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

Posted under Batting Helmet, Fastball, Fly Balls, Jason Bay, Lloyd Carroll, Man Roster, Marriott Marquis, Media Technology, Mets Fans, Mitt Romney, Movers And Shakers, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Outfielder, Palm Springs Area, Running Into Walls, S Sports, Sports Business Journal, Top Story, Work Ethic

K-Rod Trade Had To Be Made

As free agent signings go, Francisco Rodriguez wasn’t a bad one for the Mets.

Sure, he had the incident last season with his girlfriend’s father, but even that worked out well for the club. K-Rod received the proper counseling, the Mets were off the hook for the rest of his 2010 salary and he came as a model citizen this year.

Oliver Perez, K-Rod was not.

But the fact is the Mets needed to trade their now erstwhile closer. With $17 million looming in 2012 and Scott Boras wringing his hands in the background, Sandy Alderson needed to ship his closer away for any price and as quickly as he could.

Boras could have made the Mets life miserable over the next few weeks. Already he boasted Rodriguez wasn’t going to be a set-up man and would be “unhappy” in the clubhouse if he didn’t get the ball in the ninth.

Enter Milwaukee, who is tied in the Central with the Cardinals using John Axford who is 23 out of 25 as their closer. With 23 saves on the season, manager Ron Roenicke can use both pitchers in the ninth as he sees fit or just use K-Rod in the eight. With 34 games finished so far, Rodriguez probably won’t get to the vesting option of 55 games.

So this trade needed to be made. The Mets will get back two player yet to be named, but it doesn’t matter if they are Rickie Weekes and Prince Fielder or two A-Ball relievers, as the deal is about the addition losing K-Rod brings to the Mets.

“We thank Frankie for his contributions to the Mets and wish him well with the Brewers,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement. “This trade allows us to develop and more fully utilize other members of our 2011 bullpen and offers some payroll relief, as well.”

Now the club can see if Bobby Parnell or even Pedro Beato are the answers at closer, or does the team have to look elsewhere next year. By giving their young pitchers a chance in the ninth this season with only an outside shot to contend, the Mets will avoid an Aaron Heilman situation where a good reliever melted as a closer when forced into the pennant race.

More importantly, though, losing Rodriguez give the Mets a much better chance of keeping Jose Reyes. Without K-Rod’s albatross option looming, the club have some cost certainty when it comes to 2012. After Carlos Beltran walks or even gets traded, Alderson will have around $55 million coming off the books, not including Reyes’s $11 million. That means there may be some wriggle room to pay the shortstop in the high teens to low $20 million range in the off-season, while dropping the payroll to a more comfortable level for the Wilpons.

This is exactly what the Wilpons hired Alderson to do. He’s cleaning up Omar Minaya’s mess. Beltran will probably be the next to go – more than likely when David Wright and/or Ike Davis come off the disabled list at the end of the month – and heck, if some insane team wants to take Jason Bay off his hands, Alderson will more than likely drive the left fielder to the airport himself.

So sure the Mets lost a closer last night, but as trade go, this is a good one.

Posted under Aaron Heilman, Bullpen, Cardinals, Clubhouse, Francisco Rodriguez, Joe Mcdonald, John Axford, Model Citizen, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Parnell, Payroll, Pitchers, Sandy Alderson, Scott Boras, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on July 13, 2011

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Mets Don’t Look Good Despite Changes At Top

Sandy Alderson is the new General Manager and Terry Collins shortly followed as the new manager. A new regime is in command of the New York Mets amid a financial mess that may eventually force owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon to sell a portion of the team or their entire interests.

The Wilpon financial mess is just one of the issues that await the New York Mets as they begin the 2011 season Friday night down in Miami with the Florida Marlins. Gone are pitcher Oliver Perez and infielder Luis Castillo, two holdovers of previous GM Omar Minaya. Some payroll will eventually be free, and there are two less popular Mets at Citi Field when the team has their home opener.

So what should be expected from the 2011 New York Mets? They can be competitive if their starting pitching and bullpen steps up. They will be without their injured ace Johan Santana who may throw his first pitch in early July. And how far the Mets can go will depend on how long they stay injury free. In particular there is concern for outfielders Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran.

Yes, questions again for the team and fans, even with a new regime, a fan has to be patient. There is optimism for the future but not winning expectations this year even with a manager like Collins. He is different than previous manager Jerry Manuel, knows the game and will tell it like it is without hesitation.

