Friday was a good day for nostalgiasts. Especially nostalgiasts nostalgic for once-good baseball pitchers. From Big League Stew's Mark Townsend:
, and have all achieved varying degrees of success in the big leagues — though none of them reached a consistent level of dominance that many believed they were capable — before injuries and ineffectiveness teamed up to put their careers in a holding pattern. Now all three of them will attempt to reclaim a spot in a major league rotation, or at least earn a prominent role, during what could have been a prime year in their careers.
Just to be clear, all of these gentlemen enjoyed fantastic careers. "Many" believed they were capable of being consistently dominant? Sure. But that's true of dozens of pitchers every year who never do what these guys have done. To be dominant for just a moment in the majors is a huge and unlikely accomplishment. I just think it's always important to remember how high the odds are stacked against any young pitcher. Because, you know, humans haven't really evolved to throw apples 90 miles an hour, thousands of times every year.
A few things about Messrs. Harden, Kazmir, and Bonderman ...
None of them pitched in the majors at all in 2012. Kazmir came the closest ... and he pitched for the independent-league Sugar Land Skeeters. What kind of league was that? Well, the Skeeters' best pitcher -- this guy notwithstanding -- was ex-outfielder Jason Lane. They say Kazmir's now throwing in the low 90s, but it's difficult to gloss over his 5.34 ERA in 14 starts as a Skeeter.
Harden and Bonderman didn't pitch at all. Bonderman spent this year recovering from Tommy John Surgery, Harden from serious shoulder surgery.
Harden hasn't pitched more than 150 innings or won more than 10 games since 2004, when he was 22.
In the last five years, Bonderman has won 11 games in the majors. Eleven.
From 2009 through 2012, this trio went 45-53 with a 5.28 ERA.
The fundamental problem isn't that these guys have been hurt; it's that it's been so, so bloody long since they actually pitched well for more than five minutes at a time. Bonderman hasn't been good since 2007. Kazmir hasn't been good since 2008. Harden hasn't been good since 2009 (and even then, in abbreviated action).
Of course, you almost have to pull for all of them. We all enjoy a good comeback story. And stranger things have happened. Very occasionally. But they have. Bottom line, though? I wouldn't bet on any of these guys making an Opening Day roster, let alone making a dozen starts or something this season.
Then again, just a few months ago we saw Ben Sheets make a semi-triumphant return to the majors, and pitch reasonably well until he got hurt again. Anything really is possible. However unlikely.