When Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer turned down a six-year, $144 million deal in the offseason following his Cy Young season, plenty thought he was crazy. Even insane.
That's too much for anyone to turn down and more than anyone could ever need. It wasn't even a hometown discount.
Sports Illustrated even made it a cover story, with the headline "Mad Max's $144 million bet." While Scherzer was excited about being on the cover, he was less than excited that the contract details were the main point.
Afterward, he told Tigers media that he and Tigers media relations had made it a point to avoid that:
"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," Scherzer told USA Today at the time.
"They chose a different route, and we felt like we were lied to and misled.
"I didn't want it to be about that. I'm a baseball player. I want to talk baseball. It's frustrating when you get lied to about that."
Scherzer is off to a solid start again, going 7-2 with a 3.38 ERA and 98 strikeouts in just more than 85 innings as he heads into free agency as the top pitching prize in the offseason. That's after going 29-3 with a 2.90 ERA last season.
The Tigers were upset he didn't take the offer. Scherzer didn't want to talk a ton about it, the same he told SI.
He knew injury is always a chance pitchers take, especially with the rash of elbow injuries and Tommy John surgery around:
"There's always that in the background," Scherzer told Yahoo Sports.
"I just feel that if I do all the hard work in the training room, taking care of my shoulder in every which way, my scaps, my chest, my arms, my back, I'm not going to worry about it. I'm not going to sit here and live in fear of blowing out. I'm going to make sure I work as hard as I can so that will never happen."
As it turns out, though, maybe Scherzer wasn't taking such a huge risk after all.
On Saturday, SI.com reported that the soon-to-be 29-year-old had actually taken out an insurance policy against injury on his arm.
Those types of policies are becoming more and more common in sports, especially for players headed toward the draft in their respective sport (especially the NFL).
But Scherzer had hedged his bet, which makes turning down $144 million less of a take it or lose it proposition.
More and more athletes are doing the same as their contract seasons come up. SI.com said former Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson did the same and Cristiano Ronaldo has a $153 million policy against a lower body injury, covered by Real Madrid.
Scherzer, whose agent is Scott Boras, said that Boras looked into injury statistics and found that, while "this takes the injury risk out of it" that the elbow injuries are happening more to young pitchers than older ones.
"They keep happening to young pitchers with less than four years in the major leagues."
There are plenty of risks in life, and there is always a chance that Scherzer won't pitch well to end the season and he won't be worth the $144 million he was offered before the year. But, that's more of a bet about ability and effectiveness, betting on himself if you will.
That's a bet that Scherzer is willing to take. As for the other bet, against injury, it turns out that he didn't take the gamble he's been credited with until now.
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