Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ricciardi: Crazy...Like A Fox

Only 48 hours remain before the Trading Deadline, and one day has already passed since Blue Jay GM J.P. Ricciardi's self-imposed deadline, and Roy Halladay is still in Toronto. In fact, he is slated to pitch tonight (Wednesday). Ricciardi flew open the flood gates and proclaimed that Halladay was available. Now, the pundits are saying he misread the market badly and stands to have the whole thing blow up in his face.

I am going to take the other position because, well, somebody has to.

Ricciardi knew Halladay is going to be out of Toronto after 2010 and the team will not be in a greatly different situation at this time next year. So, before he is perceived as a "rental", he knew he wanted to deal Halladay by this year's Trading Deadline on Friday in order to maximize his return. After all, 45 starts are better than 12. When Ricciardi declared that all phone lines were open and operators were standing by, the proposals came in. Ricciardi counter-proposed and asked for the moon. With so many suitors, demand greatly outweighed supply.

Kudos to Mark Shapiro, Cleveland GM, who sensed an opportunity and swooped in to unload Cliff Lee to one of those suitors, bagging four prospects in return. However, the main chips in the rumored wish list from Toronto is still intact with the Phillies. Ricciardi might come down from his initial wishes because Shapiro increased the supply, however briefly. But, Ricciardi is still well in line with bringing back more than if he enlisted a closed-bidding process for Doc's services.

Perhaps the Phillies are no longer in the Halladay Sweepstakes, though they might be able to get him for slightly less than rumored earlier (Kyle Drabek, J.A. Happ, Dominic Brown). But, the Red Sox, Dodgers, Yankees, and Angels are all interested and there is plenty of suitors to coax Ricciardi to give Halladay up. The Blue Jays will turn out better for this, maybe not short-term, but for 2011. Blue Jay fans are upset because the team crashed and burned after a hot start and Ricciardi has basically written off the 2010 campaign. But, Ricciardi's intent all along was maximizing his return for a player that would walk after 2010 anyway.

And, for that, Ricciardi can still get the job done with a fluorish.

Bern, Baby, Bern

Finally. Mets GM Omar Minaya had a busy weekend and, in the end, he came to the conclusion that the rest of the Mets constituents already knew in their heart: Tony Bernazard was a stain on the Mets franchise that had to be removed immediately.

Minaya's credibility and his relationships -- both with the media and ownership -- took a hit this week. He has always been a good baseball man, but then again, so was Bernazard. Minaya has made some good moves and he has left the organization woefully thin in other areas.

The clock is ticking for Minaya to get on the ball here or he might be gone before his extension kicks in next year. If he can pull off a deal to help the Mets now and in the future before the deadline, especially under all of this duress, most of it caused by himself, that will be a feather in his cap and the first step on a long road back to personal respectability.

But, let's shine the microscope on the whistleblower for a second: Adam Rubin. Rubin is a product of the New York Media and helps perpetuate the stereotype. If he is not tough on the Mets when he has to be, no one will read him and readers will choose from several other reporters who is willing to "tell it like it is". And, that is all Rubin did here.

This is not an indictment on Mets beat reporters or print media versus visual media. The indictment is all around us. The Media would rather be negative than positive because it sells more papers. "If it bleeds, it leads", remember?

In New York, just as in any city, the Media is the product of its readers. New Yorkers are tough, gruff, and they don't take any guff. They expect nothing else from their reporters. Anything less would make Rubin irrelevant.

Since the incident at the Monday press conference, Mets COO Jeff Wilpon, the future heir to the majority ownership stake in the Mets franchise, has spoken to quell the pen-wielding Dobermans and has also reached out to Rubin in an effort to mend fences. The New York Daily News has stated Rubin will continue to be the reporter on the Mets beat, but probably after a nice long vacation and at least a few of those aforementioned fences are mended.

Now, the clock is ticking for Minaya to get back to his job. His future, and the future of the Mets, are in the balance. Never mind how the franchise is perceived in the papers. If the reporters affected the standings, the Mets would be dead last, a mile away from the steps leading out of the cellar. But, Minaya can bail out ownership and salvage what he can from this situation by making the right move in the next couple of days.

