When Jacob deGrom, said he might consider putting an innings limit on himself, he just might have fired the first salvo in a war…
Jacob deGrom, as we know, is in the midst of a fight with the Mets neither side wants to be involved in, and it has to do with the extending deGrom, the 2018 NL Cy Young Award winner. We know too that he has garnished an agreed on pay raise of $10 million, meaning he will pitch for the New York Mets in 2019 for $17 million.
That much we know, but everything beyond that hangs in the air. More than fifty free agents, including you, know who and who, are still out there without a team to play for in 2019, with no income and no idea where their kids will attend school next year.
Some fans and media mouthpieces say the fix is in. No more Alex Rodriguez, David Wright, Jacoby Ellsbury, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton back-loaded contracts that sucked the owners dry whether or not the player had performed up to the standards expected when the agreement was signed.
Change is good, and if the owners are trying to correct the error of their ways when bloated and ill-advised contracts of those kinds were awarded to players, why should they be held in contempt for doing so? The question now seems to be, though, is the pendulum swinging so far the other way that players – and ultimately, the integrity of the game as fans see it played in their local ballparks – is threatened?
Jacob deGrom might not have wanted to answer the question posed to him as directly as he did during a press conference. But an inkling into the problem facing baseball was, nevertheless, revealed when Jacob deGrom, or more precisely his agent, indicated he had a plan of his own to represent himself and his family if the Mets did not grant him a guaranteed extension.
More on that soon, but of note and on the same day Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, two starting pitchers on their way to Cooperstown, both expressed serious reservations regarding the trends they see taking place in baseball.
Tension is escalating between owners and players. The current bargaining agreement does not expire until 2021, an eternity when we view the strife we see now.
Rob Manfred, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, is all wrapped up with his thing about how long ballgames take, mound visits by managers and coaches, and that almighty clock he wants to impose on pitchers, forcing them to cough up the ball towards home plate – or else!
Meanwhile, the game as we know it today is collapsing around him.
World Series games end after midnight (so much for picking up new fans who are in bed for school), some of the best players in the game can’t find jobs, and a historical number of teams will be “tanking” the 2019 season under the guise of rebuilding.
Why? Because it ensures them high picks in the draft and a windfall of money coming to them from teams who exceed what is rudely referred to by MLB as the “competitive balance tax.”
Most fans of baseball don’t want to hear anything about this “stuff.” I’m not one of them, and I hope you aren’t as well because these are times that need adjusting to. The pendulum needs to be pushed back toward – but not to – the players.
Ah, the poor players. I can hear the refrain already. Bryce Harper wants the equivalent of $6,000 every time he steps up to the plate ($30 million/500 at-bats) or $20,000 for every game he plays in 2019. How dare he? After all, $20K is just under what I draw from Social Security for a year. Do I begrudge Harper that? No, because Bryce Harper can do things on a ballfield I can’t, and I enjoy watching him do it.
And yet, few pay attention to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who has a contract worth $22 million for the 2020 film Red Notice, a film which I’m sure will break box-office records while adding (what?) to the value of our American culture.
It’s entertainment, and fans of baseball pay to see Harper, Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, slam balls far into the night, in the same way, “The Rock’s” next movie is guaranteed to be filled with suspense and mind-blowing special effects.
Babe Ruth was once chastised by fans for signing a contract paying him $75,000 to play for the New York Yankees in 1932, which is, by the way, the equal today of $1,320,167.83. The Babe had an answer to his critics who questioned why he was making more than Herbert Hoover, the President at the time. “I had a better year than he did” was all Ruth had to say.
So, let’s come back to Jacob deGrom. Here’s a man who is torn between his “team” and his family. His team is something nebulous, but his family is real and permanent. Where do his loyalties lie? Where should they lie?
Jacob deGrom, because he like many players do not wish to publicly confront the question of which one he would choose if push came to shove, so he does a Derek Jeter dance around the issue. Even though, each of us knows what we would prefer – if we had to.
Conversely, what about The Team deGrom plays for? Where do their loyalties lie? If Jacob deGrom blows his elbow out this spring, will the Mets be in line to grant him another substantial raise like the one he received this year for winning a Cy Young, even though he is sidelined for the next eighteen months? You know the answer, and so do I.
Summarizing, the ball is in the owner’s court to level the playing field following what we have seen regarding the treatment of free agents for successive off-seasons. The owners are not likely to do anything voluntarily. Why should they – their business is booming. So, it’s up to the players to respond.
And that’ll be the topic of the next column – reforms that baseball needs to maintain the integrity of the game. My research begins now.