This is must-click link material: a story by Brandon Sneed at Bleacher Report about the Justin Verlander Renaissance.
You know the basics: Cy Young/MVP-winning pitcher who began to break down in 2013, who soon became more famous for who his girlfriend was than his pitching and who, somehow, got back to Cy Young form by 2016 and last year helped lead the Houston Astros to the World Series title.
This story is about the “somehow.” Turns out that that girlfriend, Kate Upton, played a huge, huge part in the Renaissance. Not just as some sort of cliche moral support device — though she certainly provided that in spades — but in helping him find a doctor who, in turn, helped figure out what was truly wrong with Verlander and helped him rebuild his health and his delivery to get back to his old elite level. The Tigers did not comment about how Upton and Verlander’s new doctor could help him figure it out when they could not, but I suppose that’s all rather academic.
A good read for a couple of reasons. First, because it covers an elite ballplayer’s comeback, and those stories are always good. But second, because of a reason Lindsey Adler of The Athletic noted a little bit ago:
The World Series champion Red Sox are scheduled to visit President Trump in the White House on February 15. Some have speculated that manager Álex Cora, who is from Puerto Rico and has been critical of Trump and has been a big factor in Hurricane Maria relief efforts, might not go as a form of protest. Thus far, nothing concrete has been reported on that front.
However, third baseman Rafael Devers says he isn’t going to join the Red Sox on their visit to the White House, Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston reports. Devers would prefer to focus on baseball, as the Red Sox open spring training on February 13 and position players have to report on February 17. Per Chris Mason, Devers also said via a translator, “The opportunity was presented and I just wasn’t compelled to go.”
Devers hails from the Dominican Republic and he, like many of Major League Baseball’s foreign-born player base, might not be happy about Trump’s immigration policies. Understandably, he is being tight-lipped about his motivation, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Devers is making a silent protest by choosing not to attend. He is thus far the only member of the team to bow out.
Devers, 22, hit .240/.298/.433 with 21 home runs, 66 RBI, and 59 runs scored in 490 plate appearances last season.
Last year, when the Astros visited Trump at the White House, they did so without Carlos Correa and Carlos Beltrán. Both are from Puerto Rico. It is certainly not unprecedented for individual players to opt out of the White House visit.
No word yet on what food will be served during Boston’s trip to the nation’s capital, but the smart money is on hamberders.