Saturday, August 30, 2008

Al Reyes May Turn Into Key to The Season

The Mets had one of their most dramatic wins of the season yesterday thanks to a Carlos Beltran grandslam homerun in the ninth inning. Thanks to Luis Ayala, the Mets almost had their most crushing defeat of the season in a season filled with crushing defeats.

Jerry Manuel looked enormously stressed out in his postgame press conference and the monkeys found themselves with a few extra gray hairs after Jorge Cantu nearly had a walkoff homer. Later we learned that Luis Ayala was pitching with a bad hamstring or bad quad. We're not sure which since Ayala mentioned the injury and pointed to a different part of his body. With Heilman unavailable and having used Brian Stokes and Joe Smith already, Manuel didn't have many options other than to stay with Ayala. Interestingly, he didn't even mention Duaner Sanchez as an option meaning either Sanchez is nursing an injury or he has completely lost Manuel's confidence.

Meanwhile down in Binghamton, Al Reyes was closing out a save. Not his cleanest effort, but no runs allowed. Reyes has pitched 4 scoreless innings in AA since the Mets acquired him. Last year he saved 26 out of 30 chances. Being on Tampa last year, he is used to be surrounded by bullpen misfits so he should feel entirely at home with the Mets. Take away his April 2nd outing where he pitched 2/3 of an inning allowing 4 runs and his ERA in the majors this year is 2.86. If Billy Wagner cannot come back, there is a decent chance Al Reyes could be the Mets October closer if they can finish this out.

Al Reyes is also 38 and was released by a team bound for October so there are no guarantees. He could turn out to be Billy Taylor, but the Mets didn't give up Izzy to get him so no shame in trying him out. And of course what makes him best of all, he's not Heilman, Feliciano, Smith, Sanchez or Schoenweiss. And the monkeys and Mets fans are ready to embrace anyone who is not them.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Full From Crow

The monkeys were way ahead of the curve on Mike Pelfrey's turnaround pointing out that his career trajectory was very similar to others with a hard sinker in a May post.

In a May column "Disappointment In Santana For The Birds, Not the Monkeys," the monkeys chastised those fans that were complaining about Santana's performance pointing out his start was consistent to all of his successful seasons.

In a June post, the monkeys told fans to be patient with Ollie Perez as he was still the pitcher with the most God-given ability on the staff other than Johan Santana.

So, the monkeys could be eating some banana splits to celebrate our great ability to predict the future if it wasn't for one thing.... we're too full from eating crow that Carlos Delgado has made us eat.

While we were far from the only bloggers to give up on Mr. Delgado, the monkeys were particularly brutal on Carlos. We blamed him for the team attitude when he said "The Met were so good they got bored." We wrote that 20 homers, 80 RBI, .250 would be the most we could expect from him and then we could just say goodbye and good riddance. And yes, at one point we advocated designating Delgado for assignment and calling up Mike Carp.

And now here is the reality ...Carlos Delgado is a hot month away from being NL MVP. His teammates David Wright and Jose Reyes are in the race. Chase Utley can still win the award if the Phillies overtake the Mets. Ryan Braun and Albert Pujols deserve some consideration.

Delgado has turned into a team leader walking to the mound to offer advice or calm down a pitcher a la Keith Hernandez. He has had many clutch homeruns that have keyed the Mets metamorphosis that occurred since Willie Randolph was fired. His presence in the cleanup spot has given David Wright better pitches to hit. And he is climbing quickly on the league's homer and RBI leaders list.

The monkeys were so wrong on this we had to eat both Heckle and Jeckle.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Eight Would Have Been Enough

The Mets suffered a very tough loss last night. It was very unusual in many senses. Rarely do the monkeys watch a tense 7-0 game, but we were never comfortable with Pedro pitching in Citizen Bank Park and knew the poison pen was still looming. At a Yardbarker event, the monkeys mentioned this game was not yet ready to be put in the books.

Even as the momentum was turning in the Phillies favor, some good signs still indicated this could be the Mets night. The much maligned Aaron Heilman gave a gutty effort throwing 3 scoreless innings. Carlos Delgado saved a game with his defense! But it was not to be.

Although the monkeys have been mostly satisfied with Jerry Manuel's in-game managing, especially compared to his predecessor, we thought he missed the boat on one particular move. Brian Stokes looked very sharp last night. With a bullpen full of guys who are a crapshoot nightly, why not ride the hot hand as long as possible? Send Stokes out another inning there. Let him finish the game if he pitches a clean eighth.

