Five ways to "fix" the Mets

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As you surely know by now, Craig likes to needle the Mets. The problem
is that it’s become entirely too easy to pile on them at this point
(Junk bonds? Not enough money to sign Rod Barajas?
Really?) and therefore, no longer much fun. With that in mind, Craig
asked me, the resident Mets fan on HardballTalk, to come up with some
solutions to “fix” the franchise. See, my orange and blue brethren,
he’s not completely evil.

I’m going to stop short of saying Fred Wilpon should sell the team
or that the Mets should sign this guy or trade for that guy, because as
we get ever closer to Spring Training, the looming reality is that this
is the team that will take the field. Instead, I’m going to focus on
some practical solutions to put the organization back on the path
towards “respectability.” Here goes…


1) Decide on a public face: This is essential. No more
picking and choosing John Ricco for this or Omar Minaya for that. It
only perpetuates the perception (and reveals the likely reality) that
the front office is completely fractured and paints Minaya as an
increasingly marginalized and powerless figurehead. If the Wilpons truly
feel that Ricco can be a trusted leader in the front office, they need
to swallow their pride and let Minaya walk. There’s plenty of internal
lieutenants (former Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky, for example) to
help Ricco along the way, if needed. If the Wilpons can make annual
payments to Bobby Bonilla through 2035, they can fork over the
remainder of Minaya’s contract. This current charade is unsustainable.

2) Learn how to keep certain things in-house: Allowing
private disputes to become public doesn’t benefit anyone, especially
when the New York tabloids function as the team’s backdrop. You’d think
the Mets would have learned their lesson after the Tony Bernazard-Adam
Rubin debacle, but they recently decided to target Carlos Beltran and
Scott Boras, hoping that they would come out of it looking like the
victim. They were wrong. A recent poll on MetsBlog tells us that the
fans still have an overwhelmingly positive view
(88%) of Beltran, and weeks later I’m still trying to figure out
exactly what they were trying to accomplish by airing their grievances
in such a public manner. Medical disputes between player and team are
nothing new, but they are usually kept under wraps for the sake of all
involved. Where other teams show restraint or have some degree of
subtlety, the Mets are completely reactive and petty. A fresh and
reasoned P.R. approach is necessary.

3) A complete and thorough review/overhaul of medical protocol:
This should be obvious and I hope it is already underway, but the
recent dispute regarding Beltran’s knee surgery is just the latest
example of miscommunication and ineptitude in this area. The treatment
of Jose Reyes’ injury was similarly botched and misrepresented by the
team publicly, adding unnecessary drama to the situation.
I don’t doubt that the Mets have some of the industry’s best doctors —
they work with the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York — but I’m
sensing that they are being hamstrung (pardon the pun) by the
indecisiveness of the front office. The process of how injuries are
handled must be addressed and/or modified for clarity. Former reliever
J.J. Putz recently alleged that the Mets asked him not to talk about
his injury with the media, so while that may or may not be true, they
can’t stop players from talking to each other. If the organization’s
current reputation persists, I fear it will continue to keep many
impact free agents away from Queens.

4) Invest in the draft: When I ask Mets fans for their No. 1
criticism of how the team operates, this is often the first thing they
mention. While small-market teams like the Pirates have invested
heavily in the draft in recent seasons, the Mets have routinely refused
to surpass the slot recommendations passed along by the commissioner’s
office, resulting in a lack of quality depth throughout the minor
league system. As recently as last season, the Mets spent less in the draft than any other major league team, failing to sign a pair of promising young pitchers
in the process. Getting on the Mets for declining to pony up on a
mediocre catcher like Barajas is one thing, but this is a troubling
blueprint for success. If they weren’t active internationally, it would
be crippling.

5) Bridge the disconnect between fans and the front office: There was recently an unnamed member of the front office who expressed disappointment
that the Mets failed in their efforts to land catcher Bengie Molina in
free agency. Meanwhile, anybody with a pulse and an internet connection
would know that the fans were overwhelmingly opposed to such a signing.
I’m not advising the front office to listen to the fans on every major
acquisition, but we’re witnessing a franchise that is completely out of
key with the tenor of their fanbase. They’ve made an effort this winter
to address concerns about the team’s lack of identity in the new
stadium, something that should be applauded, but as I said when the
announcement was made, we shouldn’t give them too much credit for
something that should have been implemented from day one. These are just a couple of examples, but rightly or wrongly, it seems like the Mets are always playing “catch up.”

You’ll notice that I said little of the team on the field or manager Jerry Manuel and that
is because I believe winning will cure all or most of the ills
mentioned above. I don’t claim to be a prognosticator, and as such, I’m only armed
with optimism for the season ahead. I firmly believe that these players
have been kicked around and bloodied so much over the course of the past nine months
that they just might be the most underrated team in the National League
right now. Of course, be sure to remind me of this statement if they finish in fourth place
again.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).