Tag Archives: Scott Kazmir

Southpaw Flashback: The Curious Comeback of Scott Kazmir

Editor’s Note: In honor of Scott Kazmir being traded From the Oakland Athletics to the Houston Astros we take a look back at the curious rise and fall of the Houston native who rebuilt his career and became an All-Star when many thought he had nothing left in the tank in a column that originally appeared last July.

Hollywood, and the world of sports, both love a good comeback story of redemption.

Whether it is the story of a loveable group of misfits banding together and claiming a title, or a washed out boxer making one more trip into the ring, the Hollywood movie machine churns out film after film that tugs at the heart strings of movie goers and helps them believe in the underdog.

Of course occasionally the world of fact trumps the world of fiction when it comes to tales of redemption and making the most out of second chances.

For a real life story of redemption, that very well could have the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster, let us consider the curious case of Oakland Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir who was named to his third career All-Star team over the weekend, and first since 2008.

Kazmir was drafted by the New York Mets in the first-round in 2002 and was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization two years later. Kazmir helped lead the Rays to the World Series in 2008.

Scott Kazmir made is Major League Baseball debut with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and his Atlantic League debut with the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson
Scott Kazmir made is Major League Baseball debut with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and his Atlantic League debut with the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

Following the World Series run the Rays traded Kazmir to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim midway through the 2009 season.

Following the trade Kazmir’s “True Hollywood Story” included some mighty struggles.

Although many players struggle to adapt to their new surroundings following a trade, the struggles of Kazmir were epic in nature.

After two extremely rough seasons in Southern California Kazmir was released by the Angels on June 15, 2011 despite having $14.5 million remaining on his guaranteed contract.

Kazmir failed to get picked up by another Major League club following his release from the Angels and his career seemed all but over despite being less than three years removed from appearances in both the All-Star Game and World Series.

History is full of players who seem to suddenly lose their stuff for no apparent reason. While injuries can often be blamed for declines in performance sometimes a player, such as Kazmir, just starts to see their performance fade without suffering the type of career ending injury experienced by many.

Of course sometimes the mental aspect of the game can be just as debilitating as an injury and players often have to struggle to overcome doubt and other mental factors to return to the top of their game.

Kazmir was out of Major League Baseball for two seasons as he continued to struggle with his mechanics and other factors that had rendered the once dominant hard to hit pitcher as easy to hit off of as a pitching machine.

The true rock bottom for Kazmir likely came when he signed with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League on July 7, 2012.

While the Skeeters represented a chance for Kazmir to play baseball near his home town it was likely a huge shot to the ego to be playing on a team that had no Major League affiliation.

While the Skeeters offer a competitive atmosphere, and the Atlantic League often has players who sign Minor League contracts with Major League ball clubs, the adjustment period for Kazmir likely was difficult as very few players on independent league rosters have World Series starts on their resumes.

Kazmir started 14 games for the Skeeters during the 2012 season and finished with a 3-6 record and a 5.34 ERA.

Following the end of the Skeeters’ season Kazmir signed with Gigantes de Carolina of the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League posting a 4.37 ERA while striking out 27 batters in 23 innings.

The time with the Skeeters and the Gigantes had gotten some attention and the performances earned Kazmir an invite to the Cleveland Indians Spring Training in 2013.

It is fitting in a way that it was the Indians that invited him as the Major League movie franchise focuses on the Indians being a place where players that seem to be washed out can find second chances.

Our Hollywood story could easily have ended right there with Kazmir getting a chance for one more Major League Spring Training before calling it a career after failing to crack the starting rotation of the Indians as a non-roster invitee.

But Kazmir did crack the rotation for Cleveland out of Spring Training and excelled with the Indians to the point that the Oakland Athletics signed him to a two-year $22 million contract prior to the start of this season.

In year one of the deal Kazmir has been the Athletics most consistent starter and earned a place on the All-Star Team.

With the Athletics currently holding the top spot in the American League West standings it is entirely possible that Kazmir will pitch in the postseason once again six years after tasting the postseason for the first time with the Rays.

It is even within the realm of probability that the Athletics could make it all the way to the World Series.

While the Scott Kazmir story of second chances is certainly still being written, a very strong footnote would be to have him hoisting a World Series trophy in October.

Yes, sometimes reality does trump fiction when it comes to the magical Hollywood ending and after several seasons in the valley, that featured stops through the Atlantic League and Puerto Rico, Scott Kazmir appears to be making the most of his second chances.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to practice my pitching in case Hollywood needs a southpaw to portray Kazmir in the movie of his life.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

David Price Traded to Detroit Tigers in Latest Rays Pitcher Salary Dump

Another non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone in Major League Baseball.

As is the case every year when Major League Baseball’s Silly Season concludes there were winners and losers with the rich in talent teams getting richer and the rebuilding teams continuing to rebuild.

