Best arm in baseball: The rise and fall of Yovani Gallardo

At the end of the 2012 season, Milwaukee Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo was a 26-year-old coming off of four straight 13-plus, 200-plus strikeout seasons, with the last two being 17 and 16 win seasons respectively. He was getting better with each season, and as we began the 2013 season, his impending free agency was looming, and he was staring at one of the biggest contracts for a pitcher ever.

What happened?

Yovani Gallardo was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the second round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft out of Trimble Technical High School in Fort Worth, Texas. Gallardo’s scouting report is a four-pitch sequence- a fastball that used to hit about 96, a curveball, a slider, and a changeup, all with a lot of movement.

After cruising through the Milwaukee Brewers farm system, Gallardo was called up during the 2007 season on June 18th, making his major league debut against the San Francisco Giants. Gallardo finished the season 9-5, and looked well on his way to becoming one of baseball’s best pitchers. He did suffer a setback in 2008, though. On May 1st, he tore his ACL in his start against the Chicago Cubs. Amazingly, Gallardo made it back in time to be the Brewers game one starter in the postseason against the Phillies.

Over the course of the next four seasons, Gallardo continued to climb the ladder of baseball’s pitching pyramid. He won 13 games in 2009, 14 in 2010, 17 in 2011, and 16 in 2012; all before he turned 27. He proved himself to be mentally tough, durable, and dependable, with a very, VERY good arm to boot. His 2013 projections were a 20-win season and a spot on the National League Cy Young ballet at the end of the year.

The Yovani Gallardos of this world don’t grow on trees. He was headed for an impending free agency, and he was about to get paid, probably not from the Brewers, but still, one of the largest contracts ever for a pitcher.

That last part never happened.

He struggled throughout 2013, posting his worst season to date, 12-10 with an ERA of 4.18. He followed that up with an even worse season in 2014, posting an 8-11 record with a 3.51 ERA. During the offseason, he was traded to the Texas Rangers, where in his one season with the club, he posted a 13-11 record with a 3.42 ERA. He then signed a two-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles, and posted 6-8 record with a 5.42 ERA in his lone season with the club.

During the offseason, he was traded again, this time to the Seattle Mariners. So far in 2017, he is headed for the worst season of his career to date in the Emerald City, currently sitting on a 3-7 record with an ERA north of SIX, in a pitcher’s ballpark, mind you.

So where did it all go wrong? Early in the 2013 season, he was arrested for drunken driving with a BAC of 0.22 This may be an isolated incident, but according to the stories flying around out there, this is a reoccurring theme with Gallardo. We’ve seen throughout the history of the game how alcohol can ruin careers, and it is looking like it has ruined Gallardo’s.

If the rumors are to be believed, yet another young man on the fast track to superstardom had his career cut short by the trappings of fame, which is a sad thing indeed.

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