Friday, July 29, 2011

NFL Free Agency, MLB Trading Deadline, and Tiger Back in the Saddle: It's Christmas in July for Sports Fans

Article first published as NFL Free Agency, MLB Trading Deadline, and Tiger Back in the Saddle: It's Christmas in July for Sports Fans on Blogcritics.

As I was watching Sports Center on ESPN today I felt like my head was spinning. Not only am I trying to keep an eye on the "Bottom Line" for everything up to the minute, but I am also watching the action concerning NFL free agents, MLB trades, and the news about Tiger Woods coming back after three months on the shelf with a bad leg. I couldn't help thinking this was like Christmas in July for sports fans.
Yes, so much is happening and it is sometimes tough to process it all at once. For me as a New York Mets and Jets fan, I am watching what the Mets did with the Beltran trade, how he is doing in San Francisco, when pitcher Zack Wheeler is heading to Port St. Lucie, and how the Mets keep winning despite losing their best hitter.

In the world of Gang Green, we have the signing of Santonio Holmes to a new five year deal. This makes lots of sense to me, and as Mark Sanchez continues to develop and get better at the passing game, Holmes is without a doubt going to be his go-to guy. There is also the exciting prospect of the Jets obtaining Nnamdi Asomugha, but as they were courting him the valuable Brad Smith, who will be greatly missed as a wide receiver and kick returner, was signed by the Bills.

The Jets had better do something more because the New England Patriots picked up Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco (which is like saying Donald Trump got more money playing Lotto). The Jets need to get moving on Asomugha and fast, considering they have also lost Braylon Edwards and Kellen Clemens and are looking to restrucure deals with other players.

We also get the news that Tiger Woods (now 21 in world rankings) will participate in Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio, next week. Tiger is even tweeting about it, saying he is "Excited to get back out there!" This is good news for golf fans who have missed his presence. This is Tiger's time to rise above the personal problems and the injuries and rebuild his career and image.

Besides all this happening, we are hearing about Plaxico Burress and Tiki Barber trying to get back into action. It would be amazing to see what would happen if they both got offers from a team (maybe the NY Giants?). We also have Rory McIlroy getting his Irish up at the Irish Open in Killarney, telling a commentator "Your opinion means nothing." And what about NBA stars getting offers from foreign countries like Japan, Germany, and Russia? You would think what happened with NFL would have shaken things up a bit, but if guys like Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony start signing contracts, you know it's going to be a long winter for basketball fans.

With all that is going on right now, these are indeed exciting days for sports fans; it's sort of like Christmas in July if you like surprises and finding presents under your barbecue grill. The Jets could make many fans happy by wrapping up Asomugha with a big red bow and getting him to sign on the dotted line. So kids, mail out those letters to Rex Ryan (I mean Santa) ASAP and let him know how you feel.

Photo Credits:
Nnamdi Asomugha -
Tiger Woods - Getty Images

Mets Mess: Beltran Goes to SF Giants for Pitcher Zach Wheeler

Article first published as Mets Mess: Beltran Goes to SF Giants for Pitcher Zach Wheeler on Blogcritics.

The long awaited trade of outfielder Carlos Beltran came to fruition on Wednesday, July 27, with the New York Mets sending him and cash to the San Francisco Giants for minor league pitcher Zach Wheeler. In doing so the team's general manager Sandy Alderson kept his promise to get something substantial in return for Beltran before the July 31st trading deadline. It will be interesting to see if Wheeler develops as expected or becomes another member of the Mets Hall of Lame.

The writing has been on the wall for the past week or so regarding Beltran. He recently spoke in public about how much he loves the Mets, his teammates, and the city. In fact, we heard more from Beltran in the last seven days than we did in the seven years he has been a Met. It's a pity he became talkative now, kind of like a girl you bring home on a first date after you've decided not to call her again.

Once the trade was announced, the Mets clubhouse became a cheering section to let everyone know how much Beltran will be missed. According to the chatter, Beltran was a mentor, a great friend, a confidant, and a true leader. It's too late for any of that to matter now, but it would have been nice to know about all this behind the scenes stuff sooner. I don't know if it would have changed the outcome of things, but now Beltran is off to greener pastures.

The trade bodes well for a number of reasons. First, it shows that Alderson can make the deal that needs to be made. Second, the Mets didn't back down and accept a lesser offer (which was apparently coming in from the Phillies, the Braves, and Texas Rangers). The most important thing is that Alderson got an arm. The Mets need pitching like the Titanic needed lifeboats, so this is definitely great news.

Zach Wheeler was the sixth pick in the first round of the 2009 First-Year player draft. The Giants were apparently quite high on this fellow, and the Mets did a good job of scouting him. Will Wheeler eventually make his way to Citi Field and become a member of the starting rotation? You can bet that Alderson believes that and we will have to wait and see if we Mets fans can become believers too!

Photo Credits:

Beltran - Daily News, Wheeler -

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

NFL Lockout Over: Now the Fun Begins

Article first published as NFL Lockout Over: Now the Fun Begins on Blogcritics.

I am sure if you're a big fan of the NFL, you are happy that the lockout is over and the season is saved. Now all of you who were wondering what to do with your Sundays in September without football can breathe a sigh of relief. And, as for those football widows and widowers, at least you will know where your significant others will be on Sundays. Why not grab a bag of pretzels and join in the fun?

That was a long 136 days of lockout, and I really didn't think that the players and owners would get their acts together in time for the season to start on time. With yesterday's agreement, training camps everywhere are throwing open their doors and welcoming the players with open arms.

