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Carroll’s Column: What’s New with MLB’s Schedule?

SF Giants vs. NY Yankees on Opening Day - Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

NEW YORK — What’s new in the baseball world? Well just to start off, going to a ballpark is not the same as it used to be. Games are no longer three and a half hours, thanks to the newly implemented pitch clock. 

While much attention has been given to the pitch clock and other rules changes, what has gotten overlooked in the baseball world is how every MLB team will be playing each other for at least one series in 2023. 

Last Tuesday, I asked Mets manager Buck Showalter if this places more of an onus on him since he must prepare for more teams with little time to do so. He agreed with that assessment, and added he might have to send two starting pitchers to a city ahead of the rest of the team. “I was thinking of doing the same with a backup catcher, but you don’t want to have only one catcher for any game.”

Buck Showalter – Image Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

Showalter seemed confused when I mentioned his Yankees counterpart, Aaron Boone, was most concerned about weather issues with respect to the 2023 schedule. Boone voiced trepidations about lengthy rain delays, which under normal times, would have led to postponements. If there are postponements, then you must worry about the travel associated with makeup games and the fatigue which comes with it. “I absolutely agree with Aaron,” Buck replied.

Aaron Boone – Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

Outfielder Tim Locastro, who played well with the Yankees in a limited role, signed with the Mets during the off-season after the Bronx Bombers dropped him from their 40-man roster. Showalter praised his running, contact hitting, and defensive abilities to the press, and how he values having him as a late-inning asset. 

I asked Locastro if he signed with the Mets because their top minor league team plays in his hometown of Syracuse. “That’s what my parents thought when I signed with them! The Mets offered me the best opportunity. The truth is I am hoping not to see my old room this summer!” In past winters, Locastro would return to cold, gray central New York State. He has relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona where many ballplayers spend the off-season because of its temperate fall and winter weather.

Former Mets pitcher Seth Lugo returned to Citi Field last week as a member of the San Diego Padres. He is off to a solid start as a starting pitcher for the Padres after years of being utilized almost exclusively in the bullpen by the Mets. 

Seth Lugo’s return to New York – Image Credit: Latino Sports

“My wife and I are renting a house on Coronado Island. I was never a morning person, but now I am up early walking the dogs on the beach,” he told me.

Lugo has a player option which would allow him to become a free agent after the 2023 season. He spoke highly of his time with the Mets and would not rule out a future reunion with them. “It is tough to leave the San Diego area once you have gotten a taste of its lifestyle,” I said. “I know what you mean!” he replied with a grin.

2023 WNBA Draft – Commissioner Cathy Engelbert

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert was in great spirits at last Monday’s WNBA Draft which was held in Tribeca, NY. Engelbert was thrilled with the attention the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament received, thanks in large part to the pro wrestling-like interplay between Iowa’s Caitlin Clark and LSU’s Angel Reese. The alleged feud between the two overshadowed the attention given to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament championship game between the University of Connecticut and San Diego State University. No one could have seen that coming.

2023 WNBA Draft – Image Credit: WNBA

Engelbert happily discussed the increased player compensation in the league, and how there would be increased air charter service, something which the WNBA Players Association has long demanded. As in past years, there were promises of league expansion, but nothing concrete was offered.

Not surprisingly, many press queries centered around Brittney Griner. I asked Engelbert if she was angry about how many conservative media outlets appeared to be wanting to give Vladimir Putin high-fives when Russian authorities imprisoned her, and then were upset that Paul Whelan, another American detainee, was not included in the prisoner exchange which freed her. Engelbert was careful to avoid attacking any media outlets, but she did tell the WNBA is working with other organizations to free Paul Whelan. 

WNBA Logo – Image Credit: WNBA

I asked her if she found it strange how most of the folks who seemed sympathetic to Putin when Griner was arrested, had become radio silent about the recent arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on spying charges in Moscow. She declined to answer. 

NBA fines Dallas Mavericks $750,000 for Conduct Detrimental to the League

I realize this won’t be a popular opinion, but I respect Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for preferring to keep his team’s lottery-protected draft choice than make a feeble postseason run. The Mavericks owed the Knicks a first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft in the 2019 Kristaps Porzingis trade. Cuban told Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd to tank the last game of the season by resting the team’s star players to avoid making the playoffs, and in the process, avoid sending a high draft choice to the Knicks. 

Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd – Image Credit: NBA

It almost sounded like the NBA’s version of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers.” Cuban is interested in winning NBA titles. Playoff appearances may be important to middle-of-the-pack franchises such as the Knicks and the Nets, but not to him. 

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban – Image Credit: NBA

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stuck Cuban with a $750,000 fine which is coffee-and-cake money for an NBA owner. Many Knicks fans wanted Silver to send the Mavericks’ pick to their team, regardless of the draft-lottery exemption. When the Knicks agreed to the “lottery-protected” exemption with the Mavericks, they knew machinations could occur. That is the inherent risk of any trade. Knicks fans can take satisfaction Mark Cuban is angry at himself for not re-signing Jalen Brunson who has become a star this year for their team. 

“Sweetwater” starring Nat Clifton Out Now

Speaking of the Knicks, a movie, “Sweetwater,” has been released about Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, a Harlem Globetrotters star who became the first African-American player to play for the local NBA team back in 1950. Everett Osborne is terrific as Clifton. The rest of the cast features some recognizable names as Richard Dreyfuss, Eric Roberts, Jim Caviezel, and Kevin Pollak, who steals the film as Harlem Globetrotters founder Abe Saperstein. Veteran New York radio sports anchor Todd Ant gets significant screen time as a 1950s basketball play-by-play announcer. 

Sweetwater – Image Credit: NBA

“Sweetwater” is a mixed bag. The first 90 minutes of the film accurately capture post-World War II America, for better and worse. The NBA was only in its fourth year of operation and was a mom-and-pop operation compared to the billion-dollar behemoth it is today. The filmmakers create needless unintentional laughs in its last half-hour. In his debut game as a Knick, we are supposed to believe Clifton is making Michael Jordan-like moves and shots, including the big come-from-behind buzzer-beating bucket. 

The game is supposed to be taking place at the old Madison Square Garden on 50th Street and Eighth Avenue, but it instead resembles a high school court built on a Burbank movie lot, which is in fact the case.

Josh Harris signs deal to purchase Washington Commanders 

FedEx Field, home of the Washington Commanders – Image Credit: NFL

Josh Harris is determined to be sports king of I-95. He is the managing partner of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, and last week signed a deal to purchase the NFL’s Washington Commanders. 

Tribute to Rick Wolff, longtime WFAN Host 

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Rick Wolff, a Harvard University baseball star, who went onto host the long-running Sunday morning WFAN program “The Sports Edge,” which looked at how amateur sports could be improved. He was particularly tough on meddling parents who were abusive at Little League games. Rick’s father was the great broadcaster, Bob Wolff, who was one of the nicest people anyone could ever meet. Sadly, Richard did not have the gift of the years his dad did. 

ESPN Plus/HBO Max Rebrand to Max

ESPN Plus, the Worldwide Leader of Sports’ streaming service celebrated its fifth anniversary last Wednesday. Coincidentally, Warner Media officials announced it was rebranding its HBO MAX streaming service as plain “Max” on the very same day.

CON.STRUCT – Stylish and Comfortable Clothing

Last week’s summer preview weather is a reminder that the polo shirt and light windbreaker season has arrived after what was a mild winter for us. A fairly new apparel company, CON.STRUCT (conxstruct.com) has a Green Collection which makes stylish and comfortable clothing from recycled materials. Monday, April 24, marks the 53rd anniversary of Earth Day.

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

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