Astros ace Justin Verlander and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan have a number of similarities to each other. Both are right handed power pitchers; both have a World Series with a team of destiny (‘69 Miracle Mets for Ryan and ‘17 Harvey-fueled Astros for Verlander); and most importantly, both pitchers age like fine wine. Verlander, like Ryan before him, is only getting better with age.
The eerie connection they might soon have: After the 2019 season, they might both be powerhouse Hall of Fame pitchers that leave the Astros for another team. Ryan famously bolted for Arlington when the Astros organization drew a line in the sand on the negotiating table. To this day it haunts this writer and any Astros fan who was lucky enough to see number 34 take the hill in the 8th wonder of the world that there is a Texas Rangers T on his hat in Cooperstown instead of the Houston Astros H.
Verlander’s name will someday be enshrined with the immortals in upstate New York. When that day comes, many assume he will don a Detroit Tigers hat for the team that drafted him and where much of his domination has been imposed on Major League Baseball from. However, it cannot be understated what winning and appreciation does for a player in regard to that decision. Simply said, The Houston Astros would not have won the 2017 World Series without Justin Verlander, and the 2018 Astros were carried by Verlander most of the season. The 2018 version of Verlander arguably was better than 2017 Verlander, and the case can also be made that he should have been the recipient of the American League Cy Young Award. (He finished second to the Tampa Bay Rays’ Blake Snell.)
Verlander has found rejuvenation in Houston; the Brent Strom effect worked on him, along with “co-ace” Gerrit Cole. Verlander has been an ALCS MVP in Houston, a World Series Champion in Houston, and pitched the biggest games of his career during the Fall Classic in Houston. A notable fan during those pivotal moments of Verlander’s career? None other than Verlander’s childhood hero the Alvin Express himself.
Verlander told Mark Berman of Fox 26 last week that the Astros had not approached him about an extension, but that he “wouldn’t be opposed” to it. While players will always play coy when it comes to contract extensions, and the Luhnow front office will without a doubt keep this all behind closed doors, this is all Astro fans need to hear to be convinced Verlander needs to be paid. You’re not only paying for a continuation of the Astros’ “dynasty,” a term star third basemen Alex Bregman used earlier this week. You are paying to ensure the Houston Astros get it right this time, you are paying to right the wrongs of Astros past, and you are paying to show that Jim Crane and Jeff Luhnow are not John McMullen and Bill Wood. If the Astros play this situation the right way this go-round, make room next to 5 and 7 in the rafters for 35.