Sports Beat “Don’t blame David Wright”

You would have thought that David Wright personally affronted some of the New York sportswriters for incurring a rib cage injury while he was playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. The gist of the grousing was that Wright should have made his employer, the New York Mets, his primary concern, instead of chasing the glory that comes with being part of an American all-star team in an international competition that is the baby of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

Of course these same media types were relishing how Wright was called Captain America by his USA teammates when he appeared to be completely healthy. Talk about pathetic front-running.

It would be hard to blame David Wright if he was more interested in Team USA’s success than he was in the prospects of the 2013 Mets.  He realized that the stage that he was getting to play on in March would be the biggest one he would see all year with the exception of the All-Star Game. Even the most optimistic Mets fan would concede that it will be extremely difficult for this team to win more games in 2013 than it loses.

Barring a complete disaster of a season David Wright should be representing the Mets at the 2013 All-Star Game slated for mid-July at Citi Field. Tickets are already on sale for the MLB FanFest which will be held at the Javits Center as well as for Taco Bell All-Star Sunday at Citi Field that will feature the Futures Game spotlighting the best minor leaguers as well as a celebrity softball game.

The outpouring of tributes for Jack Curran, who served as head coach of Archbishop Molloy’s baseball and basketball team from 1958 until his death last week, reminded us of how a great teacher can shape lives for the better. Among those who played for Coach Curran were former NBA stars Kenny Anderson, Kenny Smith, Kevin Joyce and Brian Winters as well as current Mets outfielder Mike Baxter.

The annual Queens Half Marathon will take place this Sunday at Flushing Meadow Park. Many of the runners will be raising funds for various charities including the man who will be starting at the back of the pack, Devang Patel of North Bergen, NJ, who will be wearing a white leisure suit reminiscent to that worn by John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever.” Patel will get $1 from the event’s sponsor, US Road Sports & Entertainment Group, for every runner he passes that will go to “Restore The Shore,” a non-profit whose mission is to help the Jersey Shore recover from Superstorm Sandy. Hopefully US Road will help the Rockaways as well.

The Atlantic 10 Conference held their men’s basketball championship tournament at the Barclays Center and it coincided with the last Big East Tournament as we know it at Madison Square Garden.

It was unfortunate that the one New York member of the Atlantic 10, Fordham, did not qualify for the tournament. Had Fordham been eligible, the Barclays Center would have opened the upper level of the arena. The quality of play was quite good. On Sunday the St. Louis University Billikens outlasted the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University to win the A-10 title.

In a nice touch, the Atlantic 10 and the Barclays Center gave out a lot of tickets to elementary and high school students. For many of them it marked both their inaugural visit to the Barclays Center as well as the first college hoops game that they ever attended. This is the kind of smart marketing that creates future customers.

As has been the case with the Knicks and the Nets, the cuisine served in the press dining room at the Barclays Center for the Atlantic 10 was vastly superior to that doled out at Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament.

The St. John’s Red Storm made their annual  cameo appearance at the Big East Tournament as they were eliminated by a mediocre Villanova Wildcats team on Wednesday night. Even the Columbia Lions were able to beat Villanova on their Main Line suburban Philadelphia campus earlier in the year to give you an idea of how far their basketball program has fallen.

The only good news for the Red Storm last week was the announcement that freshman forward JaKarr Sampson was named the Big East Rookie of the Year. The Red Storm’s Mo Harkless won the award last year and then declared himself eligible for the NBA draft where he was selected in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers before being dealt to the Orlando Magic. Sampson, however, is expected to return to St. John’s in the fall.

Former Nets and Knicks television analyst, as well as former NBA All-Star, Kelly Tripucka was at the Barclays Center broadcasting the Atlantic 10 semi-finals and championship game for Dial Global Radio.

Kelly told me that he was disappointed that the MSG Network decided not to renew his contract and subsequently replaced him a younger version of himself, former NBA star and Long Island native Wally Szczerbiak. I have not seen enough of Wally’s work to make a judgment on his work, but I have always enjoyed what Tripucka brings to a broadcast. He never sugarcoats anything when the home team is playing lousy and explains hoops strategies in a way that a laymen can easily understand.

NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry made a personal appearance at the 2013 Vision Expo East, the annual trade show for the optical industry held at the Javits Center. Rick was one of the great free-throw shooters in history and he was a practitioner of doing them underhanded. I asked him why no one shoots them like that anymore.

“There are a lot of reasons. No one knows how to teach the wrist action that is needed. Another factor is that it’s not considered macho in today’s image conscious NBA.” He then added that any pro player should be able to convert 80 per cent of their foul shots. According to Barry, the NBA average is around 75%.

Other athletes who appeared at various booths at the show were Hall of Fame third baseman Cal Ripken, Jr. and former Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams.

Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez was the runner-up to RA Dickey for the National League Cy Young Award this year. He has also always had an interest in fashion and has started a t-shirt manufacturing company called House of Leagues.

Another young apparel company, Sportiqe, which created those “Hello Brooklyn” t-shirts that a lot of Nets fans wear to the Barclays Center, has created t-shirts that combine the Grateful Dead logo with the names of NBA teams. The company must have had NBA Hall of Famer and renowned “Dead Head” Bill Walton in mind.

New Era has long been the leader in Major League Baseball-branded clothing. They have introduced a new line of zippered hoodies with oversized team logos that are perfect to wear to the ballparks during the chilly first month of the season.

The company has found many ways of monetizing the baseball cap by turning it into a fashion statement. Its new 9Fifty Snapback line features team names in large capital letters made with elaborate multi-colored stitching.

At the recent Toy Fair 2013 held at the Javits Center board games were surprisingly starting to make a comeback. USAopoly, which made its name in the game biz by creating sports team versions of the classic board game Monopoly, is now reviving the popular ‘80s game Trivial Pursuit with a “Classic Rock” edition which quizzes players on band members, album covers, touring trivia, and stories behind hit songs.

Levy’s Rye Bread had a famous advertising tag line, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s!” The same can be said for Passover foods. Manischewitz is introducing Organic Spelt Matzoh and Gluten Free Crackers for the holiday which begins Monday night. If you are looking for a snack alternative to macaroons, the company is producing boxes of Chocolate Walnut Biscotti and Milk Chocolate Almond Buttercups.

A healthy choice to put on your morning bread or matzoh is California almond butter which is tastier than peanut butter;  better for your cholesterol than regular butter; and has far less sugars and carbohydrates than jams or jellies.

Posted under Archbishop Molloy, Brian Winters, Celebrity Softball Game, Commissioner Bud Selig, David Wright, Kenny Anderson, Kenny Smith, Kevin Joyce, Major League Baseball, Mets Outfielder, Mike Baxter, Mlb Fanfest, Nba Stars, New York Mets, New York Sportswriters, Top Story

Sports Beat “A strange roll of the dice”

When word leaked out last week that the Mets were hoping to be part of a syndicate to build a casino in Willets Point in a plan presented to Mayor Bloomberg in 2011, my immediate reaction was “What the hell were these guys thinking?”

Two years ago, the Mets were in the midst of the fallout from the Bernie Madoff scandal. Madoff Securities victims’ trustee Irving Picard had his sights set on collecting hundreds of millions from Mets ownership as restitution. The team’s cash flow, not to mention its image, were, and in many ways still are, in deep trouble. It was the epitome of chutzpah on the Mets’ part to expect any governmental authority to grant them permission to build a casino.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig must have felt betrayed when he heard the news that Mets CEO Fred Wilpon had desires of becoming the Steve Wynn of Flushing. Selig has long been one of Wilpon’s strongest allies even during the darkest days of the Madoff scandal. He gave the Mets the 2013 All-Star Game as a token of that friendship.

