Justin Verlander is having that kind of season where there really isn’t much to be said that hasn’t already been. The stretch he has been on is the kind of special treat that requires no words, just sit back, relax and enjoy. I was reflecting on this the other day and it occurred to me that the greatest Tigers pitcher of this generation is connected to the worst Tigers season in history.
I know it is painful but think back to 2003. The Tigers finished a dreadful 43-119 and needed a late season surge to keep their futility confined within the context of the American League rather than Major League Baseball in general. It was that season that gave the Tigers the number two pick in the 2004 draft, the pick they ultimately used to select Justin Veralander.
OK, quick sidebar. The Tigers received the number two pick because MLB rules gave alternated the top pick between leagues. 2004 was an NL year for the top pick and so the San Diego Padres used the opportunity to waste their time and money on Matthew Bush. Double sidebar. While the current arrangement that gives the winning All-Star team’s league home field advantage is widely criticized, I don’t mind it. MLB previously used the same alternating system that decided which team picked first in the draft to determine home field. Determing World Series home field advantage from an exhibition game in which the outcome will be of benefit to at least one player that participated seems like a step (albeit ridiculously small) in the right direction over simply looking at the calendar to see if they year is odd or even. /sidebar. /sidebar.
So, was the pain of the 2003 season worth the joy brought by the Justin Verlander pitching performances we’ve been spoiled with as of late? I’m inclined to say yes.
2003 was terrible in its own right but it was one of many disappointing seasons since Mike Ilitch purchased the team in the early 90’s. I am young enough that I had never really known good baseball in Detroit so while 2003 was a kick to the guy, I didn’t have any particular highs by which to measure the low. I hate to say it but the perpetual losing made the 2003 season somewhat palatable. I mean, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility given the Tigers recent history. If it took that (in part) to break the funk, so be it.
That being said, I wouldn’t take a repeat. We’ve grown to expect competent baseball out of the Tigers and a retreat to 2003 levels would be hard to take, even if we knew another Verlander was on the other side. The good things is that Veralander is ours to watch and that alone should be enough to avoid a repeat.