Sports Beat “Self-absorbed Matt”

In yet another dreary Mets season Matt Harvey gave Mets fans a number of thrills this season such as pitching two scoreless innings as the starting pitcher in the 2013 All-Star Game played at Citi Field this past July. You would have to go back nearly 30 years to Dwight Gooden’s heyday to find a Mets pitcher who could dominate opposing hitters at will.

He was such a big story that Jimmy Fallon used him for a hilarious “man in the street” bit to see how many New Yorkers could recognize him. ESPN Magazine put him on the cover in the buff for its July “body issue” while Men’s Journal ran a feature on him that made it clear that he was thoroughly enjoying the trappings of being a handsome, young New York celebrity.

Last month Mets fans’ collective spirits took a dive when it was diagnosed that Harvey’s pitching elbow suffered a tear and that it was probable that he would miss the 2014 season. It would be a certainty if he elected to have surgery something that he understandably is hoping to avoid although it seems inevitable that he will need a procedure.

Given that Harvey has been a hero to beleaguered Mets fans, combined with the fact that his future is clearly in jeopardy, many of the media who cover the team have been reticent to report that he has been rather unapproachable in the clubhouse for a good chunk of the season and that you were lucky to get a one-word response to questions if he did deign to talk to you.

Harvey’s arrogance would certainly have gone unreported by me had he not made a jerk out of himself last Wednesday when he agreed to be a guest on Dan Patrick’s NBC Sports Network Show. Instead of answering Patrick’s questions about his pitching arm issues, Harvey insisted on shilling, rather inarticulately I might add, for the cellular telephone chip manufacturer, Qualcomm. Dan understandably skewered him after the interview was over.

In contrast, McDonald’s did things right last Tuesday when it brought in Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz for a press event at their Times Square restaurant to promote their new Mighty Wings snack. Cruz is a commercial endorser for McDonald’s but he gamely took questions about the Giants’ 0-2 start from the attending press.

The personable Cruz is one of the few Hispanic sports to land a bevy of national endorsement deals. He has done TV and magazine ads for Time Warner Cable, Gillette, and Advil as well as raking in big bucks from Nike for wearing their apparel. Even the great Mariano Rivera never landed the lucrative corporate contracts that Victor Cruz has.

New York City’s official tourism bureau, NYC and Company, owes  MLB scheduling committee and the good folks from the Bay Area a lot of thanks. Thousands of visitors from Northern California came to New York this past week for the sole purpose of seeing the Giants play the Mets at Citi Field (the Mets’ accounting department was delighted since the place would have been a ghost town otherwise) and the Yankees in the Bronx.

The Queens Economic Development Council, which had a booth at the US Open, to inform visitors of what Queens has to offer, should do the same in front of Citi Field. Queens has terrific restaurants that are just as good, if not better, and far less expensive than those in Manhattan. Yet the vast majority of out-of-town visitors attending a sporting event don’t know that. If nothing else, the QEDC should be visible when the Phillies come into play the Mets next year because a lot of fans drive in from Philadelphia and its suburbs to see their team at Citi Field. They have already paid the high parking charges so they might as well get their money’s worth by walking over the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge to Flushing and try one of its many fine dining establishments.

It wasn’t that long ago that the San Francisco Giants drew even fewer fans than the Mets do for a game. A great deal of the credit for the turnaround has to go to the team’s CEO, Lawrence Baer, who was instrumental in getting AT& T Park built in San Francisco and then putting together a team that won two World Series in the last three years. Baer is the rare baseball executive who enjoys schmoozing with the media and with fans. Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon could learn a lot by observing him. Perhaps Jeff’s dad, Mets owner Fred Wilpon, could make a call to Baer to arrange for Jeff to have an internship with him.

I asked Baer about the team that plays across San Francisco Bay from his, the Oakland Athletics, and their quest to get a new stadium. Baer and the Giants are not happy that the A’s want to move south to San Jose where the Giants have a minor league team there and they consider it to be their territory. The city of San Jose is suing Major League Baseball for their attempts to prevent the A’s from moving there.

Baer could not comment on this pending litigation but he did not disagree with my assessment that the A’s would be better off building a new ballpark on Oakland’s sizable waterfront that is well-served by mass transit. The A’s would be rolling the dice moving 50 miles from their current home in the hopes of tapping into the Silicon Valley corporate world.

The Mets’ cable outlet, SNY, made a big deal in advance of Jerry Seinfeld’s guest analyst gig last Tuesday night that lasted a paltry four innings. Except for one joke about surgeon to star athletes Dr. James Andrews who gets a lot of press attention even when he just offers an opinion, Jerry did not bring much to the table. Seinfeld, a  Queens College alum, did not meet with the media and his bodyguards got him out of Citi Field as quickly as possible by interacting with as few people as possible.

Under Armour, the Baltimore-based sports apparel company, continues to chip away at Nike’s dominance in the marketplace. St. John’s University announced this week that Under

Armour will be the official supplier of uniforms for its sports teams for the next six years.

With both leisure time and disposable income becoming increasingly more difficult for Americans, destination and resorts are competing harder for attention. California’s San Luis Obispo County took out a booth at the GBK Lounge in Manhattan’s Empire Hotel during Fashion Week while the Puerto Rico Tourism Company did the same at the US Open. Last Monday, the Blue Lagoon Resort in Iceland, the European country located closest to the USA, held a reception for travel agents and the press in midtown Manhattan.

The weather is still warm and sunny but we all know that the cold weather isn’t far behind. Ski Vermont, the private consortium that markets that state’s many ski resorts, was in town Thursday week to promote the fact that nearly all of the resorts there will be offering bargain lodging and ski lessons in January to beginners. Many ski lodges, including Killington and Stowe Mountain will be making their own snow as early as November. Sugarbush is offering an unlimited ski pass without any blackout dates to those under 30 for $299. The Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe (yes, the same von Trapp family of “Sound of Music” fame) still offers the best in cross-country skiing and they are opening an Austrian lager brewery. They hope to ship can and bottles to retailers all over the world by next year.

Consumer Reports is great when it comes to comparing high ticket items such as cars, computers, and refrigerators, and on occasion they touch smaller priced items. If you want to find out the best-rated in everyday items such as snacks, paper goods, soaps, oral care products, and cleaning supplies, log onto www.productoftheyearusa.com . A research company, TNS, surveys a scientific sampling of 50,000 consumers to get the results.

Posted under Cellular Telephone, Chip Manufacturer, Dwight Gooden, Heyday, Lloyd Carroll, Man In The Street, Mets Fans, New York Mets, Qualcomm, Scoreless Innings, Shilling, Starting Pitcher, Top Story, Trappings, Word Response

Two Side to a Future

It isn’t often when fans at an All-Star game can sincerely root for both teams without guilt, but that’s what transpired at Citi Field this afternoon as Mets fans, who primarily made up the fairly well attended Futures Game crowd, as they were there to cheer on three Mets prospects with healthy futures – Noah Syndergaard and Brandon Nimmo for the USA team, and Rafael Montero for the World Team.

The Mets connections even extended themselves to the coaching staffs. The USA team was managed by Mookie Wilson. His batting coach was Howard Johnson, who now serves in that capacity for the Tacoma Rainiers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.

