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Max Scherzer doesn’t like that Sports Illustrated mentioned his contract status

Apr 30, 2014, 12:55 PM EDT

ALCS - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game Two Getty Images

Max Scherzer is on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And he’s not happy about how the story — with the cover headline “Mad Max’s $144 million bet” — turned out:

“To be on the cover is a very special moment, but I’m also frustrated that they chose to put the contract stuff on the cover,” he said Sunday.

“When they approached us, (Tigers media relations) and I, we specifically asked not to make the story around the contract. … They assured us it wasn’t going to be like that. They chose a different route, and we felt like we were lied to and misled.”

Sports Illustrated said they made no such assurances and, given that Sports Illustrated is a respectable media operation, I’d be shocked if they did. It just doesn’t work that way when you’re dealing with a legitimate journalistic operation. My guess is a game of telephone or some misunderstanding led Scherzer or the Tigers folks to believe the story would not mention his contract status.

But this does seem to be an increasingly common refrain from the celebrity class lately. That they were someone treated poorly by the media or that they had some sort of understanding that a story would be about X and not Y or that Z topic would not be broached. Lorde of all people got into this sort of dispute with a magazine criticizing her music recently, claiming that criticism is somehow unfair, hateful and illegitimate.

It’s all nuts to me. A low blow is one thing, but suggesting that criticizing one’s work — or, in Scherzer’s case, pointing out a totally legitimate and relevant thing about his contract status — is off base is to confuse journalists with publicists. If you want to get your message and your message only out, go through the latter. If you can’t handle mention of things you don’t want mentioned, avoid the former.

  1. chip56 - Apr 30, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    His contract (or rather lack of a contract) is newsworthy and so, like you, I don’t believe they would have agreed not to mention it.

    That said, if someone on behalf of SI did make that promise going in then Scherzer has a legitimate beef.

    • davidpom50 - Apr 30, 2014 at 1:38 PM

      It seems like Scherzer’s beef isn’t that they MENTIONED his contract status, but that his contract status is the headline. I have find it pretty easy to believe the reporter who wrote the article agreed that the article would not be primarily about his contract, but a separate person designed the cover with no knowledge of that conversation. It seems very much to be a simple miscommunication.

      • sportsdrenched - Apr 30, 2014 at 2:07 PM

        That’s what I’m betting too. The reporter submitted his story and was done with the process. An Editor(s) came up with what to put on the cover or even what to title the piece.

      • HitsDingers - Apr 30, 2014 at 2:16 PM

        Assuming Scherz is telling the truth about such an agreement, I think it’s pretty bushleague for SI to do that. Claiming that the cover designer was ignorant to the conversation doesn’t mean much to me–it’s one organization and they need to be on the same page.

        It also doesn’t mean much for members of the media (read: Craig) to make it seem as though the “celebrity class” is whining about nonsense when a member of said class agrees to participate in a story upon false pretenses. SI isn’t Scherz’s publicist, but they are profiting from his cooperation. The key is not the newsworthiness — SI is free to write any article they like — the key is the false pretense of assuring him that the contract would not be the lede.

      • happytwinsfan - Apr 30, 2014 at 4:13 PM

        I doubt that it was a “simple miscommunication”. I bet it was more like, “sorry about your promise to Scherzer, but our job is to sell magazines and this is the cover that’ll do it”

  2. hojo20 - Apr 30, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    Remember when being on the cover of SI was a big deal?

  3. pwshrugged - Apr 30, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    Boo hoo, Max. He should know that his contract status is going to be a bigger story than anything he does on the mound this year. Of course, that the negotiations became public knowledge appears to be the Tigers’ fault, and not his, but still – it is what it is, at this point. For all the business savvy Max gets applauded for having, he should know that SI is going to want to write the juiciest story it can, and any assurances they make him might be hollow or tenuous at best.

    It’s not often someone makes a bet on themselves, publicly, worth tens of millions of dollars. It’s a story. Sorry, Max. I certainly tip my hat to his self-assuredness on one hand, but on the other, it sort of grates against his “aw shucks, I like it here” disposition from as recent as last year. I want to see him succeed and fail at the same time. I don’t think I’ve ever been this conflicted about a home-team athlete before.

    • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      Are you sure you’re a fan?

      • pwshrugged - Apr 30, 2014 at 2:00 PM

        Part of being a fan is being disappointed and a little bitter when one of my favorite players wants to take the money over loyalty/sticking it out long-term. Rationally, I totally understand, and I try not to begrudge him that… but as a fan, I can’t help it sometimes.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 2:44 PM

        It’s funny that you’re mad at him but not at the management.

