From The Archives JOCKBEAT ARCHIVES show-old-images THE FRONT ARCHIVES

They Crawled Out of the Swamps to Save the Mets

[Archivist’s note: In the October 14, 1986, issue of the Voice (which would’ve hit the stands on October 7, just prior to the start of the NLCS pitting the Mets against the Houston Astros), the Jockbeat section of the paper featured a full-page exposé by humorist Charlie Rubin, “Favorite Dinosaurs of the Mets.”

Frank Cashen, the Mets G.M., gave Rubin a quote covering the basics: “Dinosaurs are important to any winning organization. And when your dinosaurs go, so does your competitive edge. I was talking to George Steinbrenner the other day, and he agreed with me. He said, ‘You know what killed off those great Yankee teams of mine, don’t you? Extreme cold and changing vegetation.’ ”

Left fielder Mookie Wilson added a player’s perspective: “When I’m in a slump, I comfort myself by saying if I believe in dinosaurs, then somewhere, they must be believing in me. And if they believe in me, then I can believe in me. Then I bust out.”

And pitcher Dwight Gooden imparted some field-level expertise: “Absolutely no question, the highlight of my season was finding that claw bone in the late Cretaceous formation just outside our dugout. Scaling up its dimensions, I’d conclude it was from a creature that was about 6-1 and 200 pounds…probably Tom Seaver.”

Now we know why that lovable team from yesteryear went on to win it all against the hated Boston Red Sox — who, we suspect, wouldn’t even recognize a Parasaurolophus if it was chowing down on the centerfield grass in Fenway Park. The takeaway? Know your dinosaurs — or lose the World Series.

Right about now you might be wondering, “How did anybody even think of this?”

Well, that’s what Jockbeat was for. We’ll be unearthing more than just dinosaur bones in future posts. —R.C. Baker]

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Yankees and Mets Stadiums Cost Taxpayers $706 Million

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg killed Rudy Giuliani’s stadium plans for the Mets and Yankees in 2002, he deemed the $800 million taxpayer gift that Giuliani had proposed to be both irresponsible and unnecessary. Three years later, when Bloomberg revealed his own stadium plans for the city’s baseball teams, he said that taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for the stadiums at all.

“We don’t do subsidies,” said Bloomberg during the announcement. He also promised that the city would eventually make a profit on the deal.

Bloomberg was wrong. According to a new report from the Brookings Institution, the federal government got shafted.

Because the municipal bonds the city offered the teams for construction were labeled “tax free,” the federal government wasn’t able to collect a combined $706 million in taxes on the bonds, money that both the Yankees and Mets were able to keep and put toward the construction of their stadiums.

That’s all in addition to the millions of dollars in infrastructure that the city created for the two new stadiums, something the Brookings report makes clear hasn’t resulted in any substantive benefits to the city’s bottom line.

“There is little evidence that stadiums provide even local economic benefits,” the report says. “Decades of academic studies consistently find no discernible positive relationship between sports facilities and local economic development, income growth, or job creation. And local benefits aside, there is clearly no economic justification for federal subsidies for sports stadiums.”

Both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field sit atop city-owned land, and neither team pays rent or property taxes. The city takes home none of the profits the stadium makes, besides taxes on the corporate entities themselves.

While the federal government was left with a hefty portion of the bill, Bloomberg thought the city could turn a tidy little profit from the stadiums by getting the teams to provide luxury boxes that the city could then rent out. That plan fell flat as Bloomberg left the teams in charge of renting out the suites — something neither was inclined to do if it couldn’t keep the profits. Bloomberg projected $1 million a year from the suites. Last year the teams barely managed to scare up $160,000.

Both stadiums have been decently profitable. The Yankees saw their valuation rise to $3.4 billion this year, and the Mets experienced a 22 percent increase in value following a World Series run that shook off the economic funk that almost sank the team following its involvement in the Madoff scandal. Even with all the transit improvements the city rolled out for the Yankees, the team is facing its worst year of attendance in over a decade, due to sky-high ticket prices and an underperforming (well, until very recently) squad. Now the Yankees are attempting to get the city to refinance their debt on the stadium that taxpayers helped build for them.

The city also doled out tax-exempt bonds when luring the Nets to the Barclays Center, to the tune of $161 million. That stadium has turned out to be a complete disaster. And of course, this all pales in comparison to the inane property tax exemption that the Knicks and Rangers have been handed for the past 34 years. Last year alone, the city could have collected $48.5 million from Madison Square Garden. It’s all one big scam, people!


