That game happens to be this Sunday, against the Tigers.
Drafted in 2004 as a sort of consolation prize for the worst season in franchise history, Verlander spent over 13 years in the Tigers organization, amassing a 3.49 ERA over 2,500 innings, and racking up nearly 56 fWAR. In 2011, his 2.40 ERA across 34 starts earned him a Cy Young Award, and the first MVP awarded to a starting pitcher since 1986. Somewhere along the line, Verlander’s starts became appointment viewing. “Must see JV” wasn’t just a catchy slogan, it was a way of life.
Then in 2017, with the Tigers staring at a lost season and a broken roster, Verlander was traded to Houston as a step towards fixing the future. With little reason to care about Tigers games, many fans turned to Verlander and the Astros during their playoff race. Verlander made five dominant starts in September, and five more throughout the playoffs en route to a much deserved World Series title. It was a legendary run of brilliance that most likely cemented his spot in the Hall of Fame, and Tigers fans were with him the whole way, cheering as hard as the Astros faithful.
On Sunday, Tigers fans will see a familiar sight when they turn on the game: Justin Verlander taking the mound once again. Most of us should expect to feel some mixed emotions, as our allegiance to our favorite team clashes with our love for an icon. For over a decade, watching him toe the rubber gave us feelings of excitement, joy, and confidence that few other pitchers can elicit. It won’t be easy for everyone to suppress those feelings just because he’s wearing a different uniform now.
Many may be imagining a dream scenario where Verlander manages to twirl nine perfect innings, with the Tigers somehow scraping out a win anyway. The best of both worlds. Unfortunately, that isn’t likely to happen. Verlander and the Tigers can’t both win this game. If you have to pick one, who are you pulling for? Justin Verlander or the Tigers?
Who are you rooting for?
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