Monday, September 29, 2008

Heartbreak Once More

The monkeys attended the Shea Finale yesterday. As the Cubs took a 1-0 lead into the sixth inning, the monkeys were getting ready for a celebration. Carlos Beltran who was really strong down the stretch hit a game tying homerun and things looked pretty good there for a bit. After Nick Evans threw to the wrong base, Jerry Manuel made what looked for a bit like the move of the year bringing in Endy Chavez who promptly made what could have turned into a game saving catch.

Then a little bit after 4, it all fell apart. Scott Schoeneweis let up a go ahead homerun. Luis Ayala followed by allowing one of his own. And in Milwaukee, Ryan Braun hit a 2 run homerun. In the history of professional sports, how many times has the season determined by which team had the better Jew?

Carlos Delgado and Ryan Church each gave noble efforts to save the season exciting the home crowd, but neither shot was good enough. Some fans are blaming Jose Reyes' last week or David Wright for not getting enough clutch hits. Here's what the monkeys say: Don't!

37 doubles 19 triples 16 homers 68 RBI for Reyes is good enough.

42 doubles 33 homers 124 RBI for Wright is good enough.

Listening to idiots like Mike Francessa talk about trading these two burns us up. It's not about the stars. It's about the supporting cast and the bullpen.

If the games ended after 6 innings, the Mets would have by 11.5 games. If the games ended after 8 innings, the Mets would have won by 6.5 games. Pretty strong case that the bullpen is the thing that cost the Mets the playoffs.

The Mets need tougher supporting players not better superstars. For 24 fans, they need more Tony Almedias than Milo Pressmans.

In the next few days, we'll go over who should stay and who should go. For now, Shea Goodbye.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Heroic Effort Keeps Mets Alive

The most clutch regular season start in the history of the Mets. The start that may get him the CY Young despite a bullpen that has sabatoged his efforts to win the award all year. A potentially franchise changing start. None of this is hyperbole.

Johan Santana pitched a complete game shutout on 3 days rest for a team that desperately needed a hero to take them on his back. The Mets fans who have endured tough losses all year including the worst one of all this past Wednesday were dying for a hero. And despite declaring himself running for office at the eleventh hour, Ramon Martinez just wouldn't look quite right as our candidate. No the title fits Johan Santana as well as it fits Batman, Spiderman, James Bond or Superman.

Santana has been called upon so often to "save the season," the monkeys would have understood if this last task was just too much for one man. He beat the Phillies to help avoid the big sweep. He beat the Cubs on Tuesday to stop a three game slide. Honestly, it was like the monkeys were at a sedar saying If he beat the Phillies and didn't save our ass on Tuesday, Dayenu. If he had saved our ass on Tuesday and not pitched a shutout on Saturday, Dayenu. Only it wwouldn't have been sufficient. The Mets have needed Santana every time.

And here's the thing that really endears Santana to monkeys and Mets fans. If he had lost today, you know damn well he would have been devastated. Hear that, Glavine? That's what a hero does and says.

Friday, September 26, 2008

"The Slide" May Have Changed Meaning

The monkeys have written that it is slightly unfair to compare the end of the year struggles of the 2008 Mets to that of the 2007 Mets. After all the 2007 version had a 7 game lead with 17 to go and the 2008 team came from 7.5 games behind to take a never truly secure lead of 3.5 games before coughing it up. Nevertheless as Jerry Manuel is fond of saying "This is who we are." And knowing that, it is hard to completely criticize the desciption of recent events as a "slide."

After yesterday's game, the Mets pray that they have changed the meaning of "the slide." After trailing by 3 runs and looking at a grim suituation, the Mets received clutch hits from unlikely heroes Ramon Martinez and Robinson Cancel. It appeared that Ryan Church was a dead duck ay home plate, but Church stopped his momentum, changed direction, pulled his body away from the catcher, sneaked around him and dove in to home plate, passing by the catcher’s mitt. He actually had to dive back one more time because he probably missed the plate the first time.

