Sportsbeat – 11/05/11

The “big” announcement out of Citi Field last week was not that the team had re-signed free agent shortstop Jose Reyes but rather that the fences would be moved in to make the place less cavernous for hitters.

The move will certainly make frustrated Mets hitters David Wright and Jason Bay happy, but in my opinion, this seems like a diversionary tactic to get fans’ minds off of the fact that the 2012 Mets will not be competitive.

Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen did not seem upset by his home ballpark becoming more hitter-friendly. It’s not that Warthen is being a good company man. His explanation that pitchers got into bad habits because they knew that it was difficult to surrender home runs makes perfect sense.

The Yankees, unlike a certain other New York baseball team, know how to retain their key players who in the prime of their careers without much drama. The Bronx Bombers picked up Nick Swisher’s $10 million option and made sure that CC Sabathia did not opt out of his contract by tossing $30 million at him.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was one of the honorees at the annual Starlight Children’s Foundation fund-raiser at Madison Square Garden just hours after completing the Sabathia deal. Cashman was surprised that many thought that the Yankees would cut ties with Swisher who had a poor playoff series against the Tigers. “Statistics show that Swisher is one of the 30 best offensive players in baseball,” Brian said. He added that he will be rapelling down the same Stamford skyscraper this winter that he did last since his new three-year contract does not forbid him from scaling down buildings.

Former Knicks forward Charles Smith was also on hand at his old workplace to show support for the families of chronically ill kids. In addition to having had a long career, Smith is a former vice president of the NBA Players Association and that gives him a unique vantage point on the current NBA lockout. “I went through three different collective bargaining situations in my pro career. After awhile, the players will get on (union chief) Billy Hunter while owners will get on (NBA commissioner) David Stern to hammer out a deal,” Smith told me. He added that Billy Hunter has not sought out his counsel.

New Jersey Devils center Travis Zajac, who is recovering from Achilles tendon tear, was also  at the Starlight event.  He admitted that he and his teammates are concerned about the team’s failure to make its scheduled payments to bondholders. Perhaps the NHL should change his team’s name to the New Jersey Defaulters. When I told Travis that Devils management treats a lot of the media in a less than amicable manner, he quickly and forlornly replied “I know.”

Two days after the Starlight Children’s Foundation event, the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association held their annual dinner in New York to raise funds for youth baseball initiatives. Among the attendees was one of the members of the legendary 1962 Mets, pitcher Craig Anderson. “I am hoping that the Mets owners will invite those of us, and there around 20 of us still around who played on that team, to Queens next year in honor of the team’s 50th anniversary. “Please write that!” he emphasized perhaps knowing that the Wilpons have not placed a lot of energy or funds on sentimentality. Anderson is right to be peeved. How many of you can remember the last time the Mets held an Old Timers’ Day?

Another former Met, of more recent vintage, at the MLBPAA dinner was Desi Relaford. Desi has had one of the more interesting post-playing careers as he returned to college, the University of North Florida, for a degree in nutrition and holistic health. “It’s amazing that teams invest millions in athletes and then give them unhealthy food for pre and post-game meals,” Desi told me. Hey, Aramark, how about hiring Desi to overlook the press room cafeteria in Citi Field?

The ING New York City Marathon still doesn’t get the respect that it used to. When I was growing up the late Jim McKay would anchor the race and give it the same gravitas that he did when he was at the broadcast helm of the Olympics. In the 1970s and ‘80s ABC Sports would televise the whole race nationally live. These days, NBC, has a two-hour highlight show from 2-4 PM nationally although its local affiliate, WNBC, broadcasts the race live.

Subway Restaurants has long used the NYC Marathon as a way of promoting itself on the cheap. Last year, their famous spokesman, Jared Fogle, ran ths 26.2 miles and this year Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno, represented America’s largest fast food franchise in the race. I asked Ohno if his participation in the 2011 marathon was part of his promotional contract with Subway. He said it was not but admitted that Subway executives asked him to take part. He stated that he always wanted to run the race but he also said that he hadn’t planned on doing so for a few more years. I was left with the impression that there may have been arm-twisting involved.

Apolo laughed when I told him that I thought that Blimpies made a better tuna hero than Subway. “I don’t like tuna!” he quickly replied.

Skechers, best known for being a women’s lifestyle sneaker, has jumped into the running shoe biz in a big way by signing Meb Keflizighi to endorse its new Go Run line. Meb was with Nike but told the media that his old company would not make a custom shoe for him. It is rare that a name athlete from any sport ever leaves “The Swoosh.”

Leonard Amato, the CEO of Skechers Fitness, admitted that Kim Kardashian is still a compensated endorser for the company’s Shape-Ups shoes. The quick marriage between Kim and NJ Nets forward Kris Humphries has made her an international punchline. Parker Pen sent out a press release urging her to sign her divorce papers with its finest writing instrument. Tag Heuer sent a press release touting how one of their key endorsers, tennis star Maria Sharapova, is still happy with her fiancee, Humphries’ teammate, Sasha Vujacic.

The New York Red Bulls are still in search of their first-ever Major League Soccer championship after being knocked out by a team that they never beat, David Beckham’s Los Angeles Galaxy.

Castrol Motor Oil is sponsoring a points system to rank Major League Soccer players similar to the way sabermetrics is applied in baseball.

Last year Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist was out of gas by the time the NHL playoffs rolled around. If his understudy, veteran backup Martin Biron, can stay healthy, he should be far more rested come April. Biron looked sharp as the Rangers defeated a tired San Jose Sharks team on Halloween.

If you worry about the art of small talk on a date, carry Dating Table Topics To Go, with you. This deck of cards has plenty of icebreakers such as “What was your favorite childhood sports team?” “What is the most beautiful place that you ever visited?” and “What do you remember about your first grade teacher?” It sounds so obvious that you wonder why no company had this product out years ago.

A great place to take a date is to go bowling at Frames NYC located at 9th Avenue & 40th Street. You don’t have to check your shoes as they let you take the bowling shoes you need as it’s on the honor system. The food and drink are great and there is even a nightclub inside on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. This is not your dad’s bowling alley.

The early snow that we had around here just before Halloween was a fluke but it was a reminder that cold & flu season is not that far away. There are products that can certain prevent illness and help you recover quickly if you get sick. Yardley of London makes quality inexpensive soap bars that help ward off bacteria and viruses. Lipton has introduced Superfruit Teas that are chock full of anti-oxidants. And of course, Manischewitz chicken soups have long possessed magical recuperative powers. Vicks Nature Fusion Cold & Flu drops, Luden’s cough drops, and Burt’s Bees honey and menthol drops (which are all natural) also help provide symptom relief. Burt’s Bees also offers all natural hand and foot cremes to help combat chapping and cracked skin.

It hasn’t gotten that much buzz but Jim Caviezel really channels his inner Clint Eastwood on CBS’s “Person of Interest” that airs Thursdays at 9 PM. Caviezel is John Reese who along with his mysterious benefactor, Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson), act as glorified vigilantes. The show makes good use of its New York City locale and the acting is first-rate.

I am not sure if Comedy Central will be bringing back “Onion Sports Dome,” the brilliant spoof ESPN’s Sportscenter, but thankfully IFC is broadcasting the second season of the “Onion News Network” that stars Suzanne Sena as self-absorbed news anchor Brooke Alvarez. The show skewers pundits (called here “The First Responders”) and hysterically spoofs Nancy Grace with barking bully Shelby Cross (brilliantly played by New York cabaret singer Klea Blackhurst).

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