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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sports Beat “Sayonara, Cy Young winner”

Mets shortstop Jose Reyes was the National League batting champion in 2011. The pending free agent did not receive a contract offer from the Mets and signed a six-year, $106 million deal with the Miami Marlins, who would go onto trade him to the Toronto Blue Jays a year later.

In 2012 Mets knuckleball pitcher RA Dickey won the Cy Young Award for being the best pitcher in the National League. Since Dickey would be a free agent after the 2013 season the Mets decided to trade him while they could get something in return for him rather than wait a year and get nothing back as was the case with Reyes. The Blue Jays apparently offered the Mets the best package of prospects. One can just imagine the conversation Reyes and Dickey will have in Dunedin, Florida when the Blue Jays open their spring training camp.

There is little doubt that the dispensing of Dickey to north of the border was done to save current and future payroll. Dickey is 38 years old, which is ancient for any traditional pitcher but not one who throws a knuckleball. On the other hand, the Mets couldn’t achieve a .500 record even with RA’s pitching heroics.

If catcher Travis d’Arnaud and pitcher Noah Syndergaard, the prospects the Mets received in the deal, come close to living up to the hype surrounding them, then this will be a steal for Mets general manager Sandy Alderson. Of course Baseball America and other publications have long praised the well-stocked minor league systems of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals and yet those teams have stunk for the last twenty years.

Mets reporters will miss talking with catcher Josh Thole who will be accompanying Dickey to Toronto.  He is a great guy and his absence will be felt. To use a New York expression, he’s a total mensch.

St. John’s University, along with seven other Catholic colleges whose schools don’t have football programs, announced that they would be leaving the Big East to start their own conference. There was no reason given as to why there is acrimony between Big East colleges that field football teams and those that don’t.

In a press release issued by St. John’s, university president Rev. Donald Harrington and athletics director Chris Monasch both stated that the decision was not based on dissatisfaction with the economics of the Big East. They added however that they expect the new federation that will be created to do very well financially. I translate that as “we say that it’s not the money but in reality it’s the money!”

Former Newtown High School hoops star and current Detroit Pistons player Charlie Villanueva was back in the area last Friday night as his team took on the Nets at the Barclays Center. He expressed his concern about his alma mater being targeted for closing by Mayor Bloomberg because of poor graduation rates. Charlie also helped the Nets accounting department by purchasing 14 tickets so that friends and family could watch him play.

Jamaica High School alum Rob Parker is both a well-respected sportswriter and an ESPN air personality whose star was on the rise until last week when he put his foot in his mouth for criticizing Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III for not being attuned enough to African-American concerns or culture in rather demeaning language to boot. He was immediately suspended by ESPN brass. I have known Rob for years and I am sure that he regrets what he said on the air. We’ve all said dumb things that we wish that we could retract immediately. I hope that this incident blows over as quickly as possible for him.

Parker was substituting for another Queens native, Hollis’s Stephen A. Smith, on the contrived ESPN2 morning show, “First Take,” where the name of the game is to say as many outrageous things as possible without going over the mythical line in order to create buzz judging by the amount of attention that co-host Skip Bayless has received.

I asked Bayless at ESPN’s Upfront last May if the show is akin to college debating with a bit more of an edge. He denied that and told me that everything that he says on the show is what he truly believes. My guess is that Skip’s response to my query was that of a professional wrestler who never steps out of character for the public.

ESPN chairman George Bodenheimer, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Fox Sports executive producer Ed Goren, legendary sports essayist Jack Whitaker, and former Giants running back and longtime “Monday Night Football” anchor Frank Gifford were among the inductees at the 2012 Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame that was held last week at the New York Hilton. On the technical side, Ray Dolby, whose name is synonymous with the movie industry was also given this honor because of contributions that he and his company have made to improving the television audio experience for sports fans.

It was a nice touch by the New York Islanders to send some of the players from their Bridgeport Sound Tigers American Hockey League farm team to meet young patients at both St. Mary’s Hospital in Bayside and at the Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center at Long Island Jewish Hospital this past Monday afternoon.

The Christmas-New Year’s week is always a popular tourist time in Orlando. If you want to get away from the theme parks and enjoy a fun evening at minimal cost, the East Coast Hockey League’s Orlando Solar Bears have home games on both December 27 and 28. The Solar Bears are an affiliate of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild and play at the Amway Center, the same arena used by the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Minor league hockey is not affected by the National Hockey League work stoppage.

