That is exactly what’s going down with “Super Tuesday,” featuring Zack Wheeler making his major league debut, pitching the back end of a doubleheader in prime time. Yet there is reason to go gaga over this day in Mets history.
If only because it could be a long time between meals.Or drinks.
Or, for Mets broadcasters, any other satisfying moments during a season in desperate need of a mercy rule.For these voices, this “event” may be one of the few games that actually generates a higher rating than a test of the Emergency Broadcast Signal.
See, they got to take it when they can. So on Sunday, when Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit a three-run, ninth-inning homer to beat the Cubs, there would be no condemning Howie Rose for belching out a totally over-the-top call, as if the Mets had just put Game 7 of the World Series “in the books.”
Oh, Bob (Rapping Roberto) Costas was miffed. Obviously bored watching Phil Mickelson choke (again), Costas used a U.S. Open golf update on NBC to kick the Mets during their two seconds of glory, saying their excessive celebration was “another indication of the ongoing decline of Western Civilization.”
Costas ignored the human element. He failed to recognize that Nieuwenhuis, and the celebration he triggered, had granted Rose a temporary reprieve from misery. The Mets may not provide him with the opportunity to air it out with a similar call for the rest of the campaign. Poor fella.
And when Josh Lewin recounted his feelings about first being informed Wheeler would be pitching in Atlanta Tuesday night, his story went on far too long. Yet who could blame him for this fillibluster? The fact Lewin actually had a can’t-wait-feeling, especially while working a Cubs-Mets series, attached the kind of meaning to life we all need during these desperate times.
These guys may broadcast baseball games for a living but they are all God’s children. They need a reason to believe. Anybody crying for them yet?
Seriously though, this emphasis on Wheeler’s first start puts the Mets in an unaccustomed spotlight. It also puts the organization in a precarious position. While it’s just one start, whatever result Wheeler produces will immediately be totally blown out of proportion.
With this reality, the radio mouths on WFAN and the TV voices on SportsNet New York (Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Kevin Burkhardt will work the game) should maintain a balance. They will be the first line of analysis, delivering the words on Wheeler.
Their thoughts will shape opinions. If Wheeler lives up to the hype, the platitudes will flow, even though it’s only one game. If Wheeler falters, criticism will be injected. More importantly, why? Why did he stumble out of the gate?
This will go beyond the booth. Through his press conferences, Terry Collins is part of the show, too. How he analyzes it, and how Bobby Ojeda (he will be offering commentary from the studio) reacts to the manager’s spin in the postgame is something that bears watching.
Despite the media’s love affair with him, not everything Collins says should be taken at face value. Saturday, after the Mets’ 5-2 loss to the Cubs, the manager made a point of describing the deflated dugout demeanor when Chicago took a 5-1 lead.
“There’s a silence in the dugout,” Collins said. “Silence, like, ‘Oh, here we go again.’ And you’ve got to be careful of that. Losing can become as big a habit as winning. That’s not how we’re going to play here.”
Sunday, Burkhardt recounted Collins’ rap, sounding like he was seconding the manager’s emotion.
Darling reminded him players cannot manufacture emotion. “This anger, Kevin, you can’t fake it,” a skeptical Darling warned.
Maybe the voices will turn “Super Tuesday” into a referendum on Sandy Alderson. No matter. Others will. If Wheeler gags in Atlanta, the general manager is going to get heat inside the Valley of the Stupid. Not even Dolan-like cover provided by a Sports Pope will spare Alderson from the verbal indignities.
Alderson, he of the extended honeymoon, can handle it. Over the past two weeks he has gone from feeling “suicidal” while watching the Mets lose in 20 innings to Miami to telling a group of season ticket holders: “It’s not about buying tickets; it’s about your relationship with the team.”