Needless Harvey Hullabaloo

Mets flame-throwing pitcher Matt Harvey was the center of attention the week leading up to the All-Star Game.

Mets manager Terry Collins announced earlier in the week that Harvey would miss his Saturday scheduled start against the Pirates because he wanted to make sure that a nagging blister on his hand had time to heal.

Conspiracy theorists immediately jumped on Collins and the Mets organization for coming up with a ruse so that Harvey could start the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field. A number of sportswriters immediately decried how Collins and Harvey were letting the Mets down by putting a glorified exhibition game ahead of one that counts in the standings.

Let’s assume for the moment that the cynics are right and that Mets management was adamant about having their young ace pitch in the All-Star Game. I fully back their decision. It’s highly unlikely that the Mets will be competing in the post-season so a regular season game in Pittsburgh that probably wouldn’t be remembered the next day. On the other hand, a Matt Harvey appearance in the All-Star Game should become integral parts of both his legacy and Mets history which as their fans know has had too many valleys and too few peaks.

Harvey also took heat for posing in the nude (save for his groin area being covered) for the ESPN Magazine’s annual Body Issue that hit newsstands last week. It should be noted that Harvey was one of many athletes who posed tastefully in the buff for the bi-weekly. He is not even the first Mets player to show off his physique for what is ESPN Magazine’s answer to Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue. Jose Reyes had a pictorial in it two years ago.

Matt Harvey realizes that sports is part of the entertainment industry. He also knows that baseball players don’t get the commercial endorsements that they used to. Harvey clearly wants to leverage his good looks and the fact that he plays in the nation’s biggest market to become a celebrity outside of sports the way that Derek Jeter, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and the Manning brothers, Eli and Peyton, have.

The Four Seasons in Philadelphia will probably get requests from Mets fans to book Room 263 since that is that where it appears that he is playfully delivering room service in the buff.

A few weeks ago I wrote a column, “Punyball,” in which I criticized Mets general manager Sandy  Alderson for his failure to acquire ballplayers. In fairness Alderson has made a few good moves such as signing outfielder Marlon Byrd earlier this year and acquiring lead-off hitter Eric Young, Jr. and shortstop Omar Quintanilla recently.

******

The New York Islanders drew a good crowd last Thursday night at the Nassau Coliseum for its annual rookie game and skills competition called the Orange & Blue Scrimmage. All proceeds went to the Islanders Children’s Foundation, the organization’s version of Madison Square Garden’s Garden of Dreams Foundation.

Ilya Kovalchuk’s decision to play hockey in his native Russia was a mixed blessing for the New Jersey Devils. The financially strapped team is now freed up from having to pay his enormous salary. On the other hand, Kovalchuk was by far their most talented player and it will be hard for them to find another player to take up the scoring slack.

Kovalchuk’s personality was rather taciturn and standoffish. For all of his on-ice talent, he was neither fan nor media-friendly. In short, he was a perfect reflection of the Devils management.

Ed Randall is the host of WFAN’s informative long-running Sunday morning “Talking Baseball: program. He is also a survivor prostate cancer survivor. Ed was at the Javits Center All-Star Game Fan Fest urging men to get a PSA blood test. “A lot of men who go to their physicians for blood tests taken during routine physical examinations erroneously assume that the lab will test for prostate cancer. You have to tell your doctor to make sure that a PSA count is taken,” said Randall emphatically.

It was a classy move by the Mets to announce on All-Star Sunday that Mike Piazza will be inducted into their Hall of Fame on September 29.

The late James Brown was often referred to as the hardest working man in show business. There is little doubt that softball pitching legend and Olympics gold medal winner Jennie Finch was the hardest working man or woman on Taco Bell All-Star Sunday. Earlier in the day she took part in the Aquaphor NYC Triathlon and then went to Citi Field to take part in the All-Star Celebrity Softball Game. “I accomplished my goal of finishing the triathlon in under three hours,” she told me during the media availability session in the Citi Field press conference room.

