02.25.11

Wilpon To Press : “What Part Of ‘I’m Broke’ Do You Not Understand?”

Posted in Baseball at 5:19 pm by

(until recently,  I would not have guessed “sell flowers by the side of the road”)

The Mets’ Grapefruit League schedule kicks off tomorrow against Atlanta, and fans in attendance at Digital Domain Park might be asked to return any foul balls they’ve caught. While the Amazins’ dire financial straits have made headlines of late, until today it wasn’t previously known that last Autumn, Major League Baseball lent the club $25 million in order to pay operating expenses.  From the New York Daily News’ Terri Thompson and Nathaniel Vinton :

The loan is expected to be repaid within months, according to sources familiar with the transaction.

When contacted by the Daily News Friday, the Mets declined to comment on the loan and issued a statement.

“We said in October that we expected to have a short-term liquidity issue. To address this, we did receive a loan from Major League Baseball in November,” the statement read. “Beyond that, we will not discuss the matter any further.”

The Mets are not the only team to have turned to MLB for help in recent months. The Texas Rangers received a loan of $21.5 million from baseball to help keep the club afloat during bankruptcy proceedings last year. The Rangers were later sold to a group headed by pitching legend Nolan Ryan.

As Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra notes, prior to bankruptcy, Tom Hicks had claimed he was seeking a minority investor for the Rangers.  If you think that sounds scary/familiar, consider the mindset of Jeff Wilpon, reduced to placing the following advertisement.

Anthony Defensive About Lack Of Defense Jibes, Strangely Prideful Over One Conference Finals Appearance

Posted in Basketball at 1:09 pm by

Given that Denver Nuggets coach George Karl is 2-0 since the trade sending Carmelo Anthony to New York for 4/5ths of the Knicks starting lineup, you’d think he’d be taking the high road following months of anxiety over the fate of franchise and superstar alike.  Instead, his not-so-subtle (and hardly inaccurate) burial of Anthony has resulted in a the sort of cross-conference pissing match not seen since…well, since Carmelo showed an MSG crowd just how quickly he could run backwards. From the New York Post’s Marc Berman :

“Defense is commitment. I’ve got young guys and if they don’t give me the commitment, I’ve got other guys who will give me the commitment,” Karl said on TNT Thursday. “The system sometimes ties you up from getting the commitment.

“You have to handle what ‘Melo gives you. I’m not knocking ‘Melo, he is a great offensive player. ‘Melo is the best offensive player I’ve ever coached, but his defensive focus, his demand of himself is what frustrated us more than anything.”

Anthony also fired back this morning at shootaround in Cleveland, where he will play his second game with the Knicks against the Cavaliers.

“That’s George Karl. I try not to pay too much attention to that,” said Anthony, who scored 27 points in his Knicks debut Wednesday. “I know what I’ve done in 7-1/2 years I was there going to Western Conference finals.

“I know we were top in defensive categories last year. Don’t know where it’s coming from,” Anthony said.

02.24.11

Recalling A Yankee Trade Somewhat Less Celebrated Than Danny Cater-For-Sparky Lyle

Posted in Baseball, History's Great Hook-Ups at 5:47 pm by

While the likes of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are amongst New York’s most celebrated bachelors, at one time, the sanctity of marriage was a hot topic in and around the Bronx. The New York Post reported earlier today that former Yankee P Mike Kekich is “desperate to block” production of “The Trade”, a Ben Affleck helmed motion picture concerning Kekich and fellow P Fritz Peterson swapping wives in 1973.  In a discussion about Peterson’s 2009 memoir, “Mickey Mantle Is Going To Heaven”, the New York Times’ Joe LaPointe called the exchange, “something out of a John Updike novel.”

Peterson moved in with Kekich’s wife; Kekich moved in with Peterson’s wife. Although Marilyn Peterson did not stay long with Kekich, Fritz married Susanne Kekich.

The Yankees and Peterson stayed together for one more year after the swap was disclosed; Fritz and Susanne have remained together for 35. But one of many strange things about Peterson’s quirky book is that he does not mention his spouse by name, only as “my new wife.” She opposed his book, he said.

