Sportsbeat – 11/27/10

You have to laugh at the notion that new Mets manager Terry Collins is going to be able to light a fire under the collective butts of his players. The reality is that the players will perceive that Collins is little more than an inexpensive retread off the managerial scrap heap. He has never won anything and never played a game in the majors. Those are two very big strikes against a manager in a big league clubhouse.

Collins is not going to get much help this winter from the man who hired him. Sandy Alderson has made it clear that the Mets do not have any “financial flexibility” to sign any name free agents. Even worse than standing pat for the new Mets manager is the fact that ace pitcher Johan Santana will still be recovering from his latest arm surgery for at least the first half of the 2011 season.

Patriots, Shmatriots. If you want to really know if these are the same old Jets then circle December 19 on your calendar when Gang Green flies to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. The Jets have never beaten the Steelers in the Iron City and we’re talking forty years of football.

The Jets, despite their fine record, have shown some troubling flaws. I bet that Rex Ryan wishes that Jay Feely was still the team’s place kicker instead of the shaky Nick Folk. The Jets pass rush, lead by Bryan Thomas and Jason Taylor, is woeful. Houston Texans QB Matt Schaub had time to finish a Subway hero as he completed 40-yard passes at will in the fourth quarter three weeks ago thanks to the sack-less pass rush.

The combination of Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton have made the Knicks fun to watch again. The fact that they went 3-1 on their recent West Coast trip (granted they didn’t play the Lakers) is an indication that things are looking up.

The Knicks played the Charlotte Bobcats in their first game back from the west. Head coach Mike D’Antoni held his usual pre-game press conference 90 minutes prior to tip-off. Reporters had only two questions for him and the conference quickly concluded. “If I had known that winning three games in a row would quiet you guys I would have told my players to have won three in a row sooner!” he said with a hearty laugh.

The likelihood of an NBA lockout this fall has not been ignored by the Knicks players. NBA veteran Roger Mason was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying that he is happy to drive an old car and that his philosophy is to save now more than ever. Mason is praying that big market owners as the Knicks’ James Dolan, the Nets’ Mikhail Prokhorov, and the Lakers’ Jerry Buss will talk sense into hardline owners and tough-talking commissioner David Stern. Rookie guard Andy Rautins told me before a game that he may look into playing in Europe if things get ugly.

While the Nets are not as awful as they were a year ago, new coach Avery Johnson is quickly realizing that the talent and professionalism of his troops isn’t up to the level that he enjoyed while coaching the Dallas Mavericks. Johnson faced his first major dilemma when Terrence Williams, the Nets’ first-round pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, missed a team bus and kept showing up late for practices. Johnson demoted Williams to the Springfield Armor of the NBA Development League.

The Nets may not much to write home about based on their play but their new owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, continues to intrigue even those who normally don’t cover sports. He was the subject of a cover story last month in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and was profiled as well by Matt Taibbi, best known for his Republican-bashing articles in Rolling Stone, in Men’s Journal.

Speaking before of the NBA Development League, Far Rockaway High School alum Nancy Lieberman, arguably the greatest female basketball player of all-time, will be coaching the Texas Legends. It marks the first time that a woman will be the head coach of a professional men’s basketball team. Expect Versus, which just obtained broadcast rights to the NBA D-League, to televise a number of Legends games. Lieberman incidentally has just authored Playbook for Success (John Wiley & Sons) in which she points out how the physical and mental preparation that goes into winning at hoops carries over into the boardroom.

Jimmie Johnson just won his fifth consecutive NASCAR Sprint championship. That puts him in the same legendary class of athlete as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Roger Federer although his success is virtually ignored by WFAN and nearly every New York daily paper. The success of   both Jimmie Johnson, and rival Jeff Gordon (both of these guys have movie star looks), have helped popularize NASCAR in every part of the USA except here of course.

Kyle Petty who is an on-air personality for the SPEED Channel, and like his dad, Richard “The King” Petty, enjoyed a great racing career, readily agrees that both Johnson and Gordon have helped make NASCAR appealing for corporate America. “The weekly battles between Rick Mears, Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt electrified the South but they did not expand the sport outside of Dixie,” Petty told me at a New York NASCAR event to honor Johnson’s accomplishment.

ESPN Magazine and skier Lindsey Vonn showed a great sense of humor by having her reenact Sharon Stone’s famous seated pose from the 1992 stinker of a flick, “Basic Instinct” for its cover.

Do you think that the Islanders’ recent 14-game losing streak will cost the team home ice in the playoffs?  The Isles’ cold snap cost unsmiling coach Scott Gordon his job. Gordon’s humorless post-game press conferences were torture to sit through.

