Sandy Alderson Citi Field

Revisiting “Five ways to ‘fix’ the Mets”


It was a little less than a year ago when I wrote a piece for HardballTalk entitled “Five ways to ‘fix’ the Mets.”

For those who have forgotten, here were my recommendations at the time:

  • Decide on a public face
  • Learn how to keep certain things in-house
  • A complete and thorough review/overhaul of medical protocol
  • Invest in the draft
  • Bridge the disconnect between the front office and the fans

Ah, memories. Of course, the Mets endured yet another disappointing season in 2010, finishing at 79-83 and in fourth place in the National League East. In what was a foregone conclusion for months, Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel were relieved of their duties immediately following the season.

The organization has underwent a massive overhaul over the past three months, bringing on former Athletics general manager and Padres president Sandy Alderson as the new general manager. In turn, Alderson hired two of his former lieutenants, Paul DePodesta and J.P. Ricciardi, to work in the revamped front office. Many fans rallied around Wally Backman for manager, but the job eventually went to Terry Collins, who served as the organization’s minor league field coordinator in 2010.

The holidays have predictably brought the Hot Stove to a halt, so I thought now would be a fun time to apply my original list of recommendations to the new front office and see what progress, if any, has been made.

1) Decide on a public face: As I mentioned in February, there were times when John Ricco would address the media on certain issues rather than Omar Minaya. Granted, this isn’t out of the ordinary in other organizations, but in New York, it only fed into the perception that Minaya had evolved into a powerless figurehead. We can’t say that about Alderson so far.

The hiring of Alderson has quickly drawn comparisons to Frank Cashen from the early 80s. He wowed the room during his introductory press conference, quickly silencing those who wondered if he was “too old” for the job. I’m perfectly willing to put up with corny videos like this if it means he’ll continue to call out opposing general managers for doling out bad contracts. He’s already the anti-Minaya.

2) Learn to keep certain things in-house: This is the real wild card for me, for a couple of reasons. Alderson is the general manager of a baseball team in New York, so he is going to have to deal with some unwanted and possibly overblown controversy along the way. Perhaps nothing as crazy as Francisco Rodriguez’s arrest, as bizarre as Carlos Beltran’s knee surgery, or something self-inflicted like the Adam Rubin press conference debacle, but some sort of drama is inevitable.

Also, while Alderson served in a different capacity in San Diego, Trevor Hoffman called the organization “dysfunctional.” It’s very possible that some of this was heat of the moment-type stuff from a franchise icon on the way out, but it serves as a reminder that Alderson can’t control the players. That being said, I am confident that Alderson will be able to handle a difficult situation in a more professional manner than his predecessor. I know, I’m setting the bar pretty high here.

3) A complete and thorough review/overhaul of medical protocol: Again, too early to tell. During an appearance with Mike Francesa on WFAN earlier this month, Alderson said (via MetsBlog) that he has yet to “draw any conclusion” or “put his finger” on why the Mets have suffered so many injuries over the past two seasons, but that he is working with team doctors to understand what has taken place. He also announced that the team would be hiring a new strength and conditioning coach to replace Rick Slate, who will not be retained for 2011.

4) Invest in the draft: The Mets have rarely exceeded the slot recommendations in the draft, but during a recent conference call with influential Mets bloggers, Alderson said (courtesy of Amazin’ Avenue) that he believes the club “will be over-slot,” “maybe more than ocassionally.” Alderson has repeatedly said that a large-market team like the Mets should never be in the middle of the park as far as player development is concerned, so we should expect them to throw their weight around a little bit moving forward. And finally, while he isn’t the only person to blame, the club dismissed amateur scouting director Rudy Terrasas last month, hinting towards a change in drafting philosophy.

5) Bridge the disconnect between the fans and the front office: While it’s too soon to tell with most of the items on this list, the Mets have made the most progress in this area. For example, they invited prominent Mets bloggers (including Caryn Rose of MetsGrrl) on a conference call with executive VP for business operations Dave Howard in November in order to talk about ticket prices. And as I mentioned earlier, Alderson recently spoke with a panel of influential Mets bloggers in order to talk about a wide range of topics. It’s not clear what their motivations are (some wonder if they are hoping for some softer coverage as a result of increased access), but the important part is that the front office is paying attention.

The Mets aren’t “fixed” as we sit here today. The contracts to Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, and to a lesser extent, Carlos Beltran, have restricted the ability of Alderson to be active in free agency this winter. Thus, expectations are low for the 2011 season. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Phillies are the overwhelming favorites in the National League East, so adding one big piece in free agency just for the short-term boost in season ticket sales would be the wrong and cynical strategy. Call it the silver lining of the Cliff Lee signing, but most Mets fans are beginning to recognize that this just isn’t a quick fix situation.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Maybe Alcides Escobar shouldn’t bat leadoff

Alcides Escobar
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Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.

Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.

Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.

It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.

Astros top Royals in Game 1 of ALDS

Houston Astros' Jose Altuve, left, celebrates with teammate Luis Valbuena after scoring a run during the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.

The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.

Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.

The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.

Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.

Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.

George Springer homers to extend Astros’ lead over Royals

Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a run in the first inning in Game 1 of baseball's American League Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Kansas City. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.

According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.

The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.