Each year teams are labeled as either buyers or sellers at the deadline as they seek to either add players to help them in the short term or trade away players for prospects that they hope can help them in the long term.

What is often lost in the midst of the trade deadline are the teams that are caught in the middle of having the record to be deemed a contender and those that are in wait until next year mode.

The Tampa Bay Rays, who were considered by some experts to be World Series favorites at the start of the season, found themselves in the murky middle ground when it came to their ace pitcher David Price.

David Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner was traded to the Detroit Tigers Thursday afternoon. Photo R. Anderson
David Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner, was traded to the Detroit Tigers Thursday afternoon.
Photo R. Anderson

Many teams would give their left arms for a chance to add the former Cy Young Winner to their rotation but with the Rays overcoming a rough start to the season to finally play solid baseball which has them only eight games out of first place in the division, and about five games out of a Wild Card spot, one could argue that Price was needed to make a valid postseason run.

Repeatedly team management stated that it would take an epic “knock their socks off” offer from a team that included several top tier prospects to make them part with their ace at the deadline.

In the end the Rays traded Price to the Detroit Tigers for a less than sock losing trio of players that appear to have far less upside at the moment than Price.

With the trade the Tigers now have three Cy Young winners in their rotation and seem destined for another American League Championship Series showdown with the Oakland Athletics who also added depth to their rotation prior to the trade deadline.

Trades in baseball are nothing new but when a team trades away a fan favorite and leader in the clubhouse, such as Price who spent seven seasons with the Rays, there is always bound to be push back from the fans.

As expected when news broke that Price had been traded, many fans filled team message boards with angry comments saying that they were done supporting the Rays. Others asked how they could have traded Price for so little in return.

The answer to why the trade was made comes down to economics. The Rays have a long history of trading their aces when they are due big raises in free agency since Tampa Bay does not have the payroll flexibility to match many other teams when it comes to salary offers.

David Price (far right) anchored the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff and became the latest ace to be traded by the Rays. Time will tell which pitcher picks up the slack and leads the staff with Price gone. Photo R. Anderson
David Price (far right) anchored the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff and became the latest ace to be traded by the Rays. Time will tell which pitcher picks up the slack and leads the staff with Price gone.
Photo R. Anderson

David Price just becomes the latest pitcher to be traded by the Rays joining Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir, and James Shields. What makes the Price trade different is the fact that it came in the middle of the season while the Rays were still driving for the playoffs.

Previous trades of pitchers and other impact players were usually made during the offseason.

In reality the Rays still faced a tough task in making the playoffs even with Price since the Orioles were winning just as many games as the Rays making it impossible to cut into Baltimore’s division lead.

But the Rays certainly still had a shot at making the postseason. Trading Price away during that run will likely affect clubhouse morale as well as well as fan reaction to the perception that the Rays have given up on the current season.

Many fans get heavily invested in players and when a long-time player is dealt it can feel like losing a close friend or family member.

I can still remember the disappointment I felt while sitting at Minute Maid Park a few years ago after learning that the Houston Astros had traded Lance Berkman to the New York Yankees right before he was scheduled to play. It had seemed like Berkman would spend is entire career as an Astro.

Following the announcement that David Price was traded many Rays fans stated that they would not return to Tropicana Field. It is unlikely that such a fan boycutt would have any measurable effect on the bottom line financials for the team. Photo R. Anderson.
Following the announcement that David Price was traded many Rays fans stated that they would not return to Tropicana Field. It is unlikely that such a fan boycutt would have any measurable effect on the bottom line financials for the team.
Photo R. Anderson.

The harsh reality is most teams do not base their business decisions on the desires of the average fan.

Baseball is a business and like any other business it is driven by profits and the bottom line. For baseball teams the bottom line is enhanced through corporate sponsorships, suite sales, and television revenue.

While the money generated by a fan attending the game’s in person is certainly icing on a team’s financial spreadsheet it is a mere drop in the bucket for most teams meaning that the loss of a few hundred or even a few thousand fans is not going to affect them long term.

Once of the reasons often given for any new Ballpark or stadium project is the need to add additional luxury suites to increase revenue from the corporate community. Suites equal big bucks for teams at all levels of baseball. Rarely, if ever, will a team say that they need a new facility to make more affordable family seating in the outfield.

While those shots of happy families eating cotton candy look great on television, the fact remains most teams would prefer to have a Ballpark full of corporate clients spending big bucks on suites as opposed to stands full of families.

That is just the reality of the game and fans can either accept that fact to continue to have their hearts broken whenever a favorite player is traded away.

The days of a player spending their entire career with a single team and retiring to either become the manager of the team or a broadcaster covering the games are very likely behind us.

In fact, when the farewell tour of Derek Jeter’s 20 years in Yankee pinstripes is over it is likely that there will never be another player to spend two decades with the same team.

