Mets fans have sadly become accustomed to getting bad news about the physical health of its team’s pitchers. Johan Santana was never the same after throwing a 135-pitch no-hitter, the first and only in Mets history, on June 1, 2012. In recent years, starters Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee, and Matt Harvey all have lost anywhere from half of a season to an entire one recovering from arm surgery.
You can now add Zach Wheeler to that infamous list. Wheeler complained of discomfort last year but medical tests, including an MRI, did not reveal any structural damage. The Mets were hoping that off-season rest might be a cure but unfortunately the pain was even worse after throwing in Port St. Lucie this past month. A follow-up MRI revealed a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his right arm. That well-known baseball medical procedure, Tommy John Surgery, appears to be a certainty. Wheeler will miss the entire 2015 season.
Frustrated fans began pointing fingers at Mets management as if they were responsible for Wheeler’s predicament. Zach’s own agent, BB Abbott, quickly absolved them of any blame.
Not to be disrespectful to Zach Wheeler’s talent, but “the sky is falling” reaction among many Mets fans is not warranted based on what he has done in his first two seasons with the team.
Yes, there was a lot of hype about him when Mets general manager Sandy Alderson acquired him from the San Francisco Giants for soon-to-be free agent centerfielder Carlos Beltran. While he has shown nasty stuff to hitters, he has frequently had control issues and his lifetime record is a rather pedestrian 18-16. The games that he pitched in often felt interminable because he seemed to go to a full count with every single opposing batter.
Frankly Mets aficionados should be more concerned about their bullpen. Closer Bobby Parnell missed most of last season recovering from arm surgery that took place last April So far he has not shown any signs of rust. Vic Black, however, who did a terrific job getting the Mets out of many jams last year, is now battling tendinitis.
San Francisco scribe Steve Kettmann has written a Sandy Alderson biography titled Baseball Maverick (Grove Atlantic). The subtitle listed on the front jacket is “ How Sandy Alderson Revolutionized Baseball and Revived the Mets” so you know that Kettmann’s tome is basically sycophantic. I can’t see how someone can say that Alderson has performed miracles when the team still has not had a winning season during his stewardship.
The book itself is a serviceable recap of the last four years at Citi Field. Kettmann though acts more like Alderson’s flak than he does as an impartial journalist. He praises Alderson for not re-signing shortstop Jose Reyes in 2011 because of concerns about his legs and his durability. Kettmann confirms that the Mets never made a formal offer but claims that Alderson was willing to sign him to a long-term deal in the neighborhood of $100 million. As Jon Lovitz’s Tommy Flanagan (aka “The Liar”) character used to say on Saturday Night Live in the ‘90s, “Yeah, that’s the ticket!”
We’ll never know if center Chris Obepka could have turned the tide but his absence was a key reason that the offensively-challenged San Diego State Aztecs were able to score 76 points and beat the St. John’s Red Storm by a dozen points to quickly knock the Johnnies out of the NCAA Tournament. St. John’s has not been able to advance to the second round of March Madness since 2000.
Obepka was suspended by the team for reportedly testing positive for marijuana. I wonder if Obepka would have been suspended if he were a member of the University of Colorado basket ball team since cannabis consumption is legal in that state.
Former Knicks star and longtime basketball television analyst Greg Anthony was removed from March Madness telecasts by CBS after being arrested on a solicitation charge in Washington, DC. The District of Columbia DA’s office did not bother to prosecute and Anthony agreed to do some community service. I like Greg and I believe that CBS overreacted to what was an arrest for a misdemeanor and one that seems frankly archaic in 2015.
New Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan has pleased his fan base with the acquisition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall and the reacquisition of cornberbacks Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis. I am not sure if all of his moves will lead the Jets to a Super Bowl appearance but at the very least it serves as a way for team owner Woody Johnson to apologize to his customers for fired GM John Idzik’s reign of error.
Another way for Maccagnan to earn more plaudits is to move Jets training camp back to Long Island. There is a rumor that the Jets are considering SUNY Farmingdale as an alternative to their current summer home, upstate SUNY Cortland.
While they have not been the joke that the Knicks have been this season, the Brooklyn Nets have not given anyone a reason to rejoice either. Their season went into a tailspin this past November 19 at the Barclays Center when they lost in triple overtime to the Milwaukee Bucks who are coached by Jason Kidd, the man who walked away from the organization at the end of the 2013-14 season. If the Nets do rally to make it into the NBA playoffs their fans may look back to March 20 when they beat the Bucks in triple overtime as a turning point.
I was sorry to learn of the death of former Nets center Jack Haley who succumbed to heart disease at the age of 51. Haley was a muscular rebounder who managed to have a surprisingly long playing career. When I asked him the secret to staying in the NBA as many years as he did, he replied with a hearty laugh, “Hey, I could foul with the best of them!”
Local press boxes won’t be the same with the passing last Thursday of “Stormin’” Norman MacLean who passed away at the age of 84. He was a former Rangers broadcaster and a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America thanks to his years of covering the nation’s pastime for almost every wire service. Longtime Mets fans will remember his player profiles in the scorecards that were sold at Shea Stadium.
Norm always made me feel welcome at sporting events from the time I started covering our local professional teams. Unlike a lot of scribes from the dailies, he believed that weekly newspapers had every right to be reporting on events taking place at big league stadiums and arenas. There are still some pathetic media and sports team PR neanderthals who feel that weekly outlets are second class citizens that should stick to reporting on when pro athletes visit local school and hospitals. I am proud to say that I have been driving them crazy for years.
Of course what made Norm legendary was his gruff manner. “Are you still writing for ‘The Flushing Toilet Water?’” he would constantly ask me. Of course that was just Norm good-naturedly busting chops. He had a lot of respect for The Queens Chronicle and was always complimentary of my columns which meant a lot to me.
The annual Vision Expo East trade show held at the Javits Center used athlete endorsers to drive awareness. Nike Eyewear, a division of Melville-based Marchon, had a larger than life photo of golfer Rory McIlroy while Gargoyles, a company that makes terrific sunglasses at a fraction of what you pay for Oakley, has NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski as its spokesman. Soccer legend Mia Hamm signed autographs at the Coppertone Lenses booth. Bolle has just contracted San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker to serve as a brand ambassador for its prescription eyeglasses and goggles that are designed for young athletes and his likeness loomed large at their booth.
I have to admit that I’ve always had a soft spot for Manischewitz coconut macaroons when it comes to Passover treats but a New York-based French pastry confectioner, Francois Payard, is offering such gourmet dessert options as chocolate caramel covered matzoh, almond petit fours, and chocolate-covered marshmallows with a matzo meal base.