Here at Bless You Boys, we publish several articles every day. We write tens of thousands of words each week, and offer an opinion or two on even the smallest moves the Detroit Tigers organization makes.
Today, we are at a loss for words.
The Tigers traded Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros late Thursday evening, and received a trio of prospects in return. Detroit also offered up some salary relief, and early reactions from around baseball have praised general manager Al Avila for prying a respectable return out of Jeff Luhnow and the ‘Stros. Objectively, this was a good trade for the Tigers, and a necessary one given their recent plunge into an overdue rebuild. Franklin Perez is arguably the best prospect in the Tigers’ farm system now, while Daz Cameron and Jake Rogers will slot into the top 15-20 or so.
Subjectively, this sucks. Verlander is the best pitcher to ever wear a Tigers uniform, and should be a Hall of Famer when he hangs up his spikes. The team’s resurgence in 2006 and beyond was built on his right arm. His starts were #MustSeeJV. He was so dominant during his peak years, seemingly flirting with no-hitters every other week. That he only has one Cy Young Award is more of an indictment of the highly flawed voting process than his own performance.
And he was all ours.
There was some risk when Verlander was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 draft. He wasn’t the most polished college arm available in that class, and probably not even the most likely to reach the majors. He had the highest ceiling, though, and the gamble paid off several times over. There was a palpable excitement when he breezed through the minors and reached the major leagues in 2005. The flame-throwing youngster was the Tigers’ best chance of returning to glory in over a decade, and a hot start to 2006 only fanned those flames. He helped anchor that rotation in their run to the World Series, creating a new generation of Tigers fans.
Think about all of the great performances Verlander had in his Tigers career. Die-hard fans can rattle off at least a half dozen within seconds, and can probably name exactly where they were when each occurred. I remember sitting with my father as we watched Verlander finish off his first career no-hitter in 2007. We saw him dominate the Baltimore Orioles in person a few years later. I put off studying for important midterms when he finished off the Oakland Athletics in the 2012 ALDS, then again in 2013. There are several other fleeting memories of Verlander starts, most of which involve cackling at how a knee-buckling curveball froze yet another strikeout victim.
Others have already started to tell their own stories of what Verlander meant to them. From bonding with family members to going to games to spending time with friends, Verlander and the Tigers brought us all together. Each story is unique, and each one is special. A Tigers lifer, Verlander has a special connection with this fanbase that others like Justin Upton or even J.D. Martinez didn’t have. Those trades stung. This one goes even deeper.
For those who were brought up on this iteration of the Tigers — or even had their fandom renewed after a long stretch of futility — Verlander was the centerpiece. He was that Tigers team, even as Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer collected their own (well-deserved) individual glories. It’s gut-wrenching to imagine Verlander wearing another uniform, and will be even harder to see in person when he dons an Astros jersey for the first time. From both a statistical and emotional perspective, Verlander is a centerpiece of Tigers lore. He is one of the most decorated players in franchise history, ranking second in wins and strikeouts, with a Cy Young Award, MVP, and six All-Star appearances.
More importantly, he was one of ours. He helped usher in one of the most successful eras in franchise history, and restored credibility to one of the more downtrodden organizations in baseball. He made us cheer and laugh, and was an important part of our lives for the last 13 years.
Thank you for everything, Justin. Now go get a ring.