Bill Freehan, who made 11 All-Star Games, has passed away

Bill Freehan, an 11-time All-Star catcher with the Detroit Tigers in the 1960s and 1970s, has passed away at 79.

He was the premier catcher of the Second Dead Ball Era, which ran from about 1964 to 1972, and was one of the best of his generation.

The 15-year veteran slugged 200 home runs, including 20 or more in a season three times, and ranked second behind only Johnny Bench among catchers of the 1960s and 1970s in that category.

Indeed, it is difficult to think of a better backstop not named Bench from that two-decade span. Ted Simmons was excellent and so was Gene Tenace. Tim McCarver could hold his own and even Jim Sundberg was beginning to make a name for himself.

But none of them, save for Bench, matched Freehan.

The voters knew it. They selected him to 11 All-Star Games, including 10 in a row, among the most of any player not in the Hall of Fame. And the writers, they were privy to his greatness. They awarded him five Gold Gloves for his defensive acumen—and they were well-earned. He led league catchers in putouts six times and fielding percentage thrice.

At the time of his retirement, he ranked among catching greats—legends, even—in almost all statistical categories. He was just two behind Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey in home runs and was a full ten ahead of Cooperstowner Ernie Lombardi. He ranked just behind Mickey Cochrane in total hits and just ahead of Roy Campanella in walks.

But he wasn’t just great in aggregate.

There was the 1968 World Series. Freehan didn’t contribute much in the actual Fall Classic—just 2 hits and 4 walks—but his regular season propelled them to that point.

Behind Willie Horton, he was the team’s superstar. His 25 dingers tied for second on the club, as did his 24 doubles. He had 84 RBI—good for second on the team—and his .366 on-base percentage finished behind only Al Kaline’s .392.  

A few years later, Freehan helped the Tigers to the American League Championship Series. Though the 30-year-old played just 111 games that year, his presence was felt in the postseason. It was a losing effort against the Yankees, but Number 11 did his part. He slugged a home run and knocked a double. He had 3 RBI.

As the seasons passed, wearing the tools of ignorance began to take its toll. Few did it as long as he did. His offense began to slip and, despite still showing flashes of his former greatness, he retired after the 1976 season.

Cooperstown awaited.

But the voters gave him hardly a look.

Perhaps they can be forgiven. In his only year on the ballot, 1982, he was competing with 14 future Hall of Famers for votes. They included Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson and Harmon Killebrew. Juan Marichal and Don Drysdale ranked among them, too. And don’t forget the players who never made the Hall, like Gil Hodges, who were garnering significant support, as well. It’s easy to be crowded out in such a field.

But what cannot be forgiven is the cold shoulder the writers gave Freehan. He didn’t earn a handful of votes and another look in 1983. Rather, he appeared on just a couple ballots, less than one percent of the total, and was swept into the dustbin of history.

This catcher who made more All-Star Games than Torre, Lombardi and Simmons, Hall of Famers all, this catcher who won more Gold Gloves than Carter and Piazza and Fisk was given a couple pity votes and then shooed away.

It’s an injustice.

But one, perhaps, that might soon be corrected. The Hall of Fame has a knack for inducting individuals only after they pass away. It happened to Ron Santo. It happened to Marvin Miller, Nellie Fox and Leo Durocher.

And for the sake of all that is holy,

It’d better happen to Bill Freehan, as well.


The crazy story of Dorian Daughtry

Arguments and guns normally do not go well together. At the very best, the gun wielding individual does not fire the weapon, nobody gets hurt and everyone goes home happy. At the very worst, someone dies.

And that’s what happened in the early hours of that July 22, 1990 morning, when, while on a Brooklyn street after a night of allegedly imbibing and becoming intoxicated, Dorian Daughtry began shooting wildly at a man with whom he had once had an intense argument.

Bullets sprayed here and there. People on the street ducked and ran and jumped, looking to escape the gun-wielding lunatic.

After 10 or 12 shots, his clip ran out. The shooting, which began at 12:45 AM, was over. It appeared no one was hurt.

But appearances are deceiving. Veronica Corales, sleeping in her parents’ car after a long day of fun at Great Adventure amusement park in Jackson, New Jersey, absorbed one of those little missiles, the back of her head bleeding from the wound. Her mother and grandmother, aware of what had happened, were screaming hysterically.

