PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Joel Zumaya wanted to make this clear: The Detroit Tigers organization means everything to him. 

The former electric arm in the Tigers bullpen from 2006 to 2010 topped 100 mph on a regular basis and soon became a fan favorite. He was a big part in what helped turn the direction of the franchise around when the Tigers made the World Series in 2006, winning an American League pennant.

When he was drafted in 2002, however, Detroit was the complete opposite of a winner. When he played for the West Michigan Whitecaps, the team he is visited on Wednesday, the Tigers were piling up losing seasons and looking like an organization that had no hope of turning things around.

Now, Zumaya feels like the team is in a similar position as they were when his name was called on draft day, which disappoints him.

Zumaya has been vocal on social media about his feelings towards the current direction of the organization, Tigers General Manager Al Avila and owner Chris Illitch.

“For me, the Old English D means a lot, it changed my life,” Zumaya said. “That’s why I’m speaking up. For Al, Al knows what’s up. That’s all I have to say about it, everyone knows my feelings about Al. For me, it’s been a long time (for Avila), for what he was served on a platter with, c’mon now.”

Zumaya also made a point that he wishes more former players and members from when he played would speak up on the current state of the Tigers, who are currently 28-45, good for fourth place in the American League Central and 13 games back of first place. 

Before the season began, Avila and Illitch both promoted the sense that the Tigers were out of rebuilding and were ready to contend for the playoffs.

Illitch was quoted saying the rebuild, which started in 2016, was “100% over.”

According to FanGraphs, Detroit currently has a 0.1% chance of making the postseason in 2022.

Despite the team’s struggles overall, the Tigers bullpen has posted top-10 ERA numbers most of the season. However, the offense has put up historic lows in average, home runs and runs scored so far in 2022.

Zumaya said it would be tough to be in the bullpen with this team, who doesn’t often have the lead to protect.

“Those arms are great, it’s just kind of sad we can’t produce runs for those arms,” Zumaya said. “If I would’ve been part of this team right now, I would’ve blown a gasket already, I would’ve publicly came out and had a team meeting to let them know what my feelings are. To be out there working there tails off, I don’t know guys. I feel like there’s no effort right now (from the offense), so yes I feel bad for the pitching staff.”

Zumaya was one of the main setup pitchers in the late innings for the Tigers in his short career. He had a 1.94 ERA with 97 strikeouts, a 1.18 WHIP and just a .187 batting average against. He finished his four-year playing career with a 3.05 ERA and 210 strikeouts.

He played for the Whitecaps in 2003. Arm injuries were one of the main causes for the end of his tenure with Detroit.

For Zumaya, there isn’t a bad memory from the ride to the 2006 World Series, and he hopes the organization can have the chance to do it again someday for the Tigers faithful. 

“I’ll never forget being a part of the playoffs, that World Series team,” Zumaya said with a smile. “I still think I have one of the greatest pictures of all time in Detroit Tigers history where I’m standing with both my hands up looking at the crowd, visualizing all of these people and what it meant to them. That’s one of the biggest memories. 

“We changed so many lives in that moment.”