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Carroll’s Column: Buck Showalter announces he will not return as Mets manager

Buck Showalter - Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

NEW YORK — Major organizational changes continue in Queens, as the Mets finished their 2023 season with an overall record of 75 wins and 87 losses, which resulted in New York missing the postseason, and slating out to fourth place in the National League East division. 

New Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns made his first impactful decision even before he had his introductory press conference at Citi Field, when on Sunday, before the Mets last game of the season, Buck Showalter announced to a surprised media he would not be returning in 2024. 

Buck Showalter pre-game press conference at Citi Field – Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

The Mets issued a press release during the team’s disastrous 9-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies that Stearns, with the approval of team owner Steve Cohen, wants the team to go into, that great baseball cliche, “a different direction.” Interestingly, most Mets fans liked Showalter and were not holding him responsible for the team’s awful season. Normally, sports talk radio is full of callers demanding the current manager’s scalp, but that was not the case here.

Showalter has been around the game for a long time. He clearly knew the handwriting was on the wall once word leaked that Steve Cohen had hired a new sheriff to oversee his baseball franchise. I asked him during his Sunday postgame press conference if it was difficult to manage the Mets the last two months knowing he was likely a lame duck. “Not really. I know my job description and I have to shut out everything else,” he answered. That would sound like spin if it were anyone else saying that, but in Buck’s case, I believe him.   

Steve Cohen and Buck Showalter – Image Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

What I find strange is David Stearns is retaining general manager Billy Eppler. This reminds me of the final episode of the legendary “Mary Tyler Moore Show.” The plot line was new management was taking over the news division of WJM-TV and the head of the incoming team was firing almost everyone. In a humorous twist, the only holdover was doltish news anchor Ted Baxter.

Billy Eppler is certainly not a dope, yet several of his personnel decisions backfired and adversely affected Buck Showalter. At the July 31, 2022 trade deadline, Eppler traded for Darin Ruf and Daniel Vogelbach. Ruf forgot how to hit the moment he put on a Mets uniform and was cut during spring training. Vogelbach hit occasional home runs, but he could not play any position in the field and could only serve as a mediocre, at best, designated hitter. Finally, Eppler did not try to obtain a credible closer when Edwin Díaz was lost for the season after injuring his leg celebrating a Team Puerto Rico win in the World Baseball Classic.    

Mets GM Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter – Image Credit: NY Post

  On a personal note, I will miss Buck because he did not believe in the media caste system which is promulgated by too many sports team executives. He made it his business to answer questions from all reporters, regardless of outlet size or prestige.    

Showalter indicated he would like to manage again. The 2022 National League Manager of the Year deserves it.

A Rainy and Confusing Week in Queens with Marlins vs. Mets 

Sunday’s dismissal of Buck Showalter overshadowed Tuesday’s craziness as the Mets had to postpone their game with the Miami Marlins because the Citi Field baseball diamond was deemed unplayable even though it was not raining.      

The grounds crew did not take all the precautions necessary during the three days Queens was pelted by Tropical Storm Ophelia. The Mets were on their final road trip of the year at the time. The Yankees had the misfortune of having to play at home that weekend. While one game was postponed because it was pouring, the Yankees were able to get in all their games with the Arizona Diamondbacks, thanks to a makeup game in dreary conditions that Monday. If the Yankees were able to play on Monday, then there was no reason the Mets should have a problem doing the same on Tuesday.       

Citi Field during Marlins-Mets pregame – Image Credit: Latino Sports

Something seemed amiss when I arrived at Citi Field on Tuesday afternoon. Buck Showalter was inspecting the field with his Marlins counterpart, Skip Schumaker. They were accompanied by personnel from Major League Baseball. Showalter did not mention anything about the condition of the field during his pregame press conference, so all seemed good to go.  

At 7 PM the Citi Field scoreboard had a message saying the grounds crew was working on drying the field and there would be a delay in the start of the game. No estimated time was given for when the first pitch would occur. At 8:20 Mets officials announced the game was off and there would be a single admission doubleheader for the next day.      

The Miami Marlins were understandably livid. Unlike the Mets, they are in a race for a wild card playoff spot. Not being able to play on Tuesday meant they would not have the services of their best starting pitcher, Braxton Garrett, on Sunday which would place them at a disadvantage against other teams fighting for one of the two remaining wildcard berths. The Philadelphia Phillies had already locked up the top wild card position after sweeping a four-game series from the moribund Mets days earlier. You can be sure that did not improve the Marlins’ mood on Tuesday. Everything did work out for the Marlins in the end as they clinched a wild card playoff berth last Saturday night.

