Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Opining on the Bills QB woes, SU and the Big Ten and Robbie Cano

The most disappointing news from the Bills recent draft was that they really believe a quarterback will emerge from the trio of Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm.

I hope I'm wrong, but I just don't see it happening.

I much rather would have taken my chances on Jimmy Clausen or Colt McCoy - each of whom was available in the second round - than pin my hopes on two guys who have shown they are nothing more than backups (Edwards and Fitzpatrick) and another guy who was cut from the Green Bay Packers practice squad (Brohm).

New Bills coach Chan Gailey has a reputation for being an innovative offensive coach, but to turn one of these three into a playoff-caliber quarterback will require him to be a miracle worker.


There are strong rumors that Syracuse, Rutgers and Pitt are candidates to bolt the Big East for the Big Ten. I'd hate to see that happen because it would spell the end of the Big East. The football revenues the Cuse would accrue from joining the Big Ten would be an offer they couldn't refuse. And we all know that big-time college sports is all about money. I still wish Penn State, Pitt, Syracuse, Boston College, Rutgers and West Virginia would get together and form a true Big East football conference, but, sadly, that's not going to happen.


By the way, when is the Big Ten (which currently has 11 members) going to stop practicing its funny math. Heck, by the time the realignment is done, it could be the Big 20 or the Big 25. Yes, I know there's branding value to the name, but it no longer works.


I'm thinking this is the year Robinson Cano wins the American League batting title. I just love watching that guy hit. As is the case with Joe Mauer, he seems so relaxed at the plate and his swing is so effortless, with no wasted motion. He just drives the ball where it's pitched.


I'm happy to see former Rochester Red Wing Francisco Liriano off to a 3-0 start. He's still the best pitcher I've seen come through Rochester in my 26 years of covering the team, and it appears that he's back to the dominating form he showed before injuring his arm. I do worry, though, about him remaining healthy because he puts so much torque on his arm in order to deliver those nasty pitches.


Good thing the NHL-operated Phoenix Coyotes were eliminated last night. If they had continued on and won it all, commissioner Gary Bettman would have had to present the Stanley Cup to himself.


Bill Madden's new book, George Steinbrenner: The Last Lion in Baseball, reportedly claims that The Boss had an affair with Barbara Walters. I'll let you fill in the punchlines.


Don't know about you, but I was ready to toss a shoe at the television while listening to those arrogant cusses from Goldman Sachs tell us they had no regrets about knowingly screwing people and contributing to our economic turmoil. Ah, just another great day for the captains of industy and capitalism.


PERSONAL MATTERS: Sorry, if I sound a little like late Yankees announcer Phil Rizzuto here, but I want to pass along birthday greetings to two of my good friends, Frank Bilovsky and Matt Michael. Frank was my long-time colleague at the Democrat & Chronicle and remains not only a good buddy, but a great mentor. The guy is a walking encyclopedia and has a heart the size of old Veterans Stadium in Philly, where Frank's from. Matt was a long-time sportswriter for the Post-Standard in Syracuse, who, like moi, left the newspaper biz and is currently doing freelance writing. Like Frank, Matt is a class act, a kind-hearted soul who literally would give you the shirt off his back.

I'd also like to thank another class act, Joe Altobelli, for joining Jim Mandelaro and me at our booksigning Friday night. It was a rousing success as Alto entertained the crowd of about 30 with tales from his nearly six-decades in professional baseball.

And, finally, congratulations to my Rome paisan, Joe Peluso, and his wife, Sherri, who celebrated their 25th anniversary yesterday. Salut!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spiller is a Thriller, but the Bills had so many other needs

A day later, I’m still having mixed emotions about the Bills surprising selection of C.J. Spiller with the 9th pick overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.

He’s unquestionably a dynamic performer, as evidenced by his 21 touchdowns of 50 yards or more at Clemson. And any guy who can traverse 40 yards in the blur of 4.32 seconds should be able to pump a little life into a moribund Bills offense that managed just 16 points per game last season.

But you already have a versatile running back in Fred Jackson on your roster and dire needs at a multitude of other positions – offensive line, quarterback, defensive line, linebacker to name a few - so I’m wondering if you really had the luxury to go in this direction.

