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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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DeGrom Before the Storm

All-Star Jacob deGrom got taken deep by All-Star Mike Trout in the third inning of Tuesday night’s All-Star Game. Regrettable outcome, as was the final score, but somehow everybody was elevated by the experience. Trout doesn’t need much more elevation, except for maybe a deep postseason run or two so casual onlookers in all time zones can get a feel for what harder-core baseball fans have been telling each other for the balance of this decade about the greatest player of the contemporary era. Trout hitting a pitch very hard and very far is his version of plucking a business card from his wallet and shaking hands.

DeGrom’s pitches prior to the one Trout sent on a tour of the left field bullpen at Nationals Park landed where Jake intended. Mookie Betts flied out to Bryce Harper in center (who was in the midst of a scintillating chat with Joe Buck while patrolling his pasture). Jose Altuve popped to Nolan Arenado at third. Then a one-and-two count on Trout, prelude to an immaculate frame, it seemed…until the Angel from South Jersey reached to the outside of the plate as if for the last slice of pork roll. That’s a tough spot from which to pull a pitch, especially from where Trout was fishing. Nevertheless, Mike caught it and released it into the wild.

Officially, it was a 92 MPH sinker that didn’t sink as desired (or perhaps a changeup that went through one too many changes). “He hits the low ball well,” the lone 2018 Met All-Star said later. “Two strikes, probably should’ve gone fastball up. But he got me.”

It happens. It happened a lot to pitchers on both sides of the All-Star divide. The game ended after only ten innings were played and ten homers were hit. The American League prevailed, 8-6, as the American League tends to do these days. Perhaps it’s the recent Midsummer Classic sample size (AL 6 NL 0, dating to 2013) combined with this last year-and-a-half of shall we say Mets baseball that’s led me to expect the worst from whichever team I’m rooting for in a given moment, but I expected the NL to lose. The NL, if you read what Players Association executive director Tony Clark had to say Tuesday, may be stumbling toward acceptance of the abomination of the designated hitter (ptui!). If that’s how they’re gonna be, the National League probably doesn’t deserve much in the way of institutional allegiance.

DeGrom, though, deserves all the adulation we can muster. As if standing up for the integrity of baseball, Jake gathered himself after Trout’s trip around the bases and struck out the American League’s DH, J.D. Martinez. Thus the inning ended honorably if not spotlessly.

Given his lack of Met accompaniment, Jake’s imperfect outing constituted our All-Star highlight for 2018 — that and Nationals fans booing him during the introductions (not a classy response, but respectful of his status within the division in its own way). Now the best pitcher in the National League can get back to doing that for which he is suddenly most famous: being the subject of trade talk.

One night among his peers. Now a return to the mire.

Jacob deGrom will be a Met until he isn’t, which is a time span that appears likely to fall short of forever. DeGrom’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, expressed sentiments Monday that it sure would be nice if the Mets and his client could forge a “long-term partnership that would keep him in a Mets uniform for years to come.” So far, so good…which would also understate deGrom’s tenure as a Met to date.

Ah, but when was the last time you learned a player’s agent’s name and came away with “good” as the predominant adjective? Van Wagenen went on to make his larger point:

“If the Mets don’t share [the] same interest, we believe their best course of action is to seriously consider trade opportunities now. The inertia of [the] current situation could complicate Jacob’s relationship with the club and creates an atmosphere of indecision.”

Meaning? Meaning almost every possible outcome will probably take a turn we don’t care for.

• The Mets trade deGrom soon, as in before July 31. We’d hate that. I don’t care if we got back the next Mike Trout. As soon as your premiere player is no longer yours, something’s missing.

• The Mets trade deGrom eventually, as in the offseason. We’d hate that. The haul could restock the system and project to pay dividends down the road, but we’d still feel a tangible loss. No more Jacob deGrom, except in memory. The next time we see him, he’ll be wearing the uniform of fill-in-the-blank. Cringing yet?

