Sportsbeat – 7/9/11

If there were a vote for Manager of the Half-Year, I would be hard-pressed to decide between  the Pirates’ Clint Hurdle and the Mets’ Terry Collins. After 19 straight years of losing seasons, the Pirates have spent most of 2011 above the .500 mark and are in contention in the NL Central. If someone had told you that the Mets would be a legitimate wild card team at the All-Star break without having the services of David Wright and Ike Davis for most of the season as well as not having ace starter Johan Santana at all, you would wonder what they are secretly smoking.

It’s not just that the Mets are winning that has put Terry Collins in a good light. He came to New York with a reputation for having a short fuse and being combative. At age 62 Collins has changed from being a Leo Durocher wannabe to becoming Jim Leyland “lite” as one longtime sports author who requested anonymity told me.

Now before we get too excited about the Mets, we can’t ignore their tendency to fall apart like a cheap suit after the All-Star break. If that happens, expect Mets GM Sandy Alderson to dispatch Carlos Beltran, Mike Pelfrey, and Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez to other cities. Even if the Mets are miraculously in the thick of things, Alderson will probably have to move K-Rod to avoid the Mets being on the hook for his $17.5 million salary next year. The conventional wisdom is that for the post-Madoff Mets to have any shot at re-signing Jose Reyes they are going to need to free up payroll in the worst kind of way. Getting rid of their still very good closer will accomplish that.

Last January former Yankees great and then incoming Dodgers manager Don Mattingly hosted a fund-raiser for his charity at Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant on Central Park South. I asked Don if he worried that the chaos surrounding team owner Frank McCourt’s divorce would have an adverse effect on his team’s fortunes. “No, players are professionals. They just care about what goes on the field,” he told me that night. I have a feeling that he would answer my question differently today.

Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier had a great reaction when he got a stack of legal documents in the mail about his employer’s bankruptcy filing. “Now you know how I’ll be spending the All-Star break. It’s great to be Dodger!” he exclaimed according to the Sports Business Journal.

It was a weird atmosphere at Yankee Stadium on Thursday, July 7 with Derek Jeter three hits away from the 3,000-hit career milestone. It seemed that no one cared that the Tampa Bay Rays, who came into Yankee Stadium that night a mere four games behind the Yanks in the AL East, were beating them 5-1; all they cared about was Jeter getting three hits that night.

Derek is also notorious about guarding his privacy and that’s why it was surprising that he has allowed HBO Sports to do one of those “all access” documentaries about his road to 3,000.

Speaking of HBO Sports, make sure to catch their latest documentary, The Curious Case of Curt Flood. The subject here was a terrific centerfielder who played on three pennant-winning St. Louis Cardinals teams in the 1960s. In 1969, just as the Miracle Mets were in the midst of beating the Orioles in the World Series, the Cards traded Flood to the Phillies. Even though he had played 11 years in the big leagues, Flood no say in choosing his employer thanks to baseball’s “reserve clause” that bounded a player to a team unless that club wanted to get rid of him. The term “Free agency” was as unheard of as the Internet back then.

Flood refused to report to the Phillies. He had nothing against them or the city of Philadelphia. It was a matter of principle. He wanted a say as to where he would work and he likened his situation to slavery. The simpleminded sports media at the time (some things never change!) made fun of his slavery analogy because he was earning $90,000 per year at the time which was quite a payday for the time. Nonetheless, Flood’s point was valid. Even though few players spoke up for him at the time, added to the fact that the Supreme Court ruled against him, Curt Flood is the man most responsible for the free agency rights baseball players enjoy today.

ESPN doesn’t get mad, it gets even. Last month NBC, now owned by cost-conscious Comcast, shocked the world by spending a fortune in retaining the rights to show the next two summer and winter Olympics. ESPN executives thought that they had the Games in their bag.

Two weeks ago, however, they snagged the rights to broadcast a long-held NBC Sports jewel, Wimbledon. That is probably bad news for NBC’s chief tennis voice, former Mets broadcaster Ted Robinson who grew up in Rockville Centre.

James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales’s new book, These Guys Have All the Fun (Little, Brown), gives readers an inside look at the going-on in Bristol, CT with an over 700-page oral history on ESPN. While it is a thorough and engaging read, there is surprisingly little that is controversial here. Everyone knows that “Sportscenter” anchor Keith Olbermann was not the most popular guy on campus. There is also little written about why longtime baseball analyst Harold Reynolds (now working for the MLB Network) was dropped by the network (Was he engaged in an appropriate act with a staffer as was rumored at the time?) or the real reasons why pompous Peter Gammons, another longtime ESPN baseball personality moved to the MLB Network. I would like to have known if Gammons was fired or whether was it his decision.

