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.

Study: West teams at a disadvantage due to jet lag

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - JULY 14:  A Delta airlines plane is seen as it comes in for a landing at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on July 14, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Delta Air Lines Inc. reported that their second quarter earnings rose a better-than-expected 4.1%, and also announced that they decided to reduce its United States to Britian capacity on its winter schedule because of foreign currency issues and the economic uncertainty from Brexit.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Every year, when the schedules are released, we often hear about the teams that have it worst. Almost always, those teams are West teams. According to MLB.com, teams in the West division of their respective leagues had the top eight most travel-heavy schedules in 2016. The full list:

Team League Division Miles
Mariners AL West 47,704
Angels AL West 44,945
Athletics AL West 42,119
Rangers AL West 41,128
Dodgers NL West 40,294
Giants NL West 39,341
Astros AL West 38,553
Padres NL West 37,363
Rays AL East 36,916
Red Sox AL East 36,896
D-Backs NL West 35,312
Yankees AL East 35,252
Marlins NL East 35,226
Rockies NL West 33,287
Blue Jays AL East 32,895
Orioles AL East 32,322
Braves NL East 29,236
Royals AL Central 29,077
Twins AL Central 28,948
Phillies NL East 28,351
Mets NL East 26,832
White Sox AL Central 26,538
Cardinals NL Central 26,451
Pirates NL Central 26,134
Brewers NL Central 25,620
Tigers AL Central 25,450
Indians AL Central 25,176
Reds NL Central 25,108
Nationals NL East 24,664
Cubs NL Central 24,271

The averages by division:

  • AL East: 34,856 miles
  • AL Central: 25,176
  • AL West: 42,890
  • NL East: 28,862
  • NL Central: 25,517
  • NL West: 37,119

The maps aren’t up for 2017 yet, but rest assured that West teams will once again have it worst. It’s easy to see why, taking a look at the map on MLB.com. If you draw a line to split Texas in half and go straight up through North Dakota, there are only eight teams to the left of that line, leaving the other 23 condensed on the right side. When West teams aren’t playing intra-division games, they are traveling. That’s often not the case for East and Central teams. The Phillies and Pirates, for example, don’t even have to leave the state to play each other.

As Gizmodo points out, a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found a link between jet lag and performance. Sleep scientist Ravi Allada of Northwestern University analyzed 4,919 games, finding that teams that traveled East performed worse than those that traveled West. Allada and his colleagues adjusted for home field advantage and park effects.

Specifically, teams that traveled from the West to the East lost more often than East teams traveling West. They gave up more runs and scored less runs. They hit for a lower batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. They gave up more home runs, accounting for most of the decline in run prevention.

There was a peculiar finding. Allada found that jet lagged home teams performed worse than jet lagged visiting teams. He hypothesizes that “teams may be more cognizant of their schedules when traveling away, thus mitigating jet lag effects,” he told Gizmodo.

The Braves ask Cobb County for $14 million more

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The Braves’ new ballpark in Cobb County Georgia is the gift that keeps on taking.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves have asked Cobb County for $14 million for roads, walkways and other pedestrian improvements around the stadium the team has already paid for but which it says the county is responsible. The county says it’s not responsible for them and that it has already paid nearly $70 million for transportation improvements around the ballpark, including on privately-owned property in the mixed-use development.

The reason this isn’t settled: at the time the deal between the county and the team was struck, there was a provision for the county to pay for $14 million for certain improvements. The Braves, this past September, told the county that it wants to be reimbursed for these projects under that provision and that the $70 million the county has already spent shouldn’t count. For reasons, I guess. It’s a bit complicated, but the AJC story lays it out pretty well. The upshot seems to be “why didn’t the Braves say they wanted the county to pay for these things long ago?”

The answer to that question, I suspect, is “because the Braves have been treated as entitled corporate welfare recipients since this deal was announced and they have learned that they can get away with almost anything.”