With This Beer, We Raise a Toast to Queens

Move over, Brooklyn. After years of threats and broken promises, we may finally be entering the era of Queens. You want proof? There’s the Mets, of course, who are riding an eleven-game win streak to the best record in baseball. Although it’s still April, the team’s most electrifying start since the championship season of 1986 is enough to snag the entire city’s attention. But that’s sure to fade faster than the hop profile of a great I.P.A.

More importantly, a great borough needs a great beer — dozens of them — and Queens seems to get a new, noteworthy brew with each passing month. In fact, the craft-beer scene there is now so broad and distinguished as to merit a dedicated celebration: Queens Beer Week. Launched in 2014, May 8 marks its triumphant return with an opening event at Crescent and Vine in Astoria. And there’s plenty to sip on in the meantime. Start with Starchild, from Glendale’s own Finback Brewery. Representing rebirth, and packing a whole lotta funk, it’s an entirely appropriate beer for 2015 Queens.

Tart and tangy, Finback’s April release is a 4.6 percent sour brewed with grapefruit peels and wild yeast strains. This particular style of beer typically takes some getting used to; the pungent flavors of a sour ale can evoke unfavorable comparisons to everything from vinegar to wet barn. But yes, some people actively seek out these elements in their beer. Belgian lambic drinkers, for one, have been enjoying them for centuries. Starchild improves its accessibility, however, by offering the ripened zest provided by citrus. You don’t have to be a sour-beer lover so much as a grapefruit enthusiast to get down with this brew. And after you get down, it’s unlikely you’ll turn around. Once you go sour, as they say…

With an orange-hued body reminiscent of our Citi Field baseball team, Starchild has a light, acidic fizz that might linger on the tongue longer than the Mets’ reign at the top of the standings.

Look for it on tap at many of the borough’s standout beer bars. For a guaranteed taste, not to mention a fun weekend excursion, head over to the Finback taproom, open Thursday through Sunday. There you can enjoy four-ounce pours and growler fills of the new sour, along with ten other house brews on draft. In the heart of the borough, it’s a great taste of Queens. Be forewarned: There isn’t a subway stop within a mile. Plan accordingly. From the Middle Village stop at the end of the M line, you can either walk about 30 minutes or take the Q54 bus to get to the brewery.


Dickey V. Gonzalez In Battle For Cy Young Love

Tonight’s matchup of the Mets and Washington Nationals gets about as anticipated as a game can get with no postseason at stake. The Mets, after all, have had just two Cy Young winners in their 50 year history — Tom Seaver (1969, 1973 and 1975) and Dwight Gooden (1985). I don’t know whether R.A. Dickey is the frontrunner for this year’s National League honors – there are stories circulating that some old-time sportswriters think of Dickey as a sensational fluke or that his knuckleball is an amusing gimmick. But by at least one serious evaluation, he is the leading candidate.


Eight years ago Bill James and Rob Neyer, then of ESPN
and now of SB Nation, published a method for rating Cy Young
candidates based on past results. You don’t have to be a math whiz to
understand it – essentially it awards points for finishing at or near
the top in ERA, strikeouts, shutouts, et al. There’s also a VB or
Victory Bonus, 12-points awarded for leading your team to a division
championship. Guess Dickey will have to do without that boost.

According to James/Neyer’s Cy Young Points, the two leading National
League candidates – in fact, the two worthiest pitchers in either
league – are Dickey and Washington’s Gio Gonzalez. Gio beat the Mets
last night, going six inning, allowing three hits and just one earned
run while striking out six (though he walked five). That gives Gio 169.6
CYPs for the season.

Going into tonight’s game, Dickey has an 18-4 record against
Gonzalez’s 19-7, has a better ERA (2.64 to 2.93) pitched 16.9 more
innings (198 to 181.1) and has more strikeouts (195 to 191). . He also
has more shutouts, 3, a category he leads the league in.

Again, Gio is going to earn that Victory Bonus for leading the
Nationals to the NL East title, but if Dickey is impressive tonight,
surely it will count for something that he beat the division winner
while pitching for a team that gives him considerably less run support.

So, let’s show up in force tonight at Citifield to lend our support,
and if you’re watching on TV, try to project some good vibes for R.A.


Take Me Out to (Dinner at) the Ballgame: What To Eat at Citifield

Canned Kozy Shack pudding dispensed from a booth and twee little bottles of wine with the plastic cup built into the top of the bottle? This is baseball fare?

I went to the Mets’ third game of the season, versus the Atlanta Braves, yesterday afternoon. The baseball was entertaining (Mets won 7-5, after almost blowing a seven-run lead late in the game), but what blew me away was the food.