“She’s pretty sensitive about that stuff,” Peterson said. “She read the first three chapters and then stopped.”

In the book, Peterson treated the exchange of wives in a peripheral way and complained about how the story was handled in the news media. He said he still communicates occasionally with Kekich by e-mail. “If I saw him at an Old-Timers’ game, we’d have some great laughs,” Peterson said.

Peterson said he rushed the book into publication before his wife could talk him out of it, and critical readers will notice misspellings and rambling repetitions.

And Yankees fans might be taken aback by some of Peterson’s judgments of others. He is an evangelical Christian who used to work with the Baseball Chapel, a man not without sin who is casting a few stones.

In some respects, the Peterson book echoes the “Ball Four” tell-all by Jim Bouton. Coincidentally, Peterson and Bouton roomed together, but Peterson said he had not read Bouton’s book and was offended that Bouton never told him he was keeping a diary.

Pirates Exec To Fans : We’re Cheap Because Of You

Posted in Baseball at 2:52 pm by

Of what purpose is an alleged Pirates Fanfest if the club’s team president is gonna pass the buck to the paying customers in the most cowardly of manners? Check out the following exchange between Pirate Prospects’ Kevin Creagh and the Bucs’ Frank Coonelly ;

Kevin: Would the Pirates be able to afford a $70M to $80M payroll, in present-day worth, if this current group of players were competitive enough to merit additional outside free agents?

Frank: Today, no but we will be able to support that payroll very soon if our fans believe that we now have a group of players in Pittsburgh and on its way here in the near future that is competitive.  We need to take a meaningful step forward in terms of attendance to reach that payroll number while continuing to invest heavily in our future but I am convinced that the attendance will move quickly once we convince our fans that we are on the right track.

Translation : if you were hoping the Pirates would invest some of their revenue sharing windfall in talent, FUCK YOU.  Or as iSports’ James Krug puts it, “ownership has put the proverbial cart before the horse; after 18 straight losing seasons, they should be simply appreciative that fans show up at all.”  (link taken from the Post-Gazzette’s Bob Smizik)

Sadly, Coonelly does not place the immediate onus on the Pirates themselves to build a better, more competitive team that fans would WANT to see. Rather- as has been a consistent message from Pirates’ ownership- they desire to see a significant increase in attendance PRIOR to the team actually getting good! It’s maddening. From a purely business perspective, it is a backwards approach. You could liken it to a car company telling its customers:

“We really want to build better cars for you. But before we do, we need you to start buying our lower-quality, underperforming cars in a much higher volume.”

While many aspects of running a multi-million dollar business are highly complex, appeasing a fan base is not. Offer them a consistently competitive team, and they will show up in droves. Bobbleheads and fireworks only mask an inferior on-the-field product for so long. The Pirates were provided a jewel of a stadium in PNC Park that was almost entirely publicly financed. They are handed tens of millions of dollars every year in MLB revenue sharing and the MLB TV contract- to the point that it could cover their ENTIRE payroll most years.

Mark Cuban Would Like To Remind All CSTB Readers That “Hornets Part-Owner With A Boner” Is An Acceptable Variation On His Nickname

Posted in Basketball at 2:13 pm by

The NBA-owned Hornets acquired Carl Landry from Sacramento yesterday in exchange for SG Marcus Thornton and cash, a deadline that received fierce criticism from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (above, left). Perhaps recalling the reaction of MLB executives who watched Omar Minaya taken on Bartolo Colon’s salary in Montreal, Cuban wonders why he wasn’t consulted.  “”If New Orleans is taking back $2 million and the team is losing money and I own one 29th of it, I’m going to go against the grain and say that’s just wrong,” Cuban said in comments reported by Mavs Moneyball’s Bryan Gutierrez. “There’s no way, with their payroll, having to dump salary before they were sold to us (NBA Owners); now they can take on more salary while they’re losing money. That’s just wrong every which way.”

