The Yankees took a major step to ensure that their world championship trophy will not be leaving 161st Street and River Avenue in the foreseeable future when they signed free agent pitcher Mike Mussina. The Yankees’ starting rotation of Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and now Mike Mussina, has to be regarded as the most formidable in baseball today.
While there has already been an outcry over the Yankees buying another championship, the truth is that their offer to Mussina was not any higher than what he was receiving from other teams. In fact, Mussina intimated that the Yankees’ offer was not the most lucrative deal thrown at him.
Meanwhile the Mets’ Steve Phillips must be feeling his blood pressure rising on a daily basis. He had to spend more than he wanted to in order to retain the services of free agent relief pitchers John Franco and Turk Wendell because the Phillies, who have never been known for their savvy, signed two undistinguished relievers, Jose Mesa and Rheal Cormier, to three-year contracts which cumulatively total $20 million. The Phillies also added to the Mets’ misery by competing for Franco’s services while the Cubs did the same by chasing after Wendell.
What is really making Phillips uneasy though is that the Chicago Cubs have offered his star pitcher, Mike Hampton, a six-year contract which would pay him $17 million annually. Now I doubt that Hampton will sign with the Cubs because all indications are that if he is going to leave the Mets, he would prefer pitching in a smaller major league city which has a temperate climate and which also has a good shot of winning a world championship in 2001. Those are three strikes against the Cubs. Nonetheless the entry of the Cubs into the Hampton sweepstakes raises the ante for the Mets when they ultimately make their best offer to him.
Unfortunately for Mets fans, no teams appear to be competing for the services of Bobby Jones, who is also a free agent this year. Of course it is not surprising that there is no market for the Mets longtime fifth starter because to paraphrase the late Howard Cosell, “Bobby Jones is in the twilight of a mediocre career.” Mets management, for some strange reason, has always had a soft spot for Jones and I expect that they will keep him from being one of baseball’s unemployed.
One of the most exciting and vastly underrated college basketball tournaments, the ECAC Holiday Festival, returns to Madison Square Garden on December 26th and 27th. For a few years, the ECAC suffered when a tournament fixture, the St. John’s Red Storm, elected to not participate any longer, but this year the ECAC should attract significant local interest as the Hofstra Flying Dutchmen will defend their tournament championship. It will be interesting to see whether Hofstra will be a force to be reckoned with now that its best player in years, point guard Speedy Claxton has graduated. Also participating in the ECAC this year will be Rutgers, Penn State and Princeton.
Major League Soccer is looking to place a team in New York City and at a midtown press conference this week they announced that they are looking into the possibility of having a 25,000-seat stadium built in Flushing Meadow Park. I have no doubt that an MLS team in Queens would be a financial success.