Ardent Mets Fan Laments The Loss of deGrom
ALSO: STEVE COHEN, A BULLY WITH BILLIONS, CHANNELS GEORGE STEINBRENNER
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A Metrospective: Reflecting On Jacob deGrom’s Career In Queens
By Elizabeth Muratore
If you spent the last nine years daydreaming about Jacob deGrom finishing his career as a Met with his health intact, leading the Mets to a World Series title, getting his number retired, and entering the Hall of Fame with a Mets logo on his cap, you’re not alone.
Needless to say, this is not an article I ever thought I’d be writing.
On December 2, deGrom signed a five-year, $185 million deal with the Texas Rangers. I found out when, while out with friends, I checked my phone after miraculously not looking at it for an hour. Then, I saw a barrage of texts, all with the same sentiment of “I’m so sorry” or a crying emoji.
None of them noted exactly what had happened. But I knew that if 10 of my closest baseball-adjacent friends were checking in on me at once, it could mean only one thing: my favorite Met, the pitcher everyone in my life knew was my favorite Mets player ever, had decided to leave the Mets.
I felt like my heart had been punched. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that the player who was synonymous with modern-day Mets greatness was just … no longer on the team. I wrestled with several impulsive reactions -- immediately muting the word “deGrom” on Twitter was one of them, which blocked out some of the upsetting discourse.
As I slowly came to terms with deGrom’s departure, I accepted that he had probably made his mind up about leaving the Mets a while ago. The signs had been there since Spring Training, even as I was doing elaborate mental math every fifth day about how quickly he could become the Mets’ strikeout king. The fairy-tale ending to deGrom’s Mets career that I had always envisioned just did not match up with reality.
Never before deGrom had I built a player’s career up so much in my head. I had never cared about anyone’s Mets legacy until he came around, not even David Wright’s.
Following deGrom’s career was not just a passing interest, but a determined obligation. Nine years of watching him pitch had given me numerous occasions to dream excitedly of what could be in store for him, to marvel at the records he toppled, and to pour over his Baseball Reference page and the “National League Pitching Leaders” and “Mets All-Time Pitching Leaders” pages after every start.
deGrom’s accomplishments seemed to mark different points in my life, like orange and blue Post-its plastered throughout my brain.
May 15, 2014. I vividly remember watching his Major League debut while sitting around the dinner table with my family. Truth be told, I had never heard of him. At that point, I was a junior in high school wondering if David Wright would ever be fully healthy again. But I distinctly recall my dad saying out loud, “This guy looks pretty good,” as deGrom mowed down the Yankees over seven terrific innings. How right he was.
September 15, 2014. Exactly four months later, my dad and I were glued to the television as deGrom struck out eight Marlins to begin the game, tying an MLB record. I had just begun my senior year of high school, and amid the chaos of endlessly rewriting college essays, for one hour my attention was on something else. deGrom gave me a magical moment in the midst of the most stressful time in my high school career.
July 14, 2015. I was a month out from moving away for college, but one summer evening, I raced home just in time to watch deGrom’s memorable All-Star appearance, in which he struck out all three batters he faced on 10 pitches. Nearly immaculate on paper, absolutely masterful in real life. It made me almost not want to go so far away to school, because then I couldn’t go to any more of his starts or watch him as easily.
August 5, 2019. I had just graduated college, and one of my last days at home before moving away again was spent with my friend at Citi Field, watching deGrom pitch in a doubleheader against the Marlins. He tossed seven innings, struck out eight, allowed two runs and also drove in two runs. It was a wonderful evening, one that made me question if leaving New York was the right call. Less than two years later, I moved back to my home state.
August 7, 2022. deGrom’s first home start after a year away due to injury. I was now working in baseball, essentially living out my dream, and I was lucky enough to attend this game with the same friend I attended the doubleheader with almost exactly three years prior. I had never experienced such palpable reverence in a crowd as I did when deGrom was warming up that day. His 5 2/3 perfect innings with 12 strikeouts to start the game were just the cherry on top.
There are many other memorable deGrom moments I could include here. Outwardly, I’ve accepted that his Mets story might be over, but I can’t just let go of the torch that easily. When a baseball player’s remarkable career is woven into a formative period of your life, spanning multiple schools, states, and jobs, it’s hard, emotionally, to just let him go.
