A familiar face was in the Mets dugout on Monday before their game against the Texas Rangers, one with two different colored eyes and a right arm attached at the shoulder that has logged almost 3,000 innings in the big leagues.
Of course, that face was Max Scherzer.
Now playing for the Rangers after being dealt from New York at the trade deadline – the first move that really signified the new direction the Mets were taking this year – Scherzer is back at his old haunts and answered questions about his tenure in Queens, specifically this season and where it all went wrong.
“I loved my time here with the Mets. I loved getting to play for (manager) Buck (Showalter), loved all the guys that were in the clubhouse,” he said. “I really felt like we had a great group to be able to win, unfortunately we just didn’t get those types of results and that’s what’s frustrating. That’s what leaves a salty taste in your mouth about it, but at the end of the day I loved my time here.”
The 39-year-old pitched two seasons for the Mets, going 20-9 in 43 starts. However, after pitching to a minuscule ERA of 2.29 across 23 starts in 2022, Scherzer’s ERA rose to 4.01 in 19 starts in 2023 before the trade.
Time and time again this season and towards the end of last season, when New York needed their ace to deliver, Scherzer came up small. It’s something Scherzer himself talked about when he was still with the orange and blue and he brought it up again on Monday.
“Everybody could probably look at themselves in the mirror and say they could’ve (done) better, I know specifically myself this year, I wish I would’ve pitched better,” he said. “I don’t like to point fingers unless I’m pointing fingers at myself and I definitely can point the finger to myself.”
After Scherzer left, rumors began to swirl that the Mets had a “toxic” clubhouse after an anonymous player painted an unflattering picture of the situation.
Part of the controversy that came about from the anonymous comments, too, was that Scherzer and fellow former Met Justin Verlander did not get along and were not friends.
Scherzer was asked about that claim and shut it down rather quickly.
“No, no it was not at all,” he said. “We actually had a great clubhouse. We had great veterans in the clubhouse, everybody included. That’s definitely not the reason why we lost. We were a tight-knit group, (and) had a lot of fun together.
“All this stuff with Ver(lander) and I that’s just… Ver(lander) and I are actually on a better page now than we were when we started the season, so we’re much better off than we’ve ever been. That was an anonymous quote, you never know the context of that so I don’t even want to speculate on it.”
Verlander was also traded by the Mets, back to the Houston Astros, for the organization’s No. 1 and No. 4 overall prospects at the time, despite signing a two-year, $86.7 million contract during the offseason to join New York and its quest for a World Series title.
When it became apparent that that was no longer likely, owner Steve Cohen decided to pull the plug, despite his large investment in the team and the record-breaking roster payroll.
But that payroll and the quality of players inside that Mets’ clubhouse – toxic or not – was why the players on the team never stopped believing that they could make a run until the very end, according to Scherzer.
It’s also why, despite where the Mets were in the standings and how they were playing, a lot of players on the club (just like mostly everyone around baseball) were surprised at the degree of selling New York ended up doing.
“In that clubhouse we absolutely believed we had a team that could win and we could compete with anybody in the big leagues,” he said. “We just didn’t have a good first half and maybe we could catch fire in the second half. That was our belief and that never changed.”