Verlander wins MLB Player of the Year at Players Choice

Justin Verlander kept repeating a phrase all year when reporters asked: If you expect greatness, greatness shouldn’t surprise you. The recognition of that greatness, though, might be a surprise for a few people.

As badly as he might want MVP-type recognition, he couldn’t be sure he was going to get it, a question more of precedence than performance. His first chance came from his peers, who decided he was the best player in baseball this year — not just best pitcher, best player.

As a result, Verlander became the second pitcher ever to win MLB Player of the Year honors at the annual Players Choice awards. Whether or not it was a surprise for Verlander, it was clearly meaningful as he talked about it on a conference call with reporters.

“Coming from your peers makes it all the more special,” Verlander said. “I think with all the talk about should a pitcher be able to win MVP or a top player award, I think it shows a lot of support for my fellow players to be able to vote me for that. I think it means a lot. When it comes from your peers, the guys you’re playing with, the guys you’re playing against, it’s special.”

The Player of the Year award covers both leagues, and dates back to 1998. Before then, the MLB Players Association had one award for each league’s best pitcher, and one for each league’s best position player, with no mixing.

The last pitcher to win MVP honors from baseball writers, Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley, did it in 1992, six years before the Players Choice awards added their equivalent. Some pitchers made their case since. Pedro Martinez won it in 1999. Randy Johnson had a case in 2002, as did Johan Santana in 2006. They all won pitching triple crowns and led their teams into the postseason, but they still didn’t have the resume Verlander posted in 2011.

Though Verlander didn’t allow himself to reflect on his season until the Tigers’ run through October ended in the AL Championship Series, his fellow players had to reflect a lot sooner than that.

“Obviously from a personal standpoint, it was an amazing year,” Verlander said. “I worked extremely hard for this, and I told you guys a few times, if you expect greatness it shouldn’t surprise you. I’ve always expected myself to be able to pitch this way. It still doesn’t surprise me that I did.”

Yet it still surprised him to be mentioned with Martinez, Santana, Johnson and others among the greatest single seasons in baseball history.

“Looking back and seeing how the numbers stack up, even to be mentioned in that category, I know it doesn’t measure up to some of them, it’s still pretty special,” Verlander said. “I think it’ll be a season I remember for a long time.”

Verlander easily beat out Angels All-Star Jered Weaver and Rays ace James Shields for AL Outstanding Pitcher. His competitors for MLB Player of the Year were his former Detroit teammate Curtis Granderson, who hit 41 homers with 119 RBIs while leading the league with 136 runs scored, and Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez, who finished second to Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera in batting average at .338 while driving in 117 runs and posting a .410 on-base percentage.

To beat them out was big. Verlander tried to match that with what he did with his winnings. The Player of the Year honor comes with a $50,000 grant from the Players Trust to the winner’s charity of choice. AL Outstanding Pitcher brings another $20,000. Verlander took that $70,000, added $30,000 of his own and split the total between two veterans hospitals in metro Detroit.

The John D. Dingell Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Detroit and the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System in Ann Arbor will receive donations of $50,000 each. Both took part in the Verlander’s Victory for Veterans program this summer, allowing veterans who sustained injuries or illness serving in Iraq or Afghanistan to enjoy a game from Verlander’s luxury suite at Comerica Park on days when Verlander started.

“I added a little bit to make it a nice round number,” Verlander said. “I wanted to donate some of my own money because it’s a personal cause. It’s something I believe in. This is something I feel greatly, so I wanted to give some of my own money.”

11 Comments

That’s awesome JV!

MVP! MVP!

Having worked at the Ann Arbor VA for 17 years and being a veteran myself, thank you, Justin.

Nice work, Justin. You’re the best in the business! Now, on to the Cy and the MVP!

Just thinking out loud here, but the Tigers played an astounding .756 baseball for the full final quarter of last season. That was with Young in left, Betemit/Inge at third, and Santiago at second, with Kelly and Raburn filling in all over. They were without Boesch, had a struggling Penny, and a suspect middle bullpen. How’d they do that? Obviously something was working, and for an extended period.
Talk of upgrading position players makes me nervous. Obviously if Boesch is put into the lineup, one of the above guys has to go since we’re adding a backup catcher. Who do you remove from a unit that played so well?

Realistically what will likely happen is santiago and betemit. Add a 2B and a backup catcher and you’re done. And maybe a bullpen piece.

Not that simple. They’d have to acquire a 2ndbaseman as good as or better than Santiago, and that would leave Inge and Kelly to handle 3rdbase for the entire season. You don’t want to come back next year with less than we had this year.

touche, sir. In my book, we lacked 2 things this postseason that we can fix: 1. some of our key bats (Boesch, Alex, VMart) due to injury, 2. any right handed bullpen middle relief (Perry, Al^2 both not performing well). I figure the backup catcher can solve the Alex/Vmart issue and a solid righty from the pen should solve problem #2. Betimit did nothing but strike out in the postseason so we shouldn’t miss him any. Kelly was actually pretty hot at the end of the year and i have no problem platooning him at 3rd with inge next year in a similar situation….assuming the OF is not needing him to play due to injuries.

So on a similar note, i hear talk about Kelly Johnson possibly being signed for 2B …. because he might be a leadoff type. HOWEVER, he had an even WORSE OBP than jackson last year – certainly he can’t be our leadoff guy….

starting to wonder if Delmon Young is in Tigers’ plans for next year. thought it was a slam dunk, but it sounds like they don’t want to commit to him for more than one year and might look to get a leadoff hitter instead for LF in 2012. could Delmon be trade bait this offseason?

He’s defense and batting average aren’t very good IMO

one more thing…maybe Tigers should talk to Baltimore about Brian Roberts (when Baltimore decides on a GM). missed alot of last year due to concussion, but he’d be a good fit at the top of the Tigers’ lineup. still owed $10 million per year next 2 seasons.

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