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The part that’s both beautiful and urgent is how finite and fleeting this is. Right now, Jacob deGrom isn’t just the best at what he does, he is head-and-shoulders better than anyone else who does what he does.
He is Kelly Leak right now, dominating for the Chico’s Bail Bonds Bears. He is Jefferson from “Fast Times” right after he sees his wrecked car. He’s Scott Howard right after he started growing out the whiskers in “Teen Wolf.” He is of another level.
Those characters, of course, were all fictional, so their powers are eternal. It’s less certain in real life, though every now and again we are graced by greatness so profound that it’s hard to reconcile that the other players around the star are getting paid, too. And that’s the thing: It never lasts forever, like in the movies.
So you have to savor it while it lasts.
You must savor deGrom, and what he is now, which is even better than the pitcher who won back-to-back Cy Youngs in 2018 and 2019, throwing 50 balls a game that hover near 100 mph, something that’s simply never been done before. He’s struck out 50 hitters in his first four starts; that’s simply never been done before.
How long will it last? Another few weeks? All year? A couple of years?
Doesn’t matter. Enjoy the moment. Relish the right now.
Nobody ever sat in this kind of position longer than Babe Ruth, who beginning in 1920 redefined what the entire sport of baseball looked like. It took a while for the rest of the game to catch up to him, and for others to start playing the same way, and, at last, for age to remind Ruth, as it does everyone, that it is undefeated and untied.
Ruth set a single-season record of 54 home runs when the previous record (held by him) was 29, and he did it with 66 games left in the 1920 season. Ruth passed Roger Connor’s existing total of 137 career home runs in 1921 and didn’t stop until he hit 577 more — four more than the career total of Harmon Killebrew, who is 12th on the all-time list now.
Man-playing-with-boys stuff right there.
Wilt Chamberlain was like that for a while, a profoundly unstoppable force in his early years as a pro, averaging 50.4 points one year, averaging 24.3 rebounds across the first 10 seasons of his career, scoring 100 one game in 1962 against the Knicks, even leading the league in assists one year, just for kicks.
Wayne Gretzky was like that for a while. When he set the single-season goals record with 92 in 1982 he battered Phil Esposito’s existing record by 15 goals — and did it with 16 games to spare. He finished with 2,857 career points — 1,007 more than Gordie Howe, whose record he broke. And he broke it when he was 29 years old — with nine more years left in his career.
Tiger Woods had a few years like that, when the world’s best golfers literally cowered at the sight of him and his blood-red Sunday finest. Mike Tyson had a couple of years like this, when he was the Baddest Man on the Planet, when you wondered if it was even possible that he could be beaten. Serena Williams had a few years like that. Rod Laver won Grand Slams seven years apart; he was that to men’s tennis in the 1960s.
This is the kind of company Jacob deGrom keeps now. This is the neighborhood in which he resides. The last time baseball saw an individual who was this much better than the rest of his contemporaries was 20 years ago — only then it was Barry Bonds, and even then there was suspicion that he’d made the leap from All-Star to All-Universe by ingesting something other than a bowl of Wheaties every morning.
This kind of stuff doesn’t happen very often. It’s not supposed to happen very often. It’s not supposed to look like this. Even Mets fans with memories that extend back to 1985 Doc Gooden or 1971 Tom Seaver (with apologies to ’69 Seaver, ’71 was the best year of his career) have a hard time reconciling those seasons with the one we’re seeing so far from deGrom.
Maybe we’ve already seen the best of this. It will end at some point. That’s the law. Or maybe we’ll get to see this version of deGrom for a few more weeks, a few more months, all season, beyond. However long it lasts?
Enjoy the moment. Relish the right now. Who knows when we’ll see something like this in our midst again.
It really does seem everything the Knicks do lately falls under the category of “likeable.” The latest: every single player reacting to Mike Woodson’s first return to the Garden after leaving Tom Thibodeau’s staff and taking the Indiana gig.
The emotion was genuine and well-deserved for a good man, capped by Julius Randle giving him his signed game jersey.
It is quite impossible to be a fan of New York sports and not be swept away by John Jastremski’s “New York, New York” podcast. If possible, JJ’s passion and enthusiasm for sports in our town has grown even larger and wider since he made the full-time switch from radio. It’s terrific, engaging stuff.
Jacob deGrom certainly made April 23, 2021, a day for Mets fans to savor. Exactly 59 years earlier, Jay Hook did a similar service when he pitched a complete-game five-hitter in a 9-1 win over the Pirates at Forbes Field for the first-ever franchise win (after an 0-9 start). Hook tells our pal Jay Horwitz every year around now fans still send balls, cards and magazines to his farm in Michigan seeking an autograph. “I sign everything,” Jay told Jay. “It’s nice to be remembered.” DeGrom will find that out soon enough, too.
There are note-perfect accents by actors. And then there is Kate Winslet’s Philly brogue in HBO’s “Mare of Easttown,” and you immediately believe sweet Rose from “Titanic” would actually have it in her to boo Santa Claus.
Whack Back at Vac
Ron Perri: Carlo had to answer for Santino. When does Brian Cashman have to answer for Aaron Hicks? For $70 million they get Eddie Gaedel?
Vac: Word to the wise: Maybe Brian Cashman should opt for the back seat.
Howie Siegel: Tom Thibodeau is responsible for much of the Knicks’ success. His ability to rotate the right guys in and out at the right time is something to behold. I’m old enough to remember that Red Holzman always knew when to insert Henry Bibby into a game for what Jim Gordon used to call “instant offense.” This is a good time to be a Knicks fan.
Vac: The legions of old-guard Knicks fans you hear from these days is a sure sign that what’s happening at the Garden is no fly-by-night fluke.
@A_Slapintheface: I’m not exactly sure how the NFL draft works but any chance the Jets can trade down at 2, get a bunch of picks and sign Jacob deGrom at QB? I’m all but certain he would be an All-Pro. Thoughts?
@MikeVacc: I’m for anything that allows us to watch Jacob deGrom perform more than 35 dates in a calendar year.
Bill Dancosse: I don’t like seven-inning doubleheaders, but maybe I’m just old school. I can’t picture Ernie Banks saying, “It’s a beautiful day, let’s play one and a half.” Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it does it.
Vac: I know what Jimmy Dugan would say: “There’s no ghost runners in baseball!”
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