Last Wednesday the Knicks introduced their coveted free agent signing, point guard Jalen Brunson, to the public. Brunson fielded questions from MSG Networks interviewer Bill Pidto while friends and family watched from seats set up in the lobby of the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. This type of event would normally be called a press conference. However, you can’t call something a “press conference” if media are not welcomed to the event.
It seems odd that a sports team would want to needlessly limit the coverage regarding the acquisition of a perceived star, especially a squad that has struggled in recent years as the Knicks have. It is hard to imagine the Knicks media relations department, or the team’s president, Leon Rose, would not want to bask in the glory of finally signing a sought-after free agent.
The decision must rest with Knicks owner James Dolan. A few years ago, I defended Dolan as he had become an easy punching bag for the local sports media. I wrote how he is not shy about spending money to improve the team; was always there to raise funds for charities or when New York suffered disasters such as 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy; and is a constant presence at Knicks games. If you think that latter is not important, look at how the Brooklyn Nets have floundered under past absentee owner Mikhail Prokhorov and current boss Joe Tsai.
I still believe Dolan gets a bad rap, but as I said in my previous column, he is too thin-skinned about media criticism. As a businessman, he should appreciate that media coverage, even negative stories, helps generate revenue. Major League Soccer teams wish they would get a fraction of the coverage the Knicks receive.
During the past baseball off-season, I wrote the free agent the Mets should go all in on was third baseman-outfielder Kris Bryant. They instead signed Eduardo Escobar, a move that appeared to be more in keeping with the Wilpon era of ownership than that of Steve Cohen.
If the Mets had signed Bryant, odds are their offense would not be as feeble as what we have witnessed since early June. That lack of production, especially from the third base, designated hitter and catching positions, forced Mets General Manager Billy Eppler on Friday to trade promising relief pitcher Colin Holderman to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Daniel Vogelbach, who can neither play the field nor hit lefty pitchers, but does have power and draws a lot of walks
The Mets now have a logjam as JD Davis and Dominic Smith, who have both underperformed, are still on the roster. Eppler had no answer when asked if he may have hurt his negotiating posture for other trades with this transaction.
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Former Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen, who is now in charge of all American sports team clients at Roc Nation, a division of the behemoth Creative Artists Agency, returned as a spectator to Citi Field Friday night. “I still root for the Mets,” he told me.
I told Van Wagenen he must feel vindicated after taking a lot of heat for trading top prospect Jarred Kelenic to the Seattle Mariners for their closer, Edwin Diaz. Others were included in that complicated December 2018 deal including Robinson Cano. Diaz struggled mightily in his first year with the Mets but become an All-Star in 2022.
“I have always said you cannot judge a trade in one year or even three. Things can even change tomorrow,” said Van Wagenen. He may be referring to Edwin Diaz becoming a free agent at the end of this season, while Kelenic, who has disappointed the Seattle Mariners, could still blossom into a star.
He was dismissed as Mets general manager in November 2020 by team President Sandy Alderson within hours of Cohen replacing Fred Wilpon as CEO. It would have been interesting to see how Brodie would have operated as Mets general manager with Steve Cohen’s spending philosophy instead of having to work for two years under the penurious Wilpon operation. He was a lot more communicative with both media and fans than Eppler is. I miss the box of donuts he would send up to the press box at the start of each new Mets series.
Van Wagenen was a top baseball player agent before jumping to “the other side” as Mets GM. My guess is the two years he spent running Mets player personnel will enhance his skills now that he is once again on the agency side.
Nick Castellanos quickly learned playing in Philadelphia (he signed a $100 million, five-year contract during the off-season when he was a free agent) is different than playing in his previous places of employment, Detroit and Cincinnati.
Last Saturday he was booed at Citizens Bank Park after striking out in the eighth inning of a tied game with the Chicago Cubs. The Phillies wound up losing the game, 6-2. NBC Sports Philadelphia reporter Jim Salisbury, who is a former baseball scribe for both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Post, asked Castellanos in the clubhouse after the game if he heard the boos. “I lost my hearing then!” he replied. That was a clever answer and if he had said it with a smile, it would have put the matter to rest. Instead, Castellanos was belligerent and refused to answer by saying it was a stupid question. It wasn’t.
Even the best athletes get booed. The right answer would have been “I share the fans’ frustration. I want to succeed even more than they want me to. Sometimes the other team’s pitcher beats you. That’s baseball.”
Salisbury has never been afraid to ask tough, some might say confrontational, questions to players. He deserves a lot of credit for doing so now considering NBC Sports Philadelphia is the Phillies’ local cable home. It is hard to imagine SNY’s Steve Gelbs posing a similar query to a Mets player.
The San Diego Padres must always be on the road the third week of July to clear out downtown San Diego, where their stadium, Petco Park, is located, to avoid the congestion San Diego Comic-Con causes. What began a half-century ago as a gathering for Southern California comic book lovers is now the nation’s largest gathering of boldfaced names from all forms of popular culture.
Some Padres players and broadcasters admitted they wish they were spending the weekend in very temperate San Diego instead of sweltering New York City, which was amid its worst heat wave in years. They were grateful all three games of the series were played at night, thanks to ESPN’s decision to broadcast the Sunday series finale in primetime.
I was saddened to learn of the passing of both Juan Alicea and JP Pelzman last week.
Alicea was a Mets executive and Spanish-language broadcaster for nearly half a century. I was able improve my Spanish listening to games he and his partner, Billy Berroa, called on WADO (1280 AM). He was always gracious to anyone who approached him.
Pelzman was a terrific sportswriter for several outlets including stints with Newsday and the Bergen Record. He was also popular in the press box because of his quick wit and his spot-on impressions. Listening to the comic interplay between him and “Jets Confidential” publisher/SiriusXM NFL host Dan Leberfeld got me through many a dreary Jets game at MetLife Stadium. JP was only 57.
You knew this was going to happen. The success of last spring’s “Winning Time,” an eight-show, somewhat fictitious look at the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers on HBO, is now spawning a 10-part Hulu series, “Legacy: The True Story of the LA Lakers.” The series debuts Aug. 15.
Here is news for college hoops fans in our area. The Gotham Classic will take place Nov. 25 and 26 at UBS Arena. Notre Dame, Southern Indiana, Bowling Green and St. Bonaventure will be participating. The CBS Sports Classic will be held Dec. 17 at Madison Square Garden. It will be an old-time doubleheader as Ohio State faces North Carolina while UCLA and Kentucky will face off in the second game.
Life and style
Anthony Scaramucci, who was the communications director for President Donald Trump for 11 days exactly five years ago, hosts a terrific podcast, “Mooch FM,” in which he brings in newsmakers from all occupations for intelligent conversation. “Mooch FM” has just marked its 100th broadcast. Scaramucci, whose day job is being CEO of SkyBridge Capital, is a huge Mets fan (he grew up in Port Washington), and he leases a large suite at Citi Field.
Except for Norman Lear, who turned 100 years young yesterday, no one has been associated with more quality television comedies than James Burrows. Among the shows he has either directed and/or developed are “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Cheers,” “Frasier,” “Friends” and “Will & Grace.”
Burrows recently released his cleverly titled bio, “Directed by James Burrows” (Ballantine Books). Burrows details the behind-the-scenes casting stories with the above-mentioned legendary sitcoms. He also fondly recalls two late broadcast network executives, Brandon Tartikoff, and Grant Tinker.
Anyone who is a television buff will enjoy reading Burrows’ life story.