The team is capable of winning 80 games, coming off a dismal fourth place finish at 79-83, finishing 18 games behind the division winning Philadelphia Phillies. And the Phillies on paper look like the team that will dominate, and the Atlanta Braves will be in the hunt.

If pitching and key players stay away from the disabled list the Mets could be in the wildcard race. But the first month, April, where the Mets will have many home games is important. They need to have a good start or for sure there will be nothing to play for and a fire sale will come in late July.

Beltran will start in right field assuming his left knee is healthy. In the last year of his contract he could be traded. And so could Jose Reyes, though the Mets shortstop came to camp healthy and had an outstanding spring. It is realistic to assume that ownership, with all of their financial issues won’t be able to afford Reyes who is also in a walk year of his contract.

If the Mets get off to a good start there is reason for optimism. And if Reyes and Beltran are performing to expectations, and if the team is still in contention, then by late July you can expect Reyes and Beltran to finish out the season in New York. Reyes hit .282 last season drove in 54 runs and still had a .321 on base percentage which shows he can get on base when in the lineup.

Beltran in 2010 once again had limited playing time, 64 games, with the bad right knee. Now it is the left side that is hurting. His production in the lineup is vital if the Mets want to contend, and the .254 average of last year, 7 home runs and 27 RBI reflects one of the reasons why the Mets were 13th in hitting and third to last in the National League when driving in runs.

But Mets fans will come to expect that by the end of the season, and going into 2012 the team payroll will go from $150 million to $75 million or less, and in New York sometimes that is not acceptable. Minus Reyes and Beltran it could be less however every game the Mets play they will have, viable MVP candidates in Reyes and David Wright.

Other important factors to consider are David Wright, Angel Pagan and Ike Davis. Wright showed an adjustment to hitting the ball out of Citi Field. 29 home runs and 103 RBI, but he has to cut down on the strike outs, 151. Pagan had a comeback year and proved how important he has become and will take over center. He adds speed to the position and on the bases. Can Pagan again hit around .290 and increase his numbers of 11 home runs and 69 RBI?

Davis had an outstanding rookie season, 19 home runs, 71 RBI and developed as an outstanding big league first baseman. Josh Thole is the starting catcher and has to play a bulk of games. Backup Ronnie Paulino starts the season with a suspension stemming from abusing illegal body enhancing drugs and he has come down with a blood condition. So the backup will be Michael Nickeas who tasted a cup of coffee with the team in September and the second base job, at least for now goes to Brad Emaus a Rule 5 player who impressed Collins. If Reyes should get traded then expect youngster Ruben Tejada to be recalled form Buffalo and take control of his natural position,

And the cog in the lineup to how far the Mets will go in 2011 is Jason Bay The left fielder, with a huge contract, went down with a concussion in mid season and was limited to 95 games, 6 home runs and drove in 47. The Mets had to use a variety of players to fill the void using Nick Evans and Lucas Duda. Bay will probably start the long campaign on the DL after sustaining an injury to his rib cage Tuesday so Duda or Evans could be on the opening day roster.

In fact, some baseball experts are picking the Mets to finish last because they don’t expect Beltran, Wright and Bay to play 95 games apiece because of injuries that have plagued this team the past three years.

The pitching staff that had a combined 3.70 ERA last season, surprisingly sixth in the league and perhaps that was due to the emergence of knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey who finished 11-9 coming off a spring training contract. Though one can’t expect the 35-year old Dickey to have similar numbers and if he does than the pitching will be that much better,

The ace, until Santana returns is right hander Mike Pelfrey, 15-9, .366 ERA and with a much improved slider.  Jonathon Niese will follow after a full year under his belt and hopefully will improve on his 9-10 record and 4.20 ERA. Chris Young pitched two games with San Diego last year, was shut down and now the Mets see some arm strength and a good fastball to provide some spark in the rotation as another minor investment.

And the surprise could be Chris Capuano, 2-0 this spring. He is another of the “cheap” investments that Alderson made when taking over and the former Milwaukee Brewer provides insurance as a fifth starter and long reliever out of the pen.

If the starters can go deep, then what will the suspect Mets pen do? They were next to last in saves last season. The Mets can only hope that Frankie Rodriguez is back to form, that his shoulder has recovered, and most of all that his anger management issues are a thing of the past. K-Rod is not expected to save 62 games, but if the Mets want to make anything interesting, if they are in close games, then K-Rod needs to close the door.

