The Broncos yesterday suspended Player Personnel Dir Matt Russell "indefinitely without pay," and disciplined Pro Personnel Dir Tom Heckert "with a one-month suspension without pay" after DUI charges were brought against both men earlier this month, according to Mike Klis of the DENVER POST. The NFL was "satisfied with the way the Broncos handled the arrests, informing the team it would not bring further discipline" against the execs. Broncos President Joe Ellis and Exec VP/Football Operations John Elway "cut short their offseason downtime" to gather at the team's Dove Valley HQs yesterday, while team Owner Pat Bowlen was "involved in discussions by phone." Russell and Heckert will "receive treatment during their time away from the team." Ellis said, "There will be some form of counseling and education and rehabilitation involved here. Both Tom and Matt are accepting of that." Klis notes a one-month suspension would "take Heckert's absence through Aug. 14, which is a couple days before the Broncos' second preseason game" against the Seahawks. Russell will be gone "significantly longer." Ellis said, "When Matt returns will basically be up to Matt. But the suspension will not be days or weeks. It will be months." Elway said of filling the suspended execs' roles in the meantime, "Everyone else will have to do a little more. I'm going to talk to some people outside to see if they can come in and help us. Obviously, when you're missing those guys for a period of time we'll have to pick up the slack" (DENVER POST, 7/16).
HURTS ME TOO: ESPN's Ed Werder noted the suspensions of Heckert and Russell will “hurt the Broncos in terms of evaluating their players through camps as they make cuts and compose their final roster.” ESPN’s Billy Devaney said it was "great" the way Ellis came out "right away and was proactive talking about how they were not going to condone this and it was going to be more than just a slap on the wrist.” Devaney said it was important to note Broncos coach John Fox “was not mentioned” in who was involved in the suspension, as the “football part is kind of separated from the front office part in this situation” ("NFL Live," ESPN, 7/15).
CRIME & PUNISHMENT: CBSSPORTS.com's Jason La Canfora reported NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "let the Broncos, which consulted with the league, dole out the punishments." But there "have been whispers about what some other execs have termed 'a frat-house culture' in the Broncos front office." Elway, whose "transparency and candor was so refreshing when he launched on to the management scene on Twitter and elsewhere, should have taken to his account, or some public forum, upon Heckert's arrest." These "blights are on his hands and on his watch." The Broncos "sent a fairly strong message" with the punishments. But they did not "break new ground in what the commissioner doled out in the past and it remains to be seen if both are back by, say the middle of the preseason, which could be the case" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/15).
Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said the Mets have yet to set a payroll for the '14 season, but the team is “ready to invest.” Appearing on WFAN-AM's "Francesa" show, Wilpon noted "big contracts" belonging to P Johan Santana and former Mets LF Jason Bay expire after this year, giving the team "money to invest." The team entered the '13 season with a payroll of $73.4M, down by nearly half of the $140M figure in '11. Wilpon noted the front office does not have a “set way that we’re going to spend the money, but we do have the money to spend." He said the Mets' payroll could have “some effect on how many people come out and support us,” but he thinks with the "product that we’re putting out on the field, they're going to support it because they're going to be excited about it.” WFAN’s Mike Francesa asked, “Will you keep guys like Marlon Byrd here and guys when your team is playing well here because you want people to come out and watch the second-half product?” Wilpon said, “I don’t want to get into any individual player but we wouldn’t get rid of somebody just to get rid of them. We’re not trying to dump payroll or anything like that.” Wilpon added that Mets GM Sandy Alderson is “only looking to trade somebody if and when we get a piece that would not only be for next year but for future years.” Wilpon said the biggest misconception about the Mets is that “the ownership and the organization doesn’t care about the fans.” He noted the Mets ownership “wants to put a good product out there” and that his family would not own the team "if they didn’t live and die by the team" (“Francesa,” WFAN-AM, 7/15).
