Individual awards are what you make of them. They are subjective, the opinion of the few offered the opportunity to choose. The winners get nice trophies, incentive bonuses, leverage for future contract negotiations.
In terms of the concept of team sports, awards are more dessert than main course, a dollop of whipped cream as opposed to the steak and potatoes that sustain.
Take the New York Mets, for example. They did not qualify for the postseason this year. They fell short in the National League East, a division that spawned the Atlanta Braves and World Champion Washington Nationals.
And yet, the Mets have something neither of those teams have – the NL’s Rookie of the Year, Pete Alonso, and its Cy Young Award winner, Jacob deGrom.
Which do you think is more important to their fans?
Still, if the Mets are to win divisional titles, league pennants and world championships in the next few years, their chances are much greater with players like Alonso and deGrom in their core group.
That’s especially true for deGrom, who has taken his place among this generation’s great pitchers.
His Cy Young was his second straight, something only 11 pitchers had done in the history of the game. We’re talking about a rarified group that includes Sandy Koufax, Denny McLain, Jim Palmer, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer.
In the world of squandered free agent money, the Mets can honestly say the $137.5 million they invested in the righthander is a certified bargain. He’s been worth every penny.
“I think he’s capable of winning a few more Cy Youngs,” deGrom’s father, Tony, told the New York Times. “If you look at his history, he has a lot less wear on him than most guys his age, so I think he’s capable of winning a few more.’’
This season was more of a battle for deGrom. He struggled through a difficult April, something that was attributed to elbow soreness. There were great concerns and what turned out to be misguided assumptions he would have an off-season.
“I feel like I was trying to better what I did in 2018,” deGrom said. “I had to focus on what I was trying to do, not what I’ve done.”
It seemed impossible that he could replicate what he accomplished in 2018, a 1.70 ERA that had observers comparing him to Bob Gibson’s magical 1968 season when his ERA was 1.12.
But deGrom came very close. His 2.43 ERA was second to Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Dodgers, who finished second in the voting and received the only first-place vote among the 30 not offered to deGrom, who finished with 23 consecutive scoreless innings. His 255 strikeouts led the NL.
DeGrom and St. Louis right-hander Jack Flaherty tied for fewest hits and walks per inning (0.97). His 7.3 Wins Above Replacement also led NL pitchers and deGrom allowed only 0.83 home runs per nine innings, tied with Ryu for pitchers with at least 175 innings.
DeGrom also pitched at least seven innings in 19 of his 32 starts, giving up two or fewer runs in 17 of those 19. And just like 2018, when he struggled for victories (10-9) on a team that couldn’t score him runs or find relievers that could hold his leads, the voters did not penalize him for an 11-8 record.
“The goal of pitching, for me, it’s trying to keep the other team from scoring runs,” deGrom said. “My goal is to put up zeroes. You feel like you do that, you put your team in a pretty good position to win. I think that was probably the main stat that I was looking at whenever it came down to me [potentially] winning the Cy Young.”
He is one of four Mets to have won the Cy Young Award. Tom Seaver (1969, 1973, 1975), Dwight Gooden (1985) and R.A. Dickey (2012) are the others. And at 31, he might be able to win a few others.
Think about this: Over the last seasons deGrom has thrown 421 innings with a 2.05 ERA with a 21-17 record and 524 strikeouts.
“In 2015, the entire playoffs into the World Series, that was the most fun I’ve had playing baseball and that is why you play this game,’’ deGrom said Wednesday night. “That’s the ultimate prize for the best team and that’s what you are trying to do.
“We showed that we have a good team in the second half. If we could have done that all year we would have been right there. I think that was something to build on from this last year and that’s the goal into next year, to put all these pieces together and play really good team baseball from start to finish.’’
Before too long, the Mets would like to win their first World Series since 1986. And if necessary, they’d be happy to sacrifice individual honors for team success.
But it never hurts to know you have a pitcher most agree might be the best in the game right now. Now he has two trophies to prove it.