SCHERZER: ‘A BOBBY BONILLA JOKE WAITING TO HAPPEN’
Max Scherzer would be the first to tell you the secret to his success is his own failure.
An extreme competitor, it’s the bitter aftertaste of losing that drives Scherzer to win.
But, maybe, the most inspiring quality of Scherzer’s 14-year career has been his ability to channel all the negativity thrown his way and turn it into performance.
If you research the arc of Scherzer’s MLB career, you’ll find he’s had detractors and critics literally since Day One. Scherzer’s story begins on April 28, 2008, his MLB debut, with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Scherzer pitched 4.1 innings perfect innings vs. Astros out of the bullpen.
One 2008 scouting report noted:
“He showed the ability to work ahead in the count and the willingness to challenge hitters with his fastball. Scherzer did, however, over-throw some and leave a few pitches up in the zone, but because of the late life on his fastball, hitters weren’t able to catch up to them.”
After two seasons in Arizona, the team traded Scherzer to the Detroit Tigers. The Diamondbacks were not confident that their young pitcher had much of a future. The baseball operations staff were concerned whether Scherzer’s “violent delivery and over-the-top intensity on and off the field” would lead to injury.
On to Detroit. Scherzer pitched well the first three seasons with the Tigers, then dominated the final two seasons in Detroit. What was the difference? Scherzer added a curveball in 2012 (16-7) and refined the pitch and his motion in 2013 (21-3).
On to free agency. When Scherzer and the Washington Nationals agreed to a 7yr/$210 million deal one baseball executive called the deal “a Bobby Bonilla joke waiting to happen.” The collective gasps around baseball were fuel for Scherzer. The drive to prove them wrong — again — was renewed.
On to Washington. Scherzer worked harder. He added another pitch: a cut fastball. From 2015-2019 Scherzer compiled a record of 79-39 with a 2.74 ERA, made five All-Star teams, won the Cy Young Award twice (2016-2017) and a World Series title (2019).
“There’s nothing that Max Scherzer loves more than doubters,” wrote Joe Posnanski in his new book, The Baseball 100. “They fuel him, inspire him and make him feel uncomfortable. And he wants to feel uncomfortable; he wants to feel like he has to do something drastic to get better.”
The Bobby Bonilla comparisons quietly went away.
Over the last 12 hours, multiple baseball insiders have reported that Max Scherzer is in serious negations to sign a multi-year deal with the New York Mets. If the reports are accurate, the Mets have made an offer that would net Scherzer $40 million per season.
Scherzer is now 37 years old and has been prone to back injuries in recent years which has some deliberating the risk of a long term deal. Can Scherzer stay healthy for three or four more seasons?
More doubters? Of course. This is exactly what Scherzer expects — and needs.
Whether it’s the New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, a reunion with the Los Angeles Dodgers, or another location where Max Scherzer decides to pitch in 2022, you can be sure of one thing: Scherzer will be prepared to shun the nonbelievers.