Dorian Gray had a portrait that aged so he didn't have to. Maybe Aaron Heilman could try that trick.
With every bad outing, the portrait would get a little more squinty, a little more hangdog, a little more slump-shouldered, a little more looking like it just built into an industrial-strength lemon or walked into class and got handed a pop quiz. The advantage, of course, is this would leave the real Aaron Heilman looking not at all that way. He'd remain broad-shouldered and impassive, even as batters strolled to first and balls found holes and boos rained down on him.
Heilman is by all accounts a smart guy (and not just because, gosh, he actually reads books — he was the one who noticed the Reds had batted out of order) and a good guy, but his body language has always been terrible, and right now his pitching is too. And we're kind of screwed because of it. He doesn't have options, so he can't work out his demons in New Orleans. (And despite our anger with him, it would be foolish to expose Heilman to waivers.) He can't be turned into the second coming of Mike Maddux, because there isn't an obvious candidate to take over his duties. When he's right, he can get lefties and righties out. The alternatives? Pedro Feliciano and Scott Schoeneweis (sick today, apparently) are lefty specialists who get torched by righties. Duaner Sanchez has already stepped into some of what used to be Heilman's situations, and it's not clear to me that his stamina's back, or that his pre-crash velocity will ever return. Matt Wise (tired today, apparently) has pretty decent numbers against lefties and righties but just returned — and it isn't clear that he's mentally recovered from beaning Pedro Lopez last year. Joe Smith did well cleaning up Heilman's mess tonight but is still finding his way. (On the other hand, think of the riot in the stands if the Mets had actually sent Smith down and Jorge Sosa had come on tonight and pitched like Jorge Sosa.) There's nobody in the minor leagues who's a compelling audition — calling on Carlos Muniz or Willie Collazo or Ruddy Lugo would be less about them than it would be about indulging one's desire for Not Aaron Heilman. Pulling a Hail Mary and summoning Eddie Kunz? That kind of thing never works for us.
No, we're going to have to work this out together somehow.
Aaron's latest failings erased a game that was fairly interesting, all things considered — you had Claudio Vargas's perfectly serviceable debut (of course, we were offering Nelson Figueroa hosannas not so long ago too), some wretched luck for the Mets (did Ryan Zimmerman even see Beltran's liner before it tore into his glove?), some good luck for the Mets that didn't matter enough (the fielding misadventures of Saul Rivera began as comedy and turned tragic for our side), some oddities (David Wright's bat disintegrating on a flyout to medium center), a helluva home run by Zimmerman, and Moises Alou cussing out an ump like a player half his age.
But above all it was another loss — the homestand that was supposed to get the Mets well against weak competition now stands at 3-3, with our hopes for a series split with the mighty Nats (not exactly the stuff of war cries and sounding trumpets, is it?) resting on the uncertain right arm of Mike Pelfrey. Our record since last Memorial Day: 74-74. Just another interchangeable chapter in the continuing misadventures of The Mediocre-est Team Money Could Buy.