Mets fans have become all too accustomed to seeing their beloved franchise get decimated by injuries, but 2021 has been a doozy even by pessimistic Flushing standards. Pitchers who undergo surgery especially seem to have trouble returning in a timely manner to Citi Field.
That certainly seems to be the case with Noah Syndergaard, who underwent Tommy John surgery in late March 2020. The conventional wisdom was he would be back in the Mets starting rotation sometime this month, and worst-case scenario, just after the All-Star break.
Syndergaard has been rehabilitating his right arm at the Mets’ Port St. Lucie, Fla., base. Last Tuesday he pitched one inning for their minor league team there and had to be removed because of elbow discomfort. The next day, medical imaging revealed his right elbow was inflamed, although happily, there was no ligament damage. Syndergaard will not be allowed to throw for another six weeks, which means under the most ideal of circumstances he won’t be returning to Flushing until early August. That timetable seems overly optimistic.
Syndergaard has not exactly been the most durable of pitchers. It’s fair to wonder if the “Thor” moniker, which the media and fans bestowed on him, has gone to his head. He has been a passionate devotee of weightlifting, which he sees as an asset for throwing with high velocity. Many have speculated his obsessions with developing muscle tissue and throwing heat are the reasons he is a frequent habitue on what used to be called the disabled list.
Syndergaard is 29 and scheduled to be a free agent after next season. While he has had dominating performances, he was basically a .500 pitcher with a pedestrian earned run average over 4.00 in 2019, his last complete season. My advice to Mets owner Steve Cohen is not to rush a decision on a long-term contract.
Three cheers to the New York Knicks for announcing they would only sell tickets to patrons who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 if they were to make it past the Atlanta Hawks in the playoffs. Every pro sports team should adopt this philosophy, since vaccines are so available now that states and municipalities are offering incentives to attract holdouts.
A surprising number of athletes remain hesitant about getting the vaccine. I have yet to hear a concrete reason for their resistance aside from a mumbling about “personal choice.” Perhaps some players see not getting vaccinated as a way of keeping reporters out of their sacred locker room. Their agents should warn them, in no uncertain terms, team owners may be reluctant to employ them when their contracts expire.
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Last Sunday, Newsday Mets beat writer Tim Healey reported that 16 Major League Baseball teams had reached the 85 percent personnel vaccination threshold. This means 85 percent of all personnel who travel on the road for the clubs have the maximum protection against Covid-19. Those teams are now free to dine wherever they want to on the road and do not have to wear masks in the dugout. Healey reported the Mets are not one of those teams that have done what they needed to do, which is disgraceful.
The Yankees, however, are one of those teams that have reached the magic 85 percent mark. Anti-vaxxers have had a field day pointing out that eight members of the Yankees organization, including shortstop Gleyber Torres, tested positive in May for the coronavirus even after getting their shots. Fortunately, most of them were completely asymptomatic. It’s safe to say things would have been a lot worse for those who tested positive had they not received their vaccinations. Torres is back in the starting lineup.
Cameron Maybin snapped his 0-for-27 streak at the plate since joining the Mets when he hit a lucky infield dribbler down the third base line Saturday night against the Atlanta Braves to end that dubious milestone. A clever Mets fan posted on a social media site that Maybin had passed Jed Lowrie on the all-time Mets hit list. Lowrie was signed to a two-year, $20 million contract in late 2018 by then Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, who was his former agent. Lowrie was limited to seven plate appearances in those two seasons and failed to get a hit. It’s one of many reasons Mets owner Steve Cohen fired Van Wagenen less than 90 minutes after he officially acquired the team from the Wilpon family.
The Mets got a break when their Sunday night game with the Atlanta Braves was postponed because of rain. It gave them more time to get to Phoenix, where they were scheduled to play the Arizona Diamondbacks the next day.
Whitestone native and Bayside High School alum Mike Tirico did his usual terrific job anchoring Sunday’s Indy 500 on NBC. The race was won by charismatic 46-year-old Brazilian Helio Castroneves, whose megawatt smile made him a favorite on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” which he won in Season 5 and was a contestant on Season 15.
“Tom Brady won a Super Bowl, Phil [Mickelson] won the PGA … the old guys still got it, kicking the young guys’ butts, teaching them a lesson,” Castroneves said following his fourth victory at “The Brickyard.”
Life and style
The entertainment world lost a great singer when B.J. Thomas succumbed to lung cancer this past Saturday at the age of 78. Thomas was known for hits such as “I Just Can’t Help Believing,” “Hooked on a Feeling,” “Mighty Clouds of Joy” and “The Eyes of a New York Woman.” He was a terrific interpreter of songs written by Forest Hills High School alum Burt Bacharach, as evidenced by “Long Ago Tomorrow,” “Everybody’s Out of Town,” and, most famous of all, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.”
My favorite B.J. Thomas recording is an obscure tune, “I Don’t Know Any Better,” which was written by legendary Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell. It turns out Thomas was a big baseball fan and crossed paths with Harwell, who pitched him the song at a ballpark.
If everything goes “According to Hoyle” when it comes to defeating Covid-19, Broadway shows will return on Sept. 14. CBS will celebrate the return of live theater with a “Broadway’s Back!” special on Sunday, Sept. 26.
Barring any Covid-19 setbacks either here or in the United Kingdom, Queens’ hometown airline, JetBlue, will begin transatlantic service for the first time in its 21-year history, as it will debut a daily flight between JFK and London’s Heathrow Airport on Aug. 11. New York Jets fans who want to see their team play the Atlanta Falcons in London on Oct. 10 will have a new option. The Falcons are owned by Flushing High School alum Arthur Blank.