And then there were two: Collins, Melvin appear to be finalists for the Mets job

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With Clint Hurdle looking more and more like he’s destined for Pittsburgh, it’s being reported that the Mets have narrowed their managerial search down to two men: Terry Collins and Bob Melvin.

While Jose Oquendo is on Sandy Alderson’s interview schedule, the New York Times is saying that he’s not “a serious contender.”  Same with AAA manager Ken Oberkfell. Which saddens me a bit, because (a) I liked Oquendo as a player, probably more than I should ever have liked a utility guy; and (b) with Ken Oberkfell being a former Brave, I could revive the conspiracy theory that Atlanta has been sending deep cover agents to infiltrate and ruin the Mets for years. Agent Glavine did such a good job, I’m sure that Agent Oberkfell could too.

But the saddest news in all of this is the apparent end of Wally Backman’s candidacy. Not for the Mets — I continue to believe that he wouldn’t be the best choice — but for the bloggers. I mean, I could easily have gotten another half dozen posts out of all of this, and no it appears that the party is over.

New Jersey legislators call MLB’s request for a cut of gambling proceeds “laughable”

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As we’ve noted in multiple posts in recent weeks, the legalization of sports gambling across the country is imminent. Indeed, it could come as early as next week, once the Supreme Court rules on the case brought by New Jersey to overturn the decades-old sports gambling ban.

As we’ve also noted, MLB and the other leagues are pressuring states to get a cut of the proceeds once gambling is legalized. Their argument — which is spurious in the extreme — is that the leagues will have a much harder time maintaining the integrity of their sports once sinful gambling comes out of the dark and into the light. As such, they argue, it’s morally incumbent upon the states to throw some of that money to the leagues so they can, I dunno, hire chaperones or den mothers or something. It’s all very vague, but the leagues are calling their sought-after cut “integrity fees,” and they’re lobbying state legislatures hard to get the new gambling laws written to include them.

Last month I wrote about how in West Virginia, Rob Manfred’s effort to get that cut wasn’t going so well. Today at NJ.com, Brent Johnson writes about how things are going in New Jersey:

[New Jersey] legislative leaders have balked at the leagues’ request for a fee, three sources with knowledge of the situation told NJ Advance Media. One source called the proposal “laughable.”

This is shocking. I mean, what are the odds that a Park Avenue lawyer couldn’t walk into New Jersey and successfully shake down guys for gambling money? Woulda thought that’d go super successfully, actually. I’ve gotta rethink everything TV and movies have taught me about trying to get gambling money out of dudes from Jersey.

Laughs aside, in the end I suspect Manfred’s gambit will pay off in more places that it doesn’t, mostly because public officials have always been sort of star struck and strangely intimidated by professional sports figures. Many states will kick back some of that gambling loot to the leagues and the leagues, in turn, will kick it back to the team owners, because that’s where all of the money goes, always.

But I do hope state legislators continue to at least make it hard and somewhat embarrassing for Manfred and his friends to get their share. In the words of noted gambling expert Bernie Bernbaum,  “I wanna watch you squirm; I wanna see you sweat a little, and when you smart me… it ruins it.”