The Islanders finally ended their drought by beating the equally awful NJ Devils. It’s about time that Devils’ owner Jeff Vanderbeek show some balls and give media-hating, control freak general manager Lou Lamoriello the heave-ho.

Good job by Phillips-Van Heusen to allow fans a vote for the next class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The fans’ vote is non-binding but the results are sure to influence the real voters. PVH should do the same with the Baseball Hall of Fame voting.

Hollis native Russell Simmons is one of the most successful American businessmen of the last 25 years. Simmons, who founded Def Jam Records, and then later the popular clothing brand, Phat Farm, has a new clothing company, Argyleculture. Yes, Simmons has a fondness for those diamond-shaped vests and sweaters that Alfonso Ribeiro’s Carlton Banks character wore in the old Will Smith NBC ‘80s sitcom, “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” but Argyleculture has solid-colored shirts and sweaters as well as he tries to compete with Ralph Lauren.

Simmons is frequently photographed wearing a Yankees baseball cap. Since Sandy Alderson isn’t going to sign any name free agents perhaps he can reach out to one of Queens’ greatest success stories to wear a Mets cap to help improve the team’s image.

The New York Rangers obviously depend on goalie Henryk Lundqvist but the road to the playoffs will be a lot easier if veteran understudy Martin Biron would have more games like the one he had last week where he allowed only one goal against the Calgary Flames in a 2-1 victory for the Blueshirts.

The needless demise of Tavern On the Green is certainly a blotch on the record of Mayor Bloomberg. Fortunately the New York Road Runners did a great job creating a PGA Tour-style media center at its old location. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel and the Renaissance Times Square also did a fine job hosting both the media and the NYC Marathon participants.

If you are looking to get someone a Christmas/Chanukah sports gift (and yes, you can treat yourself!) here are some ideas. Greens Professor (www.greensprofessor.com) is a putting aid that uses laser technology that tells you whether your blade is either too open ,closed, or if its properly square. You can use Green Professor in your home so that your game doesn’t atrophy over the winter. By the way, the winter is a great time to shine up those dull club heads. Shine by Colle (www.colleproducts.com) is a mousse gel that makes all metals and jewelry sparkle like new.

If you find your legs or shoulders aching after a workout or even from sitting in a car for awhile there is a marvelous product called “The Stick” (www.thestick.com) that you can use to improve blood circulation and relieve the knots that inexorably settle in various parts of your body. The Stick is a wand that is comprised of small bead-like devices that help relieve tension rather quickly.

Another vestige of my youth is gone as the Spectrum was finally razed in Philadelphia two weeks ago.

Posted under Ace Pitcher, Arm Surgery, Bryan Thomas, Charlotte Bobcats, Financial Flexibility, Houston Texans, Jason Taylor, Jay Feely, Johan Santana, League Clubhouse, Lloyd Carroll, Matt Schaub, Name Free Agents, New York Mets, Nick Folk, Place Kicker, Raymond Felton, Rex Ryan, Sandy Alderson, Scrap Heap, Subway Hero, Top Story, West Coast Trip

This post was written by Lloyd Carroll on November 27, 2010

Collins Is The Right Man For Right Now

Flushing, NY – Put yourself in Sandy Alderson’s shoes for one moment. After being hired to resurrect the Mets, he couldn’t just write off 2011, no matter how difficult it will be with the payroll hamstrung, and the team’s best pitcher on the shelf.

And Alderson, knowing how things can turn on you in New York, knew that laying an egg next year will erase all the good will be brought to the table from just being not Omar Minaya.

That’s why he needed to get a manager to do more with less in 2011. He needed someone who could possible whip the current Mets into shape, while keeping watch for 2012 when $60 million in payroll comes off the books and the new general manager can shape the club in his image.

So Alderson went to the well and interviewed 10 candidates and came up with Terry Collins, because based on his track record, the 61 year-old will provide the short term boost to the team with his drill sergeant mentality and fiery personality.

“We can win, our goal is to win and we’re not going into spring training with the notion this is a bridge to something else,” Alderson said. “We’re going to focus hard on 2011 and do what we can to give ourselves our best shot.”

Some would say Bobby Valentine would have been the best choice for that kind of style, especially after pressing out 88 wins in 1997 with essentially the same team that quit on Dallas Green the year before. Yet, Valentine comes with baggage, such as a large salary to match his large ego. Bobby V. would have demanded a commitment from the Mets, something the club didn’t need to do with Collins.

