NEW YORK — Where to go from here? In their last nine games played (three vs. Toronto, three at Atlanta and three in Pittsburgh), the New York Mets have gone 1-8. And when it comes to the standings, the Metropolitans (31-35), are on the outside looking in — 9.5 games back from first place in the National League East division as well as three games out of the final NL Wild Card spot.
Most Mets fans came into the 2023 season accepting the notion the Atlanta Braves were a better team than their Flushing heroes. Yes, the Mets did lead the National League East for most of last season, until they were swept in a three-game series by the Braves in Atlanta the last weekend of the season. Frankly, it felt as if the Braves were toying with the Mets until it really counted. It is a movie Mets fans have seen many times before.
The Mets returned to Atlanta last week for the first time since that season-ending debacle. They were coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays at Citi Field, so you could not blame Mets fans if they were merely rooting for their heroes to just win one game in Georgia. Alas, that was too high a bar.
While getting swept by the Braves again was upsetting for the Flushing faithful, what really stung was the Mets blew leads of three runs or more in each of the games. Even the yardstick of baseball ineptitude, the 1962 Mets, had never done that. The starting pitching was abysmal, and the bullpen was even worse. Once again, Mets fans were left with the feeling the Braves were deliberately letting the Mets take leads for the sadistic pleasure of breaking their hearts in the last inning.
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) June 9, 2023
Adding injury to insult, Pete Alonso (2019 NL LatinoMVP Rookie Award winner), suffered a deep wrist bruise on a pitch thrown by Braves hurler Charlie Morton. It was not intentional. The bottom line, however, is Alonso is now out of action, and the timeline for recovery is three to four weeks. Don’t be surprised if Alonso does not return until after the All-Star Game break.
Judging by the dour mood from Mets fans calling into sports talk radio stations, as well as the commentary on social media, this is the lowest ebb since Steve Cohen purchased the team from the Wilpon family.
A reader in Lake Worth, Florida, Barry Cogan, contacted me recently about a more upbeat Queens baseball story, the 65th anniversary of Martin Van Buren High School winning the PSAL baseball championship.
“I grew up in Bayside. Martin Van Buren had just opened, and Cardozo had not yet been built so I was zoned to go there. I was a third baseman on the team, but I was on the bench for the championship game against Staten Island’s Curtis High School. They were a perennial powerhouse. Former major leaguers Bobby Thomson, Frank Fernandez, and Terry Crowley went there.”
Cogan added a fascinating trivia note. “The game was played at Ebbets Field. The Dodgers left for LA the previous year. Our right fielder, Rich Ruffino, hit the last homer in Ebbets Field history!” Cogan said. That 1958 championship remains the only PSAL championship for Martin Van Buren in any sport.
deGrom To Undergo Tommy John Surgery
Mets fans struck the right tone upon learning former Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who joined the Texas Rangers as a free agent last winter, would miss the rest of the 2023 and a good hunk of the 2024 season, recovering from yet another pitching arm surgery.
The consensus is they are hoping deGrom will be able to continue his career, but they are glad it is not the Mets problem.
Forte Finishes Second in Belmont Stakes
Middle Village native, and owner of the superb thoroughbred Forte, Mike Repole will have to wonder what might have been. Forte was an early favorite to win the 2023 Kentucky Derby, but Repole had to withdraw him from the race when he incurred a bruise on his right foot. Forte also had to miss the Preakness two weeks later. Forte, however, was good to go for last Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. He was not a factor for most of the one-and-a-half-mile race but turned it on in the homestretch to finish second behind the winner, Arcangelo.
A Tribute to the Iron Sheik – Rest In Peace
I was saddened to hear of the passing last week of Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, better known to the wrestling world as the Iron Sheik. Although he was fiercely loyal to the United States and had emigrated from Iran in 1969, he played the heel role of a supporter of Ayatollah Khomeini when he joined the World Wrestling Federation in 1979. Americans who were working in our embassy in Teheran at the time were taken hostage by Islamic militants who were clearly encouraged by the theocratic regime which had toppled the shah.
WWE is saddened to learn that Hossein Khosrow Ali Vaziri, known the world over as WWE Hall of Famer The Iron Sheik, passed away on Wednesday, June 7, at age 81.
— WWE (@WWE) June 7, 2023
Given the times, it did not take much for the Iron Sheik to generate heat with wrestling fans who were extremely happy to pay for tickets to shows where he was the headliner in the hopes of seeing him defeated. To further rile up the crowd, he would enter the ring carrying a large flag from his native land and scream into the microphone, “Iran #1!” His famous submission hold was “the camel clutch.” His favorite opponent was a former marine, Bob Remus, whose ring name was Sgt. Slaughter. Their staged ring battles were epic.
“The League” – Documentary on the Negro League
A documentary on the Negro League, simple titled “The League,” debuted this week at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film tells the story of the only place black baseball players could play professionally until 1947, and it features unseen-until-now interviews with two of its biggest stars, Satchel Paige, and Buck O’Neil. It opens in theaters nationally on July 7.
New York State Department of Tourism – Media Event at Jackie Robinson Museum
The New York State Department of Tourism held a media event to promote its summer vacation destinations last Wednesday at the Jackie Robinson Museum in SoHo. The location for the event was not accidental as sports were presented as key drivers for leisure tourism in the Empire State. The National Baseball Hall of Fame located in Cooperstown sent representatives. A less known NY sports museum is the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum located in the Sullivan County town of Roscoe. Trout is the fish of choice for anglers here. Roscoe is near Monticello Raceway where harness racing is still taking place. Officials from Visit Syracuse were touting the renovations made to NBT Bank Stadium which is the home of the Mets top minor league club, the Syracuse Mets.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials reminded the press you can find freshwater fish in many of the lakes in Queens parks such as Flushing Meadow, Kissena, and Baisley Pond. You are allowed to fish but you do need to obtain a license from the state.
More From Jackie Robinson Museum
You should make it a point to visit the Jackie Robinson Museum if you have not done so yet. Among the exhibits on display are fan and hate letters he received; a copy of his signed 1946 contract with the Kansas City Monarchs of the aforementioned Negro League, as well as his 1947 contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers; and a miniature replica of Ebbets Field. You can also listen to audio testimony about what Jackie Robinson meant to their lives from numerous celebrities including former Mets center fielder Mookie Wilson, and current Yankees senior adviser, former Mets general manager, and Newtown High School alum Omar Minaya.
Caribbean Travel Organization – Annual Tourism Event
The next day the Caribbean Travel Organization held its annual tourism event for the media. Sports were also a major part. The Curacao Tourist Board was promoting the fact that its greatest baseball player, center fielder Andruw Jones, will have his uniform number 25 retired by the Atlanta Braves on September 9. Jamaica was touting its many lush golf courses, as well as being the Caribbean capital for polo. Trinidad’s shorelines contain many rich nutrients which attract all forms of sea life, and therefore make it a popular destination for anyone who enjoys recreational fishing.
PGA and LIV Golf Situation
A lot has written about the shocking proposed merger between the PGA Tour and the Saudi-backed LIV Golf. What is not clear is what will happen to the CW’s first foray into sports as it has been televising LIV tournaments for the last year. CW officials claim the LIV telecasts have boosted its primetime audience by 20 per cent.
You can read more of Lloyd Carroll’s columns posted weekly on The Queens Chronicle.
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