The full glorious ceremony.
But it wasn't just his numbers that mattered. It was his command. He stood on the mound, his white uniform glowing in the early afternoon sun. He held his hands at his waist and then he went into the rhythm of his windup, hands over his head, the right leg kicking high, the left hand slicing across his body in an arc, the motion economical, concise, uncomplicated. If he were writing prose, he would be Ernest Hemingway with those short brutal sentences.
Although Kazmir rarely got his fastball to 92 — in the past, he was a 95-mph practitioner — he put the ball exactly where he wanted, located it within a sliver, had the poor Cleveland Indians hitters looking goofy and overmatched and unhappy.
"At times, I don't think he had his best fastball, but (he had) everything else," manager Bob Melvin said afterward. "He has a great changeup, pitches in and out. When I say he didn't have his best fastball, I mean velocity. He certainly had good command of it. That's what it starts with, with him moving the ball around with his heater and mixing in his other stuff. He was fantastic."
What makes Kazmir dominant? He doesn't throw that hard.
Melvin again: "Because of the unpredictability and the command. If you can work on both sides of the plate, it makes it more difficult for the hitter to eliminate something, choose a side or eliminate pitches. And when he's throwing the ball over for strikes — he even dropped some curveballs in for strikes — then you (the hitter) just don't feel like you have anything to eliminate. And his fastball is just enough to get it by you because of his off-speed stuff."
The A's need Kazmir. Desperately. They no longer have Bartolo Colon. Jarrod Parker they lost for the season. A.J. Griffin is hurt. They have a big hole in the rotation and Kazmir is a hole filler.
In 2007, he led the American League with 239 strikeouts. Dominating. A phenomenon. He's a two-time All-Star, 2006, 2008. At 30, he is not that pitcher anymore, does not have the raw power. He used to throw just two pitches — fastball, changeup. See you later. He's added a curve and slider and he uses all four pitches — think of them as an expanded repertoire — and, although he doesn't appear dominating, he most certainly is dominating.
It's the difference between talent and experience. Or maybe the correct comparison is youth vs. wisdom. When you are young and have all the talent in the world and you are untested by failure, you may not understand your gift. Maybe you don't value it. In a strange way, you need to fail.
Poor Scott Kazmir had to endure failure, really had to fail, had to experience his career as over before he could learn how to succeed.