If there’s one thing that happens in Major League Baseball today it’s that if Justin Verlander speaks, everybody listens.

The Houston Astros’ ace right-hander is three victories shy of the 200-win benchmark which generally is the stepping stone in being nominated for future entry to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Verlander figured he would have 200 wins by the All-Star break early last month but has been unable to even get one more win since June 14. Verlander’s problem is the same thing happens quite often to former ace Dallas Keuchel—no run support,

There have been six starts for Verlander since he reached Victory No. 197 without success. Actually, he has pitched very well in most of those six games, leaving once with a 4-0 lead in the ninth inning that the usually-reliable bullpen allowed four runs, leaving Verlander with a no-decision. He has three losses and three no-decisions.

After being elected to this year’s All-Star game, Verlander said he wanted to face the Detroit Tigers on the final game before the break and would be unable to pitch in the All-Star game. He probably would have been rewarded by being named the starting pitcher.

That proved to be a bad decision as the Tigers whacked four home runs and scored six runs in six innings—the most runs he’s surrendered all season—losing 6-3 and raising his miniscule earned run average to a major league-leading 2.29.

One bright spot in Sunday’s performance is that Verlander struck out 12 Detroit hitters—his 47th double-digit strikeout game in his career—and ties him for 20th in MLB history, according to Monday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle.

Verlander also passed Bob Feller and Warren Spahn to reach 26th on the career strikeout list and stands at 2,588 after Sunday’s game.

Players and prognosticators believe that 200 wins is an impressive benchmark for today’s major league pitchers.

“It will be an impressive accomplishment given that we don’t see a lot of pitchers get to 200 that much anymore,” said Jay Jaffe, whose book “The Cooperstown Casebook” uses advance statistics to analyze which players deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

“I don’t place much stock in wins. The game has changed so much. It takes away the role of the starting pitcher,” Jaffe continued. “We understand the win much more clearly as a product of the offensive, defensive and bullpen support a pitcher gets.”

“If you’re not going to pitch deeper into games, you’re not going to win games,” said ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian. “If you win 200, it’s like winning 300 games. It’s obviously not the same thing.”

Statistics support that view because the gap is narrowing. Out of 19,343 players in major league history, only 24 have won 300 games or more.

Bartolo Colon, age 45, has 245 wins which is the most of active players. C.C. Sabathia, 37, has 243. Verlander, 35, is third, Zack Greinke, 34, is fourth with 180 and Jon Lester, 34, is fifth with 170, according to the article. None is presumed to reach 300 wins.

Each of the last 10 300-game winners—from Gaylord Perry in 1982 to Randy Johnson in 2009—pitched at least 20 seasons but since 2000 only nine starting pitchers have lasted that long in the majors.

The math suggests that to win 300 games, Verlander will have to maintain his average of 17 wins a season past age 40. “I don’t see him getting to 300,” Jaffe said. “Even if he pitches to 42, he needs to average 15 wins a year.

Going into the All-Star break, Verlander has a 9-5 record. Houston manager A.J. Hinch has allowed him to get only one complete game.

Ever since the pitch count came along, the starter gets the hook at 100 pitches or less whether his team is winning, losing or is tied.

My neighbor Bob Frank, former head football coach for the West Orange Chiefs back in the 1960’s, believes Verlander is being a bit selfish by making the All-Star team but electing not to pitch in it.

“Fans want to see the very best major league players in the All-Star game and Verlander falls into that category,” Frank said. “With starting pitchers working fewer innings, one would think that would extend their careers and make being a candidate for the Hall of Fame easier.”

Only time will tell if Verlander is right in decreasing the number of mound victories to make one a shoo-in candidate for baseball’s Hall of Fame.

KWICKIES…Can you believe that in less than three weeks training for the 2018 high school football will begin? Some schools will have those dreaded two-a-days while others will get the players in shape by running up and down the stadium steps.

Michael Kim went Sunday’s final round of the John Deere Classic without a bogey and won the event by a whopping eight strokes. It was the first win for the 25-year-old, giving Kim more than a million dollars and a two-year exemption on tour, including a trip to this week’s British Open.

Favored France won the World Cup for the second time, defeating Croatia 4=2 Sunday in Moscow. The last time France’s soccer team won the World Cup was in 1998 on home soil. It was Croatia’s first trip to the finals.

JUST BETWEEN US…It’s quite obvious that Lamar University is feeding the area’s sports media with reams of copy promoting new ladies’ softball coach Amy Hooks and yanking the public’s chains about the future plans of new athletic director Marco Born. It’s obvious he overstepped his bounds when he fired former head coach Holly Bruder and Allison Honkofsky right after arriving on the scene and then keeping it a secret why the firing took place. Not only is he facing a lawsuit, but he also has turned off many loyal Cardinal supporters. I know that if I were a Lamar alumnus, the school wouldn’t get a dime from me until he is gone.