Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Max Scherzer: Tanking Makes 'Bandwagon Fans'; Bryce Harper Saga Shouldn't Happen

Adam Wells

Washington Nationals star Max Scherzer thinks the process of Major League Baseball teams tanking hurts the sport's overall fanbase. 

Per ESPN.com's Eddie Matz, Scherzer said teams are creating "bandwagon fans" with their approach to free agency:

"When there's too many teams that are not trying to win, that poisons the game, poisons the fan experience, and it creates bandwagon fans. If you're constantly just trying to go in this win-loss cycle that MLB is pushing, you are creating bandwagon fans, and that's not the type of fans you want to create. You want to create the fans that are following the team year in, year out. It's put on the fans, honestly, to demand that from the league."

The three-time Cy Young winner also believes the current situation with so many marquee players still being free agents—including Scherzer's former teammate, Bryce Harper—shouldn't be happening.

"It's not just Bryce, but there's other free agents as well, and now this is consecutive offseasons. Now you've got to start searching for what the answers are and why is this continuing to happenbecause it should not be happening. No other sport has this in their free agency. Why is this exclusive to baseball? You've got to start looking at different reasons of why is this happening," he said.

The 2018-19 crop of free agents was supposed to be one of the great classes in MLB history thanks in large part to Harper and Machado. Those two, along with former All-Stars Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel, are among the large group of players still available with spring training starting this week. 

Only six players so far have signed deals that are at least three years long and only five players have received at least $50 million. 

Tanking has grown in popularity recently, especially in MLB and the NBA, as teams have discovered they can add more low-cost talent through the draft by losing games. 

The Houston Astros are the best-case scenario example of a franchise that spent years not trying to compete. They lost at least 92 games in four straight seasons from 2011-14, including three straight years with at least 106 losses. 

Houston's 2013 team spent $26 million on payroll but still made $99 million in operating income. That long fallow period ultimately paid off as high draft picks like Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer helped the franchise win a World Series in 2017. 

The shift in organizational philosophy in recent years will be something for MLB and the MLB Players Association to iron out before the collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021.

Scherzer plays for one of the few teams that hasn't been afraid to spend money to win. The Nationals have handed out the largest free-agent deal this offseason so far, giving Patrick Corbin $140 million over six years. 

   
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