WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Two more aces are expressing concern about how major league teams are playing their cards.
Washington right-hander Max Scherzer said Thursday there are too many teams trying not to win, and all the rebuilding "poisons the game." Houston star Justin Verlander, a former teammate of Scherzer with Detroit, thinks the current economic approach pursued by some teams will continue to drive away fans.
"If you're constantly just going into this win-loss cycle that MLB is pushing you create bandwagon fans and that's not the type of fans that you want to create," Scherzer said. "You want to create fans that are following teams year in and year out. It's up to the fans, honestly, to demand that from the league."
More than 50 free agents are still looking for homes as spring training ramps up in Florida and Arizona. Sluggers Bryce Harper and Manny Machado top the list, but 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, super utilityman Marwin Gonzalez and closer Craig Kimbrel also are without a team at the moment.
"To me this can only happen in baseball, where teams are making public statements that they don't want top-notch players." said Scherzer, a newly elected member of the Major League Baseball Players Association executive subcommittee. "To me that's a problem within the sport."
Scherzer, who signed a $210 million, seven-year deal with Washington in 2015, praised the Nationals' front office for its aggressiveness. While Harper remains a free agent, Washington signed pitcher Patrick Corbin to a $140 million, six-year contract as part of its active off-season.
But the 34-year-old Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner who threw Thursday as part of Washington's first official workout for pitchers and catchers, thinks more teams should be looking for ways to improve.
"The one fundamental that's just unacceptable is the amount of acceptability there is to lose — to not play to win as a whole," he said. "There's going to be some teams that are not in a position necessarily try to win the World Series — I understand that. But when you have over a third of the league trying to do that, that's a problem. That's not OK with the players because every single player puts on a uniform to try to win, so we really have to defer to the fans to demand it."
Verlander, who helped Houston win the 2017 World Series after it emerged from its rebuilding project, also expressed skepticism about what teams are actually trying to do.
"I think some organizations are hiding behind the 'rebuilding' phrase and really have no intention of doing so," he said.
Verlander, who turns 36 on Wednesday, went 16-9 with a 2.52 ERA in 34 starts last year. He is eligible for free agency after this season and says he intends to pitch until he's 45.
So the slow-moving market is a concern for the seven-time All-Star on multiple levels.
"Some of these players that are out there, if you don't think you're going to be competitive in the next 10 years, what are you doing here?" Verlander said. "I understand you might say 'rebuilding' but there's only so long you can say that and then you're just not trying to win. You're just trying to pocket everything."
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