Jacob deGrom refused to sign 2016 contract out of protest

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Players who have not yet achieved arbitration eligibility have their salaries decided for them without their input by their respective teams. Signing the contract is merely a formality. Still, Mets starter Jacob deGrom refused to sign his 2016 contract which will pay him a $607,000 salary because he feels undervalued, ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports.

Rubin got comment from deGrom’s agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Baseball:

“We respect the Mets’ right to determine a pre-arbitration player’s salary and their effort to be consistent with their players,” said agent Brodie Van Wagenen, co-head of CAA Baseball. “But given Jacob’s standing as one of the top pitchers in Major League Baseball and his 2015 performance, his worth cannot be properly valued by a formula. Like the Mets, he is simply exercising his rights under the [collective bargaining agreement]. This will not affect Jacob’s relationship with the Mets. Both parties are focused on preparing for the season and getting the Mets back to the World Series.”

deGrom, 27, won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2014, making 22 starts with a 2.69 ERA and a 144/43 K/BB ratio in 140 1/3 innings. He followed up with an even better effort last season, finishing with a 2.54 ERA and a 205/38 K/BB ratio in 191 innings, helping the Mets break their playoff drought and advance to the World Series. He made the NL All-Star team and placed seventh in NL Cy Young Award balloting. It’s easy to see why he feels undervalued at $607,000 when similar pitchers are earning nine figure contracts.

deGrom will become eligible for arbitration after the 2016 season and will have four total years of eligibility, meaning he can become a free agent after the 2020 season. The right-hander insisted that there are no hard feelings between him and the Mets, saying, “I love playing here. And I want to be in this uniform for a long time. It was just a decision based on the business side of the game.”

Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole, also not yet eligible for arbitration, felt insulted when the Pirates recently considered cutting his salary despite a Cy Young-caliber season in 2015. With two high-profile players making waves about the unfairness in pay for pre-arb players, one wonders if the MLB Players Association will attempt to negotiate a change in this system when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the season.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.