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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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Mets of the 2010s: Jake’s the 1

Welcome to the eleventh and concluding chapter of Faith and Fear’s countdown of The Top 100 Mets of the 2010s. An introduction to the series is available here; you can read the most recent installment here. These are the more or less best Mets we rooted for as Mets fans these past ten years. Since a decade is coming to a close, we thought it would be fun to round them up and recall a little something about them.

It’s no fantasy. Jacob deGrom is all ours.


1. JACOB DeGROM, 2014-2019
In early 2019, in the third start of his sixth major league season, Jacob deGrom was hittable, and for that, I apologize. There was some talk after that frigid Tuesday night versus the Minnesota Twins at Citi Field that maybe Jacob had been tipping his pitches, or perhaps it was simply inevitable imperfection catching up to a pitcher who had just strung together a record 26 consecutive quality starts, including the two scoreless outings with which he commenced defense of his Cy Young status. But I truly believe it was at least partly my fault, because as he went about mowing down the Marlins in the 26th and maybe best of those golden games six nights prior in Miami (7 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 14 SO, plus he hit a home run), I heard myself think a thought that couldn’t have worse karma attached to it had it been manufactured to adverse specifications:

“Geez, I’m running out of ways to write ‘Jacob deGrom was great again.’”

You’d think, after so many outings when we reveled in Jacob’s deGrominance in 2018, that I could have set our blog software every fifth day so it would automatically sprinkle superlatives like “spectacular,” “superb” and “scintillating” into my copy. Instead, I had to strain to keep up with deGrom. I mean, really, after a while you do run out of ways to write ‘Jacob deGrom was great again.’ Against the Marlins, I found an angle I liked. Against the Twins, I found an angle I didn’t want. Then, for a spell, that angle — deGrom as something less than spectacular, superb and scintillating — didn’t go away. Ohmigod, I fretted, I ruined Jacob deGrom’s career, all because I found blogging the most brilliant Met of our time a little challenging.

Fortunately, as Jacob does for his team more than his team does for Jacob, the ace of the staff came to my rescue. His career was stronger than the nehora I’d unintentionally put on him. Jacob deGrom is, I should have known after five seasons following him to the peak of his profession, the personification of a kinehora, the Yiddish phrase uttered to ward off the evil eye or, in our case, the potentially dangerous bats of opponents. All opponent bats are potentially dangerous, I was reminded between April 9 and April 26 (Jake’s ERA in three starts: 9.69). But by May 1 and all the way to September 25 (Jake’s ERA in twenty-seven starts: 2.07), I was reminded deGrom will not easily allow himself to be classified an endangered species.

Before we get carried away with metaphors piled on top of Met-aphors, let us explicitly state Jacob deGrom is Faith and Fear in Flushing’s Tom Seaver Met of the Decade for the 2010s, joining Mike Piazza in receiving our decennial recognition of Metsian excellence. We’ve named the award for Tom Seaver because, well, why wouldn’t we? Tom Seaver is the greatest of Mets, and if we’d been around to conceive and present awards in the 1960s and 1970s, we’re absolutely certain Tom would have been our Met of the Decade both times.

DeGrom’s designation as FAFIF’s TSMOTD was never in doubt once the subject came to mind, which was after the 2018 season, deGrom’s most masterful masterpiece to date. The decade was nine-tenths over, Jacob had just won his third Richie Ashburn Most Valuable Met award (Jake’s ERA in thirty-two starts: 1.70 ERA) and it occurred to the awards committee that he held an almost insurmountable lead over every other Met from 2010 through 2018, pending 2019. Twenty Nineteen only deepened the committee’s commitment to this incredibly obvious choice.

