Friday, November 26, 2010

Opining on Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jeter and Syracuse football & hoops

I like what I’m seeing from Ryan Fitzpatrick, but I still would like to let these final six games play out before I make any decisions about his future and whether I should take a quarterback in next April’s draft. Should Fitz engineer an upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday at the Ralph, his stock clearly will take another huge jump. Let’s say the Bills win Sunday and wind up with six wins. I would consider going with Fitz as my starter the next few seasons and look at drafting a legitimate pass-rusher.
I’m the type of person who would rather root for my team instead of against someone else’s, but I must admit I’m enjoying the struggles of MeBron James and the Miami Frigid. The best team money couldn’t buy has lost three straight and is now 8-6. Project that over 82 games, and you get a 44-38 record, which would be a three-game decline from Miami’s record last year with the alleged King.
I said all along I would be satisfied to see the Syracuse football team play in the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl Game at the new Yankee Stadium on Dec. 30, and it appears it might play out that way. We’ll know more once the Big East teams finish their league schedules this weekend. This would give Doug Marrone an even stronger foothold in the New Jersey and Long Island recruiting hotbeds. A game there clearly would have special meaning for the Bron-born Marrone, whose grandfather was an usher at the House That Ruth Built.
I still believe this Syracuse basketball team will be very good, but they aren’t that good right now, despite a 4-0 record and a much-too-high No. 9 ranking in the national polls. They’re playing extremely uptight and shooting way too many bricks. As I wrote in my column for Channel 8 (, this weekend’s road trip might do them good.
As someone who’s covered his share of contract negotiations I’ve never liked it when it’s conducted in the media. Sadly, that’s the approach Derek Jeter’s agent decided to take and, with Brian Cashman firing back that Jeets is free to test the market, things have gotten ugly. I love the Yankees shortstop – he’s been a great clutch performer and a credit to the game – but his massive ego is getting in the way. The ridiculous long-term contract George Steinbrenner gave A-Rod is definitely coming into play here. Jeter wants something in the same ballpark and that has put the Bronx Bombers in a tough spot.
You can check out my lovely wife, Beth, in the latest issue of Rochester Woman Magazine. It deals with local morning radio and television show hosts. I know I’m biased, but I think the issue would have been better had my bride been included on the cover as she was in the past.
Tis the season to . . . sign books.
I have eight signings scheduled for this holiday season, so if you are looking for some great stocking gifts come on by and grab one of several sports books I have available.
Here’s my sked:
Saturday, November 26 – LiftBridge Book Store, Brockport, 2-4
Sunday, November 27 – Ralph Wilson Field House, 10-noon (before Steelers game)
Saturday, December 4 – Greece Barnes & Noble, 2-4
Saturday, December 11 – Webster Barnes & Noble, 2-4
Sunday, December 12 – Ralph Wilson Field House, 10-noon (before Browns game)
Tuesday, December 14 – Ralph Wilson Stadium gift shop, Orchard Park, 6-7
Saturday, December 18 – Pittsford Barnes & Noble, 2-4
Saturday, December 18 – Bills Store, Eastview Mall, 6-8

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Opining on Jeter, T.O. and 'Cuse hoops

The public posturing between the Yankees and Derek Jeter over his contract extension has heated up. But don’t worry. A deal will get done because this guy is the face of the Bronx Bombers – a modern-day Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio – and Hal and Hank Steinbrenner and crew wouldn’t want to face the public backlash that would ensue if they ushered him out of the Big Apple.
Still, it’s interesting to hear that Jetes reportedly turned down a three-year, $63-million offer because he wants a four-, five-, even six-year deal. There’s one opponent that no athlete can ever defeat, and that’s Father Time. And if last year’s dramatic dropoff in batting average (44 points below his career average) and fielding range (forget the Gold Glove; that’s an award based more on politics than fact) is any indication, the 37-year-old shortstop has begun the inevitable decline faced by most ballplayers his age. (Particularly ones who don’t use performance-enhancing drugs.)
I know Jeter is an incredibly prideful guy – it’s part of what has made him great for so long – but he can’t possibly think he will be able to continue playing shortstop for three more seasons without hurting his team. And I can’t see him hanging on the way Mantle did, and watch his career batting average plummet.
The other signing dilemma facing the Steinbrenner boys involves the other legend of the most recent Yankee dynasty – Mariano Rivera. Mo will be 42 next season, and he, too, began to show signs of mortality this year. I think the Yankees should structure contracts where both of these legends are given salary thank you’s for all they’ve done for the franchise – kind of like an Academy Award for lifetime achievement, if you will.
It would be terrible to see either end his career in anything but Yankee pinstripes. And I really don’t believe that’s going to happen – but this is a new regime. And the Steinbrenner boys, unlike their dad, can be penny-pinchers.


