Sports Beat “Mets Need Relief”

Colin Jost, who succeeded Seth Meyers at the “Saturday Night Live Weekend Update” desk, quipped, “Monday was Opening Day for baseball and a reopening of old wounds for Mets fans!”

As angry as Mets fans had to have been on Monday watching their heroes fail to hold a one-run lead with two outs in the ninth inning, their spirits had to have truly sunk the following day when it was announced that the team’s closer, Bobby Parnell, would have to be placed on the disabled list because of a ligament tear in his pitching elbow.

Last Wednesday Mets general manager Sandy Alderson was initially hopeful that Parnell would be able to avoid season-ending Tommy John surgery because the ligament tear was in a fairly thick part of the elbow. He ominously added however that torn ligaments don’t heal themselves. Parnell and Mets management agreed that he should have the surgery this week.

Last September Parnell had to end his season early because of neck surgery. Thankfully that surgery was completely successful and the Mets are hoping that this one will be as well.

The Mets’ loss of Bobby Parnell makes their failure to re-sign LaTroy Hawkins, who steadied the bullpen in Parnell’s absence last year and was a rare leader in the clubhouse, all that more egregious. Hawkins signed a $2.5 million contract with the Colorado Rockies as a free agent during the off-season which is chump change in terms of payroll for major league teams.

Every Mets player that I spoke with told me that Hawkins is very much missed. They also agreed that it reflects the penny-wise, pound-foolish philosophy that has become synonymous with the Mets corporate culture in recent years.

New York Post columnist Ken Davidoff wrote an insightful article on Sunday about how the cost of going to a Mets game, factoring in average ticket price, parking fees, and concessions, is in the highest third of major league teams yet their payroll is in the lowest third. Unless a team is defying the odds and winning that is a certain recipe for poor attendance.

Although the calendar says that it’s finally spring, nighttime during the first week of April, can feel like winter. Every Mets player that I polled felt that the team should follow the example of the Detroit Tigers and play all of their home games at 1 PM the first homestand of the season.

Outfielder Curtis Granderson went a step further by stating that all games played during the first two weeks of the season should take place in either warm weather cities or in domed stadiums.

Mets manager Terry Collins was not a sympathetic to the atmospheric conditions. “It’s a business. More fans will come to a game on a Friday night than on a Friday afternoon.” I am not sure if that is correct, particularly on a cold wet night such as what we experienced last Friday.

Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy made national news when he missed the first two games of the season so that he could be with his wife when his son, Noah, was born. Paternity leave is part of the collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and its players association and other big leaguers have utilized the provision.

The only reason that Murphy’s absence raised eyebrows was because WFAN air personalities Craig Carton, Boomer Esiason, and Mike Francesa criticized him. Esiason took it one step further by saying on the air that Murphy’s wife should have had a Caesarian so that their son would have been born before Opening Day.

I wonder if any of the aforementioned trio really believed what they said or if they were just playing shock jock villains just to create listener and media buzz. Esiason is a bright guy and I think that he was just trying to say something outrageous for on-air comedic value without thinking of the consequences much the same way Don Imus did nearly seven years to the day earlier on the same radio station when he wanted to have some fun with the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. To his credit, Boomer immediately called Murphy to apologize.

It will be hard to recognize the St. John’s Red Storm men’s basketball team without a scorecard next season as center Chris Obekpa announced his plans to transfer from the school.

St. John’s was the only number one-seeded team that did not make it to the National Invitational Tournament Final Four that was held last week at Madison Square Garden. The Johnnies were clobbered by Robert Morris in the opening game of the NIT and it was clear that the players wished that they were elsewhere. NCAA officials who overlook the NIT admitted that they were livid at St. John’s performance and even used the derogatory term “tanked” to describe their putrid play.

The Wood Memorial is the first major stakes race of the New York State horse racing season and for years it was considered a preview of the Kentucky Derby. It has been a long time since a Wood Memorial winner had a major presence at the Derby and this year will probably be no different after a 9-1 longshot, Wicked Strong, easily beat the highly regarded favorite, Social Inclusion.

Cable television’s Animal Planet announced at their upfront last Thursday a new fall show titled “The Yao Ming Project.” The former Houston Rockets center is an animal rights activist and he is starring in a program that aims to prevent the slaughter of rhinos and elephants for their tusks.

China is a major importer of these tusks and Yao is an admired celebrity there. He is hoping that his goodwill will help educate the nouveau-riche in his country who are unaware of the suffering these animals go through so that they can acquire a rather bizarre status symbol.

Washington Nationals television voice Bob Carpenter is one of the best in the business. He is also an entrepreneur as the detailed notebook his company makes for keeping score of a baseball game is the gold standard for fans, scouts, team executives, and his fellow broadcasters, is now celebrating its 30th anniversary. Carpenter is well aware of the digital revolution and is hoping that he can find a programmer who can design an electronic scorecard that would meet his specifications for computers and tablets.

It is traditional for the starting pitcher to play disc jockey in the clubhouse before a game. I was surprised to hear Biz Markie’s 1990 novelty hit. “Just A Friend,” blaring through the Washington Nationals clubhouse on Wednesday. “I saw Biz around Citi Field on Opening Day and I remembered how much I liked that song,” the personable Nationals hurler and perennial Cy Young Award candidate Gio Gonzalez explained.

Former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan has been so successful in television since his retirement that it’s easy to forget that he is an NFL Hall of Famer. He is an integral part of Fox’s Sunday NFL pre-game and halftime shows and he has more than ably replaced Regis Philbin on the most-watched daytime morning talk show. Strahan will now be contributing to ABC’s “Good Morning America” which has undergone some personnel changes with the departures of both Sam Champion and Josh Elliott. Ryan Seacrest is a slacker compared to Michael Strahan.

Now that David Letterman has announced that he will be stepping down from his hosting duties on CBS’s “The Late Show,” everyone has an opinion on who his successor should be. CBS skews older and Jay Leno has long proven to be a ratings king. I am frankly surprised that he is not being given serious consideration. If CBS wants to hire a younger host, Chris Rock, is a comic who can be edgy but can appeal to a wide audience and is a very good interviewer. Chelsea Handler has a very sharp wit but it may be too cutting for CBS executives and blue chip advertisers.

The Ford Motor Company and Long Island City’s Gnosis Chocolates are among the exhibitors who will take part in the 2014 Green Festival at Pier 94 taking place on April 26th and 27th.

The German port city of Hamburg is hoping to see an increase of tourism thanks to the immense interest in the 50th anniversary of the Beatles making it big worldwide. The Fab Four got their start playing at Hamburg’s Star Club in 1960. A rival rock venue, the Beat Club, was the showcase for a lot of 1960s rock acts from all over the world. Both are still operational today.

Germany is playing up its many UNESCO World Heritage sites as a way of drawing visitors this year but tourism officials are shying away from the centennial of the start of World War I.

These days nearly every cell phone takes photos. The camera industry has taken notice and that has led to innovations that have both improved technology while sharply reducing prices. Vivitar’s F 131 ViviCam retails for around $40; fits in your pocket; and takes the kind of digital photos that only a professional photographer would have been able to take just a decade ago.

On a very sad note, the sporting press lost a great one with the sudden passing of Marcus Henry who left us at the all too young age of 41 last Wednesday. Marcus covered a wide array of sports for both The Amsterdam News and Newsday. It meant a lot when he complimented me on a column.

In a field where there is a lot of needless backbiting, I never heard a bad word from anyone about Marcus Henry. It is an understatement to write that you will be missed, Marcus.

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