what's eating Joel Zumaya?

photo by Emily Smith

A happy day in baseball reporting: the Freep cheerfully printed the word jackass.

An unhappy day for the rest of us: Zumaya felt to need to call himself a jackass, and he was quite justified in doing so.

If you saw the game a few nights ago, you know what we’re referring to. Zoom was as wild as a rabid coyote trapped in a small crate, and was hollering at the umpire for not giving him borderline pitches…. which, well. Joel, if everyone in the ballpark can tell that you have no idea where your pitches are going once you release them, you are NOT going to get the iffy calls. Whodya think you are, Nolan Ryan? Shut up and pitch.

Zoom, to his credit, stewed over his performance and his behavior for a night, then came right back and called himself out on it.

Zumaya admitted “getting real bigheaded about myself,” said his concentration was “someplace else,” and acknowledged he yelled at Wegner “quite a few times” about his strike zone.

“I’m a humble person,” Zumaya said. “Last night, I was not humble. Last night, I was just being a jackass.”

At one point, Zumaya said, “That was embarrassing for me. That was embarrassing for Detroit.”
Freep article

His behavior was immature. His recognition of it was mature. Baby steps, baby steps.

Zoom’s basically still just a kid, although it’s easy to get dazzled by his fastball… after all, no mere kid could throw 100mph on a regular basis, right? Dumb as we all know that kind of thinking is, it does creep in on us on little silent kitten feet. He’s only 22, and he’s the kind of 22 year old who gets a big kick out of oversized men in colorful spandex wrestling, and guitar-playing video games. He’s the kind of guy who hears the crowd get all riled up over his stuff, and who feeds off of that.

“Lately, I’ve been getting real bigheaded about myself,” Zumaya said. “I’ve been falling into a little trap — ‘Oh, it’s Zumaya Time, these guys can’t hit me’ — instead of going out there and doing what I (was) doing last year.”
Freep article

Once again, very immature of him to let that atmosphere (which is, in some ways, FOR the fans) influence him. Very mature of him to recognize it for what it is.

Then there was tonight. Tonight Zoom came in, having said all these things and having shown all this touching self-awareness and what have you, and tonight Zoom was just as wild as he had been before. He let in two of Nate’s runs, loaded up the bases with his own base runners, let some more scoring happen, and generally made a great big mess of things, which persisted until Bobby Seay was called in for mop-up duty and Zoom trudged into the dugout in shame.

His problem now may be the opposite of his problem before. Knowing how hittable he so recently was, knowing how dangerously overblown he let his own ego get, Zoom may now be suffering from that worst of leeches on the toes of young Major League pitchers: a lack of confidence.

Zoom didn’t look like he was PITCHING tonight so much as he was THROWING, or overcompensating (poorly) and trying to AIM the ball. The mark of a confident big league closer is consistency. Not necessarily consistency of results, as different teams are played and every day’s a new day and so on… I mean consistency of approach, regardless of whether the previous outing had resulted in a save or a run-piddling disaster. Pitch well, pitch poorly, but always come back the next time you’re called upon and don’t pitch shy of it.

This is where, once again, Todd Jones is at, and is exactly where Zoom is not. I know I harped on this after the last game, and I don’t want to flush a dead goldfish 5 times, but it does bear saying again. I’m not trying to indicate that Jonesy is a better pitcher than Zoom. I’m not saying he’s worse. I’m saying he’s got that mystical “closer mentality” and Zoom, tempting ‘though his fastball may be, does not.

The thing is, we know Zoom is now probably aware of this. He got to thinking that he was invincible: classic young ballplayer mistake. He’s feeling extremely hittable and vulnerable right now. He wants to be somewhere between the two.

Hopefully the maturity he displayed in his previous comments will manifest itself more and more, and Zoom will get his brain into that inbetween space where he’s just confident enough and just humble enough on the mound. He’s got the arm. We know that. Now we need him to get the head.

(Note my remarkable restraint in not just spending this entire post ranting about Poor Nate Robertson getting hardlucked once again. He’s probably gonna have screaming nightmares tonight as he flashes back to last year.)

(Also, if the formatting or photo on this post looks weird, I apologize. I’m posting from a PC, not my usual Mac, and I can’t tell how some things are gonna look. I spit upon you and your clumsy interfaces, PC.)

(Additional note: tomorrow, Saturday, is Commencement/Graduation day at U of M. I’m not graduating… more than one degree… complicated… I’m “walking” with the art school this year anyhow. I’m commencing but not graduating, I guess. Point is, I may not see the game tomorrow or have time to say much about it. And I will be AT the game on Sunday, but you lot won’t get to see the full report and photos from it ’til I get my computer back, which will be when I’m home on Monday. So if RotT is quiet for a couple days, you know why. Fear not! I shall return soon, bearing Tigers photos.)


3 responses to “what's eating Joel Zumaya?

  1. I’ll be at the game Sunday (4/29) as well. I usually get there after church service, which will be about 9:45 or thereabouts (maybe later, one of my priests is leaving, and I’ll have to give him my regards after service). If you see me (you’ve seen my pictures) around, come by and say hi! That was really class of Zumaya to apologize about his behavior towards the umpire.

  2. Hey, yeah! I’ll be wearing a neon orange hat and an Ingecredible tshirt, definitely come say hi if you spot me there!

  3. I broke up with Joel at a really bad time, it seems to be eating him up. I’ll call him up and reconcile ;-)

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