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