NEW YORK– As we approach the start of Spring Training, many MLB franchises have put to rest their offseason moves, while others remain active, exploring all possibilities of improving for 2023 and beyond.
There’s so many examples out there, however; let’s start out with the Atlanta Braves setting a precedent, many organizations have begun to follow – consistently in action by retaining their core players paired to adding in free agency, and in the trade market.
One reason why the Braves have been the perennial National League East Division champions is the organization’s ability to lock up their core players with long-term contracts so they do not leave as free agents as they enter their peak years. Yes, there have been notable exceptions such as 1B Freddie Freeman and SS Dansby Swanson, but for the most part they have kept their roster intact.
Needless to say, many New York Mets fans are envious, and have been beseeching team CEO Steve Cohen to follow the lead of their southern rivals. This past Friday, word leaked out that the Mets had come to terms on a four-year/$50 million contract extension with second baseman and 2022 National League batting champion Jeff McNeil.
Granted, McNeil, who will turn 31 in early April, is older than most of the players the Braves have locked up to long-term deals. He is, however, a valuable asset for the Mets since he is a contact hitter, who excels at getting hits with two strikes on him. While second base is McNeil’s best position, he has shown he can more than adequately play every spot on the infield. He has also acquitted himself well in the corner outfield positions.
Mets manager Buck Showalter may have McNeil play in the outfield in the early going of the 2023 season. Starling Marte, of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, suffered a broken finger while batting last September. His unavailability after that injury was a major factor as to why New York got swept by the Braves the last weekend of the season, and why they were defeated in the NL Wild Card Series by the San Diego Padres the following weekend.
The good news is Marte’s finger has healed. The bad news is he had surgery to repair what has been labeled a “core muscle” last November in Philadelphia. The concern is Marte will miss a good chunk, if not all, of spring training, and will therefore begin the 2023 season on the injured list.
The Mets have more options for Marte’s absence than they did last fall. In addition to McNeil, the Mets recently signed free agent outfielders Tommy Pham and Tim Locastro. Both can hit and provide solid defense.
SCOTT ROLEN ELECTED TO HALL OF FAME
The election of third baseman Scott Rolen to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America has elicited the same level of snark as to when the Veterans Committee allowed Harold Baines entry into Cooperstown.
Both Rolen and Baines had lengthy, excellent careers, and I have no problem with them having a plaque in that central New York State baseball shrine. Rolen’s entry will, however, rekindle discussion about whether there should be reconsideration for Keith Hernandez, Don Mattingly, and so many others.
Both David Wright and José Reyes (Santiago, Dominican Republic) will be on the 2024 ballot. They won’t get elected, but they should receive the five percent of the vote necessary to remain on it.
NY RANGERS FACE BACKLASH – PRIDE NIGHT @ MSG
The New York Rangers allegedly observed Pride Night last Friday when they played the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Traditionally, NHL teams wore special multicolored “pride” uniforms during the warmup skate before the game as a way of displaying they oppose discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Apparently, the Rangers players objected to wearing the “Pride Night” jerseys because they wore their regular uniforms for the entire evening.
Their bizarre refusal to make an innocuous gesture to the LGBTQ community in a city as large and diverse as New York was disgraceful. Current Rangers players Adam Fox and Jimmy Vesey, who are both Harvard alums, should especially be ashamed of themselves. Madison Square Garden CEO James Dolan should have a meeting with the Rangers to explain how their actions are the antithesis of desired corporate culture.
“80 FOR BRADY”
The new movie, “80 for Brady,” tells the story of four female senior citizen friends who are obsessed with the New England Patriots. Set in 2018, the foursome decide to live out a dream when they decide to visit Houston to watch their heroes, especially their beloved hero, star QB Tom Brady, face the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. The backdrop is perfect for this fairy tale because the Patriots were losing 28-3 in the third quarter but won the game in overtime to overcome the largest deficit in Super Bowl history.
As is the case with most Hollywood productions, you have to overlook many plot points which have zero credibility. Once that is established, you can enjoy a film which offers a rare chance for older actresses to shine. Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sally Field, and 91-year-old Rita Moreno (who looks at least 20 years younger), are terrific.
The National Football League has wisely allowed Paramount Pictures generous use of game film, uniforms and logos, and of course, its players. While movies are best enjoyed on a big screen, you will not be missing much if you decide to wait until this is available on Netflix or the Paramount Plus streaming service.
FOGO DE CHAO – BRAZILIAN STEAKHOUSE/CHURRASCARIA CHAIN
I was watching a game between the Mets and the Washington Nationals last May on Apple TV Plus when one of their broadcasters, Hannah Keyser, mentioned the Brazilian steakhouse/churrascaria chain, Fogo de Chao, was Mets third baseman Eduardo Escobar’s favorite restaurant. Escobar treated the entire Mets team to dinner at the District of Columbia Fogo de Chao to celebrate reaching his tenth year of MLB service time, which means he will now get a full pension.
Escobar will be happy to know Fogo de Chao has opened its latest restaurant across the street from the Queens Center mall on 59th Avenue in Elmhurst, Queens, which, of course, is just a few miles from Citi Field. Fogo de Chao offers an all-you-can salad bar as well as a wait staff serving unlimited barbecued meats.
The conventional wisdom was any kind of buffet dining establishment was finished when COVID-19 struck. There was a lot of erroneous information when the pandemic began nearly three years ago. One myth was that the disease spread through food, especially at “serve yourself” restaurants. Two popular national chains, Sweet Tomatoes and Old Country Buffet, went out of business, while Sizzler closed many of its restaurants.
T-BONE DINER REPORTEDLY SET TO REOPEN
Now that life is slowly returning to the way things were before 2020, restaurants in our borough are appearing to be making a comeback. In addition to the new Fogo de Chao, the T-Bone Diner in Forest Hills, which closed in 2021, will reportedly reopen with new ownership this summer. It will be nice to see more diners open in our areas after witnessing all too many closures in recent years.
You can read more of Lloyd Carroll’s columns posted weekly on The Queens Chronicle.
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