Local residents became vigilantes. They attacked the shooter, leaping on him, beating him, throwing bottles at him. His car was demolished, with all things breakable broken. Windows were shattered, glass littered the street.

And yet the perpetrator got away.

The nine-year-old did not die instantly. Rather, she remained strong, with doctors at one point saying she had a 50-50 chance of survival.

As she lay in a Brookdale Hospital bed, her life quickly draining away, Daughtry returned to the crime scene with his sister hours later, perhaps to retrieve his now-destroyed vehicle. Men quickly pointed him out to the police, citing him as the shooter.

He was arrested on charges of attempted murder and first-degree assault. The small child’s condition continued to worsen and, a short while later, she succumbed to her injury.


Daughtry never intended to kill an innocent little girl on that midsummer day. In fact, three years ago he most certainly never would have envisioned himself in this situation to begin with.

Three years ago, the 22-year-old man was playing minor league baseball, trying to build his resume into a major league career.

The then-19-year-old, taken by the Seattle Mariners as the first pick in the 19th round of the 1987 draft, exhibited good speed in his first professional season, stealing six bases in 41 games for Seattle’s Single-A Bellingham squad.

Unfortunately, his quickness was not accompanied by much else. Nicknamed “Double-D,” he spent three seasons on the farm, never climbing past A-ball. His batting average never exceeded .236, his on-base percentage never surpassed .266 and his slugging percentage never topped .268. Each year, he had more strikeouts than hits.

Like many ballplayers before him and since, Daughtry could not cut it at the professional level. He starred at Miami-Dade College and Kingsborough Community College, but those in the stages ahead of him were just a bit better. The Mariners released him following the 1989 season, in part due to a bad knee and in part because he could not perform adequately on the field.

And so, he was out of baseball—and now in jail.

Perhaps he was a good guy-turned-bad. Remembered as a straight-arrow trying to break free from the shackles of ghetto life in his earlier days, Daughtry was either going to become a professional baseball player or, if that did not work out, he was going to attend the police academy, following in his sister’s footsteps.

However, the arrow wasn’t straight for long. While playing professional baseball, the rapscallion frequently broke curfew, argued with teammates and brought women into his hotel room, which was against team policy.

At the time of the incident, he was working at a state facility for the mentally retarded, deciding whether to take the tests required to enter the police academy, or to give baseball one more shot—former roommate Ken Griffey, Jr. had arranged tryouts with the Cincinnati Reds for him.

None of that would happen now. Prosecutors were seeking a charge of second-degree murder against the man who once dreamt of fighting those he now sat amongst in that dirty jail, facing bail of $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash. He was also hit with charges of assault and possession of a deadly weapon.

But, according to his attorney, Bruce McIntyre, the story was not quite so cut-and-dry. “[He] did not intend to murder anybody,” the lawyer claimed. Police said Daughtry fired seven shots, but at least 14 shell casings were found, leading McIntyre to believe, “someone else must have been shooting out there.” Another defense attorney argued at his trial: “My client did not have a gun…he did not fire a gun.”

Despite the defense’s claims, Daughtry was convicted of manslaughter and reckless endangerment, avoiding a longer jail sentence by being acquitted of murder. He was sentenced to 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison with the possibility of parole and was sent to Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York.

To the despair of the Corales family, however, Daughtry caught a break when in April 1996, his conviction was overturned on technicalities—but his luck didn’t last long. By the next year, an appellate court heard an appeal and reinstated the sentence. Daughtry himself then appealed that decision, ultimately losing and ending up back where he least wanted to be.

In 2005, he was paroled and has since lived a quiet life. Following his release from prison, he attended Stony Brook University, earning multiple Master’s degrees. He is now living a fairly average life—with a past he would like to forget.


“Alabama.” USA Today 9 July 1991. Print.

The Associated Press. “Bail Set In Killing Of B’klyn Girl.” Newsday [Long Island] 30 Aug. 1990: 19. Print.

The Associated Press. “Former Mariner Farmhand Gets Murder Charge.” The Seattle Times 23 July 1990. Print.

Freifeld, Karen, and Peg Tyre. “Suspect’s Big Dreams Are Ended.” Newsday [Long Island] 23 July 1990. Print.

