The Week That Was: Sandy Steps Aside

Sandy Alderson’s abrupt departure as Mets general manager last Tuesday in order to fight a recurrence of cancer was sad news and put the team’s woes in perspective. At age 70 Alderson was right in organizing his priorities. And let’s face it; watching the 2018 Mets has not been good for anyone’s health especially the man who has been the architect of the team.

I’ll miss Sandy’s dry wit as was exemplified by the droll Bob Newhart-style response when he was asked about Matt Harvey leaving the team hotel in San Diego to drive up I-5 to Beverly Hills for a supper club opening and then returning in the middle of the night. “I tend to get disappointed by things I don’t expect. So the short answer is no, I’m not disappointed.!” he replied in a deadpan response to a reporter’s question as he was clearly throwing Harvey under the bus. A week later Harvey was exiled to the Cincinnati Reds.
He is also candid to a fault. Technically Alderson was taking a leave of absence from the Mets but he admitted that his performance this year doesn’t merit his return.

As is keeping with their penchant for indecisiveness, the Mets did not name longtime Alderson assistant John Ricco as the interim GM but rather said that all decisions will be made by the triumvirate of Omar Minaya, JP Ricciardi, and Ricco. Committees are nice for coming up with suggestions but you need someone to act the final decisive arbiter.
Omar Minaya would seem to have been the most likely candidate to succeed Alderson and there would have been some satisfaction in that for Omar since Alderson took his job after he was fired at the end of the 2010 season.

My guess is that Omar, who returned to the Mets’ executive suite last year, is not that interested in the position now. First, he relishes to role of scouting for new talent and he has been very good at that throughout his career. Secondly, the Wilpons are not going to let him spend money for A-list free agents the way he did a little more than a decade ago. I doubt that Omar would want a GM job where he was told from the get-go not to approach the agents representing Bryce Harper or Manny Machado when winter comes.

John Ricco has been with the Mets since 2004 and has earned the title of Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations. He held court with the media in the Mets dugout prior to last Wednesday’s drearly 5-3 loss to the Pirates when closer Jeurys Familia did his best impression of a batting practice pitcher. Expect Ricco, who certainly looks the part, to be the man other teams’ general mangers call to discuss trades and there will certainly be some this month.

The Mets managed to salvage a little dignity by winning their Sunday game with the Marlins in Miami, 5-2, behind Steven Matz’s fine pitching. Nonetheless by losing two out of three to the Marlins the Mets have lost an inconceivable twelve consecutive series.

Sunday’s win occurred on July 1 and Mets third baseman Todd Frazier showed a keen sense of humor when he told media with a straight face that the Mets were the hottest team in July.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was one of the sports luminaries to attend the launch of New York Sports Tours, which hopes to become the Turner Classic Movies tours or the Gray Line of Big Apple sports historical sites.

Cashman said that he exchanged text messages with Sandy Alderson to wish him well. He also said that he expected to be in touch with his trio of replacements throughout July about trade possibilities.

Not surprisingly Cashman said that his priority is to obtain more starting pitching now that Jordan Montgomery is out for the season recuperating from Tommy John surgery and Sonny Gray has been atrocious as was evidenced by his getting torched by the Boston Red Sox for six runs in the first inning of the Yankees’ 11-0 loss to them on Saturday night.
I asked Brian if he gets amused hearing fans’ trade ideas on sports talk radio. “Some are a bit off the wall but there are others where a light bulb does go off in my head when I hear them,” he replied. Keep those calls coming, fans.

Other sports luminaries who were at the New York Sports Tours launch were from former Knicks guard John Starks, legendary soccer goalie Shep Messing, and HBO’s Emmy Award-winning “Real Sports “ contributor, Tennis Channel commentator, and former Women’s Tennis Association star, Douglas ton native Mary Carillo who is the voice of the mini-documentaries about the sites visitors will see on the bus tour.

