Sunday Rewind: Joe Kennedy…We were Lucky to have known You…. Truly Lucky!

 



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Intro:

I have decided that one Sundays I am going to pop back into the archives of the 625 blogs I have posted on MLBlogs.com and select a weekly “blast from the past” to let some of the people who did not read me before the 2009 season to get a  glance at either how far the writing has progressed, or regressed depending on your views. So I hope you enjoy reading my little submission that I first posted back on November 23,2007 about a guy I really enjoyed talking with when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays

I had just gotten home from work and  decided to go online and pop onto the Yahoo sports page to see what was has transpired while I was working Today. It being a day after the stuffed mushroom and pecan pie debauchery of the holiday, I was looking for the lighter side of sports for some comfort to my still overflowing belly of good food morsels and treats.


 

Maybe I was hoping to find out that my favorite target, A-Rod was crying poverty over the Yanks’ latest contract offer to Mario Riviera, but I had no such luck this day. Instead w
hat I found made me sink into my chair and put a huge twisting knot in my already overfilled stomach. 

It quickly made me rethink  my personal life for the ump-teenth time this year and brought up a tragic event featuring another ex- Tampa Bay Rays player in Oct 2006. That first event took another of my favorite players in Devilrays history to an untimely death, but this one really brought me to my knees.

 
 
I truly hate it when a young ball player dies when he is about to fulfill his potential, or even rediscover the magic that first got him to the Major Leagues. No matter if they have hit their prime, or had to reinvent themselves to further their careers, it was a special moment.

Some players hit that invisible wall of physical and mental points of no return and are not able to endure the rigors and challenges of baseball anymore.  And sometimes their bodies just can’t take it anymore,even at such a young age.

 

Some have had past abuses either with steroids or muscle enhancements that have robbed them of moments in their current or post career lives. Some just hit a mental road block that can not be corrected by human means.

The tragic tales that really hit home and destroy me inside is the way I found out about the untimely death of  ex-Ray Joe Darley Kennedy. There has been a wide spread rumors and thoughts among the Media that Kennedy might have suffered a brain aneurysm or heart attack during the night. Kennedy and his family were in town to visit  his wifes family and enjoy the holidays with them before this tragedy struck him down. 

 

 
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Kennedy was making strides to regain some of his old magic and had announced his free agency after the 2006 World Series. And all indications were that his 2006 squad, the Toronto Blue Jays’ and especially the Blue Jays Team President  Paul Godfrey wanted  Joe Kennedy back as a member of their 2008 staff. 
 

As I mentioned before,Kennedy was in town for the holidays at his wife’s parents home in the Brandon, Florida area, and was to be the best man at a wedding sometime during his stay here in the area.  But for some reason, Kennedy had gotten up in the middle of the night and was discovered collapsed on the floor of his in-laws home.  Paramedics were summoned and an ambulance quickly rushed  him to Brandon Medical Center,but it was too late, and Kennedy was pronounced dead  when the ambulance reached the Emergency Room.

 

This is the second ex-Oakland Athletic to suffer a tragic ending and unexpected death since October 2006. Ex-Rays and A’s teammate, Cory Lidle 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. You do not forget the “good guys”. They are those players who greet you with a smile and by your first name and make you feel like you are family, even if it is just to say “hello.”

 

Joe was only 28 years young, but had already established himself as a front end starting pitcher with our Rays.  He had  thrown for over 908 innings in the Majors, and had 558  career K’s.

 
Kennedy was selected in the 1998 Amateur player draft in the 8th round, out of Grossmont (Calif.) J C by the Rays and went immediately into the minor leagues organization. He quickly rose through the Rays’ farm system organization. Kennedy had made quick work of moving up the ladder in the farm system, and 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.
 

Kennedy 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 among the American League Rookies with a 4.44 ERA.

 
                      

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Kennedy also established himself in the MLB’s record books as 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. He was on his way to producing an amazing season and establish himself among the left-handers in the American League.

 

In 2001, Kennedy pitched in 196 innings and struck out 109 hitters. These numbers would be his  best as a member of the Devilrays, but only his second best career totals  of his brief  Major League career.

