By Ernie Palladino
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If Jacob deGrom ever does get a chance to bring along his soon-to-be-born child into the Mets clubhouse, rest assured the situation won’t turn into an Adam LaRoche-like distraction.
Knowing how the Mets have operated in the past, there’s a good chance the right-hander won’t be around in eight, nine, 11 years, anyway, to let the kid take a little soft BP, shag some flies, or just hang out with dad and the guys for an hour or two before and after the game. Assuming deGrom continues the success he’s had his first two years, deGrom’s skyrocketing price tag might cause the Mets to get rid of him, anyway.
But let’s assume everything goes right and he does some day enjoy a little quality clubhouse time with his kid. If that does happen, future newshounds probably won’t even mention it. The earth won’t shake. The skies won’t rumble.
And deGrom certainly won’t find himself in any controversy that might cause him to walk away from a payday that will make LaRoche’s $13 million look like Uber fare.
That’s because deGrom seems like a reasonable type of person. Beyond the long locks and competitiveness he brings to the mound every start, deGrom impresses one as level-headed with other things in life. Like many other major leaguers past and present, moderation of a good thing will allow deGrom to give his child something few others can — a chance to hang out with the big boys.
But doing that comes through common sense. That’s the factor that seems lacking in the LaRoche situation. It’s something deGrom seems to have in surplus.
“That’s something that’s really cool for a father and a son,” deGrom told the Daily News last week. “I think it will be fine as long as it’s the right times.”
The “right times” means occasionally, not every day. In the Terry Collins era, that means offspring are welcome in the clubhouse until an hour before game time, and then not again until a half-hour after the game, win or lose. That’s the period for serious talk and, in cases of on-field screw-ups, tough talk that can turn clubhouse air blue and blister the ears of veterans who have heard everything.
Under some other manager, the rules might be different. But it’s safe to assume that nobody deGrom serves under will want to allow any kid to become a daily presence, home and road, with his own jersey and locker next to dad. That’s really where the White Sox got into trouble with this. Team president Kenny Williams should have laid out some rules of moderation when LaRoche arrived in Chicago last year. Instead, he let LaRoche carry over the precedent he set with the Nationals.
Had he done that, chances are LaRoche would have signed the contract, anyway, and then followed the rules. And then he could have been just like the myriad of players around the league who bring in their kids on home weekends because, um-m-m-m, they have school the rest of the week.
There is nothing wrong with that. Players have done that for decades. Ken Griffey, Sr. had his little boy into Billy Martin’s Yankees clubhouse so frequently that even the reporters became friendly with him. It wasn’t until Martin singled out the kid to quiet down after a tough loss that it caused a stir.
Even then, the old man didn’t walk away from his contract. Father and son simply kept the incident where it belonged, in the clubhouse, and in the child’s mental notebook.
The kid never forgot. When the Yanks came calling for Ken Griffey, Jr. during free agency in 2008, the Hall of Fame slugger told them, “No way!”
How the LaRoche situation ends is anybody’s guess. It’s just hard to believe he would leave $13 million on the table for any reason, let alone his unwillingness to cut back on the “Take Your Boy To Work Days.”
It’s just as easy to believe that if deGrom ever gets the chance, wherever he gets it, he’ll use a little bit of moderation and common sense.
That’s all that’s needed here.
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino