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Carroll’s Column: A New Manager in Queens

Carlos Mendoza becomes new Mets manager - Image Credit: AP

NEW YORK — The managerial carousel across Major League Baseball hit at a rapid pace last week, as several clubs made their news on hiring a new skipper official. And it all started with headlines coming out of New York… 

Mets fans had better hope new manager Carlos Mendoza has a lengthier tenure than the two years his recent predecessors, Mickey Callaway, Luis Rojas, and Buck Showalter, each had. That lack of stability is a major reason the Mets have been closer to the bottom of the National League East than to the top, four of the last six seasons.

Mendoza is undoubtedly a knowledgeable baseball man having served the last four years as the Yankees bench coach. He clearly impressed new Mets president of baseball operations, David Stearns. Nonetheless, it is understandable Mets fans are skeptical and a bit disappointed through no fault of Mendoza.     

David Stearns, Mets president of Baseball Operations – Image Credit: SNY

The conventional wisdom when Stearns, a native New Yorker who had most recently been an executive with the Milwaukee Brewers and were able to generate plenty of wins on a limited payroll, would hire his longtime manager, Craig Counsell. Counsell had told Brewers CEO Mark Attanasio, a Bronxite who of course grew up rooting for the Yankees, he would become a free agent at the expiration of his contract on November 1. It was rumored Counsell would seek the highest bidder.      

Attanasio’s Mets counterpart, Steve Cohen, takes pride in ever getting outbid for anything he desires. That is, until now. Counsell, who must be a superb poker player, signed a five-year, $40 million deal to manage the Chicago Cubs. No one saw that coming.   

Steve Cohen in press conference during the 2023 regular season – Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

Counsell not only became the highest-paid manager in the game, but he also gets to work close to his suburban Milwaukee home. The 80-mile distance between Chicago and Milwaukee is even less than that of New York City and Philadelphia. Mark Attanasio was livid. It was a reminder of how Milwaukee will always be in the shadow of Chicago the way Philadelphia, a great city, will always be second banana to New York.    

David Stearns came up short in his first task in his new role. He was aware Counsell had many suitors, including the Cleveland Guardians, and his current hometown team, the Milwaukee Brewers. His decision to not even speak to Buck Showalter, a terrific manager who is respected by both fans and players, is a strategic misfire.      

Buck Showalter – Image Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

The failure to land Counsell is reminiscent of the first free agent the Mets signed under Steve Cohen’s aegis. The team needed a starting catcher and one of the best, JT Realmuto, was available. Realmuto wanted to take his time meeting with teams, something which irked Mets general manager Sandy Alderson who signed James McCann instead. 

McCann was a flop who was traded to the Baltimore Orioles last year. Realmuto stayed with the Philadelphia Phillies and remains one of baseball’s premier catchers. David Stearns had better hope Carlos Mendoza does not follow the McCann script. 

Mets left-hander David Peterson undergoes hip surgery

The Mets managerial news overshadowed that starting pitcher David Peterson underwent surgery on his hip. He is expected to miss the first half of the 2024 season. 

David Peterson – Image Credit: Emma Sharon/Latino Sports

While Peterson has never been a real difference maker for the Mets, he did eat up innings as both a starter and relief pitcher. Former Mets pitcher Seth Lugo, who did the same jobs during his six seasons with the Mets before leaving as a free agent for the San Diego Padres in 2023, is back on the open market. David Stearns would be wise to do what former Mets GM Billy Eppler refused to do; namely, speak to Lugo’s agent. 

Titanes del Caribe at Citi Field 

Citi Field hosted a three-game exhibition series over the weekend between Las Águilas Cibaeñas and Los Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League. Familiar Major League Baseball names such as Christopher Morel, Starling Castro, and ex-Met Jonathan Villar took part.      

Christopher Morel in Titanes del Caribe – Image Credit: Henry Ordosgoitia (Henry O.)/Latino Sports

Despite the cool weather, the series drew very well with over 30,000 spectators attending the Saturday matinee. The lesson for the Mets is they should bring back Saturday matinees in April and early May when the temperatures are like what we experienced this past weekend. It also makes it easier for families with children to attend games.      

Longtime sports journalist Francisco Fantino told me the Dominican Winter League baseball games at Citi Field were a chance for Dominicans who have not returned to their native country in many years to come out and root for their childhood teams. Judging by the team apparel worn by many fans at Citi Field, Fantino is correct. 

