37-53. Looking up at the first place Philadelphia Phillies – and who saw that one coming? Thirteen-and-a-half games out of first place, a half-game out of last. This is the state of the Mets, the state of the fans’ misery. The joke going around is that Citi Field was built on a Native American burial ground and will be cursed as long as it stands, accounting for the incredible run of bad luck the last two years. If I didn’t know it was actually built on some good ol’ NYC landfill, I might believe it. My dad used to tell stories about the early days of Shea Stadium and seeing an outfielder catch a spike in the grass and bring up a beer can. Perhaps there is something to the location of the ballpark, after all: a team playing on top of garbage is playing like garbage. Every now and then, though, they give us a reason to call them “Amazin’.” It’s rare, sure, but it happens. Last night’s game is a perfect example.
The two stars of that game have been the only sources of even semi-good news for this team. Jacob deGrom pitched eight shutout innings and Brandon Nimmo hit a walk-off home run. One is headed to the All-Star Game next week and the other, it can be argued, should be. And while it’s easy to stand out against the cardboard backdrop that is the rest of this team, their stats and performances are definitely legitimate on their own. deGrom we’ve known about since he came up and won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2014. He started out playing Ron Darling to Matt Harvey’s Dwight Gooden, but when Harvey went into eclipse, he emerged as the staff ace. We’ve seen him pitch games on the big stage – a 2015 All-Star, a gutsy win in Los Angeles, putting the Mets into the NLCS that year, coming back from an injury-racked 2016. deGrom checks all the boxes of what you want your number one guy to be. If the three-headed monster that is currently Mets management has any brains at all among them, they will sign him to a long-term deal, short-circuiting all the trade talk and speculation about moving across town because he “deserves better.”
Nimmo is another story, entirely. He was erstwhile GM Sandy Alderson’s very first first round draft pick going at number 13 overall. Alderson was roundly scoffed at for the pick. Y’see, Nimmo was drafted out of high school – a high school that had no baseball team. He made his bones playing American Legion ball. He hails from Cheyenne, Wyoming, not exactly a hotbed of major league talent. In the history of Major League Baseball, spanning over 140 years and nearly 20,000 players, y’know how many have come from Wyoming? 16. Sixteen ballplayers from Wyoming have made the big leagues, including our old buddy John Buck. So among the draftniks in 2011, the question was “Brandon who?” Since he’s come to the Majors to stay, Nimmo has made quite an impression on the New York fans and media. He seems to be in perpetual motion and wears a perpetual smile. He sprints out walks, he busts it down the line on grounders and he’s not afraid to get his uniform dirty. He’s a Pete Rose type, with a little more power and without the nasty side effects. As this is written, he’s third in the NL in triples with six, has a 143 OPS+ and 2.3 bWAR. Impressive, to be sure, but being a Met fan, I can’t help but think he will be a nice player, but not a true star – to me, he seems like the Mets’ version of the player Jeremy Lin was for the basketball Knicks. He’s fun to watch and something for beleaguered fans to get excited about, but he wouldn’t be ranked in, say, the top-30 in the game.
And that in itself is something.
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