Selig, like all of his predecessors, has viewed the gaming industry as an anathema. His refusal to consider reinstating Pete Rose for betting on baseball is a clear example.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has long been a proponent for allowing bettors to place wagers on sporting events and has vowed to use the court system make that happen. If Christie were to prevail, then all casinos would be able to have sports books. Currently, you can only make a wager on college and professional sports in Nevada. It would be obviously embarrassing for Bud if an MLB team owner was connected to a casino where patrons could bet on America’s pastime.

What might make sense for a racetrack doesn’t for baseball. Having a casino a stone’s throw away from a baseball stadium is clearly at odds with the sport’s wholesome family image that Major League Baseball has cultivated for well over a century.

Mets first baseman Ike Davis, Yankees ace CC Sabathia, and Yankees relief pitcher David Phelps were among the honorees at the 33rd annual Thurman Munson Dinner which benefits AHRC, a non-profit organization that helps the lives of the mentally disabled of all ages.

Davis laughingly apologized to the press for the miserable first two months of the 2012 season where he batted .150. He had missed a good chunk of the 2011 season with an ankle injury and his bad luck continued in 2012 when the Arizona resident contracted Valley Fever. He said that he did not take any special precautions during this off-season and claimed that his body would not now have immunity against the disease in the future.

Former Knicks point guard and current CBS/Turner/YES basketball analyst Greg Anthony was also an award recipient at the dinner named in honor of the former Yankees captain who was killed in the prime of life in a private plane crash in 1979.

Greg has always been vocal about being an African-American Republican and lamented about the state that the party is in. “I am a centrist and we need to move to the center. The party has been taken over by TV and radio talk show hosts who are entertainers and should not be setting policy.”

He is not giving up on the GOP regaining its footing however. “It’s like in sports. If you keep losing then you are going to fire those who are in charge,” Anthony added.

Giants defensive end Justin Tuck was of the NFL stars chosen by the USA Network for its “Characters Unite” documentary and public service ads. Tuck discusses how he was bullied while trying to succeed in school as a youngster.

Former USA Network president and Hollis native Bonnie Hammer just received a big promotion as she was named president of Comcast’s entire cable television portfolio. Among those who will be reporting to her are Oxygen Network chief Jason Klarman who grew up in Rego Park.

Actor Peter Facinelli, who grew up in Howard Beach and graduated from St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows, was among those who caught the Nautica Fall 2013 Fashion preview at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Nautica is celebrating its 30th anniversary and is one of the few male clothing brands to have a runway show at Lincoln Center.

Joe Flacco, the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl-winning quarterback was on hand for the Tommy Hilfiger presentation at Fashion Week. It wasn’t that long ago that professional male athletes would never be seen at a Fashion Week event but that has dramatically changed over the years. Two years ago American Express brought in Rangers rookie Brian Boyle and his then Knicks counterpart, Landry Fields, to their Fashion Week skybox to mingle with clients and media. Amar’e Stoudemire, urbane Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, and former Rangers enforcer Sean Avery have made numerous appearances on the famed front row over the years.

This is the time of the year when many travel officials from foreign countries meet with journalists to help promote their summer tourism. Last week  French tourism officials were promoting the centennial of the Tour de France and they admitted that it’s an awkward sell to the American public given the performance enhancement drug culture of the sport in the 21st century as exemplified by former Tour champs Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis. They wisely however played up their beautiful countryside and famous cuisine and wines .

Thailand has seen a remarkable growth in tourism thanks to an unlikely source, the film “The Hangover Two” that was shot there. A Thailand tourism official rightfully pointed out that Thai boxing, with its mixture of fisticuffs and thrusting leg kicks, is what mixed martial arts leagues such as Ultimate Fighting Championship have based their incredibly popular sport.

Last week’s “Saturday Night Live” hosted by Justin Bieber was a nice return to form. The show opened with a brilliant spoof of the NFL on CBS team and the difficult time that they had ad-libbing during the third quarter power outage at the Super Bowl. Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharaoh, Tim Robinson, and Jason Sudeikis truly nailed James Brown, Shannon Sharpe, Bill Cowher, and Dan Marino respectively.