The Mets might not be "buyers" or "sellers" this week, but Minaya is always looking for a move to improve the team now and in the future. He did this with the acquisition of Jeff Francoeur. He can do it again and the Mets players can continue to do their job by climbing back into relevance.

Friday, July 24, 2009

When did ESPN jump the shark?

When ESPN started in 1979, it was a nobody, in the middle of nowhere, with a crazy idea. Now, they are the "Worldwide Leader in Sports", a monolith, owned by a major network (ABC), and, by extension, a major corporation (Disney). The term "selling out" might be a good description, but it is so much more than that.

As I talked about this in the waning moments of last week's show (#16), ESPN has fallen far. In this new frontier of the sports blogosphere, 24/7 updates to many sports websites, and league-owned cable networks, ESPN is not as necessary as they used to be.

The days of "The Big Show", "NHL2nite", and the halcyon days of "Baseball Tonight" are all in the rear-view mirror. Favoritism towards some teams, so centered on the Yankees at the beginning of the decade, I used to playfully call the network ESPNY. They also have showed favoritism to Boston in recent years, too. ESPN has become best buddies with the athletes and management they cover, getting athletes and other sports figures to do the "ESPN car wash" of "Mike & Mike in the Morning", "ESPN FirstTake", "Pardon the Interruption", and other TV and radio shows.

Then, there are the dreaded ESPYs. Awarding athletes to honor and spotlight the best in sports is okay, but turning the event into a red-carpet event, with the network and its reporters rubbing elbows with them shows a compromise of integrity and good reporting.

The whole situation this week with ESPN's treatment, or lack thereof, of the accusation of Ben Roethlisberger in a Lake Tahoe hotel and casino is an interesting study of how ESPN handles its bedfellows. The handling of the situation by ESPN has become the much bigger story here. I mean, the picture of Big Ben in the article on the site even has an ESPY logo in the background! Roethlisberger is also participating in an episode of a new reality show, called "Shaq Vs." with Shaquille O'Neal on ABC, which owns ESPN, on August 8th. Also, ESPN may want to tread lightly on this issue that involves the face of the defending Super Bowl Champions considering ESPN's wedded relationship to the NFL and its Monday Night Football television package.

This all got me to thinking...when did ESPN "jump the shark"?
* Was it when Keith Olbermann left, effectively ending the SportsCenter portion of "The Big Show" and leading to countless pretenders to jump in the anchor's seat and try to yell and catch-phrase their way to super-stardom? Word was that Olbermann had an ego the size of Rhode Island, but you have to agree when Dan Patrick-Keith Olbermann tag-teamed, it was "must-watch TV".
* Was it hiring Rush Limbaugh to join the cast on "NFL Countdown"? That was a dud if there ever was one. It started poorly and went downhill from there, climaxing in a racial comment on Donovan McNabb's abilities at quarterback.
* Was it introducing the ESPYs? They now have red-carpet reporting to greet the athletes and their guests waving and smiling as they enter the event.
* Was it the 25th Anniversary cross-promotion and endless chest-thumping and retrospectives? If I see Chris Berman on the sidelines of a 49er comeback victory in the early '80s one more time, I am asking my wife to put a parental block on ESPN and not tell me the combination to unlock it.
* Was it the pre-eminence of the "sport" of poker in prime-time? ESPN has aired fringe sports since its beginnings, but that was when they did not have money or access to get the big boys on their air. They can, but they still choose to air this stuff.
* Was it the corporate synergy of "ESPN Radio", "ESPN The Magazine", ESPNZone restaurants, "ESPN on ABC"? I thought "ESPN 8: The Ocho" was a joke, but I think it really is an idea about 10 years too soon for the ESPN execs.
* Was it the rise and subsequent downfall of Fox Sports Net? FSN forced ESPN to up the ante and dumb-down its content to appeal to the masses instead of staying the course and forcing everyone else to wise up. It came and went, leaving ESPN's better days in its wake.
* Was it the ill-fated attempt at a Barry Bonds reality show? I think that is when I consciously stopped watching.

