Last week, in what would normally be considered a very minor minor league deal, the Texas Rangers signed a 29 year old relief pitcher who used to be a shortstop. That very minor minor league deal, however, was with Matt Bush, formerly the first overall pick in the amateur draft and recent resident of the Florida prison system. Bush's talent, for years, has provided him second chance after second chance within the sport to the point where only going to jail for drunk driving and running a motorcyclist over with a truck he stole from a friend kept him out of the game since 2011.
To call Matt Bush "troubled," then, is a remarkable exercise in restraint. He got in a bar fight and was suspended before he even could play a professional game. He beat up a high school athlete on video tape with a golf club. Then he assaulted a woman at a party in Florida. Finally, the horrible accident that left a motorcyclist with a fractured skull landed him in jail permanently, and even the Tampa Bay Rays, who had willingly employed a sex offender for years after his conviction, announced he'd never play in their organization again.
Now, he's back with the Rangers. You might think that, given his history, I'm about to rip the organization giving him, like, his eighth chance. Given his history, you might think I am about to attack Matt Bush. Lord knows a lot of other people have done that. And I suppose they're well within their rights.
But I'm not going to do that. There is no doubt that, to this point, Matt Bush has been a troubled young man who has irresponsibly ruined his life and the lives of many people who have had the misfortune to be associated with him. He's also a young man who is very, very sick. He is an alcoholic, and he has attempted time and again to destroy himself. And because of those efforts, he has served what we have decided is his debt to our society. While he will carry the consequences of his actions with him for the rest of his life, it is time to let him get on with that life. He can't undo his past, but he can make a better future for himself and others.
The Rangers have experience dealing with young men who have similar problems, and are remarkably suited to help Bush back. Indeed, their work with Josh Hamilton has been perhaps the central reason his life has not gone off the rails in the last several years, despite occasional relapses into drugs and alcohol. They have provided him with an infrastructure and with support that has helped him be successful in the game and off of it. And hopefully those same systems can help Bush, who says he has been sober since March.
The rules for Bush are fairly simple, according to GM Jon Daniels. He'll live with his dad in Spring Training and in the minors. He's not allowed to drink and he's not allowed to drive. Period. Beyond that, they will allow him to reclaim some of the promise that he once had and work to finally get to the Major Leagues.
I'm actually rooting for Bush. Not because he deserves to come back. He probably doesn't; it's hard to earn redemption after all the pain he's caused. I'm rooting for him because a healthy Matt Bush playing baseball will make the world a better place. It will be an inspiration to others who struggle with similar, or even vastly different, demons. He can be a resource for his minor league teammates who have to deal with many of the same pressures Bush folded under.
Also, I have a great deal of admiration for guys who have looked into the abyss, and who have not allowed it to consume them. For the Rick Ankiels and the Scott Kazmirs and the R.A. Dickeys and the Josh Hamiltons. Every time a guy like that comes back it reminds me how strong we can each be and gives me hope that, collectively and individually, we can all get better. So good luck, Matt Bush. At least one person is rooting for you.