ATLANTA -- Kudos to Jacob deGrom. Well deserved. His season truly was a masterpiece.
Now the Mets have to make sure they don’t flush another Mona Lisa down the toilet.
We could go on and on dissecting every amazing stat from deGrom’s historic year, but everyone already lived through that. He certainly doesn’t need any more validation after earning 29 of the 30 first-place votes, a nationwide acknowledgment that yes, deGrom can only be responsible for preventing runs, not outscoring the other team as well.
But that’s all in the past, aside from one bit of unintentional comedy, staged in Brodie Van Wagenen’s new office, that reminded us the depths of deGrom’s 2018 frustration. Van Wagenen posted a brief video on Twitter that featured the entirety of the Mets’ decision-makers watching Wednesday’s announcement -- a great moment for the franchise.
The celebration got flipped on its head, however, when the BBWAA’s Jack O’Connell introduced the big reveal by saying, “Receiving more support from the writers than his teammates ...” All that was missing was the rim shot, but the gag landed with a thud among the Mets’ officials, who watched stone-faced -- with the exception of Mickey Callaway, who laughed briefly before realizing he was the only one.
We sympathize with Callaway. Good line, but the truth hurts, and now it’s the job of every person crammed onto Van Wagenen’s sofas Wednesday night to save deGrom from a similar fate in 2019. The applause was a nice effect. Better to be studying those scouting reports, dialing those cellphones, returning those emails. Build the Mets a bullpen worthy of their stellar rotation, perhaps with an upgrade at catcher. Don’t worry. We won’t bother bringing up Manny Machado.
All season long, deGrom said the right things, and he repeated the familiar refrain during Wednesday’s conference call with reporters. Just tried to give the Mets a chance to win every fifth day, and rarely has a pitcher done that so well over six months. But we’ll say what deGrom wouldn’t. The Mets’ facepalming inability to take advantage of his excellence was a travesty.
As much as this enlightened crop of voters ignored pitcher’s wins to rightfully give deGrom the Cy, the fact that he was able to reach double-digits (10) may be the biggest testament to his greatness. The most mind-boggling number of all? The Mets were an astonishing 14-18 in his starts. And those are the wins that do matter -- the Ws in the standings, the ones that get a team to the playoffs. The difference between respectability and oblivion.
“I tried to block out all the other stuff,” deGrom said. “It’s not whether I get the win. It’s whether the team gets the win. I didn’t get as many wins as I’d like to have and neither did the team.”
Two weeks into the offseason, and with deGrom’s former agent now the GM, the Mets are sitting on a golden opportunity to change all that. It’s very likely that no one outside of the Wilpons knows exactly how much money Van Wagenen has at his disposal this winter. Fred and Jeff probably don’t even have a concrete budget in mind here in mid-November.
But they should at least understand this. With deGrom under team control for at least two more seasons, it would be criminal to squander a talent of this magnitude the way it was this past year. As brilliant as deGrom was to watch, and appreciate, the purpose of this whole exercise is for the Mets to win baseball games.
The focus now has to go back to that, full-time, and we’re not even getting into the importance of locking up deGrom on a longer-range deal. Maybe that can happen soon, maybe not. As of Wednesday night, deGrom still is agent-shopping for Van Wagenen’s replacement, so his extended future with the Mets is in need of some untangling.
In the meantime, Van Wagenen -- who can’t be involved in the deGrom negotiations anyway -- has no excuses not to solidify the roster around him. At the age of 30, deGrom not only has the physical talent to remain an elite pitcher, but also the mound intelligence to stay as consistently awesome as he was this past year.
The only downside to deGrom’s Cy Young season? It was a month too short. He deserves to be pitching again in October. We remember what that was like the last time, and you know deGrom is doing everything humanly possible, within his control, to get back there.
Now it’s time for the people that run the Mets to do the same.