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Queens Chronicle

A painful spring training

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Posted: Thursday, March 28, 2013 10:30 am

Baseball fans are far more concerned with the health of the players on their favorite teams coming out of spring training than they are with their March win-loss records. Given that criterion, you can’t blame Yankees and Mets fans if they are not brimming with excitement about the start of the 2013 season this Monday.

Comparisons of the 2013 Yankees with the infamous 1965 Bronx Bombers team, when nearly all of the big names — such as Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Bobby Richardson and Tony Kubek —seemingly all got old overnight together, started right after Derek Jeter broke his ankle during the 2012 playoffs. It picked up in intensity after Alex Rodriguez underwent hip surgery last fall. It now appears that A-Rod will not play until after the All-Star Game at the earliest. Then again, many think he may never play again.

As much as Yankees fans like to vent their frustration at A-Rod, they’ll miss his bat in light of the absence of both Curtis Granderson (a broken hand) and Mark Texeira (a torn wrist tendon). Fans had better hope that the newly acquired Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner can find the Fountain of Youth, or at least the short right and left field porches at Yankee Stadium with regularity.

Mets fans are used to their heroes being on the disabled list for long stretches. Johan Santana probably won’t be in Flushing until Mother’s Day at the earliest, by which time the Mets will probably be eliminated for all intents and purposes from the National League East race. Frank Francisco, the Mets nominal closer, has been plagued by tendinitis in his throwing arm this spring and just started pitching in Florida. He’ll probably stay there through April.

As far as the Mets’ offense goes, a lot has been written about David Wright’s rib cage injury, but he should be ready to go on Monday. Surprisingly little has been written about one of the Mets’ best hitters, Daniel Murphy, who has missed all of spring training with a mysterious mid-section muscle injury. Under the best of circumstances, the Mets’ hitters do not intimidate opposing pitchers. Without Murphy’s bat, their lineup is absolutely anemic.

Congratulations to Woodside’s Michael Rappaport and his three other colleagues from the New York University Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management, for winning the Diamond Dollars Undergraduate Case Study Competition sponsored by the Society of American Baseball Research. The competition highlighted the growing field of baseball analytics, a form of statistics that became famous in the book, and later the film, “Moneyball.”

The annual New York International Auto Show gets underway tomorrow and runs through Sunday, April 7 at the Javits Center. While fantasy carmakers such as Aston Martin, Ferrari and Rolls-Royce (which will be introducing its latest model, the Wraith, at the show) get the attention, it is an important sales and marketing tool for all auto manufacturers.

When Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald signed unemployed NBA veteran forward Kenyon Martin last month to a 10-day contract, his thinking was that it would give the Knicks a stronger rebounding presence. Martin has done that, and as an unexpected bonus, has also shown an ability to score. With both Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire out of action, the Knicks will need Martin to continue playing well if they are to win the Atlantic Division title.

For years, Penn and Princeton dominated Ivy League basketball. More recently, it’s been Cornell and Harvard. The Columbia Lions have not won an Ivy League title since 1968. The Columbia football program has been a national joke for years, but in fairness, New York City has never had a reputation for being a college football hotbed.

Basketball is another story, however.

A few years ago, a former Queens resident named Kareem Abdul Jabbar interviewed for the Lions head coaching job. Being one of the greatest college and NBA players of all-time, my alma mater should have rolled out the red carpet for him. Instead, they gave the job to the forgettable Joe Jones, who maintained the school’s losing tradition. Way to go, Joe.

My guess is that the pathetic Columbia athletics department did not want a high-profile coach who would invite media scrutiny. They probably prefer collecting their paychecks with relatively little scrutiny.

Winning is nice but apparently not that important to the Columbia administration. If you ever read the school’s alumni magazine, Columbia College Today, you’ll see that very little is written about sports, understandably.