The World Team was managed by Edgardo Alfonzo. His pitching coach was Neil Allen, who Mets fans remember primarily as the chip that brought Keith Hernandez to New York back in 1983. Allen is now the pitching coach for the Durham Bulls, a Tampa Bay affiliate.

USA topped the World club, 4-2, backed by a solid pitching staff that limited the international squad to just three hits. And a longball by Diamondback future infielder Matt Davidson.

The scoring began in the second, when USA’s DH, Christian Yelich, a Marlins prospect, belted a doubled to left center, scoring the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson, who had singled.

Syndergaard started the game for USA, and was impressive as advertised, picking up one strikeout – Arismendy Alcantara, who later homered off Boston’s Anthony Ranaudo. Syndegaard yielded one hit in his brief one-inning scoreless stint, but the runner was erased trying to steal.

The lanky righthander exhibited distinctive poise and confidence when dealing with the herd of media prior to the game.

“This is a great opportunity,” said Syndegaard. “I’m here to have fun with it, learn as much as I can and work on getting to the next level.”

Nimmo was the proverbial kid-in-a-candy-store, soaking it all in and enjoying every moment. “I’m loving it. There’s a lot more going on here, a whole different experience.”

After a first half with the Savannah Sand Gnats in the Sally League, Nimmo was thrilled to be voted onto the prestigious squad. “I feel like this is a good reward for a good first half (.261, one homer, eight doubles, five triples, 23 RBIs), I’m happy with it, and just want to soak up this atmosphere, learn what I can, keep working hard, and the rest will take care of itself.”

He was even assigned David Wright’s locker. “All I can say is, David, thank you, and hope that I can have an amazing career like you’ve had.”

Ex-Met Mike Piazza was a welcomed guest, on hand to play in the celebrity softball game which followed the Futures Game, and was met by the media with an eager group of cameras and recorders.

Asked about his days in New York, Piazza recognized that when you retire, there’s something missing.

“Playing golf never replicates that excitement,” Piazza pined. “I hold my time here very fondly. I was blessed to play here, and to have had the tremendous support of the fans.”

No. 31 still follows the Mets closely and knows they’ve been going through a rough patch. “I love the character of this organization, with its history and fans, but as I’ve said many times before, sometimes the hard times define you. When you have had that roller coaster history, it’s about character.”

Of course Piazza creamed a home run in the softball game that followed, helping his National League collection of former ballplayers and celebrities beat an AL roster, 8-5.

The orange-clad NLers, “managed” by WFAN’s Boomer Esiason, who is also better known as an NFL quarterback, “drafted” a team filled with ex-Mets and Mets fans, including Piazza, Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, and which was “captained” by Johnny Franco. The roster also featured Kevin James, Andre Dawson, Jennie Finch, George Lopez, Ozzie Smith, Miss America Mallory Hagan, and Alyssa Milano.

The AL team, managed by Esiason’s morning radio partner, Craig Carton, lined up ex-Met Rickey Henderson, Bernie Williams, Frank Thomas, Fred Lynn, Rollie Fingers, AJ Calloway, and actors James Denton, and Chord Overstreet.

James was named one of the game’s MVPs, for a headfirst slide into second that extended a rally. The other MVP was Josh Wege, a member of the nation’s Wounded Warrior softball team, which plays over 100 games per year. Wege lost both legs in the service of his country, but continues to play on prosthetics. He hit a home run in the game, too.

On deck: The main events, the Home Run Derby, and the All-Star Game on Tuesday.

Posted under Andy Esposito, Anthony Ranaudo, Durham Bulls, Edgardo Alfonzo, Exper, Joc, Longball, Mets Fans, New York Mets, Pederson, Pitching Coach, Proverbial Kid, Seattle Mariners, Strikeout, Tacoma Rainiers, Top Story, Usa Team

Two Side to a Future

It isn’t often when fans at an All-Star game can sincerely root for both teams without guilt, but that’s what transpired at Citi Field this afternoon as Mets fans, who primarily made up the fairly well attended Futures Game crowd, as they were there to cheer on three Mets prospects with healthy futures – Noah Syndergaard and Brandon Nimmo for the USA team, and Rafael Montero for the World Team.

The Mets connections even extended themselves to the coaching staffs. The USA team was managed by Mookie Wilson. His batting coach was Howard Johnson, who now serves in that capacity for the Tacoma Rainiers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.

The World Team was managed by Edgardo Alfonzo. His pitching coach was Neil Allen, who Mets fans remember primarily as the chip that brought Keith Hernandez to New York back in 1983. Allen is now the pitching coach for the Durham Bulls, a Tampa Bay affiliate.

USA topped the World club, 4-2, backed by a solid pitching staff that limited the international squad to just three hits. And a longball by Diamondback future infielder Matt Davidson.

The scoring began in the second, when USA’s DH, Christian Yelich, a Marlins prospect, belted a doubled to left center, scoring the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson, who had singled.

Syndergaard started the game for USA, and was impressive as advertised, picking up one strikeout – Arismendy Alcantara, who later homered off Boston’s Anthony Ranaudo. Syndegaard yielded one hit in his brief one-inning scoreless stint, but the runner was erased trying to steal.

The lanky 6’ 6” righthander exhibited distinctive poise and confidence when dealing with the herd of media prior to the game.

“This is a great opportunity,” said Syndegaard. “I’m here to have fun with it, learn as much as I can and work on getting to the next level.”

Nimmo was the proverbial kid-in-a-candy-store, soaking it all in and enjoying every moment. “I’m loving it. There’s a lot more going on here, a whole different experience.”

After a first half with the Savannah Sand Gnats in the Sally League, Nimmo was thrilled to be voted onto the prestigious squad. “I feel like this is a good reward for a good first half (.261, one homer, eight doubles, five triples, 23 RBIs), I’m happy with it, and just want to soak up this atmosphere, learn what I can, keep working hard, and the rest will take care of itself.”

He was even assigned David Wright’s locker. “All I can say is, David, thank you, and hope that I can have an amazing career like you’ve had.”

Nimmo went 0-2, with a groundout and a liner out to short.

Montero started for Fonzie’s World Team, setting down the USA team in quick order in his one inning appearance – fly out, popup, groundout.

Ex-Met Mike Piazza was a welcomed guest, on hand to play in the celebrity softball game which followed the Futures Game, and was met by the media with an eager group of cameras and recorders. It was announced that Piazza would be inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame on Sept. 29.

Asked about his days in New York, Piazza recognized that when you retire, there’s something missing.

“Playing golf never replicates that excitement,” Piazza pined. “I hold my time here very fondly. I was blessed to play here, and to have had the tremendous support of the fans.”

No. 31 still follows the Mets closely and knows they’ve been going through a rough patch. “I love the character of this organization, with its history and fans, but as I’ve said many times before, sometimes the hard times define you. When you have had that roller coaster history, it’s about character.”

Of course Piazza creamed a home run in the softball game that followed, helping his National League collection of former ballplayers and celebrities beat an AL roster, 8-5.