And others – including this reporter – would have preferred Wally Backman, a strong finalist in the managerial race, but also someone who doesn’t have any prior Major League managerial experience. With that comes risk. No matter how attractive Backman looked in Brooklyn last year, no one knows if it would translate to Citi Field. Single-A players are much more eager to buy into Backman’s team philosophy than big league overpaid stars. By putting the fan favorite in that position, it could have turned ugly quickly, especially with the country club atmosphere that was present the last few years in Queens.

Frankly, Alderson probably did Backman a favor by not giving him the job. Right now, the Met job is Russian Roulette for any manager, and if Backman failed in Queens, based on his past, he would probably never get hired with another affiliated club. Even though he doesn’t know it now, he’s probably better off waiting for a few years after Alderson has a clubhouse in his image.

And that’s why Collins is the perfect man for 2011. With winning records five of his six seasons and a 444-434 record overall, the Mets got themselves someone with a track record. Although he claimed he mellowed in his old age, he still is the same fiery guy who jumpstarted the Astros and Angels, only to eventually lose both teams after three seasons. Essentially Alderson is throwing a Collins firecracker in the rook to see if there is any redeeming value to this clubhouse, and using it as an evaluation on the long term.

If Collins’s in your face style works, then the Mets could be competitive in 2011. If it doesn’t then Alderson knows that a complete facelift is needed on this club, while not spending any of the Wilpons’ money for a high priced manager or burning a dugout prospect in the process.

This is just another smart move from a smart baseball man, which may be the reason why there are a lot of skeptics, as smart baseball moves have been rare in Queens recently.

Posted under 60 Million, Best Choice, Bobby Valentine, Brooklyn, Dallas Green, Drill Sergeant, Egg, Ego, Fiery Personality, Joe Mcdonald, Keeping Watch, Managerial Experience, Mentality, New York Mets, Notion, Omar Minaya, Payroll, Right Man, Salary, Sandy Alderson, Spring Training, Top Story, Wally Backman

This post was written by Joe McDonald on November 25, 2010

It’s Now Collins Turn To Lead The Mets

New York – Now it is up to Terry Collins to lead the New York Mets, at least for the next two years with an option for a third at least to 2013.  He was introduced as the 20th manager of the New York Mets at Citi Field Tuesday morning and the questions were asked.

What must be done to turn the tide in Flushing? After two consecutive losing seasons and questions about who will be where in the lineup, Collins certainly has a huge task. Expectations for the Mets to contend in 2011 are very slim with limited payroll flexibility, and probably no significant additions to the roster.

The new manager immediately said he wants to win. He emphasized speed on the bases and mentioned how important it was for Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay to stay healthy.  Previous manager Jerry Manuel knew how important that was, but for Collins to see success it will require more than Beltran and Bay playing at full strength.

“I want to win, and there is no doubt in my mind we have the talent to win,” said the 61-year old Collins, an intense and competitive individual who expects nothing more than winning. He reminds you of a general leading his troops to war. A veteran baseball man with expertise coming back to the dugout after an 11-year hiatus should not be an issue.

Collins knows the game, so adjusting to a new situation, in the big city will be the question. Can he handle a losing situation?  Time will tell because Collins will always have a skeptical past to his resume after dismissing himself from his managerial duties with the California Angels with 29 games remaining in 1999.

But that had no bearing on the decision to bring him on board. He beat out Mets homegrown favorite Wally Backman, third base coach Chip Hale, and minor league instructor Bob Melvin who had the previous managerial background to lead.

“We believe Terry’s knowledge of our players, intensity and direct approach will make an immediate, positive impact both in the clubhouse and on the field,” said new General Manager Sandy Alderson.

There is also intensity that comes with Collins. An emotional man in the dugout when he piloted the Houston Astros before the Angels, and perhaps what his predecessor Jerry Manuel could not do, Collins will be able to. That is bringing the intensity and fire to the Mets clubhouse.

Though we can’t put the entire blame on Manuel’s personality and Collins will inherit most of the mess that Manuel had to work with. Luis Castillo with the big contract, probably no way Oliver Perez gets traded, and if the Mets can’t eat the remaining $36 million of his contract, Collins may have to put him back on the mound. And he has to deal with a controversial closer Francisco Rodriguez who is coming off thumb surgery and a legal issue of assault.

An immediate impact will be on the youngsters that Collins knows well. He served as the Mets minor league field coordinator this past season and is familiar with Ruben Tejada, Ike Davis and Josh Thole.  No doubt Alderson and the new Mets regime, all familiar with Alderson, took that into consideration when they hired their new manager.