The Super Bowl of track & field, the Millrose Games, will take place at the Armory in Washington Heights. The highlight, as per tradition, will be the Wanamaker Mile.

In this high tech age board games are surprisingly not considered passe judging by what I saw at Toy Fair held at the Javits Center on Sunday. Techno-Source’s NFL Rush and Fremont Die’s NFL Game Day use dice and cards as a way of simulating a pro football game. Logos from all 32 NFL teams are included in both games. Fremont Die also showcased its oversized metal wastebaskets from every pro league except the NBA.

Franklin Sports will be entering the costume market with its helmet & jersey collection which will make you look like a player for your favorite NFL team. The helmet though is a plastic replica with a warning label on the helmet that it is not meant for actual game use. The company is expecting it to be a big Halloween sales mover for them.

Coconut water has certainly become the hot sports drink. For the past few years O.N.E, Zico and Vita Coco have dominated the market. Last year Knicks star Carmelo Anthony became a major investor in a company called Power Coco. A Chicago Blackhawks trainer has now come up with Coco 5 named after the five types of electrolytes his drink replenishes. In terms of taste, Coco 5 is by far the best of the bunch.

Way before there were sports bars, New York steakhouses were the gathering places to watch a game or a fight with the guys while enjoying an upscale meal. Toots Shor’s is long gone; Ben Benson’s closed their doors last year, and there are reports that Gallagher’s is hanging by a thread. It was therefore reassuring that the Old Homestead in Chelsea is still going strong. Last week they celebrated the 60th anniversary of their bovine statue mascot, Annabelle, being located above its entrance with a block party. Free hamburgers, birthday cake, and Yoo Hoo were dispensed to all who celebrated with Annabelle.

Posted under Baseball Stadium, Bettors, Chutzpah, Commissioner Bud Selig, Darkest Days, Deep Trouble, First Baseman, Fred Wilpon, Governmental Authority, Jersey Governor, Lloyd Carroll, Major League Baseball, Mayor Bloomberg, Might Make Sense, New York Mets, Roll Of The Dice, Steve Wynn, Top Story, Wholesome Family

Now Bud Must Step In

Last month Commissioner Bud Selig took an unprecedented step in taking over the Los Angeles Dodgers, because of the actions of owner Fran McCourt and released this statement:

“Pursuant to my authority as Commissioner, I informed Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt today that I will appoint a representative to oversee all aspects of the business and the day-to-day operations of the Club.  I have taken this action because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers and to protect the best interests of the Club, its great fans and all of Major League Baseball.”

At the time, I wrote in Mets Inside Pitch Magazine that the Wilpon’s situation is different, as the Dodgers were not a liquid asset because of McCourt’s divorce with his wife Jamie and also the beating of Brian Stow on Opening Day created an unsafe environment at Dodger Stadium, because of McCourt’s negligence in replacing at head of security.

Yet, after the New Yorker article that came out yesterday, it is time for Selig to take the same actions against the Wilpons.

Sure the Wilpons are still looking for a buyer for up to 49 percent of the club and the only beatings at Citi Field come with Met losses, but after reading the 11,000 word piece by Jeffrey Toobin, it is clear that by trying to clear his name in the Madoff lawsuit, Fred Wilpon is damaging  the future of the New York Mets, on the field and in the pocketbook.

Wilpon gave Toobin unprecedented access, because he felt that this would tell his side of the story and Wilpon will look like an everyman to world – an innocent victim, instead of a conniving thief. Instead the opposite happened, as the owner of the Mets ripped his three biggest players saying Jose Reyes wasn’t worth “Carl Crawford” money, David Wright is not a superstar and that he was a “schmuck” for signing Carlos Beltran.

Nevermind the fact that Reyes, Wright and Beltran fall right behind Mike Piazza and Darryl Strawberry as the best position players in Mets history and forget the fact that there was some truth to what Wilpon said as well, because no player is worth Carl Crawford money, Wright has never carried an offense like Piazza did, and yes, he was a schmuck for paying Beltran that type of dough.

