The Week That Was: Callaway Sends A Message

     Mets manager Mickey Callaway used the last week of spring training to let everyone know that there was a new sheriff in town as he demoted both starting pitcher Zack Wheeler and reliever Hansel Robles to the Mets’ Las Vegas AAA team.

      Wheeler was practically a lock to win the fifth starting pitcher slot in the rotation over both Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman barring injury, which given both his and the Mets’ recent history, is not something one can take lightly. The good news for Zack was that he stayed healthy. The bad news was that he pitched atrociously..

     The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was his performance last Thursday. Wheeler gave up five runs to the St. Louis Cardinals in two innings. Yes, he wasn’t helped by the Mets porous defense that made a couple of errors but a quality pitcher has to pick us team up by getting out of those situations with minimal damage.

     Hansel Robles has been a Mets bullpen mainstay for the past two seasons. While he possesses  a good fastball and his strikeouts to walks ratio is a decent 2:1, Robles has a tendency to give up hits in key situations as his shabby 4.92 earned run average (ERA) from last season attests. His mediocre pitching was on full display during spring training.

     My guess is that if Terry Collins were still the Mets manager both Wheeler and Robles would have started the season in Flushing. I can easily picture Collins telling the media during a pregame press conference “We have to find a way to get Zack and Hansel going!” and then talk about how his pitching coach, Dan Warthen, would be working with them. Warthen may have been a good pitching coach since a lot of the Mets’ starting pitchers have always spoken very highly of him but he wasn’t a miracle worker.

      It’s kind of strange to refer to a pitcher who is going to miss the entire season because of career-threatening Tommy John arm surgery as lucky but that may be the best way to describe Rafael Montero’s fate.

     In his four-year career with the Mets, during which he was sent down to the minors many times, he compiled an undistinguished 6-16 record with a miserable ERA of 5.38. Needless to say, he would more often than not get booed by the Flushing faithful.

     Rafael stunk up Port St. Lucie this past March and since he was out of options the Mets would have had to have released him because a trade seemed unlikely since the odds of another MLB team being interested in his services were slim. He was diagnosed with a muscle tear in his right elbow last week and will be paid for the entire season as well as getting a year of service credited to him for his Major League Baseball pension.            

     Fans heading to Citi Field this season will notice some changes around the ballpark.

     A new premium seating area over both the home and visiting outfield bullpens will be called the Citi Pavilions.

     New Balance, which is increasing its marketing budget in the hopes of getting a bigger market share in the athletic apparel industry where it faces such as behemoth competitors as Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, and Reebok, has signed a deal with the Mets where their apparel will be sold at various concessions around Citi Field.

     Citi Field has earned a high reputation among food connoisseurs for offering top-notch cuisine. The Mets are not resting on their laurels as they are welcoming new food purveyors as Lil’ Sweet Chick whose chicken sandwiches remind me of those served by Chick-fil-A; Chomp Donut Co. who encourages patrons to put syrupy dips on their mini donuts; Do, which makes cookie dough confections; and the self-explanatory Dan & John’s Wings.

     Two returning Citi Field favorites, Two Boots and Pat LaFrieda, have teamed up for a beef sausage pizza. Pat LaFrieda will also be selling dried steak pieces (a nicer way of saying jerky) in pouches at concession stands this season. The Porsche Grill, located in left field, will be introducing a new dish, smoked pork ribs that are served with a watermelon and feta cheese salad.  

    The poor man’s Final Four, the National Invitational Tournament, gets underway Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

      Although nearly everyone watched last Sunday’s “60 Minutes” )which is now in its 50th season on CBS) for Anderson Cooper’s interview with Stormy Daniels, the segment that Steve Kroft conducted on Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo was also quite compelling. They revisited the impoverished Athens neighborhood where Giannis, now known affectionately as “The Greek Freak,”grew up. Knicks fans had to be good sports however as Kroft showcased a game where Antetokounmpo made both a highlight reel dunk and the game-winning shot against their team at a game played earlier this season at Madison Square Garden.

     Since the New England Patriots play their home games in Gillette Stadium, it wasn’t surprising that Gillette asked a pair of Patriots players with ties to New York, safeties Devin and Jason McCourty who grew up in Rockland County, to take part in a media event to spotlight the company’s latest shaving products. The McCourty brothers are veterans of corporate endorsements as they also represent Cheribundi Cherry Juice and always appear at their booth at the annual Fancy Food Show held at the Javits Center.

    I asked Devin McCourty about his head coach, Bill Belichick’s controversial decision to bench All-Pro cornerback and past Super Bowl hero, Malcolm Butler, for the entire game of this past Super Bowl. I humorously asked him if Belichick had caught Butler using a Schick disposable razor, Devin gave a hearty laugh and replied, “You know that I can’t comment on that!”

    Cable’s WE television network has just brought back “Hustle & Soul” for its second season. The show looks at the behind-the scenes drama at The Pink Tea Cup Restaurant whose chef and owner is the charismatic Lawrence Page. It mines the same terrain as Bravo’s “Vanderpump Rules” which examines life at “Sur,” a popular West Hollywood dining establishment.  

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