The orange-clad NLers, “managed” by WFAN’s Boomer Esiason, who is also better known as an NFL quarterback, “drafted” a team filled with ex-Mets and Mets fans, including Piazza, Darryl Strawberry, Doc Gooden, and which was “captained” by Johnny Franco. The roster also featured Kevin James, Andre Dawson, Jennie Finch, George Lopez, Ozzie Smith, Miss America Mallory Hagan, and Alyssa Milano.

The AL team, managed by Esiason’s morning radio partner, Craig Carton, lined up ex-Met Rickey Henderson, Bernie Williams, Frank Thomas, Fred Lynn, Rollie Fingers, AJ Calloway, and actors James Denton, and Chord Overstreet.

James was named one of the game’s MVPs, for a headfirst slide into second that extended a rally. The other MVP was Josh Wege, a member of the nation’s Wounded Warrior softball team, which plays over 100 games per year. Wege lost both legs in the service of his country, but continues to play on prosthetics. He hit a home run in the game, too.

On deck: The main events, the Home Run Derby, and the All-Star Game on Tuesday.

Posted under Andy Esposito, Anthony Ranaudo, Candy Store, Diffe, Durham Bulls, Edgardo Alfonzo, Exper, Joc, Longball, Mets Fans, New York Mets, Pederson, Pitching Coach, Proverbial Kid, Seattle Mariners, Strikeout, Tacoma Rainiers, Top Story, Usa Team

Right now the outfield combination is a guess that works for the Mets

New York – Friday night at Citi Field in the New York Mets outfield, Mike Baxter got the start in right field, Lucas Duda was in left, Jordany Valdespin in center. It has been common not to expect the same everyday outfield combination in the lineup put together by manager Terry Collins.

It could cause some issues, but not in the Mets clubhouse. Everyone seems to be content with their playing time. What matters most, Collins is trying to find the right combination that can produce some runs in the lineup. And, if Valdespin keeps coming off big, as he did Wednesday night with a walk-off game winning grand slam home run, he could be in the outfield every day.

However, Collins will not commit to who plays where. As he makes out the lineup a lot has to do also with righty against lefty, and who may have the upper hand. Except Mets fans are becoming acclimated to seeing Valdespin come up big, who can also fill some holes in the infield.

“I took the one guy who has a .400 on base in Mike Baxter and said if we can get him on, we got a guy at number 2 who can handle the bat, and hit behind runners, and hit in the holes and bunt and do the little things,” commented Collins about inserting Baxter in right at the top of the order Friday night.

Baxter was followed in the order by Ruben Tejada, Daniel Murphy, and David Wright, and then came Duda.  The Mets come to the ballpark and it does matter where, when, or if or not they are in the lineup.

The outfield has learned to work as a unit and in the end it comes down to winning ballgames.

Yes, Sandy Alderson, the general manager suggested to Collins to insert Wright fifth in the order.  The Mets captain, before getting injured, drove home 10-runs in the World Baseball Classic. The outfield, though, that is the discretion of the Mets manager.

“He led off for us last year, he knows what he is doing,” said Collins about inserting Baxter in that role Friday night as the Mets dropped the first of a three-game series to the Philadelphia Phillies.

Baxter struck out once and went hitless in four at bats. In the third inning, he also lost a ball in right field that was ruled a double of the bat of Lance Nix.

“It was the twilight out there, hard to read,” commented Baxter about the mixed ball. He said it had nothing to do with the limited playing time out in right, or coming off the bench as a role player.

As for going hitless at the plate, Baxter and the Mets can blame Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick who shut out the Mets for the first time this season limiting them to three hits. Kendrick did not allow a runner to second base after the first inning.

Simply put, Collins is aware that he has to get his guys playing time and find a proper role for them. Baxter, as with rookie Juan Lagares, will get the time. The 24-year old Lagares of the Dominican Republic was called up from Triple-A Las Vegas Tuesday and recorded his first Major League base hit coming off the bench.

The attitude of Lagares, it fits in with the rest of that crowded outfield. “I am going to try and be here and do whatever they need me to do here, come here to work hard everyday  ” he said after getting his first start in center Wednesday night against the Dodgers.

But in a matter of time, Collins and the Mets should have that outfield set. In the meantime, when the Mets outfield arrives at Citi Field early Saturday morning for another game with the Phillies, as has been the case, they will look on the board and see if their name is in the starting lineup.

“We will come out tomorrow and give it another try,” said Baxter.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

Posted under Daniel Murphy, David Wright, Dro, Lefty, Mets Clubhouse, Mets Fans, Mets New York, Mike Baxter, New York Mets, Outfield, Playing Time, Right Combination, Ruben, Runners, Sandy Alderson, Tejada, Top Story, Wednesday Night

Sports Beat “Matt wins the big matchups”

It’s unlikely that the Mets will be playing meaningful games this coming September but starting pitcher Matt Harvey has singlehandedly given the Flushing faithful a commodity that they have lacked for a long time–hope.

Harvey was the Mets’ top pick (seventh overall) in the 2010 Major League baseball amateur draft. Of course given the Mets’ checkered history with “can’t miss prospects” it’s understandable to take a wait-and-see attitude. He came up for the proverbial cup of coffee with the Mets in August 2012 and was far more impressive than his three-win, five-loss record showed.

When it became clear that Johan Santana would be lost for the 2013 season it was imperative for Mets management that Matt Harvey succeed . He has delivered so far beyond even the most optimistic Mets’ fans wildest dreams as this month he has beaten two of baseball’s best pitchers, the Phillies’ Roy Halladay and Washington Nationals’ phenomenon, Stephen Strasburg. It was the first time that I could recall the Mets winning a game against either pitcher.

A bonus for the Mets is that Matt Harvey is not a wimp in the batter’s box. He is arguably the best hitting pitcher that they have had in ages.

San Diego may have the best year-round climate in the US as it never gets cold in the winter nor hot and humid in the summer. New York baseball fans may want to consider taking lengthy August vacations there as the Yankees will play the Padres the weekend of August 2-4 while the Mets come into Petco Park exactly two weeks later.

There are a lot of great hotels that provide a lot of amenities at reasonable rates and have friendly staff to boot. The West Inn & Suites located in the North San Diego town of Carlsbad is a new boutique hotel that is a short walk from the Pacific Ocean. Its two fine dining restaurants, Bistro West and West Steak And Seafood, are as  popular with the locals as they are with hotel guests.

The historic  Grande Colonial in the La Jolla Village section of San Diego is celebrating its centennial this year. It’s located two blocks from La Jolla Cove where the sea lions and seals like to reside. The Grande Colonial’s 910 Restaurant has won numerous culinary awards for it California cuisine. All of its rooms are quite spacious.

A third option is the Hyatt Regency La Jolla located just off I-5 in the hip University Town Center neighborhood. Its central location, Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool, and relaxing concierge lounge make it one of my favorite chain hotels.

*****

Mets players are probably still thawing out from their first road trip of the season that included stops in frigid Minneapolis and snowy Denver. Mets relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins played the first seven years of his big league career for the Twins but they played in a dome stadium back then instead of their current outdoor ballpark, Target Field. “I would never have lasted if I had to play outdoors in April with them!” he told me.

Dillon Gee couldn’t have picked a better time to come up with a big game than last Sunday when he threw nearly six innings of shutout ball against the very potent lineup of the Washington Nationals as the Mets would go on to win 2-0. Gee had been roughed up in his first three starts of the season but it should be noted that he pitched in some very brutal weather.

