There are a couple of painful New York Mets anniversaries today

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October 19 is a pretty big day in Mets history.

It was ten years ago today that the Mets played the Cardinals in Game 7 of the NLCS. Two memorable things happened in that particular game. One of them good, one of them bad.

The good? Endy Chavez making one of the best catches you’ll ever see in a baseball game. The score was tied at 1 in the sixth inning. With Jim Edmonds on first base and one out, Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen hit a long drive to left which Chavez pulled back over the wall and in for the out. Then — and a lot of people forget this — he doubled off Edmonds. Watch:

The bad came in the ninth. After the Cardinals took a 3-1 lead, the Mets mounted a mini-rally against rookie closer Adam Wainwright. Jose Valentin and Chavez each singled to lead off the ninth. Wainwright bore down and got two outs, but then walked Paul Lo Duca to load the bases. A single would tie it. Extra bases would send the Mets to the World Series. Up stepped Carlos Beltran. Wainwright got ahead of Beltran 0-2 and then broke off a killer curveball. If you’re a Mets fan you know what happened: nothing. Beltran didn’t swing, the pitch was called strike three and the game and season was over:

As our D.J. Short observed earlier this afternoon, there was a prominent witness to called strike three:

https://twitter.com/djshort/status/788808164930048000/photo/1

Should’ve known nothing good was going to happen there.

October 19, 1999 was a pretty painful one for the Mets as well. On that day another deciding NLCS game was played. This time against the Braves. The Mets had actually been down 3-0 in this series but battled back to win Games 4 and 5. They were likewise in a big hole in Game 6, mounting rally after rally in this wild one. The score tied at eight after nine innings. Each team scored one run in the tenth.

In the 11th, for reasons that are still unclear to me, manager Bobby Valentine put Kenny Rogers into the game. Rogers gave up a leadoff double to Gerald Williams. Bret Boone sacrificed Williams to third with one out. Valentine then had Rogers issue not one, but two intentional walks. First to Chipper Jones — which was understandable, as Jones had absolutely murdered the Mets that year, winning the MVP Award that season based primarily on his supreme ownage of Mets pitchers — then to Brian Jordan, giving Rogers no margin for error. While creating a force out at every base is defensible, Rogers was not a pitcher who you wanted to have no margin for error. He walked Andruw Jones on a 3–2 pitch that came nowhere near the strike zone, scoring Williams and handing the pennant to Atlanta.

The Mets would make the World Series the next season. And, of course, they survived the 2006 NLCS too, as no one takes a franchise away simply for messing up in the playoffs. They won the NL pennant last year and had another good season this year. As they will have many good seasons in the future too. Clubs move on from even the most ignominious incidents.

Yet, to this day, October 19 and the NLCS are bad associations for Mets fans. Memories that make them shout “too soon!” even some 17 and 10 years after the fact.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.