Matthews: Mariano Deserved To Be First Unaminous


New York Yankees super-duper closer Mariano Rivera on Tuesday evening became the first player to be elected unanimously to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Not everyone thinks he deserved that distinction. Why not? Supposedly because...

1-Relief pitchers aren’t nearly as important as stars who play every day.

2-If Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Honus Wagner, etc., weren’t unanimous selections to the Hall of Fame, a relief pitcher certainly shouldn’t be.

My responses:

1-Pitching has evolved and the very best closers are at the top of the mound in terms of importance.

2-No player in history dominated his position much as Rivera. Except maybe Babe Ruth (and he should’ve been the first Hall of Famer elected unanimously).

He was far the best closer in the regular season and he was merely spectacular in the post-season. That’s what made him uniquely special.

Check out these Rivera performance lines:

Regular season – 82-60 record (.577); 2.21 ERA; 1,115 games; 952 games finished; MLB-most 652 saves; 1,283 2/3 innings pitched; 998 hits allowed; 286 walks (2.0 per 9 IP); 1,173 strikeouts (8.2/9 IP); 1.00 WHIP (hits + walks allowed per 9 innings).

Post-season – 8-1 record (.889); 0.70 ERA (honest); 96 games 78 games finished; 42 saves; 141 innings pitched; 86 hits allowed; 21 walks (1.3 per 9 IP); 110 strikeouts (7.0/9 IP); 0.759 WHIP (seriously).

++++In fairness, spending his entire career with the mighty Yankees provided him with many more opportunities to shine than the closers for weaker teams. But he almost always came through.

++++Rochester baseball fans now can say their Red Wings were no-hit by the only player unanimously elected to Cooperstown: Columbus 5m, Rochester 0 (5 innings), June 26, 1995.


Baseball’s new Hall of Famers can select which team cap to have on their plaques. The choice is obvious more often than not. Not so easy for Mike Mussina:

Baltimore Orioles (selected 20th overall in 1990 amateur draft; 10 seasons with O’s – 147-81 record (.645); 3.53 ERA; 45 complete games; 15 shutouts; 2009 2/3 innings pitched; 1,895 hits allowed; 467 walks; 1,535 strikeouts; 1.175 WHIP (walks + hits allowed per inning; Cy Young Award finishes 4-4-5-5-6-2-6.

New York Yankees (signed as a free agent December 7, 2000; 8 seasons with Yankees) – 123-72 (.631); 3.88 ERA; 12 complete games; 8 shutouts; 1,553 innings  pitched; 1,565 hits allowed; 318 walks; 1,278 strikeouts; 1,212 W HIP.

He wasn’t an exceptional post-season pitcher for either team: 7-8 record; 3.42 ERA. He was an excellent fielder for both teams (seven Gold Gloves).

He pitched two seasons more and slightly better for Baltimore. His only 20-game season was in 2008 – his final season with the Yankees.

The Hall of Fame has the final say on the team on the plaque cap. In this tight case, Mussina likely will make the decision. I hope he picks the Orioles.


Like many Buffalo Bills fans, I used to hate Tom Brady the football player. He beat the Bills way too often.

Now he’s my NFL G.O.A.T. quarterback. If you can’t beat him, admire him.

I wonder how many NFL fans share my opinion – in western New York and everywhere else.

I get it, Joe Montana fans. Your hero was 4-0 in Super Bowls and near flawless in the process. He also was playing on a great team.

Two reasons Brady is my G.O.A.T. quarterback: I think a 5-3 record in Super Bowls is close enough to Montana’s 4-0, and Brady’s Patriots teams for the most part weren’t as strong as Montana’s 49ers.

A 6-3 record sounds and looks much better than 5-4. That’s what Brady will be facing February 3 in Super Bowl 53. I’m pretty sure he’s aware of that.

The Patriots are early 2 ½-point favorites to beat the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 53. Here’s how the Patriots have fared in the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady Dynasty:

XXXVI (36) – Won 20-17 as a 17-point underdog to the St. Louis Rams

XXXVIII (38) – Won 32-29 as a 7-point favorite over Carolina

XXXIX (39) – Won 24-21as a 7-point favorite over Philadelphia

XLII (42) – Lost 17-14 to 12-point underdog New York Giants

XLVI (46) – Lost 21-17 to 2 1/2point underdog New York Giants

XLIX (49) – Won 28-24 as a 1-pont underdog to Seattle

LI (51) – Won 34-28 over 3-point underdog Atlanta

LIII  (52) – Lost to 41-33 to 4 ½-point underdog Philadelphia 41-33 (+4 ½).


The 2019 American League East pennant race figures to be a season-long dandy between the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

Both reams have potent lineups. The Yankees have the edge in power. The Red Sox will likely hit for a higher average.

Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski last week said he doesn’t expect to spend a fortune on a closer. Former closer Craig Kimbrel is a free agent and apparently out of Boston’s plans.

Boston manager Alex Cora said, “The Yankees have a great bullpen but we have a great rotation. It balances out.”

Does it really?

Starting rotations

Red Sox – Chris Sale...David Price...Rick Porcello...Nathan Eovaldi...Eduardo Rodgriguez.

Yankees – Luis Severino...James Paxton...Masahiro Tanaka...J.A. Happ...CC Sabathia or maybe Jordan Montgomery...I believe trading disappointing Sonny Gray while retaining Sabathia was a poor decision. I  think Gray could’ve been a 13-10 type starter for this stacked team. I don’t think Sabathia can be a plus-.500 pitcher even if he stays healthy.