The annual ESPN Day at the Tribeca Film Festival will take place this Saturday. Among the sports documentaries that will be screened at the Tribeca Cinemas are “Big Shot,” a film about former Islanders owner John Spano who bought the team in 1996 despite having few assets to his name, and “Lenny Cooke,” which recounts the sad tale of the Brooklyn native hoops star who many scouts felt had more natural talent than either LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, or Amar’e Stoudemire when he declared himself eligible for the 2002 NBA Draft. He was not selected by an NBA team that night and he forfeited a college career in the process.

It had been a foregone conclusion that the Jets were going to trade their All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis but getting back only a first-round pick (the thirteenth overall) in Thursday’s NFL Draft as well as a fourth round pick next year from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers does not strike me as a good return for new Jets general manager John Idzik.

The Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League will have some name former major leaguers playing for them this summer. One of the best hitters over the last 20 years, Vladimir Guerrero, will be trying to make a career comeback as will pitcher Dontrelle Willis and former Mets catcher Ramon Castro.

Pat Summerall’s stentorian voice and no-nonsense erudite play-by-play broadcast style disproved the myth that former athletes could only be used in limited game analyst or pre and post-game roles. He was also the first sports anchor on WCBS-AM when that station switched in 1967 from music to the all-news format that continues to this day. Pat had been in declining health in recent years so his passing last week was not unexpected. Nonetheless he will be missed.

The Rangers have been a disappointment in this shortened NHL season but they may be turning things around at the most important time. They looked quite sharp Sunday in defeating the New Jersey Devils 4-1 at the Garden which eliminated the team from Newark from the playoffs. The Blueshirts are holding on to the eighth and final seed in the Eastern Conference as they head into the final weekend of the regular season.

The media will understandably remind all of us about what happened in Boston last week when the New York Marathon comes around next November. There is no way that safety can be guaranteed against psychopaths on a 26.2 mile outdoor route. Law enforcement officials will do their best and we should do ours as well by not cowering in fear and living our lives to the fullest extent.

Hot cereals such as oatmeal tend to be eaten more in the winter than other times of the year. Nonetheless the cardiovascular benefits that come from quality organic oatmeal from brands as Better Oats and One Degree should not be forgotten about in warmer weather. Both Starbucks and Jamba Juice sell oatmeal in their stores if you are out of the house.

As a kid I loved  Cheez Doodles. It is still a guilty junk food pleasure. A cleverly named company from Connecticut however, Sneaky Snacks, has created a healthier alternative with its White Cheddar Baked Super Puffs that are lower in calories and contain more fiber and protein.

Even well-known liquor companies are realizing that more of us are watching our weight. Smirnoff has introduced a Sorbet Light of fruit-flavored vodkas that it is touting as “reduced calorie.” I guess if you can have light beer than why not reduced calorie vodka?

BET, the leading African-American cable television network introduced its fall programming last week to media and advertisers last week. To promote its fledgling Centric Network, which you can think of as a soulful VH-1Classic, BET executives brought out legendary singer Chaka Khan who can still hit the high notes to “Tell Me Something Good” as if it were still 1975.

A new show, “Strive To Thrive,” starring the attractive husband and wife team of Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker, will try to educate the public on how to live healthier lives through proper nutrition and realistic exercise ideas. Kodjoe is one of the stars on BET”s biggest hit, “The Real Husbands of Hollywood,” that brilliant parodies the Bravo Network’s endless “Real Wives” franchise.

Posted under Baseball Amateur Draft, Baseball Fans, Checkered History, Cold In The Winter, Cup Of Coffee, Fine Dining Restaurants, Hotel Guests, Johan Santana, Lloyd Carroll, Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, Mets Fans, New York Mets, Roy Halladay, Starting Pitcher, Time Hope, Top Story, Washington Nationals, Wildest Dreams, York Baseball

Sports Beat “Did Sandy’s impatience hurt Santana?”

Granted, no one should have expected onetime Mets ace Johan Santana to be a difference-maker in 2013. The general consensus from baseball prognosticators is that the Mets would finish in fourth place in the National League East with or without him.

In most years, the Mets would be picked to finish in the cellar with the kind of team that they have but the Miami Marlins have earned that dubious distinction from most of the baseball media because their owner, Jeff Loria, decided to gut their roster in order to save a ton of payroll. It should be pointed out that Loria has done this kind of thing before and the Marlins always seem to surprise when they put on the field a lineup of unknowns so Mets fans can’t rest that easy.

 Now we’ll never know what caused Johan Santana’s left shoulder to tear again requiring surgery as it did in 2011. It is obvious that the 135 pitches that he threw against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 1 in the first-ever Mets’ no-hitter greatly accelerated the depreciation, to use an accounting term, on it since Johan was hit hard by opposing teams from that point on last year before being put on the disabled list in August.

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told the press then that he expected Johan to be the team’s 2013 Opening Day starter. I thought that he was being unrealistic at the time.

Early in spring training Alderson went public with his frustration about Johan arriving at the Mets  base at Port St. Lucie, Florida in far less than game-ready shape. Three weeks ago I wrote a column about how Mets executives were being delusional if they were counting on Santana, and that they should trust him to work out at his own pace. To his immense credit, Mets manager Terry Collins stood up for Johan as soon as Alderson made his statement.

Anyone who has ever met Johan Santana knows that he is a hard worker and a man of immense pride. Even with his Powerball-like contract, he never just goes through the motions. It wouldn’t surprise me if Johan may have done too much throwing too soon just to prove Sandy Alderson wrong.

Santana’s absence from the Mets goes beyond mere wins and losses. He is a proven leader in the clubhouse on a team where that is a rare commodity. I have always been impressed by how he makes himself available for interviews for not just the big fish in the sports media pond but those from smaller outlets as well. He will be missed.

*****

Charlotte Bobcats head coach Mike Dunlap was the St. John’s Red Storm interim head coach last year when Steve Lavin was recuperating from prostate cancer. Last Friday night I had a chance to chat with him before the Bobcats game with the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

He was well aware of how the Red Storm season fell apart when the team suspended their star point guard, D’Angelo Harrison, in early March. “It shows that they have a system of discipline in place that doesn’t favor good players nor does it concern itself with the calendar. I know that D’Angelo will learn from this experience,” Dunlap said. He added that he expected both Steve Lavin and D’Angelo Harrison to return to the Red Storm next fall.

Last Friday night was Walt “Clyde” Frazier bobblehead doll night at Madison Square Garden. The former Knicks superstar and current team broadcaster on MSG Network has long been known for his outrageous threads. Clyde’s bobblehead had him dressed in a suit that looked as if it came off of a Holstein cow. Frazier obliged the fans at the Garden by wearing the same outfit for his popular “Clyde’s Closet” game segment with MSG reporter Tina Cervasio. To his credit, Walt pointed that his suit was synthetic so that the PETA folks could relax. No bovine were hurt for Frazier’s sartorial splendor!

