Scott Kazmir struck out 10 batters yesterday. Major League batters. Last year he struck out seven Atlantic League batters per nine innings; the year before that he carried a 17.02 ERA and a mid-80s fastball out of the kind of season that makes people tut-tut and make sad noises when you try to catch on in the Atlantic League the next year. He's a short left-hander with famously inconsistent mechanics and DL time for Shoulder Fatigue who threw 130 innings as a 20-year-old and 186 (with 100 walks) as a 21-year-old.
He was—justly—the subject of an important Jeff Sullivan article about how pitching reclamation projects are often seeking to reclaim something that just doesn't exist anymore. It'd be an overreaction to say he is the good Scott Kazmir again, but Thursday afternoon he was; look at those highlights.
This sort of thing happens just often enough, I think, to make us crazy thinking about it. It's what left me watching Anthony Reyes's stint with the Padres' AAA club last year, and it's why I'll follow Mark Prior in the Reds' minors this year. I liked watching Scott Kazmir (and Anthony Reyes), but more importantly, I liked the Scott Kazmir story—the inexplicable trade for Victor Zambrano and Baseball Primer's subsequent Official Mets Fan Self-Immolation Thread, the healthy Scott Kazmir flinging mid-90s fastballs.
It's not that I need Scott Kazmir to perform well in an extremely unlikely MLB comeback to remember any of that—only that the way his story ended a couple of years ago, the way he gradually turned into Victor Zambrano in the years leading up to his stint with the Angels, shadowed a lot of fun baseball memories, even if it couldn't swallow them up.
Albert Pujols is hitting .238/.322/.400 this year, which basically means his career batting average (.323) and on-base percentage (.412) have been transposed in a really startling way. He can't run, he's spent as much time at DH as he has first base, and his biggest contribution to the collective baseball consciousness this year has been to appear in that animated GIF where Yu Darvish throws five pitches by him at the same time.
At the time I felt like I—that we as Cardinals fans, for that matter—came out of the Cardinals' failure to sign Albert Pujols to a rest-of-his-natural-life contract pretty well. Much better than I expected we would, if nothing else. Now that he's already falling behind the brutal long-term deal he did sign, I should feel better about it.
I do, I guess; I love watching the Cardinals his departure helped to create. But I don't think the side of me that wanted Pujols to be a Cardinal forever was really just about team affiliation. Part of wanting him to be a Cardinal forever was wanting him to be Albert Pujols forever.