It’s something of a miracle you can still get these ancient standards of baseball cuisine — Cracker Jack and salted peanuts in the shell.

Those 25 and older will remember the old days of baseball eats, when your choices were mainly limited to Cracker Jack, peanuts, ice cream bars, hot dogs without sauerkraut, and Bud. But as the Age of Foodism dawned, an expanded list of stadium eats were demanded by a public gradually getting more discerning (some might say peevish) in its tastes.

But Citi Field takes baseball eats to a more august level than ever before. Sure, 95 percent of sales are still confined to conventional snacks along a hot dog/french fries/rubber hamburger axis at dozens of kiosks and windows on several levels, but look on the field level specifically to find some amazing viands that would have been inconceivable in a baseball stadium 10 years ago.

In one food concession configured like a store, find premade packages of sushi. Across from it are counters selling gyros and feta-dusted cheese fries, and Italian specialties catered by Leo’s Latticini in nearby Corona.

Aimed more at foodies than Greeks: a lamb gyro and feta fries

Stadium sushi?

The flounder sandwich at Catch of the Day (fries and “cheese” sauce in background)

Save your money, though, because walking counterclockwise along the field level you’ll soon encounter Catch of the Day, whose logo is a lobster with a baseball mitt over one claw. The place is presided over by David Pasternak, chef of Esca and member of an ancient Montauk fishing family.

The flounder sandwich ($9.50) is the thing to get, local fish in a dark breading flopped luxuriantly over a brioche roll smeared with fancy mayo. It’s utterly delicious and really amazing for ballpark fare. I wasn’t so interested in the blackened shrimp po’boy available at the same place for the following reasons: I’m not terribly enamored of the blackening technique, invented fairly recently by Paul Prudhomme — the spice coating always tastes burned to me; I also know they don’t have the kind of high flame to really blacken the shrimp properly.

A little farther on in the same direction, you’ll find an open courtyard at about the center-field position in the stadium, with an assortment of foodie concessions. There’s a Two Boots, for example, and a Shake Shack. More as a tribute to the Danny Meyer’s marketing and publicity team than to actual culinary virtue, long lines form in front of the broad building, while the lines are much shorter, for example, at Blue Smoke right next door. C’mon, foodies! You can get Shake Shack anywhere.

Blue Smoke’s Kansas City-style ribs

While Blue Smoke is not the city’s best barbecue, it is a solid one in several American styles. But in this case, the context ennobles the product. Thus the ribs are quite good, small and lightly glossed with a sweet sauce. A portion ($9.75) consists of four pieces served with good pickles. Yum!

Across from that is El Verano, a Mexican counter selling only tacos (taquitos, really) and quesadillas. I picked the chicken tacos because they’ve been the subject of Internet approbation. The place also has carnitas and barbacoa(!!!). The tacos are dressed simply with chopped onions and cilantro, which is how it’s done in the city’s most authentic southern Mexican taquerias, and an assertive hot sauce has been squirted on.

Perhaps most amazing of all is the new enhanced beer selection. I was able to enjoy as I sat in the sunny and breezy stands both Sixpoint Sweet Action and Goose Island IPA. There are plenty of bars in town where you can’t do that!

Chicken taquitos as good as any from a truck

Next: The very best thing I had to eat, hands down

The superb Memphis-style barbecued bologna sandwich


Waiting for Omar…

Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya are set to meet with Duaner Sanchez tomorrow morning at 8 am; Minaya was supposed to talk to reporters after the game, but “delayed” for at least an hour and half, so that’s been moved til tomorrow. None of the daily writers could leave, at the risk of getting scooped, until it was called off; I probably could have, but, well, I was curious.

The Mets lost to the Tigers today, but the pertinent facts are that John Maine looked pretty good and, though Randolph won’t say it for another week or two, would appear to be a lock for the rotation; Humber struggled, and has almost certainly been passed by Pelfrey in the race for a roster spot/call-up; and Carlos Beltran made a nice catch in center and hit an authoritative two-run homer (off Rogers, no less).

How laid back are spring training crowds? Almost no one even bothered to boo Kenny Rogers. That would not have been permitted to happen at Shea.

Off to bed, because I wouldn’t want to be late to cover a meeting about lateness. After that I’m off to Tampa for five days with the Yanks.


BREAKING NEWS!: Milledge Cuts Hair!

Look, it’s been a slow camp, okay?