What Mets fans will see is a more intense and feisty individual, something Manuel lacked. There will be no laugh in the pre and post game meetings with members of the media that symbolized Manuel during his tenure as manager. Collins is straight to the point and on a mission to try and turn things around at Citi Field.

“I really hope that when we get together as a team in spring training that the lines of communication open up,” stated Collins. “They have to be open on a daily basis and the players have to realize my passion for the game and my passion for excellence.”

Time will tell how the Terry Collins managerial reign will unfold. “We want to be the last team standing net October,” said Collins who definitely has proved to have a passion for the game.

A bold statement for sure, and an experienced leader who immediately took charge as a new era has officially started at Citi Field.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Bob Melvin, California Angels, Carlos Beltran, Citi, Doubt In My Mind, Dugout, Full Strength, Hiatus, Homegrown, Jason Bay, Managerial Background, Managerial Duties, Mets New York, Minor League, New Situation, New York Mets, No Doubt, Rich Mancuso, Third Base Coach, Top Story, Tuesday Morning, Wally Backman

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on November 25, 2010

Sports Beat – 11/15/10

Whoever the Mets choose as manager will probably elicit a collective big yawn from the fan base as new general manager Sandy Alderson seems determined to interview anyone whose name is not Bobby Valentine.

Don’t feel badly however for Bobby V; his profile and compensation will be elevated as he will be part of the new ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast team along with Orel Hershiser and Dan Shulman. That triumvirate will be replacing Jon Miller and Joe Morgan who were unceremoniously booted by “The Sports Leader” after 21 years of service. Perhaps this is a minority opinion, but I found Miller & Morgan to be an informative and pleasant listen.

Wouldn’t it have been great if free agent Derek Jeter could have kept a straight face and told gullible reporters who were camped out in the parking lot of Chelsea Piers’ Pier Sixty Restaurant for the annual Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation that he had just received a tremendous offer from the Pirates and that it was always his dream to finish his career in Pittsburgh?

It has been 40 years since the most storied football coach in NFL history, Vince Lombardi, passed away. That milestone is being noted in a myriad of ways. With the financial backing of the NFL, “Lombardi” is currently a terrific Broadway play that stars Dan Lauria in the title role. On December 11, HBO Sports will present an hour-long documentary on his life. Finally, former CBS and Fox sportscaster Pat Summerall, who has written a book that has just hit the shelves, “Giants: What I Learned from Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry” (Wiley Publishing), in which he recalls his days as a tight end and place kicker for the New York Giants when both Lombardi and Landry were assistant coaches with Big Blue. The Giants elected to have Allie Sherman serve as their head coach in the 1960s and both Lombardi and Landry were forced to look elsewhere for head coaching positions. I am sure that the late Wellington Mara must have kicked himself for years over that decision.

The New York City Marathon doesn’t get any attention on WFAN but it does generate a ton of revenue for the area’s hotels, restaurants and stores as runners from all over the world descend on the Big Apple. Athletic shoe manufacturers can be counted on to showcase their latest light-as-a-feather shoes that claim to provide heel protection and reduce stress on the legs. Nike showcased its LunarGlide+2; Reebok touted its ZigTech sneakers whose soles look likes sound waves; New Balance played up two models, its 759 and 870; and finally, the renegade Spira Footwear, whose shoes are banned by nearly every world marathon sanctioning body because they have metal coil springs in the heels, debuted its latest sneaker on steroids, the Valencia.

The NYC Marathon is an intriguing mix of celebrity runners, corporate promotion, and charity. Former Giants wide receiver Armani Toomer was sponsored by Timex in his efforts to raise funds for worthy causes; dorky Subway spokesman, Jared Fogle, was naturally backed by his favorite fast-food chain; while recently retired tennis star and current Tennis Channel broadcaster Justin Gimelstob had a financial guardian in Zico, the coconut water brand that is fighting it out for market share alongside Vita Coco and O.N.E.

Gimelstob was one of a myriad of sports stars who gave generously of his time the following night at the annual New York City Starlight Foundation sports memorabilia auction that was held at Madison Square Garden. Justin was ecstatic that he won his $10,000 bet with Andy Roddick who bet that he would need more than 4:45 to finish the 26.2-mile course. He made it in a very respectable 4:09. “Andy called immediately to congratulate me. Knowing how much physical torture I endured probably made the bet worthwhile for him even though he now has to write a check to my foundation,” Gimelstob said with a tired smile.

