Notes from the Sideline: The Jessica and Charlie Show

Published: 3/8/2019 8:53:44 PM

In a week that begged for anything relevant, the Mets hired Jessica Mendoza to be a “baseball operations adviser” and the NFL Network’s Charley Casserly dropped the boom on quarterback Kyler Murray’s off-field performance at the NFL Combine.

So much for relevance. Critics are calling Mendoza’s Mets job a conflict of interest with her ESPN “Sunday Night Baseball” gig alongside Alex Rodriguez and Matt Vagersian.

As a color analyst, she’s no Suzyn Waldman, and as a baseball observer, it remains to be seen if she’ll be any match for Oakland A’s scouting director Haley Alvarez.

The team’s announcement that Mendoza would help with “player evaluation and roster construction” came off as contrived, considering that GM Brodie Van Wagonen is a former sports agent, and Mendoza is represented by his former agency. 

Van Wagonen regards himself an “outside the box hire” and his antics are starting to remind me of the Bobby Valentine debacle in Boston. He predicts that the Mets will win the NL East, but so far they lead the Grapefruit League in errors (24 in 14 games), are hitting a lackluster .245, and the ballyhooed pitching staff has a gaudy 4.98 ERA.

The Mets season opener is two weeks from Thursday at Washington, which leaves plenty of time for Mendoza to help evaluate talent and build the roster.

The week’s other saga involved Charley Casserly passing judgment on everyone’s hot-to-trot list Kyler Murray. According to Casserly, NFL insiders felt that Murray’s so-called intangibles were a no-show at the Combine. “Leadership, Not good. Study habits, not good. Board work, below not good.”

The remarks prompted predicted blowback, including Casserly’s own conflict of interest. According to Yahoo Sports’ Frank Schwab, Casserly coaches combine participants how to handle their interviews.

At least one sports anchor concurred with Casserly. “We were set to have him on (our show) at the Super Bowl and we were not delighted with the interview,” said Sirius-XM’s Chris Russo. “It’s not a surprise to us here that Kyler Murray did not come off as Winston Churchill.”

Baseball historian and archivist Brian Miner emailed to correct an item regarding UMass baseball coach Dick Bergquist that was in last week’s column. “I’m not taking anything away from Dick Berquist,” wrote Miner. “He's certainly earned his accolades as the former UMass Baseball coach, but Earl Lorden was the first coach to take UMass to the College World Series in 1954.”

Longtime NHL scout Bob Crocker passed away last December. Crocker regularly drove from his home in Centerville to Amherst to scout for the LA Kings and N.Y. Rangers. Prior to that, he was GM Jack Kelley’s right-hand man when the Whalers played in Hartford. 

It’s all in the family for coach Fran McCaffery, who was suspended two games for cursing at an official after Iowa lost to Ohio State. According to a 2008 article in The New York Times, when McCaffery coached at Siena his wife Margaret piped up twice at a post-game press conference. The second time, he interrupted her and said, “Marg, that’s enough!”

UMass receiver Andy Isabella credited UMass wide receivers coach Leonard Hankerson for helping him catch 102 passes last season. Hankerson was an all-conference wideout at Miami while Mark Whipple was the offensive coordinator. He played five seasons in the NFL and was hired by Whipple.

At the Combine, Isabella was reportedly the second fastest in the 40 at 4.31. Hankerson, meanwhile, wasn’t re-upped by incoming coach Walt Bell.

