The Week That Was: The Mets Extend Jake

     The Mets wisely ended the Jacob deGrom soap opera last week by signing the 2018 Cy Young Award winner to a five-year $137.5 million contract. While a deal was expected, the prolonged duration that it took wasn’t. Mets players were starting to grumble aloud abut the organization. Fellow Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard emphatically told reporters two days earlier that the Mets should pay the man.

      No one was more relived to get the deal done than first-year Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and that includes deGrom himself. Van Wagenen was deGrom’s agent before taking the Mets post and he’d have no credibility with anyone in the Major League Baseball community had his employer not locked up deGrom long-term.

       The Mets ace paid an early 2019 dividend by pitching six scoreless innings against the Washington Nationals and getting the win as the Mets prevailed on Opening Day, 2-0.

      New York Times baseball columnist Tyler Kepner has written the definitive book on the various types of pitches you’ll see in a game that is cleverly titled “K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches” (Doubleday).

      Kepner gets Phil Niekro, Tom Candiotti, Charlie Hough and Tim Wakefield to discuss their bread and butter pitch, the knuckleball. The book’s most humorous chapter is on spitballs as he pays tribute to such legendary practitioners as Don Sutton, Don Drysdale, Gaylord Perry, Mike Scott, and Bob Stanley.

     Former Mets pitcher and current team broadcaster Ron Darling has written his third book which is titled “108 Stitches’ (St. Martin’s Press). It’s a lively read about the many characters in baseball with whom Darling has interacted.

     He doesn’t hold back when it comes juicy stories such as how legendary original Mets play-by-play man Bob Murphy passed out drunk in the Mets clubhouse at the Astrodome in Houston; how handsome Mets shortstop Kevin Elster loved to brag about his off-the-field prowess; catcher Mackey Sasser routinely partying until sunrise even when the Mets had a game that afternoon; as well as why Hall of Famer Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas rubs him the wrong way.

     Darling also recalls the New York nightlife scene back in the 1980s as he discusses his fun nights at Elaine’s on the Upper East Side and the trendy West Side watering hole, the China Club.

     Former Newsday Mets beat writer Marty Noble passed away unexpectedly last week..It’s impossible to watch a documentary about the 1986 World Series champion New York Mets without Marty Noble providing commentary. Noble is so identified with the ‘86 Mets that it’s understandable to think that it was he who hit that fateful ground between Bill Buckner’s legs instead of Mookie Wilson.

    I always got a kick out of seeing Marty hold court in the press dining room or keeping a ballplayer hostage by his locker. He’ll be missed.

    We also lost former New York Knicks broadcaster and one of the best players in NYU history, Cal Ramsey, last week. Cal, who was 81, had been in health for awhile and was wheelchair-bound for the last years of his life. He was always available at courtside to chat during team pregame warmups for Knicks games at Madison Square Garden. I will miss his upbeat personality and warm smile.

     The NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four taking place this weekend in Minneapolis lost a little glitz when the Michigan State University Spartans upset Zion Williamson and the Duke Blue Devils this past Sunday. Williamson is clearly the player most New York Knicks fans are hoping will fall their way in the upcoming NBA Draft.

    The poor man’s college basketball championship, the National Invitational Tournament, takes place Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

    “Watch!” the well-written bi-monthly glossy house organ magazine published by CBS to promote its programming and stars, has a terrific article on the ten best moments of March Madness in its current issue.

     The New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers were both eliminated from the NHL playoffs before they met for a matinee last Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center which meant that the game was essentially akin to an exhibition game.

    The Flyers were far more listless than the Rangers who won 3-0 thanks to some fine goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist’s understudy, Alexandar Georgiev, and the offensive heroics of former New York Islander Ryan Strome who scored a goal and assisted on another.  

     The only negative for the Blueshirts on Sunday was that forward Brendan Smith was sent to the penalty box four different times. Rangers head coach David Quinn admitted that he was infuriated with how Smith gave the Flyers four power play opportunities. Fortunately for him the Flyers did not score on any of them.

     Many Mets fans who come to Philadelphia to see their team take on the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park have long stayed at the Holiday Inn at the corner of Packer Avenue and Darien Street will have to make different arrangements. The hotel has been razed to make room for a new casino/hotel which will also have an arena for e-sports according to some of the locals with whom I spoke on Sunday. The new Live! Casino and Sportsbook is scheduled to open in 2020.

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