I have been thinking about this question since the introductory press conference for Jacob deGrom last week.
deGrom has received a lot of flack from New York journalists, fans, and some commentators for the reasons why he came to Texas. He said he was sold on Chris Young’s vision of sustained winning and the opportunity to win a World Series in Texas. The New York media and fans fired back that it was just about the money and he just wanted to get out New York and he didn’t like playing in New York.
But I think we are underselling the opportunity to bring Texas Ranger fans their first World Series title in franchise history as being a massive selling point as he says in the video below. He understands it would mean more to the city and to his career to win one here than it would in New York. Not that he didn’t want to win a championship in New York. Of course he did.
Jacob deGrom chose both money and a chance to win the World Series in signing with the Texas Rangers
If you go back through previous off-seasons, players have joined teams for those exact reasons as deGrom has. Curt Schilling was looking for a contract extension after the 2003 off-season. The Diamondbacks were not willing to extend, but were willing to trade him. He was either going to the Red Sox or Yankees. He had Theo Epstein over to his house on Thanksgiving weekend, Epstein sold him on coming to Boston and ending the 86 year “curse” that had plagued the franchise since Babe Ruth was traded in 1918.
The Red Sox and Diamondbacks worked out the trade, and Schilling chose Boston and signed a three-year, $37 million dollar extension. Curt Schilling then went on to become a legendary figure in Boston sports with his famous Game six “bloody sock” game against the Yankees in game six. Then finishing the job in the World Series and breaking that curse.
In 2014 Jon Lester was a free agent. He had played for Boston for most of his career and then at the deadline in 2014 he was traded to the Oakland A’s. He had won 2 World Series with Boston. It was expected that in free agency he would come back to the Red Sox. His free agency was mostly a two-team race. It was between Boston and the Chicago Cubs. Theo Epstein, now the GM of the Cubs, sold Lester on coming to Chicago. The “Curse of the Billy Goat” had existed since the 1940’s and the Cubs had not made a World Series since then. They had a great young core of players that Lester was sold on joining.
In 2015, the Cubs made the NLCS and in 2016 they finished the job and won Chicago’s first World Series since 1908. Lester became a legend in Chicago for being the ace of that staff and helping carry the Cubs through those playoff runs. They had to overcome the Giants and the even year dynasty, the Dodgers, and then came back down 3-1 against Cleveland to win the World Series.
Did the money play a role in Curt Schilling and Jon Lester joining Boston and Chicago respectively? Sure it did. I am not going to dispute that. But saying that you want to bring a World Series title to a starved fan base and then actually being able to do it, had to have played a large role as well.
Jacob deGrom comes here to Texas to a team that has been around over 50 years and in that time the team has won seven division titles, and been to the playoffs eight times in total. They made the World Series in 2010 and 2011. The heartbreak from the 2011 World Series still exists for this fan base and this organization. Every October having to see David Freese’s two-run triple and his game-winning home run from Game six is just painful.
Chris Young is GM of the club, but he is also a fan. He knows the heartbreak that the fans felt that night and continue to feel to this day. He knows the passion that this fan base has for the team. He wants to be the GM that ends this drought. He is selling Jacob deGrom, Marcus Semien, and Corey Seager on being the players that can end it. The Rangers are one of five MLB teams that has never won a World Series. Seattle, Tampa Bay, Colorado, and Milwaukee are the other 4. It would mean more to win a World Series in Texas than it would in New York. If these players can do so they will be able to add that to their career resume’. That they were able to bring a World Series championship to North Texas. That this Rangers team was the one to end the reign of the Houston Astros over the American League.
It is not so much that these players did not want to play for their previous teams whether it be Jacob deGrom and New York, Semien and Toronto, or Seager and Los Angeles. It is that they see that coming together here in Arlington and winning here would be special. The New York Mets have titles going back to 1969 and 1986. Toronto won in 1992 and 1993. The Dodgers have numerous titles going back to Jackie Robinson and the 1950’s all the way to Mookie Betts and the 2020 Championship.
The Texas Rangers are the only one of the Big 4 professional sports in the DFW area that does not have a title. If they can end that drought they will join such Dallas legends like Troy Aikman, Emmit Smith, Michael Irvin, Roger Staubach, Dirk Nowitzki, and Mike Modano. If these players can hang a World Series banner, they will also have their numbers retired In Texas and join the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame for their accomplishments.
When we take a step back, the five guaranteed years and 185 million the Rangers gave to deGrom played a significant part in his coming here. But I also truly believe he came here to win and become the piece that helped Texas win it all. Jacob deGrom is joining this team much like Curt Schilling joined the Red Sox after the 2003 season and much like Jon Lester joined a young team in Chicago after the 2014 season.