New Orleans’ payroll did go up about $2.24 million in the process, though that difference is prorated for the remainder of the season. That increase plus the cash paid to Sacramento is what led to the Mavs owner being upset as he is a regular when it comes to paying the luxury tax. “All I know is if most of the owners in this league can’t take back salary in a deal,” Cuban said, “the Hornets shouldn’t be allowed to either…There’s so few teams in the league that can afford to do that,” said Cuban. “Yet we’re allowing a team that’s owned by the league to do that?”

“I don’t have a problem if they go dollar-for-dollar, great, more power to them,” Cuban said. “You could see if it was like a marquee guy and he’s going to bring in lots of dollars. No disrespect to Carl Landry, but I don’t see that’s the way it works. It’s just wrong. I’m one of the owners. The league is supposed to just give them a budget and it never dawned on me that the budget would say you can spend more money to bring in players.”

02.23.11

Royals’ Soria Resists Temptation To Dub Himself “The Sexecutioner”

Posted in Baseball at 5:01 pm by

Up until some point — perhaps as recently as a few days ago — Kansas City reliever  Joakim Soria had no problem with being called “The Mexecutioner”.  However, in the wake of the violent crime epidemic plaguing his homeland, Soria no longer wants to glamorize murder, and that’s an admirable enough sentiment, though as

Derrick Favors Burned A Hole In Mikhail Prokhorov’s Pocket

Posted in Basketball at 1:18 pm by

Q : What happens when you’re widely suspected to have dissed a Hall Of Fame coach into retirement?  A:  If you’re Deron Williams (above), you find yourself traded to Basketball Siberia. Or more accurately, Newark, NJ.  While Raja Bell is said to have assured Williams that “New Jersey is a good place to live”.   While admitted the currently constituted Nets, “don’t really smack of playoff potential”, Ball Don’t Lie’s Kelly Dwyer makes a pretty good case for the D-Will acquisition being a more than sufficient consolation prize for Mikhail Prokhorov & Billy King after losing out on the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes.

Prokorov appears to be competing against the Knicks, and little else, at this point. Knicks fans would (or, at least, “should”) probably prefer a core including Amar’e Stoudemire, Danilo Gallinari/Wilson Chandler, and Deron Williams to the current Amar’e/Carmelo/Chauncey Billups trio, but it’s unclear if the Knicks were ever going to be able to grab Williams with the assets they had to offer.

If Williams extends his contract with the Nets later this year, both he and Brook Lopez (assuming he re-signs) will be working under contracts developed under the next collective bargaining agreement. This means the deals that could be worth about 60 or 70 percent of what Stoudemire and Anthony will earn in New York. And while Lopez and Williams aren’t as good as Stoudemire and Anthony in total, they’re certainly better than 60 or 70 percent as good as New York’s flashy duo.

02.22.11

Bagchi : There’s Nothing Cool About Barca’s Mint Shirts

Posted in Fashion, Football at 7:45 pm by

Barcelona surrendered a late advantage and fell to a late Arsenal comeback last week in the clubs’ Champions League encounter at the Emirates Stadium, and it would be rather simplistic to blame the defeat on the visitors’ choice of clothing.  Right?  Doing his finest Paul Lukas impersonation, the Guardian’s Rob Bagchi successfully argues otherwise.

Barcelona were hogging possession and formulating their patterns in shirts the manufacturer describes as “cool mint”. Over the past 30 years Barça have almost been through the rainbow with their away kit, from the primrose of the Catalan flag, to orange, vibrant salmon pink, silver, gold, navy, acid-house-meets-lollipop-man fluorescent sulphur and several variations of the turquoisey teal to which they have reverted this season. Worn with matching thermal polo neck undershirts, the kit made Xavi and co look like pastel-clad versions of those aficionados of the turtle-neck, André Previn and Harold Pinter, on the Parkinson show circa 1975. Vertical, diagonal and now horizontal blaugrana sashes have been tried to keep the iconic first-choice colours uppermost in people’s minds in the absence of a clash, like at the Emirates, where the usual kit would have sufficed.

