When you “Google” Justin Verlander these days, and if you put aside the normal statistics sites you would expect to see, the only thing left are the multitude of stories about his relationship with Kate Upton (one of many tabloid stories here) and his hanging out with the likes of Kid Rock. There is nothing about his career achievements……and maybe that’s because his career achievements are rather underwhelming for a pitcher who once seemed to have no upside.
In 2006, I watched and marveled as he pitched a game at Commerica when he hit 95 on the gun in the the second inning and then dialed it up to 99 in the eighth before finishing a complete game. He went 17-9 that year for the Tigers. He then went on a run that culminated in a 24-9 season in 2011 that earned him the status as one of the premier pitchers in the game and a Most Valuable Player award. Since then, over a span of four prime age seasons, Verlander has won a total of 50 games. What happened…..or more importantly maybe…..what didn’t happen………..
Justin Verlander has won 157 games in his major league career to date (complete Baseball Reference stats here ). When his contract expires in 2019, he will be 36 years old. He also will have amassed more than $200 million from that contract with a option for 2020 that could increase his earnings….so shall we simply say…..this man doesn’t have to work another day in his life after baseball.
Here’s a valid question though …….is Justin Verlander one of those players who dial it in when they get the “big bucks” – because that seems to be the trajectory of his career at the moment (love you too Kate)….or does he have a second wind in him……or even better some inner pride that will enable him to achieve the level he once held in the game – win twenty or more for the next four years – maybe five – and finish with another two or three year contract that could (then) qualify him as a Hall Of Fame candidate when he retires at the ripe old age of 40……..
Or, does the trail end in Hollywood with court side seats at Clippers games with Kate Upton as arm candy? I know that’s harsh and Ms. Upton has a valid career in her own right……but it’s meant to drive home the point………..because it irks me every time I see a ballplayer who is blessed with talent that you and I would crave for just phone it in because they can. The fact is that all Justin Verlander HAS to do is take the mound every fifth day for the next four years , and the Tigers are obliged to pay him.
Only Justin Verlander can answer the question of what (if anything) burns within him. But a question beyond that is the possibility that that I could be writing a similar post about the Tigers, and in particular Justin Upton who they just signed in two or three years when Upton also falls into the realm of mediocrity. For Verlander, the clock is ticking and he is not getting younger. He has yet to win a ring……..2016 looms……where do we go from here……..