Carlos Beltran got the big hit in the ninth that was lacking the night before, but if the Mets do indeed make it to October, we'll all be talking about "the slide" for years to come. And if the Mets to are able change the connotation of that word after all that has happened, it would mean the world to this franchise.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tatis Injury is Having a Major Impact

The monkeys attended Shea Stadium last night for what may prove to be the final time. Upon leaving, we turned to each other and said "They can't burn this place down fast enough." The game was pure torture.

Now all started well and good. Carlos Delgado hit a huge grand slam homerun and the familiar chants of "MVP! MVP!" filled Shea Stadium. Shea Jones' father provided the home crowd some energy as news of his big homerun hit the scoreboard. After Santana's start the day before and a day like today, disaster had been averted. But things were about to take an ugly turn.

Oliver Perez, who has been the best big game pitcher this side of Johan Santana, had control issues and a high pitch count heading into the fifth. It caught up to him as he allowed two runs and then left two runners on for the poison pen to try and clean up. We all know how that story ends and the game was tied.

After Brian Stokes allowed the lead run, the Mets tried to roar back in the bottom of the seventh. For a while it appeared that Ramon Martinez (Yes, he is on the team) was going to get the biggest hit of the year as he led off with a double. The Mets had first and third and could not score. The following inning the same situation presented itself and the Mets were able to tie (due to a generous walk) before hitting into an unlucky double play.

Then came the ninth where after a leadoff triple, everyone at Shea stood ready to erupt knowing that the Mets had dodged the bullet. That 2007 was not happening again. But the eruption never came. David Wright struck out. The Cubs wisely walked Carlos y Carlos. Ryan Church grounded into a fielder's choice and Ramon Castro struck out.

Church who had been the MVP of the team before his concussion has been killing the Mets hitting .203 in September. But really, what choice does Manuel have other than to hope he regains his form. His other viable option was Tatis who is out with a separated shoulder. The same Tatis who was hitting .392 with runners in scoring position. Hmm, do you think they can use a guy like that?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What's Pascucci Doing Now?

With Fernando Tatis out for the season and Damion Easley questionable to return, the Mets can use another right-handed bat off the bench for their final nine games. Val Pascucci who has been a favorite in the blogging community has been passed over time after time, but there is no reason not to add him to the team now.

Pascucci hit 27 homers with 81 RBI. His OBP was a robust .410 and his OPS was .963 for the AAA Zephyrs. A spot just opened up on the 40 man roster with the surprising release of Al Reyes. The monkeys have heard reports of Pascucci's poor fielding, but the Mets don't need him to take the field just occasionally pinch-hit. While you don't want to clog up a 25 man roster with a guy like that, there is no reason not to add him to the expanded September roster. Perhaps with Nick Evans and Ramon Castro, he might not even be needed. But what happens if the Mets play an extra inning game down the stretch and are down to Ramon Martinez & Argenis Reyes to pinch hit against a lefty. There is no longer any excuse not to call up Val Pascucci.


Mr. Murphy came through again last night and it is easy to see why he has become a fan favorite. It should be mentioned that Nick Evans is hitting .343 against left-handed pitching and is doing the job with far less fanfare than his buddy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mets Win "The Brian Lawrence Game"

No one is giving out any style points at this team of the season. While it was a tough game to watch, the Mets got a needed win last night. Unfortunately neither the Cubs or Braves were able to help out. If you want to find another positive from last night, it looks like only 3 teams have a shot at the last two playoff spots. Since Hurricane Ike, the Astros have been twisting in the wind and now have become a real playoff longshot.

Yesterday the Mets sent out Brandon Knight, a journeyman who should not be pitching in games that are this important. It reminded the monkeys of last year's Brian Lawrence game where we thought the same thing. However, Knight gave a decent if not lengthy effort and got a key win. Remember the Mets only missed playing October by one game and if they make it this year, it may be only one game and it might be ... the Brian Lawrence game.