The fact is once Wilpon said it as the owner of the club, he immediately devalued the franchise. When Sandy Alderson tries to trade Reyes and Beltran, he may not find as big of returns for the two players and Wright, the face of the franchise, may just want to bolt in two years in Wilpon is still owner of the club.

Further that with Irving Picard, who is treating this case like a war against the Borg, sitting in his captain’s chair and telling his underlings to “Make it so!” every time a new piece of evidence comes across his desk. Last week, we find out Picard alleges the Wilpons look to purchase fraud insurance, there will probably be more coming out in the next few weeks. And each and every time, Wilpon digs in, making it more and more difficult for the Mets.

And as things get more difficult, decisions will be made based on the lawsuit and not baseball relation actions.

It’s that reason why Selig needs to step in, as the situation is spinning out of control. Alderson can easily move up to run the organization, taking the Wilpons totally out of the equation. Until this suit is settled with Picard, the Wilpons need to step away from the club to fight for their reputations and let the baseball professionals run things.

A month ago, Selig did it with the Dodgers, now he has to do it with the Mets.

Posted under Carlos Beltran, Commissioner Bud Selig, Darryl Strawberry, David Wright, Dodger Stadium, Frank Mccourt, Fred Wilpon, Innocent Victim, Joe Mcdonald, Jose Reyes, Liquid Asset, Los Angeles Dodgers, Major League Baseball, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Positio, Top Story, Unprecedented Step, Word Piece, Yorker Article

This post was written by Joe McDonald on May 24, 2011

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MLB Needs To Step In And Take Control Of The Mets

The unsealed Madoff lawsuit against Sterling Equities shed some interesting light on the condition of the New York Mets.

The suit alleges the Wilpons ignored warnings from a number of financial experts that Madoff was a fraud. The rhetoric came from a number of different sources, including the hedge fund of Sterling Stamos and the wire house Merrill Lynch.

Yet, the Wilpons continued to invest with the Ponzi schemer, either because they didn’t care or they couldn’t stop, as their companies relied upon the Madoff returns to operate.

No matter what the reason, it has come clear the Wilpons need to take a step back from the New York Mets until this lawsuit is settled.

And if they will not do it by their own free will, then Commissioner Bud Selig must invoke the best interest of baseball clause to remove the Wilpon family from the day to day operation until this lawsuit is settled.

With the Wilpons in charge, the story will continue to be front page news on every paper in the New York area damaging the Mets and the game itself, and dominate the talk around Citi Field, where the players should not have the distraction of discussing their bosses’ matters.

We saw it this week after they Wilpons announced their intention of selling a minority stake in the club. Every day there were stories leaking about the Wilpons dealing with Madoff and the amount of debt the team carries. These will not go away and every move general manager Sandy Alderson makes will be scrutinized. ‘Did they make this trade to help the Mets or in order to pay the clawback due to the Madoff suit?’ will be the question asked by every reporter, blogger, and fan when the team makes a move.

Will Jose Reyes get sold off? Will David Wright? Forbes.com today reported the Mets need to cut a $30 million profit this year just to pay off the debt interest on Citi Field.

By many accounts, the club is over $1 billion in debt, not including SNY – which also holds debt – and many of the Wilpon credit lines have dried up. That’s why they are forced to put a portion of the club up for bid, rather a less public sale of one of their other assets.

The Wilpons maintain their innocence here and feel they are being “victimized” by Madoff victims’ trustee Irving Picard, and of course they are innocent until proven guilty. Yet, that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to conduct business as usual in Queens.

Commissioner Selig needs to step in, allow the Wilpons and Saul Katz to step aside, and put the club under MLB conservatorship with Alderson taking the role as president – a position he held with the San Diego Padres – with Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi running the baseball operation.

