By Eric Thomas
Michael Wilbon said it. He was angry to his depths at Detroit Tiger fans when they booed Justin Verlander’s five run first inning against the Dodgers. He called them slobs. Is it true? Detroit fans might call it a point of pride, holding their athletes to high standard. Is it slovenly?
Fans have every right to boo players. They paid for the seat, they support the team with their eyeballs and voices. Even if a fan exists to troll his or her respective team, they are entitled to consume this entertainment any way they see fit. Fans have taken it upon themselves to police their respective teams. Does that therefore make them slobs if they decide to boo someone when they’re struggling?
Let’s focus on Verlander. Here are five reasons we should get off his back:
1. He fixes problems. Remember when he was considered a regular season pitcher who couldn’t get it done in big games? He had one of the greatest seasons in recorded history in 2011, but he stunk it up in the playoffs. He’s the opposite now. He struggles months at a time in May and June, but has so far been amazing the last two playoffs. (Stupid numbers: ERA 2.22 and 0.39 in the last two years; xFIP 3.19 and 2.17) Problem solved! Isn’t that what you wanted him to do?
2. He didn’t test free agency. Verlander signed an epic deal before the 2013 season, but he could’ve gotten more. He was widely thought of as the best pitcher in the game when he signed with the Tigers, and had he listened to offers he would have been showered with cash from teams from the coasts. The sad truth about athlete contracts is that you’re paying for someone’s past performance. It’s not that the “money went to their head,” it’s that money doesn’t stop the advance of time.
3. Haven’t we learned this lesson? Jack Morris was chased out of town by Tigers management because they thought his best years were behind him. He went on to win the World Series with two different teams. How painful was it to see Jack wearing a Twins uniform? Now think of JV in pinstripes. Think of him in a White Sox hat. Is that really what you want?
4. Verlander is a head case. I say this in the nicest way possible. He’s ferociously competitive, and when he struggles, he struggles in bunches. Singles turn into triples, triples turn into home runs. He’s masterful at times, utterly hittable at others. The good is dominant and the bad is atrocious. He’d be a terrible quarterback, because losing and struggling clearly gets in his head. The presence of a baserunner seems to bother him. He’s a man at war with himself at times. You booing him could make the problem worse. Think long term and shut your face.
5. Kate Upton shops at area malls. Have you ever thanked JV for this one? Before JV, could you see the most famous supermodel on the planet a few blocks from your house picking up a few things at a tea shop?