Sports Beat “More Mets Money Mess”
By Lloyd Carroll
The combination of the press conference for pitcher Masahiro Tanaka combined with 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 February 6th 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 January 30th article that 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.
The Major League Baseball Players Association should be livid learning that a third party, in this case a bank, can help a team circumvent its collective bargaining agreement with Major League Baseball. The fact that a baseball team in the nation’s biggest market has to watch their payroll dollars as if they are the Kansas City Royals is certainly not in the economic best interests of the Players Association.
You also have to wonder about MLB Commissioner Bud Selig’s culpability. Selig was relentless when it came to forcing former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to sell his team when his public divorce was affecting the team’s finances yet Bud turned a blind eye when it came to the fallout of the Bernie Madoff mess on the Mets, and now, if we are to believe Bloomberg News and the New York Post, a loan agreement that violated baseball’s governing rules.
At least we now know why Mets general manager Sandy Alderson could not make even a token contract offer to Mets’ free agent-to-be Jose Reyes at the end of the 2011 season even though he was the National League batting champ that year.
Although the reworked loan gives the Mets more flexibility, my guess is that the team’s debt-to-equity ratio is still not up to MLB team ownership standards. I can’t imagine that other team owners are thrilled with the special dispensation that Mets CEO Fred Wilpon has received.
Mets fans should keep in mind that the $250 million obligation is still on the Mets balance sheet. This huge long-term liability will likely perpetuate the team’s poor on-field performance of the last five years.
Don’t expect free agent shortstop Stephen Drew to be playing in Flushing anytime soon.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was cautious articulating his expectations for Masahiro Tanaka at a meeting with sportswriters after the formal press conference concluded. I reminded Cashman that eight years ago there was a similar excitement over the signing of another Japanese pitcher with an impressive record, Kei Igawa.
Cashman did not disagree with the consensus that the Igawa acquisition was one of the biggest blunders of his tenure with the Yankees as Igawa’s control was erratic and he wound up spending more time playing for the Yankees’ minor league teams than he did pitching in the Bronx. I asked Cashman what lessons were learned from the Igawa debacle.
“We relied on too many independent scouts. With Tanaka we sent a number of our own scouts continuously to Japan to watch him play. We also improved our quantitative analysis over the last seven years. Finally, we’ve seen Tanaka pitch in a lot of big games such as in the World Baseball Classic. We did not have that benefit with Igawa.”
The Mets and their new radio home, WOR, announced that longtime team radio voice and Cardozo High School alumnus Howie Rose will once again be calling the action and he will be re-teamed with his partner of the last two seasons, Josh Lewin.
One difference on the Mets broadcasts is that Ed Coleman, who has handled the pre and post-game shows, will remain at WFAN. You can’t blame him since that has been his place of employment for the last 27 years and a lot of benefits such as pension and medical insurance, as well as salary, would not carry over from WFAN’s parent company, CBS , to WOR which is run by Clear Channel.
According to a WFAN insider, Ed will still be quite visible at Citi Field as he will be the station’s Mets beat reporter similar to the way Sweeni Murthi has covered the Yankees for years. Ed however will have to get used to flying commercial and booking his own hotel arrangements after 20 years of riding on the Mets charter and staying at the team’s hotel in a given city.
Track & field has declined in popularity so much over the years that three years ago, one of the sport’s two biggest marquee events, the Millrose Games (the Penn Relays in Philadelphia are the other), were moved from Madison Square Garden to the Armory in Washington Heights. Millrose Games organizers tried to spin it the best way that they could then by saying that the track at the Armory was far superior to that of the Garden and that athletes want to set records and that the Armory was conducive to that goal.
The New York Road Runners have taken over stewardship of the Millrose Games. NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg conceded at a press conference for the Millrose Games last Friday that the Armory would appear to be its permanent home but that it is imperative for track & field to have events at venues such as the Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden in order to make new fans.
There is finally some good news for this beleaguered sport. Mary Cain, a high school senior from Westchester, has gotten a lot of media and sponsor attention. She delivered by winning the 2014 Women’s Wanamaker Mile last Saturday.
Channel 4 sent their veteran sports anchor, legendary New York institution Bruce Beck, over to Sochi to provide a local reporting touch at the Winter Olympics. Normally, when the main sports anchor is away on assignment or on vacation, the local news director simply calls on the backup to take over the sports reporting duties on the 6 and 11 PM broadcasts.
Bruce Beck’s understudy for the last two years has been the personable Harry Cicma, a former tennis star at Rutgers University, who delivers the sports in a concise and shtick-free manner. Many of us have seen Cicma’s good work on Saturday evenings waiting for the start of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.”
For some reason though WNBC-TV’s news directors decided to bring in John Chandler, a Cleveland native who has worked most recently in Boston, to handle Bruce Beck’s shifts while he is in Russia instead of utilizing the very capable Cicma.
What might work in smaller burgs doesn’t always in the more sophisticated New York market. During last Thursday’s 6 PM report, Chandler bizarrely praised Carmelo Anthony for meeting with the media and shouldering the blame for his poor clutch shooting in an overtime loss to one of the NBA’s worst teams; called David Wright “a standup guy” and Derek Jeter “a class act” in a patronizing manner; and finally declared that the Mets greatly improved themselves during the off-season (which planet is he living on?). He then topped himself on Saturday when he told viewers that Masahiro Tanaka’s bullpen session was like a Picasso painting. Chandler looks and sounds more like a smarmy TV game show host from the 1980s than he does a contemporary local sports anchor for the New York City NBC owned and operated broadcast television station.
Aaron Senne played three years in the Miami Marlins organization at a variety of low-level minor league teams before retiring last June. Senne, along with fellow minor leaguers Michael Liberto and Oliver Odle, are suing Major League Baseball for creating a wage scale that violates federal and state minimum wage laws. It should be noted that minor league players are not part of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Minor leaguers have to endure long bus rides, unhealthy meals, and get practically no benefits with the exception of medical coverage.
It won’t be just Major League Baseball that will be awaiting a ruling on this class action suit. A lot of companies in “glamor industries” such as entertainment, fashion, and media, have created internships that rarely lead to paying jobs. (These so-called internships are not to be confused with longstanding reputable college internship programs that give a student the twin benefits of learning a trade by working in the real world and getting course credit.) If the courts rule in Senne’s favor, these exploitive internships will certainly be affected.
JetBlue has just started service from JFK to Savannah/Hilton Head Island for those of you who want to work on your tennis and/or golf game and want an alternative to going to Florida.
Anyone who has ever used a manual razor has wondered why blades get dull so quickly. Apparently water, shaving cream, and just plain oxygen can be corrosive to blades. A company called Hyd For Men (hydformen.com) has come up with a liquid product called Razor Shield that can extend the life of a razor. Cable television’s HSN is currently selling the product. You have to wonder why Gillette never came up with a similar idea.