If not, Collins has to work with a revolving door of arms out of the pen which was what Manuel had to do last season. The key loss was Pedro Feliciano now with the cross-town Yankees, and for the past three years Feliciano was the most used pitcher in baseball coming out of the pen.

Bobby Parnell has been groomed to be the set up man, D.J. Carasco, another minor investment can assist with a good fastball, and as it appears, a replacement for Feliciano.

The Mets will miss the versatility of Chris Carter off the bench, now with Tampa Bay. But their bench also minor investments made by Alderson is vastly improved Willie Harris for the outfield, a veteran who was with the Washington Nationals, Scott Hairston, once with San Diego, an infielder and outfielder Yes Daniel Murphy, who until last week was in the running for the start at second base.

The 2011 New York Mets full of questions as to how far they will go. Can they contend and will Citi Field be an interesting place to visit by August?  Surprises do happen often in baseball and with the Mets they will have to do the unexpected to make it an interesting 2011.

E-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

 

 

Posted under Atlanta Braves, Bullpen, Carlos Beltran, Financial Mess, Fire Sale, Florida Marlins, Hesitation, Home Games, Home Opener, Infielder, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, Luis Castillo, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Optimism, Outfielders, Philadelphia Phillies, Sandy Alderson, Top Story, Wildcard Race

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on April 1, 2011

First Castillo, now Ollie is finally gone as Revamp Continues for the Mets

Luis Castillo released by New York Mets on Friday was just the beginning. General Manager Sandy Alderson on Monday made the inevitable announcement and pitcher Oliver Perez followed Castillo out the door.

And with the exception of that championship run in 2006, Perez with the huge three-year $36 million contract, granted from then GM Omar Minaya, was a huge bust.  The control was gone, velocity of the fastball did not exist and Perez became an albatross to an organization obviously in the revamping process.

Simply put “Ollie”, as he was known worked his way out the door. That last game of the season at Citi Field in early October should have been the determining factor. Perez came out of the bullpen in an extra inning and meaningless game.  No control then that gave the Washington Nationals a win for the winter.

Except Perez remained as the transition to a new GM and manager started, and for whatever reason, possibly because Perez had that contract, Alderson gave him a chance in spring games.  Then down in Port St. Lucie Saturday he gave up back-to back home runs to two Washington National career minor leaguers.

Said Alderson, different from what was said when Castillo was released, “As I said during the winter our plan was to bring Oliver to spring training and give him a chance. After trying him as a starter and out of the bullpen, we felt that we needed to move in a different direction.”

The right direction because, no different from the Castillo situation, Perez would have heard a resounding amount of boos when the team comes home for their home opener at Citi Field against the Nationals on Friday afternoon April 9th.

Ownership, similar to the Castillo situation approved the decision even as they struggle with financial issues and owe Perez the remaining $12 million of a three-year contract that Perez signed in 2009. Last season Perez went 0-5 with a 6.80 ERA after going 3-4 with a 6.82 ERA the year before. Perez commented before he left the Mets spring training complex, “They have me the opportunity. They were fair to me.” He said the team gave him the opportunity, “and I didn’t do anything great.”

Well at least Perez admits he was not great. The contract was not deserved and Minaya may have made him one of his reclamation projects as Perez showed he had something in 2006. And Minaya could not get the big guys that were available for free agency including CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett who went cross-town to the Yankees.

Perez had tow stints on the disabled list and made things worse by refusing to take a minor league assignment in attempts to get back to form.  “Ollie made every effort,” commented Alderson. Yeah but not enough to earn him at least a role out of the bullpen and those in the know have said that Perez believed he was a starter and not one to come out of the pen.

So for now, the Mets have relieved themselves of two headaches with Castillo and Perez gone. In the end payroll flexibility can still be an issue with the financial issues of ownership as the team continues this revamping process.

Acquired by the Mets from the Minnesota Twins on July 30, 2007, for two minor leaguers, Castillo was to then GM Omar Minaya a perfect fit for a team that had playoff aspirations. A perfect fit at second base, a position now in baseball that has become known more for a good glove rather than production at the plate.

Though Castillo had the ability to get on base and drive in runs. That is, until he came to New York during the Minaya regime. He arrived in New York at a time when the Mets did not spend their money correctly and Castillo became an abomination, a cancer in the clubhouse and on the field.

