Matthews: A-ROD Kept His MVP Awards, So Let Justify Keep His Triple Crown

A-ROD KEPT HIS MVP AWARDS, SO LET JUSTIFY KEEP HIS TRIPLE CROWN...

THE BILLS ARE THIS WEEK’S “BEST BET”...

HANDICAPPING THE MVP RACES

Champion racehorse Justify – winner of the 2018 Triple Crown – was back in the sports headlines Thursday and it wasn’t good news.

The New York Times broke the news that Justify tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug scopolamine after winning the Santa Anita Derby April 7, 2018.

This is significant because Justify’s victory in the Santa Anita Derby gave him the points required to be eligible for the Kentucky Derby.

Justify win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. He presumably was clean in those races.

Bob Baffert, Justify’s trainer, was informed of the positive drug test just nine days before the Kentucky Derby.He requested a second sample by an independent lab and it again tested positive. Those results came May 8 – three days after Justify won the Kentucky Derby.

The California Horse Racing Board Racing officials delayed making a ruling on the case, dismissed it in August and changed the penalty for a failed scopolamine test from a disqualification to a fine and a suspension.

Baffert denied having anything to do with drugging Justify.

Justify never ran again after the Belmont Stakes. He was retired with a perfect record – six starts and six wins by a combined 23 2/3 lengths. His stud fee is $150,000.

I hope no one tries to take away Justify’s Triple Crown – not that he’d mind. He’s happily making babies and enjoying life as much as a four-year-old horse possibly could.

He’s an innocent animal, not a cheating human athlete. A person poked him with a needle.

Justify apparently was drugged by a greedy trainer or stable worker. There is no reason to suspect that he needed any drugs to win last year’s Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes or the Belmont Stakes.

If chronic PED abuser Alex Rodriguez got to keep his American League Valuable Player awards, it seems crazy and unfair to suggest that Justify’s Triple Crown should be erased.

BOB’s WEEK 2 NFL “BEST BETS”:

Maybe I’m overestimating the Buffalo Bills and underestimating the New York Giants, but I believe the Bills are going to have fun Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium.

The Bills are better than the Giants on both sides of the football and they’re favored by only 1 ½ points. I’m assuming the defense can hold Saquon Barkley under 150 yards from scrimmage.

This week’s “Best Bet”: BUFFALO (-1 ½) 27, New York Giants 13.

Sunday’s other games

(home team in CAPS)

San Francisco (+1 ½) 24, CINCINNATI 17 –I have more faith in 49ers QB Jimmy Garaopollo than inconsistent Andy Dalton coming off a rare hot game. The 1 ½-point spot is a bonus.

Los Angeles Chargers (-2 ½) 30, DETROIT 15 – Why are the Chargers favored by only 2 ½ points? It looks too good to be true and you know what that usually means.

Minnesota 28 (+3), GREEN BAY 24 – Great matchup. I’m very impressed by the offensive potential of the Vikings.

TENNESSEE (-3) 28, Indianapolis 17 – The Luck-less Colts aren’t likely to outscore the Titans.

New England (-18 ½) 48, MIAMI 7 – It’s up to Bill Belichick to name the score in this varsity versus junior varsity matchup.

PITTSBURGH (-4) 28, Seattle 20 – The proud Steelers figure to bounce back from last week’s humiliating 33-3 road loss to the Patriots.

Dallas (-4 ½) 33, WASHINGTON 17 – The Cowboys have way too much firepower for the Redskins to handle.

BALTIMORE (-13 ½) 37, Arizona 20 – I’m sold on Ravens QB Lamar Jackson – for as long as he stays healthy.

HOUSTON (-8 ½) 31, Jacksonville 17 – An improved OL to protect Deshaun Watson makes the Texans a tough team to beat.

Kansas City (-8), 35, OAKLAND 21 – No Tyreek Hill, no problem. The Chiefs still have too many weapons for the Raiders to handle.

Chicago (-2 ½) 24, DENVER 13 – Can’t see the Bears starting 0-2. Joe Flacco are remarkably similar at this late stage of their careers. That’s not good.

New Orleans (+2) 33, LOS ANGELES RAMS 27 – The Saints make up for QB Brees losing some zip with an underrated defense.

Philadelphia (-1 ½) 24, ATLANTA 20 – I’m tired of backing the underachieving Falcons.

Monday night’s game

Cleveland (-6 ½) 35, NEW YORK Jets 13 – A lopsided home loss to Tennessee knocked the Browns back to earth and the absence of QB Sam Darnold all but eliminates an upset by the Jets.

Last week’s results: 11-4-1 picking winning teams outright...7-9 picking winners against the point spread...the “Best Bet’ is 1-0 after Kansas City, favored by 3 ½ points, beat Jacksonville 40-26.

HANDICAPPING MLB’s MOST VALUABLE PLAYER RACES

The MLB season ends Sunday, September 29 and the Most Valuable Player races in both leagues are too close to call.

