Thanks to a cost-motivated decision in San Diego, one of the best days in Detroit Tigers history came in early June 2004.
Consider the top half of the first round of the 2004 draft. With one exception, I’m going to whittle it down to the players who have had major-league careers of any interest or significance:
SS Matt Bush
RHP Justin Verlander
RHP Philip Humber
RHP Jeff Niemann
LHP Jeremy Sowers
RHP Homer Bailey
C Neil Walker
RHP Jered Weaver
LHP Bill Bray
3B Billy Butler
SS Stephen Drew
It is safe to say that, heading into the 2004 draft, no one on the planet thought high school infielder Matt Bush was the best amateur talent in the country. He was a top-ten pick, sure, but not the first overall.
Baseball America ranked him eighth in their pre-draft top 100, and put Weaver at No. 1. The Padres might have preferred Stephen Drew, but Drew wanted actual dough, so the undersized local product Bush was tabbed.
Live long enough and you will find that even more than death and taxes, “you get what you pay for” is one of life’s inevitable truths. It wasn’t just that Bush couldn’t hit—his career rates stand at .219/.294/.276 in 259 games—but that he (and this is the gentlest way to put it) lacked character.
Even after a conversion to the mound to salvage Bush’s best tool, his strong throwing arm, he has repeatedly been deflected by alcohol-related incidents that have sometimes involved violence.
Yesterday’s DUI incident represents the nadir of Bush’s infamous career, which saw him in camp with the Rays. Bush allegedly struck a motorcycle, then ran over the driver:
Bush blew a .180 and a .171 during a subsequent breath test. The report states that he has previous DUI charges in California and Arizona. The legal blood-alcohol limit in Florida is 0.08…He is facing charges of leaving the scene of a crash with property damage, DUI with property damage, DUI with serious bodily injury, Failure to remain at a crash involving an injury, driving with a suspended license and careless driving.
And that is probably that insofar as a baseball career, or any sort of career for Mr. Bush. My analysis here is not deep: when it comes to ballplayers, there needs to be some kind of brain and moral compass attached to all of that athletic skill.
Normally I would be telling you that alcoholism is a disease. However, when you have a player like Bush, who has been troubled again and again and still insists on getting behind the wheel of a car, you not only have illness, you have a callous disregard for the safety of others and the willful destruction of all of that talent.
Hurting yourself is a cause for pity. Hurting others is a cause for contempt. Bush can't be released too soon.