Alex Cobb will likely be one of the key pieces of any future success of the Tampa Bay Rays following the trade of staff ace David Price. Photo R. Anderson
Alex Cobb will likely be one of the key pieces of any future success of the Tampa Bay Rays following the trade of staff ace David Price.
Photo R. Anderson

Time will tell if the fans boycott Tropicana Field the rest of the season as some have suggested in response to the Price trade.

Attendance at the Trop, and the desire for a new stadium, will likely continue to be a hot topic between St. Petersburg officials and team ownership this off season as has been the case for several years now.

But as long as the high rollers keep going to the Ballpark and filling the suites the loss of some disgruntled fans is not going to affect the Rays pocket books.

Welcome to the new reality of baseball where the bottom line trumps the box score every time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see how DJ Kitty is handling the news.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

The Curious Comeback of Scott Kazmir

Hollywood, and the world of sports, both love a good comeback story of redemption.

Whether it is the story of a loveable group of misfits banding together and claiming a title, or a washed out boxer making one more trip into the ring, the Hollywood movie machine churns out film after film that tugs at the heart strings of movie goers and helps them believe in the underdog.

Of course occasionally the world of fact trumps the world of fiction when it comes to tales of redemption and making the most out of second chances.

For a real life story of redemption, that very well could have the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster, let us consider the curious case of Oakland Athletics pitcher Scott Kazmir who was named to his third career All-Star team over the weekend, and first since 2008.

Kazmir was drafted by the New York Mets in the first-round in 2002 and was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization two years later. Kazmir helped lead the Rays to the World Series in 2008.

Scott Kazmir made is Major League Baseball debut with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and his Atlantic League debut with the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson
Scott Kazmir made is Major League Baseball debut with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and his Atlantic League debut with the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

Following the World Series run the Rays traded Kazmir to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim midway through the 2009 season.

Following the trade Kazmir’s “True Hollywood Story” included some mighty struggles.

Although many players struggle to adapt to their new surroundings following a trade, the struggles of Kazmir were epic in nature.

After two extremely rough seasons in Southern California Kazmir was released by the Angels on June 15, 2011 despite having $14.5 million remaining on his guaranteed contract.

Kazmir failed to get picked up by another Major League club following his release from the Angels and his career seemed all but over despite being less than three years removed from appearances in both the All-Star Game and World Series.

History is full of players who seem to suddenly lose their stuff for no apparent reason. While injuries can often be blamed for declines in performance sometimes a player, such as Kazmir, just starts to see their performance fade without suffering the type of career ending injury experienced by many.

Of course sometimes the mental aspect of the game can be just as debilitating as an injury and players often have to struggle to overcome doubt and other mental factors to return to the top of their game.

Kazmir was out of Major League Baseball for two seasons as he continued to struggle with his mechanics and other factors that had rendered the once dominant hard to hit pitcher as easy to hit off of as a pitching machine.

The true rock bottom for Kazmir likely came when he signed with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League on July 7, 2012. While the Skeeters represented a chance to play baseball near his home town it was likely a huge shot to the ego to be playing on a team that had no Major League affiliation.

While the Skeeters offer a competitive atmosphere, and the Atlantic League often has players who sign Minor League contracts with Major League ball clubs, the adjustment period for Kazmir likely was difficult as very few players on independent league rosters have World Series starts on their resumes.

Kazmir started 14 games for the Skeeters during the 2012 season and finished with a 3-6 record and a 5.34 ERA.

Following the end of the Skeeters’ season Kazmir signed with Gigantes de Carolina of the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League posting a 4.37 ERA while striking out 27 batters in 23 innings.

The time with the Skeeters and the Gigantes had gotten some attention and the performances earned Kazmir an invite to the Cleveland Indians Spring Training in 2013.

It is fitting in a way that it was the Indians that invited him as the Major League movie franchise focuses on the Indians being a place where players that seem to be washed out can find second chances.

Our Hollywood story could easily have ended right there with Kazmir getting a chance for one more Major League Spring Training before calling it a career after failing to crack the starting rotation of the Indians as a non-roster invitee.

But Kazmir did crack the rotation for Cleveland out of Spring Training and exceled with the Indians to the point that the Oakland Athletics signed him to a two-year $22 million contract prior to the start of this season.

In year one of the deal Kazmir has been the Athletics most consistent starter and earned a place on the All-Star Team.

With the Athletics currently holding the top spot in the American League West standings it is entirely possible that Kazmir will pitch in the postseason once again six years after tasting the postseason for the first time with the Rays.

It is even within the realm of probability that the Athletics could make it all the way to the World Series.

While the Scott Kazmir story of second chances is certainly still being written, a very strong footnote would be to have him hoisting a World Series trophy in October.

