Tigers general manager Al Avila answers questions after the trade deadline on July 31, 2017, in New York. Video by Anthony Fenech/DFP
The Tigers’ longtime ace sounding off on playing through the doldrums of not competing and how he believes the team has the pieces to be a contender
ARLINGTON, Texas – Justin Verlander spoke on a few topics after the Detroit Tigers’ 10-4 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday night, their ninth loss in the last 11 games. Among them were the trade rumors that have circulated his name for the better part of the past two months and his future with the only organization he has played for:
What’s the motivation down the stretch? I know you’re a competitor, you want to win every game you go out there.
“Self-motivation. Just go out there and pitch well, that’s all I can do. It sucks, it’s not a ton of fun but control what you can control. You come here and you try to win baseball games and when it’s my turn to pitch, I try to go out and pitch as well as I can. Try to help the young guys, I’ve been working with a bunch of the young guys on some of their pitches and execution and stuff and just kind of seeing the game. Business as usual, I guess. It’s just a little different.
“I told J-Up the other day after he hit that walk-off homer, it kind of sucks. That was a huge moment and a really cool moment and we all celebrated and then we come in and say, ‘Great game!’ but for what? Like yeah, it looks good on the back of his bubble gum card, it gets us all excited and we win a ballgame on a walk-off homer, which is great, but most of the time I’ve been here, when those moments happen, it means something more than just the moment. And the moments right now are just kind of fleeting, good moments or bad.
“It sucks but that’s part of the game. I’ve been pretty fortunate here to be in the hunt for 10 out of my 12 years at this point in the season. I’ve been very fortunate and hopefully that can continue but for right now, I think you gotta go out there and do your job. We’re still professionals, we get paid a lot of money to play this game and I still take extreme pride in going out there and doing everything that I can to help us win a ballgame.”
Could this present a long-term challenge if this team decides to go young and you find yourself in a position where this team is out of contention for a couple years?
“I don’t know, man. That’s not my decision. I do know that there have been teams that have gone into a rebuild situation and before you know it, they have the right pieces and a year later, they’re actually contending. Look at the Yankees this year. The Brewers. You get the right pieces and you get guys that click and you look at Mikie (Mahtook) this year, he’s been tremendous. You get another piece like that and everything meshes and you have a chance to win. It’s not so black-and-white as to say, ‘Hey, we’re transitioning,’ that we’re going to lose. It’s not automatic.”
Could you envision a scenario in which that’s the case here?
“What, that we can win? That’s all I envision. I don’t envision anything else.”
“100%. I don’t look at anything else. As long as I’m part of this organization, my plan is to win and I’m not a negative person. We’ve talked about it a lot, even when I’m going through tough times, I’m not one to sit here and say woe is me or woe is the organization. I mean, we’re just going to have to grind through this. I’m not that person. And I would hope that everybody else in this locker room is not that person. We gotta find a way to win. Whether it’s going into this off-season, whatever moves we gotta make, whether it’s going into next year. Like I said, as long as I’m wearing that Old English D, we’re going to win, in my mind.”
Justin, you’ve done a really good job of seemingly keeping your focus with all that we’ve asked you about the probability of trade speculation. At some point, do you just want to get some sort of resolution about staying or going?
“I have the ultimate say-so, so I guess that makes it a little bit easier. There is no kind of like, questioning everyday if I’m going to be coming in and going somewhere else because they have to approach me first. So I guess that makes it a little bit easier. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t on my mind, my dreams tell me otherwise. I think I do a pretty good job when I come here to the ballpark of kind of putting everything in the back of my mind and going about my business and trying to prepare to pitch every fifth game but there’s been some nights where I wake up and remember dreams of whatever. I mean, who knows what team I’m going to or whatever. It’s on my mind, that’s for sure. But it’s not going to limit or prohibit me from doing my job here.”
If they were to make personnel moves in the off-season going forward that were to signal a rebuild, is that something that you want to be a part of at this stage of your career?
“I think, you know, I think it would be tough to be part of a full rebuild. I don’t know what the plan is. That’s a question for (general manager) Al (Avila). I think from what he’s said in the past, it’s more along the lines of a transition, slowly transitioning and not necessarily, it’s not just like shipping everybody off, it’s move pieces when and if you can. If you want. I think right now, I’m looking around the locker room and I think Miguel (Cabrera) will be back here, I’ll be back here, (Ian) Kinsler will be back here, Justin Upton will be back here and a lot of other guys. So I think a lot of other teams would think that’s a pretty good core. (Michael) Fulmer. So. (Jordan) Zimmermann. That’s a pretty good core of guys. There’s a brighter side to look at it than there is right now, in my opinion.”
Is there anything specific in your mind that needs to change?