The Subway Series, which gets underway on Monday at Citi Field and concludes Thursday at Yankee Stadium, is a great way to take stock of our two Major League Baseball franchises. Last June the Mets dropped five out of six games against the Yankees, which served as a warning that their supposed terrific first half when they won 46 games was a mirage.
This year the Mets are not teasing their fans, as they have been playing at the low level that was expected of them before the season began. The Yankees, on the other hand, have been near or at the top of the American League East standings despite the loss to injuries of such household names as Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Texeira and Curtis Granderson. Granderson has returned to the team but was replaced on the disabled list by veteran pitcher Andy Pettitte.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has long proven to be a master at picking up inexpensive spare parts, while his Mets counterpart, Sandy Alderson, dithers when it comes to making moves to help his organization’s big league team, preferring to sell the fans on the notion of a bright future.
Yes, Cashman has greater financial resources to work with than Alderson, but the difference in the success of the two teams can’t just be attributed to payroll, particularly in this injury-plagued season for the Bronx Bombers. Corporate culture plays a big part in distinguishing the two teams. The Yankees have no tolerance when it comes to making excuses for failure. That does not seem to be the case with the Mets.
Mets first baseman Ike Davis, who had a rough first half in 2012, has been struggling even worse in 2013. There has been talk of sending him down to the minor leagues. Of course, if Ike could get hot against the Yankees, that would atone for a multitude of sins for a lot of Mets fans.
Ed Kranepool remains the longest-tenured player in Mets history, as he played first base for them from the end of 1962 right through to the end of 1979. Citibank hired Kranepool to appear at the annual borough restaurant showcase, A Taste of Queens, held last Tuesday at Citi Field, to sign autographs and chat with attendees.
Kranepool identifies with what Davis is going through because he was sent down to the minor leagues in 1970, a mere year after the Mets won the World Series. “Baseball is not an easy game,” Kranepool said. “One difference, however, between Ike and myself is that he has been in the lineup, whereas Gil [the late Mets manager Gil Hodges] did not play me much that year.”
Mets ace pitcher Matt Harvey has been a rare bright spot in a bleak Mets season. Sports Illustrated put Matt on its cover this week. While that is an honor, there is also trepidation because of the legendary “SI jinx,” in which injury or poor performance often besets an athlete shortly after he or she graces the mag’s cover. My guess is that if Harvey can handle the Mets’ anemic offense and very subpar bullpen with aplomb, he’s not losing sleep about a shopworn superstition.
If Knicks fans are upset that their team lost to the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals, can you imagine how ESPN and NBA executives must be feeling? An Indianapolis-Miami matchup obviously does not have the big-market sex appeal of a Knicks-Heat showdown.
The Knicks will have to find more offensive options next season than Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, assuming the latter stays with the team. Chris Copeland showed an ability to score when given a chance this season, and it would behoove head coach Mike Woodson to give him more minutes.
I can’t believe how many stories were written by credible sportswriters who believed that 35-year-old David Garrard, who had not played a down in the NFL the last three years, was up to giving Mark Sanchez a run for the Jets’ starting QB job for the upcoming season. Garrard just announced his retirement because of a balky leg. Now Sanchez only has to worry about highly touted rookie Geno Smith and perennial backup Greg McElroy.
In a story broken by the Queens Chronicle, the United States Tennis Association announced last Thursday that ESPN will have exclusive domestic broadcast rights to the US Open for 11 years starting in 2015 [see separate story at qchron.com]. It is rumored that ESPN will be paying the USTA $770 million for the privilege. The network may license out side court matches to the Tennis Channel to recoup some costs. Douglaston native and tennis legend John McEnroe is expected to stay on as lead analyst.
The third week of May is always a big week in the television industry, as the various broadcast and some of the bigger cable networks announce their fall programming with splashy presentations known as upfronts. Sports programming, while not having the same glitz as the primetime entertainment shows, nonetheless was a key component of many networks’ presentations to advertisers and media.
NBC has struggled so badly in the ratings that Bob Greenblatt, the Peacock Network’s Entertainment Division chairman, was met with muted applause at best when he was introduced on the Radio City Music Hall stage. “It’s a good thing that I made it to the podium before the applause sign went out,” he quipped upon hearing the less than enthusiastic reception.
Things did not pick up as he and his colleague, NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke, introduced clips from one lemon of a new show after another. The only program that genuinely enthused the audience was a new sitcom with Michael J. Fox, in which he plays a news anchor at WNBC.
NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus got a better reception because of the success of the network’s Sunday night NFL programming. Lazarus spent the lion’s share of his time talking about the Winter Olympics that will take place in Sochi, Russia this February. NBC will use the Olympic Games as a platform to promote “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night” since Jimmy Fallon will take over for Jay Leno on the former, while Seth Meyers replaces Fallon on the latter as soon as the Olympic flame is extinguished at Sochi.