Could the Islanders have finally turned a corner? Last Thursday night I witnessed the Isles give up two early goals to the Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelphia and then come back to win in an overtime shootout, 4-3, thanks to Josh Bailey’s goal. Star center John Tavares had a goal and an assist. “It is gratifying to be able to win in a building we’re we’ve had trouble in the past,” said Islanders head coach Jack Capuano. The Flyers have been so awful this year that they are routinely booed by their fans but this was a big game for the Islanders who actually have a shot at making the playoffs for the first time in five years.

I was disappointed to hear that this will be Tim McCarver’s final year of calling baseball games for Fox. Pete Hamill once called Tim McCarver one of the brightest men that he ever met and I wholeheartedly agree. Tim always treats the viewer with intelligence and provides insight into the game that is never cliched.

Since 2000 he has been the host of “The Tim McCarver Show,” a 30-minute interview show where he conducts candid in-depth interviews with athletes and sports media types. The show has aired on an array of cable networks across the country. It’s on MSG here in New York but one never knows what time that it is going to be broadcast. It would be nice if Fox Sports could find a place on its schedule for the show.

R.A. Dickey’s “Wherever I Wind Up” has just been released in paperback (Plume Books). Dickey and co-writer Wayne Coffey have added a new chapter about his 2012 Cy Young Award-winning season with the Mets, although there is nothing about his subsequent trade to the Toronto Blue Jays since the book production deadline preceded it.

MSG Network reporter Jill Martin who is best known for her “Gimme A Minute” interviews with celebrities during halftime at Knicks games, has written her latest book on fashion, “Weekend Makeover” (Rodale Books).

I am beginning to wonder if it was wise for the federal government to bail out General Motors after all after attending the Chevrolet media presentation at the New York International Auto Show that concludes this Sunday. Instead of promoting safe, fuel-efficient cars, Chevy executives were proudly touting the revival of dangerous gas-wasting male mid-life crisis cars as the Corvette Stingray and the Camaro Z-28.

Lacoste, the Paris-based company that made the salmon-colored polo shirt with the alligator logo an iconic fashion statement, is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. Company founder  Rene Lacoste was a pioneer in tennis fashion literally from head to toe as he created everything from hats to tennis shoes. Andy Roddick was Lacoste’s most famous tennis endorser for years but now that he has retired, the next great American hope, John Isner, will be wearing Lacoste at the US Open in Flushing Meadows this year.

Mayor Bloomberg has taken a lot of ridicule for trying to limit the serving of sugar-based sodas to 16-ounce servings. I believe that the mayor is overstepping his bounds even if his knowledge of nutrition is correct.

The bottom line is that sugar-filled soft drinks are not good for one’s health but thankfully there are a lot of refreshing beverages in the marketplace that are for superior to Coke and Pepsi. Bai 5 makes a line of one gram of sugar fruit drinks that are called anti-oxidant infusions. Harney Teas has a line of bottled organic iced teas and juices that are perfect for the warmer weather which finally appears to be upon us. For those who like juices, upstate New York’s Red Jacket Orchards produces a number of blends of cold-pressed apple juices and ciders while Miami-based Raaw Foods has a line of nine fruit and vegetable juices such as Very Berry Wheatgrass and Strawberry Purple Carrot that have only natural sugars and plenty of vitamins.

Cable’s FX Network has done well appealing to a wide array of audiences with shows as “Justified,” “Archer,” and “The Americans” as well as movies that have just finished their runs on premium cable channels such as HBO, Starz, and Showtime. Last week FX announced that they will be starting a sister network, FXX, that will be aimed at the 18-34 market. FXX will try to revive a long dormant form of television programming, the mini-series.

Posted under Accounting Term, Depreciation, Dubious Distinction, Immense Credit, Immense Pride, Jeff Loria, Johan Santana, Lloyd Carroll, Mets Fans, National League East, New York Mets, Own Pace, Pitches, Port St Lucie Florida, Powerball, Prognosticators, Sandy Alderson, Spring Training, St Louis Cardinals, St Lucie Florida, Top Story

2013 Mets Outlook “Waiting for d’Arnaud (and Wheeler too)

Mets fans have not had much to cheer about in recent years and it’s fairly safe to say that even the most optimistic fans of the Amazin’s cannot picture this team competing for a post-season berth this year.

While the team’s 2013 record will probably be abysmal, there is hope down on the farm. The Mets traded their Cy Young Award-winning pitcher RA Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays during the winter s they did not want to obligate themselves to a long-term, multi-million dollar contract to a 39 year-old knuckleball pitcher.

Normally the fans and media would be up in arms against Mets management for thinking yet again like a parsimonious small market team but the reaction was fairly muted. The key reason that everyone seemed willing to take a wait-and-see attitude were two young players the Mets received in return: pitcher Noah Syndergaard and catcher Travis d’Arnaud.

Syndergaard appears to be at least a full year away, and more likely two, from making the big league team. The timetable for d’Arnaud’s arrival in Flushing is more imminent. He would probably have been the Opening Day catcher but the Mets understandably want to delay his ability to demand both arbitration and free agency so they are stashing him away in their Las Vegas AAA team until late spring.

If scouting reports are accurate, Travis d’Arnaud will be the best catcher the Mets had since Mike Piazza served as their backstop from 1998-2006. That doesn’t mean of course that d’Arnaud will be the second coming of Piazza. Most Mets fans will be content if he is as good as John Stearns, a fine catcher who played in Queens from the mid ‘70s until the early 1980s.

Even though he has not played one game in the majors, d’Arnaud must be a pretty good prospect. He came up through the Phillies organization and was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay. As mentioned previously, he was the key component in the RA Dickey deal.

Sandy Alderson’s first big move as Mets general manager was obtaining pitching prospect Zach Wheeler from the San Francisco Giants in 2011 in exchange for Carlos Beltran whose contract with the Mets would have expired in two more months anyway. Wheeler is probably ready for prime time right now but he is in the same boat as d’Arnaud. The Mets know that they are not going to be winning anything this year so they might as well have both of those young prospects under their control with less economic rights for them as long as possible.

Mets manager should not have trouble slotting in Wheeler into his starting rotation once he is called up to the Mets from Las Vegas. Johan Santana, who missed all of the 2011 season with shoulder surgery, badly struggled with arm problems following his no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 1, 2012. It was the first no-hitter in the Mets’ fifty-year history and it must have angered the baseball gods. Johan was ineffective afterwards as he was pummeled in six straight starts before the Mets decided to put him on the disabled list in August.

Mets executives fantasized that Santana, who would be earning $25.5 million in the final year of his current deal with the Mets, would do what Ponce de Leon couldn’t; namely discover the Fountain of Youth.

Unfortunately that was not meant to be. Santana was understandably treating his left arm, his livelihood, with extreme caution when he reported to the Mets spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, Florida. A frustrated Sandy Alderson groused about his ace not being in pitching shape. Santana, a man of understandable pride, did not take kindly to the criticism and started throwing hard off of the pitching mound probably sooner than he should have.

We’ll never know if Alderson’s stinging comments were to blame but the end result is that Santana reinjured his left shoulder and will probably miss the entire 2013 season. His career is clearly in jeopardy.

