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Skipping the MLB All-Star Game is easy decision for Jacob deGrom and the Mets

Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom works in the

Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom works in the first inning of a game against Atlanta on Thursday in Atlanta. Credit: AP/John Bazemore

Jacob deGrom’s workload in three All-Star Game appearances, over the span of five years, is a total of 32 pitches.

He’s averaged 10.7 per inning.

On paper, it doesn’t seem like an overly taxing experience. And if you don’t even throw in the Midsummer Classic -- which was deGrom’s plan before Tuesday night’s rainout against the Brewers -- then the whole experience just becomes a two-day PR festival for baseball, with a parade of news conferences, photo ops and MLB sponsorship tie-ins.

Understanding deGrom as we do, it’s not hard to see why he’d prefer to spend the All-Star break at home with his family instead. And based on his relatively minor string of ailments during the first half -- MRI visits that briefly interrupted his historic dominance -- it makes all the sense in the world for deGrom to skip the trip to Denver entirely.

 

Short of rolling up the two-time Cy Young winner in bubblewrap, letting deGrom recharge on his own terms is the best possible scenario for both he and the Mets. But now that he’s rescheduled to start Game 1 of Wednesday’s split doubleheader, and won’t be lined up for Sunday’s first-half finale, that leaves open a window for deGrom to change his mind and pitch in the All-Star Game.

No one from the Mets was available to speak on the subject after Tuesday’s game was postponed, so we’ll have to wait until Wednesday for deGrom to provide an update. Previously, Luis Rojas was operating under the assumption that deGrom was skipping the trip to Denver.

"That’s just his decision," Rojas said before his Tuesday start against the Brewers. "I know it’s tough for the event to not have the presence of Jake there. It’s unfortunate for all the fans and baseball itself not to see Jake in the event’s uniform. But that’s more for Jake to do. Knowing Jake’s competitiveness, it’s going to be tough to be there and not participate. It’s a tough one for the All-Star Game, not having him there."

DeGrom had been scheduled to make two starts before the All-Star break, Tuesday and Sunday, which took him out consideration for pitching again Tuesday at Coors Field. But even if deGrom is now better positioned to take the mound in Denver -- obviously he’d be the starter, for the first time -- it still would be smarter for him to bow out anyway in deference to his health for the second half.

A no-brainer, actually. We’ve already seen deGrom land on the IL with lat muscle inflammation, then have two other starts cut short by shoulder soreness and flexor tendonitis. From the Mets’ perspective, his physical condition seems to be monitored more closely than anyone in their uniform, checked on a pitch-by-pitch basis. Risking all that for an exhibition -- or even sticking him on a plane for some All-Star glad-handing -- would be foolish after those earlier scares.

No team would roll the dice on that. And when you’re lucky enough to have the planet’s best pitcher, keeping him intact becomes the priority above all else.

"Jake wants to be healthy for us and I respect that," said Pete Alonso, who won the Home Run Derby during his first All-Star trip as a rookie, in 2019. "I think it’s incredible to be honored and go. But if you need those four days to rest and recuperate and focus on winning a championship, by all means ... You want to be healthy for your team, and especially for us, we’re in first and every game means so much to us right now. And moving forward."

Alonso was quick to use Anthony Rendon as a similar case for his choice to skip the 2019 All-Star Game, despite it being his only selection. Rendon was a pending free agent nursing a knee condition, and his strategy certainly paid off. He wound up leading the Nationals to a World Series title, with a career-best season (.319 BA/1.010 OPS/34 HRs/126 RBIS) that he parlayed into a seven-year, $245-million contract with the Angels.

Seems like Rendon made the right call. And while there’s no guaranteeing a midsummer rest is going to help propel deGrom to a third Cy Young, it’s a safe bet that will help more than trekking out to Denver.

"I don’t think it’s smart to go pitch in the All-Star Game," deGrom said Sunday. "I’ve been a little beat up this first half and obviously missed a few starts that I wish I wouldn’t have missed."

As of Tuesday, Rojas said he hadn’t heard from the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts -- the NL manager -- about possibly having another Met pitcher replace deGrom. If I were Rojas, or GM Zack Scott, or owner Steve Cohen, I wouldn’t be too disappointed if that doesn’t happen. Better to rest up Taijaun Walker or Edwin Diaz for what is going to be a stressful postbreak push for October.

And with players wearing generic, league-specific uniforms for the first time, you won’t even notice any Mets are missing. Just enjoy Alonso defending his title in Monday’s Home Run Derby instead.

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