Abuses of the colour palette have been going on for ages and although some can claim inspiration from a particular club’s history – Tottenham in chocolate brown, Everton in pink, Manchester United in green and gold – others such as Aston Villa’s disgusting green, black and red stripes from 15 years ago or Arsenal’s green with blue sleeves from a decade earlier were put together at the designer’s whim.

With apologies to Plymouth and Yeovil fans, there is a common denominator here. Green simply does not work for club football kits unless a historical association buys it some leeway. The purely commercial, such as Liverpool’s Carlsberg can and Adidas homages that began under Graeme Souness and were amended if not improved over the next 20 years, never manage to look anything other than faddish.

Buzz Bissinger Wrote A Terrible Piece About The NBA, But It’s Only Kind Of His Fault

Posted in Basketball, Buzz Bissinger Is Out To Lunch, Sports Journalism at 3:31 pm by

I wrote multiple NFL-related columns during the football season, for a few different venues, and it was exhausting. Not just because I feel ambivalent-to-grossed-out about the NFL in general, although there was that, but because cranking up the dudgeon when I’d really have preferred to write about something else (or take a nap) was not as easy as it seemed before I actually had to do it. It’s much, much better than not having work, of course, and there are of course a near-infinite number of harder jobs in the world than pretending to care about the Jets. But I mention it because having experienced that enervating, gnawing combination of lack-of-interest and impending deadline is about as close as I can get to sympathy for Buzz Bissinger in his sportswriting dotage.

The guy obviously does not much care about sports anymore, which makes it kind of a shame that he has to keep writing about them. Everyone has to eat, I guess, and while Buzz would obviously rather be in a steakhouse, listening to Tony LaRussa bitch about illegal aliens and taxes, or just kicking back and screaming at young people in an A&P parking lot than writing columns about sports, no one’s paying him to do what he’d rather be doing. (Although they already paid him for the LaRussa bit, kind of) So he’s still out there, banging out his played-out curmudgeonhoods about the sports topic of the moment. It must suck, in a way.

But that’s about as far as I can go, honestly. Buzz, who now writes for The Daily Beast’s sports section, delivered himself of a pretty embarrassing column on the NBA over the weekend. Bissinger’s thesis was that the NBA’s problem connecting with fans owed to the fact that the league was “too black” — aesthetically and in terms of, you know, how many black people it employs — and that some people, though not Buzz, were turned off by that. The column itself is pretty much indefensible, but not necessarily because Bissinger managed to be more or less totally wrong in an utterly out-of-touch way. Here’s how it starts:

My editor thinks I should write something about professional basketball. The timing is certainly right—the National Basketball Association’s All-Star extravaganza starts today in Los Angeles, culminating in the All-Star game on Sunday night. The problem is, I don’t really know what to say about the NBA other than I almost never watch it anymore. I am not a basketball junkie and I have no desire to be one. There are maybe three players I would pay to watch.

And we could stop right there, some five sentences after Buzz should’ve stopped. Not just because leading with an admission of ignorance and some mushy contrarianism sure is one Bleacher Report-y ass way to start a column (except for the part about editors, which is obviously not a Bleacher Report thing), but because Bissinger is copping, up top, to an inability to 1) want to or 2) be able to write the column that he then (of course) proceeds to write. Everything that Bissinger goes on to be wrong about — why the NBA “is in trouble, and I don’t think there’s much dispute about that,” that attendance is down, that the game is suffocatingly one-on-one, as well as some really dicey stuff about how black players’ body language scans to white fans, though not to Buzz, who is not a racist but a truth-teller — is explained by a lede in which he allows that there is absolutely no reason why he should be writing this column. Which is effectively the same thing as admitting that there’s no reason why anyone should be reading it.

That Bissinger is wrong about a great deal in his column might not be surprising, given all that, but it’s still worth pointing out. At The Score’s Basketball Jones blog, Scott Carefoot does a good job of that:

I contacted the NBA league office and they confirmed David Stern’s recent claim that attendance is actually up “just shy of 1 percent” this season. That’s not a massive increase, but it’s certainly not a decline. Where you will see a significant increase in the NBA’s popularity if you bother to do the research — which Bissinger didn’t, and I did — is in the TV ratings for this season. Multiple sources have confirmed that ratings have been way up throughout the season, but here are the latest numbers provided by the NBA as of this past weekend:

* Viewership for the NBA’s network partners is up double-digits across the board.
* TNT viewership of NBA games is up 30 percent, ESPN viewership is up 20 percent, and ABC viewership is up 34 percent compared to this point last season.
* NBA games have reached over 86.5 million unique viewers this season, nearly 20 percent ahead of last year’s regular season pace to date.

