If Tuesday was the baseball equivalent of opening Christmas and Chanukah presents on the same bright December morning, Wednesday was the post-New Years night before you had to go back to school and realized you never touched the assigned reading you swore you were going to get to…and, oh, god, you have a paper due, too.
The giddiness of Harvey and Wheeler gave way to the drudgery of Marcum pretty quickly. No beer showers for Shaun. No latent tales of standing up to bullying veteran relievers emerged to make Marcum appear extra heroic in hindsight. Just a guy who hadn’t won not winning some more, aided in his unintentional quest for defeat by an offense that had to be handed two of its three runs on a silver platter personally forged by Kris Medlen. And even when the Braves’ starter did Shaun a solid by enabling a pair of unearned runs with a pitch clear past third base, Marcum found a way to return the favor almost instantly.
Shaun Marcum exists in that netherworld between an abysmal 0-9 record and the damningly faint praise of, “He’s pitched much better than that.” I should hope so. Nobody gets to 0-9 by being blown off the mound every five (or six) days. As famed late 1970s Mets pitching coach Roseanne Roseannadanna once advised an 0-5 Pete Falcone, “It’s always something. If you have your command, you don’t have your control. If you have your control, you don’t have your command. If your pitches are breaking, they’re not moving in the zone. If they’re moving in the zone, they’re not breaking. It’s like my daddy, Rube Walker Roseannadanna, once told me, ‘Roseanne, you may not be as bad as your record indicates, but on this team, you have to be a whole lot better than what THEIR record indicates if you’re gonna be any good at all!’”
I read an enlightening article a few days ago by Jon Presser of The Shea Faithful detailing all that Marcum is doing right (“a pretty darn good job of controlling the things he can control”) while noting just enough has gone wrong to undermine the hell out of him. The lesson to be divined in cases like these seems to be when you’re going horsespit, you’re going horsespit. Shaun’s been pitching in some rotten luck, sometimes victimized by his own tendencies with runners on base, more often unfortunate enough to pitch in front of an assortment of teammates who never seem to be packing the right glove for the position they’re about to play.
That said, Wednesday night Marcum sensed a loss was within his grasp and he grabbed it. Or it fell on him. These things happen in years like this. He struck out six in four-and-two-thirds innings, which has been typical of his K/IP rate of late, but he also walked four, which was an ill-timed aberration — plus he let the go-ahead run score on a wild pitch before compounding his faux pas by giving up the key extra-base hit that sealed the Mets’ fate. That double to B.J. Upton buried the Mets in a 5-3 hole in the fifth, and the 2013 Mets cannot be counted on to score three runs in four innings while surrendering none in the interim.
Marcum offered an extraordinarily 0-9 quote afterwards: “It’s been a three-month ordeal for me.” It’s been a three-month ordeal for Mets fans, too, though Shaun’s never added up to significantly more than 1/25th of our distress. Having to effect our typically downtrodden view of the world last night, though, represented a sad reversion to the kind of a drag that had been temporarily absent from our thinking. Ever since Western Civilization declined in the bottom of Sunday afternoon’s ninth inning, most every Mets moment had actually crackled with the best kind of baseball tension.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis blasted the Mets out of a deep, dark tunnel; the Mets held their own against a fascinatingly interminable rain delay; Dillon Gee steered the Mets expertly past midnight; Dillon Gee’s heart was cruelly broken by Freddie Freeman; Matt Harvey yet again challenged history; the Mets didn’t blow up Matt Harvey’s masterpiece despite seizing the opportunity to do so; Zack Wheeler emerged from the cornfield and into our rotation; each of our catchers homered in a day-night doubleheader, a Mets first; Harvey, it was learned, didn’t take any guff from Jon Rauch a year ago; yet another leadoff hitter alighted in our midst and this one at least arrived toting a bit of a track record, albeit not a particularly dazzling one. Our being 3-1 in our last four seemed to trump our being 27-40 in our first 67. The present was pretty compelling and the future ceased to be so frightening
Then Shaun Marcum went into ordeal mode, and it became the season it had been all over again, with the Mets stuck in yet another game at which a person stares politely and feigns engagement until it’s socially acceptable to scat.
Please join me at Bergino Baseball Clubhouse in Manhattan Wednesday night, June 26, 7 o’clock, for a discussion of The Happiest Recap, followed by the Mets and White Sox live from the South Side of Chicago. Details here. And thanks to Mets Merized Online for a lovely review of my book.