By JOHN MACDONELL, Staff Writer
A little over a week ago, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander signed a record contract of over 180 million dollars. $180 million. For a pitcher. Now don’t get me wrong folks, Verlander is a special athlete. Pitchers of his caliber literally come around once every generation, so what we are seeing is certainly special. The Tigers did what they had to do in signing him to a monster contract. Should they have let him walk at the end of next season, they would have most certainly been out bid by teams such as the Yankees or the Dodgers. They made a wise choice in a “win-now” atmosphere. But down the road? I view this contract as a disaster.
We all know that in order to make money, you need to spend money. That hasn’t been the case for the Tigers in recent years. In fact, they are among a small number of teams that have actually LOST money the past couple seasons. Now Detroit doesn’t have the baseball market of New York or L.A. where TV moguls spend millions to acquire broadcasting rights to games. This is a giant source of revenue for these teams, allowing them to spend more money than those small market teams that survive based off of cheap talent and a little luck. Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is in dire straits. At 83 and of fragile health, he desperately wants to bring a World Series Championship to the Motor City. However, in order to have a competitive team, he needed to spend a little more. And spend he did. A payroll this year of 180 million dollars with major payouts to players like Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Verlander shows that he wants it. This can only be sustained for so long. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that a business that loses money cannot stay viable for long. They need profitability.
Verlander will be 38 when his contract expires in 2020. Many pitchers lose their velocity in their early 30s and Verlander may be no exception. Forbes business magazine estimates that the Tigers will be paying $6,900 per pitch. You read that right. $6,900. This is a staggering amount, but one that a team who is desperate to win a World Series will pay in the here and now. Tigers fans must understand that if they are going to win now, they’ll have to pay the price for later.