This past week, the baseball world got hit with some incredibly unfortunate news: the legendary Justin Verlander is going to have Tommy John surgery on his right pitching elbow. He is officially out for the 2020 season and likely 2021 as well. The 2019 AL Cy Young winner is now 37 years old and heading into the twilight of his career. Considering he will likely be 39 by the time he sniffs a comeback, is it time for Verlander to consider retiring? The Daily Campus’ Mike Mavredakis and Evan Rodriguez are here to entertain this question.
Mike Mavredakis: Growing up, Justin Verlander was my guy. I used his wind-up to pitch in Little League. I watched as much film on him as I possibly could. He is on my Mt. Rushmore of favorite baseball players. He has nothing left to prove. He is a no-doubt Hall of Famer in my opinion. I do not want him to retire by any means, but I would understand if it was time and I think he should definitely consider it.
Realistically, it is going to be a rough comeback trail for Verlander at his age. His elbow has been through a lot over the years — with nearly 3,000 career innings on his arm over his 16-year career. Despite pitching incredibly well over nearly his entire career, in the year coming off an injury he was nowhere near as effective. He should consider retiring because he has no reason to stick around. He has accomplished what he needs to accomplish, he has a World Series ring, two Cy Youngs and a pitching Triple Crown. His career 71.8 bWAR is enough to get him in the Hall and his record confirms his candidacy. Hang it up now, Justin, it might be time.
nearly 3,000 career innings on his arm over his 16-year career
Evan Rodriguez: If we’re looking at all-time great Justin Verlander, he has definitely accomplished so much over a storied career. However, Verlander still has a great amount left in the tank if we look at what he has accomplished in his short time in Houston. With a 43-15 record in Houston and a 2019 Cy Young Award to reward his work on the mound, it’s clear that he is not falling behind by any means. With his opening start in the COVID-19 shortened season, Verlander continued to prove that he can still compete with a six-inning start that resulted in only two runs allowed and seven strikeouts on the day.
When Verlander injured himself after attempts to return to a playoff-bound Astros team, he ended his comments with a message:
“I’m confident that with a proper rehabilitation program and my unwavering commitment that this surgery will ultimately lengthen my career as opposed to shorten it. I can’t thank my teammates, coaches, the front office and my fans enough for the support they have given me so far in this process. I’m eager to get through this recovery and back on the field to continue to do what I love.”
Verlander’s mindset is in a place where he still loves the game very much and knows he still has the talent left to compete and give the Houston Astros great pitching in a time where the team could use it. If he wants to continue to compete just as he has continuously over his career and further an already great legacy amongst the greatest pitchers of all time, there is no reason to put down the glove.
MM: I completely agree he probably has more in the tank, and he could be productive if he comes back. There is no guarantee, though, that he would actually be productive. According to the Effectively Wild podcast from Baseball Prospectus, only 11 pitchers of Verlander’s age or older have gotten Tommy John surgery and come back to pitch in the Majors. There have been thousands of pitchers in the majors and hundreds to get Tommy John surgery at this point. While the surgery is getting more effective and recovery times are shortening, there’s really no guarantee the payoff will be there. There is a real chance he spends over a year trying to come back and he can’t. I feel like that will be much more crushing than just saying, “O.K., it’s time” and hanging it up.
Justin, it’s O.K. to stop and look back now. I hope you don’t have to retire, but I think the baseball world will understand if you decide to walk away.
ER: If we can all agree on one thing, it is that Justin Verlander is one of the greatest to step on the pitcher’s mound. Verlander is not your average MLB starting pitcher, and with a storied injury history that has seen him recover again and again to put up impressive numbers that pitchers his age would dream of, he clearly has the capability to put up productive numbers. The persistence of Verlander does not seem like it has changed even into the late years of a superb career. Justin clearly loves the game just as much as he has throughout his career, and Tommy John surgery should not push back his career if he still wants to continue. With plenty of recovery time and a shortened season due to COVID-19, this is the perfect opportunity to recover and come back playing just as well as before. The numbers and attitude are there, Justin. Good luck on a great recovery and let’s see a great return to the mound like baseball fans know you are going to do.