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Houston Astros star Justin Verlander took the high road after a recent report detailed apparent discord during his time with the New York Mets.
“I want to say that I have nothing but respect for the Mets organization and I enjoyed connecting with all of my teammates this season… new and old!!” he said Monday. “It was truly a wonderful group of people.”
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The New York Post‘s Mike Puma cited one source Saturday who described Verlander as a “diva.” He reported the right-hander “often complained about the Mets’ analytics department, which he deemed inferior to the one that served him in Houston.”
Puma’s report also said Verlander “was largely detached from teammates” and “didn’t add to the team’s identity.” Per Puma, Verlander and Max Scherzer had a “strained relationship” during their time together on the Detroit Tigers. And while the two “worked toward harmony” in Queens, there was reportedly “occasional discord.”
The drama between Scherzer and Verlander was somewhat foreseeable. Former Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski told Newsday‘s Tim Healey in December the two aces “butted heads” at times when they were teammates in the Motor City.
“It was never a bad butting,” Dombrowski said. “It would be more from a competitive perspective — which isn’t always bad. ‘OK, you pitched, now I’m going to be better than you.’
“I don’t think they were two who went out a lot with one another, that type of [social, friendly] situation. I’d say the competitive aspect is the way to describe it. They were not the best of buddies, but I didn’t have any problems with them.”
More broadly, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal also cited an Astros player who described Verlander as “more accessible” and “more engaged in the clubhouse environment than he was prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2020.” It certainly gave an impression the opposite — or something resembling it — had been the case before.
The fact of the matter, however, is that Verlander’s behavior behind the scenes probably isn’t a story right now if the Mets were on track to make the playoffs. It becomes easy to point fingers when New York is 12 games under .500 and fourth in the National League East.
Verlander unquestionably played a role in the Mets underwhelming to this degree. His strikeout rate (7.7 per nine innings) and his 3.84 FIP were both well below the standard he set in 2022. Being an ace of the staff also comes with certain expectations within the clubhouse that he may not have been fulfilling.
But throwing Verlander under the bus is probably counterproductive when it’s likely to lead to further scrutiny toward the organization.