Terrell Owens clearly is having a very good season for the Cincinnati Bengals, with 59 receptions for 834 yards and 7 TDs.
But despite the gaudy stats, the Bengals have been major underachievers teams with a 2-7 record. Some Bills fans still think Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey should have re-signed T.O.
I disagree.
Had the 36-year-old returned to Buffalo, it would have retarded the growth of Stevie Johnson, a 24-year-old who has emerged quite nicely as the Bills No. 2 target with 44 receptions, 591 yards and 6 TDs. Yes, T.O. would have been entertaining, but the Bills needed to clean house and start rebuilding this leaky ship with young players who will be here for years to come.


I'm 7-2 in my Bills predictions this season. That said, I like the Bengals to win this week, 27-20 with Owens scoring at least once.


The biggest disappointment for the Syracuse basketball team so far has been the play of Kris Joseph. He emerged as the Sixth Man of the Year last season, and expectations were great for him to fill the sizeable role left by Wesley Johnson. I think Joseph is just pressing too much and will be fine once he learns to relax. For a more thorough take on the Orangemen, please check out my weekly ‘Cuse basketball column at

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pontificating on the NFL blackout rule, "MeBron" James and Syracuse hoops, among other things

I’ve written this before and I’ll write it again, I don’t like the NFL blackout rule. We New York State taxpayers shelled out more than $70 mil to renovate Ralph Wilson Stadium through the years – can you say corporate welfare – and just because the Bills only sold 60,000 tickets for this week’s home game against the Detroit Lions instead of 70,000, the game is not going to be shown on local television. It’s time for some ambitious politician to stick up for the taxpayers and make Congress take a hard look at this rule.
Hey, did you hear the big news? Brett Favre announced that he is retiring after this season. What’s that? Oh, yeah, you’re right. He’s already done this about eight or nine times in the past three years.
I love the new nickname for LeBron James. Critics are now calling him “MeBron.”
Those folks in MeBron’s home state of Ohio got to be loving the Miami Heat’s 5-4 start. And, not surprisingly, MeBron has started questioning his coach’s strategy of playing him and Dwayne Wade too long. This keeps up and the Heat will become a bigger soap opera than the Minnesota Vikings.
Syracuse University basketball opens tonight in the Dome against Northern Iowa, which, like the Orange, was a Sweet 16 participate last season. I think this team is going to be tremendously good and entertaining. I’m really looking forward to center Fab Melo swatting away shots in the back line of that 2-3 zone.

Thanks to WROC-TV sports director John Kucko for asking me to write a weekly column on SU hoops to go along with my one on the Bills. You can check both out at
I was disappointed the Orange football team didn’t secure a bowl berth last week and if they don’t take care of business this week on the road at Rutgers, things could get dicey because their remaining two opponents – Connecticut and Boston College – have been playing better as of late.
I think it’s great news that RIT is going to build a new 4,000-6,000-seat hockey arena on campus. That’s the perfect size to maintain the great atmosphere they’ve had at Ritter Arena, which can hold about 2,100.
I read where Shawne Merriman has mentored Aaron Maybin in the past. Now, that Shawne hurt himself about 30 minutes into his first Bills practice, he’ll have the opportunity to spend even more time with the former first-round draft pick on Buffalo’s inactive list.
I know I shouldn’t do this after being burned twice already, but I’m going to pick the Bills to end their winless streak against the Lions in what is being hyped as “the Futility Bowl.” Buffalo 23, Detroit 16.
I’ve long maintained that baseball’s Gold Glove Awards are the most meaningless in sports, only slightly more politicized and irrelevant than making the NFL Pro Bowl. And that was underscored again this week when Derek Jeter – whom I respect tremendously – was awarded another Gold Glove for his play at shortstop. He’s certainly not the best fielding shortstop in the American League and he might not even be the best fielding shortstop on his own team.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Here's a change: Syracuse football team must guard against overconfidence

