BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
(Photo credit: Saturday’s back page of the New York Post)
There’s no doubt Mets fans were and are still stunned about Jacob deGrom signing a five-year, $185 deal with the Texas Rangers on Friday night. This is going to hurt for awhile.
It would have been laughable and unheard of about deGrom pitching elsewhere a few years ago. Everyone figured this homegrown pitcher would finish his career in Flushing. Shoot, he probably never envisioned himself leaving at the time, either.
Despite rumors he could leave, there was still hope he may stay only because no team would pay what he thought he was getting in the open market. Apparently, the Rangers were more than happy to pay what he wants to get him to sign with them.
I don’t know what changed, but something happened this season that set everything in motion for him to leave. He was aloof when he came back from the injured list. He never gave anyone the impression he was going to stay by his behavior.
Maybe he knew it was time for a change. He spent nine years with the organization that he grew up with. You can relate to him as an employee of your vocation in the sense that it has been a long time and that he has become stale.
This is just my theory on why he left. He got tired of dealing with the New York media and the attention that came with his success. He was tired of the adulation of the fans, and wanted to pitch in a market where no one would pay attention. Some guys are like that, and that is likely the case with deGrom. He’s a quiet guy that does not want to be bothered and playing in a market where it’s all about the Dallas Cowboys. He can relax knowing that no one will care what he does for a bad team.
Good for deGrom. He earned the right to do whatever he wanted as a free agent. He accomplished a lot in the major leagues to make a decision on his own terms. This is going to be his last payday, and he needed to maximize that opportunity.
He never even gave the Mets a chance to match the Rangers’ offer. He clearly wanted to move on.
The Mets should be relieved that deGrom made the decision for them. It would not have been a good idea to pay what the Rangers did. He’s 34 years old, and has been in the medical rooms in recent years with chronic shoulder and back injuries. It would be a waste of money to pay him when he would be unreliable in the sense that he may not make 34 or even 24 starts anymore.
If they overpaid him, it would be for sentimental reasons based on him retiring as a Met and being in the Hall of Fame as a Met. This is not a way to operate a ballclub.
I doubt Mets owner Steve Cohen really wanted to overpay him to stay. He saw deGrom for two seasons to find out what he would get if he matched the Rangers’ offer. He didn’t think it would be wise to pay that type of money for a starter on the wrong side of 30 -and this is a starter that does not go deep in games anymore. He can only pitch six innings at the max, and that’s it. He hasn’t pitched more than 92 innings in a season since 2019.
deGrom actually did Cohen and the Mets a favor. Sure, Cohen is rich, but the Mets have to be smart in how they pay their players, too. They can’t pay just for the sake of paying. It has to be for baseball reasons. There were baseball reasons for the Mets not to break the bank for a suddenly injury-prone pitcher.
Sometimes it’s time for both parties to move on. This is not a bad thing. deGrom can embrace the challenge of bringing the Rangers back to prominence now that they’ve hired three-time World Series champion Bruce Bochy as their manager. The Mets can get younger and start preparing for the future.
It would be depressing to watch deGrom lose it at the tail end of his career as a Met. He should be remembered fondly instead of being remembered as a washed-up pitcher in his final days here, if it comes down to that. If deGrom defies Father Time for the duration of his contract with the Rangers, more power to him. I would rather see him defy that as a Ranger than a Met.
Give deGrom credit. He did not sign with the Philadelphia Phillies or Atlanta Braves. True, the Braves had no interest in paying him what the Rangers did, but he could have taken a lesser deal to play for them just to win a championship. Also, give him this: He did not stall for too long while stringing the Mets in the process. He made his decision fast and swiftly.
In that way, Mets fans can live with him leaving. There is no reason to get angry about what he did.
It would be disgusting if the fans boo deGrom when the Rangers come to Citi Field on Aug. 28-30 or when they come to Yankee Stadium on June 23-25. It would speak more poorly of them than deGrom. He deserves a warm welcome when being introduced until it’s game on if he makes his start against the Mets in August.
Let’s hope he does well as a Ranger. Let’s hope he finds peace and happiness in North Texas.
The Mets will move on. deGrom already has. That’s just life in pro sports.
People change and it happens for a reason. Sports are no different than what we deal with in the real world.
This wasn’t personal. This wasn’t business, either. This was just a guy who wanted a change in his personal and professional life.
In a way, he is no different than you or I.
He has lived up to the billing of a Simple Man, doing what his heart desired him to do.
This writer can be reached on Twitter: @LeslieMonteiro6
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