Sports Beat “Wright’s injury hamstrings Mets”

Mets fans emitted a collective groan last Friday seeing David Wright writhe in pain after running hard to first base in the tenth inning of yet another extra inning game for the Amazin’s. The immediate diagnosis was that Wright had a suffered a pulled hamstring in his right leg.

Unlike in past years when Mets management would delay putting players on the disabled list in the hopes of some overnight miraculous recovery which never happened, Wright was immediately placed on the 15-day disabled list. The immediate consensus however was that he would not be playing again until early September.

You can’t blame the Mets for being cautious with their superstar. Although he is younger than Derek Jeter, the team does not want to risk having their captain try to return to duty only to watch him reinjure himself the way the Yankees captain did. Unlike the Yankees, the Mets have no shot at playing in the post-season so it makes total sense for Mets executives to be ultra conservative when it comes to handling their best player who earns $20 million annually.

The silver lining about Wright’s injury is that it opened up a roster spot for outfielder and Whitestone native Mike Baxter who was unfairly sent down to the Mets’ Las Vegas AAA affiliate in June when team executives reached their patience level with struggling first baseman Ike Davis. General manager Sandy Alderson wanted to make it look like he was instituting a team shakeup to lessen the spotlight on Davis’s failure.

Alderson and manager Terry Collins were infatuated with the alleged talents of young outfielder Jordany Valdespin to Baxter’s detriment. While Valdespin did deliver a few clutch pinch hits, he infuriated teammates with his hot-dogging style which included standing at home plate marveling a home run he swatted in the ninth inning. If that wasn’t bad enough, his team was losing 7-1 at the time which is not exactly a great time for showmanship.

The next day, to no one’s surprise, a Pirates pitcher hit him in the back. Jordany publicly sulked because his teammates did not storm the field in his defense and even seemed to back the Pirates’ decision to nail him.

Valdespin was eventually demoted to the Las Vegas 51s. Last week, word came back that he was back to his old tricks as he stood in the batter’s box admiring a home run he swatted against the Sacramento River Cats. The opposing pitcher naturally drilled Valdespin the next time he batted.  This time however he got support as his manager, fiery Wally Backman, led Valdespin’s teammates onto the field for a brawl to show support. Both Valdespin and Backman drew one-game suspensions. The word is that Sandy Alderson wasn’t very happy.


The Time Warner Cable-CBS dispute is the latest battle between a television network and a cable/satellite provider when it comes to carriage rights fees.

Time Warner Cable claims that it shouldn’t have to pay CBS to air its programs because it’s a broadcast network that airs its shows to the public for free. CBS argues that Time Warner Cable pays cable networks such as ESPN $6 per subscriber and that puts it at a disadvantage when negotiating sports rights fees. CBS is still smarting at how ESPN was able to outbid it for US Open rights beginning in 2015.

Time Warner removed CBS-owned stations from its lineup last Friday at 5 PM even though the Tiffany Network was willing to have its shows air over TWC systems while the two sides were negotiating.

Why was Time Warner Cable so eager to pull the plug on CBS? My guess is that TWC executives figured that August is the slowest time in the television industry since primetime shows are generally in repeats and that there are few marquee sports events.

In terms of using a prize fight as an analogy, Time Warner Cable executives were hoping to score an early knockout and have CBS settle on terms favorable to their side. If this dispute is not settled by early next month, CBS will get the upper hand for the middle rounds because it has the rights to National Football League games. They would really be in the driver’s seat if the New York Jets had a decent team but that will not be the case in 2013.

If things were to really drag on through late September it would be a draw because CBS needs distribution for its fall primetime shows to succeed while Time Warner would certainly lose a lot of customers to upstart challenger Verizon Fios if viewers can’t see their old favorites or be denied the opportunity to discover the network’s new shows.

The last time Time Warner Cable customers lost a favorite channel was when the company and MSG Networks could not agree on a deal and the channels that broadcast Knicks, Rangers, Islanders, and Devils games were pulled for 48 days. Both MSG and TWC ran acrimonious ads accusing one another of outrageous greed and negotiating in bad faith. Today Time Warner Cable is a major sponsor at Madison Square Garden. Go figure.

I wonder if former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher has offered to arbitrate this dispute since he is both an NFL analyst for CBS Sports and a spokesman for Time Warner Cable as is evident from those annoying ubiquitous commercials.

