Justin Verlander wants to be the game’s first $200 million pitcher

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Since Felix Hernandez inked his seven-year, $175 million extension with the Mariners earlier this month, there has been a lot of discussion about who will be the game’s first $200 million pitcher. One of the most likely candidates, Justin Verlander, tells Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports that he feels he is deserving of the distinction.

“I don’t play this game to make the most money. But I do feel like it would be nice to be compensated for what I feel like I’ve been: one of the best, if not the best, the last few years. In my career, I feel like I’ve been one of the top. But the last two years, I’ve kind of separated myself, me and a handful of other guys.

“It’s not a thing where I’m like, ‘Hey, I want to be the highest-paid player,’ where that’s the chief goal. It innately comes with my competitiveness. That’s just me. That’s not why I play the game. I’m good at the game because of that side of me, because I’m competitive at everything I do.”

While Verlander said “free agency is really cool,” he also doesn’t think that he has “to be a free agent to get [$200 million].” In other words, if the Tigers come to him with the right offer, he would listen. But he’s also keenly aware that if he continues to pitch the way he has over the past two years, there could be a serious bidding war on the open market.

Verlander, who turned 30 on Wednesday, is currently eligible to become a free agent following the 2014 season. Dodgers’ left-hander Clayton Kershaw might be the best candidate of all to top $200 million, as he’s nearly five years younger than Verlander. By the way, he’s also due to become a free agent after 2014.

Carlos Gomez questions Collin McHugh’s manhood after benches-clearing incident on Monday

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Tempers flared between the Astros and Rangers on Monday in Arlington. In the bottom of the second inning, Astros starter Collin McHugh threw a first-pitch fastball inside to Rangers outfielder Carlos Gomez. Gomez didn’t like it, so he stared at McHugh for a few seconds. Gomez fouled off the next pitch and jawed at McHugh before taking a few steps towards the mound. McHugh came in and the benches emptied. Fortunately, order was quickly restored and both teams were issued warnings.

The Astros and Rangers had a benches-clearing incident earlier this season as well. In a game in Houston on May 1, Astros starter Lance McCullers threw inside to Mike Napoli, which caused the benches to spill out onto the field. McHugh also hit Gomez with a first pitch fastball in the second inning on August 31 and Mike Fiers did the same in the second inning on August 12. As a result, Gomez thinks the Astros have it out for him. Via Levi Weaver of WFAA Sports:

Gomez referenced manhood a couple different times, saying, “I’m a man and I’m responsible.” Referring to McHugh, Gomez said, “he’s not man enough to tell me [that he’s going to hit me] face-to-face.” He continued, “So if you’re a real man, you tell me to my face, not send me a message.”

Per MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart and Sam Butler, McHugh said after the game:

The second pitch, he took a big swing and fouled it off and took about five steps out toward the mound, looking me straight in the eye. I just asked him if we had a problem. It was a rhetorical question because, clearly, he’s got a problem with me. I don’t exactly know what it is, but whatever the case, he came out and I asked him what the issue was and he said, ‘Yeah, I got a problem with you.’ That was it. Everybody else was out there by that point in time. The game goes on. I don’t want to spend any more mental effort thinking about Carlos Gomez.

The series resumes on Tuesday night as Dallas Keuchel will oppose Cole Hamels. It will be interesting to see if the drama bleeds over into this one.

Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the nachos guy from yesterday’s game

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In the bottom of the second inning of Monday night’s game at Busch Stadium, Cubs shortstop Addison Russell dove into the stands down the left field line in an attempt to catch a foul ball. A Cardinals fan holding a tray of nachos was in Russell’s path and had his tasty treat knocked onto the dirt in front of the stands. Russell did the fan a solid, though, bringing him a new tray of nachos and posed for a selfie. The fan was also later seen taking selfies with other fans.

That peeved Cubs starter Jon Lester, who started Monday’s game. Via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Great effort,” pitcher Jon Lester said. “But I don’t understand the other stuff.

“A guy fell into him and got nacho cheese on his arm and now he’s taking pictures and signing autographs. It shows you where our society’s at right now with all that stuff.”

It wasn’t like Lester had a poor outing and that’s why he was salty. The lefty yielded just one run on five hits and two walks with four strikeouts over six innings. Lester just, uh, hates selfies, I guess? I’m also not sure how the whole scenario is a reflection of American society, unless he means that people can turn a disappointing situation into a fun and heartwarming situation.

At least Russell and Cubs manager Joe Maddon had a good sense of humor about it. Maddon said the whole thing was “pretty entertaining.” Russell said, “You don’t get between a man and his nachos.”