Frost, Edward. “Ex-Ballplayer Sentenced in Girl’s Death.” Daily News [Kingsport] 10 July 1991: 5. Print.

Hedges, Chris. “Wild Shooting On Street Hits Girl, 9, in Car.” The New York Times 23 July 1990. Print.

Hurtado, Patricia. “Let Me Testify, Says B’klyn Slay Suspect.” Newsday [Long Island] 26 July 1990: 16. Print.

“Paralyzed Drag Racer Gwynn Views Videotape of Crash.” The Vindicator [Youngstown] 25 July 1990: 22. Print.

Perez-Rivas, Manuel. “Jurors Ponder Slaying of Girl.” Newsday [Long Island] 11 June 1991: 28. Print.

Rodman, Bob. “Ems Coach Catches All-Star Express.” Eugene Register-Guard 12 July 1991: 3B. Print.

“Stray Bullet Injures Napping Girl.” The Spokesman-Review [Spokane] 23 July 1990: A4. Print.

“Stray Bullet Kills Girl.” Toledo Blade 25 July 1990: 3. Print.

Sullivan, C.J. Wild Tales from the Police Blotter. Globe Pequot, 2008. Print.

“Where Are They Now?” Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison. Web. 17 Feb. 2012. <;.

Studs and duds: August 12 – August 18

In terms of performance, the top batters and pitchers cooled off a little bit since the last writing, but there were still some excellent showings in the week of August 12 to August 18.

Dansby Swanson is finally living up to his first round billing. (Wikipedia)

Offensive stud: Dansby Swanson (SS, Braves). It’s been a rocky road getting to this point for Swanson, as he was hitting below .250 as recently as August 3 … and for his career, prior to 2021. If this past week was any indication, however, it looks like the former number one overall pick is turning a corner. In 31 at-bats, he collected 13 hits for a .419 average, with 4 of his knocks going over the fence. Not much of a slugger prior to 2021, his slugging percentage of .806 in this recent hot streak was downright Ruthian. To this day, the Diamondbacks brass must be kicking themselves for trading him away (how’s Shelby Miller working out for ya?).

Honorable mention: Max Muncy (IF, Dodgers; .364 BA, 5 HR, 10 RBI, 4 BB).

Offensive dud: Gavin Lux (IF, Dodgers). Lux retains his title as Dudliest Dud, making Los Angeles fans cringe with his 0-for-6 showing and 2 errors since coming off the Injured List a few days ago. His shuffling return reminds fans of how underwhelming the 2016 first round pick has been since joining the big club three years ago, as he’s hit just .218 in 126 games.

Dishonorable mention: Ramon Urias (IF, Orioles; 1-for-14, 6 K, 2 E). The only thing saving him from the title is a slightly more impressive defensive performance. 

Pitching stud: Logan Webb (SP, Giants). After earning the honorable mention yesterday, Webb ascends to this week’s pitching stud. Winning both of his starts, Webb tossed 13 1/3 innings, striking out 16 batters and walking just 3. He’s finally put it all together this year, maintaining a pitching line of 7-3, 2.92 after going just 5-9, 5.36 the prior two seasons. He’s among the best on a pitching staff that’s won 78 games and features Cy Young candidate Kevin Gausman.

Honorable mention: Charlie Morton (SP, Braves; 2-0 W-L, 12 IP, 16 K, 3 BB, 2 QS).

Pitching dud: Jorge Lopez (SP, Orioles). As with Lux above, Lopez retains his title, with his 3 1/3 inning, 7 run performance a few days ago so abhorrent no pitcher has stepped up to match it. He’s starting today — let’s see if he can twirl a gem and pull himself out of such mediocrity. I’m not hopeful. He’s never completed a game, but he’s allowed 5 or more runs 17 times — including 6 times this season.

Dishonorable mention: Dan Winkler (RP, Cubs; 0.1 IP, 6 H, 4 BB, 9 ER). … and he didn’t even take the loss!  

Worst trades in Mets history, #2: Kazuo Matsui for Eli Marrero

Kaz Matsui hit well after joining the Rockies. (Wikipedia)

This one is not so bad because of what the Mets lost, but because of what they received in return. Addition by subtraction only works when what is gained isn’t, itself, a subtraction.