TAKING THE HILL: Mets P Matt Harvey is the NL starter for tonight's All-Star Game, and in N.Y., David Waldstein notes the Mets "chose not to have Harvey make his last scheduled start in Pittsburgh in a game that theoretically could affect a pennant race." But they thought he was "ready to throw an inning or two in a game that could help project his rising star across the baseball world." Harvey is the third Mets pitcher to start an ASG, following HOFer Tom Seaver and former MLBer Dwight Gooden (N.Y. TIMES, 7/16). Also in N.Y., John Harper writes, "Maybe it’s a New York bias, but it wouldn’t have the same feel if [Dodgers P] Clayton Kershaw were starting for the National League, great as he may be." Harvey has that "Verlander-factor that demands you watch his every pitch" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/16).
Since the Nets' June 27 trade to acquire F Kevin Garnett and Gs Paul Pierce and Jason Terry from the Celtics, they have sold over $3M in "season tickets for next season," according to Tim Bontemps of the N.Y. POST. The Nets have also signed F Andrei Kirilenko, and a source said that the team is "less than 1,000 tickets short of reaching its cap of 13,000 season tickets sold for the season." Bontemps noted the Nets have "unveiled their latest marketing campaign: 'Hello Brooklyn. We're In.'" The campaign "plays off of last year’s 'Hello Brooklyn' campaign, and will feature all four players in Nets jerseys to introduce them to their new borough." Each of the players will be "officially unveiled at a press conference at Barclays Center on Thursday" (NYPOST.com, 7/15).
HEAT CHECK: In Miami, Joseph Goodman wrote in Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov's "bid to 'capture' the NBA championship" from the Heat, he is "playing the game by his own set of rules." Goodman: "Rule 1: Laugh at the gentlemen’s agreement, otherwise known as the CBA, set in place by the NBA’s rich-guy club to de-tooth its league." Prokhorov is "trying to buy an NBA championship." While Heat President Pat Riley and Owner Micky Arison are "trying to figure out ways to somehow save money in the months before their team’s bid for a three-peat, the Nets are working with a blank check to overthrow the back-to-back defending champions." The Nets' estimated luxury tax bill "is more than" $80M. Goodman: "Forget basketball. That’s approaching the kind of sum the Yankees spend on payroll." This has some NBA execs already "crying foul." But Riley said, "I think he’s playing within the rules. He’s taking on contracts and star players and, so, obviously they’re doing a job and they’re committed to winning" (MIAMI HERALD, 7/14).
Yankees P Mariano Rivera in his final MLB season has "embarked on an unusual tour of American League cities, meeting with ordinary, behind-the-scenes workers and some fans, who drive the machinery of baseball," according to a front-page piece by David Waldstein of the N.Y. TIMES. In stadium conference rooms and offices, Rivera "thanks rival fans, charms them, regales them, awes them." He is an "emissary of good will" and has "unintentionally become the Yankees’ most successful ambassador since Babe Ruth." Rivera a few years ago asked Yankees Dir of Communications & Media Relations Jason Zillo "how he could do something thoughtful and memorable in his final season." Rivera "ultimately decided he wanted to express appreciation for the many people in baseball who were not highly paid players, and to learn more about their lives and work." The idea is to "meet with people during the Yankees’ last stop in each city they regularly visit." Although a "basic format has evolved, Rivera and Zillo have varied it occasionally to keep it fresh." Rivera "meets the people in casual settings." As he "chats with secretaries, custodians, community-relations workers and long-serving press box attendants," he is "relaxed and engaging." Zillo informs a host team "what Rivera has in mind and allows the team to decide whom to invite." When Zillo "gives him a list of attendees, Rivera goes over it as if examining scouting reports on opposing hitters." High-ranking team execs so far "have not been invited." Angels GM Jerry Dipoto said, "I was wildly intrigued with the concept. ... Mo has gone around telling the fans and the people behind the scenes how much he adores them. That’s unheard-of" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/16).