March 9, 2016

ELDEN | The Curious Case of Matt Bush

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In 2004, the San Diego Padres had the first overall selection in the first year player draft after a 64-win season. The top talents available were pitchers Justin Verlander and Jared Weaver, as well as shortstops Matt Bush and Stephen Drew. Bush was a local talent, a graduate of a San Diego high school, willing to take a smaller ­­signing bonus, but was not viewed as the best player available. Weaver, Verlander and Drew were all projected to go higher in the draft, but would have been significantly more expensive. Ownership decided that it wasn’t in the budget to draft a more expensive player, and requested for the front office to make the most cost-effective selection.

They selected Bush. He received a signing bonus of $3.15 million and was assigned to the minor leagues. He struggled tremendously, hitting .192 and .221 in his first two seasons. Injuries and legal problems followed, and he never was able to play another full season. In his fourth year, the team gave up on his ability to hit and converted him to a pitcher. He started off well, but almost immediately got hurt, having to get Tommy John surgery and missed the entire next season.

Bush’s injuries would have been enough to derail his career, but his legal problems made things even worse. Just weeks after he was drafted, he was arrested after getting into a bar fight while underage. He struggled extensively with alcoholism throughout his career and life, but stayed out of trouble for the most part.

This changed in 2009 when Bush was caught on video beating a freshman high school lacrosse player with a golf club while screaming, “I’m Matt fucking Bush!” Shortly after, the Padres traded Bush to the Blue Jays for almost nothing. Bush assaulted a woman at a party in Florida a month later, leading to his release from the Blue Jays. He eventually found a match with the Tampa Bay Rays, who signed him to a minor league deal.

At this point, Bush had received two DUI’s and had his license suspended, but other than that, had put together a couple of years where he stayed somewhat healthy and out of legal trouble. In the spring training of his third year, he ruined any good reputation that he had left. He borrowed the car of his teammate Brandon Guyer — who was unaware that Bush was not allowed to drive — and drove drunk. He then hit 72-year old motorcyclist Tony Tufano. Faced with the possibility of a third DUI and legal complications from driving with a suspended license, he fled the scene. In the process of leaving, he ran over the motorcyclist. Miraculously, Tufano survived, but he deals with extreme pain and will be limited in his physical abilities for the rest of his life.

This was in March of 2012. Bush was released from prison in October of last year. He served just under four years in prison, and was recently signed by the Texas Rangers to a minor league contract, which is contingent on Bush not driving, not drinking and being accompanied to spring training by his father. Bush has been given an excessive amount of extra chances due to his physical ability. No person, no matter how talented of an athlete, singer or actress they are, should be given such leeway. Bush has a history of aggression, violence, and drunk driving, so his sentencing should not have been as light as it was, and Major League Baseball should not have allowed his re-entry into the sport.

The MLB has recently emphasized a policy that is tough on domestic violence. Players have been banned permanently from baseball for a variety of actions. In 1920, Benny Kauff of the New York Giants was banned for selling stolen cars. Fergie Jenkins — later re-instated — and Steve Howe were both banned for cocaine use, and former owner Martie Schott was banned for slurs against minority groups. The reasoning for those bans was a lack of character, which is very evident in the case of Bush. The MLB has both the ability and incentive to ban Matt Bush from ever playing baseball again.