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.

Report: Blue Jays weighing extension for Marco Estrada

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The Blue Jays aren’t ready to say goodbye to Marco Estrada just yet, according to a report by FanRag’s Robert Murray. Murray hears that the club is interested in re-signing the right-hander, whose two-year, $26 million contract is set to expire with the end of the 2017 season. According to unnamed sources within the organization, the team has yet to discuss the specifics of an extension, but both sides have stated interest in working out a deal. While the veteran righty appeared to be on his way out after getting claimed on revocable waivers earlier this month, the Blue Jays were either unable or unwilling to arrange a trade in the 48-hour window following the claim.

Estrada, 33, has been a mainstay of the Blue Jays’ rotation since 2015. He hasn’t looked quite himself this season, however, going 5-8 in 25 starts with the club and toting a 5.09 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 9.2 SO/9 through 139 2/3 innings. His slump can be partially attributed to a string of rough starts in June and July; more recently, he snapped a streak of three consecutive quality starts with a 10-hit, six-run affair against the Rays. He’ll look to rebound on Sunday when he takes the hill against the Cubs for the team’s series finale.

Command issues aside, there’s no question that Estrada has been productive during his three-year run with the club, earning his first career All-Star nomination in 2016 and posting a cumulative 6.7 fWAR from 2015 through 2017. He still has a bit of work to do to return to the 3.48-ERA, 165-strikeout totals of yesteryear, but barring another slump, seems likely to don a Blue Jays uniform again in 2018.

And That Happened: Saturday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the rest of Saturday’s scores and highlights:

Cubs 4, Blue Jays 3: The Blue Jays didn’t look any more comfortable at Wrigley Field on Saturday than they had during Friday’s series opener, dropping their second straight game after Anthony Rizzo sealed the go-ahead run on an RBI single in the seventh inning. The Cubs, meanwhile, reveled in Jose Quintana’s second quality start of the month and delighted the crowd with a two-RBI effort from Ian Happ and footage of David Ross jumping out of a plane — a stunt that would have doubled in entertainment value had Ross successfully convinced manager Joe Maddon to join in the fun.

Pirates 6, Cardinals 4: Neither the Pirates nor the Cardinals had relievers to spare when a one-hour, 56-minute rain delay disrupted their contest in the second inning. Chad Kuhl and Michael Wacha were forced to return to the mound after the downpour subsided, both to very different results. Wacha struggled to regain command of the strike zone, slipping on two home runs and a productive double play as the Pirates built a five-run lead in the second. Kuhl, on the other hand, limited the Cardinals to one run over five innings, setting down six strikeouts and clubbing a second-inning double en route to his sixth win of the season.

Dodgers 3, Tigers 0: Curtis Granderson made his Dodgers debut on Saturday, scoring on Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI single in the seventh inning to put the club on the board. The win, capped by a smart Yasmani Grandal home run in the ninth, marked the Dodgers’ sixth straight victory and placed them in the history books alongside the 2004 Rays and 2006 Red Sox with 13 consecutive Interleague wins in a single season.

Mariners 7, Rays 6: Mitch Haniger is back from the disabled list, a point he emphasized in the third inning of Seattle’s win with his first career grand slam:

The Rays returned with three solo shots in the last third of the game, but fell just short of the tying run after Edwin Diaz shut down the top of the order in the ninth. With the win, the Mariners positioned themselves half a game back of a wild card spot, though they’ll need to edge the Angels and Twins to avoid any potential tie-breakers.

Angels 5, Orioles 1: Albert Pujols didn’t get any closer to tying Jim Thome’s home run record on Saturday, but that didn’t stop teammate Mike Trout from entering the history books. Trout clubbed two home runs in the Angels’ first win of the weekend, becoming the third Major League player with six consecutive 25+ homer campaigns before his age-26 season. Luis Valbuena, while a good 511 home runs shy of Pujols’ career record and 94 home runs and six years too late to match Trout’s milestone, also collected two home runs to back a solid effort from JC Ramirez.

Twins 5, Diamondbacks 0: The Diamondbacks were toppled in a rare shutout on Saturday, taking their second consecutive loss after an even rarer implosion from ace right-hander Zack Greinke. Greinke expended 96 pitches and a season-high four walks in four innings, while Minnesota trounced the D-backs with a five-run spread in the fourth. The righty’s early exit will put a strain on Arizona’s bullpen during their series finale as the club tries to stop their skid and retake their one-game lead over the Rockies in the NL wild card race.

