Sports Beat – Defending Bobby V

Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine stirred things up when he complained that the Yankees did not reach out to their community in the days following September 11, 2001. There is little argument that Yankees players and ownership did reach out to responders and to those whose lives were uprooted at the time.

Bobby was probably still steaming about a 2004 HBO Sports documentary, “Nine Innings From Ground Zero,” which spent the lion’s share of the time concentrating on the Yankees playoffs and seven-game nail-biting World Series loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fall of 2001 and how that helped cheer up New Yorkers needing a diversion. The Mets barely rated a three-minute mention in it from what I remember even though Valentine and his players spent a lot of time preparing boxes of food and supplies. Shea Stadium was used as an emergency center for first responders because of its sizable parking lot which Yankee Stadium lacked.

I spoke with Mets outfielder Mike Baxter about his memories of that cataclysmic day on the twelfth anniversary of 9/11. “ I was in an Advanced Placement Psychology class at Archbishop Molloy High School when the planes hit the World Trade Center. No one could believe what was happening,” the Whitestone native recalled.

Just in case anyone was starting to forget about terrorism in 2013, the Boston Marathon bombing was a jolting reminder. The evil allegedly done by the Tsarnaev brothers did not escape the attention of the National Football League. Fans are now prohibited from bringing most bags into stadiums as the NFL will only allow transparent bags for your necessities.

This is a case of overreaching in my opinion. Why can’t security personnel check all bags as they have done in the past? Evildoers will always find ways to commit nefarious acts even with see-through totes.

New Jersey Devils press box announcer Richard Nashmy was ahead of the curve and created a line of durable, thick-polymer clear vinyl tote bags in various sizes a few years ago. If you are planning on going to a Jets or Giants game this year you should check out his company’s website, www.carryitclearly.com.

It’s another meaningless September for the Mets. The fact that they never really had any post-season aspirations this year is the least of their problems. Even if Matt Harvey, David Wright and Ike Davis had stayed healthy the entire season the best that Mets fans could probably hope for would have been third place in the NL East. Nonetheless the weakling lineup that the Mets put together for their four-game series against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field during their last homestand was arguably the most impotent in their history. The Nats did not break a sweat in sweeping the Mets but that wasn’t what was humiliating. During the four games they hit a total of 13 homers while the mighty Mets hit a grand total of 0.

It is no wonder that CBS Radio executives have had their fill of the Mets and were delighted to announce that the Yankees would be replacing them next year on WFAN. The Yankees have always been the more popular team in New York and the Mets’ ineptitude since 2006 has only widened the gap.

Some are wondering about whether CBS is making the right decision since the Mets appear to have more exciting young talent than an aging Yankees team does. My answer to that is to ponder the following. If someone offered you $10,000 to invest in a long-term stock fund, would you choose one that was run by Hal Steinbrenner, Lonn Trost, Randy Levine and Brian Cashman or one that was headed by Jeff Wilpon and Sandy Alderson?

The Jets are probably not going to make the playoffs this year but rookie QB Geno Smith has given Gang Green fans a flicker of hope. Yes, he throws occasional interceptions, misses open receivers, and stays in the pocket holding the football a bit long at times, but he is exciting to watch. He led the Jets to that fluke Opening Day win against Tampa Bay when Bucs defensive end Lavonte David stupidly hit him out of bounds with scant seconds left on the clocks and the Jets were out of timeouts. That late hit penalty set up Nick Folk’s 48-yard game winner.

Although the Jets lost as usual to the New England Patriots a few days later, the score was close (13-10) and Smith was every bit the equal of his counterpart, Tom Brady, that night.

While Jets fans are probably thrilled with Geno, it still would have been better if Mark Sanchez were healthy. When head coach Rex Ryan writes his memoirs he will have to reveal why he put Sanchez into the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game with the Giants when the Jets had their third stringers in there. It is not surprising that Sanchez got hurt in that situation and will probably miss the entire 2013 season.

The recently concluded Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week always brings out some sports celebrities. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire are regulars. Two weeks ago OKC Thunder All-Star guard Russell Westbrook made the fashion scene as he was undoubtedly trying to elevate his profile for commercial endorsements.

My favorite moment from Fashion Week was being greeted by a pair of Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders at the GBK Lounge at the Empire Hotel. The girls were modeling their new skimpy uniforms that were designed by Vera Wang.

Fox Sports 1 has done a nice of getting out of the ratings gate strong. The wannabe chief competitor to ESPN raided Bristol for a pair of its popular female personalities, Erin Andrews and Charissa Thompson. Both ladies are fine sports anchors but there is no doubt that Fox executives are hoping that the “babe factor” will deliver male viewers. Will Sage Steele be jumping ship next?

