Carroll: Bring Back Big Sexy

Going into the 2016 season, veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon was considered an afterthought in the minds of both Mets general manager Sandy Alderson and the team’s fans and that was understandable. The Mets had four young studs in their starting rotation: Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz. As if that weren’t enough, Zack Wheeler, who has always been held in high esteem by the Mets, was slated to return from Tommy John surgery right after the All-Star Game.

Colon turned 43 this past May, an ancient age for any baseball player especially pitchers. Only those gimmicky knuckleball pitchers as the late Hoyt Wilhelm or soft tossers such as Jamie Moyer were able to be effective at Colon’s age and he still can throw gas.

Mets fans are all painfully aware of how their team’s vaunted pitching staff was decimated with injuries in 2016. Matt Harvey was lost to season-ending surgery in June; Zack Wheeler felt discomfort in his shoulder and has been shelved until next year: and last Saturday it was announced that Jacob deGrom, who had been mediocre this year, would have elbow surgery and would be shut down immediately. In addition, Steven Matz has missed numerous starts and even Noah Syndergaard, who has lived up to billing this year, experienced “dead arm” issues and had to miss the All-Star Game.

Like Old Man River however, Bartolo Colon keeps rolling on. Last Friday night Colon was masterful in beating the Twins which raised his 2016 record to 14-7. He has stated that he would like to return to the Mets next year. Frankly, he deserves a multi-year deal.

Rookie and Bronx native TJ Rivera has done an admirable job filling in for both David Wright and Neil Walker who are among the many Mets lost for the season with injuries. Rivera, grew up in the southeast section of the Bronx that is ether spelled Throgs Neck or Throggs Neck. “Sometimes I spell it with a third “g!”” Rivera joked to me.

The Phillies come into Citi Field for four games starting Thursday evening and then host the Mets for three games next weekend. The Phils are rebuilding and have a number of exciting young players who will be going all out to play spoiler at the Mets’ expense.

The short-run economic reality is that from a financial viewpoint, Phillies management, in a storyline that would seem to come right out of Mel Brooks’ classic show, “The Producers,” would be better off if the Mets prevail in every game. Citizens Bank Park is roughly 100 miles southwest of Citi Field. If the Mets were to still competing for a wildcard playoff spot next weekend that would mean at least 20,000 more fans per game would be buying tickets. That is a lot of potential revenue for the Phillies as well as a boost for the Philadelphia economy overall.

There was debate among Mets fans and the media that covers the team about whether Wally Backman, the manager of their Las Vegas 51s minor league affiliate, was fired by Mets GM Sandy Alderson or whether he quit on his own volition.

My guess is that this was Wally’s call and it was an understandable one from his viewpoint. Alderson acknowledged that he had done a fine job in Vegas and he probably could have stayed out in Sin City as long as he wanted to. Sandy clearly had no intention however of ever having Backman join the Mets coaching staff let alone be the heir apparent to Terry Collins however. The handwriting was clearly on the wall for Wally when Terry wanted him to be his bench coach after Bob Geren left for the same position with the Dodgers. Alderson selected Dick Scott instead. Backman should be a shoo-in to get an MLB gig somewhere in 2017.

SNY debuted its latest Mets documentary last week titled “Mike Piazza: The Road to the Hall of Fame.” The hour-long documentary mostly covered familiar ground but the producers wisely let former Mets general manager and current Sirius XM sports personality Steve Phillips talk at length about the consternation going on in the Mets ownership and executive suites when Piazza became available to the team in 1998 and the concerns about being able to re-sign him after the season ended and he became a free agent.

Mets slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes can opt out of his contract at the conclusion of the Mets season. I doubt that this will factor one iota in his decision as to whether to stay in Flushing but thoroughbred owners Michael Dubb and Michael Imperio, who are also Mets fans, named a two-year colt after him. Yoenis Cespedes will be racing at Belmont Park this fall. Hopefully he won’t experience any quadriceps issues like his namesake.

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, who had announced his pending retirement in August, told me that he had no second thoughts about it because his neck pain had not improved. He said that he hadn’t spoken with Mets third baseman David Wright about his neck issues but was obviously monitoring his attempt to resume his playing career.

I asked Tex why it was that we have never heard as much about neck injuries in baseball as we have been this year. “Medical science and technology has become so advanced that things that were almost impossible to properly diagnose just a few years ago are very detectable now,” he told me.

