Max Scherzer might be buying every copy of Baseball America in Cleveland.
Not because the magazine’s annual poll of major-league managers named him the American League’s best pitcher, said he had the league’s best fastball and its second best slider.
At least not just because of all that.
For Scherzer, the appeal will be the fastball column alone. Not only is he first, he has taken the top spot away from his biggest rival – the closest thing he has to an arch-nemesis. That would be the man is who now second, teammate Justin Verlander.
Detroit’s starting rotation is the best in baseball, and there is a fierce but friendly sense of competition between the five when it comes to their pitching achievements. Earlier this season, when Anibal Sanchez set a franchise and Comerica Park record with 17 strikeouts, Scherzer was quick to fire a shot across Verlander’s bows.
“Anibal’s now got the record with 17 strikeouts here, breaking my record of 15 and Ver …,” he said, his voice trailing off in mock confusion. “I guess Ver’s just average.”
Verlander didn’t take long with his reply.
“I’m glad they’ve got this little record — I’ve got a few things they don’t have,” he said, referring to his two no-hitters. And his 2006 Rookie of the Year. And his 2011 AL MVP. And his 2011 Cy Young.
The pair also joked back and forth when Scherzer was selected to start last month’s All-Star Game, pointing out that he wouldn’t have to do much to better Verlander’s disastrous start a year before. Scherzer managed quite easily, pitching a 1-2-3 inning.
Of course, Verlander didn’t fare too badly, finishing second in the poll for both fastball and curveball. Jim Leyland was named the American League’s best manager, while Austin Jackson was chosen as the third-best defensive outfielder.
No Tiger, of course, cleaned up as much as Miguel Cabrera. He won for best hitter and best strike-zone judgment, finished second to Chris Davis for best power and was second to Mike Trout for the league’s most exciting player.
Leyland, though, might give a grudging nod when asked about the results, while Cabrera will smile but not say a whole lot. Scherzer will do the talking — most of it to his friendly rival.