New York Mets owner Steve Cohen has always said he doesn’t want people learning on his dime, so it wasn’t a shock when he tweeted last Saturday that Buck Showalter would become the 23rd manager in Mets history. He joins Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra, and Dallas Green as those who managed the Yankees before moving over to the Mets. Joe Torre did the opposite.
Showalter’s competitors, Joe Espada and Matt Quatraro, coaches for the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays, respectively, are highly regarded but lack prior MLB managerial experience.
Neither man lost anything by taking part in the high-profile Mets managerial search, as they will surely get opportunities in the very near future. Former Mets infielder Chris Woodward told me he credits his eight-hour interview with the Yankees to replace Joe Girardi in 2017 as the key to landing his current gig as the skipper of the Texas Rangers. Jon Daniels, the Rangers’ general manager who grew up in Fresh Meadows, took notice and surely chatted with his Yankees counterpart, Brian Cashman, about him.
While it’s hard to quibble with the Showalter selection, I am curious as to why the Mets failed to reach out to either Mike Schildt or Walt Weiss. Schildt was dismissed as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals despite his team winning 17 consecutive games last season and making the playoffs. Weiss, from Rockland County, had a solid 13-year big league playing career and a four-year managerial stint with the Colorado Rockies. He is currently the bench coach of the World Series champion Atlanta Braves.
Whether Showalter will meet his team in mid-February, when training camps are scheduled to open, depends on baseball’s labor-management dispute getting resolved. One prominent club executive I spoke with last week expects a resolution by March 1.
This exec, whom I’d rather not name, understands why the players want to reduce the time it takes to become free agents from six years to five, but thinks they are foolish to want to reduce the service time to be arbitration-eligible from three years to two. “Owners will simply non-tender more players and the free agent market will be flooded, which will erode the economic power of all but the most premium of players.”
He believes the union and other team owners should concentrate on the six or so teams that refuse to spend money and are profitable simply by taking their pro rata share of television rights and merchandise licensing fees. He feels raising the minimum player salary significantly would encourage teams to retain veteran players instead of replacing them with cheaper minor leaguers who may not be ready for “the show.”
Given the unfortunate Covid-19 resurgence, you can expect Major League Baseball team owners to demand that all players be fully vaccinated and keep up with booster shots as part of a new collective bargaining agreement. The Major League Baseball Players Association is in a tough spot. Former Mets general manager Zack Scott told me last June the players union was all for their members getting vaccinated but there was sizable hesitancy. Scott blamed “bad information” for that reluctance. He was being diplomatic. The fact is many baseball players are so right-wing politically, they make Tucker Carlson look like a social justice warrior in comparison.
The Ivy League version of the Heisman Trophy, the Asa Bushnell Cup, was presented last week to Brown University quarterback EJ Perry.
Perry is a senior and is hoping to get an invitation to participate in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this spring. If a pro football career is not in the cards, he is hoping to go to graduate school.
EJ grew up in Andover, Mass., which is home to one of the largest IRS regional headquarters in the country. I asked him if he wanted to pursue a career in either tax law or accounting. “Passing that building every day and seeing the traffic and unhappy faces made that an easy ‘no’ for me!” he said smiling.
Also attending the Bushnell Cup ceremony was Columbia University Lions head coach Al Bagnoli. Under Bagnoli’s aegis, the Columbia Lions have transformed from a national joke to a winning football program. I asked Bagnoli about players now having the ability to earn money via promotional appearances. Since Columbia is in the nation’s biggest market, New York City, in which practically every major corporation has a presence, this should give it a leg up in recruiting. He told me Columbia will leverage the economic might of New York City more than it ever has previously. Hopefully, these promised efforts will lead to Columbia’s first Ivy League football title since 1968 and their first Ivy men’s basketball championship since 1968.
New York’s big college football game, the Pinstripe Bowl, takes place at Yankee Stadium next Wednesday, Dec. 29, at 2:15 p.m. The University of Maryland Terrapins will take on the Virginia Tech Hokies.
My thanks to WFAN’s Rickie Ricardo for having me as a guest on his late Friday night/early Saturday morning show last week. Rickie is always a great listen as he likes to discuss both sports and pop culture.
Life and style
The NY Produce Show returned to the Javits Center last Wednesday. Avocado growers were plentiful as the fruit, grown primarily in Mexico, contains healthy fats that are good for cardiac health. Berry growers, such as Driscoll Farms, were also out in full force touting the antioxidant benefits of the small and tasty fruits. Wish Farms, based in central Florida, introduced a pineberry, which is a strawberry mix that also has a touch of pineapple. The New York State Department of Agriculture was promoting New York’s most prominent fruit, the apple, and reminding attendees of one of my favorite winter beverages, apple cider.
Edge NYC, located in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards, contains New York’s newest observation deck. Located 100 stories high, it dwarfs the observation deck at the Empire State Building. Because it is located a block from the Hudson River, you also get better views of the western sky as well as the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan. It is also more spacious for walking around than the one located in King Kong’s favorite skyscraper. And yes, Edge NYC has a pricey restaurant and cocktail bar, for those wanting to create a romantic mood.
New Year’s Eve has become a very competitive battleground for television networks. Ryan Seacrest, who inherited the “Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” franchise on ABC, will be leading its 50th anniversary. I remember Three Dog Night being the big musical guest on the first one. Perennial New Year’s Eve also-ran Carson Daly will be helming NBC’s NYE coverage. Joining the Times Square fray this year is Fox, which will be putting a priority on laughs as Ken Jeong and Joel McHale will co-host. Fox is also promising a performance by country music star Trace Adkins from Midtown Manhattan. CNN will maintain tradition by having Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen banter from Times Square. CBS, which hasn’t made a big deal of New Year’s Eve ever since Guy Lombardo passed away, is heading to Nashville for a country-themed celebration.
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