Marv Throneberry , legend has it, was once crestfallen to discover that his birthday cake had been devoured by his Mets teammates before he got a piece — to which Casey Stengel  cracked that “we wuz gonna give you a piece, Marv, but we wuz afraid you would drop it.”
I don’t know if the Mets got Jacob deGrom  a cake for his birthday last night in Atlanta, but if so here’s hoping his infielders were kept away from it.
Don’t blame deGrom, who scattered four hits over 7 1/3 terrific innings. Blame his feckless teammates, who didn’t hit all night and then undid the birthday boy’s work in a gag job of an eighth inning.
After Andrelton Simmons  crushed a hanging curve for a leadoff double (OK, that one’s on Jake), Eury Perez  bunted to the left of the mound. DeGrom grabbed the ball and had a play at third, but Ruben Tejada  had broke in and the base was unguarded. DeGrom looked helplessly at Simmons for a moment and took the out at first. Afterwards, Terry Collins  said Tejada made the right play and deGrom praised the bunt, which was good organizational omerta on both their parts and also bullshit: Tejada didn’t think about deGrom’s fielding ability and failed to react to the play as it developed, because he’s a lunkhead.
The next batter was Pedro Ciriaco , a punchless hitter who doesn’t know how to walk and looked overmatched against deGrom. He grounded weakly to short. Wilmer Flores  looked Simmons back, but took too long while Ciriaco was doing the only thing he can do, which is run fast. He beat the play to first.
Collins removed deGrom, who’d thrown 97 pitches, in favor of Sean Gilmartin . Gilmartin, to nobody’s particular surprise, promptly gave up a double to Jace Peterson , and the Mets had turned their 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit and a loss . Overmanaging, I’d say — give me a tired deGrom over a perky Gilmartin any day — but the kind of overmanaging every manager does, and not worth losing your mind about.
(If you’re a glutton for punishment, here’s a further breakdown  of the breakdowns penned by Adam Rubin. I don’t agree that there’s any blame to lay at Juan Lagares ‘s feet, but it’s a damning read anyway.)
Afterwards, the amount of alibi-ing and teeth-gritting before the cameras was remarkable, and the Mets’ stories weren’t exactly straight. Poor deGrom’s interview was particularly painful to watch; our favorite Ford pitchman is a good teammate but a bad liar, repeatedly offering SNY a frozen smile and an all-too-quick look anywhere else as he was asked how frustrating it was to play in front of these clowns. (That’s a slight paraphrase.) I just laughed when Terry said Jeurys Familia  cramped up and it was nothing serious, followed by the closer talking about a tight groin. God only knows what that means, but it was the perfect end to the evening.
What is there to say that hasn’t been said innumerable times already during this strange season? The only thing I can think of is to note that this season feels so off-kilter primarily because the Mets are simultaneously horrible and in first place.
Maybe that’s what we need to think about more. The key to understanding 2015 isn’t to conclude that the Mets are better than we think they are, because they’re not. It’s not to argue that the little black cloud of Met pessimism has made us unreliable chroniclers, though that’s probably true.
The key to understanding 2015 is that the Nationals suck. They should be in first place by a healthy margin and complaining about having to share a division with two horrible teams and two medicore ones. If that were happening, we wouldn’t be confused about what kind of year this is — we’d be arguing tepidly about whether the Mets are good mediocre or bad mediocre. Instead, the Nats are part of the tire fire that is the National League East — in fact, they’re its most disappointing and underwhelming club.
That’s the gift we’ve been given, whatever our birthday is. After we drop it and it breaks, we should remember that it was kind of a crappy gift anyway.