The Mets starting pitching staff, while not great is not terrible either. Matt Harvey will be entering his sophomore season and he showed that he was able to dominate hitters with his fastball and curve. Jonathon Niese, who has been basically a .500 pitcher thorough his first three years in the majors. Of course given the Mets’ inept play during that time you can make an argument that Niese has been an All-Star. Dillon Gee missed the second half of the 2012 season with a blood clot in his right arm. Gee was great in 2011 going 13-6 but he struggled in the second half that year, and was mediocre in the first half of 2012. He did inspire confidence in spring training as opposing hitters smacked him around.

Shawn Marcum was a rare free agent for whom the Mets opened their wallets. Marcum has been a very good, though far from dominating, pitcher in his seven-year career with the Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers. Marcum was on the disabled list during 2012 with an injured elbow.  During spring training, Marcum’s elbow was fine but his neck wasn’t. Marcum will start the 2013 season where he ended the 2012 campaign–on the disabled list.

If the Mets starting pitching is questionable, their bullpen is even a bigger mystery. Nominal closer Frank Francisco was a disaster last year and this year he starts the season on the DL with an injured elbow. The Mets probably won’t have that many ninth inning leads to protect this year so their bullpen has not received a lot of scrutiny.

Bobby Parnell, who routinely got beaten up like a pinata in the ninth inning, finally showed that he could handle the pressures of the ninth inning late last season and will be the closer for now according to Mets manager Terry Collins. Newly acquired Brandon Lyon, the other “big” Mets free agent signing, should be getting a lot of eighth inning work. The rest of the relief corps are comprised of obscure journeymen such as Scott Atchison, Greg Burke, Scott Rice, and one-time Yankees pitcher LaTroy Hawkins.

Mets fans won’t have to face a summer asking themselves about what will happen to the face of the franchise. In their most significant move of the off-season, the Mets signed David Wright to an eight-year, $160 million contract. Last month, the perennial All-Star third baseman was named to be the fourth captain in Mets history.

Wright has long been the de facto team leader but the official recognition of those skills by Mets management is a smart thing. This year however David may be sounding as if he is auditioning for “Annie” as he will surely spend a lot of time reassuring fans that the sun will come out tomorrow after every loss and there will be a lot of them.

There hasn’t been a lot of good news for Mets with respect to the 2013 season so let me emphasize one very important upbeat note. First baseman Ike Davis is completely healthy. In the past two years Davis has battled both leg injuries and Valley Fever which sapped his strength. Davis is the Mets’ best power hitter in a lineup with little pop so the odds are that opposing pitchers will not give him much to hit. Ike will have to be patient when batting.

Another player who will have to learn the art of patience at the plate is leftfielder Lucas Duda. He reminds many Mets fans of Dave Kingman, a guy who couldn’t field and struck out with great frequency but would occasionally get a hold of a fastball and hit it a country mile. Duda’s lone asset of belting home runs did not make up for his liabilities last season and he was sent down to the Mets’ AAA Buffalo Bisons farm club.

An argument can be made that Daniel Murphy is the best pure hitter in the Mets lineup. He missed most of spring training with a mysterious injury but appears to be OK now. Given the Mets’ puny offense, manager Terry Collins has no choice but to accept Murphy’s fielding errors at second base in order to have his bat in the lineup. In fairness to Murphy, he has worked hard at the position and is not the egregious liability out there that many feared.

There was a lot of anger emanating from Mets fans at the end of 2011 when the team chose not to make their star shortstop and free agent-to-be, Jose Reyes, even a nominal offer to stay in Flushing. The Mets may have been awful last year but no one could fault Reyes’s understudy, Ruben Tejada, who did a fine job both in the field and on offense last season. Tejada struggled at the plate this past spring however.

A lot has been written about the flimsy Mets outfield. Lucas Duda will be in left while 35 year-old veteran Marlon Byrd, who was suspended for 50 games in 2012 for using a substance that Major League Baseball frowns upon, will be in right. Not much is known about centerfielder Colin Cowgill who is a castoff from the Oakland Athletics. At least Whitestone native and Molloy High School alum Mike Baxter is still on the team and he should see a lot of playing time.

The Mets are excited about Jordany Valdespin who can play both infield and outfield positions and who possesses home run power. Valdespin though is frequently guilty of poor decision-making in the field and at the plate. He became an easy joke for comedians during spring training when he was hit by a fastball in the groin and was not wearing proper protection.

The Mets will surely improve in the coming years but the odds are that current manager Terry Collins will not be around to enjoy them. Collins has done as good a job as can be expected with the limited talent that he has had available. Nonetheless attendance and interest in the team has been down and the odds are that Mets CEO Fred Wilpon, and his son, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon, will want to have longtime manager-in-waiting, as well as a member of the Mets’ 1986 World Series-winning team, Wally Backman, at the helm next year.

As Terry Collins and most Mets fans know, life is not always fair.

Posted under Aaa Team, Amazin, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Cy Young Award Winner, Dollar Contract, Knuckleball Pitcher, Late Spring, Lloyd Carroll, Mets Fans, Mid 70s, Mike Piazza, New York Mets, Ra Dickey, Roy Halladay, Scouting Reports, Second Coming, Top Story

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

Sports Beat “Dickey deserved it”

Mets pitcher RA Dickey was a silver lining in yet another dark cloud of a season for our Flushing heroes. With little else to cheer for, Mets fans and the local media spent most of the second half of the 2012 season obsessing over Dickey’s chances winning the Cy Young Award, the honored bestowed by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to the best pitcher in the National and American Leagues.

Despite winning 20 games, Dickey faced formidable obstacles with respect to receiving baseball’s highest pitching honor. The BBWAA is a conservative body and they traditionally give out their season-ending prizes to personnel from winning teams. In addition, no  knuckleball pitcher had ever won the Cy Young Award. Too many sportswriters in the past believed that the knuckleball was a gimmick and that only traditional pitchers should be recipients of the Cy Young trophy.

It’s a credit to the BBWAA that they were able to overcome those old biases and come to the realization that RA Dickey winning 20 games for the Mets was the equivalent of a pitcher winning 30 games on a decent team.

RA not only helped his contract negotiations with the award but his publishing career as well. Last winter his autobiography, “Wherever I Wind Up” (Blue Rider Press) received great reviews and wound up on the New York Times best sellers list. In September I saw Dickey and his co-author, New York Daily News sportswriter Wayne Coffey, chatting by the Gil Hodges entrance of Citi Field. Dickey told me that they were discussing additional material for the paperback release slated for this coming March. Dickey’s 2012 dream season should make for a good addendum.

It wasn’t a pleasant homecoming for Indiana Pacers point guard Lance Stephenson and not just because he scored only four points and turned the ball over three times last Sunday at Madison Square Garden as the Knicks easily beat his team 88-76.

Lance was a high school star at Coney Island’s Abraham Lincoln High School and he led his team to a couple of PSAL titles. Coney Island sadly was not spared from Superstorm Sandy. “Yesterday I went to my aunt’s house where I grew up. Although the house sustained serious damage, it is habitable. I spent the day talking with FEMA officials and filling out paperwork with her,” he told me somberly in the Pacers locker room before the game.