 

In 2003, Kennedy progressed to the point of being announced by Rays Manager Hal McRae 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 pitcher seems to have a mean streak in them.

 


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I can attest to personally knowing that the guy was a true professional and enjoyed his time here with the Rays. I spoke to Kennedy 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 the Devilrays would probably trade Kennedy at some point in his career, but I had hope it was after he had garnished that 10-win plateau with the Devilrays. And maybe after he had secured his play in Devilray lore.

 

Kennedy was very soft spoken and reserved  when he was among 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 tries to keep that fire within them, but in truth, they might in their words, but in their minds there might not be that total commitment. Kennedy always felt he could win, no matter what the odds or the situation that that is the basic mindset of a great pitcher.

 


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After Kennedy left the Rays and pitched for the Colorado Rockies, he got close to that 10-win plateau. Kennedy only got 9 wins in 2004, but produced an amazing 117 strikeouts that 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 Kennedy.  In 2006, he was rewarded with the number five slot in the Athletics starting rotation. It was a far cry from the number one slot with the Devilrays in 2004, but he was again pitching every five days. 

 

In 2007, Kennedy found himself as  number 5 man in the rotation, and fell upon bad times and was moved into the A’s bullpen and working only late inning and was used in “leftie” opportunities. He got another opportunity with the Arizona Diamondbacks (3 games), and the Toronto Blue Jays (9 games) during the past 2007 season.

 

Kennedy  produced 43 victories in his short career, but his last one was fitting. He received his 43rd win versus his old Devilrays team on September 29, 2007.  But it was the next performace that made Kennedy the proudest in his life.

Kennedy had the awesome pleasure of becoming a Father for the first time this past year and was looking forward to time with Kaige and his wife before the upcoming seasons 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 beginning to again hit his stride in his career, and could have produced some great numbers as a member of that Blue Jays staff in 2008.

 

Kennedy is survived by his wife and new son Kaige and currently lived in the Denver area.

 

I truly hope that there is an afterlife.  Because then I can see players like Cory and Kennedy pitching and  again see both of their ear to ear smiles or grins, knowing they  are again doing something they truly loved to do.

 

God Bless you Joe Kennedy, ………………I hope to someday be in that heavenly Right Field watching you play in that league up there someday myself….. And I will always cheer for you as a truly great person and pitcher, and as someone who left the game before he was ready to go.
 

Play Ball!
 
 
 

4 Comments

What a sad story about Kennedy. But I’m so glad you got to know him and that you brought him to our attention. I’m sure there’s a baseball heaven and all the ballplayers in it are having a great time right now, watching the games on TBS! As for your writing, you’ve definitely progressed, not regressed! You’re a pro now.

http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

Jane,
Coming from you that is an extreme honor, and I truly thank you for that.
I can see a bit of progression, but of course, writers are their own worst enemies at times.Joe Kennedy and Cory Lidle were good “baseball” friends. I have been out after games with both of them, and even stayed at Lidle’s condo when the Rays played the Phillies years ago.
Both are sorely missed this time of the year, but I also believe there is a heck of a ballgame going on somewhere up there every day, and I just hope to wait a bit before I get my season ticket to watch them all play…….forever.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

What a beautiful post and a sad story Rays. You sure have a way with words. Me? I am a numbers person but what I don’t do to show my love for my beloved Bums. One of the things I love is reading other baseball blogs just like I enjoy talking to other fans at the stadium.
.
Wow so this is from November 27, 2007! I started posting here this year, I believe close to pitchers and catchers reporting and I was wondering how it is here in the offseason. Your posts are always a good read Rays
Emma
http://crzblue.mlblogs.com/

Emma,
Yes it was from 2007. It really doesn’t seem that long ago in my mind, but when the numbers add up, it seems like an eternity.
Until last season, the Rays used to just report about 5 miles west of Tropicana Field, and played their games 1 miles east of the stadium.
Now they are 75 miles away in Port Charlotte, Florida, near Fort Myers.
Make the group more of a unit if they are not just sprinting home every night, but staying down with each other in a hotel/resort setting.

Rays Renegade

http://raysrenegade.mlblogs.com

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