No matter which way you slice the ending of his Mets tenure, deGrom accomplished quite a bit for the orange and blue:
One of two Mets to win multiple Cy Youngs and the Rookie of the Year Award, the other being Tom Seaver
Top nine in NL Cy Young voting in six of his nine Mets seasons
Four All-Star selections, two consecutive top 10 MVP finishes
Mets’ all-time leader in ERA, WHIP, FIP, strikeout-to-walk ratio and strikeouts per nine innings
Fourth on Mets’ all-time strikeouts list
And here are some other remarkable milestones he achieved as a Met:
Struck out eight consecutive batters in one game (Sept. 15, 2014) and nine consecutive batters in a different game (April 17, 2021)
Since 1969, two other starters (min. 30 starts, 210 innings) have pitched to an ERA as low as deGrom’s 1.70 figure in 2018: Dwight Gooden (1.53 in 1985) and Zack Greinke (1.66 in 2015)
Set the single-season record with 24 consecutive quality starts to end his 2018 season, passed in 2022 by Houston’s Framber Valdez
Second all-time in WHIP (0.998) for pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched
Second to Clayton Kershaw among active players in ERA (2.52), minimum 1,000 innings pitched
He is on the Rangers now. It’s not ideal for my daydreamed vision. But I am thankful for all the memories deGrom provided me as a Met, all of the instances I bonded with family and friends over his accomplishments. (Was it always “bonding,” or was it sometimes “me bothering everyone I know?” Who’s to say?)
And no matter what other Mets fans may believe is the right thing to do, I will always root for him.
Unless he’s pitching against the Mets.
Elizabeth Muratore is one of the editors of the Here’s the Pitch newsletter. She also works as a homepage editor for MLB and co-hosts a Mets podcast called Cohen’s Corner. Elizabeth is a lifelong Mets fan who thinks that Keith Hernandez should be in the Hall of Fame. You can follow her on Twitter @nymfan97.
Can Steve Cohen Buy Himself Enough Chanukah Presents?
By Dan Schlossberg
With the eight-day Festival of Lights starting at sundown Sunday, Steve Cohen is doing his best to buy himself a present for every night.
When I was a kid, I’d be lucky to get a pair of socks or bag or marbles — or maybe even a small net baggie containing dark chocolate Chanukah gelt wrapped in silver foil.
The owner of the New York Mets prefers receiving human gifts, specifically high-priced ballplayers whose best days may be behind them but whose baseball cards still have value.
Last year, he and general manager Billy Eppler hit home runs with every one of their off-season acquisitions, landing Chris Bassitt, Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, Starling Marte, and Adam Ottavino, among others.
Their current newcomers, also in alphabetical order, are Edwin Diaz, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Kodai Senga, and Justin Verlander, with Diaz and Nimmo wisely retained after tipping their toes into the icy waters of free agency but the others all offering question-marks of varying degrees.
Adding the luxury taxes he’ll have to pay, Cohen will spend something like $421 million in player payroll for 2023. Considering that his club is by far the oldest in baseball, he may spend nearly as much in medical bills.
Cohen is under the impression that he can buy a pennant. But the Mets haven’t even won a world championship since 1986 and have only two in their entire existence. The last time they even reached the World Series was 2015.
At least their dry spell isn’t as long as the 14-year drought of the crosstown Yankees, still owned by the Steinbrenner family but not a World Series team since 2009.
Throughout baseball history, wealthy owners have tried to buy happiness but usually failed. Long before Cohen and the late George Steinbrenner, Tom Yawkey famously tried to buy players to pair with Ted Williams [see Lefty Grove and Jimmie Foxx, for starters]. But the plan failed, as Williams reached the Fall Classic only once in his storied career.
Most scouts and historians suggest that teams that import so many high-priced players from other places — rather than signing, developing, and cultivating their own — are creating a culture of clashing egos.
That means Buck Showalter might have a tougher time in Year 2 than he did last season. He may be the reigning NL Manager of the Year but the fact remains he’s never won a pennant or reached a World Series. Now that he’s running an Old Age Home, his chances seem even less likely.
Compared to the Atlanta Braves, their biggest rival, the Mets are better only at shortstop, left field, and late relief, with first base and starting pitching pretty much even. And the Braves, the youngest team in the league, have an enormous advantage in age — which usually means fewer injuries.
A lot can still happen between now and mid-February, when spring training begins, but baseball history suggests the dollars spent in December don’t guarantee success in October.
Here’s The Pitch weekend editor Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has been covering baseball since 1969, when he was hired as an AP sportswriter after graduating from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. His byline runs regularly on columns for forbes.com, Latino Sports, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, Sports Collectors Digest, and other outlets. E.mail Dan via firstname.lastname@example.org.
“What George Steinbrenner did to calls for free-agency moderation in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s Steve Cohen has done to the competitive balance tax — and more specifically the Steve Cohen Tax — in the 2020s.”
— Ian O’Connor in The New York Post, Dec. 14, 2022
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [email@example.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [firstname.lastname@example.org] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [email@example.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.