NEW YORK — Marcus Stroman says he’s excited to be a Met, and until proven otherwise, I suppose we have to take him at his word.
Never mind that he wasn’t exactly a New York Mets fan as a kid growing up on Long Island, or that just a month ago he was quoted as saying he was “built for’’ Yankee Stadium, or that any big-league ballplayer mired in as bad a situation as the Toronto Blue Jays would naturally hope to be moved to a contender at the trade deadline.
And as for that “commotion’’ — Stroman’s word on his introductory conference call with the Mets beat on Monday afternoon — that took place in the Blue Jays clubhouse when he was told he was headed to Flushing, that was just a little discussion between he and some of the coaches and front office executives on his way out the door. Call it an exit interview.
And so what if his father, Earl, told Newsday, the hometown paper of Stroman’s family, that Marcus “was hoping a little bit’’ that his new team would be the Yankees.
"He was kind of psyched, maybe hoping to go there. I'm not going to tell you that he wasn't," Earl Stroman told Newsday’s Steven Marcus. "If he was to leave Toronto at all. Don't forget, Marcus loved Toronto, his heart was there. The brass didn't kind of appreciate him as much as the fans did. The whole country took to him and they took to me."
In spite of all the contradictory evidence, Stroman says he’s now happy to be joining the Mets, who have a Herculean task ahead of them if they hope to climb back into the NL playoff picture. He said he was thrilled to join what he considers one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.
He has yet to be told where he will slot into a rotation that includes Jacob deGrom, the reigning NL Cy Young winner, and Noah Syndergaard, the as-yet-unkept promise of the Mets starting staff, and Steven Matz, his former Long Island high school rival, but believes he can hold his own among any and all of them.
Like everyone else, Stroman hasn’t been told if he was acquired to be shipped off in another deal, if he is coming into a situation in which just about everyone else will be shipped out to restock the Mets’ depleted farm system, or if he is expected to be the spark plug that propels the Mets back into the race.
Stroman hasn’t even been told when he will make his first Mets start. Assuming neither deGrom nor Syndergaard get traded, that means Thursday against the Chicago White Sox at the earliest, at which point Stroman will not have pitched for eight days.
Still, for a guy who seemingly expected to be moved to a legitimate contender, Stroman managed to say all the right things in his first chat with the New York media.
“I think it’s an unbelievable team,’’ he said of the Mets. “I truly think it’s one of the best staffs in all of baseball. I think deGrom’s the best in the game right now. Syndergaard is one of the best power arms in baseball. I think there’s so many guys in that rotation who can shut down any team at any point and I feel like I’m capable of doing the same. So that along with the lineup, the young guys that have been raking, I’m just excited to join up with these guys and be a part of it and add to it.’’
Stroman also took the quotes he gave to the media a month ago when the Blue Jays were in town to play the Yankees and tailored them to fit his new team.
“I think I’m right for it,’’ he said, simply substituting Citi Field for Yankee Stadium. “I think my personality has shown that over the years. I kinda never shine away from the bright lights. I get excited for the big moments. I feel like I’m able to really lock in. I know that New York is obsessed with winning, and that’s how I am so I’m excited to have that pressure behind me each and every start. I kinda enjoy that. I don’t think that should faze me at all.’’
But Stroman’s enthusiasm on Monday was belied by what witnesses described as an “ugly scene’’ in the Blue Jays clubhouse late Sunday afternoon. What Stroman described as a commotion others characterized as “a profanity-laced tirade,’’ possible directed at Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins.
According to several Jays’ beat writers who were at the Rogers Centre on Sunday, the home clubhouse was uncharacteristically kept closed to the media after Toronto’s 10-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, and players were brought out to the interview room for postgame questions. Stroman, normally chatty with the media, strode past the beat writers without comment.
The natural inclination was to assume that Stroman was upset about heading to the “other’’ team in New York, the one that needs to play .600 ball to have any hope of grabbing the second NL wild card spot rather than the one that is 29 games over .500 and running away with the AL East.
Stroman acknowledged the incident while offering a different explanation for its genesis.
“The commotion was a discussion I had with some of our coaches and some of the higher-ups in our organization,’’ Stroman said. “I was just kind of voicing my opinion. I didn’t like how a couple of things were handled along the process, and that was it. It had nothing to do with the Mets at all.’’
But he also admitted that of all the teams he could have been traded to, the Mets certainly were not high on his list of expected destinations.
“I was definitely shocked,’’ he said, “I definitely expected to get moved to some team at some point before the deadline just because of all the rumors, so yeah, when it was the Mets I was shocked. But then it was kinda followed by a level of excitement as well because a ton of my family, a ton of my friends are Mets fans, so coming home is huge. So yeah, I’m excited to be a New York Met.’’
For his part, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen was similarly excited to have Stroman.
“He said I would be a perfect fit for the group of guys, for the city, for kind of everything,’’ Stroman said. “He made it seem like I’m going to be a Met for ... well, he didn’t make it seem like I’m going to be going anywhere for a bit, you know what I mean?’’
Marcus Stroman says he’s all right with that. Until he shows us otherwise, we have no choice but to believe him.
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