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Why did the Tigers make such a big deal out of the breakdown of the Scherzer negotiations?

Mar 24, 2014, 9:06 AM EDT

Max Scherzer AP

Players and teams negotiate for long term contracts all the time. They reach the beginning of the season without deals being reached frequently. Also, frequently, players state that they will not negotiate during the season. There is nothing particularly unusual about any of that. So why are the Tigers making a point to throw Max Scherzer under the bus?

That’s really the only way to construe yesterday’s statement from the team about the end of its negotiations with Scherzer. It was worded more or less politely, but the clear and unambiguous message was “Max Scherzer and his agent are greedy and if he’s not a Tiger after 2014, it’s his fault, so don’t blame us, Tigers fans!”

Such a position used to be common in the bad old days when players would hold out so they could make, say, $40,000 a year instead of $35,000. Or even up through the first decade or two of free agency, when owners still routinely played off fans’ view that players are inherently greedy and are asking for unreasonable money to play a kid’s game. But even if a lot of fans still harbor those sentiments, it’s been some times since owners and general managers wised up to the business of baseball and abstained from playing that disingenuously populist card. Sure, there are always isolated examples, but it has been at least since the last contentious Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiation in 2002 that teams stopped doing that as a rule. At least as explicitly as the Tigers are doing here with Scherzer.

The Tigers are under no obligation to pay Scherzer what he wants, of course, but why the statement? Why change up things and draw such a public line in the sand with the reigning Cy Young Award winner? What do the Tigers hope to gain here? What are they accomplishing with this that remaining publicly neutral or even silent about the status of negotiations wouldn’t accomplish?

Often times I have some speculative answer to that kind of question. In this case I am totally baffled.

  1. rdillon99 - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    I think the sub-text of the Tigers’ statement is something along the lines of “Scherzer told us what his expectations are for a long term contract, and based upon that information we feel it is highly unlikely that we will be able to sign him beyond this year.” It sets the fans expectations that the team might have to get along without Scherzer after this year.

    • Old Gator - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:19 AM

      There’s doubtless much to that, especially considering that given what the Tiggers have been willing to pay their players in the past (and having relieved themselves of the Fielder contract to boot), it will be hard to justify to the fans letting Scherzer walk over a measely few dozen million.

  2. Old Gator - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    Well, none of us were party to the negotiations, so who knows whether the team and the agent, or Scherzer himself, got into heated discussions that left some bad feelings.

    Then again, the Tiggers have larded themselves up on some pretty fat contracts and maybe they were sending a message to their other star players, Miggy for example, that they’re not going to be in the same cornucopian mode they’ve been in for much of the pax Dombrowskiana while they were building this team. Let’s face it: Miggy isn’t coming cheap either.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 24, 2014 at 10:27 AM

      This is not at all the Tigers’ normal MO. They usually strenuously avoid negative public comments about players (note, they never called out Peralta over the PED thing — they were neutral-to-positive and then let him go later). This means something different is up — and add to that the sudden public attempt to negotiate an extension with Miggy…DD is playing hard ball. When V made vague statements about leaving the D last year when he was negotiating, they closed the deal very quickly after that. I will note, though, that V followed his statement up with a public “clarification” that he loved being a Tiger and wanted to be there through his career (which Max has not done). So, maybe Max (and/or Boras) decided to play rough and is getting it back or put himself on thin ice. It will be interesting to see how this develops. I think Boras’ statement mirroring the Tigers’ was not the right move, but I am not the superb negotiator he is. I just hope to use my heterochromial celebration glasses this year.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 24, 2014 at 11:02 AM

        do you think this has more to do with Boras and not so much to do with Scherzer? I think that Dombrowski’s talking more to Boras than Scherzer in his comments but knows that Scherzer will see them. He might not like dealing with Boras.

        I know that my customers prefer dealing with me and not my head of sales. I’m a softy and she is not. I always tell them “my head of sales handles that stuff, she’ll call you with the quotes”. more than one instance we had where the refusal to use our services and products was put down to the kind of hard ball she played with the customer. i’ve had appeals directly to me that sound pretty similar to Dombrowski’s – “we want to use you guys but your sales person was too demanding”. On the flip side we make money and a lot of that has to do with her smart negotiating. I bet she and Boras would see eye to eye on negotiating contracts. As she likes to tell me when I whine about being whined at “Its not a popularity contest, Chief. Its a money deal and we deliver precisely they say they want. That kind of reliability has a cost.” Can’t argue with that

      • historiophiliac - Mar 24, 2014 at 11:20 AM

        It could be, but this is not DD’s first negotiation with Boras. Boras reps a couple of guys on the team, so it isn’t that they are not familiar with each other’s style. For whatever reason, this time it has spilled over into the public arena, and I don’t really take that as a good sign.

      • themanytoolsofignorance - Mar 24, 2014 at 11:29 AM

        not liking Scott Boras seems to be the industry standard. This might be a way to use some of that good will equity the Tigers have with Scherzer in an effort to get him to dump Boras and sign. Its worked before

      • historiophiliac - Mar 24, 2014 at 11:34 AM

        Ok, but Boras reps A-Jax and Iglesias too — and Prince Fielder. They’ve had a decent working relationship in the past. I’m wondering if this is about Drew, and Boras is using Max (and the Tigers’ desire to keep him) to punish DD about him…or something. Whatever is going on, it’s not the usual.

  3. chacochicken - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    Dombrowski is trying to keep Boras away from Mike Ilitch. At least that is my guess.

  4. baldcrabbydaddy38 - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    The better question is: why did they just trade a useful Lombardozzi to the O’s for a 37 year old non roster invitee two days after acquiring an all defense no hitter ss from the Los Angeles Oakland San Andreas Angels of San Jose?

    • NatsLady - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:43 AM

      They found out Lombo can’t play SS or 3B? And has a noodle arm in LF?

      Don’t get me wrong, Lombo was a fan favorite in DC, local boy. His family will be glad to have him back in Maryland.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 24, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      “useful Lombardozzi” lol

      • paperlions - Mar 24, 2014 at 1:09 PM

        FWIW, saw this morning that the apparent offer by the Tigers was 6 years and $144M ($24M AAV).

        Seems really risky to turn down such an offer. He’ll have to stay healthy and awesome to make that much as a FA and still may not make much more than that….whereas, he could make a lot less than that if things go wrong.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 24, 2014 at 1:15 PM

        I saw that late yesterday, so yeah that $150M figure was a little high. I agree that it’s risky, but I can also see him thinking that he’s come into his own and that he’s worth more than Hamels. But, apparently, this one is negotiation chicken and we’ll see who blinks. (PS it’s me. blink blink)

  5. happytwinsfan - Mar 24, 2014 at 9:45 AM

    i know this sounds crazy because they’re heavily favored to win the division, but if their season blows up this opens the door to trading him at the deadline.

    • 18thstreet - Mar 24, 2014 at 10:57 AM

      It’s REALLY hard to see how they don’t win that division.

      • happytwinsfan - Mar 24, 2014 at 11:23 AM

        every year there seems to be a team that’s presumed to be play off bound whose season, because of injuries, unexpected sudden declines by key players, the wrath of the baseball gods, etc., turns out to be a dumpster fire.

      • 18thstreet - Mar 24, 2014 at 11:27 AM

        True story.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 24, 2014 at 12:37 PM

        Nooooooooo!!!!!!

  6. pwshrugged - Mar 24, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    I’m starting to get an unsettling vibe of desperation from this. That whole statement read like it came from a frustrated child. There’s nothing to be gained from it, or from trying to turn the fans on Scherzer. We like Max, as far as I can tell, but he’s never pretended that he wasn’t going to cash in if he got the chance; he knows this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him. That said, I’ll be sad to see him go after this season.

    Still, between this Scherzer thing, the injuries, and the random trades for alternative poor options at SS… things are starting to feel a little ugly.

  7. pappageorgio - Mar 24, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    Where Boras is concerned things may not always be what they seem. And I don’t put it past the Boras to be playing extreme hardball because the tiger aren’t running out to overpay (and give up a 1st rd pick) to dig him out of the hole he’s dug himself for Drew.

  8. therooneyskilledwebster - Mar 24, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    But more importantly, what does Kate Upton think ?

  9. nolasoxfan2012 - Mar 24, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    I’m sure Boras referred to the Verlander deal as an “old contract,” arguing that it really only served as a starting point for negotiations. This is how it goes.

  10. kaldream - Mar 24, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    Max is a finance grad and sees a boat load of money?

  11. Jonny 5 - Mar 24, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    I’d bet Scherzer wants cy-young caliber pay whilst the tigggers want to pay for a good pitcher who had a good enough year that he just happened to win the cy young award and it most likely won’t happen again.

  12. psunick - Mar 24, 2014 at 12:27 PM

    You may have nailed it, historio. It could very well be Boras punishing the Tigers for not signing Drew.

  13. tfilarski - Mar 24, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    blessing in disguise for the tigers. no way scherzer has a repeat of last year

  14. unlost1 - Mar 24, 2014 at 3:28 PM

    The dude is gonna be 30 this year. Even 5 years is too much.

  15. xjokerz - Mar 24, 2014 at 4:34 PM

    hey craig, do all of us Tiger fans a favor and just shut the hell up.

  16. provguard - Mar 24, 2014 at 6:10 PM

    He won the Cy Young. Give him the money or someone else will. Then give Cabrera “Pujols” money???

  17. hookersdontsnuggle - Mar 24, 2014 at 7:45 PM

    Turning down 24 mil a year to play baseball is the definition of american greed. unreal.

  18. dtownmytown - Mar 25, 2014 at 3:54 PM

    The reason behind the statement is that Mike Illitch is no longer running the team,but his son Chris is. Chris is in it to make money, unlike his dad Mike who was in it to just win at all costs. That goes to explain the confusing off-season the Tigers have had, like trading away Fister if you new you could not sign Max for the 8 years and $200 million that his agent was asking for as a starting point. But Fister is soon to be a FA soon, and would command big money too (not Mad Max money, but at least $10 million a year) and more than Chis Illitch is willing to pay. If Mike I was running the team Fister is not traded, Max has 8 years, Stephen drew is a Tiger to replace the out for the year Iglesias, and everyone else in the division si groaning and moaning about the Tigers signings. Now the Royals and Indians have a realistic chance of winning the division because of new management being tight fisted and caring more about making a profit than winning.

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