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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Gem By Hernandez Good As One Thrown By Lee

Cliff Lee the Seattle Mariners left hander did his job going the route and took care of the New York Yankees the night before. Wednesday night it was Felix Hernandez the right hander pitcher of the Mariners who did his part. He also went the distance but his pitching gem may have been better than the one Lee threw.

It was a two-hit complete game 7-0 shut out over the potent Yankees lineup, 115 pitches and everything in his arsenal. As he said, “the slider, curveball, just tried to throw as many strikes as I could.” The Yankees could do nothing and seemed frustrated as they returned to the dugout.

Hernandez would not compare his performance to Lee. What mattered was the Mariners once again got two consecutive complete games from Lee and Hernandez.  And it was the second time this season that Lee and Hernandez won back-to[back games.

It was the third straight complete game for Hernandez, two of them going as a win. Lee got the win Tuesday evening in the Bronx, his third consecutive complete game. “It happens, it happens,” said Hernandez about what he and Lee accomplished over the Yankees the past two nights.

Was there an incentive to top what Lee did? “We’re different pitchers,” said Hernandez who has a career 15-3 record in the month of June. The 24-year old native of Valencia Venezuela also had 11 strikeouts and as play concluded moved to second in that department in the American League.

More importantly, as the Yankees have discovered, if the Mariners continue to get this type of pitching from Lee and Hernandez, well they can make some noise in the second half of the season.

“You talk about the impact that Lee has on this pitching staff, I think it pushes Felix,” commented Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu. “I thought it was the best pure stuff that Felix has shown in a game.  He really dominated and kept their hitters off balance. It was a tremendous performance.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said about Hernandez “He’s as good as we have seen all year. His slider, changeup and curveball, he had it all working tonight. He’s got electric stuff.”

Hernandez finished the month of June with a 4-1 record and a 2.36 ERA and over his last four starts is 3-0 with a 1.26 ERA. “We knew his ability was there,” added Wakamatsu. “The key thing was getting the complete games.  Every time you have an outing like this it’s something to look back on and learn from it.”

The last time the Yankees had back-to-back complete games thrown against them was back in April of 2000 when Toronto’s Chris Carpenter and Kelvin Escobar did it up in Toronto. And it has not happened in consecutive home games since 1991.

Said Girardi, “Good pitching will always beat good hitting; that’s the bottom line.”  For the Mariners the bottom line is getting the rest of their pitching staff to follow in the footsteps of Lee and Hernandez.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Complete Game, Complete Games, Curveball, Dugout, Felix Hernandez, Game 7, Joe Girardi, Left Hander, Manager Don, Month Of June, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Pitchers, Pitches, Seattle Mariners, Second Time, Slider, Top Story, Tuesday Evening, Valencia Venezuela, Wednesday Night, Yankees Lineup

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on July 1, 2010