The more I think about it, weigh both sides, and think about it some more, this is way more interesting of a question that I originally thought. Last night Max Scherzer pitched a gem of a 20 strike out game, finishing with 119 total pitches. Which by the way, I don’t think is that crazy high of a number. The golden standard these days is 100, but that’s sort of an old baseball thing, going 119 isn’t completely unheard of. But anyway, when Scherzer had 20 Ks and going for the record of 21 there was a man on first and 2 outs with the Nats leading 3-2. Had he given up a HR there, the second-guessing would have never, ever, ever, ever ended. Ever. Fortunately Scherzer got James McCann to ground out, winning the game. But that also meant Scherzer didn’t get his 21st strikeout. So the question is what was more important last night- Max getting the strike out record, or the Nats getting the win?
It’s the kind of question that would be better for a TV show on ESPN2, but I don’t have a TV show on ESPN2, I have a blog. So let’s look at both sides:
The win is more important – A win is a win is a win. Doesn’t matter if it’s in May or in September, every win counts equally. The team comes before individual achievements. Strikeout records are nice, but when the team is up 3-1 and are .5 games behind the Mets in the standings, you have to think long term, for both the club and for Max. Was putting additional pitches on his arm in May worth chasing a record?
You go for the record – Never in Major League history has a pitcher recorded 21 strike outs in a 9 inning game. Major League history. Max Scherzer had the chance to do something that literally nobody in the history of baseball has accomplished. There’s been a billion guys take that mound since the league began, and he was in a position to be the only pitcher to ever strike out 21 in a game. That’s an opportunity that you cannot leave on the table. Sometimes things are a bit bigger than a win. Sometimes you have to look at the chance to be a part of history, to witness something truly great, and go for it. You don’t want to cost your team a win, but 1 win on a Wednesday evening baseball game won’t be remembered, what gets remembered for the rest of time is the night Max Scherzer struck out 21 batters.
My opinion? You go for the record. Max was never going to let Dusty pull him anyway, so this one wouldn’t have fit the narrative of “Dusty blows out his pitchers arms”. Scherzer ain’t Kerry Wood or Mark Prior anyway- he’s has been around the block once or twice, he can handle throwing a few more pitches. But I’m a big time history guy. You never pass up the chance to make history. If the Nats lost last night, come September if the Nats were a game out, of course everyone would look back on last night and second-guess it. That’s the results-oriented society that we are. But I wouldn’t (Dusty will mess up plenty of other games where 21 strikeouts aren’t on the line). Max Scherzer had the opportunity to do something incredible, you cannot yank the ball out of his hand and bring in motherfucking Jonathan Papelbon. Just can’t do it.
So what do you think? Vote 1 for the win is more important, vote 10 for the record is more important.