As Minnesota's Phil Hughes has experienced a resurgence in 2014, Detroit's Justin Verlander has endured one of the worst stretches of his career. While these turnarounds often have explanations in everything from bad luck to a simple change of scenery, the fates of these two hurlers are connected by the allegedly cursed trough urinal at Miami's Fontainebleau Hotel.
"They were both here for a charity event back in January," said a hotel bathroom attendant who asked not to be named. "They used the restroom at the same time and stood next to each other at the haunted urinal, and their pee streams...they crossed. The lights flickered, and there was this, almost like a thunderclap sound, then a real strong ammonia smell. At first I thought it was just John Kruk in one of the stalls, but he wasn't even in town."
Witnesses say both men left the bathroom noticeably shaken and excused themselves to their respective hotel rooms. They left the next day, and the incident was soon forgotten. As the season nears its midpoint, with Hughes thriving and Verlander scuffling, fans and media are revisiting the midwinter incident.
"I just want answers," said Byron Craven, a Tigers fan and so-called "piss truther" from Ann Arbor who was visiting the Fontainebleau. "He was the best pitcher in baseball, then he goes to the bathroom next to Hughes and he turns into Jeremy Bonderman. Something's not right, and I aim to figure out what. Will you go in there and pee next to me?"
Neither Hughes nor Verlander would comment for this story, but sources with knowledge of the situation say that they aren't surprised.
"I think Justin was tired of the pressure in Detroit, the competition with (Max) Scherzer, all that," said a source close to the Detroit ace. "He goes to Minnesota, where they're just happy to sniff .500, and he's almost a folk hero now."
As for Hughes' motivation, a childhood friend of the former Yankee was blunt.
"Verlander is getting more money than god, he's linked to a different supermodel every other week, and the Tigers are going to win the Central no matter what. He's not stupid."
As for Craven, he just wants the situation resolved by October.
"That World Series window closes for everybody, and these hotel rooms are insanely expensive. Also, helpful hint: if you linger around hotel bathrooms and ask people to urinate next to you, eventually you'll be asking an undercover cop, who will arrest you for solicitation. Telling him that you just want to see if the magic trough urinal is real just makes it worse. I miss my family."