Former Giants QB, onetime star of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” and current ESPN college football analyst Jesse Palmer was the big sports celebrity at the Calgary Stampede, an annual ten-day event in that western Canadian city that celebrates its cowboy heritage. Palmer is Canadian as he grew up in Toronto.

Carl Banks is another former Giants player who has a broadcasting gig as he has been the color analyst to Bob Papa’s play-by-play on Giants radio broadcasts. Banks also is a clothing entrepreneur with his GIII apparel line. He recently entered into a joint venture with the clothing giant Iconix to relaunch the Starter brand in order to create a line of satin baseball jackets. Banks is hoping to revive a late ‘80s fashion staple that seemed to be a uniform for anyone who worked for a record company back in the day.

While I don’t agree with Mayor Bloomberg’s goal of banning sugared soft drinks that come in servings greater than sixteen ounces, there is no argument that non-sugared beverages are better for your health. The problem for me has always been the horrible aftertaste. For years the only two diet drinks that I have been able to tolerate was Diet Peach Snapple and Diet Dr. Pepper.

Things have improved in the zero-calorie beverage world. Honest Fizz is made by the folks at Honest Tea and I have no problems with its taste. The same can be said for Activate, which calls itself a nutrient water beverage, and competes with Coca Cola’s Vitaminwater which was founded by Middle Village native Mike Repole who sold the company to Coke a few years ago. Coke recently moved Vitaminwater’s headquarters to Manhattan from Whitestone recently.

Posted under Center Of Attention, Commercial Endorsements, Cynics, Groin Area, Hullabaloo, Jose Reyes, Lloyd Carroll, New York Mets, Newsstands, Sportswriters, Top Story

Needless Harvey Hullabaloo

Mets flame-throwing pitcher Matt Harvey was the center of attention the week leading up to the All-Star Game.

Mets manager Terry Collins announced earlier in the week that Harvey would miss his Saturday scheduled start against the Pirates because he wanted to make sure that a nagging blister on his hand had time to heal.

Conspiracy theorists immediately jumped on Collins and the Mets organization for coming up with a ruse so that Harvey could start the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field. A number of sportswriters immediately decried how Collins and Harvey were letting the Mets down by putting a glorified exhibition game ahead of one that counts in the standings.

Let’s assume for the moment that the cynics are right and that Mets management was adamant about having their young ace pitch in the All-Star Game. I fully back their decision. It’s highly unlikely that the Mets will be competing in the post-season so a regular season game in Pittsburgh that probably wouldn’t be remembered the next day. On the other hand, a Matt Harvey appearance in the All-Star Game should become integral parts of both his legacy and Mets history which as their fans know has had too many valleys and too few peaks.

Harvey also took heat for posing in the nude (save for his groin area being covered) for the ESPN Magazine’s annual Body Issue that hit newsstands last week. It should be noted that Harvey was one of many athletes who posed tastefully in the buff for the bi-weekly. He is not even the first Mets player to show off his physique for what is ESPN Magazine’s answer to Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue. Jose Reyes had a pictorial in it two years ago.

Matt Harvey realizes that sports is part of the entertainment industry. He also knows that baseball players don’t get the commercial endorsements that they used to. Harvey clearly wants to leverage his good looks and the fact that he plays in the nation’s biggest market to become a celebrity outside of sports the way that Derek Jeter, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and the Manning brothers, Eli and Peyton, have.

The Four Seasons in Philadelphia will probably get requests from Mets fans to book Room 263 since that is that where it appears that he is playfully delivering room service in the buff.

A few weeks ago I wrote a column, “Punyball,” in which I criticized Mets general manager Sandy  Alderson for his failure to acquire ballplayers. In fairness Alderson has made a few good moves such as signing outfielder Marlon Byrd earlier this year and acquiring lead-off hitter Eric Young, Jr. and shortstop Omar Quintanilla recently.

******

The New York Islanders drew a good crowd last Thursday night at the Nassau Coliseum for its annual rookie game and skills competition called the Orange & Blue Scrimmage. All proceeds went to the Islanders Children’s Foundation, the organization’s version of Madison Square Garden’s Garden of Dreams Foundation.

