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Carroll’s Column: Mets catcher Francisco Álvarez suffers thumb injury

Francisco Álvarez to miss more than two months due to thumb injury suffered in most recent roadstand against the Dodgers - Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

NEW YORK — In any professional sport, unforeseen injuries occur. Some may label it the injury bug, biting on the respective team they root for, while others just call it bad luck. For the New York Mets though, losing their primary catcher Francisco Álvarez, arguably the second-best hitter on the team behind Pete Alonso, until July at the earliest, can be looked at as both… 

 It is safe to say the Mets public address team will not be playing the 1966 Rolling Stones tongue-in-cheek misogynistic classic, “Under My Thumb.” It’s not the lyrics per se which are bothersome, but rather, it is a reminder of the type of injury which has bedeviled the Mets in recent years.

Two weeks ago, catcher Francisco Álvarez broke his thumb when he lost his balance rounding first base on a double and landed hard on his thumb in a game with the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Alvarez underwent surgery two days later. He is not expected to return to the Mets lineup until early July at the earliest. 

Francisco Álvarez, a finalist for the 2023 National League LatinoMVP Rookie of the Year – Image Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

Ironically, this was the same injury which befell third baseman Brett Baty in August 2022 when he landed on his thumb trying to field a hard-hit grounder off the bat of Colorado Rockies slugger Charlie Blackmon.      

Like Álvarez, Baty required surgery and had to miss the remainder of the 2022 season. Baty proceeded to have a miserable 2023 season. One must wonder if either the injury, or missing valuable playing time in his rookie season, played a role.    

Brett Baty makes play at third base at Citi Field during 2024 regular season matchup with the Royals – Image Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

Álvarez slugged 25 home runs in 2023, his first full season with the Mets, and was named a finalist for the 2023 National League LatinoMVP Rookie of the Year award. The downside was he swung at too many bad pitches and wound up hitting a meager .209. Before getting hurt, Álvarez was batting .236. While that average is still well below expectations, Álvarez was being more judicious at the plate as he was chasing fewer unhittable pitches. Mets management must be worried he will fall back into bad habits when he returns because he will be rusty after not facing live pitching for two months.      

While his slugging ability has understandably excited Mets fans, Álvarez’s defense was better than most expected. Mets pitchers were impressed with the way Álvarez called pitches, and his ability to block balls thrown in the dirt. He also has a cannon of an arm, which makes opposing runners take shorter leads off bases.       

Álvarez’s absence means the Mets will have to turn to the tandem of Omar Narvaez and Tomas Nido.    

Omar Narvaez, Mets backup catcher – Image Credit: Simon Lindenblatt/Latino Sports

The Mets signed Narvaez as a free agent in 2022 after giving James McCann away to the Baltimore Orioles. McCann flopped badly in his two seasons in Queens. He provided solid defense, but he could not hit his way out of a paper bag. Unfortunately, Narvaez has been terrible at the plate and behind it.      

Tomas Nido is a homegrown Mets player who had carved out a respectable career as a backup catcher ever since joining the Mets in 2017. While no one ever thought he would ever be a formidable hitter, in 2023 his offense was so anemic, it started to affect his once rock-solid defense. He was demoted to the Syracuse Mets. Álvarez’s absence gives Nido a chance for redemption. Let’s hope he seizes the opportunity.      

Mets debut Nike City Connect uniforms 

The Mets debuted their City Connect uniforms this past Saturday and will wear them for every Saturday home game in 2024. The good news for the Mets is these uniforms are dignified compared with those of many other MLB teams. The San Diego Padres City Connect uniform consists of garish pastels, while the Washington Nationals features cherry blossoms. They are not ugly, but I imagine some Nats players may feel self-conscious wearing a jersey decorated with pink petals.      

Up close view of New York Mets’ new Nike MLB City Connect Jersey for the 2024 season (NY Mets closer Edwin Díaz in photo) – Image Credit: MLB

Of course, the only color which matters to MLB is green, as in how much revenue these alternate uniforms will generate.     

Legendary radio voice of the Yankees John Sterling retires

Much has understandably been written about the retirement of longtime Yankees radio voice John Sterling. On a personal note, he was always complimentary about my columns, and it was much appreciated.      

Sterling was a fixture on New York radio for over 50 years. I remember his days as an abrasive sports talk show host on radio station WMCA. Sterling was radio’s answer to Joe Pyne and Morton Downey, Jr. He would insult callers with glee, and would frequently close with, “Sir, why is your voice so high?” It was all an act, and it successfully drew listeners.     