With Alderson at the helm, getting every major move blessed by Selig, the paying public will be satisfied with the knowledge that every trade or signing will be motivated by improving the club, rather than financial issues. Although the Wilpons will still own the club, with them out of sight will move the story off the front and back pages for now. MLB will set the team’s budget and the management team can be free to improve this sorrowed franchise.

This will also allow the Wilpons to worry about the future of their families, rather than trivial matters like how much they should charge for a burger at the Shake Shack.

Once the Wilpons are cleared of the allegations or lawsuit is settled, baseball does its due diligence on the Picard Lawsuit, and minority owners are in place, then the Wilpons will be free to come back to run the club.

Or if the courts or MLB’s investigation find that the Wilpons had “unclean hands” in the Madoff matter, baseball can force a sale of the club.

And if the Wilpon finances get too out of control and a full sale if voluntary, there can be a smooth transition with MLB running the club.

It has been done before. Last season, MLB put the Texas Rangers into conservatorship while the club was up at auction. The result was a World Series appearance.

And when George Steinbrenner was suspended for a few seasons back in the early 1990s, Gene Michael was able to build the franchise in to a dynasty.

Maybe the Wilpons will follow Steinbrenner’s lead and change the way they do business during their time away. And maybe the Alderson managerial team will be able to build the Mets from within without interference from Jeffrey Wilpon.

Yet, those will be just byproducts of the situation. More importantly, the Wilpons need to concentrate on the lawsuit at hand, clearing their name, and leave the running of their beloved franchise to MLB for the time being.

Posted under Best Interest, Blogger, Clawback, Commissioner Bud Selig, David Wright, Debt Interest, Financial Experts, Front Page News, Hedge Fund, Joe Mcdonald, Jose Reyes, Merrill Lynch, Mlb, New York Mets, Sandy Alderson, Schemer, Sny, Sterling Equities, Sterling Stamos, Top Story, Wire House

This post was written by Joe McDonald on February 4, 2011

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Report: Alderson To Be Named Next GM

According to a report on SI.com, the Mets have decided to hire Sandy Alderson as their 12th general manager. An announcement could happen as early as Friday, the day off for the World Series.

After three weeks of interviews, it seems like the Mets Office of the Chairman consisting of Mets CEO Fred Wilpon, President Saul Katz, and COO Jeff Wilpon decided on the 62 year-old Alderson, who will bring instant credibility to the club after building the Oakland A’s in the 1990s as general manager, presiding over the San Diego Padres in the mid to late 2000s and having two stints in the Commissioner’s Office, most recently cleaning up the Dominican Republic.

Alderson’s candidacy comes with the blessing of Commissioner Bud Selig, who has had a very close relationship with the Wilpons over the years.

The new GM, though, will have his work cut out for him as he inherits a Mets club that suffered from dysfunction and bad contracts over the Omar Minaya era. Alderson will need to make decisions on center fielder Carlos Beltran, second baseman Luis Castillo, and pitcher Oliver Perez, all of whom have disappointed in 2010 and have expiring contracts next season.

But his first order of business will be the next Met manager. A pioneer of Sabermatrics, Alderson may want to hire a manger in the mold of the Red Sox Terry Francona, who will implement front office policy, rather than manage from the gut. That would seem to eliminate former Met Wally Backman will not be hired, but past reports indicate the Wilpons would prefer a manager with some Met connections.

That remains to be seen as Alderson probably commands full autonomy and the Wilpons stated publicly the new GM will pick the manager for the club.

An Alderson seems to be up to the job. He is a Vietnam veteran, who has a law degree from Harvard. Alderson’s Oakland A’s won the 1989 World Series, while his shoestring San Diego Padres were strong contenders during his years as CEO.

Posted under Carlos Beltran, Center Fielder, Commissioner Bud Selig, Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon, Law Degree, Luis Castillo, Mets Club, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Omar Minaya, Order Of Business, San Diego Padres, Sandy Alderson, Saul Katz, Second Baseman, Shoestring, Stints, Terry Francona, Top Story, Vietnam Veteran, Wally Backman

This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 27, 2010