Considering it has been almost two years since he last played a game in the majors, coupled with that crazy story of getting hurt by a wild boar on his Florida ranch which cost him at least $20 million of guaranteed salary in the final year of his contract, you would think that Yoenis Cespedes would be on his best behavior going into the season. You’d be wrong.
Last Monday, the Mets outfielder informed the media he would not be speaking to any reporters during the 2020 season.
My first reaction was, “Would Cespedes display such boorish behavior if he were playing for the Yankees?” The answer is that there is no way that CEO Hal Steinbrenner would ever tolerate that from even his best player.
Mets executives should have read Cespedes the riot act. Of course that’s not in keeping with the Mets corporate culture.
Cespedes is slated to be a free agent after the 2020 season and his representatives at CAA/Roc Nation must have been reaching for the antacids when they learned of his media moratorium. Baseball owners are hesitant to shell out big-money contracts to players whom they deem to be head cases, particularly if they are 35 years old, which is ancient for athletes.
His reps must have gotten through to him because he spoke with the press six days later. More media flare-ups are bound to ensue.
Baseball writers received the gift of the Astros’ sign-stealing cheating scandal to make their spring training assignment lives easier. Beat reporters and columnists talked to players who never wore an Astros uniform to write one column after another about how outraged they were and how ineffectual Commissioner Rob Manfred was for not suspending or even fining players who took part in it. It would have made for a better story to find a player who had no problem with what the Astros did in 2017.
The upcoming Ben Affleck movie, “The Way Back,” has him starring as Jack Cunningham, a fictional California high school basketball legend. Instead of enjoying a pro hoops career, he has to work in construction because of poor decisions and a family tragedy that exacerbated his alcohol dependency. He gets a shot at redemption when the principal at his old high school offers him a coaching job.
The film is not easy viewing by any means and is a bit melodramatic in too many spots, but it does shine a light on mental health and chemical dependency. At the press screening I attended last week, onetime Mets ace Dwight Gooden spoke to the audience and described how he faced many of the same issues that Affleck’s character did.
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Last year, legendary sportswriter Rick Reilly wrote a book about President Trump’s obsession with golf titled “Commander in Cheat” (Hachette Books) in which many who spent time on the links with him shared their recollections.
Veteran tennis and boxing scribe Mark “Scoop” Malinowski has taken a similar approach with a self-published book called “Close Encounters with Donald Trump.” Malinowski gets sports figures and others to share their memories of the Donald before he entered the White House. Boxers Mike Tyson and Chuck Wepner are big fans, while former heavyweight champ Larry Holmes claims to have never liked him. Nick Kish, who ran football operations for the Jacksonville Bulls, places the blame for the demise of the spring United States Football League on Trump, who wanted the league to compete with the NFL in the fall. Trump was the owner of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals in the mid-1980s. It’s a fast and fascinating read.
Sports as always had a major presence at the annual leisure-time products trade show Toy Fair, held earlier this week at Javits Center.
All Elite Wrestling, better known as AEW, the first-year rival to the WWE, is competing with the league not just on television (TBS vs. USA Network and Fox) but now in the action figure department as well. Mattel has long produced a line of WWE plastic figures, and this year Jazwares has come up with an “Unrivaled” line of AEW miniature likenesses. To help the launch, Jazwares, which has the AEW toy licensing rights, brought in most of the AEW talent roster including its big draws, Cody Rhodes and Kenny Omega.
Nonhuman athletes were featured at Toy Fair as well, as Breyer Animal Creations is manufacturing plastic collectibles of past Triple Crown winners such as Secretariat, Affirmed, American Pharoah and Justify that can fit on a shelf.
The eye-hand coordination game of pong, in which players try to toss a ping-pong ball into a small receptacle a few feet away, is a challenge akin to putting in golf. Franklin Sports has a pong game called Battle Buckets while Little Kids’ version is called Versapong.
An unusually named sporting goods company, Flash Sales, was showcasing its Waverunner Football (waverunnerball.com). Its exterior is composed of silicon and other materials, which makes it sturdier than a cheaper rubber ball but not as heavy as a pigskin or leather football so you can toss it around in a park or on the beach and not have to worry as much about injuring a bystander with an errant throw.
Life and style
There were a pair of iconic toys celebrating milestones at Toy Fair. Slinky is turning 75 this year while Etch-A-Sketch is marking its 60th anniversary.
Crayola has come a long way from crayons and markers as the company was promoting its line of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) line of products that both entertain and challenge kids of all ages.
Rollplay had a replica of a Mini Cooper Countryman that is battery-powered so that a youngster can travel up to 5 miles per hour in it.
The 2020 Kosher Wine & Food Expo took place on Presidents’ Day, and it’s clear that even in the very traditional world of foods that meet strict Jewish dietary standards big changes are happening.
Plant-based “meats,” which are responsible for popular nonmeat hamburgers such as the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger, are helping create unthought-of kosher meat and dairy combos thanks to plant-based “cheeses” and “creams.”
Airline kosher meals used to mean unappetizing cold, salty meats and a roll. United Airlines had a lengthy table showing its many gourmet kosher meals that will appeal to even those who don’t have any religious dietary restrictions.