After the deal was announced, NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith said that either side didn't get everything it wanted, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, "Football is back, and that's great news for everybody." Amen to that one!

As a Jets fan I was happy to hear head coach Rex Ryan shooting his mouth off again. Always boastful and kind of like the captain of a ship stuck in a terrible storm, Ryan has the knack for talking about good seas ahead even when he is throwing a life preserver overboard. Now he is telling the press "We got better" (during the off season). No one even broke a sweat at training camp yet, but Rex is ready to be the mouth that roared. I guess we fans of Gang Green wouldn't have it any other way.

So now that the lockout is over, what was all the fuss about? It seems some of the best things accomplished were unrestricted free agency after four years, 47 - 48.5% of all revenue (down from previous years but the owners can't skim one billion off the top as they always did), a salary cap set at $120.375 million, and a $620 million Legacy Fund to be paid to former players. The big one though seems to me to be that a rookie like super quarterback Cam Newton (first pick in the draft this year) can earn the big bucks with a four-year contract with an option for fifth-year cub option. To get a more detailed idea of what is going on, fans should check out the NFL web site for all aspects of the NFL collective bargaining agreement.

So football fans can get ready for some football. Get out the team jerseys and all the other paraphernalia. Watch the training camps and enjoy the frenzy of free agency. Things just got going and the excitement is already palpable. No other sport generates this kind of interest and excitement, and most fans do not really care what each side got or didn't get. We were just waiting for a regular season and now we've got it. Great news for everybody indeed.

Photo Credit: AP

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mets Mess: Team Should Trade Reyes Now!

Article first published as Mets Mess: Team Should Trade Reyes Now! on Blogcritics.

The New York Mets are now 50-50 this season, and the only place they are going is like those cruises to nowhere from New York City. They will circle around and around but achieve nothing, except giving people a good view of the city while they drink and eat. That is basically the same proposition at Citi Field this season.
I know this will be an unpopular point of view, but I think the Mets need to trade Jose Reyes as soon as possible. Yes, I too am going to miss his trademark smile that lights up the dugout, but we have to think about the future here. We also have to be realistic about investing in Reyes for the long haul.

Make no mistake, Reyes is having his career year. At twenty-eight years old, he is at the height of his powers. He is exciting to watch, and I have never seen any player bust it from home to third base like when Reyes hits a triple. That alone is worth the price of admission.

No matter how much we like what Reyes does on the field, we have to be honest
with ourselves, Mets fans. Reyes is fragile, extremely so. He is like a baseball version of a Faberge egg: he is very nice to look at, has something great inside of him, but heaven forbid if you drop him.

Reyes has been on the disabled list this year and many times in other years. His legs, the bread and butter of his act, are always subject to injury. He plays hard all the time; his hundred and fifty percent attitude is very admirable, but it is exactly this kind of play that puts him in harm's way.

Every Mets fan and Jose's teammates are holding their breaths every time he runs the bases. At any moment he can pull up to a base, hold the back of his leg, and cause blood pressure to rise collectively around the park.

There is absolutely no better player on the Mets, and his stock is rising each day, so that is why he must be traded. A long-term deal with Reyes will be a disaster. Say you give him a seven year deal; you know he is very possibly going to be on the disabled list at some point in any of those seasons; sometimes even for a long haul. So if the Mets are thinking of giving him a Carl Crawford type contract (7 yrs/$142M), they should realize what they are getting because Reyes has been their employee since 2003.

Sandy Alderson, although new to the Mets, has been around the block a few times. He has to know that Reyes is like the stock market, so he should follow the "buy low; sell high" philosophy. Reyes will never have this great of return again in his career, so this is the time to shop him and get a great deal.

I am a big Mets fan but I am also a realist. We have no chance of the catching the Phillies and even less of a chance of being the wild card team, so why not secure the future now? Alderson should get as much as possible for Jose Reyes (especially pitching prospects). He should turn around and trade Carlos Beltran too before the deadline for top outfield prospects. Any team trying to make low-ball offers should be rejected.
It will kill me to see Reyes in another uniform, but I can live with Beltran going elsewhere. Still, I can accept Reyes going if we get something really good in return, something that will make 2012 the year we make a run for it all.

Sandy Alderson, you have one week to make the best deals possible, so go out and come back with some really good stuff in your shopping bag, or the good will we've been seeing at Citi Field this year is going to run out very quickly. You know what you have to do, so get it done by July 31st. We're waiting!

Photo Credits: Reyes - Daily News
Faberge Egg -

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mets Mess: Beltran Gets Standing Ovation Before Last at Bat

Article first published as Mets Mess: Beltran Gets Standing Ovation Before Last at Bat on Blogcritics.

Carlos Beltran is most certainly going off to see the wizard; his teammates know it, the fans know it, and most importantly, he knows it. It was actually a fitting moment at Citi Field on Thursday, July 21, when Beltran came to bat in the ninth inning of what is no doubt his last home game as a New York Met.

You may ask: what were the fans cheering about? Beltran came to the team as a much anticipated Superman, but we got more of Clark Kent than anything else. Many times over the years it seemed like Beltran wasn't even in the lineup. Of course, that was true during his extended stays on the DL, but even when he was in the lineup, it was like he wasn't there.

I, like most Mets fans, probably can never forgive or forget that called third strike from Adam Wainwright in the NLCS in 2006 that sent the Mets home. It was one of those moments etched in memory, indelible as say Bill Buckner's mishandling of Mookie Wilson's grounder in the 1986 World Series. Red Sox fans would never forget that either.

