Jeff Riger: Top 5 Wastes Of All Time In Detroit
I would like to say it was SHOCKING news when I heard that the former Tiger turned Twin Joel Zumaya hurt his arm on Saturday, but unfortunately even I could predict such a fate for the fireballer. Zumaya has really had it tough over the last 4 or 5 seasons and now the 27 year old is left to contemplate retirement after tearing his UCL in his throwing elbow. “Zoom Zoom” will need “Tommy John” surgery to be able to come back next season and give things another go with a team that will give him the chance?
From the “Guitar Hero” injury to a snapped finger tendon to a blown out shoulder from “moving boxes” Zumaya is no stranger to injury and it is truly a sad, sad story. I have vivid memories of the Chula Vista, CA native that reach back to 2006 when he took the Tigers and Major League Baseball by storm. No Detroit fan will soon forget the triple digit fastballs or the fact that Zumaya lead the league in holds in his rookie season. Even today you can see plenty of #54 jersey’s floating around at Comerica Park. The future was so bright for Zumaya only to be halted by so many injuries.
In 2006 Zumaya threw in over 83 innings and had an amazing ERA of just 1.94 to go along with 97 strikeouts. But since ’06 “Zoom Zoom” has failed to throw in even 40 innings in any season as injury has always been the reason why. To put in bluntly; Zumaya has been a WASTE! I don’t say this to be mean, but rather to speak of the true talent that has been wasted. It’s not Zumaya’s fault that he is staring retirement in the face, but make no mistake, without the injuries, Joel would still be wearing a Detroit uniform to this day and would more than likely be the closer on this year’s team.
Call it what you want…
Sad, Tragic, Disappointing! I will call it a waste, because that triple digit fire piece never was able to help the Tigers as much as it should have been
But Zumaya is not the only Detroit athlete that could be labeled “a waste!” Oh no, there has been plenty of talents brought here or born here that did not work out for some reason or another. Now don’t get me wrong! I’m not talking about “one year wonders!” Nope. I’m talking about “wastes,” players that because of injury or off the field poor decisions have seen their careers come to a screeching halt.
Below I have listed my top 5 “WASTES” that Detroit has ever seen.
1. Zumaya is first on my list! He was young, good and commanded respect and by all. What more could you ask for? Many people thought “Zoom Zoom” would play in the league for many years to come. He could very easily still be paying dividends today. To me, there has been no bigger waste than Joel Zumaya. Again, this is through no fault of his own. I bet if you ask him, he would agree!
2. Mark “The Bird” Fidrych
Now I never saw Fidrych pitch live but I heard how good he was. You really couldn’t ask for a better rookie season where “the Bird” went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA in 250.7 innings pitched in 1976. I hear people talking about Fidrych to this day and how everyone went down to Tiger Stadium to see “the Bird” pitch against the Yankees on “Monday Night Baseball.” Fidrych threw 9 innings of 7 hit 1 run baseball as Detroit beat New York 5-1 that night. Many say that was Fidrych’s coming out party, his official claim to baseball brilliance.
But it was obviously more than that one game!
In that ’76 season, Fidrych threw 18, 9 inning complete games and another 5 outings where he went in the 10th and 11th frames. Of course “The Bird” was much more than a player, he posed with the real “Big Bird” in pictures, he talked to himself and the ball and even aimed that same ball like a dart be he threw. Fidrych would manicure the mound and throw a fair share of balls back to the home plate umpire because they had “hits in them.” His personality and pitching greatness soon made every outing “the Bird” pitched a sell out! Of course he won “The Rookie of the Year” award that season as well. At that time, fans thought “it was just the beginning.” Unfortunately it was, “the beginning of the end.”
In spring training of 1977 Fidrych tore cartilage in his knee fooling around in the outfield. “The Bird was able to come back only to suffer what he called a “dead arm” about 6 weeks later. The injury was in fact a torn rotator cuff but was not diagnosed until 1985. He was never the same.
From 1977 to 1980 Fidrych failed to pitch in even 90 innings in any season. The undiagnosed torn rotator cuff forced the Tigers to release him in 1981; he never pitched another major league game!
3. Mike Modano
Mike Modano was brought to Detroit to play with the Wings at age 40 in 2010-11. The Michigan native scored a goal on his second shift of Detroit’s home opener as things were off to a great start. Modano was supposed to be to Detroit what Dallas Drake was to the Wings back in the 2008 cup winning season, a guy with veteran leadership that wanted one last crack at a championship. However things changed very quickly as Modano’s wrist was cut by the skate of the R.J. Umberger accidently in a November 26th game. Modano missed pretty much the next 3 months before coming back in late February. The veteran struggled to get back in sync only scoring 3 goals and 5 assists in 20 games.
What hurt the most was that Modano did not see very much action in the post season. When Detroit needed a scorer badly, Modano was unable to contribute skating in just 2 games, one against the Coyotes in the first round and the other against the Sharks in the second round before the Wings were eliminated. Fans clamored, wanting Modano to get more playing time, but his time in Detroit had come to a close with him only scoring 1 playoff point.
No Doubt if Modano never got injured, he would have been a force on last season’s team, and who knows, he maybe would even be playing today!
4. Charles Rogers
This choice to me is a no brainer, because there is really no better way to describe Charles Rogers career than being a complete and total waste.
There were drugs, alcohol, domestic abuse charges and many failed drug tests. Of course there were a couple of broken collar bone injuries as well. Rogers lasted just 2 seasons with the Lions before being released in September of 2006. Rogers tried out for the Patriots, Buccaneers and Dolphins but never made another team. This of course all from a guy that was taken with the 2nd overall pick in the 2003 draft.
Charles Rogers was the worst kind of waste because he did it to himself. I could fill in all the law suits, DUI’s and sad particulars of this story, but to be honest it still makes me sick to think about, so I say we just move on!
5. Fernando Vina
I know, I know, Fernando Vina? I really could not think of a great 5th option for my list so I went with Vina. Most people don’t even remember that he was even a Tiger at one point, but he was and believe it or not he could of actually have helped the team. Vina was brought to Detroit to play during the 2004 season but only lasted 29 games before a hamstring injury essentially ended his career. Vina was awarded a 2 year 6 million dollar contract with the Tigers after winning 2 gold gloves with the Cardinals in the previous years. The 12 year veteran was actually considered a big free agent at the time for Detroit considering the Tigers lost 119 games the season before. IN his time with the Tigers, Vina hit a whopping .226 with 7 RBI before never playing professional baseball again.
Again, he is not the biggest name on this list, but a waste none the less.
So there are my top 5 wastes of all time in Detroit. Who did I miss?