Sportsbeat – Shutting Santana Down

Last Wednesday Mets general manager Sandy Alderson announced that the team’s one-time ace, Johan Santana, would not pitch for the rest of the season. Alderson told the press that an MRI had revealed inflammation on Santana’s lower back. Sandy added that given the fact that Johan missed the entire 2011 campaign recovering from shoulder surgery, and that he was badly struggling in his last six starts where he got lit up for six runs each time, he felt that this was the prudent course of action.

It is hard to argue with the decision since the Mets’ season for all intents and purposes is over. While this was a no-brainer of a decision, leave it to the Mets to find a way to embarrass themselves in the process.

Instead of quietly sending him to see a specialist after his sixth consecutive lousy start, the Mets bizarrely had Santana meet with the media last Monday where he assured everyone that he was fine and that he was looking forward to pitching against the Colorado Rockies on Thursday afternoon. He claimed that it was just a matter of working on his mechanics and straightening out a few kinks. Johan certainly appeared confident.

Thus it was a surprise the Mets reversed field two days later. I asked Alderson if Santana had come to management complaining about being hurt or whether the Mets took it upon themselves to demand that he get an MRI. After a slight pause, Sandy stated that it was the former. Clearly someone is not telling the truth.

While I concur with the end result, Alderson was trying to sell both the media and Mets fans on the fantasy that with proper rest Santana will return to his Cy Young form. Johan will be 34 by the time Opening Day rolls around next year\ and unless he can do what Ponce de Leon couldn’t by discovering the Fountain of Youth it would appear that Alderson is playing us all for rubes.


After hearing Sandy Alderson prattle on about his high expectations from Johan next year it’s obvious that Mets management is clearly hoping that the Mets faithful will remember his June 1 no-hitter against the Cardinals while forgetting about his horrible second half performance. From a marketing viewpoint, Santana’s shutdown makes perfect sense.

WFAN’s afternoon drive-time icon, Mike Francesa, had Alderson on as his guest following the Santana announcement. Speaking in his usual calm lawyerly style, he said that the Mets will probably have the same payroll in 2013 as in 2012 although there will be some changes in player personnel.

The next day the Mets were beaten for the fourth straight time by the lowly Colorado Rockies. Alderson’s “stay the course” philosophy must have rankled the grumpy Francesa who proceeded on a rant against the team similar to the kind that his former partner, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo routinely did. It was great radio and Mike was right on target.

The Mets may perennially disappoint us on the field but their community outreach department never does. Last Tuesday night, the team gave over 100 tickets to AHRC, an organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of the developmentally disabled of all ages. In honor of the AHRC night at Citi Field, the Mets had Adam Levine, a resident at AHRC’s Glen Cove group home, sing our national anthem. He was flawless.

While the Arthur Ashe Day celebrations were going on last Saturday, a number of the top tennis players met with the media to discuss the US Open which got underway Monday at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.

Maria Sharapova discussed her new entrepreneurial venture, a candy company the she named Sugarnova. Her gumballs and other confections are sold at Henri Bendel’s and at Radio City Music Hall. She admitted that her dentist isn’t happy with her venture.

Victoria Azarenka was thrilled that American Express chose her to be part of their latest US Open campaign and that she got a big kick out of seeing her likeness on the boardwalk connecting Flushing Meadows Park to the Willets Point subway station.

Andy Murray, who has had the burden of having the hopes of his native United Kingdom on his shoulders for years, listened intently when I said that Americans don’t have any male tennis players for whom they can place their hopes. Murray dutifully mentioned his respect for Andy Roddick, John Isner, Mardy Fish, Sam Querrey and Ryan Harrison, but it was more out of diplomacy than a deep-seated belief that any of them actually had a chance of winning the big trophy a week from Sunday.

