What’s Up With the Mets?

The Mets started this season on a strong point, and for a moment were the top team on the NL East.  However, such dominance didn’t last long; although it’s still very early on in the season, they’re already below .500, and while they could make it to the wild card later on in the season, they’ll have trouble taking the NL East title from the Nationals.  But it’s not entirely bleak for the Mets; while this season is shaping up to be a tough one for the team, it’s not over yet.  I recently read an interesting article arguing that the Mets are setting the groundwork for a big win in the near future.

The Mets have still got some pretty talented players in their roster; they might have lost Colon to the Braves in a bittersweet loss, but Jay Bruce has been stepping up to the plate in a big way, in many instances hitting home-runs that have saved the game.  Alderson and Collins seem to be making decisions similar to a few years ago when they were rebuilding the team.  Some spots on the Mets roster could spell trouble, for example Asdrubal Cabrera.  For the second straight season, he’s forced to play the infield’s most difficult position while fighting through all sorts of injuries.  This happened last year as well, and it didn’t end great.  Flores and Duda are both out, meaning that Collins needs to rely on Reyes, Bruce and Rivera.  Sometimes this goes well – Jay Bruce has been doing very well this season – but not always.  

While this is a perfectly acceptable approach when expectations are low, it’s not sustainable if the Mets want to be the last team standing.  According to a quick survey on baseball insiders, the Mets are the only baseball team that consistently plays shorthanded.  That’s perfectly fine if you don’t expect to break .500, but it doesn’t look good if the Mets want to get as far as they did in 2015, or even last year.  For the Mets to make it to postseason, Collins and Alderson need to play a lot more aggressively.  Such players as Rosario, Cabrera, Reyes and Conforto, if used properly, could help propel them to postseason as opposed to making fans wait years for any hope of making it to postseason.   

Eating All the Way to Citi Field

eating all the way to citi field by ari kellenI love Queens a whole lot, but most people in Manhattan and Brooklyn don’t visit much, apart from going to see the Mets.  Most people just view the 7 line, which runs through the heart of Queens, as little more than a long ride up to Citi Field.  Yet there’s so much more off this above-ground line than meets the eye.  Next time you’re on your way to “meet the Mets”, here are some great places to grab a bite or a drink right off various stops on the 7 line:

Irish pub woodside (Woodside 61st St): Once upon a time, New York was scattered with Irish ethnic enclaves, most of which have faded away as their residents moved out.  One of the few neighborhoods that still has a sizable Irish population is Woodside, Queens.  Although the Irish community isn’t as large as it once was, the pubs in Woodside still offer a level of authenticity that’s now lacking in most of Hell’s Kitchen.  If you don’t want to spend $12 for a Bud Light at Citi Field, then visit Donovan’s or Sean Og’s, both of which serve better beer for half the price.

Papa’s Kitchen (Woodside 61st St): In addition to being an Irish neighborhood, Woodside is home to a large Filipino community.  My favorite joint to visit is Papa’s Kitchen, a tiny spot (I don’t know how they fit in there) serving delicious, authentic Filipino.  Since so much Filipino food is deep-fried, it’s the perfect food to soak up that beer you had at Sean Og’s.  On evenings, they do karaoke, making Papa’s Kitchen an experience that goes beyond food.   

Tibetan food (Roosevelt Ave/Jackson Heights): Jackson Heights is the center of New York’s small but tight-knit Tibetan community.  Here, various hole-in-the-wall restaurants serve up top-notch noodles and momo (a type of dumpling) at ridiculously low prices.  Two places that really stand out are Phayul and Lhasa Fast Food.  Both of these are pretty hard to find; the former is up some stairs marked by a nondescript sign, and the latter is literally in the back of a cell phone shop.  But they’re well worth a visit, and will fill you up for less than what you’ll pay for a hot dog and fries at Citi Field.  

