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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Long Day At The Park For The Mets

NEW YORK – There were perhaps less than 1,000 fans in the seats at Citi Field Wednesday afternoon when New York Mets starting pitcher Jonathan Niese threw the first pitch to Milwaukee Brewers leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks at 4:10pm. It was a rare twin bill of baseball in New York City courtesy of a Monday evening rain out that required two games.

Even if the games meant nothing towards post season implications, they had to be played. The Mets are finishing up another dismal campaign, third in the NL east, and the Brewers sitting fourth in the NL central also playing out the string and ready to pack their bags for the winter

Because net receipts from the gate and concessions are so important to the teams, the schedule must be played out. Even if there is a rain out the makeup game gets on the schedule if agreed by the teams this late in the season. With concession stands closed in the upper decks at Citi Field, and the noticeable empty seats it was time to play ball.

When the first pitch was thrown, and for a good part of the first game, fans in the stands and media in the press box could hear sounds of the game. A crack of the bat, fastball in the catcher’s mitt, and even players on the field heard saying “got it” or “go to first.”

“Rather play one game because as a player you are used to preparing for one,” said the Mets Chris Carter.  He would single and drive in two runs in the Mets two-run third inning of the first game. Those in the slim crowd could be heard, as the Mets started to cut the deficit after Niese surrendered six runs in the Milwaukee top of the inning.

That was one perspective of a long afternoon that went into the late evening in Flushing Queens.  The Mets would lose the first game of the double dip, 8-7. Niese (9-10) would throw 2.2 innings, on 10 hits and six runs, The Mets would battle back scoring five more runs in the fourth.

So what about those loyal fans who have once again witnessed another losing season at Citi Field? Carter, a first year Met loves their loyalty. “I love New York fans,” he said. “They’re tough, they know what to expect. I really appreciate the fans. As a player you block out the fact that there is nobody in the stands,” he said.

David Wright would hit a two-run homer in that fourth, his 28th and third game in a row with a homer, done four other times in his career and now the fifth time he has 100 or more ruins batted in, But he failed to connect in the nightcap when the Mets could not score runs, could only get 5 hits in a 3-1 second game loss.

It was not the 13 hits they had in the first game. Starter R.A. Dickey concluded a successful first season in New York. A surprise who was signed after spring training, Dickey (11-8) was talking about coming back next season. The 35-year old right hander has earned a role to start with a knuckleball that has revived his career.

“Feel I have a lot to offer and age is no consequence,” commented Dickey who gave up six hits in seven innings. “Priority number one was the ability and consistency to throw strikes.” The fans saw what Dickey offered and many times showed their appreciation.

It was a storybook season for a pitcher who got a role when Oliver Perez and John Maine left the rotation, “I feel this is what I can offer over the next five or six years of my career,” said Dickey who certainly can hang around more with a knuckleball that has consistency.

“What impressed me the most was his consistency,” said Mets manager Jerry Manuel who may not be making a decision about Dickey’s role with every expectation that Sunday will be his last game at the helm. “Every time he took the ball, he gave us a chance to win.”

When the first game was over, about 7:40pm, Manuel had used eight pitchers which tied a franchise record for a nine inning game.  The supposed 28,284 in attendance, more about tickets sold, than who showed, made as much noise as they could as the Mets staged another comeback in the eighth inning that once again failed short.

And when the second game began, a half hour later at 8:16PM, many of those empty seats were still visible and another Mets player Carlos Beltran was shut down for the final four games.  Beltran would say the mild inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee would require what the doctor ordered,

“I’m happy, actually the knee’s better, I’m happy for that part” said Beltran who was having a strong September which provided optimism for next season, that is, if the Mets don’t decide to trade him in what would be the final year of a $119 million dollar contract.

“The part that I’m not happy about is just that I wanted to finish the season playing but by the recommendation by the doctor they don’t want me to play.”

Ninth inning of game two and the Mets have one last chance to make this worthwhile in another meaningless game.  The “Cowbell Man” Ed Bison was doing his usual thing in a now almost desolate Citi Field, urging fans for one last push. You would think those doing the chanting were in a late season pennant race with their team.

They did cheer for Pedro Feliciano who pitched in both ends of the doubleheader. The lefthander has 91 appearances this season which extended his franchise record that he established the night before.  And they gave Angel Pagan his usual applause when he swiped his 37th base of the season in the first inning of game two, becoming the first Mets outfielder with that many since Rickey Henderson and Roger Cedeno in 1999.

Trevor Hoffman the career saves leader got number 601 for the Brewers and Mets fans went home seeing a double dip loss.  New York, (77-81) needs to win their last four games to avoid their second consecutive losing season. Count four, when including the collapses of 2007, 2008, and of course the injury plagued Mets of 2009.

A long day at the ballpark and there are those loyal Mets fans who are willing to be patient about winning again. And the good thing about it, they have a team that knows they are around to give them support even when ballgames mean nothing in late September.

e-mail Rich Mancuso:  Ring786@aol.com

Posted under Chris Carter, Double Dip, Evening Rain, Fastball, First Game, Game Fans, Late Evening, Leadoff Hitter, Losing Season, Loyal Fans, Makeup Game, Mets New York, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Mets, Niese, Nl Central, Nl East, Starting Pitcher, Top Of The Inning, Top Story, Upper Decks

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on September 30, 2010