June 19, 2013
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Monday, April 02, 2012
Ten years ago today, one of baseball’s can’t-miss prospects made the big leagues. He was the sort of player that had all the scouts and analysts raving about him and seemingly had everything lined up to start a magnificent major league career.
There was just one problem. This can’t-miss did miss, and miss badly. His name is Sean Burroughs.
On paper, he seemed like such an ideal prospect as to be something out of a Hollywood script. First, Burroughs had the bloodlines. His father, Jeff Burroughs, was the 1974 AL MVP.
Second, he was a prodigy. As a kid, he led his team to the championship in the Little League World Series. Young Sean even threw a pair of no-hitters along the way. He was always at the front of the class in baseball talent. He shifted to third base and remained a bright hope.
As soon as he graduated high school, the Padres drafted the 18-year-old in the first round of the draft with the ninth pick overall. He went before CC Sabathia, Brad Lidge, and, Adam Dunn, among others.
Burroughs tore up the minors, hitting for high average—though without much power—and remained one of the biggest prospects in all of baseball. After hitting .322 with nine homers in Triple-A in 2001, he was on the verge of his big chance in the majors.
That chance came on April 2, 2002, when he earned the start at third for San Diego. He began his career by facing Arizona ace Curt Schilling. Though Burroughs whiffed his first time up, he rapped out back-to-back singles after that, and the storybook athletic career continued.
He had a nice start, and on May 1 was hitting .300, though with only two walks and four extra-base hits. Then Burroughs went on a skid, going 5-for-51 and working his way back to the minors.
It was the first notable bump in his career, but these things happen. San Diego still had faith in him, and he was the starting third baseman for all of 2003 and 2004. But the glorious promise didn’t quite come. Burroughs could hit, but he had almost no power. In 2004, he belted only two homers, which just isn’t enough in the 21st century.
Then, he injured his knee later in 2004. While recovering from surgery, Burroughs says his life really started to take a darker turn. He delved into drugs. He didn’t just dabble, but fell full into it.
With his personal life sliding, his athletic effectiveness vanished. Burroughs lost his starting job in 2005, and San Diego traded him to Tampa that offseason. He played eight games for them before being released in the middle of the 2006 season. Seattle took a flier on him, but when Burroughs couldn’t perform in the minors, they cut him in June 2007. The can’t-miss was now an epic bust.
Out of baseball, Burroughs fell so fully into drugs it would make Charlie Sheen wince. When he bottomed out in 2010, he was eating food out of dumpsters, staying at fleabag motels in Las Vegas, and so messed up mentally that he would talk to telephone poles.
Fortunately, the story turns around. After bottoming out, Burroughs cleaned himself up, got off of drugs, and began working out. Kevin Towers, his old San Diego GM and now the man in charge of Arizona, gave Burroughs a chance, and in a surprising turnaround, Burroughs made it. On May 19, 2011, for the first time in five years and 15 days, Sean Burroughs stood on a major league diamond.
He was no longer the great hope. Frankly, he wasn’t especially good, and at age 30 it’s unlikely he’ll ever live up to the prophecies once spoken of him. But at least he’s pulled himself out of worst period. There are more important things than becoming a big athletic star.
But I can’t imagine anyone foresaw the way the next ten years would go when Burroughs stood and faced Curt Schilling on April 2, 2002.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate an anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the best ones if bold if you just want to skim the list.
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