Phil Niekro is a Hall of Famer. But he also owns an unfortunate page of the Atlanta Braves’ record book: The top five single-season records for most losses in a season: (20 losses twice and 18 three times).
Kenshin Kawakami? He is not a Hall of Famer. But he is on pace to provide Niekro with a cleansing breath — and Frank Wren with his career Waterloo.
Kawakami, quite possibly the worst free agent acquisition in Atlanta Braves history, lost again Tuesday night, this time 6-4 to Florida. He is now 0-7 after nine starts. At this pace, he will go 0-25 in 32 starts. He’ll make over $7.33 million this season. I wasn’t very good in math so I’m not sure yet how that factors out per victory.
There’s always the chance Kawakami’s arms will fall off or his transmission will blow. Presumably that would trigger the warranty. Wren did purchase the warranty, didn’t he?
When the Braves signed Kawakami last season, Wren proclaimed: “This is a very significant signing for the Braves Not only is this a historically-important day for the Braves franchise, but with Kenshin we have acquired a pitcher who will be an integral part of our pitching staff over the next three seasons.”
Thank you. Try the veal.
Wren gave Kawakami a three-year, $23 million contract. In year one, the pitcher went 7-12 with a 3.86 earned run average. Relatively speaking, that was a Cy Young season. This year he is 0-7 with a 4.93 ERA. He has allowed a staff high seven home runs and opponents are hitting .327 with a .500 slugging percentage.
(For the record, it’s unfair to lump Niekro in with this guy: Niekro actually went 21-20 and 19-18 in two of the record-losing seasons.)
Kawakami is getting better. He has allowed only three earned runs in 12 innings in the last two starts. Still not quite worth $23 million. At this point, he seems to be destined for the Zane Smith/Pascual Perez pallet of death. Smith went 1-12 with the Braves in 1989. Perez was the last Braves pitcher to start 0-7 (in 1985, when he finished 1-13).
Now all Kawakami needs to do is get lost on I-285 and Wren’s worst nightmare will be complete. (For the young or uninformed: Perez missed a start in 1982 when he circled I-285 looking for Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.)
Kawakami’s next scheduled start is Sunday against Pittsburgh. I promise I’m not making this next part up: Among the ex-Braves who will be there for fans to meet after the game: Zane Smith and Phil Niekro.