By: Will Burchfield
Justin Verlander was discussing his strong start on Thursday night when a reporter asked him about his five walks.
“I mean, let’s focus on the positive. Seven innings, two runs and we won the ballgame,” Verlander said.
Moments later, Verlander was discussing Miguel Cabrera’s walk-off home run when another reporter asked him about Cabrera’s slow start to the season.
“Again, I would like to emphasize I’d like to focus on the positive. We won this ballgame, Miguel Cabrera hit a walk off home run. Let’s focus on good things and not bad on a night like tonight,” said Verlander.
Sounds like someone struck a nerve.
In Verlander’s eyes, there has been too much negativity surrounding the Tigers through the first two months of the season. From the media. From the fans. It’s all beginning to bog him down.
“I heard a guy boo Miguel today when he came off the field and that was kind of disheartening. He was rather boisterous about it too,” said Verlander, who picked up on Cabrera’s heckler after the slugger grounded into a double play in the seventh. “That’s ridiculous, that’s disappointing to hear.
“What that guy’s done for this city and this franchise, you’re talking a stretch of a couple months when what he’s done over the last 10 years has been nothing short of extraordinary.”
Cabrera, much like the Tigers, has gotten off to a slow start this season. (He also revealed on Thursday night that he’s dealing with a laundry list of injuries.) He’s not the only high-profile vet who hasn’t carried his weight. Verlander, Jordan Zimmermann, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler and Francisco Rodriguez could all be placed in that category as well.
Each of those well-paid stars has incurred a fair dose of criticism. Verlander wishes the outside voices would strike a different tone.
“I think everybody could be a little more positive. I think there are a lot of things that you could look at and say the tide will turn, there is a bright side, some guys aren’t performing like we expected them to. But it’s always easier to look at the negative. It’s easier to say, this guy’s not doing well or that guy’s not doing well, and probably a little bit better headlines too,” Verlander said.
The negativity, as far as Verlander can tell, hasn’t seeped into the Tigers clubhouse.
“In this clubhouse I think we’re in a good frame of mind. We’ve been through this before, we’ve had seasons where didn’t start off very well and looked like crap and ended up making the playoffs with a lot of the same cast. So we got our head in the right places — it’d be nice for everyone else to as well,” he said.
The Tigers are 31-34, four games behind in the A.L. Central and two games behind in the wild card. They have played well in fits and starts, unable to sync up their arms with their bats. Wins have not come in bunches.
“It’s kind of reminiscent of last year a bit where we looked really crappy at times and looked really good at times. We just need to learn from that and realize we can’t will until the last minute to hit the gas. We gotta be a little more consistent. Having said that, you understand there are ebbs and flows in a season. Even the best teams in the world don’t look like the best teams for periods of time,” said Verlander.
Part of the fans’ frustration likely stems from the fact that the Tigers are the second-highest paid team in the league. They have no shortage of stars. Yet here they are, three games below .500 in the middle of June.
“I think we’re a good team, we just need to put it together. We got a bunch of guys that are either having fluky years or not performing up to their capabilities — I put myself in that category as well,” said Verlander. “It’ll all even out hopefully.”
Speaking specifically of himself, Verlander said inconsistency has been the issue. He’s yet to find the groove that he established early last summer. He’s 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP over 14 stats.
“It’s just been a tick off here and there, and that probably leads to a little bit of the grinding feeling in a ballgame,” he said. “When you’re used to executing a pitch in a certain count and you don’t, it can completely flip flop the at-bat. It’s one of those things that you work on in the bullpen, you can’t really work on it in a game.
“So again, that’s why I’m focusing so much on positives. Even when you’re out there and you’re inconsistent, that’s stuff you work on in between games.”
In the meantime, he’d like everyone to be embrace a bit more optimism. It can’t hurt, right?