I have been a fan of the Detroit Tigers since the Summer of 1984. That means I am lucky enough to vividly remember my baseball team winning a World Series title, and waiting for them to win another. Since every year the team itself asks me who my Tiger is I decided to write about my favorite 25 Tigers since I became a fan…at eight years old…This has less to do with performance as it does with whatever intangible qualities Tigers’ players have…I mean this is the town that loved Brandon Inge and Don Kelly…and no neither one of those players will make my list…With all of that being said…
#4 Starting Pitcher Justin Verlander
In JV We Trust
It seems like every time the current edition of the Detroit Tigers need a big win, a win to extend their season, or a win to move to the next round of the playoffs…Justin Verlander is the arm they turn to. Of course that has not been the case, and of course Verlander’s Detroit squads have come up short so far…but it does seem like he is the guy on the mound for every big start…
Before we get to all of that. Le us share the one thing that make JV one of the best to ever plays this game. Only two people have won a Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award, and Most Valuable Player…only two…and JV is one of them (Don Newcombe is the other). Verlander is a once in a generation kind of talent, and a home grown talent which is why we do not hear many folks complaining about the size or length of his contract. For me, looking at the big money era of pro sports in general, the size of a contact is never the key factor between bad and good. More and more it is the length of contracts and in a sport with no real salary cap I would rather see bigger money deals for much less years.
The problem is one of time. JV is 32 as the 2016 season begins. He will make 28 million this year and in each year till 2020. That year he will be 36 and will make 22 million. Baseball contracts are fully guaranteed by the way. In terms of wear and tear we are now talking about a 32 year old who has lead the league in Innings Pitched twice, strike outs twice, and he has been part of teams that made two runs to the World Series. He has pitched in 11 playoff series going 7-5 and adding almost 100 innings pitched to a work load that would wear out the best of us. The point being is we have already seen JV’s performance fall off…now the truly great pitchers who threw hard have been able to have wonderful second acts in their careers by learning how to pitch a different way…hopefully JV is that great. I truly think that he is.
The first act of JV’s career has been nothing short of outstanding. He has given us no hitters, huge performances in the post season, and the only thing missing from his resume is a World Series title. The super big stage seems to get to JV though. in two World Series he is 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA. That is not the same pitcher we see in the regular season who has a 162 game average of 17-10 with a 3.52 ERA.
Without a doubt 2011 was the best season in JV’s career, and I do not think he will ever be that dominate again and considering the Tigers only made it to the ALCS that year maybe he doesn’t need to be. That season he would win the American League Cy Young and MVP becoming the third Tigers hurler to accomplish that feat (Denny McClain and Willie Hernandez) were the others. He final line in 2011 read like this: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 251 Innings Pitched, 250 K’s to 57 walks, and he only gave up 174 hits. That is the best season I have ever seen a Tigers hurler throw and it might be the finest season I have witnessed a guy have since I became a baseball fan in the early 1980’s.
Verlander has the opposite problem of the great Tigers from the 1980’s. They have had a career that will see him elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, he does not have a Championship ring to complete his baseball legacy. I am not sure which is more valuable but I truly believe a guy like Verlander wants and deserves both.