The monkeys flipped over to the Yankees and saw Arod hit into a crippling double play that may have essentially ended the Yankees' season. The Mets own third baseman, David Wright, also hit into a crushing double play when the Mets had a chance to add what are always needed insurance runs late in the game. And they only needed one run. Eight would have been enough. And the now the Phillie fans get to enjoy this song instead of the monkeys.

Monday, August 25, 2008

State Of Maine Puts Mets In Flux

John Maine can pitch on the monkeys team anytime. When the Mets needed a big victory against the Cardinals in the 2006 NLCS, Maine came through with a huge effort. With everything crumbling around him the last weekend of 2007, Maine pitched a near no-hitter to keep the Mets hopes alive. He displays an aw shucks attitude reminiscent of Matt Saracen on "Friday Night Lights." He is a gamer in every sense of the word. So when he says he still feels a little pain when he throws, you know it hurts like hell.

For 2 starts, Maine was able to pitch effectively though not deep into games with a limited arsenal. Last Saturday's effort was a little more than alarming. The Mets are considering shutting him down which is probably the best idea although with Pelfrey's innings total piling up, the timing is a bit off to do that. Many fans are clamoring for Jon Niese, but need to realize he is in the same territory as Pelfrey in terms of increasing innings totals. The Mets should be shutting down Niese at this point not bringing him up to the majors.

For those talking heads on tv or radio call in shows who say the pitchers should suck it up, I suggest referring back to SI's Tom Verducci's past columns regarding pitchers with the most innings increases from year to year. He does a story on this every offseason and his predictions as to which pitchers will be injured or have off years are far more accurate than his predictions for division winners. This is serious stuff.

So with the Mets needing to be careful with their young pitchers, they are in a bit of a quandary. If it is indeed true that Maine cannot make his arm worse, it might be worth it to try him one more start and see what happens before giving his spot over to a guy like Nelson Figueroa. Brian Stokes can make a spot start or two, but you really don't him to be a fixture the rest of the way. Hard to believe, but Claudio Vargas' injury in AAA is looming large.

We all expected the bullpen to be a nervous issue, but having to worry about the starters is a new unfortunate wrinkle.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chemistry Is A Delicate Science

The Mets have won 9 out of 10 and except for the inconsistent bullpen and some mild worries about John Maine's shoulder, all is well in Metsland. The lineup has been gelling and the lack of energy that surrounded the Mets early in the year hardly even seems like the same season anymore.

Now the Mets are close to welcoming back two players who were regulars early in the year. Ryan Church was easily the Mets MVP through their first 50 games making monkeys out of the monkeys who complained about the Lastings Milledge trade. He also provided a toughness that was particularly needed after last year's collapse. However, there is no guarantee that the Mets will be getting back the same Ryan Church. And the guy he's replacing, Fernando Tatis, has been arguably the best clutch hitter during the Mets resurgence. Now things could work out and Church could pick up where he left off after shaking off some rust and the extra rest could keep Tatis fresh for the home stretch. Just no guarantees.

Luis Castillo is a different story. Although he did get on base at a reasonable clip (.361), his lack of range and reluctance to dive for balls really hurt the Mets in the field. Damion Easley doesn't provide great range either, but he's a pro's pro who has gotten a lot of key hits for the Mets the past few seasons. Argenis Reyes is a much better defensive player than either of them and has hit pretty well although without much power. The Mets left Luis Castillo in the minors for the maximum period of time that they could. They let him take a week to handle a personal issue encouraging him to take as long as he needs. If the flight from Binghamton to NY had been overbooked, Omar Minaya probably would have encouraged Castillo to take the $300 voucher and catch the later flight. Now they want to watch him workout (a little piece of them perhaps hoping his hip or knees act up under the strain) before activating him. Again, Argenis Reyes is probably hitting a little better than his ability and Easley is heading into 2006 Jose Valentin territory of too many AB's for a 35 + player so maybe Castillo can be of some value after all. Still, chemistry is a delicate science. And the Mets are hoping to get into Advanced Placement .. namely October baseball.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Throw It At The Wall And See What Sticks

Last night the Mets got bad news regarding Billy Wagner. Best case scenario has him coming back in 3 weeks while worst case has him having a major injury that could affect his status at the start of 2009. Mets fans are in a panic about missing a guy they were ready to crucify just a few short weeks ago. Absence indeed makes the heart grow fonder.

