The Disappointing Career of Joel Zumaya


Ever since Joel Zumaya blasted onto the scene of what was a very exciting 2006 season for the Detroit Tigers, I have always been a huge apologist for the guy. But how could you not be? The intense zip of the 102 mph fastball, the devastating curveball that usually dropped in at 20 mph less. His intensity during games that mattered that season was awesome.

But a myriad of (bizarre) injuries over the years: the rumored injury due to the play of Guitar Hero, the “heavy box” that fell on his shoulder, to the awful injury suffered in 2010 at Target Field when he blew a piece of his elbow off, Zumaya has basically been on the mend for most of his short career. He hasn’t pitched in a game since that last elbow injury, instead having more surgery on the elbow to clean up more scar tissue, a procedure that cost him his entire 2011 season.

Now reports are out there that he has been performing for scouts, though his fastball is reported to be in the mid-90s, only, which is a far cry from the triple digits we’re all used to seeing from him. The other rumor is, some feel he may not even pass a physical, should he sign on with someone. At only 27, you’d think he’d be a far cry from having to call it a career, but it seems that unless he modifies that awkward, violent delivery, he’s not going to have much life left in Major League Baseball. Ultimately, Zumaya may have to learn to pitch a totally different way if he wants that arm to hold up for him, as it hasn’t to this point in his life.

Being the apologist that I am, I’d love to see the Tigers take another chance on him. I’m not suggesting that he’d be signed to another 1 year deal and placed on the big club though. Even Zumaya shouldn’t expect major league teams to offer up anything more than a minor league deal. Sign on, get through the spring, and start of the season in Toledo and work his way back up, if he can regain what God-given talent that he was given.

I’ll assume that most Tigers fans are a bit exasperated by the wasted talent, and the piled up injuries that have cost him and the team so much time and effort. But if he can get one last chance (and yes, there’s no tomorrow if he were to fail or get hurt again), then I think the fans would embrace the chance to see another chance, and hope that he can make such a comeback and even be moderately effective for the team.