Detroit Tigers: Will sign stealing scandal hurt Justin Verlander’s legacy?

(Photo by Mark Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Cunningham/Getty Images) /

When I think of former Detroit Tigers ace, Justin Verlander, I immediately recall his bulldog mentality on the mound, his determination toeing the rubber, and his eagerness to finish every game by getting stronger as the contest grows old.

I can’t help but wonder if former Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander‘s legacy will be forever tainted by the Houston Astros cheating scandal.  Will that World Series Championship that eluded Verlander during his Detroit Tigers’ days always hang over his head?

The Houston Astros cheating scandal won’t be suddenly forgotten once baseball returns in 2020.  I’ll briefly remind you of the situation again. The Astros tapped into the camera’s around the ballpark, had a member of their staff locked in a back room alone near the dressing room relaying signs to the team’s dugout and the players, in turn, players would bang on garbage bins notifying their hitters the pitch type that was about to be delivered.

Major League Baseball was able to confirm those notions but couldn’t prove that the players were also wearing buzzers to receive the sign quicker.  Remember when star second baseman Jose Altuve hit a walk-off home run against the flame thrower Aroldis Chapman, launching the Astros to a World Series birth?  Altuve was conveniently sitting on back to back-breaking balls during the at-bat.  Who sits on back-to-back breaking balls when Chapman is up there throwing 100-MPH heat pitch after pitch?

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Also as Altuve crossed home plate, he gripped his jersey with one hand and waved his finger with the other saying ‘no, no, no.’  He didn’t want his jersey ripped off for some reason.  He promptly sprinted to the dugout, was not visible for a bit before returning to the playing field to do an on-field interview after changing.  Altuve claims he didn’t want his jersey ripped off as his wife doesn’t like his bare chest to be exposed.  His Instagram account dramatically contrasts that argument.

The fall out wasn’t nearly as harsh as expected by many.  Major League Baseball decided to hand the Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for an entire season.  The Astros immediately fired both.  Houston would also be fined the maximum $5-million along with forfeiting their first and second-round draft picks in the MLB draft over the next two years.

Alex Cora, who was the Astros bench coach at the time, lost his job as the Boston Red Sox manager, and the same went for Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets. Both former players and members of the coaching staff were considered as the masterminds of the entire operation.

So what role did former Detroit Tigers legend Justin Verlander play in all of this?  Well, Verlander, who is often very outspoken about steroids, cheating, and ‘juiced baseballs,’ was utterly mum on this topic after the news broke.  It goes to show, cheating is frowned upon until it benefits you.

Verlander eventually came out and mentioned looking back he wishes he would have spoken up and put a stop to what was happening in the Houston Astros dugout.  It’s easy to say after the fact, right?  It’s like when you get caught with your hand in the cookie jar; well, I wasn’t going to eat a whole cookie.

Justin Verlander sits 75 wins shy of 300.  The soon to be 38-year old hurdler will likely never amass the landmark, especially with the shortened 2020 season.  The 300 win mark had always been the target for a starting pitcher to solidify themselves into the baseball HOF.  Verlander currently sits as the active leader in wins.

Last season at 36-years old, Verlander was able to turn back the clock posting tremendous numbers and earning himself his second Cy Young trophy, which is awarded to the leagues’ top pitcher.

The former Detroit Tigers ace is a league MVP, two time Cy Young winner, eight-time all-star, American League Championship Series MVP, a pitching triple crown winner, ERA title winner, Major League player of the year and rookie of the year.  He’s a sure bet to be in Cooperstown when it’s his time to hang up the cleats.

I find it amazing that Verlander’s teammate and also starting pitcher Gerrit Cole claims he had absolutely no idea what was going on.  How is that possible?  We all know Cole knew what was happening but just refuses to admit it even as a member of the New York Yankees now.

What does sign-stealing have to do with pitchers?  Well, it’s simple, it’s run support and victories.

When it’s Justin Verlander’s time to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame, will this scandal prevent him from being elected on his first chance?  Will the scandal completely prevent Verlander from becoming a Hall of Famer?  The ‘steroid’ players have been held out to this point; it will be interesting to see how this will affect the players involved down the road.

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I suspect Verlander will still become a Hall of Famer, but it may not happen right away.  I could see the voters under the current HOF voting committee hold out some of these players involved for at least a year or two when their time comes. Perhaps a player like Altuve who was in the middle of it forever.