So now the Mets eat the remaining $6 million of his salary, another loss of money not wisely spent during the Minaya regime.  Castillo is also saved from hearing boos of fans at Citi Field, though that never seemed to bother him. There was a time last season when Castillo was asked if the fans got to him?

“I just play the game,” he would say in the Mets clubhouse at Citi Field. And he had little to say about the blunder that never disappeared, a ninth inning dropped ball at second in 2009 at Yankee Stadium. Alex Rodriguez hit a pop up allowing Mark Teixeira to score the winning run, and the cross-town Yankees stole a win from the Mets. Closer Francisco Rodriguez showed his frustration on the mound.

That play will always be the legacy of Castillo in a Mets uniform. Outside Yankee Stadium that Friday evening, even Yankee fans would sympathize with a Mets fan. But the Mets fan would never forgive Castillo and Alderson, the new sheriff in town, had to take the fans into consideration when making the decision.

The GM commented, “Don’t think there’s any question that there’s some linkage between the situation and a perception of the Mets that has existed at this point.”   He added, “It is something taken into account.”

And if it were not for the contract, four-years and $25 million, perhaps the release would have come sooner. The 35-year old Castillo batted .235, with no homers and 17 RBI in 247 at bats last season. Limited playing time for a lack of production, and his work ethic at times may have been questioned.

Castillo said Friday he was not given a chance to compete for the second base job this spring. The Mets were obviously going in another direction and last season used a combination of players at the position while Castillo and his salary sat on the bench.

It was an acquisition that came to late for the New York Mets. But Minaya made those mistakes and at times was questioned, which ultimately cost his job along with other failures.  At one time Castillo was that quality player with a .299 career average over 13 major league seasons, 194 doubles, 59 triples, 28 home runs, 443 RBI, and 370 stolen bases.

It just did not work for him in New York, perhaps extending his stay. And Castillo had his chance. It was his job at second, and he blew it by slacking at times and not giving that proper explanation to Mets fans after that disastrous dropped ball against the Yankees.

“Its baseball,” he would say in the visitor’s clubhouse that night at Yankee Stadium. Yeah, but this is New York and fans expect more from a $25 million dollar player. They expected a better and more valid explanation. They never got it.

Two less player decisions now for Alderson and new manager Terry Collins as the Mets put the finishing touches on this spring and get ready for 2011. Second base is still up for grabs with Luis Hernandez as the leading candidate to take over. But count on this, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo won’t be there.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring 786@aol.com



Posted under Albatross, Bullpen, Fastball, Friday Afternoon, Home Opener, Home Runs, Last Game, Luis Castillo, Meaningless Game, National Career, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Ollie, Omar Minaya, Rich Mancuso, Sandy Alderson, Spring Games, Spring Training, Top Story, Washington Nationals

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on March 23, 2011

Tags: ,

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

Alderson Immediately Changes The Mets Culture

Don’t get your hopes up for Cliff Lee, Met fans. It’s not going to happen. Nor will the Mets have a free spending off-season, like they did under Omar Minaya.

Rather look for some smart bargain basement moves where new general manager Sandy Alderson will utilize some of his statistical analysis to fill the holes on the roster.

“Will we be in the market this year aggressively? Unlikely,” Alderson said.

Added COO Jeff Wilpon, “We have to have some more conversation with him, but I assume we’re close to the maximum. And I don’t think he would recommend, and hasn’t recommended, going above that right now.”

Alderson’s biggest signings may come in the front office. No matter who the field manager will be, if the new GM can be reunited Paul DePodesta to run the statistical analysis department and J.P. Ricciardi to helm the player personnel area – two executives reportedly on his list – then the Mets may be on their way to contending in 2011.

Not a fan of using his prospects for chips, Alderson is willing to explore trading any and all veterans – including Jose Reyes and David Wright – if the price is right.

“I think we’re going to be busy, but that’s first and maybe ultimately only to assess the market,” Alderson said. “We don’t really know what’s out there. We need to be actively engaged in finding out what’s available to us, who has interest in some of our players, and just assess things as we develop more information. But right now it would be hard to say how active we’re going to be in actual transactions. But we’re going to be out there fishing.”

High on-base percentage players will be a key for Alderson. The use of stats will be a new concept in Queens, something Minaya would never consider, relying more on the scouts.

