Popper : Barring A Blockbuster, Trading Reyes Is The Wrong Move

Posted in Baseball at 5:40 pm by

Does Jose Reyes’ unique combination of speed, power and importance as a table-setter for the likes of David Wright and Carlos Beltran outweigh his occasional lapses in concentration?  I’ve argued the affirmative more times than I care to count, but the shortstop’s inability to stay healthy in recent years has been a key component in the Mets’ struggles.  With at least one recent rumor floating concerning Arizona’s alleged interest in Reyes, the Bergen Record’s Steve Popper warns, “if the Mets move him, I think the last long shot chance of seeing anything good out of 2010 at Citi Field will be gone.”

Even in a season that never seemed to get on track, Reyes still ranked in the top half of shortstops in the league in most statistical measures, not to mention ahead of Derek Jeter in WAR (Wins Above Replacement) while Jeter lobbies for a long-term, high-priced deal. But for the Mets to have any hope they have to count on Reyes returning to form.

Reyes is the one player who can be exceptional. His performance can rank above the average shortstop, making it acceptable that the Mets have a first baseman who doesn™t hit 40 homers or a catcher who might not hit 10. And there is some intangible in Reyes that will confound any sabermetric formula “ not grittiness, but a danger that helps hitters behind him and in front of him.

For the Mets to contend again Reyes has to be in the lineup and has to be at his best. While he might be the only player outside of David Wright who could bring back a roster-changing package, Reyes is the only one who you could search for years and not find a talent to match his ability.

“Maybe it™s some subtle racism that has depicted Reyes as some sort of malingerer,” considers Popper, though I’m sure there’s been much subtle about it. Certainly if Reyes were a more effusive public speaker in English, the New York media might hold him in nearly as high esteem as R.A. Dickey.  On the other hand, if Jose was a sound byte machine, he’d probably have indicted the Mets’ medical staff on more than one occasion.

Mushnick To Benigno-Gazingo : My Colleagues Are Dull On Purpose

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism, Sports Radio at 5:16 pm by

“WFAN’s Joe Benigno is one of these radio guys who is 99- to 100-percent reliant on newspapers,” observes the New York Post’s Phil Mushnick, “yet only bites those hands that do his work for him.” Not only that, but no one has pointed out that we’ve yet to see Joe (above) and Wally Backman in the same room

After last week’s Mets news conference to introduce Terry Collins , Benigno swiped at sportswriters for asking, as part of a group, dull, non-provocative questions. Well, no kidding. Why would local beat writers, in the most public of forums — and with radio and TV in the house — ask their best questions, the answers to which can be lifted and replayed long before the writers can write? Why would they ask in the wide open what they can later ask Collins in a one-on-one?

In essence, Benigno complained on WFAN that local sportswriters had failed to do his work for him.


Backman : Mets Picked The Wrong Guy

Posted in Baseball at 6:49 pm by

(since retiring as a player, Wally has obtained plenty of experience being fucked over in the majors)

“When somebody needs an ass-chewing, I’ll do it, but I take a lot of things into consideration when I do it.” That’s how Brooklyn Cyclones skipper Wally Backman — passed over last week when the Mets opted for Terry Collins as their new manager — describes his hothead reputation. Given that Backman is awaiting his 2010 Mets minor league assignment (“I was hired by the Diamondbacks out of ‘A’ ball, so I don’t think the level really matters,”), perhaps the following quotes, served up by the New York Daily News’ John Harper, should not be framed as an ass-chewing of GM Sandy Alderson?

“I really thought I won them over,” Backman said by phone Friday from his home in Oregon. “I came out of each interview thinking it had gone better than the one with the Diamondbacks when I got the job there (in 2004).

“I knew what was being said (in the media), that the other guys were the favorites, but I kept looking at it, thinking I could make them see that I was the best guy for the job. I guess I didn’t convince them.”

In any case, Backman doesn’t agree that major league experience should have been a significant factor in the decision, as Alderson asserted.

“I didn’t think experience should have been a factor,” Backman said. “Managing a game is managing a game, and I don’t think it’s different dealing with players whether it’s the majors or the minors.

“It’s all about motivating in different ways. You have 25 different personalities and you have to be a psychologist. If you’re a people person, it’s not that hard. I really enjoy that part of the job, and my players respond to it.

“And the whole New York thing, the media, I would think that would have been the least of their worries. I played there, I know what it’s about. I know it can be good and bad, but that’s part of the excitement of New York.”

