Feb 05

Potential Around Citi Field

With the Super Bowl today, I suppose this falls under the category of being a fantasy – much like the Jets playing in February. The Mets play in state-of-the-art Citi Field, but they need company other than the chop shops.

There’s what is, and what could be.

Citi Field needs company.

Citi Field needs company.

The Islanders are getting kicked out of Brooklyn, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Their fan base is from Long Island, so building a hockey arena near Citi Field seems like a natural thing. Islander fans are used to driving and the expressway is right there. Citi Field is also convenient to Connecticut, where the Islanders have a farm team. Plus, there’s always the 7 Line.

It can’t just be a hockey facility, either. Where is it written all rock concerts and college basketball must be in Madison Square Garden or Newark? Again, it’s easier to drive from the north than take the train into Manhattan.

Also, the Mets have always been linked to the Jets, and the latter playing in New Jersey – in the Giants’ stadium – just seems wrong.

They did right in Philly, with the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers and Flyers all in the same area. Baltimore, Kansas City, Detroit, Cleveland all have multiple sports facilities within walking distance of each other. Throw in some restaurants, a shopping mall and hotels, and don’t forget the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center, and you could be talking about one of the premier sports and entertainment centers in the country.

The Wilpons made their bones in real estate. They need to get on the phone with the Jets and Islanders and make something special happen.

Feb 04

Mets Agree To Terms With Blevins; Finish Offseason Shopping

Apparently, the Mets got tired of stringing along Jerry Blevins and according to several reports agreed to terms with the situational left-hander and Fernando Salas Friday evening before GM Sandy Alderson headed out for his Super Bowl parties.

Blevins will get $6 million for one year, plus an option. Salas will get a year. With the two agreements, the Mets finished work on their bullpen and concluded their offseason shopping.

Before kudos are sent out to Alderson for his patience, remember Blevins, 33, made $4 million last season while going 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA. So, realistically, how much money did he really save the Mets? A million? Not much more than that, really.

Considering Toronto was also after Blevins, and the Mets are still awaiting word on a suspension of Jeurys Familia, what’s the purpose of Alderson dragging his feet? It tells me the Mets are seriously aware of their spending, which can’t be encouraging if they must make a move at the break.

So, in a thumbnail wrap of the Mets’ offseason moves:

* They picked up the $13-million option on outfielder Jay Bruce as a hedge to possibly losing Yoenis Cespedes.

* They signed Cespedes to a four-year, $110-milliion contract.

* They signed Neil Walker to a $17.2-million qualifying offer.

Everything the Mets did was expected, although the dual signings of Bruce and Cespedes – they might have overpaid for the latter – created a logjam in their outfield.

Feb 07

Looking At Mets’ Early Schedule

Since the Super Bowl is considered a national holiday, I’ve always considered it the end of the winter holiday season, and consequently “baseball season” begins tomorrow. So, I figure this is a good time to fast-forward to the Mets’ April schedule.

I’ll bitch about this later, but the first game of the season shouldn’t be interleague. However, if it is going to be that way, then why not make the first series be against the World Series opponents? I mean, if MLB is hell bent on interleague play, then this should be a new Opening Day tradition. It won’t be because the schedule is released before the end of the World Series.

OK, there are two games against the Royals on the road, followed by three-game series at home against the Phillies and Marlins.

That’s followed by three games at Cleveland – the Indians have one of the best rotations in the sport – and three more against at Philly and Atlanta.

The Mets end April with three games with Cincinnati and two with the Giants, who also have one of the game’s best rotations.

A key last year was the Mets’ fast start, highlighted by the long winning streak that put them 10 games over .500 to give them a solid buffer to help hold of the Nationals later in the summer. The Mets need to do the same this year as they have a considerably tougher May schedule with a game against San Francisco, seven against the Dodgers and six against Washington.

That’s 14 games against playoff caliber teams.

As for the Super Bowl, I am pulling for the Broncos.

 

Apr 06

Why Doesn’t Baseball Make Opening Day Special Again?

It is Opening Day damn it, it should be one of the best days – if not the very best – of every sports year. Then how come it isn’t? It’s because the people running the sport have no concept of the treasure they possess.

None.

Inside the grocery store in my town, there’s a little bank that posts a trivia question every week. The current question is: When is Opening Day for baseball? And, it listed five choices.

Now, if that doesn’t tell you about the state of the game, then what does?

Opening Day used to mean something. For years it opened in Cincinnati, home of the Reds, baseball’s oldest team, and in Washington, the nation’s capital. You never know when it is from year to year.

There’s always Internet chatter at making the Monday after the Super Bowl a holiday. Why? So people can sleep off their hangovers?

Tell me, what are the best days in sports? The Super Bowl is one, a monster for sure. How about the NFL championship game Sunday? Or the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament?

The NFL has its Opening Weekend down pat with the Super Bowl champ starting on the Thursday before the first Sunday. Baseball’s start used to be in the nation’s spotlight, but it foolishly gave away that day, which is also part of Bud Selig’s legacy.

We’ve had the first game of the baseball season start several times in Japan, with those teams returning to the United States for more spring training games. Yeah, they had the think tank working overtime for that one.

Baseball 2015 started Easter Sunday night in frigid Chicago at the construction site known as Wrigley Field, where there were only two restrooms on the main concourse. Nobody thought to order portable restrooms, of course. Did anybody notice those photos of cups of urine lined up?

It would have been great to get a comment from new commissioner Rob Manfred. Maybe he’ll have something to say on the time of the game, which was over three hours.

The game, by the way, was broadcast on MLB Network, which much of the country doesn’t have. Today’s games include an interleague match-up with the Red Sox in Philadelphia. Interleague play is tough to stomach already, but under no circumstances should there be interleague games on Opening Day.

There are also three games that start at, or after, 7 p.m., EDT, that would be in conflict with the NCAA Championship. Two are to be telecast on ESPN. Who is the marketing genius behind that one?

Sports will conflict with each other, but can’t anybody look at a calendar to see what they are up against? Why not give the NCAA the first Monday, and let baseball have Tuesday? Go wall-to-wall games starting at noon and running to midnight. Now, that should be a national holiday.

Baseball talks about the need to market itself better, especially for the next generation, but it doesn’t get it. This little tweak can spark the imaginations of kids across the country.

My late father understood it on April 7, 1970, when he took my brother and I out of school for the day to watch the Indians on Opening Day against Baltimore. Dave McNally against Sam McDowell.

Despite his note, the school did not approve, but he took us out anyway. He reasoned we would take more from being at that game than anything we would have learned that day in class.

He was right. Baseball was very big in our home, and it still is in our family. That’s how you cultivate the fans of tomorrow.

Looking back, he was right, and it is one of my fondest memories of him.

My dad got it 45 years ago. I wonder how many fathers around the country got it today, and will get it next Monday and take their kids to Citi Field.

What I do know, is the people running Major League Baseball don’t get it.

ON DECK: What is with the Opening Day lineup?

Feb 18

Today In Mets History: Mets, Jets Sign Contract

Gone are the days when baseball and football teams shared the same venue. Once the Athletics get their own stadium, or the Raiders bolt Oakland again, an era in American sports will be over.

For a long time the Mets and Jets shared Shea Stadium, and who can forget 1969-1970 when the Mets won the World Series and Jets won the Super Bowl. And, the Knicks won the NBA title in the spring of 1970.

On this date in 1977, the Jets signed on to stay at Shea Stadium. However, it wouldn’t be long before they would bolt for the Meadowlands.