NEW YORK — It was a call from Steve Cohen to Justin Verlander early in free agency that helped ship the future Hall of Fame pitcher to the Mets.
The conversation had nothing to do with baseball, but it helped expose Cohen’s reliability and honesty toward building the Mets into consistent World Series contenders.
“He gave me such a positive feeling of what his vision of this franchise is and that he wants to make this franchise amazing,” said Verlander. “To follow up on this conversation with Billy (Eppler) and the rest of the staff, they all share the same vision and passion to do whatever is necessary to make this organization championship level again.
“That’s what happened for me is I wanted to be a part of this division going forward and obviously this organization took a giant step forward last year. They had a great season, and I think it will only continue in the right direction.”
At this point in his career, Verlander wants to continue snatching rings.
Fresh from a World Series and a Cy Young Award with the Astros, Verlander hopes to help the Mets take more steps toward building a consistent championship contender as he enters his 40-year-old season.
Jacob deGrom’s replacement?
Three days after Jacob DeGrom left the Mets for the Rangers, Mets and general manager Billy Eppler struck a two-year, $86.66 million deal to bring Verlander from the World Series champion.
Those early conversations with the Mets front office and DeGrom’s departure opened the door for Verlander to come to New York. And the Mets’ desire for a dynamic two-punch one-hit atop their rotation with Verlander and Max Scherzer has dampened.
“(Last season) was written to be able to help put 2 aces against any club we faced,” said Eppler. “We wanted to try and do the same thing. It was a product of that once Jacob announced himself, we looked at Justin and another pitcher, and we were able to kind of get an interest in (Verlander’s) part as well. I think he wants to be here and he wants a chance to compete for another championship.” “.
Verlander did not say he was a replacement for Degrum, but waited until his departure to make up his mind.
“He is a symbol here in this stadium and for this organisation,” Verlander said. “I don’t think it would have been fair for him or me to make that decision before he made his own.”
age is just a number
There were transitional moments in Verlander’s career, which included two World Series titles, three Cy Young Awards, and an American League Most Valuable Player award.
The first was primary muscle surgery in 2014. The second was Tommy John surgery in 2020. Through all of his accomplishments, it was adversity that allowed the 39-year-old to reset, refocus, and build better relationships with his teammates and family.
“I think that kind of shakes you up a little bit and says, ‘Hey, you know, the way you’ve been doing things isn’t necessarily the best way and left me open to changing up my routine and doing whatever it takes,'” Verlander said of his surgery in 2014.
“I have always said, when my career is over, there will be no unturned effort that has not allowed me to be as successful as I can be for as long as possible. I am constantly looking for new information and actively trying to improve myself and prolong my career.”
Upon his return from Tommy John surgery, Verlander is coming off the winning home run for Al Cy Young with an 18-4 record, a league-best 1.75 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 175 innings pitched.
While Verlander said he felt like he had a blur early on in his career, he was more adaptable, willing to help his teammates and apply new information to extend his career. The 17-year-old veteran feels far from finished.
“Why would I spend so much time, effort, work, and sacrifice and end up selling myself?” Verlander said. “It’s like running a marathon and standing a mile from the finish line. Or maybe I’m 10 miles from the finish line. I don’t know but why would you do that?”
A pair of aces
Throughout last season, the all-time strike leaderboard continued to flop.
Once upon a time, Verlander was on top. Next? It was Scherzer’s turn to jump forward. At the end of the 2022 season, Verlander was 12th all-time with 3,198 strikeouts while Scherzer was 13th with 3,193.
Now, the pair of aces, considered some of the most competitive in the league, will join the club for the second time after joining a team in Detroit between 2010 and 2014.
“I think the things I admired most about Max was just his tenacity and his competitiveness,” said Verlander. “I think we both have that in spades, but to see it from the outside looking in, it’s just something we really appreciate. When the moment comes, you don’t shy away from it. You just do your best and never go back down.”
Between them, they have brought three World Series and six Cy Young Awards to Citi Field. The duo came close to achieving their championship dream together in 2012 when they were swept by the Giants in the World Series.
Now, united once again with vast experience, they look to forge their legacy in New York.
“I look back at the time and there were two guys trying to get their foothold in the game, great shooters,” Verlander said. “I wish we were able to win it all back then. But now you look forward almost a decade later and I think we’re both in a great place professionally and we know ourselves better and we’re mature guys with families. We’re both able to have that.” Perspective, I think it can only help this situation and move forward with this organization, this new organization together.”