Since he's been gone: 12 wild Kazmar facts

A lot has happened since Braves INF last was in MLB in 2008

April 17th, 2021

In baseball, 12 years is an eternity.

Things happen quickly in this sport. Players come and go. Teams rise and fall. Trends roar to life and fizzle out. A dozen seasons is more than enough for a player to start and then end a career worthy of a place on the Hall of Fame ballot (where the minimum is 10 seasons).

So the news that emerged Saturday was, frankly, astonishing: The Braves called up infielder , a 36-year-old whose last MLB appearance came for the Padres on Sept. 23, 2008. Ever since, Kazmar has toiled in the Minors, waiting for another opportunity. Now it’s here. When Kazmar got into the game at Wrigley Field as a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning, his drought between MLB appearances (12 years and 206 days) was the longest since 1950, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

In recognition of Kazmar’s incredible journey, here are 12 notable things that have happened in baseball since his last appearance in an MLB game (one for each full year of his absence):

  1. Of the 34 players who appeared in Kazmar’s last MLB game, all but two are now no longer active in an MLB organization. The only exceptions are Kazmar and left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who was making his fourth Major League start for the Padres on Sept. 23, 2008, and is now working out of the bullpen for the Orioles. Of the rest, some are recent departures, such as then-Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who played in the Majors last season. Others have been gone for far longer, including All-Stars Nomar Garciaparra and Brian Giles, who both last played in 2009.
  1. As mentioned, a player could fit an entire, successful MLB career into the window since Kazmar’s last game. To that point, here is a partial list of players who debuted after that date and since have seemingly wrapped up their playing careers: Brian Dozier, Doug Fister, David Freese, Austin Jackson, Mat Latos, Chris Tillman, Mark Trumbo, Neil Walker and Matt Wieters. A total of 43 players debuted after 2008, received at least one All-Star selection and are not currently with an MLB organization as of Saturday.
  1. Clayton Kershaw, who has long since punched a guaranteed ticket to Cooperstown, was the youngest player in the Majors in 2008, when he debuted in late May at age 20. He started for the Dodgers against the Padres on Sept. 24, 2008, the first day after Kazmar’s last appearance.
  1. Mike Trout, who was early in his senior year at Millville (N.J.) Senior High School in September 2008, was subsequently drafted 25th overall by the Angels in 2009. He made it to the Majors in 2011 and since has racked up more than 75 career wins above replacement (WAR), putting him among the top 80 players in MLB history.
  1. Freddie Freeman ranks ninth in games played in the Braves’ long franchise history -- Saturday was his 1,421st -- and has spent nearly his entire professional career in the window since Kazmar’s last appearance. Freeman was drafted by Atlanta in June 2007 and in September ‘08 had just finished his first full pro season with the Class-A Rome Braves.
  1. In the time since Kazmar's last MLB game, the Braves had more than 300 different players make at least one appearance, from some one-and-doners (for example, Brian Barton on June 3, 2009) all the way up to Freeman.
  1. The Dodgers won an MLB-high 1,071 regular-season games. The first was a 12-4 victory over Kazmar’s Padres on the day after Kazmar’s last appearance (Sept. 24, 2008). The 1,071st was the Dodgers’ wild extra-innings win over -- you guessed it -- the Padres, on Friday night.
  1. Ten different teams won at least one World Series title, beginning with the 2008 Phillies, against whom Kazmar had gone 0-for-3 with a walk on Aug. 16, in his second MLB start.
  1. Nelson Cruz launched 401 of his (to this point) 421 career home runs. No player has more homers in that span than Cruz, who in 2008 was called up by the Rangers in late August and at age 27 emerged as a late-blooming slugger. Still a major threat for the Twins this year at age 40, Cruz currently ranks 10th all-time in homers hit after his age-27 season. Other category leaders during Kazmar’s drought include recent Brave Nick Markakis for games (1,692), Robinson Canó for hits (1,963), Albert Pujols for RBIs (1,135), Justin Verlander for pitcher wins (181), and Max Scherzer for strikeouts (2,746).
  1. A total of 36 players were elected to the Hall of Fame by either the Baseball Writers Association of America or a Veterans Committee (now known as Eras Committees). That includes 14 players who logged their final game after Kazmar’s most recent appearance. Derek Jeter, who was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2020, played 763 regular season games after Sept. 23, 2008.
  1. It just so happens that 2008 was the first season of the pitch-tracking era, which took baseball analysis to another level. From Sept. 24, 2008, through Friday, we can see that there were 8,331,076 pitches thrown in Major League games, including the postseason.
  1. At the time of Kazmar’s last MLB appearance, the AL West had only four teams, while the NL Central had six. Since then, in 2013, the Astros moved from the latter to the former to create two 15-team leagues. Meanwhile, six teams have opened new ballparks.