Joining the Mets in 2004, Kazuo “Kaz” Matsui was nothing less than a disappointment in his two-plus years in New York. He was a star in Japan, batting as high as .322 and stealing as many as 62 bases in a season, but that success didn’t translate to the major league stage.

The middle infielder spent time at second base and shortstop and found little success at either position, struggling offensively and defensively. In his first campaign, he hit .272 with 32 doubles and 14 stolen bases in 114 games — which earned him some support in Rookie of the Year voting. In the field, however, he finished second in the league in errors committed.

Any promise his 2004 season held was dashed in 2005, as his batting average fell to .255 and his on-base percentage slumped to a meager .300 in just 87 games. By 2006, he was slashing .200/.235/.269 and the Mets decided the Matsui experiment had to come to an end.

Having all but lost his starting job to Jose Valentin, Matsui was shipped off to the Rockies for Cuban catcher/outfielder Eli Marrero on June 9.

Matsui went on to hit .345 for Colorado that year, then hammered out two decent campaigns in 2007 and 2008, averaging 26 stolen bases and 25 doubles per season, while hitting .290.

Marrero — who was batting just .217 at the time of the trade and was a .245 career hitter prior to 2006 — lasted 25 games with New York. He hit .182 in 33 at-bats and was released on August 9, ending his Mets, and major league, career.

Escaping the Big Apple helped Matsui turn a corner in his career. Adding Marrero helped nothing. Though Matsui was struggling, trading him, it seems, was a worse deal than doing nothing at all.

Random autograph of the day: Adrian Burnside

Australia-native Adrian Burnside had a long professional career that spanned the globe. He played in the United States, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Australia, and though he didn’t find much success anywhere he pitched, a 15-year career is nothing to sneeze at.

Hello, Chance Sisco; See ya later, Albert Almora

Chance Sisco was a top prospect with the Orioles. (Wikipedia)

The Mets recently welcomed catcher Chance Sisco to the big league roster and bid adieu to struggling outfielder Albert Almora.

Both were once top prospects who have yet to live up to their promise.

Sisco has been in the majors since 2016, slashing .199/.319/.339 in 191 career games. With the Orioles this season, he hit just .154/.247/.185 in 23 games before being selected off waivers by the Mets in June.

But there is a glimmer of hope for Sisco. Despite his offensive struggles, he usually performs well in the minors (never mind his .207 average this year) and was twice selected to the Futures Game.

Encouragingly, he knows how to get on base, posting a career .383 on-base percentage on the farm and, as recently as last season, a .364 mark in the majors.

That bodes well for the 26-year-old, who has yet to enter his prime and who arrives in New York with three .300 seasons in the professional ranks under his belt.

At the very least, he shores up a team’s catching contingent that is in disarray, with starter James McCann batting .240 with an OBP barely over .300, backup Tomas Nido – currently on the Injured List – hitting .231 and career minor leaguer Patrick Mazeika managing a .276 average that is bound to regress.

Albert Almora disappointed with the Mets. (Wikipedia)

Optimally the Mets have caught lightning in a bottle – again, as Brandon Drury certainly fits that description, as well – and perhaps they did. Sisco collected a hit and RBI in his first Mets at-bat.

As for Almora, his tenure with the Mets has been nothing but a complete failure.

Once a sixth overall pick, he was once a wunderkind, making Baseball Prospectus’ and Major League Baseball’s top prospect lists five years in a row – peaking at number 18 on both – and Baseball America’s list thrice, peaking at number 33 there.

And it almost seemed like he’d live up to the hype. In his second big league season, 2017, he hit .298 in 299 at-bats and the next year – his first with significant starting time – he batted .286.

But the wheels fell off the cart.

Then Almora arrived in New York.

And the cart fell apart.

In 47 at-bats with the Mets, he’s batted just .128. His longest hitting streak is one game. He’s gotten a hit in just three of the 39 games he’s played.

Each year, New York keeps at least one struggling outfielder around way too long. In 2020, they let Billy Hamilton, who hit .045, steal 17 games and 22 at-bats from a more deserving player. In 2019, they had Carlos Gomez (89 AB, .198 BA), Keon Broxton (49 AB, .143 BA) and Aaron Altherr (31 AB, .129 BA). In 2018, they brought back former prospect Matt den Dekker and gave him 18 at-bats, just to hit .000. And this year, in addition to Almora, they had Cameron Maybin, who went 1-for-28 (.036 BA).

