We went over the silliness of attempting to scrub history last year when Ryan Braun’s positive test for testosterone was revealed after winning the MVP, but apparently we have to go over this again. Dejan Kovacevic, specifically, thinks that Melky Cabrera, should he finish the season with the highest average, should not be considered the NL batting champ:
There’s no sane thought process in which he would be allowed to claim a batting crown … But even if Selig wants to keep baseball’s asterisk-free approach to history, he has an easy escape hatch: Forgo the Tony Gwynn Rule in this one instance. Let Cabrera forever linger one plate appearance shy. His hits remain intact, but he’s disqualified from the crown.
Selig’s got the authority within the famous “best interests of baseball” clause, and it’s imperative that he uses it.
Not after the fact, either.
This is yet another example — see yesterday’s — of people wanting to take an orderly and routine punishment process and turn it into some system of emotion-driven post-hoc righteous reactionary retribution. And it is, by definition, reactionary and emotion-driven. If it was something other than that, something borne of logic and reason, it would have been considered before the fact. This is all about people seeing something that should have been quite foreseeable — a top player in the hunt for an award or a title — testing positive during the season — and getting an immediate jolt of that’s-not-fair-itis.
The thing is, though, that no punishment system worth a damn works on a post-hoc, retributive basis. Melky Cabrera got those hits under the system we have. They actually happened. Taking away a batting title if he wins it does nothing to change that and, more importantly and obviously, does nothing to deter Melky Cabrera.
If you want to change the rule going forward and make a guy ineligible to be the batting champ or home run champ or whatever after a suspension, fine, do it. That’s how laws and rules work: prospectively. But now, suddenly saying “Melky can’t be the batting champ!” would be nothing more than a revenge-fuled emotional salve. And that’s not what any of this should be about.
Last week, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reported that Astros starter and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander changed his mechanics in order to prolong his career. Specifically, Verlander lowered his release point from 7’2″ to 6’5″.
As Brooks Baseball shows, Verlander drastically altered his release point after being traded to the Astros from the Tigers on August 31, 2017. The change resulted in a huge bump in his strikeout rate. Verlander’s strikeout rate ranged between 16% and 27.4% with the Tigers, mostly settling in the 23-25% range. With The Tigers through the first five months of 2017, Verlander struck out 24.1% of batters. In the final month with the Astros, he struck out 35.8% of batters. He then maintained that rate over the entire 2018 and ’19 seasons with respective rates of 34.8% and 35.4%. Just as impressively, the release point also resulted in fewer walks. His walk rate ranged from 5.9% to 9.9% with the Tigers but was 4.4% and 5.0% the last two seasons with the Astros.
Verlander finished a runner-up in 2018 AL Cy Young Award balloting to Blake Snell before edging out teammate Gerrit Cole for the award last season. Despite the immense success, Verlander described his mechanics as unsustainable. Per The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan, Verlander said, “I changed a lot of stuff that some people would think was unnecessary. But I thought it was necessary, especially if I want to play eight, 10 more years.”
Verlander is 37 years old, so 10 more seasons would put him into Jamie Moyer territory. Moyer, who consistently ranked among baseball’s softest-tossing pitchers, pitched 25 seasons in the majors from 1986-2012. He threw 111 2/3 innings with the Phillies in 2010 at the age of 47 and 53 2/3 innings with the Rockies in 2012 at 49. But aside from Moyer and, more recently, Bartolo Colon, it’s exceedingly rare for pitchers to extend their careers into their 40’s, let alone their mid- and late-40’s.
The Astros have Verlander under contract through 2021. The right-hander will have earned close to $300 million. He’s won a World Series, a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP Award, two Cy Youngs, and has been an eight-time All-Star. Verlander could retire after 2021 and would almost certainly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2027. That he continues to tweak his mechanics in order to pitch for another decade speaks to his highly competitive nature.