Every time Jacob deGrom takes the mound, he does more to promote baseball than 99 percent of the people playing the sport.
That deGrom chooses to perform only in a Mets’ uniform this year, and not wearing some generic, slapped-together, garish marketing outfit at next week’s All-Star Game, might be considered selfish by some in the big picture.
But you wouldn’t have found any of those dissenting voices among the crowd Wednesday at Citi Field, where deGrom struck out 10 over seven innings and retired 13 straight between solo homers in the Mets’ 4-3 comeback victory over the Brewers.
DeGrom belongs to the Mets, and their fans -- both of whom are enjoying what is shaping up to be a very special season in Flushing. And if deGrom doesn’t care to share himself with the VIPs gathering at Coors Field, or Tuesday’s global TV audience, just so he can stay as close to 100 percent healthy as he has all year, that’s just tough luck for everyone else.
For those concerned about deGrom’s presence in Denver as a necessary obligation for the "good of the game," he’s already been there, done that three times. And I’d argue that deGrom’s better off for the sport if he makes 30 starts, pitches deep into October, with countless baseball fans able to view his historic talents on whatever app or network they choose, every fifth day, whether they live in Port Washington or Paris.
That’s the greater goal, and after what deGrom already has endured in three trips to the MRI tube (that we know about) for three different lat-shoulder-forearm maladies, we have to respect the healthy roll he’s on at the moment. DeGrom put together consecutive seven-inning starts for the first time all season, and finally seems to be in a place where his body language on the mound isn’t dissected down to every shoulder waggle or leg stretch.
If you think back to the anxiety-filled period from mid-May through mid-June, a nerve-rattling time for the Mets that included an IL stint, what deGrom is doing now should not be taken for granted. He’d like to stay that way.
"Yeah, I feel good," deGrom said afterward. "Knock on wood."
You can’t blame deGrom for being superstitious. A little luck always helps. Look at Luis Urias and Jace Peterson, the two Brewers who took him deep Monday and joined a very exclusive club. They were fortunate to get rare pitches to handle. Occasionally, deGrom shows he’s mortal, too. Plus, he can break or tear like everyone else. Watching him throw 100 mph as routinely as he does, it’s a wonder deGrom remains in one piece.
That’s why it’s so critically important for the Mets’ ace to keep on a routine. Asked about his (minor) flurry of injuries early on, deGrom blamed those on the Mets’ early part of the schedule, which was ripped apart by COVID-19 outbreaks and problematic weather. He also traces some of his health issues back to the Mets’ mid-April trip to Coors Field, where altitude and the frigid spring conditions can mess with pitchers.
Rojas is relieved to be through the MRI-phase of deGrom’s season (fingers crossed, of course). And any precautions they can take to avoid further visits to the doc’s office for deGrom are worth going overboard on. Having him stay home from Denver is a layup.
"We are in a better spot now," Rojas said. "We still want to pay respect to the effort he puts out there. I mean, this guys is throwing a lot of pitches at 100, 99, 98. Even though he looks effortless, he’s using force. And at this point, he doesn’t want to expose it (at the All-Star Game).
The Mets got pushed into an awkward situation when Tuesday’s game got rained out, washing away their carefully-crafted plan of starting deGrom twice before the break, including the final Sunday of the first half -- giving them a built-in excuse for him to pass on the Denver trip.
With deGrom then moved to Wednesday, Rojas engaged in some mental gymnastics pregame, saying they could still find ways to pitch deGrom Sunday on short rest. But how did that make any sense if the idea is to protect him?
To his credit, deGrom didn’t make any excuses afterward. Regardless of whether he pitches Sunday or not (i’d bet no) the Mets’ ace isn’t going to the All-Star Game. Period. And was unapologetic about his decision. As bluntly straightforward as one of his triple-digit heaters.
"I thought about it," deGrom said. "Flying across country, I’m not going to throw in it. I think the best thing for me is to be healthy and be ready for the second half. I don’t think it’s beneficial for me to fly to Colorado and back."
Everyone in Metsland is nodding along with him. No one more so than Rojas.
"Jake’s mindset is here," the manager said. "He just wants to be with his team and produce for his team."
That should be good for baseball, too. But above all, great for the Mets.