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MARCUM: A CHRONIC PAIN IN THE NECK

If Shaun Marcum’s eight-year Major League Baseball pitching career should end sooner than later, no worries, he could always get work playing Cavity Sam. His medical record is morphing into the legendary patient profile of Hasbro’s Operation board game. With each passing season new ailments  – and new body parts — pile up and pile on Marcum’s resume. Google Marcum and you can also read about his arm, elbow, shoulder, bicep, calf and, as of last Tuesday, neck. His career has been interrupted by a series of pulls, strains, stiffness, tears, inflammations, impingements and tendinitis.

If you can find Marcum’s medical history via Google, his chronic health issues certainly came as no surprise to the New York Mets, but it is frustrating to a team in desperate need of healthy arms. Johan Santana is gone for the season, and probably forever as far as the Mets are concerned. Frank Francisco is on the disabled list; so is Jenrry Mejia. The Mets have $35.5 million in pitching payroll unable to perform. Jeremy Hefner started Friday against the Miami Marlins, despite suffering a bruised elbow on his pitching arm. Sunday afternoon the Mets will hand the ball to Santana’s replacement, Aaron Laffey, who was bound for Las Vegas just three weeks ago. To make room for him, prospect Jeurys Familia was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Marcum missed the entire 2009 season after having Tommy John surgery. He spent the most of the May, June and July 2012 on the sideline too. Marcum has been DL’d for a variety of injuries during his career.  Milwaukee Brewers blogger Jim Breen fired a warning shot in May 2011 when he stated:

(1) Marcum utilizes stressful mechanics on the mound, which suggests arm/shoulder injuries are likely in the future.

(2) Marcum relies upon a repertoire that does not profile well for success as he reaches his mid-30s.

The Brewers are consciously limiting the pitch-counts for Marcum … because the organization understands the health risk and are attempting to protect their asset for the entire season. Am I about to offer a three-to-five year contract extension at market value to a pitcher that has all the warning signs of another major injury around the corner? Not a chance. That would be foolish.

Then, on the day the Mets signed Marcum, an MLB executive told the Bergen Record, “He’s a blue-collar gamer, but he’s hard to count on for any length of time.”

Not much has changed since Marcum signed with New York. He’s been fighting injuries since he arrived in Port St. Lucie for Spring Training six weeks ago. On March 20, Marcum flew from Florida to New York for an MRI on his shoulder. Doctors reported the Mets pitcher suffered an “impingement” and was given a cortisone shot for inflammation. The team, and Marcum, shrugged it off. On March 31, the Mets officially placed Marcum on the 15-day disabled list with “bicep tendinitis.” The team reported it was not a new injury. On April 2, Marcum cut short a bullpen session, complaining of neck pain. He returned to New York for another MRI which revealed “inflamed nerves” in his neck. The Mets medical team treated Marcum with “trigger-point injections,” but there is still concern whether or not the treatment will remedy what ails the Mets pitcher.

In hindsight, Marcum’s entire career has been a chronic pain in the neck.

The Mets signed Marcum to a one-year, $4 million deal, a modest payroll investment for a major league middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher — unless your the New York Mets — whose payroll has been shrinking since Bernie Madoff. The Mets, under the direction of Sandy Alderson, have been cutting payroll, trading veterans and stockpiling young talent for more than three years now. The organization has been extremely conservative in the free agent market so why sign Marcum, a pitcher with chronic health problems? They had nearly four million reasons to not sign Marcum.

It’s not as if there was a shortage of free agent starting pitchers available. Kyle Lohse, Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez, Joe Blanton, Jason Marquis were all available assuming, based on their choice, the Mets were looking for a right-handed, veteran starting pitcher not asking for Zack Grienke money. All are durable and innings eaters. Instead, Alderson waited until the end of January before finally committing to Marcum — and all the baggage that comes with him.

It just doesn’t make sense.

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