Perhaps it was because it dovetailed nicely with the celebration of Chanukah but I thought that it was a bit unusual, albeit informative, for the New York Times to dedicate a full page of their sports section last week on newly acquired Yankees free agent Kevin Youkilis’s Jewish heritage.

Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire discovered a short time ago that he has Hebrew roots and has been public about his interest in all things Judaic including making a trip to Israel over the summer. I saw Stoudemire as he was watching the Knicks’ pre-game practice against the Rockets and I wished him mazel tov on his recent marriage which occurred over Chanukah. He thanked me and shook my hand.

I then mentioned to him that he can now file a joint tax return that would probably save him hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax liability. “Really?” he asked with a broad grin. “You mean that you didn’t check with your CPA before getting married? I replied.

Jeremy Lin’s return packed the Garden’s press box and to no surprise he was quite positive about his time with the Knicks. I told him that I liked the fact that he made the cover of the current issue of GQ but that I wasn’t crazy about the suit and sneakers outfit that he was wearing when I passed him in a Garden corridor. “That was just a guy that looked like me!” Lin said with a chuckle indicating that it wasn’t his choice of an apparel combo either.

Speaking before of Hebrew culture, theFilm Society of Lincoln Center, the folks behind the New York Film Festival which just marked its 50th anniversary, will be presenting the 22nd annual New York Jewish Film Festival from January 9-24.

An indication that you are staying in an upscale hotel is if it has spa amenities in your room such as lotions, shampoos, shower gels, and balms from the British company, Gilchrist & Soames.

For security and protection, Sentinel Management is one of the best places to go. Visit them at www.sentinelmgi.com.

The Entertainment Book has long been known for saving big dollars at restaurants but you can also get great deals on tickets to sporting events through tear-out coupons and by going to their website, www.entertainment.com.

Posted under Baseball America, Batting Champion, Catholic Colleges, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, Cy Young Winner, Dunedin Florida, Football Programs, Jose Reyes, Josh Thole, Knuckleball Pitcher, Lloyd Carroll, New York Mets, Pittsburgh Pirates, Ra Dickey, S University, Sandy Alderson, Top Story

Sports Beat “Dickey deserved it”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sports Beat “Mets off-season begins”

With the 2012 season now history the Mets look ahead to 2013. General manager Sandy Alderson makes no secret that the first order of business is to sign Cy Young Award candidate RA Dickey and third baseman, and far more importantly franchise face, David Wright to long-term contract extensions.

Alderson should also budget some funds for free agent-to-be outfielder Scott Hairston. On a team infamous for its collective lack of home run prowess Hairston belted 20 dingers playing more or less in a parti-time role. Although known for his bat more than his defense, Scott was very reliable with glove. He was also a go-to go for the media to speak with before and after a game, after losses as well as wins.

Manager Terry Collins announced that every member of his coaching staff will be returning. Given the team’s bullpen woes, shoddy defense, and anemic hitting which led to the traditional second half of the season blues that Mets fans have become all too familiar with, I am not sure that this is a good idea. Granted, coaches can only do so much, but the Mets’ decision to maintain the status quo reinforces the impression that the acceptance of mediocrity is an ingrained part of their corporate culture. In contrast, the Phillies, who made a late dramatic push for the playoffs but fell short, fired three of their coaches the last day of the season.

A number of Mets fans became nervous reading an article in the New York Times this past Saturday about their beloved team talking to banks about refinancing their long-term debt. Given the post-Madoff financial fallout, consternation on the part of aficionados of the Amazin’s is an understandable gut reaction, but this is a non-story. All enterprises routinely refinance long-term liabilities.

Track and field legend and Jamaica High School alum Bob Beamon was one of many celebrities to lend their support to the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria last month. “I am not happy about Mayor Bloomberg’s desire to close Jamaica High School,” he told me. On a more upbeat note, he was excited about a rumor that the school was going to name its outdoor track facility after him this spring.

Is it possible that the operators of the world’s most famous thoroughbred racetrack, Churchill Downs in Louisville, are jealous of Aqueduct? Ryan Jordan, the general manager of Churchill Downs, was one of the many movers and shakers at the annual Sports Business Journal’s Sports Marketing Symposium held in Manhattan last week.  He told me that it was imperative for the home of the Kentucky Derby to have a casino since they are legal across the Ohio River in Indiana and that’s killing his track’s revenue.