Trotting the same mediocrity out day after day just breeds the same mediocre results.

New York threw Almora at the wall. He didn’t stick. Time to try something new.

Hey, Mark Payton’s hitting .317 at Syracuse. Give him a shot.

Worst trades in Mets history #1: Mike Cameron for Xavier Nady

Mike Cameron, toward the end of his career. (Wikipedia)

Don’t get me wrong, at the time this wasn’t a terrible deal. Only in retrospect can we see how much the Mets lost.

Outfielder Mike Cameron, he of great defense, good pop and even better speed, joined the Mets in 2004 and hit 30 home runs that season. In 2005, he was on pace for one of the best years of his career, hitting 12 home runs with 39 RBI and an elevated batting average through 79 games.

Partway through the year, however, he was involved in a terrible outfield collision with Carlos Beltran, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. It was a matter of two center fielders trying for the ball at the same time—Cameron had shifted to right field to accommodate the newly arrived Beltran, but he was a center fielder by trade.

In Cameron, the Mets had damaged goods who might or might not fully recover and a guy who was forced to play out of his natural position. Trading him, and his pretty large contract, seemed like a good idea.

On November 18, 2005, he was sent to the San Diego Padres for outfielder Xavier Nady.

Nady spent less than a full season in New York, hitting .264 with 14 home runs and 40 RBI in 75 games before himself being sent to the Pirates. Granted, he was a big reason the Mets got off to a hot start in 2006—they were 46-29 in games he played—but the brevity of his stay negated much of the impact he had on the club.

Upon leaving the Mets, Cameron averaged 23 home runs, 75 RBI, 81 runs scored and 17 stolen bases per year from 2006 to 2009. He was superior to Nady on defense, quicker on the base paths and possessed greater power. Nady, never a slugger, averaged only 10 home runs and 42 RBI per season from 2007 to 2012.

The Mets traded Cameron, a former All Star centerfielder, for Nady, a marginal starting outfielder, at best. At the time, it seemed like it made sense. But the power of hindsight suggests it didn’t.

Studs and duds, August 11 – August 17

Amazing things can happen when given a sample size of just a few games, and so can total disasters. Let’s see who the studs and duds were from the week of August 11 to August 17.

Teoscar Hernandez, the stud.

Offensive stud:  Teoscar Hernandez (OF, Blue Jays). Hernandez has quietly been one of the game’s better sluggers since joining the league in 2016, with a career slugging percentage of .502. The past week shows he is firing on all cylinders in what has been a career year, as he’s collected 12 hits in 25 at-bats for a .480 batting mark. He’s hit 4 home runs – including a grand slam – and driven 10 runs in, while whiffing just 5 times. He has all the makings of a one-year wonder, but let’s enjoy his performance while we can.

Honorable mention: Ozzie Albies (2B, Braves; .344 BA, 4 HR, 2 SB, 11 RBI).

Offensive dud: Gavin Lux (IF, Dodgers). Welcome back from the Injured List, Gavin. Nice job in your return. Two errors, a strikeout and a 0-for-3 showing at the plate. You were a first round pick once, right?

Dishonorable mention: Greg Deichmann (OF, Cubs; .222 BA, 9 AB, 5 K, 1 E).

Pitching stud: Corbin Burnes (SP, Brewers). Corbin Burnes, you da man. Have you ever thought about becoming a Cy Young winner? This past week, Burnes won both his starts, allowing zero runs in each. In 14 innings, he struck out 18 batters and walked just 2, while allowing only 6 hits. It continues his run of dominance, as this season he is currently 8-4, 2.13 with league-leading K/9 IP, BB/9 IP, K/BB and HR/9 IP ratios of 12.4, 1.6, 7.6 and 0.4, respectively. He’s also leading the league in ERA+ (196) and he made the All-Star team. He finished 6th in Cy Young voting last year – let’s see how close he can get this year.

Honorable mention: Logan Webb (SP, Giants; 2-0 W-L, 1.37 ERA, 13.1 IP, 16 K, 3 BB, 2 QS).

