Sports Beat – Defending Bobby V

Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine stirred things up when he complained that the Yankees did not reach out to their community in the days following September 11, 2001. There is little argument that Yankees players and ownership did reach out to responders and to those whose lives were uprooted at the time.

Bobby was probably still steaming about a 2004 HBO Sports documentary, “Nine Innings From Ground Zero,” which spent the lion’s share of the time concentrating on the Yankees playoffs and seven-game nail-biting World Series loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fall of 2001 and how that helped cheer up New Yorkers needing a diversion. The Mets barely rated a three-minute mention in it from what I remember even though Valentine and his players spent a lot of time preparing boxes of food and supplies. Shea Stadium was used as an emergency center for first responders because of its sizable parking lot which Yankee Stadium lacked.

I spoke with Mets outfielder Mike Baxter about his memories of that cataclysmic day on the twelfth anniversary of 9/11. “ I was in an Advanced Placement Psychology class at Archbishop Molloy High School when the planes hit the World Trade Center. No one could believe what was happening,” the Whitestone native recalled.

Just in case anyone was starting to forget about terrorism in 2013, the Boston Marathon bombing was a jolting reminder. The evil allegedly done by the Tsarnaev brothers did not escape the attention of the National Football League. Fans are now prohibited from bringing most bags into stadiums as the NFL will only allow transparent bags for your necessities.

This is a case of overreaching in my opinion. Why can’t security personnel check all bags as they have done in the past? Evildoers will always find ways to commit nefarious acts even with see-through totes.

New Jersey Devils press box announcer Richard Nashmy was ahead of the curve and created a line of durable, thick-polymer clear vinyl tote bags in various sizes a few years ago. If you are planning on going to a Jets or Giants game this year you should check out his company’s website, www.carryitclearly.com.

It’s another meaningless September for the Mets. The fact that they never really had any post-season aspirations this year is the least of their problems. Even if Matt Harvey, David Wright and Ike Davis had stayed healthy the entire season the best that Mets fans could probably hope for would have been third place in the NL East. Nonetheless the weakling lineup that the Mets put together for their four-game series against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field during their last homestand was arguably the most impotent in their history. The Nats did not break a sweat in sweeping the Mets but that wasn’t what was humiliating. During the four games they hit a total of 13 homers while the mighty Mets hit a grand total of 0.

It is no wonder that CBS Radio executives have had their fill of the Mets and were delighted to announce that the Yankees would be replacing them next year on WFAN. The Yankees have always been the more popular team in New York and the Mets’ ineptitude since 2006 has only widened the gap.

Some are wondering about whether CBS is making the right decision since the Mets appear to have more exciting young talent than an aging Yankees team does. My answer to that is to ponder the following. If someone offered you $10,000 to invest in a long-term stock fund, would you choose one that was run by Hal Steinbrenner, Lonn Trost, Randy Levine and Brian Cashman or one that was headed by Jeff Wilpon and Sandy Alderson?

The Jets are probably not going to make the playoffs this year but rookie QB Geno Smith has given Gang Green fans a flicker of hope. Yes, he throws occasional interceptions, misses open receivers, and stays in the pocket holding the football a bit long at times, but he is exciting to watch. He led the Jets to that fluke Opening Day win against Tampa Bay when Bucs defensive end Lavonte David stupidly hit him out of bounds with scant seconds left on the clocks and the Jets were out of timeouts. That late hit penalty set up Nick Folk’s 48-yard game winner.

Although the Jets lost as usual to the New England Patriots a few days later, the score was close (13-10) and Smith was every bit the equal of his counterpart, Tom Brady, that night.

While Jets fans are probably thrilled with Geno, it still would have been better if Mark Sanchez were healthy. When head coach Rex Ryan writes his memoirs he will have to reveal why he put Sanchez into the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game with the Giants when the Jets had their third stringers in there. It is not surprising that Sanchez got hurt in that situation and will probably miss the entire 2013 season.

