Carroll: Bruce Needs To Get Loose

Mets SNY play-by-play voice and Flushing native Gary Cohen aptly described the Mets 2016 season Saturday night when he stated that they had slogged through the last 3 ½ months. In spite of their mediocre play, and that’s being kind, our Flushing heroes still found themselves in the thick of the race for the last wildcard spot in the National League as August was ending.

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson acquired outfielder Jay Bruce from the Cincinnati Reds at the July 31 trade deadline as a way of bolstering the team’s lineup as well as serving as an insurance policy in case Yoenis Cespedes’s quadriceps injury were to keep him out of the lineup for a prolonged period.

Unfortunately Jay has had a rough first month with the Mets. He has constantly said  that he hasn’t been pressing but you get the feeling that he’s just saying what you would expect. As a rule, Major League Baseball players never like to give excuses for poor performance.

I spoke with Jay last month in the Bronx when the Mets were playing their third game of their four-game set with the Yankees. I asked him to compare the media turnout for the Subway Series with that of the annual Buckeye state battle between the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians. “Not even close!” he quickly replied underscoring the importance of the nation’s largest market.

Bruce also admitted that it was strange to be with a new team after spending his entire nine-year MLB career with the Cincinnati Reds. He also spoke of suddenly having to close his Cincinnati condo and moving his wife and their three-month old daughter to New York. That had to have been disconcerting.

Mets manager Terry Collins was peppered with questions about Jay Bruce following last Sunday’s dreary 5-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies in which he lined a single in the first inning but then struck out in his succeeding at-bats.  I asked Terry if thought that Bruce might be uncomfortable being the new kid in school after having been ensconced with one team, where he was a star to boot, for so long.

Collins agreed that he isn’t yet comfortable in Queens and then correctly added that Cincinnati isn’t New York. He also made it clear that the Mets do not have the luxury of giving Bruce time to get more relaxed because there is only one moth left to go in the 2016 regular season and the Mets are battling three other teams for that final playoff spot.

Some in the media are already comparing Jay Bruce to Jason Bay who Mets fans will remember as a guy who had a big contract, played hard, but ultimately did not produce.. Frankly, that is rather unfair after just a month. I have faith that Bruce will find his groove.

If I had to choose one tennis player whose profile has been raised the most since the 2015 US Open it’s Monica Puig who won the gold medal for women’s tennis at the recent Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Puig represented her native Puerto Rico although she moved with her family to Miami when she was a year old. It marked the first time that any athlete from Puerto Rico had ever won Olympic gold.

Puig met with the press at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this past Saturday afternoon. I mentioned to her that last year at this time she was chatting with just a handful of reporters in a tiny space in the press workroom and now she was center stage in majestic Interview Room One. I then asked her if she was mentally prepared to now compete in the US Open now that she has a far higher recognition quotient than she had last year.

Monica showed a great deal of self-awareness in her answer. “I am just 22 years old so I know that this is a process,” she smartly replied as a way of trying to diminish unrealistically high expectations.

A few minutes later I mentioned to Monica in Spanish that while Puerto Rico is known for professional boxers as well baseball and basketball players it’s not known for tennis. I asked her if she thought that her victory would cause a boom in interest in her sport. “I sure hope so. I have heard that retailers in San Juan are selling more racquets then ever before,” she responded.

Everyone knows that sports and food go together. The days when the only food that you could get at sporting events were hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn, and sugary soft drinks are thankfully in the past.

The US Open has become as much a destination for foodies in recent years as it has been for tennis fans. Among the culinary choices at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for attendees this year are carne and fish tacos at the Angry Taco; Margherita pizza at Neapolitan Express, BBQ Beef Brisket at Hill Country; a variety of crepes at Crepe Express; and steamed vegan dumplings at the Open’s newest food purveyor, Korilla BBQ. The cuisine isn’t cheap but it’s not outrageous either as it is comparable with Manhattan restaurant menu prices.

The Jets have long been ahead of the curve when it comes to the relationship between fans and food. For years they have sponsored a tailgate party at the New York City Wine & Food Festival which is always well-attended and they have also sponsored classes at the Institute for Culinary Education.

Borrowing a term from the television industry, the Jets held their first-ever Gameday Upfront last week as team president Neil Glat introduced the media to new cuisine options at MetLife Stadium such as empanadas at Global Pies; lobster roll sandwiches and shrimp cocktail at Ester’s Seafood Shack; and smoke ribs and barbecue pork tenderloin at Barbecue Shack. There are also kosher food stations scattered throughout MetLife.

Glat also made it clear that he understood that going to an NFL game is a costly affair for a family of four and that’s why he is proud that the Jets make sure that fans have value choices such as $2 bottled water; $3 popcorn, jumbo pretzels, and soft drinks; and probably the best deal of all, a turkey wrap, chips, and a soda for $7.

He also promoted the Jets Reward Card that allows fans to purchase items and earn points for future Jets-themed rewards without using cash or traditional debit/credit cards.

And while on the topic of food, there is a new yogurt brand, Liberte Organic, which comes in eight flavors and is made from whole milk. While it’s not exactly low in calories it’s custard-like taste and texture make it a healthier dessert option than ice cream.

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