In the late 1960’s, the New York Mets had one of the best 1-2 punches on the mound that the world would ever see. The second punch was not ready to be great just yet. The first punch was already at that elite level at the age of 22 when he was selected to the 1967 All-Star game, and won Rookie of the Year. Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan’s best year as teammates came in 1969, when the team won the World Series. That season was arguably one of the best of Seaver’s career as he took home his first Cy Young award, and finished second in the MVP race. As for Ryan, he went 6-3 that season, and pitched to a 3.53 ERA. His most important moment came when he saved Game Three of the World Series, not knowing he would not see the post season for another 10 seasons.
The Mets, growing frustrated with the wild nature of Ryan’s fastball, traded him to the Angels for Jim Fregosi on December 10th, 1971. In an interview with New York Times writer Joseph Durso about the trade, Gil Hodges said “You always hate to give up on an arm like Ryan’s. He could put things together overnight, but he hasn’t done it for us and the Angels wanted him. I would not hesitate making a trade for somebody who might help us right now, and Fregosi is such a guy.”
Whether he put it together overnight or in spring training, Ryan led the league in strikeouts, won 19, and had an ERA of 2.28. When Mets fans thought that one trade of a pitcher was bad enough, the ownership said “Hold my beer” in 1977 with the trade of Seaver. It was a trade that crippled the franchise for several seasons, and kept the stands of Shea Stadium barren. Seaver was an undeniable ace, and was made into trade chip by a franchise that never would be forgiven for it.
Flash forward to 2019, and the Mets currently have a similar two at the top of their rotation. The bona-fide ace is Jacob deGrom, who is only the third Met to win Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award with the team. He pitched to the tune of a 1.70 ERA last season, and earned a WAR of 10. There behind him in the rotation was Noah Syndergaard, who had about as quiet a 13-4, 3.03 season as humanly possible.
Both deGrom and Syndergaard have an interesting future ahead of them. They both face enormous paydays, and it will be very hard for the Mets to hang onto both of them. This is a duo that the Mets can’t mess up however. Syndergaard, a Texas native that wears the same 34 on his jersey like the other Texas native Ryan did so long ago, has the potential to be a high-volume strikeout pitcher like Ryan. deGrom, whose number is in the 40’s like Seaver’s was, is looking to build off of the elite season that he just had. The Mets would be foolish to blow these two up like they did to Seaver and Ryan. Am I saying that deGrom and Syndergaard are Seaver and Ryan? Absolutely not. Am I saying that they could become a better 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation than they were? For argument’s sake, I’d say that they already are.