SAN DIEGO – When Justin Verlander finally earned his first World Series victory, his Houston Astros teammates celebrated by putting the veteran ace in a laundry cart and pushing him into the visitors’ clubhouse shower at Citizens Bank Park. The 39-year-old right-hander finally spilled the beans on a narrative that has plagued him throughout his illustrious 17-year MLB career.
Verlander was an easy player to celebrate during his tenure in Houston. He was a highly regarded leadoff hitter, which was one of the many reasons the Mets were interested in signing the three-time AL Cy Young Award winner.
“He’s the man,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said Monday at the Winter Meetings. “I love when I can go the day before the release, the day after the release. And then it will stop all the losing streaks and extend the winning streaks.”
The Mets targeted Verlander as a Jacob deGrom’s replacement because of his winning pedigree and veteran experience. His short term contract with high AAV it will reduce some long-term risk for the club as it tries to become a sustainable winner, much like the Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Verlander has long been known for his charismatic presence on the mound, but that extends to the clubhouse. A source described Verlander as “a great teammate” and told the Daily News that the league is constantly looking for ways to improve and is always happy to answer questions from younger players.
“It’s a pleasure to deal with because I knew what I was getting every day,” Baker said. “He’s probably gotten a little more humble since he’s been injured and gone, and you appreciate what you’ve got now.”
However, there’s no getting around one major story: Max Scherzer and Verlander, two former Detroit Tigers teammates, don’t seem to care about each other.
The extent of their disdain is somewhat unclear. A source told the News they don’t like each other. But another former Tigers teammate said he never sensed a major rift between the two, although it was certainly clear they competed with each other. In any case, they never let it affect the clubhouse and were always professional in Detroit.
Neither has ever commented publicly about the rift, but both were asked about each other when the Astros faced the Washington Nationals in the 2019 World Series and were respectful.
“That was a time in my career where I developed and settled into kind of the pitcher that I am,” Scherzer said at World Series media day. “In Detroit, I learned so much from everybody, and especially from Ver, about how to go about it, how to attack the lineup, how you get a ball every fifth day. Just all the little things that go into being a major league pitcher. He was at the forefront of it and we all developed together and it was a fun time.”
Winning often means putting personal feelings aside for the betterment of the team. People familiar with Scherzer said he would never put the team in a compromising position. Whether he’s pitching while injured or sitting in the same locker room as someone he can’t stand, he always puts the team first.
It’s an interesting subplot to follow throughout the season. Verlander might be highly regarded, but apparently not by everyone. However, no matter how much they like or dislike each other, there is a mutual respect and a mutual goal: winning a World Series.
THE BORAS HITS SAN DIEGO SHOW
Scott Boras delivered his annual State of the Union address to a group of reporters and spectators Tuesday afternoon in the lobby of the Grant Hyatt. He had his usual usual delivery and some odd metaphors, at one point comparing this year’s market to various swimming pools. The Yankees, for example, swim in an “infinity pool” chasing a number of top players, and there is no such thing as a “shallow Hal,” he said, referring to Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner (and the 2001 film of the same name of the Farrelly brothers). , which oddly featured former Mets great Ron Darling in a small part).
However, Boras did not elaborate on the meetings he had with various teams outfielder Brandon Nimmo. The Mets have not been particularly aggressive in trying to re-sign their center fielder and are not expected to meet with him this week in San Diego, but the agent appeared to confirm that the Mets still have interest in bringing back Nimmo .
“I think the Mets are in a Met-a-morhphis championship,” Boras said. “I don’t see anything about them that has changed their direction or attitude towards bringing their best players to the market.”