If you listen carefully to Jerry Manuel and read between the lines, Ryan Church had played his last game against lefties until Tatis got injured. He was ready to put Evans back in left and then move Tatis over to right. Church has looked awful against lefties. All of a sudden, this team looks a bit like the 2006 version that was so vulnerable against lefties, they went out and got ironman Moises Alou the following season.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Real Standings

New York Mets -
Philadelphia Phillies - 1
Milwaukee Brewers - 1
Houston Astros - 2.5
Florida Marlins - 5.5

This is how the monkeys and fans need to look at things. If the Mets can prevent 2 of these teams from passing them in these standings, they will be playing in October.

There is a myth that if the Mets lose the division, they will have collapsed again. The largest lead the Mets have had all year is 3.5. That was never a safe enough lead to be termed a collapse. The Phillies had a 7.5 game lead near the end of June. The Mets have gained 8.5 games on them since. Why are people not saying that the Phillies have collapsed? It is lazy for reporters to refer to this season that way just because last season was that way.

Luckily for the Mets and the Phillies, the real team that may be collapsing is the Brewers who shockingly fired their Manager Ned Yost today. Talk about a panic move. Even after losing 8 of 11, that seems a little extreme.

The Astros were making a serious run before weather issues and Cubs pitching slowed their charge. We'll see if they can regroup and be a factor.

The Marlins are hot and still have 3 games each against the Phillies and the Mets making them the long shot pick.

If the Mets can survive with their poison pen for two more weeks without blowing too many leads, this Mets and Phillies rivalry may actually continue into October because the monkeys are starting to get the feeling both teams are going to the playoffs.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Niese To Avert Disaster

Jonathon Niese provided the clutch performance that the Mets needed and didn't get last year from Phil Humber. On a day where the Mets could have lost a game and a half in the standings, Niese pitched eight scoreless innings. If the Mets can win today and the Phillies split their doubleheader, the Mets will have had another solid week picking up a game on the Phillies.

Niese became the youngest Mets to win a start since Generation K. The monkeys have mentioned that Niese is more likely a potential middle of the rotation starter than potential ace, but the Mets have an ace in Johan Santana, a budding #2 in Mike Pelfrey and a solid #3 in Maine assuming he comes back healthy next year. Even if the Mets are able to sign Oliver Perez, there is room in next year's rotation for Niese if he can continue to take the bull by the horns.

It's really time to give Omar his due in selecting which farmhands to give up this offseason. He was able to hang on to Pelfrey, Fmart, Murphy and Niese in his deal for Santana. The guys he gave up have hardly been impressive so far. While the monkeys understand that the Twins would prefer Carlos Gomez to Fmart due to their immediate need for a center fielder, we are still mystified that they didn't demand Mike Pelfrey in the deal.

2 weeks to go. It's going to be a fun ride.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Weighing Present & Future

The Mets have a 3 game lead with that awful number, 17 games to go. Mike Vaccaro's column in Today's New York Post lists a number of reasons why a collapse is less likely to happen this year.

Vaccaro notes Jerry Manuel's cool under pressure attitude compared to Randolph's tense leadership. This is something that cannot be underestimated. Tense attitudes can be awfully contagious. The monkeys are often tense for no reason other than the other monkey is tense.

Another point brought up in the column is that why the bullpen is still not solid, it is better than it was at this time last year because there is emerging help in Luis Ayala and Brian Stokes. True, but this is an area where Manuel needs to be careful. Joe Smith seems to have righted his ship and it has become clear that even though Manuel's bullpen is tightly packed, he only trusts three of them and feels that Feliciano or Schoeneweis might get one lefty out and then they must be pulled. With 17 straight games, Manuel is going to need to do a better job sharing the workload or else Ayala, Stokes and Smith will be toast come October. The monkeys continue to recommend seeing what Al Reyes has to offer. No guarantee he has anything to offer, but let's find out. In a less pressurized situation, check out Bobby Parnell.

Vaccaro mentions Johan Santana and he's right. But Mike Pelfrey is just as important and after his last start looks like a pitcher who might benefit from a skip of a turn. We wouldn't recommend skipping him Monday, but if the Mets have a lead of 4 games or more come his next start, we would rather see Figgy or Brandon Knight take his turn.