I was surprised by the applause and the standing ovation. For a second there, it seemed like the audience of Jersey Boys after they sing "Who Loves You" and the people stand and keep applauding for actors who are not Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It's an incongruous moment, and Beltran walks out the door and into New York Mets history. I truly doubt he will be remembered as fondly as Ed Kranepool, Cleon Jones, Mike Piazza, and Tom Seaver. He is probably stuck somewhere between Carlos Delgado and Bobby Bonilla; in other words, he goes into the limbo section where he will be mostly forgotten.

Beltran always seemed likable and pleasant with reporters and fans. He just never clicked in New York. Let it suffice to say that the best playing he has done for the team has been these last few months. Now he is a leader, playing with effort and gusto, and looking like the guy he should have been the last seven years. What a shame it took so long. How sad for the fans, the players, and for Beltran most of all.

Now he will be in a new uniform the next time he comes to New York. There are a number of teams still in contention that want his services. What will the Mets get back for him? Can you say Jim Fregosi or Pat Zachary without wincing? Hopefully GM Sandy Alderson will realize he is holding all the cards and make certain that he gets a good return on the deal, nothing like those meaningless "players to be named later" he got from Milwaukee for K-Rod.

We bid adieu to Carlos Beltran. Carlos, we hardly knew you, and that is probably the saddest part of all.

Photo Credit: Daily News

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tiger Woods Fires Longtime Caddie

Article first published as Tiger Woods Fires Longtime Caddie on Blogcritics.

Imagine the world of Tiger Woods since the break-up with his wife Elin Nordegren. He has been injured, has lost endorsements, and missed major tournaments (including the US and British Opens). This is a world that even Rod Serling would have had trouble explaining on The Twilight Zone.  Now we get word that Woods has fired his caddie and close pal Steve Williams.

Williams (47) has worked for Woods since 1999 and seemed to be a steady influence on Tiger during this recent turbulent period in his life. Williams revealed the situation on his web site saying "I'm no longer caddying for Tiger after he informed me that he needed to make a change."

Woods also noted the move on his own web site saying, "Stevie is an outstanding caddie and a friend and has been instrumental in many of my accomplishments." Whether Tiger is just taking the high road here or not, the truth is he issued the guy a pink slip, so Woods definitely wanted Williams out of the picture. This does seem to come at a strange time, especially with Woods nursing his injuries and hoping to get back into action later this month at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

Williams was more than a caddie to Woods: he was a friend, protector, and confidant. In a world turned upside down by scandal, it was Williams who provided Woods with a strong shoulder to cry on. Now, strangely initiated by Woods, that support is gone.

Perhaps Woods is just looking to start anew in his career and his personal life. Maybe Williams knew a little too much, and Tiger now wants to get away from the past and concentrate on this next phase of his career. It will be interesting to see who eventually gets to carry the bag for Woods, for Tiger comes with lots of baggage besides his clubs.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Thursday, July 21, 2011

New York City Going Green: 70 Chevy Volts Purchased

Article first published as New York City Going Green: 70 Chevy Volts Purchased  on Blogcritics.

If you have nothing better to do, you may wonder what gets New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Queens? The occasional NY Mets game he attends? A flight out of JFK to one of his secret vacation spots? The answer would be yes to both of these, but he also came to Queens recently to advertise the city's 70 newly purchased Chevy Volts.
Standing in the Sanitation Department's Maspeth repair depot, Bloomberg was beaming with pride as he spoke about the green machines the city has purchased. The vehicles will be used by several agencies and will be strictly for non-emergencies only, so don't expect to come to New York and see cops pursuing suspects in their Chevy Volts.

The interesting thing about this purchase is Bloomberg's assertion that it will save the taxpayers money. Most people know the Volt is an expensive investment, with a cost of around $40,000 per vehicle; however, Bloomberg noted that the federal government has subsidized most of the vehicles, and ten of them will be leased for $1 a year for two years.

Well, that deal is not available for us regular folks, but those who wish to purchase one can get federal tax savings up to $7,500. That still makes the car pretty dear at around $32,000. Add to that that you are limited to how far you can drive these cars under exclusive electric power, and that is why Bloomberg said that none of them will be used for more than thirty-five miles a day.

While many New Yorkers like myself want to see the city go green, we have to wonder how this will truly impact our lives. Bloomberg claims each car will save the city 4,000 gallons of gas over the years, coming to about $15,000 in savings for each one. They will not add to air or noise pollution either.

What is the ulterior motive here? Well, besides giving Chevrolet and GM and enormous advertising opportunity, the Mayor does hope that citizens will take a chance on getting an electric vehicle too. The city has even launched a green web page (Drive Electric NYC) that will give people information and resources about the cars purchased and other ways to go green.

Obviously, Bloomberg's ultimate goal is to have all city vehicles eventually be electric, and this includes buses. He has also hinted that the single biggest source of traffic problems in NYC (yellow taxis) would eventually need to be an all electric fleet. Imagine the possibilities! Now if they could just do something about those pedicabs and horse drawn carriages.

Photo Credit: City of New York

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mets Mess: Reality Rears Its Ugly Head

Article first published as Mets Mess: Reality Rears Its Ugly Head on Blogcritics.

Okay, Mets fans, let's be honest. The party is over. Yes, there were a few exciting moments, and manager Terry Collins and his players had us thinking it was 1973 all over again, but those Mets had Yogi Berra as a skipper, and now the deja vu part is not about winning but about accepting one's fate.

