Carroll: Payroll A Risin’

(Neil Miller/Sportsday Wire)

What was overlooked in the excitement over the Mets’ signing slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the highest per season salary in the team’s history (he’ll earn $25 million this season) was that it pushed their payroll for 2016 to roughly $140 million.

While that figure is roughly $50 million below that of the Yankees, and is a pittance to what the Los Angeles Dodgers now spend on players, it does finally remove the stigma that in spite of being a New York-based sports franchise they have frustrated their customers by spending as if they were located in Milwaukee or Cincinnati. To use rental car company lingo, the Mets have moved up from being compacts to a mid-sized classification.

Although they always tried to dance around it, the Mets’ payroll shrunk to Lilliputian size in 2010 when it was learned that the Mets had significant financial involvement with rogue fiancier and Far Rockaway native, Bernard Madoff. Coincidentally the Madoff saga has been revisited this week as part of a two-night miniseries on ABC that stars Richard Dreyfuss.

The Madoff-related financial austerity forced the Mets to eschew pricy free agents and concentrate instead on developing their minor league system. In recent years it had become a Mets tradition at the July 31st trade deadline to send of veteran players to teams with playoff aspirations in return for blue-chip prospects. The strategy did pay off when the Mets wound up in the World Series last year.

Yoenis Cespedes has an opt-out clause in his new contract that he can enforce at the end of this coming season. Even if he were to leave, it would be extremely difficult for the team to go back to its draconian levels of compensation. For Mets management, signing Cespedes may have opened a payroll Pandora’s box.

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson made a crack at the expense of his ace pitcher, Matt Harvey, when he cited his absence from the annual Baseball Writers Association of America dinner at the New York Hilton last week that took place at the height of Snowstorm Jonas “because all the flights from SoHo were cancelled.” The quip got a lot of play in both the traditional and social media. Alderson was kidding of course but I don’t think that he would have been very happy had Harvey gotten hurt trying to get to the event.

I have a feeling that Alderson and the Mets brass weren’t very happy when Harvey appeared last Thursday at an unexpected media venue, Bravo’s popular 11 PM show, “Watch What Happens Live!” hosted by the inimitable Andy Cohen. I have written about Harvey’s self-absorbed tendencies as well as the virtual electric fence around his locker in the Mets clubhouse when it comes to media who he deems unworthy of his time. To be fair, Harvey nicely spoofed his narcissistic man-about-town image on the program.

One of Manhattan’s best known sports bars thanks to its massive memorabilia, Foley’s New York, celebrated its 12th anniversary by holding a fund-raiser for Shannon Forde who is a St. John’s University alum and has been an integral part of the Mets media relations department for more than 20 years. Shannon has been battling Stage 4 cancer since August 2012. Veteran sportswriter Pete Caldera, who has carved out a second career as a singer of the Great American Songbook, provided the entertainment as he was backed a talented jazz trio.

Actor Warren Beatty played a fictional quarterback who leads the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl victory in the 1978 film. “Heaven Can Wait.” Upon learning that the Rams would be returning to Los Angeles, Beatty quipped to the Hollywood Reporter “I am ready to rejoin the Rams but I will need a work or so to get back into shape.”

CBS is hoping to use Super Bowl 50 as a way to boost the ratings of “Late Night with Stephen Colbert” with a special edition of the show that will air following the game. Colbert, who took over the slot from David Letterman, has struggled against both NBC’s Jimmy Fallon and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel in the battle for 11:30 talk show supremacy.

The Super Bowl, with its many parties and corporate events, has become a major event for high income movers and shakers and that means that it’s a big week for private jet companies as Cirrus Aviation and NetJets. There are so many carriers looking to serve the one percenters that an entrepreneur, Sergey Petrossov, has created a mobile app called JetSmarter, which he is calling the Uber of private air service.

It wasn’t that long ago when the Super Bowl was a bonanza for sports bars. A sign of how upscale the Super Bowl has become is that the trendy Lower East Side restaurant, Beauty & Essex, is taking reservations for those who want to dine on high-end sports cuisine and watch the game on the big screen.

One of the NBA’s marquee players, forward Kevin Durant, was in town lost week as his team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, played both the Knicks and the Nets. Durant will be a free agent after this season so naturally the New York sports media wanted to gauge his interest in coming here. He said all of the right things about our town and my guess is that it wasn’t just diplomatic lip service for an eager press corps. I met Durant a few years ago at the NBA Draft where he was doing some reporting for NBA TV. He told me that he would like a career in broadcasting when his playing days are over. Expect Durant to give the Knicks serious consideration since all of the major networks have their headquarters here. I doubt however that Durant would even think for a second about joining the Nets given their current sorry state.

ABC has started televising marquee NBA games on Saturday evenings which is traditionally the lowest viewing night of the week. To no one’s surprise neither the Knicks nor the Nets are deemed ready for prime time on Saturdays by the alphabet network (to use Variety Magazine lingo.)

I realize that the nature of most television sideline reporters is to recite things that are quite obvious, but Fox Sports’ Molly McGrath may have hit a new level of inanity when with eight minutes remaining in Sunday afternoon’s Villanova-St. John’s men’s basketball at Madison Square Garden. With eight minutes remaining in the game and the Red Storm down by 17, McGrath reported that SJU head coach Chris Mullin told his team to keep rebounding, not turn the ball over, and hopefully the baskets will come. Now that’s what I call insight!

Right after McGrath’s intrepid reporting, Fox play-by-play broadcaster Gus Johnson became so obsessed with the athletic shoes that Villanova head Jay Wright and his staff were wearing that he came off as a shill, or perhaps I should say a swoosh, for the manufacturer.

Major League Soccer’s New York City Football Club placed defender Chris Wingert, who is a St. John’s University alum, on waivers. According to New York Sports Day soccer columnist Jason Schott, Wingert was a go-to guy for the media after a game the way that David Wright is for the Mets.

Irish Tourist Board officials held a press event last week to promote Northern Ireland as a travel destination. Northern Ireland will host a number of food and drink festivals in 2016. It is also home to some of the most beautiful and challenging golf courses in the world. The British Open will be held at Royal Portrush in 2019.

TBS has a new comedy on Monday nights at 9 titled “Angie Tribeca” that stars the always welcome Rashida Jones as the title character who is an LA police officer. The show is basically an update on those hysterical 1980s TV procedural satires that featured countless sight gags and play on words as “Police Squad” and “Sledge Hammer!” Unfortunately those shows never got the ratings that they deserved when they aired back in the day. “Angie Tribeca,” whose producer is popular comic actor Steve Carell, will hopefully get a better fate.

Yes, we all know that February 2 is Ground Hog’s Day but how many of you know that one week later, February 9, is National Bagel Day. Thomas’ English Muffins and Bagels, will give away 10.000 bagels on Facebook that day. It is the hole-iest day of the year!

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