Detroit Tigers: Fans quick to write off franchise icon Justin Verlander?

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images /

The Detroit Tigers are entering full rebuild mode, and have reportedly shopped Justin Verlander. Have fans been too quick to write off a franchise icon?

For upwards of ten years now, Justin Verlander has been a poster boy for the Detroit Tigers franchise.

While a 5-7 record and a 4.50 ERA this year certainly doesn’t match what the back of his baseball card should read, it shouldn’t hamper what he’s done for this organization.

He’s been a part of the rebuilds, the two World Series runs, and everything in between. He’s captured a few prizes of his own — the American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young award in 2011, and Rookie of the Year honors in 2006. He’s also thrown two no-hitters, one in 2007 against Milwaukee and the other in a 2011 Toronto series.

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He’s been at the forefront of the starting rotation since his first full big league season. A bonafide ace that toes the rubber every fifth day with the chance of giving his team a shot to win.

And Monday night, the 34-year old right-hander found himself in some pretty unfamiliar territory. For the first time in his twelve-year career, Justin Verlander may have walked off the mound at Comerica Park for the final time as a Tiger.

Starting pitching seems to be the trend of the summer for major league general managers. Every contending team seems to be in the race for one. And now more than ever, Verlander finds himself immersed in this late-July deadline chatter.

It was the Dodgers and Cubs who were showing strong interest. Los Angeles is seeking rotation help just days after Clayton Kershaw landed on the disabled list for the second time in his career. That pesky back of his might cause GM Farhan Zaidi to welcome an ace to La La Land; Verlander or not.

And the Cubs, despite acquiring for Jose Quintana to kick off trade deadline season, still want to beef up their rotation. Underperformance in the Windy City, or a World Series hangover? You decide.

Verlander’s always approached the deadline gossip surrounding him with a ho-hum, focus-on-the-team approach. On July 5, he told George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press he was worried about his changeup, not the rumors.

But that was nearly three weeks ago, an eternity in baseball this time of year. With the deadline on Monday and Verlander’s next turn in the rotation set for Sunday at home, last night could have been his last start as a Tiger. Even a guy like Verlander knew what that meant, as he admitted to Freep’s Anthony Fenech.

“Who knows. Maybe there’s a lot more of those to come. Maybe there’s not. All I know is that I heard it, I felt it, I appreciated it and I love these fans and I’m glad that they acknowledged that.”

And as Verlander seemed to share some sentimental thoughts, Tigers fans should do the same. Writing off their star pitcher for the last decade in exchange for prospects and a salary dump doesn’t seem practical, does it? If he is dealt by July 31, he will go down as one of the best pitchers in franchise history.

He’s second in strikeouts (2,317), third in WAR at his position (51.8), seventh in wins (178), and has logged the eighth most innings in the club’s existence with 2,463. His two no-no’s are good for a first-place tie with Virgil Trucks. He was a runner-up last year for the Cy Young award thanks to a 16-9 record and a 3.04 ERA. His nine Opening Day starts trail only Jack Morris for a Tigers record.

What he’s meant to the Tigers — on and off the field– goes far beyond the stat sheet. Fans should be appreciative as to what he’s accomplished, and not so eager to shoo him away after a rough first half.

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It’s unfortunate it’s come to this, as his days in Detroit may be limited with the deadline just five days away.