The Week That Was: Brodie Brings In Beltran

     On Friday the New York Mets announced that Carlos Beltran, a star centerfielder for them from 2005-2011, would be the team’s 22nd manager in their history.

     His hiring was a bit of a surprise because the sports media assumed that Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen would select a manager with previous major league experience in that role since the man he fired, Mickey Callaway, was criticized for making neophyte mistakes.

      Van Wagenen however never publicly made that stipulation so it wasn’t a total surprise that he selected Beltran who has no managerial experience. Then again neither did Aaron Boone when the Yankees selected him two years ago to replace Joe Girardi who was shockingly relieved of his duties following the 2017 season.

      Many Mets fans were understandably clamoring for Girardi to become their manager but the odds of the Mets hiring him were slim at best.

      Few teams are giving managers big contracts these days and the Mets owners, the Wilpons, weren’t going to buck that trend. Even if they were willing to be generous they would have been outbid by Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton who this past spring lavished a $330 million, 13-year contract on supremely talented but moody outfielder Bryce Harper.

      Middleton grew up watching Phillies games in the upper deck of Connie Mack Stadium and still thinks of himself as a fan first and an owner second. Thus it wasn’t surprising that he signed Joe Girardi to be his team’s manager. He’s an easier going version of the late George Steinbrenner.

     Here is the funny thing. I actually believe that even if the Wilpons had given Brodie Van Wagenen a blank check he still would have passed on Girardi.

      I spoke with Van Wagenen shortly before the end of the season and asked him if the Mets GM job was worth the aggravation and if he missed being an agent at the Creative Artists Agency where he was hugely successful.

     “This is the most rewarding work I have ever done. I love creating and building,” he told me. Nearly every builder prefers to work with fresh materials rather than recycled ones.

      Being a former CAA agent Van Wagenen knew that he needed to land a big name to get fans excited and Carlos Beltran is a probable Hall of Famer.

     No one knows if Beltran will have managerial success but he’s no one’s yes man and I’ve always respected his candor.

      I remember chatting with him when his teammate and friend, catcher Ramon Castro, was traded just before a game to the Chicago White Sox. Castro was livid when he got word of it.       “What’s he upset about? Doesn’t he realize that we’re all pieces of furniture that can be moved at any time?” Beltran asked me somewhat rhetorically.

     I was watching “Baseball Night In New York” on the Mets’ cable home, SNY, Friday night hours after the Mets announced that they had chosen Carlos Beltran. Two former Daily News sportswriters who I greatly respect, Andy Martino and John Harper, used the occasion to dump on Mets former manager Mickey Callaway.

     Aside from a kicking a guy when he’s down, it’s a factually incorrect belief that he was a lousy manager. Callaway had arguably one of the worst performing bullpens in Mets history as well as an aging second baseman in Robinson Cano who missed more games than he played in 2019. In spite of a dismal 40-50 record at the All-Star Game the Mets finished the season with an 86-76 record.

     Keep in mind that the Mets compete in the tough National League East where the two teams that finished ahead of them, the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals, both made it to the playoffs.

    Speaking of the Nationals, the joy of their World Series championship may be short-lived as two of their best players, ace pitcher and World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg and All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon will be free agents.

     Rendon grew up in Houston, was a star at Rice University, and still makes his off-season home there so it had to have been a bizarre feeling for him to help him beat the Houston Astros in the World Series.

     Rendon’s situation was similar to that of Mets outfielder and Baltimorean Ron Swoboda whose heroics helped the Miracle Mets beat the Baltimore Orioles in the World Series 50 years ago.

      I asked Swoboda what it was like to return home to see friends and family after the World Series was over. “I felt like (the late famed atheist) Madelyn Murray O’Hair sitting in the pew of a church” he cleverly replied.

     The annual Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame induction ceremony as usual brought out the corporate movers and shakers in television. Among the Class of 2019 were Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei and Entertainment Studios CEO Byron Allen.

      Maffei stated with a smile that the Atlanta Braves, which are owned by Liberty Media, will keep the Mets from winning the National League East title for the foreseeable future. His comments were was met with good-natured jeering from the New York audience.

     Byron Allen is remembered by many baby boomers as a standup comic who was one of the co-hosts of NBC’s “Real People” in the 1980s. Today Allen is the CEO of Entertainment Studios which recently purchased the Weather Channel from Comcast and has partnered with Sinclair Broadcasting to purchase the regional sports networks that ESPN/Disney had to divest with the purchase of Fox Corporation assets last year.

     Allen isn’t thinking small. “We are thinking of starting new professional sports leagues and I don’t mean E-sports or niche sports. We want to compete with Major League Baseball. The NFL,  the NBA, and the NHL,” he told me. Given Allen’s against the odds past successes once can’t cavalierly dismiss his dreams.

     The New York City Marathon never gets a lot of coverage in the sports pages of the New York dailies nor on sports talk radio stations. A key reason is that a native American man has won the race since Alberto Salazar did in 1982. It should be noted however that Shalane Flanagan did win in 2017 which broke a 40-year drought for American women.

     It was business as usual this year however as a pair of Kenyans, Geoffrey Kamwowar and Joyciline Jepkosgei, won the men’s and women’s races respectively. What was encouraging was that three American men and two women finished in the top ten in this year’s race.

     The NYC Marathon Expo, which is held for the three days preceding the race at the Javits Center, always brings the latest in medical devices and pain relief products to consumers.

      Fourth Frontier introduced Frontier X, a small device that you place around your chest with a lightweight strap when you are doing any kind of physical activity and it can give immediate feedback on both cardiac strain and breathing issues which may not be apparent during your workout. The company hired three-time NYC Marathon women’s champion Paula Radcliffe as a spokesperson.

     Addaday exhibited its BioZoom massager which reminded me of the old Sharper Image Thumper but it resembled a small hand drill with a ball at the tip which allows a user to work on sore muscles in all parts of the body and at various speeds.

     Boxer George Foreman, who last licensed his name for outdoor grills, is doing the same for a pain relief liquid solution made by Real Time which is smartly called George Foreman’s Knockout Formula. Biofreeze is another company that makes pain anaesthetic creams, gels, sprays, and roll-ons.

     Last week I mentioned that the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County met with New York media recently to promote their many museums, gardens, and animal sanctuaries. I neglected to mention that polo season will be getting underway at the Palm Beach Polo Club in Wellington, Florida this January. Polo can best described as hockey with horses and is quite exciting to watch.

     Citi Field will be the home of the Hello Panda Festival which highlights Chinese lantern-making, art, entertainment, and cuisine. It will run from December 6 through January 26.

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