At 29, Scott Kazmir's on the comeback trail

Jed Jacobsohn

Scott Kazmir's on the comeback trail. You can read all about it in the New York Post.

Why the New York Post? Read on ...

Kazmir always will be connected to New York because of where his career started — and where it didn’t. He was the Mets’ first-round pick in 2002, and when he pitched for Single-A Brooklyn that summer, he threw 18 innings, gave up one earned run and struck out 34.

At age 18, he was named Baseball America’s best left-handed pitcher in the minor leagues.

That year, the Mets had Kazmir, Jose Reyes and David Wright in their minor league system. But on July 30, 2004, general manager Jim Duquette shipped Kazmir to Tampa Bay as part of a package for right-handed starter Victor Zambrano.

How dazzling did Kazmir become during the next few seasons? The next season, his first with the Rays, he joined Johan Santana and Randy Johnson as the only American League pitchers with more strikeouts than hits. Kazmir made the All-Star team in 2006, topped the league in strikeouts in 2007 and earned another All-Star nod in 2008.

As for Zambrano? He made just three starts with the Mets in 2004, left as a free agent in 2006 and was out of baseball two years later.

That trade probably cost the Mets not one, but two postseason appearances. In 2007, they finished just one game behind the East-winning Phillies; in 2008, they finished one game behind the Wild Card-winning Brewers. So yes, there's a good reason for Mets fans to remember the trade

Baseball isn't fair. Kazmir was a really good pitcher for the better part of four major-league seasons, and then it just went away, and if you read the piece it's pretty clear that nobody seems to know why it just went away. Now he's remembered as sort of a punch line to a bad trade, if he's remembered at all. Every so often, we get a necessary reminder that baseball is not an easy profession, and that being all washed up at 27 -- or younger, sometimes much younger -- is a realistic outcome that all players, but especially pitchers, must face.

Even Kazmir doesn't seem to know what went wrong. He didn't suffer a serious elbow injury, or a serious shoulder injury, or any other serious injury that we know about. He was throwing 94, and then he was throwing 84. He says he's throwing 94 again, but considering that he claims to have no real idea what got him into this mess, it's difficult to trust his ability to find his way out.

Which doesn't mean you're not going to pull for him.

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