Carroll: The Replace-Mets

Under the best of circumstances the odds would be against the Mets earning the last wild card spot in the National League since they are competing with three other teams with similar records: the Cardinals, Pirates, and Marlins. If you factor in the incessant injuries that have affected the Amazin’s it would make even their most upbeat fans pessimistic about their chances.

Pitching was supposed to be the Mets’ trump card coming into 2016 and it will most likely determine whether they can beat out the aforementioned teams. With Matt Harvey done for the season recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, and Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz battling a variety of arm issues and who knows when the next start of either will be, the Mets have been forced to turn two pitchers who were not on their radar during spring training, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo. Thankfully they have pitched very well under pressurized conditions.

I spoke with Seth Lugo right after the All-Star Game break when the Mets were in Philadelphia to take on the Phillies. At the time Lugo was called up from the Mets’ Las Vegas Triple-A team to provide bullpen insurance. We chatted about the hardship of life in the minors and he told me that he was hoping to stay up with the Mets long enough to be able to pay off his college student loans.

That’s not the kind of statement you expect to be uttered by a major leaguer but it’s that every-man quality that makes it easy root for Lugo. If he keep pitching the way he has been he’ll be able to afford grad school without any financial assistance.

Some things never seem to change at the US Open. Once again the only American players left standing in singles play on Labor Day were the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus.

This has been the most attended US Open history. Major capital improvements at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center have allowed the United States Tennis Association to sell 10,000 more ground pass for the day sessions.

The increase in crowds has led to more noise at the Open and some players have complained. Ryan Harrison, who made it to the third round, told me that he was able to block out noise because of playing World Team Tennis where distractions are the rule and not the exception.

In a classy move, the USTA will allow fans to attend free on Thursday, September 8, from 12-6 PM. There will be plenty of men’s ,women’s, and mixed doubles action as well as a chance to see future tennis stars as the juniors tournament will be underway. Thursday’s highlight though will be a ceremony at Louis Armstrong Stadium at 4 PM to celebrate its history as it will begin to be demolished next week.

One sure sign that summer is over the start of yet another NFL season. For years CBS Sports has held a luncheon at its headquarters where the media can chat with the Tiffany Network’s executives and on-air talent. CBS broadcasts most of the Jets games since they play in the American Football Conference and therefore I spoke to their broadcasters about what they foresaw for Gang Green.

Rich Gannon, who knows what it’s like to serve as an NFL QB into one’s late 30s, told me that he is a big Ryan Fitzpatrick fan. “Even though he went to Harvard he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He makes smart decisions. It wasn’t a fluke that the Jets won ten games last year.”

Solomon Wilcots is one of the few former NFL players who wasn’t a star who has gone onto have a solid network broadcasting career. Perhaps he is a superb analyst because he didn’t have Pro Bowl talent and therefore survived six seasons as an NFL player thanks to athletic skill and intelligence through observation.

“The Jets made a smart choice in drafting linebacker Darron Lee with their first round of the 2016 draft. He can cover big tight ends such as the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski. I also think that the Jets will benefit from having Matt Forte in their backfield. He is terrific at catching passes which is important since their current tight ends are not known for doing that,” said Wilcots.

Solomon was prophetic because a few days later the team released perennially disappointing TE Jace Amaro. On Jets preseason telecasts Forest Hills native Ian Eagle made a point of saying that Amaro was great at catching passes in practice. Of course that only fueled the anger of Jets fans when he would drop one ball after another in games.

In addition to parting ways with Amaro the other big name that Jets head coach Todd Bowles cut was cornerback Dee Milliner who never lived up to the Jets’ hopes that he could be the next Darrelle Revis when they selected him in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

This year CBS and NBC will share the Thursday night NFL package with the Tiffany Network getting the first 8 games and the Peacock Network the back eight. The NFL Network will simulcast all 16 games.

I asked NFL Media Executive VP Brian Rolapp about the controversial decision that the league would not allow former ESPN Monday Night Football play-by-play broadcaster and  Bayside High alum Mike Tirico to be part of NBC’s Thursday night package.

“NBC was contractually obligated to use their Sunday first team, no matter who comprised that first team, for Thursday nights. We think the world of Mike Tirico and if NBC replaced Al Michaels with him on Sunday Night Football then we would be fine with him,” Rolapp stated.

CBS Sports CEO Sean McManus did not seem jealous that the Rams moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles which benefits FOX more since they play in the National Football Conference. “Los Angeles is our second largest market. Having an NFL team there is good for everyone’s business,” he told me.

We then discussed the CBS Sports Network which has shied away from the pizzazz of Fox Sports 1 and  has a lower profile than the NBC Sports Network. “We are trying to grow it organically and we won’t simply throw money into it,” he stated. Sean added that the CBS Sports Network is profitable. To be fair, it does have a good slate of college sports programming, Professional Bull Riders meets, and thoughtful sports shows as “Time To Schein” and “We Need To Talk,” a sports show consisting exclusively of female panelists. Its Sunday morning NFL program, “That Other Pregame Show,” is designed for NFL fans who have a sense of humor and want to learn about the business side of things. And yes, it does have a segment for fantasy players.

I was in the Miami Marlins clubhouse at CitiField a couple of weeks ago when Tim Tebow’s showcase for MLB scouts came on the TV screen. It was amazing how quiet the Marlins players became as they stared at the footage.

Marlins outfielder Jeff Francouer, who was sought out by Clemson University to play football, has a unique perspective on Tebow’s baseball fantasy. “I don’t begrudge him his right to want to become a major league baseball players but he hasn’t played in 11 years and I can’t picture it happening for someone who is about to turn 30.” Francouer also added that some major leaguers could be ticked off if he attracts a throng of media to spring training which could cause needless distractions.

My major complaint with Sirius XM’s decade channels is that they tend to play the same songs that we were hearing for years over and over again on terrestrial oldies radio stations such as Philadelphia’s WOGL, LA’s K-Earth, and our own WCBS-FM.

This past weekend however Sirius XM’s 70s on 7 channel had a little fun and dug far deeper into their musical catalog as they played hits and non-hits that appeared on those fun, albeit cheesy, K-Tel albums from the Me Decade, that baby boomers fondly remember. I couldn’t help but smile hearing favorites of mine from back in the day as Kenny Rogers’ “Daytime Friends,” Looking Glass’s “Jimmy Loves Maryanne,” and the Main Ingredient’s “Just Don’t Want To Lonely.” I didn’t even mind hearing the dreadful “Torn Between Two Lovers” by Mary MacGregor. Sirius XM’s programmers should show more of this kind of creativity.

While “fall cleaning” doesn’t have the same cache as “spring cleaning,” this is a good time to get rid of the dust that has probably accumulated during our very hot summer when a lot of us were too tired to stay on top of things in our homes.

Dyson still makes the best heavy duty vacuums but often a lightweight stick vacuum such as the terrific Ergorapido Lithium Ion Brushroll Clean Xtra (yes, that’s a mouthful!) from Electrolux can frequently get the job done even better because of its maneuverability. It’s tough to hit the corners with a big upright or even a cannister. The Electrolux Ergorapido costs under $200.

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