Tortas Neza (Junction Blvd): Owner Galdino Molinero, also known as “Tortas”, is an avid soccer fan who has turned his cash-only food truck into a love letter to the fútbol of his native Mexico.  While his loyalties lie with the Pumas, his 18 different overstuffed sandwiches are each named after a different Mexican soccer team.  Even if Tortas Neza is geared towards soccer, that’s in no way to discredit these sandwiches as a good prep for a baseball game.    

Rincon Criollo (Junction Blvd): After the Cuban Revolution closed down their popular Havana restaurant, the Acosta family brought their home-style cooking to Queens, opening Rincon Criollo in 1976.  Ever since, the restaurant has earned a well-deserved reputation for good old-fashioned, home-style Cuban cooking, and was even featured on Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives”.  The portions here are generous, prices reasonable, and the taste beats even Citi Field’s sausage & pepper sandwiches.  

Flushing Chinatown (Flushing Main St): It’s well-known that Flushing is home to New York’s largest and most authentic Chinatown, though most New Yorkers seldom visit; it’s even further than Citi Field, and once you get there, there are so many places, and it’s such a large neighborhood, that it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed.  Yet for your post-game dinner, there are some places that are well worth a visit: the food stalls of the Golden Shopping Mall, hot oil wontons from White Bear, fall-apart tender Muslim lamb chops from Fu Run and the flavorful traditional Sichuan of Spicy & Tasty.  All of these serve truly delicious, stand out food at low prices, offering an authentic experience you can’t get anywhere else in New York.  

Mixed Feelings About Colon

Mixed Feelings About Colon by Ari KellenThere were some mixed feelings for Mets fans tonight as Bartolo Colon made his first Citi Field appearance of the season.  Because this time, baseball’s lovable everyman wasn’t playing for the Mets, but rather for their fabled rivals of the NL East, the Braves.  And maybe it got to the Mets’ heads: over the course of a 12-inning game last night, the Mets were only able to get one run and five hits.  Although the Mets won their first game of the season on Monday, such playing isn’t going to get it done.  

For six innings, deGrom was doing well, yet Robles let some hits go that allowed the Braves to tie the score and bring the game into overtime.  When he went out to the mound, Colon was met with cheers from both his former teammates and their fans.  Yet after Colon spelled doom to the Mets, those fuzzy feelings may go away soon.  As Bruce pointed out, you’re almost guaranteed to get a fastball from Colon, which puts players on the defense.  By hitting Colon’s “mistakes”, few and far-between as they are, Bruce was able to score the only run for the Mets of the game.  

The Mets’ frustrations after various blown chances came to a head in overtime.  Rafael Montero, the seventh of eight Mets pitchers, wiggled out of a first-and-third, one-out jam in the 11th with a double-play grounder from Garcia.  Yet his magic died out in the 12th after Matt Kemp was able to get a two-run shot that propelled the score to 3-1 in favor of the Braves.  This might be discouraging, but it’s also only two games into baseball season.  Anything can happen, and I’m excited to see what this entails.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to head up to Citi Field soon!  

Mets Players To Watch

mets players to watch by ari kellenBaseball season is coming up!  I don’t know about you, but I’m getting excited to meet the Mets of 2017!  After various players went down for the count last season, and the Mets blew their chance to make it into the playoffs, fans are watching with anticipation.  Spring Training isn’t always an accurate indicator as to a team or player’s performance, but nonetheless, some names have been standing out.  Here are eight different players to watch this season:

Michael Conforto: Conforto got off to a hot start this season, hitting well above .300 with more at-bats than any other player.  He’s been playing well, but at the same time it’s unclear as to where you can put him.

Fernando Salas: The Mets are getting excited about Salas, who is typically the first out of the bullpen.  Yet he’ll be playing an even bigger role as this season starts, setting up for Addison Reed.  Nonetheless, he hasn’t pitched much this spring and needs to shake off those cobwebs.

Brandon Nimmo: While Nimmo showed promise at the World Baseball Classic, a hamstring injury has prevented him from playing in Grapefruit League games since his return.  