I have greatly lost interest in ESPN, mainly because of the myriad other options available to the sports fan. The funny thing is: if ESPN was not so good at what it did in its infancy and its adolescence, perhaps we would not have the options we have today.

ESPN has pulled together programming from Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and most recently, the National Basketball Association and every single Grand Slam in Tennis. Now, each sport has its own channel to dedicate programming and access to it.

ESPN Radio has formed a network across the country, simulcasting its morning show and making its hosts and contributors into celebrities. They were late to the sports radio boom, but with its sheer reach, access, and dollars, some of the smaller fish might be blown out of the water. But, satellite radio is a "big fish" answer to ESPN. Fox Sports Radio, league-run stations, as well as Sirius XM's own sports stations, are great alternatives.

The time will come where it will either cost ESPN an exorbitant amount of money to keep broadcasting major sports on its air or the leagues could air more of their own original content. For instance, when the MLB television contract with ESPN and FOX is up, MLB can charge an obscene amount of money for those networks to keep a MLB presence or else MLB Network could take a much larger position in its own product.

The monster that ESPN played a large part in creating may end up consuming them. They have made tremendous strides in covering sports, but, along with that, they have created personalities that think they are larger than the sports they cover and they have become just about unwatchable. ESPN has also helped further the new-world athlete personality by boiling down a game into a 40-second set of slam-dunks and home runs and coddling those athletes to stay on their good sides.

ESPN can still save themselves and perform a service to the sports fan, getting back into their good graces without turning them off with cross-promotion, over-promotion, and bombastic chest-thumping. They can halt the impeding exodus that indirectly points fans to get their information from the ever-growing list of alternatives.

How about showing highlights of every major sporting event, every day. You know, like in the old days? Enough with the commentary from your "experts" or puff pieces during the show.

How about retaining the right people and employing capable people to carry the SportsCenter torch? I have missed the Dan Patricks and Keith Olbermanns and Bob Leys from doing SportsCenter on a regular basis. If they soured on the product, there had to be a reason.

Nothing will happen until it has to. But, the time ESPN will have to do something may be sooner than you think.

Next show: Sunday night (7/26) at 8pm ET on

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What Biron Means to the Islanders

First, required reading from about the Martin Biron signing and his latest take on the Rick DiPietro situation, a situation he had pegged from the start.

Martin Biron was the goalie I wished the Islanders would target out of the gate. While I was not really upset about Dwayne Roloson (he did play 63 games last year as a 39-year-old), Biron gives the Islanders a goalie tandem that could be our best goalie tandem since Glenn Healy and Mark Fitzpatrick. DiPietro can take his time and get better for good, if that is even possible at this point.

A couple of interesting notes after seeing the news breaking on Twitter and reading about this yesterday afternoon:
1. Biron and Roloson both have the same agent, Mark Witkin. The Roloson move made sense for Roloson, but, if you're Biron, are you wondering what your agent is thinking? Or is the market that dry for goaltending help? The only other potential "impact" goalie to move this offseason was Edmonton bringing in Khabibulin to replace Roloson.

2. Did Snow and Gordon make this move to make absolutely sure that DP does not come back too soon? I know the doctors and coaching staff will say one thing, but I can see DiPietro acting like a petulant teenager when he gets close to being game-ready. This way, DiPietro cannot persuade anyone and does not have to because the Islanders have major-league quality depth at the most important position in hockey.

Though the Biron deal fell into the Islanders' laps, they are also showing they are planning for more than a 12th- or 13th-place finish this year. What else do you think GM Garth Snow has up his sleeve? Alex Tanguay? A trade for Jonathan Cheechoo to help the Sharks clear out cap room? Sign Phil Kessel to an offer sheet? I've heard all of these are possible from my Twitter friends. I don't think the Islanders are done yet and they need more scoring and more grit. Grit is something that will be cheaper much closer to the season. But, scoring doesn't grow on trees.