Yes, sometimes reality does trump fiction when it comes to the magical Hollywood ending and after several seasons in the valley, that featured stops through the Atlantic League and Puerto Rico, Scott Kazmir appears to be making the most of his second chances.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to practice my pitching in case Hollywood needs a southpaw to portray Kazmir in the movie of his life.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Tis the Season When the Road Goes Both Ways

As the 30 Major League Baseball teams make their final cuts this week to get down to their 25-man active roster there will likely be tears of joy as well as sadness depending on which side of the cut a player is on.

For every player who is told that they made it, there are many more who will start the season in the minor leagues. For others, the dream will end altogether as they realize that their professional baseball careers are over altogether.

The Pensacola Pelicans are a former independant baseball team where players would try to prolong their careers. Photo R. Anderson
The Pensacola Pelicans are a former independent baseball team where players would try to prolong their careers.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course getting cut by a MLB team does not have to be the end. Many players try to extend their careers through playing overseas or for one of the many independent baseball teams around the country.

The motivation for not wanting to call it a career and give up on the dream can be easily understood when one considers that for many of these players baseball is all they have known since they were old enough to hold a bat and wear a glove.

The decision to continue their careers in the independent leagues can be a financial burden for many players who never made it to the Major Leagues. One aspect of many independent leagues involves finding host families where the players can live rent free during the season since many of them are making less than minimum wage to follow their baseball dreams.

Two stories that recently broke involving players associated with an Independent baseball team down the road from me prove that the dream can continue after the road most taken ends.

Let us consider the curious cases of Scott Kazmir, Koby Clemens and the Sugarland Skeeters of the Atlantic League.

Kazmir was recently named the Cleveland Indians’ fifth starter entering the 2013 season resurrecting a career that had seemed doomed after control problems derailed his Major League career in 2011.

As a member of the Tampa Bay Rays during the 2008 World Series he was a dominant ace. Shortly after that Kazmir’s fall from grace was swift and painful to watch when he collapsed following a trade west to the Angels.

After being out of the show for a few years, and still considered a relativity young pitcher at only 29 years-old, the Houston area native and former American League All-Star looked to revitalize his career as a member of the Skeeters last season.

He started 14 games with Sugar Land, going 3-6 and collecting 51 strikeouts in 64.0 total innings pitched. The performance with the Skeeters, as well as time spent in Winter Ball, gave Kazmir an invite to Indians Spring Training where he was 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA with 13 strikeouts in four games.

Whether that return to form will last over the course of the season remains to be seen but what is known is for the first time since 2011 Scott Kazmir will be on a Major League opening day roster.

The case for Koby Clemens finding redemption and another shot at Major League glory through the independent route is a little hazier. Koby, son of Roger, has bounced around the minor leagues since being drafted in 2005 by the Astros. Aside from being invited to Major League Spring Training once, he has not advanced beyond AAA ball.

After eight years in the minor league farm system of the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays Koby Clemens has landed with the Sugarland Skeeters of the Atlantic League. Photo R Anderson
After eight years in the minor league farm system of the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays Koby Clemens has landed with the Sugarland Skeeters of the Atlantic League.
Photo R Anderson

Drafted as a catcher and spending time as a first baseman and third baseman the tools just have not been there to earn a look at the big league level.

Koby did catch in one game last year for the Skeeters when his dad was on the mound. It was recently announced that he will be the team’s full time catcher this season and he will try to regain some of the confidence behind the plate that first had him drafted eight years ago.

Time will tell whether the detour to independent baseball will help prolong and perhaps kick start Koby Clemens’ career the same way it helped give another chance to Scott Kazmir.

The odds would say that Clemens will become just another statistic and victim of a system where only a select few ever excel, but one never knows.

When I was in high school I had a friend who was a star pitcher on the school baseball team. The team made it to the state playoffs my junior year. The following year it was not uncommon to see various pro scouts in the stands.

Although he never made it on the 25-man roster, Koby Clemens did get invited to Spring Training once with the Astros. Photo R. Anderson
Although he never made it on the 25-man roster, Koby Clemens did get invited to Spring Training once with the Astros.
Photo R. Anderson

My friend was a southpaw pitcher which was then and continues to be a hot commodity. He ended up signing with the New York Yankees right out of high school and as Tom Petty would say, “the future was wide open.”

Setbacks on the field as well as off the field led him to bounce around the Minor Leagues for 10 years until finally calling it a career without so much as a cup of coffee in the show.

There are thousands of players just like my friend who seek the bright lights of big league ballparks only to find their dreams cut short.

Many will bounce along as long as possible chasing the dream until the realities of life and family commitments lead them to a more steady form of work.

I lost track of my friend a few years before the end of his career but would still follow his career whenever I saw a blurb on one of the Minor League sites. I hope he is doing well for himself and that he landed on his feet after he hung up his glove for the last time.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think it is time to order some Skeeter tickets.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson