In recent years, some of baseball’s best pitchers are the biggest players on the field.
Future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, a former New York Yankees hurler, stood 6 feet, 10 inches tall, making him one of the tallest players in baseball history.
California Chrome’s co-owner, Steve Coburn, took a lot of heat after Tonalist defeated his horse at the Belmont Stakes last Saturday. Coburn voiced his “Coward’s way out” comment to NBC Sports reporter Kenny Rice just minutes after learning that his horse would not be a Triple Crown winner as Tonalist, a horse that skipped both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, ruined what many thought would be a day of immortality for Coburn and California Chrome.
Coburn did not seem to care that Tonalist’s owners badly wanted to run him in the Derby but the horse’s sudden illness forced them to change their mind. The fact that Tonalist qualified for Belmont by winning the Peter Pan Stakes a week after the Derby enraged him.
One of the slogans used in the advertising campaign for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa was “this is the one month, every four years, that we all agree on one thing.”
An undying love for the sport may unite Queens soccer fans from all corners of the globe, but that’s where the agreeing ends for many.
The Mets have not had a winning season since Citi Field opened in 2009, and things appear unlikely to change in 2014, based on what we’ve seen so far. While they have not been exactly world beaters, on the road the Mets have played better as the visitors than as the home team.
Last week Daily News baseball columnist Andy Martino wrote that Mets management is concerned that the players are fatigued at home because of such factors as making appearances in the community; having to deal with smaller media outlets (a self-serving claim that fits the dailies’ agenda, Andy); and the large number of visitors permitted to go on the field before a game to watch batting practice.
The Yankees’ brand has long been synonymous with victory, and the world’s most famous sports franchise has never been shy about spending money on the best baseball personnel available to keep it that way
Even their biggest detractors will concede that the Yankees beat you fair and square on the playing field. That is why no one was more upset with Michael Pineda using pine tar than Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was. He is well aware of the damage Pineda’s actions did to the Yankees image.
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.
When the Hollis-Bellaire-Queens Village-Bellerose-Athletic Association Little League baseball and softball program started play in 1954, Mickey Mantle was patrolling center field for the Yankees and the Mets were still eight years away from coming into existence.
Prior to the first pops of the glove and the pings of the aluminum bats, all 28 of the league’s teams will march from Hillside Avenue and 217th Street in Queens Village to the Padavan-Preller Complex in Bellerose on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the league’s annual opening day parade.
When an NBA team doesn’t make the playoffs, as is the case with the Knicks this year, the lone silver lining is a chance to nab a very good college player in the NBA Draft Lottery. Lamentably for Knicks fans, their team traded their top pick in the upcoming draft to the Denver Nuggets when they obtained Carmelo Anthony in 2011.
Adding to Knicks fans’ concern is that Carmelo will be a free agent come July 1. My guess is that he will re-sign with the Knicks since he and his wife very much like living in New York, and that team owner James Dolan has constantly sought out his advice. But the Knicks’ failures this season must give Anthony pause to making a long-term commitment.
Citi Field opened five years ago and the Mets have not had a winning season since. Throw in the last two years they played in Shea Stadium, 2007 and 2008, when they were in first place in September in the National League East only to wind up behind the Philadelphia Phillies, and Mets fans must feel as if they have endured a biblical seven years of famine. Well, fans of our Flushing heroes, get ready for year No. 8.
To say the fan base is dispirited is an understatement. Two years ago it appeared that Mets ownership was going to turn the page on player salaries when it settled with Irving Picard, the trustee seeking compensation for the victims of the Madoff Securities scandal. Picard had determined the Mets owners, Fred Wilpon and his brother-in-law Saul Katz, had been unjustifiably enriched by Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme even though they were not complicit.
Sophomore St. John’s forward JaKarr Sampson surprised nearly everyone by declaring he will leave the Red Storm with the hopes of being drafted by an NBA team in June.
The 6-foot-8 Sampson is a good player who averaged around 14 points per game this past season, but he is not an exceptional talent, since every college team has a player just like him on its roster. He was not listed on the Wooden Award ballot in which media members select the outstanding college basketball player of the year, and there are a lot of names on it. Toss in the fact that St. John’s University was “one and done” in both the Big East and the National Invitational tournaments, and you get the feeling that NBA teams are not exactly lining up for his services.
Over the winter, a petition to make Major League Baseball’s Opening Day a national holiday garnered over 102,000 signatures on the White House’s website.
St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith even appeared in Budweiser-sponsored advertisements for the movement.
Saturday was a great day in Queens high school sports history, as the Francis Lewis Patriots and the Cardozo Judges won the Public School Athletic League girls and boys basketball championships, respectively, at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The Cardozo game was a nail-biter as it wasn’t decided until the Judges’ Rashond Salnave hit two foul shots with less than three seconds left on the clock [see separate stories in some editions or at qchron.com].
Both teams were the de facto visitors as they played against two Brooklyn high schools, South Shore and Thomas Jefferson, respectively. Dave Diamante, the stentorian-voiced Brooklyn Nets public address announcer, admitted to me that he tried to put a little more enthusiasm into announcing Brooklyn baskets than those made by Queens players.
The National Football League generated backpage headlines this past weekend when it was learned that the league is pushing for penalties and possible game suspensions for players who use the “N-word” slur during a game. The NFL was acting primarily in response to such lunkheads as the Miami Dolphins’ Richie Incognito and the Philadelphia Eagles’ Riley Cooper, who brought shame to themselves and the NFL last year by using that disgusting term.
Sorry, ACLU supporters, I support the NFL’s decision in this matter. What wasn’t clear, however, was if NFL referees will have the power to issue penalties for slurs made against other ethnic groups, races or differing sexual orientations. If you are trying to take a principled and responsible stand against prejudice, then you can’t have situations where some groups are protected and others are not.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to understand that if it had not been for mega builder Robert Moses along with both the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers leaving the Big Apple in 1957 for California, there may have been no “Shea Stadium nearing completion” (I Have Often Walked by Ron Marzlock, Feb. 13).
The golden era of baseball in New York City was the 1950s, with a three-way rivalry between the American League New York Yankees and the National League Giants and Dodgers. All three teams claimed to have the best center fielder in baseball. On street corners all over town, citizens would argue whether the Yankees’ Mickey Mantle, Giants’ Willie Mays or Dodgers’ Duke Snider was champ.
Ordinary Brooklynites could ride the bus, trolley or subway to Ebbets Field to see their beloved Dodgers. Men and women of all ages, classes and races co-mingled in the stands. Everyone could afford a seat. Refreshments and souvenirs were reasonably priced.
Team owners would raise or reduce a player’s salary based on his performance the past season. Salaries were so low that virtually all Dodger players worked another job off-season. Most were neighbors who lived and worked in various communities in the County of Kings.
Residents of the era sat outside on the stoop and shopped at the local butcher, baker, fruit and vegetable stand. Television was a relatively new technology and the local movie theater was still king for entertainment. Brooklyn still had its very own daily newspaper — the Brooklyn Eagle — which ended publication sometime in the mid-’50s.
During the ’50s, Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley tried to find various locations for a new baseball stadium, which he pledged to finance using his own monies. With limited seating at Ebbets Field, he needed a new stadium to remain financially viable.
Master mega-builder Robert Moses refused him access to the current-day Atlantic Yards site. This location was easily accessible from all around the Big Apple via subway.
Thousands of fans who moved to eastern Queens, Nassau and Suffolk County would have had direct access via the LIRR. Imagine how different Brooklyn would have been if elected officials had stood up to Moses and allowed construction of a new Dodgers stadium in downtown Brooklyn. Without the departure of the Dodgers to Los Angeles and Giants to San Francisco, there may have been no National League expansion in 1962. There would have been no Colt 45s (original name of the Houston Astros) or our beloved New York Mets.
The combination of the press conference for pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and Derek Jeter’s announcement that this will be his last season certainly put the spotlight on the Yankees last week. That may be one reason why news of the Mets’ refinancing of a massive loan did not get a lot of play. Nonetheless it is a big story with plenty of troubling implications for Mets fans.
Bloomberg.com sports financial correspondent Kavitha Davidson wrote in her Feb. 6 article that the Mets were on the verge of delaying repayment of a $250 million loan issued by Bank of America for another seven years. Davidson cited New York Post financial columnist Josh Kosman’s Jan. 30 article saying the massive balloon payment was due this spring. Davidson took pains to point out that Kosman wrote that the new loan agreement did not restrict the Mets payroll the way the previous financial agreement did. It’s that aspect of the original covenant that raised my eyebrows.
I don’t have a problem with the Mets signing recent Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, for reasons I outlined last week. But I’m still scratching my head over why Mets general manager Sandy Alderson rushed to sign dime-a-dozen outfielder Chris Young to a one-year $7.25 million contract, and I’m absolutely stumped as to why he would commit $20 million for two years to rotund, soon-to-be-41 year-old pitcher, Bartolo Colon.
Yes, I know that Colon won 18 games for the Oakland A’s last year, but that doesn’t mean he will come remotely close to repeating that success in a Mets uniform. Colon missed a good chunk of the 2012 season serving a suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.
It’s rare that a free agent switches from one local ballclub to another. The only one who comes to mind is relief pitcher Pedro Feliciano, who left the Mets to join the Yankees in the fall of 2010. At the time, Feliciano was upset at how the Mets overworked him and then rewarded him by refusing to make him a reasonable offer. He never threw a pitch in a Yankees uniform because of injuries, and, ironically, rejoined the Mets as a free agent last year.
Feliciano now has company as a trivia answer, as recent Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson has accepted a four-year, $60 million deal from the Mets. This is the Mets’ first marquee free-agent signing since their ill-fated deal with outfielder Jason Bay four years ago.
The Jets entered last Sunday’s game with the then 0-4 Pittsburgh Steelers with a surprising 3-2 record although in fairness all three of the wins weren’t decided until the final minutes of the game and the results could easily have swung against Gang Green.
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith, who was pressed into the starting role when Mark Sanchez was lost for the season after injuring his shoulder — when the Jets third-string offensive line could not protect him in the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game with the Giants — and was forced to have surgery on it, is not ready for a high-profile NFL starting spot. But the Jets have no choice but to hope he can learn quickly on the job. He has shown flashes of brilliance, but on Sunday he reminded Jets fans of his predecessor when he threw a pair of interceptions when the Jets appeared to be driving for touchdowns in the their 19-6 loss Sunday.
In yet another dreary Mets season, Matt Harvey did give fans a number of thrills, such as throwing two scoreless innings as the starting pitcher in the 2013 All-Star Game played at Citi Field this past July. You would have to go back nearly 30 years to Dwight Gooden’s heyday to find a Mets pitcher who could dominate opposing hitters at will.
Harvey was such a big story that Jimmy Fallon used him for a hilarious “man in the street” bit to see how many New Yorkers could recognize him. ESPN Magazine put him on the cover in the buff for its July “body issue” while Men’s Journal ran a feature on him that made it clear he was thoroughly enjoying the trappings of being a handsome, young New York celebrity.
Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine stirred things up when he complained that the Yankees did not reach out to their community following September 11, 2001.
In fairness to Valentine, he was probably still steaming about a 2004 HBO Sports documentary, “Nine Innings From Ground Zero,” which spent the lion’s share of the time concentrating on the Yankees playoffs and seven-game nail-biting World Series loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fall of 2001 and how that helped cheer up New Yorkers needing a diversion. The Mets barely rated a three-minute mention in it from what I remember even though Valentine and his players spent a lot of time preparing boxes of food and supplies. Shea Stadium was used as an emergency center for first responders because of its sizable parking lot which Yankee Stadium lacked. The MLB network replayed the documentary last week — carryitclearly.com.
Two weeks ago I wrote about how there did not appear to be many opportunities, outside of one Serena Williams, for fans of the red, white and blue to cheer for one of their own at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. I also noted that it’s been a decade since Andy Roddick won the US Open, and no American man has won a Grand Slam event since.
For a country that has produced such tennis legends as Jack Kramer, Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and, of course, Douglaston’s own John McEnroe, the natural tendency is to believe that the USA has been in a slump but the cycle will reverse itself.
Bobblehead doll giveaways have long been popular promotions at ballparks. Normally the souvenir is a likeness of a current or former player. Tomorrow the Mets will probably have what has to be a first as they will be giving all who come to Citi Field a bobblehead of their longtime public relations director, Jay Horwitz.
I have known Jay since 1980. Yes, we’ve had some disagreements over the years and some of the arguments have been heated, but to Jay’s credit, he has always been willing to listen; hasn’t held grudges; and most importantly, has given me the access that I need.
Mets fans emitted a collective groan last Friday seeing David Wright writhe in pain after running hard to first base in the 10th inning of yet another extra-inning game. The immediate diagnosis was that Wright had a suffered a pulled hamstring in his right leg.
Unlike in past years, when Mets management would delay putting players on the disabled list in the hopes of some overnight miraculous recovery which never happened, Wright was immediately placed on the 15-day disabled list. The immediate consensus was that he would not play again until early September.
It took a little over 49 years but the Midsummer Classic, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game returned to Queens.
“Bridging the Gap”—Long Island City Artists will be on display at Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd., through Sunday, July 14. Gallery hours are Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m. $5, members, students and Long Island City artists free. Visit flushingtownhall.org.