Why Detroit Tigers fans must root against Justin Verlander in World Series

Detroit Free Press

Justin Verlander can be a persuasive fellow.

You need little more evidence of this than the dexterous ability he showed this week to flip the script after he flipped off Phillies fans and came out looking like a hero and smelling like a rose.

The made-for-video meeting with the offended pearl-clutching Phillies fan couldn’t have been more successful if Verlander had pulled off the apology while sharing a Geno’s cheesesteak with Gritty and the Rocky statue on Broad Street. Next time, J.V.

But now I must ask you, Detroit Tigers fans, to do something you probably don’t want to do. It’s something that is anathema to your baseball soul, like Javier Baez laying off a third-straight slider a foot off the plate.

You must root against Verlander tonight when he pitches in Game 5 of the World Series.

I know, I know. It’s hard. Because in Detroit, when you’ve been raised by this city and made your name here, no matter where you go and how much you accomplish, you’ll always belong to this city and its people.

I’m sure just about every Tigers fan believes in their heart that Verlander is a Tiger now and forever, which means it’s a foregone conclusion he will enter the Baseball Hall of Fame, likely as a first-balloter, wearing a Tigers cap on his plaque.

Um … not so fast.

Of course, we all saw Verlander’s fantastic career in Detroit. The magical year in 2011, when he pitched one of his two no-hitters with the Tigers, won the American League MVP and Cy Young and claimed the Triple Crown of pitching, leading the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA. Rookie of the Year. Six All-Star appearances. Five other top-five finishes in Cy Young voting. Three more strikeout titles. Durable, dependable and dominant. That was Verlander in Detroit.

The problem is that Houston has horned in on Detroit’s turf. Verlander continued his impressive resume since he was traded to the Astros in 2017 and was part of their World Series championship team that year. He pitched a no-hitter in 2019, he’s about to win his second Cy Young with the Astros after claiming two-thirds of the Triple Crown this year and making his third All-Star team.

The crazy thing is Verlander, 39, has done all this with the Astros after pitching in only three full seasons because of Tommy John surgery that cost him all but one game in 2020 and all of last season.

[ We want to show our appreciation for you being a Free Press subscriber! Check out all the contests, giveaways and prizes we’re offering this month. ] 

The biggest difference in Verlander’s tenures in Detroit and Houston has been World Series success. He has struggled in the series with an 0-6 record in eight starts and a 6.07 ERA. But he left Detroit without a ring despite appearances in the 2006 and ’12 Series.

Then he got his first ring within months of joining the Astros in 2017. If he wins a second ring with the Astros this year — regardless of his individual contributions — there will be a compelling case for his Cooperstown plaque to bear an Astros cap. If you look at the plaques in the Hall, the descriptions tend to highlight how much a player contributed toward his team’s success, and the Astros have had a lot of success during Verlander’s time with them.

The cap choice is made by the Hall of Fame, probably because of a rumor that Wade Boggs was offered $1 million to choose a Devil Rays cap for his plaque in 2005.

When I toured the Hall in 2018 with Alan Trammell during his pre-induction visit, it was explained to me that a player still has input in the cap choice. And that brings us back to Verlander’s persuasive powers of argument if he decides, possibly because of a recency bias or an allegiance to the Astros, that he prefers Houston’s hat.

For the record, Verlander told the 97.1-FM The Ticket in September during the Astros’ visit to Comerica Park that he hasn’t thought much about his cap choice.

“I have a bit of time left on my clock and I think that is going to determine a lot of things,” he said. “I’ve had a good run here in Houston. I don’t know if I’ll still be here in the coming years. If I played until 45, that’s six more years. Might be less, might be more, who knows, but that’s still a significant chunk of my career.

“So it’s not a very fair question at this point in time. But I know Detroit will always have a special place in my heart and in my career and what that looks like when I retire, I just can’t answer that right now. Don’t have all the information.”

Nope, hasn’t thought about it at all.

Verlander turns 40 in February, with a $25 million player option he will likely decline for the chance at a $40 million deal that the Astros probably won’t offer. But they could. Or Verlander, if he plans to pitch another five years, could return to Houston, which doesn’t seem to be slowing down as a contender anytime soon.

We know more years and more hardware in Houston would strengthen the case for an Astros cap on Verlander’s plaque. But in Detroit, we also know Verlander is and will always be a Tiger, no matter what’s on a plaque. Let’s just make sure of it by rooting against his success tonight.

Contact Carlos Monarrez: cmonarrez@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

Articles You May Like

Tigers 3, Dodgers 4: A late-inning Ohtani hit changed the Tigers’ night
Tigers select pitcher Owen Hall with 49th pick in 2024 MLB Draft
Injury Notes: Hall, Lawlar, Garrett, Gipson-Long
GameThread: Tigers vs. Dodgers, 1:40 p.m.
Pennsylvania Lottery Online Plays

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *