Monday, November 10, 2014


I'm often reminded of how funny the game of Baseball can be, perhaps as a microcosm of life itself. At the outset of the season, I picked Travis d'Arnaud to win the National League Rookie of the Year. Not so much because I thought he was going to win it, but because I wasn't a believer in Billy Hamilton and I didn't really familiarize myself with the remaining crop of National League Rookies for the upcoming season. As it would turn out, my pick was right Church, wrong Pew. A Met did take home the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year award. However, back in March, one would not likely have picked Jacob deGrom to be the Met to grab the honor. Yet, here he is, after a season where he didn't see the Major Leagues until May 15th, missed 2 weeks in August with an injury and got shut down with a week left in the season, the 5th Player in Mets History to bring home this particular piece of Hardware.

But measure deGrom's season against other National League Rookies and it's pretty easy to see how deGrom won the award fairly easily. Hamilton struggled to bat his light weight, as I surmised he would, and he fell victim to one of Baseball's great vicissitudes because you can't steal 1st Base. Kolten Wong, a comer, just wasn't especially exciting. So, given the weak crop of Rookies in the NL, it shouldn't be too surprising that deGrom was able to walk away with the Mets first Rookie of the Year award since Dwight Gooden a generation ago in 1984.

deGrom's season is a study in perseverance. He started the year as an afterthought, we all know that by now. He wasn't Noah Syndergaard. He wasn't Zack Wheeler. He wasn't even Rafael Montero. We knew he was there, though, and that he might surface before too long, perhaps as a swing man out of the bullpen. And when he got called up in May, the bullpen was his place. But fate intervened in Dillon Gee's injury, and suddenly there he was, tossed on the mound for a start against the Yankees. deGrom pitched well, and even chipped in with the first hit by a Mets pitcher all season, but it wasn't enough as the Mets lost the game. Against the Dodgers, deGrom again pitched decently, but got burned by a few Home Runs. That seemed to be the story of his starts. Pitch well, get no run support, take the loss. After a month, he was 0-4 despite not pitching especially badly.

But the tide turned after that. He beat Miami for his first win on June 21st, a sterling effort in which he pitched 7 shutout innings. From there, he took off. By the end of July, after a stretch in which he went 5-1 with an ERA of 1.37 and 49 Strikeouts in 46 innings, he'd evened up his record at 5-5 and lowered his ERA from 4.39 to 2.79 and all of a sudden forcibly interjected his name into the discussion of things like "Future of the Mets starting rotation" and "Rookie of the Year."

Though a shoulder injury knocked him out briefly in August, deGrom continued to ride the wave of success, gaining national notice when he outdueled Jake Peavy and the Giants on August 2nd, and finishing off his campaign with 5 simply dominant outings, in which he beat the Phillies, Rockies and Braves, and took a pair of no-decisions against the Marlins (mainly thanks to poor offense and poor bullpen efforts) where he elevated his status by pitching to a 1.37 ERA and tying a Major League record by striking out the first 8 batters of the game on September 15th.

Add all these things together, and that's how you win a Rookie of the Year award. deGrom boasted all the right variables: an out-of-nowhere emergence, multiple notable outings, a record-tying performance and no clear competition. And now, he's earned the hardware that he so rightfully deserved by becoming the Mets 5th Rookie of the Year, cementing his place as a key member of the Mets future and another name for us to get excited about. It's been 30 years since a Mets Rookie has brought this award home. Players like Wright, Harvey and Wheeler were never afforded a fair shot at it, others like Gregg Jefferies and Jay Payton weren't good enough, but deGrom was the right man at the right time, and you'd be hard-pressed to find someone more deserving.

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