The Mets lost 4-1 to the Florida Marlins in an ugly game. "Ugly" is the operating word because the Mets are getting closer to the cellar in the National League East, which means we're moving back into Basement Bertha territory again. The Marlins are a hot last place team; the Mets are as cold as ice and sinking faster each game. If you are looking to the return of Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran to end the madness, don't get too comfortable because they're probably not going to be around much longer.

There have been rumors about trading Beltran since spring training. Now as the July 31st
 trading deadline approaches, and as the Mets continue struggle and lose games, it is only a matter of time that Beltran will be put in a lifeboat and row safely to a contending team: good for him; bad for us.

Jose Reyes played a game with the Brooklyn Cyclones last night. David Wright is going to get his rehab games in too before coming back. Johan Santana may be back sometime in August. Ike Davis remains in Met limbo, and now super sub Scott Hairston came out of the game hurt. With all these injuries, the Mets should start call their clubhouse the Hurt Locker.

No matter who comes back, who gets traded, and who stays on the DL all season, the Mets and their fans just have to face reality. There's not enough season left for miracles. Collins has done a great job, but you need all the right ingredients to conjure up a recipe for a winning season and playoff run, and Collins is like a baker trying to make a cake without any eggs or flour.

So it pains me to say it Mets fans, but it is all over. Beltran will be gone soon, and Reyes may follow. The AAA boys of Tejada, Turner, Pridie, and Thole will continue to play hard, and they may be able to finish at .500 this year, but don't go holding your breath now. It's more likely we'll be spending the rest of season downstairs with Basement Bertha. We'd better get used to it.

Photo Credits: NY Daily News

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Don't Drink the Water: 8 Glasses a Day Theory Questioned

Article first published as Don't Drink the Water: 8 Glasses a Day Theory Questioned on Blogcritics.

According to a report in the British Medical Journal, it is not necessary to drink 8 glasses of water a day for good health. Scottish doctor Mary McCartney calls this recommendation "nonsense" and cites that there are no clear studies or convincing evidence to support this claim made by the organization Hydration for Health.

I don't know about you, but I drink more than eight glasses of water a day, especially in the summer. Of course, in the back of my mind I have that "eight glasses a day" thing, but I also find water to be the best thirst quencher. I also prefer to drink water with my meals rather than soda, juice, or coffee. This is a personal preference, but I know as I drink water I always think it is a healthier practice than imbibing drinks loaded with sugar or caffeine.

McCartney points to the motives behind Hydration for Health's call to drink water and notes that they are supported by the French company Danone, which just so happens to own Evian, Volvic, and Badoit water bottlers. Obviously, it is no coincidence that this group promotes good health through water.

I am sure if Pepsi and Coca-Cola supported some group to tout the benefits of drinking soda, we would all see it as a sham, but since water equals healthy in most people's minds, we don't think twice about it.
Dr. McCartney is not suggesting we stop drinking water, and she does note that drinking more water can be a good thing for patients who have a need for it, like "those with current kidney stones or polycystic kidney disease." She also notes that the eight glasses theory doesn't make sense for everyone; children and the elderly certainly will not need to drink as much as adults and so on.

Another thing that stands out for me is the bottles. There are millions of plastic water bottles being tossed away every year, many of which never make it to recycling. That has to bother people as much as the fact that some water companies even admit that they bottle tap water. Why pay for something that you have coming into your home that is much cheaper?

I must say that I use some pre-packaged bottled water when I have no other options, but for the most part I use tap water that has been filtered. I make four half gallon bottles a day and use most of it up. I have also picked up reusable water bottles (available in many stores) and take them to the park and beach.

In the end it will be an individual choice to drink water or other beverages. There is no question that I push water on my kids because there is so much sugar in juice and soda. It is a rare treat when they get to have soda, and juice is only allowed once a day at breakfast. Milk is in the mix too, but on these hot summer days they have been asking for water much more than anything else.

Do you drink 8 glasses of water a day? Will you continue doing so? I know that I feel healthier drinking water, so I am not changing anything. In fact, I am enjoying a glass of cold water right now. Cheers!

Tom Watson Sinks Hole-in-One at British Open

Article first published as Tom Watson Sinks Hole-in-One at British Open on Blogcritics.

If you think there is nothing exciting going on at the British Open this year because Tiger Woods is not in the tournament, you should see 61-year old Tom Watson sinking a hole-in-one in the second round yesterday. It is an exciting sports moment mostly because it is so rare.
Watson has had only one other hole-in-one in a major (the U.S. Open in 1980) and fifteen in his entire career, so that should tell you something. Watson said he didn't see it go in but caught it on the replay. He joked, "But it was lucky. They're all lucky when they go in."

The shot came in the second round with Watson using a 4-iron and hitting into the wind. The ball made one high bounce and then popped right into the hole. Watson's ace enabled him to go on to finish an even par-70, which helped him make the cut.

Darren Clarke and Lucas Glover currently share the lead at the British Open in Sandwich, England. Rory McIlroy, winner of the U.S. Open was six shots out of the lead.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Judge Declares a Mistrial in Clemens Perjury Case - Rocket's Red Glare?

Article first published as Judge Declares a Mistrial in Clemens Perjury Case  - Rocket's Red Glare? on Blogcritics.

