New York Mets pitcher Justin Verlander poses for a portrait...

New York Mets pitcher Justin Verlander poses for a portrait during New York Mets Photo Day at Clover Park, Thursday Feb. 23, 2023 in Port St. Lucie, FL. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

PORT. ST LUCIE, Fla. — Why did Justin Verlander decide to sign with the Mets?

It couldn’t have just been the money ($86.6 million over two years). Sure, the money’s great, but who is to say he couldn’t have gotten that from, say, the Dodgers or the Padres?

It’s not about chasing a World Series ring. Verlander has two of them, from the Astros in 2017 and last season.

Some of it is about wanting to experience living in New York. But a lot of it, if you listen to Verlander, is about wanting to experience winning a World Series in New York.

For the Mets. Who haven’t won one since 1986.

In spring training, Verlander said he talked to Mets reliever David Robertson about what it was like to win a World Series with the Yankees in 2009 “and what it was like winning a championship in the city and what the parade was like. Obviously in that city, it’s just iconic .  .  . You want to win a championship, and if we were able to do that for this organization particularly — one that has gotten close a couple times and hasn’t quite been able to get over the hump in a while and has a wonderful fan base that I’ve come to know in a short period of time — those are the stories that live forever, you know? It would be pretty special.”

Why was Verlander talking about a World Series parade after a mid-March spring training start?

Because that’s why he signed with the Mets.

“I’m not afraid to talk about winning a championship,” he said. “I think establishing a culture that you expect to win a championship is important. You should be able to talk about it. That’s what we’re here for. You don’t shy away from it.

“However, you don’t put the cart before the horse. You start envisioning the parade and you’re too far ahead .  .  . The parade — after it’s all said and done and you’re exhausted after a long season and you’re laying down on the battlefield victorious, that’s the moment you enjoy it.”

Mets fans certainly enjoyed the moment in early December when Steve Cohen’s limitless payroll snagged them a second three-time Cy Young Award winner to go along with Max Scherzer.

Verlander, who turned 40 in February, replaces Jacob deGrom, who signed with the Texas Rangers for five years and $185 million less than a week before Verlander decided to join the Mets.

DeGrom is a two-time Cy Young Award winner, but there were two elephants in the room when it came to the Mets re-signing him: his lengthy recent injury history and the belief (which he denies) that he just didn’t want to stay in New York.

But that’s yesterday’s news as far as Mets fans are concerned. Verlander and Scherzer are here, and having co-aces who are being paid $43,333,333 each this season makes the Mets one of the favorites to vie for a World Series title.

As manager Buck Showalter has gotten to know Verlander in spring training, he said he was “curious about why” — as in, why is he so great?

“You understand why when you’re around him,” Showalter said. “Just a constant quest for perfection. He’s doing reports for the teams that he’s getting ready to pitch against. He’s got a plan for everything. Very conscious of his health and doing things and the responsibility of pitching for the team. He knows everybody’s depending on him on the day he pitches. Just the professionalism and preparation.

“It’s amazing the guys like him and Max and [Adam Ottavino] and Robertson that have been around a while. That just continued thirst for getting better. At some point, you’d think that’s why they’ve been around so long. They’re chasing that perfection every day.”

And for the next two years, Verlander will be chasing it in Flushing.

Among the leaders

Where Justin Verlander ranks in active pitching categories

FIRST

244: Wins

3,198: Strikeouts

78.1: WAR

SECOND

3,163: Innings pitched

482: Games started

26: Complete games

133: Losses

THIRD

9: Shutouts

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