Mark Mulder is coming back.
You might remember Mulder from the torrent of jokes last month after the Giants replaced Barry Zito with Tim Hudson. You also might remember Mulder from being one of the best pitchers in the American League. You also might remember him from the trade that sent Dan Haren to the A's, which eventually led to Brett Anderson to the A's, which eventually led to Tyler Skaggs on the Diamondbacks, which eventually led to a day where Brett Anderson and Tyler Skaggs were traded in two different deals on the same day Mulder announced his comeback.
The last time Mark Mulder threw a pitch in the majors was 2008. In case you were wondering. Other players who threw their last pitch in 2008: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Hideo Nomo, all of whom are eligible for the Hall of Fame. It's been a long, long time.
What Mulder is now featuring, according to Jerry Crasnick, who broke the story:
He said scouts clocked his fastball at 89-90 mph. Now he's hoping to audition for more clubs and land an invitation to a spring training camp.
That's about how hard he was throwing in '06 and '07. Of course, he was pretty bad in limited time in those years, so that doesn't mean much. Still, lefties who throw that hard and succeed aren't exactly rare.
I want to believe. I want to watch another successful comeback. I want to believe in the simple pleasures of baseball, like the hope that, one day, Ryan Anderson will throw down the apron and pick up a baseball again. Mulder coming back gets us closer to those simple pleasures, and it makes fans and players feel less helpless when it comes to career-ending injuries. Because somewhere, Mark Mulder is coming back.
Assume he's successful, then. Let's see where he'd slot on the comeback spectrum of the last few years.
On the surface, Colon and Mulder are similar. Both were All-Stars. Both were perennial Cy Young candidates. And both disappeared because of injuries. Then, one day, Colon was back in the majors, pitching effectively. That lasted for a bit, and then he was eerily effective the next year. Then he was even more effective the year after that. In between, there was a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, but pay no mind to that. Now Colon is 40, the shape of a tipped-over vending machine, and one of the hottest pitchers on the free-agent market.
Was his comeback more impressive or surprising than a potential Mulder comeback?
Before coming back with the Yankees in 2011, Colon last pitched in 2009. The year-off-while-rehabbing timeline is pretty common. It was certainly one of the bigger surprises in baseball to see a 38-year-old Colon back from the dead, but he didn't disappear as completely as I thought. The edge in comeback bonus points would go to Mulder.
Kazmir had a run of success of about the same duration as Mulder's, which seems odd, right? Feels like Mulder was around for a decade, and that Kazmir came and went like the Eve 6 of pitchers. Not so. Mulder was a good-to-great pitcher for five years; Kazmir, four. Roughly the same.
So what do you give more comeback bonus points for? Being as (seemingly) irreparably broken as Kazmir, fighting through the independent leagues, and coming out with a two-year deal for big money on the other side? Or overcoming a gnarly shoulder injury like Mulder's, which pitchers rarely do?
It's almost a tie, but the tiebreaker would be Mulder missing five full years. No one comes back from five years. Jim Palmer tried when he was 45. Didn't work. Robert Redford tried after being shot as a young player, and it got a teammate killed.
Five years. No, Mulder takes it.
Hoo, boy, this is the boss level, alright. The thing about Vogelsong is that he was literally locked in a cage in the literal pits of hell, and he literally sawed through his cage with the sharpened bone of his cellmate, and literally crawled through pits of lava and fire to reach the surface again, where he literally became an All-Star and World Series champion. Literally. So that's going to be tough to top.
But five years, man. Five years. A half-decade. Mike Trout was in high school when Mulder threw his last pitch.
Still, the thing about Vogelsong was that he was never good in the majors. He was only okay in Japan, and then he was awful again in Triple-A when he came back. And by "never good in the majors", I mean he was quite possibly the worst pitcher in the 132-year history of the Pirates. Which is … impressive.
Then one day, he showed up as a non-roster invitee in his 30s, and was on an All-Star team three months later.
From not good to injured to Japan to awful in Triple-A to an All-Star. Now, is that comeback story impossible to top?
On the other hand, five years. Mulder has been gone for five years. He wins. He wins every battle if he comes back. He'll wear a coat made from the scalps of Jeremy Bonderman and Ben Sheets, and he'll win the whole thing.
There's no real goal here, pitting one comeback up against a possible comeback. They're all amazing. They're all inspiring. And even if I'm not wild about some of the hot takes Mulder's had on Twitter over the last few years, I'm still rooting for him like he's an uncle. Baseball's better with random comebacks and human-interest stories. Here's hoping Mulder is another of the rare success stories.
(Royals. Make it happen.)