'Mad Max' Scherzer: Tanking 'poisons the game'

Ben Krimmel
February 15, 2019 - 11:45 am
Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer thinks tanking is poisoning the MLB.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The number of people around baseball grumbling is growing: There is something rotten in the state of MLB.

With pitchers and catchers reporting to big league camps this week many top free agents are still unsigned, with 26-year-old superstars Bryce Harper and Manny Machado topping the list of available players. 

This is something Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer said highlights a big problem with the game: Too many teams are uninterested in winning.

“The one fundamental that’s just unacceptable is the amount of acceptability there is to lose — to not play to win as a whole,” he said, echoing Sean Doolittle's comments from earlier this offseason.

“When there’s too many teams that are not trying to win that poisons the game, poisons the fan experience, and it creates bandwagon fans,” Scherzer said. “If you’re constantly just trying to go in this win-loss cycle that MLB is pushing you are creating bandwagon fans and that’s not the type of fans you want to create. You want to create the fans that are following the team, year-in, year-out. It’s put on the fans, honestly, to demand that from the league.”

“There’s going to be some teams that are not in a position necessarily (to try to) win the World Series, I understand that. But when you have over a third of the league trying to do that, that’s a problem," he said.

Scherzer, who like Doolittle praised the Nationals for being one of the teams willing to spend big money on free agents, sees this new trend as a worrying sign for the future. 

“When you take what’s happened now over several offseasons now, and going through the free agent process myself, you realize that teams go to the media and teams probably speak that they don’t want you. I knew, with Bryce coming into free agency, that this was going to continue,” Scherzer said.

“And we continue to see teams discuss not wanting players," he said. "To me, this can only happen in baseball, where teams are making public statements that they don’t want top-notch players. To me, that’s a problem within the sport.”

“It just feels like teams are negotiating through the media. To me, that’s one of the key driving forces in why we’re seeing a slower market than usual,” Scherzer said.

Scherzer also raised the point that other professional leagues would consider it tampering to negotiate through the media. On 106.7 The Fan, Danny Rouhier pushed back Scherzer's tampering theory. 

"This isn't tampering, this is watering down, though. I do agree with that sentiment, it's the only sport where it's like that," Rouhier said Friday. "And I think the next CBA, whenever they get down to brass tacks to do this, should reflect that. I think all of these things need to be done, because the dragging out of this (free agency) process, for whoever is at fault for that, it's not good for anybody." 

Co-host Grant Paulsen is concerned the unrest among the players could lead to another work stoppage.

"I wonder if we're gonna have a work stoppage," Paulsen said. "I feel that way about football, to be honest, too. Because it does seem like the two sides are just so far apart in both of these sports. And you're seeing it every offseason the gap is growing and growing."

One thing fans, owners, and the players can agree on is that a work stoppage would be devastating to the sport.

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