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Carroll’s Column: Mets in Early Season Slump

BuckShowalter_SimonLisenblatt_5-07-2023
Buck Showalter - Image Credit: Simon Lisenblatt/Latino Sports

NEW YORK — The New York Mets, who begin a seven-game roadstand tomorrow, have hit an early season slump – losing seven of their last nine games, including a three-game sweep handed down by the Tigers last week. 

​We will discover in time whether the Mets getting swept in Detroit by the Tigers was the slap in the face they needed to get back on track, or whether it was a harbinger for the remainder of the 2023 season. 

Optimists will state 80% of the season is left to be played, and how the 2022 Philadelphia Phillies, who were the National League representative in the World Series, were in a far worse position than the Mets currently are, last year at this time. Justin Verlander finally made his first start of the year in the getaway game in Detroit. While he did yield a pair of home runs in the first inning, which was all the scoring in a 2-0 Tigers win over the Mets, Verlander looked sharp in his five innings. His velocity was in the mid 90s. 

Pessimists certainly had ample material as well. Max Scherzer has looked like a shell of the pitcher he once was, as he was roughed up for six runs in less than four innings. He resembled more a Tigers batting practice pitcher than a certain first ballot Hall of Famer. In the last two games with the Tigers, the Mets scored a grand total of one run. The Tigers are a poor team in terms of both record and talent, yet the Mets made them look like the Braves and Astros. Struggling with bad teams is what did them in last September. 

Francisco Lindor – Image Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

For now, I will take the glass to a half-full position. The Mets have had trouble winning games in Detroit since the inception of interleague play in 1997. Having Justin Verlander pitching every five days must be a shot in the arm. Highly touted third baseman prospect Brett Baty is hitting well and fielding his position better than most expected. Francisco Lindor and Starling Marte have performed below 2022 levels so far but should improve as the weather gets warmer. 

Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil – Image Credit: Simon Lisenblatt/Latino Sports

Jim Nantz honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

The longtime lead voice of CBS Sports, Jim Nantz, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at last Wednesday’s Broadcast & Cable Hall of Fame ceremonies held at the Ziegfeld Ballroom. 

Before the ceremony, Nantz told me he is not retiring anytime soon even though he was getting the Lifetime Achievement Award and was relinquishing play-by-play duties for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament to Forest Hills native Ian Eagle. “I know the tournament will be in capable hands with Ian at the microphone. I am looking forward to spending a few extra weeks with my kids. I will still be working roughly 40 weeks of the year covering the NFL and golf.”

Nantz and Mike Francesa’s Reaction on Rodgers to New York and More

Nantz, like most Jets fans, is excited about the arrival of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “I have not called a Jets game since 2019. I am looking forward to returning on a more frequent basis to the New York City area.” 

Aaron Rodgers in Jets Mini Camp – Image Credit: New York Jets/NFL

Former WFAN air personality Mike Francesa was on hand to induct Nantz into the Broadcast & Cable Hall of Fame. He got his start as a researcher for the “NFL Today” for Nantz in the mid-1980s. 

Francesa believes Aaron Rodgers will not let Jets fans down. “The Jets are relevant for the first time in years. I like how Aaron Rodgers has made himself a man about town attending Rangers and Knicks playoff games at the Garden.” 

He also added he did not think it was wise for Zach Wilson to serve as Rodgers’ backup. “I believe Zach Wilson can be a star. There have been plenty of NFL quarterbacks who have crashed and burned and then were able to resurrect their careers. I would hate for Aaron Rodgers to get hurt in a game and then have Zach Wilson come to replace him. The fans would be brutal.”

Aaron Rodgers and Zach Wilson in Jets Mini Camp – Image Credit: New York Jets/NFL

I asked him if media outlets have tried to get him to team up with his old WFAN partner, Chris Russo. The two were an afternoon radio ratings juggernaut during their 1989-2008 run. They have appeared in some one-off engagements over the years. Francesa did not flatly rule out a more frequent reunion with “Mad Dog,” but said that contractual obligations with rival organizations make it difficult. 

Given his popularity and knowledge of both sports and media, I was curious if Francesa had thought of authoring a book. “Some of the big publishing houses have approached me. The problem is they want me to provide juicy stories which will hurt some people and I do not want to do that.”

Francesa admitted he does not listen much to sports talk radio these days. “I have been listening to more music. I love “The Bridge” channel on SiriusXM.”

New York Sports Nation Nightly with Nelson Figueroa and Marc Malsusis

Former Mets pitcher Nelson Figueroa will be co-hosting a daily 7PM show, “New York Sports Nation Nightly,” with Marc Malsusis on WPIX beginning this coming Monday. Figueroa is knowledgeable and witty as was evidenced in his stints with SNY and the MLB Network. 

Matt Harvey Retires From MLB

Matt Harvey, who owned this town during his 2013 rookie season, announced his retirement from baseball last Friday. Harvey’s career was done in by both bad injuries and bad decisions off the field. He was not the most approachable athlete. I remember calling him self-absorbed in a column ten years ago. The funny thing is many of his teammates privately agreed with me.

Matt Harvey in 2021 with Baltimore Orioles – Image Credit: Latino Sports

Harvey admitted in his retirement statement that he did not always show appreciation. I wish him well in his future endeavors.

Tribute to the Legendary Talent and Canadian Troubadour Gordon Lightfoot

The music world lost a legendary talent last week with the passing of Canadian troubadour Gordon Lightfoot. The catalog of his hits is too lengthy to mention. Incredibly, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has never seen fit to induct him. Bob Dylan has long called him one of his favorite songwriters. That is good enough for me. 

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

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