Sports Beat: December Baseball and More
Sports Beat By Lloyd Carroll December, the month when most of the big off-season news gets made, started off with the Seattle Mariners, of all teams, making Yankees executives sleepless with their unexpected signing of Robinson Cano. To his credit, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman refused to be paralyzed by the Cano situation as he freely admitted that his team had a lot of holes to fill if they hoped to be playing baseball in October 2014.
Cashman was able to quickly land two big fish, catcher Brian McCann and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Brian admitted that the catcher’s position has long been a position of strength for the team but knew that certainly wasn’t the case last year. At his introductory press conference, McCann, who grew up in northern Georgia and played his entire career for the Braves, showed surprisingly little emotion about leaving home.
The acquisition of McCann means that the Yankees have effectively given up on Austin Romine, once thought to be the brightest prospect in their minor league system, of ever being their everyday catcher.
You have to love the way the Mets do business. They always seem to step over dollar bills in order to pick up pennies. They inexplicably spend over $7 million on mediocre outfielder Chris Young, a guy no one was clamoring for (he swatted a dozen homers while batting an even .200 last year), and yet refused to match the $2.5 million offer that the Rockies offered LaTroy Hawkins who was the Mets’ most reliable and durable reliever last year and was a great presence in the clubhouse to his fellow players and to the media.
As if that penny-pinching weren’t enough, the Mets refused to tender contracts to relatively low-costing players as shortstop Omar Quintanilla, utility infielder Justin Turner, and pitcher Jeremy Hefner. I can understand the Mets cutting these guys loose if they needed the roster spots for better personnel but that wasn’t the case. They are hoping to save a few dollars by re-signing them at cheaper prices.
At least the Mets finally made their first notable signing in years, as they inked Curtis Granderson. The “Grandy Man” is a strikeout king but he has power. Too many Mets in recent years have struck out frequently and when they did hit the ball it didn’t go very far.
Do you think that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is having second thoughts about extending general manager Billy King’s contract by five years and allowing him to sign Jason Kidd as the team’s head coach?
Kidd had no coaching experience prior to taking the job and it is clear that he is over his head. If his players were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, he has surely lost them now, particularly after demoting his old mentor, Lawrence Frank, to a back office position in Siberia. Even the putrid 2009-10 New Jersey Nets did not routinely get blown out by 30 points every night the way this team does.
File this one under the “What took so long?” category. SiriusXM finally has an NBA 24/7 radio channel. Subscribers can find it on Channel 217.
The New York Islanders have not given their fans much reason to smile about this year as they have regressed to being National Hockey League patsies but they at least did a nice thing on their last homestand when they donated $2 of every ticket sold for their game with the Penguins to Smile Train, an organization that performs surgery on those children who were born with the deformity of a cleft palate and whose parents cannot afford medical services.
John Sterling, the legendary Yankees announcer who hasn’t missed a game since 1989 and has been an easy fodder for local media columnists since then for his gaffes, freely admits that he will probably blow the call letters of the Yankees new radio home, WFAN, after years of being on WCBS. “I am sure it will happen. So what?” Sterling said to me at the Brian McCann press conference.
Speaking of WFAN, onetime New York Post sportswriter Tim Sullivan has written a book on the 26-year history of the radio station titled Imus, Mike and the Mad Dog, & Doris from Rego Park (Triumph Books). It is an enjoyable read as Sullivan recounts the notable past and present FAN personalities as Don Imus, Steve Somers, Ed Coleman, Mike Francesa, Chris Russo, Boomer Esiason and his partner, Craig Carton as well as paying tribute to 20-20 update veteran John Minko.
The downside is that you have the feeling that if longtime WFAN general manager Mark Chernoff did not have final say over what Sullivan was writing then it is clear that the author did not want to out anything in the book that would upset him.
Sullivan does not bring up the lack of minorities that one hears on the station (only Tony Paige and Sweeni Murthi come to mind in recent years) or the lack of women on the air (Erika Herskowitz does weekend updates and the awful Lori Rubinson does weekend graveyard shifts. The knowledgeable and witty Kim Jones also does some fill-in work and deserves more air time).
Richard Neer has been a New York radio lifer and a fixture on WFAN for years yet Sullivan does not mention him in the book. Could it be because Neer makes his home in North Carolina and that is where his show originates? That has been a well-guarded FAN secret and my guess is that Sullivan knew that he would have to reveal it if he wrote about him. That would not make Mr. Chernoff happy.
The arrival of winter means that ski season is underway. New York State ski resorts are making a big promotional push this year. Thunder Ridge is offering discount passes if you take Metro-North to upstate Patterson and they will have a free shuttle bus to pick you and take you back so you don’t have to worry winter car issues. Practically every New York ski resort will be offering discounted “learn to ski and/or snowboard” lessons on weekends in January (not counting Martin Luther King weekend). For more info, log onto www.iskiny.com.
If you prefer to get away to warmer climes this time of year, the PGA Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, FL has just undergone a $100 million renovation. Besides its five world class golf courses, the resort has top restaurants and spas.