Scenes from Spring Training: Alas, the games are a letdown

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The nice weather of spring training is intoxicating. Sunrise at an empty ballpark is electrifying. Watching the ballplayers getting ready and running through drills is beyond cool. And then, just as you’re totally stoked, when the grills are sizzling and fans are settling in for the first pitch … you get a rather crappy game.

Hey, that’s the nature of the beast, especially on Day freakin’ One of the spring training schedule. If you come expecting crisp baseball you’re nuts. You just need to remember that bad baseball is better than good almost anything else and go with it.

So I went with it today, ignoring the fact that Tim Lincecum couldn’t get anyone out and that the defense was so bad that they didn’t have the error column lit up on the scoreboard. As I type this, it’s the top of the 8th inning and the Giants lead the Dbacks 7-4 in what has been a less than wonderful ballgame. But to dwell on that stuff would be to miss the point.

And the point is that baseball is almost back. That even if your weather sucks right now, you’ll be able to lounge in the warm spring air like these people sooner than you think.  That even if a nice hot stew sounds best tonight, you’ll be jonesin’ for this kind of thing in no time.  That you’ll soon be able to walk around looking like an utter fool in love with baseball. Wait, don’t do that. That’s just wrong.

It’s getting closer, my friends.

Noah Syndergaard on Mets extending Jacob deGrom: ‘Pay the man already.’

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March has marked contract extension season across Major League Baseball. Just in the last week, we have seen Justin Verlander, Chris Sale, Brandon Lowe, Alex Bregman, Ryan Pressly, Mike Trout, Eloy Jiménez, Blake Snell, and Paul Goldschmidt sign extensions. Nolan Arenado, Luis Severino, and Aaron Nola also notably signed extensions during the offseason.

One name strikingly absent from that list: Mets ace Jacob deGrom. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is coming off of a season in which he posted a 1.70 ERA with 269 strikeouts and 46 walks across 217 innings. It’s the lowest ERA by a qualified starter since Zack Greinke‘s 1.66 in 2015. Prior to Greinke, no pitcher had posted an ERA of 1.70 or lower since Greg Maddux in 1994-95 (1.56, 1.63).

deGrom is earning $17 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility going into the 2020 season. He will turn 31 years old in June, but is an obvious extension candidate for the Mets, who have built arguably their most competitive team since 2015, when the club lost the World Series in five games to the Royals. Thus far, though, the Mets and deGrom haven’t been able to get anywhere in extension talks.

deGrom’s rotation mate Noah Syndergaard is watching. Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Syndergaard said, “I think Jake’s the best pitcher in baseball right now. I think he deserves whatever amount he’s worth. I want them to keep him happy so when it does come time for him to reach free agency, he stays on our side pitching for the Mets. I just think they should quit all the fuss and pay the man already.”

Syndergaard added that the recent extension trend around baseball — and deGrom’s lack of an extension to date — sends a message. He said, “I think so, yes, because of what you see in what’s going on in baseball right now. If there wasn’t a trend of other guys getting contract extensions, then I don’t know what the circumstance would be. But you see Chris Sale, Verlander getting extensions. I think it’s time Jacob gets one too.”

Part of the equation behind the recent rash of extensions is the stagnation of free agency. Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel — two of baseball’s better pitchers — have gone through almost an entire spring training without being signed. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado didn’t find new homes until late February. Free agents in their 30’s are largely being underpaid or otherwise forgotten about. Extensions represent financial security for young and old players alike. Syndergaard himself can become a free agent after the 2021 season, so if deGrom’s prospects improve, then so too will his, at least without knowing the details of the next collective bargaining agreement which will be put into place ahead of the 2022 season.