The ethos of Mets fans was on full display across the past few weeks: Always hope for the best, always expect the worst. The former always seems to be in limited supply, despite the historical truth that the Mets have twice benefitted from the most remarkable baseball miracles ever, a ball dribbling through a fielder’s legs one night in 1986, a whole team ingesting pixie dust across six months of 1969.
The problem is the latter. And there is always more quantity in the latter. And so as one-by-one a battalion of candidates bypassed the opportunity to run the Mets, the angst stirred. And as Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Loup both opted for peaceful exile in Anaheim, the agita bubbled. As weeks pass without a manager, anxiety boiled.
So when Max Scherzer says yes …
When it turns out he’s not using the Mets as a stalking horse …
When it turns out Steve Cohen really is anxious to unburden himself of nine figures worth of his 11-figure fortune …
Well, you have what you’ve had the last few days. You have Mets fans basking, and some of them barking, and all of them counting the days until spring training (or, at the least, the end of the lockout). For a few days there are clear skies instead of dark clouds. For a few days both shoes stay on the feet, so neither can drop.
And when the celebratory phase ends, the reality can begin.
And in this case the reality — or at least a reasonable version of reality — can take hold. And when that happens, you can understand two things about where the Mets are right now:
- They have the best 1-2 top-of-the-rotation punch in baseball.
- They may well have the best 1-2 top-of-the-rotation pairing they’ve ever had, and if there is one favorable aspect of the Mets’ history, it has been starting pitching.
Now, at the top: It is important to emphasize the words “reasonable version of reality.” The fact is, the last time we saw both Scherzer and Jacob deGrom in 2021, it was under less-than-ideal circumstances. DeGrom missed the last 2 ½ months of the season with an elbow issue. Scherzer couldn’t answer the bell in Game 6 of the NLCS because of a dead arm.
OK. Duly noted.
But if the versions of deGrom and Scherzer that report to Port St. Lucie are back up to even 95 percent of what they can be? And if they can combine for 60-65 starts between them during the 2022 season? That’s a nice head start for the Mets, five Cy Youngs to throw at the National League every couple of days. And, if they ever get that far, a monstrous advantage in a short series …
Call it the ScherGrom Effect.
There are other twosomes, all of them younger, who could mount a fair challenge to ScherGrom. There is Walker Buehler (27) and Julio Urias (25) of the Dodgers, whose best days are likely still ahead of them. There is the Brewers’ duo of Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes (who owns the ’21 Cy Young that could’ve gone to Scherzer and probably would’ve gone to deGrom if he’d stayed on the field). An intriguing new pairing is Jose Berrios and Kevin Gausman in Toronto.
There are others. And, baseball being baseball, there may be a surprise lurking somewhere once we actually start to play the 2022 season.
What we know for sure is that the possibilities of seeing Scherzer and deGrom — deGrom and Scherzer — two out of every five games is something that hearkens to the Mets’ very best days. In ’69, Tom Seaver dominated the sport with his 25-7 record and his 2.21 ERA but even now the members of that team speak reverently of Jerry Koosman’s knack for pitching in big games.
Sixteen years later Doc Gooden (24-4, 1.53) and Ron Darling (16-6, 2.90) were another dynamic duo. And while Syndergaard, deGrom and Matt Harvey spent some time in 2015 looking like they might actually give the Mets a 1A, a 1B and a 1C, it never quite worked out that way.
This is different. This — with a reasonable version of reality — could be something you’ll want to keep in your mental scrapbook forever if you are a Mets fan, if you’ve spent so many days expecting the worst and now have a chance to savor a whisker of the best. That’s the ScherGrom Effect, all right.