Is it my imagination or does it seem as if Linsanity took place a decade ago? The Knicks 7-1 start certainly has quelled the consternation among the Knicks’ faithful about the team’s decision not to re-sign last season’s folk hero, Harvard alum Jeremy Lin. By the same token, whatever happened to the concern about the Knicks losing their star forward, Amar’e Stoudemire, for two months as he recovers from knee surgery?

Mets pitcher Johan Santana and team chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon were in Coney Island a few days before Lance Stephenson got there handing out supplies and food as part of the Sandy relief effort. The Mets’ NY-Penn League team, the Brooklyn Cyclones, play at Coney Island’s MCU Park. While there was significant flooding, the ballpark is structurally sound and should be ready for the 2013 season.

Nearly every New York sports team has contributed to relief and recovery efforts in our area. The Yankees made a $500,000 donation last week. Cablevision and Madison Square Garden Entertainment CEO James Dolan doubled that amount.

On a smaller yet still significant effort, the New York Islanders opened up the Nassau Coliseum and allowed fans to skate on the ice if they donated cash and/or food and supplies. The Islanders also held online auctions of memorabilia and fan experience packages (assuming the National Hockey League lockout gets resolved). Former Knicks public relations director Sammy Steinlight, who now his own PR firm in Manalapan, New Jersey, has started a website, www.jerseyshorerelief.com, whose mission is to help restore the Garden State’s coastal towns that were devastated by Sandy.

The Major League Baseball Alumni Association held their annual fund-rasing event to benefit youth baseball programs last week at the Marriott Marquis. Hall of Famer and Yankees great Dave Winfield reminisced about singing Rodgers and Hart’s “Manhattan” at the 1981 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “I grew up in Minnesota but standing on that float lip-synching the lyrics was as cold as I’ve ever felt in my life,” said Winfield.

Dale Murphy was one of baseball’s most feared hitters in the 1980s and he was the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1982 and 1983. Murphy finished his career with 398 home runs. I asked him if he ever thought of trying to make a comeback to get two more home runs. “It did cross my mind for a second! The sportswriters do look to benchmarks for electing players to the Hall of Fame and 400 does have a nice ring to it. I am hoping that the Veterans Committee will select me in the future,” said the always upbeat Murphy.

“The hardest part of an athlete’s life comes after he retires and is looking for direction. My company helps athletes cope when their playing careers come to an end. It’s a rough adjustment for many who don’t know what it’s like to earn a living outside of sports or to now have to spend more time than they’re used to with their families,” onetime Mets pitcher and Dartmouth alum Mike Remlinger told me.

Yes, there have been countless stories about athletes who wind up blowing their fortunes. Last month ESPN broadcast “Broke,” a documentary that had its debut at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival that featured NFL wide receiver Andre Rison and others who couldn’t manage their money. Athletes who take their education as seriously as they do their sports can prosper when their careers are over.

A pair of former Mets, first baseman Mark Johnson and pitcher Frank Seminara, are making more money in the world of finance than they did as major leaguers. Johnson, like Remlinger is a Dartmouth grad, and is a securities broker in tony Greenwich, Connecticut for Weeden & Company after having worked for Goldman Sachs after being released by the Mets in 2002. Seminara, a Columbia alumnus, is a financial adviser for Morgan Stanley’s private wealth division in Florham Park, New Jersey located just a stone’s throw from the Jets training facilities. Seminara went to work for Smith Barney after getting released by Cubs at the end of spring training in 1996. The Mets ownership would have been wise to have turned to their former players for investing advice instead of a certain infamous Far Rockaway-born financier.

Nearly all of us will be stocking up on bottled water in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. According to Anthony Fiorello, a marketing manager for Hint Water, a zero calorie-flavored

water brand, bottled water can be stored for up to five years without any health worries. “If it’s in a glass bottle it can stay for 20 years,” he added.

Now that the holiday season is upon us, look for the major department stores to launch television ad blitzes that will make us nostalgic for the political campaign ads of the just concluded election season. A recent marketing tactic for retail stores is to have celebrities front house clothing and jewelry lines. Kohl’s is using the former husband and wife team of Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez as well as former MTV reality star Lauren Conrad while Kmart is countering with “Modern Family” star Sofia Vergara and former Disney star Selena Gomez. Kmart is still using one of the first actresses to lend her name to clothing line, Jaclyn Smith of “Charlie’s Angels” fame. Not to be outdone, Macy’s has Jessica Simpson and Madonna and her daughter, Lourdes, for a dress line called, what else, Material Girl.

These days, shoes seem to be the new celebrities as Macy’s has spent a fortune in ads touting that it has the world’s largest shoe floor.

Jose Reyes must be glad that he rented an apartment in Miami instead of buying a place. Reyes was one of the big names traded from the Marlins to the Toronto Blue Jays last week as Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, decided to dump every big contract that he could after the Marlins’ horrible 2012 season. The Marlins were so awful that they finished behind the Mets in the NL East standings.

New York’s Carlton Hotel, located on Madison Avenue & 29th Street, has just renovated a number of their suites to attract high rollers. Its penthouse suite has a Texas-sized biggest pool. The late Minnesota Fats would be proud.

At the annual International Hotel, Motel & Restaurant Show held at the Javits Center last week, the two major satellite television providers, DIRECTV and DISH Network, were competing for the business of lodging chains. The former was promoting its NFL Sunday Ticket package that allows a viewer to see every out-of-market game while the latter was playing up its extensive movie library.

Posted under Abraham Lincoln, Baseball Writers Association Of America, Bbwaa, Best Sellers List, Contract Negotiations, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Decent Team, Dream Season, Gil Hodges, Indiana Pacers, Knuckleball Pitcher, Lance Stephenson, Lloyd Carroll, Madison Square Garden, Mets Fans, New York Mets, New York Times Best Sellers, New York Times Best Sellers List, Paperback Release, Ra Dickey, Top Story

Sports Beat: “Mets pay Bay to go away”

Just as the fall general manager meetings got under way in the Palm Springs area, the Mets announced that they were going to buy the remaining year on outfielder Jason Bay’s contract. It’s estimated that the overall cost to the team is in the range of $21 million.

It’s debatable which expensive free agent signing was more disastrous for the Mets: the three year, $36 million contract given to pitcher Oliver Perez or the four-year, $66 million pact with Bay.

It should be pointed out that while there was some concern over Oliver Perez’s work ethic, Jason Bay literally, to borrow a phrase that Mitt Romney used in his concession speech, left it all on the field as he suffered concussions by running into walls and fences chasing after long fly balls as well as getting nailed by a fastball into his batting helmet.

In a sport where too many players find creative ways to hide from the media before and after games, the gentlemanly Jason was always available to the press and was honest about his failings to a fault.

What I don’t understand is why the Mets, who loathe to spend money even after their finances are allegedly no longer an issue, were in such a hurry to cut a severance deal at this time. It’s not as if they needed his slot on the forty-man roster to sign a big free agent such as Josh Hamilton. Given his intensity to succeed, combined with the fact that he is very respected by his teammates, what would have been the harm of having him report to spring training and letting him compete for a spot on the team? The Mets would have everything to gain, and nothing that I can see, to lose.