We are declaring deGrom the Met of our decade a few days after Eddie Murphy hosted Saturday Night Live, which I mention because Eddie Murphy and Jacob deGrom share something in common, at least if you’ve repeatedly read (as I have) the book Saturday Night by Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad, a history of the show’s first ten years. In discussing the rocky transition from the original Lorne Michael program of 1975-1980 to the doomed Jean Doumanian version of 1980-1981, the authors explained the new executive producer instructed set designer Leo Yoshimura that she wanted her iteration of SNL to transmit “the look of the Eighties”. Not surprisingly, Yoshimura had no idea what that nebulous direction implied, but he went about searching for an answer while Doumanian concentrated on casting the group that was supposed to somehow succeed the legendary Not Ready for Prime Time Players. Her starting lineup consisted of Charles Rocket, Joe Piscopo, Ann Risley, Gail Matthius, Denny Dillon and Gilbert Gottfried. Almost as an afterthought, she also hired a 19-year-old comic from Long Island, not as a full-fledged member of the company, but as a lesser-billed featured player.

“The real look of the Eighties,” Hill and Weingrad wrote of Eddie Murphy the last time he’d go unnoticed, “was about to slip in through the back door.”

Here, then, is the first mention Faith and Fear made of the player we would, nearly six years later, rank as the No. 1 Met of the Teens, from February 6, 2014:

Jacob deGrom ascended three minor league levels last year and could develop into a Gee type starting this year.

Mind you, this was at the end of a paragraph that stoked anticipation first for Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero, neither of whom had yet pitched for the Mets but were both generally rated as comers, then confirmed that while we waited for Matt Harvey to return from Tommy John rehab, we also had Zack Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Famila to look forward to among enticing young Met arms.

Then deGrom.

During Spring Training, the collective expertise of FAFIF focused fleetingly on deGrom twice. Once it was because his name was adequately melodic in context; and once it was to complete a thought assessing a future featuring other, more highly regarded pitching prospects:

After enduring five years of nothingness in the standings and staring at six months will (very likely) refuse to include a single Harvey Day, I want to be Syndergaarded and Monteroed and perhaps deGromed as soon as possible, never mind Wheelered as much as possible.

Eddie Murphy’s first appearance on Saturday Night Live was as an extra, sitting on a couch with no dialogue. That was pretty much the role we gave Jacob deGrom. We knew his name, but we didn’t process much more — and we weren’t alone. The prospect industrial complex that assiduously tracks every minor league movement like it’s your online shopping habits didn’t seem to place much priority on this deGrom fellow heading into what would become his rookie season. Nobody among Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Amazin’ Avenue or Mets Minor League Blog listed him higher than tenth when ranking Mets prospects.

We didn’t even know for sure that 2014 would be Jacob deGrom’s rookie season. He started the year at Las Vegas, and not necessarily to stiff him on service time. The Mets didn’t seem to have any better handle on their own personnel than those who cover them for fun, profit or anything else. Jacob, then 25 and three years removed from his Tommy John rehabilitation, had gone 4-0 in seven starts for the 51s, but he was en route to Flushing to fortify the Mets’ bullpen once it was determined Gonzalez Germen had contracted a virus that would force the reliever to the DL. We were so excited by the righthander’s impending promotion, that this is how we heralded it on May 13:

The Mets announced plans to promote Jacob deGrom…

As understatement goes, this was right down there with the Times reporting, in April of 1966, that the Mets had prevailed in a drawing that allowed them to sign “a right-handed pitcher from the University of California” whose contract with the Atlanta Braves had been voided by the commissioner. The pitcher, according to the Paper of Record, was named George Feaver. You might know him better as George Thomas Seaver. (They also got his college wrong.)

Thirty-eight years later, rumors of Jacob Anthony deGrom’s immediate destination proved similarly inaccurate, though that wasn’t the fault of shoddy reportage. Between the time Germen was diagnosed, on a Monday, and Dillon Gee’s next scheduled start, on a Thursday, Gee was directed to the DL as well, having strained his right lat muscle in his previous start. Thus, deGrom wasn’t going to work out of the bullpen. He was going to take the ball against the Yankees in the 2014 Subway Series finale. On the eve of Jacob’s first major league pitch, one night after Rafael Montero’s maiden voyage, our enthusiasm for his presence was so intense that we framed it this way:

Overall, there was enough [from Montero] to make you want to see more, which is all you can ask of a recalled rookie. We have another one of those tonight, as Jacob deGrom earned a promotion from reliever to starter by being on the premises when it was learned Dillon Gee was going to the DL with a strained right lat muscle. That’s not supposed to be a serious injury (also, Ryan Church is well enough to fly cross-country with a concussion), so I’m willing to believe Gee’s misfortune is temporary and the opportunity it grants deGrom is a bonus.

