Sportsbeat – 10/30/10

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson made a great impression on most of the media who covered his introductory press conference at Citi Field judging by the backpage headlines in the tabloids the following day.

Not surprisingly, the dailies ignored the question I posed to him to conclude the Q&A session. When asked about whether he was more concerned about long-term goals and that 2011 would be basically a caretaker year for him as the Mets bide time until the contracts of Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, Carlos Beltran and Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez expire, Alderson said that he expected the Mets to be competitive next year but added that the team would not be active in the free agent market this winter.

“Competitive” is as meaningless a baseball term as “organic” is for the produce business. More often than not when a baseball executive says that he expects his team to be competitive it means that if his players stay healthy, his team gets some unforeseen good breaks, and bad karma happens to other clubs in the same division, then his guys will win a few more games than what was predicted by naysayers. That’s the bull you have to feed to season ticketholders.

The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood (Harper) got a lot of buzz because author Jane Leavy revealed that Mantle was sexually abused as a little boy by Anna Bea, his babysitter. The truth of the matter is that The Last Boy is a must read because it is the definitive Mantle bio. She paints a rather sad picture of a man who clearly thought that he would not live past his fortieth birthday based on his family history. Mickey never seemed comfortable with fame and adulation. In fact being perceived as a role model was a liability with his favorite off-field activity of womanizing. Mantle is fortunate that he lived before the advent of the Internet; Tiger Woods and Brett Favre are choirboys compared to The Mick. To be fair, Leavy writes about the number of kind deeds Mantle did for strangers in the last decade of his life.

East Setauket native and Ward Melville High School alum Mick Foley has just penned his latest memoir, Countdown to Lockdown: A Hardcore Journal (Grand Central Publishing). Long considered one of the most cerebral wrestlers of all-time, Foley has been a constant presence on the New York Times best-selling book list.

As per his previous insider looks at the wrestling business, Foley Is Good and Have A Nice Day, Mick treats the reader with respect even at the risk of burning a few bridges. He details his ups-and-downs with Vince McMahon; claims that the tragic end of Chris Benoit may have been caused by factors other than “‘roid rage”; confesses that his old high school buddy, actor/comedian Kevin James was a better athlete than he was; as well as admitting to a serious crush on singer Tori Amos.

While the fate of the Knicks will hinge on the play of power forward Amar’e Stoudemire, keep an eye on guard Landry Fields. Fields has all of the attributes to be a big celebrity in the Big Apple. He is a Stanford grad; is blessed with matinee idol looks; and has the talent to be a big-name NBA player.

Maybe a new head coach and owner can make a difference after all as the New Jersey Nets won more games in October than they won in the first three months of the 2009-10 season.

While it is unlikely that they will pose a threat to the UConn Huskies, the St. John’s Red Storm women’s basketball team is ranked #5 in the Big East coaches’ preseason poll. Two Red Storm players, Da’Shena Stevens and Sky Lindsay, have business career aspirations. Stevens is an accounting major while Lindsay is studying finance and completed a Wall Street internship this past summer. Sky, who has both a great name and a megawatt smile, is minoring in public relations and wouldn’t mind a career in front of a television camera.

Baby boomers remember the opening scene of the iconic “Mary Tyler Moore Show” where Mary was washing her car outside her Minneapolis apartment wearing a Minnesota Vikings jersey. The NFL has long claimed that 40% of its fans are female and the league has just launched an NFL Women’s Apparel line that is being licensed to numerous clothing manufacturers. Not be outdone, Nike has just launched a high heel line of Air Jordan shoes that can be worn for all occasions.

The Biz Bash Expo held last week at the Javits Center is the annual gathering of entertainment and dining venues that compete for the corporate party business. It wasn’t so long ago that the conventional wisdom was that it was a dying sport. At Biz Bash, no fewer than four bowling emporiums were competing for the attention of event planners: 300 which has branches at Chelsea Piers and in Melville; Bowlmor which operates Strike in New Hyde Park as well as its flagship in Greenwich Village and is about to open a new alley in Times Square which will compete with Lucky Strike and Frames, the former Leisure Time that operates in the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Motor sports were also a big part of Biz Bash. Monticello Motor Sports, that also had a booth at September’s Luxury Brand Review at Manhattan’s Rouge Tomate Restaurant, allows you to live out your racing fantasies at its track in Sullivan County as you can tool around in a Ferrari.