Congratulations to the voice of CBS Sports, Jim Nantz, on his induction into the Football Hall of Fame in Canton next month. Jim is as approachable a big name sportscaster as you’ll ever meet and has been tireless is his ability to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Disease research.

One of the original faces of SNY, Steve Overmyer, who inexplicably dropped by them along with such fine talent as Kenny Choi and Cedarhurst’s own Matt Yallof, has resurfaced doing fill-in work at WCBS-TV. Overmyer has a clever wit and has been sorely missed.

At age 24, Graham Bensinger could be the next Roy Firestone. He has quickly become one of sports best interviewers. You can see him on Yahoo Sports and hear him on Sirius XM.

Call me an old fogy in this iPod age, but there is nothing like listening to a ballgame on the AM dial on a Radio Shack pocket radio.

On the topic of radios, Eton Corporation in conjunction with the American Red Cross is marketing a self-powered AM-FM Radio that can also recharge your cell phone. Eton has also come out with a Road Torq self-powered flashlight that is particularly handy at night if you have to change a tire or flag down assistance. It is a crummy feeling to find a flashlight whose batteries are dead when you need it the most.

A vast majority of us do our late night sports viewing from the comfort of our beds. The quality of the mattress is obviously important to both sleep and for your back when watching your TV from your bed. Just as crucial in those areas are the quality of bed sheets and pillowcases. Luxor Linens uses highest thread count Egyptian cotton for its bed sheets, pillow cases and bath towels. The company also makes bathrobes that make you fell like Hef at the Playboy Mansion.

Posted under Carlos Beltran, Cheap Suit, Clint Hurdle, Conventional Wisdom, David Wright, Frank Mccourt, Johan Santana, Jose Reyes, Leo Durocher, Lloyd Carroll, Manager Don, Mets Gm, Mickey Mantle, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Nl Central, Rod Rodriguez, Sandy Alderson, Short Fuse, Top Story

This post was written by Lloyd Carroll on July 9, 2011

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Can the Mets Dodge the Potential Effects of Wilpon’s Latest Blunder?

Ever since it was released online, a week in advance of being available via print on May 30th, much has been made of writer Jeffrey Toobin’s New Yorker magazine article detailing the far too honest comments of New York Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon about the stars of his own struggling team.

The article begins with Wilpon, a Brooklyn native and former high school teammate of Sandy Koufax who grew up as a diehard Brooklyn Dodger fan, stubbornly ignoring architects and imparting his own vision for an Ebbets Field-esque rotunda as the main entrance to what is now the Mets’ new home of Citi Field.

A little later in the article, Toobin writes:

“All the Dodger stuff—that was an error of judgment on my part,” Wilpon told me…

In the past two years, the Dodger problem at Citi Field has largely been addressed. The team added a Mets Hall of Fame, just off the rotunda, and plenty of banners and photographs of the Mets’ storied and eccentric existence are now spread around the ballpark

It’s interesting that Toobin chose the words, “The Dodger problem at Citi Field” because although Wilpon corrected the issue Toobin was describing (albeit reactively, only after receiving a lot of criticism, rather than proactively doing things right the first time), that “Dodger problem at Citi Field” can be seen as a very fitting metaphor for Wilpon and his Mets.

Ironically, it’s Wilpon’s former favorite franchise, now in Los Angeles, which began to similarly fall on hard times financially (resulting from Los Angeles Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt’s divorce) at about the same time Wilpon and the Mets became victims of what many now jokingly call a “Wilpon-zi” scheme.

(That too, is ironic, that a man named Bernie Madoff literally “made off” with Wilpon’s money, as is the future of team run by a man named McCourt possibly being decided in court next month).

If it weren’t all so sad, it would be comical.

But, let’s back up for a moment, to the beginning of the Toobin article again and bring that to the present day.

There was Wilpon, with a chance to make a statement in the post-Shea Stadium era and create whatever he wanted on the grounds of the former Shea Stadium parking lot to thrust the Mets into a new age that would excite the Met fanbase for years, perhaps decades, to come.

Wilpon’s response? Turning off Met fans by completely ignoring their team’s history and unveiling a tribute to his first baseball love, the Brooklyn Dodgers – which other than supplying the blue for the Mets’ team colors, have nothing to do with Wilpon’s current franchise, which he’s been a part of running since 1980 (five years before Wilpon’s first investment with Madoff).

And, later on, there was Wilpon again, with a chance to build upon the Mets’ success of their 2006 National League Championship Series appearance (even though they probably should have beaten the underdog St. Louis Cardinals and were likely good enough to beat the Detroit Tigers in had they reached the World Series that year).

But, each of the next two years, the Mets would go on to make major league baseball history by blowing the largest consecutive September leads, each to hated division rival Philadelphia, while missing the playoffs.