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ESPN the Magazine held an event in midtown Manhattan for media and advertisers last Thursday to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its annual “Body Issue” where athletes pose without clothing (it’s far from R-rated however) and the photo shoots tend to be humorous. Mets fans will recall how Matt Harvey was photographed in the buff imitating a hotel water delivering room service.

Veteran PGA star Greg Norman, rookie Giants running back Saquan Barkley, Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon, and track star Lolo Jones were the panelists at the ESPN confab. While there was discussion about the understandable hesitation to pose, most of the talk was about nutrition. Saquan Barkley said that he was well aware that his body won’t be able to handle the same kind of foods a decade from now that he can today. Greg Norman told the audience that he enjoys a steak once a month at best.

While ESPN Magazine officials downplay the fact that they were trying to create a franchise issue similar to Sports Illustrated’s annual Swimsuit Issue, the folks at SI were concerned about the competition from the beginning. Lolo Jones told me that she was disinvited from taking part in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue after their executives learned that she would be taking part in the initial ESPN Magazine Body Issue.

ESPN the cable television network will be airing a documentary on the decade history of “The Body Issue” this Thursday night.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the new film “Uncle Drew.” NBA star Kyrie Irving reprises the Uncle Drew character that he created for a Pepsi Max ad campaign a few years ago. For those who didn’t see it or may have forgotten, Uncle Drew is an old guy who was a top schoolyard hoops player back in the day and can still hustle folks way younger than him in a one-on-one game.

Sure, the plot of the film can be predicted by a five year-old, but it’s still fun anyway. Director Charles Stone III has basically made an homage to 1980’s “Blues Brothers” with its car chase scenes and “putting the band back together” gags as Kyrie Irving as Drew tries to get his old Rucker League team back together after 50 years to try to win this year’s tournament. Shaquille, O’Neal, Chris Webber, Nate Robinson, Reggie Miller, and Lisa Leslie had old age makeup, wigs and prosthetics applied to them for their roles. The funny thing is that they are all shockingly good actors and take the proceedings seriously. There are a couple of good-natured anti-Trump gags thrown in for good measure.

John Tavares’s decision to leave the Islanders to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs, his hometown team, was understandable but still surprising. I’ll discuss the Islanders in a forthcoming column.

The eastern European nation of Armenia has not gotten a lot of attention from the travel media. To remedy this the Armenia Tourism bureau held a press briefing last week. They touted the beautiful churches and museums in the capital city of Yerevan where the daily rate of high-end hotels average around $100; the country’s beautiful mountains and waterfalls; and its spirits products which include Ararat Brandy and some fine red wines.

The only drawback is that there is no direct service between JFK and Yerevan which is somewhat surprising considering the high number of Americans who are of Armenian heritage.
San Antonio, Texas is a great place to visit but it too lacks direct service from either JFK or LaGuardia (JetBlue does fly into Austin which is about 70 miles away). The city is celebrating its Spanish heritage tricentennial and there are a lot of activities and festivals relating to that. My suggestion is to wait until fall before going there. The heat and humidity that we endured in New York over the weekend is nothing compared to a south Texas summer day.

San Jose, California is a great place to be in the summer if you want reasonable warmth and no humidity. The area is best known for being the hub of major technological behemoths but the city’s tourism bureau is trying to shed its Silicon Valley image to attract visitors. It’s playing up the fact that the city and nearby areas have countless wineries nearby and terrific restaurants. San Jose is aggressively trying to push weekend hotel packages at name brand lodging such as Marriott and Westin with rates less than $200 per day.

If you are looking for a quick summer getaway that’s not too far or costly, consider spending a few days at the Freehold Radisson in central New Jersey. You are only 30 minutes from the Jersey Shore to the east; 20- minute drive to Six Flags Great Adventure to the west; and a 30-minute ride south on Bruce Springsteen’s Highway 9 (as mentioned in the lyrics of “Born To Run”) if you want to catch a Lakewood Blueclaws game. The Blueclaws play in beautiful First Energy Park and are the Phillies’ South Atlantic League affiliate.

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