Baseball is a complicated sport…played by even more complicated individuals.
Written by Kyle Magin
Lost amid the #ourmoment celebrations in Toronto on Sunday night was the gutsy/freakish outing by Rangers’ losing pitcher Matt Bush.
Bush, for those of you unacquainted with his story, is a washed-out 2004 first overall pick of the San Diego Padres. He’s also a demonstrable shithead.
Picked originally as a shortstop, Bush cratered in a spiral of alcoholism, arrests, a prison bit and anger-management failures, before trying out in the parking lot of a Golden Corral in Jacksonville, FL last spring—if that seems an odd place for an MLB tryout, it is. Bush was on a work release program following incarceration on a 2012 DUI hit-and-run of a 72-year old and could only travel between home and his job at Golden Corral.
Bush, who converted to a pitcher during minor league stops on his way to oblivion, came back as a pitcher and rose rapidly from his December signing to May call-up.
On Sunday, Bush—who finished the season with a 7-2 record as a reliever, a 2.48 ERA and 61Ks in 58 appearances—pitched against 10 Blue Jays over three innings and sent 5 back to the dugout shaking their heads as one after another fanned on 97-100 mph fastballs. An unfortuitous error by 2B Rougned Odor ended Bush’s night and the Rangers’ season with an L.
It was a rough way for Bush to go out, having accomplished so much in a season when his club took a shot-in-the-dark flier on him during year one of seven of his post-prison probation. He pitches like there’s no tomorrow, because, whenever you throw near 100, and especially when you’re past 30, there’s a good chance there isn’t.
Bush, with a bigger spotlight, could be a hero for a certain kind of guy—other shitheads. His willingness to play by some really onerous rules is commendable. Guys who are getting back on their feet following hard time or rehab or any sort of adversity they find themselves in of their own accord could learn a thing or two.
Bush pitches in the upper 90s to 100 coming out of the pen for multiple innings—something few people are asked to do because it’s like redlining a Ferrari 6,000 miles after its last oil change. He lives with his old man because the Rangers have a zero tolerance policy for future fuckups. He doesn’t drive himself anywhere or participate when his teammates spray celebratory champagne all over the locker-room. He works on a one-year minor league contract because that’s what he could get (admittedly a much better job than nearly all people in his position) and generally appears to live a life that includes baseball, working out, and a helluva lot of hotel TV.
An inability to stay straight, put your head down and work within some pretty un-fun parameters is why a lot of shitheads stay shitheads. Bush’s success shows that if you work hard and follow the rules, you’ll get to keep working hard and following the rules, which is sure better than rehab, the courtroom and prison.