On Saturday, new Twins relief pitcher Joel Zumaya tore his UCL after throwing just 13 pitches to live batters. A torn UCL requires Tommy John surgery. Given his injury history and the fact that he hasn't pitched in a major league game since 2010 has Zumaya thinking of retiring.
Zumaya was a sensation as a rookie in 2006. He went 6-3 with a 1.94 ERA and struck out 97 in 83.1 innings for Detroit. He threw 103 miles an hour. He was going to be a star......
He has never thrown over 38.1 innings again!
Zumaya has had several injuries to his elbow as well as that unfortunate Guitar Hero injury. To pitch again he is looking at his 6th surgery in his young career. It may be perfectly reasonable for Zumaya to think retirement. He has a small child at home and he might not be thrilled to spend a full season rehabbing to come back to an uncertain future. He's made over $4.6 million in his career and assuming he has taken decent care of his money, he shouldn't need immediate work. So should Zumaya retire and become a professional fisherman?
I understand Zumaya looks at his baseball career and sees a potential no-win situation. He's young, he's made some money and he is frustrated. He also would have several months of grueling rehab in front of him and no guarantee of a job on the back end. He also has a flaw in his mechanics that could make an injury-free comeback difficult. So why should he keep trying? Why have another surgery if he doesn't need to?
What the hell else is he going to do?
Zumaya would only be 28 years old when he were to come back next year. Maybe the Tommy John surgery can fix his elbow. Maybe the rehab will allow him to start from scratch with his delivery, producing a more healthy future. Brad Radke retired rather than have shoulder surgery, but he was 34 and shoulder surgery is potentially more difficult to come back from than Tommy John.
What about the money?
Money is not the only thing in life but, where is Zumaya going to make anywhere close to baseball type money? I don't know Zumaya at all, but I know he was drafted straight from high school and doesn't have a lot of education to fall back on. (though 4.6 million could buy plenty of school) Trying to come back is a risk but there is a lot of potential financial upside to even a modestly successful comeback.
Most of my argument for Zumaya to stick around is based on my everyman life. I am a reasonable successful 38 year old businessman that expects even more success in my next 10 years. If the comeback allows Zumaya to pitch again at all, he will earn at least another chance at the league minimum which is over $400,000 a year. At 38 and successful, my life-time earnings are less than $800,000. It will take me at least 5 years to make the veteran major league minimum that Zumaya could earn at 28. Joel, working a real job isn't nearly as fun as hanging out in Florida or Arizona in the winter and then getting a chance to play a kids game for 162 summer days. Real work doesn't pay as well. (unless you are an executive) Real work doesn't provide travel etc.... Assuming that he isn't professional fisherman material, what will he do with himself for the rest of his life? How will he compensate for his lack of income? Look what real work has done to me!
Why give up? Sometimes the injury-prone come back. Carl Pavano is a good Twins example. After 2004 Pavano signed a 4 year, nearly $40 million deal with the Yankees. He started 17 games in 05, 2 in 07 and 7 in 08 due to many injuries. After 08, he was a free-agent and had to sign for $1.5 million plus incentives. Well, Pavano has been healthy since and has had a slight career renaissance. He's also earned at least $28 million since his disaster as a Yankee. Guys like Ken Griffey Jr., Chris Carpenter and many many more have comeback from many years of injury to post great seasons and great careers.
Joel, I understand you are frustrated. I know you have pride and there is a chance a comeback could fail. You are young and what else are you going to do? I don't want you to retire because I'll miss your fastball, but i really don't want you to retire because I don't want you to end up like me.
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