It must be the nice weather. Either that, or the typical lull after a Bills draft. Anyway, the traffic has been light. Not even the usual junk mail from people telling me I should retire. I miss you guys.
Well, I can always ask myself a question. Here’s a good one: What was the more impressive baseball feat on Wednesday: Washington’s Max Scherzer striking out 20 batters against the Tigers, or Noah Syndergaard hitting two homers and hurling the Mets to victory over the Dodgers?
I have to go with Scherzer. He’s only the fourth man to strike out 20 in nine innings, and the first since Randy Johnson did it in for Arizona in 2001. Roger Clemens did it twice, in 1986 and 1996. Kerry Wood did it in 1998.
Syndergaard was the first hurler to go yard twice in one game since Micah Owings in 2007. But a pitcher hitting two homers is a more common feat. Dontrelle Willis did it in 2006. Wes Ferrell did it four times.
But the greatest game ever by a pitcher was on June 23, 1971, when Rick Wise hit two homers and threw a no-hitter for the Phillies against the Reds. And to think, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and George Foster were in Cincinnati’s lineup.
Some stray bits of mail:
@Tsauce88 asks: How far under the cap are the Bills? Are any of the draftees signed yet? Do we have the cap space to sign Stephon Gilmore and Tyrod Taylor to deals?
Sully: The Bills have about $14 million in cap space this season after trimming the roster and amortizing a sizable chunk of Cordy Glenn’s contract extension. Some $5 million of that will be used to pay their remaining draft choices.
They signed both sixth-rounders – cornerback Kevon Seymour and wideout Kolby Listenbee – over the last two days, presumably at the updated rookie salary minimum of $450,000. Shaq Lawson, the 19th overall pick, should get a rookie deal that averages in the neighborhood of $2.6 million a year.
The Bills could conceivably sign both Gilmore and Taylor before the season, pushing a lot of bonus forward as they did with Glenn, but it’s highly unlikely. Their first priority is Gilmore, who has a $11.08 million cap hit this season. But he’s looking for a bigger number than they’re willing to pay.
They have a similar problem with Taylor, whose agent thinks he’s worth elite quarterback money based on one season. The Bills want to see more before shelling out $18 million a season – which will go higher if Taylor builds on his promising 2015 season and leads them to the playoffs.
The money is there to extend Gilmore before this season, but I won’t be surprised if both play out their contracts. The chance of both signing new deals before the opener is remote.
@dcgena asks: Is PED usage in the NFL as scrupulously monitored as it now appears to be in MLB? For some reason, I have doubts.
Sully: Your doubts are well-founded, especially with baseball cracking down on performance-enhancing drugs with uncommon vigor.
Nine players have been suspended this year as part of the Major League drug policy, which was ratified by MLB and the players union in the wake of the 2013 Biogenesis scandal. The union agreed to increased testing and a tough 80-game ban for a first-time offender.
The big reason for the jump in suspensions was a doubling of the number of off-season tests and a similar increase in random urine tests during the season. No drug policy is perfect, and players will always search for ways to beat the system. But baseball clearly felt it needed to take drastic measures to address its reputation as a sport of cheaters.
The NFL hasn’t been nearly as vigilant. Two years ago, the league responded to public pressure (including a letter from Sen. John McCain) to test for human growth hormone. The new drug agreement mandated random HGH testing that began in the 2014 season. But no player has tested positive for HGH.
Critics have called the HGH test a “IQ test,” because the league does not test on game days and it’s easy to beat the system. Fans don’t really care. Unlike baseball, there’s no great concern about PEDs compromising the sport’s integrity and time-honored statistics.
John Koerner asks: The topic of race in the NFL is difficult to discuss objectively. However, as an African-American general manager, does Doug Whaley feel an obligation to bring more black quarterbacks into the league? If Josh Johnson is still on the roster that now makes four. If so, this is an admirable goal.
Sully: Yes, it can be touchy, as I discovered at the Super Bowl when I asked Cam Newton if there was still a stereotype about black, mobile quarterbacks. I do think some of the old prejudice remains.
Whaley would tell you he doesn’t care about a player’s race, only that he can play. That’s true. But unlike some GMs, he won’t act on an inherent bias that says black QBs are less able to read defenses or be leaders.
That is laudable. But until Whaley finds the right franchise quarterback, I’ll continue to be skeptical, same as I was when previous GMs put too much faith in the likes of Rob Johnson, J.P. Losman and Trent Edwards.
By the way, Josh Johnson is no longer on the team. He was one of three black quarterbacks on the Bills’ 53-man roster at one point last season. I’m not sure how often that’s happened in the NFL.
The Jets had Geno Smith, Mike Vick and Tajh Boyd in 2014 training camp. But Boyd didn’t make the team. Seattle had five black QBs in camp that summer, including Tarvaris Jackson. They called themselves “The Jackson Five.” But only Russell Wilson and Jackson took a snap under center that year.
If anyone can find an example of three black quarterbacks playing for an NFL team in one season, let the Mailbag know.
@deadBuffalo asks: Five Sabres played in the World Championships. I think it says a lot. Positive. You?
Sully: It’s certainly an encouraging sign that five of their guys were at the Worlds (Hudson Fasching, Zemgus Girgensons, Jake McCabe, Ryan O’Reilly, Sam Reinhart). I’d be even more impressed if the event wasn’t contested at the same time as the Stanley Cup.
The Sabres have an impressive core of rising young talent, and more on the way, assuming they keep the eighth overall pick. But that guarantees nothing. Ten years ago, they had a talented core of players who couldn’t rise to the playoff pressure once Chris Drury and Daniel Briere left.
When the Sabres finally make it back to the postseason, we’ll find out how this new generation of young stars responds to the truly big stage.