Max Scherzer didn’t get it done in Game 1 of the American League Division Series. He didn’t have that Big Daddy Kane or that Drake in him on Thursday night. It’s as simple as that. He didn't get shellacked, but he considers himself way better than average and he didn't -- in the words of EPMD -- "rock the mic like a wild beast savage" either.
Here’s a guy who turned down a contract offer in the neighborhood of $150 million and obviously feels he is a Top 5 pitcher in the game. His 2013 Cy Young Award definitely aids that claim, but last night’s performance shouted top 15 performer and second-tier elite.
Miguel Cabrera stepped up and pulled Detroit within one run with a homer in the top of the 8th, but Scherzer couldn’t channel his Cy Young swag when Detroit needed it most. His only job was to hold serve in the bottom of the 8th inning and get Detroit back to the plate trailing by the same one run. He couldn’t do it.
Maybe Scherzer should take a page out of Miggy’s book. Miggy declined his $300,000 plus potential playoff bonus and opted against signing the paperwork necessary to make him eligible for his cash.
According to ESPN , Cabrera was sitting at his locker Wednesday when Scherzer came around collecting signatures from the team. "I'm not signing anything," Cabrera told Scherzer.
Designated hitter Victor Martinez, who had just signed the paperwork, had a conversation with Cabrera in Spanish. Cabrera maintained his position, concluding by saying: "I just want the ring."
Scherzer, who also had tried to talk with Cabrera, finally shrugged and walked away. "OK, more for us," he said.
That statement alone -- even in jest -- shows where Scherzer’s head is at. Remember, Miggy’s not a two-time MVP looking for a c’hip to solidify his legacy. He already proved his pedigree early in his career, winning the Rookie of The Year Award and helping the Florida Marlins defeat the Juggernaut Yankees in the 2003 World Series.
Cabrera’s gesture was a classic leadership maneuver. He signed a 10-year, $292 million deal with The Tigers last offseason so he’s not hurting for money, but declining a substantial bonus sends a message to the younger guys and is a symbolic gesture of what kind of sacrifice it takes to win. It’s also a reminder that World Series are won on pride and performance not paper trails.
Scherzer pitched 7 1/3 innings as an ace should in such a spot, but he gave up seven hits and five runs, including bombs to Nelson Cruz and J.J. Hardy, and left the game with men on base, trailing 4-3. It was a letdown like a Lil Wayne performance at the MTV Music Awards.
Cruz going ape shit in the playoffs is nothing new. He was a playoff-pitching obliterator when he was with Texas and Detroit has tasted his postseason power surge in the 2011 ALCS. A supposedly PED-enhanced Cruz mashed eight extra base hits and set an MLB record with six homers and 13 RBIs, crushing the Tigers’ World Series quest.
Scherzer looking pedestrian as hell and leaving before the baseball bar closes is unusual and sparked a domino effect of disaster for Detroit. By the time the inning was over, Baltimore collected eight runs, blowing the game open and taking a 12-3 lead. Scherzer’s inability to keep his team in the game by remaining in the game, led to Detroit’s ultimate demise.
I can’t really knock the Detroit bullpen. That’s like knocking Reggie Jackson for striking out. Or knocking Jennifer Lopez for making a song called “Booty.”
What do expect from a staff that gave up more runs than any team in baseball after the seventh inning? Everyone knew Detroit's starters would have to go deep in the game and the Tigers offense would have to represent and provide some cushion for their shaky late-inning hurlers.
You can place some blame on relievers Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria and Phil Coke’s ineptitude, but Scherzer is the Tiger’s C.O. and is supposed to lock down all drama. Instead, he departed in a deficit, hopelessly watching the trouncing unfold.
The TBS cameras flashed on Scherzer during the 8th inning debacle and all he could do was shake his head as he leaned on the dugout railing. I’m not saying he can’t throw a no-hitter next time out, but he didn’t step up and earn that $180 plus million he believes he’s worth and will be seeking on the free agent market.
I mean, the Tigers made a final long-term extension offer to Scherzer’s reps in late March of six years, $144 million and had it rejected. “We made him an offer that would have placed him among highest paid pitchers in baseball,” Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski told the media at the time. “They turned it down.”
Scherzer isn’t starving by any means. He made $15.53 million in 2014 — his third and final season of salary arbitration.
Who does this dude think he is, Sandy Koufax or something? In 2013, the 29-year old won American League Cy Young Award honors after going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 240 strikeouts in 214 1/3 innings (32 starts).
This season he dropped a notch in most categories but he’s still expected to break the bank in free agency. With the Tigers inking diminished former ace Justin Verlander to a seven–year, $180 million extension last March (which they’re already regretting) $144 million is about as much as they can afford to pay Scherzer, and on Thursday he didn’t pitch like a high roller.
That free agent pot of gold is an alluring and intoxicating thing, but somebody please tell Mad Max that the bank doesn’t open until November. He still has games to pitch, legendary work to do and a market value to set if that’s what motivates him these days.
The Tigers get another shot on Friday at 12 noon in Game 2 of the ALDS.
Game 1 ALDS Royals at LA Angels:
Once again, the Royals used clutch pitching, some dynamic defense and baseball’s most underrated weapon – speed – to defeat a team that on paper looks superior in almost every phase of the game.
Kansas City had managed just two baserunners since the fifth inning when Mike Moustakas hit the first extra-inning homer in postseason history for the Royals, a blast off Fernando Salas that barely reached the right-field stands at Angel Stadium and gave KC a 3-2 road win in Game 1 of the ALDS .
"It's probably the biggest one I've ever hit so far," said Moustakas, who was batting ninth and hadn’t hit a homer since August. "It felt really amazing."
And the Royals’ playoff purge continues. It took them 29 years to get back here so they might as well make the most of it.
Game 2 in the best-of-five series is Friday night at 9:37 ET at the Big A, with Angels 16-game winner Matt Shoemaker taking on fellow rookie Yordano Ventura.
Ventura will be getting his first crack at postseason starting and if he can steal a win here, the Royals are in great shape with “Big Game" James Shields looming in Game 3.