New Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen made his first imprint on the team by making changes in the coaching staff last week.
Van Wagenen gave walking papers to hitting coach Pat Roessler and bullpen coach Ricky Bones. He also reassigned bench coach Gary DiSarcina to become the Mets’ third base coach in 2019 and moved first base coach Ruben Amaro, Jr. to the executive suite as he will become part of his staff.
Firing coaches is more a function of publicly acknowledging a deficiency in a team’s skills and sending a message to players that management is not satisfied with performance than it is a denigration of the abilities of those who have been dismissed. The Mets bullpen was a FEMA disaster area while the team had trouble scoring runs via anything but a home run.
Van Wagenen was wise to name his fellow Stanford alum, Ruben Amaro, as a special assistant. Amaro had a good playing career and was the Phillies general manager from 2008 to 2015 and had been working in their front office in some capacity for a decade before named as the team’s GM. Amaro told me in September that he was interested in the Mets general manager vacancy but he was not granted even a preliminary interview.
The Yankees are keeping much of the old gang together for 2019 as they signed both outfielder Brett Gardner and pitcher CC Sabathia to one-year contracts. My guess is that the Yankees aren’t much interested in free agent outfielder Bryce Harper since their outfield is already crowded while Sabathia is the beneficiary of the fact that Yanks’ general manager Brian Cashman has gone public with his desire to move Sonny Gray out of the Bronx.
Texas Rangers’ general manager, Jon Daniels, who grew up in Fresh Meadows, made a smart decision hiring former Mets infielder Chris Woodward to be his team’s new field manager.
Woodward has been the Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach the last two years which is one of baseball’s highest profile non-playing on-field jobs. He told me that the Yankees interviewed for eight hours before deciding to go with Aaron Boone when they were looking for a successor to Joe Girardi last fall. The Yankees wouldn’t waste their time if they didn’t see something in Woodward and clearly other teams took notice.
The Tokyo Convention & Visitors Bureau held a culinary media event called Eat Up Tokyo in Manhattan last Thursday. One of the speakers was former Mets manager Bobby Valentine who both played and managed in Japan and is still incredibly popular there.
Former Mets first baseman Ike Davis announced his retirement from baseball last week. He had a productive couple of years for the Mets but he was never the same after contracting valley fever in 2012.
Casio’s G-Shock watch brand has always tried to combine traditional time-telling function with an athletic one. At a media event last week the company displayed its GBD 800 line which shows how many steps you have taken in a given day. It retails for $99. Its higher-end Pro Trek series of timepieces have applications for mountain climbers, equestrians, swimmers, and golfers depending on which model is chosen.
The annual CES Unveiled was held last Thursday night in Manhattan and it’s a mini-preview of the gigantic Consumer Electronics Show that takes place in Las Vegas right after the start of the new year.
One of the exhibitors was Pluto TV which is one of the many over-the-top television streaming services that have popped up in recent years. Unlike most of its competitors, there is no charge to access it. While it is part of the content that’s offered by both Roku and Amazon Fire you can also view it on your computer and smartphone.
While Pluto does carry some name networks such as Fox Sports and CNBC, most of its content come from providers who don’t make the grade to be carried by cable companies as Spectrum, Cox, or Optimum. If you are a sports fan who enjoys niche programming, Pluto is great as it offers Glory Kickboxing, the Impact! Wrestling Channel, the Fight Channel (which showcases boxing matches with very low prize money), and the Surf Channel.
A small new product that probably won’t be shown at CED in Las Vegas in January but should be is Pluggerz lines of earplugs. While most earplugs just block out exterior noises to help you sleep better, Pluggerz (pluggerz.com) has devices that protect your hearing at a concert and reduce the discomfort that comes when an aircraft begins its descent in preparation for landing. If you have a cold, that can really be a hellish half hour of pain.
The biggest winner of Election Night turned out to be Stephen Colbert who broadcast the “Late Show” live at 11:35 EST just as he did two years earlier when Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton for the presidency. “The Late Show” drew far higher ratings than any of the traditional rival networks’ Election Night coverage at that hour by a healthy margin.
The first sign of the holiday season is “The Thanksgiving Day Parade on CBS.” which will be anchored by “Entertainment Tonight” host (and former ESPN SportsCenter anchor) Kevin Frazier and “ET” correspondent Keltie Knight who was once a cheerleader for both the Knicks and the Nets. Highlights of the telecast will be watching the Broadway casts of “Dear Evan Hansen” and the soon-to-open “King Kong” perform.
CBS has long been a supporter of New York theater as it has televised the Tony Awards for as long as anyone can remember.
Conan O’Brien performed for three nights at the Beacon Theater as part of the New York Comedy Festival and he also used his time here to promote his 11 PM nightly TBS talk show which will be cut from 60 to 30 minutes sometime in January.
O’Brien was interviewed by CNN’s Jake Tapper last Thursday afternoon as part of a special event for ad buyers and the press. He said that while the televised part of his show will be reduced, the overall nightly content won’t be because there will be parts than will only now be seen on the Internet. Conan has the youngest demographics of any TV late night talk show host so this isn’t face-saving PR spin.
Jacksonville-based Firehouse Subs has regularly taken a booth at the International Franchise Expo that’s held every June at the Javits Center. The company was started by a pair of Jacksonville firemen and corporate executives have been promising for years that it would start making inroads into New York City. That finally happened last week as Firehouse Subs debuted in the Queens Center food court in Elmhurst.
Firehouse Subs, unlike Subway, is known for its reasonably priced hot heroes (although you can order a cold tuna) and many of them seem designed for the taste buds of New Yorkers as pastrami, corned beef, brisket, turkey, and meatballs are all on the menu. Another specialty is its chicken dumpling soup.