Max Scherzer being a little too intense for his own good has rarely been in question. He would tell you his intensity and downright borderline psychosis when on the mound is what makes him the surefire Hall of Famer that he is. One wonders if that’s true. But that’s how he is. No changing it now.
Last night was certainly the date Mets fans had circled, as they would get to see their newest and shiniest toy rolled out against the team they hate most (oh they may tell you it’s the Phillies or Braves, but we all know the truth). And Scherzer didn’t disappoint, working seven innings and giving up no runs to one of the more feared offenses in baseball. He even did this to Aaron Judge, who has only been Godzilla to most everyone else but looked decidedly lap dog here:
The Mets went on to win in walkoff-fashion, but what we’re here for today is what Scherzer had to say after the game about using pitch com for the first time:
Now, ace pitchers are their own breed. One can recall Clayton Kershaw’s reaction to the idea of robo umps calling balls and strikes and how close to unhinged he sounded when first presented with the idea (though he’s softened just a touch since). They have their routines, they like things how they like them (think of them as Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally — however dated a reference that is now), and anything that changes the parameters they’ve come up with is an infringement. Scherzer has spent his entire career peering between his catcher’s knees (I know how it sounds but it’s the truth) to find out what the next pitch should be, and last night was the first night he didn’t. This doesn’t sound like much to you and me, but to a baseball player, and especially a pitcher, it’s akin to the sky changing color.
Somewhere in the dense forest of energy and superstition that is Scherzer’s mind though, he might have a point. It’s not that pitch com is a plague on the game or even a hindrance. It really hurts no one, and actually speeds the game up a bit (when it works smoothly). But…technology was also what got the game into the mess that required pitch com. That was the Astros using cameras to steal signs. It’s important to remember that the actual stealing of the signs wasn’t the problem for baseball and the Astros’ opponents. It was a matter of degrees. Steal the signs from second base, that’s part of the game. Do it from a centerfield camera, well…that’s different. Again, degrees.
That doesn’t excuse the Astros (or the Red Sox and Yankees who we also know were using tech to steal signs but didn’t gain nearly the notoriety). You’d think baseball teams would have figured it out, and some did because some teams went into Minute Maid Park using multiple signs from jump street with no one on base. It wouldn’t even be that hard to change your signs every inning. Perhaps just as great a crime was the Astros opponents just expecting everything to be above board. This is sports, after all.
So now technology is coming to save a problem caused by technology. It seems all innocent enough. Surely no team would hack into the signal…like…the Patriots did once upon a time? Scherzer, as wacky as he might get, at least has a case to be suspicious. What is and what isn’t part of baseball has been a constant discussion forever. Most fans probably don’t think sign stealing is that important. But again, Scherzer has had things just so for so long, and baseball players like things just so, given the vagaries of the game itself and how much depends on a fraction of an inch here or there.
It sounds ridiculous now, and it pretty much is. It probably won’t in a few years when we find out which team got into the other’s pitch com from some remote booth.