Pitching dud: Jorge Lopez (SP, Orioles). Somehow Jorge Lopez has survived in the major leagues for six years with a career ERA over 6 and a paltry ERA+ of 75. He’s won 3 games this year, but lost a league-leading 13 – and the past week didn’t improve his line at all. In his lone start, he went just 3 1/3 innings and allowed 9 hits, 2 walks and 2 wild pitches, while surrendering 7 earned runs for the loss. Tick tock, tick tock, his time in the majors might almost be up.

Dishonorable mention: Nick Sandlin (RP, Indians; 1 G, 0 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 1 BSV, 1 L).

He can mash, but does he ever score? Players with 10-plus homers and fewer than 20 runs scored.

I recently did a piece on batters with seasons of 10 or more home runs and fewer than 20 RBI. Just eight guys have done it, with designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion the most recent in 2020.

That got me thinking – how many players have hit 10-plus dingers and scored fewer than 20 runs in a season? Would the list be as exclusive as the other one?

Catcher Ernie Lombardi was the first player to have fewer than 20 runs in a season with 10-plus homers. (Wikipedia)

Spoiler alert: It’s not. Thirty-two men have accomplished the feat, with notoriously slow-footed Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi the first to do it. In 1943, the backstop hit .305 with 10 home runs, 51 RBI … and just 19 runs scored. Which makes sense, I guess. When a player is too slow to even leg out doubles (he had 30 or more just once in 17 seasons), then it is reasonable to assume he won’t be sprinting himself past home plate much, either.

The next man to manage the feat was … well … Lombardi. In 1946, he had 12 home runs and 19 runs scored, with just 4 of his 69 hits going for doubles.

Since then, the feat has been generational. It did not happen again until 1953, but that year, three players – including Ted Williams – did it. Then nearly a decade passed before it happened again, in 1962. Then in 1964 and 1969, it happened twice each year.

Catcher Bob Tillman achieved the mark in 1969 and 1970, becoming just the second player to do it twice – with no one managing it more than once since. In addition, he was the only man to do it in the 1970s.

In fact, for a while it was a once-in-a-decade rarity. Outfielder Oscar Gamble did it with the Yankees in 1984, then it didn’t occur again until outfielder Shane Spencer had 10 home runs and 18 runs scored in 1998, also for the Bronx Bombers.

It happened four times in the 2000s, but the feat is disproportionately a product of the 2010s and beyond. Nearly half of its instances occurred after 2010, with it happening four times each in 2019 and 2020.

And three of the four occurrences in 2020 were parts just atrocious seasons. Gary Sanchez batted .147 in 49 games, while Encarnacion hit .157 and Rougned Odor managed a knock in one of every six at-bats, posting a .167 mark. The year before, Jung Ho Kang joined the ranks with a .169 mark and in 2014, Zach Walters batted .181.

True, the feat happens more in seasons of low average and poor performance, but a few batters bucked that trend. When Williams did it, he batted .407 in 37 games, while Spencer hit .373 in 27 games.

Frank Thomas is in the club, too. (Wikipedia)

While seasons with 10-plus homers and fewer than 20 RBI have mostly been accomplished by no-names, membership in the > 10 HR, < 20 R club is more inclusive. For every Manny Jimenez, there is a Frank Thomas; for every Mike Jacobs, there is a Gary Sanchez.

And if a player is a member of the HR/RBI club, then he’ll likely be a member of the HR/R club, as well. Six of the eight names in the former populate the latter – Walters, Curt Casali, David Ross, Todd Greene, Adam Duvall and Encarnacion – with corner infielders Wayne Gross and Randy Ruiz the only exceptions. Casali was the closest to achieving the improbable, as nearly all his runs came off home runs when he did it in 2015. He had 10 dingers and 13 runs scored, meaning just 3 came from sources other than the longball.*

*the record for most runs in a season in which all were scored on home runs is 3, which has happened 16 times, most recently by Matt Davidson in 2020.

Below is a list of all the players who have accomplished the feat.

Jacob deGrom’s downfall was predictable.

Jacob deGrom’s bout with injuries should come as no surprise. (Wikipedia)

I’m a Mets fan, so you’ll see random posts opining on various Mets minutiae.

But not minute is the ballad of Jacob deGrom. The hurler was the least known of the Big Five that was sure to lead the Mets to years of postseason appearances and World Series victories.