Though I’d have preferred to see Backman get the gig ahead of Collins — if for no other reason than continued cheap shots at the Mets’ former 2B are much, much easier than coming up with original ideas —- there’s something a little weird about his citing his 4 day tenure as Arizona manager as any sort of criteria for what the rebuilding Mets should consider. Indeed, the Diamondbacks hired Wally despite a rather modest tenure managing MLB-affiliated minor league clubs.  We all know how well that worked out.  Now that Backman has put in all of one entire season in the NY-Penn League, he feels deserving, if not entitled to a big league managerial position. But if Backman’s paid his dues, where does that leave Gary Carter, Ryne Sandberg, or to look within the Mets’ own organization, Tim Teufel or  Ken Oberkfell?

Stephon Marbury : Wearing Out His Welcome In Yet Another Continent

Posted in Basketball at 5:48 pm by

Perhaps lost amidst the coverage of Allan Iverson’s recent debut in Istanbul, the status of NBA veteran Stephon Marbury’s playing career in China has been largely ignored of late. That is, until Jon Pastuzek of NIUBBall reported that Marbury’s negotiations with Shanxi Zhongyu — with whom the Coney Island product reportedly signed a 3-year deal over the summer — had fallen apart.  Badly.

When Marbury returned to the States, he sent back another contract filled with other clauses, including one stipulating that the team must re-sign Maurice Taylor, who played with Marbury on Shanxi last year, for another year. Adding to that, Marbury also requested that the two be put up in a five-star hotel in Taiyuan, as well as an apartment complete with a private chef and maids, all at the team™s expense.  The two sides met up again in Las Vegas in October while the team was training, but were unable to come to an agreement.

After Shanxi management returned to China, there was hope from the team that something would eventually be worked out, and they put in the business cooperation clause into the official contract as a sign of good faith.  However, when they sent over the new version to Marbury in America, he came out with even more requests: a $30,000 insurance policy for both his wife and child and roundtrip plane tickets for everyone.

Scared that negotiations would break down completely while the two were apart, Shanxi paid for Marbury™s plane ticket and met with him in Taiyuan, along with the team™s main sponsor, Shanxi Fenjiu, and the Shanxi provincial sports bureau.  After talking, the four pronged discussions ended with Shanxi deciding to give up their pursuit of Marbury.

Elsewhere in the article, Shanxi GM Zhang Aijun raises the specter of  Marbury’s fitness — physical, that is. Though if U-Stream isn’t blocked by Chinese authorities, there might’ve been additional questions.


Rock You Like The Hurricane : Alex Higgins’ Spectacular Kiss-Off

Posted in Snooker at 10:24 pm by

The Guardian’s Scott Murray attempt to compile a short list of all-time classic sports meltdowns this week, and while Jim Mora and Hal McRae made the top 5 (tapes of Denny Green and Mike Gundy have apparently not reached the United Kingdom), Murray picked a real doozy for the pole position : snooker dynamo Alex Higgins‘ 1990 retirement speech after a first-round exit in the World Championships at the Crucible in Sheffield.  Higgins’ oration, reportedly came on the heels of 27 shots of vodka consumed during his defeat to Steve James.

Upon entering the press conference, Higgins crumped his fist into the stomach of WPBSA press officer Colin Randle, who was holding the door open for him. He then sat down and delivered a rambling, only vaguely coherent retirement speech. “Well chaps,” began the rigmarole, “I would like to announce my retirement from professional snooker ¦ I don’t want to be part of a cartel. I don’t want to be part of a game where there are slush funds for everybody¦ If Derek Jameson, for instance, can leave the News of the World and go to Sky TV there has to be a place for me in this life¦ There are an awful lot of people running about this world who put their kids through certain schools, feeder schools, grammar schools, and you get absolute tossers doing jobs for exorbitant money, well, I don’t really want to be part of it¦ You can shove snooker up your jacksie, I’m not playing no more and it’s not sour grapes, nothing, it’s the truth ¦ I wish Cecil Parkinson and Maggie Thatcher would do a probe into snooker, then we would find out the real truth. The Hurricane doesn’t want to be part of this tripe, no disrespect to northern people because I like tripe¦ I’m not going to break the cue because I like the cue, but it is a corrupt game¦ Rock on Tommy¦”

Peter Vecsey Helpfully Volunteers His Services As Phil Jackson’s Speechwriter

Posted in Basketball, Sports Journalism at 6:47 pm by

(above : a man whose callous disregard for his industry peers has made him a national pariah.  And on the left, Lakers head coach Phil Jackson).