As soon as Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial due to prosecutorial misconduct in the Roger Clemens' perjury case on Thursday, I pictured the headlines that it would create. There would also be pictures of Clemens outside the Washington courthouse looking like a free man. Of course, all of this came to be as Clemens looked relieved if not jumping for joy. Actually, he should be ecstatic because he is "free" for now, but the case will probably be tried again.

Prosecutors mishandled the case. The judge chided them that the errors made wouldn't be committed by law students. It is mind-boggling that after so much time to prepare that the prosecutors could make such obvious mistakes. They showed jurors a video of Laura Posado (wife of Yankees catcher Jorge) and they weren't supposed to do that. "Mr. Clemens has to get a fair trial," Walton said. "In my view, he can't get it now."

So Clemens walked outside with lawyer Rusty Hardin, signed some baseballs, said nothing better than Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes, and looked like a guy who just removed a two-ton albatross from around his neck. Of course, Clemens cannot shoot rockets in the air and have a party just yet, since it is very likely that the prosecution will get its act together by September 2, when Judge Walton will have to decide if there should be a retrial.

Some of you may be shaking your heads; some of you are probably happy Rocket got to walk, but it's not a funny thing happening here. we're talking about perjury and Congress and justice; this is a serious issue, and maybe Clemens will still face a trial and get jail time. We'll have to wait and see, but as with the Casey Anthony case, we can't always get what we want or even what we need.

Happy trials (or is that trails?), Roger.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Friday, July 15, 2011

NFL Lockout: Harrison's Rants Don't Speed Up the Process

Article first published as NFL Lockout: Harrison's Rants Don't Speed Up the Process on Blogcritics.

As the NFL lockout continues, and the owner's deadline of July 21 gets closer and closer, things do not look good for a resolution any time soon. Add to that the recent rant by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, and we get to see how this thing could get ugly and drag on and on. This is not good news for the owners, the players, and certainly not the fans.

Harrison, in an interview with Men's Journal, said negative things about some of this teammates, but reserved his most incendiary comments for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, whom he calls a "crook," "devil" and someone he "will never respect." Harrison's words are a far cry from someone like New Orleans Saints' quarterback Drew Brees, who seems to be trying to be a real negotiator in this mess.

NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith has been anything but hopeful, and Goodell has had nothing positive to say about the negotiations. Of course, they are ongoing (mostly between the lawyers for both sides) but the writing may be on the wall. I guess this Jets fan is going to have to rethink how to spend Sundays this fall, which probably wouldn't bother my family one bit.

It does seem that neither side wants to give anything here, and it just doesn't make sense to me how the players or owners would want to risk losing the 2011-2012 season. Football, the most lucrative sport in the universe, should have enough money for everyone to go around, but issues like rookie contracts, signing bonuses, and free agency seem to still be the big problems here.

I do not know about you and your team merchandise, but I am not breaking out any of my Jets material until I know there is going to be a season. If the lockout does manage to derail the season, I am going to think long and hard about how much I need NFL games.

I mean, if I can survive one season without football (and anyone else with season tickets or just their team colors running in their blood can too), maybe it is time for a transfusion and a new winter sport to spend my hard earned money on getting crazy about. Now, if those NY Islanders could just get their act together, I'll get out to those games, and at least they are actually played in New York!

Photo Credits:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mets Mess: K-Rod Goes to Brewers With Lots of Baggage

Article first published as Mets Mess: K-Rod Goes to Brewers With Lots of Baggage on Blogcritics.

Right after the end of last night's All-Star Game, The New York Mets traded "slugging" relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers for cash and two players to be named later. It could have been two turtle doves and a partridge in a pair tree as far as Mets fans are concerned; good-bye and good riddance to TKO Rod. Let's hope he took all his baggage with him on the way out the door.

The importance of the K-Rod trade is not just the fact that the team cut out a toxic element in the clubhouse, or saved lots of money on the payroll; it also says something about where GM Sandy Alderson thinks his 46-45 team is headed in the NL East: nowhere! That bodes well for impending trades of Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes by the July 31 trading deadline.

Now yes, by all accounts, K-Rod was trying to be a model citizen this year, and Beltran has never looked so thrilled to be in Flushing as he has in 2011. Also, even though now injured, Reyes was a lightning rod and had the team and its fans channeling Tug McGraw's "You Gotta Believe"  as they made their way to Citi Field. I'd hate to see his beaming smile gone from the Mets dugout, but that appears more likely now.

Alas Mets fans, reality has reared its ugly head. No matter how much little General Terry Collins has sparked this team, and no matter how well the AAA boys of Turner, Pridie, Evans, and company have played, the truth is it is going to be another "wait until next year" for the boys in blue and orange.

Sad for the team and sad for the fans, but this trade signals that mentality. Maybe now we can just sit back and enjoy the show, but there should be no illusions of a run for the wild card or even more bizarre delusions of catching the the Phillies. This trade put an end to all that.

Good bye to K-Rod and the 2011 season. Ah, just another day in the never ending Mets mess.

Photo Credit: AP

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Commissioner Bud Selig Talks About Expanding Play-offs and Realignment

Article first published as Commissioner Bud Selig Talks About Expanding Play-offs and Realignment on Blogcritics.

The National League beat the American League 5-1, courtesy of a Prince Fielder homer. Now that we got that out of the way, wasn't the game less than thrilling? I stopped watching after Carlos Beltran got his two at bats, but that's because I am a NY Mets fan and my interest ended there. Perhaps you tuned in longer depending on which players were on the field, and that makes sense for most people who watch the game.

