Even after days of rumors, Twitter chatter and finally the actual news, it still feels heartbreaking to write that Max Scherzer is a New York Met.
The 3-year, $130M deal will likely keep the 37-year-old Scherzer in Queens for the rest of his playing days.
So now the greatest pitcher most Nats fans have ever seen in person, and probably the greatest to take the mound in this town since Walter Johnson, will pitch at Nationals Park wearing an opposing uniform.
But Scherzer made us proud wearing any of the Nats’ uniform variations, including the Expos throwbacks, and is still the most likely to be the first player inducted to the Hall of Fame with a curly W on his cap.
One of the coolest parts of a game at Nationals Park was that giant image of Scherzer’s heterochromic eyes looming atop the right field concourse, glowing Nats’ red and blue as we all stood and cheered for a crucial strike three.
Now you can bet that there will be an even bigger pair of Max’s peepers peering down from the Citi Field mezzanine, probably glowing orange and blue, when the Nats visit the Mets on Opening Day of 2022.
The Mets, with no field manager, and a general manager who’s been on the job for a little more than a week, are surely doing a great job of spending new owner Steve Cohen’s money, and Scherzer was smart for taking it when he had the opportunity.
After baseball’s newest and richest owner spent more than $124 million on three position players in a Black Friday door-buster, with the game’s collective bargaining agreement running out, Scherzer scored a record-breaking $43.3 million average annual value deal.
He’d have been foolish to turn down a higher salary than Gerrit Cole’s and Mike Trout’s $36 million per year.
Even though Scherzer is going to a hated NL East rival, we can’t take it personally. This is how Scherzer does business.
After winning 82 games and a Cy Young Award, helping the Detroit Tigers to four division championships and an AL pennant from 2010-2014, Scherzer turned down a $144 million contract extension that would have made him one of the highest-paid pitchers in the game.
Instead, he signed the seven-year, $210 million offer that brought him to Washington and into our lives, and now he’ll have made more than a half-billion dollars by the time this contract is up.
Scherzer will get some additional pocket change after that — $15 million a year in deferred payments from the Nats through 2027, with the Dodgers picking up the final installment in 2028, according to SporTrac.
As much has you can’t blame Scherzer for turning down that kind of money, you can’t blame the Nats for not offering it.
Having traded him away at the deadline and still payroll conscious, Scherzer clearly wasn’t in the plans as the organization reboots.
But as baseball’s hot stove virtually approached critical mass, with the CBA set to expire, someone was going to establish a new going rate for a three-time CYA winner, World Series Champion and unmistakable team leader. It just happened to be the Mets.
It was also a deal that probably will be less likely under a new CBA.
Once the old one runs out at midnight, everything grinds to a halt while the players’ union and the owners work out a new deal. The proposals and developments so far look as if a new CBA would do more to benefit younger and mid-career players than the high-priced veterans.
A new CBA could include a salary floor, salary cap, expanded postseason, a draft lottery and a universal designated hitter. There will also likely be changes in the way service time is calculated, determining when teams will have to start paying major league salaries.
Some teams have already committed to improving conditions for minor leaguers, including a housing allowance.
Regardless of which side claims victory, more teams will have to spend more money on their farm systems and roster depth, and fewer teams will go for the high-priced free agents and deadline deals.
Scherzer is also one of eight player representatives on the Major League Baseball Players Association’s Executive Committee, which means he will be at the bargaining table negotiating to protect all players, at all career stages and salary levels.
Let’s not question his motives for seizing the opportunity to earn the most money while it was available.
Let’s instead remember everything Scherzer did give us over the past six and a half seasons, not the least of which was help deliver the city’s first World Series title in generations.
But it was so much more than the World Series, the Cy Young Awards, division championships, and strikeout crowns.
Scherzer pitched so many great games in Washington, but a few stand out.
During Scherzer’s time in Washington, if the term “immaculate inning” didn’t come into our collective vocabulary, we at least learned to use it properly.
Scherzer has three career Immaculate innings, two of them with the Nationals.
Every time Scherzer took the mound, it was an event, a time we would not miss his first pitch, and a low-hit or no-hit game was always possible. Scherzer had two no-hitters for the Nats in 2015, one on Father’s Day against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was a perfect game until José Tábata leaned into a pitch with two outs in the ninth.
His second no-hitter came in the penultimate game that season, at Citi Field against the Mets.
The next season, Scherzer kept us cheering throughout the game for 20 strikeouts in his first start against his former Detroit Tigers teammates, tying the major league record for the most in a nine-inning game. He also passed the 2,000 strikeout milestone and pitched a scoreless inning in the All-Star Game, striking out Aaron Judge and George Springer.
Then in 2019, the World Series season, Scherzer pitched with a broken nose, a day after injuring himself bunting in batting practice. He went seven scoreless innings and struck out 10 Phillies in a 2-0 win.
Another iconic Scherzer moment came July 6, that year. Rocking a Montreal Expos baby-blue throwback jersey, Scherzer struck out 11 Kansas City Royals over seven shutout innings to cap a seven-start winning streak.
There was huge disappointment during the World Series when Scherzer didn’t make his Game 5 start and the Nats fell behind in the Series, before the ultimate relief of winning after his start in Game 7.
There are probably many other standout performances in Scherzer’s career, but the important thing is that those are our memories to keep and savor.
They will be ours forever, no matter where he goes or who he pitches for.
Max Scherzer is not a bad guy for taking the best deal he could get at the end of his career, and the memories of his years in Washington will always belong to us.
Whenever he returns to play against the Nats, let’s remember and treat him as the hero he really is and not like someone who has spurned us.
Max Scherzer gave us his best every game, and we owe him no less from ourselves for the rest of his career.