For those of you who think they know Detroit Tigers ace Max Scherzer, think again!
As many of you may know already, Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Max Scherzer has started his 2013 season as a legitimate CY Young candidate. Scherzer has posted a perfect 8-0 record through 12 starts with 100 strikeouts. His 8 wins are tied for the most in the American League, while his 100 strikeouts sits second on the list behind Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish. Scherzer, and Boston Red Sox’s ace Clay Buchholz, are the only two remaining unbeaten starting pitchers in the American League who have had at least 5 starts to account for. Scherzer has become a legitimate ace of a Tigers team who already roster players like former MVP and Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez, who has posted one no-hitter and four one-hitters in his young career.
What you may not know about Scherzer is that he goes out to every game playing with a heavy heart.
Born on July 27, 1984 in St. Louis, Missouri, Max, 28, was three years older then his brother Alex. According to a piece written about Max Scherzer by Robert Sanchez of ESPN The Magazine, Sanchez said, “As kids growing up in Chesterfield, Mo., you didn’t see one Scherzer boy without the other. Max and Alex played whiffle ball in the back yard, basketball on the driveway, pingpong in the basement. In the summers, they’d visit the family’s lake house 45 miles outside St. Louis. They’d track frogs and crawdads in a creek bed, splashing together among the rocks. ‘”They were classic, all-American kids,”‘ Brad Scherzer (the father of Max and Alex) says.” ‘”Our boys.”‘
Once Max entered the majors, Sanchez said, “Alex and Max’s relationship had begun to transcend their brotherly bond. In many ways, Alex had invested part of himself in his brother. He felt Max’s successes and failures as if they were his own, and even joked about wanting to be Max’s agent. In truth, he was already playing the role of his brother’s professor and psychologist — the reasonable voice amid the noise.”
Alex planned to be a lawyer once he got out of college. He told his parents he had already taken the LSATs and scored in the 92nd percentile, and that he had contacted law schools and had even begun writing application essays. But after a family vacation in 2009, Jan Scherzer, the mother of Max and Alex, said Alex didn’t seem right. She asked Alex what was wrong, and he replied back saying he’s fine-physically. After Jan asked him what he meant by that, Alex looked at his mother and said he needs to tell her something.
According to Sanchez, Alex said to his mother, “‘The doctor wanted me to tell you that I’m not going to law school,”‘ Alex began. He spoke slowly. He’d had some bad thoughts these past couple years and he couldn’t shake them.” ‘”I’m depressed,”‘ he told his mother.” ‘”I’ve thought about suicide.”‘
Alex went back to school in January of 2010. Before leaving, he told his parents that only they, his dr. and himself should know about his depression, and that Max should be left out. Alex then stopped taking his ant-depressants once he got back to school, telling his mother that he felt better.
Two years later, in 2012, Max began the season with a 7.77 ERA after his first five starts. Max had collected five wins by mid-June, but still had an ERA over 5.oo.
Sanchez said, “But deep in Max’s stats were hints of a turnaround, Alex told him. Max was leading all AL starters with more than 11 strikeouts per nine innings, and batters who put the ball in play against him were reaching base at a rate far greater than the league average — meaning their luck, and Max’s, would likely change.
On June 17, 2012, Fathers Day, Max pitched his best game of the season against the Colorado Rockies. He finished the game with 8 innings pitched, 12 strikeouts, 0 walks and 0 runs.
A few days later after Max’s spectacular start, Jan noticed Alex acting a little different. “‘He seemed disconnected, quiet,” Jan said, according to Sanchez.
On the morning of June 21, after her swim class at YMCA, Jan came back home to see Alex’s car still in the drive way. Jan searched all over the house to find Alex, calling out his name numerous of times, but he was nowhere to be found.
After searching up and down the house, Jan later found Alex in the corner of the basement. According to Sanchez’s piece, Jan said, “I found Alex partially sitting, partially lying on the floor. A yellow rope was wrapped around his neck, connected to weights on gym equipment. It looked fake, like a joke.” ‘”That’s not funny, Alex,”‘ Jan said. She walked closer. Alex wasn’t moving. He wasn’t breathing. ‘”No, Alex, no!”‘ she said. Jan stood over her son. “What do I do, Alex? What do I do?” she cried. Jan pulled out her cell phone and called Brad at work. She could only make out two sentences: ‘”Get home now! Alex is dead!”‘
Brad rushed home to find his house surrounded by police and paramedics. Brad demanded to go into the basement to see his son, but the police wouldn’t let him do so. Brad then stepped outside to call Max. According to Sanchez’s piece, “When Max picked up, Brad said the first thing to come to his mind: ‘”Alex is dead.”‘
“There was a long silence. Brad thought his son might have dropped the phone — he worried Max had collapsed. He then heard Max on the other end, screaming, crying. ‘”Max! Max!”‘ Brad told his son. ‘”You need to get home. We need you.”‘
Two day’s after Alex’s death, Max still had the strength and will, to make his next start against the Pittsburg Pirates. Max said he had to pitch this game for his families sake. Max finished the game with 7 strikeouts through 6 innings. During the game, all Max could think about was how he would take out the Pirates batting line-up that evening. But at night, in the quiet shadows, Max was sobbing.
Max finished the 2012 season with 16 wins, which tied for 6th most in the American League, and 231 strikeouts, which was second in the American League, only trailing his fellow teammate Justin Verlander in that category. Later in the year, Max pitched in his first career World Series game against the San Francisco Giants in game 4 in front of a sold packed crowd at Comerica Park. He finished the game with a no decision, as the Tigers lost the game, and the series, later in the 10th inning.
It took Scherzer six months to finally admit that he still needed his little brother Alex. But by the way he has performed this season thus far, Alex has been nothing less than an inspiration for Max. If you are or if you’re not a fan of Detroit, you have to at least respect what Scherzer has done for his team, especially with everything he has come from to be where he is today. My sympathy goes out to Max and his family, as I hope only good things to come in their near future.