Mets fans are not the only ones who are upset with the team’s rudderless direction. Modell’s CEO Mitch Modell was one of the many movers and shakers who attended last week’s Sports Business Journal’s annual Sports & Media Technology conference at the Marriott Marquis. I asked Mitch if the Mets’ penny-pinching ways would affect the amount of team paraphernalia that his stores would be ordering for 2013. “Absolutely! People want to by merchandise associated with winning teams and athletes. There has been a decline in the sales of Mets apparel over the last few years,” Modell said.

Stephanie McMahon, the vice president of creative development of World Wrestling Entertainment, was interviewed by Sports Business Journal editor Abe Madkour at the SBJ SMT conference. Abe asked her the secret for the WWE’s incredible popularity. “We provide great action, and yes, the outcomes are scripted. You can quote me on that!” Stephanie replied as the audience loudly chuckled. It’s hard to believe that for generations wrestling promoters steadfastly refused to admit that “it was fixed” the way magicians fanatically guard their secrets.

“I’m incredibly proud of her. She was trying to become the first female senator from Connecticut,” Stephanie said when Abe Madkour asked her reaction to her mom’s (Linda McMahon) defeat to Chris Murphy for Joe Lieberman’s seat.

She added that the WWE is trying to launch a subscription cable television network similar to those of HBO and Showtime. “We’ll offer viewers premium events that are normally shown on the traditional per-per-view as well as vintage wrestling clips from our deep library.”

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was in town Friday night as the Knicks hosted his team. Cuban is the CEO of AXS TV (pronounced “Access”) which was the former HD Net, the very first 24-hour high definition cable network, until it was re-branded this past July. Cuban is understandably frustrated that Time Warner Cable has not seen fit to add AXS to its channel lineup since it offers such diverse programming as “Dan Rather Reports,” mixed martial arts matches, repeat episodes of one-time broadcast network staples as “JAG” and “Cheers,” as well as live concert broadcasts. It took the NFL Network ten years until Time Warner Cable broke down and allowed them to showcase their wares. Don’t give up hope, Mark.

I am not sure if this will cheer you up if you’ve had to wait in long gas lines, but the Knicks players share your pain. “I had to wait at a gas station for well over an hour in Westchester,” said rookie Knicks forward Chris Copeland. Center Tyson Chandler added that most of the Knicks are carpooling.

It was not a happy homecoming last Sunday for onetime Forest Hills High School and St. John’s University star Mo Harkless  was held scoreless and played shoddy defense in ten minutes of court time as his current team, the Orlando Magic, fell to the Brooklyn  Nets, 82-74.

It has been documented that nearly $2 billion was spent on the recently concluded presidential campaign. “Presidential candidates should be like NASCAR drivers and be made to wear their sponsors’ corporate logos on their suits,” cracked Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson who netted about 1% of the popular vote with a bare bones campaign.

A number of former and current athletes made appearances at the annual Starlight Foundation fund-raiser at Madison Square Garden last Monday night. The Starlight Foundation raises funds to entertain chronically ill children as well as helping their families cope with the related stresses.

It has not been the most pleasant of autumns of for onetime Rangers legendary enforcer Nick Fotiu. Like most hockey fans and former players, he has been frustrated by the National Hockey League lockout. What’s truly upsetting Fotiu, a Staten Island native, is the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy that has badly hurt the lives of lifelong friends. “I hope that they rebuild the South Beach boardwalk and the businesses along Hylan Boulevard as soon as possible,” said Fotiu at the Starlight event.

Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson agreed that the Jets were lucky to have a bye week right after Hurricane Sandy hit since many of his teammates were dealing with flooding and electric power issues in their homes. Unfortunately for Wilkerson and the Jets, the time off did not reverse their sagging playoff fortunes as they appeared sleepy in Seattle, losing to the Seahawks last Sunday by a score of 28-7.

Following yet another dreary game from Gang Green, fearless Jets Confidential publisher Dan Leberfeld, asked Jets head coach Rex Ryan in a booming voice at his press conference broadcast on SNY, “Why is there this fatal attraction with Mark Sanchez?” Rex sheepishly replied for the millionth time, “I believe that he gives our team the best chance of victory.” The Jets head coach however could offer no substantial proof why this was so to Dan.

Carli Lloyd and Heather O’Reilly, two of the stars on the Olympic gold medal-winning women’s soccer team, lent their support to the Starlight Foundation as well. Both players were hopeful that a successful American women’s soccer league can be formed but do not want to repeat the mistakes made by the first women’s league, the financially-strapped  WUSA, that was hastily formed after the US National Team won the 1999 Women’s World Cup.

A lot has been written about the cancellation of the NYC Marathon, and the controversy caused by Mayor Bloomberg’s reluctance to do so in a timely manner. What has been understandably overlooked is that the NYC Marathon has long been a key time for running shoe manufacturers to showcase their newest models.

New Balance, which makes all of their shoes in the USA, debuted the 860v3. The company boasts that the 860v3 contains an upper made of material known as NuFoam that is biodegradable.

What is terrific about the running shoe business is that it gives the little guys a chance to compete with the big boys, something that is a lot harder in the world of basketball shoes. Fox Head’s accurately named Feather Lite is a running shoe that feels like a house slipper. Spira Footwear’s Stinger II is the latest model from the company that put metal springs in the heels of its shoes much to the consternation of marathon body-sanctioning bodies who ban runners from wearing Spira. Think of them as sneakers on steroids. Brooks Running’s humorously named “Beast” shoe has an equally humorously-named cushion, the “Caterpillar Crash Pad,” that purports to reduce stress when feet hit the pavement.

The New York Chocolate Show held last weekend at the Metropolitan Pavilion is understandably one of New York City’s most popular consumer shows. When most think of chocolate, iconic brands as Hershey’s and Nestle’s come to mind. Serious chocolate aficionados will scoff however at their mass produced products.

Contrary to popular belief, most chocolate is not sweet. The higher the pure cocoa content, the more bitter the taste. Another myth is that chocolate does not have any medicinal benefits.  Gnosis  Chocolates, whose headquarters are located in Long Island City, as well as  Gainesville-based Reserveage, make chocolate bars with high cocoa concentrations that are chock full of heart-healthy anti-oxidants and provide energy. You can purchase them at Whole Foods and online of course.

Avon is arguably the most famous brand name in the world of fragrances and skin care products. The term “Avon Lady” referred both to the company’s sales force and its main consumer. These days Avon is targeting men as much as does women. Two of Avon’s cologne lines, Driven and Unplugged, feature Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter and rock star Jon Bon Jovi as spokesman. The company is now expanding into watches as it has licenses from both the NFL and the NBA. Avon is hoping that its line of Knicks, Nets, Giants and Jets watches that have alist price of around $40 will be popular with consumers looking for holiday stocking stuffers.

Major League Soccer has a weird playoff system. When the New York Red Bulls played DC United, it was not a normal best two of three matches. It was a two game playoff with the winner decided by which team scored the most goals over the two games. The fist game resulted in a 1-1 tie while the second, played at Red Bull Stadium last Thursday, saw DC win by that all too typical 1-0 soccer score. As usual, the Red Bulls are a day late and a dollar short.

My colleague Rich Mancuso will be part of the talent taking part in the 12-hour Hurricane Sandy relief radiothon this Saturday, November 17, on one of our area’s most popular Internet radio stations, www.inthemixxradio.com

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