The recently concluded Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week always brings out some sports celebrities. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire are regulars. Two weeks ago OKC Thunder All-Star guard Russell Westbrook made the fashion scene as he was undoubtedly trying to elevate his profile for commercial endorsements.

My favorite moment from Fashion Week was being greeted by a pair of Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders at the GBK Lounge at the Empire Hotel. The girls were modeling their new skimpy uniforms that were designed by Vera Wang.

Fox Sports 1 has done a nice of getting out of the ratings gate strong. The wannabe chief competitor to ESPN raided Bristol for a pair of its popular female personalities, Erin Andrews and Charissa Thompson. Both ladies are fine sports anchors but there is no doubt that Fox executives are hoping that the “babe factor” will deliver male viewers. Will Sage Steele be jumping ship next?

Posted under Archbishop Molloy High School, Arizona Diamondbacks, Bobby Valentine, Hbo Sports, League Fans, Lloyd Carroll, Manager Bobby Valentine, Mets Outfielder, Mike Baxter, Molloy High School, National Football League, New York Mets, Nine Innings, Placement Psychology, Psychology Class, September 11 2001, Shea Stadium, Thick Polymer, Top Story, Transparent Bags, Twelfth Anniversary, Yankee Stadium

Sports Beat “Don’t blame David Wright”

You would have thought that David Wright personally affronted some of the New York sportswriters for incurring a rib cage injury while he was playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. The gist of the grousing was that Wright should have made his employer, the New York Mets, his primary concern, instead of chasing the glory that comes with being part of an American all-star team in an international competition that is the baby of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

Of course these same media types were relishing how Wright was called Captain America by his USA teammates when he appeared to be completely healthy. Talk about pathetic front-running.

It would be hard to blame David Wright if he was more interested in Team USA’s success than he was in the prospects of the 2013 Mets.  He realized that the stage that he was getting to play on in March would be the biggest one he would see all year with the exception of the All-Star Game. Even the most optimistic Mets fan would concede that it will be extremely difficult for this team to win more games in 2013 than it loses.

Barring a complete disaster of a season David Wright should be representing the Mets at the 2013 All-Star Game slated for mid-July at Citi Field. Tickets are already on sale for the MLB FanFest which will be held at the Javits Center as well as for Taco Bell All-Star Sunday at Citi Field that will feature the Futures Game spotlighting the best minor leaguers as well as a celebrity softball game.

The outpouring of tributes for Jack Curran, who served as head coach of Archbishop Molloy’s baseball and basketball team from 1958 until his death last week, reminded us of how a great teacher can shape lives for the better. Among those who played for Coach Curran were former NBA stars Kenny Anderson, Kenny Smith, Kevin Joyce and Brian Winters as well as current Mets outfielder Mike Baxter.

The annual Queens Half Marathon will take place this Sunday at Flushing Meadow Park. Many of the runners will be raising funds for various charities including the man who will be starting at the back of the pack, Devang Patel of North Bergen, NJ, who will be wearing a white leisure suit reminiscent to that worn by John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever.” Patel will get $1 from the event’s sponsor, US Road Sports & Entertainment Group, for every runner he passes that will go to “Restore The Shore,” a non-profit whose mission is to help the Jersey Shore recover from Superstorm Sandy. Hopefully US Road will help the Rockaways as well.

The Atlantic 10 Conference held their men’s basketball championship tournament at the Barclays Center and it coincided with the last Big East Tournament as we know it at Madison Square Garden.

It was unfortunate that the one New York member of the Atlantic 10, Fordham, did not qualify for the tournament. Had Fordham been eligible, the Barclays Center would have opened the upper level of the arena. The quality of play was quite good. On Sunday the St. Louis University Billikens outlasted the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University to win the A-10 title.

In a nice touch, the Atlantic 10 and the Barclays Center gave out a lot of tickets to elementary and high school students. For many of them it marked both their inaugural visit to the Barclays Center as well as the first college hoops game that they ever attended. This is the kind of smart marketing that creates future customers.