In the same manner, Fox brought into its upfront, held at the Beacon Theater, its lead NFL analyst, Troy Aikman, and its pre-eminent NFL pregame personality, the ubiquitous Michael Strahan. They were promoting Fox’s exclusive rights to broadcast the 2014 Super Bowl, which will take place at MetLife Stadium. Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly promised advertisers that his network will use the Super Bowl as a promotional launching pad for spring programming.
The USA Network, which has long been cable’s most successful network, is overseen by NBC cable chairwoman and Hollis native Bonnie Hammer. With all of its well-received programs, such as “White Collar,” “Suits,” “Burn Notice” and “Covert Affairs,” the highest-rated program on USA is World Wrestling Entertainment’s “Monday Night Raw.”
Two wrestling stars, Alberto Del Rio and Shamus, were on hand to shake hands with advertisers at the USA Upfront.
Both men were incensed at how inflammatory radio host Glenn Beck attacked in one of his broadcasts a WWE storyline in which Del Rio, a native of Mexico, was accused of being in the country illegally by villainous manager Zeb Colter and his wrestler protegee, Jack Swagger. They both bemoaned how America is being ruined by foreigners.
It was an over-the-top bit designed to make fun of bigotry, but Beck was enraged at how right-wingers were being portrayed by the WWE. Beck turned down an invitation from WWE CEO Vince McMahon to appear on “Raw.”
In a similar vein, USA Network announced that it is teaming up with the National Football League for its latest “Characters Unite” campaign, which will attack bullying. Representing the NFL at the announcement was Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz will also be a participant.
Cruz was one of the many athletes to make an appearance at ESPN’s Upfront. The most memorable moment, though, came at the end, when ESPN Sales & Marketing President Ed Erhardt brought another famous closer, Yankees relief pitcher extraordinaire Mariano Rivera, onto the Best Buy Theater stage.
“Do you have any advice for me, Mariano?” Ed asked.
Rivera brought the house down when he went away from what was written on the TelePrompter and said, “Yes, pitch fast!”
Spanish-language television had a big Upfront presence last week as well. Univision, which beat out NBC in the February ratings, promoted its Formula 1 races and its Spanish-language broadcasts of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil (ESPN has the English broadcast rights in the United States). Telemundo will be telecasting the Winter Olympics in Spanish. ESPN Deportes will do the same for the NBA Finals, while Fox Deportes will be showing numerous Major League Baseball games, NASCAR races and boxing matches run by Golden Boy Promotions, whose CEO is legendary boxer Oscar de la Hoya.
Interestingly, the National Football League does not show any of its games in Spanish in the United States, though Fox Deportes does telecast them in Latin America.
Fox International Channels Chairman Hernan Lopez told me the NFL does not want to dilute ratings from its major domestic broadcast partners. My guess is that the NFL does not want to upset CBS, which has the broadcast rights to Sunday afternoon American Football Conference games. Unlike NBC, Fox, and ESPN, CBS does not have a Spanish-language affiliate.
Turner Broadcasting System has made a major push in the world of sports in recent years, thanks to its contracts with the NBA and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. It also has a little-watched Sunday afternoon “Game of the Week” package. The problem is that Turner is only permitted to show one game. If there is a rainout, TBS is out of luck because there is no backup game.
In addition, blackout rules prevent the game from being shown in the city of the teams that are playing, so as not to infringe on the competing teams’ TV networks. Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster Buck Martinez, who moonlights for Turner, told me there had better be changes in his company’s next contract with Major League Baseball.
Robert Faller, the director of sales at the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown, informed me at the Historic Hotels of America media event, held at the Waldorf-Astoria earlier this month, that the area’s lodging facilities will not be adversely affected by the fact that no former player will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer.
“Dreams Park, the tremendous baseball facility located on the outskirts of Cooperstown, hosts so many tournaments that we are kept at near capacity regardless of the Hall of Fame,” Faller said. “The ones that will be hurting this year are the baseball stores on Main Street in the village.”
If you are a parent and want to find out about summer camps dedicated to sports as well as athletic programs available to youngsters during the school year, log onto newyorksportsconnection.com, a website that was started by a stay-at-home dad, Aaron Finkel. The site also is a clearinghouse for sports leagues and lessons geared towards adults.
Exercise is a great way to battle such health threats as heart disease and hypertension. The vitamin industry is taking aim at baby boomers who have high cholesterol and triglyceride levels with a variety of supplements. Among the bigger sellers are Quality of Life Laboratories’ CardiChol, Nature Made’s Cholest Off and New Chapter’s Whole Mega Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil capsules. You should consult with a physician before starting any vitamin regimen.