He will also try to shed the dead weight in on the roster. Of course, he’s not going to outright say he will release Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, you can bet their days are numbered. Fred and Jeff Wilpon even said they would have released them last season, if Minaya broached the subject, but never did.

“And, by the way, there may other ‘hits’ that he comes up with — not only the obvious ones,” Fred Wilpon said.

Then there’s the manager, who will be hired in the next 30 days. Both Wilpons said the subject of a high paid manager never came up in conversations, so that should take Joe Torre and Bobby Valentine off the list, but Alderson said he likes a high spirited manager, which keeps Wally Backman in the running.

“I also think it’s important for a manager to be somewhat analytical, but at the same time occasionally and sometimes often intuitive,” Alderson said. “We’re looking for somebody that is right for our situation. What is our situation? You start with the fact that it’s New York City. …

“We’re looking for somebody that fits intellectual requirements, but also intuitive and emotional ones. That manager may have experience, may not have experience at the major league level. We’re very open-minded about it at this point. But I do want to emphasize that whoever is selected is going to be the manager and making those decisions and needs to have a certain level of independence in order to accomplish what he needs to accomplish.”

No matter what happens in the ensuing months though, one thing’s for certain: Things have changed in Queens already.

Posted under Bargain Basement, Base Percentage, Chips, Culture, David Wright, Fishing, Gm, Hasn, Helm, Holes, Jeff Wilpon, Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Prospects, Ricciardi, Sandy Alderson, Statistical Analysis, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 29, 2010

Alderson Immediately Changes The Mets Culture

Don’t get your hopes up for Cliff Lee, Met fans. It’s not going to happen. Nor will the Mets have a free spending off-season, like they did under Omar Minaya.

Rather look for some smart bargain basement moves where new general manager Sandy Alderson will utilize some of his statistical analysis to fill the holes on the roster.

“Will we be in the market this year aggressively? Unlikely,” Alderson said.

Added COO Jeff Wilpon, “We have to have some more conversation with him, but I assume we’re close to the maximum. And I don’t think he would recommend, and hasn’t recommended, going above that right now.”

Alderson’s biggest signings may come in the front office. No matter who the field manager will be, if the new GM can be reunited Paul DePodesta to run the statistical analysis department and J.P. Ricciardi to helm the player personnel area – two executives reportedly on his list – then the Mets may be on their way to contending in 2011.

Not a fan of using his prospects for chips, Alderson is willing to explore trading any and all veterans – including Jose Reyes and David Wright – if the price is right.

“I think we’re going to be busy, but that’s first and maybe ultimately only to assess the market,” Alderson said. “We don’t really know what’s out there. We need to be actively engaged in finding out what’s available to us, who has interest in some of our players, and just assess things as we develop more information. But right now it would be hard to say how active we’re going to be in actual transactions. But we’re going to be out there fishing.”

High on-base percentage players will be a key for Alderson. The use of stats will be a new concept in Queens, something Minaya would never consider, relying more on the scouts.

He will also try to shed the dead weight in on the roster. Of course, he’s not going to outright say he will release Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo, you can bet their days are numbered. Fred and Jeff Wilpon even said they would have released them last season, if Minaya broached the subject, but never did.

“And, by the way, there may other ‘hits’ that he comes up with — not only the obvious ones,” Fred Wilpon said.

Then there’s the manager, who will be hired in the next 30 days. Both Wilpons said the subject of a high paid manager never came up in conversations, so that should take Joe Torre and Bobby Valentine off the list, but Alderson said he likes a high spirited manager, which keeps Wally Backman in the running.

“I also think it’s important for a manager to be somewhat analytical, but at the same time occasionally and sometimes often intuitive,” Alderson said. “We’re looking for somebody that is right for our situation. What is our situation? You start with the fact that it’s New York City. …

“We’re looking for somebody that fits intellectual requirements, but also intuitive and emotional ones. That manager may have experience, may not have experience at the major league level. We’re very open-minded about it at this point. But I do want to emphasize that whoever is selected is going to be the manager and making those decisions and needs to have a certain level of independence in order to accomplish what he needs to accomplish.”

No matter what happens in the ensuing months though, one thing’s for certain: Things have changed in Queens already.