As has been the case with the Knicks and the Nets, the cuisine served in the press dining room at the Barclays Center for the Atlantic 10 was vastly superior to that doled out at Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament.

The St. John’s Red Storm made their annual  cameo appearance at the Big East Tournament as they were eliminated by a mediocre Villanova Wildcats team on Wednesday night. Even the Columbia Lions were able to beat Villanova on their Main Line suburban Philadelphia campus earlier in the year to give you an idea of how far their basketball program has fallen.

The only good news for the Red Storm last week was the announcement that freshman forward JaKarr Sampson was named the Big East Rookie of the Year. The Red Storm’s Mo Harkless won the award last year and then declared himself eligible for the NBA draft where he was selected in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers before being dealt to the Orlando Magic. Sampson, however, is expected to return to St. John’s in the fall.

Former Nets and Knicks television analyst, as well as former NBA All-Star, Kelly Tripucka was at the Barclays Center broadcasting the Atlantic 10 semi-finals and championship game for Dial Global Radio.

Kelly told me that he was disappointed that the MSG Network decided not to renew his contract and subsequently replaced him a younger version of himself, former NBA star and Long Island native Wally Szczerbiak. I have not seen enough of Wally’s work to make a judgment on his work, but I have always enjoyed what Tripucka brings to a broadcast. He never sugarcoats anything when the home team is playing lousy and explains hoops strategies in a way that a laymen can easily understand.

NBA Hall of Famer Rick Barry made a personal appearance at the 2013 Vision Expo East, the annual trade show for the optical industry held at the Javits Center. Rick was one of the great free-throw shooters in history and he was a practitioner of doing them underhanded. I asked him why no one shoots them like that anymore.

“There are a lot of reasons. No one knows how to teach the wrist action that is needed. Another factor is that it’s not considered macho in today’s image conscious NBA.” He then added that any pro player should be able to convert 80 per cent of their foul shots. According to Barry, the NBA average is around 75%.

Other athletes who appeared at various booths at the show were Hall of Fame third baseman Cal Ripken, Jr. and former Yankees centerfielder Bernie Williams.

Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez was the runner-up to RA Dickey for the National League Cy Young Award this year. He has also always had an interest in fashion and has started a t-shirt manufacturing company called House of Leagues.

Another young apparel company, Sportiqe, which created those “Hello Brooklyn” t-shirts that a lot of Nets fans wear to the Barclays Center, has created t-shirts that combine the Grateful Dead logo with the names of NBA teams. The company must have had NBA Hall of Famer and renowned “Dead Head” Bill Walton in mind.

New Era has long been the leader in Major League Baseball-branded clothing. They have introduced a new line of zippered hoodies with oversized team logos that are perfect to wear to the ballparks during the chilly first month of the season.

The company has found many ways of monetizing the baseball cap by turning it into a fashion statement. Its new 9Fifty Snapback line features team names in large capital letters made with elaborate multi-colored stitching.

At the recent Toy Fair 2013 held at the Javits Center board games were surprisingly starting to make a comeback. USAopoly, which made its name in the game biz by creating sports team versions of the classic board game Monopoly, is now reviving the popular ‘80s game Trivial Pursuit with a “Classic Rock” edition which quizzes players on band members, album covers, touring trivia, and stories behind hit songs.

Levy’s Rye Bread had a famous advertising tag line, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s!” The same can be said for Passover foods. Manischewitz is introducing Organic Spelt Matzoh and Gluten Free Crackers for the holiday which begins Monday night. If you are looking for a snack alternative to macaroons, the company is producing boxes of Chocolate Walnut Biscotti and Milk Chocolate Almond Buttercups.

A healthy choice to put on your morning bread or matzoh is California almond butter which is tastier than peanut butter;  better for your cholesterol than regular butter; and has far less sugars and carbohydrates than jams or jellies.

