The Mets’ signing of free agent pitcher Shawn Marcum wouldn’t normally generate a headline except that it’s big news whenever the Mets spend money on anyone who has ever played in Major League Baseball. They were the last MLB team to sign a veteran free agent this year.
The Mets gave Marcus a guaranteed $4 million contract. As has long been the case with most Mets acquisitions, there are red flags. Marcus did not pitch much last season because of elbow issues. When healthy, he’s capable of winning 15 games with a good team such as his former club, the Milwaukee Brewers. My guess is that Mets general manager Sandy Alderson is throwing away owner Fred Wilson’s money because (a) Mets pitchers rarely stay healthy and that goes double for reclamation projects such as Marcus, and (b) the Mets offense is so puny it would be hard for any pitcher to post a good record with the team.
While the Mets were welcoming Marcum, they were saying farewell to outfielder Scott Hairston, who signed a lucrative free agent contract with the Cubs. Hairston belted 20 home runs in a part-time role, but, more importantly, added a much-needed touch of veteran leadership to a team bereft of it.
Last Tuesday MLB held its annual fundraising dinner for one of its philanthropies, the Baseball Assistance Team, which provides financial and medical aid to those in the baseball community facing hardship. Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain and Mets starter Johan Santana were honored for their charitable efforts, though Johan couldn’t make it because of a conflicting commitment in his hometown of Tovar, Venezuela.
Also attending the BAT dinner was former Mets pitcher Jon Matlack, who was a key contributor to their 1973 “You Gotta Believe” pennant-winning team. I asked Jon if Mets management had contacted him about honoring the 40th anniversary of that team at Citi Field. “I haven’t heard diddly!” he replied with a smile. It sounds like the Mets will do for the 1973 squad what they did to commemorate their 50th anniversary last season, basically next to nothing.
Former Mets managers Jeff Torborg and Art Howe were among the many attendees at the memorial service for legendary Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Marvin Miller, who died at age 95 this past fall. Both gentlemen managed underwhelming teams but it could be argued that the tenure of either was a golden age for Mets fans compared to what 2013 looks to be for the not so Amazin’s. “Terry (Collins) is going to have his work cut out for him,” both ex-managers said.
Are the Mets’ parsimonious ways affecting the way the Yankees do things? The Bronx Bombers watched Rafael Soriano leave for the Washington Nationals as a free agent. Soriano did a stellar job saving 42 games for the Yankees after Mariano Rivera was lost for the season with that freakish leg injury. No way they would have let him go if George Steinbrenner were still alive.
Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz says that his town will not be affected by the fact that no players will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this July, according to the Sports Business Journal. Likewise at last month’s New York Times Travel Show, St. Lucie County Tourism manager Charlotte Bireley told me that her part of Florida, which is the winter home of the Mets, will not suffer a dropoff in tourists in March, even though there is understandably little excitement about the team. Both of these folks are either incredible optimists or living in a serious state of denial.
Flushing native and longtime writer of articles in Mets-themed publications Andy Esposito is a highly regarded bass player. Andy teamed up with his keyboardist buddy, Joe Piket, to compose and record a catchy novelty tune, “Christmas in Reverse.” While there are millions of Christmas songs, this is the only I know of that looks at the aftermath of the holiday, such as the pain of removing the tree and lights, as well as the cold reality that hits when the credit card bills arrive. It’s available on such online music vendors as iTunes and Amazon under the band name of The Joe and Andy Show.
Since 1966 George Kalinsky has been the official photographer for Madison Square Garden, but what isn’t as well known is that he is also a painter. George recently donated six gigantic portraits that he created (Knicks legend Walt Frazier, current center Tyson Chandler, Rangers legend Adam Graves, current Blueshirts goalie Henrik Lundqvist, Giants defensive end Justin Tuck and a tribute to the cast of “The Sopranos”) to the MSG’s Garden of Dreams Foundation, whose mission is to help underprivileged kids. Adding even more value to these superb portraits is that the subjects have autographed them. Garden of Dreams will be auctioning off these great pieces of art through Steiner Sports (steinersports.com).
“I got my start in Queens drawing sports cartoons at the Long Island Press,” George told me at last Tuesday’s press conference at which the paintings were displayed.
Graves, who is currently an executive with the Rangers, told me that the shortened National Hockey League season will not be subpar since today’s players are faster, stronger, stay in shape all year and are more aware of nutrition than yesteryear’s players.
