SUGGESTIONS TO THE BILLS TO UPGRADE A PUNY OFFENSE...
ADD FREE-AGENT TE JARED COOK AND TRADE FOR RB JORDAN HOWARD
The Buffalo Bills struck out in their bid to trade for diva wide receiver Antonio Brown. I give them credit for trying but now he’ll be Oakland’s headache.
Here’s my blueprint – offered free of charge – to significantly upgrade Buffalo’s offense:
1—Sign free-agent tight end Jared Cook. In a thin market for tight ends, he wouldn’t come cheap. He led the Raiders in catches last season (68 for 891 yards) and would be a huge improvement at the position for the Bills. He’ll turn 32 next month so a long-term deal would not be prudent, but he could be a major piece in helping Buffalo make the playoffs in the next year or two.
2 – Trade for Chicago running back Jordan Howard.He’s 24 years old and a durable and productive runner between the tackles. After a terrific rookie season in 2016 (rushed for 1,313 yards and 6 TDs; 5.2 yards per carry) and a solid 2017 season (rushed for 1,122 yards and 9 TDs; 4.1 yards per carry), he dropped to 935 yards and 3.2 yards per carry, with 9 rushing TDs last season. He’s available because first-year head coach Mike Nagy has opened up the team’s offense and Tarik Cohen is flashier and a better receiver. Would the Bears swap Howard for Buffalo’s No.75 overall pick? I’d at least ask.
3—Use draft picks and money under the cap for a few offensive linemen and maybe a promising tight end and wide receiver. According the spotrac, the Bills in cap allocation currently rank 32nd in the NFL in cap allocation on the offensive line and tight end, and 31st at wide receiver (above only Pittsburgh, after Antonio Brown was traded).Buffalo has third-most cap space ($70,634,877). Time to go on a spending spree?
Presto. A 9-7 record and a playoff berth?
WATCH OUT FOR THE MINNESOTA TWINS
Baseball America is touting the Minnesota Twins as “baseball’s sleeper team of 2019.”
I agree. In fact, I’m picking the Twins to win the American League Central.
Cleveland is nearly everyone’s pick to win the AL Central. The Indians might have the best starting pitching in the league and shortstop Francisco Lindor and 3B Jose Ramirezare terrific players, but I believeCleveland is overrated overall. The bullpen looks average and the outfield is below average. The Indians lost a lot of power with the departures of Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, Yonder Alonso, Yan Gomes and Michael Brantley.
Minnesota is loaded with young players with upsides – SS Jorge Polanco, 3B Miguel Sano and the promising outfield of Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler and a beefed-up Byron Buxton. The Twins added power in DH Nelson Cruz and 1B C.J. Cron. Versatile Marwin Gonzalez was an excellent free-agent signing.
Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson are solid 1-2 starting pitchers. Ex-Yankee Michael Pineda and Fernando Romero could be nice surprises. The underrated bullpen is loaded with live arms.
I also like the managerial switch from old-school Paul Molitor to high-energy rookie skipper Rocco Baldelli. Joe Mauer probably retired at the right time – and I really liked Mauer.
Other reasons to like the Twins are the rest of the division – the Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals. They’re lousy teams.
On paper, the AL Central is a two-team race. Cleveland deserves to be favored for a fourth straight division title, but don’t be surprised if the Twins collectively come of age and finish on top.
WILIN ROSARIO COULD BE A BIG HELP TO THE RED WINGS
The Minnesota Twins recently signed veteran Wilin Rosario, probably to add some punch to Rochester’s lineup. Last season’s Red Wings had a feeble offense – last in the 14-team International League in many categories, including batting average (.227) and runs, and 13th in home runs. They had the IL’s best earned-run average for the first time since 1976 but managed only a 64-76 record.
Rosario, 30, is listed at 5-foot-11, 220 pounds. He’s a right-handed batter from the Dominican Republic. He has some interesting footnotes:
In 2013, with the Colorado Rockies, he finished fourth for National League Rookie of the Year and led all NL catchers with 28 home runs. He batted .292 with 79 RBI.
In 2014, he batted .267 with 13 HRs and 54 RBI in 106 games. In 2015, he batted .268 with 6 HRs and 29 RBI in 87 games.
He led the NL in passed balls in 2013 and 2014 and the Rockies tried to convert him to first base in 2015. It didn’t work and he hasn’t been in the majors since.
Rosario made big money and put up big numbers in Korea with the Hanwha Eagles in 2016 (.321, 33 HRs, 120 RBI in 127 games) and 2017 (.337, 38 HRs, 116 RBI in 119 games). Last season, in Japan with the Hanshin Tigers, he hit .242 with 8 HRs and 40 RBI in 75 games.
He’s strictly a 1B/DH now. We’ll see how much he has left.
IMPROVING THEIR SHOOTING IS THE BEST HOPE FOR THE ORANGE
Syracuse’s men’s basketball team next plays Wednesday, 9:30 p.m., in the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament.
Sixth-seeded Syracuse (19-12 overall; 10-8 in the ACC) will play the winner of Tuesday’s Boston College/Pittsburgh game.
SU is coming off a disappointing 67-55 loss at Clemson last Saturday. The Orange led 31-24 at halftime but were mauled by the Tigers 43-24 in the second half.
The best hope for SU to survive for long in the ACC and NCAA tournaments is to shake a season-long shooting slump. These Orange have plenty of overall athleticism but they shoot poorly more often than not and lately have been wilting badly in the second half of games.