In one sense, we nailed our forecast, in that Gee, who the Mets thought might miss only a couple of starts, wasn’t back until July. Otherwise, our case of deGrom Fe(a)ver didn’t exactly burn with prescience. When he got his chance to pitch, he immediately generated results that translate today as vintage Jake: seven innings of one-run, four-hit ball in a 1-0 loss that encompassed Derek Jeter’s final Subway Series appearance. Oh yeah, that. Even with us, the farewell to the all-time crosstown Met nemesis rated co-billing with the elevation of the latest Met pitcher. Jeter was kind of hard to ignore, no matter how we would have liked to once Interleague play began.

Under the headline “Hello Jacob, Goodbye Jeter,” we wrote the following of the former:

Gazed upon with Collector’s Cups half full, these are the days of Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero, which produced two days of good sidebar news in a pair of senses. One, of course, is that two reasonably highly touted rookie pitchers were promoted and matched their hype, at least on an introductory basis. DeGrom exceeded it, actually, doing everything he could to win his debut. Not only did he throw seven innings and give up but one run — the product of shaky defense, mostly — but the kid ended the notorious hitless-by-pitchers streak at last. Jacob singled in the third and somewhere, I’d like to believe, Tom Seaver stood on first base snapping his warmup jacket shut as he looked to Eddie Yost to see if the hit-and-run was on. DeGrom also laid down a beautiful bunt, proving the young man was born under the sign of Chub Feeney…or at least the former National League president’s signature on a Spalding baseball.

Of course it’s wonderful that deGrom pitched (and hit) well and Montero pitched well. Of course it will be wonderful when Zack Wheeler settles down a bit and Noah Syndergaard Super 2’s his way up and Matt Harvey recovers and Steven Matz maybe keeps coming. Take those guys, mix in Niese and Gee and whoever else is bubbling under the Hot 100, and you know what you might very well have in the not-too-distant future?

A genuine pitching surplus. And you know what you can do then? Trade for some hitting, because Jacob deGrom and his hurling brethren can’t do it all alone. You can never have enough starting pitching, but you also can never ask your starting pitching to bear the burden of getting outs without somebody on his side getting runs for him.

Well, we certainly intuited that the Mets might make a habit of not scoring for Jacob deGrom, and we definitely gauged correctly that the rookie had a Seaverian knack for helping his own cause. Hey, we even invoked Tom Terrific, quite possibly if unconsciously predicting the day that we’d be naming an award for the old master and presenting it in print to a heretofore unknown who would prove every bit as Cyworthy.

But don’t give us that much credit. DeGrom was just another young pitcher to us, one we couldn’t mention without mentioning like a half-dozen other guys — and we made him share his first FAFIF headline with Derek Fucking Jeter. For all we knew in the aftermath of May 15, 2014, good ol’ Dillon Gee was gonna be fine soon and maybe it would be enough that deGrom could lend a hand in that chronically shaky Mets bullpen.

Yet, as mentioned (and as was predictable), Gee was out a while and the Mets were wise enough to keep letting deGrom make starts for them. Except for a few precautionary DL/IL trips and a month at the end of 2016 when an ulnar nerve problem sidelined him, deGrom has kept making starts for them and for us ever since. He’s been less a mid-rotation Gee type and more an ace-for-the-ages Seaver type. Mostly, he’s been a deGrom type, which we can now define as the top type in the National League at present, never mind on the Mets of the 2010s.

He brings us confidence and serenity, no matter that he inadvertently inspires his teammates to lean back, relax and not score jack on Jake’s behalf. We know that even without the traditional (if somewhat inane) metric of pitcher wins weighing in heavily on his behalf, Jacob went on to be voted Rookie of the Year in 2014 and awarded Cy Youngs in 2018 and 2019. We’ve seen him named to All-Star teams three times. We know the Mets, who don’t always seem to grasp the essentials about their personnel or product, understand the importance of Jacob deGrom. We know they signed him to a long-term extension to keep him pitching for us well into the 2020s. We also know, because we’ve published them alongside previous installments of this series, that the Mets have placed deGrom’s image on the cover of every one of their Official Yearbooks since he broke in with minimal notice.