Marlis clinch Wild Card playoff berth this past weekend against Pittsburgh – Image Credit: Miami Hearld

While there was understandably not a huge crowd at Citi Field Tuesday night, given the Mets had put up the white flag for the 2023 season at the end of July, they deserved better. Yes, the Mets did allow fans to exchange those tickets for weekday games in April and May of 2024, as well as give them a parking credit for those who drove to the game with the Marlins, they needed to do better. At the very least, they should have given fans tickets for two games next season, as well as a food voucher. Mets owner Steve Cohen apologized to the Marlins for Tuesday’s mishap. He needed to do the same to the fans.

Mets and Pete Alonso Foundation partner with North Shore Animal League

The Mets did one thing right Tuesday, as the team along with Pete Alonso’s foundation, partnered with the North Shore Animal League to try to find homes for rescued puppies.

The Mets first baseman presented the North Shore Animal League with a check for $10,000. 

Mekhi Becton’s Special Guest-Appearance at Citi Field

New York Jets offensive tackle Mekhi Becton was present at the North Shore Animal League event at Citi Field. He was wearing a Mets jersey the team presented to him. I asked him if he ever played baseball. “I did up until middle school. My strike zone got too big, so I switched to basketball and football!” he said with a hearty laugh. 

Jeff McNeil suffers Left Elbow Injury

Jeff McNeil – Image Credit: Simon Lindenblatt/Latino Sports

Keeping with the way things have gone for the Mets in 2023, Jeff McNeil was unable to finish the season because he was diagnosed with a partial tear in his left elbow. The Mets medical staff believes surgery is not necessary currently. Hopefully, his elbow will be completely healed by the time spring training begins.   

McNeil did not have a momentous year hitting as his batting average dropped over fifty points from 2022 when he was the National League batting champion. Nevertheless, a .270 batting average is still very respectable. More importantly, McNeil showed Gold Glove ability in both the infield and the outfield this season.

Kodai Senga reaches 200 strikeouts in Rookie Season

Kodai Senga – Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

There was some good news for the Mets during the soggy last week of the season. Pitcher Kodai Senga was able to garner his 200th strikeout Wednesday night against the Marlins, while shortstop Francisco Lindor hit thirty-one home runs. He is now a member of the 30-30 club as he stole thirty-one bases in 2023. 

Sunday Night Football between Chief-Jets on NBC

It was a homecoming of sorts for Whitestone native and Bayside High School alum Mike Tirico who was back in the New York area to call the play-by-play for NBC as the Kansas City Chiefs were playing the New York Jets on “Sunday Night Football.” Tirico, along with broadcast partners Cris Collinsworth and Melissa Stark, “SNF” director Drew Esocoff, and producer Rob Hyland, were interviewed by “Today Show” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie at the Paley Center in midtown Manhattan Thursday evening. 

Tirico, who now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, told me he would not get a chance to visit friends in Queens because he had to be at the Jets training facility in Florham Park, NJ the next two days, and then spend Sunday at MetLife Stadium. 

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs beat the Jets 23-20 on Sunday Night Football at MetLife Stadium – Image Credit: Sports Illustrated

Savannah Guthrie, like many people, seemed more fascinated by the fact pop star Taylor Swift is dating Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, than the game itself. “God is smiling on NBC!” she screamed out as the audience laughed. Drew Esocoff was asked by Guthrie about how often Swift would appear on screen during the game. While he acknowledged her celebrity, and attention would be paid if they could see her in whatever suite she would be sitting in, Esocoff made it clear most viewers want the game to be the primary focus. 

Former Knicks star forward and US Senator from New Jersey Bill Bradley at Paley Center on October 15th 

Speaking of the Paley Center, former Knicks star forward and US Senator from New Jersey, Bill Bradley, will be speaking there on October 15th. He will be interviewed following a presentation about the documentary on his life, “Rolling Along,” which will be shown in the Paley Center’s auditorium. “Rolling Along” debuted this past June at the Tribeca Film Festival.      

California governor Gavin Newsom and Republican Presidential Debate

California governor Gavin Newsom, although he is a Democrat, was at last Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate because it was held at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA. A well known former president, and Jamaica Estates native, Donald Trump skipped it. When asked about his thoughts about how Trump’s competitors did, Newsom quipped, “They are second tier. It was like watching the XFL!”

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

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