This was going to be quite the baseball weekend around here, if.
The Red Sox were coming to town, were going to play three at the big yard in The Bronx, and regardless of how diminished you think the Sox were going to be that still meant a couple of guarantees:
1. Three games and a total, give or take, of around 13 ½ hours of baseball.
2. A total of about 150,000 people, give or take, flooding the Stadium.
3. Our Man Mushnick having a spasm when the Sunday-night ESPN game drifted toward 1 a.m. or so.
Also: Gerrit Cole would’ve surely pitched one of those games against the Sox, the first time he would’ve taken the ball against the Yankees’ ancient rival, his first opportunity to seize the century-old requirement to earning your pinstripes as a True Yankee: Beat the BoSox.
The Mets? They were scheduled to start a three-game set in St. Louis, against the Cardinals. It’s funny, we were going to find out an awful lot about the Mets awfully quickly this year. They were already supposed to have six games in the books against the Nationals, seven against the Brewers, NINE against the Braves, even two against the Astros*, so we might already have built bridges and tunnels to Panic City by now.
Still: There is little doubt the Mets would’ve figured out a way to give Jacob deGrom the ball in one of the games against the Braves last weekend, so he would’ve been on the Busch Stadium bump this weekend, too, maybe matched up with Jack Flaherty, one of the top contenders to knock the 2020 Cy Young Award out of deGrom’s hands.
Yes, there are so many things we have already missed across this baseball season: Pete Alonso catapulting baseballs into parking lots; Gleyber Torres putting the final few touches on his blossoming stardom; Jeff McNeil spraying line drives up and down the National League; Aroldis Chapman cranking his heater up to triple digits.
But if there is one abscess in our baseball landscape that hurts most of all, it is the absence of Cole and deGrom walking to pitcher’s mounds a combined two, three or four time a week, sometimes on the same night, sometimes sprinkled throughout the week, both of them in the peak of their primes, both of them filling ballparks with buzz and electricity and the kind of stuff that makes you want to cling to the summer forever. That would have been our great, grand privilege this splendid baseball season of 2020.
We make do with old games and dice games and simulated games on the computer. On the sacred baseball website http://www.baseball-reference.com they have simulated every game to date in the 2020 season, every team, every player. And so far it feels like they’ve gotten it right.
Through Thursday, the Algorithm Yankees are 26-11, leading the A.L. East by nine games over the Rays (10 over the 17-22 Sox). The Logarithm Mets are 18-19 and in third place in the NL East, already seven full games behind the Braves.
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And they’ve gotten the two New York stars’ seasons just about as you’d expect them. Cole is 4-1 with a 3.07 ERA, 77 strikeouts in 55 ²/₃ innings, already with a WAR of 2.1. And deGrom, though pitching to a 3.16 ERA in eight starts (he was at 3.26 through eight last year) is 3-4 (same as last year) with 63 whiffs in 51 ¹/₃ innings and a 1.5 WAR.
(You get the feeling that if deGrom saw that stat line he would gather his family around him, hand them notebooks and pens, pretend they were Puma, Sherman and Davidoff, and say, “It’s not about me, it’s about the team …” out of sheer muscle memory and habit.)
It is difficult for us to imagine a summer without them; it must be more so BEING them, being Cole and deGrom, knowing you are only given so many summers to play baseball, and even fewer to play it at the apex with which they are so familiar.
“I’m still trying to figure out a way to get better,” deGrom said this spring, and there is little doubt he’d have finagled a way, at 31 going on 32, to improve on the 2.04 ERA and the 0.941 WHIP and the 524 strikeouts in 421 innings he amassed the last two years.
“Trying to keep the pilot light on … and being as ready as we can be when we are called back to being able to play,” Cole told The Post’s George A. King III on April 4, and since Cole is two years younger, you have to believe he was set, at 29 going on 30, to build in 2020 on the 35-10 record, 2.68 ERA, 0.962 WHIP and 602 strikeouts in 412 ²/₃ innings he’d collected in 2018 and ’19.
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