The Islanders, despite the serious injuries to both Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo, got off to a better start than most expected. A recent home-and-home series of back-to-back losses to the Montreal Canadiens in which the Isles played hard and crisp but were beaten by superior talented team. The perennially goal scoring-challenged Islanders couldn’t put the puck past Habs’ backup goalie Alex Auld who hadn’t started a game in nine months to close out October at the Nassau Coliseum. This may be a harbinger.

If you are looking to get out of the area and are looking for inexpensive sports entertainment, the Trenton Devils, the NJ Devils’ ECHL affiliate, has a $49 four tickets, hot dogs and sodas package for its Sunday matinees.

It’s no secret that Atlantic City is hurting financially as gaming revenues have sharply declined due to increased competition from the Philadelphia Race Track/PARX Casino complex, the Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos, the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pa., and of course, the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway. AC could have an ace in the hole (besides its majestic boardwalk of course) in sports. While it is not the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight that boxing fans drool over, the November 20 bout between Sergio Martinez and Paul Williams at Boardwalk Hall is eagerly anticipated by even the jaded ring media. The following week, a college basketball tournament, the Legends Classic, will take place there. Finally, the New Jersey Devils’ two top farm teams, the Albany Devils of the AHL and the aforementioned Trenton Devils, will play some games at Boardwalk Hall.

Staying healthy as the colder weather arrives is never easy. Obviously it is a good idea for most of us to get a flu shot. There are a number of helpful consumer products as well. Honeywell’s inexpensive and compact Air Purifier helps keep homes dust and germ-free. Violight utilizes ultra-violet light technology to sanitize both toothbrushes with its Zappi and cell phones and Ipods with its newest UV product. Of course, even that classic remedy, chicken soup, has improved as Manischewitz has just launched a low-fat, reduced- salt line of broths.

I echo fellow NY Sportsday columnists Joe McDonald and Rich Mancuso’s tributes to the late Bill Shannon. Bill was more than an the Babe Ruth of official scorers and baseball historians. He was a true renaissance man with whom you could discuss any subject. Unlike many of his peers, Bill never believed in the pressbox caste system. He did not care if you wrote for the New York Times or Good Times. If you were a sportswriter then you had his respect and friendship. He will be missed more than words can describe.

Posted under Adulation, Advent Of The Internet, Bad Karma, Brett Favre, Caretaker, Carlos Beltran, Dailies, Fortieth Birthday, Free Agent Market, Jane Leavy, Kind Deeds, Lloyd Carroll, Luis Castillo, Mickey Mantle, Naysayers, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Rod Rodriguez, Sandy Alderson, Term Goals, Tiger Woods, Top Story, Truth Of The Matter

This post was written by Lloyd Carroll on October 30, 2010

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This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 30, 2010

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Alderson Introduced As New Mets GM

Sandy Alderson had an auspicious debut as the new General Manager of the New York Mets Friday afternoon at Citi Field. There was the presence of a baseball veteran, knowledge and experience that obviously made an impression to Mets ownership during the interview process.

And, Alderson, 62, who at one time built the Oakland Athletics teams that played in three consecutive World Series  from 1988-1990, and won the championship in 1989, may be what the Mets need. The immediate impact to slowly begin the process of getting the Mets back to playing baseball in October, though that may take some time.

Alderson is not a new kid on the block and has his own style. That was addressed when the question was asked about how his style would be different from his predecessor Omar Minaya.  “One of the things I like about a job like this is you have to act,” said Alderson.

And act he will. With financial flexibility, to make the Mets a contender again and not being the second team in town to the New York Yankees. Though during the course of his introduction to New York, there was no mention of the cross-town Yankees. Just a commitment to be in the free agent market every year, and not immediately in 2011

He stressed more than once about the job being fun, that baseball was entertainment, and not like Minaya, constantly talked about his job being, a  collaborative effort with ownership, the players and scouting departments.

“All the elements are here, a great area to be, and great fans,” said Alderson about why he took on the opportunity of a four-year contract through 2014 with a club option for 2015.

