Jacob deGrom is in the midst of something we often hear about second-hand but are seldom there to witness – greatness. Enjoy it while we can.
Jacob deGrom, a fan of the Mets or not is doing something rarely seen in baseball, and the best part is we are there to witness and revel in the glory of his greatness as he totally dominates his competition.
We’ll tell our sons and daughters and their children about the night of April 23, 2021, when deGrom tossed a complete shutout against the Washington Nationals, striking out 15 batters and allowing no walks on 109 pitches while lowering his minuscule ERA to 0.31.
And how in “those days” way back when virtually no one threw a complete game, much less a shutout.
Or, how Mets manager Luis Rojas had all he could do to keep his own “wows” in check while getting his team to refocus their attention on the next night’s game – fat chance though as Mets players were still reveling in the glow of deGrom’s masterpiece in the clubhouse. (the Mets shaky defense and bats collapsed in a loss that game)
Jacob deGrom: “The Right Hand Of God.”
Know that this is all just a moment in the long history of baseball when a pitcher emerges from the rest in the same way Sandy Koufax did in his prime, untouchable as Jacob deGrom is now, but not everlasting as we saw with Koufax.
“The Left Hand Of God” was the way one journalist referred to Koufax after a year in which (his last) he went 27-9, tossing 323 innings while completing 27 games, five of which were shutouts.
We can go to YouTube to catch the highlights of any of those games or any of the four no-hitters that included a perfect game, but nothing can match watching an artist paint the Sistine Chapel in person.
So too, it is with Jacob deGrom because, in our ESPN triggered daily highlight reel, all that will be left of deGrom’s masterpiece the other night is a whiff by whiff “account” of what he actually accomplished.
DeGrom: Master Surgeon
It’s not the strikeouts – it’s the deconstruction of batter after batter, set in motion by alternate up and then down and away pitch after pitch – all remarkably thrown in the strike zone.
This is Michaelangelo laboring to achieve perfection, an ideal he knows he’ll never reach. Still, he is driven to keep trying, as Jacob deGrom does, beginning with each bullpen session between starts.
DeGrom is a person and pitcher driven by routine and repetition designed to reach the heights he is achieving.
He monitors his bullpen sessions between starts himself, counting the number of times over 25 pitches he hits the catcher’s glove with no movement. Missing one time is the same thing as giving up a home run.
During a home game at Citi Field when Jacob deGrom is scheduled to pitch, watch him in the outfield as he stares at the clock until the hands strike 6:50 pm precisely – then and only then will he begin his pre-game warm-up.
Don’t Wait For The Highlight Reels
There are no highlight reels that will tell us what it was like to watch Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell battle each other for 48 minutes on a basketball court or Arnold Palmer squaring toe-to-toe with Gary Player in the final round at the Masters.
Jacob deGrom is here and now, and before we know it, he will be gone.
As in the case with Sandy Koufax, excellence at this level cannot be sustained for long, though if anyone on the scene now (no dis intended – Gerrit Cole and Shane Bieber) can keep up the pace, Jacob deGrom is the man.
For the moment, though, and that’s really all that should have meaning, Jacob deGrom is the best pitcher on our planet.
He’s a rarity in an age of mediocrity when starting pitchers earn $11 million to pitch four innings of “is that all you got?” baseball.
Jacob deGrom: Locked In His Head
Like Koufax, deGrom prefers to stay in the background, rarely doing interviews or post-game press conferences except when shoved into the room by the Mets PR person.
Locked in his head, secure in his body, DeGrom, like Koufax, walks this earth with the presence of mind that leads nowhere but to his next start.
And now is not the best time to ask for “clarification” but simply to witness every pitch as he dissects the next lineup in his way toward a third Cy Young award?
I’ll end this with a quote given by deGrom to Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News as a way to put into perspective a mental approach to the game that leaves no doubt this is a story of grit and determination that finds us here today…
“You are drafted, and you get Tommy John right away; you have to wonder what are (the Mets) thinking of you then? I was advancing slowly (through the minor leagues).
I started seeing guys who were drafted higher than me and signed for more money than me getting released. I was 24 in High-A, and you don’t want to think about (finding another career), but I knew I had to prove myself. So I had to figure this out.“
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