In 2006 I watched the Detroit Tigers eliminate my New York Yankees in 4 games in that year’s ALCS.
Of all of the torturous memories I have of that series (including A-Rod’s embarrassing performance) what really killed me was how helpless the Yankees looked against one man.
His name was Joel Zumaya.
Zumaya was Aroldis Chapman before he existed. Zumaya was a fireball throwing right-hander whose arms were covered in flames literally thanks to matching fire tattoos on his forearms.
My first memory of him was game 2 in Yankee stadium that year. After Justin Verlander pitched 6+ impressive innings and clung to a one-run lead Tigers manager Jim Leyland called on Zumaya to handle the middle of the Yankees order.
He did more than handle it, he dominated it.
He blew away Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez with ease as they looked helpless against his 100 mph fastball. As he walked off the mound I hoped to God that the Yankees would never run into him again.
Unfortunately I as well as many AL batters are getting their wish.
Zumaya ruptured another tendon in his pitching elbow yesterday ending another season in what has turned into a tragic career for him.
Zumaya hasn’t pitched a full season since his breakout year in 2006 and has missed the last two because his throwing arm can’t hold up.
What looked like the start of a promising career has turn into a repetition of setbacks that could end his career.
It’s sad because Zumaya had the kind of stuff that pitchers and coaches die for. The prospect of facing him in the AL for years and years in the seventh and eighth innings was a nightmare for me and any fan that watched their team play the Tigers.
Unfortunately for Zumaya and The Tigers that won’t be the case. His career likely is over before it ever really got started.
You always forget that the human arm wasn’t meant to throw that hard for extended periods of time. Zumaya found that out the hard way.
That ALCS performance will always be stuck in my head. I thought I was watching the next great reliever in the game who would dominate for years with an intimidating fastball that no one could hit.
I was… Unfortunately his arm didn’t see it that way.