Month: January 2020

Mets Introduce New Manager, Luis Rojas After Beltran Fiasco

By Scott Mandel

The New York Mets today introduced their second manager of this off-season, Luis Rojas, at an afternoon press conference at Citi Field.

Rojas, the 38-year old son of former major league great, Felipe Alou, has been a member of the Mets organization since 2006, when the Mets signed him to a players’ contract in his native country, the Dominican Republic.

After 13 years in the organization, mostly working in the minor leagues, Luis Rojas realized a dream Friday, when he became the 23rd manager in Mets history — amid unusual circumstances.

“I feel like the most lucky person in the world right now as the manager of the New York Mets,” Rojas said at Citi Field, where the team announced a managerial hiring for the second time this offseason.

Rojas received a two-year contract to replace Carlos Beltran, who departed after only 77 days on the job in the fallout from the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme in 2017. Beltran, a player for that Houston team, was named in an MLB report that outlined the Astros’ use of electronic surveillance to steal catchers’ signs.

Rojas served as the Mets’ quality control coach last season and received multiple interviews for the managerial position following Mickey Callaway’s firing in October. That search yielded Beltran and also included names such as Eduardo Perez, Derek Shelton and Tim Bogar as candidates.

“I felt prepared then and I feel prepared now and I feel pretty good with what we have,” Rojas said. “We have a good team and we have a great staff. The staff is going to help me and we have already collaborated and we’re looking forward to break ground in spring training.

“I will lead this team into success.”

Rojas, whose father, Felipe Alou, managed the Expos and Giants and whose brother, Moises Alou, was an All-Star outfielder, was joined at the news conference by his wife Laura and son Louie, in addition to his mother and two of his brothers. Neither Felipe Alou nor Moises Alou was present.

In introducing the new manager, Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen focused on Rojas’ consistency as a person and professional.

“Last Thursday was a tough day,” Van Wagenen said, referring to the announcement Beltran had parted ways with the Mets. “We had a number of difficult days leading into Thursday’s decision and ultimately the parting of the ways with Carlos, but this is a very good feeling today and we’re excited about that. It’s an unfortunate circumstance for baseball, but today is a good opportunity and it’s an exciting time for the Mets as we continue to charge forward.”

Though managing experience wasn’t a prerequisite when Beltran got hired, Van Wagenen pointed to Rojas’ eight seasons as manager in the minor leagues at various levels for the Mets as a positive.

“In-game decision-making is an important part of the job and when you assess people’s strengths and weaknesses, no two candidates are the same,” Van Wagenen said. “And Carlos had different traits than what Luis has, but in [Rojas’] experience and actually calling the shots and running the game and running the base running, controlling the offense and having to make decisions about which pitchers get warmed up and which pitchers come into the game, I think all of those assets will be evident for us this year.”

Rojas takes over a team expected to compete for the NL East title, led by a potentially dominant starting rotation and last season’s major league home run leader, Pete Alonso. Rojas indicated he already has spoken with Jeff McNeil, Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard, among others.

“It’s according to the team that you have,” Rojas said. “You have a team that can run, you run. You have a team that plays that way, you play that way, so it’s according to what we have. We have a really good roster, we have really good starting pitching, we have a really good bullpen and we can score some runs, so I feel pretty good about it right now.”

Rojas was hired as a coach at the team’s academy in the Dominican Republic in 2006 and later managed in Rookie-ball, Low-A, High-A and Double-A for the Mets before becoming the quality control coach under Callaway last season. As quality control coach, Rojas brought analytical information to the players and field staff. Rojas said his loyalty to the Mets was born when he first started working for the organization.

“When I saw that the Mets were not only developing baseball players, but they were developing men, that right away we had an educational program, back then it was a complex with two fields and we got the job done,” Rojas said of his arrival at the Dominican academy in 2006. “We moved into a bigger complex afterwards and just the love for the organization started growing and then it just kept growing and growing as I went along.”

Brooklyn Talents, Isaiah Whitehead and Shomarie Ponds Released By Pro Teams Without Reasons Offered. We’re On It. (Update on Whitehead)

By Scott Mandel

Two Brooklyn basketball stars, Isaiah Whitehead from Lincoln HS and Seton Hall and Shomarie Ponds from Jefferson HS and St. Johns, have been released by their respective teams.

Image result for isaiah whitehead
Whitehead played well his rookie season for Brooklyn Nets. Now, he is out of basketball

Whitehead had been playing in Russia, averaging about 13 ppg. and Ponds had been on a two-way contract with the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors have not released any reason for ending Ponds’ contract.

Image result for shamorie ponds
Ponds was released by Raptors, with no reason given

Talented kids. Something doesn’t make sense, in both cases.

Update on Isaiah Whitehead’s career:

Montenegro and Mornar Bar are up next for Seton Hall alumni, Isaiah Whitehead.

Mornar Bar inked Isaiah Whitehead to a contract up to the conclusion of the 2019-20 season, the Montenegrin club announced on Saturday.

The 24-year-old American guard holds European experience through the VTB United League. Previously played in 89 NBA matches with the Brooklyn Nets.

Whitehead was picked 42nd in the 2016 NBA draft out of Seton Hall. A couple of years later made the jump to Europe for Lokomotiv Kuban and tipped off his current campaign with Astana. He averaged 9.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per appearance through five VTB contests.