Josh Smoker: This left-handed pitcher has had a good spring, which makes him particularly attractive to Terry Collins.  

Matt Harvey: Harvey had a bad 2016, and although his Grapefruit League has started out well, he’s still having trouble getting through the order.  His surgery typically requires about 10 months to fully recover, and that’s still a few months away.  

Ben Rowen: After being signed early on in the off-season and showing some promise during Spring Training, Rowen’s unorthodox style is tough for hitters to combat, yet whether or not he can continue to command his pitches remains to be seen.  

Zack Wheeler: Wheeler is expected to start the season off, yet it isn’t clear what will happen if he out-pitches Harvey.  His innings limit keeps changing, and so the idea of having him work out of the bullpen has been floated.  

Lucas Duda: After back spasms got in his way during the Grapefruit League, Duda is back into action, and looks ready to deliver.  He’s hit .296 with five runs scored, five doubles and two homers, so things are looking good.
If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!

Trading Lagares

trading lagares by ari kellenEven as Mets fans are still grieving over the loss of Bartolo Colon to the Braves, the Mets are receiving trade interest for outfielder Juan Lagares.  They could use his $4.5 million salary to address their bullpen, although they already did that be resigning both Fernando Salas and Jerry Blevins.  Yet they still might choose to trade Lagares.  I recently read a blog post that discussed the pros and cons of this move.  Here’s what they have to say:

Pros

 

  • There are too many outfielders making too much money: Since the Mets weren’t able to trade Jay Bruce, their outfield, made up of him, Lagares, Granderson, Cespedes and Conforto has got a combined salary of more than $55 million.  While most of these outfielders will see plenty of games, Lagares is mostly limited to a late-inning defensive replacement.  So $4.2 million for a player with 15 at-bats a week and is mostly being used for his glove doesn’t make much financial sense.
  • He’s not a “prospect” any more: Lagares is going on 28, and isn’t nearly as fit has he used to be.  After he sprained his thumb, he wasn’t able to play as regularly last season.  At some point, there isn’t going to be any more improvement.  
  • He’s got value: While the Mets aren’t in a dire need of center fielders, they’re still valuable.  Lagares is signed through 2019 for $20.5 million, and is under team control through 2020 with a $9.5 million option.  

Cons

 

  • He’s the only actual center-fielder on their roster: As Granderson plays center fielder regularly for the first time in years, the Mets will need to replace him for defense in later innings.  
  • They need him for 2017 and beyond: Even though he’s mostly just a glove man, the Mets need help to balance out their young pitching and unmemorable offense.  

 

  • It’s against the Mets philosophy: General manager Sandy Alderson doesn’t want to give away players simply because they’re seen as valuable.  Since the Mets didn’t want to give away Bruce simply to get him off the team, it’s unlikely they’ll do that with Lagares.

No Tebow This Spring

No Tebow this spring by ari kellenWhen Tim Tebow signed on with the Mets for a minor league contract late last year, it was hard to understand.  Was it a whimper from a football has-been to regain relevance?  Were the Mets trying to generate publicity?  Either way, here’s how it went: Mets fans spent a day laughing about it on Facebook, then apart from the occasional amused head-shake everybody stopped caring.  

While many have questioned Tebow’s decision to move from being a football has-been to a baseball nobody, he’s defended his decision, saying that it was something he wanted to do, since it would be a fun challenge.  But he went on to play for a minor league Mets team, and it wasn’t terribly bad, but it wasn’t great.  With spring training coming up soon, people were wondering if Tebow would receive an invite, even if they knew deep down in their heart that it wasn’t going to happen.  He didn’t.  Instead, he’ll be starting in the minor league camp, as was expected.  Nonetheless, this is probably a disappointment to Terry Collins, who has said before that he wanted to see Tebow at spring training.  