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SPRING NAMES OF NOTE: The Dark Knight, aka Matt Harvey, debuted for the Angels on Wednesday and gave up a run, two hits and a walk in three innings. … The Rockies might have the most formidable 2-3-4 hitters in baseball — NL home run champ Nolan Aranado (38) and runner-up Trevor Story (37) sandwich Daniel Murphy, a two-time, league-leader in doubles. … Tim Tebow’s broken bat single — his first hit in eight at bats this spring — got a big cheer in Port St. Lucie on Monday. …  Tebow’s hit came off 24-year-old Red Sox right-hander Michael Shawaryn, who has seven strikeouts in 3.1 innings. … The Nationals got catcher Yan Gomes (.353; six hits; one HR) to replace Matt Wieters, who cost them $21 million and batted .230 in two seasons. … Sirius-XM baseball insider Grant Paulsen calls the Nats’ 18-year-old infield prospect Luis Garcia a “stud in the making. I can’t speak to anyone in the organization who isn’t smitten with him already.” … Former Sox shortstop No. 6 Rico Petrocelli is un-hooked from his weekly “Remember When” show while he enjoys the South Florida sunshine. “I won’t be back on the air until I get home in May,” said Rico. … Red Sox rookie infielder Michael Chavis has cooled to .286 in 21 at-bats. “All the way around, just spray it. Whatever works for me,” he told reporters. … Sirius XM’s Jim Bowden says of Chavis: “I love his bat, and the power of (Bobby) Dalbec’s bat. The Red Sox have two good bats en route to Boston.”  Dalbec indeed has 52 minor league home runs in 898 at-bats. … The Phillies got catcher J.T. Realmuto for Sixto Sanchez, whom Bowden likens to a young Pedro Martinez. … Depending how Didi Gregorious rebounds from Tommy John surgery and how well Troy Tulowitzki (.273; two HRs) performs as his sub, Xander Bogaerts might pull a Jacoby Ellsbury and take his good glove, high average and low profile to the Yankees next season. … Yankees first basemen Greg Bird (.389, one HR) and Luke Voit (.286; two HRs) are getting lots of at-bats this spring. Voit is first on the depth chart. … The Yankees’ projected No. 1 starter Luis Severino is out two weeks with a bum shoulder, which usually becomes four weeks, which usually results in extended spring training. … Ever heard of Brandon Hyde? He’s the O’s new manager, and Charlie Montoyo is the new Toronto skipper. … Baltimore’s Yusniel Diaz is batting .407 with four K’s in 27 at-bats, while $23 million first baseman Chris Davis is hitting .083 with seven K’s in 12 ABs. … Dan Duquette would like you to know he had nothing to do with that signing, it was owner Peter Angelos. … Lookalikes: Red Sox pitcher Josh Taylor and Dick Drago. … Fangraphs reports that Royals catcher Salvador Perez began having shoulder soreness in January. This week he had the same Tommy John surgery that seems to have saved Boston catcher Christian Vazquez’s career. … Stephen Wright got suspended for 80 games, but worse for him is the $650,000 in lost wages. … Mark Schlereth’s son Daniel got knocked around by the Twins on Thursday. … Awful news that baseball great Tom Seaver was diagnosed with dementia, which his family thinks was triggered by Lyme Disease. Seaver’s late brother lived in Heath.

SQUIBBERS: When rock climber Alex Honnold was asked on National Geographic how solo climbing affected his dating life, he answered, “My dating life? Overall it’s been a negative. And I live in a car.” …B’s announcer Jack Edwards couldn’t resist mentioning that Brad Marchand’s 666th game was against the Devils. … The Alachua (Fla.) County Commissioners have voted to cut ties with the county fair for holding unapproved pig racing. … NMH alum Derek Pratt, a four-year starter and two-year captain at UConn, is now playing for Maine of the ECHL. … Light-scoring Devante Smith-Pelly’s seven goals helped Washington win the Stanley Cup. The Caps gave him a one year, $1 million deal and cut him two weeks ago.  … Georgia running back Elijah Holyfield was asked if he was old enough to remember his father beating Mike Tyson. “I was there, but I was in the womb,” he said. …. “That Wofford coach can flat out X and O,” says ESPNU’s Mark Packer, something to remember when you’re doing your brackets. … Maximus Mischief is out of the Kentucky Derby. “He wasn’t going the way I wanted him to,”  jockey Jose Ortiz said after the Holy Bull at Gulfstream. … The Daily Wager — a 60-minute gambling show for casual bettors — premieres Monday at 6 p.m. on ESPNews. … Using Bob Dylan’s classic song “Blowin in the Wind” and showing a team of horses pulling a lifetime supply of Budweiser just doesn’t compute.

 

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.




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