• The Mets don’t trade deGrom but don’t move to extend him. That would hang over our heads, especially now that the agent has spoken and it’s obvious a bone of contention exists between team and star. Without resolution, there is uncertainty. The statements grow less anodyne. The parties become more touchy. The agent lurks in our consciousness. The tension rises.

• The Mets let deGrom walk following the 2020 season. Pending the course of the next two campaigns, we’d likely hate that, no matter the juicy draft pick it would net us. Compensatory draft picks once in a blue moon grow up to become David Wright. Often they become Kevin Plawecki, and that’s if you’re lucky. Meanwhile, deGrom — two-time (at least) All-Star, Rookie of the Year, perennial Cy Young candidate, winning pitcher thrice in the postseason — becomes an ex-Met.

• The Mets sign deGrom to a lucrative long-term contract. Everybody’s happy…until it sinks in just how long the contract is for and how much the contract is for and how the length and the size of the contract impact the Mets’ ability to enhance the rest of the roster. Performances drop off. Injuries occur. Things go wrong. It happened with Piazza, Beltran, Santana, Wright. It’s happened with Cespedes. And none of them was a pitcher beyond 30 years of age. Past disaster is by no means indicative of future debacle, but after what we’ve been through, we have evolved into a breath-holding people. As with rooting for the National League in All-Star Games, there is a tendency to wait in expectation of what is about to go awry.

Or, you know, things could work out fine somehow. It’s possible. It’s just hard to imagine. In the meantime, Jacob deGrom is still a Met, still pitching sensationally, still getting out most everybody who isn’t Mike Trout, which leaves a pretty large pool of hitters flailing at his stuff.

We can deal with that for now.

21 comments to DeGrom Before the Storm

  • Jacobs27

    Great post, Greg. I grimly agree with everything. I’d just like to add that that chatting with the outfielders in-game schtick may be the worst idea FOX has ever had, and that is saying something. If we’re going to live in a world where that’s supposed to be fun, the NL has a DH and Jacob deGrom is no longer a Met, I’m not sure I want to be a baseball fan.

    Small nit-picky detail: the pitch to Trout looked (unofficially) to me like a change-up, especially when I glimpsed the grip on the replay. Would make sense that it wasn’t a sinker, given how hard deGrom was throwing overall. Credit to Trout for being right on time nonetheless.

    • Not a nit. I did see the pitch described by someone who tracks these things on Twitter as a changeup, but I went with the description offered by’s reporter, since I figure that’s the “official” word. I’ll amend the sentence, because you and the tracker guy are probably as good a source as MLB.

  • Greg Mitchell

    You do realize, for example, how much more valuable “the next Mike Trout” is than a soon-to-be-aging and always (as with all pitchers) threatened with major surgery at any moment? Or how starting pitchers are vastly overpaid in longterm contracts, usually break down or fade, and/or in any case so much less valuable as their innings are limited to 200–at most? Sentiment needs to be set aside, though only if the deal is a great one, of course. I’d trade deGrom for Glayber Torres in a heartbeat, for instance, though will never happen.

    • In the moment, losing deGrom would sting badly. If the next Mike Trout truly emerges, we maintain the right to say, gee, that sting wasn’t so bad in the long term.

      Had Steve Henderson morphed into Andre Dawson (for more than his first three months in New York) and Tom Seaver broken down five minutes into his Cincinnati stay, the trade still would have hurt. It would have turned out much better than it did, of course, but, regardless, I wouldn’t have celebrated trading Tom Seaver.

  • 9th string catcher

    Hard to imagine the Mets a) letting los tres amigos trade anybody right now, let along franchise pieces, b) trading a high level player under team control for the next 2 years, c) trying to sell a full tear down rebuild for the next five years, which is what you get if you get rid of the only thing that works on your roster. I think they’ll move Cabrera and Familia, but I don’t see anything big happening until they hire the next GM. Of course, this is the Mets, so anything logical can be thrown out the window, right?