Orlando’s Stan Van Gundy has already taken umbrage at Phil Jackson all but declaring current Heat head coach Erick Spoelstra a lame duck, recalling Van Gundy’s allegedly amicable departure from Miami that coincided with Pat Riley kicking himself downstairs, but the New York Post’s Peter Vecsey has more of a problem with Jackson’s choice of words than the gist of his message.  Of Van Gundy’s 2005 exit, Vecsey reminds us, “other than quitting on your team in mid-semester being an endearing brotherly trait, it’s not known for sure if anything else was behind Van Gundy’s bailout.”

As painful as it is for me to agree with Stan on anything, and that goes double for his supercilious sibling, the mannequin makes a good point. Sounding like just another goofy talk-show voice, Jackson insulted Spoelstra, Riley, LeBron and Bosh without coming up for air or acuity.

Forget for the moment Jackson’s lack of professionalism for discussing the state of affairs of a fraternity member, you’d think someone who spent so many years in the minors and as an assistant before getting his first head coaching job would be sensitive to what Spoelstra’s going through and decline comment.

I’d have more respect for Jackson had he said what he really means in reply to those who maintain anybody could’ve coached Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaq and Kobe to championships: “See, it isn’t as easy as people think to coach superstars and be successful.”

This Thanksgiving, Stan Van Gundy Would Like To Spend More Time WIth His Family….Of Pies

Posted in Basketball, Food at 1:06 pm by

Video culled from The Orlando Sentinel (via Slam) ;  no mention of lemon meringue, and while Stan V.G. professes not to play favorites, don’t think Phil Jackson isn’t taking notes.  NOTHING BUT lemon meringue pie for the visiting team’s catering when and if the Lakers and Magic meet in the finals next June.


Hamed Haddadi, Excellent At Blocking Soap Dispensers, Not So Good At Conjugal Negotiations

Posted in Basketball, The Law at 11:03 pm by

Ryan Brown helpfully alerted me to reports of the Grizzlies’ Hamed Haddadi (above) Wednesday arrest on domestic assault charges. Goolnaz œAsal Karbalaeinematmoeeney alleges that Haddadi choked her upon discovering her talking with another man, while the Iranian center offered a far more unusual explanation to Memphis police. According to the Memphis Police report on the matter, Haddadi claims Karbalaeinematmoeeney suffered facial injuries when he deflected a soap dispenser she tried throwing at him. Prior to this, Haddadi told Police his girlfriend “fell out of bed.”

Though Haddadi is said to have told authorities that English wasn’t his first language, one item stands out clear as day in the affidavit ; asked what provoked the physical altercation, Haddad said he and Karbalaeinematmoeeney were about to have sex, yet there was “an dispute over the sexual position.”

Mike Leach’s Inner Pirate Tells Him To Sue ESPN

Posted in College Spurts, Gridiron, Sports TV, The Law at 2:49 pm by

As you’ve probably read elsewhere, former Texas Tech head football coach Mike Leach, stung by allegations of mistreating TE Adam James, son of ESPN analyst Craig James, is suing the network and James’ public relations firm for defamation of character.  It’s a dopey move in the estimation of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s Adam Zuvanich, who sneers, ‘I just hope he doesn’t take his legal fight to yet another level and file suit against Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman or the Easter Bunny.”

On one hand, I applaud the Pirate for taking on “the man”, so to speak. I think ESPN has gotten way too big for itself – it’s pretty much attempting to create a monopoly in the sports media market – and I don’t have much respect for PR firms. Their purpose is essentially to bend the truth for the benefit of their clients.

On the other hand, the whole thing makes Leach look pretty silly and, as Spaeth said in its statement to reporters, desperate.

Leach, who is currently working as a color analyst for CBS College Sports, apparently thinks this is the only way he can clear his name and be hired to coach again. But if prospective employers are turned off by the fact that he’s suing his former employer, which I imagine they are, they might think he’s gone off the deep end by suing a television network that has given him plenty of publicity over the last 10 years.


A Possible Dent To Mikhail Prokhorov’s WIld & Crazy Guy Image

Posted in Basketball, twitter twatter at 4:09 pm by

If nothing else, the above exchange explains why I’m shit out of luck trying to find David Roth a Nets scarf for Hanukkah.