Ilya Kovalchuk’s decision to play hockey in his native Russia was a mixed blessing for the New Jersey Devils. The financially strapped team is now freed up from having to pay his enormous salary. On the other hand, Kovalchuk was by far their most talented player and it will be hard for them to find another player to take up the scoring slack.

Kovalchuk’s personality was rather taciturn and standoffish. For all of his on-ice talent, he was neither fan nor media-friendly. In short, he was a perfect reflection of the Devils management.

Ed Randall is the host of WFAN’s informative long-running Sunday morning “Talking Baseball: program. He is also a survivor prostate cancer survivor. Ed was at the Javits Center All-Star Game Fan Fest urging men to get a PSA blood test. “A lot of men who go to their physicians for blood tests taken during routine physical examinations erroneously assume that the lab will test for prostate cancer. You have to tell your doctor to make sure that a PSA count is taken,” said Randall emphatically.

It was a classy move by the Mets to announce on All-Star Sunday that Mike Piazza will be inducted into their Hall of Fame on September 29.

The late James Brown was often referred to as the hardest working man in show business. There is little doubt that softball pitching legend and Olympics gold medal winner Jennie Finch was the hardest working man or woman on Taco Bell All-Star Sunday. Earlier in the day she took part in the Aquaphor NYC Triathlon and then went to Citi Field to take part in the All-Star Celebrity Softball Game. “I accomplished my goal of finishing the triathlon in under three hours,” she told me during the media availability session in the Citi Field press conference room.

Former Giants QB, onetime star of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” and current ESPN college football analyst Jesse Palmer was the big sports celebrity at the Calgary Stampede, an annual ten-day event in that western Canadian city that celebrates its cowboy heritage. Palmer is Canadian as he grew up in Toronto.

Carl Banks is another former Giants player who has a broadcasting gig as he has been the color analyst to Bob Papa’s play-by-play on Giants radio broadcasts. Banks also is a clothing entrepreneur with his GIII apparel line. He recently entered into a joint venture with the clothing giant Iconix to relaunch the Starter brand in order to create a line of satin baseball jackets. Banks is hoping to revive a late ‘80s fashion staple that seemed to be a uniform for anyone who worked for a record company back in the day.

While I don’t agree with Mayor Bloomberg’s goal of banning sugared soft drinks that come in servings greater than sixteen ounces, there is no argument that non-sugared beverages are better for your health. The problem for me has always been the horrible aftertaste. For years the only two diet drinks that I have been able to tolerate was Diet Peach Snapple and Diet Dr. Pepper.

Things have improved in the zero-calorie beverage world. Honest Fizz is made by the folks at Honest Tea and I have no problems with its taste. The same can be said for Activate, which calls itself a nutrient water beverage, and competes with Coca Cola’s Vitaminwater which was founded by Middle Village native Mike Repole who sold the company to Coke a few years ago. Coke recently moved Vitaminwater’s headquarters to Manhattan from Whitestone recently.

Posted under Center Of Attention, Commercial Endorsements, Conspiracy Theorists, Cynics, Groin Area, Hullabaloo, Jose Reyes, Lloyd Carroll, New York Mets, Newsstands, Sportswriters, Swimsuit Issue, Top Story

Dickey gets win Number 20 and Mets end home finale on a promising note

R. A. Dickey heard the ovation from the 31,508 fans at CitiField Thursday afternoon. They cheered when he took the mound, came to bat, and was removed from the game with two outs in the seventh inning with the New York Mets holding a 6-3 lead.

It was the final home game of the season for the Mets and significant because Dickey had his turn moved up with an opportunity to win number 20. He did not disappoint and became the first knuckleball pitcher to win twenty games since 1980.

The Mets took the finale from the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-4.taking two of three games and it was a celebration for Dickey, his manager, team, and the fans. And it looked and sounded like a playoff atmosphere, even though the Mets will conclude their fourth straight losing season.

His manager, Terry Collins, as he has done all season with the knuckleball pitcher asked him an inning before, “I said look this ballpark is filled with energy today use it to your advantage. These people deserve to see you walk off the mound.”

