Jacob deGrom sounded genuinely irritated Tuesday night after surrendering a solo homer to Mike Trout, the planet’s best player.
On a 92-mph slider. Knee-high, outside edge.
“Didn’t throw it exactly where I wanted to and he got it,” deGrom said, standing outside the NL clubhouse. “I’m pretty upset about that.”
This was the All-Star Game, not a do-or-die wild card, not the World Series. But there is no downshifting for deGrom, no switch that flicks to casual mode for an exhibition. The incredible stuff is a key component of deGrom’s makeup, but it’s the competitive fire that makes him the complete Cy Young package.
He doesn’t handle getting beat very well. Not in the All-Star Game, not even to Trout, who reached down to yank the pitch over the leftfield wall, one of a record 10 homers in the American League’s 8-6 victory.
“I had two strikes,” deGrom said, refusing to let it go. “Probably should have went fastball up there.”
One thing deGrom didn’t second-guess on this trip, however, was his handling of Monday’s PR offensive, along with the sign-or-trade grenade that his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, lobbed into the media session at Nationals Park. And even if the Mets chose to shrug off the well-timed punch, that didn’t stop the rest of the baseball world from paying attention.
Some might have been too stressed out to drop a bomb like that at the All-Star Game.
For deGrom, it brought a welcome sense of relief.
“Yeah, I think so,” deGrom said Tuesday before taking the mound. “I figured there’d be a lot of questions about trade stuff, and I think that was our way of getting ahead of it. Here’s what we think and what we would like to do and just kind of see where they’re at.”
As for the All-Star Game itself, deGrom had the impossible task of following up his ’15 performance, when he struck out the side on 10 pitches in Cincinnati. Aside from Trout, deGrom navigated his way through the top of the AL’s dangerous lineup, retiring Mookie Betts on a fly ball to left and Jose Altuve on a pop to third. He saved his only strikeout for the exclamation point, whiffing J.D. Martinez on a 99-mph fastball.
It wasn’t until a day later that deGrom revealed the genesis of the sign-or-trade message. After Van Wagenen had his latest round of talks with the Mets, he huddled with deGrom and the two hatched the idea for Monday’s coordinated media blitz.
The Mets and deGrom’s camp have talked numerous times about a potential extension, but only in general terms, without mentioning any numbers. The difference now? He’s been the most coveted pitcher on the market for the past two months — even though the Mets haven’t made him available — and Van Wagenen viewed that window as an opportunity to deliver a message.
But with two years remaining on deGrom’s current pact with the Mets, Van Wagenen pushed the envelope some by suggesting his client wouldn’t be happy heading into 2019 without a new deal. Much to the pair’s disdain, the likelihood is the Mets will neither trade nor extend him before the offseason, partly because of their front-office disarray.
“That’s up to them,” deGrom said. “They had been saying all these trade things and that was kind of our take on it. We like it here. Just going to see what they want to do with it.”
The Mets have chosen not to respond to this point, publicly or privately, as deGrom said no one from the team had contacted him since Monday. Speaking out like that, however, still was a calculated risk. Was deGrom worried about this being confused with a betrayal, as a suggestion that he really wanted out of Flushing.
“I don’t think so,” deGrom said. “I think the way that we put it was, we first of all would like to stay here. I have a good relationship with the Mets. We’ve had one throughout my whole career here. We were just expressing that we would like to stay here and be a part of the future here, so I think the other thing, that was kind of the option — like if they don’t see me in the future, then I think he was saying get what you can for me. But our main goal would be to stay here.”
And with that, deGrom prepared for his return to Flushing. For how long, nobody real ly knows.