He’s a decade younger than the man whose hard-to-define role as the salty old vet he inherited. He’s not even old, by virtually any measure. But as every A’s fan should be clear on by now, even this early into his so-far-spectacular first season in green and gold, Scott Kazmir is a far better Bartolo Colon for this club than Colon was himself.
Granted, Colon’s accomplishments — before, during and after his, uh, dalliances — gave him a certain clubhouse cache. As the great Frank Menechino once said, “It’s ain’t easy trying to lead when you stink.” Colon’s Cy Young Award, his metronomic ability to pound the strike zone and his unique brand of efficiency made him someone to whom Oakland’s young, impressionable pitchers could look up to.
Kazmir, by comparison, hasn’t accomplished much at all. Sure, he’s a two-time All-Star, but at this point he’s known as much for his inexplicable fall from grace — from teenage phenom to 28-year-old Sugar Land Skeeter of the Independent League — than anything he did while lighting it up for Tampa Bay in his early 20s.
More than anything, he’s a curiosity, even still, in the wake of three all-we-hoped-for-and-more outings for the A’s. A 30-year-old reclamation project with a contract that raised eyebrows all around.
But it’s exactly that path, that rocky road he’s traveled, that makes him such a great fit in Oakland — no matter how well he pitches from here on out. Yes, the A’s need him to approximate over the long haul what he’s done so far; that’s imperative to their AL West three-peat in the absence of Jarrod Parker.
Yet even if he’s simply serviceable, he’ll be serving the greater good. His journey has brought him to a place that those who knew him as a fairly cocky youngster never imagined he’d reach. He’s open, humble, hard-working and appreciative. The pups on Oakland’s staff need a true mentor, and Kazmir embraces the responsibility. And as un-PC as it might be to note that Kazmir doesn’t come with a language barrier ensures that his wisdom is imparted unimpeded.
Kazmir looks at Sonny Gray and sees himself way back when. Because of that, A’s fans can rest assured that if Gray is wearing another uniform in eight years, it won’t be for the Sugar Land Skeeters.