There is a lot of work to be done from financial flexibility, player personnel, to the hiring of a new manager. There are some candidates to succeed Jerry Manuel that Alderson has in mind. But the managerial situation will begin in a few days so Alderson can have one in place for the upcoming GM and winter meetings that plans a process for the upcoming season.

There is optimism at Citi Field as a new regime takes over. And that word of Collaboration that was so often mentioned will begin in the front office. Alderson saw that happen in his four years as CEO of the San Diego Padres where he led them to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2005 and 2006 and recently working as a special consultant to the Commissioner of Baseball for Latin America.

Alderson, the 13th GM in franchise history reminds many of Frank Cashen, the Mets Hall of Fame inductee who reshaped the organization and built a championship team in 1986. On Friday that renewed spirit of seeing those days again in Flushing Queens came when Alderson spoke.

But every Mets fan knows hope has always been eternal. Since the Cashen years there have been three close opportunities at bringing the prized trophy home. More so, a 2000 Subway World Series loss to the Yankees when Steve Phillips was the GM, and the 2006 NLCS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals under Minaya, a series that every Mets fan refuses to forget.

Will Alderson succeed in what Omar Minaya could not do the past few years?  “There is hope now,” said longtime Mets season ticket holder Eddie Lopez who sat at a table in back of the Caesars Club. “Minaya was around to long and he (Alderson) brings something to the table,” he said.

Lopez was one of the many season ticket holders that were invited to the welcome party because the Mets fan base is so important. The new ballpark, the fans, something also that Alderson reiterated in his remarks that was another reason why he took the job.

“Getting back to being a general manager was something I wanted to do under the right circumstances,” he said.  So whatever Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon said to Alderson during the interview process had to be the right circumstance.

It did not work under Minaya, even though he had the liberty to spend money. But you get the feeling there will be no favoritism played, no favors granted to player agents that Minaya had close ties with. The roster comprised from trades and a restructured scouting department that brings in homegrown talent.

Will there be an immediate turnaround?  It will be difficult turning it around in 2011 because the Mets are committed to $130 million in payroll.  Alderson won’t have the liberty to spend but plenty of roster decisions to address. Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, who get some of that payroll, and what to do with the bad image and contract of closer Francisco Rodriquez who was recently reactivated.

Alderson is just settling in. He would not provide much as to who or what for 2011, again hiring a manager he can work with is the first priority. But what every Mets fan wants to know, are our troubles and agonizing days of losing coming to an end?

Time will tell as there is hope. Jeff and Fred Wilpon did not have that concerned look, like they did a day after the season ended three weeks ago when they relieved Minaya and did not bring Manuel back.

This time the Mets hierarchy got it right bringing Alderson to New York.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Auspicious Debut, Club Option, Collaborative Effort, Consecutive World Series, Contender, Cross Town, Financial Flexibility, Free Agent Market, Friday Afternoon, Kid On The Block, Mets Gm, New Kid On The Block, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Omar Minaya, Predecessor, Sandy Alderson, Top Story, Winter Meetings, World Series

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on October 30, 2010

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This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 30, 2010

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This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 30, 2010

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Alderson Immediately Changes The Mets Culture

Don’t get your hopes up for Cliff Lee, Met fans. It’s not going to happen. Nor will the Mets have a free spending off-season, like they did under Omar Minaya.

Rather look for some smart bargain basement moves where new general manager Sandy Alderson will utilize some of his statistical analysis to fill the holes on the roster.

“Will we be in the market this year aggressively? Unlikely,” Alderson said.

Added COO Jeff Wilpon, “We have to have some more conversation with him, but I assume we’re close to the maximum. And I don’t think he would recommend, and hasn’t recommended, going above that right now.”

Alderson’s biggest signings may come in the front office. No matter who the field manager will be, if the new GM can be reunited Paul DePodesta to run the statistical analysis department and J.P. Ricciardi to helm the player personnel area – two executives reportedly on his list – then the Mets may be on their way to contending in 2011.

Not a fan of using his prospects for chips, Alderson is willing to explore trading any and all veterans – including Jose Reyes and David Wright – if the price is right.

“I think we’re going to be busy, but that’s first and maybe ultimately only to assess the market,” Alderson said. “We don’t really know what’s out there. We need to be actively engaged in finding out what’s available to us, who has interest in some of our players, and just assess things as we develop more information. But right now it would be hard to say how active we’re going to be in actual transactions. But we’re going to be out there fishing.”