Among Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz, deGrom wasn’t much of a prospect, and hardly anyone predicted his eventual rise to superstardom.

Baseball works in mysterious ways, of course. Harvey crumbled and is now pitching in the baseball hinterland of Baltimore, having gone 21-36 with a 6.13 ERA since 2017. Syndergaard had one really great year, 2016, earning an All-Star selection by going 14-9, 2.60 with 218 strikeouts in 183 2/3 innings – but he’s been hurt, underwhelming or both since, and hasn’t pitched since 2019.

Wheeler wasn’t bad with New York, but he was once a 6th overall pick – yet he pitched no better than a number three starter for much of his Mets tenure. In typical Mets fashion, now that he’s with a division rival, he’s pitching like a Cy Young candidate. And Matz never quite put it all together, sometimes bubbling under greatness before pulling the rug out from underneath our expectations. His Mets career culminated in a 0-5, 9.68 ERA showing in 2020, and the club said sayonara.

Then there’s deGrom, the unassuming 9th round draft pick who didn’t reach Triple A until he was 25, who turned no heads with a middling 4.51 ERA the year before his big league debut, who was already in his age-26 season by the time he pitched for New York.

Yet, he’s the one who became a two-time Cy Young winner. He’s the one who made a bunch of All-Star teams. He’s the one who averages nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings, who has never allowed more than 59 walks in a season, who is the envy of the league.

All that is surprising, sure. But not shocking is his sudden bout with injuries, and – I hate to say it – his impending, inglorious decline. He is a 33-year-old pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball more than any other pitch, at an average speed of nearly 99 miles per hour. The triple digit barrier doesn’t stand in his way, as 100-plus is a frequent occurrence.

All this on an elbow that already had a Tommy John surgery in 2010. All this on an arm that has been pitching professionally for more than a decade. All this on an arm – and a body – that is quickly exiting its physical peak years and entering baseball senescence.  

Jacob deGrom was 7-2 with a 1.08 ERA this season before getting hurt. (Wikipedia)

Can anyone honestly say they didn’t see this coming? Some of the greatest pitchers of our era, when their decline started, fell off rapidly. Johan Santana rattled off nearly a decade of pitching magnificence, just to get hurt, miss a year, and be out of baseball one year after that. Brandon Webb made three All-Star appearances in a row, got hurt, pitched one more game, and was done. Roy Oswalt was humming along, until he wasn’t. After his age-33 season, he was just 4-9 with a 6.80 ERA, and that was it.

Santana collapsed after his age-31 campaign; Webb after age 29, Tim Lincecum after age 27, Roy Halladay after age 33.

deGrom will be no different. His demise is forthcoming, and it won’t be pretty. It won’t be enjoyable. Mets fans will be set to wonder what could have been.

Now, he could mount a late-career comeback. That’s not an impossibility, either. Dennis Martinez had a disastrous swoon, then returned to pitch over 2,000 innings and win 134 games. Swoon, too, did Bartolo Colon, and the legend of Colon is one that will live on in baseball lore for generations. He returned from baseball’s no-man’s land to toss nearly 1,400 frames, win almost 100 more games, and endear himself to sports fans the world over. Even CC Sabathia managed the feat – saving his Hall of Fame chances by doing so – pulling himself from his career’s nadir and tossing nearly 600 more innings.

But Martinez, Colon, Sabathia – sure at points they had passable fastballs, but none of them were flamethrowers. DeGrom is. He throws – or threw, whether he’ll continue remains to be seen – smoke … and the hotter you throw, the quicker you burn out.

Therefore, a crafty deGrom redux, with his injury history, his style of pitching, his advanced age, doesn’t seem likely.*

*But there is hope, still, as Frank Tanana went from throwing fire to tossing junk. But he made the transition in his mid-20s, not his early-to-mid 30s.

What does the future hold for deGrom? We can hope for the best. But a Hall of Fame ending doesn’t seem likely – his seven-year peak from 2015 to this year pretty well mirrors Santana’s from 2002 to 2008. Assuming deGrom returns a shell of his former self, and in the long run I think he will, his fate with Cooperstown will be the same as Santana’s.

Santana received 2.4 percent of the vote in his first and only year of eligibility. A player needs 75 percent to get in.

Appreciate what you have when you have, I guess, because before you know it … it’s gone.