I wonder why more athletes don't understand how they sound in the court of public opinion. Max Scherzer is the latest example.
I like him a lot. He's competitive and one of the more intelligent athletes I've ever talked to. But if it's true that he's rejected a six year, $144 million contract from the Tigers, then he lacks a true understanding of the people here in Detroit.
Scherzer has come out and said he "wants to be in Detroit." If that's the case, then fans want to know why $24 million per year isn't enough.
Look, I can respect a guy who wants to go through the free agent process and get as much as he can. I can also respect an athlete who bets on himself to duplicate the best year of his career (21-3 record, 2.90 ERA and 0.90 WHIP). But I'm not sure that he and his camp (Scott Boras) understand how it's perceived when he says no to that kind of guaranteed money.
This team has eclipsed two million in attendance nine straight years, three million in each of the last two seasons and four of the last seven years. Detroiters and Michiganders work hard, and spend their disposable income on their sports teams. They consider themselves loyal fans and expect the same in return. Scherzer has given this team three decent years and one great one that included a Cy Young Award and All-Star Game nod.
I think he's been all in for this city and organization, but he loses credibility now by turning down a chance to "prove" he wants to stay. He told reporters, "I'm not saying the grass is greener on the other side," but his actions contradict that statement.
It's not like the Tigers offered him a Homer Bailey-like contract (six years, $105 million). The reported offer would have made him the third highest paid pitcher last season (only Cliff Lee and Johan Santana eclipsed that annual figure). For 2014, his $24 million dollar estimated salary (although he'll make $15.5 million this year) would tie him with Prince Fielder and Robinson Cano for fourth highest of any player. Only Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard and Zack Greinke are scheduled to make more than the figure supposedly offered to Scherzer.
Granted starting pitcher is by far and away the highest paid position in the sport, but the Tigers seemed willing to give him more than the going rate.
He declined, and now fans look at him with a different eye. Hope he's ready for it.
Matt Shepard is the play-by-play voice of University of Michigan basketball, Eastern Michigan University football and the Detroit Lions television network. He can also be found on TV locally on Fox Sports Detroit and nationally on the Big Ten Network for college hockey and baseball.Learn more.