NEW YORK — Once Shohei Ohtani put pen to paper, signing a massive 10-year/$700 million contract with the LA Dodgers, his fellow Japanese countryman Yoshinobu Yamamoto was the next name up on the free agency big board with several contenders bidding for his services such as the Dodgers, and both New York baseball teams in the Mets and Yankees.
It was a lump of coal in the Christmas stockings of New York baseball fans as 25-year-old Nippon Professional Baseball League star pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto eschewed long-term lucrative offers from both the Mets and the Yankees to sign a $325 million, twelve-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
While both of our local MLB teams came up short in their pursuit of Yamamoto, Mets fans must feel worse. The Yankees at least obtained star outfielder Juan Soto in a trade with the San Diego Padres this off-season. The Mets, in contrast, under new president of baseball operations David Stearns, have been picking up pieces from baseball’s equivalent of the dollar store, with the best being pitcher Adrian Houser who Stearns obtained in a trade with his former team, the Milwaukee Brewers.
Mets fans also had their hopes raised by reports of Stearns, along with Mets owner Steve Cohen, flying to Japan to meet with Yamamoto. Cohen then hosted Yamamoto, and his agent Joel Wolfe, for dinner at his Greenwich CT mansion. No other MLB team pursued Yamamoto the way the Mets did. Cohen was justified in saying, “I have no regrets as I left it all on the field. Life goes on.”
It is hard to blame Yamamoto for selecting the Dodgers. Los Angeles is five hours closer to Japan than New York is. It has palm trees and sunny weather most of the time. From a baseball vantage point, Yamamoto has his compatriot, and baseball’s biggest star, Shohei Ohtani, as a teammate. He will be the primary focus of LA fans and media, and that removes a ton of pressure on him. The Dodgers lineup also includes Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, and Max Muncy. Yamamoto should have no problem getting offensive support when he is on the mound, on a team which is a lock for the playoffs. The Mets fall short in both of those categories.
Mets fans need to be realistic. The current MLB free agent talent pool is not spectacular. The pitcher who was on the market for a nanosecond, and could really have helped the Mets starting rotation, Aaron Nola, re-signed with the Philadelphia Phillies. Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell would both be upgrades for the Mets starting rotation, but it is doubtful either one will get the Mets closer to the Braves and the Phillies in the National League East.
Steve Cohen said last season his goal for the Mets in 2024 is to be competitive which is what any team owner says to fans. Next year’s free agent class would appear to have better options for the Amazins. Not that Cohen is counting his pennies, but the lack of appealing free agents this cycle should lead to re-signing Pete Alonso to a long-term contract.
Mets get “socked” $101 million on Luxury Tax Bill
Talk about adding insult to injury. Despite their poor 2023 season, in which they won a paltry 75 games, the Mets were socked with a $101 million luxury tax bill for their high, and unproductive payroll by Major League Baseball.
My guess is Steve Cohen will be mildly annoyed, but it should not affect the way he conducts business.
“The Stinker Bowl,” at MetLife Stadium
For weeks, I had been calling the Christmas Eve game between two of the National Football League’s most inept teams, the Washington Commanders and the New York Jets, the Stinker Bowl. Sunday’s game lived up to billing.
The Jets nearly blew a twenty-point lead before prevailing, 30-28, on a last-second field goal by one of the team’s few bright spots, place kicker Greg Zuerlein.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) December 24, 2023
Both teams were in the Christmas spirit as they turned the football over deep in each other’s territories numerous times. As is all too typical in a Jets game, there were inopportune penalties and clock mismanagement. The Jets vaunted defense could not stop backup QB Jacoby Brissett, and reserve running backs Chris Rodriguez and Antonio Gibson in the second half, as they marched up the field at will in the fourth quarter.
The ugly win will cost the Jets when it comes to draft position. In the NFL, the worse your final record is, the better your draft slot is.
NBC shifts Week 16 Saturday Night matchup of Bills-Chargers to Peacock
NBC shifted Saturday night’s Buffalo Bills-Los Angeles Chargers game to its Peacock streaming service. It marked the debut of professional football on Peacock, although another streamer, Amazon-owned Prime Video has had the NFL’s Thursday night package for the past two seasons.
As a way of enticing football fans to watch the game, NBC promoted the fact there would be 40% fewer commercials, and absolutely no commercials in the crucial fourth quarter. That was a great idea, but the truth is there should be fewer ads when consumers are paying for a streaming service.
NBC NFL analyst Cris Collinsworth indirectly acknowledged Peacock does not yet have the subscription numbers of Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video. Collinsworth showed a graphic of the number of American Football Conference teams who were in the playoff hunt, and that included both the Bills and Chargers. “Peacock should get a lot of subscribers tonight!” he laughed, referring to the personnel from other teams who would want to view the game out of self-interest.
— NFL (@NFL) December 24, 2023
Peacock got lucky as the game went down to the wire with the Bills beating the Chargers, 24-22.
Showtime ends their Sports Programming
The growth of streaming services has had an adverse effect on premium cable networks. Showtime has ended all its sports programming. In recent years, it has become the top media destination for boxing fans. Sadly, that sport has become a niche one, as it has failed to attract younger fans in significant numbers.
In another sign of changing times, “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” has concluded its run on HBO after 29 years.
Broadcast Networks rolling out some new shows
One of the big stories of 2023 were the strikes by both writers and actors which shut down the entertainment industry. Now that they have been resolved, the broadcast networks are finally rolling out some new shows.
Extended Family preview on NBC
NBC previewed “Extended Family,” which stars Jon Cryer, Abigail Spencer, and Donald Faison, this past Saturday evening. Cryer and Spencer play a divorced couple who remain involved in each other’s lives to help raise their two kids as normally as possible.
The actors are likable, and there were plenty of laughs in this pilot episode. Whether there is enough material to make this a successful series is the big question.
M*A*S*H: The Comedy That Changed Television will air on FOX on New Year’s Day Night
This Monday (New Year’s Day night), FOX will be broadcasting “M*A*S*H: The Comedy That Changed Television.” The show’s title seems a bit hubristic, but “M*A*S*H” was one of television’s first dramedies with its multifaceted look at the Korean War.
This retrospective features clips from the program which ran on CBS, as well as commentary from its surviving stars, as well as from those who have passed away. Those clips were taken from a 2002 tribute to the show.
Among those we see and hear from is the late legendary television executive, and Rego Park native, Fred Silverman. It was Silverman who added “M*A*S*H” to the schedule when he was running CBS, and then shifted it to Saturday nights where it became part of the powerhouse lineup which included “All in the Family,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and “Newhart.”
You can read more of Lloyd Carroll’s columns posted weekly on The Queens Chronicle.
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