Maybe, just maybe, we can start taking educated guesses on how this storybook tale of Jacob deGrom’s rise from college shortstop to elite ace will end.
Having won consecutive NL Cy Young awards by claiming 29 of 30 first-place votes, deGrom is now one of 11 pitchers to ever win consecutive Cy Young awards.
Next season he’ll have his chance to become just the third pitcher to ever win three in a row.
He’s already one of the greatest pitchers in Mets history, an organization fueled by great pitching. And these awards cements him as one of his generation’s most dominant pitchers.
At this point, it seems the smart money is on deGrom’s tale ending in Cooperstown.
“Being mentioned with the names on those lists both in major league history and Mets history is truly an honor,’ deGrom said on a conference call Wednesday. “Something that when I first came up if you had asked me that or told me that this was going to happen I probably wouldn’t have believed you.”
Joining an exclusive list
While the world has known of deGrom’s greatness for quite some time, this second award puts him in a different stratosphere. Winning one Cy Young is an amazing achievement. Earning that second puts you among some of the game’s best and on a Hall-of-Fame trajectory.
Of the 10 pitchers to achieve the feat before him, five of them – Jim Palmer, Pedro Martinez, Sandy Koufax, Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson – are in the Hall of Fame. Roger Clemens’ accomplishments would have him in the Hall of Fame if not for the steroid scandal.
Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer –the latter of whom finished third in the voting – are headed there eventually.
Former Tigers starter Denny McLain is the one player who did not get voted in, and it seems unlikely that former Giants starter Tim Lincecum will receive enough votes.
The two pitchers to win it three straight years – Maddux and Johnson – are both Hall of Famers.
If deGrom can continue to produce at a very good to elite pace for another five years or so, he should have a very strong case to be enshrined.
“I haven’t looked at the three in a row (list),” deGrom said. “Definitely aware of it. It’s tough explain. While you’re still playing, you’re always trying to get better. Maybe a little in the offseason, reflect a little. Now, starting to focus on 2020 and find a way to get outs . …Definitely aware of guys have done that and two back-to-back Cy Young Award winners. I’m honored to even be mentioned with those guys.”
DeGrom’s journey to this year’s award was a little bumpier than last year’s in which he produced a historic season with his league-leading ERA.
The burden of trying to follow that dominant season wore on him early, and he produced a couple stinkers. DeGrom made the necessary adjustments and finally found his groove, and he thrived in the second half while Hyun-Jin Ryu slipped and Scherzer dealt with an injury.
DeGrom finished 11-8 with a 2.43 ERA while leading the NL with 255 strikeouts. Ryu received the only other first-place vote.
“It’s a dream to win the Cy Young, but to win back to back, it’s a goal but it’s hard to explain,” deGrom said. “You set these goals and it doesn’t feel real yet.”
Get back in the dance
Before any decision has to be made regarding deGrom’s Cooperstown candidacy, the righty is hoping he will have ‘World Series champion’ on his resume.
The Mets have made the playoffs in just two of deGrom’s six seasons, and have missed it each of the last three years, wasting his Cy Young campaigns.
DeGrom posted a 2.88 ERA spanning four postseason starts during the Mets’ run to the World Series in 2015, and it’s on the Mets’ front office and ownership to build a winner around him.
“That’s the goal,” deGrom said of returning to the playoffs. “In 2015, the entire playoffs into the World Series, that was the most fun I’ve had playing baseball and that’s why you play the game. That’s the ultimate prize for the best team. That’s your goal and what you try to do.”
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