Now, how does Islanders Country feel about the franchise goaltender? Personally, I have always liked DiPietro. I have always wanted to see him succeed and still believe he could be one of the top five goaltenders in the league for a long time. But, knowing that he put himself in front of the team by trying to play when he shouldn't put the team at a big disadvantage both before the season (no goaltending depth in the organization, thinking DP would be fine) and early in the season (DP was on the bench, but was really injured and could not play) was a bad move. It was almost as bad for the front office to believe him.

When the team got off to a rough start, the fingers were justifiably pointed at the most important position in hockey: goaltending. Yes, Joey MacDonald had a good November, but eventually, everything caught up with him. Sure, Yann Danis had some nice starts along the way, but December and January killed any chances the Islanders had of a good season.

But, look at the other side of the coin. If the Islanders had capable goaltending when DiPietro went down, maybe the Islanders are not one of the worst teams in the league, do not win the Draft Lottery, and do not select John Tavares for a franchise rebirth. Also, the organization may not have reacted this same way this offseason with respect to signing and drafting goaltenders to both fill out the Opening Night roster and replenish the farm system. If DiPietro put the team first, goaltending might actually be more of a question mark right now.

I had very low expectations for the Islanders coming into last season and I was hoping the kids learned. I said early in the year that I would be more upset with a 7-2 loss in March than I was in October (the Columbus Day game against Buffalo was bad, but I hoped we learned from it). That did not happen and they came in even lower than I expected. But, last season was a big sacrifice for everyone: players, coaches, front office, ownership, and, most of all, fans.

This year, a lot of that "learning" has to pay off. It already has in the front office, who will not be fooled again by listening to the franchise goaltender. No matter what other signings or trades the Isles make between now and October 3rd, when the season starts, guys like Kyle Okposo, Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Sean Bergenheim, and (gulp) Jeff Tambellini have to learn from all of this and come out the other side much better for it. Otherwise, it'll be another long season.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Islanders Slash Radio Crew

News broke late last night about the decision by the Islanders to simulcast their television broadcasts on the radio next season. This means that the television announcing tandem of Howie Rose and Billy Jaffe will also be available on the radio.

For those of you who may not follow the day-to-day machinations of the Islanders, the radio "network" consisted of one station and that station was based in Smithtown, Long Island. Great for fans east of the Coliseum, but for those towards the city, or (gasp!), across the East River or Hudson River, fans there, including myself, is out of luck. Even for those further out on Long Island, the station (94.3 FM) does not have a long reach and conflicted with a station in the Bronx. So, on my way home from games, I could not listen to the post-game more than 15 minutes outside of the Coliseum on the Cross Island Parkway in Queens.

I am not sure if the FM station will air the broadcasts or if they will move elsewhere, but, after this move, knowing the indifference the Islanders organization towards the radio presentation of their team, I would expect them to move high up on the AM dial. The big hit will be for NHL GameCenter patrons and the games that are carried on Sirius XM for the satellite-listening public.

Here is the comprehensive post on the news by Greg Logan of Newsday:

Here is my reaction, which was posted as a Comment to Chris Botta's post on the story:

Both Steve Mears and Chris King were enjoyable listens. Unfortunately, I only got to listen to a little of their broadcast on game days because of the lack of range of their station (Cross Island Pkwy and in). Hockey radio play-by-play is one of the toughest things to do in sports broadcasting and he handled it with aplomb.

Mears got a great opportunity with the Islanders, considering his age, and he is ahead of the curve for broadcasters of his age and experience. He'll land on his feet quickly. I think Mears is a Pittsburgh guy, so it would be nice if he could land with the defending Cup champs.

As for Chris King, I identify a lot with him, as he was an everyman (computer engineer) who became a broadcaster. It gave me hope to one day make the jump from computers to broadcasting. King is a Long Island original, which makes this especially hard to take, and was with the Islanders since the dark days. He does not deserve this.

I also think Howie Rose is one of the best in the business and I like Billy Jaffe's analysis. But, as it has been said in this thread, radio broadcasting and TV broadcasting are two different things. You are appealing to a different audience with a different setup. Talking on picture would hurt the radio audience, just as over-analyzing the action on the ice would be superfluous on TV.

