There are many levels when it comes to baseball fans. You’ll find occasional, casual, serious, team loyalists, old-school and new-age analytical. However, fans who play Fantasy Baseball are a breed of their own. They know who backs-up a certain position on a team, who the 5th Starter might be on another team and, maybe more importantly, who the top prospects are in each organization.
Having played this wonderful game for over 30 years, there are hundreds of failed prospect names rattling around in my brain…especially the ones who were on my team. Names like Cameron Drew (16 lifetime MLB AB’s), Steve Hosey (58 MLB AB’s with 1 HR), Billy Ashley (.233 lifetime BA), Midre Cummings (22 HR’s in 11 seasons) & Chad Hermansen (.195 lifetime BA) all showed up on the Donald’s Ducks roster…and that was just in the 90’s!
At the end of March, a USA Today piece talked about a new Manager in the Padres organization who, at the young age of 31, would be in charge of the Tri-City Dust Devils in the short-season Northwest League. His name is Brandon Wood and the first thought of veteran Fantasy players was, “Is that who I think it is”. The answer, of course, is YES! A decade ago, Brandon Wood was arguably the best prospect in baseball. A power-hitting SS, he was compared to Cal Ripken Jr. and was labeled as “Can’t Miss”. In 2005, he hit 43 HR’s in the minor leagues and then followed up with 14 more in 29 games in the Arizona Fall League. 57 HR’s at age 20? As Tim Kurkjian would say, “Are you kidding me?” Today, we look at his major league stats and see that in parts of five seasons, he hit .186 with 218 strikeouts and only 32 walks in 700 AB’s. He was out of baseball before he turned 30!
Each Spring, as I sit behind home plate at Surprise Stadium, this same question comes up on a regular basis. Numerous failed prospects and aging veterans enter games as “non-roster invitees” and invariably, I’ll turn to my wingman (the Duke) and say, “Is that who I think it is?” One of those moments happened in mid-March when a Pitcher entered the game from the Rangers bullpen and was introduced as Matt Bush. Could it really be the same player I remembered from 2004?
Matt Bush was the first player taken in the 2004 Amateur Draft by the San Diego Padres. He was a local hero from Mission Bay High School as a Pitcher & SS and received a signing bonus in excess of $3 Million at age 18. Bush’s career was a tragic story of failure, both professionally and personally. He was suspended for being involved in a bar fight before he ever played a game and it just got worse from there. He was a failure as a SS in the minors and the Padres gave up on him in 2009 after another alcohol-driven incident. More strange behavior followed with the Blue Jays & Rays while he tried to re-invent himself as a Pitcher.
During Spring Training of 2012, Bush was involved in a drunken-driving incident and was eventually charged with numerous felonies including leaving the scene of an accident. In December of that year, he accepted a plea-bargain and was sentenced to 51 months in prison. After being released from prison in October of 2015, he signed a contract with the Rangers. Amazingly, his tryout with the club took place in the parking lot of a Golden Corral restaurant where he worked because his post-release restrictions only allowed him to travel back and forth to his job. On that March day in Surprise, Matt Bush took the mound as a 30 year-old reclamation project and proceeded to hit 100 mph on the radar gun….obviously, natural talent doesn’t disappear. I told the Duke that if the former phenom kept himself clean, he would be in the Rangers bullpen sometime in 2016. Starting the season at AA Frisco of the Texas League, he appeared in 12 games with 18 K’s and only 4 BB in 17 IP and on May 13th, he was called up by the Rangers and appeared in his first major league game, retiring the side in order. As of June 1st, he’s pitched in ten games accumulating ten innings with nine K’s, only one BB and two earned runs. Maybe a future Closer for the Rangers? It doesn’t matter because after 12 years, he’s in the “Show”.
Yes, that is who I think it is.