Dominican fans came out strong for this 3 games series of their two top Dominican teams – Image Credit: Henry Ordosgoitia (Henry O.)/Latino Sports

This Dominican Winter League exhibition series deserves to become an annual November tradition at Citi Field. Another idea would be to have one team from the Puerto Rican winter League play one from the Dominican Republic. 

Carl Banks ends his weekly guest spot on WFAN + 2024 NHL Stadium Series

Former New York Giants linebacker Carl Banks made news when he decided to give up his weekly commentary gig on WFAN after getting into a heated discussion with midday hosts Brandon Tierney and Sal Licata on the direction of his old team, specifically the play of linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux. Banks said he did not have a beef with either of the two FAN air personalities, but rather he does not like the current contentious direction of sports talk radio. Banks still can be heard on WFAN as he serves as play-by-play vice Bob Papa’s analyst during Giants games.  

Carl Banks certainly does not have to worry about keeping busy without his weekly WFAN gig. He is the president of the G-III Sports apparel company which makes Starter jackets. G-III will be the official apparel company for the 2024 NHL Stadium Series which takes place at MetLife Stadium over the weekend of February 17 and 18. One the evening of the 17th, the Philadelphia Flyers will play the New Jersey Devils. The following day, the Islanders will take on the Rangers.     

Interestingly, Carl Banks grew up in Flint, Michigan, the hometown of both filmmaker Michael Moore and the members of the rock band Grand Funk Railroad, where he played hockey before he played football.  

AKTIV Against Cancer 

New York City Marathon Week came to an official end last week with the annual AKTIV Against Cancer luncheon at the New York Athletic Club. AKTIV was a nonprofit started by the late Greta Waitz, the greatest female marathon runner in history, who succumbed to cancer in 2011 at the age of fifty-seven. The physicians at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital were honored for their oncology exercise program.       

Lifeway Kefir and Yakult in New York City Marathon Expo at Javits Center

Last week I mentioned how the New York City Marathon Expo at the Javits Center is where athletic apparel brands as New Balance, Nike, Adidas, Saucony, Altra Running, and Avia compete head-on for the growing running market. It is not just clothing companies who want runners’ dollars. Two probiotic beverage companies, Lifeway Kefir and Yakult also took out booths to give out samples of their fermented dairy drinks. Lifeway has a fuller, richer taste.

Amar’e Stoudemire – Stoudemire Wines; Sip for Solidarity

The Israeli Wine Producers Association, of which former Knicks star Amar’e Stoudemire’s Stoudemire Wines, is a member, has launched a “Sip for Solidarity” marketing campaign. Ten per cent of gross sales of IWPA bottles will be donated to Israel relief efforts.    

Showtime cancels The Circus, a behind-the-scenes politics show

Cable’s Showtime network has canceled its long-running behind-the-scenes politics verité show “The Circus.” This is surprising since it is obvious politics will be a big topic in 2024. 

HBO debuts documentary called “Defending My Life: Albert Brooks”

Showtime’s old rival, HBO, debuted a documentary on Saturday titled “Defending My Life: Albert Brooks” in which Rob Reiner talks with his longtime friend for 90 minutes. Brooks was certainly prescient as his early films eerily predicted the growth of reality television. He claims “Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels wanted him to be the permanent host of the show before it debuted in October 1975. Brooks told him he should have a different host each week, which has been a cornerstone of the show for its 48 years on the air. 

Albert Brooks did produce film shorts for the first six episodes of “SNL” in 1975. Although he has not done one since, the show has long used comedic filmed bits throughout its run. These days, three young comics who call themselves “Please Don’t Destroy” are now doing an excellent job fulfilling the slot he created back in the day. 

My only criticism of “Defending My Life” is that Albert Brooks (whose birth name was Albert Einstein; yes, Albert Einstein), does not speak about his late brother Bob Einstein who created the humorous television character “Super: Dave Osborne.     

Changes to SiriusXM

Satellite radio SiriusXM has reshuffled some of its channels. Soul Town, which plays R&B hits from the 1960s and 1970s, has moved up the dial from channel 49 to channel. It has been rebranded as “Smokey’s Soul Town,” as the channel features voiceovers and commentary from Motown legend William “Smokey” Robinson. Unfortunately, SiriusXM has parted ways with a pair of well-liked veteran New York City deejays, Ken “Spider” Webb and Jeff Foxx.

You can read more of Lloyd Carroll’s columns posted weekly on The Queens Chronicle.

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