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The Washington Nationals outbid the Tigers for Max Scherzer and that's OK

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Mad Max will be missed in Detroit, but even Mike Ilitch, who made the right call here, has his limits.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This time, Scott Boras got Mike Ilitch to blink.

Max Scherzer, since the last out was made in the 2014 ALDS, has been baseball's Cuban Missile Crisis.

The free agent pitcher's status has been sitting there, for all to see.

On the one side was Boras, the mega agent representing Scherzer who doesn't take "your client isn't worth that much" for an answer.

On the other side was Tigers owner Ilitch, who plopped what he thought was a fair and reasonable six-year, $144 million contract extension at Boras before last season.

But Boras doesn't do fair and reasonable when one of his clients is due to be a free agent.

On the perimeter were the other 29 big league teams, waiting to see how it would all play out. For some clubs, where Scherzer would sign (and for how much) was like a great big domino that could have heavy impact on their own futures.

The baseball world waited.

Reports and speculation bobbed to the surface throughout the late fall and into the holidays.

Scherzer, a Missouri native, would go back home and sign with the St. Louis Cardinals. That was deemed an almost certainty by those who purported to have information not accessible by mere mortal reporters.

No, that's not true, another set of journalistic soothsayers said. Scherzer was going to the Chicago Cubs, a team with money burning through their pockets.

Don't forget the New York Yankees!

Surely the Boston Red Sox, in need of pitching, would be in on Scherzer, other experts squawked.

The year turned to 2015. Those with the inside scoop kept squawking.

The San Francisco Giants, losers in the Jon Lester sweepstakes, were the team that, for sure, would be going hard after Scherzer.

Hold on a minute, others in the know said. Keep your good eye on the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros, because my people tell me so.

All the while, Ilitch's Tigers and Scherzer's Boras stared at each other from across the way.

The Tigers had their offer on the table. They didn't appear to be changing it by one dollar.

They were going to wait Boras, and the rest of MLB, out.

Throughout the speculation and false prophecies of Scherzer's eventual destination, the Tigers were always an afterthought. They were a P.S. to all the reports.

"Or, Scherzer could bounce back to the Tigers," it was said in low murmuring.

That was where we were when the news broke on Sunday night that Max Scherzer, 30 years of age and a pitcher allergic to complete games, would be signing with a mystery team.

The offer was for seven years and upward of $200 million, it was reported.

Mike Ilitch, a star-struck sports owner who absolutely loves to poach other team's gems for his own admiration and absolutely detests losing his own, didn't green light a counteroffer to the mystery team's.

The staring contest between Boras and Ilitch ended with Ilitch blinking.

The mystery team, it was revealed, was the Washington Nationals.

At this writing, Scherzer reportedly has a deal in place with the Nationals to take his seven-inning heroics back to the National League, where his big league career started in Arizona.

They used to say about the Washington baseball franchise: First in war, first in peace, last in the American League.

But today, the Nationals are a player. They win divisions these days. They already have a very strong starting rotation. They have lots of good, young players but lack that true superstar.

And they have the almighty dollar to spend.

This time Mike Ilitch got outbid. This time another team is doing the poaching. This time the big press conference won't be held in the bowels of Comerica Park.

But that's OK.

Today's MLB is a game of high stakes poker, filled with teams taking all their chips and shoving them on one number.

The Nationals are pushing nearly $200 million worth of chips on the number 37, the numeral on the back of Scherzer's jersey in Detroit.

That's appropriate, because 37 will be Scherzer's age when the length of this reported contract runs out.

You know what? The Washington Nationals can have Max Scherzer.

How many dicey contracts can one baseball team hand out, anyway?

Even Mike Ilitch has his limit, apparently.

Ilitch and the Tigers gambled that their $144 million offer from last year would, if they waited it out, prove to be something that Boras and Scherzer should have accepted.  The Tigers would be coy and let Boras sweat. Then spring training would start and Boras would call the Tigers with an awkward laugh and ask, "So how are things?"

But the Nationals spoiled that strategy and their offer caused Boras to stare at Ilitch, who has blinked.

So long, Max.

There are some things you should never do.

Never eat a grapefruit without wearing goggles, never try to win a fight with your wife and never overpay for a pitcher.

Big league teams will never learn.

It's not smart to give a 30 year-old pitcher a seven-year contract for almost $200 million, but professional sports has never laid claim to logic and reasonor smarts.

MLB is filled with bad contractsdeals that are sure to bite the signers in the back ends, in the contracts' back ends.

The Washington Nationals, today, couldn't care less about what Max Scherzer is able to give them five years from now, much less seven.

It's always about winning now.

Does Scherzer make the Nationals better? Certainly. The only question is, for how long?

Will the Nationals look at Scherzer's fat salary down the line the same way a hungover man looks at that empty bottle of Scotch the morning after? Absolutely.

The Tigers didn't go the extra mile on this one. Fiscal restraint, normally not one of their hallmarks, has won out.

They might throw some money at James Shields, or as he is otherwise known, Scherzer Lite. But even if they do place a bid on Shields, the investment won't be anywhere near what the Nationals are making in Scherzer.

Scherzer will be missed in Detroit, for sure. He's the best seven inning pitcher in baseball.

But the Tigers have enough money sunk into starting pitchers, for better or worse.

Sometimes it's OK to blink. It's good for your eyes.