LOS ANGELES – Max Scherzer emerged from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dugout Tuesday afternoon, with the beautiful sunshine overhead, the beautiful San Gabriel Hills to the north, the dazzling downtown skyline to the south, and soon, a gorgeous ballpark filled with fans.
Scherzer, stepping into his new home for the first time since he was traded last Thursday to the Dodgers, has fallen in love at first sight.
He may be under contract for only two more months with the Dodgers when he’s eligible for free agency, but the reality is he’s likely not leaving anytime soon.
Come on, why would you ever want to leave a team that wins year after year, with eight consecutive NL West titles since 2013, three National League pennants, a World Series championship and hunger for a whole lot more?
Scherzer is now in a pitcher’s paradise in the NL West, the breeding ground for NL Cy Young Award winners. There’s a reason he told the Washington Nationals his preference was to be traded to the NL West.
And if he continues to dominate and leads the Dodgers to another World Series title, the filthy rich Dodgers aren’t about to let him leave the city.
Scherzer’s roots may be in St. Louis, but when you have a chance to be a LeBron James in spikes, you’re going to stay put where your name will be in the Hollywood lights night after night.
“I did want to stay in the National League,’’ Scherzer said Tuesday in a zoom call before his Dodgers debut on Wednesday against the Houston Astros. “I had familiarity over here, and especially for these last two months. Obviously I wanted to stay in warm weather. It’s a good thing for a pitcher to stay in warm weather.
“I told the Nationals I wasn’t going dictate what team I wanted to go to, but I would tell them what teams I would accept a trade to.’’
Scherzer certainly has nothing left to prove. He won three Cy Young awards. He won a World Series championship. His seven-year, $210 million contract has been the greatest investment in Nationals history. Now, there’s more to accomplish that will be etched on that Hall of Fame plaque.
“Max has done it all in this game,” said Dodgers president Andrew Friedman. “He’s on the Mount Rushmore of pitchers in terms of what he’s done in the regular season, what he’s done in the playoffs.’’
Scherzer is 8-4 with a 2.76 ERA this season and has a 183-97 career record with a 3.19 ERA. He has been a fixture in the postseason, making 22 appearances and going 7-5 with a 3.38 ERA, striking out 137 batters in 112 innings.
Now, he joins a team that already has three Cy Young winners — although Trevor Bauer remains on administrative leave and may never throw another pitch for the Dodgers –with another one potentially on the way in Walker Buehler. Clayton Kershaw and Scherzer have combined for six Cy Young awards alone in the past decade.
“You can argue that these two are the best pitchers of our generation,’’ Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Fierce competitors, championship winners. [Scherzer] is a championship winner. He’s not just a pitcher, he’s a baseball player. You see him on the bench, rooting for guys, staying on the bench before starts, after starts, paralleling Clayton. He’s a high-end competitor.’’
Scherzer and Kershaw, in the same 2006 draft class, have been competitors for the past 14 years, with Scherzer and the Nationals beating the Dodgers in the 2019 playoffs en route to the Nats’ first World Series title.
“Flags,’’ Scherzer said, “fly forever. The most important thing is we won a World Series together.’’
Scherzer and Kershaw will be teammates for at least the next two months, and perhaps all of October, too.
And one day, they’ll be in Cooperstown together.
“Obviously, what he’s done in his career is remarkable,’’ Scherzer said. “Its been great, and great to compete against him. … And now we are competing for the same prize.’’
Scherzer’s first choice all along was the Dodgers, knowing they are an ultra-competitive organization. They refused to buckle when they lost young prized starter Dustin May for the season, Bauer for likely the rest of the year and Kershaw for the past month. They just got All-Star shortstop Corey Seager back after a 10-week absence.
“Well, I’m glad I’m part of an organization that wants to win,’’ Scherzer said, “and has their eye on the ultimate prize.’’
The Dodgers made it clear from the start of trade talks that they were going to land Scherzer. Really, the only question was whether they’d get All-Star shortstop Trea Turner, too. Mission accomplished.
The San Diego Padres, who badly needed another starter, never were close, general manager A.J. Preller said.
“It wasn’t a situation where we were right there with a chance to complete the deal,’’ Preller said. “It didn’t feel like that.’’
The only hang-up in the Dodgers’ deal, taking a little more time to complete, was Scherzer and agent Scott Boras working out the tax implications of his contract. The deferred salaries that were tax-free in Washington, D.C., suddenly became taxable income in the state of California.
Hey, what’s a few extra bucks to get the man you want?
“We needed him, we collectively felt it was a top priority for us to move the needle,’’ Roberts said, “and give us the best chance to win the World Series in ’21. To acquire a three-time Cy Young winner, and of the most accomplished players in baseball, only helps us.’’
Scherzer helps now, next year and perhaps until the day he retires.
It’s too early to talk free agency, and Scherzer said Tuesday he would be more open to an American League team during the winter, but for now, the Dodgers have the exclusive negotiating rights.
And when’s the last time the Dodgers were ever outbid for a man they wanted?
“He loves to compete,’’ Boras said. “He loves to win.’’
Now, he has the best of both worlds.
“It’s fun to join these guys,’’ Scherzer says, “because we have a great chance to win.’’
Night after night. Year after year. And, quite likely, decade after decade.
Follow Nightengale on Twitter @Bnightengale
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dodgers’ Max Scherzer likely staying for the long term