To his credit, Sterling could take it as well as dishing it out. I remember calling him in 1975 and reminding him of his recent tenure as the play-by-play voice of the World Football League’s New York Stars who eventually moved to Charlotte, and the World Hockey Association’s New York Raiders before they relocated to Cherry Hill, NJ, before both of those sports leagues folded. “John, if the Yankees hired you to be their play-by-play announcer, they would be playing their home games in Albuquerque by July!” I told him. “Many of my friends have said the same thing!” he said with a chuckle.       

The Yankees did eventually hire him, and happily they are still playing their home games in the Bronx. 

2024 NFL Draft: Jets and Giants First Round Draft Selections

The New York Jets selected Penn State tackle Olu Fashanu in the first round of last Thursday’s NFL Draft in a move that will trigger the spell check function for every sportswriter forever. Of course, Jets general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh could not care less. The only concern for them is Fashanu preventing QB Aaron Rodgers from getting sacked by opposing teams.      

The Zach Wilson era for the Jets quietly ended a few days before the NFL Draft when he was traded to the Denver Broncos. Wilson will be battling rookie Bo Nix for the starting QB job in the Mile High City. Wilson grew up 500 miles away in Salt Lake City. He should do better playing in a smaller market on a team with minimum expectations.     

New Giants WR Malik Nabers and new Jets OL Olu Fashanu – Image Credit: NFL

The Giants chose LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers as their top pick. LSU was also the alma mater of the Giants’ last deep threat, Odell Beckham. Expect lots of flashy plays, and touchdown celebrations, from Nabers.     

Major benefactor and Columbia alum Robert Kraft cuts off all his contributions to university 

A wag on social media wrote “Columbia is now Hamas University, but they still have a bad football team!” That gallows humor captures the mood of many of my fellow alums who are disgusted by the anti-Semitic and anti-American demonstrations which have roiled the campus. 

New England Patriots owner, and Columbia College class of 1963 alum, Robert Kraft, who has been a major benefactor to his alma mater, announced last week he was cutting off all contributions to the university. Few can blame him.     

Reggie Bush gets Heisman Trophy Back

It was a classy gesture by the Heisman Trust to restore to Reggie Bush the Heisman Trophy he won in 2005. The former USC running back, and current Fox Sports college football analyst, had his trophy revoked in 2010 when an investigation discovered he received endorsement payments as a student-athlete.

That was verboten according to NCAA regulations at the time. College athletes are now free to make as much as they can from their name, image, and likeness, so it would have been anachronistic to further punish Bush. 

Streaming + Entertainment News

Streaming services are now major players for acquiring broadcast rights to major sports. Puck News sports media columnist John Ourand is reporting Amazon’s Prime Video is likely to gain a piece of the next NBA broadcast rights deal.      

Showing recent theatrical films continues to be the key draw to attracting subscribers to streamers. “Oppenheimer” is being shown on Peacock, while “One Love,” the dramatization of the life of reggae star Bob Marley can now be seen on Paramount Plus. Next week, HBO Max will begin showing “Iron Claw,” about the ill-fated Von Erich pro wrestling family.    

Baldor Bite, a bi-annual food trade show, held in lower Manhattan 

Baldor Foods is one of the largest distributors of food from Virginia to Maine. The company held its bi-annual food trade show, Baldor Bite, last Wednesday in lower Manhattan. While there were some familiar brand names such as Vita Coco, and Evian (whose representative told me they will be a sponsor of the US Open in Flushing Meadows Park for the 38th straight year), most of the exhibitors were startups.  

Celebrating 53rd Anniversary of Earth Day at Baldor Bite

Last Monday marked the 53rd anniversary of Earth Day. Two companies which touted their environmental benefits were Bowery Farming, whose salads are grown in sustainable indoor gardens, and Open Water, whose seltzer is sold in reusable aluminum bottles. 

Image Credit: Baldor Bite

Cocojune, Violife, and Tache at Baldor Bite

Dairy-free products have become popular in recent years because they appeal to those who suffer from allergies to traditional milk and cheeses. Cocojune highlighted its dairy-free, coconut-based yogurts; Violife was doing the same for its plant-based cheeses; and finally, Tache was giving out samples of its various pistachio milks. Company reps were touting pistachio’s antioxidant and protein health benefits compared to cow’s milk. You also don’t have to worry about any bird flu issues.      

More from Baldor Bite: Patriot Pickles, Spare Foods’ Spare Tonic, and Yuzuco 

Other companies were promoting the health benefits of their products. Patriot Pickles’ pickle juice has anti-inflammatory properties. Spare Foods’ Spare Tonic is a non-alcoholic carbonated beverage which is made from protein-rich yogurt whey. A twelve-ounce can contains far less calories than sugary sodas, but has just as good, if not better, taste. A Los Angeles-based company Yuzuco introduced its line of juices from the East Asian yuzu fruit. Yuzu is akin to a hybrid of a lemon and a mandarin. Yuzus are a great source of Vitamin C.

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

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