    • The uncertainty inherent in the front office troika is a relevant factor in nobody jumping into immediate action. But like you said, logic often warms up in the Mets bullpen only to take a seat and never see game action.

  • Pete In Iowa

    Over the past few weeks Greg, I’ve come to be at peace with IF the Mets trade deGrom. In fact, although I’ve absolutely loved watching him pitch and compete — especially in the 2015 post-season — for four years now, I would advocate moving him right now.
    The sad reality is the Mets have so many holes to fill and nothing to fill them with. Unless we fool ourselves into thinking guys like Smith, Rosario, Cecchini, TJ Rivera, or any of the bundle of relievers we picked up last year, are some sort of answer to filling those gaps. They’re not.
    As the deadline nears there are a good many teams with the need and wherewithal to land a player of deGrom’s caliber. And for not one or two, but THREE seasons. His price will never be higher than it is right now. And, on top of it all, he is the one and only player we have with this type of value so it’s not like we can build around him quickly. (Unless, of course, one would believe the Wilpon’s would be spending a couple hundred million over the next TWO offseasons). In addition, I don’t see the Mets being competitive before he becomes a free agent. And, as you so correctly pointed out, if we were to lock him up long term, he would be in his mid-30’s by the end of such a deal. That’s troubling.
    Without a doubt, such a deal would have to be excruciatingly painful to the team which may be the one to pull the trigger.
    As it will be excruciatingly painful for all of Metdom.

    • dak442

      The fear I have in trading deGrom for prospects is, the guys making that deal are the same ones who thought Dom Smith, Gavin Cecchini, and Amed Rosario were can’t miss studs. The odds are a lot better we get Dan Norman and Steve Henderson than we get Mike Trout.

  • mikeL

    yes greg, you spelled out the lack of any very good outcome on the horizon.
    it feels like jake can’t stay – and jake can’t go.
    only team success, quickly, can have a positive impact on this situation – and that’s assuming jake is still a met next spring.
    and that somehow this team can go worst to first again, but for more than 12 games.

    and yes jacobs27: why do we need to have ballplayers share their thoughts with us to steps away from the batter’s box – or while they’re on the field *playing*?!?
    even during an exhibition?!

  • MetFanMac

    Everybody else has already said everything that’s needed to be said about deGrom so I’ll just point out that if the National League adopts the DH there’s an extremely good likelihood of me simply dropping baseball for good.

  • Daniel Hall

    DH baseball is so brainless. Not a grain of strategy involved. Maybe that would help Callaway. Not that I think he will still be here when the NL adopts that heretic abomination of a miscarried rule after all…

    One more reason I love OOTP Baseball. If I want no miserable DH, there is no miserable DH in my league. And there is no miserable DH in my league. Ptui indeed!

  • mikeL

    meant to add this in my original post:
    the one upside to letting degrom go to a contender is that he would be rewarded for his super-human performance on the mound. it would be tragic for him to go through the frustration of pitching for such horrible mets teams through his prime years. dude deserves much better. that’s me loving degrom more than the mets at this point…

    • I was thinking about that aspect, picturing deGrom as, say, an Astro (though they have plenty of starting pitching) and going through those motions we go through when a Met to whom we are attached is in the postseason for somebody else. We feel happy for the guy, we feel connected to a point, but all we see in the end, win or lose, is a wardrobe malfunction. We’re figuratively waving to him at the parade and telling everybody, “hey, I know that guy, he used to be on my team,” but he doesn’t wave back. He can’t see us anymore.

      I honestly thought some version of what you’re expressing in 1977. “At least the Reds will score for Tom.” The sentiment didn’t age well.

  • Dave

    Pork roll? What’s that?

  • Dave

    There there dear, don’t cause a fuss. I’ll have your spam, I love it. I’m having spam, spam, eggs, baked beans, sausage and spam.