Here’s how I see it (pitchers not included; they have their own award):

American League – My frontrunner might be a surprise. The New York Yankees have been ravaged by injuries all season. Newcomer DJ LeMahieu has been healthy and a steady contributor all the way. He’s challenging for the batting crown and plays all over the field. Other MVP candidates have better numbers but he’s tops in intangibles...Rafael Devers has MVP numbers (.314, 117 runs, 50 doubles, 4 triples, 29 HRs, 107 RBI, .927 OPS) but Boston’s disappointing record will cost him first-place votes...Houston is loaded and they’re going to split votes: Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, George Springer, Yuri Gurriel, and Jose Altuve...LA Angels superstar Mike Trout figures to be top-5 on every ballot and can’t be discounted in a wide-open race.

National League – My frontrunner is Freddie Freeman of Atlanta. He’s batting .305 and has 111 runs and a NL-most 117 RBI. He’s rock-solid defensively at first base. A second-half surge by teammate third Baseman Josh Donaldson the voters might cost Freeman some support and the voters might figure 21-year-old Ronald Acuna Jr., figures to win a few MVPs in the future...Washington third baseman Anthony Rendon (.333, 109 runs, 41 doubles, 3 triples, 32 HRs, 114 RBI; 1.037 POS) is right there...So is Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger. He’s cooled off lately but clearly was the league’s best player while the Dodgers were building an insurmountable lead in the NL West...Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich was at least as good this season as in his 2018 NL MVP season. His season-ending broken kneecap could cost him some votes...Rookie Pete Alonso of the Mets deserves to make the top 10 on every ballot...Javy Baez was the best Cub this season but a broken thumb knocked him out of the MVP race.

COLUMBUS CLIPPERS WIN GOVERNORS’ CUP FOR A RECORD 11th TIME

The Columbus Clippers entered Thursday night tied with the Rochester Red Wings with an International League-most 10 Governors’ Cup International League playoff championships.

Columbus is alone on top now after a 6-2 victory over the host Durham Bulls to sweep the best-of-five series 3-0.

The crowds for the three games were 8,276 and 8,467 for the first two games in Columbus and 2,990 for Thursday night’s game in Durham.

The most Governors’ Cups: Columbus 11...Rochester 10...Syracuse 8...Montreal 7...Buffalo 6...Durham 6.

SHAWN EVANS LEADS PETERBOROUGH TO THE MANN CUP

The Peterborough Lakers beat the host Victoria Shamrocks 7-5 Wednesday night to win the Mann Cup – Canada’s summer indoor lacrosse championship – 4 games to 1.

Peterborough’s Shawn Evans of the Rochester Knighthawks, the No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s National Lacrosse League expansion draft (from the Buffalo Bandits), led all scorers with 20 point (6 goals and 14 assists).

Former K-hawks favorite Jake Withers did his usual thing, winning 71 of 101 faceoffs for the Lakers.

SHORT SHOTS:

I don’t understand why so many NFL observers are knocking Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera for the final play of Thursday night’s 20-14 home loss to Tampa Bay. Christian McCaffrey was stopped on a sweep on fourth-and-one near the goal line.

Critics are saying 250-pound QB Cam Newton should’ve plowed in for the score. But this is not Cam Newton in his prime. It’s more like Fig Newton. McCaffrey is one of the NFL’s best running backs and it took an excellent defensive play to stop him. In my opinion, right play, bad result.

Xxxx After watching former Heisman Trophy winners Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston and Carolina’s Cam Newton face off Thursday night, all things considered – including age and potential -- I wouldn’t trade Buffalo Bills second-year quarterback even-up for either of them. Is that dumb or do you agree?

Xxxx Fans of British heavyweight Tyson Fury probably can enjoy their hero make short work of Otto Wallin Saturday night in Las Vegas (ESPN+ will carry the entire card from T-Mobile Arena).

This will be Fury’s third fight in the United States. He fought champion Deontay Wilder to a split draw in Los Angles in December 2018 and beat outclassed Tim Schwartz via second-round TKO in June.

Wallin is from Sweden and undefeated (20-0-0, 13 knockouts) but he hasn’t faced any elite opponents.He’s viewed by most boxing media as stepping stone for Fury (28-0, 20 KOs and one draw) in his expected rematch against Wilder.

The odds from Sportsbookreview.com: Fury bet $2,700 to win $100; Dallin 40-to-1; draw 14-to-1.

Xxxx The National League has a healthy 158-124 lead over the American League in interleague play this season. The NL East is 57-33 vs. the AL.

Xxxx Home Run Derby entering Friday: Yankees 280...Twins 279...Dodgers 259...Astros 255...Braves 234.

Leaders in runs: Yankees 864...Twins 846...Astros 841...Red Sox 823...Dodgers 806.