High on-base percentage players will be a key for Alderson. The use of stats will be a new concept in Queens, something Minaya would never consider, relying more on the scouts.

He will also try to shed the dead weight in on the roster. Of course, he’s not going to outright say he will release Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, you can bet their days are numbered. Fred and Jeff Wilpon even said they would have released them last season, if Minaya broached the subject, but never did.

“And, by the way, there may other ‘hits’ that he comes up with — not only the obvious ones,” Fred Wilpon said.

Then there’s the manager, who will be hired in the next 30 days. Both Wilpons said the subject of a high paid manager never came up in conversations, so that should take Joe Torre and Bobby Valentine off the list, but Alderson said he likes a high spirited manager, which keeps Wally Backman in the running.

“I also think it’s important for a manager to be somewhat analytical, but at the same time occasionally and sometimes often intuitive,” Alderson said. “We’re looking for somebody that is right for our situation. What is our situation? You start with the fact that it’s New York City. …

“We’re looking for somebody that fits intellectual requirements, but also intuitive and emotional ones. That manager may have experience, may not have experience at the major league level. We’re very open-minded about it at this point. But I do want to emphasize that whoever is selected is going to be the manager and making those decisions and needs to have a certain level of independence in order to accomplish what he needs to accomplish.”

No matter what happens in the ensuing months though, one thing’s for certain: Things have changed in Queens already.

Posted under Bargain Basement, Base Percentage, Chips, Culture, David Wright, Fishing, Gm, Hasn, Helm, Holes, Jeff Wilpon, Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Prospects, Ricciardi, Sandy Alderson, Statistical Analysis, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 29, 2010

Alderson Immediately Changes The Mets Culture

Don’t get your hopes up for Cliff Lee, Met fans. It’s not going to happen. Nor will the Mets have a free spending off-season, like they did under Omar Minaya.

Rather look for some smart bargain basement moves where new general manager Sandy Alderson will utilize some of his statistical analysis to fill the holes on the roster.

“Will we be in the market this year aggressively? Unlikely,” Alderson said.

Added COO Jeff Wilpon, “We have to have some more conversation with him, but I assume we’re close to the maximum. And I don’t think he would recommend, and hasn’t recommended, going above that right now.”

Alderson’s biggest signings may come in the front office. No matter who the field manager will be, if the new GM can be reunited Paul DePodesta to run the statistical analysis department and J.P. Ricciardi to helm the player personnel area – two executives reportedly on his list – then the Mets may be on their way to contending in 2011.

Not a fan of using his prospects for chips, Alderson is willing to explore trading any and all veterans – including Jose Reyes and David Wright – if the price is right.

“I think we’re going to be busy, but that’s first and maybe ultimately only to assess the market,” Alderson said. “We don’t really know what’s out there. We need to be actively engaged in finding out what’s available to us, who has interest in some of our players, and just assess things as we develop more information. But right now it would be hard to say how active we’re going to be in actual transactions. But we’re going to be out there fishing.”

High on-base percentage players will be a key for Alderson. The use of stats will be a new concept in Queens, something Minaya would never consider, relying more on the scouts.

He will also try to shed the dead weight in on the roster. Of course, he’s not going to outright say he will release Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, you can bet their days are numbered. Fred and Jeff Wilpon even said they would have released them last season, if Minaya broached the subject, but never did.

“And, by the way, there may other ‘hits’ that he comes up with — not only the obvious ones,” Fred Wilpon said.

Then there’s the manager, who will be hired in the next 30 days. Both Wilpons said the subject of a high paid manager never came up in conversations, so that should take Joe Torre and Bobby Valentine off the list, but Alderson said he likes a high spirited manager, which keeps Wally Backman in the running.

“I also think it’s important for a manager to be somewhat analytical, but at the same time occasionally and sometimes often intuitive,” Alderson said. “We’re looking for somebody that is right for our situation. What is our situation? You start with the fact that it’s New York City. …

“We’re looking for somebody that fits intellectual requirements, but also intuitive and emotional ones. That manager may have experience, may not have experience at the major league level. We’re very open-minded about it at this point. But I do want to emphasize that whoever is selected is going to be the manager and making those decisions and needs to have a certain level of independence in order to accomplish what he needs to accomplish.”

