A Special Performance By A Special Pitcher
Don’t get me wrong. Bailey has a chance to be a pretty good pitcher. But still, I can’t help but think how fortunate the Tigers are they took Justin Verlander instead of Bailey with the second overall pick in 2004 draft. It’s my understanding it came down to those two in the Tigers’ draft room.
Verlander closed his no-hitter Tuesday against the Brewers by hitting triple digits on the radar gun. It was an incredible performance. His slider was even more devastating. It was yet another sign of just how special Verlander truly is while standing 60 feet, six inches from home plate.
Last year, it was evident when the Tigers played the Cubs in Wrigley Field, Verlander has a special feel for pitching. He began one hitter by throwing three straight changeups. Two were strikes, one was a ball. His fourth pitch was a 100 mph fastball to punch out the hitter, who had no chance. While he does throw that hard, Verlander can be just effective at 95 mph or 96 mph. He spots his pitches well and knows instinctively how to setup hitters. He doesn’t flinch under pressure. Remember how he pitched out of the first-inning jam in Game 2 of the ALDS vs. Yankees last year? Statistically anyway, Alex Rodriguez will likely go down in history as the greatest player of all time. He had no chance on the 100 mph fastball Verlander buzzed on the corner at his knees to strike him out, ending the threat. No Justin Verlander, no pennant last year. Taking him second overall, was the single most important draft choice in franchise history.
There are a lot of great young pitchers in the game. None is better than Verlander. His ERA this season is 2.79. The last two seasons, he is 24-11. Those are Cy Young Award- type numbers. Even though Bailey was a high school kid, I talked to some scouts who thought he was more refined that Verlander, who was just 21-18 during his college career. He wasn’t supposed to be that polished. Greg Smith, the scouting director at the time, insisted the Tigers select Verlander. Can you imagine if they didn’t? Even if they had selected a prospect as good as Homer Bailey?
- Obviously, I don’t think much of Neifi Perez’s skills. But that was a great play he made Tuesday night to save Verlander’s no-hitter. He won a Gold Glove early in his career with Colorado. That play was indication as to why. It was brilliant.
- Verlander’s no hitter just might catapult the Tigers into a streak they haven’t really had this season. With Andrew Miller up with the big club and throwing well and the offense rolling, don’t be surprised if the Tigers take off. They seem to have survived their early difficulties. Now it is time for them to thrive.
- Where are all the Magglio Ordonez bashers? I talked to dozens of them last season. Still think the guy can’t play? Still want Brent Clevlen up just so he can be Mags’ personal late-inning defensive replacement? That was a nice play he made on that sinking line drive Tuesday, huh? Ordonez is having an MVP-caliber season so far. He was pretty good last year, too - better than many gave him credit for.
- Bottom line: It’s just time for the Lions to get rid of Shaun Rogers. There comes a point where a troubled player wears out his welcome in a specific town. That point has come for Rogers. What I can’t figure out is where the bad attitude has come from. When I was still on the Lions’ beat during his first two years in the league, he wasn’t like that. He prepared like a winning player. Now that’s the last thing he does - or is. Again, though, the question begs to be asked: Is it the environment or the player? People are naive to think it’s changed just because Rod Marinelli is the coach. It won’t change until Matt Millen is gone.