Max Scherzer and his wife, Erica, have been going on boating trips with old college friends and their spouses every November for years. It's an annual tradition, and one the Scherzers weren't about to pass up, not even when it overlapped with another annual tradition: the announcement of the Cy Young Award winners.
"For the past few years, we all get together over this time of the year and find a way to do the vacation together with all of our wives," the Nationals ace said. "And it took a little to get together because life changes. But friendships like this won't. And we found a way to be able to get together and celebrate everything everybody's been able to accomplish."
So it was that the Scherzers found themselves this evening on a boat in the British Virgin Islands after a day of scuba diving and socializing, logging onto a video conferencing application on a laptop and watching the Cy Young announcement take place in a TV studio in Secaucus, N.J.
It was an unconventional arrangement, to say the least, but it also created a lasting memory for the Scherzers, their friends and every baseball fan who was watching this all play out on television. When Jack O'Connell, the longtime secretary-treasurer of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, announced Scherzer as this year's award winner in the National League, the right-hander was instantly doused with champagne spray and received a kiss from his wife and cheers from his friends.
Suffice it to say, this meant something to Scherzer, who not only won his second career Cy Young but became the first pitcher in Washington baseball history to take home this coveted award.
"Having this be the second one, for some reason this just means so much more to me," he said about an hour later during a conference call with BBWAA members. "It just verifies everything I try to go out there and set out to achieve. The best is that I try to go out there and do it. By winning the second one, it confirms that everything I try to do works."
The winner of the 2013 American League Cy Young Award while pitching for the Tigers, Scherzer figured to be in a tight contest with fellow finalists Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs for this year's award in the NL. Turns out he dominated this vote like he did so many opposing hitters this season.
Scherzer won 25-of-30 first-place votes and 192 total points in balloting conducted before the start of the postseason. Lester finished a distant second with one first-place vote and 102 points, with Hendricks third with two first-place votes and 85 points. Madison Bumgarner finished fourth, ahead of Clayton Kershaw (who did receive the final two first-place votes in a season when he made only 21 starts due to a back injury).
There was a point early this summer when the thought of Scherzer being a Cy Young finalist, let alone a runaway winner, seemed highly implausible. At the end of May, he was 5-4 with a 4.05 ERA, having surrendered 15 homers in 11 starts.
But the right-hander who threw two no-hitters in 2015 made the necessary adjustments, righted his ship and dominated the rest of the way. He finished with a 20-7 record, 2.96 ERA and league-best 284 strikeouts over 228 1/3 innings.
Even in victory, Scherzer admitted he still has room for improvement, most notably the 31 home runs he served up this season. That didn't detract from the feeling of winning the award this season.
"I know I have to change my game," he said. "I would like to get better. I'd like to get better in 2017. But to win this award, there's so much history to it, so much meaning to it. I appreciate everything the writers chose me over both Lester and Hendricks. Because they both had a phenomenal season. To be able to win the award over those guys is something amazing."
Back in D.C., accolades came from the highest ranks of the Nationals organization.
"This is a truly incredible achievement for Max," general manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement. "When you look at the players who've preceded him in winning a Cy Young award in both leagues, you realize just what a tremendous accomplishment this is, and we are so proud to call him one of our own."
"We have felt a connection to Max from his very first day in a Nationals uniform, and the pride we felt then has only continued to grow with each historic feat he accomplishes," managing principal owner Ted Lerner said in a statement. "We are honored that he is the first Cy Young winner in our history, and look forward with great anticipation to what future heights his career in Washington will reach."
Scherzer will be presented with his hardware during the BBWAA's annual black-tie awards dinner in January in New York. For now, he'll be content to celebrate in a polo shirt and bathing suit aboard a boat in the Virgin Islands with his best friends.
"It just so happened that the Cy Young was during this trip," he said. "They support me 100 percent, and to be able to share it with them was sweet and a special thing."