In a split that is becoming increasingly more apparent in the national Republican Party, the family values advocates are at odds with the pro-business wing of the Kentucky GOP and that the values crowd is winning according to Jordan and that’s why gaming has not come to Churchill Downs.

World Wrestling Entertainment was a co-sponsor of the Sports Marketing Symposium and they used the conference to promote the benefits of being part of the upcoming Wrestlemania that will take place in MetLife Stadium next April.

The company brought one of its best known grapplers, John Cena, to press the flesh and to help promote that the WWE has a new television partner, the Ion Network, which will broadcast “WWE Main Event” every Wednesday night. The WWE’s “RAW” will continue to be seen on USA Network on Monday nights while “Smackdown” will do the same on Fridays on Syfy.

Speaking of television, Mario Kreutzberger better known to nearly everyone as Don Francisco, the host of Univision’s “Sabado Gigante,” was honored last week at the American Museum of the Moving Image to commemorate his 50th anniversary of being on television. “Sabado Gigante” has logged more than 2,600 episodes which is more than the WWE, “The Simpsons,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Law & Order” combined according to the Univision public relations department.

ESPN the Magazine polled the rank and file of Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, and the NHL to see where they stood politically. Hockey players were the most liberal on the issues of gay marriage, abortion rights, and the legalization of marijuana while baseball players were the most conservative. The vast majority of all professional athletes surveyed were supporting Mitt Romney over Barack Obama.

“Broke,” a documentary about how all too many well-compensated athletes wind up bankrupt which made its debut at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, was broadcast by ESPN last week as part of its “30 for 30″ documentary series. Among the reasons cited for these chronic financial woes were a “keeping up with the Joneses mentality;” family and friend pressures to provide support; a failure to grasp the reality that high earning years are limited for most athletes while not preparing for a life outside of sports; a tendency to erroneously think that they can master the business world the way they can the ball field which leads to falling prey to get-rich-quick schemes; affairs with too many women and out-of-wedlock children; and finally, everyone’s favorite bogeyman, the Internal Revenue Service.

The Giants manhandled the Cleveland Browns 41-27 last week in a game that was not as close as the score indicated. Big Blue actually spotted the Browns a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes before deciding that it was time to play.

The Browns have the youngest team in the NFL and are starting more rookies than any other squad. Running back Trent Richardson and wide receiver Josh Gordon are exciting playmakers while time will tell if Brandon Weeden is a stud or just the latest in the long line of quarterbacks who never worked out for the Browns.

What was bothersome about watching the Browns was their seemingly low football I.Q. as evidenced by the numbing amount of dumb penalties and poor clock management. With less than a minute remaining in the first half, the Browns had the ball on their own 15 yard-line. Rather than run one play and see if they could pick up enough yardage to take a shot at scoring or otherwise just run out the clock, the Browns kept using timeouts and incurring penalties while gaining no yardage. The end result was that the Browns helped the Giants get an easy field goal as time ran out in the half. CBS Sports NFL analyst Dan Dierdorf rightfully tore into the Browns coaching staff while even normally taciturn Giants head coach Tom Coughlin couldn’t help but smile about the gift he got from the Browns in his post-game press conference.

LeBron James may have riches and an NBA championship ring but he has never had a personal cheesecake from Junior’s that every Nets player and coach received at the team’s media day at the Barclays Center on October 1.

Forward Gerald Wallace lamented the fact that he will not be able to enjoy his first love, fishing, while playing for the Nets. Someone should take him out to a pier in Broad Channel or Howard Beach.

Veteran guard Jerry Stackhouse has joined the Nets as he’ll be beginning his eighteenth season in the NBA. “I am not ready to retire although I would like a coaching position when I do,” he told me during media day. He is thrilled to join the up and coming Nets although he admitted that he has more in common age-wise with the Knicks who have fellow old warhorses Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Jason Kidd on their roster. “I may hand them applications to join the AARP when we play them during the pre-season,” Stackhouse laughed.

Jockey, long known for its undergarment products, is moving into the athletic apparel market that is now being dominated by Nike, Reebok, and Under Armour. The company signed Jets QB Tim Tebow this past spring to help the brand get off the starting ground and Jockey promises to have t-shirts and shorts in retailers as Modell’s, Bob’s, the Sports Authority, and Dick’s by March.