Columbia’s below-par basketball program has hurt financially. Madison Square Garden refuses to schedule the Lions, and the Barclays Center doesn’t appear to be rushing to have them either. It becomes a catch-22 because if Columbia did play games in big-name arenas it would be easier to recruit better players. While Columbia alums will never be as passionate about their sports teams the way Syracuse grads are, winning teams would reduce apathy.

Columbia Athletics Director Dianne Murphy points out that the school has won Ivy League titles in golf, track & field, fencing, tennis and soccer since 2004, but those sports don’t bring the attention or money that football and basketball do. Columbia University President Lee Bollinger should give Murphy an ultimatum to upgrade the men’s basketball and football programs or else start looking for a new employer.

Asics has quietly become one of the big names in running footwear. Last week it introduced its fall line of shoes and apparel to the media. Asics is expanding its retro Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 line, which is named after its first running shoe, designed with the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games in mind. The line has an old-school look, kind of like the Chuck Taylor sneakers of track & field.

The company is also trying to make its mark in tennis with a line of racquets, jackets, shoes, shorts and even tennis dresses. Right now Nike executives don’t have to worry much since Asics’ biggest pro tennis endorsers are Frenchman Gael Monfils and 2011 US Open women’s champion Samantha Stosur.

A sure sign that spring is here, in spite of the cold weather, is the arrival of food festival season in New York. The annual Coffee & Tea Festival was held last weekend at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue. A few days earlier that venue hosted the Village Voice Choice Eats show, in which various Brooklyn and Manhattan restaurants dispensed samples of their wares.

I overheard one attendee grousing about the lack of Queens dining establishments represented at the armory because, in her words, “Queens has the best restaurants!” I heartily concur. This person will be thrilled to know that the Queens Economic Development Corporation will be hosting the annual A Taste of Queens at Citi Field on the evening of Tuesday, May 14. One hopes the Mets will not make Queensites lose their appetites before then.

Upstate tourism will get a boost this summer from sporting events. The PGA Championship will take place at the Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester from Aug. 1 to 4, while NASCAR’s Cheez-It 355 race will take place at Watkins Glen on Aug. 11. The Finger Lakes Wine Festival will precede NASCAR at Watkins Glen by a month, as it will be held July 12 through 14.

The world

Last Friday, March 22, was World Water Day. While this country has its share of problems, clean drinking water — knock wood — has not been one of them. That is not the case in many other parts of the world, particularly Africa. Documentary filmmaker Derek Watson has just released “This Is Normal,” which shows how some Zambians have to walk more than two hours to be able to bring back water for their families that may very well be contaminated.

The film was commissioned by Water 4, a nonprofit out of Oklahoma City that provides pumps and other well manufacturing equipment to those living in remote parts of the world. The group’s goal is not only to provide clean drinking water for those living in remote parts of the globe but to ensure that the residents learn how to operate and repair the equipment so that they can sustain themselves.

TV notes

An argument can be made that the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film, “Psycho,” is the most memorable horror movie in history. Cable network A&E has created a prequel to the story with “Bates Motel,” starring Freddie Highmore (who does bear a resemblance to the late Anthony Perkins) as a young Norman Bates and Vera Farmiga as his demented mom. It airs Mondays at 10 p.m.

I am not sure why critics have given a cold shoulder to the new Tuesday night CBS police procedural, “Golden Boy,” which stars British actor Theo James and the always terrific Chi McBride. “Golden Boy,” like another CBS show, the terrific “Person of Interest,” make great use of New York City, particularly Queens.

The rumors that NBC will bring “The Tonight Show” back to New York after more than 40 years, this time with Jimmy Fallon taking over Johnny Carson’s desk at 30 Rockefeller Center, is yet another reminder of how New York is now rivaling, and perhaps exceeding, Los Angeles as a television production center.

Credit, though, has to be given to Fallon’s friend, and soon to be competitor, David Letterman, for proving over the last 20 years at CBS that the biggest names in showbiz are more than willing to travel to the Big Apple to appear on late-night television.

Welcome to the discussion.