You may recall we recently noted that Art Howe seemed kind of slow at getting into the inning-to-inning strategy of National League baseball, and that his in-game learning curve needed to accelerate fast if he wanted to help engineer any northward movement in the standings by his cellar-dwelling squadron of underachievers. Well, we’re here to report that last Wednesday against the Dodgers, the Met skipper actually ordered his very first hit-and-run play of the season—it took him only 33 games! At this rate, we can probably pencil in such strategic feats of derring-do as a double steal come mid-July, and perhaps even a suicide squeeze around Labor Day.

As for Howe’s managing-in-New-York learning curve, well, that certainly got a swift kick in the rear last week, starting with the Rey Sanchez Hair Club for Mets lunacy, which, if nothing else, proved that Billy Crystal‘s Fernando is right: It is more important to look good than to (we’re paraphrasing) play good. Howe was totally unprepared for the barrage that ensued and, showing the awkward squirminess he’s displayed all year whenever a topic is not to his liking—with this team’s tonnage of problems, that happens nearly every day—he abruptly ended a press conference about the tempest-in-a-tonsorial-teapot with a tight-lipped “That’s it, OK? Have a nice day.” Of course, that was just a prelude to the whirlwind that Howe himself caused two days later by telling MSG’s Talk of Our Town that he was going to ask Mike Piazza to start working out at first base before he’d actually approached Piazza on the issue. Again, Howe seemed stunned by all the media attention, leading to this Homer Simpson-esque admission: “I didn’t realize when you say something on the radio—pfft—it’s all around.” Hey, Art, why do you think it’s called broadcasting? —Billy Altman


Rey Sanchez’s recent in-game haircut has only served to deflect attention from a bigger hair-related problem at Shea, namely the Mets’ unusually large number of gray-haired players. Granted, the way the Amazin’s are playing this year could turn anyone’s hair gray, but the team’s contingent of Grecian Formula candidates does seem disproportionately large: Sanchez himself is a charter member, along with Tom Glavine, Al Leiter, Joe McEwing, plus disabled pitchers David Cone and John Franco. Ironically, one of the club’s radio sponsors is Just for Men hair coloring, whose annoying commercials, featuring Walt Frazier and Keith Hernandez, now serve as a sadly accurate commentary on the Mets’ season. No play for Mr. Gray, indeed. —Paul Lukas


Thanks to Derek Jeter‘s injury during a head-first slide into third base and several Met players’ continuing habit of diving into first base (Mike Piazza has looked particularly graceless when attempting it), a lot has been said and written about the head-first slide. Most of this chatter has compared the relative injury risks of feet-first versus head-first sliding, the question of whether it’s faster to run through first base or to dive into it, and the influence of Pete Rose and Rickey Henderson.

All of which is fine, except that this analysis has consistently overlooked a crucial point. To wit: Sliding head-first into first base is a lot different than doing so at the other bases. When a player slides into second or third, he hits the ground several feet before the base and then relies on the infield dirt to slow him down a bit as he reaches the bag. That’s because you can’t overrun second or third. But since you can overrun first without being called out, a player intending to slide into first base tends to leap right at the bag itself, leading to jammed fingers, wrists, and shoulders. This is why, Jeter’s injury notwithstanding, most head-first slide injuries take place at first base (right, Kenny Lofton?). And why the Mets would be smart to break this particular habit. —Paul Lukas


Larry Eustachy, the Iowa State basketball coach who resigned under pressure for carousing and drinking with students at local bars, immediately sobbed after being caught, “I’m an alcoholic.” But the disease that he and his fellow big-time coaches suffer from is hubris. Eustachy, whose teams went 4-12 and 5-11 in the Big 12 the past two seasons, was paid $1.1 million a year by the school, and he raked in $200,000 more annually from Adidas. Of course he strutted the sidelines wearing his trademark mock turtleneck sweaters with the company’s (not his school’s) logo embroidered on the neck.

Greg Geoffroy, the school’s president, called this “a trying time for Iowa State University” and added, “We are first and foremost an educational institution, one that values integrity, honesty, and treating others with fairness and respect.” That probably went over really well with Iowa State’s students, who do nothing but pay, pay, pay for less, less, less. While enduring millions of dollars in budget cuts on the Ames campus, they suffered a 19.4 percent increase in in-state tuition for the current school year and face a 17.6 percent hike next year.

Meanwhile, Eustachy staggers away from campus with a contract settlement totaling $950,000.

Hey, Larry, next round’s on you. And the one after that, too. —Ward Harkavy

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