The bigger and more interesting news occurred off the field. Commissioner Bud Selig indicated that there would be an expansion of the play-offs, probably including an extra Wild Card team per league. How that will look, and whether or not that will entail a best of five series or even a one game play-off is not known at this time, but it does make things intriguing. As it is we are playing the World Series as kids are coming home from trick-o-treating on Halloween, so I guess we can start thinking about the postseason extending well into November. That will be a bit harsh if the Minnesota Twins get in there. Get your shovels ready.

Also, Selig indicated that realignment is on the table. Again, what that entails is not well defined, but it could mean a team shifting from the National League over to the American to create a fifteen team-fifteen team balance. There was no indication of an alteration of divisions, but that certainly could be a possibility.

So there we have it, folks. The off field news is actually bigger than the on field news at the All-Star Game. That should come as no surprise to anyone, except maybe Selig.

Photo Credit: Reuters

All-Star Home Run Derby More Fun Than The Game

Article first published as All-Star Home Run Derby More Fun Than The Game on Blogcritics.

I've been thinking this every year for a number of years now: the All-Star Home Run Derby held the night before the All-Star Game is actually more fun — and probably more meaningful — than the game itself. That might not sit too well with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, who wanted to make this game matter so much that he decreed that the winning side could host the World Series, but the truth is the truth.

Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees Last night's home run hitters came in all shapes and sizes, from a svelte Matt Kemp of the L.A. Dodgers to a Babe Ruthian Prince Fielder (the son of slugger Cecil Fielder), but it was Robinson Cano of the Yankees who managed to come out on top. This was a feel good moment as his father Jose (a former major league player with the Houston Astros) served as pitcher. The crowd enjoyed it, seemed genuinely enthusiastic, and the other players on the sidelines offered support for the sluggers in the contest.

All of this going on at Chase Field in Arizona seemed like so much fun, the Christmas Eve being almost better than Christmas Day kind of thing. The truth is that today's All-Star Game will be a letdown. It always is, and all of Selig's horses and all of his men can't put back together a game that has lost its significance — even when King Bud has tried to enhance that by making the game "count" in deciding home field advantage in the World Series.

I guess I will be like you and watch some of the All-Star Game tonight, but I probably won't get beyond the third inning. I never do. It is too long, and being a NY Mets fan, I'll tune in just to see Carlos Beltran in the starting lineup; otherwise, I will be waiting to change the channel and watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, which I will have no trouble doing after watching the tepid baseball game previously.

Let's face it. Many stars don't even want to go to the game even when they are voted in. Derek Jeter — Mr. 3000 — is blowing it off, and a number of others are too. Why? Because they know that the game doesn't matter anymore. King Bud, are you listening?

Photo Credit: AP

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Fresh Beat Band - Unexplained Cast Changes Keep Annoying TV Tradition Going

Article first published as The Fresh Beat Band - Unexplained Cast Changes Keep Annoying TV Tradition Going on Blogcritics.

If you are of a certain age (10 years old and under) Nickelodeon's The Fresh Beat Band is probably part of your world. The show is now starting its third season, and in keeping with a very odd TV tradition, unexplained cast changes stand out as an incongruity that - whether TV executives like it or not - kids do notice and do not appreciate.

The Fresh Beat Band revolves around four likeable teenagers (Twist, Shout, Kiki, and Marina) who go to music school, dance and sing a lot, and seemingly have nothing else to do but have a good time. For the first two seasons these characters were played by Jon Beavers, Thomas Hobson, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer, and Shayna Rose, but now in the third season Marina is being played by Tara (no relation to Katy) Perry.

It actually stands out in a significant way, and both of my kids noticed it immediately. No explanation has been given as to the change in appearance of the character, and so kids are expected to be as resilient as Bewitched fans seeing Dick Sargent become Darrin (replacing Dick York) without any explanation.

Unfortunately, this is part of a TV tradition that I find slightly irritating and a bit condescending. Do writers and producers have so little respect for their viewers as to think they will not notice such cast changes? The Fresh Beat Band has already undergone cast changes, with the character Reed being played by Hadley Fraser in season one and replaced by Patrick Levis in season two (again, no explanation), and now they have dropped Melody (owner of the Groovy Smoothie) played by Dioni Michelle Collins. My kids really liked her and are wondering where she has gone. I don’t have the heart to tell them she has joined many others in that big lost character pool kept somewhere in a Hollywood warehouse.

Such cast changes are not without precedent in the TV world. If you are of a certain age (40 years old and over) you will recall that Richie Cunningham's brother Chuck disappeared after season one of Happy Days (again no explanation). On Dallas Miss Ellie went from being played by Barbara Bel Geddes to Donna Reed and then, after one season, back to Bel Geddes (again without explanation).

Some shows have tried to get it right. M*A*S*H writers went through great pains to say goodbye to Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson), but then dropped the ball when the popular Wayne Rogers (Trapper John) left without much explanation. When Frank Burns (Larry Linville) was canned, they did a little better job - but not much. And first season character Spearchucker Jones (Timothy Brown) disappeared from the show (again, without explanation).

NYPD Blue bid adieu to a number of characters, but no departure in television history was more acrimonious than David Caruso's Detective John Kelly who walked out the precinct door and was never mentioned again. Blue lost quite a few more characters over the years, and I think it took a toll on me because I stopped watching (some time after Jimmy Smits left the show).

Back on Nickelodeon, Blue’s Clues had a huge cast change to deal with when Steve (Steven Burns) left the show and was replaced by his brother Joe (Donovan Patton). Though there was a two-episode "goodbye" to Steve, my daughter never recovered from it (she still only likes to watch the show when Steve is on). My son seems slightly confused when Nick Jr. runs an hour of Blue’s Clues with the first episode featuring Steve and Joe in the next one.

There was Diane (Shelly Long) on Cheers, who was replaced by Kirstie Alley, and to this day many people do not like Ms. Alley simply because she replaced Long. There is certainly a different tone to Cheers after Long's departure. Cheers also suffered the loss of the beloved Coach character (Nicholas Colasanto died) who was replaced by clueless but loveable Woody (Woody Harrelson). That worked out well enough for the show and Harrelson became very popular.

I suppose we can view TV like real life: people come and go, but sometimes it is harder to part with someone we have grown to know and love. I don't know why TV shows don't get it and respect the viewers (even if they are kids) and try to explain the changes. Although, even when it is done in what can be seen as the right way (as in the case of Blue's Clues), it still doesn't always satisfy everyone.

As we were watching a new episode of The Fresh Beat Band (with the new Marina) the other day, my two-year old son said, "I don't like Ah-rina." I just nodded, but I think that best sums up how we feel about these cast changes over the years. We don’t like them and no doubt ever will, but they will probably keep on coming and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Now, if someone could please tell me what happened to Chuck Cunningham.

Photo Credits- The Fresh Beat Band -

M*A*S*H -

Friday, July 8, 2011

Running of the Bulls in Pamplona - A Tradition That Keeps on Goring

Article first published as Running of the Bulls in Pamplona - A Tradition That Keeps on Goring on Blogcritics.

If you are a fan of Ernest Hemingway's novel The Sun Also Rises, you probably know very well about the "Running of the Bulls" tradition in Pamplona, Spain. If you have not read the book or have no idea what I am talking about, the bulls get a chance to run amok through streets filled with tourists who purposely put themselves in the paths of the bulls. Now doesn't that sound like the perfect vacation activity for you and the family?

This tradition connected with the San Fermin Festival that occurs in early July every year was well documented in Hemingway's famous book. Now people still put on the red scarves and let themselves in on all the fun of getting close to a seething two thousand pound animal with horns that are ready to perforate limbs and other parts of the anatomy (they seem to somehow know how to find a male's private parts too).

I visited Pamplona in July of 1989, and I can honestly say that I went nowhere near the bulls. I stayed a good distance from the action and sat in a cafe as several people I knew went out to meet their "destiny with the bulls." One acquaintance of mine from Australia had knocked back a few beers and turned to me saying, "Bulls have no balls," quoting Mike Campbell from Hemingway's book. About two hours later he came back to the table a mess of sweat and blood with torn clothing. I asked if a bull got him and he said, "No, it's the people - they're all mad!"

We were only there two days and then left for Madrid, but I saw enough of the insanity that went on in that town. The restaurants and bars were overflowing with people, there were parades of saints, concerts in the squares, and people living la vida loca everywhere I turned. It certainly was a great time, and we saw guys all over the place with red badges of courage wrapped around their arms, legs, and heads (certainly some of these "gored" fellows were probably not hurt by any of the bulls).

I remember riding on the train down to Madrid and meeting a fellow named Carlos who wore a white suit, hat, and skinny black tie. My Australian friend complained to him that Pamplona wasn't as great as in Hemingway's book, and Carlos nodded and said nothing. When my friend fell asleep he looked at me and said, "That book didn't get it right."

I said, "Well, I don't know; that was a long time ago." It was 1923 to be exact when Hemingway visited the place.

Carlos nodded, folded his hands on his lap, and stared out the window. "I still say the book didn't get it right. It's much better and much worse than Hemingway told it."

He closed his eyes and our conversation ended there. All these years later I remembered what Carlos said as I saw the bulls running in those streets again on CNN. After all this time I am not sure if Hemingway got it right or if Carlos was right, but the people are still flocking to that small town in the Basque country and running with those bulls. Blame it on Hemingway, or San Fermin, whatever or whomever else, but it still does not make sense to me. What would make perfectly healthy and sane people stand in the way of a two thousand pound bull?

Maybe it is just the thrill or the legend or the honor of being able to say "I did it." I'm sure wherever Hemingway is now he is wearing a red scarf, drinking some wine, and watching all the action with a smile on his face. I can't be sure, but isn't it pretty to think so?

Photo Credit: AP

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Justice and the Casey Anthony Verdict

Article first published as Justice and the Casey Anthony Verdict on Blogcritics.

If you are unhappy about the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial, you are obviously not alone. TV personality (I use this word kindly) Nancy Grace and probably millions of others are angry that Anthony was found "not guilty" of the most serious charges involving the death of her daughter Caylee. While Grace and all the rest are entitled to their opinions (and I too feel that the woman was guilty), the idea of "injustice" that seems to permeate the media in regards to this case seems out of hand.

What we have here is a public that is unhappy with the system: in this case a trial by jury. Part of our inalienable rights is trial with a jury of our peers, and in this case that means Florida residents. As with the O.J. Simpson case, the jury found a person that the public and media found guilty from the start not guilty. How dare they?

I believe we cannot like the system only when it works in our favor - the Scott Peterson trial for instance. The truth is that no one knows what is going on in the minds of jurors during a trial. Something as insidious as "if it doesn't fit you must acquit" may just sway them, and celebrity can play a part as well - just don't tell that to Phil Spector.