So, the Mets will continue to seek answers for the pen anywhere they can. Give us your tired, your injured and underachievers.

Was once good but now having trouble coming back from TJ surgery? Welcome Luis Ayala.

Was good last year, but off the field baggage and nagging injuries got you down? We'll take you Al Reyes.

Struggling in your rehab but still throwing hard after TJ surgery? Ambi Burgos, come on down.

Couldn't beat out Pedro Feliciano and Scott Schoenweiss this spring and had to play in the Mexican League? Hola, Ricardo Rincon. Let's talk.

Olympic Hero? It would be UnAmerican not to consider calling you up in September, Brandon Knight.

Expect the return of Eddie Kunz and Carlos Muniz on Sept 1st as well. Some of these guys are going to need top contribute if the Mets are to win the East.


Flying under the radar with all the Daniel Murphy love, the monkeys haven't missed that Nick Evans is smashing lefties and holding his own in the surprisingly effective platoon.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bullpen Will Make the Mets Sweat It Out To The Finish

The Mets just finished their road trip against two of the NL's weakest teams and went 6-1 so it's hard not to be positive. The starting rotation which the monkeys said was going to vault the Mets into first place has been dominant with John Maine's nagging shoulder injury the only slight concern. The lineup has been hitting consistently despite today's effort. Still, the bullpen remains the thing that most fans fear will keep the Mets out of October.

It seems like the Mets can get a few good efforts in a row from someone in the pen and then a bad one ruins any feeling of confidence you get. Duaner Sanchez got two huge outs against the Nats on Thursday then gave up a homer to the Pirates over the weekend and imploded this afternoon. Joe Smith had a couple of strong outings before struggling in his recent few. Aaron Heilman gets two saves, implodes, gets another save and who's not expecting him to implode again in at least one of his next three outings?

Fans are latching on to any glimmer of hope they can. Brian Stokes tosses 4 scoreless innings in a mop up role and fans dream he can be the 8th inning setup man we have lacked. Eddie Kunz comes from AA and fans think he can be our new closer. Ambi Burgos strikes out four in his rehab in the Gulf Coast League and fans feel he can save us in September. Maybe Luis Ayala can revert back to his 2006 form if they change his arm angle. These miracle remedies are probably not going to happen. Even if the Pen has a hot 30 -35 games (and they've had some very good 20 game stretches), too much has happened this season for fans not to be worried every step of the way. The Mets are going to make us sweat it out and they are either going to just get in despite their bullpen woes or the bullpen will cost them the playoffs.


The monkeys spent the weekend in Washington DC and visited the new ballpark when the Mets played there this past Thursday. It's a beautiful park with a lot of fun bars and some good food (get a burger at Five Guys). A Build-A-Bear stand is good for the kids. The monkeys loved the running of the presidents where Teddy Roosevelt takes the lead before always losing the race at the end for some reason bringing to mind the old Wacky Races cartoons where Dastardly and Muttley would always lose at the end.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Concession Speech in the Bronx Amuses Monkeys

The monkeys spend most of their time focused on the Mets, but we were amused to read Hank Steinbrenner's comments today. For those monkeys and humans that skip the articles on our floundering neighbors, below are some highlights:

"No team I've ever seen in baseball has been decimated like this. It would kill any team."

"Imagine the Red Sox without (Josh) Beckett and (Jon) Lester. Pitching is 70 percent of the game. Wang won 19 games two straight years. Chamberlain became the most dominating pitcher in baseball. You can't lose two guys like that."

For all the heat the Mets took in the preseason about their age, only three of their projected regulars began the season over the age of 31. In contrast, seven of the Yankees projected regulars began the season over the age of 31. Yet strangely, you rarely read about how age might affect the Yankees chances. It is far more surprising that an over 35 year old catcher hadn't broken down yet than it is that he finally did. Injuries to older players like Hideki Matsui are expected to happen. Yes, he was an ironman compared to Moises Alou, but not compared to players under 30. The reason Joba dropped so far in the draft was because of past arm issues and the feeling that he might have future issues so that was a risk the Yankees knew they were taking. Yes, it was unlucky that Chien Ming Wang got hurt running the basses as it was unlucky that Ryan Church had two concussions with the Mets, but most of the Yankees injuries should not come as surprises. In fact, the young Rays losing their top two offensive players at the final stretch of the season have a better argument that they have been unlucky.