Posted under Archbishop Molloy High School, Arizona Diamondbacks, Bobby Valentine, Hbo Sports, League Fans, Lloyd Carroll, Manager Bobby Valentine, Mets Outfielder, Mike Baxter, Molloy High School, National Football League, New York Mets, Nine Innings, Placement Psychology, Psychology Class, September 11 2001, Shea Stadium, Thick Polymer, Top Story, Transparent Bags, Twelfth Anniversary, Yankee Stadium

Shame On MLB For Denying The Mets

The look on John Franco’s face pretty much told the whole story.

The lifelong New Yorker and former Met, just had disgust on his face when asked about Major League Baseball’s decision of not letting the Mets wear their first responders hats during the game.

“It’s up to you guys to say something about it,” he said to the media, knowing that’s the only way his opinion will be heard.

Ok, so let’s say something.

Shame on MLB for denying the Mets a chance to honor the first responders on 9/11 in a way of their choosing. And the lame excuse of uniformity by MLB VP Joe Torre just doesn’t cut it.

”Certainly it’s not a lack of respect,” Torre said. ”We just felt all the major leagues are honoring the same way with the American flag on the uniform and the cap. This is a unanimity thing.”

Oh come on, Joe. Say it ain’t so.

Seeing the Mets out there wearing the first responder caps allows all baseball fans to harken back to the days following the attacks. It reminds us of how we all felt during those weeks and then how the Mets defied baseball back then and wore those caps for the rest of the 2001 season.

But this is a different Met club. Unlike their counterparts from 10 years-ago, these Mets are generally younger players, who are pretty much happy to be in the big leagues. Manager Terry Collins is a company man, unlike Bobby Valentine, who had a certain rebellious side to say the least.

Then there’s the owners indebtedness to MLB. Back in 2001, Nelson Doubleday could just write a check to cover any losses and the Wilpons were still on the Madoff gravy train.

Now, everything has changed.

MLB, though, should have recognized a Met tradition and allowed the club to play an otherwise meaningless game with the hats. Yesterday was a day of honor, but the league made it a day of shame.

Maybe next year, MLB will realize the error of their ways and realize the other slippery slope out there. By not allowing this, it slowly takes away the remembrance of baseballs role in the aftermath.

And that’s the real shame. The NFL allowed sideline coaches and players a chance to wear those hats. MLB should have done the same.

Posted under American Flag, Baseball Fans, Bobby Valentine, Company Man, Disgust, First Responder, Gravy Train, Harken, Indebtedness, John Franco, Lack Of Respect, Lame Excuse, Major League Baseball, Meaningless Game, Nelson Doubleday, New York Mets, Rebellious Side, Slippery Slope, Top Story, Unanimity

This post was written by Joe McDonald on September 12, 2011

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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

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

Reports: Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel On The Way Out

NEW YORK – With three days left in the season, the Mets are coming to a decision.

Multiple sources reported today the club will fire general manager Omar Minaya as early as Monday and also decline the option on manager Jerry Manuel’s contract.

The move comes as the Mets close out another disappointing season, where they will finish under the .500 mark for the second year in a row.

In his six years as general manager, Minaya had a number of highs early on which quickly turned to lows with the signings of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez to bloated and under-producing contracts. The club struggled as the top heavy salaries blocked the team from overcoming injuries.

COO Jeff Wilpon will begin the search for a new general manager as soon as the season ends. He is expected to interview a wide variety of candidates, including former Oakland A’s general manager Sandy Alderson and Tampa Bay Rays VP Gerry Hunsicker.

As for Manuel, his tenure ends in utter failure. After an impressive run in 2008, after replacing Willie Randolph, the season quickly ended in failure when the Mets collapsed for the second year in a row. That was followed by two under .500 seasons, which triggered the coming moves.

Although, Brooklyn manager Wally Backman remains the front runner, Wilpon will wait until a new GM is named before bringing in a manager. Former manager Bobby Valentine will also be considered, but there may still be open wounds from his last go around which was highly successful in 1999 and 2000 but ultimately his outspokenness got him fired in 2002.

Any announcement is expected Monday at the earliest.

Posted under Bobby Valentine, Brooklyn, Gm, Jeff Wilpon, Lows, Luis Castillo, Manager Bobby Valentine, Mets, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Omar Minaya, Open Wounds, Salaries, Sandy Alderson, Six Years, Tampa Bay Rays, Tenure, Top Story, Utter Failure, Vp, Wally Backman, Willie Randolph

This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 1, 2010