Hotcorner Posted September 15, 2003 Share Posted September 15, 2003 Awww...did another local writer get his poor wittle feewings hurt? High workload for Looper could prove too costly COMMENTARY / JEFF MILLER Loss could hurt Marlins in time Jack McKeon first lit his cigar Sunday. He then attempted to set fire to a sportswriter. This sportswriter. The Marlins manager was not pleased with his team's 8-4, ninth-inning meltdown loss to the Braves, the worst kind of loss at the worst kind of time. He already had been asked once about closer Braden Looper's recent workload and responded with something that was close to a growl. When he was asked another question on the subject, McKeon began using a lot of words that could be printed only if this newspaper came with one of those explicit lyrics stickers. Since he has been here only a few months, we're still learning about McKeon. Sunday, we learned he would rather be knee-capped than second-guessed. Not that this is a bad thing, understand, not at all. There's a lot of good in having fire at the top. It is preferred, particularly with players still as young as many of these Marlins. And at 72, McKeon clearly still has plenty burning inside. There's also a refreshing quality about a person who doesn't sugarcoat answers. Believe it, McKeon can cover his words with a substance, but that substance would never be described as sugary. It is a positive, too, that halfway through September people still are asking the Marlins manager about the end of a game. For most of this team's existence, the questions this time of year have dealt with the beginning of next season. But even if McKeon thought the issue of Looper was ''a [baloney]question,'' even if he suggested it was gutless to ask after a loss, even if only some of the smoke now filling his office came from that cigar, the use of Looper was a legitimate topic afterward. The closer was appearing for the third consecutive day and the seventh time in eight games, though that stretch did include a Marlins day off. The team has been winning and doing so by slim margins, so the closer should be busy. One of those seven appearances came in a tie game and three others were in save situations. At issue were the remaining three nonsave appearances, particularly Saturday, when Looper closed out an 8-3 victory. He threw only nine pitches, but those were nine pitches he apparently could have used Sunday as the Braves drilled him for five runs. ''What are we gonna do, shut him down for the rest of the year?'' McKeon asked. ' `The writers and the radio and TV guys say you're pitching too many games so we're shutting you down.' Maybe we could pick up some guys off the street and see how they do.'' McKeon was just starting to roll. Soon, he had worked up a decent enough lather to mispronounce the name of Dodgers closer Eric Gagne and, when asked about the performance of ''Braden,'' respond ``Braden who?'' Later, McKeon explained Looper pitched Saturday because they had him throwing in the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth, readying himself to save the game. When the Marlins scored in that inning, McKeon said, they decided to pitch Looper since he was warmed up. The hole in this explanation is that, entering that bottom of the eighth, it wasn't a save situation. The Marlins were leading 7-3. If McKeon was just being extra cautious, not wanting to blow a big lead, save or no save, that's his call. But it should be acknowledged that the decision might have cost him big time Sunday. So, what does all this mean? Potentially nothing. The Marlins still are atop the National League wild-card standings and go to Philadelphia next for a three-game series that could wipe away this question and others. Sunday's developments certainly aren't going to explode into any rifts in the Marlins clubhouse. Starter Josh Beckett, who would have earned a well-deserved victory had Looper succeeded, was the first to greet the reliever with a consolation fist bump in the dugout. He came over to his locker again later for another get-'em-next-time exchange. ''If I'm going to give them up, I gave them all up in one day, I hope,'' Looper said. ``That's just a situation where I gotta make better pitches. I want the ball. I want to be the guy out there at the end. I gotta be ready Tuesday.'' The danger, of course, is that this loss could hurt even more two weeks from now. As bad as the Marlins felt Sunday, that thud in their stomachs could feel like a swallowed car battery should they finish one game out of the postseason. It would be a shame to see this unlikely team not complete this even more unlikely run. Setting fire to a screwy writer is one thing; setting fire to a magic season is something quite different. It was a valid point to question McKeon about, but writing a whole article about it? "Waaaaah! Bad man yell at me!" :boo-woo Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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