Max Scherzer: 'My time in Detroit was awesome'
Viero, Fla. — The hair is longer. He's driving a hot, new Tesla and he's got a few more pesos in the bank account.
Other than that, it was the same old Max Scherzer who held court with the Detroit media before the Tigers played the Nationals Wednesday.
"My time in Detroit was awesome," he said. "But that's what happens in this game. Sometimes these things happen and it's unfortunate that the way the team was constructed I wasn't able to stay around.
"But at the end of the day, my time in Detroit, I enjoyed everything about it. Some of the best moments of my career were there. I will always think of it very highly."
Scherzer said he knew two years ago that the Tigers were going to have to do some financial restructuring — he just didn't know it would involve him."
"Guess what, it's like that for every club," he said. "You start looking at guys and their service time and free agency and you know not everybody gets to stay together. A couple of years ago in Detroit you could see it coming. The whole team wasn't going to stay together from those 2012, 2013 teams. Pieces were going to be moved. It's just the nature of baseball and professional sports, really."
Scherzer, after rejecting a $144 million offer from the Tigers before the 2014 season, signed for seven years and $210 million with the Nationals. He took out full page ads in both Detroit papers thanking the fans and has since tried his best not to hear whatever negative reaction the Detroit fans had about him leaving.
"I can only worry about myself," he said. "I can't worry about what other people think. If I get caught up in that type of train of thought, I will run myself crazy."
David Price, who started the game for the Tigers Wednesday, is in the same free agent-to-be boat that Scherzer was in at this time last year. Scherzer was asked what advice he would give him.
"It's something you have to address; you only get one shot to do this, to sign a big deal, and he's in a position to do it," Scherzer said. "Whether he does it now or in the offseason, that's his choice. But you have to do it right and it has to be something you are comfortable with."
Scherzer, by rejecting the Tigers' offer, essentially bet on himself. He mitigated his risk somewhat by taking out a multi-million dollar insurance policy, but mostly, he believed he could enhance his value, not lessen it, with another stellar season — which he did.
"The biggest advice I can give (Price) is, when he comes to the park, it has to be all about winning," Scherzer said. "There is no room for anything else. There can be no other motivation. The only motivation is to go out there and win every single time. That worked for me."
Besides posting an 82-35 record in five seasons in Detroit, winning four postseason games and a Cy Young, Scherzer also ran a diverse and unfailingly entertaining and lucrative (for him) series of pools in the Tigers' clubhouse.
Manager Brad Ausmus wanted it relayed to Scherzer that the team was on to him, that he was rigging the pools, which is why he won so often.
"They just don't have the type of talent and skill I brought to the table," Scherzer said, laughing. "They are going to miss that a lot. Running the pools, the formats and the payouts, I just don't know who is going to be able to do that."
As for rigging the pools, Scherzer said, "Now maybe they can get some of their money back. I seemed to have robbed a lot of them. And their No. 1 excuse was that I rigged it. It's more that I just outperformed them."
Scherzer was two years away from free agency when Justin Verlander signed his $180 million extension with the Tigers. Even at that point, Scherzer didn't think his days as a Tiger were numbered.
"Not at that point," he said. "I knew there was still a chance. I never thought the door was closed until it was. Just because I know with Mr. I (Ilitch), there's always a chance. Mr. I does a great job providing for the city of Detroit. But I knew that whole team wasn't going to be able to stay together."
He wouldn't talk about the specifics of the negotiations with the Tigers, and he said he hoped the Tigers (president and general manager) Dave Dombrowski would also keep the specifics private — which Dombrowski has.
Scherzer was asked if he was surprised when Dombrowski made details of the $144 million offer and Scherzer's rejection of it public last year.
"You are making me tread water here," he said. "I will just say 'yes.'"
But make no mistake, Scherzer is not apologizing for how he handled the process or for cashing in.
"Players before me have fought really hard to get the game to where it is at now," he said. "The reason I was able to sign the contract I did was because everybody before me fought to put players in the future in that position. I respect that. A lot of guys have had to do a lot of sacrifices to allow players to get really big contracts in free agency.
"I'm very thankful for what they've done. Given that, I wanted to continue to be one of those players that continued to fight for the rest of the players in the league."
The Tigers didn't bring a lot of regulars to Viera Wednesday, so Scherzer won't get the opportunity to chirp at the likes of Miguel Cabrera or Victor Martinez.
"I hope there is somebody I can talk crap to," he said. "I keep in touch with a few guys. I had too much fun with a lot of them not to."
Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky