Sports Beat “The Wright Decision”

David Wright’s productive 2012 season was a rare bright spot for Mets fans. With one year remaining his current pact with the Mets, David picked a good time to finally feel at home at Citi Field, a place where he had struggled for the first three years of its existence.

Mets owner Fred Wilpon was quoted in New York Magazine as saying that David Wright, while a good player, was not a superstar. Wilpon may have been right in his assessment but the reality is that his woebegone organization had no choice but to re-sign him to the most lucrative contract in Mets history. Had the Mets traded David Wright, Citi Field would have resembled the ghost town that Shea Stadium was in the late 1970s following Tom Seaver’s departure.

For better or worse, David Wright is more than just a fan favorite; he is the face of the organization. No one sells more Mets jerseys and t-shirts than him. It is obligatory for Wright to hold a lengthy press conference on the state of the Mets after every single game. No matter how awful things are going for our Flushing heroes, David always says something reassuring to the faithful about how things will get better.

I am not sure if it was a coincidence but the Mets inked a deal with Wright just a few hours after the lowly, small market Pittsburgh Pirates spent $17 million to pry catcher Russell Martin away from the Yankees. It would have been both humiliating and insulting for the parsimonious Pirates to spend big bucks on new talent while the Mets count their pennies watching their name players go elsewhere.

The death of Marvin Miller, the former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, last week at age 95 did not receive the attention that it should have. Marvin is the man who was singlehandedly responsible for the economic freedoms and high compensation that big leaguers enjoy today and which were but a pipedream for them 40 years ago.

Ironically, the high salaries and free agency led to more public interest in the sport and thus higher ticket prices, licensing fees, and billion-dollar television contracts for the owners. Of course, the owners and old guard members of the Baseball Writers Association of America refused to accept that notion and that’s why Marvin Miller was never inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Washington Wizards general manager, and former Forest Hills High basketball star, Ernie Grunfeld normally never misses an opportunity to return home. His awful team had a 1-12 record when they came into town last Friday night to play the Knicks and that had to have influenced his decision to skip the game. “He made the right call!” laughed Knicks rookie forward Chris Copeland who played well in his team’s easy win.

“Seven is better than six!” beamed Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill following his team’s 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Hill was basically admitting that the game was an absolute stinker with the only saving grace being that Gang Green came out on top.

QB Mark Sanchez was pulled from a game for poor play for the first time in his four-year career as a Jet by head coach Rex Ryan. Following the game, Ryan admirably refused to throw Sanchez under the proverbial bus by simply stating that he thought that his understudy, Greg McElroy, could provide a spark in the second half. McElroy did look sharp leading the Jets to the go-ahead touchdown and driving them down the field again when the clock ran out in the fourth quarter.

Ryan claimed that he wasn’t concerned that Mark Sanchez was still an awful passer in spite of a good job by both his offensive line and running backs, and preferred to give credit to the opposition. “The Cardinals make a lot of quarterbacks look bad,” he said. I think that Rex was being a bit too charitable towards him.

The Travel Channel debuted a new series Tuesday, “NFL Road Tested: The Cleveland Browns.” The show is similar to the cinema verite premium cable documentary series as HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and Showtime’s “The Franchise.” What makes this show different is that it peels back the curtain for sports fans to see the countless things that are required to get the Cleveland Browns from city to city. Team travel secretaries are among the many unsung heroes in the world of professional sports and it’s fascinating to watch all that they have to do to make sure that things go off without a hitch.

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin is enjoying a terrific rookie season and is one of the most exciting NFL players to watch. Bayside High School alumnus Dorson Boyce is hoping to be taking hand-offs from him next year. Boyce was signed by the Redskins this past summer but has spent the year on the injured reserve list.

Three cheers for both Showtime and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions for helping to revive boxing in New York. Madison Square Garden was for years the Mecca of boxing but over the last thirty years, Las Vegas, and to a lesser extent, Atlantic City have played host to the big fights. Last Saturday’s twelve-round WBA super welterweight championship bout between fan favorite Miguel Cotto and Austin “No Doubt” Trout was the biggest pugilistic battle Madison Square Garden has hosted in years. The fight was a good one as the slugfest went the distance with Trout winning a unanimous decision over Cotto.

It seems as if every boxing card that involves fighters that have even the vaguest name recognition wind up on pay-per-view cable. That means just a cadre of hardcore boxing fans watch and the sport fails to grow. Showtime had the Cotto-Trout bout as part of its regular Saturday night programming last week, and it plans to do the same with its next marquee fight from New York, a twelve-round super lightweight championship fight between up-and-coming Danny Garcia and veteran Zab Judah that will take place at the Barclays Center on February 9.