These Mets are in the mix to win it all. Just make sure there is some ingrediants still left after September.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Wagner News Shocks the Monkeys

The monkeys were kind of prepared for the news that Billy Wagner would be out the rest of this season, but we were stunned to hear he is going to need TJ surgery and be out for most if not all of 2009.

The Mets bullpen has performed much better of late allowing only one run in their last 23 innings. Luis Ayala has saved 5 out of six games, Brian Stokes has emerged as a dependable setup man and specialists Pedro Felicano and Joe Smith have excelled since they have been used properly. Now that the Phillies have left town, the monkeys would like the Mets to see what they have with Al Reyes, who has real closing experience. Still even in an off-year, Billy Wagner provided a level of security that no one else on the current roster could provide.

Next year will present interesting choices for the Mets. Krod is available, but will cost a king's ransom. His body type is one that may not hold up year after year with lots of wear and tear. And this year he has a lot of wear and tear with more to come as the Angels have the look of a team going deep into October. Brian Fuentes and Huston Street are names that have been linked to the Mets over the last year or two. Neither is a dominant closer, but both could be functional. Remember Billy Wagner blew 7 saves this year. Those numbers may not be that hard to replace.

Wagner will certainly be missed by the media. Always a good quote, Billy tells it like it is. Some in the clubhouse might not miss that as much. The question is whether we will see Wagner pitch again in a Mets uniform. If things go well, perhaps he would make a cameo in late August or September 2009. After that, it is highly unlikely the Mets would exercise his 2010 option. And Billy said he didn't want to pitch after this current contract, so who knows?

So, how's Ambi Burgos' rehab going?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mets Only Need To Win One To Accomplish Week's Goal

Brett Myers pitched a brilliant game against the Mets yesterday and the monkeys know many Mets fans are thinking "here we go again." This is no time for panic. Early indications are that this team is different than last year's. We have written about their resilence coming back from tough losses in previous posts. There seems to be a collective understanding that even if they feel they are the best team, the division will not just be handed to them as it seemed like they felt last year. While the rotation fell apart last September, this year Santana, Pelfrey and Perez are all still performing at peak levels.

At the start of this week, the hope was that the Mets could stay even in the 3 games they played on the road against the Brewers while the Phillies feasted on the Nats. Then win 2 out 3 against the Phillies. Even if the Mets win only one game this series, they will gain a game this week which was what most fans thought at the beginning of the week would be the optimum scenario.

If the Mets can bounce back and win the next two, things will be looking very positive. The only issue comes if they lose 3 straight. Today's game will likely be rained out. If that happens, tomorrow will be one hell of a sports day with the Football openers, US Open Men's Final and the biggest two games of the year.


The Mets may have another bullpen weapon down the stretch. Rincon looked very impressive in retiring Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. All of a sudden, the bullpen is rounding into form after another fine effort by Brian Stokes.


After hearing about Mike Schmidt's "inspiring" letter left on the Phillies' clubhouse door, Wagner inquired, "What did Gary Carter send us?" Classic line from Wagner who still often gives the best one liners in interviews.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

This Crew Deserves A Brew

The Brewers came into this series having won 9 out of 10 games looking like they might be the second best team in the NL and a stone cold lock for the wildcard. With the exception of a nervous Jonathon Niese who was put in a real tough spot, the entire Mets team exerted their might on these Brewers, who all of a sudden are not an absolute in October.

The much maligned Mets bullpen shut the Brewers down pitching 12 1/3 scoreless innings. Even if I told you Heilman wouldn't pitch in this series, that is just a shocking stat. Brian Stokes has been a godsend and Luis Ayala, while not a closer you want to count on very long is 5 out of 6 in save opportunities. Joe Smith has quietly gone 13 straight outings without allowing a run. Pedro Feliciano looked much sharper. Billy Wagner is close to returning. Things are looking a little less dark in the pen. The Mets haven't even had to use their callups yet, although the monkeys find it odd that Jerry Manuel claims to have not seen much of Al Reyes.

