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.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.