Verlander chooses Detroit

It was a good Friday, indeed.

Justin Verlander signed a contract extension through 2019 that could vest to include 2020. It will allow him to buy another Aston Martin or two or 20, a small island, his own golf course or a mansion for every member of his family.

Verlander has the richest contract ever given a pitcher and will collect either $180 million or $202 million by the time he turns 36 or 37.

That’s good for him. Verlander is, in essence, a Tiger for life.

It’s also good for the foundation of the ballclub.

The first thing I thought of when the news about Verlander’s deal hit was that Miguel Cabrera becomes that much easier to sign to a similar extension about one year from now. Cabrera’s eight-year, $153 million contract runs through 2015. He has to see this as proof of lasting commitment from the organization, and a sign of what he can expect from owner Mike Ilitch if Cabrera also wants to play for the Tigers for the rest of his career.

All of this is good for the city of Detroit.

Verlander’s long-term commitment is good for more than just Tigers fans. It’s good for the spirit of a city whose citizens need something or somebody to make them feel good about themselves.

Detroiters get brought down by the recession, a city lacking vision and the endless news reports on a former mayor who just got tossed in the slammer for corruption. It’s a tidal wave of negativity on an almost daily basis.

Those in the city, even the suburbs and across the state, can feel good about Verlander. And not just because the best pitcher in baseball has opted to stay with their favorite baseball team.

This Friday tweet from @JustinVerlander caused a real buzz: “I love this city & the fans — couldn’t be more excited to spend my career here! We’re going to bring a World Series to Detroit!!!”

Adding to the positive vibe was the change to Verlander’s Twitter page.  He used to have a golf-course landscape as the background to his photo. Now his background is a shot of downtown Detroit glistening at night from across the Detroit River.

Verlander has been an unabashed supporter of all things Detroit ever since taking root in his adopted city. He spends the winters in his native Virginia and Lakeland, Fla., but always seems happy to be back in April.

Still, I thought he might just be making the best of his situation and the town where he had to live for six months each year.

Signing this contract means Verlander, without a doubt, has taken a shine to Motown and pride in the city. He could’ve pitched here two more years, and left for the glamor and warmth of Los Angeles or the glitz and grandeur of New York.

Verlander could spend the rest of his career anywhere but chose Detroit. He chose us.

Now his Twitter mugshot inset into the Detroit skyline is of a widely smiling Verlander with a World Series logo in the background. It’s a photo taken last October.

The logo represents his goal, and the photo represents the town he wants to achieve that goal with.

What more could a city and Tigers fans want out of a player?

Verlander has won 124 games in seven seasons. If he duplicates that in the assured seven seasons remaining in Detroit, he will have 248 wins at age 37.

While joking with Verlander about turning 30 last month, he told me he definitely wants to pitch to 40, so there could be one more contract in his future.

He’s definitely is on pace for 300 victories and a career that will end in Cooperstown — which is his ultimate goal.

He might very well join Al Kaline and Charlie Gehringer as the only players in the Baseball Hall of Fame who played their entire careers in Detroit.

When all is said and done, he could become Kaline’s counterpart as the ultimate Tiger and the spirit of Detroit. Verlander is halfway there and has the contract to complete the vision.

Friday was a good day here for so many reasons.