The Week That Was: When Will David Wright Play Ball?

One of legendary journalist HL Mencken’s most  famous quotes was “When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”

      I immediately thought of it last Friday afternoon after hearing de facto acting Mets general manager John Ricco verbally twist himself into a pretzel explaining to the media that the Mets are in no hurry to activate their captain David Wright because they want to make sure that he is 100 % ready to contribute to the team as a starting player. Ricco claimed that was the Mets’ only concern.

    The tone of Ricco’s voice made it clear that the Mets were not exactly rolling out the red carpet to welcome back their captain and franchise face. Wright has been unable to play the last two years because of a variety of back and neck issues and some of them are chronic.

    To his immense credit, David has worked hard against all odds to resume his baseball career. Major League Baseball team rosters can expand up to 40 players in September so you’d think that the possible return of one of the most popular players in team history would make Mets executives ecstatic.

     That’s  not the case however because the Mets have been recouping tens of millions from their insurance policy on Wright’s lucrative long-term contract which runs through the end of 2020. The moment that the Mets place David Wright on their active roster the insurance checks stop coming.

     Mets ownership fears that they’ll be financially on the hook over the next two years for a player who may be a shell of himself. Wright is now 35 years old and hasn’t played since early in the 2016 season so those worries are not unfounded. Of course Mets CEO Fred Wilpon knew that Wright would be on the downside of his career at this juncture even if he had stayed healthy.

     Ricco looked like a deer in the headlights when I asked him if the insurance company had the right to have their own physicians examine Wright. “Normally that happens before the policy goes into effect,” he told me. He added that he was unaware if the insurance company had inquired recently about Wright.

     I then asked Ricco if Wright had told him that he was ready to play for the Mets at this point. Ricco demurred and said that he hadn’t spoke to him recently.

    All of this places David Wright in a rather untenable situation. He has always had a great relationship with the Wilpon family and he certainly doesn’t want to put them in an economic bind. On the other hand, David has always been a straight shooter and if he feels like he can play again then he will not hesitate to state that.

     This story could get ugly very shortly.

      During the Mets’ last road trip Todd Frazier dove into the Dodger Stadium stands in trying to catch a foul pop-up hit by the Dodgers’ He came up with a ball in his glove and the umpire ruled that he made the catch and called Verdugo out.

     It turns out that Frazier may not have really made the circus catch after all as he apparently had a white rubber ball in his glove which he immediately tossed it into the crowd. 

     I asked Todd about the catch and he just chuckled and said “What can I tell you? I picked up the wrong ball!”

     Naomi Osaka won the 2018 US Open Women’s Championship but that match will always be remembered for Serena Williams’ meltdown after losing a point because the umpire saw her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, making hand signs. While I believe that this was a tick-tack ruling since (a) coaches always coach (I am not sure why that is against the rules), and (b) it’s doubtful that Serena even saw what the coach was signaling. That eventually led to Williams smashing her racquet and then calling the referee “a thief” which cost her a game.

     All of which led to a very surreal trophy ceremony on the court of Arthur Ashe Stadium. The pro-Serena Williams crowd booed both USTA president Katrina Adams ESPN presenter Tom Rinaldi. Fortunately Serena Williams did have the presence of mind to request that the crowd cheer for Naomi Osaka and refrain from further booing. That appeared to the .trick but it was obvious that the 20 year-old Osaka was unnerved .         

      John Isner was presented the USTA Sportsmanship Award by Katrina Adams right after he lost a grueling four-set fourth round match to Juan del Potro. He laughed when I told him that this was an award that the pride of Douglaston, John McEnroe, would never have won. It’s safe to say that this is one award that will never reside in Serena Williams’ trophy case either.

     The boxing business has gotten smarter as fewer fights are going the pay-per-view route. The result is that more people are getting interested again in a sport that was waning in popularity and losing younger fans to mixed martial arts.

     Saturday night’s World Boxing Council welterweight championship bout between Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia at Barclays Center was televised on Showtime and it was the best fight that I’ve watched so far this year as Porter edged Garcia in a twelve-round decision.

      Although it is only six years old, Barclays Center has replaced Madison Square Garden as the premiere venue for boxing outside of Las Vegas.

      What is often overlooked about Burt Reynolds, who passed away at age 82 last Thursday, is that he was a pretty good running back at Florida State University in the 1950s before a series of injuries derailed his NFL aspirations. It also accounts for why two football films in which Reynolds starred , “The Longest Yard” and “Semi-Tough,” were two of the best sports movies ever made and box office hits to boot. My favorite Reynolds flick though was 1981’s very underrated “Sharky’s Machine” in which Burt played a world-weary detective on the Atlanta  police force and it featured a terrific jazz and rhythm & blues soundtrack.

     Pat La Frieda, the high quality meat purveyor whose kiosks always draw long lines at both Citi Field and at the US Open, has entered into a joint venture with Otto Wilde, a German cookware company, for a barbecue grill that resembles a toaster oven or fryer as opposed to the traditional backyard circular grill. Its compact size makes it easier to transport and is ideal for tailgating in the parking lots of stadiums.

     Congratulations to Emma Altman, the daughter of Major League Baseball official scorer Billy Altman, on holding her second runway show as part of Style Fashion Week that is held the second week of September every year here in New York. Emma’s fashion sense is reminiscent of 1980s fashion icon, Betsey Johnson.

      We have all been on flights where getting to your seat is needlessly delayed because passengers bring luggage on board that is too big for the overhead bins in order to save bag check fees or losing time at the luggage carousel upon arrival at a destination. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is introducing  Augmented Reality via its KLM Airlines smartphone app that lets you know from using your cell phone camera if the luggage can be carried onto the aircraft.  

     Nike took a lot of flak last week from conservatives because it announced that it would make Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers QB who started the kneeling during the national anthem controversy, a company ad spokesman.

      One of the reasons that this story generated so much attention is that normally the interests of corporate America line up squarely behind the National Football League and its players. I was reminded of this last week when I received a press release from Bed, Bath & Beyond promoting its NFL-licensed towels, glassware, coasters, and cookware for diehard fans who need to display their loyalty for a certain team.

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