Posted under Aaa Affiliate, Amazin, Collective Groan, David Wright, Derek Jeter, Early September, First Baseman, Hamstrings, Inning Game, Lloyd Carroll, Mike Baxter, Miraculous Recovery, New York Mets, Ninth Inning, Patience Level, Pinch Hits, Sandy Alderson, Showmanship, Top Story, Writhe In Pain

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 “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

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

Jekyll & Hyde Mets Need to Overcome Road Block to Reach Playoffs

It took about one and one-third seasons, but the New York Mets have finally built a dominant home field advantage in their new home park.

In fact, the Mets are better at home than any team in the major leagues through the first two months of the season.

After a tough 2-6 road trip that began with the Florida Marlins sweeping a four-game series from New York, the Mets returned to Citi Field, where they had already compiled a very solid 14-8 record.

Would the Amazin’s previous home success wane during a six-game homestand against each of last year’s World Series participants?

Hardly. Despite losing the opening game on Friday night, the Mets rebounded to win the final five games of the homestand in impressive fashion, taking two of three games from the New York Yankees before an historic three-game sweep of the defending two-time National League champion Philadelphia Phillies.

New York creeped back above the .500 mark at 25-23 and moved to within just two games of the first-place Phillies (26-20) in the National League East.

That in itself is significant, but what was especially remarkable against Philadelphia, was the Mets’ pitching, which shut the Phillies out for the entire series, winning 8-0, 5-0, and 3-0 against one of the more talented and dangerous lineups in the major leagues.

It marked the first time since 2004 that a major league team shut out another over a full three-game set (when current Mets’ pitcher Johan Santana helped Minnesota do that against Kansas City); it was also the first time the Mets threw consecutive shutouts since 1988; and, it was the Mets’ first three-game series shutout over an opponent since New York blanked Philadelphia September 26-28, 1969.

While repeating history more than four decades later, the Mets improved to a major-league best 19-9 at Citi Field.

The problem is that while the Mets lead the majors in home victories, they are last in road wins, with a paltry 6-14 road record.

The dominant starting pitching, able relief help, and timely hitting that the Mets have been getting at home has been much more inconsistent away from the friendly confines of Queens.

While the Mets’ home crowds were fairly sparse and relatively subdued earlier in the year, attendance and the fans’ energy both picked up during the most recent homestand.

Mets’ starter Mike Pelfrey, who has surprisingly become the Mets’ ace after improving his season record to 7-1 while lowering his ERA to 2.54 as the winning pitcher to start off and conclude the Mets’ five-game win streak on the homestand, said after Thursday night’s win over the Phillies, that feeding off of the energy of the home crowd has helped the Mets. “We definitely sense [the energy from the fans], and we feel them.”

Shortstop and offensive catalyst at the top of the Mets’ lineup, Jose Reyes, who went 12-for-23 while scoring five runs and driving in three during the five-game win streak, agreed that the Mets seemed to get up for beating the their hometown and divisional rivals in front of their home crowd.

But, when asked by reporters why the Mets have failed to carry over the same level of play away from home, both Pelfrey and Reyes were left puzzled and without answers. They were simply hopeful that New York could continue to play as well in other parks as they have at Citi Field this season.

The Mets don’t actually need to play nearly that well on the road, but they certainly can’t be the polar opposites they’ve been at home versus on the road so far this season.

While it seems that the Mets’ pitchers have finally learned to use the spacious Citi Field to their advantage, they’ll need to perform much better in smaller parks on the road. And, if it’s the home crowd of late which has helped the Mets’ bats come through, New York’s hitters will have to pack some of those clutch hits with them on most of the Mets’ remaining road trips.

As Mets’ rightfielder Jeff Fancoeur said after Thursday night’s win, the Mets have to find a way to at least play close to .500 on the road.

The good news for New York is that it seems as though Citi Field might for the most part this year remain a place that Mets’ opponents will want to stay away from. Yet, those same teams are for now, more than happy to invite the Mets to their places.

Thus, for the time being, it appears that any possible road to the postseason for the Mets will go literally through… the road.   

Posted under Amazin, Consecutive Shutouts, Florida Marlins, Game Homestand, Game Series, Game Sweep, Home Field Advantage, Home Success, Home Victories, Impressive Fashion, Jekyll Hyde, Johan Santana, League Champion, More Than Four Decades, National League East, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Series Shutout, Top Story, World Series Participants