Although Tebow didn’t get an invitation, the Mets did invite RHP Chase Bradford, catcher Xorge Carrillo, LHP PJ Conlon, infielder Phillip Evans, infielder Luis Guilllorme, RHP Kevin McGowan, LHP David Roseboom, RHP Paul Sewald, infielder Dominic Smith, outfielder Champ Stuart, outfielder Travis Taijeron, RHP Corey Taylor and RHP Logan Taylor.  

If you’d like to learn more, you can click here!

More Food Trucks!

More food trucks by Ari KellenIn recent years, the food truck has taken New York City by storm.  In a city where space is a premium, food trucks are mobile and convenient, allowing New Yorkers to enjoy their goods just about anywhere.  And lucky for food vendors, New York City Council has been trying to make life easier for them and facilitate their growth.  Over half a dozen members of the City Council have introduced the Street Vending Modernization Act legislation, which would double the number of food vendor permits over the next seven years.  For those who fantasize about a halal truck on every corner, their dream may soon become a reality.  

The last time the number of food vendor permits was set was in the 80s.  Since then, there’s been a cap of 4,235 permits available at one time.  These permits, leased to an individual, are a precious resource, leading to an exploitative shadow economy that oppresses New Yorkers in a cycle of extortion.  Of course, the nature of street vendors in the city of New York has changed drastically since the 80s.  Food vendors at that time were restricted to the standard hot dog, candied nut and halal stands that have always been synonymous with New York.  But nowadays, while New Yorkers still love their halal trucks, a new breed of food truck, serving more “high-end” food, has become popular as well.  Food trucks in New York have slowly but surely evolved, going from the classic hot dogs and gyros to everything from grilled cheese to lobster rolls.  

Under the new legislation, 600 more licensed vendors would be roaming the streets each year for the next seven years.  Out of the 4,200 permits, preference would be given to those 2,500 who were already on the city’s waiting list for permits.  35 of them would be allotted to veterans and people with disabilities.  The cost of a two-year permit would go from $200 to $1,000, but that’s also a lot cheaper than the $25,000 it costs on the black market.  This legislation is helping to address the restrictions imposed on food vendors that result in thousands of dollars in fines and make running this business even more difficult.  

The State of the Mets

The State of the Mets by Ari KellenFor New Yorkers, it’s that time of the year once again when the Mets have their annual Food Drive.  The donations are being collected for the anti-poverty organization The River Fund New York.  Mets fans who drop off 10 or more nonperishable items before the team’s matchup with the Washington Nationals from July 7th through 9th will get a pair of tickets to another Citi Field game.  Donations can be dropped off from 5pm to 7:30pm all three days, and can include canned fruit and vegetables, peanut butter and cereal.  No homemade foods, dented cans or opened packages will be accepted.  

This upcoming series against the Nationals is going to be an important one for the Mets.  Even though the Mets’ rivalry with the Braves and Phillies is better-known, in recent seasons that has become eclipsed by a bitter rivalry with the Nats.  However, the Mets and Nats are currently the two highest-ranking teams in NL East.  The two teams have already squared off several times already this season, and while the Nats have won most of those games, that’s not to say the Mets can’t make a comeback.  The Mets have been doing well this season, but if they can’t start winning more games, they won’t make it to the playoffs.  

While the Mets aren’t likely to become NL East champions this season, there is a very good chance that they could make the wild card.  They’re currently competing against the Dodgers for the wild card, and the Dodgers are currently ahead by several wins (48-39 instead of 46-38).  The Dodgers have been winning most of their games, so that means the Mets need to start winning more games if they want to take the wild card from them.

While the Mets don’t traditionally have a rivalry with the Dodgers, they’re personally my least favorite team in baseball.  As a New Yorker, I’ve never liked Los Angeles, and the Dodgers, formerly the Brooklyn Dodgers, represent the worst kind of Los Angelite: the ex-New Yorker.  So the Mets beating the Dodgers is particularly important, and that can’t happen unless the Mets start winning more games.  And that can start with the Nationals.

