In sports, everyone is a winner—some people just win better than others. Like the furies who have dogged poor Joel Zumaya his whole career and who last night may have finally ended it.
With one gone in the bottom of the eighth last night, Zumaya threw a 99-mph full-count fastball to the Twins' Delmon Young. Young fouled it off. Zumaya spun and dropped to his knees, holding with his left hand whatever remained of his right elbow. You could tell immediately that it was very, very bad, whether from the way he folded himself in two on the ground, as if salaaming to the outfield walls, or the way his right hand wouldn't stop twitching, or maybe just the way Dick Bremer said, "Ohhh." I can't imagine anyone watching it who didn't immediately want to vomit.
Has there been a more star-crossed pitcher in recent years than Joel Zumaya? He was the best thing about the Tigers during their 2006 run, a hard-throwing genuine badass who used to play ball in Tijuana, which is what genuine badasses do. He didn't look like a middle reliever. He looked like the sort of guy who might one day tattoo an Aztec firebird on his forehead. He was terrifying. He showed up in the ALDS with a bloodshot eye — "allergies," he explained, but whatever — and then whistled 101-mph fastballs by Derek Jeter that made Jeter look like Rob Deer. And then he hurt his wrist, and a few months later we found out that he'd done so by playing Guitar Hero. And then he ruptured a tendon in his hand. And then a large box fell on him, and it might as well have been a wrought anvil made by ACME. (Zumaya was in the attic of his parents' Southern California house, trying to salvage some things from the encroaching wildfires.) And then from there he was on and off the 15-day disabled list with various injuries that at one point left him unable to move his right arm.
Zumaya was pitching again this season, though, and pitching well, averaging 99 mph on his fastball. And then Delmon Young ran the count full, and Zumaya dialed up another fastball, and a moment later Dick Bremer said, "Ohhh." A genuine badass went down yesterday, a guy for whom baseball must've felt like one long exercise in dodging cartoon anvils and who couldn't dodge a big one last night.