The Joba comment is even more ridiculous. The monkeys would love it if he was on the Mets, but he only made it 7 innings one time. Mentioning Joba in the same breath as Roy Halladay who routinely completes games is ridiculous. Joba is getting there, but simply doesn't belong in a conversation that includes the aforementioned Halladay, Josh Beckett, Brandon Webb and our own unlucky Johan Santana.

Time to get back to worrying about our bullpen issues, but Hank does make a funny opening act, no?

Monday, August 11, 2008

What is it about Kunz that they don't like?

The Mets bullpen today blew a Mets lead in the 8th inning or beyond for the 9th time this season. Fans who were ready to burn Billy Wagner at the stake and now wistfully awaiting his triumphant return. The monkeys are checking out Gulf Coast League box scores seeing how Ambi Burgos is doing in his rehab appearances. At least, Burgos gets some strikeouts once in a while. Feliciano, Smith, Heilman and Schoenweiss combined to blow a 5-1 lead against a team that just traded away 2 of its 3 top offensive players in the last two weeks.

And it got the monkeys wondering "What is it about Kunz that Jerry Manuel and Dan Warthen don't like?" In his first appearance, he appeared a bit nervous and threw a ball away, but recovered to get a ground ball double play which had been his specialty in the minors. In his second appearance, he gave up his first homer in three years, but no other hits. In his third appearance, he came in with the bases full, threw a wild pitch before walking a batter. However, he did regain his composure and whiffed the next hitter. So while he may have looked nervous at times, he has shown some resiliency. Have the other members of the bullpen showed that?

The monkeys are not saying Kunz is going to be Mariano or K-Rod or even Billy Wagner. However, Kunz does have closing experience and whether that came in AA or the majors, closing is still something he has been groomed to do. Why not throw him out there a couple of games in a row? Because an overworked Heilman has been such a sure thing? Because Schoenweiss has been lights out? Because Pedro Feliciano puts fear into major league hitters? Because Joe Smith has a "funky" delivery? Really, who is a better current option?

This was another terrible loss for the Mets in a season filled with them. It is only because the starting pitching has excelled that the Mets find themselves in a Pennant Race. The bullpen cannot keep letting them down. Let's try Mr. Kunz for a couple of days since the other options are driving us and everyone else bananas.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Boy Has Skills

David Wright crushed a big two run homer last night. Carlos Delgado continued his power resurgence by adding another homer. And yet neither was the at bat that stood out to the monkeys.

Young Daniel Murphy batting for the first time in the majors against a lefty came back from a 1-2 count to work out a walk. Murphy continues to make pitchers work against him. He hits to all fields. He has made the best first impression of any Mets callup since David Wright.

The Yankees and Red Sox in recent years have had offenses that worked the count and ran up pitch counts of the opposing starting pitchers. The Mets have been less successful in doing that in recent years. Besides David Wright, the only guy in the last two years who consistently worked counts was the since departed Ruben Gotay who obviously didn't have the potential upside of Daniel Murphy.

The Mets have really gotten some energy from the minors this year. Even the older Fernando Tatis subtly helped turn the culture around by being the first player to really bust it to first 4 times a game. While some fans screamed the Mets needed to pick up a veteran outfielder, the Mets have so far been able to keep above water with in-house options.

Now the monkeys do not expect Murphy to keep up this torrid pace. And his defensive reputation means there could be a play down the road that costs the Mets in a key spot. Still, he is a very welcome addition and one who could be a big part of the Mets future.


The monkeys were initially baffled by the Brian Stokes choice for today, but now actually buy the explanation. There is no point in adding Niese to the roster for one start and having to protect him on the 40 man roster. And with Vargas injured, Stokes is a reasonable choice. He has had some very good starts and some very bad starts at AAA. Honestly, there is no way to guess which Stokes shows up today.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Team, The Time

The Mets bullpen has been in shambles as dictated in the monkeys' last post. Since then, Billy Wagner has been officially put on the DL. There is no better time to play the San Diego Padres.

The Padres are hitting .236, last in the NL. Only the woeful Nationals have scored fewer runs. Even as they beat the Mets four straight, 3 of those games were won 2-1. Only Adrian Gonzalez should be feared in their lineup and the Mets should make sure he doesn't beat them. In theory, the Padres should be a tonic for the Mets bullpen as it looks to get back on track.