New York Rangers center Brad Richards has managed to keep very busy in spite of the lockout that has been imposed on players by the team owners of the National Hockey League owners. He organized Operation Hat Trick, the charity game that took place in Atlantic City over Thanksgiving weekend, and is trying to do the same here in the New York area to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Richards, like his teammate Henryk Lundqvist, enjoys men’s fashion and has just inked a deal to be a model and spokesman for UNTUCKit, a dress shirt company that encourages guys to wear their button-downs over their belts instead of tucking them inside, hence the brand name.

Liquor companies routinely hire athletes to serve as endorsers. Ty Ku, Japan’s best known sake manufacturer, has gone a slightly different route by hiring Bravo’s no-nonsense “Millionaire Matchmaker,” Patti Stanger. Then again, dating can frequently be a contact sport!

At a press event to promote both Ty Ku and her new book, “Become Your Own Matchmaker” (Atria), Stanger spoke about how she spent her formative years in Beechurst and her fond memories of PS 193.

Sake, incidentally, is a rice-based, wine-like spirit, that contrary to popular belief, should be served cold rather than heated according to Ty Ku officials.

The holiday season is a favorite time for a lot of us to get away. If you want warmth but don’t want to pay exorbitant Florida and the Caribbean hotel rates, two cities served by JetBlue, Long Beach, California and Las Vegas, Nevada offer very pleasant albeit not tropical weather, and it’s considered off-season for both places so they won’t break your budget.

Long Beach is connected to Los Angeles via mass transit through the Blue Line as well by freeway and it’s only a 15-minute drive to Disneyland. Most of Long Beach’s hotels cater to business travelers and since the holiday season is notoriously a slow time in that area, leisure travelers can snap up bargain deals from the big name chain hotels such as the Hyatt and the Renaissance.

Las Vegas, which is generally unbearable from June through September, is an easy place to enjoy during the holiday season. The Venetian and the Palazzo Hotels are promoting  “Winter in Venice” that will run through January 6.  The hotels will have light shows, waterfalls, outdoor skating rinks, and top-tier dining at their over 30 restaurants. Package deals begin at $149 per night. A Las Vegas competitor, the Cosmopolitan, which is famous for its intriguing commercials that run during NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” is offering a $150 credit on hotel amenities if you book a three-night stay.

JetBlue has just begun service from JFK to Albuquerque, New Mexico, a town that has been shamefully under-served by the airline industry. Albuquerque is a charming southwest town and it’s only an hour drive to Santa Fe, a city renown for its arts. Albuquerque is also a short drive to New Mexico’s Rocky Mountain ski resorts. If you want to enjoy a balmy winter sun, drive two hours south to the college town of Las Cruces. You can also play golf anytime of the year without having to make reservations days in advance in Las Cruces.

Posted under Baseball Players Association, David Wright, Economic Freedoms, Fred Wilpon, Ghost Town, Lloyd Carroll, Lucrative Contract, Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball Players Association, Marvin Miller, Mets Fans, New York Mets, Pipedream, Pittsburgh Pirates, Shea Stadium, Tom Seaver, Top Story

A Storm is Coming

NEW YORK – It got dark and ominous as the usual bus ride approached Main Street in Flushing for the trip to Citi Field. We were warned to be careful as this unexpected storm hit this part of New York City. Never been in the battle of such a vicious storm as this was, and it certainly appeared to be a tornado.

Garbage bins went to the other corner, so did the newspaper bins. Wind swept rains gusting like a 100- mph fastball coming to the plate. A bolt of low level lightning and the steeple of historic St. Michaels Church came down. Parts leveled, thankfully on a vacant city bus and parts of the structure blown on Main Street adjacent to stores in that busy business district area of Flushing.

This was going to be another form of reporting and not about a baseball game in Flushing with all of the police activity and closed roads. Rather the carnage left behind from an unexpected storm that in all probability will be diagnosed as a level-1 tornado was going to be the story. Forget about the final game of a four-game series between the New York Mets and last place Pittsburgh Pirates.

The only way to the ballpark, with the 7 train effected with loss of power, a walk down Roosevelt Avenue. Commuters finding an alternative to get home walked past Citi Field under the 7 line to nearby Corona and other neighborhoods in the vicinity of Citi Field.

The ballpark had power. That was noticeable as the lights from Citi Field were clearly visible as we walked down Roosevelt Avenue and made detours around the carnage of downed trees and wind swept broken fences. Destination Citi Field and it looked like a ghost town.

