

87 years ago (1931), Philadelphia A’s pitcher Lefty Grove, who won 31 games, was named American League Most Valuable Player...68 years ago (1950), Cleveland Browns RB Marion Motley averaged 17.1 yards in 10 carries in a 45-7 victory over Pittsburgh...58 years ago (1960), Muhammad Ali won his first pro fight, over Tunney Hunsaker in 6...31 years ago (1987), Thomas Hearns won an unprecedented fourth different weight-class boxing title...29 years ago (1989), Ozzie Newsome’s streak of 150 consecutive games with a reception ended...27 years ago (1991), Buck Showalter replaced Stump Merrill as manager of the New York Yankees...10 years ago (2008), the Phillies beat Tampa Bay in Game 5 to win the second World Series in the team’s 126-year history...4 years ago (2014), the San Francisco Giants won their third World Series in five years.

October 30

73 years ago (1945), Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to a contract with the International League Montreal Royals...64 years ago (1954), the Rochester Royals beat the visiting Boston Celtics 98-95 at Edgerton Park Sports Arena in the NBA’s first game using the 24-second clock...44 years ago (1974), Nolan Ryan of the California Angels threw the fastest recorded pitch: 100.9 MPH...Muhammad Ali KOd Georg e Foreman in 8 in The Rumble in the Jungle in Kinshasa, Zaire...30 years ago (1988), Brazil’s Ayrton Senna clichéd his first World Formula 1 drivers’ title...21 years ago (1997), Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona announced his retirement from soccer on his 37th birthday...5 years ago (2013), the Bosston Red Sox beat St. Louis 6-1 in Game 6 to win the World Series.

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