City Sports Report

Sports Beat: “Long Task Ahead” By Lloyd Carroll

Geno Smith and the New York Jets continue to struggle (Photo by Marc Rasbury)

Keeping up a tradition that dates back to when they hired Casey Stengel to be their first manager roughly 53 years ago, the New York Mets have once again picked up another Yankees discard when they signed Kevin Long to be their next hitting coach after he was dismissed by the Yankees from that very same position two weeks ago.

This doesn’t mean that the Mets are making a mistake. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who made the decision to part ways with Long, basically admitted that he is a fine hitting coach but that someone has to be a sacrificial lamb for the fact that the Bronx Bombers missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year.

Long’s number one job will be to improve the hitting of another Yankees refugee, Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson. Grandy hit 20 home runs last season, which was fine but his 141 strikeouts and .227 batting average were unacceptable, especially from someone earning $15 million from a team that watches its pennies. At the very least Long has to get Curtis to hit around .260 and find a way to put the ball in play more often instead of whiffing. More daunting challenges will be trying to rejuvenate David Wright as well as getting the rest of the Mets’ position players to hit like major leaguers.

Last Tuesday HBO’s sports investigative show, “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel,” tackled one of baseball’s longtime ugly warts, the incredibly low pay that minor leaguers receive. It’s so low in fact that it may violate federal minimum wage laws. Attorney Garrett Broshuis, who pitched in the San Francisco Giants farm system, has filed a class action suit against Major League Baseball on behalf of several of his former competitors and colleagues.

The day before the show aired I asked Emmy-winning NBC and MLB Network on-air personality, Astoria native Bob Costas, who was co-emceeing (along with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly) Broadcasting & Cable Magazine’s annual Hall of Fame ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria, about the issue. “It has been an underreported story for a long time. It’s not just ballplayers who have been exploited but minor league umpires as well. This is where journalism can do good things.”

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig was one of the recipients of a Lifetime Achievement Award that night. Bud has long spoken about Major League Baseball’s great responsibilities as a social institution and I reminded him of that when I brought up minor league compensation. “We’re aware of this issue and I expect that the teams will discuss this at the winter meetings,” he replied

Bud Selig will be retiring in January and he is very cognizant of things that will affect his legacy. I fully expect him to apply significant pressure on team owners to significantly raise the pay of minor league players, most of whom will never get to the majors.

The Jets’ latest humiliation, a 43-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium was dispiriting for a number of reasons. The Jets were well rested following a close loss to the New England Patriots 11 days earlier and that was a game in which second-year quarterback Geno Smith played fairly well. Also helping the Jets was that the Bills were without their two best running backs, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, both of whom have given the Jets fits in the past.

Geno Smith was abysmal as he was intercepted three times in the first quarter and badly overthrew his receivers when they were open. Jets head coach Rex Ryan had seen enough and pulled Smith in favor of Michael Vick, who lead them to three touchdowns but was also picked off by the Buffalo secondary three times.

Although he did not want to use it as an excuse, Vick conceded after the game that not getting a chance to practice with the Jets’ starters and learning their tendencies hurt him. At this point Rex has little choice but to let him start next Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. If nothing else, it gives Vick a chance to finally practice with the team’s better players instead of the back-ups. Of course when you are talking about the Jets, “better” is a very relative term.

If you enjoy meeting professional athletes, eating good food, and want to get some charitable tax deductions to put on Schedule “A” of your 2014 Form 1040, November is your month.

The Jets will be hosting their annual Taste of the Jets event on November 10 at 4 World Trade Center while the Taste of the Giants will take place a week later at MetLife Stadium. Both events benefit hunger-fighting non-profits such as the Food Bank for New York City

The Starlight Foundation’s yearly Sports Auction will take place at Times Square’s Hard Rock Café on November 10. Mets relief pitcher Vic Black and the Islanders’ Nick Leddy will be among the sports notables that night. The Starlight Foundation’s mission is to help make life a little more pleasant for chronically ill children and their families.

Finally on November 18 the Major League Baseball Alumni Association is holding its annual dinner at the East Village night spot, Capitale. Proceeds from the MLBPAA event go toward the development of youth baseball leagues and teaching clinics.

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira will certainly have a career in the entertainment industry if he should desire that as a post-baseball career. This past year he created a series of short video bits called “Foul Territory” for the YES Network’s website. Tex plays a fictional version of himself in which he interviews his fellow ballplayers as if he were a Will Ferrell film character or a G-rated Stuttering John for all of you longtime Howard Stern fans.

Teixeira showed up last week at ESPN Radio’s Bristol studios last week for a “Foul Territory” road trip. He brilliantly stayed in his clueless character even as ESPN Radio’s morning duo of Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg (“Mike & Mike”) were cracking up. His five-minute segment will live forever on the Internet.

Last Wednesday’s Wizards-Knicks preseason game generated media buzz for reasons that had nothing to do with the game. It turns out that a photographer noticed that adult film star Lisa Ann, who is best known for satirizing Sarah Palin, was spotted in the stands acting romantically with freshman Notre Dame wide receiver Justin Brent.

I am a bit disappointed with Lisa Ann. Since she lives in New York, and obviously has an interest in college sports, she ought to be trying to improve the morale of the downtrodden Columbia Lions football team who are in the midst of a 17-game losing streak. I have little doubt that if Lisa Ann got a chance to meet and talk with those virile young men playing for my alma mater that they would make it their business to secure victory at all costs.

MSG Network’s Jill Martin does a terrific job interviewing a different person on Celebrity Row during halftimes at Knicks games in her “Gimme A Minute” segments. With all due respect to Matthew Modine, Spike Lee, Michael Rappaport, and the other regulars, ratings would skyrocket if Martin would interview adult entertainment stars such as Lisa Ann.

Long Island-based Arizona Beverages has expanded their Shaquille O’Neal line of drinks into the world of reduced-sugar fruit punches. Previously Shaq, an NBA legend who is a very savvy businessman, previously lent his name and likeness to Arizona’s flavored cream sodas.

Smart athletes looking for a competitive edge are steering clear of drugs and looking into homeopathic ideas such as breathing in dry salt. Jets running back Chris Ivory has become a regular at Park Avenue’s Breathe Easy spa as has former Giants rusher Tiki Barber, who saw it as beneficial for training for the New York City Marathon. Breathing in microscopic salt particles reduces the inflammation in both nasal passages and the lungs, which improves aerobic performance. For regular folks, dry salt therapy helps clear up sinus infections and reduces snoring.

That Tuscan villa that you’ll find across the street from the Queens Center is the brand new Olive Garden. There was some talk that Olive Garden’s corporate owner, Darden Restaurant Group, which recently had a major upheaval in its board of directors, would try to remove Olive Garden’s very popular unlimited soup and salad deals from its menu. Managers at the new Elmhurst restaurant assured me, however that will not be the case. Olive Garden’s $9.99 unlimited pasta, soup and salad promotion runs through November 22.

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