Whatever Happened to Justin Verlander?

With an ERA of 4.83 and WHIP of 1.54 (as of this moment, right now on June 21), we are not seeing the usual Justin Verlander. In fact, I think we are seeing Mother Russia’s robot version of Justin Verlander, designed to throw baseball into a tailspin, which in turn will throw all of America into a tailspin. The real Justin Verlander has been kidnapped and is probably somewhere in Siberia, wishing he could grow a warm beard at a faster rate. 

Actually, I do not know for a fact if the 2014 Justin Verlander is a robot, but it sure would explain a lot. Maybe Verlander is simply tired. After all, he has played in October the last few years, so he doesn’t have as much time to rest as he might need. That, of course, is a problem I am sure he would love to have. However, 2014 is the first year of his career where his win percentage is below .500. The season is not quite half over, so no need to panic yet, but it is a bit of a head-scratcher. As of right now, at this very moment, on June 21, the first day of summer, ESPN has projected that he will end the year with a 4.88 ERA and a WHIP of 1.54. Yikes.

I do have a theory about why Justin Verlander has suddenly turned into a total suck-fest. It’s not really a scientific theory, and it might be without merit, but it explains everything. It explains the timing of his awfulness, too. 

Justin Verlander’s problem is Kate Upton.

There. I said what I am sure all of America is thinking. 

Ever since Verlander started dating supermodel Kate Upton again, he has been just awful. Me doth think the good Verlander is spending too much time with his bouncy blonde. When he was not dating Upton, his ERA was around 3.50 and his postseason ERA was 0.39. Gasp! I’m totally right about this one, you guys! His arms must be tired from carrying her shopping bags. His mind must be tired from listening to Supermodel Problems all night when he really needs to be catching some sleep. Frankly, putting up with Kate Upton seems exhausting.

It has been long proven that when a baseball player dates a famous person, his numbers go down. I don’t know why this is, but it is a not-yet-proven fact that is completely plausible. But what is Verlander to do? Obviously he likes this chick (I don’t see why), but he has to think of the team! The Detroit Tigers are paying him just over $20 million this year and he is not pitching like his contract demands him to pitch. He is pitching like a guy who is fighting for a rotation spot. If he was not Justin Verlander, but rather, some other not-filthy rich, random pitcher, he would be the number five starter this year. It’s like, I feel bad for him, but kind of not really. 

Justin, if you are in fact NOT a Russian robot, you must take one for the team. You must break up with Kate Upton. I know, it will be hard, but you can date her in the off-season! Have Upton be your winter woman! Yeah, do that! And if you get lonely during the regular season, I happen to know a 20-something college girl who would have no problem traveling around with you and watching your games. 

Immaturity vs. **Pizzazz**!

There is room in baseball for pizzazz, but very little room for immaturity.

This season, we have started to see a rash of young players coming in and taking baseball by storm, something that is always exciting to see. These kids are talented, energetic, and have helped their various teams win games. However, with players such as Manny Machado, Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez, and others showcasing some serious personality, veteran players are starting to get rubbed the wrong way. Where is the line between personality and showboating, or pizzazz and immaturity?

I guess we ought to start with my favorite guy to dog on, Yasiel Puig. I LOVE how talented he is, I really do. Slowly but surely, I have noticed him starting to mature this year. I think it is taking some goading from his teammates and manager, which is perfect. Don Mattingly sat Puig for showing up late to warm ups and is not afraid to get in his face a little if Puig has a mental lapse. Puig’s theatrics have also been a bit more subdued as of late, but he still does a bat flip whenever he clobbers a homer. He will cheer for himself after making a great play. Puig is basically his own cheerleading squad. Now that Puig’s blatant attitude problems are starting to clear, we are seeing the line between immaturity and pizzazz starting to blur. So long as he keeps maturing, I will enjoy watching him play baseball, which is something I never thought I would say. The energy he brings to the game is astonishing.

Now let’s talk swag. Swag is something I actually don’t mind at all. If a player cocks his hat a tad askew off his head (a la Jose Fernandez and Michael Pineda), that’s legit. Unbuttoning the top few buttons of your jersey, you do you bro. These little things are some of the only things players can do to let their personalities shine through in uniform that won’t piss off other players. I mean, let’s be real: you know what happens to players who piss off other players. That fastball comes in high and tight and you better jump out of the way. If the veteran players have a problem with the hat cocked or jerseys open, they need to get over it. Let the youth be youthful! I think they sometimes forget that at one point, they were cocky young players, too.

Okay, so when is the line between assholery and youthful drive crossed? Look no further than Manny Machado’s horrific display this past weekend against Oakland. After having an argument over an aggressive tag with Josh Donaldson, it was no surprise when Manny got thrown at. To be fair, Manny has just come back from a knee injury and the tag put him in a precarious position, and he had no desire to hurt it again. Should he have gotten heated with Donaldson? Nope. Calmly say, “Hey, watch my knee, please. I don’t want to re-injure myself, surely you understand” and boom! problem solved. Fast forward to the next game and Oakland reliever Fernando Abad clearly intentionally throws at Machado. Not cool, but not unexpected. So, what does Manny do? That’s right, a stupid and immature thing: he throws his bat down the third base, where Donaldson is playing. Coincidence? I think not! At first, I thought the bat might have just slipped, but after seeing so many replays, it was not accidental.

How stupid was that? Someone could have seriously been hurt by Machado’s bat! Throwing a temper tantrum does not produce results in real life, so why does he think it would serve him well in baseball? I really like Machado, but I have no respect for him. These kind of things can stain a person’s career, even if they are a great player. Manny is a GREAT player, but he needs to check his personality. I am glad he was ejected (as was Abad), and I hope it gives him a change to reflect on what he did wrong. Manny acted like a toddler and he got punished like a toddler. Players on other teams are not going to put up with his crap and he better be prepared to suffer the consequences for his actions.

I get that these young players are in their early twenties, where maturity is allowed to lapse. However, they are on a different stage than the other regular Joe’s their age. They are being looked up to by children and are representing a long history of tradition. Baseball polices itself, just like it always has, just like it always will. For the sake of the game, let’s hope the younger players are willing to mature faster so the game can roll along like it always has. If not, well, they will have a lot of baseball shaped welts and bruises…