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Queens Chronicle


Mets no longer like Ike

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Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2014 10:30 am

It seemed to take forever but Mets general manager Sandy Alderson finally traded first baseman Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I asked Alderson at a hastily arranged press conference at Citi Field following the trade whether he was able to get maximum value for Ike considering that the Pirates knew (a) the Mets had wanted to send him packing since the end of the 2013 season and (b) they had to clear a space for the return of centerfielder Chris Young from the disabled list.

“We got the players that we have targeted,” Sandy said, referring to minor league relief pitcher Zack Thornton and the mysterious player to be named later. Reports quickly surfaced that the player in question was centerfielder Austin Meadows, who was a first-round pick in the 2013 amateur draft.

Insightful New York Post columnist Kevin Kernan quickly asked Alderson, who tried to avoid direct baseball comparisons, “Why Duda over Davis?” The reality is that Ike is a far better fielder while Lucas may have a slightly better eye at the plate, though both strike out a ton.

I followed up Kevin’s query by asking if Ike’s more lucrative contract played a part in the decision. “That wasn’t a primary factor,” Alderson said. “We preferred the fact that we have more control over Lucas Duda.” Translated that means Duda needs more major league time to qualify for free agency. And yes, Ike earns a lot more than Lucas does, as the Mets accounting department well knows.

As the press conference was winding down, I asked Alderson if he was concerned about the public perception that the Mets, who when the 2014 season got underway were in the lowest third for team payroll, had found a way to reduce it yet again. This is clearly a sensitive subject for Mets executives as he winced when he heard my question. “We’ll probably take on a few million in payroll soon,” he then promised without being more specific.

Davis met with the New York media just before he left Citi Field to catch a US Airways flight to Pittsburgh and took the high road, considering that he knew where he had stood with Mets management for the last eight months. He concurred with Alderson that it didn’t make sense to have three first basemen on the roster (right-handed hitting Josh Satin is the other), and added that he very much enjoyed his time in New York.

It’s to Ike’s credit that he was always a friendly, welcoming presence in the clubhouse for the media, whether he was performing well or struggling at the plate, which unfortunately was the case for most of the last two seasons.

These elbow ligament tears appear to be contagious. First it was Mets reliever Bobby Parnell and now it’s Yankees starter Ivan Nova. At least we now know why Nova was getting lit up by opposing hitters. Sounds like the next time Ivan will be a starting pitcher at Yankee Stadium is when A-Rod is back playing third base for the Bronx Bombers.

Mets fans have to hope that Curtis Granderson’s game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 14th inning last Sunday against the Atlanta Braves will get him going. Relief pitcher Jose Valverde, who is a delightful guy in the clubhouse but a disaster on the mound, got the win. Perhaps the game will change momentum for him as well.

Seeing forlorn Knicks head coach Mike Woodson having to face the media for his pre-game press conferences the last week of the regular NBA season reminded me of the Sean Penn-Susan Sarandon flick “Dead Man Walking.” He was relieved of his duties Monday morning.

While the Knicks were a disappointment this year, their oft-injured forward Amar’e Stoudemire actually had a pretty good season, though he is a far cry from the dominant player that he was when he played for the Phoenix Suns.

Stoudemire has devoted a lot of time in recent years tracing his ancestors’ Jewish roots and has made frequent trips to Israel. He seemed a bit miffed that there wasn’t a box of matzo in the Knicks locker room when they played the Nets in Brooklyn on the second night of Passover. He broke into a hearty laugh when I told him I would try to sneak out some pieces from the Barclays Center press room and then asked him if he preferred Manischewitz or Streit’s.

Knicks President Phil Jackson made his presence felt for the first time roster-wise when he signed former Lakers forward and South Jamaica native Lamar Odom to a contract. One hopes Odom will have a longer tenure with the 2014-15 Knicks than Long Island City’s own Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest) did with the 2013-14 Knicks.

Life and style

This is looking to be a big year for popular hip-hop star Drake. He won rave reviews earlier in 2014 as host of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” His success there undoubtedly propelled ESPN executives to select him to host this year’s ESPY Awards on July 16.

The New York International Auto Show, which runs through Sunday, gives most of the public probably their only chance to sit behind the steering wheel of a Maserati, Aston Martin, Porsche or Rolls-Royce.

Motor sports are prominent at the Javits Center, as is Toyota displaying the cars driven by NASCAR stars Brian Vickers, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch, while General Motors has dug into its past to exhibit the Camaro that was used as the pace car at the 1969 Indy 500.

I ran into former Giants linebacker Jessie Armstead at the auto show. Armstead owns a number of car dealerships in New Jersey, stretching from Englewood Cliffs down to the Trenton area. He started working in the retail auto business during his NFL playing days.

Armstead is one of the few big-name athletes I have encountered who had no interest in either coaching or broadcasting, though I have little doubt he would have been successful in either endeavor.

“The problem with broadcasting is that there is always going to be a new ‘hot name’ that the networks will want,” Jessie told me. “This year it was Ray Lewis. Soon it will be Peyton Manning. That means that the older guys in the biz are going to get pushed out even if they are doing a fine job.”

Clearly he was referring to Shannon Sharpe and Dan Marino being shown the door by CBS.

“NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette” (Wm. Morrow Publishing), written by Nathan W. Pyle, is a delightfully illustrated paperback that should be a must read for both city residents and visitors who are planning a trip here.

Pyle will make you smile and affirmatively nod as he describes the best way for pedestrians to avoid getting splashed on a rainy day by passing vehicles; the importance of being polite yet assertive if you are a driver trying to merge onto a highway and there’s a queue of vehicles behind you who can’t move unless you do as well; and how to get away from someone sitting next to you on a subway train who is nodding off and is trying to use your body as a pillow; as well as countless other familiar situations.

I wish Pyle had tackled aggressive subway panhandlers and the self-absorbed morons who stare fixated at their smartphones as they climb up and down the subway steps or block the sidewalks instead of paying attention to their surroundings. Oh well, that may be in his follow-up book.

Two weeks ago I wrote about how this fall cable television’s Animal Planet network will be debuting “The Yao Ming Project,” in which the former NBA star tries to catch poachers who kill rhinos and elephants for their ivory tusks. Those tusks are frequently used for jewelry pieces even though the trade of ivory is illegal in many countries.

Last week the Kenya Tourism Ministry held a press briefing at the Harvard Club in Manhattan in which it announced the latest measures that are being adopted for conservation of its vulnerable wildlife. Animal safaris obviously make up a very high percentage of Kenyan tourism.

A lot of television shows now tape in New York City but few make as good use of the outer boroughs, particularly Queens, as CBS’s Tuesday thrilling night series “Person of Interest” does. The opening scene of last week’s episode took place at Briarwood’s iconic Flagship Diner.

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