Milledge arrived in the locker room without his signature braids, and I’ve gotta say, he looks pretty good. “Whoa!” said Jose Reyes. “Gotta get my grown man on,” said Milledge. “I’m a grown man now.” Teammates and reporters alike agreed that it’s an improvement. “Maybe I can steal a base now,” he joked.

In other news, there was still no Duaner Sanchez this morning. We’ll see what he has to say when he arrives tomorrow; so far, his teammates seem to be backing Randolph all the way.

The Mets take on the Tigers this afternoon, with old friend Kenny Rogers on the mound. I will keep a sharp eye out for “substances” on his hand and report back later.


And He Gave Up Either 0 Runs, Or 5

Busy day for the Mets today. This was a tough game to evaluate, because El Duque got hit a ton, but said he felt healthy, threw all his pitches (even an eephus!), and pronounced himself happy with the outing. Hernandez is listed as 38 but is actually, as close as anyone can tell, 41, and this was his first start of the spring, because he had been suffering neck pain due to arthritis (seriously). In the second inning, he got hit in the leg with a comebacker, but insisted he was fine — in fact, he couldn’t say for sure which leg had been hit. Helpfully, though, he narrowed it down to “right… or left.”

After the game Willie Randolph said that he’d sent Duaner Sanchez –a terrific reliever last season until a cab accident forced him into surgery — home for the day because he’d been showing up late to practice. Hmm. I never understood what sending someone home was meant to accomplish in these situations, but I guess it’s an attention-getter, especially now that it’s been announced in the press. Also, a locker room like the Mets’ can exert some major peer pressure as far as that sort of thing goes. Personally I can’t help sympathizing with latecomers, because I have a tendency to be tardy myself, though this week I’ve successfully dragged myself out of bed before dawn every day.

The good news is that Mike Pelfrey pitched extremely well, again, and Willie Randolph was – by his standards – gushing: “I thought he was outstanding. He threw the ball great today… it’s exciting to watch him pitch.” I can’t remember Randolph being that effusive very often; usually, knowing how these things play in the media, he’s careful to temper his praise and keep expectations modest. It’s awfully tempting to imagine him in the rotation. But if we’re going to write off El Duque’s start because it’s just spring, I suppose we should take Pelfrey’s with a grain of salt too.

Finally, today the Mets made their first cuts, sending 14 players over to minor league spring training, where they will no doubt regale their teammates with tales of life in the bigs; that leaves 47 players in camp.

And here I was about to complain about the lack of news in Metsville…


Kissimmee Kate (Ouch, Sorry)

(Disclaimer: This Post Is Not Really About Duke/UNC)

So it turns out that Osceola County Stadium, home of the Astros, is a nice little park, but Kissimmee itself is… underwhelming. Also, the Stadium was built by Masons, according to a stone inscription near the media entrance (I took a picture, but haven’t figured out how to post it at a decent size yet; bear with me). I never bought into any of those Masonic conspiracies or anything, but it’s still a little odd that they financed a ballpark, isn’t it?

Notes from today’s game:

-Carlo Delgado has a sore neck – severity as yet unknown, though no one seems to be overly worried about it at the moment.

-Tom Glavine pitched three scoreless innings and feels like he’s on track, though still working on his arm strength. Noting that there were no TV cameras there today, he spent the entire interview with reporters filing his nails — pitchers are very, very careful about their hands.

-First base prospect Mike Carp’s stock skyrocketed today when, in for Delgado, he drove in five runs on two very serious doubles. They guy has an eye-opening power stroke; Willie Randolph compared him to Nick Johnson, though the writers had something loftier in mind (no disrespect to Johnson, who is in fact very good). I was totally ready to get carried away with comparisons, but I remembered just in time that this is always a truly terrible idea after watching someone in a single game.

Of course, Carp is only 20 (!) and at his first-ever big-league spring training, so don’t expect to even glimpse him this year, barring truly massive disaster.

-Finally, I should probably have known this already, but Billy Wagner is a Duke fan (I figured this out using my crack investigative reporting skills; it was the Duke t-shirt that tipped me off). Predictably, he doesn’t think the foul on Hansbrough the other night was flagrant – “people see blood and they panic,” he said. He is right about that last part, but I don’t know; it still looked pretty flagrant to me. Like everyone else, though, I’m a bit biased, so I may be wrong.

I brought an iPod adapter for this trip, only to find, of course, that my rental car (a weird little thing with huge blind spots called a Dodge Caliber) has no tape deck. This led to my discovery that this part of Florida has a truly mind-boggling number of Christian music radio stations. It actually got to a point where, when I found a country station, I was overwhelmed with relief and excitement. It’s gonna be a long drive to Fort Myers tomorrow.