Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn has died at 54

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This is terrible news: Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn has died at 54.

Gwynn had been fighting cancer, which had first manifested itself as a malignant growth inside his right cheek, for four years. Gwynn attributed the cancer to years of smokeless tobacco use. Just yesterday, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com wrote this story about Gwynn, his son Tony Gwynn, Jr. and their relationship as Gwynn battled cancer. Gwynn Jr. said it had gotten tougher of late, and that his father’s condition had deteriorated.

Gwynn was one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. He posted a .338 career batting average over 20 seasons, collecting batting titles in eight of those years. In 1994 he was flirting with .400 when the season was halted due to the strike, leaving him at .394. He finished with 3,141 hits, which ranks 19th on the all-time list. He was an All-Star 15 times and won five gold gloves. His Padres teams made the playoffs three times in his career. He was part of NL Pennant winning teams in 1984 and 1998.

[MORE: What they’re saying about Tony Gwynn]

After he retired, Gwynn coached his alma mater, San Diego State University. Many future major leaguers went through that program during Gwynn’s tenure which lasted from 2003 until his death.

Gwynn was elected to the Hall of Fame with over 97% of the vote in 2007, his first year of eligibility. His number 19 jersey was retired by the Padres, the only team for which he played.

[MORE: Gwynn’s Hall of Fame career, by the numbers]

Noah Syndergaard on Mets extending Jacob deGrom: ‘Pay the man already.’

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March has marked contract extension season across Major League Baseball. Just in the last week, we have seen Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Brandon Lowe, Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressly, Mike Trout, Eloy Jiménez, Blake Snell, and Paul Goldschmidt sign extensions. Nolan Arenado, Luis Severino, and Aaron Nola also notably signed extensions during the offseason.

One name strikingly absent from that list: Mets ace Jacob deGrom. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is coming off of a season in which he posted a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts and 46 walks across 217 innings. It’s the lowest ERA by a qualified starter since Zack Greinke‘s 1.66 in 2015. Prior to Greinke, no pitcher had posted an ERA of 1.70 or lower since Greg Maddux in 1994-95 (1.56, 1.63).

deGrom is earning $17 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility going into the 2020 season. He will turn 31 years old in June, but is an obvious extension candidate for the Mets, who have built arguably their most competitive team since 2015, when the club lost the World Series in five games to the Royals. Thus far, though, the Mets and deGrom haven’t been able to get anywhere in extension talks.

deGrom’s rotation mate Noah Syndergaard is watching. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Syndergaard said, “I think Jake’s the best pitcher in baseball right now. I think he deserves whatever amount he’s worth. I want them to keep him happy so when it does come time for him to reach free agency, he stays on our side pitching for the Mets. I just think they should quit all the fuss and pay the man already.”

Syndergaard added that the recent extension trend around baseball — and deGrom’s lack of an extension to date — sends a message. He said, “I think so, yes, because of what you see in what’s going on in baseball right now. If there wasn’t a trend of other guys getting contract extensions, then I don’t know what the circumstance would be. But you see Chris Sale, Verlander getting extensions. I think it’s time Jacob gets one too.”

Part of the equation behind the recent rash of extensions is the stagnation of free agency. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel — two of baseball’s better pitchers — have gone through almost an entire spring training without being signed. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado didn’t find new homes until late February. Free agents in their 30’s are largely being underpaid or otherwise forgotten about. Extensions represent financial security for young and old players alike. Syndergaard himself can become a free agent after the 2021 season, so if deGrom’s prospects improve, then so too will his, at least without knowing the details of the next collective bargaining agreement which will be put into place ahead of the 2022 season.