Having an Epic Night Out

Having an epic night out by Ari KellenNew York is notorious for its nightlife; since it was known as “New Amsterdam”, the city has had a disproportionate number of drinking establishments.  The “epic night out in the city” is something that has been captivating New Yorkers and visitors to the city since Manhattan Island was first settled.  You can go out any time you’d like, but a large chunk of the city’s party crowd doesn’t even hit the clubs until after 1 am.  All of that can wear you down physically, emotionally and financially, especially if you overdo it.  But if you know what you’re doing, then you’ll be okay.  Here are some tips, based off an article I found online:

Save your money: Having cash on your hand should be a no-brainer.  Don’t be a freeloader; you won’t have an epic night out, and if your budget is too tight to down at least a few rounds then you should probably spend the night on your aunt’s Netflix account instead.  

Dress properly: Be smart about your footwear; hobbling around in uncomfortable shoes isn’t going to be fun, especially since nights out in New York tend to involve plenty of walking.  

Keep your plans flexible: It’s a good idea to have a set meet-up point, but keep the night’s schedule flexible.  The spontaneity is one of the best parts of partying in New York.  You could end up hopping around the East Village, maybe stay at one dive in the Upper East Side, the options are endless.

Take your time: New Yorkers have a reputation for being high-strung, but loosen up if you’re doing a night out on the town.  Sit back, relax, have fun and save your stress for the Monday morning commute.  

Talk to strangers: This isn’t always a good idea, but nights out on the town can be a great way to meet people.  You can meet interesting people everywhere, from bars to sidewalks.  Use your gut instinct, and you can be pleasantly surprised by who you meet.

Know your limits: New York is about excess, but being sloppy drunk at the end of a night isn’t something to necessarily be proud of, and isn’t the best way to ride a subway home at 4 in the morning.  If you know you’re going to be out late, pace yourself and drink plenty of water.  

Don’t have any expectations: The point of experiencing a great night out in New York is to be completely relaxed without feeling pressured to have a good time, which will be tough if you keep thinking “this has to be a fun night”.  There isn’t any shortage of adventure and excitement in New York, so let it come to you, and you’ll be sure to have a fun time.  

Cost-Effective Ways To Escape NYC

Cost-Effective Ways to escape NYC by Ari KellenNew York may be the greatest city in the world, but sometimes it can be too much, and even the most dedicated New Yorker could do for a weekend upstate or out-of-state.  And lucky for you, getting out of the city is a lot easier than you’d expect.  I recently came across an article that shares five easy and totally affordable ways to escape the city, listed below:

House sitting: If you’re interested in travel but don’t want to pay for Airbnb, house sitting is a way you can score a free place to stay.  You still have to do some work, but the goods outweigh the bads here.  Since it’s on a case-by-case basis, you’ll be working directly with a homeowner to determine the terms of your arrangement.  If you don’t know anybody to house sit for, you can try “Trusted Housesitters” and “House Sitters America”.

Hop a train: Thanks to the transit systems, it’s easy to get from Grand Central or Penn Station to New Jersey, Long Island, Connecticut or upstate.  There are amazing museums, wineries, plenty of land to hike and explore and much more!

Drive somebody else’s car: If you’d like some extra cash or want to travel for work, then think about signing up for a vehicle transport or driveaway service.  Most companies just require that you have a driver’s license and a clean driving record.  It isn’t something you can do often if you already have a full-time job, but it’s great if you just need to get out of the city.

Become a seasonable au pair: This is a great way to find a long-term and long-distance escape from the city.  The application and placement processes are timely, but getting to explore a foreign country with a host family is a unique and unbeatable experience.  You’ll need a valid passport and possibly a visa if you want to go overseas, and it requires a lot of preparation, but it’s a great cost-effective adventure.

Event-based volunteering: If you’d love to attend an event but can’t afford it, then you can try volunteering at the event instead!  Most volunteer opportunities ask you to cover one shift and in exchange get to attend the rest of the event free.