Also appearing at the Starlight event were Nets shooting guard Anthony Morrow and Devils left winger Ilya Kovalchuk. Two nights earlier, the Miami Heat thought that they were the Harlem Globetrotters and that the Nets were the Washington Generals as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were more interested in creating high-flying passes and thunderous dunks that would make the Sportscenter highlight reel than they were in merely scoring baskets. Morrow was glad that fellow Nets guard Terrence Williams pushed King James into the stands while he got physical with Wade. “We’re not going to be pushovers,” he added.

Ilya Kovalchuk, who signed a lucrative contract extension with the New Jersey Devils that sent NHL executives into apoplexy because it was too lucrative for their stringent salary cap guidelines, said that he welcomes the pressure that comes with high compensation. He also guaranteed that the Devils would turn around their slow start.

Kovalchuk, who has both looks and intelligence as well as ability, is a blip on the radar screen for most New York area sports fans compared with say, fellow telegenic superstars as Derek Jeter and Mark Sanchez, because Devils boss Lou Lamoriello, who is renown for being a media-hating control freak, prefers marketing the team as a whole and detests promoting star players even if it hurts Devils’ owner Jeff Vanderbeek’s bottom line. When I asked Ilya his thoughts about this, he forlornly replied, “It’s Lou’s decision.” When I playfully suggested to him that Lou would have fit in quite well at the Kremlin during the Stalinist era, the native Russian had to bite his lip hard to break out from laughing.

The Mets get a lot of well-deserved criticism but they are great when it comes to helping out deserving non-profit organizations. Two weeks ago, they donated the use of the Caesar’s Club in Citi Field, as well as taking care of the food and drink, for the annual Nephcure Foundation fund-raiser that raised $600,000 this year. Nephcure funds research for a wide array of kidney diseases and assists families whose lives are upended by them. Former Mets star pitcher Dwight Gooden happily signed autographs. “My father died from kidney disease so being here is really special for me,” said Doc. Also appearing at the event was former Mets general manager, and now current baseball show host on Sirius XM, Jim Duquette, whose daughter, Lindsey, has been successfully battling kidney disease for the last five years.

On Monday, November 29, QB Mark Sanchez, linebacker and Freeport native, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and a slew of other Jets players will be helping left tackle Damien Woody raise funds for his philanthropy, the PROS Foundation, with a “Tear Up The Pierre” cocktail party and fashion show at that swank midtown hotel. The public is invited to purchase tickets. PROS is an acronym for People Reaching Out to Someone and its mission is to help a variety of groups that deal with helping impoverished kids. For more information, go to www.prosfoundation.org. Contributions are tax-deductible.

Perhaps the NBA is listening to Jimmy McMillan. The NBA Store on Fifth Avenue will close in February because the rent is too damn high.

It is always fun to visit Philadelphia which is less than a three-hour trip for many of us. My suggestion is to make a visit to the Wells Fargo Center (formerly the Wachovia Center) and catch a Flyers or 76ers game, particularly when your favorite team is the opposition. Even though it has been open for nearly 15 years, this arena looks as if it first opened its doors.

Philly’s newest attraction is the National Museum of American Jewish History that is located just off Independence Plaza. Among the artifacts here are a bat used by Hank Greenberg and a pitching glove used by Sandy Koufax. As they used to say in those old Levy’s Rye Bread ads, you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy a visit here.

If you were not able to enter the aforementioned NYC Marathon because you did not win the New York Road Runners entry lottery, you still have options. In January there are a couple of  marathons that may be of interest; the Phoenix Marathon on January 16 and the Miami Marathon on January 30.If nothing else, it is a good excuse to get out of the cold weather!

Spike TV’s satirical look at college football, “Blue Mountain State,” is back for its second season. It’s on Wednesdays at 11 PM.

Posted under Allie Sherman, Bobby Valentine, Broadcast Team, Chelsea Piers, Dan Lauria, Dan Shulman, Espn Sunday Night Baseball, Gullible Reporters, Hbo Sports, Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, New York Giants, New York Mets, Orel Hershiser, Pat Summerall, Place Kicker, Sandy Alderson, Sunday Night Baseball, Tom Landry, Top Story, Vince Lombardi, Wellington Mara, Wiley Publishing

This post was written by Lloyd Carroll on November 15, 2010

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This post was written by Joe McDonald on November 8, 2010

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This post was written by Joe McDonald on November 8, 2010

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This post was written by Joe McDonald on November 7, 2010

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This post was written by Joe McDonald on November 7, 2010

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This post was written by Joe McDonald on November 7, 2010

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This post was written by Joe McDonald on November 7, 2010

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