The best pitcher on Planet Earth right now is from our town. Max Scherzer is throwing a baseball better than anybody in the world. He's the pride of Parkway Central. He was a standout there, but nobody anticipated this: Scherzer leads the American League in wins and whip, and is second in strikeouts. He is the winningest pitcher in baseball in the last two years.
How good is Max? Well, his Tigers teammate, Justin Verlander, is a six-time All-Star, an MVP, a Cy Young-award winner; and Verlander is now the No. 2 starter in Detroit. It's Max's year. He started the All-Star game, he may get to the World Series, and he is on his way to the Cy Young. He would be the first from St. Louis to win that award. And after the season, he will marry his college sweetheart—not a bad year!
Scherzer is almost unfair to hit against right now. His fastball is in the upper 90s, his slider is deadly, and his curve ball buckles knees. His change-up, which is consistently thrown for strikes, is freezing hitters. Max Scherzer showing up on the mound to face you is tantamount to the 60 Minutes cameras showing up on your front door: It's not going to end well.
We recently spoke by phone:
How did Jim Leyland tell you that you were starting the All-Star game?
I asked if he was going to start me or not. He said, I am going to tell you, but you can't tell anybody else. Then he said he was going to start Chris Sale, but not to tell anybody. One of my teammates started laughing. He then told me I was starting, but told me to keep quiet. I only called my parents.
What memorabilia did you take home?
I got a jersey and a couple of bats that got signed. I thought that was pretty cool. Most of my memorabilia comes from when we face other teams, and I get guys to sign balls and jerseys.
Do you ever glance at the radar gun when you pitch?
It's one thing to try and light up the radar gun and see how hard you are throwing. That's when it becomes a distraction. There are times when you can really use it to your advantage. For me, I always like to see my off-speed pitches and their velocity. I know my fastball will be there—I don't worry about that. I want to be throwing my curve ball in the 78- to 80-miles-per-hour range. That gives me enough time to break. I feel that's when it's most efffective.
Was there a moment when you were younger when you thought, I'm a little different, I could do this?
You always believe in yourself, and you always continue to get better. You hear the stories of late bloomers. You hear the stories of freak athletes. Even at age 13, I've always had that dream of being able to pitch in the Major Leagues. That was my No. 1 goal. I had to work hard enough to put myself in position to be here; and now that I have, I will continue to work hard. I am thankful for every day I am here.
When you hear about A-Rod and performance-enhancing drugs, you think what?
It's just so disappointing. We've had a big enough deterrent with the 50- and 100-game suspensions that you’d think it would keep players from doing that. We are looking to find ways to shore up the system so we can least deliver to the fans a clean product.
1. I watch about 70 youth baseball games a year. I watch because my son, his friends and his team play. I don't understand ESPN coverage of the Little League World Series. I really don't care about a 12-year-old from Texas. It's not the NCAA and March Madness—it’s 12-year-olds. Gimme a break!
2. Paddy O's has just been named one of the top eight sports bars in America by Sports Illustrated. I have never seen a place which is as consistently crowded and efficiently run. There are almost as many people on a big Saturday 6 p.m. game at Paddy O's as is there for an Astros-Mariners matchup.
3. If I had to guess which sports personality (player, coach or general manager) is going to be at their job for the longest period of time from this moment on, I’d choose Mike Matheny. Ownership, management, and players love him, and the organization will always be blessing him with great talent.
4. Tommy Lasorda had the line of the month at the Legends of the Dugout event at the MAC: He said he once told his former player, Danny Heep, that he was so slow that if he got into a race with a pregnant woman, he would finish third.
5. Shameless plug: Our new radio home is CBS Sports Radio 920. If you like to hear guests like Rick Reilly, Bob Costas and Mike Ditka, take a listen from 10 a.m. to noon one day. My wife has to take my word for it that I do radio. She hasn't listened yet. I have only been doing it for 20 years.