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Jacob DeGrom is proof the future is now

Jacob deGrom of the Mets pitches against the

Jacob deGrom of the Mets pitches against the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field on Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014. Credit: Jim McIsaac

To put it in the context of team history, for the better part of seven innings, the pitching looked like the 1969 Mets and the batting looked like the 1962 Mets.

All told, the real story was Jacob deGrom, who looked like the Mets' future. And who's to say the future has to wait?

DeGrom turned Saturday night into a spectacle for a while, joining with the Giants' Jake Peavy to take a double no-hitter into the seventh inning. Then it turned into a ballgame, and the Mets won that, 4-2.

The point is, deGrom won his fifth in a row and maintained his status as unexpected symbol of hope. These days, the Mets are good enough to come up with pleasant surprises. DeGrom wasn't considered one of the can't-miss pitchers in the realm of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndegaard, yet here he is, becoming a National League Rookie of the Year candidate before our eyes.

"He's a baseball player," Terry Collins said of the former college shortstop. "This kid really competes when he's out there; really, really competes."

He competed so well against Peavy (one of the early exiles in the Red Sox fire sale) that the game had an epic feel. It made you check the records and find that on May 2, 1917, in the park now known as Wrigley Field, the Reds' Fred Toney and the Cubs' Hippo Vaughn each pitched nine innings of no-hit ball.

DeGrom allowed a double to Pablo Sandoval with two outs in the seventh and walked off to a standing ovation after giving up three more hits in the eighth.

The whole thing called to mind what Collins had said before the game: "Every day, we walk this fine line between development and winning."

This is progress. The Mets are good enough to have that situation, witnessed by their discussions about promoting Matt den Dekker, who entered Saturday night with a .329 batting average for Las Vegas, second-best (by a point) in the Pacific Coast League. They just aren't sure if they should do it.

Who knows what the right move is? Generally, the advice from this peanut stand, though, is that they lean toward the winning.

Sure, nobody in his or her right mind believes the Mets are pennant contenders in 2014, and only the true diehards still think the postseason is a real possibility. The growing electricity at Citi Field is powered by thoughts of next year. Still, you can't keep writing off season after season. "Wait 'til next year" is a noble phrase in New York baseball history, but it was built on the knowledge that the Brooklyn Dodgers had been trying this year, too.

So the Mets would do well to try to win as many games as they can now, no matter where that leads. Creating a positive atmosphere is part of development.

Here is the caveat: Trying to win does not mean playing a veteran just because he is a veteran or ruling out a young player just because he is young. That's with a small "y," not to be confused with Chris Young, the pricey .207-hitting outfielder.

We get what Collins was saying: "I've had a lot of old managers tell me very flat out: 'Be very careful playing young players because they're going to make just enough mistakes to get beat.' Some of the best managers in the game have told me that."

The unsaid corollary is that young players get managers fired.

So it's one thing for us to say, "Give the kids a chance." Our job isn't on the line. Still, it is fair to ask the Mets to keep an open mind.

"We've told everyone, every Mets fan out there: Patience isn't a word used in New York," Collins said. "There's light at the end of the tunnel, there's people coming, and when they get here, they're going to be good."

DeGrom felt good about what he saw Saturday night, and even better about what he sees ahead. "I think it's going to be unreal,'' he said. "When Harvey comes back, I think we're going to have a great staff."

DeGrom is proof positive that there is no harm in asking them to be good right now.

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