David Cone, now a terrific broadcaster for the Yankees on the YES Network, was one of the best pitchers of his time. He went 20-3 in 1988 for the Mets. A decade later, he posted a 20-7 record as part of the '98 World Series champion Yankees. On July 18, 1999, the then 36-year-old Cone hurled a perfect game.
In a 17-year career, he went 194-126. He was, at his very best, a combination of power and artistry.
So he seemed like as good a baseball man as any to talk about what he is seeing, what we are all seeing, from Jacob deGrom right now.
"He may have the best fastball I've ever seen," Cone said Tuesday night before he would work the Yankees-Orioles game. "His combination of power and control is as good as I've ever seen."
Cone paused. He was just getting going.
"He's one of the guys pitching off his fastball, working off his fastball, in an era where so many guys are in love with changing speeds, and their offspeed stuff," said Cone.
"I really think he really only throws his slider when he gets bored," Cone said.
deGrom pitches against the Red Sox on Wednesday night at Citi Field. It means that is the main event in baseball on Wednesday night. If you love baseball, you want to know what deGrom is doing when it is his turn to pitch as much as you want to know what Shohei Ohtani is doing when he gets the ball.
Everybody knows deGrom's numbers. His ERA is a mind-boggling 0.31 this season. He has knocked in more runs (two) than the one earned run he has allowed. He has struck out 50 batters in his first four starts. Since the start of the 2018 season, he has a 2.00 ERA in 80 starts. He has not just become the best pitcher of his time. He has looked like one of the best left-handed hitters of all time. He makes throwing a baseball 100 mph as effortless as anybody you will ever see.
"There's almost a gliding element to the way he delivers the ball," Cone said. "On top of everything else, he's a much better athlete than people realize."
deGrom has won two National League Cy Young Awards. He finished third last season. If the 32-year-old stays healthy, and if he keeps pitching like this, he will win another one this season -- whether the Mets score him more runs or not, and no matter how many times his bullpen fails him when deGrom leaves tied or with a lead after another dazzling performance.
He is not just the heir to Tom Seaver with the Mets. He dominates the game right now the way Dwight Gooden did when he was 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA in 1985. This is what it was like when Pedro Martinez dominated the world in 1999 and 2000, when the home run numbers were as big as some of the sluggers.
Gerrit Cole of the Yankees is a truly great starting pitcher. We all hope that in one of the Subway Series games this season Cole will go up against deGrom. He is just not as great as deGrom is. Nobody in baseball is right now.
"I am not just in awe of what he's doing," Cone said. "I'm in awe of how he's doing it."
deGrom is part of a magical beginning to this season. We have deGrom pitching this way. We have Ohtani doing what he is doing, on the mound and at the plate. We have Fernando Tatis Jr. looking as if he wants to take on the Dodgers all by himself. Mike Trout still looks like the best player in the world. But there is no bigger star in the game right now than deGrom, even with a 2-1 record.
Here is something he said in March, when asked about the possibility of a third NL Cy Young Award this season:
"Having some time to kind of reflect a little bit, I definitely know what kind of class [another Cy Young Award] would put me in. And a goal of mine also is to try to make it to the Hall of Fame."
Then he added this:
"So I want to continue to pitch at an elite level for quite some time."
That was before the regular season started. Now you see what he has done since the bell rang. This is the elite pitcher the Mets thought Matt Harvey was going to be when he was young, not the ex-shortstop from Stetson University who had Tommy John surgery before he ever got anywhere near the big leagues.
"He's a must-watch guy now," Cone said. "If you're a baseball fan, and you know he's pitching, you stop what you're doing and watch."
deGrom against the Red Sox on Wednesday night. Stop what you're doing. See if deGrom can keep doing it. Big baseball night in the big city, because of him. Maybe the Red Sox can get deGrom. Nobody else has.