Sportsbeat – 7/9/11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sportsbeat – 5/28/11

You have to say this for Mets owner Fred Wilpon; he’s a standup guy. When news leaked of Jeffrey Toobin’s New Yorker article on the Mets in which Wilpon got in digs at Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and David Wright, he did not wimp out and say that he was misquoted. “Frustrated Fred” was merely channeling his inner Steinbrenner.

While the Toobin piece generated the buzz, the more troublesome article on the Mets owner was penned by Tom Verducci in Sports Illustrated. The piece was fairly sympathetic to Wilpon but he made it clear that he expects his team to lose $70 million (don’t ask me if that is actually a true cash loss or it that figure includes such items as depreciation and other big asset amortizations and write-offs) and that he wants the Mets 2012 payroll to be around $100 million.

The SI article means that Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez are certain to be dealt by the July 31 trade deadline. Mets GM Sandy Alderson tried to minimize the damage by saying that he has not ruled out making Reyes a long-term offer but you get the feeling that was just window dressing so that other teams wont’ make him a bottom-of-the-barrel trade offer.

A few years ago the knock on the Mets was that they were imitating the Yankees by trying to sign high-priced free agents. I have a feeling that the Mets will now be copying the way the Pirates and the Royals do business. I can barely wait for the Mets’ inevitable fire sale and Sandy Alderson’s comments after it takes place. You can be sure that he’ll be claiming that Mets fans will soon fall in love with the young, hungry players that he acquired. I wonder if he’ll have the temerity to use that hoary baseball “five-tool player” cliche.

While Fred Wilpon did find his white knight minority owner in David Einhorn (it’s good to see that he hasn’t lost faith in hedge fund operators) it’s unlikely that cash infusion will be used for players salaries. This looks like a straight equity for debt reduction swap.

Depressed Mets who want something to divert their interests might want to try following the Red Bulls of Major League Soccer who play their home games in beautiful Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey just outside of Newark and easily accessible via PATH. The team is led by prolific goal scorer Thierry Henry.

Even if soccer is your least favorite sport it is worth going to a Red Bulls game for the sheer entertainment value. The spectators who fill the seats behind the visiting goalie never stop singing and dancing. Two weeks ago when the Red Bulls were playing the Colorado Rapids these talented folks broke into soccer versions of “Walking In A Winter Wonderland” and the Peggy March oldie “I Will Follow Him.” They were better than most Broadway casts! Like hockey, soccer is infinitely more enjoyable in person than on television.

Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber, who is an alumnus of Bayside High School was the featured speaker at the Sports Business Journal Franchises & Facilities conference last month. He indicated that he would like to put an expansion MLS team into Queens as soon as possible. A syndicate is trying to revive the New York Cosmos name and is hoping to get awarded the team. Garber is hoping to get a $75 to $ 100 million MLS entry fee from any New York team buyer.

The third week in May is always when the big television networks introduce their fall programming at ritual known as “The Upfront.” Nearly every network head expressed hope that the NFL labor situation would be resolved. Ironically the network that will get hurt the most if there aren’t NFL games is the one with the fewest NFL broadcasts–NBC. “Football Night in America” is NBC’s highest rated program and its new entertainment chief, Bob Greenblatt, is counting on FNIA as a promotional platform for his new shows.

Dick Ebersol, who has been running NBC Sports for well over a generation, shocked a lot of folks when he announced his resignation three days after his network’s upfront. I had an inkling that something was amiss when the usually dapper Dick showed up on stage disheveled and gave a rambling speech in which he ignored one of his network’s few sports properties, the National Hockey League.

Ebersol’s resignation, combined with Comcast’s (NBC’s new owner) traditional reluctance to spend big bucks, means that ESPN becomes the frontrunner with respect to acquiring future Olympic broadcast rights.

ESPN VP John Skipper dismissed the notion that ESPN will automatically seek higher fees from cable operators who will pass them on to subscribers. “Yes, we have been tough negotiators when it comes to revenue but it’s not true that we’ll tie the Olympics to another rate hike,” said Skipper. An ESPN public relations exec also wondered aloud to me about why other networks don’t get the same grief as ESPN even though they all make economic demands on cable and satellite providers.

Best of luck to former Islanders captain Doug Weight who announced his retirement just before Memorial Day. Weight, one of the classiest guys to ever lace up the skates, will become an assistant coach and a special assistant to Isles GM Garth Snow.

If you are looking for a good Father’s Day gift, pick up a copy of David Barrett’s Golfing With Dad (Skyhorse Publishing). Barrett gets such great PGA and LPGA pros as Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Raymond Floyd, and Christina Kim to share their recollections of being on the links as kids with the man most responsible for shaping their lives.

Chris Jericho has been one of the WWE’s wittiest and best in-in-ring performers for years. Jericho reveals more behind-the-scenes stuff about life in the pro wrestling biz in his second book, Undisputed (Grand Central Publishing).

All wrestling fans were saddened by the death of Randy “Macho Man” Savage. Along with such comedic and talented grapplers as Hulk Hogan, Ted DiBiase , Roddy Piper, Savage helped make the ‘80s and early ‘90s a golden age for the WWE.

The feds are really starting to crack down on Internet gaming. They recently took down the website, www.bookmaker.com, which posted not only traditional sports book odds but gave the odds on such non-traditional wagering action as which film would be the highest grossing of the summer and which TV show would be the first cancellation of the fall season.

One of my all-time favorite columnists is Stanley Bing who I first read when I was an economics major back in the day at Columbia University and was subscribing to Esquire. Now a columnist with Fortune, Bing has written about the major leaguers of big business with an on-the-money sense of humor. His latest book, Bingsop’s Fables (Harper), are short stories written in the style of Aesop that tickle the funny bone but whose message is quite accurate.

If you are looking for premium water that tastes great (better than Evian and is eco-friendly, check out H2O Spring Water (yes, that is what it’s called) that comes in a tetra box package.

Internet radio is becoming a terrific hotbed for sports programming. Two shows that are worth catching on the Sports Talk Network (www.sportstalknetwork.com) are The Hockey Beat with Mr. Hockey himself, Ashley Scharge, which can be heard Monday nights at 7 PM EDT, while on the following night at 7PM EDT, Rick Morris hosts the FDH Lounge where celebrities, athletes, and media types can talk about a variety of topics and very little is off the table. This is exactly the kind of show that should be on Sirius XM.

ESPN Deportes will be getting some competition. During Upfront Week, Univision announced that it would be starting a 24-hour sports network.

Posted under Amortizations, Beltran Jose, Bottom Of The Barrel, Carlos Beltran, Cash Infusion, Equit, Fire Sale, Jose Reyes, Lloyd Carroll, Mets Fans, Mets Gm, New York Mets, Rod Rodriguez, Sandy Alderson, Standup Guy, Tom Verducci, Top Story, True Cash, Yorker Article

This post was written by Lloyd Carroll on May 28, 2011

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Sportsbeat – 10/30/10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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