Reporting Eric Thomas
By: Eric Thomas
Justin Verlander said this weekend that if he and the team can’t hammer out a deal by Wednesday, discussions will be shut down so he can concentrate on pitching. Noble, but also not a good sign for the Tigers. JV can’t hit the open market. He’s indicated he might like to, how can you blame him? It would be nice to be wined and dined. For a competitive guy like Verlander, it might be too tantalizing to resist. A giant contract might shut that down, and that needs to be done today.
It won’t be the Tigers without Verlander. Not anymore. This city has drawn a circle around its ace; he’s become something bigger than baseball. He’s the biggest, most talented name in Detroit sports and to allow him to leave will leave a Florida sized sinkhole in our collective unconscious. It’s hard to watch all 162 games, everyone misses a few, but you never miss a JV start. It’s must see TV that you talk about with your friends afterward. We pump our collective fist because he dated Kate Upton, we connected to that in a way that no one can articulate, but it’s there.
He’s the best pitcher in the game and he’s in his prime. Verlander’s commitment to the game and his youth mean his prime could last a long time; this show doesn’t have to leave town for years. We can circle those starts for summers far into the distant future and plan barbecues with Dickerson and Price turned up loud, because maybe this is the day that he throws a no hitter. You’ll miss that when it’s gone.
Some people in the fan base seem at peace with letting Verlander walk, citing some ineffectiveness in the World Series. Those people are out of their minds, and should be dismissed as such. The Tigers don’t get to the World Series without him. This nonsense about him not being a big game picture should be dismissed as fodder for the corner of the internet powered by sugar and the part of a brain that hates.
Tigers fans never learn their lesson, success spoils them. Apparently they don’t remember the sting of watching Jack Morris win two World Series after they dismissed him from the Tigers. The first one was tough to watch and the second was torturous, as the Tigers finished second to last in the AL East that year. Fans who shrug at the prospect of Verlander walking out the door need to understand that he will be painful to watch from afar, forcing you to wonder what could have been.
In the next twenty-four hours, you hope a deal gets done. If not, next year will be a circus. If JV hits the open market, the team might not be able to retain him. The offers from Verlander will be lavish and aggressive, teams enriched with local TV deals will salivate at the chance to wrap themselves around the best pitcher in baseball and the Tigers could be left in the dust by the Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs or Rangers. Or the Angels or Phillies or any other team that could become instant World Series contenders with JV on the mound. Tigers fans will be welcome to order the MLB package if they want the same access to the best show in baseball next year. He’ll become associated with another team and another city, maybe he will remember his time here fondly. He can choose what cap he wears in the Hall of Fame.
Pay him. Pay him within the next couple of hours. This isn’t a negotiation, this where you answer the demands. JV is within his rights to be the highest paid player in baseball; he’s worked hard to earn it. He’s a point of pride in a city that has long been bereft of any pride at all. Don’t negotiate. Ask him. What does he want, then write the check without question. If you could give Anibal Sanchez that kind of cheddar, you can hook up JV. King Felix’s contract dropped jaws, top it and sign JV. It will be bargain basement compared to what he commands on the open market.
Bite the bullet, take your medicine, do your homework and eat your peas. Pay JV so that this city can look forward to his starts for calendars in the future. Ignore the crazies that say he isn’t worth it; their opinion is always the same on everything anyway.