Xxxx Some games to look forward to for Rochester Knighthawks fans this National Lacrosse League season:

At Curt Styres’ Halifax Thunderbirds December 21...at Buffalo Bandits January 31...home vs. Halifax March 14...home vs. Halifax March 28...home vs. Buffalo April 11 and home vs. Buffalo April 25 (will Shawn Evans be a Knighthawk or a Bandit for those two games?).

HAPPY SPORTS BIRTHDAYS TO...

Friday, September 13

AJ McCarron 29...Baron Corbin 35...Nene’ Hilario 37...Daisuke Matsuzaka 39...Jose Theodore 43...Matt Patricia 45...Ted Drury 48...Richie Anderson 48...Bernie Williams 51...Brad Johnson 51...Michael Johnson 52...Bela Karolyi 77. Leli Reinhart 23, Fiona Apple 42, Tyler Perry 50, Travis Smiley 55 and Jacqueline Bisset 75 are invited to the birthday party.

Saturday, September 14

Deshaun Watson 24...Gary Harris 25...Jimmy Butler 30...Jonathon Simmons 30...Tony Finau 30...Michael Crabtree 32...David Desharnais 33...Frostee Rucker 36...Terrell Fletcher 46...Anthony Dorsett 46...Kurt Gouveia 55...Tom Kuvers 57...Tim Wallach 62...Larry Brown 79...Harry Sinden 87.

Sunday, September 15

Jaren Jackson 20...Josh Richardson 26...Dennis Schroder 26...Marshal Yanda 35...David Diehl 39...Mike Dunleavy Jr., 39...Patrick Marleau 40....Jason Terry 42...Will Shields 48...Dexter Carter 52...Sherman Douglas 53...Earnest Byner 57...Aubrey Matthews 57...Dan Marino 58...Joel Quinneville 61...LeRoy Irvin 62...Otis Wilson 62...Richard Brodeur 67...Peter Carroll 68...Suzyn Waldman 71...Jerry Korab 71...Gaylord Perry 81. Prince Harry 35, Tom Hardy 42 and Tommy Lee Jones 73 are invited to the birthday party.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

September 13

1883 (136 years ago), Hugh Daily, a one-armed pitcher for Cleveland, threw a no-hitter against Philadelphia.

1909 (110 years ago), Ty Cobb clinched the American League home-run crown with his ninth of the season; it was inside-the-park.

1934 (85 years ago), baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis sold World Series broadcast rights to Ford for $100,000.

1942 (77 years ago), Cubs shortstop Leonard Merullo made four errors in one inning.

1949 (70 years ago), the Ladies Pro Golf Association of America was formed in New York City.

1965 (54 years ago), Willie Mays hit his 500th career home run in San Francisco’s 11th straight win.

1981 (38 years ago), John McEnroe won his third straight U.S. Open singles title, beating Bjorn Borg 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 in Borg’s final Grand Slam match.

1991 (28 years ago), Joe Carter became the first MLB player to reach 100 RBI in three consecutive seasons; with Cleveland, San Diego and Toronto.

September 14

1923 (96 years ago), Jack Dempsey KOd Luis Firpo in 2 for the heavyweight boxing title.

1930 (89 years ago), the Detroit Lions, playing as the Portsmouth Spartans, won their first NFL game.

1968 (51 years ago), Jimmy Ellis beat Floyd Patterson in 15 for the heavyweight boxing title.

1987 (32 years ago), the Toronto Blue Jays hit 10 home runs against the Baltimore Orioles.

1994 (25 years ago), all 28 MLB team owners voted to cancel the rest of the season. There was no World Series.

2003 (16 years ago), Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis rushed for 295 yards on 30 carries in a 33-13 victory over Cleveland.

2009 (10 years ago), Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro won his first Grand Slam tilte; he beat Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 6-2 in the U.S. Open.

September 15

1945 (73 years ago), the Dodgers beat the Cubs 2-0 in five innings; the game was called because of gnats.

1953 (66 years ago), boxing adopted the 10-point-must-system.

1960 (59 years ago), Maurice “Rocket” Richard retired after scoring a then-record 544 goals for the Montreal Canadiens.

1961 (58 years ago), 21-year-old Jack Nicklaus won the 61st U.S. Golf Amateur Championship.

1975 (44 years ago), in the first college football Holy War, visiting Notre Dame beat Boston College 17-3.

1978 (41 years ago), the Los Angeles Dodgers became the first MLB team to draw 3 million fans in a season...Muhammad Ali beat Leon Spinks in 15 for the heavyweight boxing title.

1991 (28 years ago), San Diego State freshman Marshall Faulk set an NCAA record with 386 yards rushing in a game.

2004 years ago (15 years ago), NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced a lockout of the players and closed the NHL head office.

2018 (1 year ago), Russia’s Genaddy Golovkin lost his first pro fight in his 20th title defense; he lost the decision to Mexico’s Canelo Alvarez in the middleweight title fight in Las Vegas.

Bob Matthews' Column

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