It would be nice to see the Mets really go after the Padres who really embarrassed them with their sweep and put Randolph firmly on the hot seat where he eventually did burn. A sweep would put them back 8 games over .500 and back on track.


Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder apologized Tuesday for pushing a teammate in the dugout during a loss, saying he should have done a better job of handling frustration due in part to the Brewers' losing streak. Fielder exchanged words and twice shoved Manny Parra after the pitcher was removed for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning of a 6-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night. Still any kind of disturbance in Milwaukee is good for the Mets since the Brewers are currently the wild card favorite. The monkeys will watch very carefully to see how this affects the Brew Crew.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Deja Vu Feeling Disturbing

The overworked bullpen keeps blowing games. Billy Wagner is having health issues. Players are getting thrown out stealing third with two outs. Is this disturbingly sounding like 2007?

Of course, one thing that has been different is that Jose Reyes has been sparking the offense routinely getting multiple hit games. The offense only recently has reverted back to not getting clutch hits. That can easily turn back around.

The bullpen though could be a continuing problem. Eddie Kunz looked nervous entering today making a poor throw to first base that sailed over the head of Delgado although he did regain his composure and get a double play to get out of the inning. The monkeys have requested the Mets call up Kunz for a couple of weeks and he is going to need to perform. Still, Heilman is being asked to do too much and he hasn't been able to do it. Duaner Sanchez is showing the effects of the innings piling up after not pitching for a year and a half. Joe Smith has slumped of late. Pedro Feliciano is not having the year he had last year. Another reinforcement would help though Kunz seems like it from the minors unless Ambi Burgoss has an accelerated recovery which seems unliklely or Bobby Parnell is converted to the bullpen. Omar will be and should be scouring the waiver wire for bullpen help.

The Phillies have some of their own issues as Cole Hamels seems to be hitting a wall making the ancient Jamie Moyer their most reliable starting pitcher. The Marlins pitching and defense is still below par. One of these flawed teams will win the division. The Mets need to get some answers for the bullpen if they are to be the one.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Day After Deadline Day

The monkeys had hoped the Mets would be able to add a relief pitcher. They thought an outfielder might also be nice. Still, the monkeys would have hated it if the Mets had overpaid to acquire anything less than top talent. Watching throughout the day, the Monkeys were appalled to hear that the Mariners were asking for two out of Fmart, Niese and Kunz for Raul Ibanez. Minaya was correct to say the Mets cannot trade multiple prospects for rent a players.

Sometimes timing makes someone untouchable. Jon Niese looks like a nice pitcher, but not a #1 or a #2 and in most cases, the Mets can afford to give up a guy who only projects as a #3 or a #4. In fact the Mets have 3 pitchers in the lower minors that potentially project as top of the rotation starters that may have brighter futures than Niese. However with Oliver Perez and Pedro Martinez both free agents next year, the Mets had to be very careful trading their only realistic minor league option for next year's rotation.

The one player who it looked like Omar kicked the tires on that excited the monkeys was JJ Putz. Putz is having a down year because of injuries, but maybe a change of leagues would help helped him. What's more, he is a great bounce back candidate for 2009. Too bad the Mets missed out on this one.

The monkeys were shocked that the Red Sox traded Manny away. Couldn't they have dealt with a motivated Manny who knew they were declining his option and thus had to play for a contract? Minaya said that the Mets didn't have a ready to start outfielder to offer the Sox neglecting to mention that the Dodgers didn't give one up to get Manny. Couldn't the Mets have matched the Dodgers offer and offered prospects to the Pirates?

Reading the Boston papers, the local reporters weren't as miffed as we were. Manny's teammates really wanted him gone. How would Mets fans feel if Manny sat out a game against the Phillies with a questionable injury? How about if he was laughing as the Mets lost a key game in September when they were in first place and looked like they were starting to again fall apart at the end? How would he influence the easily impressionable Jose Reyes? The monkeys understand if there was some hesitation among the Mets hierarchy.

Deals could still be made in August and the Mets could acquire someone who passed through waivers. Both Jon Niese and Dan Murphy were promoted to AAA this week. Eddie Kunz is still pitching lights out in AA. Fans are much more likely to be okay with the Mets lack of a trade if some of these guys help down the stretch. Time to give some a shot particularly Eddie Kunz. The final third of the season is upon us.