The Mets re-signed their popular leadoff hitter and centerfielder Brandon Nimmo to an eight-year, $162 million contract last Thursday. Nimmo’s timing to be a free agent could not have been any better as there was a dearth of available quality centerfielders. He clearly benefitted from supply-and-demand capitalism.
An indicator of how crazy baseball economics have gotten is Nimmo will be getting over $20 million per year even though he has never been named to the National League All-Star team. Nonetheless, Nimmo has made himself into a valuable asset for the Mets because he has a high on-base percentage; is a smart base runner even though he doesn’t steal many bases; and has worked diligently on his defense so that he has now is a legitimate Gold Glove contender.
When the Mets meet the Yankees in the Subway Series, Nimmo should walk up to Aaron Judge and thank him profusely. Mets owner Steve Cohen, still smarting after watching Jacob deGrom leave Flushing to accept a lucrative long-term deal with the Texas Rangers, was not about to let Brandon Nimmo leave Queens especially after the Yankees finally re-signed Aaron Judge after having lived through a lot of Sturm und Drang in 2022 over his future.
Both Brandon Nimmo and Aaron Judge made huge bets on themselves last year, and both had the best seasons of their careers in their contractual walk years. Playing in New York has worked for both men. Interestingly, each has landed soft drink endorsement deals as Judge has done television commercials for Pepsi, while Nimmo has done the same for Coke.
Unlike Jacob deGrom, both Brandon Nimmo and Aaron Judge enjoy taking with the media and fans.
Nimmo’s upbeat personality is not an act for the cameras. He has always cheerfully greeted me when I have approached him with a question. Many fans have posted on social media how he has taken the time to chat with them both when entering and leaving Citi Field.
Last September I spoke to Aaron Judge in the Yankees clubhouse for the first time in three years. I jokingly said to him, “Aaron, we haven’t seen each other in three years but I hear things have gone pretty well for you!” “I can’t complain!” he replied with a big smile. He then asked about my column and if the pandemic made that a more challenging task. That is class.
The Mets signed highly touted Nippon Professional Baseball pitcher Kodai Senga to a five-year contract over the weekend. Senga was sought after by a number of Major League Baseball teams because of his tough-to-hit forkball. The Mets also inked veteran starter Jose Quintana last week. All of which means the Mets will be parting ways with free agent Chris Bassitt, who had a good record for the Mets but did not pitch well in big games.
With Hanukkah upon us, there are a number of books which make for good gifts for sports fans.
“The Baseball Talmud” (Triumph Books) written by veteran sports scribe Howard Megdal is the definitive encyclopedia of Jewish baseball players. Megdal gives quick bios of every player as well as ranking them by position. While Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg of course are here, the real fun is reading about lesser known players as former Met Josh Satin, current Yankees reliever Scott Effross, and journeyman reliever Craig Breslow, who graduated Yale University with a degree in molecular chemistry and gave up admission to the NYU School of Medicine to pitch in the majors.
Al Rosen is one of the players mentioned in “The Baseball Talmud,” and he gets a more detailed biography with “Hebrew Hammer” (McFarland Publishing) written by Joseph Wancho. Rosen was a feared slugger for the Cleveland Indians in the 1950s and then became a team president for three different baseball teams including the New York Yankees for a couple of years (1978-79). Rosen knew Yankees owner George Steinbrenner from Cleveland and was friendly with him but did not enjoy working under him in the Bronx.
Although he was born in Washington, DC, few are more associated with Philadelphia sports than the late Ed Snider, who owned the Philadelphia Flyers, founded one of the first regional cable television sports networks in the country, PRISM, and held minority interest in the Philadelphia Eagles.
Author Alan Bass profiles Snider in his new book, “The Last Sports Mogul” (Triumph Books). Bass writes how the anti-Semitism he faced as a young CPA made him a determined business leader. Snider could be a fierce competitor but was legendary for being loyal to his employees. NHL star Mark Howe (son of the legendary Gordie Howe) talks about how upset Snider was for years with him because he left for more money and playing with the Detroit Red Wings.
Snider was also beloved by Philadelphians for being a passionate fan of all the local teams, even the ones in which he did not possess a financial stake. NBC Universal CEO Jeff Shell told me last week about the time he was watching a Lakers-76ers game as Snider’s guest in his courtside seats at the Wells Fargo Center. Shell grew up a Lakers fans in his native Los Angeles. “I stood up and cheered when Kobe Bryant slammed down a reverse dunk. Snider’s face quickly reddened. ‘If you ever do that again, I will have security escort you out of the building, Snider told him.” Shell added Snider was deadly serious about his threat.
The 2022 Heisman Trophy was held in Manhattan Saturday night. University of Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams was named the winner. Interestingly, Williams started his collegiate career at the University of Oklahoma. I asked him how a Washington, DC native wound up going to Norman, Oklahoma. “Head coach Lincoln Riley recruited me,” he replied. “He must be one hell of a salesman!” I retorted. “He is!” Williams responded with a hearty laugh.
When Riley left OU to become the head coach at USC, Williams transferred with him as well. He admitted the endorsement deals he got playing in Los Angeles could never have happened in Norman, OK. “I take pride in paying my bills and helping my family even though they don’t need my help. Of course if you don’t play well, you are not going to get those business deals, so football comes first.”
University of Georgia QB Stetson Bennett spoke about how college athletes should reap the financial fruits of their labor as it is basic capitalism. I asked him if he had gotten an endorsement deal from the western outerwear company for which he shares a name. “You would think!” he responded, showing some disgust that he has not been approached by them.
Last Saturday’s “Saturday Night Live,” hosted by veteran funnymen Steve Martin and Martin Short, who are no strangers to the NBC weekend institution, was one of its best in years. The pair who co-star in Hulu’s popular “Only Murders in the Building,” along with Selena Gomez, which is now in its third season on the Disney-owned streaming service.
The highlight of “SNL” was a video spoof of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” with Martin Short playing Ebenezer Scrooge. When a chastened Scrooge wants to turn over a new leaf and do well for mankind, things quickly devolve into the kind of bloody horror films you find on AMC’s streaming service, Shudder. It is simultaneously grotesque and hysterical.
NBC will be introducing a two-week game show in primetime beginning this Monday (December 19), called “The Wheel.” It is hosted by British comedian Mike McIntyre and it appears to be a knock-off of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? with a few more laughs than the Regis Philbin-hosted classic. “The Wheel” features celebrities from all walks of life including the world of sports. Among those trying to help contestants win money are former Jets QB Mark Sanchez, ex-Knicks guard and current ESPN personality Jalen Rose, and WWE star Mike “The Miz” Mizanin. NBC deserves credit for putting on original programming during a time of the year where reruns are de rigueur for television networks.