Roger Federer did not make any friends with the Occupy Wall Street crowd last Saturday. I mentioned to him how the term “one percenters” became part of the lexicon because of the OWS belief that 1% of Americans control 99% of this country’s wealth. Likewise, in men’s tennis, 1% of the players seem to win 99% of the Grand Slam tournaments. I asked Federer if this was a good thing for his sport. “I believe that it is. People like to see the same rivals meet at the end,” he said without a trace of appearing self-serving.

James Blake surprisingly backed up Federer’s assertion with cold hard economics. “When I started out on the ATP the prize money for tennis and golf were about the same. Tiger Woods’ popularity caused a dramatic increase in revenues for all golfers. Roger, Rafa and Novak do a great job of marketing out sport,” he said. I guess that there is something to be said for the proverbial high tide lifting all boats.

Melanie Oudin was the golden girl of the US Open three years ago but her singles career has failed to take off since. She was bounced out in the first round yet again this year and had the ignominy of having her post-match press conference in Interview Room 4 of Ashe Stadium which is a cubicle. “The truth is that I was never comfortable with the fame that I had three years ago.” She did not disagree with my assessment that most tennis fans and media types thought that her career would skyrocket the way Chris Evert’s did some forty years earlier.

I don’t want to appear xenophobic but there is something disconcerting about the number of foreign-based corporations who sponsor the US Open. Emirates Airlines has replaced United are the Open’s aviation sponsor. Mercedes-Benz remains the official vehicle while Heineken is once again the official beer of. Thank goodness for New Hampshire’s Stoneyfield which returns as the official yogurt of the US Open. Yes, good old American Express, is still a big patron as well.

It was very classy of PGA star Nick Watney, who won the Barclays at Bethpage State Park last week, to publicly thank Darrell Kestner, the teaching pro at the Deepdale Country Club located just across the Queens line in Manhasset, for helping him with his putting.

New York Islanders right winger and golf fanatic Kyle Okposo was at the Barclays on Friday. He agreed with me that the Islanders should have taken a tent on the grounds of Bethpage Black to sell tickets just as the Brooklyn Nets were doing. “They never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” is the famous quote of Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Abba Eban that was said out of frustration about trying to negotiate with the Palestinians and it certainly applies to the Isles as well.

Carmelo Anthony has certainly been busy since returning home with an Olympic gold medal. Last week he hosted a two-day basketball camp at St. John’s University’s Carnesecca Arena. His camp utilized a fun tutorial–a video game from Majesco Entertainment called NBA Baller Beats which teaches young players the art of dribbling with each hand and without looking down. It is similar to such popular games as “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” since the game licenses popular contemporary tunes.

He is also an investor with a new coconut water sport drink, PowerCoco which has just a third of the sugar that Gatorade has while containing only 25 calories. PowerCoco comes in four flavors: grape, tropical berry, lemon-lime and tangerine.

Melo took the high road when I asked him if he would send a complimentary case of PowerCoco to former Knicks forward Charles Oakley who criticized him and Amar’e Stoudemire for failing to make their teammates better. “Sure, I’ll send him one,” Anthony said with his trademark grin. He did not try to counter Oakley’s criticism preferring to take the high road.

At the annual CBS NFL media day, Dan Dierdorf freely discussed why he now needs the aid of a cane. “It wasn’t the physical contact coming from other players per se; rather it was all of the years practicing and playing on Astroturf that did in my knees. No one knew the long-range harm that artificial turf would have on players.”

Dierdorf’s fellow broadcaster, ex-Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, told me that it is hard to stop team turmoil, such as what the Jets routinely face, once it starts. “I would rather have Tom Coughlin’s situation than Rex Ryan’s,” he said.

Skip Bayless of ESPN 2’s “First Take” was merely trying to create buzz and eyeballs for his little-watched show when he wondered aloud about Derek Jeter’s incredible ability to defeat Father Time when it comes to baseball skills. The problem with Bayless is that he is a predictable contrarian who will say anything to get attention, no matter how ridiculous it seems. I am waiting for him to defend Al Qaeda as a misunderstood force for good as well as pushing for a Nobel Peace Prize for Iranian strongman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as future ways of generating buzz for himself.

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