David Wright’s productive season was a rare bright spot for Mets fans in 2012. With one year remaining in his contract, David picked a good time to finally feel at home at Citi Field, a place where he had struggled for the first three years of its existence.
Mets owner Fred Wilpon was quoted in New York magazine as saying that Wright, while a good player, was not a superstar. Wilpon may have been right, but the reality is that his woebegone organization had no choice but to re-sign Wright to the most lucrative contract in Mets history. Had the Mets traded him, Citi Field would have resembled the ghost town that Shea Stadium was in the late 1970s following Tom Seaver’s departure.
For better or worse, Wright is more than just a fan favorite; he is the face of the organization. No one sells more Mets jerseys and T-shirts than he. It’s obligatory for Wright to hold a lengthy press conference on the state of the Mets after every single game. No matter how awful things are for our Flushing heroes, David always says something reassuring to the faithful about how they’ll get better.
I’m not sure if it was a coincidence but the Mets inked a deal with Wright just a few hours after the lowly, small-market Pittsburgh Pirates spent $17 million to pry catcher Russell Martin away from the Yankees. It would have been humiliating and insulting for the parsimonious Pirates to spend big bucks on new talent while the Mets count their pennies watching their name players go elsewhere.
The death of Marvin Miller, the former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, last week at age 95 did not receive the attention that it should have. Marvin is the man who was singlehandedly responsible for the economic freedoms and high pay that big leaguers enjoy today, which were but a pipedream for them 40 years ago.
Ironically, the high salaries and free agency led to more public interest in the sport and thus higher ticket prices, licensing fees, and billion-dollar television contracts for the owners. Of course, the owners and old guard members of the Baseball Writers Association of America refused to accept that notion, and that’s why Miller was never inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Washington Wizards GM and former Forest Hills High basketball star Ernie Grunfeld normally never misses a chance to return home. But his awful team was 1-12 when they came into town last Friday to play the Knicks, and that had to have influenced his decision to skip the game. “He made the right call!” laughed Knicks rookie forward Chris Copeland, who played well in his team’s easy win.
“Seven is better than six!” beamed Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill following his team’s 7-6 win over the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Hill was basically admitting that the game was an absolute stinker, with the only saving grace being that Gang Green came out on top.
QB Mark Sanchez was pulled from a game for poor play for the first time in his four-year career as a Jet by head coach Rex Ryan. Following the game, Ryan admirably refused to throw Sanchez under the proverbial bus by simply stating that he thought that his understudy, Greg McElroy, could provide a spark in the second half. McElroy did look sharp leading the Jets to the go-ahead touchdown and driving them down the field again when the clock ran out in the fourth quarter.
Ryan claimed that he wasn’t concerned that Sanchez was still an awful passer in spite of a good job by both his offensive line and running backs, and preferred to give credit to the opposition. “The Cardinals make a lot of quarterbacks look bad,” he said. I think that Rex was being a bit too charitable towards him.
The Travel Channel debuted a new series Tuesday, “NFL Road Tested: The Cleveland Browns.” The show is similar to such cinema verite premium cable documentary series as HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and Showtime’s “The Franchise.” What makes this show different is that it peels back the curtain for sports fans to see the countless things that are required to get the Cleveland Browns from city to city. Team travel secretaries are among the many unsung heroes in the world of professional sports and it’s fascinating to watch all that they have to do to make sure things go off without a hitch.
Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin is enjoying a terrific rookie season and is one of the most exciting NFL players to watch. Bayside High School alumnus Dorson Boyce is hoping to be taking handoffs from him next year. Boyce was signed by the Redskins this past summer but has spent the year on the injured reserve list.
Three cheers to both Showtime and Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions for helping to revive boxing in New York. Madison Square Garden was for years the mecca of boxing but over the last 30 years, Las Vegas, and, to a lesser extent, Atlantic City have played host to the big fights. Last Saturday’s 12-round WBA super welterweight championship bout between fan favorite Miguel Cotto and Austin “No Doubt” Trout was the biggest pugilistic battle the Garden has hosted in years. The fight was a good one, as the slugfest went the distance with Trout winning a unanimous decision over Cotto.
It seems as if every boxing card that involves fighters that have even the vaguest name recognition winds up on pay-per-view cable. That means just a cadre of hardcore boxing fans watch and the sport fails to grow. Showtime had the Cotto-Trout bout as part of its regular Saturday night programming last week, and it plans to do the same with its next marquee fight from New York, a 12-round super lightweight championship match between up-and-coming Danny Garcia and veteran Zab Judah that will take place at the Barclays Center on Feb. 9.
New York Rangers center Brad Richards has managed to keep very busy in spite of the lockout that has been imposed on players by the team owners of the National Hockey League. He organized Operation Hat Trick, the charity game to benefit victims of Hurricane Sandy that took place in Atlantic City over Thanksgiving weekend, and is trying to do the same here in the New York area.
Richards, like his teammate Henryk Lundqvist, enjoys men’s fashion and has just inked a deal to be a model and spokesman for UNTUCKit, a dress shirt company that encourages guys to wear their button-downs over their belts instead of tucking them inside, hence the brand name.
Liquor companies routinely hire athletes to serve as endorsers. Ty Ku, Japan’s best known sake manufacturer, has gone a slightly different route by hiring Bravo’s no-nonsense “Millionaire Matchmaker,” Queens native Patti Stanger. Then again, dating can frequently be a contact sport!
At a press event to promote both Ty Ku and her new book, “Become Your Own Matchmaker” (Atria), Stanger spoke about how she spent her formative years in Beechhurst and her fond memories of PS 193.
Sake, incidentally, is a rice-based, wine-like spirit that, contrary to popular belief, should be served cold rather than heated, according to Ty Ku officials.
The holiday season is a favorite time for a lot of us to get away. If you want warmth but don’t want to pay exorbitant Florida or Caribbean hotel rates, two cities served by JetBlue, Long Beach, Calif. and Las Vegas, offer very pleasant albeit not tropical weather. And since this is considered the off-season for both places, they won’t break your budget.
Long Beach is connected to Los Angeles via the light rail Blue Line, as well by freeway, and it’s only a 15-minute drive to Disneyland. Most of Long Beach’s hotels cater to business travelers, and since the holiday season is notoriously a slow time in the area, leisure travelers can snap up bargain deals from the big-name chain hotels, such as the Hyatt and the Renaissance.
Las Vegas, which is generally unbearable from June through September, is an easy place to enjoy during the holiday season. The Venetian and the Palazzo hotels are promoting their “Winter in Venice,” which will run through Jan. 6. The hotels will have light shows, waterfalls, outdoor skating rinks, and top-tier dining at their over 30 restaurants. Package deals begin at $149 per night.
A Vegas competitor, the Cosmopolitan — famous for its intriguing commercials that run during NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” — is offering a $150 credit on hotel amenities if you book a three-night stay.
JetBlue has just begun service from JFK to Albuquerque, NM, a town that has been shamefully underserved by the airline industry. Albuquerque is a charming southwest town and it’s only an hour drive to Santa Fe, a city renowned for its arts. Albuquerque is also a short drive to New Mexico’s Rocky Mountain ski resorts. If you want to enjoy a balmy winter sun, drive two hours south to the college town of Las Cruces. You can play golf anytime of the year without having to make reservations days in advance there.
Of course, if you don’t make a left turn at Albuquerque, you could end up just about anywhere.