(Photo: Bill Menzel)
Former Mets first baseman Ed Kranepool was standing by the expensive box seats behind home plate before Sunday night’s Game 5 watching the video of his 1969 Mets that was being shown on the scoreboard. With the Mets trailing the Kansas City Royals 3 games to 1 and facing elimination Kranepool thought that the Mets were trying to inspire both their fans and their current roster of players. “This doesn’t feel like the Miracle Mets,” I replied. Ed tried to be diplomatic in his response but he basically agreed with my assessment.
For all of the hyperbolic talk about the greatest starting pitching staff the 2015 Mets were a flawed team that couldn’t field or hit particularly well. The stars lined up just right for the Mets who watched the heavily favored Washington Nationals crumble in the National League East; had just enough gas to get by the Dodgers in the National League Division Series; and had a surprisingly easy time sweeping a talented but young Chicago Cubs team in the National League Championship Series. The Cubs did the Mets a huge favor knocking off both the Pirates and the Cardinals in the playoffs. I have a feeling that either of those two teams could have ended the Mets season weeks ago.
The 2015 World Series tone was set when Royals slugger Alex Gordon hit a ninth inning home run off Mets closer Jeurys Familia in Game 1. That tied the score at 4 and KC would go on to win in the 14th inning.
Mets fans may ruefully recall how Mets closer Armando Benitez blew a ninth inning lead in Game 1 of the 2000 World Series to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium and the Mets never recovered. On Friday night I spoke with Steve Phillips who was the Mets general manager during that Subway World Series and asked him if he experienced deja vu15 years later. “That was first thing that crossed my mind,” said Phillips who is now a baseball analyst for SiriusXM.
If you are a Mets fan who is feeling blue consider those who are really hurting. Modell’s and other sporting goods chains had to forego the millions that they would have made selling World Series champion Mets gear. The daily newspapers couldn’t run special advertising sections that would have paid tribute to our Flushing heroes. Cable network SNY will not be able to show the 2015 World Series as part of its “Mets Classics.” Mayor Bill de Blasio lost a chance to bask in the glow of a Mets clubhouse celebration the way that predecessors John Lindsay and Ed Koch did.
The Mets playoff run also distracted the media from unpleasant news. In a classy move, Mets skipper Terry Collins wore an NYPD cap at a press briefing during the Series as a way of saluting fallen officer Randolph Holder.
Time Warner Cable was able to capitalize on the Mets hosting the World Series last weekend. TWC displayed a 1986 World Series trophy from Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez at its Queens Center store.
Even though Game 5 turned out to have an unhappy ending for Mets fans, it was a thrill for everyone in attendance at Citi Field to watch Astoria’s own Tony Bennett sing “America The Beautiful.”
Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer did not play much during the World Series but whenever Major League Baseball needed a Mets player to speak at a pre-game press conference Michael graciously volunteered. It will probably pay dividends for him as I can easily imagine ESPN, Fox Sports, Turner, or the MLB Network wanting to hire him when he retires.
Speaking of the MLB Network, one of its personalities, former Seattle Mariners catcher and Bayside native Dave Valle, got a chance to return home and see family and old friends thanks to the Mets’ appearance in the Fall Classic. Valle is a Holy Cross High School alum.
Valle chuckled when I told him how I remembered how bars near the Seattle Kingdome would have Dave Valle Days promotions where they would price a glass of beer based on Valle’s batting average which generally hovered around .150. “These days you could probably find five guys on any team with a batting average like mine,” he said with a smile. Mets fans can’t argue with him as they saw too many of their hitters this year bat under .200.
You know that it’s a big baseball event when you see Laurence Levy, better known as “Marlins Man” sitting behind home plate. Levy has become renowned for his garish orange Marlins sweatshirt.
I ran into Laurence at the Mets-Willets Point train stop and he was mobbed by folks wanting to take his picture. He told me that his dad was from Queens even though he was born in Miami. He has made a fortune in both his legal practice and real estate dealings and that has afforded him the chance to indulge his spectator sports passions.
There is a bit of Robin Hood to Marlins Man. “I like to buy tickets to sold out events and randomly give them to people so that I can see their happy faces.”
I asked him if he would have to wear a Tampa Bay Rays jersey to Marlins Park if his home team were to make it back to the World Series. “That won’t happen again. The Marlins would probably trade their two top players, outfielder Giancarlo Stanton and pitcher Jose Fernandez, in order to save payroll before they ever become a serious contender,” He then added that he has not been treated well by Miami Marlins management in spite of the tons of free publicity that he provides them.
Although the Yankees were eliminated by the Houston Astros in the wild card game, it’s safe to say that Alex Rodriguez had a great post-season. He won raves from media critics and fans for his insightful work on Fox’s pre and post-game shows. He also showed a lot of grace by appearing on the “Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon and offering encouragement to Mets fans as their team was returning to Citi Field after losing the first two games of the World Series in Kansas City.
ESPN, which has endured some financial reversals this year although it is still very profitable, shut down its Grantland website. While there was predictable outrage from Grantland founder, Bill Simmons, who ESPN chairman John Skipper booted out five months earlier, as well as from other sports columnists such as former New York Times scribe and Rego Park native Robert Lipsyte, I happen to agree with Skipper.
The truth is the Grantland did not get many eyeballs otherwise ESPN would have kept it going no matter what its executives thought of the overrated Simmons. In my opinion, the Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay is a far wittier columnist. I rarely saw anyone with a Grantland press credential at the sporting events that I covered. Most of their writers came off as Brooklyn hipsters who thought that they were too cool to actually mix with the traditional sports media.
The Sports Business Journal’s annual Sports & Media Technology Conference brought out the movers and shakers in the broadcasting industry such as CBS CEO Les Moonves and the aforementioned John Skipper.
The conference’s main sponsor, NeuLion, is a major player in the world of sports technology. The company was touting 4K television sets which will provide four times the clarity of today’s high definition television sets and that will certainly add to the enjoyment of watching sports.
Another speaker at the conference, Hans Schroeder, who is the VP of NFL Media Strategy, predicted that there would be more Sunday morning football games (such as those emanating from London) since those games are broadcast in the afternoon in Europe and prime time in Asia.
Biz Bash Live, the annual trade show at the Javits Center for venues seeking corporate party and events business, featured booths from Yankee Stadium, the Barclays Center, and the Empire Casino at Yonkers Raceway. The Miami Dolphins were present as well because so many New York companies have offices in South Florida.
For the 33rd straight year a native American did not win the men’s or women’s race at the TCS NYC Marathon as Kenyans Stanley Biwott and Mary Keitany prevailed.
As per custom however, the NYC Marathon had its share of celebrity runners which included recently retired tennis star James Blake and former Giants running back Tiki Barber. These days Barber runs a very successful sports speakers bureau, Thuzio; is a morning co-host on the CBS Sports Radio Network; and appears on a syndicated weekly TV fantasy football show with his brother, former Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber.
Tiki told me that he believes that fantasy sports are more games of skill than they are straight-up gambling but conceded that like nearly everything else in life, requires some luck. He did concede that there has to be some kind of governmental oversight because of how inside information can give some an unfair advantage similar to the way that the Securities & Exchange Commission forbids insider information in the world of trading stocks and bonds. Draft Kings and FanDuel were recently embarrassed by such a scandal.