      • pwshrugged - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:53 PM

        Oh, I think the Tigers management definitely took a blow to their credibility for leaking the negotiation information. That was shady at best, and I really wonder what their rationale for doing that was. I can’t remember the last time a team purposely tried to turn fans against a player, and if that’s what they were doing… yeah, I dunno. It was shady, and not cool at all.

        But on the flip side, I don’t want them overpaying Max long-term, either. Competitive teams need to be deep across the board, and can’t support too many high-end contracts as a result. Tying up $65M+/year in JV, Max, and Miggy just doesn’t seem like it would work out very well long-term, as exciting as it might sound this year.

        I’m not “mad” at Max, either. I just think it’s a shame he won’t be a Tiger next year, and as a fan – of the Tigers and Max – I’m disappointed and slightly bitter about it. If he’d said from the get go that he wanted maximum dollar (he hinted at it, at times), that’d be one thing; but he played the “I love playing here” card for a long time first. But no, I don’t blame the guy for cashing in. I’d probably do the same. I’m just disappointed he’ll be somewhere else next year, even if I understand his reasoning (maximize value!) and the organization’s (not a long track record for the financial commitment he wants). Oh well. Players come and players go, I suppose.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:54 PM

        Maybe you will miss him like I miss Prince. I’m still hoping he stays. We need to win him over with love and loyalty. Not hate on him. Stay in the D, Max.

      • pwshrugged - Apr 30, 2014 at 4:01 PM

        I miss Prince, too. He’s a fun guy to watch, and his brotherhood with Miggy was super adorable. Some guy offered him nachos when a foul ball flew into the stands and he took and ate one! I miss that guy.

        But I also understand the need to get him gone… everything wrong with last year’s lineup blew up in the ALCS, and the Tigers were very stuck at 3B/1B/DH as it was. And Fielder’s contract was going to make re-signing Miggy and/or Scherzer difficult. Based on research I’ve done into the payrolls of recent champions, about 3 “max-level ($20M+/year)” contracts are feasible for a competitive team. Once you get more than that, depth suffers terribly. And even 3 is a stretch, depending on the length/amount of each.

        Max and Prince (and Fister and Infante) were two of my favorite Tigers last year. I accept the realities that led to Prince’s departure, and will lead to Max’s. It’s tough, and it’s a shame. Prince’s was the organization’s fault from the start; but in Max’s case, he’s the one not taking a reasonable contract that would keep him in Detroit and still be very well-paid. The Tigers – other than that terrible leak they were obviously responsible for – have done their part to try and keep him. Max wants something else; that’s his prerogative, and I respect that, but it’s still disappointing. Although, I agree with you, not as disappointing as the organization’s ridiculous attempt to slander him via the negotiations leak. Oh well.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 4:11 PM

        How much will it stink if they dumped Prince to keep Max and we end up losing him too? :(

        And, they still need to work on the dang bullpen.

      • Reflex - Apr 30, 2014 at 4:19 PM

        pwshrugged – If someone offers Max considerably more than the Tigers did, than the Tigers offer is by definition not reasonable. Reasonable is whatever market rate is for a given player on the open market. We do not know what that rate is right now, but we will know this coming offseason and then we will know who was correct.

        Personally I don’t buy the poverty pledge. Of all the big time commitments the Tigers have taken on, Max would have been the one with the best chance of being worth it given age and career trajectories. The Miggy and JV contracts are very questionable by comparison.

  4. schuch10 - Apr 30, 2014 at 1:33 PM

    Oxford commas matter.

    http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/fo5d9i/vampire-weekend

  5. historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 1:39 PM

    How would you like to really improve as a pitcher, make your mark and win the Cy Young, and SI decides to focus on your contract instead of your work? The headline begs “Is he worth it?” and suggests there’s something wrong with his contract negotiating. I’d be pretty unhappy with that too. It’s insulting.

    Also, this: “We were aware Max didn’t want to discuss his contract situation in detail, but at no time did we make any promises how we would mention it in the story or how we wouldn’t, or where we would use it, whether it would be on the cover or whether it wouldn’t.” In other words, Max didn’t want to discuss his contract negotiations and we understood that — but then we decided to make that the hook anyway so we could sell magazines to folks who get bent out of shape over athlete contracts and hate Boras. It’s not personal; it’s business — but we totes didn’t mean to make light of his talent.

    • pwshrugged - Apr 30, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      Max isn’t a cover story if not for the contract stuff. I don’t know if that’s fair to his demonstrated ability or not, but it’s the simple truth.

      The other reason that his contract gets so much attention is that it’s totally debatable what he’s worth. He doesn’t have a track record of consistent success; he has the second half of 2012, the 2013 season, and his start this season. Yes, that could be the start of a decade of dominance, or it could be a flash in the pan. He wants to be paid for dominance. And that’s totally fine, but it’s headline-worthy, and he should know that. Not because he’s smart or a baseball player or whatever, but because he talks at times about being so interested in the business side of the game. If that’s the case, he shouldn’t be surprised by the angle SI took.

      If they wanted to interview the best pitcher of the spring thusfar, they’d have interviewed Jose Fernandez.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 2:40 PM

        He’s the reigning AL Cy Young winner. If that doesn’t get you a cover, then whatever. And, again, if you think his contract is the only reason to feature him, then I repeat: are you sure you’re a fan? Cuz you seem like a home team hater instead. I mean, I’m really unclear about which players you don’t gripe about. Do you just like the brand but hate the team?

      • pwshrugged - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:48 PM

        If SI wanted to give him a cover because he won the Cy, don’t you think that would have happened when he won? In, say, December? Okay, I’ll go with the argument that it’s the baseball offseason – but why not in March or April, then? Why is Max more deserving of a cover than Kershaw, the NL winner, who was considerably better than Max last season, and has thusfar had a more consistent career overall?

        I’m a fan of the Detroit Tigers, and occasionally specific players. I liked the team as a whole more last year, but I still think they’re a solid squad this year. But being from Detroit and a hometown fan does not mean I’m going to bow down to Max after his first full year of domination. I’m also a realistic fan, who sees no particular harm in cheering for a team with my heart, but knowing in my head that they might not be as good as last year.

        I think it’s a shame that you feel the need to attack the credibility of another Tigers fan here, too. Let’s agree to disagree on how we feel or don’t feel about certain players, and hope to see them hoist a World Series trophy this fall.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 4:40 PM

        It might be that they used Max instead of Kershaw because he’s kind of a dark horse or he has an interesting story. Or, maybe they’re going to do Kershaw later. Who knows? And there’s nothing wrong with being a realistic fan — but you can do that without the “boo hoo” stuff that makes you sound belittling and/or hostile to his position. When you say stuff like “bow down to” that hyperbole makes you not sound like a fan — especially not a fair one. I will call you on that. I like to think behind my sometimes silly homerism there is realistic expectations. I share your concerns about this season’s team, but hope that I get a chance to use my heterochromial celebration goggles (made them myself). I just don’t see any point to seriously dogging your own players (except Mrs. Kelly’s son and Phil Choke), and it’s silly to attack his loyalty because you are showing yourself not loyal then either (and not even because it’s in your better interest to make more money elsewhere). Good luck finding a team solely constructed of loyal players.

  6. timmons94 - Apr 30, 2014 at 1:43 PM

    Max, your not even in jose fernandez’s zip code.
    Jose Fernandez could go down as greatest pitcher ever…… Great kid.

    • American of African Descent - Apr 30, 2014 at 4:06 PM

      The total tonnage of young phenoms who “could [have gone] down as the greatest pitcher ever” could stop of team of oxen in their tracks. Let’s wait a few years on Fernandez, shall we?

    • doctorofsmuganomics - Apr 30, 2014 at 4:40 PM

      what flavor crack are you smoking, out of curiosity?

      • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 4:42 PM

        Blueberry seems popular of late.

      • doctorofsmuganomics - Apr 30, 2014 at 5:29 PM

        how quaint.

  7. chris3141084 - Apr 30, 2014 at 2:07 PM

    The cynic in me wants them(SI) to do a follow up at the end of the year when he goes 12-11 with a 3.5 ERA with a worse offer on the table or they stick him with the 14.1M qualifying offer.

    • dangle13x - May 1, 2014 at 10:35 AM

      3-1, 2.08 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 51 K’s, 11 BB’s in 39 innings. Yea good call.

  8. sportsdrenched - Apr 30, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    File this under: If you’re going to cash those checks, you’ve got to put up with the media.

  9. paperlions - Apr 30, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    If he wants to max out his earnings, he’s going to have to grow thicker skin…because with that desire for dollars comes criticism as well as media markets that are more challenging to navigate than those he has been exposed to thus far.

    In the general realm of such things, the headline is really tame…all it asks is whether or not it was a smart risk. Of course, the answer to that question is mostly about his pitching ability…what did he want the article to be about?

    • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 2:54 PM

      He’s the reigning Cy Young winner. He wants it to be about his pitching. Duh! How would you like to publish something and all people want to talk about is your salary or what grants you got for the research?

      PS I saw what you did there about Max-ing out his earnings.

      • paperlions - Apr 30, 2014 at 2:57 PM

        But the bet IS about his pitching. He is betting on his pitching and that it’ll be worth a lot of money. There is really no article about good baseball players that doesn’t mention their salary. Great underpaid players always have their salaries mentioned, great overpaid players always have their salaries mentioned, and great properly paid players always have their salaries mentioned. Al. Ways.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:01 PM

        Ok, we aren’t talking about it getting mentioned. They used it as the hook, and if you don’t think that wasn’t bait for Boras-haters, well… I have some real estate along the Red River I’d like to interest you in.

      • paperlions - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:04 PM

        Well, honestly, what else could be a hook that might get anyone to read the story? Heterochrominess? Gee, he’s a really good pitcher? It isn’t like there are a lot of reasons to read a story about him or his pitching.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:10 PM

        He’s a good pitcher and he’s on the market. He’s the reigning Cy Young winner. But, yeah, nothing to talk about there. Not about his pitching and improvement for sure. Really, why would you read any article about any pitcher? Heck, let’s not talk about pitching at all. Let’s just take nudie pics of them and call it good. ARGLEBARGLEGARRRRRFFFT!

      • paperlions - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:22 PM

        But that’s the point, no one writes a cover story about a guy for just being a good pitcher…there are a lot of good pitchers….then entire interest in Scherzer for this story is based on who he might sign with next year…no one outside of Detroit is interested in reading a story about him just being a good pitcher….they are interested because he is a good pitcher that their team might sign…for a lot of money. Without the future contract looming, he isn’t approached for a story and no one cares. He’s not doing anything particularly historic or noteworthy…but he’s good and will be available….the available part IS the story….and there is no way to talk about that without talking about what it’ll take to sign him….which he is BETTING will be more than he already turned down from the Tigers.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:24 PM

        How about a nice analysis on how he’s improved and what a difference there will be in demand for him now, as opposed to when he first got drafted. You can talk about all that without making it about his contract amount. And, I don’t care about your pitchers either.

      • paperlions - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:35 PM

        People could talk about that….and those articles have probably already been written and some with detailed analysis of chances in his pitches can probably be found in places like Fangraphs….but those are not the things that SI writes or investigates or the kinds of things that SI readers will read about…..and that is exactly the point…you don’t want to read about how Wainwright is good at pitching any more than anyone else wants to read about guys that are good at pitching that are never going to be on their team.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:41 PM

        So, you favor SI turning into a rag? OK.

      • paperlions - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:49 PM

        Well, SI is a rag. It talks about issues around sports, not the sports themselves. Stories about athletes are about people, not about the sports they play. SI does not do and never has featured stories that improve understanding…they just tell stories that they think casual fans will read.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:51 PM

        You don’t have to support that.

      • paperlions - Apr 30, 2014 at 4:12 PM

        Yeah, but it is what they do and have mostly done. That doesn’t mean they can’t do some good investigative reporting, but I think their approach is kind of “what stories are there that people might like to read about”. I mean, they did some great stuff on drug use in sports in the 60s, 70s, and 80s that was really like news.

      • paperlions - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:42 PM

        Actually, if there was a story about heterochrominess, how it is genetically passed on, how prevalent it is, and how/if it affects the eye sight of those with the condition….I’d read that.

      • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 3:50 PM

        Me too.

        His Heterochromianess, y’all!

  10. happytwinsfan - Apr 30, 2014 at 5:41 PM

    Just be grateful if there isn’t a “Scherzer Sweepstakes” cover at the trade deadline.

    • historiophiliac - Apr 30, 2014 at 6:27 PM

      You better hope we don’t win or my profile pic will be me in my celebration goggles!

  11. psousa1 - May 1, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    Maybe he doesn’t want to be reminded that he turned down a $144,000,000 extension

    • dangle13x - May 1, 2014 at 10:40 AM

      I think the crux of this issue is that he thought they were going in a different direction with the story. Whether or not any guarantees were truly made is hard to assume. However, I doubt Scherzer would get his panties in a twist if he wasn’t honestly under the impression the story would have a different focus. But whatever, keep ragging on him for sharing his opinion on the matter. He’s such an unlikeable guy.

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