The Scherzer controversy that the media doesn’t want to talk about

Was Max Scherzer really exhausted after seven innings in Game Two? Some reports from the clubhouse claim otherwise.

Was Max Scherzer really exhausted after seven innings in Game Two? Some reports from the clubhouse claim otherwise.

It’s the controversy that won’t go away; it’s the controversy that shouldn’t go away.

But you wouldn’t know it if you depend on Detroit-area media, broadcast and press, for your sports information.

It has barely been whispered in the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, hardly mentioned on Channels 2,4 or 7. But among fans, among your friends, in bars and homes and businesses all over town, the question and arguments live on: Should Jim Leyland have taken Max Scherzer out of Game Two of the American League Championship Series, and did the Detroit manager commit a blunder that doomed his team to a turnaround tailspin in the once-promising playoff tilt?

Further, was Scherzer truthful in allegedly saying, in backing up his manager’s claim, that he was exhausted after pitching seven sterling innings on Sunday night? Was he really out of gas, or was he politely caving in to his manager’s decision by agreeing that he ‘couldn’t’ go on in the contest, copping the company line and not disagreeing with Leyland’s seeming odd decision?

Scherzer had, after all, struck out two of the three Boston hitters he retired in the seventh inning, and looked sharp in doing so. He seemed pumped when he left the mound…never to be seen again. Leyland replaced him with a quartet of bullpen tossers, and the rest was history. Boston Red Sox history.

The question hangs over our town, as it has hung over the remainder of the American League Championship Series. But, again, you wouldn’t know it if you watch, read, or listen to local sports media. Why?

First, in the interests of full disclosure, I wrote a column for this site following the breath-taking Sunday night Tigers defeat. It was a bit intemperate, but understandable if I do say so, based on a lifetime of swallowing painful Tigers losses. And this was surely the most excruciating in that long history of hurt and disappointment.

I never believed Scherzer’s claim (in going along with Leyland’s statement) that he was “out of gas” after going seven innings and throwing a smidge over 100 pitches. In fact, on Wednesday I heard from a friend that the story in the Tigers dugout is that Scherzer HAD said “Let me go one more” (inning) to Leyland after coming off the mound. That story is, of course, uncorroborated, but if true, the finger of blame goes directly to Leyland for the Tigers amazing turnaround – for the worse-  in the Series. It’s truly been a stunning change of fortune.

Why NOT let Scherzer retake the mound, and continue his mastery of the Sox? Why not let him TRY to pitch to even one batter to see if he actually had gas left in his tank? What could that have hurt with a four-run Tigers lead? I said in my Monday column that I have no doubt that the Tigers would not have lost that game if Leyland had sent Scherzer out in the eighth inning, no doubt at all. That nightmare of Tiger pitching blunders, capped by Joaquin Benoit’s gopher-ball for the ages, would never have occurred. Never.

Also sticking in local craws was the fact that Benoit had been tip-toeing a relieving tightrope in his appearances leading up to his Game Two appearance. He was brought in to close out an 8-4 lead against Oakland in the ALDS, and ended up barely pulling the game out, 8-6, leaving a runner on second and the tying run at the plate. In another playoff appearance, working a one-run lead, he put two runners on (including a hit batsman) before narrowly squeezing out a win on a flyball out. Anybody with decent vision could see Benoit was the shakiest of “closers.“ He was an accident waiting to happen.

The accident happened Sunday.

Which leaves us to wonder about Leyland’s vision.

But not if you’re a local columnist, not if you’re a local happy talker on broadcast news. You have to wonder, especially if you’ve heard Leyland’s decision being questioned among your relatives and co-workers and friends, which you likely have, why it hasn’t been addressed in local media, why the Tiger skipper seems to get a free ride from the media.

For one, I have to believe that sports reporters – print and broadcast types – just don’t care as much about Tiger and local fortunes as they claim. They seem content to stay on Leyland’s bright side, not willing to inflame their clubhouse relationships by asking difficult questions. So they don’t. They don’t even hint at issues that might cause controversy, and possibly cause the Tiger skipper to choke on his ever-present postgame meal.

Shame on ‘em, screw ‘em all. Free Press, News, all the Channels. If the questions flare in the lives of the fans, you’d think these company men and women would at least have the curiosity to raise such pressing matters. But they don’t, they didn’t, they haven’t. It’s probably figured to be amateurish, uncool, and unsophisticated to question the decisions of big league experts like Leyland, to mirror the angry man-on-the street concerns of average Tigers fans, the folks who pay Leyland’s salary, and by extension the incomes of the slew of local sports reporters who refuse to see a raging controversy that continues to flare right in front of their faces.

