By: RICKY LINDSAY, STAFF COLUMNIST
As spring training comes to a close and Opening Day arrives in some areas, a topic that has captured my attention in the month of March remains on my mind. During the World Baseball Classic, the word captain was thrown around quite often, even after Team USA’s “Captain America”, David Wright, joined the ranks of the rare and prestigious title.
I’m not talking about Wright’s superhero inspired nickname; I’m talking about the third baseman being named Major League Baseball’s third active captain, joining Derek Jeter and Paul Konerko, as the other two during the 2013 campaign.
In a sport that has very few captains, I ask myself this question; who do I think would be the current captain of the Detroit Tigers? Of course, this is all hypothetical, as the Tigers will most likely not use a captain for quite some time, but it still serves as an enjoyable topic to think about.
There are very many options, depending on the qualities you think go into being a captain. For me, a captain is someone that is a leader to others. The captain serves as the go-to guy for many up and coming players on the team. They lead with words and by example, both on and off the field.
Tenure throughout the organization is also important to me, as a player would know the “Tiger way” of doing things. Going through each step of the organization in player development is key to understanding how the team does things, such as Jeter and the Yankees.
If you asked me this question years ago, I would’ve easily responded with Brandon Inge. Although Inge wasn’t a star for the Tigers, he worked hard day in and day out, becoming a fan favorite for doing things the Tiger way during his 14 years with the organization.
It’s 2013, and things have changed since then. The Tigers now have three superstars on their team in Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Justin Verlander.
Is Cabrera worthy of being the Tigers captain? The third baseman won the MVP and baseball’s first hitting triple crown since 1967 last season, but didn’t progress in the Tigers organization. Yes, Cabrera is a fan favorite and could very well become the best hitter to ever pick up a baseball bat, but he doesn’t have all of my qualities that make a captain.
What about Fielder? Fielder has been with the Tigers since 2012, but grew up around the organization as a child when his father, Cecil, was with the team. Fielder is a tremendous player, but doesn’t have the tenure that I think a captain needs to have. He hasn’t been around the Tigers long enough as a player to know what it’s like to grow in the organization.
That leaves Verlander, baseball’s most dominant, and now, richest pitcher. Verlander was the second overall pick by the Tigers in 2004, and grew as a player with the Tigers minor league affiliates. With his recent contract extension, Verlander will be a Tiger for life, and knows the way the organization operates.
Not only is Verlander baseball’s best pitcher, he is my hypothetical choice for the captain of the Tigers. Verlander is a vocal guy and offers support to teammates on the bench. His tenure, the way he carries himself, and his fun loving attitude makes this an easy choice for me, as there is no player in the game other than Verlander that I would want leading my team as captain.