Joe Kennedy…..We Were Lucky to Have Known You…..Truly Lucky
I had just gotten home from work and decided to pop on Yahoo sports to see what was going on Today. It being a day after the stuffed mushroom and pecan pie debauchery, I was looking for the lighter side of sports for some comfort.
Was hoping to find out that A-rod was crying poverty over the Yanks’ latest contract offer to Mario Riviera.
What I found sunk me in my chair and put a huge knot in my stomach. It also made me rethink my personal life for the ump-teenth time this year since a similar tragedy in Oct 2006 took another of my favorite players in Devilrays history to an untimely death.
I hate it when a young ball player dies when he is about to hit the prime, or reinvent himself in their career. Some hit that invisible wall of physical and mental parts not able to endure the rigors and challenges of Professional sports. Sometimes their body just can’t take anymore, even at a young age.
Some have had past abuses either with steroids or muscle enhancements rob them of their current and post career lives. Some just hit a mental roadblock that can not be corrected by human means.
The ones that really hit home and destroy me inside is the way that life ended the life of ex-Ray Joe Darley Kennedy. Media thoughts are running that Joe might have suffered an aneurysm or heart attack during the night. We will have to wait for the final results.
Joe had announced his free agency after this years’ World Series, and all indications were that the Toronto Blue Jays’ and their team president Paul Godfrey wanted Joe Kennedy for their 2008 staff.
Kennedy was in town for the holidays at his wife’s parents home, and was to be the best man at a wedding sometime during his stay here in the Tampa area. He had gotten up in the middle of the night and had collapsed to the floor. An ambulance rushed to Brandon Medical Center, but Kennedy was pronounced dead at the ER..
This is the second Oakland Athletic to suffer a tragic and unexpected death since October 2006. Ex-Rays and A’s teammate Cory Lidle, had tragically perished in a plane accident after the Yankees exit from the playoffs in 2006
One of my first blogs on here was a tribute to Cory Lidle. He was another player who befriended me during his tenure with the Rays, and I looked for him every year when his team would make a visit to the Trop. I did the same for Joe Kennedy every time he came here for a series.
Joe was only 28 years old, but had already been a front end starting pitcher with our Rays. He had thrown for over 908 innings in the Majors, and had 558 career K’s.
He was selected in the 1998 Amateur player draft in the 8th round, out of Grossmont (Calif.) J C and went immediately to the minor leagues for the Devilrays. He quickly rose through the Rays’ minor league organization. Joe was a combined 6-0, with a .099 ERA with Orlando and Durham before getting called up to the big club ( Devilrays ) on June 2, 2001.
He made his Major League debut on June 6th against the Blue Jays in Toronto and won 6-2 . He appeared in 20 games that season. During that Rookie season, Joe had 12 quality starts, only CC Sabathia of the Indians had a better stats( 13). Joe was also 3rd in Rookies with a 4.44 ERA.
He was also the first Major League player since Kip Wells of the Pirates to win both his first two career starts. Joe was also the first Devilrays in franchise history to perform this feat.
In 2001, Joe pitched in 196 innings and struck out 109 opponents. These numbers would be his Devilrays best, but only his second best career totals of his brief Major League career.
In 2003, Joe progressed to the point of being announced as the Opening Day starter. I found Kennedy to be the kind of pitcher who would not be afraid to go inside on a batter or ” buzz the tower” if needed. Every good pro has a mean streak in them.
I can attest to personally knowing that the guy was a true professional and enjoyed his time here with the Rays. I spoke to Joe on occasions during BP and always found him to be funny and very intelligent.
I guess I was one of those people who knew that Joe would be traded at some point in his career, but had hope it was after he had garnished that 10-win plateau with the Devilrays.
Joe might have seemed soft spoken and reserved to the crowds at the Trop., but he was a fierce competitor and was always going to the mound with the belief he could to win every game. That was a quality that I greatly admired in him. Going out with the idea you are going to win every time you take the rubber.
I know you are going to say that every pitcher does that, but in truth, they might in their words, but in their minds there might not be that total commitment. Joe always felt he could win, that that is the basic mindset of a great pitcher.
After Joe left the Rays and pitched for the Colorado Rockies, he got close to that 10-win plateau. Joe only got 9 wins in 2004, but produced 117 strikeouts for the year. He was traded to the Oakland A’s during the All Star break where he was again considered a valuable member of the pitching rotation. He garnered a 2.31 ERA in 2006, a career best for Joe. In 2006, he was rewarded with the number five slot in the starting rotation.
In 2007, Joe found himself as number 5 man in the rotation, and fell upon bad times and was put in the A’s bullpen and working only late inning and situational opportunities. He got another opportunity with the Arizona Diamondbacks (3 games), and the Toronto Blue Jays (9 games) during the past 2007 season.
Joe produced 43 victories in his short career, but his last one was fitting. He received his 43rd win versus his old Rays team on September 29, 2007. Joe had the fantastic pleasure of becoming a Dad this past year and was looking forward to time with Kaige and his wife before the Feb. mandatory reporting date for pitchers’ and catchers.
I will miss seeing Joe Kennedy pitch. More for the fact that he was a true professional and was always in the game both mentally and physically. I know he was just hitting the stride in his career and could have produced some great numbers as a member of that Blue Jays staff in 2008.
Joe is survived by his wife and new son Kaige and currently lived in the Denver area.
I hope that there is an afterlife. I can then again see people like Cory and
Joe pitch and have that pure vision of seeing their ear to ear smile or grin knowing they were doing something they truly loved to do in life.
God Bless you Joe Kennedy, ………………I will be in Right Field watching you play in that league someday myself….. And I will always cheer for you as a truly great person and pitcher