The trigger that sets off Jacob deGrom's full competitive fury, in the eyes of his pitching coach, Dave Eiland, seems to be the arrival of a runner at third base. As Eiland related last summer in the midst of deGrom's incredible season of zeros, the pitcher's face hardens whenever a runner somehow gets past Levels 1 and 2 of the deGrom challenge -- first and second base -- and then threatens home from 90 feet.
As deGrom's expression transforms, the difficulty for the hitter climbs significantly. Opponents hit .202 against deGrom last season when there were no runners on base; when there was a runner on third, they hit .077, with three hits and 21 strikeouts in 39 at-bats.
It's hard to imagine deGrom backing away from any confrontation, but this is where the discussion moved earlier this week, within the context of a larger labor conversation. DeGrom's representative, Jeff Berry, informed the Mets that any talks about a contract extension need to be resolved, one way or the other, by Opening Day. And because Berry is the author of a memo that drew a lot of industry attention after it was published on ESPN.com in December, there has been speculation deGrom might follow some of Berry's suggestions and protect himself, and his value.