Jacob deGrom had just won the National League Rookie of the Year award Monday night for his outstanding 2014 season, and he was already thinking about next year.
The lanky, long-haired gem out of Florida, who became the first Met to win the award since Doc Gooden in 1984, had bigger things on his mind.
“I am just looking forward to next year and trying to help this team win a World Series,” said deGrom, who garnered 26 of 30 first-place votes to finish with 142 points, way ahead of the Reds’ Billy Hamilton (90).
The award capped a big day for the Mets, who a few hours before the deGrom announcement locked up free-agent outfielder Michael Cuddyer with a two-year deal believed to be worth $21 million.
“I am really looking forward to next year, with (Matt) Harvey returning, just being a part of that staff and then signing a bat like that … I think next year is going to be exciting,” deGrom said.
While the team clearly has higher goals, it may be hard for deGrom to match the excitement he brought to Citi Field during his rookie season.
Few knew much about him when he made his major league debut back in May, but he became an anchor of a Mets rotation that lacked a true ace. DeGrom went 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA. In one stretch of the season, he went 5-0 with a 1.05 ERA. He struck out 144 batters in 140.1 innings of work, electrifying a usually mundane Citi Field during his starts. When he pitched, you had to watch.
“I was fortunate enough to see him pitch a few times at Citi Field,” Gooden said in a statement released by the Mets. “What impressed me the most was that every time he got into a tough situation he always made the pitch he needed to get out of the jam. I love the way he competes.”
DeGrom, who joins Gooden, Darryl Strawberry (1983), Jon Matlack (1972) and Tom Seaver (1967) as the five Mets to win rookie honors, will celebrate Tuesday by marching in the New York City Veterans’ Day parade along with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Grand Marshal Ray Kelly.
DeGrom had four starts in which he struck out 10 or more batters, including a Sept. 15 game against Miami in which he fanned eight straight to start the game, tying Jim Deshaies modern-era MLB record.
That impressed a lot of people, including at least one Hall of Famer.
“When I saw that he had struck out eight straight I just said to myself ‘Wow, this guy almost broke my record and all of his were to start the game,” said Seaver, who holds the major league record with 10 straight strikeouts at any point during a game. “That’s impressive. I made sure to find his box score whenever he pitched.”
DeGrom had already won the NL “Outstanding Rookie” in the Players Choice Awards, and was named, along with Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud, to Baseball America’s all-rookie team.
Both are excited about this young team’s future.
“Nothing affects him when he’s on the mound,” d’Arnaud said Monday. “Good or bad, he stays focused. He’s also a good teammate.