I believe the Bills could have maximized the draft by trading down a few spots and picking up additional picks. A pass-rushing end/linebacker such as Jason Pierre-Paul (15th) or Derrick Morgan (16th) still would have been available. With Aaron Schobel’s future plans in doubt, they need to think about his replacement.

Perhaps, I’m wrong. Perhaps Spiller will be the second coming of O.J. and Thurman. Maybe I’m just gun shy because I saw too many of these luxury picks (Willis McGahee, Roscoe Parrish) go bust during the Tom Donahoe era. Time will tell if Buddy Nix hit a home run or whiffed.

* The biggest first day surprise was that Tim Tebow was drafted and Jimmy Clausen wasn’t. My sense is that unless they’re really playing possum, the Bills aren’t that high on Clausen. New Bills coach Chan Gailey likes mobile quarterbacks, and Clausen is more of a pocket passer. So, maybe Gailey and Nix have their sights set on Colt McCoy, who, as expected, dropped out of the first round. I’d be willing to take my chances on McCoy over the current sorry Bills QB triumvirate of Edwards, Fitzpatrick and Brohm. (Sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?)

Another huge need is nose tackle as Buffalo converts to a 3-4 defense. Dan Williams, the top nose in the draft, is gone, but the Bills might be interested in Alabama’s Terrence Cody, a 350-pounder whose nickname is Mt. Cody. And if they are looking to go with an offensive tackle with the 41st pick overall, they might look at Southern Cal’s Charles Brown. If they do, let’s just hope he plays more like Ruben Brown than Charley Brown.

* Well, it's official. I'm no longer the parent of teenagers. A Happy Birthday to my son, Christopher, who turned 20 on Thursday. Man, where did the time go?

* COMING ATTRACTIONS: Just a reminder, Jim Mandelaro and I will be giving a talk and signing copies of our new book, Silver Seasons and a New Frontier: The Story of the Rochester Red Wings, at the Greece Barnes & Noble, starting at 7 p.m. tonight. Rochester's Mr. Baseball, Joe Altobelli, will be joining us and will be signing books, so please stop by.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Plugging our new book, Silver Seasons

This is a shameless plug blog.

Friend and co-author Jim Mandelaro and I will be promoting our revised book, Silver Seasons and a New Frontier: The Story of the Rochester Red Wings on Bob Matthews' show on WHAM 1180-AM tonight from 7-8. Feel free to join in on the conversation by calling 222-1180, *1180 for Verizon subscribers or 1-800-295-1180 for callers outside the Rochester area.

Also, I did a taped interview with WHAM's Chet Walker that will air Friday morning at 7:18.

The book is available at your local Barnes & Noble, the Red Wings gift shop at Frontier Field, on and through our publisher, Syracuse University Press.

We have a talk and booksigning scheduled for Friday, April 23 at 7 p.m. at the Greece Barnes & Noble and Friday June 3 at 7 at the B&N in Webster.

We also plan to do a signing at Frontier Field before a Red Wings game.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Discussing Wes Johnson's departure, Mariano's wonder and Jim Nantz's attacks on Tiger

Some mock NBA drafts have Wes Johnson going as early as the third overall pick behind only Kentucky’s John Wall and Ohio State’s Evan Turner. Those projections are probably too high. I believe Wes will be selected somewhere between 6-10 overall and have a solid but not all-star caliber career in the NBA.

He is a go-with-the-flow-rather than a go-to player, who lacks both the talent and drive of a Carmelo Anthony. That’s not a knock. Heck, few have the talent and drive of Melo, who has the potential to become a Hall-of-Famer down the road. When all is said and done, I think Wes’ NBA career will be closer to those of former SU stars Billy Owens (11.3 points per game; 6.7 rebounds pg) and Louis Orr (9 ppg; 4 rpg.) than Melo’s.

• Two things about the incomparable Mariano Rivera continue to amaze: one, that he’s still getting guys out with basically one pitch – his cutter – and, two, that his 40-year-old arm is seemingly as elastic as a 30-year-old’s.