Amiable former Mets infielder Chris Woodward is in his first year as the Dodgers third base  coach and he admitted that it’s very painful for him when a runner he waves home is thrown out at the plate. “You have to make a split-second decision as you try to factor in your runner’s speed and the outfielder’s arm and positioning.” He said that third base coaches frequently converse. I told him not to feel too badly when one of his guys gets nailed at the plate because that was happening to his Mets counterpart, Tim Teufel, twice a week at times this season.

The Dodgers’ visit to the Bronx to the Yankees marked the return of Charley Steiner to Yankee Stadium. Steiner was John Sterling’s radio partner before Suzyn Waldman. It had been rumored that Sterling and Steiner did not get along well and that was a reason that he decided to go west.

When I broached John Sterling about whether he would want to have Charley Steiner join him in the booth for an inning for old time’s sake, he seemed happily intrigued by the notion. Steiner was a bit more reticent however. “I’ve got to work with Rick Monday,” he replied.

It’s to be seen whether this will be the year that the New York Jets end their playoff drought but at least Gang Green fans can take some satisfaction knowing that their heroes finally beat their old coach Rex Ryan and his current team, the Buffalo Bills, a couple of weeks ago.

The Bills, who have not been to the NFL post-season since 1999, have given even very good Jets teams fits, particularly when the two teams have played in Buffalo, going back to the days of Joe Namath. It was the Bills who knocked the Jets out of the playoffs on the last Sunday of the 2015 NFL season when QB Ryan Fitzpatrick picked a very inopportune time to have his worst game of the season.

Of course even in victory the Jets made their fans bite their fingernails. Leading 37-24 with less than two minutes to go in the game, the Jets defense thought that they could start playing touch football as they basically let Bills QB Tyrod Taylor and running back Mike Gillislee march down the field unfettered. Making matters worse was the fact that the Bills used very little precious clock time in scoring a touchdown to cut the deficit to 37-31. Fortunately for the Jets, wide receiver Brandon Marshall recovered the Buffalo onside kick attempt to preserve the win. Had Buffalo regain possession and scored a touchdown in the final minute you could have kissed the Jets season goodbye.

The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis was started 30 years ago by former Dolphins linebacker and NFL Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti after his son, Marc, broke his spinal cord making a tackle as a Citadel linebacker. The Buoniconti Fund is a subsidiary of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis which held its 31st annual fund-rasing dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria two weeks ago with NBC News anchor Lester Holt serving as the emcee. As usual, a number of sports and entertainment luminaries turned out.

Dapper Nate Burleson, who had an excellent 11-year NFL career as a wide receiver for the Vikings, Seahawks, and Lions is now an air personality on the NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” where he discusses issues the happenings on the gridiron as well as news and entertainment topics.

Burleson was on the red carpet discussing and defending 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick’s stance to kneel for the national anthem. I pointed out to Nate that Donald Trump began his comeback in the polls as the Kaepernick brouhaha was becoming a water cooler topic and asked him if that was a coincidence. Burleson conceded that Trump’s rise could be collateral damage from it although former Jets running back Curtis Martin disagreed with that assessment.

Mariano Rivera gave a sheepish smile when I brought up the fact that he would give  the central New York State economy in two years when he is certain to be a first ball Hall of Fame inductee. He is enjoying retirement and following the career of his son, Mariano Rivera, Jr. who is a pitcher in the Washington Nationals farm system.

One of the greatest female basketball players of all-time, Cheryl Miller, attended the Miami Project dinner as well. Miller coached in the WNBA and was upset to hear from me that the New York Liberty do not have a full functioning press room as writers have trouble even getting water before, during, and after games. Miler conceded that kind of nickel-and-dime attitude treats WNBA players, many of whom competed in the recent Olympics where the Americans won gold, as second class athletes. “If you don’t care of the media, they are not going to take care of you,” Miller forthrightly stated.

It is always somewhat of a downer when summer officially ends and autumn begins. Nabisco is trying to ease the pain a bit by introducing for a limited time only, Pumpkin Spice Oreos. As if that’s not enough for all of you guilty pleasure snack fans, Nabisco has just introduced Cinnamon Donut Chips Ahoy cookies.

There has been a lot written about the problems of bullying and that many in both the private and public sector have launched campaigns to help eradicate it. Kellogg’s is taking a different tack by using Frosted Flakes’ mascot Tony the Tiger, along with former “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” co-star and current “America’s Funniest Home Videos” host Alfonso Ribeiro, to promote a campaign to increasing self-esteem amongst tweens (those who fall in the 10-13 age range). Keeping with the old Frosted Flakes tag line it’s called “You’re Gr-R-Reat!” Kellogg’s officials are keying in on how dads can help give their kids confidence in all areas of their lives.

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