You know who Justin Verlander is? I mean, besides the dominant pitcher in baseball these days.
Who does Verlander compare to in recent Detroit sports history? After careful consideration, this is who he’s becoming: Barry Sanders.
Sanders was, arguably, the best running back in football, and on any given Sunday, he could do something for the Lions you hadn’t seen before. Every seven days, we were riveted.
Verlander is, arguably, the best pitcher in baseball, and in any given start, he could do something for the Tigers you haven’t seen before. Every five days, we’re riveted.
We haven’t had that around here, well, since Barry retired. You hope to see it consistently out of Calvin Johnson, and you saw it in a stirring rookie season out of Ndamukong Suh. Those are really, really good football players, but not transcendent players (yet).
Miguel Cabrera is really, really, really good, but his power isn’t unique. He’s never been a 40-home run guy.
As good as the Red Wings are, they’re so balanced, it’s rare for one player to dominate one game. Pavel Datsyuk comes closest, but he doesn’t necessarily do something no one else in hockey can do.
The Pistons don’t have anybody that awes you. In fact, as good as they were back in 2004, they were so balanced, nothing consistently stood out, other than Ben Wallace’s hair.
We joke about it, but no one’s kidding when they say Verlander is a threat to throw a no-hitter every outing. He has one this season and flirted with three others — into the sixth inning once, into the eighth inning twice.
The difference between Sanders and Verlander is this: Sanders disdained the show and Verlander loves the show. You especially see it when he faces a tough opposing pitcher, like that Fireworks Special against the Angels and Jered Weaver.
Sanders was far more humble. Verlander talks humbly, but the guy knows he has the most-dazzling fastball in the game, and unleashes all 100 mph of it judiciously. He’s 16-5 and should win the Cy Young, not necessarily because he might have the best numbers, but because he makes opponents and fans shake their heads, as little No. 20 once did for the Lions.