And yet, even after that, Wilpon remained loyal to a fault, keeping failed Mets’ general manager Omar Minaya aboard for too long, despite several poor player personnel moves and ill-fated public relations dealings by Minaya that continued to set the Mets back as a team while damaging their image among fans and the media.

While Wilpon allowed Minaya to keep ruining the Mets’ roster, he also let Minaya embarrass the franchise through such gems as flying former manager Willie Randolph out on a west coast road trip just to unprofessionally fire Randolph at 3:12 am ET, and acting too slowly to fire ex-Vice President of Player Development Tony Bernazard after Bernazard removed his shirt and challenged Met minor league players to a fight in the clubhouse. And then, there was Minaya repeatedly bungling and stammering his way through press conferences, including Minaya’s awkward public accusation of New York Daily News reporter Adam Rubin supposedly angling for a job with the Mets after Rubin reported the incident about Bernazard.

It was all enough for many Met fans to wish for new team ownership back then.

That growing sentiment was fueled with reports of the Mets moving toward becoming a small market fish in the big pond of New York, as the team with the new stadium by Flushing Bay apparently saw its owner flush hundreds of millions of dollars away in Madoff’s madness.

And now, the sort of stuff you just can’t make up, not even if you were Minaya talking about Rubin.

Now, in all fairness, the context in which Wilpon disparaged the values or abilities of Mets like Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and David Wright should be noted. It’s not as if Wilpon offered those opinions to Toobin out of the blue (whether Dodger blue or otherwise).

Wilpon expressed such thoughts to Toobin while the two took in a Met game against the Houston Astros at Citi Field earlier this season.

In that setting, simply watching and talking baseball, even if discussing his own team, Wilpon can be somewhat exonerated than if it were in say, in a room somewhere, in a typical interview environment.

Yet, for a guy who built a fortune in real estate – enough to own a major league baseball team in New York – it would figure that Wilpon would know better.

When talking to a high profile reporter like Toobin for a feature piece in a magazine like the New Yorker, rule one in protecting your best assets is not to devalue them in any way.

Even Robert Nutting, the principal owner of the small market, perennially losing Pittsburgh Pirates knows that much.

Yet, while speaking with Toobin, Wilpon demonstrated once again that he just doesn’t get it when running the Mets.

Time will tell whether a current lawsuit in the Madoff case might ultimately force Wilpon to sell the Mets, or if the current financial state of the Mets (which Wilpon described to Sports Illustrated this week as a team that’s “bleeding cash” and “could lose $70 million this season) might eventually lead to new ownership in Queens. Or, Perhaps Wilpon, now 74, will get past all of this and continue to own a team that can again become financially stable and win.

For now though, how could such a successful businessman (outside of baseball) show all of his cards so openly?

Few would argue with Wilpon (as he told Toobin) that shortstop Jose Reyes might deserve a $140 million contract or that third baseman David Wright falls short of being a superstar. And, more would probably agree with Wilpon than disagree that in retrospect, Wilpon was misguided in overpaying for outfielder Carlos Beltran based on one historic postseason for Houston.

However, Wilpon is not exactly new to the art of negotiation and he’s certainly aware that he may be forced to trade any or even all of those players, and more. If that’s the case, why not build them up as much as you can?

Whether you’re selling real estate, cars, trinkets, or trying to get the most you possibly can for baseball players who you might not be able to afford to keep, you should always try to talk them up and overvalue them. Wilpon clearly knows that or he wouldn’t have ever been in a position to buy a professional baseball team in the first place.

And still, he just couldn’t help himself. Just like the Ebbets Field-styled rotunda replete with the focus on tributes to Jackie Robinson – very worthwhile, but for the Dodgers, not the Mets.

Ironically, both franchises – Wilpon’s initial favorite and the one he’s trying to save now – need to dig out of financial messes.

McCourt is desperately trying to keep the Dodgers as he struggles to make the team’s player payroll for the end of May while embroiled in a court fight with his ex-wife.

As a result, Major League Baseball has stepped in to help out one of its flagship franchises, something that some Met fans have expressed interest in seeing with their own team and which the New York media has already suggested should happen with the Mets.

A June 22nd hearing will have a superior court judge hear arguments on why a sale of the team should be ordered.

If it comes to that for McCourt and the Dodgers, many Met fans might say something like, “Go ahead and sell too, Fred. This is one time we don’t mind if you forget about the Mets and pay homage to your Dodgers.”

Posted under Blunder, Brooklyn Dodger, Dodger Fan, Ebbets Field, Fitting Metaphor, Frank Mccourt, Fred Wilpon, Hall Of Fame, Honest Comments, Los Angeles Dodgers, Magazine Article, Main Entrance, New York Mets, Rotunda, School Teammate, Top Story

This post was written by Jon Wagner on May 28, 2011

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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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