Dickey left to standing ovation and tipped his hat to the crowd in that seventh inning. He was relieved by Jon Rauch and Bobby Parnell, and watched from the clubhouse.  Rauch would give up a one-out two run home run to Alex Presley.

Had the Mets eventually lost and if Dickey failed to achieve the milestone, as he always says, getting his team getting a win would be more important.

When it was over, Dickey said, “It’s like a big exhale.” He did not want his exploits to be a center of attention as he got closer to the 20th win. After all, the 37-year-old right hander, who has overcome adversity, had never won more than 11 games in his big league career.

“This was about R.A. Dickey today,” said Collins. “It was about him. It was about his connection with the fans, with the city.’ Collins has this respect for Dickey that was heard all season. He reiterated more than once, before Dickey arrived in the conference room to meet with media, that this was a day for his pitcher.

He told Dickey he had to walk off the mound, just when Dickey knew he was running out of energy. Collins was telling him that the connection had to be used. A connection, because this has been a Mets season of futility that will conclude with the good vibes and memories that now come with the first Mets pitcher to win 20- games since Frank Viola went 20-12 in 1990.

“Had R.A. not done what he did, it’s hard to tell where we’d be,” commented Collins.

Now, Dickey will also be in the discussion for the National League CY Young Award along with Gio Gonzlaez of the Nationals, another 20-game winner and Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds.

“That is a little surreal,” commented Dickey about the top award for a pitcher. “But who doesn’t want to win a CY Young Award. I want to be the best, but who doesn’t want to be the best. I want to enjoy this before I think about that.

He said he was an example of a mediocre pitcher that was signed to a spring training contract in 2010 by prior Mets General Manager Omar Minaya. The true story was told with his best seller book “Where ever I wind up” that hit the stores in March and prior to the Mets giving him an opportunity, the career was just about over.

But the knuckleball saved him.

“But it wasn’t about him, it was never about him, “said Collins who like any manager and opposing player is marveled about a pitch that flutters and tends to constantly fool the hitter.

The Pirates were fooled as Dickey also struck out a career tying 13 that increased his National League best total to 222. It was the seventh time this season he reached double figures, also a league best and the 12 pitches thrown were the second most in his career.

“It’s not an easy pitch to hit and he is so good at what he does,” commented Pirates’ third baseman Pedro Alvarez, a victim of three Dickey strikeouts.” And even if Dickey does not go on and win the CY Young, the players will say what a great story this has been.

Travis Snyder who made the catch of the year in right at Citi Field that robbed a home run from Mike Baxter in the second as the ball appeared to go over the fence, “Congratulations to him (Dickey) on a great year and a great story.”

David Wright continued his strong finish with an opposite field home run to right for his 21st home run of the season that gave Dickey and the Mets a 6-3 lead in the fifth.

“There were times he picked us up and really carried us as a team on his back,” he said about Dickey. “I was happy to provide the hit that made the difference.”

Dickey allowed three runs and eight hits. He claimed, “About the fourth or fifth inning I felt exasperated. I was not myself today for the most part.”  The Pirates would score two runs in the second and another in the fourth.

He said the fans changed his ability to throw the proper knuckler that was clocked at 78. “And then I would come out for an at bat and I would hear this kind of growing surge and it was really neat. I don’t know if I have experienced something like that before.”

“Although I wasn’t distracted from the moment, how could you not be motivated to go out there and give the fans, and well your teammates and yourself all that you have?”

Dickey certainly gave the fans all he had, and something they had to smile about as they went home. A season like this may be difficult to duplicate for him, and in sports that may be asking too much.

And for a season that went well for the Mets in the first half and crumbled in the second, seeing Dickey at Citi Field win Number 20 was good enough for them.

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring76@aol.com  or Facebook.com/Keep it In the Ring

 

Posted under Adversity, Center Of Attention, Clubhouse, Energy Today, Exhale, Home Game, Knuckleball Pitcher, Losing Season, New York Mets, Parnell, Pittsburgh Pirates, Promising Note, Rich Mancuso, Right Hander, Seventh Inning, Standing Ovation, Three Games, Top Story