Sports Beat “Mets off-season begins”

With the 2012 season now history the Mets look ahead to 2013. General manager Sandy Alderson makes no secret that the first order of business is to sign Cy Young Award candidate RA Dickey and third baseman, and far more importantly franchise face, David Wright to long-term contract extensions.

Alderson should also budget some funds for free agent-to-be outfielder Scott Hairston. On a team infamous for its collective lack of home run prowess Hairston belted 20 dingers playing more or less in a parti-time role. Although known for his bat more than his defense, Scott was very reliable with glove. He was also a go-to go for the media to speak with before and after a game, after losses as well as wins.

Manager Terry Collins announced that every member of his coaching staff will be returning. Given the team’s bullpen woes, shoddy defense, and anemic hitting which led to the traditional second half of the season blues that Mets fans have become all too familiar with, I am not sure that this is a good idea. Granted, coaches can only do so much, but the Mets’ decision to maintain the status quo reinforces the impression that the acceptance of mediocrity is an ingrained part of their corporate culture. In contrast, the Phillies, who made a late dramatic push for the playoffs but fell short, fired three of their coaches the last day of the season.

A number of Mets fans became nervous reading an article in the New York Times this past Saturday about their beloved team talking to banks about refinancing their long-term debt. Given the post-Madoff financial fallout, consternation on the part of aficionados of the Amazin’s is an understandable gut reaction, but this is a non-story. All enterprises routinely refinance long-term liabilities.

Track and field legend and Jamaica High School alum Bob Beamon was one of many celebrities to lend their support to the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria last month. “I am not happy about Mayor Bloomberg’s desire to close Jamaica High School,” he told me. On a more upbeat note, he was excited about a rumor that the school was going to name its outdoor track facility after him this spring.

Is it possible that the operators of the world’s most famous thoroughbred racetrack, Churchill Downs in Louisville, are jealous of Aqueduct? Ryan Jordan, the general manager of Churchill Downs, was one of the many movers and shakers at the annual Sports Business Journal’s Sports Marketing Symposium held in Manhattan last week.  He told me that it was imperative for the home of the Kentucky Derby to have a casino since they are legal across the Ohio River in Indiana and that’s killing his track’s revenue.

In a split that is becoming increasingly more apparent in the national Republican Party, the family values advocates are at odds with the pro-business wing of the Kentucky GOP and that the values crowd is winning according to Jordan and that’s why gaming has not come to Churchill Downs.

World Wrestling Entertainment was a co-sponsor of the Sports Marketing Symposium and they used the conference to promote the benefits of being part of the upcoming Wrestlemania that will take place in MetLife Stadium next April.

The company brought one of its best known grapplers, John Cena, to press the flesh and to help promote that the WWE has a new television partner, the Ion Network, which will broadcast “WWE Main Event” every Wednesday night. The WWE’s “RAW” will continue to be seen on USA Network on Monday nights while “Smackdown” will do the same on Fridays on Syfy.

Speaking of television, Mario Kreutzberger better known to nearly everyone as Don Francisco, the host of Univision’s “Sabado Gigante,” was honored last week at the American Museum of the Moving Image to commemorate his 50th anniversary of being on television. “Sabado Gigante” has logged more than 2,600 episodes which is more than the WWE, “The Simpsons,” “Gunsmoke,” and “Law & Order” combined according to the Univision public relations department.

ESPN the Magazine polled the rank and file of Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, and the NHL to see where they stood politically. Hockey players were the most liberal on the issues of gay marriage, abortion rights, and the legalization of marijuana while baseball players were the most conservative. The vast majority of all professional athletes surveyed were supporting Mitt Romney over Barack Obama.

“Broke,” a documentary about how all too many well-compensated athletes wind up bankrupt which made its debut at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, was broadcast by ESPN last week as part of its “30 for 30″ documentary series. Among the reasons cited for these chronic financial woes were a “keeping up with the Joneses mentality;” family and friend pressures to provide support; a failure to grasp the reality that high earning years are limited for most athletes while not preparing for a life outside of sports; a tendency to erroneously think that they can master the business world the way they can the ball field which leads to falling prey to get-rich-quick schemes; affairs with too many women and out-of-wedlock children; and finally, everyone’s favorite bogeyman, the Internal Revenue Service.

The Giants manhandled the Cleveland Browns 41-27 last week in a game that was not as close as the score indicated. Big Blue actually spotted the Browns a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes before deciding that it was time to play.

The Browns have the youngest team in the NFL and are starting more rookies than any other squad. Running back Trent Richardson and wide receiver Josh Gordon are exciting playmakers while time will tell if Brandon Weeden is a stud or just the latest in the long line of quarterbacks who never worked out for the Browns.

What was bothersome about watching the Browns was their seemingly low football I.Q. as evidenced by the numbing amount of dumb penalties and poor clock management. With less than a minute remaining in the first half, the Browns had the ball on their own 15 yard-line. Rather than run one play and see if they could pick up enough yardage to take a shot at scoring or otherwise just run out the clock, the Browns kept using timeouts and incurring penalties while gaining no yardage. The end result was that the Browns helped the Giants get an easy field goal as time ran out in the half. CBS Sports NFL analyst Dan Dierdorf rightfully tore into the Browns coaching staff while even normally taciturn Giants head coach Tom Coughlin couldn’t help but smile about the gift he got from the Browns in his post-game press conference.

LeBron James may have riches and an NBA championship ring but he has never had a personal cheesecake from Junior’s that every Nets player and coach received at the team’s media day at the Barclays Center on October 1.

Forward Gerald Wallace lamented the fact that he will not be able to enjoy his first love, fishing, while playing for the Nets. Someone should take him out to a pier in Broad Channel or Howard Beach.

Veteran guard Jerry Stackhouse has joined the Nets as he’ll be beginning his eighteenth season in the NBA. “I am not ready to retire although I would like a coaching position when I do,” he told me during media day. He is thrilled to join the up and coming Nets although he admitted that he has more in common age-wise with the Knicks who have fellow old warhorses Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Jason Kidd on their roster. “I may hand them applications to join the AARP when we play them during the pre-season,” Stackhouse laughed.

Jockey, long known for its undergarment products, is moving into the athletic apparel market that is now being dominated by Nike, Reebok, and Under Armour. The company signed Jets QB Tim Tebow this past spring to help the brand get off the starting ground and Jockey promises to have t-shirts and shorts in retailers as Modell’s, Bob’s, the Sports Authority, and Dick’s by March.

Single-serve coffee units have become an increasingly popular part of the java sales market. Eight O’Clock Coffee, which has inked Boomer Esiason to be its spokesman, has joined Green Mountain and Starbucks in the heated competition for K-cup sales.

Good job on the part of the male sports world to raise both funds and awareness for the treatment of breast cancer. Last Sunday every NFL team, as well as the sportscasters covering the NFL from all of the various networks wore pink ribbons, gloves, and hats. Baseball had done a similar promotion earlier. The WWE also helped out this week as John Cena appeared at the Sports Marketing Symposium decked out in pink. In addition, New Balance is creating a running shoe where a good chunk of the revenue will be going to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the nation’s best known non-profit dedicated to eradicating breast cancer.

Sadly, breast cancer has struck close to home. Shannon Forde who has been a part of the Mets public relations team for the past 20 years, was diagnosed this past August with Stage 4 breast cancer. On November 1 a fund-rasing dinner will take place at the Westmount Country Club in Woodland Park, New Jersey. A number of former Mets have agreed to appear and lend their support. For more information about attending, log onto

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