They were both chosen out of college in the 2006 draft, and that’s basically where the parallels end, unless you note the fact that each has pitched in the independent leagues and one has as many last names as the other has eye colors.
Only Max Scherzer went 11th overall in that draft, and Austin Bibens-Dirkx went 471st.
And Scherzer pitched briefly for the Fort Worth Cats while Scott Boras was trying to (and succeeding in) landing him a bigger signing bonus from the Diamondbacks, while Bibens-Dirkx landed with the indie Victoria Seals of the Golden Baseball League in 2009, just trying to get back into Class A ball, and with the indie Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League in 2016, just trying at age 31 to stave off the end of his minor league career.
And as for surnames and iris inequality, well, yeah.
Stack up every starting pitcher in the big leagues. Every single one of them, from those who’ve started over 500 games (Bartolo Colon) to those who debuted this weekend (Sean Newcomb). Make a list. Ignore salary, and start with the most valuable and dependable, and end with the least. Order them from those whose stock is highest to those who hardly have stock.
Is Austin Bibens-Dirkx (two big league starts) as close the bottom of that list as Max Scherzer (two thousand five big league strikeouts) is to the top?
Twenty-four hours ago, that is.
Scherzer was really good Sunday afternoon, pitching into the eighth as his Nationals tried to avoid getting swept at home by the underachieving Rangers, limiting Texas to three hits and a walk while getting 10 of his 22 outs on strikes.
But his record fell to 7–4, and Bibens-Dirkx’s improved to 2–0.
A veteran of one (4.2-inning) big league start, plus 140 others in the minor leagues, and 63 others in Venezuela and the Dominican, and 18 others in independent ball, Bibens-Dirkx saw his second pitch of Sunday’s game deposited in the seats by Brian Goodwin and his third pitch singled to right by Bryce Harper.
In the seventh inning, before Matt Wieters rolled out to first, Anthony Rendon singled off Bibens-Dirkx, and Adam Lind walked.
In between those two pairs of back-to-back baserunners, Bibens-Dirkx got everyone else out.
Nineteen in a row, to be exact, a Rangers rookie record.
Yu Darvish was once a Rangers rookie.
The Rangers had hoped to make Scherzer a Ranger in 2006, when he was chosen by Arizona with the pick immediately before theirs (which they used on Kasey Kiker). There’s no documented evidence that Bibens-Dirkx, taken by the Mariners in Round 16, was anywhere on Texas’s radar.
But Rangers Assistant GM Josh Boyd was the Padres’ area scout for the Pacific Northwest that year, when Bibens-Dirkx pitched for the University of Portland, and Boyd had a book on him.
Longtime scout Phil Geisler, a University of Portland product himself, signed Bibens-Dirkx for the Mariners in 2006, and would later scout for four years with the Rangers.
Rangers Pro Scouting Assistant Mike Parnell pinpointed Bibens-Dirkx as a potential target when he was making 2016 starts for the Barnstormers.
When a need by attrition arose halfway into the AAA Round Rock season last year, Rangers Assistant GM Mike Daly and Assistant Director of Player Development Paul Kruger, having investigated the makeup, targeted and signed Bibens-Dirkx.
Special Assistant to the GM Scot Engler and Minor League Pitching Coordinator Danny Clark believed Bibens-Dirkx, whose name I’m typing in each of these sentences to build some muscle memory on the spelling, offered more than your standard-issue organizational soldier and pushed to bring him back in 2017.
He beat Max Scherzer on Sunday.
In the big leagues.
To be fair, what he actually did was prevent more of Scherzer’s teammates from scoring than Scherzer (and entrustee relievers Oliver Perez and Blake Treinen) managed to do with Bibens-Dirkx’s teammates, though he did get Scherzer to line out to right and hit a groundout comebacker in a couple faceoffs (and looked at two of Scherzer’s 10 third strikes himself).
But he won, and Scherzer lost.
Scherzer, he of the Scott Boras holdout and the Diamondbacks and the Tigers and the Nationals and about $240 million guaranteed, so far.
Bibens-Dirkx, he of the Short-Season A Everett AquaSox, AAA Tacoma Rainiers, Low A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, High A High Desert Mavericks, a shoulder surgery, High Desert again, Rookie-Level Arizona League Mariners, independent Victoria Seals (in that club’s inaugural season), Low A Peoria Chiefs, AA Tennessee Smokies, AAA Iowa Cubs, Venezuelan Winter League Aguilas del Zulia, Iowa and Tennessee and Zulia again, AAA Syracuse Chiefs, AA Harrisburg Senators, AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Zulia again, AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats, High A Dunedin Blue Jays, Zulia again, New Hampshire again, AAA Buffalo Bisons, Dominican Winter League Toros del Este, Buffalo and New Hampshire again, Venezuelan Winter League Tigres de Aragua, independent Lancaster Barnstormers (a team on which his manager, 64-year-old Butch Hobson, got one at-bat), AAA Round Rock Express, Aragua again, Round Rock again, and, after, 11 years and 31 stops with 20 different clubs in eight different organizations (including two independent league franchises) and baseball in four different countries, and a locker with his name on it, carefully spelled, in a big league ballpark.
Eleven days after his first big league start, in which he took a no-decision against Rays ace Chris Archer over 4.2 innings, which matched in duration a scoreless relief outing he’d posted in Detroit 11 days earlier, Bibens-Dirkx drew Nationals ace Scherzer as his mound opponent, and according to Evan Grant (Dallas Morning News), a conversation he had his with his wife when he learned on Saturday that he’d get the ball on Sunday went something like this:
Austin: “Oh, I have to face Max Scherzer.”
Leah: “No, you get to face Max Scherzer. And he gets to face you. You’ve earned the privilege to be a big leaguer. You don’t have to face anybody.”
The Draft is tonight.
At least the portion that includes the round in which Max Scherzer was chosen, and the round after that.
The Draft continues tomorrow.
The Draft concludes on Wednesday.
Including the round in which Austin Bibens-Dirkx — winning pitcher for the Texas Rangers on Sunday with a repertoire featuring more pitch types than hits allowed, and nearly as many arm slots, but only one ocular pigmentation, helping complete a sweep of the first-place opponent he got to face at 1500 South Capitol Street — was chosen, 460 selections after Scherzer, and eight professional baseball employers and thousand recalibrations of the dream ago, a dream that was punctuated Sunday for a man known perpetually for punctuation of a totally different kind.