Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Philadelphia Phillies manager Joe Girardi was playing games when he spurred the umpires to check Max Scherzer for foreign substances on Tuesday night and embarrassed everyone in the process.
“It’s embarrassing for Girardi, it’s embarrassing for the Phillies, it’s embarrassing for baseball,” Rizzo said Wednesday during an interview with The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan.
Girardi became animated and pointed toward Scherzer in the middle of the fourth inning on Tuesday after the Nationals’ ace struck out Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm and then took off his hat and ran his hand through his hair, which was saturated with sweat. That spurred the umpires, led by plate arbiter Tim Timmons, to confer on the field. They then approached Scherzer, who had been watching them and laughing ironically, and requested a midinning inspection.
Scherzer responded by tossing his cap and glove onto the ground, then started to unbuckle his belt, as if to say, “Look at whatever you want.” The umpires poked around as Scherzer yelled and gestured to the Philadelphia dugout. Girardi yelled back.
“He’s a con artist … he’s been doing that for years on TV,” Rizzo said Wednesday. He then said he “loves” Girardi and scouted him at Northwestern, saying, “I know him well” and repeating with emphasis, “I know him well.”
Rizzo said Girardi’s actions were purely “gamesmanship” but that he should have known better than to think he could intimidate Scherzer.
“It had nothing to do with substances, he had no probable cause to ask for it,” Rizzo said. “The umps shouldn’t have allowed it, but it happened and you have to deal with it.
“This is what we’re going to have to deal with,” Rizzo said. “You think you’re going to intimidate a Max Scherzer, it’s just not going to happen. You’re just going to piss him off and make him concentrate that much harder.”
After the fifth inning, which became Scherzer’s final inning, he stalked off the mound with his gaze firmly fixed on the Philadelphia dugout. As Scherzer mocked the Phillies’ dugout by holding up his glove and hat as if to declare, “I’m clean,” several members of the Nationals’ coaching staff yelled over at the Phillies’ dugout. Girardi reemerged and appeared to beckon to someone from the Nationals’ side and was kicked out of the game by Timmons.
After the game, Girardi justified his actions, saying he had never seen Scherzer “wipe his head like he was doing tonight, ever. It was suspicious for me. … I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I just got to do what’s right for my club.”
Scherzer, who got the win to improve to 6-4 in the Nationals’ 3-2 victory, said after the game that the only place he could get sweat to help with his grip was his hair.
“These are Manfred rules,” Scherzer, referring to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, said Tuesday. “Go ask him. I’ve said enough.”
ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle contributed to this report.