Max Scherzer and the rest of the Washington Nationals' pitchers and catchers are set to report to Viera, Florida's Space Coast Stadium in just twelve days.
The 30-year-old righty, who signed a 7-year/$210M free agent deal with the Nats after five seasons with the Detroit Tigers over which he was (82-35) in 161 starts with a 3.52 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 2.71 BB/9 and 9.60 K/9, talked to Matt Shepard of 1130 WDFN the FAN in Detroit this week about his time with the Tigers and his decision to sign on to pitch for the defending NL East Champs.
In his introductory press conference in D.C., the former Cy Young Award-winning starter admitted he was actually shocked by the final deal he was able to get from Washington.
"It was jaw-dropping," Scherzer said. "You just can't even fathom it sometimes. You work so hard to put yourself in this position. For me, like I said, it's all about winning. I don't play this game for money, but yet, at the same time, when you have an offer like that, it just makes you go, 'Wow!' So, I'm very fortunate to be in this position, very fortunate that they wanted to commit that type of dollar amount to me."
He reiterated in this week's interview that the decision wasn't solely motivated by the money that was offered, though he did make out well. He said he also wanted to go somewhere where he thought he had a chance to win.
"When you start talking about this large [an amount] of cash just to play baseball," Scherzer explained, "I realized how fortunate I am and how blessed I am to be in this position. This was never about greed, or 'I need more money,' per se, it was about a business decision and trying to maximize what you're worth. For me, I was in a position to take full advantage of that and obviously the Nationals came through and put a contract offer in front of me that, like you said, it was jaw-dropping."
"It's the business part of the game," Scherzer continued. "The business part of the game is ugly. Look at it from the other side, I've seen so many of my friends get cut and released and all taken advantage of because... and at the end of the day we say it's the business part of the game. I just took advantage of the business side of the game to benefit me. For fans and everybody, it's a hard concept to see. Because you can get emotionally attached to your sports team, but for players, we live and breathe the business side of the game because it's right in front of us all the time. For players, it is a part of what goes on."
Leaving the Tigers wasn't necessarily easy, after all the time he spent in Detroit.
"I had a great time in Detroit. It's not like I left Detroit on bad terms," Scherzer said. "But it's like that for all sports, every city. All the fans get attached to the guys they get to see every single night and the talent that we bring to the table and it's just part of the game of how this goes down and for me, that's just the way I saw it."
The '06 1st Round pick and veteran of seven major league seasons was asked how he finally settled on a team and decided to join the Nationals?
"When you actually start getting into free agency," Scherzer said, "it's not just a one-sentence answer -- when you start getting into free agency, obviously you start having -- I mean I had multiple teams calling and talking to me and wanting to see if I would want to be a part of it.
"Of those teams that I was seriously negotiating with the Nationals just -- we looked at this and said, 'If I join the Nationals, man, this is a great opportunity to win.' That's what my goal in free agency was, was to win. And of the teams that were really down to it to the end, the Nationals, to me, gave me the best opportunity. So, because of that, that's the reason why I told Scott [Boras] at the end, let's just negotiate with the Nationals."
One response during the introductory press conference in Washington that didn't seem to go over too well with fans in Detroit had to do with his final decision to join the Nationals because he thought they were capable of competing throughout the entirety of his seven-year deal. Scherzer was asked what factors played into the choice.
"It's pretty easy and it's one [reason]: Winning," Scherzer said then. "I think this team is capable of winning and winning a lot, so when you look at the near-term and long-term, this is an organization you want to be a part of."
He didn't, however, as he explained in this week's interview, mean that as a shot at the Tigers.
"That was never -- I never once ever said Detroit couldn't win," Scherzer told the show's host.
"I actually do think Detroit can win. I actually think Detroit has a very good ballclub and they're going to be a tough team in the American League. They just weren't one of the teams in the final -- there was a point in time when we reached out to the Tigers to see if they were still interested and they conveyed to us that they weren't, that they were fine with where their rotation was at moving forward and that's just kind of how we left it."
Scherzer was a part of some impressive rotations in Detroit, pitching alongside Rick Porcello, Doug Fister, Justin Verlander and more, and he's joining one in Washington that is five-deep with the likes of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Fister, who was acquired by the Nationals last winter.
So how does the Nats' collection of arms match up with the Tigers' rotations?
"The only thing I can really say is obviously on paper it looks good," Scherzer said. "But I've got to see these guys up close and personal to really see what they can bring to the table. I know what I saw it Detroit, I got to learn from, got to watch every single guy go about their business and tried to emulate one thing from everybody. That's what it looks like I'll be able to do here in Washington as well.
"It's an unbelievably talented rotation, and you just sit back and watch every single night and watch what they do and try to pick apart what they do well and try to find different things and try to emulate different things that they're able to do and just try to keep getting better yourself."
The idea of Scherzer getting better is certainly exciting for the Nationals and Nats fans, but he dismissed the notion that he'll have things easier in the NL.
"First, nothing is easy," Scherzer said. "This is the big leagues. I'm not dumb [enough] to sit there and think the National League is worse than the American League.
"But, inherently, yes, the game is different. The pitcher hits, there's no DH. So obviously that is beneficial to the pitcher. But it also hurts against me because now I have to hit. But that's where, at the same time, I always enjoyed hitting. That's a challenge in its own right, to sit there and try to move runners over, try to get the bunt down, do every little thing you can to help your team win. And that's a different type of brand of baseball, but at the same time it's a lot of fun."