Single-serve coffee units have become an increasingly popular part of the java sales market. Eight O’Clock Coffee, which has inked Boomer Esiason to be its spokesman, has joined Green Mountain and Starbucks in the heated competition for K-cup sales.

Good job on the part of the male sports world to raise both funds and awareness for the treatment of breast cancer. Last Sunday every NFL team, as well as the sportscasters covering the NFL from all of the various networks wore pink ribbons, gloves, and hats. Baseball had done a similar promotion earlier. The WWE also helped out this week as John Cena appeared at the Sports Marketing Symposium decked out in pink. In addition, New Balance is creating a running shoe where a good chunk of the revenue will be going to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the nation’s best known non-profit dedicated to eradicating breast cancer.

Sadly, breast cancer has struck close to home. Shannon Forde who has been a part of the Mets public relations team for the past 20 years, was diagnosed this past August with Stage 4 breast cancer. On November 1 a fund-rasing dinner will take place at the Westmount Country Club in Woodland Park, New Jersey. A number of former Mets have agreed to appear and lend their support. For more information about attending, log onto www.hopeshinesforshannon.com.

Posted under Amazin, Beloved Team, Bob Beamon, Buoniconti Fund, Contract Extensions, Cy Young, Cy Young Award, David Wright, Dingers, Financial Fallout, Gut Reaction, Jamaica High School, Lloyd Carroll, Long Term Liabilities, Mets Fans, New York Mets, Ra Dickey, Sandy Alderson, Top Story, Waldorf Astoria

Audio: Mets Lose a Heartbreaker

The Mets lost in 10 inning 7-6 on Aubrey Huff’s homer off Taylor Buchholz to the San Francisco Giants. Below is sound from Bob Trainor.

Aubrey Huff

Ryan Vogelsong

Taylor Buchholz

RA Dickey

Jose Reyes

Josh Thole

Posted under Bob Trainor, Game Mp3, Gants, Heartbreaker, Homer, Jose Reyes, Josh Thole, Lost, Mets, Mp3 Audio, New York Mets, Ra Dickey, Top Story, Trainor

This post was written by Bob Trainor on May 4, 2011

Tags: , , ,

Sports Beat 4/1/11

Rip Van Winkle would have loved the Yankees based on their Opening Day roster. Seeing the names of Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia on their pitching staff makes you feel as if you have been asleep for 20 years and have just woken up. Andy Pettitte has to be wondering if he retired too soon when he sees their names on a major league roster.

Things are picking up where they left off for the Mets. Jason Bay started off the year on the disabled list after straining his rib cage during batting practice in Port St. Lucie.

The Mets may not have the best starting pitching staff but they certainly have the brightest. Only 26% of major leaguers possess college degrees. Chris Young (Princeton), Chris Capuano (Duke), RA Dickey (University of Tennessee) and Mike Pelfrey (Wichita State) all have their sheepskins.

It is too soon to tell how the Carmelo Anthony trade will work for the Knicks but his presence has certainly helped the local economy around Madison Square Garden. An employee at the Borders bookstore adjacent to the Garden told me that business is way up since Carmelo came to the Knicks. Of course we don’t know things will be next year when the Knicks drastically raise ticket prices assuming that the NBA does not lock out its players.

Former Knicks forward Malik Rose, now an MSG Network commentator, has shown that he is unafraid to criticize his old mates after bad losses.

The stars of the WWE visited the Hard Rock Café in Times Square at the end of March to kick off attention for Wrestlemania XXVII. Mike “The Miz” Mizanin showed why he has the charisma and mike skills to be the biggest WWE star since Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was in his heyday.

Paul “Triple H” Levesque told me last month that he is moving away from being in the ring to taking a more active role in WWE business affairs (he is, after all, Vince McMahon’s son-in-law). Levesque claims that Wrestlemania provided Atlanta a $50 million economic stimulus, and that cities now bid for the annual WWE extravaganza the way they do for political conventions and Super Bowls.

Don’t look for Wrestlemania to ever return to the New York area anytime soon. “We are committed to doing Wrestlemania the first Sunday in April and we are using football stadiums. Weather is a factor so we’ll either use outdoor ones in warm weather climates (such as Miami Sun Life Stadium in 2012 ) or domed ones in colder climates,” Levesque said.

As for that other ring sport, 46 year-old Bernard Hopkins returns to action on May 21 as he takes on Quebec native son Jean Pascal at Montreal’s Bell Centre. Hopkins will probably still be boxing when he is forced to collect social security.

Speaking of boxing, there are few outlets devoted to the world of pugilism. Boxinginsider.com is a terrific website that features some of the best writers in the business such as our own Rich Mancuso.

If anyone doubts that it makes a difference for an athlete plays here, consider this: Crain’s New York Business had Amar’e Stoudemire on its cover two weeks ago while Derek Jeter is on the front of this month’s GQ.

Two books that should whet your tennis appetite are Wimbledon by David Green (Stewart, Taboori & Chang) which recalls in breathtaking photos the great matches that have taken place in that venerable London stadium, and Bud Collins Encyclopedia of Tennis (New Chapter Press) in which the most famous tennis commentator of all-time provides a who’s who of the sport.

Expect to hear a lot about the Indy 500 this year as “The Brickyard” will be celebrating its centennial. Indycar driver, and past “Dancing with the Stars” winner, Helio Castroneves came into New York last week to promote the fact that he is hoping to get his fourth victory at Indy this Memorial Day weekend. That would tie him with AJ Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser for most career wins there.

Bicycling is a fun way not only to get from points A to B but it’s a terrific way to exercise as well. Schwinn and Cannondale recently unveiled their line of new bikes to the media just in time for the warmer weather. If you are a serious cyclist who likes to go up and down big hills and look forward to the Tour du France and the Amgen California Tour, then Cannondale’s Quick CX 2 is your baby. If you’re like me and haven’t ridden a bike in years then you should go with Schwinn’s Trailway and Avenue lines which have sturdy frames, wide tires with good tread, and most importantly, easy-to-find brakes that stop on a dime!

This is a smart time to visit Florida. The weather is great, it’s less crowded, and the prices drop considerably even at the toniest resorts as well as on always inexpensive JetBlue. If you want to sharpen your tennis game, spend a long weekend at the Boca Raton Resort which is known for its teaching pros. If you’re a golfer, the pros at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens will work on all aspects of your game. Finally if you want to devour low-calorie gourmet food, enjoy spa treatments, and exercise with top-notch personal trainers, the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami located next door to the Doral Country Club (yes, you can play golf there as well) makes for a productive getaway.

At the annual Search Engine Strategies trade show, a rep from Sedo, a Boston-based domain hosting service, told me that websites devoted to buying and selling tickets are incredibly popular but warns web entrepreneurs to stay away from anything resembling corporate names to avoid lawsuits. For example, if you want to buy or sell Yankee tickets, work off a name resembling “Bronx Baseball” as opposed to the famous team that plays there.

David Paterson may not have been a great governor but he has proven to be a pretty good entertainer. He nicely poked fun of himself last year in a “Saturday Night Live” skit with his doppelganger played to perfection by Fred Armisen. Om March 28, Paterson nicely handled his hour segment hosting a call-in show on WFAN. He knew his stuff even if he went a bit over the top in his monolog telling Mets fans why they should be optimistic about the 2011 season.

Unilever’s Dove brand has always been synonymous with women but last year the company started to go after guys with its “Men + Care” line of deodorants, soaps and body wash products. Among the endorsers for Dove on their “Journey to Comfort” TV ad campaign are Joe Girardi, Albert Pujols, Magic Johnson and Bobby Hurley.

Olympic snowboarding gold medalist Shaun White is getting into the clothing design business for Target. Ironically, the winter games athlete is creating flip-flops, graphic T-shirts, denim shorts, hoodies, and sneakers for the Minneapolis-based retailers.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are an American staple. If want to enjoy a dessert-like treat, substitute Lotus Bakeries’ Biscoff Spread, which contains gingersnap, for the Jif or Skippy.

Drinking red wine has proven to have benefits for heart health. A fun new wine that made its debut at the Choice Eats food festival at the Lexington Avenue Armory last month was Wines That Rock. The company’s gimmick is that the labels feature the artwork from classic albums such as the Police’s “Synchronicity” and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” The grape quality is pretty good too given its fairly low sales price.

The New York International Auto Show gets underway at the Javits Center April 22. I can tell that the economy is improving. While I still can’t afford to even rent a Porsche for an hour, I can at least afford to buy Carrera sunglasses this year!