Graves may be engaging in wishful thinking here. Last Wednesday, the Rangers won a thrilling game, beating the Boston Bruins at the Garden 4-3. The next night they lost 2-1 in Philadelphia to a Flyers team that was playing without many of its stars, who were out with injuries. From my vantage point in the Wells Fargo Arena, it looked as if the Rangers were sleepwalking through the first two periods.
After the game, confrontational Rangers head coach John Tortorella admitted that his big players did not make any big plays. Then, as per tradition, he took the focus off his team by attacking the questions of media members as “stupid” before walking away in a huff. Torts’ post-game shtick would be funny if he were a character in World Wrestling Entertainment but it’s thoroughly unprofessional for an NHL head coach.
The Brooklyn Nets are a good team, but there are too many NBA teams such as the Houston Rockets and the Miami Heat that they haven’t beaten in decades it seems.
Last month CBS held a media day for its Super Bowl XLVII coverage at the network’s Broadcast Center on West 57th Street in Manhattan. Network CEO Leslie Moonves called Super Bowl Sunday the most important day on the television calendar. No other program can get advertisers to happily pony up $4 million for a 30-second commercial spot. Moonves stated that all ad time had been sold out but added with a chuckle that if a movie company wanted to promote its latest offering, he would find a spot for it — if the studio was willing to pay $6 million for the privilege.
The toughest decision for CBS was deciding which show to air after the Super Bowl. Moonves decided to go with “Elementary,” the updated Sherlock Holmes procedural that stars Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and Jackson Heights native Lucy Liu as a female Dr. Watson. “Elementary” has been successful but has not generated a lot of buzz. CBS executives are hoping that it will become a breakout hit that will eventually find its way into syndication like “The Big Bang Theory,” “The Mentalist” and “Two and a Half Men,” because that’s where the big money is in television.
Aisha Tyler, one of the cohosts of CBS’s successful afternoon gab fest, “The Talk,” pointed out that over 43 million women watch the Super Bowl, which is twice as many who tune in to the Academy Awards.
Kevin Frazier, a onetime ESPN Sportscenter anchor, is currently the host of the syndicated “OMG Insider.” “Shows such as ‘Insider,’ ‘Entertainment Tonight,’ ‘Access Hollywood,’ and ‘Extra’ are really ‘Sportscenter’ for women,” Frazier told me. I never thought of it that way, but he does have a point.
I asked CBS Sports President Sean McManus if his network plans to follow the lead of both ESPN and Fox and start a Spanish-language sports network. Sean told me that there are no plans for a CBS Deportes.
CBS missed the boat on establishing a strong cable presence in the 1980s, and it appears that the network is blowing another revenue-generating opportunity by failing to cater to the Spanish-speaking sports community.
Although it doesn’t have broadcast rights to this year’s Super Bowl, NBC is using the week to raise the profile of its cable Sports Network. “Crossover,” a daily 6 p.m. sports and pop culture program cohosted by former YES Nets sideline reporter and ESPN Sports Nation personality Michelle Beadle, and former Boston sports anchor Dave Briggs, is having its debut week with live shows from New Orleans on the NBC Sports Network.
The Super Bowl is television’s biggest event but you’re not losing much if you’re in your car while the game is going on because Kevin Harlan and Boomer Esiason will be calling it on the Dial Global Radio Network (WFAN here in New York).
Spike TV, which likes to call itself “a network for men,” has revived “The Joe Schmo Show,” which brilliantly satirizes reality competition series. Ralph Garman, who hilariously spoofed “Survivor” host Jeff Probst in an earlier incarnation, has now sets his sights on Duane Chapman, better known as “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” in this go-round that airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Spike.
The premise of the show is that the competitors for the alleged big prize are all actors who play stereotypical reality show roles except for one rube (“the Joe Schmo”) who has no clue that the whole thing’s a farce. The schmo thinks he’s participating in a new reality show that will air next season called “The Full Bounty.”
Last week’s “Saturday Night Live,” which featured Maroon 5 lead singer and “The Voice” star Adam Levine as host, was kind of like the 2012 Jets season. It started out strong and then very quickly fell apart.
If your New Year’s resolutions included eating healthier, here are some ideas. Better Oats’ Oat Revolution is a better-tasting oatmeal than that from either Quaker Oats or H-O, and it has a measuring pouch so that you don’t dilute it by adding too much water. Oatmeal has lots of Omega-3 vitamins that promote heart health. Polar Seltzer comes in many refreshing flavors, has zero calories and does not have the aftertaste that most diet soft drinks do. Finally, Dr. Lucy’s cookies are gluten-free and less caloric than those made by mass producers such as Nabisco.