The Brewers bullpen, however, looks like a mess. Eric Gagne and Saloman Torres don't give fans of the Brew Crew any more confidence than the Mets relievers provide to the monkeys.

The team we heard dominates lefties were shut down by Johan Santana, Oliver Perex, Pedro Feliciano and Scott Schoeneweis. The only lefty they beat up was young Jonathon Niese who clearly had the jitters.

Now 2 looks at CC Sabathia in October might make this dominance look like a mirage. But who isn't a little less worried about the Mets playing the Brewers than they were on Monday? Not the monkeys. And for easing our fears, this Mets crew deserves a brew.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Here Comes The Cavalry

The Mets announed that they are calling up 9 players now that expanded rosters are allowed. Yesterday, the monkeys took a look at Al Reyes who could potentially have the greatest impact of the nine if he is effective. Here's a look at the other eight and some thoughts on who missed the cut:

Jonathon Niese -- Niese will get a start Tuesday against the Brewers which considering their prowess at handling lefties is a tough assignment for a rookie's debut. Overall in AA and AAA, he was 11-8 with a 3.13 ERA. The monkeys saw a glimpse of him in a televised spring start and came away impressed. Fans should keep in mind that although he is now the Mets top pitching prospect, he is projected as a middle of the rotation type. The Mets have other guys lower in their system (like Brad Holt) who project more as top of the rotation starters. So if he keeps the Mets in games, that is all the monkeys and other fans can expect. He'll likely get a mulligan if he fails against the Brewers, but if he can't do the job after 2 starts, the Mets will likely turn to Nelson Figueroa as the fifth starter.

Carlos Muniz -- Muniz had a 5.40 ERA this season in his time with the big club. He was miscast as a long reliever so he's probably a little better than those numbers, but he'll still probably being used more as an innings eater than in a more significant role. Although with a battered bullpen, innings eaters can help keep guys rested.

Ricardo Rincon -- It's been a few years since Rincon helped out a majoe league team. After having a nice spring, the Mets held on to his rights as Rincon spent the year in the Mexican League. His numbers were adequate, but not overly impressive. Still he has a 1.02 WHIP lifetime against lefties so he could be an effective Loogy which might be important with Schoenweiss' cranky back.

Bobby Parnell -- Parnell is probably not quite ready for the bigs, but he has a live arm and can throw in the mid 90's a good slider. He started in the minors, but will be used out of the pen for the Mets who could use a hard thrower in the pen. Probably better to use him in low pressure situations first to evaluate him better.

Marlon Anderson -- After a horrid first half, Marlon was hitting .303 in July and looking ready to help out off the bench before pulling a hamstring. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off in July and be a good lefty bat off the bench like he has been most of his career.

Argenis Reyes -- Great job filling in while Castillo was out, but the callup here is more of a reward for his service than a need. He'll likely get a few pinch hits here and there, but don't expect much playing time unless one of Luis Castillo's myriad injuries acts up again.

Gustavo Molina -- Merely a third catcher who wouldn't have gotten the call if Ramon Castro didn't get hurt. Molina plays good defense, but doesn't hit much (.206 in AAA. If he gets more than 5 at bats the rest of the way, things have gone horribly wrong.

Ramon Martinez -- Had a .376 OBP in AAA so I guess he falls under the Michael Tucker spot. Tucker if you recall did almost nothing positive but walk, but that was helpful down the stretch in 2006. Still, Val Pascucci who had a .410 OBP with good power would have seemed to be a wiser choice.

Others who missed the cut: The Mets realized it would make no sense for Fmart to be here and sit on a bench. Besides Pascucci though, the monkeys feel it would have been worthwhile to give Eddie Kunz another shot. Except for one outing after he had not pitched for a week, he was pretty effective. The monkeys didn't see Ambi Burgos during his rehab so we'll trust the powers that be, but a power arm like his would helped if he has progressed enough on his rehab.