We watched Jacob dominate the Dodgers in the Mets’ first postseason game in nine years in 2015 and, four games later, we watched him persevere with lesser stuff and keep his and our team alive so they and we could win that Division Series and progress toward a World Series. We’ve seen Jacob deGrom regularly pitch brilliantly without support, suck up a plethora of undeserved NDs and Ls, and pitch brilliantly some more. We’ve seen him brandish every tool we associate with the most talented of position players. Jacob can, within reason, hit; hit with power; run; field; and, oh yes, he can throw. Four-seamers, sliders, changeups…he throws them all and he throws them to the dandiest of effect. Among the cohort of Met pitching prospects in which we used to lump him when we thought to lump him at all, he’s either outlasted or outclassed every one of his contemporaries. At the risk of once again incurring the wrath of the evil eye (kinehora!), he may be the first Met pitcher since Seaver neither encumbered nor defined by discernible flaws. We’re not swearing he’ll be spectacular, superb and scintillating without pause for the rest of his career. But we will testify that he’s been pretty much all that the entire time we’ve seen him in the 2010s.

Jacob deGrom may have filtered into our consciousness through nothing more auspicious than a side entrance, but he’s where we start when we think about the Mets these days, and he’s where we finish when we think about the Mets in this decade.

22 comments to Mets of the 2010s: Jake’s the 1

  • JoeNunz

    Thank you for writing this series.
    An Amazin’ Christmas gift.

  • Harvey

    My least Met of the decade is Paul Sewald. His 1-14 5.16 ERA in an amazing 120 games is astonishing. But better things may yet happen. He’s on a one-game winning streak and is still in the organization.

    • Sewald’s ranking of No. 99 is an acknowledgment of his type: the shuttled Quadruple-A reliever without whom you couldn’t tell the story of the Mets of the 2010s. He was the first of that crew to arrive in 2017 (not that we didn’t have that type before) and he was the one who hung in there most. That one win, even if we agree relief pitcher wins are mostly devoid of meaning, made him seem not ridiculous to place in the Top 100 (the fact that he coughed up a lead to the Braves in the final game of this decade…well, he’s Paul Sewald).

  • Dave

    This was all thoroughly enjoyable Greg, although I’m still going to bug you to reveal who finished at the bottom of the heap for the decade. And of course, you are forewarned that if it isn’t Jed Lowrie, you have to explain why it isn’t and why you hate someone so much that you say they’re worse than Jed Lowrie.

    We can have fun debating whether Alonso should be #10 or #5 or if Murphy should be 3rd or 6th or if Jon Neise should be #18 or #230 (pretty obvious this was a solo effort on your part, no way Jason puts him in the top anything, let alone top 20), but there was never any doubt as to who #1 would be. It’s not too often we get lucky enough to have someone of Jake’s stature to call our own.

    And now the new decade will start with a new guy who could rank anywhere, but I guess his uniform number will be the almost always available 68. Nice holiday gift from Brodie, not just going dumpster diving like we all thought he would.

    • With the caveat that it’s the holiday season and Good Will to Mets should prevail, my impulse for mythical No. 247 is to go with D.J. Carrasco, who was not only incredibly ineffective over two seasons (6.11 ERA in 46 appearances, 2011-2012), but idiotically threw at Ryan Braun, setting off a dopey kerfuffle in which David Wright wanted to place himself in harm’s way for potential Brewer retaliation and Terry Collins had to sit the Captain down. The Mets were so fed up with Carrasco that they DFA’d him shortly thereafter despite owing him decent coin. Carrasco, unlike so many futile relievers of the 2010s, was sought and signed as a veteran free agent. And unlike, say A.J. Ramos or Anthony Swarzak or Brandon Lyon (to name three), there is no discernible example I can recall where Carrasco got out of a jam. Most memorably, he balked home a winning run.

