KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 10: American League All-Star Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers reacts in the first inning to National League All-Star Carlos Gonzalez #5 of the Colorado Rockies during the 83rd MLB All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium on July 10, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Justin Verlander said after his All-Star start that he was merely trying to put on a show for the fans, results be damned. "This Time It Counts", huh?
It's a crying shame that the MLB All-Star Game continues to mean anything at all beyond a chance for baseball fans to witness some of the game's biggest stars on a single stage. That grievance will continue to be beaten to a bloody pulp like it's one of Tuco's sidekicks until Bug Selig realizes the error of his ways.
Unfortunately, since 2003, the game dictates which League's World Series representative will have home field advantage. While it has been argued that the benefit is not as big as one might think, it's impossible to ignore that 21 of the last 26 World Series champions have had home field and the last nine Game 7s have gone to the home team.
On Tuesday night, the Tigers' Justin Verlander started for the American League, as you already know. The Tigers are contenders despite currently being in third place in the AL Central Division and, thus, Verlander had a chance to potentially help the Tigers, albeit ever slightly.
Instead, Verlander got his tits lit up for five runs in a single inning of work (he was supposed to pitch two innings), more than enough for the National League in their shutout victory. The National League World Series participant will now have home field in the Fall Classic.
Was Verlander missing his spots because of nerves or because he was too amped up, as Baseball Tonight speculated? Verlander explained what happened after his start:
"That's why I don't try to throw 100 in the first inning -- it doesn't usually work out too well for me," Verlander said. He referred to his regular-season approach, in which he opens in the low 90s. [...]
"I don't want to give up runs, and I know (this game) means something," he said. "But we're here for the fans, and I know the fans don't want to see me throw 90 and try to hit the corners. So let (it go) and have fun. ... I really enjoyed being here."
I have a couple beefs with Verlander's pitching approach. One is that he knew pumping 100 in the first is not usually successful for him and, in a game in which he knew could mean something for his team, he did it anyway. Two, and more importantly in a game that should just be an exhibition game, he didn't seem to know what the fans really wanted to see. At least not this fan.
Sure, it's fun to see triple digits light up the radar gun, but it means nothing if it comes with hits and walks and runs. Ryan Perry can light up a radar gun for an inning, but he's insufferable.
Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball because of his pin-point control and devastating breaking ball. He enters into another world of pitchers when he shows off his late-inning gas, but that's not the biggest reason he's such a joy to watch.
Further, these comments are confusing to me because Verlander is ultra-competitive. I mean, he tweeted about a couple of Yahtzee wins against his family the other day.
He knew this game might mean something; he's on a national stage, facing the game's best hitters from the National League; and he decided to go with a strategy that he knew had a pretty good chance of rendering poor results. That doesn't sound like Verlander. Maybe the competitor in him wasn't willing to admit defeat, so he made up somewhat of an excuse after the fact. Maybe he put his competitiveness aside for the occasion. I don't know for sure, but all past signs indicate that Verlander would've wanted to impress by dominating at all costs, not by simply throwing hard.
If anything, though, I guess Verlander's comments should be an eye-opener to Bud Selig. If one of the game's most competitive pitchers is willing to sacrifice results to put on a radar gun show, then how can anyone take "This Time It Counts" seriously? I don't suspect there are many people who do, including the players obviously, but this should finally get everyone on the same page.