Posted under Archbishop Molloy, Brian Winters, Celebrity Softball Game, Commissioner Bud Selig, David Wright, Kenny Anderson, Kenny Smith, Kevin Joyce, Major League Baseball, Mets Outfielder, Mike Baxter, Mlb Fanfest, Nba Stars, New York Mets, New York Sportswriters, Top Story

Keep Pagan In The Mets Ring

New York – Go figure the game of baseball. On the night New York Mets outfielder Angel Pagan ties a career game high in hits, four, there is talk that soon he could be one of the Mets outfielders out of the equation when Carlos Beltran returns to the lineup.

Prior to their game Tuesday against Detroit at Citi Field, Mets GM Omar Minaya addressed the media and said Beltran will begin his minor league rehabilitation assignment Thursday with the St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League.

So here we are in the Mets clubhouse a half hour or so after the Mets pound the Tigers 14-6.  “You guys waiting for me,” said Pagan with a smile that has been seen more this season from him and his teammates. The waiting time for Pagan is over.  He has matured as a player and he will be the first one to admit that.

And despite Pagan’s continued references to just being a player holding his spot in the lineup until Beltran returns, the Mets should consider options for him with the expected return of Beltran to the lineup prior to, or after the all-star break.

There is every reason to believe that the Mets can use four outfielders. And hard to conceive manager Jerry Manuel not playing Beltran often, assuming he is healthy enough to play often.  Jason Bay, with the huge contract can’t sit on the bench despite his inconsistency to drive in runs.  Jeff Francouer has proved to have that ability to sit well at the bottom of the order and the arm ability to command right field.

Pagan could be the odd man out, not deserving of the talk about being a guy the Mets could use in a trade to obtain another front line starting pitcher. Nor should Pagan be part of an equation of a possible fourth outfielder used by Manuel.

Simply put, Pagan is now an everyday player. He has proved to be deserving of holding his spot in the Mets lineup, showing no signs of becoming the player that made constant mistakes at the plate, on the base paths and in the outfield last season.

Manuel has yet to address the issue of a possible outfield dilemma and surely there is reason to understand why the manager avoids the issue. The chemistry in the clubhouse is in place. More so, Pagan is one of the reasons for the improvement of these 2010 Mets.

“Angel is getting big hit after big hit, he’s been big for us,” commented Manuel late Tuesday evening.  No questions at the moment as to how the situation will be handled with the eventual return of Beltran who has to play with his huge contract in place until the end of 2011.

Pagan can’t be the odd man out here.  “What’s in my mind is to help the team offensively or defensively,” said Pagan when asked about his four-hit night. He will be the first to admit that covering Beltran’s spot has been a big responsibility.

He does not check to see if Beltran has left a text message.  Pagan is going about his business and helping the Mets win ballgames. And if indeed he is left out of the equation, as an everyday player, there has been no talk about being unhappy.

“Right now I am very confident because of the opportunity from last year,” he says, “just concentrating on staying healthy and helping this team.”  He extended his hitting streak to 10 games in the opening series against the Tigers and was a home run shy from becoming the Mets tenth player to hit for the cycle with his 4-for-6 night and four runs batted in.

There were times during the misery of a season lost in 2009 when the name of Angel Pagan became a target of bad news. He was making the Mets worse and not better.  He certainly has closed the door on many of the skeptics and is a valuable commodity in Manuel’s every day lineup. The injury prone Pagan is healthy, seeing the ball well at the plate, batting .304 with 35 RBI, five triples, 14 doubles and five home runs second in the order behind Jose Reyes.

Manuel and Minaya have decisions to make.  Four outfielders soon, three spots, and someone will be the odd man out as an everyday player. Certainly it should not be Angel Pagan who would sit and rust on the bench, though one way or the other it is inevitable that Pagan will play often

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Base Paths, Career Game, Carlos Beltran, Everyday Player, Florida State League, Fourth Outfielder, Inconsistency, Jason Bay, Jeff Francouer, Mets Clubhouse, Mets Gm, Mets Outfielder, New York Mets, Odd Man, Omar Minaya, Outfielders, Rehabilitation Assignment, Rich Mancuso, St Lucie Mets, Starting Pitcher, Top Story, Waiting Time

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on June 23, 2010