Posted by Bob Biscigliano
With no significant news coming from the home front, and the Tigers receiving a free pass from me since they were clearly hung over from sweeping the Yankees tonight, I have decided to go a little bit of a different route with this post. However, I will keep with the theme of free passes as I will be discussing a human being who absolutely loved dishing them freebies out. No, it's not Jared's neighbor, Gordie, it's Jason Neighborgall, former professional baseball pitcher, who retired a couple months ago at the age of 24. I know what you are thinking... Who is that? Have you absolutely gone mad off your rocker? And are you letting your kids drink your Mike's Hard Lemonade again? The answer to those questions are simple, people: Keep reading, no, and you won't tell on me will you?
Anyway....Jason Neighborgall is an enigma. This 6 foot 5 inch, 212 pound freak of nature probably had one of the best arms ever known to the baseball Gods. Allow me to explain more: Baseball scouts rank pitches on a scale of 20-80. Joel Zumaya, for example, has an 80 ranked fastball. Well he used to, before he started playing video games, performing right armed keg stands, and preventing California forest fires. Johan Santana's changeup is an 80. However, ZERO pitchers in the MLB have 2 pitches that are ranked an 80. Neighborgall DID. He had an 80 ranked fastball that hit over 100 mph and an 80 ranked curveball that started at the moon and broke to the batters shoe laces. Absolutely absurd to think about...So you have it....Neighborgall was drafted out of high school by the Red Sox, but chose to go to Georgia Tech. After three years, Arizona decided to 'take a chance' on this Hall of Fame armed man.
"Take a chance" you say? That's right. They took a chance. If his arm was Hall of Fame caliber, why did he retire after only 4 years of professional baseball? Well, he possessed one slight problem: CONTROL. I'm not talking about minor control problems, I'm talking about psychological, granny's overactive bladder, poop your pants constantly, CONTROL problems. This guy was "Nuke" LaLoosh times ten. In 42.1 IP in the pros, Jason walked 128 batters. 128! That's over 3 walks per inning. That's not even the worst statistic. In his last season of Single A ball with the Diamondbacks, it took Neighborgall 5 appearances to record just ONE INNING of work. In that SINGLE INNING, he walked 12 batters. 12! If you're not Bill Nye then you probably can't figure out that that's 12 walks per inning!
Now I've seen my fair share of wild pitchers. Hell, I know what it feels like to walk guys. I walked 18 in 17 IP my injury ridden sophomore year of college when my velocity dropped from 85 to 75 in a matter of weeks. That wasn't even the worst of it for me. In my first start in the 8th grade I struck out Chip Stevenson of Kensington on a nasty 10 to 4 curveball to start the game, but somehow managed to walk the next FIVE batters. (I was pulled for my little brother who did awesome in relief of me.) I was embarassed as hell though; even if I was coming off a HUGE broken RIGHT arm injury, there was no excuse for what I had done. (Not because I walked 5 batters in a row, but because I struck out Chip. Never strike out Chip because it's like poking a stick at a sleeping pitt bull. I'll have you know, that Chip never struck out again in his career and that strikeout motivated him, not only to transfer to Detroit Country Day the following year, but to never strike out again against soft tossing lefties. It worked.)
So I kind of know how Neighborgall feels, being a plus fastball/curveball type guy, who can't find his control... But to do that in the pros???? Can you imagine how pissed/bored his teammates were behind him? When I walked the 5 batters, after the Chip strikeout, I remember looking back to my fielders after the 3rd walk I had issued and our SS was reclining on a lawn chair with his shirt off. After the fifth walk, as I was getting pulled, I noticed our 3B was having sex behind the bleachers and our CF was playing video games on his laptop. These were 8th graders. Can you imagine what Neighborgall's roided out teammates must have been doing after his 10th walk? I can only imagine 7 grown men behind him doing power clings and playing with Batman and Superman action figures creating hypothetical storylines to play out...naked. I can't imagine what those games were like for Neighborgall in the pros when fans were probably hounding him constantly because good money was being spent as expectations for him were through the roof. After hearing this story, I don't want to make fun of the guy. I want to reach out my arms and say, "If you can find me, I want to give you a hug. You tried your best.... Hey, I'm over here" as he whiffs on the hug offer. Seriously though, it's just a shame that he had to have one of the best arms to ever be scouted in baseball. A pitcher who has 2 pitches ranked 80 by the MLB scout system and the dude can't even hit the mitt. (BTdubs-Yeah, I feel bad for this guy but if a Tiger pitcher starts to have this problem, I don't think I would be quite as sympathetic. You hear me Dontrelle? )
Finally, I am certain that with this random, heartfelt post, Detroit4lyfe.blogspot.com will move into first place in Blog's Weekly Magazine. However, some have always envisioned us as number one. Last week, I was asked to be on one of my favorite day time talk shows: Oprah! Below is the video of the show. A little premise to the clip: I was super excited about all the chicks digging me, that our blog has really been taking off lately, and because Oprah (a sister that's doing it big) had invited me to her show. I absolutely LOVE her show and ADORE her books. Thank you, Oprah, again for allowing me to be a part of your show. It's okay that you kept calling me Tom and that you started a chant for my girlfriend, Kaley, to come on stage. Oh well. Thanks for having me on the show to promote the blog. And remember, don't take tylenol for that headache of yours.