Carefoot proceeds to dissect the maybe-sorta racial problems in Bissinger’s “too black” thesis, and while he does so well enough, it’s also not really worth the time. “I have no hard-core evidence,” Bissinger allows early in the piece (again) on that thesis, and he later admits that his proof that the NBA “has a problem… beyond dispute” comes from conversations he has had with friends who no longer watch the league. Buzz’s friends, of course, being a demographic that, given Bissinger’s age (56) and wealth (above-average) and friends (Tony LaRussa, other people who curse at young people in A&P parking lots) is not really representative of much — and certainly not representative of the demo that appeals most to the companies buying ads during NBA games. Instead, the admission is representative only of the thing that Bissinger is semaphoring wildly from the article’s opening words — that he is not qualified to write this piece, and shouldn’t have written it, and that it shouldn’t have run, period.

And so all this really collapses on the editor, for me — the one who told Bissinger to write a piece he shouldn’t have written, and who then read that piece and waved it into print despite the fact that it came out every bit as badly as one could have (easily) predicted it would. Bissinger has a job to do, and as long as he’s getting paid (well) to do it, he should of course try to do it better. (Another option would be getting out of the game altogether and stick to writing about things he actually cares about, like what a nice guy Don Imus is) This sort of hacky, half-assed pundi-trolling isn’t new for Bissinger, and in its way does considerably more damage to his bruised rep than did his unhinged HBO assault on Will Leitch or its slightly less crazed aftermath.

That televised shrieking suggests why an editor — someone almost certainly younger, certainly less well-paid, and presumably not any more keen to get screeched at by Crazy Eyes Buzz than those skateboarders in the A&P parking lot — might not want to put a spike through a Bissinger column. But everything in Bissinger’s embarrassing piece suggests that he might not have been all that unhappy with an editor canning this particular column, a column that scans as one long argument against itself/plea for the wastebasket. Nightmarish post-literate dystopia though it may be, the Bleacher Report guys at least seem to be having fun with their sports-underboob slideshows and malaprop-laden MMA sermonizing. Buzz just wants to be left alone, it seems, and his editor would’ve done both Buzz and the Daily Beast a service by doing just that in this case.

Prokhorov : Successful At Tweaking Dolan, Not Much Else

Posted in Basketball at 7:49 am by

While the New York Post’s Peter Vecsey wasted little time in portraying Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni as reluctant a participant in the Carmelo Anthony blockbuster as his lame duck team president, Donnie Walsh (“‘Mike is well aware Stoudemire and Anthony are not a good fit,’ said a D’Antoni confidant. ‘At either end.””), the Bergen Record’s Tara Sullivan considers the role of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov (above, left)  in the protracted saga.  “Prokhorov did accomplish one of his stated goals, driving up the price for his cross-river rivals,” observes Sullivan, “but there’s little moral victory in hurting the opposition if you don’t at least help yourself in the process.”

“I think we made a very good tactical decision to force [the] Knicks to pay as much as they can,” Prokhorov told CNBC. “So it’s very good, it’s very interesting, it’s very competitive.”

No matter how Prokhorov spins this as something positive, we’re not buying. He blew into New Jersey and promised nothing short of world basketball domination. He talked of building a global brand, a team that will take its New Jersey fan base, move it to Brooklyn, and build a team to rival the much-more-popular Knicks.

He declared his intention to sign big-time free agent stars, to ultimately overshadow his big-time neighbors across the Hudson. He planted his egotistical “blueprint for greatness” billboard in the Knicks’ backyard, and then answered their taunts that he’ll never be like them with a dismissive retort that he’d rather be like the Lakers anyway.

He ends up being neither.