But hey, the players aren’t complaining! Not even Scherzer, at least not in public, so who are we to give vent to unprofessional complaints? And to risk the ire of a Leyland, a Dombrowski, an Ilitch in doing so? If you recall, Tori Hunter and Victor Martinez both sullenly said (in tense, clipped terms) following Sunday’s game, that they were “pissed” at the chain of events that resulted in Boston’s incredible victory. Has anybody pressed them to find exactly what, or whom, they were pissed at, or about? Not a word since. Hearing them, I certainly had the sense they were unhappy with the Tigers’ management of their 5-1 lead. But no press followup ensued.

I DO know for a fact that former Tigers, famous former Tigers, have certainly questioned the Scherzer decision, and Scherzer’s heart, sometimes in furious tones. If Tigers legends, like so many fans, were baffled by what occurred, where the hell are local media in asking what happened, and why? Will no one clear the air? Rest assured our local reporters remain in Leyland’s good graces, and Tiger management’s, by not addressing such painful issues.

But that leaves every one of us who wants a full explanation of the Scherzer decision, a decision that so drastically changed the tenor of this series, a decision that broke our hearts, out in the cold. We deserve more, we deserve better.

Hey, it’s only us. Midwestern, reactionary, intemperate fans. Average, often lifelong, Detroiters who have sweated blood and bullets over the decades with this team.

Who cares about us? We’re at the end of the food chain here, apparently. And what do we know? We’re not cool, sophisticated baseballers like those Boston types so celebrated by national media. America’s darlings, attired in idiotic beards, on the field and in the stands, looking like absolute rubes to even us so-unsophisticated Detroiters.

And it’s apparently not worth losing a valued seat at Jim Leyland’s postgame meal table, with the food and drink and back-slapping times that go along with being in the team’s and the manager’s good graces. It’s too great a risk, apparently, for reporters to upset their very comfortable sports applecarts by merely asking …WHY?

So Detroit loses, and Detroiters lose once again. That absurd grand slam went right to the heart of our longtime pain, in more ways than one.

26 replies on “The Scherzer controversy that the media doesn’t want to talk about

  • Art Neely

    I am a die hard season ticket holder,asnd spend like 10,000 a year on this team.People in Michigan spend their hard earned money and pack Comerica Park last several year!I hope we can still get this series win,but do question,how are we down 2-1,and shouls have been coming home 2-0,and getting ready to deliver Boston a knock out blow!Lets hope things come together,and win this series!If not,I will be very dissapionted,to say the least!!!!They might even lose season tickets holders over this!!!!GO TIGERS!!!!

  • Brian Regan

    I like that the basis of your article comes from something your “friend” told you about what was going on in the Tiger’s dugout. That is just brilliant. It is embarrassingly obvious that you have never played a team sport after you hit puberty. Why on earth do you want this team to be in an uproar with each other or with their manager? The fact that the team sticks by Leyland shows that the team is unified and is playing hard for their skipper. But you are trying to create a controversy based on allegations, conclusions you are creating in your brain, and things that your “friends” say. What a lazy piece of writing. I was, in fact, very angry with the 4-pitcher carousel that came out in the 8th inning, because the team hadn’t done anything like that all year. Why change things now? I was SUPER angry at Leyland, and I said I didn’t like the moves as they were actually happening (as opposed to after the loss or after the home run). But even with that said, I think your article about this “controversy” that only exists in your head is a complete joke. Congrats on writing something without using any hard evidence.

  • Jo

    OK, so let’s say the reporter asked Leyland, and Leyland says “I screwed up.” Does that change the results? No. And does Leyland admitting he screwed up mean that the Tiger’s players should just give up? What does it solve, asking Leyland and getting the answer YOU want?

  • KalineCountry Ron

    I thought the exact same thing when Scherzer wasn’t going back in. His last pitch was 97? no drop in velocity before, and had gone over the pitch count he had, in many starts during the season.
    Was Max saying that to protect Leyland?
    When was the last time Leyland went with 4 relievers like that?
    All I know is….honestly, when that happened and the Tigers leading, I just felt impending doom…..the sword of damocles.
    IMO, Leyland is not that great a manager of the bullpen, is very slow in doing something about a slumping player, this would have continued during the regular season, but the playoffs and the spotlight forced Leyland to do something sooner than later like with the Inge, Raburn type extended slumps during a season.
    But also, the team construction, poor corner defense, Fielder looks dis-interested alot. and the bench is awful.
    Also, this group does not grind out at bats, Cabrera and Victor excluded, no plate discipline or patience. Swinging at pitchers pitches, and at times dumb, say after a Tigers pitcher has a stressful inning of around 25 pitches, the Tigers go up to bat and hack away and out of their half inning in 5/6/7 pitches.
    The Tigers need changes but doubt they will do all that is necessary.

  • MM

    What controversy? I do not see any evidence in your article. “I heard from a friend” How can this be considered reporting? I understand the disappointment at what unfolded. I was disappointed, too.

    But, I believe Scherzer and I still believe in Leyland and this team.