If the public is unhappy with a jury system that could explain why "terrorist combatants" are pushed into military tribunals. Can you imagine a 9-11 conspirator standing trial in New York City and being acquitted by a jury? Well, I am sure everyone in the government realizes what that would do and the pandemonium that would ensue in the streets of New York.

I don't think we want to reach a point in this country when trial by jury is dissolved because of unpopular verdicts. Yes, we can all moan about Casey Anthony going free, but that is always a possibility and our system allows that. O.J. Simpson now rots in jail (on an unrelated charge), but that is also how the system works. Maybe justice takes time and maybe the system is not perfect, but as far as I know there are no Jury 101 classes in schools, and perhaps that would endanger the system further depending on the intent of instructors and the curriculum.

My fear is we could reach a point where there are no more juries, where tribunals or judges would rule on their own, where maybe even a trial itself was eliminated and the "swift justice" of the past becomes an angry lynch mob dragging people off for their appointments with a tree limb (think Atticus Finch standing in the way of the mob in To Kill a Mockingbird).

So, we may feel the Casey Anthony verdict was wrong, but that doesn't mean the system is. Trial by jury still is an important freedom in this country, and we should cherish it because many other places wish they had it in place. Let's hope we always have the right to a jury of our peers because even if it is a flawed system it is better than having the alternative.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

NY Mets on the Road - To Live and Cry in LA

Article first published as NY Mets on the Road - To Live and Cry in LA on Blogcritics.

There is no doubt about it (or as beloved NY Mets announcer Ralph Kiner used to say "No bout a doubt it") the New York Mets are Amazin’s once again - at least on the road.

The Mets look lost at Citi Field, and I can admit I do feel that way myself sometimes. It seemed like I knew every nook and cranny of good old dilapidated Shea Stadium, and I remembered where Cleon squeezed that last ball in 1969 or Rusty hit the outfield wall in 1973 or where Mookie hit the ball between Buckner's legs in 1986. These were great Mets memories, not to mention the Beatles trying to out scream the fans on a stage out near second base. Those were the days.

But Mets fans have tried to warm up to Citi Field, and it is designed way better than Shea right down to more plentiful - and clean - bathrooms. The food courts are wonderful and plentiful space is available to drink, eat, and be merry.

Still the team struggles at Citi as it did in the last home series against the Yankees, although that last game when the Mets beat Mariano Rivera was pure gold. You could bottle that and Mets fans would buy it again and again. The Mets beat Rivera - what a moment!

Now out on the road they are warriors again, taking the first two in LA. Last night Mike Pelfrey seemed like an ace who never lost a case - no, that's Perry Mason, another LA story -  but I digress.
There is a good deal to be happy about right now as manager Terry Collins has his team believing in themselves as much as he does. They have lots of guts and determination as they strike out on this last road trip before the All-Star break without Reyes and Santana and Davis and Wright.

In another universe we would be crying out there on the West Coast, where many Mets teams went 0 for 9 and came home whipped. This team seems different and they keep finding ways to win. That will definitely keep Mets fans watching and wanting to go to the ballpark. Now, if the team could just find a way to win more games at home, but that's another story.

Photo Credit: NY Daily News

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Subway Series Part II: This Time It's Personal

Article first published as Subway Series Part II: This Time It's Personal on Blogcritics.

Okay, I'll admit that I was kind of down on the Subway Series the last time around, but that is not the case now. Why is that? Because back then the Mets were playing like they were in the Pee-Wee Herman League and the New York Yankees were doing their best Incredible Hulk impersonation in the American League East. Since then the Mets have incredulously bounced back from adveristy (even with key players on the disabled list) - with Jose Reyes taking the part of The Flash while his teammates, even the AAA Buffalo contingency, are looking like superheroes in training. So now it is at least interesting enough for this old Mets fan to put on his blue cap with the orange NY and brave the Number 7 train to get out to Citi Field.

Make no mistake - the Yankees have to be favored today. They just steamrolled over Milwaukee, but these are the Brewers and not the Boston Red Sox or the Philadelphia Phillies. When you put the pitching poor Yankees up against those types of teams, they wilt and that is what they will have to face once again in the playoffs this year. Of course, at least they can say they have the playoffs in their future, but that is still a reality for Yankees fans; too bad Sabathia can't pitch every day.

The Mets led by Reyes and much lesser names like Turner, Murphy, and Hairston, are definitely going to be David going up against Goliath in the Subway Series, but we all know how that turned out. Truth be told, the Mets are playing like the Mets of old - most notably the 1973 version - and that team was the little engine that could, knocking out the Big Red Machine of Cincinnati and taking the Oakland A's to the seventh game of the World Series.

I'm not saying anything like that can happen this year, but there is hope in Flushing and the Mets fans can invoke the old Tug McGraw mantra of "Ya Gotta Believe" again, so in that way it becomes very personal for me (and most Mets fans). And don't forget, these are the dreaded Yankees, the minions of Darth Steinbrenner who once circled the city in his Death Star thinking he could rule the baseball galaxy.

So break out your old copies of Return of the Jedi if you need inspiration, Mets fans, and "you gotta believe" the force is with these young Met padawans. Jose Reyes is wielding that bat like a light saber, and maybe, just maybe, some Yankee heads will roll this weekend. So yeah, it's personal this time, and Mets fans have to get out there and cheer this underdog team for no other reason than they are New Yorkers who are not Yankees' fans.

Let's go Mets!

Photo Credit: NY Daily News