Column: Lanthorn sports staff reflects on Justin Verlander's tenure as a Detroit Tiger
Do you ever get that stomach-dropping feeling when you hear something you just can't bear to believe? And when you find out it’s actually true, do you fall to your knees and let the harsh reality slowly settle in?
Well, that was the exact reaction I experienced after my hometown Detroit Tigers decided to clean up shop and trade arguably the best pitcher in the past decade, Justin Verlander.
While I’m happy for Verlander that he’s leaving the current dumpster fire (disguised as the Detroit Tigers) for the Houston Astros, World Series contenders, it feels as if a major portion of my childhood and young adult life has now been placed in the rearview mirror.
Since the magical 2006 season, it was seemingly a sure bet that the Tigers would make the playoffs. More specifically, when Verlander was the starting pitcher, my dad would always say, “Don’t worry: We have Verlander today.” Luckily for my dad, he was never wrong.
For those many years that Verlander was donned with the Old English 'D,' fans have been blessed to witness 183 wins, 2,373 strikeouts, two no-hitters, a Cy Young Award, countless playoff moments and an MVP trophy.
To say that Verlander didn’t give his all for the Tigers organization would be a flat-out fallacy. And for that, the only regret I have with Verlander on the roster is that we didn’t win him a World Series ring for his effort.
Thank you, Verlander, for giving me and the rest of Tigers nation something to cheer about for 13 years.
But for now, we Tigers fans have to become comfortable in the dumpster fire.
Few fans get to grow up with a favorite player on their favorite team from the time they're eight years old to 20, but I was honored enough to have that in Justin Verlander.
If it weren't for Verlander's breakout rookie season in 2006, which helped the Tigers reach their first World Series in my lifetime, I probably would not be the rabid fan I am today. I was privileged to watch him work his magic; throw no-hitters; strike out a couple thousand hitters; and win a pitching triple crown, Cy Young Award and MVP trophy to help restore the city of Detroit back to what it is today.
I got to meet him several times, shake his hand and thank him for what he has done. Now, he gets to go to another city and bring that same magic with him.
While seeing Verlander in a new uniform will never not be weird, I am eternally grateful for everything he did for us as fans and people. He even fetched us a trio of exceptional prospects (whom I am extremely excited about) to help our rebuild.
Right-handed pitcher Franklin Perez, who automatically slots in as the team's top prospect, has monster potential as a 19-year-old already in Double-A. Outfielder Daz Cameron, the son of former All-Star Mike Cameron, has plenty of tools and projects to be the next long-tenured center fielder in Detroit. Lastly, catcher Jake Rogers has the potential to be an elite backup player, due to his ability behind the plate.
Even if Verlander doesn't throw another pitch for the Tigers, his legacy will continue to shine bright, and I look forward to seeing his statue and No. 35 jersey immortalized in Comerica Park sometime in the near future.
From the outsider’s perspective, Justin Verlander’s departure from the Detroit Tigers may seem like the latest in what has turned into a long line of high-profile departures.
After all, in the past four seasons, devoted Tigers fans have had to watch incredibly talented players like Max Scherzer, David Price, Prince Fielder, Yoenis Cespedes and others leave for more attractive destinations.
Just this July, fan-favorite J.D. Martinez was shipped off to the desert sun, being sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks for some players who have the potential of being decent. Heck, Verlander wasn’t even the only "Justin" whom the Tigers managed to trade, as just hours prior to Verlander’s departure, All-Star slugger Justin Upton was dealt to the Los Angeles Angels, again, for players most sports fans have never heard of.
But Tigers fans know that losing the hard-throwing Virginia native is different.
Verlander was one of ours. He wasn’t someone that former general manager Dave Dombrowski swindled away from some poor team that didn’t know any better or someone that the late Mike Ilitch dug deep into his pockets to lure during free agency. No, he was one of ours.
A Tigers draft pick whose rookie season coincided with the first time the Tigers made the playoffs in my lifetime, the former MVP, Cy Young winner and Rookie of the Year was there for both of the organization’s most recent World Series trips.
As the team’s downward spiral continues, part of me hopes that Verlander will be able to finally capture that elusive ring with the Houston Astros, especially after the devastation the city has suffered at the hands of Hurricane Harvey.
The other part of me hopes he doesn’t because I know how much it will sting to see it happen outside of Detroit.