Max Scherzer came to Washington, D.C. earlier this year with a supersized contract befitting his ace status – seven years, $210 million. And to date, he’s delivered, leading the Nationals in wins, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP, firing a historic one-hitter in June, then following that up with a near-perfect no-hitter in his next start.
In short, he’s proven to be a sound investment, anchoring the Nats’ staff and keeping the team in the thick of the playoff hunt, all while making the All-Star Game, maintaining a fantastic Twitter account and inadvertently staring beef with Taylor Swift. Let’s see Clayton Kershaw do all of that.
As he prepares for the stretch run – he takes the mound in San Francisco tonight – Rolling Stone spoke with Scherzer about staying sharp on the road, his newfound love of sushi and the proper way to wear a WWE World Heavyweight Championship belt.
I just read that you make a mean gumbo and want to do an eating tour of all the MLB ballparks. Would it be a stretch to call you “a foodie?”
I don’t know about that, but when I’m on the road, I like to try out restaurants – sushi places especially. Nobu in New York, Ozumo in San Francisco, Sushi Roku and Roka Akor in Phoenix, Ronin in Detroit. It’s amazing how far I’ve come in, like, six years – from a Philly Roll to almost anything. Before starting sushi I never really liked avocados or cucumbers, but now I love ’em. I’ve had stuff like octopus, but it was pretty squishy. I’d try pretty much anything; it depends on how hungry I am.
How else do you pass the time when you’re on the road?
I usually catch up on the news on my iPad, find out what’s happening in the world. You can get in Google free-falls really fast; I just saw this TED Talk about reasons why Western Civilization has taken over the world since the 1500s, and how capitalistic markets create competition and have built our society. They broke it down into these levels…and it’s amazing that, if you start looking into other parts of the world, how much that carries over. Competition brings out the best in everybody.
So do you have many in-depth sociopolitical discussions with your teammates?
[Laughs] No chance, we’re playing cards. Everybody loves to play cards, there’s a bunch of different games going when we’re on the plane.
When you won the Cy Young Award in 2013, WWE sent you a championship belt…was that the greatest moment of your career?
[Laughs] I almost enjoyed getting that more than the actual Cy Young Award. WWE had shipped the belt to me, and as soon as I got it, I was like, “This thing is awesome.” You can have a plaque – and the plaque is in my room – but to get a belt, that’s almost too cool. They should have belts for everything. Instead of championship rings, you should get a belt.
Important question: Do you wear it around your waist, or over your shoulder?
I’m more of an over-the-shoulder guy. It’s heavy; it’s definitely not light. But for the most part, I just put it on display. In 2014, I had it above my locker for the whole season; the guys couldn’t forget that I won it.
Do you watch WWE?
I used to, but I don’t watch as much any more. I just powered through House of Cards, and that was weird, because it’s D.C.-based, and sometimes they had screenshots of the Nationals, so I’m watching it and they’re talking about the team. I started Sons of Anarchy; that’s going to be my offseason project.
Would you ever want to cameo on House of Cards? Maybe you could play a very tall Secret Service agent or something –
Man, who knows. Any role, any cameo would be pretty cool. If the right opportunity came up, I’d definitely be interested. Maybe on Game of Thrones, or The League – there’s a lot of similarities between that show and what an MLB clubhouse goes through once the NFL season starts.
So you play fantasy football?
Yeah, but it’s mainly out of necessity [laughs]. It’s really all about talking trash with each other. I’ve actually won a few more belts from that. Once the trade deadline passes, I start paying attention to fantasy football.
I saw you pitch in Washington a few weeks ago, and they were playing Drake’s “Energy” before you took the mound – was that your call?
Yeah, that was all me. I needed a new song for a new year, and as soon as I heard that song in Spring Training, I was like ‘That’s it.” I sent that one and a couple others along to my buddy, and he picked it too, so I knew I was right. That was an easy call. They had to edit it a bit, but that’s fine, you get the point.
So have you been following Drake’s feud with Meek Mill?
No, I haven’t. I’ve been kind of busy.
Aside from Drake and Lil Wayne, what else do you listen to?
Really anything but country. Hip-hop, dance, rock, all that music. I just can’t stand country. Who wants to talk about their truck and their girl and their case of beer? We have a couple DJs in the clubhouse, and they go back and forth about who’s better, but for the most part, there’s no country, so they do a good job.
You caught some heat last month when you tweeted that Taylor Swift was to blame for the lights failing at Nationals Park. It seemed pretty obvious that you were joking, but it still became a story. Was that frustrating?
Yeah. I was like, “You couldn’t tell that was a joke?” I thought it was pretty obvious. I’ve never met Taylor Swift in my life; I never heard from her. You’ve got to be so careful now. Before you press send, man, you have to read that thing, like, 20 times. Any time I’m about to tweet something, I always show it to my wife, like, “Hey, make sure this sounds right. Proofread it please.” It’s so crazy what pressing send can do to you. That’s the downfall – everything is taken so literally, so you really have to mean what you say.