• Jim Nantz is a nice man and a solid announcer. But he always struck me more as a master-of-ceremonies than a journalist of the events he covers. So, it’s been somewhat surprising to see him do the talk-show circuit the past few days and criticize Tiger Woods’ profanity. I would have respected Nantz’ opinion more if he had taken on Woods’ lack of golf decorum before Tiger became a punch line. I don’t know where Jim has been, but Woods has always been profane on the course and within the ear-shot of impressionable young fans and television microphones. Heck, I took him to task for such behavior following his F-bomb filled first round at the 2003 PGA at Oak Hill.

• Another indication that a Tiger doesn’t change his stripes was evident during his post Master’s interview. You’d think that, given the circumstances surrounding Phil Mickelson and his wife and mother battling breast cancer, that Woods could have shown a little class and at least congratulated the winner and recognized the enormity of the moment. Instead, as usual, Woods was totally fixated on his narcissistic self.

GIVE US A CALL: Friend and co-author Jim Mandelaro and I will be talking about our revised book, Silver Seasons and a New Frontier: The Story of the Rochester Red Wings, on Bob Matthews’ radio show on WHAM 1180 AM Thursday evening from 7-8. Please give us a call at 222-1180, *1180 for Verizon subscribers or 1-800-295-1180. Also, my taped interview about the book with Chet Walker will air on WHAM Friday morning at 7:18.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Opining on Tiger, RIT hockey and the retirement of Rochester hoops coach Mike Neer

Got a kick out of Masters chairman Billy Payne giving Tiger Woods a lecture on morality Wednesday. Hmmm, if I’m not mistaken isn’t the Masters held at Augusta National, a country club that didn’t allow African-American members until about 20 years ago and still doesn’t allow female members? Given the restrictions of where this “tradition unlike any other’’ golf tournament is held, I think I’d leave the moralizing to someone else if I were Mr. Payne.

• Speaking of Tiger, I found his new Nike commercial a desperate attempt to clean up his image with the aid of his strongest sponsor and his deceased father. In the commercial we see the golfer with the serious sexual fidelity issues staring stoically into a camera while his dad, Earl Woods says: “To promote discussion, I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are. And did you learn anything?’’ The camera then zooms in on Tiger’s face as flash bulbs go off, apparently representing the media’s glare. I wish Tiger’s advisors would realize that there is no magic wan that will instantly make up for his transgressions. Contrition and trust are built over time. Stop with the feeble spin-doctoring attempts, play golf to the best of your ability, continue to receive counseling for your problems and attempt to make amends to your wife and your kids.

• These are the times when I miss being a sports columnist here in Rochester. You have the Rochester Institute of Technology hockey team gunning for a Division I national championship. You have the retirement of legendary University of Rochester basketball coach Mike Neer after 34 seasons and you have the Red Wings opening the International League baseball season. Lots of stuff to opine about.

Should RIT come home from the Frozen Four with a title it would rank as one of the top sports stories in Rochester history, right up there with the Ryder Cup, the Royals winning the NBA championship, Sammy Urzetta’s victory in the U.S. Amateur golf tournament and Abby Wambach scoring the gold-medal-winning goal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

Here’s hoping that regardless how the Tigers fare that the powers that be at RIT start raising funds for a much-larger ice rink to replace Ritter Arena (capacity 2,100). The time to strike is now, while the excitement is so high.
RIT’s exciting run reminds me of their last national hockey championship back in 1985. I was there in Schenectady when coach Bruce Delventhal guided the Tigers to a 5-1 win vs. Bemidji State. I’ll never forget captain Blaise MacDonald’s response when I asked him to sum up his feelings. He said: “I’m so excited I have goose bumps on my finger nails.’’ Great quote.
Coach Neer’s retirement signals the end of an era for the Yellowjackets. I was there, too, covering UR’s national basketball championship back in 1990 as Neer’s boys nipped DePauw University (alma mater of former vice president Dan Qualye), 43-42, in the lowest-scoring title game in DIII annals. Mike was always a classy guy to deal with and as his 563 victories attest, he knew hoops.
Oldtimers may remember that Neer was second choice for the Rochester job. The first choice was a guy from nearby Lyons by the name of Jim Boeheim. Jimmy B withdrew his name from consideration when his alma mater, Syracuse, finally woke up and promoted him to head coach after Roy Danforth left the Orange men. I’d say things worked out nicely for both coaches and their schools.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sorry, people. It was just an April Fool's joke.

