by Eddie Mayrose
St. John’s Basketball Hires (Settles For?) Steve Lavin
Don’t know if there’s a better indication of how far the St. John’s basketball program has fallen than the difficulty the powers that be had in signing a new head coach. ESPN analyst and former UCLA head man, Steve Lavin, accepted the job after the Johnnies were rebuffed by Florida’s Billy Donovan and Paul Hewitt of Georgia Tech. In addition, Fran McCaffrey, who led Siena to the top of the MAAC during his tenure, and Boston College head man Al Skinner were brought in for interviews and may or may not have been offered the job. That Lavin is, at best, the Red Storm’s third choice, and might actually be the fifth, speaks volumes to the current irrelevance of what was once a national power. While Lavin has his work cut out for him, he does have a significant resource of talent in his own backyard. Armed with four returning senior starters and eight scholarships, he may actually be able to effect a significant turnaround in very short order if he can tap into the prep talent in New York City; something at which his two predecessors failed miserably. It’s been too long since the Johnnies were at the top of the Big East and a viable threat in the NCAA tournament. Lavin has an opportunity to be a hero to all of the Johnnie faithful longing to, once again, be a part of March Madness. Here’s hoping he delivers.
New York Mets: Same Song, Different Year
Seems like not much has changed since we last left our beloved Metsies. Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran are still injured, Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey and John Maine are all huge question marks behind Johan Santana and the identity of the starting first baseman remains a mystery. Unfortunately for the denizens of CitiField, the rest of the division has improved greatly; making a very real possibility of a fourth place finish. It’ll take a hot April by David Wright and Jason Bay to carry the anemic offense until the team is at full strength and an amazing turnaround by a pitching staff that was knocked around pretty good throughout training camp. The way things have gone for the Mets over the last few years, however, such good fortune just doesn’t seem to be in the cards.
Dwight Gooden Still Hasn’t Hit Bottom
Given his history, I can’t imagine anyone was shocked last week by the news that Dwight Gooden had suffered another relapse in his ongoing battle with drug addiction. What was unbelievable, however, was the decision to release him on his own recognizance. This is a man so overwhelmed by his addiction that, after being arrested in 2006, he opted for prison over extended probation, perhaps in the hope that incarceration would separate him from his addictions. Yet, despite his history, a municipal court judge decided that being charged with driving under the influence of drugs, leaving the scene of an accident and endangering the welfare of a child; his five- year-old son riding in the back without a car seat, there was no reason to hold Gooden on bail. Seriously?! Perhaps it was this same forgiving attitude that prompted the Mets to induct Gooden and Daryl Strawberry into their Hall of Fame this summer. Can’t wait to visit CitiField and have my son ask me why Gooden isn’t in the Hall at Cooperstown. Maybe I’ll just refer him to A Bronx Tale and DeNiro’s speech about the saddest thing in life being wasted talent.
Major League Baseball Opener
Baseball’s back on Monday, (we in the Cheap Seats refuse to acknowledge Sunday Night’s made for TV event as the opener ) and with it comes the hope of every fan, even in Pittsburgh, that this will be a great year for his favorite team. I’ll share my selections for Divisional Champions as well as Pennant and World Series Champions with the caveat that you review how miserably I chose the participants in this year’s Final Four.
NL East- Florida Marlins, NL Central- Cincinnati Reds, NL West- Colorado Rockies, NL Wild Card- Philadelphia Phillies
AL East- Boston Red Sox, , AL Central- Minnesota Twins, AL West- Seattle Mariners, AL Wild Card- Tampa Bay Rays
NL Champs- Colorado, AL Champs- Minnesota
World Series Champs- Minnesota