And in other news, Kenshin Kawakami probably also feels like retiring.
Kawakami hasn’t quite built up the pension that Chipper Jones has, and he certainly doesn’t have “longevity” stamped on his forehead right now. The Braves’ Japanese import just became the first starting pitcher in franchise history to start 0-9, by virtue of a 10-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The last franchise pitcher to start the season 0-9, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, was Tom Tuckey of the 1909 Boston Doves. But Tuckey was not an exclusive starter. He lost seven games as a starter and two as a reliever.
Since baseball is a number’s game, here’s one to chew on: at 0-9 through 13 starts, Kawakami is on a pace to go 0-22. But that assumes he’ll be in the rotation the rest of the season, which probably isn’t a safe assumption.
When Braves general manager Frank Wren signed Kawakami last year to a three-year, $23 million contract, it was somewhat of an historical moment for the organization. But the pitcher is making the wrong kind of history. Even before Tuesday’s game, Kawakami earned the distinction of becoming the first pitcher in major league history to start the season 0-8 while playing for a first-place team.
The Braves just came off a 6-5 road trip (four one-run losses) and were returning to Turner Field, where they were 19-6. But after a two-hour and 20-minute rain delay, Kawakami seemed intent on wrecking the party. Tampa Bay pounded him for four runs in the first inning, including a prodigious two-run homer by Evan Longoria to left field. Through two innings, the Rays had five runs and five hits, including a home run and three doubles.
By the time Kawakami left in the fifth inning, he was assured of going through his 13th start without a victory. His totals: five innings, five runs (fortunately only two earned), seven hits and three walks (one intentional). He threw 100 pitches in five innings. He also committed two errors in the fifth inning on an errant pickoff attempt and a fielding error, though somehow he escaped without allowing a run.
“I’m just getting into a bad rhythm every start,” Kawakami said. “It’s my fault that some of the games are going this way. I have to improve on that.”
Jones managed some improvement. After a day of retirement talk — and having missed nine of the previous 11 games with a sore ring finger on his right hand — Jones doubled and homered in the game. If every game had gone like this, a retirement announcement probably wouldn’t seem imminent.
But everything points to an announcement soon. I spoke to Jones before the game and have updated and re-written the column, which is online now. Chipper wasn’t at his locker after the game, dressing in a back room, away from the media. But his parents, who are in town for game, spoke and had some interesting comments, which you can read in the Jones’ column.