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

Alderson Introduced As New Mets GM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

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

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