      Jed Lowrie wasn’t physically able to play. As far as we know, it wasn’t his doing. Maybe he, too, had a ranch with a hole in it, but an injury is an injury and the contract was authorized by somebody else. Lowrie might not crack the Top 240, but I think there are a few others between Carrasco and him.

      You’ve twice thrown shade at Niese. Goodness knows I’ve done the same, but he held down the rotation plenty in his day, most of which was in the lost portion of the decade, the days when Niese and Gee and Pelfrey were mostly what we were about, and he survived into the good part. I’m comfortable with him as a Top 20 Met for these ten years. I wish he hadn’t been reacquired in 2016, except that his return expelled Antonio Bastardo, who could give D.J. Carrasco a run for his money, come to think of it. Neil Ramirez, too. And Tommy Milone. Yikes.

      May Dellin Bettances bring the honor to 68 that Jeff McNeil and Floyd Vivino did.

      • Dave

        OK…I’m sold. I had forgotten about Carrasco, perhaps a psychologist might say that it’s a repressed memory. He was dreadful, and pitching poorly is one thing, but the episode with the Brewers was unforgivable and an embarrassment to the team. As for Neise, well, it’s all been said before.

        And as we are two of the few who will read this and get the 68/Uncle Floyd reference…go have a Taylor ham, egg and cheese on a hard roll, my Honorary Jersey friend.

        • Sounds delish! And shoutout to the other No. 68, Dario Alvarez, who, had he been given a few more opportunities, might have bulled his way into McHugh/Centeno territory. His lefty-specialist strikeout of Bryce Harper on Labor Day 2015 was immense in the moment, and a big moment counted a lot in a decade like this.

  • Dave

    Also, the Mets have had way too many Charles Rockets and Ann Risleys.

    • open the gates

      True, but as we’ve seen the last few episodes of FAFIF, they’ve also had a decent number of Joe Piscopos and Gilbert Gottfrieds. Which isn’t such a bad thing.

      • The Gilbert Gottfried in this cast may have been Justin Turner in that Dick Ebersol/Sandy Alderson didn’t know what he had when he let him go.

        Todd Frazier is the reflex choice for Piscopo as he’s from Jersey, but if we need a 2010s Met who was critical to the production early on and then went away and wasn’t necessarily missed, I’d consider Pelfrey.

  • Lenny65

    In my very unofficial opinion Jacob deGrom is the third-best Mets starting pitcher of all time, right behind Koosman and a tad above Doc. I had him at four before 2019 but that second Cy Young gives him the edge IMO. Wherever he ranks, he’s already indisputably one of the greatest Mets of all time, a master craftsman of the highest caliber, a gamer, a leader by example, personable, humble…we are privileged and incredibly fortunate to call him our own. There have been quite a few legendary pitching seasons in franchise history and Jake’s 2018 and 2019 are up there with the best of them (and he was pretty damn good before that too).

    • I’m not quite ready to leapfrog deGrom over Gooden and Koosman if only because Jacob’s had six years and those guys put in more than a decade apiece, and both were well above average for a long time, even when they weren’t at their absolute best. If you took Doc’s 1986 through 1994 alone, he’d still be right there with Sid and Ronnie and the pitchers who backed him up in the rotation. Then add 1984 and 1985, and you realize what a career it was.

      I used to undervalue Koosman because in my recollection, he was always struggling to regain his form from an injury, but that was a relatively brief portion of his tenure (he missed some starts in 1971 and worked out of the pen a bit in 1972). Like Matlack, Koosman’s won-lost record suffered from non-support in these parts…as if deGrom wouldn’t know from that.

      The only thing that holds back my euphoria a bit about Jake in the big Met picture is unlike Seaver, Koosman and Gooden, he’s never been expected to throw complete games. Those guys gave us nine innings like clockwork. Not Jake’s fault, since that is the era we live in, but it’s hard for me to discount what Koosman and Gooden did CGwise.