Here are SU’s rankings among the 351 NCAA Division I basketball teams:
Field-goal percentage – 42.2 (285th)
3-point FG percentage – 32.3 (287th)
Free-throw percentage – 68.3 (260th)
Scoring offense – 69.5 points per game (261st)
Scoring defense – 65.3 points allowed per game (39th)
Scoring margin per game -- +4.2 (111th)
Assist/turnover margin – minus-,98 per game (215th)
Turnover ratio per game -- +3.4 (24th)
Offensive rebounds per game – 10.77 (t116th)
Defensive rebounds per game – 24.23 (t262nd)
Rebound margin -- -2.2 per game (271st).
DAWSON BROTHERS COULD BE HEADED FOR THE NLL PLAYOFFS
The Rochester Knighthawks are 2-8 with 8 games remaining in this National Lacrosse League regular season and figure to be one of the 11-team leagues 3 teams that won’t make the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the expansion San Diego Seals won 13-10 at Colorado last Saturday night to boost their record to 6-4 and look like a cinch to make the playoffs. Former K-Hawks Dan Dawson and brother Paul Dawson are Seals now. Dan had 1 goal and 6 assists in the victory over the Mammoth. In 10 games this season, he has 12 goals and 29 assists.
The four NLL games last weekend had crowds of 15,951; 15.061; 10,805; and 10,674.
Visiting teams were 3-1 last weekend but home teams are 37-24 this season.
The Knighthawks were idle last weekend and are facing a tough challenge this week: home Friday versus the Georgia Swarm and Saturday at the Toronto Rock. Rochester is 2-2 at home and 0-6 (outscored 83-59) on the road.
Is Alex Rodriguez/Jennifer Lopez sort of like Joe DiMaggio/Marilyn Monroe Lite?
Babe Ruth’s adopted daughter, Julie Ruth Stevens, died Saturday morning at an assisted living facility in Henderson, Nevada. She was 102 years old. She was 12 in 1929 when Babe Ruth married her mother. Julie and Babe were very close and she said a trip to Japan with her parents was the best time of her life.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., baseball’s top prospect, will miss the start of this season with an oblique strain. He could be playing for the Buffalo Bisons against the Red Wings at Frontier Field May 21-22-23.
Here’s the updated list of draft picks for the AFC East teams in the NFL Draft: New England (11 picks) 32, 56, 64, 74, 98, 102, 135, 207, 241, 248, 254...Buffalo (10 picks) 9, 40, 75, 113, 132, 148, 159, 182, 227, 230...Miami (7 picks) 13, 48, 79, 117, 152, 190, 236...New York Jets (6 picks) 3-68-94-106-144-219.
Albert Pujols at age 39 has three seasons left on his 10-year, $240-million contract with the Los Angeles Angels. He needs 101 more total bases to pass Pete Rose for No. 8 on the all-time list. I assume he’ll make it.
The province of Canada is pushing to legalize single-game wagering on major-league sports throughout Canada.In a typical year at Nevada’s legal sports books, 90 percent of the money wagered is on single events. Woodbine outside Toronto is touting legalized sports betting as the potential savior for horse racing in Canada.
Greyhound racing in Florida will disappear by the end of 2020. It was on the ballot last November and 69 percent of the voters said nay.If you like greyhounds, and many owners say they make great pets, there should be plenty of them available soon. There currently are 17 active dog tracks in the United States, including 11 in Florida, where the sport was introduced in 1931.In the bad old days, some tracks dressed monkeys to ride the dogs. Too many monkeys were killed in action and that practice was scrapped.
Social note:Golf star Michelle Wie, 29, became engaged over the weekend to Golden State Warriors executive Jonnie West, a son of NBA great Jerry West.
Retired skier Lindsey Vonn will appear in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
HAPPY SPORTS BIRTHDAY TO...
Monday, March 11
Mikaela Shiffrin 24...Anthony Davis 26...Greg Olsen 34...Lee Evans 38...Dan Uggla 39...Elton Brand 40...Becky Hammon 42...Shaun Springs 44...Bobby Abreu 45...Martin Racinsky 48...John Fina 50...Bill Houlder 52...Cesar Geronimo 71.
Tuesday, March 12
Jerami Grant 25...Dont’a Hightower 29...Marvin Jones 29...Kevin Porter 33...Mikko Kolvu 36...J.P. Losman 38...Casey Mears 41...Raul Mondesi 48...Isaiah Rider 48...Rod Smith 49...Exa Walters 49...Steve Finley 54...ESPN’s Steve Levy 54...John Andretti 56...Darryl Strawberry 57...Dale Murphy 63...Mark Moseley 71...Bronco Horvath 89. Mitt Romney 72 and Liza Minnelli 73 are invited to the birthday party.
ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...
114 years ago (1905), the Ottawa Silver 7 beat Rat Portage Thistles 2 games to 1 for the Stanley Cup....36 years ago (1983), Scott Hamilton won the men’s world figure skating championship in Helsinki...33 years ago (1986), the NFL adopted instant replay...29 years ago (1990), UConn beat Syracuse 78-75 in the Big East men’s basketball tournament...13 years ago (2006), Syracuse beat Pittsburgh 65-61 in the Big East men’s basketball tournament.
116 years ago (1903), the New York Highlanders (Yankees) were approved as a member of the American League...53 years ago (1966), Bobby Hull scored his then NHL-record 51st goal of the season...Jockey Johnny Longden retired with 6,032 wins...30 years ago (1989), Georgetown beat Syracuse 88-79 in the Big East basketball tournament.