The day the Tigers traded for Max Scherzer was a sad one. It would turn out to be a huge coup for the franchise, but at the time, losing the beloved Curtis Granderson two months after the most crushing sports moment of my life was a lot to handle. If I remember it correctly, it was the day I discovered that MLB Trade Rumors existed. Granderson was such a big part of who the Tigers were, and Jackson, Scherzer, Coke, and Schlereth were just some guys with some potential.
That would all change. Five years later, it’s Scherzer’s departure that hits home. More than 1,000 innings. 22.9 WAR. Four playoff appearances. A Cy Young. Max leaves Detroit at the pinnacle of the sport, signing a massive deal with the Nationals for 7 years. It’s like hearing your best friend got their dream job halfway across the country. You’re heartbroken to lose them, but they’re making the choice that’s right for them and their family.
Personally, it’s been an absolutely joy to watch Scherzer grow into the ace he’s become. When he got to Detroit he was the classic example of the great-stuff-no-feel guys that scouts love, but I so often pan. The pitches were there, but the delivery and the command weren’t. For Scherzer to become a star, he had to come a long way and most guys never make it that far.
It took two and half years for that moment to arrive, but in the summer of 2012, in the shadow of tremendous personal tragedy, Max Scherzer turned a corner and never looked back. He got his delivery together, found his curveball, and became one of the most frightening assignments for AL hitters.
But it wasn’t just that Max turned into a star. Regular readers here know that you don’t have to be good for me to love you (see Kelly, Don; Raburn, Ryan; Inge, Brandon). Max also understood the game and was open to the modern way of evaluating it. He was smart, well-spoken, and thoughtful. He and his brother had phone conversations about the financial crisis in Greece. He tweeted about the origins of a centuries old dispute in the cradle of civilization. He knew about FIP. My god, the man knew about FIP and cared about FIP.
There were a lot of moments over these last five years. Great players tend to have a lot of great moments. You may have your own personal favorite, but this one has to be right at the top of the list. Scherzer in relief, getting three huge outs to save the date, and helping the Tigers advance.
The Tigers made a good faith offer to Max in the spring and he was right to turn it down. Other clubs could afford to offer more and he was right to take it. I’m sad to see him leave, but we knew this day was coming. This day was always coming.
When you’re a kid and one of your favorite players signs with another team, it feels like they’re turning their back on you. When your GM trades away a player you love, it feels like they don’t care about you. But there’s a point in your life where you get to an age when you realize that being a fan of team and working for one are totally different things. If this had happened when I was ten, Scherzer might have seemed like an enemy because $144 million is a lot of money, but Max gave the Tigers his years and some terrific memories. It was a happy marriage, but that’s sort of the problem with being a fan. You’re married to the team and the players just work there. Max is making a smart decision and I’m happy for him, no matter how much it sucks to see him go.