There’s one common, looming bucket list item of the Detroit Tigers fanbase: seeing fan favorite Justin Verlander don the Olde English D once more.
One request I have for when Verlander starts discussing retirement is to offer him a one-day contract so that he can end his career wearing a Detroit Tigers uniform.
Few have done this before, but one player that stands out to me is Roy “Doc” Halladay.
Doc became a household name and pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays, the same team that drafted him in 1995. He was an eight-time All-Star and went on to win the 2003 American League Cy Young, the 2010 National League Cy Young when he played for the Philadelphia Phillies and ended his Major League career with a 3.38 ERA.
He left an impression on the City of Toronto, and in 2013 the Jays signed Halladay, 36, to a one-day contract to pay tribute to his achievements.
Halladay retired as part of the Toronto Blue Jays in the city where it all began, with fans tipping their caps to him one last time.
Having spoken to a few prospects, I’ve learned that although there are plenty of milestones in a players’ career, one of the most memorable is getting “the call” for the day that they were drafted.
A few years ago, I got the incredible opportunity to speak with Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano who said that being selected by the team he and his family grew up watching was nothing short of a dream come true.
A similar theme surfaced for Tigers lefty Tarik Skubal, who shared that he was surrounded by friends and family when he got selected by Detroit.
That’s the beauty of baseball: the fans become your family and the ballpark is a home away from home.
Ending your career in a city that took a chance on you and changed your life is undoubtedly another notable milestone.
JV has deep ties to Detroit and the baseball club so it’s only fitting that the Tigers make a play for him when he’s ready to retire.
The Tigers drafted him out of Old Dominion University in the first round of the draft in 2004 and he made his Major League debut the following year against the Cleveland Indians.
Since then, he’s earned MVP, Rookie of the Year, ERA titleholder and ALCS MVP titles. His pitching resumé and experience already blaze with brilliance, but Verlander is also an eight time All-Star, 2x Cy Young Winner and although controversial, a World Series winner.
I’ve had the honor of witnessing some of Verlander’s best moments in a Tigers uniform and I still bring them up in casual conversation. If you’ve also had Verlander take your breath away – and I’m not talking about his pants – there is no better way to describe those baseball memories other than “indescribable.”
Like Miguel Cabrera, when you are watching Verlander excel at his craft, you are witnessing baseball history and a future Hall of Fame legend almost like no other.
Other than Earl Robinette, in Tigers history, a one-day contract has never been done before.
Long story short, Robinette attended a Tigers tryout in 1954 and was met days later with an offer from the club that was left unsigned. According to the Free Press, Robinette finally lived out his dream in 2016 when the Tigers approached him with a one-day deal, a mere 60 plus years later. Getting the red-carpet treatment, Robinette and his family experienced a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I know one day doesn’t seem like enough and we’d all love to see JV pitch another incredible season in Detroit, but there are a few areas that need to be contemplated.
Verlander, 38, is coming off of a lengthy recovery with Tommy John surgery. Aside from rehab clinics, he hasn’t pitched since that one game against Seattle in 2020, where he announced he’d be needing the surgery and wouldn’t be returning.
Recently, it was broadcast that Verlander wouldn’t be pitching for the remainder of the 2021 season either.
Injury aside, Verlander is two years shy of forty but has a career ERA of 3.33 in almost sixteen years of service time.
To compare, ex-Tiger and Los Angeles Dodger Max Scherzer is having one of his best years yet. In his latest outing against the St. Louis Cardinals, Mad Max, 37, collected a whopping thirteen strikeouts and currently holds a 2.28 ERA.
We can’t forget that Verlander is an anomaly and is one of the best at what he does. He may very well come back into 2022 and once again be a lights-out pitcher. JV might even be looking for a multi-year contract and it’s not improbable that he’ll do just that. Selfishly, I hope we get to see a few more good years out of JV wherever he lands.
As crushing as it was, the Tigers dealing Verlander in 2017 was something necessary for the club to propel them in a different direction and charge full steam ahead into their rebuild.
That’s where things get tricky. The Tigers undoubtedly have money to spend, but it’s about spending it at the right moments and for the players that will help your team for the long haul.
Both Scherzer and Verlander left Detroit with nothing but gratitude for the city and the fans, and I don’t know about you, but the 2014 Tigers were some of my favorites to watch and I’d be happy if both could return at one point or another.
Signing JV to a one-day deal not only allows him to reunite and retire in Detroit, but it leaves room for the Tigers to spend on players that will enhance the team for years to come.
Whenever the time comes, fans would once again be able to revel in the genius pitching ability of a future Hall-of-Famer, and Verlander could close his baseball chapter in a city that meant so much.
See you soon, JV. But not too soon.