SYRACUSE — After a three-hour flight delay caused by a mechanical issue, another two and a half hours in the air and a short bus ride from the airport, the Mets finally strolled into the Embassy Suites lobby here in Syracuse at 11:42 p.m. on Monday.
Sitting on a stool at the bar, Daniel Gassman, an electrical lineman, put down his glass of Jack Daniels and greeted each player with a fist bump.
“Holy cow,” he said. “The Mets have arrived!”
The team was less excited. A day earlier, starter Noah Syndergaard made it known that many of the players viewed the one-night visit for a workout — in front of the new Class AAA affiliate’s fans at the Carrier Dome on Syracuse University’s campus — as an inconvenience.
Syndergaard insisted it was not “what championship teams do” between spring training and opening day, which is Thursday. His thoughts came as part of a venting session that included expressing frustration that his teammate Jacob deGrom, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, had not received a contract extension.
“I just think they should quit all this fuss and pay the man already,” Syndergaard said.
On Tuesday, as the Mets began their relationship with Syracuse, they also came to terms with deGrom on a five-year contract extension worth $137.5 million. Teammates seemed relieved.
“I was really excited,” outfielder Brandon Nimmo said. “Definitely glad we could put it behind us.”
DeGrom did not make the trip to Syracuse. While his teammates slept, deGrom’s agent, Jeff Berry, and deGrom’s former agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, who switched sides of the negotiating table during the off-season by becoming the Mets’ general manager, finished deGrom’s contract extension.
Manager Mickey Callaway said he appreciated the clarity for deGrom, as the Mets’ star pitcher prepared to take the mound against the Washington Nationals and Max Scherzer, the three-time Cy Young winner, on opening day.
“It was never a distraction to us on the field,” Callaway said. “I want Jacob here as long as possible.”
In February, deGrom announced that he wanted Berry and Van Wagenen to reach a deal by opening day. Week in, week out, deGrom kept track of the contract extensions that other Major League Baseball teams signed with their stars this spring. From Mike Trout to Chris Sale to Justin Verlander, players struck new deals as deGrom awaited his payday.
DeGrom, 30, was scheduled to make $17 million this season and was under contract for next season, too.
As recently as Saturday, deGrom acknowledged that a deal might not get done. The Red Sox had agreed to terms with Sale the day before on a five-year extension worth $145 million, while deGrom dominated in his final start of the spring with three perfect innings against the Braves in his final Grapefruit League start.
“Honestly, I really have been trying not to think about it,” deGrom said afterward. “Yeah, I said I wanted to get something done, but it’s getting close to opening day, and I think my focus is on that right now.”
While deGrom’s contract was the biggest news of the day, Syndergaard seized the Syracuse stage. He was cheered when he ran onto the field, and Gryffin Howard, an 8-year-old Mets fan from Rome, N.Y., held a sign in his honor that read: “Thor! It’s Hammer Time!” Syndergaard threw a ball to Howard during his warm-ups.
“I understand that they’re on a busy schedule, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see in our backyard,” Howard’s father, Evan, said. “It’s appreciated. No hard feelings.”
Later, Syndergaard waved a giant flag that featured Syracuse University’s block “S” logo. He ran with it like a cheerleader along the field’s sidelines, and concluded his performance at midfield, where he waved the flag wildly.
“That’s Noah,” Callaway said. “He got a lot of conditioning in running that flag around today, so he’s going to be in even better shape because he came here.”
Syndergaard knows that he eventually wants what deGrom now has. The two pitchers made their major league debuts 362 days apart — deGrom on May 15, 2014, and Syndergaard on May 12, 2015 — and have assumed leadership roles in the clubhouse.
But deGrom has more consistently been among the best pitchers in the game. Last season was his finest performance yet, as he recorded a 1.70 earned run average and 269 strikeouts in 32 starts. DeGrom received little run support from the Mets’ lineup as he went 10-9 for a team that finished 77-85.
Nimmo mentioned that the team was motivated to come out and prove its worth in March and April. He said there were constructive conversations during the flight delay on the trip from Florida.
“I would say it was probably a better thing than actually leaving on time,” Nimmo said, “because a lot of guys got to express their opinions and decide how we wanted to approach the season.”
He vowed that the team was going to “come out like bulldogs.”
The Mets boarded two buses shortly after 2 p.m. on Tuesday. Three Onondaga County sheriff’s vehicles led them back to the airport.
Minutes later, Syndergaard sent one more message to Syracuse. Posting a photo of himself on Instagram with the “S” flag, he wrote, “THANK YOU SCRANTON! I LOVE YOU!”