Yesterday it was reported that the Detroit Tigers and reigning AL Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer failed to agree on a long-term commitment. Thus far, there has been a bit of confusion over whether Scherzer turned down the Tigers or the Tigers rejected Scherzer’s offer, as conflicting claims have been made by the Tigers and Scherzer’s agent.
The numbers that were later reported were six years and $144 million. If it was indeed Scherzer who rejected the Tigers’ generous offer, as many believe, one does have to ask, “why was that not good enough for him?”
There is no question that Scherzer is a great person, a great teammate and an exceptional talent, but it seems strange that he would decline an offer that would have given him an average of $24 million per year. One really does have to wonder if he was given bad advice from his high-profile agent. Keep in mind, the deal that Justin Verlander signed prior to the beginning of the 2013 season gave him an average of $25.7 million per year. Therefore, Scherzer would have annually been given only marginally less money than Verlander, a pitcher who actually has a much more impressive track record, if he would have chosen to accept the deal.
It was wonderful to see the stars line up for Scherzer last season and watch him emerge as one of the premier pitchers in MLB. However, it is also important to note that Scherzer has never even thrown a complete game at the major league level, and he had an ERA of nearly 4.50 as recently as 2011. Moreover, the Tigers also sent him down to the minors for a spell back in 2010. These are all facts.
At the time Verlander signed his extension, he was coming off of a four-year stretch from 2009-12 where he was arguably the best pitcher in the entire game. During this time span, Verlander was an astonishing 78-31 with a 2.95 ERA, threw 17 complete games, including a no hitter, and was averaging 244 strikeouts per year. He also, of course, brought home both the AL Cy Young award as well as the AL MVP award during his magical 2011 season.
Scherzer, on the other hand, is coming off of just one amazing season where he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA. However, it should be noted that he was rather solid in 2012 as he won 16 games and posted an ERA of 3.74, but his track record is still nowhere near that of Verlander’s. If Scherzer is unable to replicate his masterful 2013 season, there is a chance that this offer could dwarf any potential offer he may receive next offseason.
Scherzer has said all of the right things by speaking of how much he loves being in Detroit and how much he appreciates the support and passion of the fans. But somebody needs to point out that there is not a single fan who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to pitch for the Tigers for the league minimum of $500,000 per year, let alone $24 million.
Furthermore, the supportive fans are the ones who pay the player’s salaries, and one does have to wonder how much longer fans will be able to continue doing so if the cost of going to the games begins to get out of reach for the average worker. Not everyone is going to stand for paying $30 for a beverage and a hot dog.