February 06, 2009
Swerving to avoid taking either of two Scott Boras clients with the first overall pick in the 2004 major league draft, the Padres instead grabbed Matt Bush and paid him a $3,150,000 signing bonus.
Nearly five years of failure, a position switch and several embarrassing off-the-field incidents later, consider it money well-wasted.
At the same time area police were looking for Bush in connection with allegations he drunkenly assaulted high schoolers, the Padres designated him for assignment on Thursday in order to make room on the 40-man roster for free-agent Cliff Floyd.
Bush, a witness alleges in the San Diego Union-Tribune, "Picked up and threw a freshman lacrosse player and hit another one. Bush also yelled 'I'm Matt (expletive) Bush, and '(expletive) East County.' "
Padres general manager Kevin Towers added, with humor probably unintended, "The Matt Bush era is probably over."
So, where does Bush rank on the all-time list of baseball busts? Somewhere between Morganna the Kissing Bandit (real) and Sidd Finch (imagined). Bush, if his career is over, would be the third player drafted first overall who never reached the majors.
10. Josh Booty, Marlins ‘94: Taken with the fifth overall pick as a SS, Booty also turned into a bust in the NFL after being considered one of the best college QB prospects in history. Actually hit .269 in the majors (but in only 26 at-bats) before switching to football (where he was mediocre at LSU for two seasons) before playing (but never playing much) in the NFL. Booty (right) could make a list of professional athletes who have been tased by cops.
9. Bryan Bullington, Pirates '02: The No. 1 overall pick is 0-5 with a 5.45 ERA in his career, but at least he made the majors and will be given a shot with the Blue Jays this spring. Still, B.J. Upton, Prince Fielder, Zack Greinke or Jeff Francis would have been the sage picks.
8. Al Chambers, Mariners '79: After their team took him No. 1 overall, M's fans were singing that their "Time Has Come Today," but this Chambers brother produced very few hits. He slugged two homers in 120 career at-bats over three seasons and was done in the bigs after '85. Chambers isn't higher on the list because '79 produced so many busts, with Andy Van Slyke, picked No. 6, as an exception.
7. Brad Komminsk, Braves '79: This was a rough draft, and there's no re-writing it. It had Chambers, plus Jay Schroeder (the bad Redskins QB) taken third overall by the Blue Jays and Juan Bustabad (what an appropriate name) going fifth to the Athletics. Komminsk went fourth, but is notable because none other than Hank Aaron hyped him as a "can't miss major leaguer" with a power-speed combination others should envy. He was supposed to be Roger Maris to Dale Murphy's Mickey Mantle, but Komminsk batted .218 in 986 major-league at-bats for six organizations.
6. Mark Merchant, Pirates '89: Forever (un)known as the guy on whom the Mariners passed to take Ken Griffey Jr., the second overall pick finally reached Class AAA in '93 but washed out in Atlantic League in '98. Not sure if this is the same Mark Merchant, but what if it was?
5. Danny Goodwin, White Sox '71 and Angels ‘75: Goodwin has the distinction of being the only person ever picked first overall twice. "But I've never heard of Danny Goodwin," you're probably saying. If so, it's because he hit .236 with 13 homers in 636 career at-bats in the majors and his career ended in '82. The Sox in '71 didn't have much else from which to choose in the first round (Jim Rice went 15th to the Red Sox) but they might have regretted taking someone named Bill Sharp in the second round, 25th overall, while passing on George Brett (29th) and Mike Schmidt (30th). As for Goodwin, here's a fun story about his Peoria (Ill.) roots.
4. Josh Hamilton, (Devil) Rays '99: All of his success since reaching the majors in '07, and the feel-good hype that accompanied it (no matter how deserved) would have much less meaning if we forgot how low Hamilton sank after being taken first overall. Remember, all the Rays got out of Hamilton was headaches, heartache and $50,000, from the Cubs, for picking him in the Rule 5 Draft.
3. Steve Chilcott, Mets '66: It didn't take long. The draft celebrated its first anniversary and, with it, had its first huge bust. The Mets took Chilcott, a catcher, first overall, but he never saw Shea Stadium from inside the batter's box. Hey, look at it this way. Come the '69 World Series, Ron Swoboda never makes his famous catch in right field if the guy the Mets passed for Chilcott were playing there. And that draft pick... grew up to be... Reggie Jackson.
2. Matt Bush, Padres '04: Our boy. Moves up a couple of notches because of his most recent dance with the authorities. Style points matter.
1. Brien Taylor, Yankees '91: If you collected baseball cards around that time, you probably owned at least one Classic Draft Pick of his. Joins Bush and Chilcott as being picked first overall but never reaching the bigs. Hey, at least it's a team of some kind. Taylor is No. 1 because of the "next Dwight Gooden-hype," the bonus money, the Yankees and because it's the '90s, when scouting and drafting was more sophisticated than 25 years prior. In case you wondered whatever happened to him, Y! Sports' Jeff Passan did a cool story about Taylor a couple of years back.