      The fact that it’s universally agreed deGrom has ascended Mets’ Mt. Pitchmore after six seasons — over a lot of very good arms — speaks volumes already. Knock wood, he’s got time to keep climbing.

      • Lenny65

        I rank Koosman second because of the huge, huge games the threw in huge, huge situations. He wasn’t without his flaws but Koos was a true “big game” pitcher. Putting Jake over Doc is a tough, tough call and honestly I could go either way with that. Post-86 Doc was so, so frustrating at times. But IMO Jake is no lower than fourth. BTW in my personal all-time rankings Matlack is fifth, which I realize may be somewhat controversial.

        Couldn’t agree more re: CGs. You look at those numbers and they’re otherworldly by today’s standards. I mean Matlack had 125 career wins and threw NINETY-SEVEN complete games. It boggles the mind.

  • NostraDennis

    What a countdown! Nicely done, sir.

    Now, how about retroactively crowning a Met of the Decade for both the 80’s and the 90’s?

  • LeClerc

    All-Time:

    1. Seaver

    2. Koosman

    3. DeGrom

  • open the gates

    First of all, I loved this series. A beautiful way to cap off the decade, and I’ll be rereading it from 100 to 1 when I have a few minutes to myself. (Oy Chanukah…)

    As for Mr. deGrom, one of my favorite aspects of his story was his sheer unexpectedness. It’s when a team is counting on A, B, and C, and along comes D out of nowhere and outshines them all, or at least forces himself into the story. Until now, the ace of the All Time Unexpected Team was David Cone, who forced his way into a rotation full of Goodens and Darlings and El Sids. Time for David to step aside, there’s a new ace in town. Harvey and Wheeler are gone, Syndergaard and Matz have been erratic at times, Montero and Mejia and all those other Familia guys are long gone or way diminished. And then there’s Jacob deGrom, “the future Dillon Gee”. (Don’t feel bad, most people didn’t even give him that much credit.) And all the rest of the package – Rookie of the Year, two Cys, striking out the side on 10 pitches in his first All Star game, postseason heroics, pitching unearthly great while receiving zero support – it’s definitely the story of the Met decade. Long may he Grom.

    • I dug Dillon Gee as this decade’s Rick Reed and will confess I originally had him one spot ahead of Zack Wheeler until I drilled down and had to admit that I put a little too much stock into Gee having been an Opening Day starter once and co-winning MVM honors for 2013. In the end, I had to ask myself, “Would anybody have given Dillon Gee the kind of contract the Phillies just gave Zack Wheeler?” and realized, no…not that that what the Phillies decided to do should determine these rankings, but it was bracing (it helped that Zack picked his free agent runup to start peaking). As for Wheeler (who Anthony DiComo put in his Top 10 Mets of the 2010s, though I doubt he thought about it all that much; he left out Alonso, otherwise we were in agreement on content if not order), I tend to downplay his post-debut, pre-Tommy John period, but he was coming along nicely by late 2014.

      I dug Wheeler, too. I’m sorry he’s gone to an enemy.

  • open the gates

    I also liked Dillon Gee, but he was no deGrom. He always seemed to be pitching a bit better than his stuff would lead one to expect. I don’t remember the exact details, but I seem to recall the team giving him a raw deal on his departure. (I know, shocker.)

    I am really not happy about Zack leaving, particularly to the Phillies. I’m thinking he may wind up being the pitching version of Daniel Murphy circa 2016. And boy do I hope I’m wrong.

  • Left Coast Jerry

    My idea for the bottom of the barrel in the decade has to be John Mayberry Jr. In June 2015, I went to a Mets-Brewers game in Milwaukee. deGrom was the starting pitcher. To show how little respect he got, even after winning the Rookie of the Year award the previous season, when the starting lineups were announced, and the players’ pictures were posted on the big screen at the stadium, they posted Mayberry’s picture when they announced deGrom’s name. Talk about no respect!

    Of course, Jake pitched 8 shutout innings that day, got a hit and scored one of the 2 Mets runs in a 2-0 victory. And of course, Mayberry hit for deGrom in the top of the 9th and flied out, en route to his stellar batting average of .164 that season.