Why Cardinals fans shouldn’t worry about Max Scherzer’s age

Brad+Mills%2FUSA+Today+Sports

Brad Mills/USA Today Sports

DAN BUFFA , SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

The old adage in baseball explains that when a player gets to a certain age, their arm promptly falls off, rendering them unable to perform their job. Most people seem to think this happens around 30. For most, it happens around 35. Let’s just say Max Scherzer doesn’t care that much about age and how it should affect his performance.

With the Washington Nationals getting off to a rough start in a very winnable division and the St. Louis Cardinals placing Miles Mikolas back on the injured list, the hometown kid’s name has come up a few (or a hundred) times over the past few weeks. The Parkway Central and Mizzou alum has enjoyed a star-spangled career stuffed with stints in Arizona, Detroit and most successfully, Washington, D.C.

Scherzer has three Cy Young awards.

He averages 215 innings and 255 strikeouts per season. His career fielding independent pitching and earned run average are nearly identical. Defenses smile when he’s on the mound like I smile when my pastrami sandwich is thinly sliced and juicy without soaking through the bread. He’s the elite of the elite, finishing in the top five rankings for the Cy Young award in seven of the past eight seasons.

ADVERTISEMENT

What about this year? The good news is he hasn’t aged like Robert De Niro in “The Irishman” just yet, posting a 1.5 WAR (wins above replacement) inside two months. Wrap your head around this stat: This season, Scherzer has struck out over six batters for every walk allowed. Hitters hate to see him out there. He walks to the mound with different colored eyes and a need to impose his will. There isn’t a more intense pitcher in the game right now. Watching him aggressively shake off signs, scream at batters, and tell his manager “no” is a sight to see.

So please, stop talking about his age being the biggest blockage in this potential trade. He will indeed be 37 years old in two months. If there was ever a player whose age existed merely as a state of mind, it’s Scherzer. If you need any comparison, take a look at Adam Wainwright. He’s had a bumpier road over the past decade than Scherzer but recaptured his magic two seasons ago and looks better than ever as he approaches… wait for it… 40 years of age this August. WHAT? How is he doing that with all those burgeoning gray hairs on his throwing hand? Age isn’t everything, folks.

Now, while the Cardinals need pitching, they also have a pitching problem. John Gant is a fine fifth starter, but the revolving door of sixth starters or spot starters in this rotation isn’t particularly satisfying. Would it be too hard to consider trading for a bat and a big arm like Scherzer? If Bill DeWitt Jr. wants to overtake the Dodgers anytime soon, he should trade for “Mad Max,” which his teammates and now everyone around the world calls him. Throwing Jack Flaherty and Scherzer at a team in July or October is extremely rude for a Cardinal to do. If you want to hang with the big boys, you need big performers.

First thing, the Nats would explore it, especially if the team started to really stink. This is the final year of his lucrative contract, so Washington would rather get something in return instead of just watching him walk. The Cards still have a steady diet of prospects and MLB ready talent. If they can complete the trade without handing over Matthew Liberatore or Nolan Gorman, that would be lovely. But if it took one of their top two young guns, Scherzer would have to agree beforehand (handshake at least) to an extension. But that’s for front office suits who like California Pizza Kitchen to figure out, not us.

Albert Pujols wasn’t a great fit. Anyone without an overloaded jar of nostalgia leaning on their heartstrings can admit that. But Scherzer is an ideal fit for a team trying to hang with the likes of Los Angeles (hey Albert) and San Diego (knocked STL out of the playoffs last year). You need big event pitching to survive in those fall trenches. I love Joey Gallo’s power, but he’s hitting .209 for Texas and has 67 strikeouts. And sure, Scherzer won’t be able to bat fifth and play left field, but he can empower a roster with his presence, even when he’s not pitching.

Just imagine these players wearing St. Louis colors: Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, and Scherzer. Pardon me while I go change my shirt.

As Jewish Light staffer Alec Baris noted in his story recently, Scherzer could be the “Mezuzah” for the Cards. Better yet, the “Mezuzah from Mizzou.” A guy who doesn’t walk a lot of people should look like kettle corn to the coaching staff here, someone who won’t load the bases and then push runners in with free passes. The only free pass Scherzer gives is Charlie Gitto’s toasted ravioli. That’s it. In 85 innings this season, he’s walked 13 batters total. The Cardinals allow that in a single series.

What are the chances they get this guy? Slightly better than the Pujols return campaign, but MLB analysts have noted if any team could find a match with Washington, it’s St. Louis.

Just don’t worry about the age. He’s 36, not 56. When you see guys like Bartolo Colon (46 years old) and Wainwright still running and gunning, it should assure you that Scherzer isn’t just another aging arm. He’s something else.

Bring him home, Bill DeWitt Jr. Make an effort and finish what you started. You passed on signing him six years ago, so make it right now. This isn’t career-achievement fodder or a bench bat job application; this is Max Scherzer, a guy born to throw a baseball.