Reds 11, Braves 8: It looked like Robert Stephenson‘s luck may have finally taken a turn for the better. The rookie right-hander grabbed hold of his first win of the year on Saturday, backing the team’s 11-run outburst with five innings of two-run, three-strikeout ball. Cincinnati’s bullpen was far from flawless, especially after Blake Wood surrendered four runs in the ninth, but Scooter Gennett‘s go-ahead grand slam in the top of the inning gave the Reds enough of a cushion to pull off the series win.

Mets 8, Marlins 1: Marcell Ozuna wore several hats during Saturday’s loss to the Mets, from sole run producer to professional outfield field balloon patrol.

Despite his best efforts, the Marlins couldn’t rally against Rafael Montero, who helped snap a five-game losing streak after scattering one run and five strikeouts over six innings.

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3: Newly-returned from the disabled list, CC Sabathia stifled the rival Red Sox through six innings while Todd Frazier belted the winning run with a 363-footer in the sixth. The Sox still sit four games up in the NL East, however, and commemorated the loss with a solo shot by 20-year-old Rafael Devers, who bounced a home run off the Green Monster for the third homer he’s collected in as many games against the Yankees. For the record, no Major League player under the age of 21 has managed the feat since Babe Ruth in 1915.

Astros 3, Athletics 0: Astros’ third baseman Alex Bregman learned an invaluable lesson during the club’s 3-0 shutout on Saturday: If you’re thinking of running on Boog Powell, don’t.

Indians 5, Royals 0: Trevor Bauer may not understand why he dominated during the Indians’ shutout on Saturday, but that didn’t make him any less grateful for the win. “It’s backward,” Bauer was quoted by MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “I wasn’t sharp. I didn’t punch people out. I had a lot of balls hit hard. And no runs. So I don’t know. I’ll take it.” Bauer flummoxed the Royals through 6 1/3 innings, granting seven hits and two free passes while the Indians put up a modest five-run backing against Jason Vargas.

Rangers 17, White Sox 7: The Rangers hit season highs in almost every category on Saturday, dismantling Derek Holland and the rest of the White Sox with a whopping 17 runs, 20 hits and 36 bases. Home runs from Rougned Odor, Mike Napoli and Shin-Soo Choo crowned their efforts as the White Sox took their sixth loss in seven games and dropped to a disappointing 21.5 games back of the division lead.

Brewers 6, Rockies 3: Jesus Aguilar hasn’t been pencilled into the starting lineup since August 16, but that didn’t stop the rookie pinch-hitter from making his presence felt. He cranked a two-RBI home run off of Greg Holland in the ninth, giving the Brewers an edge as they tried to stay ahead of the Diamondbacks for the first wild card spot in the National League. Key defensive moves also played a role in the win, not the least of which was a rare 2-6-2 double play to nab Neil Walker at the plate and close out the first inning:

Padres 3, Nationals 1: Yangervis Solarte played spoiler to Stephen Strasburg on Saturday, taking the right-hander deep on a 1-2 pitch in the first inning for his 13th home run of the season. It was the fatal flaw in an otherwise pristine outing, during which Strasburg distributed four hits, two runs and eight strikeouts in six innings. That’s not too shabby for a pitcher coming off the disabled list with elbow issues, and certainly enough to put the Nats’ minds at ease as they push into the postseason. The Padres still have a 12-game gap to close if they want to contend this October, which will require them to scoot past the Pirates, Marlins, Cardinals, Brewers and Diamondbacks for a wild card spot.

Phillies 12, Giants 9: Denard Span didn’t come to mess around. The Giants’ centerfielder squared up the first pitch he saw from the Phillies’ Jared Eickhoff, postmarking it to the right field corner in the first inning. He needed just 15.79 seconds to touch home plate again, logging his first inside-the-park home run since he legged one out in Little League.

The Giants’ offense mustered up an additional eight runs behind Span’s initial effort, but had no way of preventing Ty Blach and Josh Osich from returning all nine runs and then some. The Phillies’ win, powered by a seven-run explosion in the sixth inning and Ty Kelly‘s go-ahead grand slam, was their second in 10 games and snapped a six-game skid.