Jacob deGrom is fully aware he is having a year like no other pitcher in baseball – ever. Nothing will stop him from fulfilling that prophecy.
Jacob deGrom knows he is pitching his way to baseball immortality with the season he is having to date.
Over the years, pitchers have won more games, pitched more innings, struck out more batters in one season, but no one, including Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson, has dominated the game like Jacob deGrom is doing in 2021.
Consider just as one example, Gibson, pitching in 1968, as a major force causing MLB to lower the pitcher’s mound the following season, posted a minuscule 1.12 ERA that year.
Jacob deGrom’s ERA now is 0.54, which is less than half of what Gibson put up. Phenomenal is the only way to describe it, and even that doesn’t do justice to the total of four runs he’s allowed in 2021, or the performance he put on Wednesday, striking out eight of the nine batters he faced before retiring with what is said to be a shoulder strain.
In a story from earlier today, we talked about the battle of wits taking place between the Mets and deGrom as to whether or not he will make his next start Monday against the intra-division rival Atlanta Braves.
Put it in the books because I’m here to tell you to buy your tickets now – Jacob deGrom is making that start – and regardless of the Met’s best intentions for him to throttle him down for a start or two – he’s all-in from here on out.
Jacob deGrom has reached a presence in major league baseball that is similar to his peers, like Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Adam Wainwright that entitles him to write his own ticket, and the Mets know it.
Mets manager Luis Rojas, his best friend on the team Brandon Nimmo, and perhaps even Steve Cohen himself can try to step in offering advice about the wisdom of “giving it a rest” for a few days, but they’re only wasting their breath.
That’s because Jacob deGrom is on a mission, and at 33, he knows these chances to do something extraordinary are limited, and he may never get the same opportunity again.
At the same time, though, a reader commenting on the earlier story today brought up J.R. Richard as an example of what might well be at stake regarding the rest of deGrom’s career, and gave me some pause.
Pitching at 28 and 29 years of age, Richard, known as a fireballer with a nasty slider, had two spectacular seasons with the Houston Astros in 1978 and 1979, winning 18 games each year while striking out 303 and 313 batters.
Two years later, at the age of 31, Richard, destined for stardom and the Baseball Hall of Fame, was out of baseball after suffering a sudden stroke. He tells his story today while still throwing heat.
It happens, and not to put a jinx on Jacob deGrom, it can happen to him, especially when you consider the three scares he’s had recently, where it could be that his body is trying to tell him something.
Having said that, and as I inferred before, Jacob deGrom is having none of it.
With deGrom, though, it’s not about stardom and the limelight, something he actually shies away from, and with the full cooperation of the Mets who limit his contact with New York media as much as possible.
No, this is about Jacob deGrom, the ultra-competitor who takes it as a matter of personal pride to finish what he starts, a point of contention by the way that bothers him more than anything recently, according to Brandon Nimmo.
DeGrom also knows that his starts now are like those Dwight Gooden had in 1984 when each game he pitched at Shea Stadium was an event, with the stand filled and rockin’ with each “K” put up on the board.
And so it will Monday night when Citi Field is jammed with fans who are there for only one reason, and that’s to be a part of history in the making.
Jacob deGrom can quit baseball tomorrow, and he would still win his third Cy Young, hands down. But, unfortunately, that’s not it, either.
However, what is about is Jacob deGrom not giving into the minor ailments that are bound to annoy any 33-year-old pitcher in the big leagues.
And for that, the Mets can watch and closely observe to protect his health, but they need not bother to interfere with deGrom. Just get out of his way – because he’s got this.
Here’s What Readers Are Saying…
Hsin-Yuan Huang His body type and physical talent, attention to detail, mental toughness (including focus and competitiveness), maturity is a perfect mix. You can say he is like the Michael Phelps of baseball.