Two no-hitters in one season. 20 Ks in one game. Two Cy Young awards in two leagues.
Two years into Max Scherzer’s seven-year/$210M, the decision by Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Washington Nationals’ front office to sign Scherzer to a long-term deal has worked out nicely. Of course, Rizzo knew what he was getting when he signed the right-hander two winters back.
“Familiarity with the player is often important,” Rizzo explained in an interview on the MLB Network on Friday. “Especially when you’re talking this type of term especially for a pitcher and the type of money, the outlay that you have to give to these aces. So we knew the player very, very well.”
Rizzo praised the right-handed starter’s accomplishments this week after Scherzer became just the sixth pitcher in major league history to earn a Cy Young in both the American and National Leagues, joining an exclusive club that includes Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Roy Halladay.
“When you look at the players who’ve preceded him in winning a Cy Young award in both leagues,” Rizzo said in a press release on the award last week, “you realize just what a tremendous accomplishment this is, and we are so proud to call him one of our own.”
“We see every five days just how exceptional his talent is, and we’re honored to see the rest of baseball recognize that as well – and for the second time in the last four years,” Rizzo continued.
“We look forward to what is to come as he leads our staff in 2017 and beyond.”
As Rizzo explained on Friday, it’s the preparation Scherzer does before each outing and the person he is that made the Nationals comfortable with the investment they made.
“Max is the epitome of a team guy,” he said. “Awesome preparation before a game. He really gets it and gets after it.
“I think what separates him from a lot of other guys on our club and in the league, is that — he obviously has the repertoire to pitch great and has good stuff — but his preparation and his competitiveness on the mound is really what separates him for me. It was the reason that a bunch of us that are now in Washington, when we were in Arizona, we took him with our first round pick and signed him and he continues to improve each year and work harder each year and kind of reinvents himself on the fly.”
Rizzo also added that while he and some in the front office had history with Scherzer, the desire to sign him to a long-term deal came from the top down in the organization.
“Ownership was really the leading factor in wanting to acquire a front line rotation guy to go with what we thought was a really good pitching staff already,” he explained.
“So when we discussed the candidates, Max fit just about everything that we wanted to get in a No. 1 starter and a guy that you give the ball every five days, he gives you a really good chance to win and to me, the epitome of an ace is when he’s pitching that night you expect to win that game and when he doesn’t win you’re often surprised that he didn’t win.”
As good as he was in 2016, and in keeping with what Rizzo said about him, Scherzer told reporters this week that there is, of course, still room for improvement.
“I know I have things in my game that I would like to get better,” he said after winning the second Cy Young of his nine-year career.
“There are things I would definitely like to get better at in 2017. But to win this award, there’s so much history into it, so much meaning into it.”
In his first two seasons in Washington, Scherzer has completed two no-hitters, taken nine no-hit bids into the sixth inning, set the single season and single game franchise records for strikeouts, come one hit-by-pitch away from the first perfect game in the franchise’s history and earned the first Cy Young in D.C. baseball history.
So what’s next for Max Scherzer? And what’s next for the Nationals?
Will they once again attempt to strengthen a strength and add pitching to an already strong rotation as they did when they signed Scherzer?