Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Caddyshack or Caddyshack II?
Best selling artist or one-hit wonder?
“The Guy” or Cy Young?
The former. Always.
What does that mean? Justin Verlander should start Opening Day.
Entering his first season as manager of the Tigers, Brad Ausmus will have quite the dilemma toward the end of spring training. A dilemma that any manager across the league would love to have. The question is simple.
Who should start Opening Day?
The former. Always.
After two dominating seasons that saw him win the Cy Young in 2011 and finish 2nd in the race in 2012, Verlander’s 2013 campaign was a struggle by his standards. Maybe more appropriately, a roller coaster. He finished with a pedestrian 13-12 record and a 3.46 ERA, his worst since his 4.84 ERA performance of 2008. His WHIP bloated to 1.31, the highest it’s been since that same 2008 season.
Questions arose throughout the year about health issues, girl problems (solved?), and mechanics. But whatever it was, Verlander put all doubts behind him and turned in an absolutely stellar postseason. He made Oakland A’s hitters look silly in the ALDS, finishing with a ridiculous 21 Ks and only 2 BBs in 15IP and 0 earned runs.
A’s fans still have nightmares about Verlander and Game 5s.
Verlander followed his ALDS performance with another clutch 8IP and 10 Ks in Game 3 of the ALCS against Boston. Unfortunately, the Tigers bats fell silent and Verlander’s one goof, a solo home run to Mike Napoli, was enough to give the Red Sox the victory. Nevertheless, it was evident that “The Guy” was back.
But even if Verlander had an “above average” season last year, he still would have been overshadowed by Max Scherzer. Scherzer won his first 13 decisions and never looked back as he was crowned the American League Cy Young winner. Unlike Verlander, Scherzer was consistent all season long, leading the league in WHIP, wins, and winning percentage. Although he dropped his K/9 from 11.1 in 2012 to 10.1 in 2013, Scherzer finished 2nd in the American League in strikeouts.
So doesn’t Scherzer deserve the Opening Day start?
But not in front of Verlander.
The new era of Tigers baseball is both an exciting and anxious time. No one knows how things will go. It can be magical (see Tigers 2006) or it can be a disaster (see Red Sox 2012). But if you want to start the new era of Tigers baseball off on the right foot, you need to have the face of the franchise take down the Grand Opening sign and own the ribbon cutting ceremony.
And that is Verlander’s job.
I admit, it is unfair to compare Scherzer to Caddyshack II. But there is no guarantee Scherzer is a Tiger beyond next season. Verlander is here to stay.
Why begin the new era with a temp when you can start it with the boss?
Justin Verlander should start on Opening Day.