Relief pitchers

Red Sox – Matt Barnes...Tyler Thornburg...Brandon Workman...Heath Hembree...Brian Johnson...closer Ryan Brasier. Are Cora and Dombrowski overrating this relief crew? I think so.

Yankees – Dellin Betances...Zack Britton...Chad Green...Jonathan Holder...Tommy Kahnle...closer Aroldis Chapman. I believe Chad Green is the wild card. If Sabathia falters, Green could be a very effective fifth starter and be the difference in a tight race with Boston.


The Rochester Knighthawks are 1-3 early in this National; Lacrosse League 18-game season.

The top four teams in the six-team Eastern Conference will qualify for the playoffs.

Right now, four teams in the East are looking stronger than Rochester – Toronto (4-1), Buffalo (4-1), New England (3-1) and Georgia (4-2). That’s not good.

Fortunately, the East expansion Philadelphia Wings are 0-5. The West expansion San Diego Seals are 4-2.

The glaring weakness for Rochester is scoring. The Knighthawks are averaging a NLL-fewest 8.5 goals per game. Toss in an aging defense and the defection of star goaltender Matt Vinc to Buffalo and prospects to close fast seem less likely this season.

The Knighthawks are home Saturday, 8 p.m., against the Buffalo Bandits. They’ll play at Philadelphia Friday, February 1 and home against the Georgia Swarm Saturday, February 2.

NLL notes: The league average team scoring is 11.69 goals per game; home teams are 16-12;


The Rochester Americans play home games Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. against the Binghamton Devils Wednesday night At Blue Cross Arena and host the Utica Comets Friday, 7:05 p.m. They’ll play at the Syracuse Crunch Saturday night.

The Amerks continue to play much better at home than on the road:

Home – 21 games, 12-9-0-0 (24 of 42 possible points in the standings); outscoring opponents 66-65 (+1).

Road – 19 games, 12-4-2-1 (27 of 38 possible points); outscoring opponents 64-53 (+11); former K-hawk Dan Dawson has 8 goals and 17 assists (25 points) in six games for San Diego; the Eastern Conference is 5-2 versus the West: Rochester 0-2 and the four other East teams 5-0).


Another reason Roger Goddell is a horrible NFL Commissioner? Days after arguably the worst officiating error in the history of pro sports. We haven’t heard a peep from him.

Isn’t this the most reasonable suggestion for overtime in NFL playoff games?” Each team gets the ball for one offensive possession. If tied, sudden death.

The crowd for Syracuse’s 74-63 win last Saturday over Pittsburgh was a credit to the team’s fans and probably a recruiting tool. Despite forecasts for a blizzard, the announced 24,466 was the largest on-campus crowd in all of college basketball this season.

Tiger Woods is the 10-to-1 favorite to win The Masters (April 11-14), according to odds posted by William Hill. The other favorites: Justin Rose 11-to-1, Rory McIlroy 12-to-1, Jordan Spieth 13-to=-1, Dustin Johnson 15-to-1, Justin Thomas 15-to-1, Rickie Fowler 15-to-1 and Brooks Koepka 15-to-1.

Before last Sunday, the home teams in the NFL Conference Finals the past five years were a combined 10-0 outright and 8-2 against the Las Vegas point spread. They were 0-2 SU and )-2 ATS this year.

CBS says last Sunday’s New England Patriots/Kansas City Chiefs AFC Championship game had 53.9 million viewers. That’s more three times as many viewers as the most-watched games in the NBA Finals and World Series last year.

Marc Berman of the New York Post believes the 1-2-3 picks in the 2019 NBA college draft will all be Duke freshmen: 1--Zion Williamson...2—Cam Reddish...3—R.J. Barrett.

“Many teams” reportedly are interested in suspended former Kansas City Chiefs star running back Kareem Hunt. I hope the Buffalo Bills are among them – and serious about it. I know many of you want nothing to do with him, even as a rooting interest.

Rochester native soccer superstar Abby Wambach’s second book will be available April 9. Wolfpack is “new rules for women to claim their individual power, unite their Pack, and take their lives, families, careers and world further than they could have imagined.”  Her first book, Forward, was her autobiography.

Abby will be glad to know that a female batter will appear solo on the wrapper for Big League Chew when the product reaches retailers February 1.

Tough to believe Carmelo Anthony hasn’t found another home in the NBA. He still can shoot and he’s be a gate attraction for a team lacking starpower.


Wednesday, January 23

J. T. Barrett 24...Addison Russell 25...Greg Oden 31...Jeff Samardzija 34...Erubiel Durazo 45...Tito Ortiz 44...Phil Dawson 44...Tomas Holmstrom 46...Tonya Harding 47...Kevin Mawae 48...Julie Foudy 48...Richard Schmelik 49...Mark Wohlers 49...Brendan Shanahan 50...Eric Metcalf 51... Savard 52...Quinton Dailey 58...Trey Junkin 58....J.F. Sauve 59...Pat Haden 66. Rachel Crow 21, Mariska Hargitay 55 and Chesley Sullenberger 68 are invited to the birthday party.

Thursday, January 24

Zack Kassian 28...Whit Merrifield 30...Brian Cushing 32...Scott Kazmir 35...Scott Speed 36...Tim Biakabutuka 45...Chris/Peter Ferraro 46...Joe Panos 48...Mary Lou Retton 51...Mark Schlereth 53...Esa Tikkanen 54...Rob Dibble 55...Bob Sweeney 55...Chris Chelios 57...Mark Duper 60...Mark Eaton 62...Rick Adduomo 64...Rick Bowness 64....Guy Charron 70. Alicia Keys 38, Tonya Crowe 48, Jenifer Lewis 62 and Neil Diamond 78 are invited to the birthday party.

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