Sports Beat “Mets Move ‘Em In”

For the third time in the six-year history of Citi Field, the Mets altered the dimensions of their ballpark. This time the walls in a good chunk of right field were brought in on an average of ten feet.

While moving in the fences would seem to be counterproductive to a team that lives and dies by its pitching, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson believes that the changes in the ballpark will yield a net benefit to the Mets. Apparently his thinking is that the Mets’ pitchers can shut down opposing hitters in even a bandbox while the visiting team’s mediocre pitchers have looked like the second coming of Cy Young against our Flushing heroes because of the spaciousness of Citi Field.

Constantly tinkering with the outfield walls would appear to be a costly activity. The team would not provide the cumulative costs of past and current structural modifications but a Mets spokesman said that it hasn’t been expensive.

I have a feeling that the Mets are funding their outfield modifications from the savings of not having to feed the media at free agent introductory press conferences at Citi Field. Last year the Mets had Curtis Granderson chat with the writers at the winter meetings in Orlando while two weeks ago they made Michael Cuddyer available only to the team’s beat writers from the dailies via a conference call at the general managers meeting in Phoenix.

The Columbia University Lions went winless for the second straight season and have now lost 21 straight games. Any normal college would immediately fire the coaching staff after such a dubious accomplishment. Since we are talking about Columbia, we can toss that kind of logic out the window. Columbia president Lee Bollinger, while professing concern about the state of the school’s football program, is apparently unwilling to eat the two remaining years of head coach Peter “the Vince Lombardi of losing” Mangurian’s contract even though the cost is chump change given the school’s vast wealth.

I would be however more sympathetic to Coach Mangurian if he were actually a good motivator and communicator. That is not the case based on my experience meeting him as well as a conversation that I had last May with a current Lions player.

Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire has his fingers in the entertainment world as he’s one of the executive producers of the new BET-Relativity film, “Beyond The Lights.”

Amar’e is one of the most upbeat players I have ever met. He happily signs autographs for fans and enjoys chatting with the media. I asked him if there were any medicinal benefits from bathing in red wine after a photo of him doing so was published. “We’ll find out soon!” he said with a hearty laugh. He patted me on the back when I told him that I prefer Pinot Noir the old-fashioned imbibing way.

The most underreported sports story in our area has been the surprisingly good play of our long downtrodden National Hockey League franchise, the New York Islanders. The Isles swept a weekend home-and-home series with the Pittsburgh Penguins who have long been one of the NHL’s dominant clubs. The Islanders also acquitted themselves very well on a recent western road trip.

This is the Islanders’ final season at the Nassau Coliseum before they relocate to the Barclays Center. It would be a nice story if they can replicate the magic of the glorious early 1980s for them when they won four straight Stanley Cups.

In a constantly changing world there are three things that you can count on: death, taxes, and the Nets losing to the Spurs in San Antonio. Although it wasn’t their traditional Alamo-like massacre, the Nets did lose yet again, 99-87, on Saturday night.

I was surprised by the fairly small media buildup for former Nets, and now Milwaukee Bucks, head coach Jason Kidd’s return to the Barclays Center last Wednesday night. Sure, there were a few stories the day after the game, that turned out to be a triple overtime classic in which the Nets lost, but very little buzz before it. I am convinced that if Kidd had left the Knicks the way he did the Nets last spring there would have been articles in the newspapers at least a week ahead of the game as well as it being a hot topic for sports talk radio hosts.

The National Football League wisely moved the Jets-Bills game out of snow-inundated Buffalo to Detroit’s indoor Ford Field. Had this snow disaster happened 20 years ago, the NFL probably would have moved the game to Toronto which is about 100 miles from Buffalo and where the Bills have held home games before. The problem is that after 9/11 one needs a passport if you want to return to the USA from either Canada or Mexico.

The NFL does schedule games in foreign countries but there is a lot of planning that goes into that. Certainly they make sure that all of the participating players have valid passports. The league could not assume that would be the case with little time to make alternative plans. As it turned out the Jets could have played the Bills on Mars and it wouldn’t have helped them.

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.’s description-defying touchdown catch against the Dallas Cowboys reminded me of former Mets outfielder Endy Chavez’s catch in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS. Just as the Mets lost that game, so did the Giants fall in spite of Beckham’s heroics. Thus it will be more of a footnote than something Giants fans will talk about years from now.

Former Giants linebacker and current team radio analyst Carl Banks relaunched the dormant Starter brand of sports apparel a few years ago and the company has quietly collected licensing agreements. Its latest one is with the Big East Conference so expect to see St. John’s Red Storm satin jackets in local stores shortly.

I never liked the phrase “New York is the Mecca of basketball” because it simply has not been true for many years. However it is perfectly OK to use it when talking about late November college hoops as both the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden are packed with tournaments, two of which benefit worthy nonprofits. The 2K Wounded Warrior Project and the Coaches vs. Cancer Classics. The St. John’s Red Storm will be participating in the Preseason NIT that gets underway Wednesday night at the Garden.

Speaking of college basketball, March Madness will be in full swing in 2016 and 2017 as the NCAA will be holding early round tournaments at the Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden, respectively.

Major League Soccer, whose commissioner is Bayside High School alum Don Garber, has not had the best of luck gaining traction in the mainstream media for a number of reasons. Even the biggest MLS supporters concede that the best players practice their trade in Europe. Americans don’t take kindly to the idea of minor league anything. It also didn’t help matters when Jurgen Klinsmann, the coach of the USA’s World Cup team, poked fun at the MLS.

Another factor that has hurt the MLS is the same one that has bedeviled the WNBA; namely that its New York franchise has never won a championship. This Saturday the Red Bulls will be in Foxboro, MA to play the New England Revolution in an elimination playoff game that will be televised on NBC.

Hearing loss is sadly part of the aging process but it is being accelerated because so many people are listening to music through iPods and other mp3 players that go directly into one’s ears. Another factor that has damaged hearing as long as I can recall has been attending concerts and loud stadium and/or arena sporting events. A startup tech company, Doppler Labs, has created a line of earplugs called DUBS Acoustic Filters that purports to reduce the volume of noise without sacrificing sound clarity.

In what may become a New York holiday tradition right up there with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, Glade has opened up a pop-up store in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District (408 West 14th Street). You can think of it as Disneyland for your sense of smell as the company has created rooms promoting its various holiday scented candles. There is a simulator that makes you feel as if you are on a zipline or tram going down a mountain. There is no charge for stopping by. Glade would be wise to think of opening a similar pop-up store next year in either Long Island City or Astoria.

The annual week-long Art Basel Festival gets underway in Miami Beach next Monday. It’s one of the largest art festivals in the world and it’s considered the kickoff of Miami Beach’s busy winter season. This year will be special because Miami Beach will be celebrating its centennial.

If you are planning to be in Miami Beach for Thanksgiving weekend and want to extend your trip a bit, there will be a big free admission opening night party Monday from 7 to 9 PM at South Beach’s Mayfair Hotel to benefit the Sabrina Cohen Foundation whose mission like the Buoniconti Fund (which is also based in Miami) is to find a cure for paralysis.

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