Chipper Jones almost sounds like a Mets fan as he discusses Jacob deGrom's magical 2018 season, gushing how the righty's performance was "Maddux-esque."
"I saw utter domination," Jones says. "I mean, you're talking about an all-time type season."
Jones, the Hall of Fame third baseman who tormented the Mets during his playing career in Atlanta, isn't trying to make up all that history to Flushing faithful with a few kind words. No, the former Braves' star is "a baseball fan. I'm a baseball realist and a baseball historian, to a certain extent.
"I'm going to call it like I see it."
And Jones sees it like this: There is no real debate about the National League Cy Young Award. DeGrom, who was 10-9 with an MLB-best 1.70 ERA, should win, though Jones notes that Washington's Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola of the Phillies both had outstanding seasons, too. But deGrom and his historic season, in which he allowed as many as four runs only once, is "more deserving."
Jones, of course, knows good pitching, having played behind Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz -- the Braves' trio of Hall of Fame starters. Maddux had a 1.56 ERA in 1994 and a 1.63 in 1995, winning two of his four consecutive Cy Young Awards.
Jones' deGrom opinion first garnered attention when he voiced his support for the Mets ace on social media in late September. He even tweaked a Twitter troll or two. Jones spoke to SNY.tv Wednesday in a telephone interview after we requested a deeper dive into his deGrom fandom.
"It's not his fault he didn't get support," says Jones, who at times was victimized, win-wise, by both the Mets' offense and bullpen. "He gave his team a chance to win every single start. Say you put deGrom in Philadelphia or Washington - what would his numbers have been, won-loss wise? Astronomical.
"People have said for years that wins are an overrated stat, anyway."
Jones says he admires that deGrom has evolved as a pitcher, noting, "He used to be just, 'Here comes 97 (miles per hour) and an 89-90 miles-per-hour slider,'" Jones says. "He's rounded himself into four-pitch guy who can throw all of them in any count, to any side of the plate.
"That makes me glad I'm retired."
Jones laughs when it is suggested that his popularity among Mets fans would soar thanks to his take on the NL Cy Young race, but he's not picking out a Met on purpose. Nor is he picking deGrom because they're both originally from DeLand, Fla., and Jones has deep ties at deGrom's college, Stetson, where his father, Larry Wayne Jones, Sr., was a star shortstop.
"I know him (deGrom) real well," Jones says. "But I can tell you this: If Nola or Scherzer had the year he did, I'd sing their tune. That's the way I'm made. Regardless of what uniform they wear.
"The only reason this is being discussed as a debate? It's deGrom's won-loss record. If he had 14 or 15 wins, would it be a conversation?
"If you break it down like that, you have your Cy Young winner."
And Jones knows that the Mets have more pitching talent behind deGrom with arms such as Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz. Met starters finished the 2018 season sixth in MLB in ERA at 3.54. The MLB average was 4.19.
Potentially, "it's the scariest rotation out there," Jones says. "It's one that rivals anyone's. The key is keeping them healthy.
"Wheeler certainly looks like he's turned the corner. He was as hot as deGrom was the last couple of months of the season. You keep the top four guys healthy, the Mets are an instant contender.
"In 1995, we (the Braves) won the World Series and we only hit .250. We went as our pitching staff went. We didn't knock anybody's socks off, but we had a bunch of grind-it-out players. Someone would run into one and we had our big three.
"That's the way they can win."
First, though, Jones thinks deGrom should collect this year's NL Cy Young Award.