The Week That Was: Bruce Is Back

     Last week he Mets made their most significant acquisition of this off-season when they singed outfielder Jay Bruce as a free agent to a three-year contract.

     Bruce came to the Mets at the 2016 trade deadline on July 31st of that year and he struggled during the final two months of that season. At the time I wrote a column called “Bruce needs to get loose” in which I predicted that Jay, who had spent his first eight years in the majors with the Cincinnati Reds, would be a lot more relaxed and productive as a Met in 2017

     I was prophetic as Bruce clubbed 29 homers for them in 2017. Unfortunately, the Mets were long out of the pennant race in mid-summer. Since he was going to be a free agent at season’s end, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson traded him to the Cleveland Indians for low-level minor league pitcher Ryan Ryder but the real impetus for the Mets GM was to reduce their payroll in a lost season.

    Mets management however was impressed with both Bruce’s ability to perform well in the nation’s biggest market and his leadership abilities in a clubhouse that was frankly bereft of any by the end of the 2017 season.

    At last Wednesday morning’s press conference at Citi Field Alderson stated that the fact that Bruce showed that he could play well in Queens was a factor in the decision to aggressively pursue him but he warned the media that it shouldn’t be “overblown.” My guess is that Sandy wanted to be diplomatic and not slight players who haven’t played for the Mets yet. Bruce added that while New York is a demanding place he did not feel any additional pressure playing here.

    I asked Alderson whether the new tax laws, which cap the combination of state & local income taxes and real estate taxes deductions to a paltry $10,000 starting with tax year 2018, has adversely affected the Mets’ ability to sign free agents.

   “In the short run, the answer is ‘no’ because this has been a buyer’s market this off-season in terms of signing players. In the long run this could be a very big problem for us,” the Mets general manager candidly responded.

    Jay Bruce is a native and resident of Texas, a state that doesn’t have an individual income tax. I asked him if the new tax laws came up in conversations with his agent. “Lloyd, you are asking me a tax question?” he said with a chuckle. He that got a bit more serious. “ Yes, we discussed tax implications. The reality was that the market was slow to develop and we liked the Mets’ offer.”

     Bruce was emphatic that the Mets are a lot better team than many people realize. “We are a healthy season away from being a contender,” he said.

     Sports Publishing has two new paperback books out that should be of interest to Rangers fans. Newsday Rangers’ beat writer Steve Zipay has written a trivia/history tome on the Blueshirts titled “So You Think That You’re A Rangers Fan?’ while Mark Rosenman and Howie Karpin teamed up to write “New York Rangers By The Numbers” which gives a bio and recollections of every Rangers player by their uniform number. Now if only someone could write a book about how the Rangers can stay healthy this season.

     Yes, there will be football next Sunday as the 2018 Pro Bowl will be played in Orlando. The only Jets or Giants player slated to play as of this moment is Giants safety Landon Collins. The game has reverted back to an AFC-NFC all-star format and will be telecast on ABC at 3 PM.

     FX’s newest “American Crime Story” series, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” is certainly worth watching even though the title is a bit of a misnomer. The emphasis is more on the life of Versace’s killer, Andrew Cunanan (played chillingly by Darren Criss), than it is on the legendary Italian designer who is portrayed by Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramirez who previously starred in the film bio of boxer Roberto Duran, “Hands Of Stone.” 

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