The Islanders TV and radio broadcasts have been a bright light in a difficult few years for the franchise. The New York area has been blessed with top-notch announcers for most of their teams. Cutting the original coverage in half hurts the fans, the brand, and, most importantly, the franchise.

In a time of shrinking media and shrinking travel budgets for traveling media, the Islanders should be on the offensive and provide more and varied coverage, as their team will quickly become worth watching (and listening to) again.

What's next? Stopping Newsday from having Greg Logan travel with the team?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy Canada Day!

This is my latest entry from my BlogTalkRadio show page. I have been updating that blog much more than this one lately, but, not to worry, I will be updating this one over the next week, "in my spare time", to include the blogs from the past couple of months. Here is today's blog and Happy Hockey Christmas 2009!


An annual rite of summer, the free agency period is about to begin at noon ET today. It is also Canada Day, so Canadians have the good fortune to have a holiday from work. For us in the States, we have to be a little more discreet about our hockey fanaticism today.

It is a travel day for me, so I am trying to leave after the craziness begins, but early enough to catch the last couple of hours of TSN coverage, which will run from 2-6pm ET on NHL Network in the US. My recommendation is to tune in to NHL Live! on, if you are not by a television, or the NHL Network for the simulcast, if you are by a TV.

We will chat about the free agent frenzy at 7pm on Sports With The StatMan (#14), so please tune in for a recap of what has gone on so far and what may happen in the next few days.

As I said on the show last week (#13), the free agency signing period may be slower than the past few years, as the salary cap has had a few years to sink in and teams are not as willing to jump into the deep end of the pool.

For some light reading before noon ET, when the doors to the candy store open, I would recommend joining the Twitter revolution (I just did last week). I am "gstatman" and I have compiled a good group of people to latch onto for the latest information, including Darren Dreger of TSN, Kevin Allen of USA Today, Sean Leahy, better known as the Puck Daddy, Craig Custance of the Sporting News, and, of course, the rumor mill of them all, Eklund from Following the festivities this way add a whole new dimension, trust me. Also, websites like (thanks, NHL Free Agent Tracker) and to see what the cap hit is for every player in the NHL, including new ones as they are signed, and how much cap space is left for teams.

As we delve into free agency, here are the cap numbers for the local teams in the Northeast Corridor, according to Remember, the salary cap is at $56.8 million:

* Boston - $7.865M cap space, 15 players signed (ranks 24th in cap space)
* New York Islanders - $25.765M cap space, 17 players signed (ranks 4th in cap space)
* New York Rangers - $25.336M cap space, 9 players signed (ranks 5th in cap space)
* New Jersey - $13.367M cap space, 15 players signed (ranks 18th in cap space)
* Philadelphia - $4.249M cap space, 18 players signed (ranks 30th -- dead last -- in cap space)
* Washington - $12.520M cap space, 14 players signed (ranks 20th in cap space)

This will help define the shopping list, but do not rule out the possibility of trades on the first day of free agency to clear out cap space. The Rangers did this by dealing Scott Gomez on a seemingly unsuspecting Montreal Canadiens, acquiring the moderately-priced Long Island-native Chris Higgins, who represents the type of finishers the Rangers desperately need. It was a win-win for the Rangers, getting rid of a lot of salary for a guy who can score goals. The extra room will be put to use today, as they will either make a deal for Dany Heatley (if he does not go to the Oilers) or get themselves an impact player via trade (Lecavalier?) or free agency (Sedins?).

Basketball has had a salary cap for a lot longer than the NHL, so you can look to what they do this time of year. Sign-and-trades are in vogue in the NBA and the NHL will undoubtedly follow suit in the near future as NHL GMs continue to acclimate themselves to a salary cap world.

Personally, I am leaving milk and cookies for Garth Snow -- the second time in a week I have done so -- with a note for my Hockey Christmas list. Last Friday, my draft list was answered, and John Tavares became an Islander. Today, my list contains a 1A goaltender, a tough forward to ride shotgun with Tavares, and a responsible signing that provides another spark to the franchise while being young enough to be considered part of the "core". Let's see if Santa Snow can come through again.

Next show: Tonight (July 1st) at 7pm ET right here at

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