The week before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training should be a happy time for all baseball fans. Our favorite sport is so close to starting; we can touch it, feel it and for those of us in the cold northeast, we can imagine warm Florida and Arizona sunshine. But today, we pause to reflect on a career cut short, WAY too short as pitcher Brandon Webb has finally ended his comeback nearly four years after he last pitched in a Major League game. It is a reminder to us just how fleeting a career can be even one that had such tremendous success in such a short period of time.
I did not have a chance to watch Brandon Webb pitch that much. The player who was the last Cy Young Award winner for the Arizona Diamondbacks threw a sinker that was almost impossible to hit with any kind of authority. That pitch established him as one of the most dominant pitchers in the National League. His lifetime record was 87-62 with over 25% of those defeats (16) coming in 2004 when the D’backs lost a franchise-record 111 games. It was the worst season of his stint in Major League Baseball as he notched only seven wins but did produce a respectable 3.59 ERA. After that season, it is not a stretch to say that Webb was on the way to a potential Hall of Fame career. From 2006-2008, the righty won 56 games, winning the Cy Young in 2006 while leading the NL in victories twice during that span. He finished second for that award in 2007 and 2008 and led the league in shutouts in ’06 and ’07. He was a three-time All Star who made at least 33 starts in five of his six seasons in his career.
Then on Opening Day 2009 it came to a screeching halt. Webb left the game after four innings with a throbbing shoulder. Who could have imaigned that was the last time he would wear a Major League uniform? He endured two shoulder surgeries with an eye on making a comeback, first in 2010 with the D’backs and then in 2011 with the Texas.
Finally, Webb decided enough was enough at the still-young age of 33. Think about how many more wins he should have had. Why did his arm, once so full of life have to betray him? We should be mentioning his name with the pitchers of today such as Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and Matt Cain. Instead, we put him in the same category as “what could have been” guys such as Steve Busby and Mark Fidrych. We could have been talking about Brandon Webb as the first home-grown Hall of Famer for the D’backs.
What a shame. I wish Brandon Webb and his family the best of luck in the future.
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