Last Thursday was a mixed day for oldies but goodies fans. On the plus side, WCBS-FM is back to its familiar self, playing the greatest hits of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. The bad news was for 48-year-old Julio Franco, who learned he was being removed from the Mets roster.
Franco, the oldest active player in the big leagues was no longer in the team’s plans, and at press time, no other team had expressed interest in acquiring him.
The veteran first baseman was hitting .200 with one home run and eight runs batted in after 50 at-bats.
Franco had been the Mets’ primary pinch-hitter but was struggling — and his inability to play other positions, his lack of speed, power and agility hampered the flexibility of the roster.
As the Mets were saying goodbye to Franco. they also fired hitting coach Rick Down.
Current Mets first base coach and fan favorite Howard Johnson took Down’s job, and former All-Star and career stolen base leader Rickey Henderson will replace Hojo in the first base coaching box.
The coaching carousel created some intrigue, as it was widely known that Down was a confidant of manager Willie Randolph, and Mets General Manager Omar Minaya was behind the decision.
However, given that Franco was Minaya’s close personal friend, it appears as if all of the machinations were more about team success than personal agenda.
In any case, the strategy seemed to work, as the Mets promptly took three out of four from the struggling Cincinnati Reds.
In other news, the New Jersey Nets and their star forward Vince Carter were able to agree on a four-year contract valued at approximately $66 million. Normally a free agent marquee player always states that he chose to either stay with his old club or go to another team because it represents his best chance to be part of an NBA championship team.
At last Friday’s press conference at the Nets’ East Rutherford offices, however, Carter declared that his happiness with the Nets organization, particularly his good relationship with guard Jason Kidd and head Lawrence Frank, was the key factor to his not seeking greener pastures elsewhere.
The Nets’ move to Brooklyn in 2009 was another reason why he chose to remain with the team. New York City is home to more Fortune 500 corporations, advertising agencies and television networks than any other city in the world. Nearly every player wants to earn money in the world of commercial endorsements and/or broadcasting, especially when their playing days are over, no matter how wealthy they may be.
An hour after the Nets announced Carter’s re-signing, their former co-tenants at the Continental Airlines Arena, the New Jersey Devils (who will be moving into a new arena in Newark this October), announced that former Islanders captain Brent Sutter will be their latest head coach.
The dour Sutter became extra cranky when it was pointed out to him that the Devils’ head coaching position does not come with civil service-like security. Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello has fired coaches who have had exemplary won-loss records.
“I don’t care about past history,” he growled. “I am coming into this job with my eyes wide open.”