The Week That Was: Jason Vargas, Subway Series Hero

      When the 2019 season began most Mets fans dreaded the notion of Jason Vargas starting a game. He was routinely whacked around in most of his starts the previous year although he did finish fairly strongly.

      They’re singing a whole different tune this year as Vargas has been the team’s most consistent starter. It’s safe to say Mets rooters value a win over the New York Yankees more than they do a win over almost any other team and therefore he earned a lot of goodwill from them when he beat the Yankees last Tuesday in the second game of the recent Subway Series day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium after the Bronx Bombers had torched Zack Wheeler in the first game.

    If the Mets are to make a serious run for the National League East title they are going to need the 36 year-old Jason Vargas to continue his rejuvenation.

    Mets third baseman Todd Frazier, who grew up in Toms River, NJ, has not gotten the slightest bit nonchalant about the Subway Series. “I have been on both sides of it and I love the fact that fans of both teams are jamming a stadium. You can’t really be from this area and not get excited by it.”

   Yankees reliever Adam Ottavino, who grew up in Park Slope, did not quite share the Toddfather’s enthusiasm. When I approached him in the Yankees clubhouse, he was staring down at his iPad, and basically said that this was just another game. He did admit that when he was younger he liked to get on Mets fans during the Subway Series because his childhood team, the Yankees, generally got the better of the guys from Queens.

   Ottavino’s Mets counterpart, Seth Lugo, told me in the Mets clubhouse at Yankee Stadium that he treats playing the Yankees the same way he would any other Major League Baseball team but admitted to having butterflies in his stomach the first time that he came to Yankee Stadium. “You can’t helped but be a bit intimidated when you think of all that Yankees history,” he said candidly.

      Mets reserve utility player JD Davis told me last week how much he was looking forward to the Subway Series and he was further pumped by the police escort that the Mets bus got traveling across the RFK Bridge from Citi Field to get to the Bronx. “I wish that I could cut through traffic all the time like that!” he laughed.

     Yankees reliever David Hale, a Princeton University alum, is thinking about post-playing career. . “I was an economics major and I want to get an MBA degree when my playing days are over. I even go through the GMAT review guides during the off-season. My goal is to be a baseball team executive down the road.”

    The Yankees took a lot of criticism for not postponing Monday’s game with the Mets earlier in that rain-soaked day. In fairness, the weather forecast for that night had changed often and given the tight schedules for both teams it was understandable that the Yankees were hoping, as the late Mets radio voice Bob Murphy used to say, that the weatherman would more cooperative than he was. They did call off the game at around 6:40 so that people could get home at a decent hour. It should be noted that the Philadelphia Phillies, playing 90 miles away at Citizens Bank Park, got their game in with the Arizona Diamondbacks without a problem.

    You don’t have to be a Yankees fan to enjoy reading “Inside The Empire” (Houghton Mifflin Houghton)  by Bob Klapisch and Paul Solotaroff. Although it’s about the New York Yankees it reads more like an entertaining business treatise in which the reader is a fly on the wall in the Yankees executive suite rather than being a traditional baseball book which looks at why games were won or lost.

     The authors discuss how Derek Jeter frustrated Yankees management by his refusal to go to the outfield when it became clear that he could no longer get to grounders that he once easily gobbled up as the team’s shortstop. Klapisch and Solotaroff also make it clear that they feel that Jeter and Miami Marlins co-owner Bruce Sherman are over their heads and ill-prepared to run an MLB franchise.

     They also shed light on why Joe Girardi was fired as Yankees manager even though his team fell just one game short in the 2017 American League Championship Series which would ordinarily be a sizable accomplishment.

    There was a feeling among Yankees executives that Joe Girardi had mentally checked out of his job in July and August when the Yankees were scuffling before making a great run that September which may have been in spite of Girardi as opposed to be because of him.

    Throw in the behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations of onetime ace pitcher CC Sabathia and the battle to get the YES Network launched among other juicy tidbits and you have a book that you just won’t be able to put down.    

     Mark Rosenman and AJ Carter, who host a Sunday night sports talk show on WLIE (540 AM), have written a cleverly titled baseball book, “Glove Story: Fathers, Sons, and the American Pastime” (Press Box Publishing).

      The authors recall how their dads passed on their love of the game through explaining the intricate rules and strategies, as well as how to play the game from breaking in a glove to putting on a Little League uniform. Rosenman and Carter also discuss the numerous fathers and sons who played in the big leagues. If you are looking for a belated Father’s Day gift, this is a good one.   

     Rickie Ricardo, who broadcasts both the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Eagles games on Spanish radio, told me that the Jets’ hiring of former Eagles’ vice president of player personnel, Joe Douglas, as their new general manager was the best move that they have made in years. Douglas, incideentally, bears an uncanny resemblance to the late Curly Howard of Three Stooges fame.

     According to NBC Sports last Wednesday’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins was the most watched NHL game in television history as it was seen by approximately 9 million people.

      It was a nice touch by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to mention how the first NBA game was played in Toronto in 1946 when presenting the NBA Championship trophy to the Toronto Raptors after they beat the Kevin Durant-less Golden State Warriors in Game 6 in Oakland. Aside from not having Durant, the Warriors lost another star player, Klay Thompson, who suffered a torn left ACL and he may miss a good chunk of the 2019-2020 season.

     Silver’s statement would also indicate that the NBA plans big things for 2021 in honor of its 75th anniversary. In contrast, Major League Baseball is marking its 150th anniversary this year but for some reason hasn’t made a big deal of that.

       Boxing is going back to early 20th century days when John L. Sullivan was the champion with the advent of the Bare Knuckles Fighting Championship promotion. The headline fights at BKFC’s Tampa card this Saturday will pit Chris Leben vs. Dakota Cochrane and veteran boxer Paulie Malignaggi taking on Artem Lobuv. Bare knuckle boxing is where you can see traditional boxers take on mixed martial arts pros. The fights go five rounds and each round is two minutes long.

      The Barbados Tourism Marketing is launching a Brilliant Barbados Fly Into Savings campaign. Tourism officials there wisely know that most Americans take time off in the summer and it’s their island’s off-season. Polo is a big sport in Barbados. Although its competitive league runs from January through May you might still be able to catch a few matches over the summer.

      For those wanting to stay closer to home, Red Roof, the economy lodging change which has invested heavily in upgrading their properties in recent years, is promoting its RediRewards program by giving a $25 gift card for members who make two separate reservations for stays at any Red Roof property.

       Staying hydrated anytime of the year is important but it is obviously crucial in the summer. Even the most health-conscious person can tire of drinking plain water. A new company, Detox Water, has added aloe vera along with hints of different fruits in its six varieties of bottled water. Not only is it tasty and yet low-calorie but it contains amino acids which improve digestion, circulation, and one’s immune system.

      Pepsico’s snack division produces such fun items as Fritos and Cracker Jack but as we all know too well are either very salty or too sugary. Its line of Imagine Yogurt Crisps is a far healthier alternative and they are tasty..

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