OK, folks, it’s the day after April 1st, so it’s time for me to fess up. The blog I wrote – or should I say concocted – yesterday about me landing a job with the Yankees and Beth starting up a pet-sitting business in the Big Apple was an April Fool’s Day joke.

Yes, it has been a struggle since I left the newspaper business and, yes, the stuff about the four books I’m going to be publishing was true. But Beth and I aren’t going anywhere - though some of my friends and relatives might want to run me out of town after falling for my prank.

Even my son was duped. He actually called me from the University at Buffalo yesterday to congratulate me. And my college roommate also left me a message to tell me how happy he was for me before realizing he had been had. Several friends said they were disappointed – not that they had been fooled, but rather that they weren’t going to be able to hit me up for Yankee tickets.

One reader brought up the greatest sporting hoax of all – Sidd Finch. Some of you might remember that fictitious tale spun by George Plimpton in a cover story in the April 1, 1985 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine. The article told of a pitcher in the Mets organization who could throw the ball 168 mph and who had studied to be a yogi (no relation to Mr. Berra) in Tibet. SI included photographs of Finch conversing with then-Mets pitching coach Mel Stottlemeyre and outfielder Lenny Dykstra. Scores of readers fell for it hook, line and sinker. It wasn’t until two issues later that the magazine ran a story telling folks that it all was a ruse.

My friend and long-time newspaper colleague, John Moriello, works for, and he told me that Nike pulled a fast one yesterday that had him and other reputable reporters and editors scrambling. Nike boasted of discovering a junior college wide receiver who was 6-foot-7 and ran the 40-yard dash in a record 3.9 seconds. Only one problem with this unreal prospect. He was unreal, as in he didn’t exist. Needless to say, John and other reputable journalists were ticked at Nike.

When I was talking to my college roommate, Ed Shaw, last night, he told me how excited he was for me as he was reading yesterday’s blog, and how peeved he became when he discovered it wasn’t true. “Scott,’’ he admonished, “don’t do that again.’’

I promised him I wouldn't 364 out of 365 days of the year.

Thanks for going along with the gag, folks. You’re all good sports.

* I'd like to congratulate my good friend and vintage base ball teammate Max Robertson on his retirement from Greece Arcadia Middle School, where he was a long-time art teacher. As I told him the other day, the teaching profession has lost a great one, and I'm not "fooling" when I say that. Also, I'm happy to report that Max's better half, Kathy, is recuperating from her recent surgery and getting stronger every day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My kinda, sort of farewell blog

I won't lie to you. It's been a financial and emotional struggle since I left the newspaper business 15 months ago after a 35-year career as an ink-stained wretch.

There have been some triumphs - three books written that will be published this year with a fourth on the way next year - and a lot of deadends while trying to reinvent myself. There were times when my lovely bride, Beth, and I wondered if we would be able to keep our home.

But I've always been an eternal optimist and I felt if we kept plugging away that everything would work out.

Well, after many ups and downs, our ship has finally arrived and, fortunately, we weren't at the airport when it did.

I have landed a job as the new director of publications for the New York Yankees and Beth is going to start her own pet-sitting business in the Big Apple. I will be in charge of putting out the Yankees media guide and yearbook and coordinating their annual Oldtimers Day. Beth, meanwhile, will be spending plenty of time pampering the cats and dogs of the rich and famous.

The only sad part about this scenario is that we will have to leave behind family and friends and a community that has been so special to us.

But NYC is just a 5-hour car ride and 45-minute flight away, so we'll be back often.

I want to take this time to thank you readers for your wonderful support of my blog since we launched it roughly a year ago. And Beth wants to thank the legion of listeners who tuned into her morning show with Chet Walker these past 20 years. We're going to miss you.

If you are ever in the Big Apple, please look us up. You can find me at the Big Ballpark in the Bronx and Beth walking a gaggle of dogs along the streets of Manhattan.

Until we meet again . . . HAPPY APRIL FOOL'S DAY.