Posted under Andy Pettitte, Bartolo Colon, Borders Bookstore, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Economic Stimulus, Jason Bay, Lloyd Carroll, Madison Square Garden, Major Leaguers, Malik Rose, Mike Pelfrey Wichita State, Mike The Miz Mizanin, Msg Network, New York Mets, Paul Triple H Levesque, Ra Dickey, Rip Van Winkle, Sheepskins, Top Story

This post was written by Lloyd Carroll on April 1, 2011

Tags: , ,

Audio: One Game Left

Bob Trainor of Trainor Communications was at Citi Field yesterday as the Mets pounded the Nationals.

Jerry Manuel

David Wright

RA Dickey

Jim Riggleman

For More Info contact Bob at TrainorComm@gmail.com.

Posted under Contact Bob, David Wright, Game, Jim Riggleman, Mets, Mp3 Audio, Nationals, New York Mets, Ra Dickey, Trainor

This post was written by Bob Trainor on October 3, 2010

Audio: Castillo Comes Through

Bob Trainor of Trainor Communications offers these soundbites from the Mets 6-5 win over the Marlins in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Luis Castillo

RA Dickey

Carlos Beltran

Angel Pagan

Edwin Rodriguez

Will Ohman

For More Info contact Bob at TrainorComm@gmail.com.

Posted under Angel, Carlos Beltran, Contact Bob, Gm1, Luis Castillo, Marlins, Mets, Mp3 Audio, New York Mets, Ninth Inning, Pagan, Ra Dickey, Rodriquez, Soundbites, Top Story, Trainor

This post was written by Bob Trainor on August 25, 2010

Roll The Dice With Oswalt

Just because Roy Oswalt told a friend he would accept a trade to the Mets doesn’t mean he’s in Manhattan on the off-day looking at apartments.

Depending on what “friend” you talk to, Oswalt would also accept trades to Philadelphia, St. Louis, the Yankees and Washington Nationals. However, if it means getting out of Houston, a chance at the playoffs and perhaps an extension, the list of places suddenly favorable to Oswalt could grow.

The Mets have been getting sterling pitching from rotation fill-ins RA Dickey and Hisanori Takahashi – together they are 9-2, but Takahashi is only 2-1 as a starter – but that’s not to say all their pitching concerns have been answered.

We don’t know how long this run will last as neither Dickey nor Takahashi are proven over the long haul. We don’t know that about Jon Niese, either, and John Maine continues to throw 88.

If the Mets are to get Oswalt, they should strike now while it is early. The closer to the deadline, the more the Astros will be asking.

After standing pat over the winter in the pitching market, general manager Omar Minaya has a chance to add an ace that would make his rotation arguably the best in the National League with Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey and Oswalt.

However, there comes a price tag, not only in terms of prospects, but in dollars.  Oswalt is owed $31 million for the remainder of this year and $16 million next season, and a $16 million club option for 2012 (also includes a $2 million buyout).

That’s pricey, but he would make the Mets formidable for the next three years.

Oswalt also makes more sense than Cliff Lee in that his cost is definable, while Lee wants to test the market. Trading for Lee over Oswalt would be foolish, as it would be dealing for a hired gun because he’s gone after the year.

Oswalt would represent less a risk than Lee. He is somebody the Mets should roll the dice with — now.

Posted under 31 Million, Ace, Astros, Club Option, Hired Gun, Ins, Johan Santana, John Delcos, Jon Niese, Long Haul, Mets, Mike Pelfrey, New York Mets, Omar Minaya, Philadelphia St, Price Tag, Prospects, Ra Dickey, Remainder, Roy Oswalt, Takahashi, Top Story, Washington Nationals

This post was written by John Delcos on June 14, 2010

Audio: Dickey Does It Again

Bob Trainor of Trainor Communications offers these soundbites from yesterday’s the Mets 4-3 win over the Marlins behind RA Dickey

RA Dickey

Jeff Francoeur

Frankie Rodriguez

Anibal Sanchez

Freddie Gonzalez

For More Info contact Bob at TrainorComm@gmail.com.

Posted under Anibal Sanchez, Contact Bob, Marlins, Mets, Mp3 Audio, New York Mets, Ra Dickey, Soundbites, Top Story, Trainor

This post was written by Bob Trainor on June 5, 2010