No matter what happens in the ensuing months though, one thing’s for certain: Things have changed in Queens already.

Posted under Bargain Basement, Base Percentage, Chips, Culture, David Wright, Fishing, Gm, Hasn, Helm, Holes, Jeff Wilpon, Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Paul Depodesta, Prospects, Ricciardi, Sandy Alderson, Smart Bargain, Statistical Analysis, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 29, 2010

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This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 29, 2010

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This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 29, 2010

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Alderson Brings His Marine Code To Queens

Sandy Alderson is proud of his Marine heritage. He enlisted in 1969 during the height of the Vietnam Conflict, and served eight months over in Southeast Asia.

But even with his distinguished service to his country, the 62 year-old new general manager of the New York Mets does not subscribe to the  “Once a Marine, Always A Marine” philosophy, rather the Marine code needs to be proven in everything they do.

And now, Alderson will need to prove it again in maybe what is his trickiest baseball job, taking reigns as the troubled franchise in Queens.

“I view the job as general manager of the New York Mets,” Alderson stated, “as the best job available in baseball. It’s an iconic franchise in a great city – a city that inspires all of us to dream big.”

The Mets are hoping that when they signed Alderson to a four-year deal to take over for Omar Minaya. The man who built the Oakland A’s into a powerhouse and also was the godfather of the Moneyball era in baseball now brings his skills to Queens where the club badly needs leadership, as well as someone with a steady hand to give the team a long term direction.

Under Minaya, the club philosophy was the band-aid approach where Minaya would go out and fill what seemed to be the biggest gaping hole in the roster, hoping that would energize the fan base, while also making the club a contender.

Unfortunately, though, those Met teams were built upon a weak foundation, and much like an old car you keep putting money into, once you fix one problem, others arise. The Mets found that out over the last two years.

In 2009, everyone swore the team would contend because the biggest problem – the bullpen – was filled with Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz. Ultimately though, Minaya didn’t address the aging roster, which broke down during the season.

And then last year they did the same thing with Jason Bay, and chalked up 2009 to injuries, rather than a sign of a weak foundation.

Alderson will change that by building a club with payroll flexibility. He said he plans on being involved with the free agent market every single year, but at the same time wants to build a young roster of homegrown talent. CEO Fred Wilpon described what can be characterized as a laddered bond portfolio of contracts where only a few will come due each year, thus not hamstringing the club.

That may take a couple of years, and Alderson is not ready to throw away 2011, where he feels the club can “compete.” And the Wilpons both said they would be willing to eat the contracts of certain players (Read: Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo) if Alderson asked to do so.

But first things first, as the new head honcho needs to build his staff and of course pick the manager. Alderson is reportedly looking to bring in former Oakland executives Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi to the Mets and will begin the search for a manager next week.

As for the manager, unlike what has been published in Moneyball, Alderson took a softened approach. Instead of a just a middle manager, Alderson wants to see the field boss not only to be an extension of the front office, but also an extension of the fans.

“I do believe a manager needs to reflect the general philosophy of the organization to have some sense of consistency,” he said. “At the same time the manager is very critical of the overall leadership structure of the organization. His job is very different from mine and there are certain qualities he has to bring.

“In my years I have worked with managers ranging from Tony LaRussa to Billy Martin. I can appreciate a fiery manager. He is quite desirable. A manager is representing the fans in frustrating situations and acts as a proxy for the feeling at the time.”

With that, Wally Backman still should be considered a candidate, while also looking for any qualified candidates. Already the Mets have a short list of about eight candidates, and interviews will last in the 30 day timetable.

But as for today, it’s a good start. The Wilpons look good for going with Alderson’s experience over Josh Byrnes youth, but Alderson makes Fred and Jeff look smart because of the media suaveness of their new employee.

And it also showed Alderson still is a solid Marine, proving it every day.

Posted under Aid Approach, Band Aid, Bullpen, Club Philosophy, Contender, Distinguished Service, Eight Months, Fan Base, Francisco Rodriguez, Gaping Hole, Jason Bay, Joe Mcdonald, Marine Heritage, New York Mets, Omar Minaya, Sandy Alderson, Southeast Asia, Steady Hand, Term Direction, Top Story, Troubled Franchise, Vietnam Conflict

This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 29, 2010