Posted under Bargain Basement, Base Percentage, Chips, Culture, David Wright, Fishing, Gm, Hasn, Helm, Holes, Jeff Wilpon, Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Paul Depodesta, Prospects, Ricciardi, Sandy Alderson, Smart Bargain, Statistical Analysis, Top Story

This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 29, 2010

Report: Alderson To Be Named Next GM

According to a report on SI.com, the Mets have decided to hire Sandy Alderson as their 12th general manager. An announcement could happen as early as Friday, the day off for the World Series.

After three weeks of interviews, it seems like the Mets Office of the Chairman consisting of Mets CEO Fred Wilpon, President Saul Katz, and COO Jeff Wilpon decided on the 62 year-old Alderson, who will bring instant credibility to the club after building the Oakland A’s in the 1990s as general manager, presiding over the San Diego Padres in the mid to late 2000s and having two stints in the Commissioner’s Office, most recently cleaning up the Dominican Republic.

Alderson’s candidacy comes with the blessing of Commissioner Bud Selig, who has had a very close relationship with the Wilpons over the years.

The new GM, though, will have his work cut out for him as he inherits a Mets club that suffered from dysfunction and bad contracts over the Omar Minaya era. Alderson will need to make decisions on center fielder Carlos Beltran, second baseman Luis Castillo, and pitcher Oliver Perez, all of whom have disappointed in 2010 and have expiring contracts next season.

But his first order of business will be the next Met manager. A pioneer of Sabermatrics, Alderson may want to hire a manger in the mold of the Red Sox Terry Francona, who will implement front office policy, rather than manage from the gut. That would seem to eliminate former Met Wally Backman will not be hired, but past reports indicate the Wilpons would prefer a manager with some Met connections.

That remains to be seen as Alderson probably commands full autonomy and the Wilpons stated publicly the new GM will pick the manager for the club.

An Alderson seems to be up to the job. He is a Vietnam veteran, who has a law degree from Harvard. Alderson’s Oakland A’s won the 1989 World Series, while his shoestring San Diego Padres were strong contenders during his years as CEO.

Posted under Carlos Beltran, Center Fielder, Commissioner Bud Selig, Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon, Law Degree, Luis Castillo, Mets Club, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Omar Minaya, Order Of Business, San Diego Padres, Sandy Alderson, Saul Katz, Second Baseman, Shoestring, Stints, Terry Francona, Top Story, Vietnam Veteran, Wally Backman

This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 27, 2010

Mets Season Ends With Omar and Jerry Let Go

NEW YORK – New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel had some extended time in the season finale loss to the Washington Nationals at Citi Field Sunday afternoon.  With all reports pointing to his dismissal at some point Monday, the 14-inning loss may have provided him some time to reflect.

He called on seldom used pitcher Oliver Perez, used four times since August 1st. In the second year of a three-year $36 million contract, Perez hit a batter and walked three that gave the Nationals a 2-1 victory. It was a bad farewell for both Perez and Manuel

“I Felt bad we had to put Ollie in that situation,” said Manuel who still did not know about his status in his final post game meeting with the media. “I feel bad that we had to put in Ollie in a situation that we had no choice with. We had nothing left. That’s tough for me.”

There were nothing more to say. Perez in many ways epitomized the failures of general manager Omar Minaya who was expected to be dismissed or reassigned to another role with the organization. The few fans who remained in the announced crowd of 30,849 also expressed their displeasure when Perez was lifted with one out.

They also let Manuel know that they don’t want him back at Citi Field in 2011. The change in command came. Manuel and Minaya relieved of their duties Monday as the Mets finished their second consecutive losing season at Citi Field with a final record of 79-83.

Attendance at Citi Field declined this season, 2,573,173, a significant decline from the 3,154,262 that went through the gates when the ballpark opened for business last year. That was added ammunition for Mets CEO Jeff Wilpon to hand Manuel and Minaya their walking papers.

Certainly there were some positive aspects to another dismal Mets season. They were a season high 11 games over .500 on June 27th then after the all-star break a 2-9 road trip put the Mets back to reality. The chemistry may have been broken when Luis Castillo returned to the lineup off the disabled list.

Castillo had to play because a muli-million dollar contract granted by Minaya could not stay on the bench. The Mets led the National League in stolen bases, primarily because Angel Pagan was second in the league, led the league in shutouts with 19, were sixth in staff ERA, and won nine more games from the year before again finishing fourth in the NL east.

The perspective of Manuel was about another struggle, and looking at the future as he relied on numerous rookies to do the job in his daily lineup. “We struggled pretty much all year offensively,” he said. “We had some opportunities. One good thing is we have established some good young players.”