As it was, those who braved the elements witnessed the storm from sheltered areas in the ballpark. There weren’t many in the ballpark when the first pitch, amazingly was thrown at 7:20pm. Only a 12-minute rain delay, because there is a good drainage system at Citi Field and an amazing grounds crew.

“You could not see from here to there,” said veteran reporter Bob Trainor who watched the event unfold from his press box seat where, he of course had the windows closed. “But it was frightening,” he said in the press dining room that also was effected as many members of the media who take the 7 train did not arrive until the sixth inning.

Grace the cashier had to leave because a tree fell in front of her home in nearby Flushing. Maureen the hostess made her phone calls to make sure everything was safe and sound at her home across the river in Bergen County New Jersey.

The official scorer Howie Karpin drove in from Manhattan, battled the gridlock and just made it for the first pitch. Yours truly reviewed the scary ride to Flushing eating the usual and satisfactory Citi Food press meal. And as the first pitch was thrown, there were about 1,000 hearty souls in their seats ready to watch a baseball game.

The upper decks were closed and, later the Mets rewarded those loyal fans to another game to one of the September 27-30 games against the Milwaukee Brewers. Because they got the game in as rain continued to fall, though not as vicious and ominous as the storm that passed.
Later credit Mets management for updating fans about travel conditions that shut down service on most parts of the Long Island Rail Road and an advisory that the 7 line resumed service. Fans felt more at ease, and also pleased about their team even if the sweep was against the worst team in baseball.

“It was unusual playing before so few fans and they are loyal to come out in weather like that,” said third base coach Chip Hale when the night was over. Another Mets win, 6-2 that put them over the .500 mark. A four- game sweep over Pittsburgh and the Mets first over the Pirates since June 19-22 1997

A night to remember this trip to Citi Field, a safe and sound ride home on the usual 7 train ride with Mets radio voice Wayne Hagin who compared the storm to the many he has witnessed in Chicago and the Midwest.

THE GAME AND NOTES:  Mile Pelfrey became the 10th Mets right hander in franchise history to win 15 games in a season and improved to 10-0 at Citi Field…. Rookie Lucas Duda snapped a 0-23 streak with a fourth inning two-run double and also double din the sixth inning for the first multi-hit game of his career…

Angel Pagan finished with three hits and drove in two runs, also extended his career high in steals with 34. He also picked up his ninth outfield assist when he as involved in an 8-4-3 double play in the fourth inning. The assists tied him for second in the National League after making a sliding catch in center that was nearly impossible.

“I am used to playing center field,” he said as Pagan has been used in right and left this season. “I couldn’t believe I made that catch.” He added the catch was done with his eyes closed and was glad it kept John Bowker from getting a triple which kept Pelfrey out of a jam…

Mets manager Jerry Manuel got his laugh of the night that was needed also from the small contingent of media members in his post game conference. When asked if Pagan was in the plans as a starting outfielder next season: “Sure would like to make that decision,” said the embattled Manuel who in al probability will not be making that decision next season…

Manuel also said that he and his team look forward to competing against the Atlanta Braves who are battling first place Philadelphia.  Atlanta comes to Citi Field for a three-game series that begins Friday evening. “We are playing the best baseball in a while even if it was against the Pirates. We will male them suffer a little and there will be that intensity,” he added about the Mets-Braves rivalry…

Pirates remained winless, 0-7 at Citi Field… Their rookie third baseman, Pedro Akvarez of the Dominican Republic and New York got his first hit in the series, a double, and scored a run as many in the slim crowd were friends, from his alma mater Horace Mann Academy in the Bronx.

“It was good coming home,” he said. “I am optimistic about the opportunity to be playing regularly. A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Alvarez was a fan of the Boston Red Sox and attributed his success to the family atmosphere and competitive spirit of other ballplayers from the Dominican Republic.

“We went through our adversity and made our sacrifices,” said Alvarez who is batting ,233 with 11 home runs and 43 RBI… The Mets have decided to shut down rookie pitcher Jenrry Mejia. Lifted after 2.1 innings Wednesday night, Mejia had an MRI that revealed rhomboid strain of the right shoulder blade….

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Baseball Game, Bus Ride, Business District, City Bus, Drainage System, Fastball, Final Game, Game Series, Garbage Bins, Ghost Town, Minute Rain Delay, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, Police Activity, St Michaels Church, Steeple, Top Story, Trainor, Unexpected Storm, Veteran Reporter, Vicious Storm

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on September 17, 2010