His new team has a couple of Basketball Champions League games left, before turning full focus to its ABA League run. Already out of contention in BCL, Mihailo Pavicevic’s squad is currently 9-7 in ABA, good enough for fifth place.TAGS ABABasketball Champions LeagueBCL

Scene from Super Bowl I – Len Dawson In Chief’s Locker Room at Halftime

By Scott Mandel

Photo taken at halftime of Super Bowl I, between the Chiefs and the Lombardi Packers. This is legendary Chiefs QB, Len Dawson, getting a smoke, and drinking a bottle of Fresca in the locker room before going out for the second half, which the Packers dominated on their way to a 35-10 win. The famous and hungover Max McGee caught two touchdown passes from Bart Starr.

We wonder if times have changed, all that drastically. Maybe, these days, the cigarette smoke has been replaced by other kinds of smoke, including marijuana. Instead of a sugary soft drink like Fresca, perhaps it is a sugary soft drink like Gatorade.

Mandel’s Musings: Jeter, the Distant Yankee, Should Be Unanimously Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

By Scott Mandel

I’ve never been a big fan of Derek Jeter, the former New York Yankees shortstop, on a personal level. But, today, Derek Jeter is going to be elected, deservedly so, to the the Baseball Hall of Fame, an acknowledgement of his status as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport.

But, Jeter was not always an easy guy to get along with or get to know, from a media point of view. And, he knew there was no prerequisite for trying to endear himself to the media or even, to the fans. He did his job as the Yankee shortstop, and did it better than anyone in the franchise’s history.

Jeter opted, over the course of his 21-year career, to play it close to the vest with the media and with Yankeee fans, His responses during interviews were filled with sports cliches, but never really offered his deepest feelings about any subject. Jeter was a bright guy and had many opinions to offer, particularly as the Yankee captain, but he chose not to share most of those feelings with his adoring public.

He was self-aware, always, and always tuned-in to saying as little as possible, as non-controversial as possible. Yet, his ego was so enormous, he had no problem with handing out “swag bags” of Jeter memorabilia to his one-night stands as they walked out his apartment door, in the previous night’s dress and makeup.

He left the Yankees, his beloved Yankees, acrimoniously after Brian Cashman refused to make him the highest paid shortstop in the game when he was 37 years old and had lost many of his skills.

Jeter has not been back to the stadium since retiring five years ago, other than one time to honor Mariano Rivera. He also showed up in Cooperstown to watch Rivera get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Other than that, the great Yankee has been as detached from Yankee tradition and the Yankee organization as any non-Yankee player would be. There are many who feel he has intentionally slighted the Yankees from capitalizing on their relationship with him, ie, profiting from the marketing possibilities of Jeter, the Yankee.

Jeter was indeed a role model for the way he treated kids and umpires in ballparks all across the country. But, as an owner in Miami, Jeter has looked a lot more fallible without the pinstripes on. He deserves a fair shot with the Marlins and enough time to build the organization the way he wants it built. It has never been a good idea to bet against Jeter. He can still turn this second baseball career into a big success.

But the fact that he fired a number of popular Marlins employees — including Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Tony Perez, and a longtime scout who was in the hospital trying to recover from cancer surgery — and handled various duties (including the Giancarlo Stanton trade) with what appeared to be a less-than-gentle approach, did not shock some who have known Jeter. That includes R.D. Long, the longtime running mate ejected from the shortstop’s inner circle years ago for a reason never explained to him.

“I can’t comment about Derek Jeter today, because I don’t know that person today,” Long, who spent six years in the Yankees system and who coached at Rochester Institute of Technology, said last week by phone. “But as a player, people who doubted him just don’t get it. If some think he’s overrated, that’s ludicrous. I think he might be the most underrated player of all time.

He’s a stranger in his own stadium, the “House that Jeter Built,” where he starred.

That said, Derek Jeter was the greatest shortstop in Yankee history and today, we will find out at 6 o’clock whether his inevitable election to the Baseball Hall of Fame will be unanimous, or not. If there is a voter who does not elect Derek Jeter to the Baseball Hall of Fame on this, Jeter’s first opportunity to get into the hallowed hall, that voter should be stripped of his vote. Jeter was a great player, possibly the greatest shortstop over the past 50 years. Despite his media foibles and his soiled relationship with his Yankee heritage, he deserves to be the second player in baseball history to be voted into the Hall of Fame, unanimously. The first, of course, was Mariano Rivera, last year.

Matt Rhule, Born and Raised New Yorker, Cancels Giants Interview to Take Carolina HC Job

By Scott Mandel

In a shocking development, Matt Rhule, the 44-year old Baylor head coach, former Giants offensive line coach, and born and raised New Yorker, has rejected the Giants, who were scheduled to interview him today for their once-prestigious head coaching position.

Instead, Rhule, who was the Giants clear first choice to be their next coach, never got on the airplane after his interview yesterday with Carolina, who reportedly will name him their next HC later today.

Giants owner John Mara and G.M. Dave Gettleman have some soul-searching to do. There was nobody who didn’t expect Matt Rhule to jump at the chance to coach his childhood team.

Carolina could not have out-spent the Giants for Rhule’s services. For the young coach to not even give the Giants an interview may speak loudly about how far the Giants organization has fallen in esteem in the eyes of the league.

Mike McCarthy interviewed with the Giants last week and took the the Cowboys job, instead.

Tomorrow, the Giants interview Josh McDaniel, the offensive coordinator for the Patriots.

Maybe, McDaniel’s boss, Bill Belichick will become available as well, over the next couple of weeks. He can see the writing on the wall for his Patriots organization, with coaching staff and player personnel undergoing massive changes. At age 67, the only job Belichick has told friends he would leave New England for is the Giants job, with the organization that gave him his professional start as an assistant coach under Bill Parcells.

The allure of the Giants organization and tradition has taken a huge hit, today, for sure, but this may turn out okay for the Giants if McDaniels or his boss still see the job as the apple of their eyes.

Can you imagine McDaniels and Belichick coming to the Giants as a package?