Like a moron, I predicted that Noah Syndergaard would win the Cy Young Award last year. Surely, he would inhale Jacob deGrom's aura, or the arm's length from greatness would inspire Thor or at least put a charge in his hammer. So of course, Syndergaard suffered his worst year as a Met, allowing the most runs in the NL (94).
Now it's time for some pseudo-sacrilege.
What if deGrom blows through baseball again and bags his third-straight Cy Young? He could join or pass Clayton Kershaw as the best pitcher not to win a World Series. (We can likely agree that the Mets won't win the World Series this season.) And maybe - maybe - he's inching toward Tom Seaver territory as the best pitcher in Mets history.
We all respect Seaver's brilliance and status as the stand-alone Met. He won the Cy Young and World Series in 1969, and won two more Cy Young awards before the Mets pulled a historic act of baseball treason by booting Tom Terrific to Cincinnati in 1977.
The World Series ring will likely keep Seaver atop the hearts, minds, and rankings of Mets fans. Also, Seaver found his true greatness in '69, at age 25. DeGrom didn't win his first Cy Young until he was 30, and must pitch until he's 38 to match Seaver's 12 summers as a Met. (DeGrom's current contract runs through 2023.) There's no way deGrom will match Seaver's 10 All-Star appearances or 2,541 strikeouts with the franchise. Pitch counts, truncated starts, and the mass of mangled pitching arms in today's game won't allow for the epic output of a star pitcher from the 1970s. DeGrom would have to pitch six more seasons at close to his bewildering best, which leans from improbable to impossible.
But there's no doubt it's harder for starters to dominate these days. DeGrom has also faced hulking (if not juicing) hitters. He pitches in comically small ballparks. And he’s hurled baseballs that many believe were tweaked to turn fly balls into long balls. Despite these modern hurdles, deGrom tied Bob Gibson for the most consecutive quality starts in MLB history, with 26. Not even the deified No. 41 did that.
DeGrom would also be the last person to even entertain this debate, which is one of the reasons he's so suitable for it. Like Syndergaard, he once had long hair. But deGrom has none of Thor's need for attention, for Twitter, or to jog shirtless under the Florida sun. In fact, deGrom pitches with such low-key regularity that he doesn't even have a nickname. He's so muted and modest in all his public affairs that he literally lets each pitch speak for him.
Reggie Jackson said that Tom Seaver was so good that blind people came to hear him pitch. It speaks to the reverence peers and fans feel for the Hall of Fame pitcher. Maybe Jacob deGrom won't ever climb those last sacred rungs to match the most immortal Met. But deGrom keeps this up, wins another Cy Young this year - becoming only the third pitcher ever to win three straight - he may at least join Tom Terrific in another cool place - Cooperstown.