  • Bob

    Witch hunting. Crap like this makes me sick. Maybe the Tigers will fire Leyland and two bit hacks like Delise can puff out their chest and feel like they actually matter.

  • 02maizenblue

    Look. Stop and think for a moment. If I had a 4 run lead, I might have brought out the starter also. Partially because I know we will need closer work down the road. Better practice with a 4 run cushion than one. Hindsight, buster.

  • Chuck

    This is really none of our business. This whole topic belongs between a manager and his pitcher. Quit trying to pick the team apart and turn them against each other. Let them do business like they see fit. Go Tigers!

  • Todd

    Moronic article. If you actually watched Max in the dugout you see him say ‘I’m done’. Besides shouldn’t your bullpen be able to hold a 4 run lead.

  • Bill

    Sorry Brian, but a little league manager would have known to keep Max pitching into the 8th inning. It may go down as the biggest blunder by a Tiger manager in the team’s history. Oh, are they really “playing hard for their skipper”? Prince Fielder, is one of the most lackadaisical players I have ever seen. Tells a great joke at first base. All that for $110,000 a game?

  • Bill Blount

    Who was the clown that came up with the 100 pitch count? Are these pitchers really that tender? I know Leyland reports that he wants to keep his pitchers fresh for the future, thus he takes them out no matter how well they’re doing. It seems to me that there is one factor not being considered: If we don’t win games, there is no future!!!

  • Mitch

    This article hits the nail on the head! Funny how no one in the mainstream Detroit media will even ask the question. Leyland cost the Tigers Game 2 at Fenway Park through poor management decisions. If the Tigers came home from Boston 2-0 their World Series appearance would have been a lock.

  • Johnnyzz

    Mickey Lolich pitched three complete game wins in the 1968 World Series. In 1971, he made 45 starts, pitched 376 innings, had 29 complete games with 4 shutouts, and finished the season at 25-14. Over a 16-year career, Lolich averaged 229 innings pitched per year. We’ll never see anything like that again in baseball (thank you, Tony La Russa and Jim Leyland). He should be in the Hall of Fame just for what he accomplished in that one season.

  • Austin Buchanan

    How many games have you managed? Unless the Tigers score a run what he did with Scherzer makes no difference. Leyland has gotten us to one series and he will get us to another!

  • Mark

    Scherzer should have stayed in. He pitched no hit ball and had plenty of gas in tank. Why in the world would Leland pull an ace like that out of the game? To build confidence in a slack bullpen that has been the Achille’s heel of the Tiger club all year? In game 6, if Scherzer continues to baffle the Red Sox hitters who have been hitting sub.200 all series, then Mr. Max has every right to demand staying in to close the door on Boston. Pay attention Jim.

  • Max

    Lol he did the exact same thing with the same results he’s an idiot and if anyone thinks otherwise your an idiot to handed both games to boston on a silver platter saving pitchers for a non existent game 7 was brilliant but for those who actually have a memory leyland is famous for bad bullpen decisions especially in the playoffs

  • Rick

    Tom, you hit it dead on the HEAD! I agree 100%! I don’t believe for one second that Max was spent or agreed with that idiots decision. Leyland blew the series and season like I have said he would for months! He NEEDS to GO! HE has taken this team as far as he is capable. Please whoever makes the decision. Tell him nicely. Jim retire or be fired.

  • Lou

    I could somewhat understand the decision in game 2, with a 4 run lead, but even there he overmanaged. There was no need for 4 relievers in that inning. It showed no faith in any of them, and only increased the pressure on the next guy coming in.

    Last night, though, after how the bullpen has performed in this series, taking Max out while btill in the lead was criminal! You have to go down with your best, not with the bullpen full of castoffs.

  • Jim


    Awesome article!! The truth is clearly in the area you describe regarding the relationship between Leyland and the media. I personally have witnessed a similar situation with another baseball team inside a team clubhouse. The Tigers need a change after collapsing to the Cardinals, Giants, and now the Red Sox.

  • Joseph Novak

    Looking for the Pulitzer? There are no small stories, just small journalists. Let’s us not forget Rob Parker’s joke that Rod Marinelli’s daughter married the wrong guy. maybe channel 4 hired a curse. Next, I bet you’ll tell me about the black hellicoters.

  • J.D.

    I find it hard to believe that Scherzer has NEVER pitched a COMPLETE game in his MLB career. Can you imagine saying that about Lolich? Morris?? Or even JV??? So perhaps both parties (Leyland and Max) share some responsibility.

  • Bobby

    I’m bummed the Tigers lost – Ortiz’ grand slam was a shock… but what a hateful article! This is why I NEVER listen to the idiots on sports talk radio stations. All they do is hate everyone and everything in sports. Even in success. Is this the enjoyment you get out of following sports? I pity people like this. How in the world do they get jobs in the media stirring up and spreading their hatred?

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