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Justin Verlander’s troubling hypocrisy

Justin Verlander has always been a hypocrite, the recent sign-stealing scandal makes it all the more obvious.

MLB: World Series-Washington Nationals at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

No one likes a hypocrite. That is a simple statement but it’s universally true. People disagree on a lot of things on this planet, some that make sense and many that don’t. No matter the culture, country, or place we all seem to be able to agree that hypocrites are awful. When that hypocrite is a public figure who proudly displays his hypocrisy for the world to see, it’s all the worse. Justin Verlander is one such hypocrite.

Before Houston Astros fans get mad at me for piling-on their team, let’s take a look at the facts. This past weekend the tall Astros right-hander was at the Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards dinner in New York to accept the 2019 American League Cy Young award, as bestowed upon him by the BBWAA. At the same time, this award dinner was taking place mere weeks after Major League Baseball had dropped the hammer on the Astros for electronically stealing signs during the 2017 season and parts of the 2018 season. Knowing this Verlander accepted his award and during his speech made the comment that “everyone knows the Astros are technologically and analytically advanced”, a comment that did not go over very well in the room.

Maybe it was a joke as some have alluded to, or maybe as others have been quick to point out ,Verlander was being serious and couldn’t understand why others were laughing. Either option could be true but the words were still said and they came about in the context of the information laid out in the previous paragraph. The moment that those words left Verlander’s lips he confirmed what others had been saying and thinking about him since he joined the Astros: this guy is a hypocrite.

Verlander’s hypocrisy comes about in part because of the self-image he helped cultivate over the years. During his time with the Detroit Tigers Verlander was a vocal opponent of sign stealing. Not only did he take issue with traditional player-driven sign-stealing but he was vocal about his problems with electronic sign-stealing as well. Quoted in a 2017 Evan Woodberry article for MLive Verlander had this to say:

“It’s not about gamesmanship anymore,” he said. “It used to be, ‘Hey, if you can get my signs, good for you.’ In the past, if a guy on second (base) was able to decipher it on a few pitches, I guess that was kind of part of the game. I think it’s a different level now. It’s not good.”

Let those words sink-in for a moment because they are important to the type of person Verlander is proving himself to be. When electronic sign-stealing was something negatively affecting Verlander and his performance, he felt the need to loudly proclaim how awful it was and how much it was hurting the game. Fast forward a couple of years to a world where we know that the Astros used a complicated electronic sign-stealing scheme to attempt to win games and Verlander remained silent.

He had nothing to say on the matter for months during MLB’s investigation. This seemed odd as Verlander had positioned himself as a sort of independent policeman on various issues in MLB over the years. He then followed up his self-imposed silence with either an ill-timed joke about the Astros nefarious sign-stealing, or a comment that is in favor of the Astros actions.

The future Hall of Famer has displayed hypocrisy before, we just collectively chose to ignore the best example. Verlander was outspoken about the need to properly address domestic violence in MLB until the Astros signed known domestic abuser Roberto Osuna. As soon as a domestic abuser was on Verlander’s team and could help him win another World Series his tune changed. Gone was the tough as nails rhetoric about domestic violence not having a place in MLB, in its stead were empty platitudes about Osuna’s character and a healthy helping of silence from MLB’s most upstanding citizen.

Verlander’s award dinner comments aren’t anything new from him. They continue a pattern he has always shown of operating under the assumption that his success, and what is best for him, are all that matter. Along the way, Verlander tricked fans into thinking he was a paragon of virtue and a warrior ready to fight for justice and fair play in MLB.

The reality is that Verlander is a wolf in sheep’s clothing who will say or do whatever needs to be said to help one, and only one, person; Justin Verlander. If Verlander wants to help better MLB’s image then he should start with policing his own hypocrisy.