Sportsbeat – 7/9/11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sportsbeat – 10/30/10

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson made a great impression on most of the media who covered his introductory press conference at Citi Field judging by the backpage headlines in the tabloids the following day.

Not surprisingly, the dailies ignored the question I posed to him to conclude the Q&A session. When asked about whether he was more concerned about long-term goals and that 2011 would be basically a caretaker year for him as the Mets bide time until the contracts of Luis Castillo, Oliver Perez, Carlos Beltran and Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez expire, Alderson said that he expected the Mets to be competitive next year but added that the team would not be active in the free agent market this winter.

“Competitive” is as meaningless a baseball term as “organic” is for the produce business. More often than not when a baseball executive says that he expects his team to be competitive it means that if his players stay healthy, his team gets some unforeseen good breaks, and bad karma happens to other clubs in the same division, then his guys will win a few more games than what was predicted by naysayers. That’s the bull you have to feed to season ticketholders.

The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood (Harper) got a lot of buzz because author Jane Leavy revealed that Mantle was sexually abused as a little boy by Anna Bea, his babysitter. The truth of the matter is that The Last Boy is a must read because it is the definitive Mantle bio. She paints a rather sad picture of a man who clearly thought that he would not live past his fortieth birthday based on his family history. Mickey never seemed comfortable with fame and adulation. In fact being perceived as a role model was a liability with his favorite off-field activity of womanizing. Mantle is fortunate that he lived before the advent of the Internet; Tiger Woods and Brett Favre are choirboys compared to The Mick. To be fair, Leavy writes about the number of kind deeds Mantle did for strangers in the last decade of his life.

East Setauket native and Ward Melville High School alum Mick Foley has just penned his latest memoir, Countdown to Lockdown: A Hardcore Journal (Grand Central Publishing). Long considered one of the most cerebral wrestlers of all-time, Foley has been a constant presence on the New York Times best-selling book list.

As per his previous insider looks at the wrestling business, Foley Is Good and Have A Nice Day, Mick treats the reader with respect even at the risk of burning a few bridges. He details his ups-and-downs with Vince McMahon; claims that the tragic end of Chris Benoit may have been caused by factors other than “‘roid rage”; confesses that his old high school buddy, actor/comedian Kevin James was a better athlete than he was; as well as admitting to a serious crush on singer Tori Amos.

While the fate of the Knicks will hinge on the play of power forward Amar’e Stoudemire, keep an eye on guard Landry Fields. Fields has all of the attributes to be a big celebrity in the Big Apple. He is a Stanford grad; is blessed with matinee idol looks; and has the talent to be a big-name NBA player.

Maybe a new head coach and owner can make a difference after all as the New Jersey Nets won more games in October than they won in the first three months of the 2009-10 season.

While it is unlikely that they will pose a threat to the UConn Huskies, the St. John’s Red Storm women’s basketball team is ranked #5 in the Big East coaches’ preseason poll. Two Red Storm players, Da’Shena Stevens and Sky Lindsay, have business career aspirations. Stevens is an accounting major while Lindsay is studying finance and completed a Wall Street internship this past summer. Sky, who has both a great name and a megawatt smile, is minoring in public relations and wouldn’t mind a career in front of a television camera.

Baby boomers remember the opening scene of the iconic “Mary Tyler Moore Show” where Mary was washing her car outside her Minneapolis apartment wearing a Minnesota Vikings jersey. The NFL has long claimed that 40% of its fans are female and the league has just launched an NFL Women’s Apparel line that is being licensed to numerous clothing manufacturers. Not be outdone, Nike has just launched a high heel line of Air Jordan shoes that can be worn for all occasions.

The Biz Bash Expo held last week at the Javits Center is the annual gathering of entertainment and dining venues that compete for the corporate party business. It wasn’t so long ago that the conventional wisdom was that it was a dying sport. At Biz Bash, no fewer than four bowling emporiums were competing for the attention of event planners: 300 which has branches at Chelsea Piers and in Melville; Bowlmor which operates Strike in New Hyde Park as well as its flagship in Greenwich Village and is about to open a new alley in Times Square which will compete with Lucky Strike and Frames, the former Leisure Time that operates in the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

Motor sports were also a big part of Biz Bash. Monticello Motor Sports, that also had a booth at September’s Luxury Brand Review at Manhattan’s Rouge Tomate Restaurant, allows you to live out your racing fantasies at its track in Sullivan County as you can tool around in a Ferrari.

The Islanders, despite the serious injuries to both Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo, got off to a better start than most expected. A recent home-and-home series of back-to-back losses to the Montreal Canadiens in which the Isles played hard and crisp but were beaten by superior talented team. The perennially goal scoring-challenged Islanders couldn’t put the puck past Habs’ backup goalie Alex Auld who hadn’t started a game in nine months to close out October at the Nassau Coliseum. This may be a harbinger.

If you are looking to get out of the area and are looking for inexpensive sports entertainment, the Trenton Devils, the NJ Devils’ ECHL affiliate, has a $49 four tickets, hot dogs and sodas package for its Sunday matinees.

It’s no secret that Atlantic City is hurting financially as gaming revenues have sharply declined due to increased competition from the Philadelphia Race Track/PARX Casino complex, the Mount Airy Casino Resort in the Poconos, the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pa., and of course, the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway. AC could have an ace in the hole (besides its majestic boardwalk of course) in sports. While it is not the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight that boxing fans drool over, the November 20 bout between Sergio Martinez and Paul Williams at Boardwalk Hall is eagerly anticipated by even the jaded ring media. The following week, a college basketball tournament, the Legends Classic, will take place there. Finally, the New Jersey Devils’ two top farm teams, the Albany Devils of the AHL and the aforementioned Trenton Devils, will play some games at Boardwalk Hall.

Staying healthy as the colder weather arrives is never easy. Obviously it is a good idea for most of us to get a flu shot. There are a number of helpful consumer products as well. Honeywell’s inexpensive and compact Air Purifier helps keep homes dust and germ-free. Violight utilizes ultra-violet light technology to sanitize both toothbrushes with its Zappi and cell phones and Ipods with its newest UV product. Of course, even that classic remedy, chicken soup, has improved as Manischewitz has just launched a low-fat, reduced- salt line of broths.

I echo fellow NY Sportsday columnists Joe McDonald and Rich Mancuso’s tributes to the late Bill Shannon. Bill was more than an the Babe Ruth of official scorers and baseball historians. He was a true renaissance man with whom you could discuss any subject. Unlike many of his peers, Bill never believed in the pressbox caste system. He did not care if you wrote for the New York Times or Good Times. If you were a sportswriter then you had his respect and friendship. He will be missed more than words can describe.

Posted under Adulation, Advent Of The Internet, Bad Karma, Brett Favre, Caretaker, Carlos Beltran, Dailies, Fortieth Birthday, Free Agent Market, Jane Leavy, Kind Deeds, Lloyd Carroll, Luis Castillo, Mickey Mantle, Naysayers, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Rod Rodriguez, Sandy Alderson, Term Goals, Tiger Woods, Top Story, Truth Of The Matter

This post was written by Lloyd Carroll on October 30, 2010