“They will be solid foundations for the future of the organization.” he said citing catcher Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, pitcher Dillon Gee and infielder Ruben Tejada, though Manuel said he didn’t know if Tejada was ready to fill the everyday role at second base.

There was Pagan who became the everyday center fielder when opening day starter Gary Matthews Jr. was released. He was perhaps player of the year on this Mets team. He may not be one of the issues that a new GM will have to confront. Pagan earned his role and was respected in the clubhouse.

Manuel in one of his final good gestures as manager gave an appropriate tribute to David Wright and Jose Reyes, two cores of the organization. They took their positions in the ninth inning and were removed so that fans could give them deserved curtain calls.

“I said today that I would try to show them how much I appreciated what they done and how they played and performed,” he said. “I thought it was opportunity to show them some class and I’m glad I did it for their sake.” He also had starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey come out of the dugout and take a bow after being lifted after seven innings.

Pelfrey finished the season with a career best in victories (15), in strikeouts (113) and ERA at 3.66.”If anything I learned from the adversity,” he said about the season. And if the Mets are to win again they need consistent outings from Pelfrey, and another front line starter,

“I’m very appreciative first of all, that Jerry would even think about doing it especially what he has been through the past couple of days,” commented Wright about what his manager did for him and Reyes in the ninth inning. “At the end of the day it’s tough to really enjoy anything talking about we finished under .500 and don’t make the playoffs again.”

Manuel commented that he never lost the team as the Mets continued to slip away after the break, into August, and all of September. He sounded like it had come to an end after 2-1/2 years at the helm. “I have to clean up do all that type of stuff and find out what direction the organization wants to do, then head to Sacramento and pick up the rocks.”

“I would hope that going forward that the Reyes’ and the Wrights’ have become a different type of player,” he answered hesitantly when asked about his legacy, though as of Sunday Manuel still had his job. “I would hope the young players established would become core players, foundation players.”

Now it is official. Manuel won’t be a part of that foundation. And neither will Perez who quickly left and was out of the building before reporters could get to him.  An ugly ending and (0-5) record in a season of futility for Perez.

The lockers were cleaned and bags packed as the Mets went home for the winter.  Who will lead the new regime, set the foundation and make Citi Field a place to be for October baseball?

e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com

Posted under All Star, Ammunition, August 1, Back To Reality, Decline, Displeasure, Farewell, Inning Loss, June 27, Losing Season, Luis Castillo, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Ollie, Omar Minaya, Road Trip, Season Finale, Sunday Afternoon, Top Story, Walking Papers, Washington Nationals

This post was written by Rich Mancuso on October 4, 2010

Reports: Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel On The Way Out

NEW YORK – With three days left in the season, the Mets are coming to a decision.

Multiple sources reported today the club will fire general manager Omar Minaya as early as Monday and also decline the option on manager Jerry Manuel’s contract.

The move comes as the Mets close out another disappointing season, where they will finish under the .500 mark for the second year in a row.

In his six years as general manager, Minaya had a number of highs early on which quickly turned to lows with the signings of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez to bloated and under-producing contracts. The club struggled as the top heavy salaries blocked the team from overcoming injuries.

COO Jeff Wilpon will begin the search for a new general manager as soon as the season ends. He is expected to interview a wide variety of candidates, including former Oakland A’s general manager Sandy Alderson and Tampa Bay Rays VP Gerry Hunsicker.

As for Manuel, his tenure ends in utter failure. After an impressive run in 2008, after replacing Willie Randolph, the season quickly ended in failure when the Mets collapsed for the second year in a row. That was followed by two under .500 seasons, which triggered the coming moves.

Although, Brooklyn manager Wally Backman remains the front runner, Wilpon will wait until a new GM is named before bringing in a manager. Former manager Bobby Valentine will also be considered, but there may still be open wounds from his last go around which was highly successful in 1999 and 2000 but ultimately his outspokenness got him fired in 2002.

Any announcement is expected Monday at the earliest.

Posted under Bobby Valentine, Brooklyn, Gm, Jeff Wilpon, Lows, Luis Castillo, Manager Bobby Valentine, Mets, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Omar Minaya, Open Wounds, Salaries, Sandy Alderson, Six Years, Tampa Bay Rays, Tenure, Top Story, Utter Failure, Vp, Wally Backman, Willie Randolph

This post was written by Joe McDonald on October 1, 2010