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Howard Johnson: Mission Impossible

Interior - Clubhouse - Day. We see a man, about 6' tall and wearing a baseball uniform, open a locker and find an iPod shuffle inside. Curious, he pops the earbuds in and presses play. Voice-over follows:

Greetings, Agent Howard Johnson: Your mission, should you choose to accept it - oh wait, you already did, SUCKER! Listen HoJo, we need your help. You're going to earn your hitting-coach salary. We like what you've done so far - the team is drawing more walks, running up the counts, it's all good. You know we love that whole Moneyball OBP thing. Well done.

But there's one guy who needs some extra attention. In fact, we gave you the promotion specifically because we thought you two would be on the same wavelength. Like you, he's a power-speed switch-hitter, an almost-MVP, a guy whose numbers put him in the spotlight he doesn't really want. You two even have the same build, although he's never had your Morgan Spurlock moustache. You know who I'm talking about here.

Carlos Beltran.

You might look at his numbers and say, "Well his batting average is down, but his OPS is right in line with his career rate; he's not having the monster year he did in '06, but that was really a fluke." You could say that, HoJo, but then you'd never get hired to write the caustic headlines for Newsday that keep us up at night. We want him back in MVP mode by yesterday!

The guy's hitting .215 since May. Pitchers have developed a book on him: Throw him a meatball down Broadway for a called strike one; make him swing over a curve in the dirt for strike two; then throw him an eye-high heater and watch him flail. It's sad. We think even Jorge Julio could get him out at this point.

The first thing we need is for you to get Carlos ready for that get-me-over meatball. You're the king there - you had a .617 slugging percentage when you swung at the first pitch, and that was back when slugging .617 was a big deal. You knew how to turn tiger at the flip of a switch; you had nine homers as a pinch hitter in 120 at-bats. Tell us you can give him this knack like a virus, and we'll double your year-end bonus. That's right, two copies of the "Left Behind" box set.

There's something else you can help him with. We think he might still be down in the dumps about watching the last pitch of the 2006 NLCS go by. Don't ask us why! Just because we should've kicked the Cards to the curb in five games, doesn't mean there's any shame in getting fooled by a curve that everyone could see coming. Nothing wrong with making the last out. No reason to agonize about what might have been. Nah.

And then we remembered the last time the Mets choked hard in the postseason and got beat by a lesser team. Does 1988 ring a bell? The Dodgers of Orel Hershiser and not much else? You got your first-ever postseason hit in that series... going 1-for-18. And yes, you watched strike three disappear into the mitt of Mike Scioscia to end the fiasco. But you came back like a monster the next year, racking up an OPS+ of 169 - something even A-Rod's never done. Tell Beltran how to put last year behind him and there's an extra case of moustache wax in it for you.

One more thing, Howard: Do not, repeat, do NOT offer Agent Beltran any advice on defense. That's not what you're here for. This iPod will self-destruct in five seconds.

The camera pulls back and we see the stunned reaction of the listener.

BELTRAN: "Who the hell's HoJo and why is his stuff in my locker?"