A New York Yankee fan’s look at Justin Verlander

Verlander’s career has been one long success story and if I had to bet, I’d bet that he comes back from the Tommy John surgery strong and solid.

I’m a transplant from the Midwest, Fort Wayne, Indiana, to be exact. It’s a great town if you love sports because within a 3-4 hour drive in any direction you can be in Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland, or Cincinnati. Most folks you meet are fans of one of these cities’ sports team(s).

It’s such an eclectic area of the country that I know people who are Cincinnati Reds, Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Blackhawk fans all at once!

So it was somewhere around 2007-2008, that I had tickets to see Justin Verlander pitch at Comerica Park against the Chicago White Sox and I unfortunately missed the game for another commitment. Since that time, I have watched Verlander pitch with appreciation and deep respect for his accomplishments and success.

When Verlander went to the Houston Astros in 2017, my heart was broken – I’ve never been an Astros fan, obviously.

I had been a Verlander fan since he came up in 2005 and have watched as he turned a good career into a Hall of Fame career winning two Cy Young Awards along the way.

Presently, I live on the East Coast and am a Chicago Cub fan turned Yankee fan. I was converted by my husband during the 1998 season – what a year to become a Yankee fan!

When Verlander went to the Houston Astros, he seemed to snub his nose at the Bronx. Major League Baseball fans watched as he was a key to the Astros win in the 2017 World Series.

Fast-forward past a cheating scandal and Tommy John surgery and Verlander appears ready to leave Houston. According to Talkin’ Yanks on November 16th:

“ESPN’s Jeff Passan says Justin Verlander will sign this week, and he thinks the team he’ll sign with is the Yankees. Passan has no idea about Correa, but he does not think the Yankees are the right fit.”

With this news, Yankees Twitter was lit all day with rumors and speculation about what seemed an all but done deal.

Typical of the anti-Verlander comments: he’s 38 coming off Tommy John surgery and has only thrown 6 innings since 2019. Why would the Yankees want another reclamation project? Referring, of course, to last year’s signings of Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, both of whom were coming off serious injuries.

There’s no real convincing response to this except to say that Verlander’s career has been one long success story and if I had to bet, I’d bet that he comes back from the Tommy John surgery strong and solid.

In 2019, Verlander led the league in innings pitched and won the second Cy Young Award of his career (his first with Detroit in 2011). That’s the upside – that’s what you potentially get when you sign Verlander, an elite bulldog who will grind out innings and always keep the team in the game.

No matter how you look at it, it is a crapshoot what Verlander will bring to the game after the surgery and Yankee fans are not patient. I have to believe that if Verlander comes to the Bronx it will be because he believes he can still perform at a very high level.

Kluber’s no hitter in May of ’21 was one of the highlights of a frustrating and inconsistent season for the Yankees. I’d still take it despite losing Kluber until August afterwards. For one outing, fans got vintage Kluber and no doubt he will continue his success with another team in ’22.

If the Yankees sign Verlander, it will be with the hope that they can catch lightning in a bottle and he can reprise his power pitching performances of years past.

The Yankees front office hopes that bringing Verlander in would propel this team to a championship, otherwise there’s no reason to sign him.

As a Yankee fan and a baseball fan, I’m all in on bringing Verlander to the Bronx. To have Cole and Verlander sharing the workload at the top of the rotation guarantees excitement and high level performances.

Yankees 2022: Return to Hope and Glory

Ultimately, what fans want is World Series baseball in the Bronx in ’22.

Optimism dimmed and glory eluded the Yankees in ’21 as they were swiftly eliminated from the postseason with a loss in the Wild Card game to hated rivals, the Boston Red Sox.

An optimism based on the fact that most fans agree, the Yankees, with their current talent, are in a championship window and that they have a core of players who are at or near the peak of their careers — and I’m thinking of Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole, and Giancarlo Stanton, players with elite abilities who can change a game single-handedly.

The Yankees, however, struggled in spite of the personal accolades Judge received, and indeed, he won the Fielding Bible Award for his work in right field and a second Silver Slugger award. Both well deserved, but not enough to lift the team on his shoulders and carry them to a World Series.

After all, it’s winning that matters and the Yankees didn’t do enough of it in ’21. With a 92-70 record, landing 8 games back of the division winning Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees underperformed in spite of the wild card appearance.

As a fan watching the Yankees daily, it was no secret that the Yankees were underperforming. The inconsistency with which they played, the seemingly endless losing streaks balanced by bursts of winning that were dazzling, kept fans guessing what the identity of the 2021 Yankee team was.

Among the individual underperformers were Gleyber Torres, who struggled at the plate and in the field, eventually being moved to second base in the hopes that he would improve defensively.

DJ LeMahieu was likewise a disappointment in ’21, but with the bat, hitting .264, a daily grind (painful to watch at times) at the plate, not with the ease with which fans saw him hit .364 in 2020 and take home a Silver Slugger award. It was only after the season that fans learned he had been dealing with a hernia during the season that likely impacted his production.

Aroldis Chapman, Luke Voit and Gary Sanchez are other players who underperformed and who are now the target of fans’ offseason speculations that they may be traded.

Sure, injuries, such as Aaron Hicks’ season-ending wrist injury, Luke Voit’s oblique strain and knee injury, which left the Yankees vulnerable at first base, and Corey Kluber’s shoulder injury, which kept him out from June 5th-August 30th, negatively impacted the season.

It wasn’t until the Yankees acquired Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo at the trade deadline that there was some hope that the first base and outfield issues had been addressed.

However, even with the addition of Gallo and Rizzo, the Yankees were unable to mount a successful run at the postseason.

There were some sparks of optimism, however, as the season wound down. Luis Severino returned to pitch on September 20, 2021 and fans were once again cheering the 27 year old as glimpses of his once great talent were apparent. Nestor Cortes, Jr. emerged as a surprise success story in ’21.

I look forward to the 2021-2022 offseason as I have not looked forward to one since Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were available free agents.

The Yankees have identified their biggest areas of concern for 2022 as shortshop, first base, and starting pitching and the free agent class is teeming with elite talent, especially at shortstop, where Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story and Javier Baez lead the class.

The ’22 Yankee team has no identity at all as it will coalesce as the offseason acquisitions play out.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but look back to a time when the Yankees fans looked forward to Opening Day every year featuring two of the game’s greatest players, and also two stalwarts of the game, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Fans of the day were practically guaranteed that Ruth and Gehrig would bring a championship to the Yankees, and thus the expectation for generations of Yankees teams was born. Winning, as George Steinbrenner would famously say, after breathing, is the most important thing.

As fans look toward the 2022 season with hope, what they are hoping for is that the team will return to that glory represented by Ruth and Gehrig, that they will capture the elusive 28th title. Yankee fans expect titles and a .568 winning percentage is not acceptable.

Ultimately, what fans want is World Series baseball in the Bronx in ’22. It’s the same thing they wanted in ’21 and ’20 and, well, you get the idea.

So sit back Yankee fans and let the hot stove warm you while you dream of rings and championship things and let Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman work his magic.