I’ll be heading to the Carrier Dome Saturday to see if Syracuse can end its six-year bowl drought with a victory against Louisville. The situation is clear cut: Win and you’re in.

A victory obviously would be another huge step for coach Doug Marrone, who is resuscitating this moribund program much more quickly than anyone expected. The biggest opponent for the Orange men in this game might just be themselves. At 6-2 and with four games remaining, they need just one victory. They will have to guard against overconfidence because, quite frankly, despite the great strides they’ve taken, they’re still a team that isn’t talented enough to just show up and win. The final four games are all winnable and all losable.


Syracuse’s surprising start – which includes impressive road wins at South Florida, West Virginia and Cincinnati – apparently is having a positive impact on recruiting. Marrone is in the running for defensive end Ishaq Williams, the top high school prospect in New York State. Now, before you snicker about the poor caliber of play in the Empire State, consider this: The prospect from New York City is rated as the seventh best defensive end in the country by and the major schools recruiting him are Alabama, USC, Penn State and Notre Dame.

SU has an in with Williams because both of his parents are Syracuse alums. But if the Orange men were still wallowing in mediocrity, they wouldn’t even be in the conversation.

This would be, by far, the biggest recruit Marrone will have landed. Williams is scheduled to make his visit to the SU campus on Dec. 11 and make a decision in early January. Stay tuned.


I’m all for the Bills taking a chance on released San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman. It’s a low-risk, high-reward deal and even if he is only 75 percent the player he was a few years ago before he suffered a spate of injuries, he’ll still be an improvement over the linebackers and pass-rushers the Bills currently have.


Kudos to the New York Mets for reducing their ticket prices by 14 percent for the 2011 season. As noted in a column a few weeks back, I called for the Buffalo Bills to reduce their prices as a show of good faith for their fans incredible patience. I hope the Mets become trend-setters in this area. Of course, this might require the players to take pay cuts and that’s about as likely to happen as elephants flying.


Today’s stupidity in sports award goes to Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics. One of the NBA’s most infamous trash talkers, Garnett reportedly called Detroit’s Charlie Villanueva “a cancer patient” during Tuesday night’s game.

Villanueva suffers from alopecia universalis, a medical condition that results in hair loss. He does not have any hair on his head.

Garnett denied the allegations before last night’s game, saying in a statement: “I am aware there was a major miscommunication regarding something I said on the court last night. My comment to Charlie Villanueva was in fact: You are cancerous to your team and our league. I would never be insensitive to the brave struggle that cancer patients endure. I have lost loved ones to this deadly disease and have a family member currently undergoing treatment. I would never say anything distasteful. The game of life is bigger than the game of basketball.”

The spin doctors who wrote that statement for him should realize that even saying someone is “cancerous to your team and out league” is quite insensitive and distasteful. But it’s a distasteful comment, sadly, that many in sports make without thinking twice about it.


Finally, if you’d like to meet two World Series champions and two of the classiest people in Rochester sports history, head to The Webster Columbus Center (a k a The Knights of Columbus) at 70 Barrett Dr. in Webster Sunday for the monthly CollectorFest hosted by Ernest Orlando. Former champs Johnny Antonelli (pitcher, 1954 New York Giants) and Joe Altobelli (manager, 1983 Baltimore Orioles) will be signing from 1-2:30.

The show, featuring several local sports memorabilia dealers, runs from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is free, while autographs are $5 apiece, with all proceeds going to The Wilmot Cancer Center.

Orlando, a Rochester elementary school teacher, has been running these monthly shows for the past decade. He does a great job.