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On the Ledge

Jacob deGrom gave up two second-inning nukes in his final rehab start and Mets fans took it in stride (just kidding)

Jacob deGrom—back-to-back Cy Young winner, arguably the best pure pitcher of this generation—was last seen on a major league bump on July 15th … 2021. After that game, in which deGrom gave up two runs and posted 10 Ks in seven innings of work against the Brewers, deGrom was shut down with forearm tightness. The prevailing wisdom was that he would be reactivated for the stretch run, but the stretch run never came as the Mets imploded in the second half, missing the playoffs altogether.

So deGrom remained on ice and the narrative was tweaked. Now he was being saved for 2022, the crown jewel in a new rotation bolstered by the acquisition of a 1B to his 1A, Max Scherzer. But deGrom was shut down again in spring training, this time with right shoulder soreness, later diagnosed as a stress fracture to his right scapula. In May, deGrom was moved to the 60-day IL, moving his potential return date to late July.

Well, lo and behold it’s now late July, and deGrom is finally nearing the end of his sabbatical. On Wednesday he made his final rehab start for the Triple-A Syracuse Mets, facing an Omaha Storm Chasers lineup peppered with established hitters (including the Royals’ Salvador Perez, himself rehabbing from injury). deGrom worked a scoreless first, but in the second the wheels started to wobble, with deGrom giving up a pair of bombs to Brewer Hicklen and Drew Waters as his fastball velo dipped into the mid 90s.

Needless to say, Mets fans took it all in stride.

In all fairness, there were a few Mets fans putting a positive spin on things, saying that deGrom settled in better as the game went on (he did), that there is inevitably going to be some rust regardless of his health, and that the most important thing was not deGrom’s final line, but how his shoulder felt following the 67-pitch outing. But the vibes were all over the place, borderline manic and understandably so. The longer deGrom’s absence has dragged on, the more the pessimism and paranoia about the actual condition of his once-invincible right arm have grown. The Mets organization has been nothing publicly bullish about deGrom’s ability to come back and be, well, deGrom, but the Mets fanbase not so much. Consistently misled and scammed by the Wilpon ponzi scheme over the years, the Mets faithful are not quick to trust the party line, even if names and faces have changed.

So what’s the truth? Is the most dominant Mets arm since Seaver now a piece of overcooked linguine? Are sports fans just being sports fans (AKA toxic doomers)? We may not have to wait much longer for the answer. Tuesday’s game against the hapless Washington Nationals is tentatively circled as deGrom’s major-league return. Should the shoulder hold up and the earth survive another week, we should soon know whether Wednesday’s second inning was fact or fiction, history or hysteria.